Planescape: Brush with Oblivion

The Distraction

A dwarf named Grendur informs the Harmonium, who then informs Bryta, that the town of Ashbringer in Nidavellir awaits certain death from massing slaad hordes unless the party can distract them long enough for help to arrive. Arctos Silveraxe volunteers to personally lead a legion of Harmonium troops to Nidavellir, but it’ll take some time to organize them. T'chon leads his friends back to the Foundry in Sigil and they all go through the iron mirror portal into the plane of Ysgard.

The third layer of Ysgard is Nidavellir, meaning “Dark Home,” a place of fiery furnaces, ringing anvils, and constant striving for perfection in the crafts of smithworking, runeworking, and magery. Nidavellir is a land without light, where only darkvision work successfully. The character of the dwarves who inhabit Nidavellir is like that of ants. Work makes a basher rich, and money makes him free. Work, save, and hoard everything. Hard times are always around the corner. Nidavellir has no ruling power, but Muamman Duathal, a minor power among dwarves, keeps an eye out for them. There’s also Hod the Blind, who was exiled from Asgard because the Norns foresaw that he’s fated to kill his brother Baldur with a spear of mistletoe.

Ashbringer fully lives up to its name; the streets are choked with smoke and ashes, every surface blackened by soot, and even soups and ale are often served with cinders floating on top — the dwarves’ll say it’s good for the digestion. The companions approach Ashbringer's great gates, where two dwarf petitioners stand guard. They are grateful for the aid, explaining that the south side of their town has been under siege for quite some time now. Another dwarf appears and leads the companions to the king.

Alberich the Fire Tamer has ruled as king of the dwarves of Nidavellir for over seven centuries. He wears elaborately stylized armor and jewelry — even his eyes glint like twin sapphires. Alberich explains the situation to the adventurers: A horde of slaad has entered through a portal into Nidavellir and will reach Ashbringer in two days. The slaad forces presently laying siege to the town is but a tiny portion of their full strength. Alberich sent word to Alfheim, but the Aasgardians seem to have troubles of their own up there, and to Sigil. It seems only the Harmonium are willing to come to the dwarves’ aid, but not soon enough. Alberich explains that if the companions can delay the slaad for a couple of days, it will give the Harmonium time to get here. He takes out a stone tablet with a map inscribed on it. This map shows the way through the mines of Verkelheim to a now-ruined gnome village… and the portal to Limbo. If the adventurers can make it there and disrupt the slaad forces at the portal, it will buy the dwarves the time they need.

Given nothing but a map and a target, T'chon, Bryta, Krissy, Silversac Sam, and Xenephon rush for the nearby mines of Verkelheim. When they finally arrive at the huge stone door of the North-Gate, they are immediately assaulted by slingstones coming from arrow slits high up on the wall. T'chon flies up there, and Krissy levitates up, both of them spotting about a dozen kobolds lurking in the shadows within. Silversac Sam hauls open the heavy stone door, allowing Bryta and Xenephon to get inside to cover while T'chon and Krissy shoot arrows back at the kobolds. The aarakocra gets up close and looses a burning hands into the arrow slit, but his wild magic causes him to accidentally teleport into the kobold's guardroom. As the little doglike creatures blink in surprise, Silversac Sam, Bryta, and Xenephon charge into the door behind them. The kobolds are swiftly cut down.

Continuing on along the huge, long avenue that leads for miles and miles to most other areas in Verkelheim, the companions next discover a beryl deposit that yields a small but valuable supply of emeralds.

Next they find a central gathering hall with a myriad of passages and avenues branching out in all directions. Statues and tapestries depict dwarves working the mines and piles of treasures. But this hall is not empty. The companions encounter another adventuring party, a group of three drow elves.

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Chaos in the Cage

The slaad's presence in the Underhive proves the rumors to be true. Resolving to figure out where this creature of chaos came from, the companions continue deeper into the labyrinthine tunnels.

Stagnant foamy water and ropy coils of black ooze drool down the walls and through the ceiling into a large pool of noxious slime in the center of the next cavern. The foul liquid is waist deep, and T'chon succumbs to the potent smell, gagging and retching even as another red slaad and a blue slaad emerge from the pool! Silversac Sam and Bryta move to engage the red one while T'chon fumbles with his longbow, the blue slaad's deadly claws slashing at him. Krissy's crossbow bolts whistle fiercly past their heads. Xenephon summons a hammer of pure light to distract the blue slaad. Bryta maneuvers around as well, allowing T'chon to disengage from the melee.

After the two slaadi are defeated, the adventurers burn the body of one and tie up the other with rope. Silversac Sam holds the inert slaad in a firm hold as Bryta graces the foul creature with a healing spell, awakening it. The slaad struggles vainly in the half-orc's grip, croaking on about the stolen Spawning Stone. Bryta asks who took it. The slaad responds that a Ysgardian man is to blame - a rogue, a trickster. Once they get all the information they think they can, Silversac Sam breaks the slaad's neck.

The adventurers continue on, checking out a narrow side passage that branches off the main tunnel. The body of a dwarf in rags lies face down in the muck here, his blood pooling in the hollows of the floor, his arm outstretched ahead of him. A search of his pockets reveals an iounstone, and he wears a ring on one finger. Further on the main tunnel, they find a battered and chipped stone statue of an elven woman with a unicorn’s horn on her forehead. Xenephon identifies the statue as depicting Mielikki, goddess of the woodlands. Krissy resolves to return this statue to the surface after they're all done here.

The terminus of this tunnel system leads to a huge round slab of stone, the face of which bears the symbol of Orcus. Bryta advises her friends to leave it unopened, though T'chon wonders if this is a way out of here. Silversac Sam hauls the stone aside to reveal a small crypt with a sarcophagus in the middle. Mold and slime on the walls have ruined the offerings left ages ago on the stone shelves and alcoves. Xenephon guesses that the sarcophagus itself holds the remains a cleric of Orcus. Bryta again voices her concern about leaving this place alone. Despite the warning, her barbarian friend steps up and pushes the lid aside. A terrible bodak awakens and immediately attacks! Its aura of annihilation and death gaze prove to be almost too much for the party. But with the help of Krissy's summoned shadow demon, they successfully defeat the bodak. A search of the sarcophagus reveals some gold, jewelry, and a wand and mace. Xenephon gasps. "The Wand of Orcus!?" T'chon examines the magic item and determines that this is not, in fact, the artifact Wand of Orcus.

Returning to the room with the large pool of noxious slime, the companions realize that there is a portal to Limbo at the bottom of the foul water! Silversac and Bryta work together to haul the round stone slab over here and block the portal with it. Xenephon secures it with a bunch of climbing pitons and rope.

Leaving the Underhive is more than a relief to the companions. The first thing they do is find the nearest inn and clean up. Then, after a hearty meal and a long rest, they all head over to the Barracks to report their findings.

Arctos Silveraxe is studying a planar map in the war room with a white-bearded old dwarf when a Harmonium guard brings Bryta, Krissy, Silversac Sam, Xenephon, and T'chon in. Arctos looks up and smiles at Bryta, then tries covering his excitement up by scratching his beard and dismissing the guard. The companions explain all that had transpired in the Stink and the Underhive, describing the slaadi they encountered down there and the portal to Limbo they found. Arctos is deeply concerned at this news. He declares that a squad of Harmonium soldiers will be dispatched there straightaway to collapse the entire tunnel complex and seal the portal once and for all.

The dwarf clears his throat, and Arctos introduces him as Grendur, who then informs the party that the town of Ashbringer in Nidavellir awaits certain death from massing slaad hordes unless somebody can distract them long enough for help to arrive. Arctos looks gravely at Bryta, telling her that, although he hates sending her on such a dangerous mission, he needs her adventuring company to delay the advance of the slaadi army before a full incursion reaches the city and destroys it. The werebear factol volunteers to personally lead a legion of Harmonium troops to Nidavellir, but it’ll take some time to organize them. Bryta points a finger at the map on the table, indicating the heroic domains of Ysgard. She expresses her concern about what the slaad had told her, about the stolen Spawning Stone. Arctos moves up beside her, close, and tells her that he will have someone look into it. Their eyes meet for a while. Then T'chon chimes in that there is a portal to Nidavellir in the Great Foundry, the headquarters of the Believers of the Source faction.

The companions take their leave of the Barracks and head on over to the Great Foundry to scope it out. The foundry’s a dirty, sprawling complex of workshops, warehouses, storage yards and furnaces. The Godsmen work it non-stop. By day it belches smoke and steam, and by night the district’s lit by its fires. The produces of this foundry, petty metal goods needed by everyone throughout Sigil and beyond, are the Godsmen’s major source of jink. Their skills aren’t very great; very few of their wares are fancy work, but they’re all strong and serviceable. The streets around the foundry are a jumbled weave of workshops and worker’s taverns; they’re dirty and grimy and full of fiends.

