Shieldbashers

Chaos Maw Part 2

Continuing through the ruins of the Emerald Skull temple, the party found a partially completed flesh golem infused with the power of Orcus manifested by a blue burning symbol on its chest. It was released by a pack of small Slaad spawns, rampaged through the party, and was soon cut down.

The party traveled in further, finding the preparation room for sacrifices and the high priests quarters. Within they found a note:

Though my faith is strong, there are days where I question our actions. For five hundred years we have fed the Beast. We have trained it as we were told in the ancient tomes. We sacrificed hundreds a year to feed its endless appetite.

I do not know which I fear worse – the Beast itself or the Chaos Maw that feeds it with eternal madness and a hunger for ruin.

I have read the old texts. I know the prophecy. They will come. It has been foreseen. But can we not battle these “Shieldbashers” ourselves? Can we not murder them in their sleep? Must we build such a beast to defeat them?

What is the cost for so much power?

I fear dark days ahead should the Chaos Maw’s bonds unravel.

The party continued on to the sacrificial pit itself where they met a great host of Slaads including a powerful Void Slaad.

Throughout the world there are many temples to the Demon Prince. Today, however, you stand in one of his oldest and most powerful temples in all the worlds. Hundreds of thousands have been sacrificed here to the Prince of Undeath. Today, however, the sacrificers find themselves, the sacrificed.

A large blue slaad holds aloft the high priest of the Emerald Skull. The high priest screams until his throat tears. With a single slash, the blue slaad opens him up and spills his innards down into a large dark pit below. Disgusted at the loss of his fun, the Slaad tosses the remains below as well.

The room is covered in splashes of blood and the broken bodies of a dozen cultists. On a platform to the south, green slaads see your presence and grin. Red slaads at the base of the stairs begin a terrible howling while the blue slaads roar and attack.

After defeating the host, the party dropped into the pit itself where they battled the Heroslayer, a five-headed hydra:

Deep below the sacrificial chamber, you stand in the chamber of the Chaos Maw. This chamber appears as old as the mountain itself, as old as the war between the gods and primordials. On the ground, the cultists have carved a large pentagram. The gaping grin of a million-year-old carved beast opens to a swirling vortex that stands between the Shadowfell and the depths of the Elemental Chaos.

As you step further into the chamber, the pentagram begins to glow. Black wisps of smoke turn and swirl. A roar echoes across the cavern, a roar of five voices. As the smoke clears, a beast of your worst nightmare stands in front of you. Five heads behold you, eyes blazing with madness and fury. It is the one whispered by the cultists for a thousand years, the creature bred and fueled for a millennia for a single purpose – to kill the Shieldbashers. 
bq). It is the Heroslayer.

The party defeated the beast, though the sorceress, Mika, was crushed in the jaws of the powerful beast. The party then faced the Maw itself:

chaos maw

Though the maw itself attempted to tear the party asunder with terrible magical force, the party closed the gateway to chaos and the slaad threat ended.

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Chaos Maw Part 1

Our band of heroic adventurers entered the Temple of the Emerald Skull – a temple to the demon prince Orcus. Unfortunately for everyone, the priests of the temple opened a portal to the Elemental Chaos and lost control of it. Now Slaads of all sizes and colors have ripped apart the priests of the temple and only the party can defeat them and close the Chaos Maw while recovering the third ring of Nightwyrm so they may enter the fortress itself and face Urishtar, guardian of the twisted Soulstream.

Slaads!

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Trollhaunt Conclusion

*h2. Trollhaunt Conclusion

After saving Moonstair’s mayor and slaying the Oni mage, the party travels back to the Trollhaunt where they face and defeat Skalmad only to discover he stands resurrected in the Feywild.

During this time, a bounty hunter convinces Wes to join him and face his old crime boss in the city of Fallcrest.

The party travels to the Feywild battling all manner of strange Feywildian beasts to face the resurrected ancient troll king, Vard. They face him and defeat him at a powerful soul well. During the battle, their companion, the warlock X, was sucked into the well disappearing from this world forever. The party discovers notes on dark elves that their master, in partnership with Kalarel, has already sacrificed a captured Ninebreaker, once friend and party member of the Shieldbashers, and plans to sacrifice Wes.

