Hammerfall Campaign

Trouble at the Parade
or, How to start a Civil War

It feels good to be back on the open sea again – during the last few days I began to doubt that we would ever make it aboard our ship.  Sitting here in our quarters belowdecks, eating a lime (my companions seem unable to grasp the seriousness of the threat of scurvy) and trying to ignore the disturbingly moist noises coming from Martha’s bunk, I’ve decided to pass the time by making a brief record of the events of the last day.

Upon our successful return from the Feygate and our felicitous trade of the battered body of Kaya in Inwe's form (may she rot in a dank, dark, rat-infested jail cell) for 3000 gold pieces, our party decided to hit the market and get suited up for the adventure ahead.  As we examined the wares in an alchemist’s shop, Balasar heard the sound of a scuffle outside.  Upon investigation, we saw a long-haired human – attired in a get-up rather more appropriate for lounging on one’s settee on a late Sunday afternoon than visiting the storefronts of downtown Altaire – being harassed by two thugs, one of whom appeared to hail from more easterly parts, demanding of the scruffy bumbler – who, additionally, emitted an aroma of grain alcohol, milk products and burnt herbs – a “device” or “mechanism” or something.   For some reason – I guess he shares a name with that robot inventor of violent architectural tendencies who disappeared to Centaris – we allowed this apparently useless ragamuffin to join our party, despite his unappealing humanness.

With our slovenly and intoxicated new companion, known only as “the Knave,” tossed over Balasar’s shoulder, we decided it was high time to pay a visit to the first slummy pub that crossed our path.  Aside from consuming copious amounts of spirits, we also wished to probe the public’s opinion of the heightened military presence that had gathered in Altaire in preparation for the coming invasion of Centaris.  Martha and I downed a few cups of foul whisky and chatted with the barkeep, who gave us the impression that there is considerable discord within the mid-ranking military.  As Martha wandered off to seduce a feminine-looking coat rack, I learned that one officer in particular known as Kone may be trying to mobilize the opposition.

Meanwhile, Balasar decided to peace out and visit Moradin’s temple, where he dropped an absurd quantity of coin in offering to his god before retiring to the Guild pub.  There he continued to display his ill-considered generosity by buying the house several rounds of drinks and then literally showering the patrons with gold.  Before meeting Balasar there, the rest of our party stopped by a less-slummy guild pub patronized by adventurers who for mercenary reasons generally appeared pleased with the upcoming campaign, with the exception of a group led by a man named Dayn.

The next morning, we awoke to the vibrations of parade drums rattling through our liquor-shrivelled brains.   The streets were filled with spectators observing the passage of the Altairian guards, who were followed by a grim contingent of hobgoblin soldiers with their grotesque fighting-beasts at their side.  As the Imperial troops marched through, the crowd became increasingly unruly, shouting crude epithets and throwing first rubbish, then bottles and sticks into the parade, until finally we heard a loud crack and smelled burnt saltpeter – a bomb had gone off amongst the hobgoblin troops.  As we saw the extremely pissed-off hobgoblins raise their weapons, our party decided to intervene to attempt to keep the citizen bystanders out of harm’s way.

A contingent of Altairian guards stood nearby, shouting in incomprehensible goblin for the hobgoblins to stand down.  As we approached the rioting mass, Inwe, in a move that I shall refrain from commenting on, cast a fireball into the group of hobgoblins and beasts.  As the fireball exploded among his troops, the hobgoblin leader gave an order to kill, and our party went into battle as the Altairian civilians tried to flee.  As I stabbed away at the fearsome Worg, out of the corner of my eye I saw at least one civilian fall under a hobgoblin sword.  Balasar and Martha also trained their efforts on the Worg, as the newest member of our party finally proved himself to be something other than totally useless by flattening several bugbears with an admittedly impressive spell. Inwe finally managed to calm the hobgoblins by skillfully casting a spell of friendliness.  Unfortunately, we then faced the angry and bewildered Altairian soldiers, who surrounded us, and despite our protestations, hauled us off to the clink for inciting a riot.  “We have a boat to catch!” we exclaimed, to no avail.

Thankfully, Menin’s high rank and smooth talking managed to convince the commissioner that our mission was of vital importance, and that – despite appearances – we were too valuable to be locked up during the campaign to Centaris.  Although Menin’s secrecy and gruffness had disposed me to be wary of her, her actions in the commissioner’s office incline me to think she’s trustworthy.  After about an hour, Menin came into our cell—interrupting our game of matchstick poker with the guards – and announced we were free.  We scurried to the dock.  Now, as we sail off to the unknown North, the events of the last day have begun already to feel like ancient history – but I have a sense that we have not felt all of their consequences yet.