T'chon finds Thildon the Foreman and requests access to the armory. Thildon is gruff and reluctant to allow these outsiders into the Foundry's inner halls. "Bleaker spies," he calls them. Another Godsman named Alissa Tield overhears and comes over to interject. She offers to sell T'chon an enchanted longbow and, after some convincing, Krissy a magic hand crossbow. Xenephon and Bryta sway Thildon to allow them access to the armory because they are on a mission for the Harmonium. There the companions see the great war machine the Godsmen are building for a contractor, a long-range siege cannon. A githzerai woman named Kel’lera is the chief engineer on the project. She is not very fond of the other engineers. Neither is she fond of non-Believers asking too many questions. T'chon convinces her to tell him about the machine, and she reveals its greatest weakness: the controls; she herself is bound to them, and if she dies, the machine won’t work. "I call it the Deus Ex Machina," she says finally. T'chon nods in admiration.

"And this?" Bryta approaches a huge 10-foot-tall iron-framed mirror hanging from the wall. Thildon says that this known as Moradin’s Mirror, a portal to Nidavellir. The key: a stone inscribed with the dwarven symbol for wisdom.

Before they leave for Nidavellir, the adventurers remember that they promised Larcos Dengrin they'd help him destroy those intelligent magic weapons and end the faction war between the Believers and the Bleakers. So they return to the Hive Ward, to a small set of tenements known as the Corroded Kips. Within one of those dens they find the beast known as the Kogoloxen, a powerful rust monster that can even devour magic weapons. They trap the monster in the portable hole Larcos gave them. Bryta goes back to the Barracks to retrieve the Strigibow, and then they all rush to the meeting place where the Bleakers with the remaining two magic weapons await their trap. Larcos is already inside the abandoned armory, talking with the Bleakers. The companions enter, release the Kogoloxen, and all chaos breaks loose. When the dust settles, the intelligent weapons are all destroyed, their enchantment on their weilders now broken. Silversac Sam growls at the Bleakers to return home. As if awakened from a dream, the Bleakers all oblige.

Satisfied that all of their loose ends have been tied up in Sigil, the companions head back to the Great Foundry, and the portal to Nidavellir.

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Hive Ward

After Bryta hands Strigibow over to the Harmonium, the companions all decide to pay Featherwhisper’s Bathhouse a visit to see what they can find out about these other intelligent magic weapons.

Whoever planned the Hive Ward didn’t know the definition of a straight line, as the streets wind in every direction; some end abruptly in blind alleys, others circle back on themselves like snakes swallowing their tails. With space at a premium, new structures are built on top of old ones, giving a typical building the appearance of a stack of boxes about to collapse.

Featherwhisper’s Bathhouse, however, looks warm and inviting. The front foyer has hanging vines and bronze sculptures of nude figures. The interior is lit by continual flame spells in the ceiling, and a permanent ghost sound plays soft music throughout the complex. Most of the guests include Sensates, but there are other random assortments of people here, too. The perky front desk attendant is a tiefling named Jasalia. She gives the adventurers a tour of the place, which includes changing rooms, a steam room, a lush garden, a weight room, massage parlor, and mudroom, which is currently off limits to everyone but a labor crew conducting renovations. Everything seems to be in order, so Silversac Sam gets a massage from an illithid while Krissy and the others break into the mudroom. They witness a large and very private Bleaker gathering. The Bleakers’ current factol, the intelligent battleaxe Nine Lives Stealer, is here, now hanging from the belt of its loyal githyanki fighter Arja’rok. Just as Strigibow told Bryta, Nine Lives Stealer is indeed overseeing an entombment ceremony. Once the Believer weapon Hordecutter is cast into one of the mud baths, Arja’rok uses his scroll of transmute mud to rock to seal it inside a prison of solid rock. The companions decide to let the ritual finish and refrain from crossing the Bleakers when they leave the bathhouse. Silversac Sam feels invigorated after his massage.

Shortly after the adventurers complete their incursion into the bathhouse, they are contacted by a retired old soldier named Larcos Dengrin, a man who lost 11 years of his life and his status as a paladin to a previous, smaller-scale outbreak of the Bleaker-Believer war. He has a plan to eliminate all of the intelligent weapons in one fell swoop. Bryta asks to hear this plan. Larcos explains that his plan is to lure the two Bleaker weapons into an abandoned armory, using himself as bait, since the Bleakers want him back. The adventurers will provide the trap. In the Hive Ward is a small set of tenements known as the Corroded Kips. Within one of those dens is a beast, known to the locals as the Kogoloxen, which rusts metal and consumes it — even magic items aren’t safe from this monster. Larcos provides a portable hole to the party with which they can trap the Kogoloxen and deliver it to the armory; they can keep the item afterward. Then they can feed all of the weapons to the beast and rid the city of them once and for all. The adventurers tell him that they have more pressing business to attend to in The Stink, but afterward they'll see if they have time to help him out. Larcos offers them a pearl of power and a dusty rose prism iounstone if they meet him at the Bent Goblin tomorrow.

Sanitation workers and Harmonium guards have been going missing lately in the Hive. Worse, ghouls and ghasts are becoming a real problems to workers in the Hive, and a few of the undead have actually managed to wander out of the Hive and into nearby wards. As the companions head toward The Stink, they hear a panicked scream from the other side of a razorvine-covered wall. Moments later, a terrified gnome clambers onto the wall from the far side, teeters a bit on its edge, then falls heavily to the ground on the other side. His face and arms bear deep, terrible gashes. When he sees the slack-jawed adventurers, he cries out for help and tries to get up, but he twisted his ankle in the fall. Xenephon takes a moment to heal him. The gnome introduces himself as Popollo, a high-ranking engineer who works for the Wastewalker’s Guild. Popollo was chased out of The Stink by a pair of ghasts; he managed to escape while the creatures took down the Harmonium guards who were escorting him. Just then, two ghasts climb over the wall after him and immediately attack! Xenephon uses the power of the Light to turn them, and they flee back toward the wall while the azer's comrades cut them both down.

The Stink is surrounded by a hastily constructed wood-and-stone wall that is choked in razor-vines. Several locked gates allow passage in and out, with a pair of Harmonium guards posted at each. Popollo tells the guards to let the companions inside. The air is visible in this ruined district within the Hive; a thick yellow haze that seems almost to shimmer like heat rising from desert sands. Mountains of refuse lie heaped in the roads and between the ruined shells of collapsed buildings. The valley between these massive heaps of refuse run thick with darkly colored liquid runnoff and glistening sludge. Worst of all is the smell, an almost physical entity that seems to shroud the entire place in its reeking embrace.

T'chon puts on the necklace of adaptation to protect him from the gagging smell and flies around looking for an entrance to the Underhive. He doesn't see anything through the haze, so he goes back to ask the locals. The leader of the Collectors, named Sharegrave, gives the aarakocra a map of the area including a passage into the Underhive in exchange for a cut of the shares found below.

The entrance to the Underhive is about 10 feet up from ground level, above a mountain of junk. Then the tunnel slopes steeply downward, into the darkness below. T'chon secures a rope to the summit and the companions all make their way down. Krissy loses her grip on the rope and slips, sliding all the way to the bottom. Meanwhile, T'chon finds a ledge halfway down and decides to check it out; Silversac Sam, Bryta, and Xenephon follow him. Mounds of filth, rubble, and waste lie in heaps all around this cavern. An otyugh lurks in this room. The foul creature lashes out with its tentacles, grappling T'chon and Silversac Sam and pulling them toward its toothy maw.

Meanwhile, way down below, Krissy fumbles around in the darkness. Mounds of soggy timbers, blocks of mossy stone, and twisted lengths of rusted metal lie heaped amongst more foul and rancid forms of garbage here. A sluggish tide of foamy water, thick with patrially dissolved waste bisects the cavern. A jagged “bridge” of ruined doors, wagons, metal bars, and other solid trash spans the frothing waters. A particularly large otyugh has claimed this room as its lair, and emerges from the water to attack Krissy!

After dealing with the two otyughs, the party decides to return to an inn to rest and recuperate and return in the morning.

After getting a night of fresh air, the party returns to The Stink and the Underhive below. They continue exploring the tunnels. Eventually they enter a room with broken chairs, cobblestones, and the like shoved up agains the walls. Braces of lumber and twisted metal support the roof, which sags dangerously with the weight of the refuse above. Streams of filthy liquid dribble down from above to a pool of goo, spoiled food, discarded refuse, and worse. The floor of this chamber is quite unstable. As soon as Silversac Sam and Bryta step into the room, the floor gives way! The half-orc jumps back just in time, but Bryta falls into a second cave below this one. A waterfall of wet garbage pours in after her, burying her. Then sounds of chittering and squeaking begin echoing in from the tunnel ahead, clattering of thousands of tiny claws. Xenephon steps up to block the tunnel while his friends continue digging Bryta out. A swarm of rats rushes up to the azer, who conflagrates them with burning hands.

Continuing on, they smell rotten flesh ahead. Wooden coffins lie piled in a chaotic mess in the next chamber, the sodden wood buckling and pulling apart at the seams to spill their foul contents into a terrible mound below. Three ghasts lurk in there, busy feasting on the rotting corpses. The companions charge in to do battle with them.

