Chaos Scar

Roberts Delusions: Pain

His head pounded as the fresh snow crunched under their heavy footsteps. They had escaped the bizarre dungeon just as the sun rose that morning, the deep green grasping gas perusing them, dragging them back, and that….. thing coming close behind them, it had taken his voice, was taking his shape, maybe taking his mind, maybe it knew already. And then there was Herbert. Herbert didn’t help at all. He was slow, fat, stupid and probably a spy for the golden circle, or a demon or worst. He shuddered at that thought, maybe it was just the mimic monster pretending to be Herbert.
Book and Bronath were in front making a path, Helena and Herbert were in front of him and he brought up the rear. Helena politely engaged Herbert in conversation, The snow scattered light across her steel armour and brown hair as she walked illuminating her so brightly guilding her in silver and gold. she shone with such radiance in the morning sun it was painful for Robert to look. he would have to look back at Herbert or into the trees as they passed from the shadows of the trees into direct illumination/ But she would look back whenever there was a break in Herbert’s prattling and smile and be would smile back. so he didn’t mind the pain in his eyes.
It was late morning, dark patches of shadow fell beneath the trees in the forest, while the snow reflected every naked ray of light creating a patchwork of bright pure white and deepening shadow. Their footsteps were loud against the dead silence of the snow covered world. The noise fell upon the snow covered trees and ground and it was as if the pure white absorbed the sound and held it in ice only to release it as bright white rays. pure, clean, undisturbed.
Silent.
Except for the inane chattering of Herbert. His head pounded as the tiny useless man chattered on. He went on and on about that archway and the ruins and how the food was better at the golden circle rather than the rations Robert had given him. He complained about the food he had given him out of his own pocket, how it wasn’t good enough for him. Herbert would glance back nervously at him from time to time, judging him, sizing him up, Looking at his things, maybe trying to find Oswald. He would just glare back, and then stare at that little balding spot at the back of his head as he walked, perfect pot like a little bulls eye on the back of his head. Herbert droned on an on. He was useless, he couldn’t fight, couldn’t sneak, and had almost gotten them killed more than once. If he slipped up one more time, got in the way, anything, he wouldn’t be much of a problem again. The pain was horrible now.
He had to keep an eye and ear out he had to be aware. The peacefulness of the morning could just be a ruse, anything could be hiding behind the trees some monster waiting for him to drop his guard. maybe Herbet was waiting for just that opportunity, for him to drop his guard.
They passed into a patch of brilliant illumination, he turned his eyes from Helena to Herbert. If the agony in his head would subside, he could pay better attention. If the little scrap of flesh, scurrying along awkwardly in front of him could shut up for a moment. If he could just silence the little man himself maybe the pain in his head would stop and he could keep them from running into an ambush!
Something moved. A soft patter of falling snow. He spun about attention fixed at where it had come from bow already notched. There in under the shadow of a tree hidden in the deep shadow and silence. Something…. Was it something? The darkness seemed to deepen there, to be too dark. The endless patchwork of pure glistening white and deep endless darkness made spotting anything hard. colors vanished under the brilliant white and consuming darkness, And there at the edge of the shadows was something, it was coming. He could almost see it move on the surface like swirls in ink. it would form and sink back in again just at the edge of the light. His eyes burned from the contrast and his head pounded from the cacophonous droning of that usless endless stomach with a mouth and voice. could it not shut up, if he could maybe he could see what was coming for them. He blinked to clear his eyes. It moved! His arrow passed through the branches of the tree, striking nothing. Snow poured forth over the shadows, the whiteness piled up and beams pierced the dark making lines of bright contrast against the blackness revealing nothing. Nothing was there. Just the light and darkness. whatever was there had gone, moved on or ran away. He took a deep breath. And then noticed the silence.
The party had kept going. They didn’t notice him stopping or the monster at the edge of his senses. But he couldn’t hear them even in the distance. sound traveled strangely with the snow fallen trees. How long had he stopped? Seconds, minutes, hours. He could find them again, it’s not the first time they hadn’t noticed him gone, it wouldn’t be the last. Fresh tracks in snow. Book, Bronath in front. Heavy iron and steel footsteps, even, trained . Helena and Herbert in the back, sloppy awkward uneven, and smaller strong and soft steps.. They were walking along normally they hadn’t even noticed he was gone yet. followed by even, soft, quiet, deliberate foot prints. His foot prints.
The pain in his head started again, the whispering at the edge of his mind was back.. How were his own foot prints here? He had stopped! The mimic. The shadow monster with his laugh, something worst? His broke into a run. light and dark flashing across him in a patchwork. He stumbled over the shadows as he sprinted recklessly through the undergrowth. growing panic urged him on faster, he could see his own tracks get closer to Herbert and Helena, so close behind them almost on their heels as they walked. It was close enough to just reach out and snap his neck, just one little pull a snap, and that little man wouldn’t be in the way again.
His footsteps fell so loud, they seemed to echo in his head, his pulse surged behind his eyes. He could hear them now. whatever this monster was It could kill them one by one while they slept it would start with Herbert, silence him once and for all pull his knife and it would be like cutting butter. But then what if it hurt Helena or the others? The pounding in his head and eyes became a chorus of screaming and pain, he had to push through. He ran into the light, and his vision faded, they were just ahead he thought he could see them in the shadows. Each step seemed to take an eternity the spots in his vision widened and distorted, his head screamed. He screamed at them. did he scream? he couldn’t tell the light began to fade from his vision and he couldn’t hear anything but Herbert’s piercing shrill voice. Just reach out and silence it! and I will have quiet and the pain will stop!
“Robert?”
He opened his eyes, peering out of the darkness and met Helena’s gaze. she was gilded in silver and gold. But she wasn’t smiling, she was confused and concerned.
The sound of foot steps from the he party stopped, and the forest was silent. He could feel the cold steel handle of his hunting knife in his hand as it rested against Herbert’s neck. He could feel the tension in Herbert as he feebly pulled at his arm. His chest heaved as he tried to breath through Roberts open hand clamped like iron over his mouth. He was ready to quiet this nagging little voice and pull him back deep into the shadows, where no one would find the little useless traitor again.
Helena’s eyes were brilliant in the light, even as they twisted into concern and disgust. He had to look away, back at Herbert as it was to painful to keep looking. He released his grip on Herbert as the pounding in his head started again.

