The Gates of Thralldom

Prologue

The King is dead.

King Braydon Meadowstar II, after a long and prosperous reign, has died. Power has smoothly transitioned to his eldest son, Gratian, who is very much like his father. Kind, disciplined, and curious, King Gratian is destined to continue Tammerland’s era of peace and prosperity.

You are members of the Royal Seekers—a guild, of sorts, of the Court. Began by Braydon, the group’s myriad functions include exploration, trade, research, information gathering and spying—a catch-all organization whose purpose is to enhance the greater glory of the Kingdom and whose top members consult directly with the King. Due to its dizzying array of duties, the Retinue has a eclectic mix of personalities and backgrounds.

The most trusted and famed member of the Royal Seekers is Whispin, the Court Wizard. A master of magic, a tinkerer,and utterly brilliant—if not a little scatterbrained—Whispin is tirelessly researching ancient artifacts, experimenting with alchemical agents, researching the natural world and advising the King. He has excitedly called you to his Tower to show you his latest discovery.

Yet all is not well in Tammerland, as Gratian’s younger brother, the great general Hadran has arrived at the city behind a sizeable army. Hadran now claims he should be King as he is better suited for leadership. After all, The Kingdom would not still stand if not for his superior stewardship of the Royal army.

With the City on full-alert and prepared for invasion, you arrive at Whispin’s Tower laboratory…

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The Adventure Begins
Session 0

The session began where the Prologue left off, with some of our adventurers answering a summons from Whispin, the Royal Wizard. He proceeds to show them a large, stone ring that was excavated from an ancient site on the fringes of the empire. After much research, he discovered the ring was a portal and figured out how to activate it. While demonstrating the portal, the city is attacked by Hadran’s troops and the laboratory is stormed, Whispin sends the Royal Seekers through for their protection, hoping he himself is too valuable to kill. He vows to keep studying the portal and hopes he can help them soon.

With that, our adventurers step through the portal and find themselves in an old temple. Besides the gate, there is also a skeleton propped up against a wall. Upon examining the body, they notice part of the skull is missing, yet there is no signs of blunt force trauma. They also find a leather gauntlet and an old map on the body.

The party also notes that at the base of the stone ring is glyphs matching the ones that Whispin pressed to activate the portal in his laboratory.

Our heroes discover the gauntlet activates some kind of transport to an unknown location, perhaps under the temple, that contains living quarters. They find seven sets of remains in a locked room and an elongated red crystal in another.

Using the map, the party heads for the marked town. Traveling a day through heavy woods, they eventually come across farmland and the town of Hillshollow Crest. The village has several hundred people and is ran by Count Byron Eyrewell. The party spends some time in the Hearthflame Inn talking to Caldur One-Eye, the only dwarf in town, and then go to see the Count.

Count Eyrewell informs them his daughter, Lilya is missing and presumed kidnapped by bandits. He offers them free lodging and use of his library while they look for her. The party eventually finds the bandits at some ruins hidden in the thick forest. It turns out the bandits are Kenku and indeed were holding Lilya. The adventurers defeat the Kenku and free Lilya. Before leaving, the party decides to investigate one last building in the ruins and come across a harpy. The party grievously injures the harpy, Kremkina, in an opening salvo and she begs for her life. She gives the party all the baubles the Kenku left for her in exchange for her life. All she wants is to continue living in the ruins and is actually glad the Kenku are gone. The party agrees and suggests they may visit her from time to time, with trinkets in tow.

The party takes Lilya back to Hillshollow Crest and Count Byron Eyrewell.

Through their library research the party learns they are on Astil, a continent just north of Tammerland’s. The area they are in is simply known as The Wilds. It is an area that is not densely populated and is littered with the ruins of an ancient people known as the Tuath.

The Tuath were human magic wielders who subjugated the other races in the area Ages ago. Their civilization is thought to have been brought low by their own magical experimentation. Something went wrong and large swaths of territory were leveled. The Tuath were no more, though humans in the area like to think they are the direct descendants. All that is left of the Tuath now are their ruins that litter the landscape.

The lore seems to indicate that there are more of these stone rings out there, and especially so in this area. It is presumed the Tuath were the original creators, even though there appears to be no magical aura to the portals.

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Session 1

Our adventurers began their session by traveling back to the stone ring portal to find Whispin had sent another Royal Seeker through. Teela Shortbow, a halfling ranger joins the party and brings with her a metallic sphere in which the group can communicate with Whispin while the portal is open.

Whispin informs them that Hadran has indeed taken over Tammerland but his brother, Gratian, managed to escape. Hadran has Whispin on lockdown, limiting his access to resources and people. Luckily, Whispin has some magical tricks up his sleeve, and can manage to be of help.

