Sands of Alscyra

#1: Beginnings

We began in the city of Skyswatch. The eladrin girl Joy awoke in a prison cell deep below the city. Meanwhile, Yazmin and Lorek met up at the Great Defeat, the inn they were both staying at on their own separate quests. The goliath Keothi arrived at the gates, and after some extended bureaucracy, was admitted into the city. The tiefling warlock Edsel accepted a job from a nobleman named Janus to negotiate the purchase of a rare book from an eccentric woman.

As the heroes navigated the city, it became clear that something was wrong amidst the festivities of the Anniversary parade. While Joy found herself in the middle of a prison break, aboveground the other heroes fought to stop an attack on the royal carriage in the town square. The “Desert Lord” Kaija animated the dragon-bone statue in the center of town, while other conspirators lobbed homemade explosives at the crowd.

Lorek, Yazmin, and Keothi had been contracted by captain of the guard, Irithia, to stand guard over the event. They dispatched Kaija and her allies, though Yazmin was seriously wounded. Edsel snuck back into the shadows. Joy fought her way through several guards before encountering the half-orc jailer. She was interrupted, however, by Irithia, who ordered the jailer not to attack.

#2: Bugs and Betrayal

Lorek and Yazmin were rewarded by Reya, the High Priestess of Pelor, for their service to the city. They were given gold and an assortment of potions, and Reya revealed to them that the attack coincided with the theft of the sacred Golden Armaments of Pelor from the catacombs. She promised them even greater rewards to track down the thieves. City intelligence suggested that a halfling involved in the attack had survived and was likely working to escape the city walls.

At Irithia’s behest, the psion Joy was kept alive and sent out with Lorek and Yazmin, instructed that she would have freedom if she used her powers to aid the investigation.

The trio tracked down the halfling, Ferron Hailswift, shortly before he managed to escape the city. They bound his arms and legs, and he agreed to lead them to the rendezvous point for the surviving attackers. They set out as a massive sandstorm kicked up, and eventually were led to a small cave entrance. They bundled Ferron up in Lorek’s bedroll a short distance away, and marched in. He had led them to a trap, however, and they felt the sand beneath them give way as they fell into a cavern full of monstrous beetles.

They fought their way out, only to find that the storm had subsided and Ferron had escaped. Disheartened, they returned to Skyswatch. He had given them some useful information, though, that Kaija was survived by another Desert Lord, Szandros, whose base of operations was far out in the eastern desert. Yazmin’s knowledge of history led her to believe that the ancient Seat of the Sun King was a likely location. They began preparations for a long journey, seeking an experienced guide by way of the handler McBride. This revealed an unexpected connection to Lorek’s lost twin brother, who apparently worked for McBride before disappearing on a trek eastward.

MEANWHILE, Edsel returned to the bookstore to find a strange note on the strange cat, before a contingent of guards arrived.

ALSO MEANWHILE, Keothi immediately stormed from the town square to see Reya, demanding to know why she had sent them into a trap. After some explanation, she revealed that she knew his true purpose in town, and could help him in the chase for Glyddis.

#3: Flashback

About 5 years before the present day, the gnome wizard Content Not Found: kavix was tasked with retrieving an artifact stolen from the Academy in Feyport. As the item was stolen by a fellow researcher, the Academy needed to play a role in its retrieval to save face with the city leaders.

He enlisted the help of the ranger Carcaryn Sands, on loan from the Empire’s McBride. Her skills as a guide would help track the the gnome through the desert. This proved more challenging than expected, but nonetheless they found the thief primarily through Kavix’s improvised dowsing.

The thief, Aeron, was in the midst of some sort of dealing with a dark druid. Kavix and Carcaryn fought them in a subterranean ruin, where the druid animated long-dry vines to restrain the heroes. They fought through, however, and defeated the pair. They retrieved the item, which was revealed to be a simple stone with the sigil of a key on it.

((OOC NOTE: As we were down two players, this was an “Intro to 4th Ed” session. That said, the events do have potential bearing on the present day adventure to come.))

#4: Stalking the Traitors

Our session opened with a flashback to Keothi’s meeting with Reya, and his pursuit of the nobleman Janus, who has some connection to the illusionist Glyddis. Simultaneously, Edsel discovered a strange note attached to a strange cat, before being recruited by guards to pursue Janus as well.

