Thirteenth Rain

The Siberys Rains Come Together
"The magic of the The Seventh and that of The Tenth suddenly entwine..."

Retrieving the dragonshard known as The Seventh perpetuates a great change. The other dragonshard, The Tenth, which is in Riardon’s backpack, explodes with light, as does The Seventh.

When both are placed near to one another they drift freely into the air and take up positions relative to oneanother as if they were the seven and ten marks on a clock face.

Light pours from both and suudenly each of the adventurers experiences a change. The prophecy mark which they have each carried since Providence shifts and develops a new line which forms an elipsis at the bottom right hand corner of the mark.

The entirety of the Caldera building starts to hum and vibrate as the two Rains come together for the first time in millennia.

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Breaking and Entering
"Even some of the lesser guards of the compound know little of the secrets which lie in the labyrinthine vaults beneath Wroat..."

Using Durzo’s skills of stealth and infiltration, it takes little effort to enter the Caldera compound under the cover of night.

The adventurers, accompanied by Kurlot Lanner, meet more resistance than they expected once they get in as soldiers pour out of a hidden door somewhere on the stairwell.

Tracing the soldiers back through the secret door, they find a hidden labortory type complex hidden in what is presumably the basement area. The complex contains six locked, glass-fronted rooms within which are various things of interest.

The First Room

In the first room is a strange pillar or statue of crystal. When the adventurers eventually unlock all of the rooms, the statue seems to come to life and made a break for it, escaping from the complex.

Orryn suspects that the crystal statue was always “alive” and was, in fact, a shardmind, a member of a rare sentient crystaline race.

(A few days later the adventurers will read in the local newspaper of a murder. Close to where the body was found, guards also found a strange pile of crystal, the description of which matched that which the shardmind was composed of. Perhaps that is a good lead in finding out more about the creature.)

The Second Room

In the second room, Aerie Taiel is being held captive although she is, seemingly, well looked after.

The Third Room

At first glance, the third room contains only a weird mist. When the doors are all unlocked, however, the mist pours out into the main floor of the labratory. When Iris tries to explore the room in which the mist orignated, she is attacked by a creature hidden within the mist.

The adventurers figure out that the mist is eerily like the dead grey mists of the Mournland and that the creature itself is secreting it.

When the monster is eventually defeated and the mist surrounding it dispates, the adventurers can finally get a good look at it. It resembles a white-furred ape, and is about 7 feet tall. Tendrils of dead-gray mist unwind from its fur and had been concealing it in a cloud of fog. Its eyes are blank white orbs, its mouth is full of long, sharp teeth and four curling horns jut from its skull.

On inspection, the party identify it as a Mourning Haunt – a demon with a peculiar connection to the Mournland. No one knows whether they originated from demons that were in Cyre at the time of the Mourning, or if the Mourning had effects that reached far beyond Cyre to touch even the Abyss. Some say that every event in the world has echoes and reflections in the other planes, and that the Mourning haunt is such an echo. Perhaps instead, Mourning haunts are somehow related to whatever caused the Mourning.

The salvage teams of Caldera must have captured a Mourning Haunt on their last expedition to the Mourneland and brought it to Wroat for experimentation. Not only was it dangerous within itself but who knows what overarching consequences that letting such a creature live could have had for wider Breland. Could such a thing bring about the second Mourning?

The Fourth Room

In this room a dead body lies across a medical examination table.

It appears to be an elf male dressed in clinical robes – his nation unknown although his skin doen’t appear to be pale enough to be one of the Aerenal or tanned enough to be Valenar. His entire body is covered in what appear to be gouges and scorch marks, as if he has been prodded continually by some kind of branding iron. It’s not a usual branding iron however – it leaves a random shape, maybe vaguely circular or in the shape of the given mark. The marks on the body are of a very precise shape – like a crescent moon but with clearly defined edges and points. This wasn’t brutal torture – it was exact testing of some kind.

The Fifth Room

Held in an entropc shield in the centre of the fifth room is a longsword which the adventurers eventually discover holds the spirit of a white dragon named Shivli.

Long ago, an ancient dwarven warrior came across a hurt baby dragon on the icy plains of the Frostfell. He tried to nurse it back to health but nothing worked. When the dragon was close to death, the warrior had a ritual cast to bind the dragon’s spirit into his weapon.