Returning back to Moonstair, the party faces firey demonic minions of a seemingly resurrected Kalarel. The priest of Orcus himself leaves a calling card in the sewers below the city.

The Bloody Battle of the Black Leaf Brothel

The party travels back to a much-changed Fallcrest. There they face Barstonum and his large gang in the Black Leaf Brothel. In a bloody battle that takes the lives of over forty of Barstonum’s crew, they learn that Kalarel killed Wes, beheaded him, and threw him in the river. The crime boss then blew his own head off with an explosive-tipped crossbow bolt of dark-elven design.

The Demon Queen’s Enclave

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After briefly returning to the Seven Pillared Hall to find an improved business and rumors of a shadowy darkness twisting the souls of the dead, the party begins to travel to the dark elven city of Pharvorul where they expect to hunt down Kalarel. They learn of an undead invasion of the city led by the dark elf vampire lord, Zirithian.

After cutting down the ghoulish undead within the dark elven city, the party meets Matron Urlvrain and her remaining loyal soldiers. Urlvrain hires the party to kill two of Zirithian’s lieutenants. The party kills both of them, realizing that one of them was unlikely to be an ally of Zirithian and more likely just an enemy of Urlvrain.

Using the magic of Urlvrain’s companion, the elusive and beautiful Chi, the party travels to a segment micro-world of the Shadowfell known as Deadhold. There they faced all manner of horror including a moat filled with terrifying ghouls and an undead lich that turned out to be Sygmund, the previous warlock of the party lost in the depths of the Feywild.

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In the inner sanctum of Deadhold, the party faced the vampire lord Zirithian, the priest Kalarel, and a twisted ghoulish version of the rogue Wes. After a bloody battle, the party was victorious.

Nightwyrm Fortress

Returning once again to the Seven Pillared Hall, the party meets the wife of Ninebreaker, a shadar-kai, who has come to the mortal world from the Shadowfell to ask the party to rescue the soul of her mate now twisted in the broken Soul Stream from where Orcus diverts the souls of the dead. She explains that the main conduit for the soulstream resides in a fortress known as Nightwyrm, deep within the Shadowfell.

The party travels deep into the underdark to the ancient tomb of the Shadar-kai warlock, Sartine. There they face all manner of traps and undead beasts to confront the twisted demi-lich of Sartine himself. In this terrible battle, the diva invoker, Daveed, is killed and his soul twisted and permanently lost due to the corruption of the soul stream.

Traveling through a gateway within the tomb, the party finds itself at a small Shadar-kai outpost three days from Nightwyrm Fortress. There they learn that a powerful failed lich, Magrathar, rules the fortress along with a powerful beast known as Urishtar. Three of Magrathar’s lieutenants possess rings that enable them to enter the central tower of Nightwyrm surrounded by the fortress known as Magrathar’s Teeth.

The party travels across the Shadowfell facing all manner of terrors before entering Magrathar’s Teeth. Within the fortress wall they battle terrible undead including a powerful dracolich, beings of ice, and beings of fire. In an epic battle, the party faced a firemage and his summoned Glabrezou.

After these battles were complete, the party had only two rings remaining – one held by the high priest of the Temple of the Emerald Skull and one by Magrathar himself.

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Recap from KOTS to Trollhaunt

Part 1: Keep on the Shadowfell

Kalarel

Before becoming known as the Shieldbashers, the party first met while investigating a disappearance of a young woman in the town of Fallcrest. The party consisted of Rosa, Wes, Fausto, Envy, Ninebreaker (a Warlord watch commander) and a wizard who later left for his own adventures. The investigation led within a chamber under an abandoned watch tower where the girl had been killed in a terrible ritual.

Returning to the local Fallcrest inn, the party learned of more disappearances that led them to the town of Winterhaven north east. On their way to the town, the party was ambushed by Kobolds on the road. Tracking the Kobolds and discussions with the local townsfolk of Winterhaven led the party to another murder and eventually the Keep on the Shadowfell where the murderer, a priest of Orcus named Kalarel, had taken more young women.

The party battled all manner of goblins, hobgoblins, and terrible undead creations spawned from Kalarel’s tainted wells. Eventually the party battled Kalarel in a large chamber deep under the Keep where a black portal to the Shadowfell swirled and sputtered. In his last breaths, bloated black tendrils from the portal drew him screaming, into the black world.

