200 years ago
200 years ago, under the leadership of Estruan Aldori, in an attempt to catch Choral Rogarvia’s forces in the woods before they were mobilized, 114, 552 swordlords of every family entered the Valley of Fire (pretty sure it wasn’t called it back then), and were subsequently trapped by Choral’s soldiers inside the valley and then burned alive by two ancient wyrm red dragons who made pass after pass bathing the valley in fire.
Today the ghosts of the soldiers who died in the valley still haunt it, preying on the living who dare travel to the accursed place. Some of the dead, however, went onto different places. Some couldn’t move on to their outer plane but didn’t stay here. Imogen Chaira Aldori, chief arcanist of Estruan Aldori, and sibling to Savia and Sandro Aldori, was on that battlefield. Her soul did not find peace in the afterlife, nor was it trapped on our plane, but it went somewhere else…
Her family lived on though. Lazzaro Aldori, her son, should have been at the battle, but could not make it. Instead he went on to fight a shadow war against Choral and became the leader of the Night Blades, and order which has died off and sprung up again several times since the fall of Rostland. His soul also never made it to the afterlife. Her daughter Batista, a child during the war was smuggled south to Mivon, where she and her family lived for many generations.
A new discovery in Mivon
During one of his visits to council Lady Miquela on the Rushlight Tournament, our friend Antonio Ribissi delivered the effects of an Aldori family whose entire line had died out in mivon. They included some deeds, letters, the signet ring of Batista Aldori, and an ancient lock of hair, that of Batista’s mother, given to her before she went into battle for the last time.
Upon obtaining this, Olivetta realized that she had seen a woman with such raven black hair in the hall of of her ancestors, and one with a lock that was missing. Consulting the history books with Leccio, the believed that this belonged to Imogen Aldori…and that with it we could bring her back.
By Erastil’s broken horn! By Abadar’s golden coin! By Gorum’s iron spike! By Ph – wait, let’s not say that name here. She might notice.
A cunning plan
Plan A: By the book. Ask Pharasma and pay through the nose, maybe a cathedral in every city.
Plan B: Forget about talking to Pharasma, ask for forgiveness if we need to. Go to Jahad and ask him to do it… for a follower of Erastil! (Oh, wait, turns out we were wrong about that one, oh well, no turning back now, we’ve already committed to plan B). Yep, plan B all the way.
Jahad was… dubious about this idea. Pharasma should be consulted but even though he was willing to forgo this formality, 200 hundred years is a long time for someone to be dead. He was going to need help. Several clerics and paladins attended him. Elera held the tray of ground diamond dust and was instructed to let no one enter the milky white pool.
As Jahad began casting the spell he raises his hands to Erastil and tossed pinches of diamond dust into the pool.
And in another realm Imogen began to feel a tug on her like she had never experienced. There was some force calling to her, pulling her back to the land of the living, but there was also something holding her back, and elemental presence that she first noticed when the priestesses of Pharasma arrived in the Tusk, but was now more present and it held her like a vice.
All the Aldori in the demi-plane noticed something was happening and Sandro, Imogen’s younger brother took her by the shoulders and asked her what she would do if she came back. “I will find my son who has not passed beyond death’s gates, and I will destroyed all of the Rogarvians.” Sandro shook his head dismayed “I destroyed our house, you must rebuild it.” Imogen looked at him gravely and accepted his charge.
Above we saw the pool begin swirling, and then open into a bottomless vortex. Olivetta however, saw something else. Around the edges there were stairs, which led down, and below she could see the glimmer of her ancestors home. She was unsure what she should do; she could see the ancestors but Jahad had expressly told Elara not let anyone in the pool. She stood over the pool gripped by uncertainty – and then Merrowyn shoved her in.
Olivetta descended into the steps and moments later there was a sudden appearance of someone else. There was no pop, or zorch, or another other noise to accompany this sudden new presence. He was just there. Jonah, inquisitory of Pharasma was there, and he did not look happy. There was some brief dialog about what exactly we were up to and then he rather casually dove in after her.
