Shieldbashers

Breech of the Reliquary

The remaining three members of the Ashen Covenant stared into the portal into which their brothers and sisters entered Zvomarana, the Temple of the Raven Queen. Elder Arantham, second hand of Orcus, Prince of Undeath, turned to the remaining two agents of the Ashen Covenant; the marilith Shonvurru and the frost lich Ghovran Akti.

“You sent them to their death,” said Akti. Arantham turned his black eyes to the ice-lich. “Uganan knew this – I could see it in his eyes.”

“It was necessary,” said Arantham. “With the power of the soulstream no longer in our grasp, we needed more time. The attack on Zvormarana will buy us time. Soon the Shieldbashers will enter Death’s Reach. We must uncover the Reliquary before they do.”

Arantham turned to Ghovran Atki. “Stay here in Sigil,” said Arantham. “Should they return, you must slow them further. Shonvurru and I will return to Death’s Reach, finish the excavation, and call upon the Prince of Undeath to speak of our progress.

Ghovran Atki kept the black orbs of his eyes upon his master as he nodded.

Arantham turned to Shonvurru and nodded. The six-armed, serpentine-bodied demoness tossed a cloud of red dust into the portal and it roared with black-red fire, illuminating the chamber in strange light. A deep boom vibrated the chamber around them and the dark mist flowed down into the portal of deep red.

“Death’s Reach,” whispered Arantham. “Let us complete our quest.”

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The Last of the Ashen Covenant

The remaining three members of the Ashen Covenant stared into the portal into which their brothers and sisters entered Zvomarana, the Temple of the Raven Queen. Elder Arantham, second hand of Orcus, Prince of Undeath, turned to the remaining two agents of the Ashen Covenant; the marilith Shonvurru and the frost lich Ghovran Akti.

“You sent them to their death,” said Akti. Arantham turned his black eyes to the ice-lich. “Uganan knew this – I could see it in his eyes.”

“It was necessary,” said Arantham. “With the power of the soulstream no longer in our grasp, we needed more time. The attack on Zvormarana will buy us time. Soon the Shieldbashers will enter Death’s Reach. We must uncover the Reliquary before they do.”

Arantham turned to Ghovran Atki. “Stay here in Sigil,” said Arantham. “Should they return, you must slow them further. Shonvurru and I will return to Death’s Reach, finish the excavation, and call upon the Prince of Undeath to speak of our progress.

Ghovran Atki kept the black orbs of his eyes upon his master as he nodded.

Arantham turned to Shonvurru and nodded. The six-armed, serpentine-bodied demoness tossed a cloud of red dust into the portal and it roared with black-red fire, illuminating the chamber in strange light. A deep boom vibrated the chamber around them and the dark mist flowed down into the portal of deep red.

“Death’s Reach,” whispered Arantham. “Let us complete our quest.”

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Scourging of Zvormarana

The four members of the Ashen Covenant stepped from the portal into the sacred lands of Zvormarana. The hulking figure of Thax shadowed over the other three; Hertrud the black-armored priestess, Uganan the cowled tiefling enchanter, and Mauglurien the dwarven bloodlord. An angellic figure swirled in black flowing smoke rose from the ground and extended her wings.

“Visitors of the Raven Queen, welcome to Zvormarana. Should you wish audience with the Raven Queen, you must prove your fortitude and strength of your intent.”

“Here is our proof,” spoke Mauglurien. He drew a wide-bladed dagger from his armored belt and with a powerful grunt plunged it into the chest of the Raven Queen’s servant. She screamed out as silver celestial liquid flowed over his hands and onto the ground. He pulled the blade back out, showering himself in the angel’s blood. It fell back, eyes wide, before falling to the sacred earth. Dozens of more angellic figures, unarmed and unarmored mixed with the travelers of Zvormarana.

“Arantham was right, there are our sacrifices,” said Uganan.

“Hertrud, begin your ritual. Thax, find the skull. Uganan, reopen our gate in the third temple. I will meet you at the gates when you are ready.”