 Wednesday 

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The Watchman and the Guardian

I found the small band of Iron Shield adventurers in a place they should not have been able to reach: in the Feygate, between the worlds.

I was told I would be expected, and so perhaps I did not make my introduction wisely. I simply announced that I was assigned to join their party, offering no pretext. For the war-forged Resolute that would have been enough. The others are more prone to doubt, less eager to trust authority. Even for the dragonborn, faith in others does not come easily. I think I would have been more welcome had I offered some venal reason why I wanted to join them in their quest, and demonstrated how useful I might be to them. Make it a commercial exchange. That is something I'll remember about them, in the future.

Even after a thousand thousand lifetimes, mortals still surprise.

Nonetheless, the party had succeeded in gaining the trust of the guardian of that place, and three – Inwe, Martha, and Wednesday – had been offered special gifts. For Resolute there was also a small token. Only the dragonborn was scorned.

The guardian had also prepared for them three potions that would assist them in seeking the Oathband of Etrius, allow them to see what ordinarily cannot be seen.

For that, it seems, is why they had come to that holy place: to seek the Oathband. It was immediately obvious to me that my presence was more than accidental. Surely if the Oathband was to be retrieved, the relic of the founder of my house, then it was meant that I should help in its recovery.

Our journey took us down a hidden path in the fey land, to a cliffside. Before us was a tree greater than any that grows in the forests of men. Its roots were far away in the deep soil, its branches in the heavens; and it could not be reached but by faith and trust in comradeship. The bridge reaching from our cliffside perch to the trunk of the tree was invisible, and spanned a great distance of empty air. Martha swallowed the potion prepared for her, and was able to see the bridge. The rest of us followed walking on the appearance of emptiness.

Thus the first test, a test of Faith.

At the far side of the bridge was a room hollowed in the trunk of the vast tree. It was a huge space. At the center of the room was a pool of water, over which a canopy of trees grew; at the far side, beautiful maidens were dancing. A shaft of sunlight, the ray of Pelor, came through the ceiling, and it seemed a place of surpassing peace.

It did not last. When we entered, the maidens cried out in rage. They turned into angry woodspirits, tearing at us with claws of thorn; and there came also two whirlwinds, spirits of the storm; and besides these, a terrible creature that only Martha could see, that attacked and lashed at those near it. All that we could see were the wounds that Martha received under the force of her attack.

The battle that followed was desperate and long-drawn, fought on the ground and in the air and even on the roof of the canopy of trees. The wood spirits had the power of dissolving themselves and rematerializing in a new place; and though in time two others drank the potion and were able to see the face of our greatest enemy, all received much damage, and at times several of us lay bleeding on the ground and near to death. But all fought on without flagging.

So the second test, a test of Determination.

After much loss, we found that the tree at the center of the canopy bore a crystal wrapped in vines, and when the vines were stripped away, the light of Pelor shone through that crystal and illuminated the cave we were in; and when the guardian passed through the beam, it became visible. And so it grew vulnerable, thanks to Pelor's gift.

At the end it was Martha who destroyed the guardian of the place: she transformed herself into her wolf shape, and rose into the air using the gift of flight she had been given in the Feygate, and cast a powerful spell that destroyed the last of its power.

When the dark guardian had passed away, we approached the second crystal in the room, one that stood at the far side of the canopied pool. It was of a common type for focusing the rays of the sun, but it was not adjusted. A small rotation brought it to its proper alignment, and there was a glint of light. Then a trunk bearing the Oathband rose from the water at the center of the pond.

We had been warned that the pond must not be approached, however, by any thing that walked on two legs. Therefore Wednesday climbed on the back of Martha in her wolf form. The wolf flew across the lake, and Wednesday, leaning down, was able to lift the Oathband from its pedestal while neither touched the water.

And thus the third test, a test of Insight.

Then I thought, surely it will be my honor to carry this relic; if anyone, I am the representative of Etrius in this company. I almost stepped forward to claim it. But the relic had a will of its own, and it chose Martha for itself: Martha the libidinous wolf-woman, who barely knew the name of Etrius before this quest.

It is not wounded pride that troubles me. Well – not only wounded pride, at any rate. I am meant to be here now, that much seems clear. But why with such companions, and to what end? Resolute and Balasar serve ends that I can comprehend. But the Raven Queen looks out of Inwe's eyes, and the others have a spirit of wildness and untempered will – just what I learned to distrust, in the life before this one.