The party updates Whispin on what they have found out so far, including finding a set of glyphs at the base of their portal that matches the ones Whispin pressed to open the portal to Astil. Unfortunately, Whispin’s gate is not on the original platform as it was moved from an excavated site. However, Whispin thinks he might be able to get someone to travel there and investigate.

The adventurers then set off to find the ruins on the map they found on the skeleton when they first arrived at the temple. After a day’s journey, they come across a ruined temple. There they find Nezira, a dragon-born who claims she lives there. She insists the party leaves as this is her home. The party sensed she was lying and and pushed the issue. Nezira attacks the party, and after a short battle, is defeated. However, when she dies, it is discovered she had been taken over by an intellect devourer.

After dispatching the devourer, the party explores the rooms under the temple. It appears to be some kind of meeting area. The door had a symbol in Qualith, the rare written language of the Illithid, that said “The Gatherers.”

Next, the party heads south on the road from Hillscrest Hollow to Oallhelm, a midsize mining and agricultural town. The town is experiencing raids from kobolds and the party agrees to take care of the problem in exchange for a bounty. The party heads east and runs into a raiding party of kobolds. They dispatch the group, but are surprised to discover a flying breed of kobold that also breathes fire. The group heads back to Oallhelm to regroup before heading out again.

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Session 2
The Kobold Caves

Our heroes set out from Oallhelm to find the kobolds that have been raiding the town. After travelling for a day or so, they come across a small cave opening. Curiously, the mouth of the cave is littered with kobold bodies. The group decides to stake out the cave.from a safe distance That night, they see a humanoid creature, which turns out to be a Grimlock, come out of the cave.

The party goes into the cave and fights their way through hordes of Grimlocks and Kobolds, who are often engaged in battle with each other. Deep in the cave, the party encounters a room with a lone Illithid. The Illithid Mind Blasts the group and makes its escape. After the party recovers, they discover the room has a large brine pool full of Illithid tadpoles. A table in the room shows evidence the Illithid was grinding up kobold brains.

As the party makes their way out of the cave entrance, they encounter a large group of kobolds and see the Illithid dead before them…

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Session 3

Our heroes began where the left off last session, coming face to face with a retinue of kobolds outside their caves. Battered and bruised, the adventurers decide to negotiate their way out of the situation to avoid another battle.

The party heads back to Oallhelm to collect their bounties and informs them the kobolds, now back in posession of the caves, will not attack the town again. The group recuperates, then heads back north to see if Whispin left any messages. When they get to the gate, they find a rolled up parchment that had been thrown through the gate. It is an update of current events from Whispin:

—The Royal Seeker Whispin sent to the gate excavation site found the area occupied by the Githerzai and he was not allowed to transcribe the needed glyphs.

—The Githerzai want the Gate currently in the Citadel in Tammerland.

Hadran has been less than diplomatic with the Githyanki. Whispin fears it may lead to open hostilities.

—From what Whispin has gathered, the Githyanki believe the Illithid are planning something big that involves all the gates spread throughout Astil.

—Whispin has sent out people to find Gratian, who was presumably prepping to retake the capital from his brother. Whispin believes Gratian is better equipped to treat with the Githyanki than his ill-tempered younger brother, Hadran.

Upon reading Whispin’s update, the party travels to Hillshollow Crest. Once there, they are summoned by Count Byron Eyrewell to his estate. He informs them that villagers have gone missing and robe-clad cultists have been seen. He also reveals that Hillshollow Crest sits on top of an old barrow that is a source of local legends and superstitions.

Our heroes set out for the entrance to the barrow as a starting point in their investigation and find it guarded by orcs and ghouls. They dispatch the guards and enter the barrow. However, after encountering a pair of ghasts, they decide to head back to town and regroup.

Lastly, Zeki finally sees a vision when he puts on the magical mask they got from the harpy, Kremkina:

“You are walking in a stone, curved corridor. You are passing other people who are wearing fine robes and other adornments. You come to a thick door and open it to reveal a large chamber with a stone ring in it. The portal is open and there are people standing around it. The vision ends.”

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Session 4
The Barrow under Hillshollow Crest

After regrouping, the party heads back down into the barrow. They dispatch the ghasts and head further into the barrow, finding it is actually a sprawling maze. They come up against a variety of inhabitants, the most unnerving being flesh golems of some type, frankensteined together out of missing villagers.

Our heroes eventually run across some of cultists and a crazed leader they cleverly take out without too much trouble. Delving deeper, they are able to rescue some villagers and confront the mad man that has been creating the flesh golems. After the fight, the party decides to lead the villagers out. There is still more of the barrow unexplored, but the party is wary and drained.