Notable NPCs:

Lord Padriac of Winterhaven: A fair and just lord of Winterhaven who hired the party to hunt down the source of the kidnappings.

Valthroon the Prescient: Mage of Winterhaven.

Kalarel: Murdering blood priest of Orcus. Now believed to be trapped in the Shadowfell and tortured for his failures under the Keep.

Part 2: Thunderspire Labyrinth

Seven Pillared Hall

After a well-deserved rest, the party discovered that the Hobgoblins who worked for Kalarel also kidnapped slaves for mysterious groups in the Thunderspire – an ancient minotaur labyrinth carved into the rock below the mountains to the east. The party traveled through the large caverns of the mountain to the Seven Pillared Hall – a ragtag town ruled by the mysterious Mages of Saruun, a cabal of wizards represented by their only employee, the ogre Bruug.

The party soon tracked the slaves a a hobgoblin holdout built within one of the ancient minotaur keeps dated ten thousand years old. The party killed the hobgoblins but found the slaves already sold to a clan of Duergar dwarves. The party found a small shop of these Duergar in the Seven Pillared hall and killed the occupants. Taking the store over for themselves, they then hunted the Duergar to a fortified fortress of three large structures bridged over a huge chasm. The party killed the Duergar and their commander and rescued many of the slaves but two young women who the Duergar sold to Gnoll demon worshippers who were attempting their own horrific ritual in a Minotaur testing chamber known as the Well of Demons.

The party put the slaves to work, giving them paying jobs within their new shop, taken over from the Duergar provisioning store. Then the party headed to the Well of Demons to rescue the last of the slaves.

Within the Well, the party faced the minotaur trials including trapped mirrored pillars, huge minotaur statues, and a room full of portals vomiting forth carnage demons. A final devious trap released a green dragon. Only the heroic effort of Ninebreaker kept Rosa from falling into a bottomless pit.

Facing a powerful demonic Gnoll priest, the party managed to prevent the ritual from full success but, in rescuing the two young women, Ninebreaker was lost into the Gnoll’s terrible portal. Two of the party members, Envy and Fausto(?) saw a page from the gnoll priest’s terrible tome which planted a curse within their minds, twisting them and guiding them.

Commissioning a statue to their fallen comrade, the party then discovered that a local rogue mage of Saruun, Paldemar, who broke his order and began worshipping Vecna. The party met an aspect of Vecna on the way in to the tower who tested them to see if they were worthy of testing his vessel. They passed and entered Paldemar’s tower before facing the wizard and defeating him.

Notable NPCs:

Gendar: Drow proprieter of “Gendar’s Curios and Relics”. A business man with many dealings above and below the surface. Deals in strange and wonderful magical items.

Bruug: Ogre strong-arm representative of the Mages of Saruun. Hero of recent War of the Cleansing.

Cabus DiVon: Chief storemaster of the Shieldbashers venture in the Seven Pillared hall.

Oruntor: Mage of Saruun who informed the party of the betrayal of Paldemar.

Rendil Halfmoon: Innkeeper of the Halfmoon inn along with his aunt. First to welcome the Shieldbashers to the Seven Pillared Hall.

Ninebreaker: Previous companion of the Shieldbashers. Now believed to be trapped in the Shadowfell.

Paldemar: Mage worshipper of Vecna. Now dead.

Part 3: Pyramid of Shadows

Karavakos

Their business growing, the party had to address the pulling curse of the gnoll’s book which led them far out into the deep woods where they found a black pyramid. Outside of the pyramid the party battled some bandits who had seemed to lose their leader into the pyramid. After the battle the party entered the pyramid itself, falling through the pitch black wall and into the world within.

Inside the pyramid, the party found themselves in the carrion pits at the mercy of an Etten headsman who wanted to decorate his pikes with the party’s heads, right next to the heads of many others he had taken who became trapped by the pyramid. The party cut him down and discovered that one of the heads, a grinning black-haired skull, could speak and called herself “Vyrellis”.

With Vyrellis’s guidance the party traveled through the pyramid, finding small pocket-worlds where other beasts trapped by the pyramid made their homes. They soon found that the pyramid itself shifted and changed to fit the creatures within. For a powerful necrotic Otyugh known as the Charnal Lord, the pyramid built a devious floor-dropping trap. For plant creatures, the pyramid built an entire outdoor environment, completely sterile.