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Helena's dream

Healena is walking around the safety of the cloister. The familiar hymns can be heard in the other room filling the humble building with loving praise to the preciousness of life. She enters the hospital wing and begins her work aiding those who are injured or sick. She helps to calm rattled nerves and offer guidance when she is able. Each patient and loved one she aids encourages her to learn more.

An inkling had crept its way into her heart without her notice. It had laid passive and dormant waiting for her failure to illuminate the path the omen of her birth foretold.

A giant of a man was rushed in after a terrible accident. His thick jet black head of hair and beard were caked with his clotted blood. The injuries to his skull were beyond anyone’s capabilities to heal in the cloister. Healena attempted to speak with his family; a wife, two young children, and an infant. The babes were wailing and his tiny wife was tight lipped in rage and bitter sorrow. All of her knowledge and previous experiences were feeble and useless. The gravely injured man succumbed as quietly as a shadow’s whisper. His wife closed his lifeless hazel eyes with quaking fingers. Healena offered her condolences to his wife and children. At first the wife made no reply, just stood stock still staring down at the blurring of colours. Black hair resting on white sheets surrounded by red blood. She closed her eyes, turned to Healena, and stated in quiet clarity “You know nothing child of Evering White Hamlet.”.

The colours all continued to bleed and spread like gallons of paint pouring from numerous containers. The swirl of colours touched Healena’s steady shoes and locked her in place.