During the battle, the companions notice that the temperature seems to fall a bit, and the light from Xenephon's driftglove flutters; a couple rocks on the ground tremble; a piece of paper lifts up to float in the air; then a piece of garbage, a bag of rotting fruit, suddenly transforms into a snake. These signs of chaos are only the prelude to the warty toad-like creature that charges in from the next room — a red slaad!

Silversac Sam steps over the bodies of the slain ghasts to confront the slaad. Bryta stands beside him, shield raised. With a sound somewhere between a croak and a snarl, the slaad lunges at them. The half-orc twists aside, narrowly avoiding those razor claws. The slaad swipes its other hand, this time raking across Silversac's abdomen. Despite his rage, the barbarian grimaces in pain. Krissy takes a shot with her crossbow. Xenephon blasts the slaad with radiant bolts of light. T'chon fires scorching rays from his fingertips.

"Your kind stole our Spawning Stone!" the slaad croaks. "Give it back!" Bryta blocks another claw attack with her shield. Her sword clangs as she parries a blow from the slaad's other clawed hand. Xenephon conjures a spiritual weapon, a hammer of pure light, to bash at their foe. Silversac smashes his axe onto the slaad's shoulder. The creature shakes its head violently and falls onto its back, dead.

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The City of Doors

The companions visit the gray elves who inhabit Grandfather Oak, learning a little bit more about Tercival, Pandemonium, and Loki. The refined and clever leader of the grey elves here, Trillamir Evensong, explains what he knows: Tercival was slain by Turaglas the Ebon Maw decades ago in the Fields of Consumption, the 32nd layer of the Abyss. This demon lord most often takes the form of a colossal-sized mass of shapeless flesh covered with eyes and mouths, like a gigantic gibbering mouther, its roiling flesh shifting in color from pink to green to gray. After defeating Tercival, Turaglas gifted the paladin’s soul to his closest servant, Ba‘al Zəbûb, who took it to Pandemonium. There is no portal that leads directly to Pandemonium from Arborea, and the doorway leading back to the Infinite Staircase is blocked by an army of Unseelie who are presently occupying the leafpod grove. Instead, Trillamir offers the adventurers a way to Sigil, the City of Doors. The portal to Sigil is known as Windcrypt, which is literally an abandoned drow crypt not far from Grandfather Oak. Before the drow turned to Lolth, most of them once lived here in Arborea. Trillamir informs the party that the key to the portal involves the crypt’s doorway and dust reeds… somehow. In any case, perhaps in Sigil the party can find another way to Pandemonium. Before they go, a faerie named Orin suggests they find a sprite named Elden, who was sent to Sigil by Titania to find a cure to the Seelie illness that’s struck them of late.

Along the way to Windcrypt, the companions are ambushed by Unseelie called meenlocks! T'chon casts haste and, moving with blurred speed, rains arrows up their foes even as Silversac Sam charges into melee upon his giant butterfly mount. Xenephon blasts the evil fey with a fireball. Bryta's radiant soul allows her to leap from her butterfly, soaring through the air herself and slashing with her longsword. Krissy flits away on her butterfly, keeping her leafpod from harm, firing crossbow bolts at the meenlocks. Ultimately, the terrifying creatures are defeated, and the party continues on to Windcrypt.

The crypt itself is fairly nondescript. The entrance is carved stone, adorned with elven runes. Krissy moves up to investigate while Xenephon gathers some dust reeds outside. The rogue sees movement within the crypt. Suddenly, six dretches lurch into view! This is a rather brief encounter. The dretches are no match for the mighty adventurers — Silversac Sam, especially — who slay them all in a few seconds.

Bryta eats a dust reed and steps into the crypt. She finds herself in a huge metropolis, a city overwhelmed, barnacled, and encrusted with buildings of all sizes. Blades and spiked fences seem to define its architecture, as well as the razorvines that seem to twist and knot along every wall, which are most commonly constructed of iron and stone. The wide, cobbled streets are crowded with people of all races and kinds. Above the noise of thousands of voices, Bryta hears a nearby fountain whose pure tones come from the splash of water from higher metal basins into lower ones. As she looks on, she sees a beautiful garden, an open-air ballroom packed with revelers, and a bustling marketplace. Then the rest of her companions join her.

Now in the City of Doors, the adventuring company splits up to visit their respective faction headquarters. Xenephon leaves to the Shattered Temple, the former temple of the dead god Aoskar; T'chon heads for the Great Foundry in the Lower Ward, symbolizing their belief that the multiverse constantly forges and refines all beings; Silversac Sam wanders over to the city asylum, called the Gatehouse; Krissy proceeds to the Hall of Records in the Clerk's Ward; and Bryta goes to the City Barracks in The Lady's Ward.

Factol Terrance of the Athar recognizes Tercival as a paladin of a false “god,” who died because of his oath, the fool. Terrance gives Xenephon the location of a portal to the 32nd layer of the Abyss, which can be reached in the Hive Ward. Though he warns the azer that Turaglas the Ebon Maw is a great and terrible foe, one that many adventurers lost their lives trying to defeat.

Factol Ambar Vergrove of the Believers of the Source informs T'chon that they were the ones who crafted and enchanted Tercival’s Holy Avenger sword and equipped him with a ring of return, which would have teleported him back here had he not been killed first. Ambar's courtesy and kindness have earned him a lot of respect from his friends, namers, factotums, and factors half of whom believe him well on the way to becoming a power. Most of them would lay down their lives at his beckoning. To his credit, Ambar rarely requires such sacrifice.

Factol Lhar, the half-orc leader of the Madmen, encourages Silversac Sam to find the answers within himself. Selune’s poem has no hidden meaning to it, and the slaadi invasion of Ysgard is just bad luck. There’s no point in trying to stop it, really. The more pressing problem is the poor, defenseless sanitation workers who’ve been going missing in the Hive Ward lately. Silversac Sam responds that there really isn't any point in helping the sanitation workers either since they're all going to die anyway. Overcome by the meaninglessness of it all, both Silversac Sam and Lhar fall into a deep melancholy.

At the Hall of Records, where the Takers serve as the tax collectors of Sigil and believe that those with power and ability have the right to own what they control and to take what they can from those who are unable to keep it, Krissy finds out that her faction is getting very wealthy on bank loans to adventurers who are flocking to Ysgard to aid in the chaos war. One of the clerks (since Factol Rowan Darkwood is busy) explains to her that this war has the potential to be more profitable than the Blood War, and as such the Fated have no desire for it to end anytime soon. Krissy requests a bank loan herself, which she turns around and gives to a tanar'ri called Shax who claims to have the perfect location to start up a gambling den. Shax takes her money and returns to the Abyss with it. Fortunately for her, Krissy's fast-talking gets her out of having to pay back the money due to a clerical error.

Believing that peace and stability can only be established under Harmonium rule, Factol Arctos Silveraxe gives Bryta what resources she needs to stop this war. He also informs her that the sprite she's looking for just left for Nidavellir a few days ago. The werebear then points Bryta in the direction of the Hive Ward, where sanitation workers and guards have been going missing lately. Rumors have made their way to the barracks of slaad in that area — if this proves to be true, and the chaos war leaks into Sigil, it could be very bad for the City of Doors. Arctos' eyes linger on Bryta's as she considers this dire news, the hint of a smile creasing his ursine features.

After their faction business has been attended to, the companions meet back up at a tavern called Fortune's Wheel to swap stories and get a drink. They decide to head down to the Hive Ward and help out however they can with the disappearing sanitation workers and guards. On the way, they encounter the aftermath of a duel between two bashers, one of whom got away. A small crowd gawks from the alley’s edge, but none have the courage to enter. From questioning the locals, the companions find out that the half-elf corpse is a Believers recruit, slain after his run-in with a Bleak Cabal rival. Krissy investigates the body, only to realize that the Believer's skin looks shriveled, dried up like a raisin, like his life-force was wrenched from his body. A beggar named Rohanis, who took the coinpurse off the dead body a minute ago, saw the whole thing go down. The adventurers convince him to wigwag. “There were two of them," he explains, "the dead guy and a woman with a battleaxe forged from black iron with vile runes engraved on the blade. Before he fell, he stumbled over to that well and dropped his bow into it. That seemed to anger the woman, who finished him off with a slash to the spine. She looked like she was about to jump into the well herself, maybe, but then she saw the crowd gathering and you cutters approaching. She ran off, heading through that alley.”

While her friends talk it over, Bryta uses a climbing piton and rope to fish the bow from the well. It reveals itself to her as Strigibow and explains what has transpired. Its wielder was tracking an evil Bleak Cabal agent back to her lair, where Strigibow believed on of his missing comrades had been taken prisoner. Unfortunately, his wielder was ambushed. The Bleaker revealed her intention to entomb the captured bow forever in the bowels of Featherwhisper’s Bathhouse, an exotic spa in The Lady’s Ward. Strigibow explains that its wielder was a Believer named Taoc, a soldier dedicated to the rooting out Bleaker infestations in Sigil.