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Session 5
Once More into the Breach

Our group, fresh with new recruits native to Astil, once more make a foray into barrows. They save three more villagers from crazed cultists and return to Hillshollow Crest victorious. Our heroes decide to travel to Oallhelm to spend some of their treasure.

On the road south, the party notices unusually heavy traffic heading north towards Hillshollow Crest. Stopping some of the travelers, the party learns that Oallhelm has been razed by a red dragon. Depending on who they speak too, the dragon ranges in size from a cart up to blotting out the Sun.

Upon arriving in the remnants of Oallhelm, the adventurers find Tymoth James still alive. He regrets sending the group against the kobolds, believing the dragon burned the city in retaliation for their deaths. Tymoth says that after the attack, the dragon flew south.

Our heroes decide to head south. Not only did the dragon fly off in that direction, but the area’s largest city, Everkeep Harbor, is south as well.

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Session 6
The Village of Darbin

After half a day of traveling South from the remains of Oallhelm, the party comes to the village of Darbin. They decide to stop in the town and take a rest. Eerily, when they arrive in the town, there is no one around. Tracks can be seen traveling into the village, but none appear to be leaving. Upon further investigation, a body is found with what appear to be rope burns around the neck , arms, and legs. Death was caused by strangulation.

Checking another house, the heroes come across three boys who paradoxically cry for help while simultaneously attacking the party. The Seekers notice vines trailing from each of the boys and surmise they are being controlled by something. After freeing the boys, the group is attacked by strange plant creatures that have the ability to take over a person’s body. After dispatching several of the plants and freeing more villagers, the adventurers come to a larger stone house with an amazing garden behind it. Investigating the house, it appears to have belonged to a magic user of some kind, but his body was also found in the house. The magician’s area of study seemed to be plants.

The group heads into the garden and confronts an able warrior being controlled by the vines. Once freed, the group encounters the true menace in Darbin, a shambling mound. After defeating the mound, the group makes sure to dig up and destroy the roots to prevent the shambling mound from regenerating.

The few remaining villagers of Darbin are thankful for the adventurers’ help. The heroes magically create some food for the survivors so they start the process of rebuiilding.

Striking out on the road again, the party comes across an old, rotund man mumbling to himself “it isn’t fair…” The party asks him about his troubles, and the old man recounts how he was a bookkeeper in a library that was ransacked and burned by kobolds. If that was not bad enough, they stole a very important book in particular, one that supposedly lists the names of all dragons in existence. The old man desperately wants the book back and he thinks he knows where it is at. He doesn’t have anything to give in exchange for getting the book back, but he would be very grateful. He explains the kobolds most likely to the book to an old abandoned dwarven mine in the hills where a red dragon is said to lair.

Our heroes accept the old man’s quest and send him to Darbin to await their return with his book. In the meantime, the party heads south to Everkeep Harbor to buy supplies and new equipment. Everkeep Harbor turns out to be quite a large city and has most anything an adventurer could want.

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Session 7
Isstik's Lair

Our heroes strike out from Everkeep harbor and head to the abandoned dwarven mine, which the old librarian told them was now home to a dragon. Scouting the location out, the party finds a work detail made up of Kuo-Toa cutting and assembling stone blocks. An attempt at parleying with the creatures fails and fighting ensues. After defeating the Kuo-Toa, our heroes head for the entrance to the mine.

The group finds a pile of dead kobolds near the entrance. It appears they have been there at least a week. Unfazed, our heroes begin exploring the mines. It doesn’t take them long to find trouble. The main hall empties out into a large cavern with soaring ceilings. Here awaits Isstik, the red dragon that burned Oallhelm to the ground. But as he turns to face the party, it is clear he is no longer a regular red dragon—he has been infected by an Illithid tadpole. Where his snout once was, there are now two grotesque and long tentacles. The party’s only saving grace is that Isstik was a very young dragon, probably under 5 years old.

The heroes live up to the growing reputation and handily defeat the Illithid aberration. They begin searching some of the lair’s rooms and find Isstik’s fledgling treasure hoard. There they find the book the old librarian was hoping to re-obtain, as well as some unusual magical weapons.

However, many questions still remained unanswered and there is still many passages in the mine yet unexplored….

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The Magical Weapons in Isstik's Treasure Hoard

Upon attuning to these weapons, the item’s history floods into your mind.

DarkString
There’s a certain contradiction at work in this longbow. Its handle and limbs are fashioned from pristine white wood, banded in silver and ivory. The bowstring, however, is a thick, dark strand of sinew born of no earthly creature you can imagine. It bears the blackness of empty midnight.