People around her seemed to move quickly, as if in a fast forward. The residents who worked in the hospital wing took the cadaver to be treated for burial, the family followed behind. The sunlight passed from afternoon to dusk in mere moments. Candle light soon flickered feebly, their wax melting at an alarming speed. Still Healena was anchored watching helplessly as people zoomed around the room, faster with each heartbeat.

Suddenly the paint solidified into an unsteady tiled path leading away from her towards the tall thick wooden doors that led to the outside world. Her body moved forward of its own volition. Every step was inside of each tile leading to the darkness.

Healena panicked for a moment at the sheer absurdity of walking away from the safety and familiarity of her life and hesitated. Her left foot landed awkwardly between two tiles and Healena’s hopeful heart tumbled out of her chest beside it, severed and beating. Her momentum carried her right foot forward and she couldn’t stop herself from trampling her own heart. She heard the sound of chains echo while insubstantial hands lifted the broken organ, placing it back in its proper place. Her feet did not stop and carried her to the open doors. She could only see blackness beyond them.

A veil engulfed her as she exited the building. It stretched and strained her movement to a crawl before it tore and she broke through.

In front of her stretches the tiles. Along the path is a thing that should not be. It is dark yet brightly multicoloured, always changing and emanating all that is foul. The god, Black Raven, is towering above Healena facing away. Her strong back is tense with anticipation while holy light gathers itself to become one with her skin. Healena’s feet are relentlessly moving along the winding path. She sees Black Raven’s featureless face expressing revulsion and anger targeting the dark ever-changing multicoloured un-thing. Healena is startled to see Black Raven dwarfed in its presence like a spider to an elephant.
Shreds of the torn veil slowly cascade off Healena, pulling her downward. Her eyes strain to see and her mind spins in an attempt to grasp what no mortal should witness.

Black Raven concentrates the holy light into a sun in the palm of her hand, radiating holiness beyond comprehension of the waking world. She springs full force toward the un-thing, but is blocked by a towering being smoothly stepping between them, stopping Black Raven’s feeble attempts and knocking her prone.

Sinking rapidly, Healena can barely perceive the towering creature. This being is graceful beyond any measure with a full helmet carved in the shape of Corellon, the god of magic and of the elves. He stands between Black Raven and the un-thing. In one fluid motion he turns forward to face it himself.

Healena lands with a thud on the wooden floors of her first home. Her twin tilts her head and smirks. The room smells of home – Lavender soap, logs of apple wood burning slowly, and a roast on the spit. She can hear the distinct sound of liquid dripping into a shallow pool but the sunlit room is shadowed and murky. The kitchen table is heaped with a large mass of…something that shouldn’t be. A mental wall sweeps half of the cottage out of existence removing the table and the familiar shape laying on top of it.

A loud pop from the open hearth startles her. The spit is slowly rotating what is skewered on it, but the trussed-up form is completely wrong. Burnt skin seems to be melting like wax and gobs of it fall onto the hot coals. Steam rises from the heat but does not obscure the disfigured features of her baby brother’s face liquifying before her eyes.

An inhuman sound erupts out of Healena and she wakes up screaming in an unfamiliar room. Suddenly another person’s cries are attempting to drown out her own. Robert turns to her first with his uncannily quick reflexes and bellows at her to stop screaming before all hell breaks loose, then grabs a random scholarly fellow and slaps his shrieking mouth.

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Roberts delusions: shadow of myself

