Ready for another adventure, our intrepid adventurers decided to check out the Sivis message station for any messages from their patron, Lady Elaydren d’Vown. As they approached the building, something was obviously amiss. The door was hanging ajar, and inside papers were scattered, chairs were toppled, and that annoying Halfling clerk was unconscious on the table. She was quickly revived with the application of some smelling salts, and was able to recall that the intruders, a large cloaked figure and several smaller ones, were looking for a message for Eenain Tolaen. Coincidentally, such a message had just arrived, and was still sitting on her desk, unsorted and within easy reach of the intruders. Inquiries to its contents, however, were met with stubborn forgetfulness. It was up to the party to find these intruders and recover the message.
A brief search of the room revealed footprints of a Warforged and several Kobolds. With this information in hand, the party began its trek out into the rain, where they the tracks promptly disappeared: washed off the hard stone surface by the beating rain. The rain was softening, and clouds were clearing, but that did nothing to lessen the damage that was already done. Puzzled, they paused to come up with another plan of action. Suddenly, a shadow flashes past; a great owl is circling above. Before anyone has a chance to react, it drops a satchel at their feet, and flies away. Inside is a message from Lady d’Vown calling for an immediate meeting at their last meeting place, The Broken Anvil.
At the Anvil, Elaydren waved them towards her table in a dark corner of the otherwise empty inn. Gone is her jeweled bodice and long, flowing dress – replaced with a simple, mud spattered cloak and old traveler’s clothes. Even her signet ring is nowhere in sight. She hurriedly explains that there are many powers seeking the schema she recovered, as well as the others that belong to its pattern. Even in her own house, she is unsure of whom to trust, which is why she has returned to the adventurers for help. They must act quickly, for all their lives are in danger. She sets a backpack on the table, points to the pocket that has all the info that they need, and rises to leave just as the door of the inn is kicked in by a large boot, followed by a larger Warforged, Cutlass, and his kobold minions.
The Kobolds didn’t stand a chance, and more than half of them died in writhing pain as Eelain immolated them in one fell swoop. Unfazed, Cutlass began hacking away with devastating cuts at whoever was closest until eventually he was brought to within an inch of his death and made his escape. The last remaining Kobold was then killed, almost as an afterthought.
As soon as the room was cleared, Elaydren pointed again to the backpack on the table, “Everything you need is inside. You must leave the city now! All our lives are in danger!” Then, she bolted for the door and disappeared into the streets of Sharn.
Inside the backpack, which turned out to be a Handy Haversack – extra dimensional space and all – was money, marks, traveling supplies, and a letter explaining that there is a second Schema located within a secret Cannith research facility called Whitehearth. It’s location is a closely guarded secret – the only record being in a former Cannith mining town called Rose Quarry. Elaydren suggests that the adventurers seek out Failin in the Clenched Fist tavern in the Bloody Market. He should be able to bring them to Rose Quarry. The Bloody Market, however, is not just around the corner. They will have to travel to Rhukann Draal in Darguun. If they can retrieve this artifact, the reward is promised to be great.
Aware of the urgency of the situation, the adventurers immediately head to the docks, without even stopping by the house, and book passage to [[:Rhukaan Draal]] on a ship just about to leave port.
On the third night of a four day journey, shortly after the ship enters the long channel leading to the city, a faint scratching sound can be heard coming from outside the ship. Curious, and cautious for possible danger, the adventurers head topside to investigate just in time to see several skeletons boarding the ship. The skeletons are quickly dispatched, but a few sailors are lost in the scuffle. Appreciative for their help, the captain gives them each a small reward.
Upon reaching the sprawling city of Rhukaan Draal, the party members find themselves a little lost. Grabbing a passing goblin, Gaur bullies him into leading them to the Bloody Market. After purchasing a few supplies, a happy merchant is willing to tell them where the Clenched Fist tavern is. Inside, they find Failin in a dark corner, with a table to himself. Negotiations are made, and they leave the tavern to begin their journey, only to find that the goblin they had ruffed up found a few bugbears to try to ruff up the party. Poor things didn’t stand a chance. Failin, however wasn’t happy about how things were beginning, and warns the party that any more interruptions like this, and he will have to raise the fees or call it off.
They go through the market, and out the other side, and then are ambushed by another group of bugbears. This group, however, is after Failin, claiming that he cheated them somehow. Quickly dispatched again, Failin and the party agree to call it even.
Failin approaches a rack wall, rolls up his sleeve to expose his Lesser Mark of Passage, presses it against the rock, and mutters “Travel” in Draconic. From the solid rock wall, his land cart emerges. “Elemental powered,” he explains.
The cart cruises smoothly towards Rose Quarry, and they only need to stop once, when they spot some bugbears and goblins and Gaur decides to jump ship and vent a little. After quickly dispatching their unfortunate foes, they continue on to Rose Quarry without event.