Thus began the dark scourging of Zvormarana and the assault on the Raven Queen.

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The Last Meeting of the Seven

Seven stood around the circle of blood twisted into a shape that would permanently warp the minds of mortals unlucky enough to view it.

It took the tiefling, Uganan, a long time to prepare it, his arm still tired from all the cutting. His yellow eyes shifted under the hood of his mottled robes to Shonvurru. She flashed her beautiful smile at him, opening her red lips to reveal her razor-sharp teeth. She raised herself up on her serpentine body and lifted her six arms. Black energy flowed from the palms of her hand and from her open mouth, spilling across the dark circle. The ground broke away under the energy, forming a deep pit into another world.

“It is done,” spoke the Marilith, turning to the demon-skull helmed priest who stood at the front of the seven. He tucked his hands into the sleeves of his violet robes and beheld them. This is the last time all seven of them would be united, thought Arantham, but none of them had gotten into the Covenant on sentiment and no words spoke of the matter.

“Uganan, Hertrud, Mauglurien, Thax; enter Zvormarana. Perform Uganan’s rituals, find the skull, and pierce the walls of Letherna,” said Arantham. He looked to each of them, each one an elite agent of the Prince of Undeath.

“Visit the raven-haired bitch-queen and show her our lord’s knife.”

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Sigil Part 2

Though Azonia had hoped for retirement, the Shieldbashers had other plans. She was to resume her current position as the operator of the Three Wishes and continue to operate the entertainment parlor as she had. She was also to seek out information on behalf of the Shieldbashers. She did, however, deliver the Writ of Ownership of the Three Wishes to the Shieldbashers, which they signed.

In the shadows, however, another evil lurked.

The Shieldbashers brought over Masjo’s uncle, Uncle Gendar, to help operate their interests in Sigil on their behalf. He would use the portal located in Azonia’s safehouse to transport spiced meats and bring back relics and artifacts from Sigil back to the Seven Pillared Hall.

Azonia invited the Shieldbashers to the grand reopening of the Three Wishes, which no longer engaged in race trafficking, but continued to operate as a den of prostitution (as long as they’re well treated, narcotics (as long as its only recreational), and exotic dancing.

Gendar brought news to the Shieldbashers, however. It would seem that the elite forces of Orcus, a powerful cult known as the Ashen Covenant, was attacking the goddess’s temple of Lethernia located on the mountain of Zvomarana, the Temple of Temples.

At the grand reopening of the Three Wishes, they were told a stranger was outside with a young girl asking for them. When they stepped outside, they saw a cloaked figure holding an unsteady Kylie. As they watched in horror, the cloaked figure stabbed the girl and dropped her to the ground. The party rushed forward and crushed the figure’s skull, only then realizing it was another ruse.

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All around the party, the shadows came alive. Knights of the Ashen Covenant, assassins, and a lich all attacked the party. The master asseassin, Drakrethar, a mercenary that the demon princes hired to slay gods, attacked as well.

A bloody battle ensued yet the Shieldbashers were victorious. The lich fled before the party could stop him.

As they recovered, they prepared to enter Zvomarana. It would seem Masjo, the Key Bearer, knew the proper rituals simply by memory to draw the party into the Shadowfell once again, to the Temple of Temples.

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Sigil Part 1

The party meets Kylie, a guide and liaison to Sigil. She takes them to the Golden Spout, a fine tavern and inn in Sigil’s market district. The party recovers from their battle with Urishtar the Shadow Dragon and begins to hunt down the Iron Claw Rakshasa clan.

Their hunt leads them to an Azonia Shandryx, a noble woman who owns and operates out of an entertainment parlor known as the Three Wishes outside of the Hive, the lower nastier area of Sigil.

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The party heads to the Hive and through stealth, silent arrows, and sharp daggers, infiltrates the bar. Inside they find a den of prostitution, narcotics, and exotic dancing. They soon engage with the Iron Claw Rakshasa who appeared as other races throughout the bar. As the battle raged, Azonia escaped into the back offices and storage areas.