When I look at their faces, and remember the soldiers who killed my beloved and his family, I feel very cold. And then I long for another battle, so that I may be full of the certainty and the sunlight of my god.

- Menin, Watchman of Altaire 

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Enter the Feygate

The party returns to the Iron Shield guild hall after a harrowing night at the Moonshadow Dancehall hunting down Kaya the changeling. Kaya had escaped being chained to the ceiling of her apartment, slipping from her bonds and delivering a message before disappearing to the streets below

You fools don’t know the trouble you’re in, so let me clarify things for you. I can have every bounty hunter and mercenary in the Western continent on your trail with a single stroke of my pen, so do not dare to cross me. I know you rookies cannot muster even one tenth the treasure you promised me, so let us now deal honestly with each other…

There is an ancient stone circle nearby used long ago for worshiping the elder gods, long since passed from this realm. They say there is a treasure hidden there, an item of great power, a bracer belonging to a hero from ancient times . Find this bracer and bring it to me, and we can forget about the bounty on the fey-maiden’s head. I’ll even tell you where your precious dragon scale has gone. Fail me, and I assure you that all of you will be hunted like dogs for the rest of your days.

The party is also reminded of the importance of their mission to Centaris. The group is being asked by Eskandir and the House of the Watch to infiltrate the city of Centaris to find the assassin Muza, an agent for the shadow guild of the Seven Knives. Wednesday is reminded of her importance for this mission, as she is the only person who knows Muza's face. Balasar also learns that the Seven Knives were not only involved, but instrumental, in the destruction of Winterhaven.

That morning, Inwe arrives to the guild hall bearing the [[shapechanger's sorrow]], a dagger that can force shapeshifters to adopt the visage of the blade's bearer for a year and a day. Inwe tells the group that [[Inwe's Puzzle at Corellon's Temple | she found the dagger in the Temple of Corellon]]. The group decides to find the item at the stone circle with the hopes of retrieving the item and ambushing Kaya.

Once arriving to the stone circle the group finds four trees, their boughs intertwined. Each tree appears to be at a different point in its life cycle: One bears fresh green leaves, the second is blooming with flowers, the third bears orange and red leaves of autumn with small berries adorning its branches, and the fourth is blackened and dead with brown brittle leaves strewn upon the ground. They also find an empty stone basin in the middle of the trees with a poem along its edge: bq).

Two coins for the child's purse // And three twice more for virgin maid // And copper four for life's new birth // But with single coin is death's toll paid

Resolute filled the basin with water and in it placed two leaves from the young tree, six from the blossoming tree, four from the autumnal tree, and one leave from the ground below the dead tree. The party was then transported to a dark, magical glade. In the glade the encountered an owlbear and a flight of will-o-the-wisps. After dispatching their enemies, the party followed a trail to find a woman, a witch wearing a black cloak and griding herbs with a mortar and pestle amid a strange domed chamber. Branches and vines formed the walls of the chamber, and the chamber would change form depending on the witches persona. The witch spoke with three voices representing a trinity of goddesses: Sehanine as the maiden, Melora as the mother, and the Raven Queen as the crone. The witch was fond of Wednesday, Martha, and Inwe, but disliked Balasar very much, saying that bore the dragon's lust for gold and revenge and a dwarf's stone heart, concerned only with cold, unfeeling law.

Resolute was able to determine that this witch was a divine figure of some kind, like an angel or avatar. After speaking with Wednesday, the witch revealed that she was a unity of the three goddesses, tasked with protecting this forested place, a gateway between the natural world and the feywild. She also tells the group that the item which they seek is the Oathband of Etrius, a magical bracer of an ancient Altarian hero. The witch then said she would aid the heroes in their quest, if they retrieved the blood of a silver elk and vowed to use the power of the Oathband against the forces of Bane.

The heroes entered the hunting grounds and after tracking for much of the day, were able to find the silver elk. Inwe and Wednesday approached the elk stealthfully, and Wednesday was able to inflict a bleeding wound to the elk with her crossbow just as it was fleeing further into the forest. The party retrieved the blood from the forest floor and returned to the witch. The witch accepts the elk's blood and is impressed with the party's ability, Wednesday in particular. She then invites the group to rest in her chamber while telling them the tale of noble Etrius.