Orryn recalls some information on the Frostfell -

North of Khorvaire, beyond the icy coldness of the Bitter Sea, the barren Frostfell covers the top of the world. This land of perpetual winter is locked in ice and snow. Sometimes, when winter gets the upper hand, storms blow out of the Frostfell and temporarily turn other regions into semblances of this frozen waste. The dwarves believe they originated in this frozen land, and legends of strange monsters, unrestrained demons, and hordes of undead are featured in tales of the Frostfell. The only known expedition to reach the ice plains and snow-covered peaks and return to tell the tale was led by Lord Boroman of the Wayfinder Foundation. More often, the Frostfell sends bitterly cold winds, snowstorms, and great icebergs to punish the southern lands.

The Sixth Room

In the sixth room is the Siberys dragonshard known only as The Seventh.

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Caldera Reconnaissance

First stop in Wroat is the office of Caldera Corporation. This was where the crate which contained the Karrnathi Elite Zombie was bound for and so may well harbour clues as to the adventurer’s mysterious memory loss.

While scoping out the offices, however, they discover that another set of eyes are watching the enigmatic corporation – A House Medani inquisitive named Kurlot Lanner.

Lanner had followed a lead in a missing persons case and it had led him to Caldera. A Brelish woman named Aerie Taiel had dissappeared and he suspected that the corporation was involved.

For the time being, the detective and the adventurers share a goal – the infiltration of Caldera Corporation.

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Return to Wroat
"Daine..."

The Sun Beats Down…

The warm Brelish sun beats down through the glass windows which cap the lightning rail station. For the last hour or so the adventurers from Hatheril have been oblivious to what has been going on around them – mesmerised, drawn in by the words of the the Brelish lieutenant who called himself Wrogar Colworn. Crowded around a small bench in the concourse of the Wroat lightning rail station, it is only the slightest mutter from one of the party which snaps everyone out of their intent reading. It’s the voice of the Gnome, Orryn, and he says one simple name…

“Daine…”

The sound of busyness, moments ago drowned out by their own minds, now hits them like the Five Nations Express. Maybe fifteen different languages meets their ears as the adventurer’s internal volume is unmuted. Not two steps away, a tiefling argues with a halfling in some unknown tongue. Just across the platform, a dwarven banker curses at some House Sivis employees in his mountainous tongue. The conflagration of noises is distracting at best and at worst, downright maddening. Each of the party suddenly realise that their journey has ended and that this is Wroat. This is the capital city of Breland, the seat of power both politically and militarily. They glance at one another and their eyes all speak the same untold words…

…They feel like very small fish in a very great pond.
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The Ashen Blade Chronicles - Epilogue
"Mercenaries unwittingly become traitors when Barrakas is shy..."

There was a wrap at the door…

The sound echoed through the rooms of the little cottage hidden in the small copse that travellers on the road to the Great Crag called the Windy Wood. The half-orc named Garn rose from a wicker chair in the large reception room and unlatched the door. Six figures loomed in the doorway but Garn knew well who they were. It had been three days since the excoriate, the disgraced scion of House Tharask had led the Ashen Blades back into Graywall to face their former master Karkillian and he was relieved that all of them had made it back.

A soft wind, accompanied by a light drizzle, whipped through the door as Garn opened it wider to let the company of mercenaries through. The half-orc nodded broodingly at the company’s leader, a former man of Breland. The grey-haired man nodded back and set his shield at the doorway as he led his men into the cottage. Garn gestured at the company, raising his arm in the direction of the back room, indicating that they were expected.

The Brelish man who called himself Wrogar looked towards the back room. A soft light rolled out of the smaller area at the back of the cottage and the air carried a sweet singing. The six mercenaries of the Ashen Blades passed through the archway which divided the small house and, one by one, knelt at the feet of the hag named Sora Teraza, a seer of untold power and one of the three leaders of Drooam.

“My Lady…” Wrogar began, bowing his head and raising a clenched fist to his chest.

A faint voice replied from beneath the cowl hiding the seer’s face – “Is it done?”

“Karkillian is dead. The one you call Ravanna is gone from Greywall,” Wrogar answered.

The hag started to laugh softly. “I very much doubt that…” she whispered. “Still, for now Greywall is safe and you, my Sons of Droaam, have brought us a step closer to vanquishing this threat to our nation.”

“Forgive my ignorance my Lady,” the Brelish man piped up, “but where did this name we have earned come from. Who decided that we would be the Sons of Droaam?”

Once again, all of the Ashen blades could hear sweet singing echo through the air. Some turned their heads and looked towards the dark corner of the cottage from whence the notes came. Emerging into the light was Sora Teraza’s aide; a young changeling she called Gem.

“Sons of Droaam, hear the call.
You represent the demon’s fall.
They rout us now o’er hills and dales.
Rise up and drive them from our vales.”