The skies over Sigil begin to dim, and twilight is soon upon the city. The companions decide to have dinner at the Smoldering Corpse Bar, so called for the burning man floating just inside the entrance. Within, they order fiendsmilk and some other drinks from the bartender, then scan the room for interesting people to talk to. They see a githzerai standing by himself; he doesn't appear to be breathing and his muscles don't move at all. At another table sit a trio of baatezu, grumbling to each other about the Blood War. T'chon converses with a Dustman named Mochai, a woman with a bird claw for a left hand. She tells him that Life’s a joke, a great trick. Nobody’s alive; in fact, there’s no such thing as Life. T'chon doesn't buy it, though. Eventually the party retires to an inn for the night.

The next morning they encounter a group of Believers fighting another group of Bleakers. Silversac Sam hefts his greataxe and charges in to the aid of his faction members, while T'chon flies up and shoots arrows at the Bleakers. Xenephon casts a bubble of silence around the combat, while Bryta and Krissy are hesitant to come to the aid of either side. A pair of Harmonium guards shows up, and the brawlers all scatter. Bryta admits that her bow, Strigibow, is one of four intelligent magic weapons that seem to be controlling certain members of the Believers and the Bleakers, continuing a war that should have ended a hundred years ago.

The companions agree to pay this Featherwhisper’s Bathhouse a visit later today to see what they can find out about these magic weapons.

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A Dying Power

Odin has been fatally wounded by a weapon of entropy, and Ysgard declares open war on Limbo. Baldur and Jarnskeggi  agree on one course of action to save the Allfather’s life. The heroes of Breidablik, who have proven themselves time and again, must journey to the Gates of the Moon and consult Selûne for an answer.  Our Lady of Silver is venerated as a goddess of stars, navigation, questers, and goodly lycanthropes. Since she and her sister Shar coalesced out of the material of Realmspace after it was created by Ao, it stands to reason that either of the two might know how to heal Odin’s entropic wound.

Travel to the Gates of the Moon can be accomplished in various ways, but Jarnskeggi  suggests the Infinite Staircase. Every full moon on Ysgard, a portal opens up to the  Infinite Staircase, which is said to connect to every city in every plane and perhaps in every time. The stairways, invisible to ordinary people, can only be seen properly by gods or by very powerful mortals. Baldur goes with the companions to make the entrance known to them. This entrance appears as a nondescript cellar door outside an abandoned farmhouse a few miles from Breidablik. Baldur instructs the party to climb 29 flights of stairs to reach the Gates of the Moon, then he returns to his hall.

After some experimentation, the party discovers that the door needs to be opened all the way and then closed halfway again so that the door itself is vertical. This reveals a portal that hadn’t been there before. Beyond the portal lies a seemingly endless ocean of luminous liquid light under an equally boundless night sky full of stars and Toril’s moon. There are no stairs; Baldur was obviously wrong. In the middle of the ocean is a island of stone with a magnificent silver acropolis at its crown. Krissy recognizes this place from stories she read as a little girl — Selûne's acropolis is known as Argentil. Bryta, Xenephon, T'chon, Silversac Sam, and Krissy all step through the portal.

As the companions marvel at this strange new realm, standing as they are upon the ocean itself, a trio of beings resembling human women but composed of moonlight and flame descends from the star-lit sky to alight upon the waters ahead. Illumination shines visibly in their eyes, their hair, and even from the tips of their fingers. Krissy remembers that these beings are known as shards — petitioners of this realm. The shards are friendly and accommodating, speaking with Bryta in the language of Celestials. The valkyrie explains Odin's situation and the reason for her presence in this realm. The shards generously lead the adventurers toward the acropolis.

Argentil is a gigantic palace, its entire surface, inside and out, glistening with polished silver. The entrance is watched by a single golem made out of whitish silver. The path through the palace is long and awe-inspiring, as only the home of a deity can be. Finally, their escort brings them to a set of huge, intimidating doors, in the silver surface of which is carved the symbol of infinity. When Bryta approaches the doors, the symbol leaps off the surface. A lillend with a golden mask materializes behind the symbol. She welcomes the visitors, and after speaking with Bryta for a bit, allows them into Selûne's inner sanctum.

When the adventurers step through the doors, they find themselves standing under a seemingly endless night sky. Looking back, the doors are gone, the lillend is gone, the acropolis is gone — only a shallow lake, about ankle deep, and the night sky, remain. Between the silver moonlight and the stars, countless fireflies flit about in the air. And there, sitting in the slight depths, is Selûne. She appears as a young girl with white hair, fair white skin, white robes, and an innocent, relaxed expression on her soft face. Though Bryta has many questions, Selûne responds only with the following poem:

Flies of the garden’s roses, O what din
Has scattered those flushed petals in an hour,
And the pantries of all the cottages thinned,
What Stygian wind,
O sad lord archon banished to a grave?

Tercival has out-blushed the roses: bound
As all the feasts of the world’s delight.
And every rose of joy has been downed,
And for sweet shame is bound;
Sweet meal being spoiled in the pure fool’s sight.

And with that, a host of fireflies descends upon Selûne, one by one completely enveloping her, so that all the characters can see is their blinding luminescence. A gust of wind picks up, dispersing the fireflies, and Selûne is gone.

T'chon thinks her poem references the gluttonous Lord of the Flies, Ba‘al Zəbûb. Xenephon recognizes the famous paladin named Alek Tercival, long thought to be dead, and the Stygian winds of Pandemonium. Krissy wonders if Selûne is suggesting that Tercival is not really dead, that maybe he is being held prisoner by Ba‘al Zəbûb in Pandemonium. If so, then this is the only lead the adventurers have in discovering a cure for Odin’s wound. But getting to Pandemonium is easier said than done.

They return to the Infinite Staircase. When the party first begins their ascent, the staircase looks like a spiraling silver stairway entwined with ivy. The first landing is a 200-foot disc, with numerous other staircases, all of different appearance and composition, extending off like tentacles. Walls are no longer visible; instead, each stair disappears into hazy darkness. Sometimes these staircases are oriented in different directions from the one that the viewer stands upon — up, down, left, and right are not the same for travelers on those stairs. During the course of their trip, they cross over many types of stairs — straight, wooden staircases, spiral stairs made of metal, winding curved stairs of stone, and more.

For the most part, travelers on the Infinite Staircase find it to be a lonely, desolate place. Usually, one could climb the stairs a whole day and never see another soul. However, today is not so lucky. An ettercap and four giant spiders wandered in from some doorway long ago and constructed a web between two portions of demolished staircase — the gap being about 30ft across.

Krissy instinctively shoots at one of the spiders with her crossbow, starting the fight. As the other three scuttle onto the stairway, the companions draw their weapons and burst into the melee. Bryta flourishes her luminous wings and flies across the breach to engage the ettercap. Silversac Sam bellows a warcry and rages, chopping with his mighty greataxe. Xenephon hurls sacred fire at his arachnid foes. T'chon flies up high and attacks with precise longbow shots. The spiders prove to be more deadly than expected; after the combat the companions take a long rest.

On her watch, while her friends sleep all around her, Krissy spies a winged gorilla a couple flights up. She scrambles to her feet, but when the creature realizes that it's been spotted, it turns and flees into a heavy iron door above. After everyone else wakes up, the rogue informs them what had transpired on her watch. T'chon recognizes the winged gorilla as a derhii, a vicious and highly intelligent demon from Limbo. Xenephon thinks maybe this creature was spying on them for the slaad. In any case, the party packs up their belongings and heads out again.

The next couple doors do not look appealing. First the party checks out the iron door that the derhii had fled into. Beyond is a portal to the cold, snowy Iron Wastes, the 23rd layer of the Abyss. The second door they open is made of brass, and when Xenephon opens it, he is assaulted by hot air and flames. The azer recognizes the Plane of Fire and the City of Brass in there. Krissy convinces her friends to enter the third door, which is beautifully carved oak endowed with brightly colored flowers and leads to Arvandor.

Within this portal the companions see a beautiful female faerie, garbed in noble attire, and three sprite bodyguards standing in a grove on one of Grandfather Oak’s huge branches, surrounded by leaf pods. Sunlight shines upon one of those leaf pods, which the noble faerie plucks up into her graceful arms. Immediately after she chooses a pod, evil darklings and quicklings from the Unseelie Court swoop in to attack! The female faerie hides behind her bodyguards, who do their best to protect her, but it looks like they'll soon be overwhelmed by the sheer number of evil fey. Krissy and her companions leap in to help.

Even as Bryta, Xenephon, T'chon, Silversac Sam, and Krissy defeat their Unseelie foes, a veritable army of dark faeries approaches, riding upon giant bees. The noble faerie woman begs them to flee with her — the fate of all good faeries lies in this leaf pod, and it cannot fall into the wrong hands. A kaleidoscope of giant butterflies bursts out from underneath the branch. Krissy is the first to jump onto one. Her companions follow a second later. And so they all fly off on their butterflies, the Unseelie in hot pursuit.

