Autumn Twilight 431 AC
World Tree the 18th
Waters around Southern Ergoth, then Eastport and the ruined Drunken Elephant inn, and onwards to Hope Outpost
The Widow’s Veil had been taken, but at terrible cost. The lives of innocent sailors had been snuffed out by the Companions; misled by dark magics into slaughtering the people they had been sent to rescue. The blood weighed heavily on them, both wet on the decks and their hands. Resolving to keep this dark moment to themselves, the Companions began to clean the Veil while searching for clues as to why these events had come to pass. Blue discovered in the Captain’s log that the ship had met with fair winds, and the only unusual item on the cargo’s manifest was a message with unrevealed sender and recipient; lost under the waves with the corpse of the Widow’s Captain.
During the search of the hold, Buck’s light fingers wandered gently over the cargo held below, much to the consternation of the other Companions.
The Veil was shrouded by the thickest mist, left becalmed at sea without any sailing hands left to guide her. Quick thinking by Red and Buck led to the Companions discovering out the depth of the waters they were in, and that the Veil was caught in an underwater current. Liara and Red worked out how to steer the boat with their divine power, guided by words found by Buck‘s sharp eyes, but without a way to find land, this knowledge proved unhelpful. Blue’s familiar Ral was unable to climb high enough over the mists to see land; such a thick mist was indeed an ill omen so close to shore on a well-lit day.
Questions regarding the integrity of Sir Karl Vinlaand, Malar Uth Wistan and indeed the entire Solamnic order were raised, but this in turn led the Companions to realise they did not know whether they were the returning to the evil will behind their dark deeds, or fellow victims of the same manipulative hands that had ensured the slaughter of the Veil’s standing crew.
The current carried the Veil through the waters, and Crixus related stories from his childhood of sailors that fouled their anchors in these waters; without any other option, the Companions braced themselves for an unguided and unplanned journey. Without warning, the thick fog burned away in the afternoon sun, leaving the Veil calmly floating but 60ft from the damaged Eastport docks. Quick thinking led the Companions to discreetly store their magical longboat in the Veil’s hold, before the group of improvised sailors struggled to navigate the Veil to shore. Blue’s mage hand carried a length of rope to a nearby post, and a powerful heave by Red and Crixus brought the cutter smoothly in to the dock.
Sounds of drinking and what could have been combat or building carried from the damaged Drunken Elephant; with caution the Companions disembarked the Veil and approached. Last off the boat, only Buck Wyrmseeker noticed as the Veil disappeared from view. On guard, the Companions continued towards the inn. Inside, drunken villagers continued to quaff amongst the ruined furniture. Behind the bar, Ra-saark laboured to repair the damaged roof of the inn, and was none-too-pleased to see the return of the Companions. Several others seemed to have survived the attack of the green wyrm; the wealthy merchant (minus an arm), and the Qualinesti scouts.
Seeing as the imminent threat had (mostly, Ra-saark still held her crossbow) passed, the Companions attempted to lend aid and find travel back to Hope Outpost. The healing ministrations of Red and Liara assisted the wealthy merchant, who in turn advised the group speak to the Qualinesti. Blue received a very cool welcome from the elves however, and only after several drinks of expensive wine did they reveal that they no longer trusted the Companion’s arcanist. Clumsy attempts at investigation by Crixus failed to pry open their reasoning, but it was apparent that the elves in part blamed Blue for their recent woes.
After an earnest appeal for urgent assistance, an accord was reached; if a room could be repaired for the recuperating elves, the Companions would be granted aid in their attempts to return to Hope Outpost. A day’s labour and the roof was fixed; reluctantly the elves summoned spectral mounts for the weary travelers… existing only as long as a rider remained atop them.
With haste, the Companions rode hard for Hope Outpost, fearing that their glowing spectral mounts would attract undesired attention in the dark night. Gods willing, the group arrived at Hope Outpost early in the next morning, only to be turned away at the door until the sun rose clear in the sky. With little other recourse, the party took a welcome opportunity to rest, under the watchful eyes of the guards atop the Outpost walls.
In the morning, they were welcomed back by Malar, and asked immediately to report their progress; Crixus‘s trust of the older Solamnic Knight led him to relate most of the day’s events, choosing his words carefully when discussing the fate of the sailors. Finding Malar to be open to discussing the events that had occurred at Hope Outpost, the party learned that Sir Karl‘s behaviour in recent weeks was causing concern. He had been travelling alone at night, and had enforced a strict curfew for anyone not on guard duty on the walls. While Malar attributed the behaviour to the growing threats to the Outpost’s walls, the party concluded that either Sir Karl had succumbed to a dark influence, or become one.