History
Brandehild Oakheel was a wise and patient elf, and prominent arcane archer. She spent much of her life with those that shared her ardor for knowledge, discovery, and, above all, justice. It was these passions of Brandehild‘s that led her directly into the depths of the Underdark, in the company of some of the strongest adventurers Istil had ever known. Brandehild and her companions had tasked themselves with recovering a relic,
guarded by none other than an the Drow, swearing not to rest until it was reclaimed.
The elf ’s was never far from her iconic longbow, and from the weapon Brandehild launched volley after volley of arrows, each imbued with some of her magical power. It’s unknown what fate befell Brandehild and her allies, or whether or not they were
successful in their endeavor, but one thing was known: at some point, Brandehild’s bowstring was severed. In a grand, and gruesome, act of desperation, Brandehild restrung her longbow with the only option available – a fibrous ligament from a slain enemy. Henceforth, the elf called her weapon DarkString, and it served her until her dying day.

Personality
DarkString shares much of the same perspective as Brandehild; it is calm, patient, and seeks justice above all else. When in pursuit of an evil-doer, or used in battle against Underdark dwellers, the bow seems to shimmer with an opalescent aura. It is resistant to acting recklessly or hastily, and users have found it difficult to draw in such situations.
If there’s one thing DarkString loathes, it’s the tendon that serves as its own bowstring. Though the sinew is wound taunt along its string nocks, small tendrils seem to shift and squirm as if grasping to be freed of it. However, whatever method Brandehild used to bind the string to her bow has proven to be uncannily resilient – the bowstring remaining despite DarkString’s future wielders’ many attempts to untie or severe it. It would seem the elf did not want to face having an unstrung bow ever again.

Current Abilities
Magical: Attacks made with this weapon are considered magical.
Conjure Ammunition: By pulling upon the bowstring, the weapon magically conjures an
arrow, nocked into place, ready to shoot.

Gnorm’s Puzzle Box
This cube is fashioned from dark wood. Grooves divide its faces, and small panels bearing symbols, shapes, numbers, and colors decorate each panel. It looks like you could move these panels along its faces, but despite your best effort, they don’t budge. Just as you’re about to give into frustration, you imagine a panel shifting in your mind, and at the same time the corresponding panel on the box moves as well – gliding through some unseen force. As if pleased by your efforts, the box jostles itself free of
your grasp, and floats gently above your palm as you concentrate upon it.

History
Whatever world Gnorman Gjonbaronn originally came from, it certainly wasn’t this one.
The gnome wayfarer counted as many different worlds in his lifetime as most people count seasons in their own. Whether Gnorm came to this in exploration, or out of plain boredom, his arrival has had a lasting impact. The absent-minded gnome mistakenly dropped a puzzle box of foreign-make (very foreign-make) in one of the venues he visited, shortly before he unceremoniously left for new realm to explore. Since then, the puzzle box has been handled by an innumerable amount of creatures. Most of them have not thought more of it than an amusing token, and only a very few have managed to unlock its powers. Those that bored the box by staying in the same place for too long have, inexorably, found it missing the next time they’ve gone to look for it. In this way, the box has found its way to continue to explore where Gnorm left off.

Personality
Gnorm’s Puzzle Box aptly loves puzzles and riddles; when its user engages in such its buoys with excitement, constantly shifting the panels about its faces. It is also fond of travel and exploration; when its user is exploring an unknown area, it is similarly excitable. The puzzle box gets bored if it’s kept in the same place for too long, especially if its user does not attempt to solve it frequently. If left unattended in the same place for the period of a year, the puzzle box teleports to a random location, awaiting a new user to accompany and travel with.

Current Abilities
Arcane Focus: The item can be used as an arcane spellcasting focus.
Mindful:While holding this item, you have advantage on Wisdom (Insight) checks.
Magic Sensitive: While holding this item, you can use it to cast detect magic. This ability
cannot be used again until the next dawn.

Heart Carver
At first look, this appears to be an ordinary handaxe – small enough to be held in one hand with a short haft and falcate blade. Holding it, however, fills you with an almost dizzying sense of melancholy, a kind of sorrow comparable to that of horrible loss. It passes in the moment, allowing you to collect your senses, but there’s no denying there’s some tragedy inseparable from the axe – a tragedy it remembers.