Below Olivetta appeared in the Hall of Aldori, once again saw all her ancestor and then asked Imogen, very politely, if she would come with her. Their ascent however was blocked. To Olivetta, it was Jonah who appeared in their path, to Imogen though it was a primal force incarnate. Jonah told them that he had know about this pocket dimension for sometime now and had been allowing the Aldori to live here, but that had to come to an end. He would allow Imogen back into our world on one condition. When she completed her purpose and she was done here, he would evict all the rest of the ancestors as well. When she was done, they all were done.
“Even I must occasionally bow to the bureaucracy of death.” – Jonah, inquisitor (possibly high inquisitor) of Pharasma.
Imogen accepted. And then she stepped out of the pool into the world!
First there was a lot of fawning. “You died in the Valley of Fire?” “You were in a demi-plane for 200 years?” “Savia Aldori was your twin sister?” “You wore your hair like that back then?”
Merrowyn in particular wanted to know about the army of swordlords. She thought it had to be a legend, exaggerated over the ages. “You didn’t really have 100,000 soldiers in the Valley did you?” “No, we had One hundred and fourteen thousand. Five hundred and fifty two.” Merrowyn’s mind was blow. Our largest armies are 1,000 strong. We thought we needed to bolster our strength ten-fold, but Estruan Aldori had a hundred times the number…and still all died in the Valey of Fire. How would Aldoria compare? How would Merrowyn compare?
After that there were so many firsts. She saw her daughter Batista in the face of Lady Miquela. She missed her first sunrise, but traded it for her first sleeping in. When we returned to The Tusk Imogen met many of her descendants (by family name if not by blood) including the young Rudolpho, full of Bravado. He showed up unannounced and was surprised she did not know who he was (“You’ve never heard of the Millennium Falcon?”). He first bristled when Imogen commented on his Issian short sword, but deflated quickly when she pointed out that he had appeared, unannounced and uninvited into a lady’s private chambers. At witch point the young man became a boy again, and skittered off red faced.
Our updated Family Tree
Moments on the side – Plots B, C, D, E, F, ….
Meanwhile, and interspersed between the portentous return of Imogen from the beyond, each of us had our own moments.
As we rode to the Temple of the Elk, Merrowyn took Elara aside to speak of Pietro. First she chided “No, I don’t think you can marry Pietro now,” laughed and rode back to the group. Merrowyn persisted however, and entreated Elara to consider his family, and the harm we’re doing to it separating them and that Pietro could yet be of some use to his family. Maybe not with his own name, but under some other identity. Merrowyn and Elara agreed to review Pietro, find out where his natural talents lie, and find a trainer that could mold him into something useful. Please, please, please let his favored class not be bard.
Miquela’s training for the drunken joust
We don’t know the details of the tournament but we do expect there to be a midnight drunken joust. So at least one of us needs to be able to ride a horse! Merrowyn and Miquela joked about Tad training her, which would be awkward, but in the end our Legion Marshall Savia Sordello found one of our cavalry men to train the Swordlord. Additionally we purchased her an Equestrian Belt to help keep her in the saddle!
Merrowyn returned to the Tusk in a fugue. Her thoughts wandered. “One hundred and fourteen thousand…
– Cut to Merrowyn consulting with Sootscale about how to fight the hobgloblins and being told it was impossible, then walking out defeated.
– Cut to the small council meeting, where Merrowyn spoke of Sirian challenging all foes and never losing a battle, only to be corrected by Edward and Giovanni who told her his strength was from surrounding himself with allies who advised and aided him. Her concerns of impending war discounted.
– Cut to Legion Marshall Savia telling Merrowyn she doesn’t need to meet Kasten (at the Rushlight Tournament) to understand him. She was leading soldiers when Merrwyn was in swaddling cloths. She already knows how to fight him. Merrowyn’s tactical advice discarded.
– Cut to Leccio speaking to Merrowyn about how Choral the Conqueror could have controlled his dragons, and if he was powerful enough to do so, why he would even need them. When Merrowyn asked how they might control the Lundwyrm that had harried them, he only frowned telling her how those who try to master dragons, usually have bad ends. Merrowyn dripped her head dismayed.