Etrius was a man beloved by the gods. People often tell the tale of strong-armed Altairius and how he defeated the forces of Bane those two millennia ago, but our great victory would not have come without the skill of his councelor, the fair Etrius. Etrius saw that the forces of the free people were failing, so he sought to make a pact with the lords of the Fey and the gods of the Astral Plane. An agreement was reached whereby the forces of the Feywild entered the world in alliance with Altairius and Etrius. In return the gods formed these great gates, protecting the incursion of the natural world into the Feywild. The task of protecting these hallowed places was entrusted to the three goddesses, and with that they formed the Sisters of Akarah, the witches that protect the wild places from the laws of men.  

Fair Etrius bore a sacred band, a bracer that was gifted to him by the gods and lords of the Fey when they reached their accord. This hallowed item is kept here, protected by the guardians of the gods. It is said that Etrius still speaks through his Oathband, advising free people in their time of need. You have proven your mettle, you will be permitted to challenge the guardians for Etrius' prize. Your success might be the only hope to strike back at the forces of Bane…

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The Moonshadow Dancehall
A place where mortals remove their clothes

My mission was a simple one…accompany a group of soldiers and help them with their mission. I did not know what I was getting myself into when I first greeted them, but I would soon find out. This group of mortals, with exception of the paladin, were exceedingly interested in materials and seemed to have overactive human desires. We spent several days trying to find a female that had stolen a silver dragon scale from one of the group members. She had apparently let herself be tied up while the female stole the item. A person who is charged with guarding an item of importance should never let personal pleasure, or anything for that matter, interfere with duty. One who allows this to happen is not trustworthy and should be looked carefully upon. Erathis, the Eternal Guardian, shall not look kindly upon her. I pray that She guides her in the future and that she improve upon her carelessness and lack of duty and self respect.

After hunting for this person for several days, we found her in a brothel. Apparently it is a place where mortals remove their clothes and engage in dance in order to bring about procreation. I have heard of them before, but have never experienced them firsthand. It seems to me to be a waste of time and money, and only serves to make it easier for one to lower their guard. After a brief fight with the ownership of the establishment, we were able to catch the thief. The dragonscale is gone though, sold off to one of the guilds and probably in another region by now. With any luck we will cross paths with it again. Hopefully this will serve as a lesson to the mortals as to the importance of holding your duty above all else at all times.

It is strange being with mortals again. Not to say that I haven’t been around them for some time now, but in the military it’s different. Soldiers do not feel as much as the ones I have been around for the last several days and I am significantly less comfortable currently for this reason. It is strange to be surrounded by mortal desire, corruption, emotion, greed, humor. Not to say that I do not feel things, I must just feel them differently, for I am not compelled to act as they do. Will I change? Will they change? Surely in my previous life I felt these things…perhaps I felt them to an excess, which is why I find myself in this metal body? Questions like these haunt me sometimes while I rest. Are these what they call dreams?

- Resolute

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The Archibald Manor

Wednesday, Balasar, and Gibb were assigned a quest from Eskandir which called for them to go investigate mysterious goings-on in the town of Rastia. Another member of the guild, Valna, was been assigned to accompany the three on their quest. In Rastia they met with the Mayor of Rastia who informs them that he is the one who hired them for the errand. One of the local boys, Alphonse, had sneaked onto the the property of Winfred Archibald where he saw mysterious lights and sounds emanating from the manor. The mayor hired the party to investigate the manor to make sure that there was no foul play and to take care of anything which might be dangerous. Additionally, the assignment from Eskandir mentioned that they would be paid for any information they return with which might be useful for The Iron Shield.

The party reached the manor and saw a figure who appeared to be a servant of the manor, though in the darkness all they could make out was the two glowing green orbs he had for eyes. Balasar entered the front door and found a security rune at the base of a stairwell which immediately malfunctioned, triggering a whirling blade trap. Valna, Wednesday, and Balasar went up the stairs to explore and Gibb went to see the butler. The butler was an automaton who would continually ask Gibb if he was a guest of Dr. Archibald. Gibb destroyed the butler after he tried to serve Gibb a piece of rotten fruit. The food in the pantry had been rotting for some time.