It is evening when they arrive, and the town is in ruins. The charred husks of buildings look like they are covered in ice, and only two look like they are still in relatively decent shape. Failin also points out that they’re not the first ones there. In the distance they can see what looks like a small military garrison set up in town, and an incessant picking sound resounds from beyond them. With his keen eyesight, Eelain notices a few soldiers with rather distinct helmets standing around a fire and a couple skeletons stand on watch. Based on the number of horses, the majority of the soldiers must have already retired for the night. Viridium Cruxten sneaks forward onto the hard ice and finds, much to his surprise, that it is not ice at all. Rather, the whole town is covered in a thick layer of glass. He silently navigates the slick surface, avoiding jagged edges, and makes his way near the camp. From up close, he sees much of the same, but also notices a soldier in the back praying.
Upon Viridium’s return, they wisely decide to skirt the camp, and make their way towards the two still-standing buildings. Not far into the town’s ruins, they began to hear an irregular clinking sound. Cautiously creeping around the ruined husk of a building, Viridium spots a couple of zombies – completely encased in glass, yet walking unhindered. Spotting fresh brains, the zombies lurch forward to attach. Viridium hacks, Gaur slashes, Cog blasts them with elemental energy, and Eelain immolates them with a deafening bomb.
As echoes of the last blast fade away, they realize that they may have alerted the very people they wanted to avoid. A small group of soldiers from camp come tromping towards the sounds of battle. Eager to avoid an unnecessary encounter with a much larger force, the adventurers head for the outskirts of town and hide away in an old, burned-out building. As the soldiers continue to approach, hot, but hushed, discussion begins about whether to stay in their hiding place, or make a dash across the glass-covered streets to a new one. Wisdom prevails as Cog suggests they wait just a little longer to see what the soldier do next. Watching from their hiding place, they see the soldiers split up and search the area near where they fought. The soldiers then regroup, make discussion animatedly, and eventually head back to camp.
Resuming their trek into the heart of town, they encounter two more zombies. Acting more cautiously this time, they are able to quickly and quietly dispatch the zombies. As they approach the smaller of the two remaining buildings, they see a graveyard in the back, with two zombies picking at the glass – presumably at someone’s orders to unearth more bodies. The zombies look up as Viridium rounds the corner of the nearest ruin, but pause only for a moment before resuming their digging. There are mixed opinions about what to do about these two, but they quickly decide to leave them so nobody notices the cessation of the regular picking sounds and becomes suspicious.
This smaller building, by the remains of its outer markings, appears to be a church of the Sovereign Host. Inside, little remains. Behind the alter, however, Eelain finds a chalice that seems a little unusual. Careful not to touch it with his bare skin in case of a curse, he uses the corner of his cloak to move it into his pack. Unfortunately, the records they seek are not located here.
The church fully exhumed, they turn their sights on the larger building just across the street: the workshop. Upon entering, they see a zombie carrying a load of detritus. It immediately drops its load with a crash and lurches towards the intruders. Also alerted by the zombie are two soldiers: a private and a lieutenant, later learned to be Kaela. Emblazoned on her shield is a bright Emerald Claw, indicative of the military group that bears the same name. A vicious battle ensues inside the entrance of the workshop. The zombie proves an excellent distraction as Kaela lands precise blows, parry’s attacks from all sides, and directs the private’s actions to confound the adventurers. In the heat of the melee, Gaur, slashes recklessly with a roar at her, misses, and strikes a devastating blow to Cog. Grievously wounded by his friend, Cog attempts to retreat into the next room, only to be shot down by Kaela, who somehow managed to get her bow out despite the confusion. With a friend down, and wounds on all sides, they rally themselves to attack and begin to fight more fiercely than ever before. They kill the zombie, thereby removing that distraction. Kaela, however, continues to prove an insufferable foe. Dancing just inside the entrance to one of the rooms, and using the private as fodder, she effectively manages her foes to keep them from overwhelming her. But Eelain doesn’t need to be next to his foes. The force of his bombs, precisely thrown so as not to injure his allies, begins to take its toll on his foes. And Gaur is an unstoppable force, who when finally given the opportunity, cuts the private down with a vengeance. Kaela, however remains unfazed, and continues to fight on, until Viridium grabs her and begins to try to pin her down. At that point she becomes frantic, losing all poise, and tries hacking awkwardly at him while screaming, “Garrow!”
After a brief struggle, they manage to subdue her. Bound and gagged, she is finally in a position to be questioned, albeit with yes or no questions only. A few such questions reveal that the Emerald Claw is here under the direction of Garrow in order to unearth and reanimate the entombed dwarves, thus adding to their strength. With this information in hand, Gaur cuffs her sharply, rending her unconscious and completely harmless.