They were in trouble.
He had rushed to help his friends. He had made a deal with Phage, his laughter to somehow be brought to his friends who desperately needed him. What did that even mean? His ability to laugh, so trivial. For a spell so important. But phage seemed to be quite happy with it as pleased as a gas filled sack of skin with a face could feel he supposed. That gas, seeping from phage, creeping around him before he found himself running through that door into this mess.
Maybee this was all his plan, some twisted plot to beat them all down and kill them here in this pit.
He started setting up his traps, kneeling before the smoky door to their hiding spot. The seam of the Exodus door merged completely with the wall, they were invisible. The bright lanterns inside the room turning the nearly transparent portal into a mirror reflecting the party behind him like odd shadow puppets. He focused on the shadow of what was now book. The huge fearful killing machine reduced in size so much. Booklet now, was the colonel just as small too? his booming voice once like a hammer crushing plate mail now was like a hammer on nails. It was almost funny. He almost laughed at the absurdity of it.
The shadow of book that seemed so incorporeal solidified before him, becoming darker, crystalizing. It turned and strode across the phantom reflection of the room. He tried to move to shrink away but his whole body was numb and cold with sudden sweat.
The dark shape moved towards him, congealing into the shape of a man as it moved. He couldn’t look away! He couldn’t move at all! The shadows behind it convulsed and twitched into dancing shadowy daemons. It was almost at the door now! It was comming through! The form was so familiar but it couldn’t be him! It wasn’t real! His muscles cramped with the cold. His heart beat in his throat. he pulled his gaze away he couldnt look! it wasn’t real!
He stared into his own eyes, reflected thought the door. But they went his, they weren’t his it wasn’t him! The shadow of himself, a haggard, sunken thing stared back with malice, and grinned insanely, impossibly wide. Rows of yellow jagged teeth cracked open and laughed! it was his laugh! It wasn’t him though! It laughed at him, at how scared he was at how small he was, at how helpless and tired he was. But this wasnt real! It wasn’t it couldn’t be real.
A claw shot out from the demon thing. where was the door! there wasnt anything between them! It grasped him by the neck, impossibly strong fingers crushed the breath out of him, racing lungs and heart screamed for air.
But this couldn’t be real. It was real! It was real and it was choking the life out of him! His own laugh echoing in his ears, muscles screaming for air, the demon effortlessly lifted him into the air and stepped through where the door should be. behind it the swirling shadow crystallized into his brother from the tapestry before, the same demons dancing and laughing wildly at him.
Standing before him, solid and menacing the shadow thing taunted him with his own mad laugh, as it slowly crushed the life out of him. He couldn’t even move, it would choke him to death and move on to kill his friends one by one with his brother and those demons and they would think he had betrayed them because this thing had his face, his laugh.
the laugh seemed so far away now, like an echo in his mind, bright spots of light exploded in his eyes, his muscles were so cold, but on fire screaming. He tried to scream, to yell, to book, to Bronath, to anyone. Run! Take Oswald and Helena and run! But all that came out was a gurgle and the iron acidic taste of blood and trail rations.
His mind reeled they had to get away run away from this thing that wore his face and laugh. His vision blackened and that hysterical laugh continued, even as the floor came up to meet him, in a heap.
An icy vice like hand closed down on his shoulder and he could hear a voice through the laughing.
" Robert, Robert." The high speaking metal on metal sound made. “what is it? What do you see?”
He looked down, he could move again! He was kneeling on the floor. The shadows danced in the doorway like an odd puppet show. He could see on the floor where the splatter of blood met the seam of the door the slow creeping of noxious gas around him. he could still hear the echo of the laugh in his ears.
“I see a big problem” he coughed out. And pulled his mask over hiding his face.