The party defeated the Rakshasa and followed Azonia down a secret stairwell that actually traversed through a portal into the center of a large ice-rock mote floating within the Elemental Chaos – Azonia’s safehouse.

There they engaged in a duel with Azonia. Should they bloody her before she bloodies three of the PCs, she will give them the Three Wishes and whatever information they seek. Should they lose, all debts are paid and they will leave her and her operation.

At that point, Azonia showed her true form, a huge silver dragon.

Though she managed to bloody the Harbinger of Doom, Envy, Azonia was quickly bloodied herself and the PCs found themselves the victor.

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Urishtar and Sigil

You climb out of the stone chute to the open platform on the peak of Nightwyrm Fortress. Gusts of cold wind threaten to throw you from the reaches to the jagged rocks seven thousand feet below. Four battlements rise on four corners of the platform. In the center of the circular platform the Soul Well burns white. Within its reaches you see thousands of souls twisting and screaming as they are drawn from the Shadowfell sky down into the dark depths below.

You don’t see the guardian, Urishtar, at first. It isn’t until he shifts that you realize how close he is. He stands off the edge of the platform on a forty-foot square overhang that acts as the shadow-dragon’s perch. He waits for all of you to rise up from the chute.

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All around you swirl draconic wraiths. They glare at you with burning green eyes but keep their distance. Every so often one of them picks a white gleaming mote out of the sky and drops it back into the soulstream. You realize these are souls of the dead who escaped or fell away from the beam.

“Your words on the bridge below disturbed me. I haven’t thought about the old days for a long time. I had forgotten them.”

“Yet I am a being of destiny, as are you. We could wax philosophy for an age and it would make little progress. Let me simplify it for you.

“If you defeat me, you were right. If you fail and die here, than we know which way the winds of destiny blow. Frankly, I hope you are right, but I will not let this steer my wrath for a single moment. Prepare, Shieldbashers. Your future awaits.”

The party battles the mighty shadow dragon. After a powerful battle including the death of the dwarven wizard Oswald, Mika, the party’s sorceress, burns down the shadow dragon with a powerful blast of magical fire.

In a final furious roar, Urishtar, Guardian of the Soulstream, crashes to the ancient stonework of Nightwyrm Fortress. Ahead of you, the twisted soulstream flashes bright.

Using the scroll of the Shadar-kai witch, you draw out a circle in crushed ruby. Each of the sigils seems both completely foreign to you and strangely familiar. With the circle complete, you begin your ritual. There is no struggle here, no challenge of might or the mind. Only one thing will close the soulstream and restore the proper paths of the dead – a soul. One imbued with the proper magics of the Raven Queen and then fed into the soulstream will corrupt Orcus’s corruption and defeat the great power that twists it.

Whose soul will it be?

Fausto throws Nightbringer, his magical intelligent sword, into the soulstream. The effect is powerful and immediate, the soulstream collapses forever and the streams of the dead are restored. Another figure, however, lays on the battlement of Nightwyrm Fortress – the Warlord, Ninebreaker.

The party used the Rakshasa scroll after a rest in the Shadar-Kai village. Ninebreaker takes his equipment from his Shadar-kai wife before leaving. Using the scroll results in the following:

Blackness surrounds you and panic stabs deep. For a few moments that feel like eternity, you imagine life lost in void of the far realm. Yet you can’t imagine the far-realm would smell so much like beer and vomit. A heavy push spills light upon you and you realize where you ended up – among rotted boxes in an alley of a city completely alien to you.

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The smell of oil and rain on stone fills your lungs as you breathe air from a different world. Yellow light illuminates the wet cobblestone streets. The sounds of laughter and a crash of metal rise above the ambient sounds of the city streets. Staring up reveals the true strangeness of this destination. You stare up into a street very similar to your own. The world in which you find yourself is not flat, but tubular, as though you stand on the inside surface of a massive stone dough-bread treat of your youth.