Finally they make it to safety, a grove at the base of Grandfather Oak, with a peaceful pond and weeping willow tree. The noble faerie woman alights upon a mossy rock and introduces herself as Titania, Queen of the Seelie Court. She explains that the pixies and sprites of her Court have recently been falling ill. She can’t explain why, though she has sent a few brave faeries out in search of an answer. She suspects that “the balance” is in jeopardy. Perhaps there is too much evil in the multiverse, or too much chaos. This leaf pod that she plucked from the grove is an unborn faerie. Fewer of their kind are being born as well, which really concerns her. Titania pleads for the adventurers to help get to the bottom of this. When they agree, she gifts them with a ring of shooting stars, and she gives Krissy the leaf pod, instructing the rogue to protect it with her life. Titania and the remainder of her faeries must leave now — it is no longer safe here with the Unseelie faeries swarming the area.

The adventurers head back up Grandfather Oak to meet with the elves, gathering information and buying, selling, and trading their loot. After the Unseelie have moved on, the plan is to return to the Infinite Staircase portal and continue their quest.

 

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The Outcast and the Imposter

The meeting with Syranita is interrupted by a harpy attack. Syranita pleads for her guests to help in the fight. Silversac Sam runs to the window and peers out at five harpies - two of whom have already begun throwing eggs off the cliffs. T'chon, enraged by this despicable act against his people, swoops out to engage them, blasting away with burning hands. Krissy and Xenephon fire their crossbows. Bryta draws her longsword as two luminous, incorporeal wings sprout from her back. Joining the companions are two aarakocra who dive in to defend their nests.

The harpies' luring song makes the fight more challenging, as their melodic voices charm some of the defenders. T'chon's wild magic surge turns him into a potted plant. As he hurtles to the canyon floor below, Bryta leaps across the span between two towers and lays into a harpy with her sword. The creature's talons narrowly miss her throat, while a desperate swing of the harpy's club glances off her shield.

Two harpies foolishly land on the tower where Silversac Sam anxiously awaits. The half-orc grips his axe two-handed and lays about him like a madman. Talons and bone clubs pierce and pummel his thick flesh, but nothing slows the barbarian's assault. Silversac swings his axe at a harpy in mid-air, its glinting blade shearing through her naked torso. The second harpy rakes its talons across his face. Grinning and spitting blood, Silversac spins on one heel and chops his assailant's head clean off. So wild with battle frenzy, the half-orc leaps off the edge of the tower toward an adjacent tower, but misses the ledge of the other by just a handsbreadth.

Right before T'chon splats on the ground, he reverts back to his aarakocra form and flies back up to the fight. He sees Silversac falling and swoops up to catch him.

All of the harpies are killed save one, who flies away. T'chon gives chase, following her for four long hours to a frozen swampland shrouded in glittering clouds of ice crystals. There he spies a hideous aarakocra witch and her flock of harpies. Her wings are shriveled and her body gnarled and contorted. The harpy T'chon was chasing hands this cursed creature a bag of aarakocra eggs, which she takes into the largest of the buildings.

This rime-encrusted marsh was a silver-mining town known as Ivittuut. Once the crystal-clear headwaters of the sacred River Fyris, this lake was clogged with silt by several volcanic eruptions, creating this treacherous and unique high-altitude fen. The waters of Ivittuut are in a constant state of freezing and thawing, with the mix of high altitude and latent volcanism creating a mist-shrouded frozen region of water and swaths of icy mud. No plants exist in the Ivittuut apart from the everpresent stalks of strange pale fungi and clots of floating lichens that cover and hide deep tarns of freezing water.

Bryta, Silversac, Xenephon, and Krissy give T'chon a couple hours before they start to worry about him. Krissy finds a bird and uses her uncanny ability to speak with the avian to ask it to go find a giant eagle to carry her and her companions in search of T'chon. Miraculously, the bird agrees to it and flies off.

After a couple more hours, a gargantuan bird appears over a mountain and swoops toward them, landing upon the tallest tower of the Eyrie. This roc, a creature of legend, then carries the adventurers in the direction T'chon went. Eventually the aarakocra crosses paths with them on his way back to the Eyrie. He explains what he saw, and the roc drops its riders off about a mile from Ivittuut so they can formulate a plan.

Early the next morning, Xenephon casts a silence aura spell on Krissy, who then sneaks into the town of Ivittuut. She assassinates a harpy along the way, making no sound thanks to the azer's spell. Finally she makes it to the aarakocra witch's abode. She peeks inside the door to see the aarakocra performing some sort of black magic with a cauldron and some broken egg shells. This is Veleda.

Long ago, an aarakocra cleric sold her soul to the demon lord Baphomet in exchange for a powerful dagger of withering. For her crime, she was hurled from Maztica and into the cursed swamps of Ivittuut, where her wings shriveled and her body gnarled and contorted. No longer able to fly, and forever cut off from the cloud realm of her people, Veleda formed her own community of harpies in the shadow of the Eyrie.

Krissy signals for her friends to come, then lights the building on fire. But her friends are not as stealthy as she. Bryta's jingling chainmail and Xenephon's cumbersome bronze body and flaming hair alert the other harpies in the area, who swarm out of the surrounding buildings, screeching and cursing!

The chaos of battle ensues. Silversac Sam charges into the thickest of the fighting, laying about him with his heavy axe, surrounding himself in a mist of blood and screams. Krissy dances from foe to foe, cutting and stabbing with her rapier. The silence spell surrounding her prevents the harpies from using their charming song.

A harpy springs at Xenephon. The cleric gets his hammer up in time to turn the blow, almost losing his grip under the furious attack. His enemy rakes a talon across his thigh, unbalancing him enough that he takes another blow to his left shoulder. Furious, Xenephon raises his hammer aloft and bellows a prayer to the Light. A nova of blinding light explodes out from the azer, knocking all of the harpies down and severely wounding them.

Presently, the cursed aarakocra witch herself emerges from her lair and slashes at Krissy with a sinister-looking dagger. The rogue parries enough so that her foe's blade slides off her leather armor instead of impaling her. However, she sustains a flesh wound that radiates an unnatural pain. Krissy backs away and, with her fast hands, digs a potion out of her pack and chugs it.

Silversac Sam and Bryta charge at Veleda. The cursed aarakocra tries to turn the half-orc's axestroke aside with her dagger, but the heavy blade slams into her chest and knocks her backward. Blood spews from her mouth in a gargled screech. T'chon creates an illusory dragon that snaps its ethereal jaws at her. Veleda tries to fight back, but the image in her mind's eye is too powerful. Bryta calls out a battle maneuver, allowing Krissy to slip into the melee and cut another wound upon Veleda.  Between the fearsome dragon illusion, Bryta's swordblows, the half-orc's mighty axe, Krissy's sneaky crossbow shots, and Xenephon's radiant spells, Veleda is no match. She turns and flees, but Xenephon drops her with a mystical bolt of light.

The party questions her when she wakes up, and they learn that Veleda was using the aarakocra eggshells in her divination magic. She's been trying to commune to Baphomet to figure out why the slaadi are attacking with such relentless force all of a sudden. Krissy resists the urge to slit the loathsome creature's throat, but Xenephon takes the liberty of smashing her head in with his hammer.

After many days of traveling back through the mountains, the companions return to the Eyrie to report their victory over the harpies and their outcast leader. Syranita gratefully gives them a ring of feather fall as a parting gift.

On their way back to Breidablik, the companions meets Hodd, Letha, and Calladastina traveling along with a new friend — an old man with a frumpy wide-brimmed hat, a scraggly white beard, and an eyepatch over one eye. He could be a mage, as a crow lights upon one shoulder.

In fact, this is Odin. The Allfather tells them that he's coming with them to Breidablik to help out. The companions share their suspicions about Toki Melnirson being a slaad, and Odin assures that he'll speak with Toki himself. Bryta lowers her head, hoping her father doesn't recognize her. But Odin does indeed, glaring down at her with his one good eye. The flicker of a smile crosses his lips, quickly replaced by a frown. He asks why she has returned to Ysgard without the dragon-slaying axe Arngrim. Bryta explains that she did not intend to come here — it was just the happenstance of a portal in the Outlands.

The companions, along with their three new friends and Odin the Allfather, finally make it back to Breidablik. The Wise Council are speaking amongst themselves at their high table when the hall doors suddenly burst open and the adventurers all march in. Toki appears quite nervous at the sight of Odin, who strides up to him and glowers down at him with an eye the color of cold steel.

Toki Melnirson issues a throaty scream as his flesh melts away to reveal bumpy grey skin beneath. His teeth grow long and sharp. His finger and toenails stretch into vicious long claws. His skull and face reform to that of a giant wide-mouthed toad. The grey slaad raises a shard of pure entropy and thrusts it into Odin's belly, declaring that Ygorl will exact vengeance upon all of Ysgard for stealing the Spawning Stone. Bryta screams and lunges at Toki. As her friends all charge in to help, Toki croaks laughter and planeshifts away.

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A Caw for Help

The hat-box mimic lashes out at Silversac Sam with its powerful adhesive tongue that holds fast to the half-orc. As his friends come to his aid, the barbarian beats on the mimic with his greataxe. T'chon and Bryta shoot arrows at it, Krissy fires a crossbow bolt, and Xenephon hits the mimic with a sacred flame. After a brief but memorable combat, the mimic is defeated.

The companions go into Bargle's bedroom right nextdoor real quick. Krissy takes an armillary sphere from off the table, then she tries breaking into a locked chest without success.