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Roberts Delusions

" You must be Johnny’s Boyyyyyyyyyyyyy, hahahahahahahahahahahah"
Robert’s Eyes shot open. did he just hear that? was someone in the room? He looked frantically around the small room, dark stone walls, caltrops were in place on the floor around the hatch leading below, wire traps in place, and the thin line of dust was undisturbed. The torches were in place on the walls and floor. His backpack still firmly attached to his back, he felt Oswald stir, still asleep. Creeping over to the hatch he gently took his back pack off and peered at the cluttered room below. Solid walls, stone door, unopened, Steve the scarecrow stood at his post, ever vigilant, undisturbed. wire traps were in place ready to drop acidic death on the heads of anyone below, acid was best, it was evil and reached for you and pulled, and it didn’t light the place on fire when it was tripped. and the lantern he had left was quitly hanging mid air direcly below him, making a nice circle of light. Everything was as he left it.
“What about the ceiling?”
he hadn’t though of that! he couldn’t see the ceiling from there, something could crawl along it and get in the hatch and he couldn’t even see it! and Steve couldn’t see upward he couldn’t turn his head! and Audry couldn’t reach quite that high yet! Slowly, cautiously he reached out for the hatches knob, gazing at the floor beneath him through the smoky transparency, shadow like, he swore the smoke moved! there were shadows on his ceiling! he threw the door open tumbling through, hitting his floating lantern on the way down and landed on the floor beneath, throwing his bow upward and crouching down.
forms flew around the room, they had gotten in! he loosed around at them pinning them to the walls but they didn’t seem to care. he backed against Audrey her branches offering protection and offense. why didn’t she attack? she could smash them with her huge branches. movement in the corner! a quick shot with an arrow stopped it fast. it was his lantern, he had pinned it against the wall through the handhold, the movements that moments before had spun so wildly around the room like a storm of ravens stopped like they had taken roost. there was nothing, just shadows and light, dancing around each other, nothing else. An empty ceiling, and room, filled with illusions, just him. still perched there the shadows loomed over him, judging him, looking at him. he reached out with his mind to the lantern to make it brighter. the lantern didn’t brighten like it was afraid to glow that the ravens would be disturbed and attack. he pushed harder and almost fearfully the lantern brightened, pushing the shadows back slowly into the corners until they were little more than grey areas in the back of his mind.
picking himself up, he checked Audrey, hard to see if there is any damage to an invisible plant, it would be much easier to check if he could see her. the same way Book and colonel book, or was it just book? or just the colonel? the way they or he had seen that monster days before. it had been there for who knows how long. and he hadn’t seen it hadn’t detected it. but they showed it didn’t they?
" didn’t we little Audrey? yes we did! your not so little anymore are you?"
She took up a full corner of his room now. he had to pull up the stones to open a patch of dirt to plant her in. maybe he would have to move her out to the center room soon. she would like it out there, more room to grow and she could eat anything that got in like rats or cats.

Giving a silent evil grin at the thought He grabbed two pieces of the meat fresh off the rack, still wet and tossed one towards her, it stopped mid air and was pulled into the corner of the room where it vanished with a quiet slurp.
He sat and ate the other piece himself. Chewing and thinking, he climbed back into the door, the smoke swirling and gathering in strange patterns where he held on. he gathered his things, pulling free the wires and bells, gathering the caltrops, and checking his backpack. He peered in and opened the secret compartment.
“Oswald are you ok?”
“Yeah I’m fine, what was that?”
“Just the lantern again, I though i saw something on the ceiling but its gone now, nothing to worry about.”
“Ok are you ok?”
" Yeah i just bruised my shoulder on the way down."
" Maybe you can have someone look at it, heal you all up."
" I would but there isn’t anyone here, its just me and you now, everyone else left with that scroll"
" They used it, like Kearny and those…… people wanted, I don’t like them Robert."
“I know…..”
He had to leave, had to go out and find the others, it was his fault they were gone. He had gone out to….. and when he came back they were gone and the scroll was gone too. for all he knew kearny cold have walked in and took them like he did before.
He shuddered for a second. That scroll, he didn’t like it, he didn’t like that man, those men, those people? But Paik was with them now and Paik was a friend. wasn’t she? was she Paik? she looked different? maybe she wasn’t Paik, Paik not Paik. Like Book wasnt Book. She was with them now too. Maybe the rest of his friends were now too. Mabee they were like her, all…… changed. Maybe he should go find them. But there was something else. What about Kearny, he said it was nice to have another lynch working with them again. He wasn’t working for them was he? just with them? and again, he said, he? it? they? He knew his father, thought he was his brother.
“You must be Johnny’s Boy” he whispered “Oswald?”
“Yeah Robert, whats wrong?”
“We have to find the others.”