Upstairs, the party encountered a similarly malfunctioning security rune, which triggered a Pendulum Scythe trap. The team also was set upon by the rest of the servant automatons armed with various household items. The party found a series of bedrooms and junk closets, as well as the display panel for the scythe trap. Balasar and Wednesday took turns smashing the display panel which made the trap significantly more dangerous. After defeating the servant pawns the party finds a heavy brass key and a letter in the daughters room:

Father came to me today in a panic. He probably had made some fabulous new discovery which will inevitably take his time away from us. He came and grabbed up a handful of my scribing crystals. He’s so weird. I’m soooooo bored. I can’t believe he keeps us locked up in here, it’s so unfair…

The party opens a heavy locked door downstairs with the brass key. In the room the find a blazing fireplace, several couches, and a table with a book. Once the party entered the room, four statues resembling chess figures sprang to live and attacked the party. After dispatching the chess pieces the party found the following letter in the book:

Dearest Husband, It is with a heavy heart that I write you this evening. The archanists guild has been called to conquer the great bastion at Fallcrest. I do not understand the chamberlain’s decision in this matter. He appears to have lost all sense and is willing to sacrifice our fair order for the benefit of some imperial game. I fear I may not return from this mission. Should I fall, remember that I will be watching over you and our children eternally, by Ioun’s grace.

-Your Elizabeth

The party enters the name “Elizabeth” into a rune pad on the second floor which opened the door to Archibald’s workshop. In there they found a malfunctioning grandfather clock. Wednesday opened up the mechanism in the clock which turned out to be sabotaged with some sort of crystal pin which would explode if tampered with. Wednesday successfully disarmed the trap at which point the traps in the house shut down and the security runes returned to normal. The party then entered the alchemical lab in the basement of the manor where they found Dr. Archibald’s lab notebook:

One Month Ago:

Have made startling discovery. I visited the barracks at Altaire today and interviewed, YES INTERVIEWED, one of the warforged that stands watch for the House of War. Incredible, simply incredible. These are not the simple playthings I tinker with in my laboratory, but a thing, no, a person blessed with the gift of life. The gift of a soul…. I must investigate further.

Three Weeks ago:

Met again with Number 734. Simply striking conversation with the lad. He explained to me the source of his sentience, the place in which his soul resides. It’s a crystal, a simple unassuming stone which bears his life. Natika has many such crystals in her room as I recall. Will borrow some and investigate further.

Two Weeks ago:

That blasted woman stopped by again. I hate when guests arrive unexpectedly, it’s simply rude and a great disturbance to my work. I refuse to sell my life’s work to the highest bidder. I’m not even sure she has noble intentions for my fair creations. She probably wants to sell them to the imperials. If she shows her face around here I shall be very cross indeed.

10 Days Ago:

Madness has stricken this house, all of the servants are malfunctioning horribly. I’m taking the children and fleeing north to Centaris. Forgive me Elizabeth…

In the alchemical laboratory the party found what appeared to be the frame of a warforged or some other automaton. Additionally, they found a Deep Pocket Cloak, a suit of Skybound Leather Armor, and a suit of Time Link Chainmail. There were also several alchemical items in the lab.

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Arrival to the City of Altaire
Welcome to the Iron Shield

The adventurers finally escape the Erathian Waterway and are escorted by Patrin to the City of Altaire.

The party is escorted to the Guild Hall of The Iron Shield where they meet with Eskandir. Eskandir offers the party membership in the Guild for their hard work in bringing the Spies Yna, Nirva, and Timothy to Altaire. The party also briefly encounters Celes Chere debriefing the spies and are informed that she is the High Adept of the House of the Watch.

The Party goes out on the town while considering whether or not to join the Iron Shield. Gibb encounters a fellow bard, Sabin, and the two challenge each other to a bard-off. The party goes shopping for gear, eventually leading to the port where the party sees the Altarian navy, merchant ships, and an armada of Altarian Airships anchored at the port. Wednesday, Martha, and Gibb then leave to a strip club where the three earned some gold for their rendition of a Jay-Z song. Wednesday also drew some unwelcome attention to herself while MC’ing.

Meanwhile, Balasar and Inwe go to the Temple Quarter. Balasar pays alms to the Temple of Moradin while Inwe remains outside, encountering a Warforged city guard and his friend.

The party returns to the guild hall where they sleep for the night. Balasar is encountered by Lord Moradin in a dream, urging him to help his brother dwarves enslaved by the Bloodspear Tribes in the City of Anar. Balasar’s holy symbol absorbed some of Moradin’s essence during the encounter.

Once everyone wakes up, Eskandir repeats his offer of membership to the guild. The party accepts under the condition that they quest to help free the dwarven slaves to the east. Eskandir agrees but warns the party not to reveal their guild affiliation when doing “business” inside the hobgoblin empire. The party received 300 gold apiece to prepare for their mission.

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