“Well, look at the cutters who just fell out of the blitz.”

A young tiefling woman dressed in brown leather clothes and soft-soled slippers smiles at you as she leans on the alley wall.

“Don’t get all jangled up, I’m not here to honey-peel you. Just looking for a mert or two to show you the cage. Come on, let’s not map the planes here. Some bridle-cull or crow-feeder’s likely to find you gawking like that and get you Lost. Let me take you to a hole I know – the Golden Sprout. No metal cups there.”

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Urishtar on the Bridge

_You cross the narrow 20’ walkway that hangs suspended between the fortress wall of Magrathar’s Teeth and Nightwyrm Fortress itself, the spire beaming the light of twisted souls into the sky above. The walkway is ancient stone, edges cracked and eroded from tens of thousands of years of howling cold wind. Off each edge you see the deep chasm thousands of feet below. The vast height and delicate condition of the walkway make your knees weak and bring your heart into your throat with each delicate step.

As you get close to the middle of the walkway, near a section split into two by a huge crack in the center, it is as though the shadowfell itself crashes in front of you.

Urishtar

Urishtar the shadow dragon, once ancient protector of the Raven Queen’s interests and now Orcus’s guardian of the twisted soulstream, towers over you, wings expanded thrice the width of the narrow walkway upon which you sit.

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“So you are the mortals who have Magrathar and his flock scurrying so.” Urishtar’s voice is deep and booming, a voice that seems to resonate in your skull and shakes the precarious stone under your feet.

“So small you are, for so much trouble.” The lithe dragon shifts and his head swings back on forth as he gazes upon you. “I have heard the whispers of the priests below. So long they had waited for you only to be ripped apart by the Slaads of chaos. How ironic.”

“I have heard of you, but I must say. I am not impressed.”

“Who are you? Why have you come? And why should I not send you to the rocks below?”_

_“Is that it from the mighty Shieldbashers? You all stare at me with mouths agape? I grow tired of this interruption.”

Act fast or Urishtar’s wrath might be swift indeed._

Mika bravely walks up and makes a feeble attempt to speak with Urishtar. She employs her diplomacy skills for 37 (a roll of 15 and a modifier of 22). She asks Urishtar what he wants from us. Perhaps we can resolve our differences with words instead of war.

As someone who appreciates deception; Masjo asks Urishtar why he would side with Orcus after being the protector of the Raven Queen? What has changed in the Shadowfell to sway someone so powerful? What is your dealings with this soulwell as it would seem that such a Shadow Dragon would not really have a need for it.

Rosa:

First, I use my keen elven eyes to determine where the safer spots on the bridge are. (Perception roll = 33) Assuming I succeed, I quickly warn those in front where not to stand.

Then I address the dragon…

You and I have met before, I believe (pointing at the spot where my arrow stuck him.)

I am Rosa Moonshadow of the Dalelands. I have come to put things back to rights. As one once sworn to the Raven Queen, you must know the dangers of messing with death. The souls must flow.

_Urishtar laughs, a sickening sound of steel ground against stone.

“Such a civil tongue you have for a door-kicker sparkmage.”

“What do I want? I want to be left alone. I am rid of Magrathar’s whispers, now I wish to be rid of you.”_

_“You’re arrow bit deep, ranger. I will soon not forget it.”

“You will, however, never speak of the Raven Queen again in my presence.”

The dragon rises, spreading its wings wide. Only mere moments remain._

The bridge is sturdy but very old. It is not at risk of collapse. Whatever strange godly magic built this place, it is built to last – It is hundreds of thousands of years old.

The dragon is free of control. No arcane power controls his mind. He is troubled, clearly, but that trouble is buried deep within him. It is not a problem to be solved in a mere moment of conversation.

The shadow dragon is a being of both physical and shadow power. Unlike spectres or wraiths, he has no clear weaknesses to exploit, though radiant light annoys him. This is not a beast of direct force, he is a beast that slides between shadows. His breath, however, steals the very life out of those upon which he inflicts it.