With the help of a couple more kobolds, Bargle and his books are all loaded onto a wagon outside. Then the companions head back in the direction of Breidablik.

After half a day of travelling, an injured aarakocra named Deekek flies down to them, begging for help. He explains that slaadi have invaded from Limbo and are presently marauding the aarakocra cloud realm Maztica in the Vale of Syranita. The aarakocra god K’ooriall flew out to meet the slaadi in battle but was slain and turned into a slaad himself! Deekek notes that they’ve been attacked in the past by slaadi, but not to this degree. The aarakocra cannot mount a unified defense against the slaadi right now because the Eyrie where they hatch their eggs is being attacked by harpies that raid the place and throw aarakocra eggs off the cliffs. If the adventurers can help drive off these harpies, then the aarakocra at the Eyrie can join those in Maztica and hopefully keep the slaadi at bay until help arrives.

Bringing the befuddled mage with them to fight harpies doesn't seem like a good idea, so the companions send Deekek off to Breidablik to ask for reinforcements while they continue on to Hunclay's cave. The firbolg is reluctant to accept Bargle, his thousands of books, and the kobolds into his home, but Krissy, Silversac, and T'chon convince him to allow Bargle and the kobolds to take up residence in the old troll cave as long as he checks on them every day. Hunclay asks if they'll be staying for dinner, but the adventurers decline, instead riding back toward the Mountains of Gladsheim and the Eyrie.

A couple days into their journey, the green dragon Khavalanoth sees an opportunity for glorious combat and swoops down to attack them. Krissy tosses a bag of silver coins onto the ground, hoping to appease the dragon's greedy appetite, but it doesn't work. Khavalanoth exhales a cone of flesh-corrosive gas that catches Silversac Sam and Xenephon together. Despite his horrible injuries, the half-orc throws himself into melee with the dragon. A fierce and desperate fight ensues. Ultimately, the dragon is outmatched, and flies away.

T'chon knows that following the river Fyris will lead them safely through the mountains. The river ends at Fyrisvellir, or the Fyris Wolds, the marshy delta west of Gamla Uppsala, which is home to a village of hill dwarves. Fyrisvellir is actually a wide canyon consisting of a deep gorge through which the Fyris empties into a marsh. Rock spires rise from the canyon floor, and when the wind blows past these natural structures it makes a sighing — and sometimes a howling — sound. The canyon walls are hundreds of feet high.

The companions choose to bypass Gamla Uppsala and head straight into Fyrisvellir. The first combat encounter when they enter the canyon involves an ettin. The bloated, rotting body of a red slaad lays just inside the cave, along with signs the ettin has been camping here for many days. T'chon suggests sneaking past the ettin and continuing on along the delta. The aarakocra spurs his horse and rides forward, but when he nears the slaad's body, his horse suddenly plunges into the ground as if it were water!

As creatures of chaos, slaadi already affect the natural world wherever they set foot; after they die, their body fluids soak into the soil and pollute the area. This particular slaad’s decomposing body has caused mini pockets of chaos to form nearby.

Xenephon moves forward, but when he does, the ettin retreats back into the cave. Silversac Sam charges at the two-headed giant, only to suddenly find himself hurled straight up into the air a hundred feet. Krissy sneaks into the cave next, but she, too, drops into an unnaturally liquid patch on the ground. Bryta is more lucky. She ties one of her axes to a rope and tosses it into the pool after T'chon. Then the ettin, with a toothy grin, emerges from the cave and swings its huge spiked clubs at the intruders.

After the ettin is defeated, the companions take an hour to rest and recuperate. Continuing onward, they encounter a low ridge near the canyon floor, where two aarakocra named Ruki and U’ack have set up a watch post hidden with brush. The aarakocra claim to have seen jötunn proceeding into and out of Fyrisvellir, and they witnessed a recent raid on the hill dwarf village Gamla Uppsala. Certain that the giants’ presence has taken hold in the canyon, they are now debating what action to take. The adventurers offer to confront the jötunn in the canyon, and Ruki and U’ack are grateful for it.

The higher the companions climb, the colder it becomes, with ice, snow, and frigid wind assaulting them constantly. Krissy and Xenephon use some furs they found in the ettin's lair to craft cold weather clothing for themselves and their friends, which helps a little.

Carved into the icy crevice at the end of the gully is a road that leads up the mountains to the Vale of Syranita. Gálgviðr (meaning “gallows-wood”) is the lair of the four jötunn, who presently forage among large rocks and evergreens. T'chon alights upon a tall, thin spire of rock and fires an arrow down at one of the jötunn. With an angry bellow, the jötunn hurls a rock at the arrakocra. As other three jötunn move up to investigate, Silversac Sam, Krissy, Xenephon, and Bryta charge at them.

Silversac engages two jötunn simultaneously, his greataxe rising and falling in bloody arcs. Krissy snipes at them from hiding. Bryta runs forward, leaps across a sheet of ice, and slashes with her longsword. It is a brutal engagement, but our heroes emerge victorious.

The Eyrie is located near the border between Ysgard and Limbo, in a hidden vale at the top of a peak in the Mountains of Gladsheim, several thousand feet above the valley floor below. The companions approach by a narrow causeway, passing through three way-castles guarding the ascent, with aarakocra archers glaring down at them, and then proceed in single file up the narrow road. T'chon explains that the Eyrie is considered impregnable to any attack that does not involve flight, and its defenses have never been overcome. A single tall tower surrounded by a dozen shorter towers overlook the Vale of Syranita, which is a good half-mile wide at this point. While the architecture is stunningly beautiful, the towers all seem damaged and worn, but new timbers and shingles suggest that repairs are underway. A white banner with a gold feather flies over the tallest of them. The front gate is closed.

T'chon flies up to the gatehouse and politely asks for admittance, requesting to see Syranita concerning the eggs and the harpies. Syranita is the aarakocra deity of protection and watchfulness, and is the matron deity of the aarakocra. Relieved that help has finally arrived, the aarakocra guards consider the companions to be important guests and open the gates. While T'chon flies up to the tallest tower to meet with Syranita, the rest of his friends must ascend the spiral staircase.

Syranita appears as an aarakocra female with silver skin and pink-gold feathers. Her adornments and feathers are so bright as to be almost blinding to look upon. The loss of K’ooriall has Syranita deeply troubled. She worries for her people — indeed, for all the realm. While the Ysgardians find endless distraction in glorious combat, the slaadi gather in strength beyond the mountains. She doesn’t know why they are so hostile all of a sudden. For now, Syranita welcomes the party’s offer to help the aarakocra with their harpy problem. Most of the aarakocra guardians of the Eyrie left to go fight the slaadi in Maztica, leaving so few behind that they cannot defeat the harpies themselves.

And sure enough, right on queue, the alarm is raised. Five harpies are attacking the eggs!

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Kill Bargle!

On their way back to Breidablik, Silversac Sam, Xenephon, T'chon, Bryta, and Krissy encounter the brewmistress up in a tree while a pair of lions are about to start climbing up there to get her. They valiantly drive one lion off and kill the other before she is eaten. So thankful is she for rescuing her, the brewmistress offers them some of her most potent magical brews.

The celebration for the return of the brewmistress to Breidablik is a wild, loud, fun affair, with much cheering, clapping, and clanking of cups. Baldur the Beautiful, son of the god Odin and Frigg, makes an appearance. Baldur is so fair of feature, and so bright, that golden light shines from him. He is the wisest of the Æsir, and the fairest-spoken and most gracious. He heard about the adventurers and their exploits, and he is pleased with their heroism. He explains that their story isn’t finished yet, that their test has only just begun. A war between the warriors of Valhalla and the dwarves of Nidavellir would surely tear Ysgard apart, and so it must be prevented. The diplomatic solution was a failure; war with the dwarves seems inevitable, unless the bloodprice can be paid. Baldur offers a magic item to each of the party members if they agree to avenge the death of a dwarf cleric named Alena and figure out who poisoned the dwarves in Breidablik in the first place. The Wise Council (especially Toki Melnirson) seems to think it was the doing of a hermit enchanter named Bargle, who resides at Castle Mistamere. While Baldur and Jarnskeggi are fine with the companions bringing Bargle in dead or alive, Toki insists that Bargle is to be killed.

While the Wandering Guardians seem to have failed in their quest to make peace with the dwarves of Nidavellir, the third party of adventurers — Hodd, Letha, and Calladastina — who left to meet with Odin, have not returned yet.

The journey to Castle Mistamere takes a few days, with the trail to the ruins leading through pleasant fields and olive groves. Eventually the party reaches the edge of Asgard's earthberg. Empty sky fills the distance between this and the next earthberg, which floats a hundred feet away. A rickety wooden bridge spans between them, swaying in the breeze. Other earthbergs can be seen scattered far away in the distance both above and below.

T'chon suggests flying everyone over the span to the other earthberg. Just then, a galeb duhr awakens nearby and addresses the party. He declares that his kind guard the bridge on either side, and none may pass without first answering a riddle:

You come across a lion and a unicorn in a forest of forgetfulness. The lion lies every Moonday, Tyrsday, and Wodensday and the other days he speaks the truth. The unicorn lies on Thorsdays, Feyadays, and Saturndays, and the other days of the week he speaks the truth.