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Healena's Journal Entry
Deity change - reprecussions?

It has almost been two months since Healena’s faith in Melora was utterly lost. In the face of so much constant pain surrounding the Chaos Scar, the loss of a comrade, and the reoccurring nightmare of her past robbing her of any shred of peace Healena’s fragile soul broke. In the darkness a new deity, The Black Raven, gently cradled her fragmented spirit in its hungry embrace.

This new deity has given her powers she has been able to use for good – she even feels stronger for it. In the face of great danger and literal loss of limb, Black Raven’s new gifts saved her and her comrades in their latest battle. But in each shadow looms the guilt and knowledge that Melora is not forgiving. If these two go head to head for her soul, will there be anything left once the battle dust has settled? Or will there be an empty husk of skin, bones, blood, and tissue staring emptily out from dead eyes.

Soon this unanswered conflict will come to head. But who will answer for this? Is Healena in danger or, even worse, is she bringing the danger to her comrades?

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Slaver's Stone
The heroes are sent on a mission of vengeance and justice
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Vanguard Tower
The PCs assault a tower to take on The Golden Circle, but they have no idea who they'll really find.

Using the information they gathered from previous encounters, the party tracks down Sher-Tuuz, and assaults his tower. The tower proves to be three floors of different styles.

The first floor is made of earth, and contains architecture and art made of earth and stone. Duergar guard the area, but are defeated. Grimclaw feels an odd affinity with this room, and is able to move its walls to fortify the structure, though his influence is fleeting.

The second floor contains arcane implements and strange symbols on the walls. Gnolls infest the area, and put up a decent fight. Paik takes the form of one of the gnolls to scout the top floor and attempt to bring the gnoll leaders down into an ambush, but the gambit fails when the gnolls prove to not care about their subordinates.

The third floor contains rows of bookshelves, a fireplace, and a beholder. This is Sher-Tuuz, of the Golden Circle. He sits waiting with the gnoll leaders and his captive rust monsters, which are to be sold to the gnolls. In the corner are four captives: a tree-man, a dragonborn, a human, and a drow.

Sher-Tuuz unleashes the rust monsters to demonstrate their power to the gnolls. The tide turns against Sher-Tuuz as the majority of the party focuses on attacking him instead of his rust monsters, and the gnolls are called in to help. After knocking out Seryus and devouring his armour, the rust monsters and Sher-Tuuz are defeated, and the gnolls slaughtered shortly thereafter.

The captives turn out to be the Cats of Thleen, a band of thieves containing Healena’s twin sister. Mistrust is developed immediately when Artemique, the drow leader of the Cats, kills Sher-Tuuz before the party has a chance to question him on the Golden Circle’s plans for the area. After conversing with the Cats, the party decides to trust them to a point, but take care to not reveal too much personal information.

The Cats tell the party that the tower is theirs, but Sher-tuuz tracked them down after they stole an item from him. this item, hidden in the fireplace, turns out to be a chaos shard.

They further explain that each level of the tower belongs to one (or two, in the case of Artemique and Healena’s sister) of them, with Quillburn the tree-man inhabiting the first level where he is closest with nature, Mystra the dragonborn inhabiting the second level with her arcane experiments, and the other two inhabiting the top level where they engage in “intellectual pursuits”.

Though not everybody trusts the Cats, the groups stay friendly toward each other.

A Seryus Journal Entry

We struck our first major blow against the golden circle today! Shur-Tuuz, their leader in the area, lies dead, struck down in vengeance of his misdeeds. He was some sort of demon or aberration, which surprised me. How powerful is the golden circle when they have access to things like that?

Regardless, he’s dead, and we proved that we can take on anything the circle can throw at us. My armour was destroyed in the fight, eaten by a rust monster. I’ve had that armour since I was accepted into the order, and I feel naked without it. I’ve commissioned a new set, so hopefully that’ll be ready soon.