Masjo: Diplomacy 1d20 (rolled 13) +16 = 29

_A great sense of loss fills the eyes of the beast.

“Times change, thief. You cannot know how things can change over thousands of years. Like water tearing down a mountain, breaking it into a barren desert. I couldn’t even begin to explain to you how such things can come to be.”_

Successes: Mika – diplomacy 1d20 (15) + 22 = 37 Masjo – diplomacy 1d20 (13) + 16 = 29

Failures: Rosa – Intimidate 1d20 (9) + 10 = 19

Knowledge Checks: The dragon is note a brute – he is lithe and shifts into and out of the shadow The bridge is very old but sturdy. It would take a powerful force to break it. Urishtar is acting of his own accord. He is not under any sort of mind control.

“Surely a dragon of your age and wisdom can see that the Shieldbashers are merely following the path that destiny has provided us. We have no quarrel with you, unless you have allegiance to Orcus. We would be happy to take him a message for you…”

_“My alliance is to the beam. Do not take me for a fool, I know your intent. I have known it longer than you have lived.”

You sense the dragon has no alliance to either Orcus or the Raven Queen at this point. He guards the Soulstream, twisted as it is. He guarded it tens of thousands of years before when it was pure and he guards it now when it is corrupt._

Envy:

In a display of fury and grace Enye – for the delay cause by the dragon – shows her frustration in being delayed. With great force she slams the butt of the glaive named mercy – onto the bridge not caring if it shatters the structure plummeting herself to her doom and proclaims – Why are we being delayed by you! Either attack us or leave. Athletism -35

_The screeching sound, like the sound of stone screaming fills your head. At first you think the walkway is coming apart, but soon you realize it is Urishtar…laughing.

“I had no expected such boldness from mere mortals. You do not know that which you face, do you. Still. I am intrigued. Perhaps death to the rocks below is not the proper end for you.”_

With that, the Dragon flys to the top of the tower above and awaits your confrontation at the Soulwell.

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Magrathar

Atop Magrathar’s Teeth, the party battled a fierce contingent of eight draconic wraiths. Through her knowledge of the arcane, Mika understood that these were young dragons, each once powerful in their lives, that had been slaughtered and sacrificed into these wraiths, now used to protect the twisted Soulstream.

During the battle against the draconic wraiths, the party saw a large teleportation circle begin to glow. Angry tendrils of energy threatened the party unless they harnassed them into powerful arcane blasts against the drakes.

After the drakes fell the party prepared for Magrathar’s assault.

The powerful mage came in protected with a prismatic sphere while the party battled two huge Hezrou demons and three abyssal hurlers.

Magrathar

The party began to crack each of the prismatic shells surrounding Magrathar. One by one, they used fire, ice, poison, steel, and radiant power to break through his protections. With each one down, Magrathar showed his true form. Pulling his steel mask from his face, he revealed his true origin – a Larva Mage.

It would seem that Magrathar’s attempt to become a lich had failed. Instead of empowering his old corpse with his arcane might, he instead empowered the worms and maggots that fed upon it.

That was not his only surprise. With a single command, Magrathar revealed his darkest secret: Thrash, the Shadar-kai bard that had joined the party in the Shadowfell, was actually an agent of Orcus! Thrash, tearing open his shirt, revealed the blue burning sigil of Orcus on his chest and began to sing his horrible song of pain.

The battle raged furious. Thrash cut into Rosa and Mika before Fausto blasted him into a deep pit. Climbing out, he soon took two of Rosa’s deadly arrows before falling.

Powerful blasts of arcane magic tore into Magrathar, as did the blade of the blademaster, Masjo. Soon, the larva mage, third lieutenant of Orcus, fell on the battlements.

As quiet fell upon the battlements, the party looked to the great spire ahead – Nightwyrm Fortress awaited.

Nightwyrm Fortress

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