Lion: Yesterday I was lying.

Unicorn: So was I.

Which day did they say that?

The only other creature encountered along the way is with a centaur playing a panpipe. He is a friendly cutter who gladly volunteers that he’s seen little dog-like monsters go in and out of the keep over the past few months. Xenephon identifies them as kobolds. The centaur has never seen Bargle, and is glad for it. He has no desire to enter that castle.

The walls of Castle Mistamere are jagged and full of holes where stones crumbled away. A gateway in the center of the front wall stands empty, and the massive outer doors lie rotting nearby on the ground, although the inner keep door still stands. Peeking over the outer wall in places are the ruins of the keep itself, backed against the sheer cliff of the mountain beyond. Lurking in a shallow den underneath the door is a carrion crawler, but the garbage-eating bug is easily defeated.

Ten kobolds are stationed in the courtyard, tasked by Bargle to keep watch for trouble. When the party enters the outer walls, the kobolds spread out and train their slings on the intruders, using the rubble littering the courtyard as cover. The companions sweep into the courtyard, slaying kobolds left and right amid a hail of slingstonefire. Those cowardly creatures that are engaged in melee flee toward the keep, but Silversack Sam blocks their retreat and they are cut down.

Krissy levitates up into a second-story window and slips inside while Silversack kicks down the front door. Most of the rooms appear empty, ruined, and abandoned. A giant bat swoops out of the chimney in one room and attacks the party, but it is killed rather quickly. Krissy finds nothing upstairs but some rusty silverware, which she pockets. When she comes downstairs to meet back up with the other members of her party, she finds a kobold shrine room dedicated to Kurtulmak.

Eventually the party notices a faint green light, which leads them to a library room. This chamber is lit by a magical Lantern of Revealing. The air here smells of ancient leather and old paper. A table and cushioned chair sit in the middle of the room. Books are everywhere else, on bookshelves or placed in numerous disarrayed stacks that tower to the ceiling. An old figure sits in ornate robes at the table, cradling a large book to his chest and rocking back and forth, muttering, “…Oblivion is coming… the chaos… the nothing…”

This is Bargle. His hair and beard are disheveled and he smells like he hasn’t bathed in weeks. Xenephon tries talking with him, but it's difficult to get anything past his mad babbling. Apparently he once visited Breidablik about a month ago to enjoy food, drink, and good company; and to pick up new quests wherein he could test new spells. On that visit, Bargle spoke with the Wise Council, and he discovered that there was more to Toki Melnirson than anyone else realized. He didn’t want to raise a fuss, so he returned to his castle to research it. The kobolds were summoned from Acheron by Bargle to act as his servants and guardians, but lately he's been so obsessed with his books, the kobolds have been running amok.

Xenephon asks the two kobolds in the other room if they saw anyone else in the castle lately, and they admit that they have seen what looks like a big grey toad walking about in the shadows, but he disappears when he's not illuminated by the green lantern. The azer gasps at this news — a grey slaad! Here in Ysgard!

"Could this slaad be Toki in disguise?" Bryta wonders.

Bargle seems to think that something terrible and forboding is coming, and something really bad will happen to him if he doesn’t get to the bottom of this. His mind is pretty broken. T'chon suspects that he's been the subject of numerous fear spells. While Bargle does respond to questions, his attention always seems to be elsewhere. “I must figure it out before… before they come for us… they’re coming … Oblivion is coming. It’s up to me to find the answer.” Needless to say, the companions conclude that Bargle did not sour the wine at Breidablik or poison any dwarves.

The room contains 2,000 volumes of varying sizes. Bryta offers to bring the mage and his books with them to a friendly firbolg who might be able to help him find the answers he seeks. It takes some convincing, but Bargle agrees. He says there's a wagon outside they can use.

Krissy notices a torn and stepped-on piece of paper on the floor. She picks it up and reads:

Harp and carp, Olidammara, she said
Harp and carp along with me
And if you dare to kiss my lips
Sure of your body I will be

Before they leave, the companions case the rest of the castle. They cuff the two kobolds in the shrine and take the pile of magic items the kobolds were using to summon Kurtulmak. Xenephon finds a zombie stuffed in a crate in a storage room. In one closet, Silversack Sam finds a hatbox lying on the floor. He goes to pick it up, but the hatbox opens its toothy jaws and lashes out with its tongue — a mimic!

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Breidablik

The companions leave their boat behind and head out to explore this beautiful new plane — well, new to all but Bryta, of course. Along the way, a ratatosk shouts a warning of impending doom from high atop Yggdrasil’s branches. Something has gone terribly wrong in Ysgard; the natural order of the planes has been disturbed. Breidablik has seen three evil omens lately. Xenophon inquires about these omens, but the squirrel-creature only knows the basics: ravens roosting in the eaves of Baldur's hall, a raiding firbolg who carried off a brewmistress, and a thousand barrels of wine that suddenly soured into vinegar. The ratatosk suggests visiting Breidablik for more information, even pointing the way for the barmy adventurers.

Ah, Breidablik! From all over Ysgard famous warriors and earls gather at the drinking-benches of Baldur the Beautiful to hear the songs of the minstrels and take part in games and feats of strength. The drinking-hall is decorated with the green boughs of fir trees, and fires blaze on the hearths at either end. Along the walls are flaming torches which light the vast hall with flickering light, and the smoke from the flares and the fires on the hearths is drawn high to the roof, where it disappears in the gloomy rafters through a hole cut at the peak.

Around the hall stand wooden benches, and at one end is the table at which Jarnskeggi the Snow-haired, Nauma the Hair-splitter, and Toki Melnirson sit in their robes of state. The lower benches are crowded with the petitioners and warriors of Ysgard, and waiting upon them with food and drink are their vassals and cup-bearers.

In one corner of the hall the armor and helmets of the warriors are piled, and the spears tipped with bright metal, the huge swords glittering in their places. Krissy eyes the fine weaponry and sleights a dagger into his sleeve. The air is heavy with the smell of burning pine and fir. There is not much laughter among the guests, which is unusual for this place, though bad omens have soured everyone’s mood. Now and again a clear deep voice rings out above the continual murmur of the crowd and there is an answering rise in the applause or disapproval of those who heard.

Here and there a huge dog rests his head upon his master’s knee and waits patiently for a rough caress or a chunk of meat. The servants hurry from bench to bench with ox horns adorned with beaten gold and filled with heady mead, that favorite drink of the Northmen, flavored with honey. Large wooden bowls overflowing with various meats stand on the tables and are dipped into by the seated guests.

Two dwarves wave the newcomers over to their table, introducing themselves as Letha and Hodd; the stern-looking woman across from them is Calladastina. They explain who the Wise Council is, and what has brought all of these warriors to Baldur's hall — the call to adventure!

Bryta removes her helmet so as not to be recognized as a valkyrie here.

During their meal, a sound like rushing wind fills the air. Krissy recognizes the sound more akin to a flock of birds approaching. She rushes outside and notices a score ravens sitting on the eaves above, croaking and squawking together. Since she is able to communicate with birds, she understands what all that babbling is about: "Death!" "Chaos!" "The Nothing comes!" "Oblivion!"

Unnerved, she returns to her companions' table and shares quietly what she learned.

Jarnskeggi the Snow-haired stands and describes the three omens in detail. Several dwarves have died of poisoning; no one knows who soured the wine or why, but the dwarves have demanded a hefty bloodprice, threatening to take their own vengeance. Jarnskeggi ends with a call to adventure for anyone brave enough to either return the brewmistress or meet with the dwarves of Nidavellir. Toki Melnirson suggests banning the dwarves from the hall entirely, though their glittering wares would surely be missed. Nauma the Hair-splitter just wants to figure out who's behind all this so that the horns of war may be blown and she can meet her enemies in glorious combat.

Abernal the Quick, Alfheim’s greatest warrior, and his motley troupe of seven elves who call themselves the Wandering Guardians, offer to go speak to the dwarves. Calladastina volunteers her trio of adventurers to see what Odin has to say about all this. And our intrepid companions — Bryta, Silversack Sam, Krissy, Xenophon, and T'chon — come forward to return the brewmistress to Breidablik.

The companions ask about the lay of the land and learn about the mountains, valleys, and fjords around this region. They decide to follow Glory Road, which should take them near some caves that firbolgs probably have made into lairs. Along the way they encounter three trolls who've already made a meal of two sheep. While Xenophon charges into combat with fiery zeal, T'chon flies up and blasts the trolls with spells. Silversack Sam and Bryta gang up on one troll. And Krissy snipes them with her crossbow from the shadows. One of the trolls is killed, but the other three handily kill all of the companions.

The next morning the companions eat a big breakfast at Breidablik again before heading out on their quest — as if their deaths hadn’t happened! Such is the nature of Ysgard.