As it turns out, Shur-Tuuz’s tower actually belonged to a group of thieves, the Cats of Thleen. Their leader delivered the killing blow to a gnoll prisoner, even though we wanted to interrogate him about the circle’s plans for the area. That was a setback, but we can deal with it later. For now, I celebrate our victory.

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Vision Quest
Plagued by nightmares of a mysterious pyramid, the PCs create a sweat lodge to explore the unknown
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The Wayward Wyrmling
Taking down a kobold wyrmling might get the party a new pet

The party works with the Pop-pop tribe to plan a raid on their enemies, the Fireclaw. Though the tribe is weakened and still adjusting to their new limbs, the raid goes on.

Many Fireclaw kobolds are killed, and in the lair of their leader, the party makes a stunning discovery: they have enslaved a baby admantite dragon. While the rest of the party fights the kobolds, Paik and Seryus convince the dragon to throw off his harsh masters and join them, from freedom and to do good.

Their efforts are rewarded when the dragon knocks out the Fireclaw leader, and entrusting himself into the party’s care. The remaining Fireclaw kobolds are granted a chance to join with Bubbles and the Pop-Pop tribe, and their leader is brought before Bubbles for execution, cementing his position as the strongest in the Chaos Scar.

The dragon, Taloklaxus, settles in with Paik’s drake and the Pop-Pop tribe, serving as an inspiration to them and a powerful ally for the group.

A Seryus Journal Entry

This kobold tribe living under our roof has proven to be hardier than I gave them credit for. Even with their metal limbs and lingering illnesses, they possess a drive that I’ve rarely seen. It’s inspiring, really. They listen to us and I guess our influence has rubbed off on them, because they only want to crush evildoers.

We joined with them to help take vengeance on the tribe that outcasted them. The Fireclaw. Evil kobolds. After hearing Bubbles (did he name himself that? I hope not) describe how they were sent away, well, I saw a little of my own life in there. It was the least we could do to help them.

The kobolds themselves proved little threat, overall. I never suspected they’d have a metallic dragon under their control. A miserable creature, really, forced to act against his nature. Paik and I showed him there was a better life available, and thankfully he accepted us. His name is Taloklaxus, and I now have the rare honour of helping to raise him with the ideals and principles of Bahamut. Imagine, a disciple of the platinum dragon raising a fellow metallic dragon, to fight for justice and law. I have shivers.

I wonder what I did to deserve the honour. Paik says it’s a reward for sticking to my principles over blind adherence to my duty. Maybe it’s true. I know I haven’t felt as closely connected to my faith as I am now in a long time. Could this be the end of my wandering? Could this valley be home?

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Getting to Home Base/Nightmare #2
Hakka and Seryus spend their first night with the group

Getting to Home Base

As you approach the familiar cave, you see kobold sentries stiffen at the two strangers. But when you introduce them as new members to the party, the kobolds bow with respect and humbly suggest you speak with Bubbles. Through the cave, you pass many bodies on cots, bleeding from wounds while shamanistic kobolds rush to rub ointments on them. The back of the cave opens into an ancient-looking library. The library has recently been cleaned up; shelves are against the walls, filled with books too old to be legible (the kobolds don’t look like they’re big on reading), a table has been brought in with maps of the Chaos Scar scattered across it, and a large chair sits at the side, overseeing the room. On it is Bubbles, the clear leader of these kobolds. Upon seeing you, he clambers down from his chair, groveling and limping towards you. His leg has fresh bandages and he walks with an improvised cane. ‘Masters!’ he shouts. ‘We won great victory today! We found hole of rat-people. Bubbles led charge, shout “Bubbles tribe!” because Bubbles not in Fireclaw tribe no more and Bubbles not know what you want you tribe called so Bubbles shout “Bubbles tribe!” and we kill rat-people! It very hard, many kobolds dead and some even hurt, but we kill all rat-people! We take shinies, take all shinies from dead rat-people. We need few for weapons and cavethings, but we give you most!’ He reaches behind his chair and throws you a bag of 70gp. ‘We also find stone, so shiny, it move and shift just like you.’ He hands it to Paik, a rounded crystal that looks like an opal. As you look at it, it seems to shift colours and almost shape, even as you hold it perfectly still to the light. Grimclaw and Book immediately recognize it as a Chaos Shard, and Paik can feel that getting Dagnar to fashion it into a brooch would grant her increased shapechanging powers.