The party soon learned that the pyramid was a trap, a prison built to hold a powerful sorcerer king known as Karavakos, who used his magic to lure creatures within the pyramid in order to help him escape.

In the library of the Pyramid, the party discovered strange tomes that told stories of other worlds and even stories of themselves. Some read as though many years had passed. One of these notes seemed to describe Ninebreaker’s trek across the Shadowfell while another spoke of Kalarel’s torture under the hands of his masters for his failure in the Keep near Winterhaven.

The party traversed the pyramid and soon faced Karavakos in his upper sanctum. There they cut him down and the skull of Vyrellis, his eladrin wife once long ago, tore his soul from his body and became a demi-lich. Vyrellis, the demi-lich, released the party from the pyramid and across the planes of existence where the winds of chaos dropped them four years ahead from the time they left.

Vyrellis’s skull still sits within the black pyramid floating in the Far Realm while her astral projection explores all the worlds of gods and men.

Notable NPCs:

Garish Vren: Brigand Lord trapped within the Pyramid of Shadows. Location now unknown.

Vyrellis: Eladrin bride of Karavakos. Now a demi-lich residing in the Pyramid of Shadows in the Far Realm while her mental projection explores the known worlds.

Karavakos: An old Tiefling Sorcerer King whose dealings with devils led to his imprisonment in the Pyramid of Shadows. Now dead and soul stolen by Vyrellis.

Part 4: The Trollhaunt Warrens

Skalmad the troll King

The party returned to an entirely new Seven Pillared Hall. Some friends died, some became married, business boomed and busted over the years. Blood had spilled and beauty had emerged. Yet not all was right. While the party learned of business opportunities in the far village of Moonstair, Wes the rogue learned of a debt owed that threatened his life and of his friends.

The party soon headed to Moonstair, the rogue Wes taking on the name Dusk and covering his face with a skull mask acquired from the dark-elf curio and relic seller, Gendar. Along the road, the party faced an Oni mage and his troll escort who rummaged through the ruins of a carriage. Routing the mage and defeating the trolls, the party learned of a message being sent from Moonstair of great desperation. A noble prince and his adventuring companions had fallen in the Trollhaunt Warrens fighting a terrible growing troll king known as Skalmad.

Reaching Moonstair, the town’s mayor, Kelana Dhoram, asked the party for help battling this troll threat and recovering the princes heirloom sword.

Fighting across the Trollhaunt swamp, the party reached the warrens, nestled between the torn crags of stone. The party battled armies of troglodytes and trolls, seeing that the creatures were far from passive. Finding a different route, the party defeated the black dragon Nightwing. Ambushing the Troll King at the doors to his inner sanctum, the party learned that Moonstair was already under attack. Armies of the Troll King already marched west to the town and would destroy her. The party killed the Troll King, Skalmad, who roared with his dying breath:

“Death is but a doorway. I will return!”

A bounty hunter named Roy confirmed the troll’s threat against Moonstair and confessed his own agenda to bring the rogue Wes back to his employer, the gang lord Barstonnem in Fallcrest. An even more dangerous bounty hunter also tracked Wes, said Roy, and would surely kill people Wes cared about if he did not return to Fallcrest. Wes agreed and left with Roy as the party rushed to save Moonstair.

On the way back to Moonstair, the party found a roadside alehouse known as the Troll’s Tooth. There the “Blood Battle of the Troll’s Tooth” as it would soon be known, took place with over a dozen people torn to pieces by wolves as the party attempted to defeat the wolves and kill the troll. There they met the traveling warlock, Sygmund who joined them to save the Moonstair.

At the gates of Moonstair, the party held back wave after wave of troglodytes and other more terrible creatures sent by the Troll King. Only after the “Battle of the Second Gate” as it would one day be remembered did the party learn that murder had found itself within the walls of the town.

Notable NPCs:

Roy: A bounty hunter sent to collect Wes and bring him to Barstonnem, the gang lord of Fallcrest for a debt unpaid.

Mayor Kelana Dhoram: a half-elf mayor of the town of Moonstair.

Cham: a local gnome merchant and trade negotiator, seen as the primary business dealer of Moonstair.

Skalmad: The Troll King. A powerful troll who united the tribes of the Trollhaunt and seeks to restore the ancient Troll empire of Vardar.

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