Attempting to learn more during the day, the party discovered the presence of a legendary Dragonlance in the Outpost; Buck‘s innocently curious questioning regarding this led to his mandatory escort frog-marching him to the barracks for an early respite. Unable to meet with the commander as he was again mysteriously absent on an undisclosed adventure, the group also retired to the barracks, where they were locked in for the night. After a quiet discussion (leaving a bored Kender) the door was unlocked, and the group determined to steal into the Commander’s private chambers, only to discover that someone else had a similar plan.
Faced with the very real prospect of being caught and jailed as curfew-breakers, and unabel to determine who was (stealthily) sneaking towards the Commander’s chambers, Blue blasted the unknown thief with chromatic light; stunned by the arcane might, the group manhandled their victim into their room. Cur was less than impressed, shaking off the linger effects of the spell before beginning to interrogate the party. Freely discussing their fears, the group came to realise they had the same concerns… and the decision was made to allow Cur to continue his investigation unhindered. Sadly, a bored and unattended Kender lost interest in such weighty matters, and instead let his curiosity draw him towards the Commander’s door. A brief discussion between Cur and Buck resolved the issue, but the noise drew the attention of the patrolling guards. With no other recourse, the party discreetly closed their door as Cur was captured. Muffled sounds followed, and then he was free; a fugitive from the Rising Phoenix, with no more knowledge for his troubles.
In the following morning, the group was asked to report to Sir Karl, the day passed without further incident, even allowing Red time to find peace in the Outpost’s holy sanctuary. The party met in the afternoon to discuss their plans, and whether to reveal their complicity in the deaths of the Veil’s crew, and their suspicions regarding the dark magic influencing them. Red chose to cast a spell to influence the outcome of the meeting, his Divine light forcing all in his area to be honest; the die was cast, and the truth would out.
The time had come, and this meeting was fated to be momentous. Initially calm, Sir Karl grew increasingly relieved at the news of the Veil’s recovery, showing little interest in the crew that had previously seemed so vital to him at the start of the venture. The party (compelled by their own truth spell, and frustrated at the evasions of Sir Karl challenged him directly to account for his actions; amused, Sir Karl continued to dance around the truth; the party was caught, the spell had not worked on everyone in the room, and their hand had been shown.
Frustrated, the party continued to interrogate an equally outraged and amused Sir Karl; Red finally provoked a change in posture by drawing his holy symbol. Enraged, Sir Karl drew Elf Breaker before moving with blinding speed to claw at Red’s throat, slamming him into the wall and leaving him reeling.
Seizing the initiative, Karl brought Elf Breaker against Crixus, leaving him on his knees and sorely bloodied. An opportunistic tumble by Buck gave the small Kender the opportunity to strike from the rear, and he pierced Karl ’s rear armour with a painful thrust of his hoopak.
Roaring in pain and no longer interested in maintaining pretense, Karl revealed his true self to the party. A shimmer of magic, and the Sivak Kaalvahnand now stood before the Companions (showering items around the room as they blasted from his gigantic form). Around him, the walls to the outpost began to shake; dark magic snared around the very stones of the Outpost, seemingly triggered by the transformation.
Liara‘s healing power coursed through Crixus’s injuries, restoring him to combat form, while the other Companions fought to withstand the vicious Draconian’s assault. Blue and Buck quickly grabbed at magical relics around them in the chaos. No longer amused with his injuries, Kaalvahnand raised his clawed arm, and summoned his assistant Sera to the room with arcane might.
Furious at his treatment, Red shrugged off the haze of his injuries, and attempted to bury his waraxe deep into the newcomer Sera, to no effect; with a laugh, she too transformed before the party, into a great green dragon. Around them, the walls screamed, and the party decided to flee the tower before it came down around them. Red received a vicious bite from Seraphinoxia during his escape, swiftly followed by all but Buck. Pinned between Seraphinoxia and Kaalvahnand, Buck seized the nearest weapon at hand; the Dragonlance. Kaalvahnand himself leapt from the window of the tower, narrowly avoiding stones falling from the roof above. With a scream of frustration, Seraphinoxia caught Buck in her wicked claw and burst through the tower’s wall, following Kaalvahnand’s ascent into the sky.
The rest of the party could only retreat down the corridor as, with a final crack of conjuring magic, the entire South-Western Tower disappeared from Hope Outpost.
Buck caught between the beauty of the dragon holding him and the danger of his situation squirmed to see a better view… before accidentally working free of the distracted Seraphinoxia’s grasp. Falling, Buck suddenly remembered his drogue wing, and showering items across the landscape while searching his bags, finally found and deployed the parachute barely 60 feet above the ground.
Landing safely just outside the remainder of the Outpost, greeted by the cheers of his stunned companions, Buck was only able to point upwards towards the sky.
Hanging impossibly huge and unsupported in the air, a giant mass of stone and masonry floated hundreds of feet above; a flying citadel!