Bubbles continues to recount his victory in your name, and promises many more once he recovers. He says that tomorrow he’ll be planning the next raids, and you get that it would make him so happy if you showed up to give him some direction. The party then takes out their enchanted lantern, lights it, and blue runes appear in the lantern-light in a circle. They invite Hakka and Seryus into the circle, and they all feel a gut-wrenching tug as they’re transported deep underground to their private base. They come out in a large, open chamber, and walk up to the locked hatch. Unsecuring it, it leads down to a corridor with five private rooms on either side. The names “Seryus” and “Hakka” appear on two doors before your eyes. At the end of the corridor is a common room with a feasting table on one side, and a statue of a humanoid bird in the corner. Next to the common room is an arcane laboratory, filled with strange instruments. A gruff dwarf sits in the laboratory tinkering over a project, grunting a hello but barely looking up.

Nightmare

That night, Hakka and Seryus sleep uneasily. It is not unusual to have nightmares when sleeping in a strange place, but it doesn’t help a strange situation to be troubled by bad dreams. In particular, you dream about a wounded animal, you can’t quite make it out, trying to crawl away. A number of smaller animals, equally indistinguishable, run after the wounded one, pouncing and tearing it to bits, devouring as much as possible. You barely remember the dream when you wake.

Book, Grimclaw, Healena, Cassandre and Paik are not so lucky. You see Paik, quite clearly, running from room to room, trying to escape. Although you cannot move, you always seem to be close behind her, just out of reach. Each room looks completely different from the last, like it is from a different building, but it always feels like the same room. Finally, after tripping over a table, Paik finds a door locked, and can’t run anymore. She looks back in horror to see the door burst open, and two dozen children crawl over each other to get in, some crawling on the walls and ceiling to get more room. Each child has a golden circle tattooed on their forehead. They change shape as they rush towards Paik; first they look the spitting image of her original form, then they turn into goblins, then Bubbles and his kobolds, then were-rats, then they turn into child-sized versions of you, and many faces you don’t recognize, and a couple of faces you recognize from your own pasts, then creatures without faces at all, but always with the golden circle tattoo. They drag Paik into the middle of the floor, her thrashing body rapidly changing shapes in a futile effort to escape. The child-creatures pin her down, and Paik sees her comrades standing in the room, and reaches out to them. Their hands seem just out of reach, inching slowly closer, but then the children all whisper “Goodnight, Mother!” as they tear into her belly with their bare hands, ripping out her innards and devouring her uterus and other organs. Things fade into darkness, and you think it’s over, but a vibrant image of a pyramid in the middle of a jungle suddenly appears, almost overloading your senses, and a harsh voice fills your head. ‘Seek the place of power!’

A Seryus Journal Entry

Paik and I had a long discussion about the golden circle (I still can’t bring myself to capitalize their name, especially not now). What she told me of how they treated her, well, I know now I can never take her back to them. Not if I want to live with myself afterwards.

I’ve been thinking more and more about the day I was sent on this errand. Captain Tarly never gave me a description or a crime, but there must have been something. Maybe he knew who Paik was and why she escaped. I’m suspecting now he agreed with me about the circle’s corruption, but as an officer he was bound to their “laws”.

His last words to me have taken a new significance of late. “You’ll do the right thing”. I always assumed he meant I’d get over my reservations about the circle and bring Paik in under arrest. I think now he meant the opposite, that I’d ally against the circle.

If they’re operating in the valley, as we now know they are, I must do everything in my power to stop them.

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