This time they avoid the trolls and make their way into the forested foothills of the mountains. Krissy scouts ahead and finds a pen of sheep and a cave. The whole party goes in to explore the cave. They find a secret door within that leads into a very comfortable living room with a carpet on the floor and two chairs and a table and a dresser and a mantelpiece over the fireplace and above that a picture of an old giant with a grey beard. In one corner there is a doorway with a bedroom beyond, and on one wall is a shelf full of books.

"A little bird told me you were coming," says the occupant of the living room, a firbolg with a ruddy nose and big ears and a little bit of a beard on his chin. Presently he pours five cups of tea and sets out a plate of bread and goatcheese for his guests.

The firbolg introduces himself as Hunclay. He used a ritual from one of his most prized volumes, Better Kips and Gardens, so he could live out his days here in quiet harmony. However, Olidammara’s Den lies just a few miles to the north, up in the mountains. Krissy identifies Olidammara as the god of Music, Revels, Wine, Rogues, Humor, and Tricks. About a week ago, the jovial music and laughter coming from Olidammara’s Den ceased. Hunclay heard that the Laughing Rogue hasn’t been himself lately, and because of that, the mood of the whole region seems to have also soured. As a firbolg, Hunclay only wants to maintain the balance in nature. In an effort to cheer Olidammara up, and restore the balance, the firbolg kidnapped a brewmistress and brought her to the Den, hoping Olidammara would find this act amusing. Unfortunately it didn’t work, so Hunclay let her go. He tells the companions that she should arrive back at Breidablik in another day or two.

Krissy brings up the fact that two trolls have taken up residence near here. Silversack Sam strikes a deal with the firbolg: he and his friends will kill the trolls for a reward. Hunclay doesn't have much to offer but a Tome of Understanding and one of his sheep. A deal is made, and the companions head out.

They find the two trolls walking back to where they'd fought the previous day, grumbling to each other about a woman who'd just escaped. The companions laid an ambush, bravely defeating the pair of trolls this time. The heroes returned to Hunclay's cave to rest and celebrate their victory. Tomorrow they shall head back along the road to Breidablik in hopes of meeting up with the brewmistress along the way.

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I Want to Rock and Roll All Night

After dealing with the bacchae, the companions set off for the nearest sign of civilization in the seemingly endless woods of Arborea. T'chon flies way up above the forest canopy and spots a city a few days trek from here.

Finally they come upon Brightwater, an entirely urban realm that prides itself on taking stupid chances, drinking deep from life’s cup, and seizing each day as if it were the last, and it’s the center for the cults of Sune, Llira, and Tymora. Gambling, horse races, drinking, music, festhalls, and dancing are all abundant, superb, and constantly available at one of hundreds of taverns and gaming halls, as are the earthly pleasures of the table and the pallet. Wagers on everything fly fast and furiously; berks wager on where a fly lands, when a bariaur scratching itself, and even whether or not a party of adventurers returns within a specified span of time. Item recovery services are plentiful; bands of rogues gather together to sell their services as “retrievers” of lost or stolen property.

The Gilded Hall, home of the Sensates, lies just outside the borders of this realm. Traffic between it and the portals of Brightwater is quite heavy. It is here the companions find a way back to the gate-town of Sylvania. The Sensates show them to a portal, the key to which is dancing a jig.

Lavinia is overjoyed with the companions for reclaiming the Blue Nixie and finding her father’s medallion. She has another task for them, which they accept. She asks them to travel withher to Castle Teraknian in the Sylvanian harbor to check her family vault. All of Sylvania’s nobility have vaults under that castle, but she’s never been there or seen any of them. Rumors hold that some family vaults are guarded by traps and constructs. She’d like the party to accompany her to provide protection.

Lavinia hires a coach to take her and the party from her manor to the harbor, where they take a ferry to Castle Teraknian. A gnome clerk verifies Lavinia’s identity and her medallion, and then escorts them down a spiral staircase to a huge circular chamber under the castle. Over a dozen narrow hallways radiate out from the central vault chamber, each ending in a door. The clerk bids them good day and returns to his office upstairs.

Lavinia uses her medallion to open the door that bears her family crest. Within, the companions find a domed chamber of polished green marble, circled by five bronze pillars carved to resemble lizardfolk. The ceiling bears a huge eight-point star, which T'chon recognizes as the symbol of the Seekers guild, an organization of adventurers and treasure hunters. This room is just the atrium and guardroom of the vault proper, a final defense against would-be thieves. A hidden switch on one of the pillars, which Krissy finds easily enough, causes a portal to open in the space between two pillars, leading into the vault itself.

This pentagonal room is supported by a single large pillar with dozens of deep grooves along its sides. The walls each bear fantastically detailed carvings of exotic monsters in threatening poses. Starting at the wall immediately to the west of the entrance and moving clockwise, the carvings depict a chimera, a cyclops, a medusa, an umber hulk, and a basilisk; each of their eyes consists of a red ruby. The whole room is in fact a clever combination lock. The grooved pillar in the room’s center is an immense stone tumbler that can be rotated in both directions, clicking as it rotates. It proves to be quite a difficult puzzle, but eventually the companions figure it out and reveal the Vanderboren family treasure chests. Unfortunately, most of the 20 chests in the vault are empty — at best, only a handful of silver coins remain scattered along the bottom of each chest. Lavinia is quite distraught. In the last chest there’s a couple thousand coins and gems, along with a large number of ledgers. Most of the ledgers list debts owed to the Vanderborens from guilds and noble families throughout the planes. Apparently these other organizations owe Lavinia’s parents a lot of money, too.

Between the gold and the IOUs, Lavinia now has enough to pay back her parents’ debts and to begin setting her estate back in order. But the missing money concerns her greatly. She pays each adventurer a generous reward for their aid.

Once the vault is secured and Lavinia’s immediate financial problems are taken care of, her brother Vanthus becomes her primary concern. Lavinia explains that the two of them were very close growing up, and often got into trouble together, but after one prank gone bad, Lavinia was sent to an academy in Sigil and Vanthus to a mine in Carceri. When they returned to the family years later, they both had changed, though Vanthus for the worst, spending most of his time away nurturing his bitterness. He no longer had time for Lavinia, instead hanging out with “associates of doubtful character,” as she puts it, glaring at Krissy. When their parents died, Vanthus changed even more, growing more cynical and morbid. And then one day he just disappeared. She knows something profound must have happened to him to change him so — perhaps the bad crowd he was hanging with. In any case, Lavinia would like to talk some sense into him and redeem him. The problem is, she doesn’t know where he’s gone.

After asking around town for Vanthus, the companions eventually meet a nervous-looking half-elf with messy black hair named Shefton Kamenev. He offers to take them to Vanthus for a price, but Silversack Sam intimidates him into taking them for free. Shefton admits that the one they seek has been living for the past few days in the roots of Yggdrasil, in the Realm of the Norns.

This gloomy grove is the home of the Norns of Norse mythology. It’s a small realm, easy to miss in the wilderness that sprawls spireward of Faunel. The area’s so overgrown that a berk standing in its depths would swear he’s in an underground vault. A root of Yggdrasil is said to be nearby.

The Norns gather around the Well of Urd, at the center of the realm. These are amongst the most powerful and mysterious beings known in the cosmos, known as the Fates in Greek mythology. Though the Norns are described in the myths as the three goddesses of destiny, it’s quite clear they are not so much deities as personifications of the universal force of Fate and Destiny, with each of the sisters representing a different aspect of time as mortals experience it in seemingly linear fashion — Urd represents the past, Verdnadi represents the present along with destiny in general, and Skuld represents the future. They are visualized by both the Norse and the Greeks in the form of three enigmatic sisters of variant ages who are garbed in hooded robes.  They are said to weave the tapestry of destiny for all sentient beings in the cosmos, including the deities themselves, which is why even the most powerful of the Asgardians respects their power and scope of influence.

Though predestination is unknown to the Norse, and free will is believed to predominate our sphere of existence, certain events can be foredestined, but the individual decisions made by various beings during the course of their lives will determine to what degree — if any — these events will be actualized on any given timeline. Despite the existence of free will, the Norns nevertheless possess the power to greatly influence the course of events and to ensure a beneficial outcome for the universe in general, in most cases.

Shefton leads the companions to a hidden trap door in the roots of Yggdrasil. Below are the smuggling tunnels used by Vanthus. As fate would have it, after the last party member descends the rope ladder down, a roguish tiefling shows up, stabs Shefton in the back, throws him down the shaft, and slams the trapdoor shut. “Serves you right for messing around with my sister, you prods!” he shouts as he rolls a boulder over it.

In the dark, flooded tunnels, the companions encounter a host of undead, including the ghost of one Penkus, who explains that he was put in the deadbook by a foul undead thing after Vanthus Vanderboren betrayed him, leaving him down here to die.

The companions also encounter a slaad spawn beneath an overturned boat. They easily defeat the creature, but Bryta is concerned. Slaad are creatures of pure chaos from the plane of Limbo; they should not be here in the roots of Yggdrasil.

Taking the boat down an underground river, the party leaves the smuggling tunnels behind. In complete darkness, the boat pitches and rolls wildly. And then at last the current slows down, and the boat finally emerges outside. The afternoon sky arches over them, as if welcoming them into the heroic domains of Ysgard.
 

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