Their search led them to Janus’ home, which appeared both immaculate clean and recently inhabited, at least until Keothi and Edsel discovered and dispelled the illusion. This revealed that the home was covered in dust, and that the body of the (true?) Janus was decaying on the couch.

The heroes united at the Great Defeat, where they learned from McBride that his guides have stopped returning from the desert. However, he did recruit Keothi on the spot as a guide.

The party headed out into the desert again, discovering a small camp of Alscyrans. They were drunk and clearly still celebrating something, which with some intimidation was revealed to be the “fall of Skyswatch at the hand of the Destroyer.” Apparently they were told that Kaija succeeded in her attack on Skyswatch, and further that they were told this by the halfling Ferron. The group informed the party that Ferron had just left and couldn’t be far yet.

They pursued him until sunset, at which point they discovered his campsite. At the site they found Ferron in talks with a shrouded man, whom Lorik sensed to be a sorceror. Combat ensued, and the raven that the party noticed earlier descended and joined the fray, transforming into a female druid. They slew the sorceror and the druid, but simply knocked Ferron unconscious in the hopes of interrogating him.

#5: To the North

Feyport’s Academy has once again called on the gnome wizard Content Not Found: kavix to head south into the desert. This time, their researchers found some troubling evidence of a potential threat from the Feydark. Kavix has been tasked with both researching the potential planar intrusion, as well as gathering resources to fight it off.

Feyport’s less-academic, more-mercantile ruling families insisted that the eccentric warlock Zola accompany him. They don’t believe the implication that a permanent portal to the Feywild is a public safety concern. And it just makes so much money.

The two gnomes head south to Dorn, where they find that the standard array of desert guides have gone AWOL, much to the confusion of the caravans and merchants desperate to head south. Amidst the chaos, they find Content Not Found: corundum and his guide Carcaryn, and quickly they realize their goals align.

Using Carcaryn’s skills as a guide, they hire themselves onto the small caravan of Master Stahl, a hulking brick of a man who deals in precious stones. They traveled southwards until the sun began to set, at which point they camped at the entrance to a shallow sandstone cave.

During the night, however, the party realized that the jerboas that inhabited the cave were carrying tiny golden runestones, and they tracked them to a hole at the back of the cave. Breaking through the fragile wall, they revealed a cavern that led into a chamber. The walls were covered in the tiny runestones, and in the middle stood a massive statue of Kord.

Four larger runes lay on the ground surrounding Kord, and these were clearly magically empowering some of the jerboas, who attacked.

The party defeated the jerboas, and Corundum’s knowledge of divine runes allowed them to perform an impromptu ritual to empower the rune platforms. This sent arcs of magical electricity through the statue of Kord, which sprung to life!

#6: A Shadowy Realm

The party, having defeated Ferron and his associates at their small camp, began the interrogation. Ferron continued to claim that he was a mercenary hired by the Alscyrans, though the party didn’t buy it.

The druid woman they killed was apparently a member of a cult of heretic druids who want to unite the planes of existence. Shamir, the sorceror, was attempting to negotiate with them for some kind of refuge. Ferron disliked this plan, instead preferring to retreat to a place called “Sable’s realm.” He also informs them that Glyddis is likely there, and that they won’t be able to find Szandros while Glyddis’ illusion persists.

They demand to know how to reach Sable’s realm. Ferron hesitates but then tells them flatly, “you have to throw yourselves into a sinkhole.” Further, he explains that you need a specific kind of amulet to keep yourself from being killed. He says Sable is a master thief, and his realm is a haven for all manner of assassins and rogues, as well as wealthy gamblers. The party continues to press him for information, while Faruk arrives to find his brother has been killed by the party. He does not put up a fight, and instead starts bawling.

After catching him in a lie, the party decides to execute Ferron and take his amulet. Faruk leads them to the entrance to Sable’s realm, and Edsel takes the amulet and dives in. He finds himself in a dusky carnival atmosphere, and before long a Shadar-kai guard is at his throat. He requests to see Sable, and that happens almost immediately. After a bit of failed negotiation, Beelphemaat appears and Sable reacts with great surprise. He decides to offer them passage to the realm as long as they defeat his champions in gladiatorial combat.