… five hundred and fifty two.
She knew a war was upon her. Scratch that, she knew at least two, if not three wars would be upon her, and she had no idea how to prepare for them. Every idea she had was worthless and every person she turned to said nothing could be done.
Sitting alone in the sally port she so often shared with Marcus, the general turned to her sparking hand and summoned Ovinrbaane into existence. “What took you so long” the sword asked her impatiently.
Merrowyn told the sword she needed aid, and wondered what to do. It’s advice was simple “Just don’t lose”.
“Can you help me with that.”
If the sword had eyes, it would have rolled them. “I’m a weapon of war. This is my purpose. Of course I can help you!”
Merrwoyn hung up her Issian Greatsword and replaced it with Ovinrbaane, Enemy of all Enemies. Crackling with electricity.
Elara trying to bond with Rudolpho…
…but he’d have none of it. Rudolpho was no longer a boy. He didn’t want to play. He was a man and wanted to train and learn to fight. And COLOR SPRAY!
Dinner in the Swamp
Leccio, who occasionally wears shoes now, came out to Olivetta’s shack to have dinner with her. The two of them are slowly (very slowly) becoming a couple as adorable as Tad and Xanthia. Over dinner Leccio shared less than ideal news. Based on their ages, and her military history, he didn’t think it was possible that Savia Sordello was Fraco’s older sister.
Information that hasn’t been shared yet with anyone else. I’m sure it won’t cause any problems in the future…
A favor for Kobb
Shortly after we returned, Miquela found Kobb waiting for her in her personal chambers. After making a point that he shouldn’t be lurking around in her private areas, she got around to asking why he was there. “Domingo want’s my head! Well, not my head, but the head of someone I cant give up.”
The story went that one of Domingo’s agents was captured by someone, Kobb isn’t sure, but he’s willing to bet it was one of King Noleski agents that took the diplomat. His own man, who was running counter-espionage saw it happen and decided that he couldn’t save the diplomat, so instead of letting her go, he put an arrow in her head. Preventing her from giving away secrets. Domingo was furious with him and wanted Kobb’s agent at the end of his blade.
Miquela agreed but told Kobb that he owed her one. And it was going to be a big one one.
The next day, Rudolpho returned to Imogen’s room in the noble villa and knocked politely on the door. When she greeted him, he apologized for his behavior before and offered to give her a tour of the city, as well as to attend to any other needs she had. Perhaps as a valet. She graciously accepted his apology and then set him to menial tasks; drawing open her curtains, airing her mattress, fetching her other needed objects, and then finally she consented to a tour of the city.
A leader for our Shadow Army
Merrowyn entered the barracks to see the legion marshal and tell her that she needed a commander for the newly formed army that would fight beside house Amato. Merrowyn intended to assign Lieutenant Solia to the task and met no resistance from Savia. In fact she thought Solia was good choice as she had a cool head and would likely buy the the resistance more time than a more impulsive leader.
They were interrupted by Savia’s second, who reminded her that she had to attend a flogging. Apparently one of the privates was insubordinate and needed to be disciplined. General Merrowyn was not to be present as it would be bad for morale.
Solia took the news of her new assignment with a stoic dignity. They both knew Merrowyn was sending her to die so that others might, might, live.
Curtains to her second story room drawn, Imogen stood at the window overlooking the city, and then a noticed a bird, who flew on four wings then landed, perched on her windowsill and looked at her behind a plague mask. The nosoi greeted her and said that The Balancer (Jonah) had send him.
Nosois eagerly fill the roles of clerks, scribes, and messengers in the bureaucracy of the hereafter. They record the circumstances of each mortal’s death, any judgments for and against its soul, and its final destination along the Outer Planes. But unlike more tireless, mechanical outsiders, nosois are also prone to powerful whims, boasting contests, and petty theft.
Mortals recognize nosois in their roles as messengers, counselors of troubled or disbelieving dead, and guides along the River of Souls, and some ancient texts refer to them as scribe psychopomps, death’s messengers, and yanakeion.