The main room, which the zombie had been in the process of clearing, is surrounded on three sides by three different colored furnaces – each furnace flanked by a pair of large statues. Displayed across the entire floor is a map of Khorvaire, with borders drawn of the [[:Five Nations]] – dating it back over a hundred years – and marks that presumably correspond to cities and hopefully workshops. They examine the map together to try to divine where and if Whithearth is located, but quickly come to the conclusion that the answer cannot be obtained with the information at hand. After some time searching for clues to decipher the map, Gaur finds a curious inscription on the back of the head of one of the statues – all the more curious because he can’t read. Calling for assistance, they find that this inscription is the key to finding the location of its corresponding workshop on the map. Checking each statue carefully, they find one labeled “Whitehearth,” and pace out its location on the map. Not wanting to lose any of this newly gain information, Viridium suggests that they sketch the map. Everyone eagerly agrees and look on while he begins.
Suddenly, an old, raspy voice calls from just outside the doorway! “Kaela! Everything all right in there?”
Eelain quickly calls back with the best imitation of her voice he can muster. “Yep! Everything’s fine!”
After a brief pause, the voice responds, “OK, just checking in,” and light footsteps can be heard retreating from the workshop.
The crisis averted, Viridium continues to sketch a near-perfect replica of the original map, with each location marked, and those they deciphered, labeled.
With the map completed, they head out of the workshop to head back to Failin. Viridium, leading the way out, is immediately greeted by a necromantic ray, which saps his strength. Stumbling into each other, they look up to see the entire garrison, at least 30 strong, led by an old man, who by the pallor of his skin yet vigor of his gaze, cannot be anything but a vampire. His hand outstretched and finger pointed right at Viridium he whispers, “I know Kaela, and you are not her.” Then to his troops, “Kill them!”
The entire area is permeated with a sickly stench and an aura of evil that leaves one feeling wrong in all the worst ways. Recognizing the severity of the situation, Cog immediately bolts across the street and behind the church and Gaur follows right at his heels. Eelain bolts the other direction, around the back side of the workshop, but not before his ring blesses Viridium with haste. The troops surge forward, but struggle to move quickly across the slick glass. One of them reaches Viridium and swings at him, narrowly missing. Another reaches him as well, but loses his footing, leaving his sprawling at Viridium’s feet. His wits finally catching up with him, Viridium makes a mad dash to catch up with Eelain. Garrow lifts his hands to the sky with a look of pure malevolence on his face and utters, “Suffer.” Before their eyes are conjured unspeakable horrors, disturbing beyond imagining and description. Undead arms of brimstone grasp at them from the ground, and ghostly tendrils emerge to reach into their souls leaving them sickened and gasping for breath. Only Viridium can muster the will to disbelieve the dreadful illusion, but even he is left feeling the lacerations of those unnatural claws.
Reeling from the force of Garrow’s will, the adventurers push on, temporarily split up in the hopes of confusing their pursuers. Cog and Gaur navigate the terrain with comparable ease. Viridium, with the blessing for Eelain’s ring, quickly passes him up. Eelain, however, rattled but what he just experienced and encumbered by his armor, has extraordinary difficulty navigating the slick surface. As he rounds the first corner of the workshop, he puts on an extra burst of speed, but loses his footing. He slides almost thirty feet across the glass, its jagged edges lacerating him every inch of the way. Scrambling to his feet, he looks behind him to see a soldier and a zombie round the corner in hot pursuit. He continues forward and reaches the end of the workshop. As he turns the corner he peers over his shoulder to see the soldiers slip, but he knows that he will regain his feet and be after him in a matter of seconds. The zombie, while slow by its nature, is completely unhindered by the slick surface and maintains the same pace as Eelain. He frantically pushes on, but is not always able to keep his footing. Every stumble brings the zombie a little closer and a little closer. Fighting through his wounds, both natural and unnatural, he draws on all his inner reserves to keep moving. Utterly exhausted, the edge of town, and the end of the layer of glass, is within sight, if only he can continue on a little further. All the others can do is hope and pray that he make it to the end – willing their own strength as if they could grant it to him. As if granted by the gods themselves, he gets manages one last burst of speed which brings him just to the edge of town! Viridium and Failin speed towards him in the land cart, and Cog and Gaur are nearly upon him when suddenly he falls! The zombie is upon him and begins tear into him. Viridium looses a crossbow bolt at the zombie, which despite its glass coating still makes the zombie reel. Eelain scrambles to his feet and just makes it to the cart, where his friends haul him aboard. With vengeance in their eyes, they unleash a volley of bolts, psychic energy, and bombs at the zombie still in pursuit, utterly destroying it as Failin drives them away from this threat…
…and into the Mournlands.