History
No one living may know the sad story of the human Neville Smith and the elf Vashti Dawnblossom, but Heart Carver carries the sorrow of the jilted lovers to this day. Neville was but sixteen years old when became a lumberjack, given the axe to use for clearing brush and falling small timber. It wasn’t a job the boy was particularly fond of, he was more likely to sing songs of axes than he’d be to carry one, and Neville often found himself daydreaming and wandering through the forests he serviced. It was in such a daydream, one day, he stumbled upon Vashti. She was alone in a clearing, petting a fawn, singing in Elvish. He was immediately taken with her, intrigued by her mystique and sylvan beauty. Vashti was enamored with him as well, admiring his strong build yet gentle soul. Henceforth, Neville would vanish from the logging camps to return to Vashti’s grove day after day, and their relationship deepened with each meeting. Neville made sure to record each visit with Vashti by notching out a heart in a tree trunk with his axe. Neville’s fellow lumberjacks quickly grew suspicious of the youngster’s long disappearances – particularly when he would return with only a meager pile of logs to show for them. One day, when Neville crept away to find Vashti, these woodsmen
shadowed his footsteps to spy upon the boy and the elf. In a fit of jealousy and anger, the loggers returned later to Vashti’s grove, clearing it of every tree in a manner of hours. Upon discovering her decimated grove, Vashti was inconsolable. She cursed and fled from Neville, never to be seen again. The boy could not stand the thought of losing his love, and chased after her. For days he wandered the forest aimlessly, calling her
name, until he expired of hunger and exhaustion. The rest of the woodsmen found his corpse ,gripping the axe in his hand, at the base of an oak tree. Carved into its trunk was a heart.

Personality
Heart Carver remembers the great love, and greater sorrow, of the two young lovers, and passes these emotions onto its wielder. When its wielder fights to protect love, or in the pursuit of love, the axe is comfortably warm to hold. The natural world around it seems more beautiful – bird song seems to loft among the air, flowers carry a certain vibrancy, the wind is sweet and soft, and the smell of summer is ever present. By contrast, Heart Carver cannot abide callousness, or any actions to separate two that truly love each other. If its wielder acts with such heartlessness, the weapon is ice cold to touch. The air about it is sharp and silent, and the natural world becomes imbued with
a certain grayness only perceptible to its wielder. It feeds a feeling of doubt and melancholy to the one that holds it, in an effort to stop whatever maliciousness is at hand.

Current Abilities
Magical: Attacks made with this weapon are considered magical.
Somber: While holding this weapon, you have advantage on saving throws against being
charmed.

Viperkiss
It only takes a brief glance at this exquisite rapier to appreciate its splendor and craftsmanship. The sword’s handle is decorated by a brass serpent, its body coils and contorts in forming the cross-guards, the pommel in the grip of its tail, and the blade
protruding from its open mouth. The relief of a forked tongue extends down the flat of the blade, nearly to its tip. You notice a sheen glint off the weapon, as if freshly polished, and you can’t help but take note of an acrid tinge to the smell of it.

History
The Blade Dancers of Mur-Rae were renowned duelers, their skill in swordsmanship out matched only by their unscrupulousness. The art of Blade Dancing was as much a performance as a method of combat, but those that embraced its teachings learned that
subtlety was often as deadly as flourish. When two of the order engaged in a duel, the notes of clashing swords heralded their Dance – a spectacle that would end in a spray of blood and one of the dancers’ death rattles. It’s proposed the rapier Viperkiss was originally commissioned for legendary dancer Jacob Swift, but it’s impossible to know with any accuracy. The swordsmen were keen on spreading lies and rumors that added to their own intrigue and reputation, and on many occasions victors would claim their opponent’s blades as trophies or to replace their own. It can be assumed, however, the rapier was responsible for far more deaths than those slain in duels. Likely crafted in the snake-touched Serpraxid Empire, Viperkiss possesses an innate ability to produce a coat of poison upon its blade. Often, the rapier would be claimed from a defeated duelist,
only for the victor to die from such poison shortly later, “kissed” by the blade throughout the Dance enough to fall victim to it. Thus, Viperkiss has exchanged hands many, many times.

Personality
Viperkiss enjoys attention and praise. The rapier is truly extravagant, and demands others recognize and commend its beauty. It’s not surprising then, that Viperkiss seeks a wielder that is as conceited as it is, one that revels in the admiration of others. When pleased with such a wielder, the brass snake that creates its handle appears polished, and its blade remains reflective and unblemished despite its countless use in battle. It abhors being insulted or belittled, and cannot abide being upstaged by a more
exquisite weapon. The rapier enjoys combat, but has little care for whether or not its wielder lives or dies. It knows it will pass hands from person to person despite who is slain, and sees each new wielder as an opportunity to dance again.

Current Abilities
Magical: Attacks made with this weapon are considered magical.
Poison. When you score a critical hit against a creature with the weapon, it takes an
additional 1d6 poison damage.

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