Many large and well-tended graveyards or catacombs play host to a nosoi who tends to the newly passed and keeps a watchful eye out for the looming taint of undeath. Nosois’ bodies take the form of mortal songbirds—usually crows, sparrows, and especially whippoorwills—though like all other psychopomps they wear graceful, elegant funerary masks that accentuate their sharp beaks and empty eyes. Many also craft decorative artificial tails from small bric-a-brac that trail behind them as they soar through the Boneyard.
Nosois serve within libraries and scriptoriums, tirelessly scribbling away without rest. Being social creatures, however, they frequently chatter with one another—boasting of past deeds, arguing over notation, and exchanging gossip from the far corners of creation. The immortal creatures toil for centuries before ascending to become higher psychopomps or, more likely, reincarnating on the mortal world.
Though outsiders have no need to eat, nosois consider doing so a rare treat. Their frequent sojourns to the Material Plane and many Outer Planes involve frequent snacks and tastings. Being dutiful but not unwavering, nosois sometimes succumb to bribes and share the information they possess, and mortal treats loosen their secrets far faster than gold or magic.
Welcome another animal (?) companion [familiar] to our motley party.
An honorable envoy sent
While the rest of the envoy boarded the Water Dancer to travel south, Olivetta teleported the rest of us to Sellen’s gate to explore some of the plains to the west of it in preparation for expansion. After the land was pacified we met back up the with boat and made our way down to Mivon.
Included on the envoy to the Rushlight Tournament were:
- Domingo, our diplomat
- Arvin, general of our rangers, the twins, and a contingent of his rangers.
- Tad and Xanthia, sight seeing.
- Kobb and a retinue of agents, sent to infiltrate Pitax.
- Members of the Swordlords’ Own honor guard.
- Rudolpho, watching out for his sister.
Greetings from Mivon
On our way to the tournament we passed through Mivon and spend a few days with our closest allies. Some highlights of the trip:
- We were greeted by the Lord Mayor himself, and his second Oromano Adimiri (Ribissi’s brother in law)
- A banquet was held for both teams where we met Mivon’s competitors:
- Navarathania, an elven archer hired by Mivon as their ringer for the archery contest. She’s going to be tough to beat.
- Dizon Marmada, a local dwarf competing as their strong woman.
- Silia Ravenbrow – a martial bard competing in the boasting contest. Very nimble and wields an Aldori dueling blade.
- Domingo also met us in Mivon. He was nothing but a gentleman in the presence of Imogen, but moments later could be heard yelling at Miquela in her quarters on the boat (“What were you thinking?”. To keep up appearances he made sure he had the final word and stormed off.
- In Mivon Imogen was taken to a small graveyard, the Aldori quarter where she found the grave of her daughter Batista along with many other Aldori and friends in her line. Her feels were a mix of gratitude for saving her daughter, at the time to young to fight, and disappointment that they fled instead of fought. Many of the names on the gravestones, though faded, were familiar to her.
- Merrowyn set about making illicit contacts to extend her smuggling ring. She met Theodin, a purveyor of weapons and the hands to wield them.
- Miquela met with Ribissi and Adimiri, making plans for the Rushlight and beyond. In subtle tones they spoke of the day when Adimiri was lord mayor and what would happen then.
After a week on the river out of Mivon, with relatively little to do on the boat, our otherwise pleasant river journey was interrupted by a titanic tentacle that wrapped completely around the aft of our ship.
That’s when the trip went from pleasant to exhilarating!
Ready for action we all set to the beast with sword and spell. Olivetta trying to cast a debelitating portent on the monstrosity but could not get through the miasma of it’s mind. Miquela and Elara brought the edge of their dueling blades down upon it’s hard rubbery skin, splitting it open to and exposing the ship to the fetid smells of it’s ancient innards. Imogen teleported to the crow’s nest used black ectoplasm that came from her mouth to summon forth a huge celestial dire tiger that pounced and rended the beast. Merrowyn scaled the beast and began making huge cleaving blows at it’s joints slashing open tentacle and throat. Ovinrbaane roared with glee in her mind “Now THIS is what I was made for!”