Meanwhile on the surfaceworld, Lorik learns that Faruk knows Arik Blackwind, Lorik’s brother. The party agrees to Sable’s offer, and they decide to let Faruk remain above in hopes of learning more about Arik.

Once in the arena, the group is presented with three champions. If they defeat one, they’ll be given permanent access to the realm. If they defeat two, Sable will answer their questions. If they defeat all three, they may take a treasure each from Sable’s armory.

They choose Jakhar, a hobgoblin warrior clad in spiked plate and wielding heavy chains. Sable rolls a die each round of combat which adds new features to the arena. Despite this, they defeat the veteran hobgoblin handily.

The second champion is the Shadar-kai warlock called Myrissa. She is quick and evasive, teleporting and phasing out. She spreads her curse to several members of the party and then invokes massive damage on all the cursed. Shockingly, this damage actually kills Joy, the eladrin psion. As she hits the ground, strange shadowy energy seems to swirl into a pendant she was wearing around her neck. Though Joy falls, the party does defeat the warlock.

#7: One Down

Sable seems delighted at Joy’s defeat on the arena floor, and he sends some of his Shadar-Kai associates to tend to the body while the party regroups for the final battle.

The tiefling champion Dajhanni emerges to battle the remaining heroes, and he does so in an evasive, shadowy way. Between slashes from his poisoned blades, he seems to melt into multiple pools of shadow. The party is quick-witted and, frankly, lucky, and mostly manages to attack the correct shadow. As the battle grows intense, Sable raises the stakes by literally raising Joy’s body. The reanimated corpse attempts to tackle Lorik and distract the group from Dajhanni, but they do what they must and obliterate the zombie. Not long after, Dajhanni falls.

The party is led through Sable’s trap-laden catacombs, where he stores his treasures. Lorik observes that the trove is littered with fakes, to distract from the more powerful but visually subtle magical items. The party chooses an item each as a trophy. They also inquire about a vault with a symbol of Pelor built into its mechanism. Sable is happy to tell them of the golden dagger her stole from Skyswatch, one of the Golden Armaments. However, when he attempts to show it off, he finds only sand… and is furious.

Still upset by the disappearance of his dagger, Sable insists that the party ask their questions and leave.

They ask how to find Glyddis:
“He is an associate of mine. Though he aids the forces at the Seat of the Sun King, I do not think he is a true believer. I do not think he believes in anything at all… To find him, head east. I do not know how his illusion works, but I know the followers of Amharet can see through it. Try to infiltrate their ranks. And head to the Desert’s Eye, a haven for desert guides.”

They ask about his history with Meribeth:
“Many believe she is the avatar of Avandra. She is powerful and unpredictable.” To explain his shock at seeing Beelphemaat, he displays an ancient drawing that includes an image of the old woman and the cat, making them at least several centuries old.

They ask how to find Arik Blackwind:
“I only recently heard that name for the first time. Something about him being a ‘brave leader.’ I know little else.”

Sable bids them to leave his realm, and they do. They find that the boy Faruk has waited patiently for them on the surface, much to their confusion. He agrees to take them to the Desert’s Eye, and they talk along the way. Yazmin speaks to him of the glory of Pelor, and Lorik inquires about his brother Arik, while Keothi chastises the boy for his emotional outbursts.

After a long evening’s travel, the party camps out, setting watches. On Edsel’s watch, he finds himself confronted by the old woman Meribeth, who entrusts him with the Primer of Al’Jazra. He wakes to find that it may have been just a dream.

#8: Quiet, pendant!

From Joy’s perspective, she feels herself blurring through the Shadowfell, and then darkness. Confronted with a series of visions, of her parents being confronted by an angry Amharet, of the destruction of the Arglade, and of a place darker than dark, where an eerily beautiful woman is imprisoned behind a barrier of force. Her perspective then moves from the dark place to peering out of the amulet she once wore, at the face of Edsel, who seems to be staring into the amulet.

The party awakes to find that, indeed, Joy’s consciousness seems to have been locked inside her black stone amulet, which now adorns Edsel. She is able to psychically, much to the annoyance of Keothi.