“That name was decided by fate long ago Master Colworn. I merely drove you towards something which was already predetermined.”

Wrogar was confused, although he didn’t show it. He was a soldier, a good one at that. All this talk of prophecy and fate was beyond him. For most of his life he had felt that his fate was bound to one thing and one thing alone – the steel of a good blade.

That said, his mind had been opened a little over the last few years within the strange company of mercenaries he led. The Valenar elf often talked of prophets within the order of druids he called the Siyal. Another, the Aundarian man, spoke of life after death and rebirth at the hands of the Keeper. Perhaps there was truth to what the seer had to say.

He looked around the faces of his fellows and contemplated what they must be making of the situation before them. He darted a glance towards Cabal, the weighty warforged. He resolved to consult with him later. Wrogar appreciated the constructs unwavering loyalty as well as his innate sense of the shape of things to come.
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Cabal winced as a thought of his old artificer friend popped into his head. For the last few years, the image of Haze-of-Death, the undead dragon of the Mournland, bearing down on his friend had been burned into his mind. The dwarfs parting words to the warforged soldier, while nothing more than a simple phrase, had been more complex than any instruction the soldier had ever been given – “Change everything.”

Cabal thought of his friend’s notebook. The dwarf had been scribbling in the simple leather-bound jotter for years, taking note of what he called threads – lines which seemed to connect the key events in Khorvaire’s troubled past. Cabal stopped and corrected himself in his own mind – Khorvaire’s troubled future. The artificer and his contacts in the group who referred to themselves as the Cabal had started looking for these threads not long after the start of the cataclysmic war between the dragons of Argonessen and the demon lords of Khyber – open conflict between the Light of Siberys, the vanguard of the dragon armies and the forces of the Lords of Dust, a coalition of fiends. The two had been tied in cold war over the draconic prophecy for millennia so it seemed like a foregone conclusion that it would boil up to militant action at some point. Initially, subtlety had been the only option for the Lords of Dust – they simply didn’t have the power to conquer Khorvaire through strength of arms. Instead, they manipulated and twisted people, governments and, at times, whole countries into do their bidding.

Never had these tactics been so clear to Cabal as it was in Droaam. This one fiend who Sora Teraza called Ravanna had tried to throw the entire nation into revolution through four minor acts – a revolution which the demon had hoped would spread to the borders with Breland and beyond, striking deep into the heart of the continent. Had it not been for the seer’s intervention, Ravanna’s plans might well have succeeded.
Still, one thing bothered Cabal. The old dwarven artificer’s notes had spoken of a thread in Droaam. His notes pointed towards the mercenary group of which the warforged had become a part. The threads, however, were vague and ambiguous. They only revealed times, factions and places which were important and not necessarily why they were important. It seemed good that the Ashen Blades had prevented chaos in Droaam but it was impossible to know the wider repercussions of their actions. When they first met, Sora Teraza spoke, with defiance in her voice, of Ravanna’s plans to bend the prophecy towards the will of the fiends but, as Cabal reasoned, was she not doing exactly the same thing? She had thrown the Ashen Blades into the mix to shift the prophecy away from Ravanna’s end. She was manipulating events just as much as the demon.

Cabal had a certain amount of respect for the Daughters of Sora Kell. They had forged a nation out of chaotic, monstrous warbands and that was no mean feat. Still, they were not heroines. He did not recognise them as a force of good in the world. Quite to the contrary in fact, he recalled the tales which angry Cyran parents used to tell their children of Sora Maenya. They said that she would trap the souls of those she devoured, spitting out their bones and decorating her halls with them. While he was sure that some of the details were embellished for horrific effect, he believed that there was likely to be some truth to the stories of these three hags. Anything they did was for their own advancement and Cabal wondered what exactly they sought in all of this. Yes, they had created a nation to rule over but what was their end game? What did they have in mind for the future? What would be their next move?

Cabal couldn’t help but wonder – did the Ashen Blades need to defeat Ravanna’s plans and side with Sora Teraza to change everything or was this new alliance with the Daugther of Sora Kell the very thing that he should have been preventing?
________________________________________________________

Wrogar cursed the warforged silently. His face of metal and machine was unflinching and impossible to read. He had no idea what was going on in his mind.

Then the Daughter spoke once more – “Ravanna is gone from Graywall but some of those loyal to him have made their way to the Great Crag.”