As we fought a score of sahuagin warriors clambered up from the water firing crossbows or slashing with curved blades. Thankfully the Swordlords Own was present to rebuff their attacks. A barbarian chief of the sahuagin also burst forth, riding on the back of the Kraken and bit his mighty great axe into Merrowyn’s side, splitting flesh and ribs. Olivetta turned her attention to her allies, granting Merrowyn and Miquela the fortune or our ancestors, and tried to encase the barbarian in ice, but he broke free.
She also noticed that the Kraken’s wounds were healing at an incredible rate, too fast for regeneration or any kind of natural healing. Shortly after Imogen detected the source. Flying above was a sea hag witch that tried to dominate her. She resisted the enchantment and with the aid of Anomander to direct her, she cast a necromantic spell of enervation to drain the life force from the witch. Hit by the black bolt of negative energy the hag shrieked and dropped like a rock into the water. Not because she had fallen, but because she wasn’t going to be anywhere near someone who could see her and target her with with such deadly magics.
Bite and blade, sword and spell finally brought the mighty Kraken low and as it fell both Merrowyn and the barbarian ran down the side as it tipped backward into the river. On their way down Merrowyn cut Olivetta free of a small tentacle that still held her fast and the barbarian cut Merrowyn free of some unneeded flesh and bone. Then all three tumbled on the boat to continue their battle.
Meanwhile Elara, still trapped by the colossal tentacle was pulled under water and began wondering if giving up her druidic ways was such a good idea. As she struggled in vain, she remembered that once upon a time she could simply shapechange into a fish and swim away. Domingo flew into the water after her swimming down to get her and hacking her free with his sword. Then with his celestial armor he literally flew the both out of the water and back onto the ship.
Meanwhile Miquela and Merrowyn fought as they they did best, dodging and rolling, pinning their foe between them, raining blow after blow upon him. Olivetta noticed that Merrowyn was bleeding badly from several wound and had been thrashed about mighty by the the Kraken itself. She reach out a healing hand to mend the wounds but Merrowyn snarled at her to save useless healing spells for after the fight! Ovinrbaane had gotten into her head taunting her “Why do you save the witch, if she can’t help her self maybe she doesn’t deserve saving? Now look she ministers your wounds. Does she think you are weak?” Though she tried to ignore it she snapped and Olivetta when she shouldn’t.
Speaking with the Dead
The barbarian lord fell, the sea hag fled, the sahuagin were killed or driven back, and the kraken, bleeding black ichor rested once again at the bottom of the river. Elara cast a spell of Tongues on her so she could converse in any language, and then she cast Speak with the Dead to interrogate the fallen sahuagin. We learned that the was commanded by the “Dark Mistress” (surely the sea hag who had dominated him) and the directions underwater to their lair, though we did not pursue it. We looked this body though to find a:
- Greataxe +3
- Large Breastplate +3
Merrowyn apologized to Olivetta for yelling at her during the fight, though she held fast that healing during a fight was a waste of time.
Miquela found Merrowyn on by the masthead and chastised her for yelling at Olivetta. She also gave her some rules to follow:
- Don’t yell at our allies
- Don’t turn into a monster
Merrowyn heard her but it didn’t sink in. If I become a monster and you have to put me down, I’ll understand, but let me win this war first. Then I don’t care what happens.
Elara was below decks drinking with Domingo, thankful for the guy who saved her life!
Olivetta found then and asked Elara about her conversion to Erastil, why she changed her ways. Erastil gave her purpose and direction, which the druids did not. Though she had returned the lock of hair to Imogen, when she got back to her cabin she found a single strand of it on her bed with a note “for a rainy day”.
Imogen stared at herself in the mirror noticed her dress and hairstyle, a stark contrast from those of her descendants. She started pulling the pins from her hair to let it down.
Merrowyn sat on the bow with Ovinrbaane and told the sword her peace. “I don’t care if you’re going to turn me into a monster–” “Who cares if I turn you a monster, I’ll turn you into a champion.” Merrowyn agreed “That’s right you will.” and changed her alignment from Chaotic Good to Chaotic Neutral.