During the previous night’s watch, Keothi spotted a figure on the horizon who seemed to notice him as well, and then dart into the shadows. As daylight arrived, the party headed to the spot that this figure had last been seen. Out of nowhere, an immense heat shimmer blanketed the area, and Joy sensed the presence of many minds. In an instant, Lorik and Faruk were snapped up into the shimmer and vanished.

The party crested the hill, seeking either the strange shimmer or any sign of their abducted party members. They found a desolate abandoned-looking outpost, which they approached cautiously, noting that strange glyphs seemed to be chalked on several buildings.

Through luck and a good eye, Yazmin caught sight of a figure moving into a building and gave chase. This led the party into an underground compound of tunnels, through which they eventually cornered a young dragonborn woman wielding a bo staff.

She introduced herself as Narss, de facto leader of the guides of the Desert’s Eye. She explained that their leader, Arik Blackwind, had been taken captive in a mysterious shimmer, much like Lorik and Faruk. After determining that their goals aligned, the group was invited into the core of the underground compound, and treated to some desert cactus liquor.

In the ensuing conversation, many things were revealed: that the guides doubt Amharet is who she claims to be, having previously been known as a figure of peace and pacificism; that Arik ordered the guides to break off contact with Skyswatch, concerned that McBride is working against the city; and finally that Irithia was once a guide, and her sister was afflicted by the psionic curse that sends people to the South.

The party sets out the next day with Narss’ willing donation of blood empowering the finger they saved from the necrotic gauntlet. It crackles with power as the dragonborn blood is dripped onto it, and points them northwards.

#9: New Friends and Camels

Lorik wakes up in a cell with Faruk, who is, as usual, in tears. He learns that Arik is also being held, and seeing Lorik and Faruk got him to provide some kind of information to the Alscyrans.

Having gotten the necessary information, the forces holding Lorik set off in two directions, south to ambush the guides at the Desert’s Eye, and north to execute Arik Blackwind.

After repeatedly trying to use his sorcerous powers to break the bars, Lorik is eventually able to negotiate an escape with the one remaining guard, who seems less interested in guarding and more in camel breeding. Lorik heads north to find his brother, and Faruk heads south to warn the party of the oncoming attack.

Meanwhile, the party encounters precisely that attack. Narss is slain, and Faruk arrives just in time to be taken hostage. The dragonborn leader threatened to decapitate him if the party took any action against his allies. Edsel, having only one second to take him out, managed to attune to exactly the right kind of infernal energy and obliterated the leader before Faruk could be harmed.

Lorik got lost, but the party found him and they all headed north together.

#10: Deception

The party, now reunited, heads north to attempt to thwart the execution of Arik Blackwind. They find that lots of desert-dwellers are moving through the night to the site of the execution, where Alscyran forces have set up a gallows.

On the way, the party finds the corpse of the aspiring camel breeder who helped Lorik escape in the previous session. At his camp, the two male camels have somehow been joined by a young camel, henceforth “the camlet.” The party wrangles all three camels and continues on. Eventually they are joined by a young couple who have little stake in desert politics, but have heard an execution will happen and are excited to witness it. Yazmin used her Impostor’s Armor to blend in to the crowd.

As they arrive at the scene, they quickly realize that several of the “spectators” are watching the party, not the execution, and they rightly suspect a trap. Combat ensues, and they overcome guards, a torturer, and a massive executioner, rescuing the semi-conscious Arik. They also obtained a cart full of supplies, including a cask or two of desert cactus liquor, and the horses attached to it.

After a long night’s travel, they return to the Desert’s Eye, and before bedding down Arik leads the guides in a toast. Unfortunately, it quickly becomes apparent that the liquor is poisoned, and Arik is not himself. In a swirl of illusory magic, it is revealed to be Glyddis! The already-exhausted party faced a difficult battle, facing summoned images of themselves in addition to the illusionist himself.

At the climax of the battle, Joy sensed an opening in Glyddis’ mind, and launched a psychic attack from within her pendant. The stone shattered, and the black fluid within spiralled through the air and into Glyddis’ eyes and ears. As the chaos ended, Joy’s mind was now fully within Glyddis’ body.


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