Planescape: Brush with Oblivion

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.

Long ago, 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 Brysta 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, Silversack 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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A Noble in Need

For various personal reasons, our soon-to-be inseparable companions all end up in the gate-town of Sylvania to meet with a noblewoman named Lavinia Vanderboren.

Vanderboren Manor is located in the outer section of the gate-town, between the elven living temple to Arvandor and the Thunderhouse Festhall. The gaily painted stone wall that surrounds the estate is impossible to miss, as is the towering, victorian, three-story house that dominates the gardens within. Laughing gargoyles and capering nymphs descorate the rooftops. The front gates have been left open for the companions, but no one greets them until they knock on the front door. Then an elderly halfling named Kora thanks the party for arriving and escorts them inside.

A group of four adventurers emerge from the dining hall, including a githzerai monk armed with a dozen daggers of different shapes, a dwarf cleric with Moradin’s holy symbol on his shield, an attractive bronze-haired woman dressed in wizard’s robes, and lastly, a man with a white streak in his hair, dressed in platemail and carrying a longsword and shield. This adventuring company has just been tasked with contacting Lavinia’s aunt and uncle for aid, and they’re anxious to be on their way.

The private dining hall is rich and cozy. Lavinia awaits, wearing a long blue dress, gold earrings, and a jade ring. While she is perturbed to see Krissy again, Lavinia explains that her deceased parents left her with a lot of debt to the Seven Spiritors, the harbormaster of Ossus, and several of Sigil’s factions. Perhaps this is why these factions have sent the party here, to ensure their repayments? In any case, Lavinia would like access to her family’s vault under Castle Teranian to pay off these debts, but it’s magically sealed. There are three keys to the vault: a signet ring that her mother once owned but lost, a medallion that her father left on his ship at the harbor in Ossa, and a brooch that had been swallowed by a dragon turtle in Ossa.

The party decides that dealing with a dragon turtle might be a bad idea, so they choose to visit the harbor in Ossa.

The second layer in Arborea, Ossa, is called Aquallor by the elves. It’s one vast yet shallow sea scattered over with islands. In the waters lie portals to the other layers of the plane, which are guarded by elf petitioners. Those gateways on the islands are watched by Greek petitioners. Sashelas of the elven pantheon swims these waters, as does Poseidon of the Greeks. The River Oceanus flows into Ossa from Elysium.

Getting to Ossa from Sylvania involves sailing out to sea with a horseshoe in a bucket of freshwater. The horseshoe moves in the water, pointing the way to the gate. After procuring passage on a one-masted sailboat from a couple of adventurers, the party sets out. Before they know it they’re in another plane, and with land in sight ahead. The sky is partly cloudy, with a warm breeze; the cold shallows are crystal clear, with the shelves sloping gently upward for hundreds of feet.

According to Lavinia, her father’s ship, the Blue Nixie, is docked at pier five in Elshava, a major mercantile city that spans both above and below water. Built in a spiral pattern like a nautilus shell, Elshava is always expanding. The spiral streets crunch underfoot, and crabs skitter along the shadows. The buildings themselves resemble giant shells, octopi, or lacy coral. Its inhabitants are of mixed ancestry, primarily based on a core of selkies, with some influence from sea elves and merfolk; it’s also rumored that the sea faeries known as asrai sometimes come to live among the Sea Folk. Darker faerie creatures have been harassing the town of late, some allies of the Unseelie Court even going so far as to ambush and sink boats. A powerful, evil sea hag named Jessamyn, often confused with a mermaid, uses illusory appearance to seduce and drown visitors.

The harbormaster of Elshava, Kelpar Islaran, is in sorry shape, slowly succumbing to a debilitating otyugh disease. He has his hands full dealing with smugglers and buccaneers, storm giants, and a fearsome dragon turtle that’s moved into the area. In any case, Kelpar explains to the party that the Blue Nixie isn't docked here at the harbor at the moment — rather, it's anchored a ways out in the bay.

The party hires a fisherman to take them on a small boat to the Blue Nixie. However, they quickly find out that the Vanderboren ship has been commandeered by smugglers who start shooting crossbows at them! T'chon takes flight and attacks with spells from above. Silversack Sam dives into the water and starts swimming toward the ship. Krissy tries to follow suit but soon realizes that she doesn't have quite the same strength in the water as the half-orc. Meanwhile, Bryta fires her longbow while Xenophon steers the little boat closer. By the time everyone boards the Blue Nixie, the smugglers have had time to gather reinforcements from below — including a rampaging lion!

The smugglers fight dirty, but in the end, our intrepid companions emerge victorious. Interrogating the smugglers reveals only that their boss, Vark, was going to pay them 20g apiece to help load crates of animals onto the Blue Nixie and then onto another ship in the middle of the night. The animals were taken from a zoo in Arborea, from the city of Brightwater. Vark himself admits that the customer was an Anarchist.

A search of the captain’s quarters uncovers a large trunk, within which is a leather pouch of 100pp — Lavinia’s missing payment to the harbormaster. Her father’s medallion is hidden in the headboard of the bed, too. A scrap of rolled-up parchment has been threaded through the medallion; written on it is a strange list of monsters. The party waits around until midnight, but the customers Vark spoke of never show up.

Krissy decides that these captured animals should be set free to their native plane. She asks around in town and learns that the portal to Arborea is a bathtub in the Golden Ammonite. Figuring out how to activate this tub takes some experimentation, but eventually the party figures it out. They plop all the animals in the tub, and even go into the tub themselves!

Arborea is a plane of endless, rolling forests, fields, orchards, and meadows; this is a land of deep emotions and powerful curses, loves, and hatreds. Its weather is prone to extremes, from thunderstorms and hail to pleasant breezes and warm sunshine. Petitioners (mostly elves) are short tempered and passionate. Arboreans live unrestrained lives of hedonism. Emotion here embodies the opposite of the logic of Mechanus.

When the companions first enter Arborea through the bathtub, they wade up onto shore of Arvandor and see a group of people drinking and singing and dancing by a bonfire nearby. These bacchae invite the newcomers to party with them. Krissy and Xenophon drink up and get really into it, stripping down naked and chasing animals through the woods. Bryta fakes getting drunk. And Silversack completely refuses to party with them. The bacchae are offended and attack wildly.

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