New NPCs from this session:
- Hanus Sordello – Father of Imogen’s children, ex-lover, died in the Valley of Fire.
- Batista Aldori – Imogen’s daughter, smuggled to Mivon for safety, continued her family line for generations before dying out.
- Lazzero Aldori – Imogen’s son, never made it to the afterlife, the first of the Night Blades.
- Theodin – Smuggler in Mivon.
- Navarathania, an elven archer hired by Mivon as their ringer for the archery contest.
- Dizon Marmada, a local Mivon dwarf competing as their strong woman.
- Silia Ravenbrow – Mivon sword dancer (Martial Bard)
NPCs changed this session:
- Jonah, previously thought the hen pecked and marginalized inquisitor turns out to be The Balancer, a primal force in the underworld.
- Our host of ancestors will all lose their home once Imogen completes her task.
- Savia is Imogen’s twin sister. Sandro her young brother.
- We learned Athon is stuck in the demi-plane as well.
- Kobb owes Miquela a favor for taking care of Domingo, who is quite peeved.
- Estruan Aldori, remembered as a coward and fool, was actually a fantastic general and leader of men. He just got trapped in a no win situation.
- Savia Sordello probably isn’t Franco’s sister. But the only reason she is working for us to for Franco. So…..
- Pietro Sellemus is getting a second change. We’re finding a trainer to turn him into something.
- Ovinrbaane is now carried proudly on Merrowyn’s back.
- Lt. Solia is now Captain Solia, leading the Shadow Army that fights beside the Amato Family.
The return of Imogen was so awesome. Not only was Dennis great about integrating Imogen into our existing story and making her an important member of the family that was tied to others we care about, but Adrienne was also awesome working with the history we’ve already forged and building off of it.
Imogen’s connection with death, between her nosio familiar, her necromantic spells, and her knowledge of those long gone is creepy and awesome.
Some scenes that I didn’t account for in the retelling but were just wonderful:
- Olivetta and Imogen comparing notes, where Olivetta’s were a mad array of loose sheaf of papers, strange material components, and a witches brew. Imogen on the other hand was neatly organized. Even her familiar Anomander had a precise stroke with the pen and kept all his accounts in order.
- Telling Imogen about Lazzaro and the Night Blades and watching her heart swell with pride.
- Olivetta and Rudolpho making up on the ship. All hugs and feels.
“Even I must occasionally bow to the bureaucracy of death.” – Johan, The Balancer.
Oh my, oh my that combat was fun. I know we took some liberties but leaping up the side of the kraken and then battling the barbarian chief on it’s shoulder, only to charge back down it as it died… that was so awesome. Imogen’s black ectoplasm tiger. Olivetta’s frozen sphere. So. Damn. Cool.
Rudolpho’s awkward adolescence is great. I’m going to be really sad if Merrowyn lets him fight in the army and he dies. It will be sad and awesome all at once.
Merrowyn finally converting to Chaotic Neutral is huge for me. She’s held back many times in the past and she’s just not going to anymore. I think she’s going down a dark path, I’m excited to she where that ends up.
Imogen schooling Rudolpho was a thing of wonder. She was so proper (which we never are) that it completely caught him off guard. I’d love it if he continues to defer to her, he’d make a great apprentice!
What could have improved
I’m kicking myself for not remember things things during the fight. I’m sorry Regina and Adrienne.
- Elara has a ring of Freedom of Movement on. She cannot be grappled.
- Imogen has a caster’s tatoo, once per day she can use it to cast a spell still and silent, meaning she could have cast another spell while she was entangled by the Kraken.
I wish we had the chance to start Pietro’s training before we left. We’ll probably be gone a month and it would be awesome to get him in training while we’re gone. Perhaps if we’re less than 1,200 miles away, a teleport spell or two will allow us to rectify this.
Plans for next game
Miquela meeting with Kobb about her “favor” and to keep and eye on Merrowyn… and that he shouldn’t be showing up in her room uninvited in the future.
Selling the new gear we have in some river kingdom in the area… and getting Imogen the spell components to cast permanency. Tongues for herself… and maybe enlarge person for Merrowyn. Muahahahahahaha.