Wrogar had never been into the heart of the Great Crag, only admiring it from afar on a few missions which took him close to the capital of the new nation of Droaam. Still, he knew some details about it. The Great Crag was the seat of power in Droaam – the largest city and the place where the Daughters of Sora Kell ruled over the nation. It was carved into a large mountain jutting up from an otherwise flat landscape. During the Dhakaani Empire, The Great Crag was an important city and a gateway to the west of their empire. Wrogar had heard more than one goblin savant speak of legends which said that the mountain pulled up through the ground during an ancient war which reduced the Dhakaani Empire to ruins.

“They seek the information in my library,” the hag continued. “They look for books of wisdom but they shall find nothing but empty shelves there.”

“Forgive my ignorance Lady, but I do not understand,” the Brelish man replied.

Again, while he had never visited himself, he had heard rumours that Sora Teraza kept a library of knowledge in the Great Crag. While it was just murmurings from the odd sage, druid or chieftain passing through Graywall, he was fairly convinced that it had to be founded in some kind of truth. The sister’s words were baffling to him.

The young changeling named Gem moved, almost skipping, towards one of the shelves adorning the walls of the back room of the cottage. There were four in total, each harbouring a fair layer of dust. Each of the shelves bore a little glass orb which shed the soft glow around the room and one also had a weighty tome sitting on top of it. Gem brought the heavy volume over to the hag who patted its cover.

“This is my library,” she began, “a collection of the knowledge the cosmos has afforded me.”

“Incredible…” Thalaen whispered.

Wrogar darted him a look but knew that it was neither the first, nor that last time that the elf would speak out of turn. Truth be told, he admired his tenacity.

“I wish to share some of this knowledge with you now,” the Daughter continued. “You may ask three questions of me and if I can answer, I will… to an extent.”

The young changeling stepped forward again and Wrogar couldn’t help but think that even in speaking, her voice was dulcet and hauntingly beautiful.

“Knowledge… Truth… Power lies therein,” the shape changer started, “but ask with caution. Consider only questions you need answers to… and answers you are sure you wish to hear.”

“Take some time to think on it,” the old hag chimed in. “Garn, set a fire and let them warm their bones.”
________________________________________________________

The mercenaries huddled on the floor of the reception room as the half orc set about lighting a fire in the simple mantelpiece engraved into the side of the cottage.

“What do we ask?” Wrogar said to his men.

“How about ‘Can we leave yet?’” Thalaen offered, with a wry smile Wrogar had come to know all too well.

Wrogar rolled his eyes and looked around the rest, hoping to find some inspiration among them.

“What of these other players the hag spoke of when last we met?” replied the Aundarian man named Riven.

Wrogar nodded with approval. When they had sought Garn’s help half a week before, they discovered for the first time that he was in the direct employ of Sora Teraza. This was presumably the conflict of interest for which he was excoriated from his house. When they met the sister, she spoke of the Ashen Blades as just one group who had a part to play in the future of Khorvaire.

The first she mentioned were a collection of adventurers travelling throughout Breland with one Orryn Wyrdsmiff. The second group were from the distant continent of Sarlona – a place Wrogar knew little to nothing of, led by a man named Nevitash.

At the time, the hag had suggested that he send his journal, chronicling Ravanna’s Droaamish plots, to each of these men in the hope that it would draw their attention to plays of the Lords of Dust.

Riven raised a valid point. Perhaps if they knew more of these groups and what they were, or what they should be trying to achieve, they could better inform them. There was a little discussion amongst the Ashen Blades but it was eventually decided that those were two worthy questions. That left them with one.

“We must ask of these Lords of Dust,” Tuaranak suggested.

Wrogar nodded but with an air of caution. He wanted to see what everyone else thought before he agreed. Tuaranak was potentially biased in this decision. The Mul was a Sage of the Mountains – he revered nature and its cycles and believed that it held the balance of power in its hands. At one stage, Wrogar had encountered Tuaranak arguing with Cabal over the fate of the fallen nation of Cyre. Cabal, who had apparently fought for Cyre during the War, maintained that it was the foolishness of House Cannith which had brought about the cataclysmic end of the country. Tuaranak offered that it was simply nature, checking the power of the sons and daughters of Galifar who had thought themselves beyond arbitration. These Lords of Dust, these princes of the Demon Wastes were an affront to the natural order of things. Wrogar knew that Tuaranak would gladly give his life to lock these monsters into the vaults of Khyber to stop their taint from spoiling the land.

Still, the rest of the company seemed to be in agreement. If they were to fight these Lords of Dust, then they should know what they were up against. It was decided that they would ask the Daughter where they could find these Lords of Dust.
________________________________________________________

Wrogar ambled back into the back room, followed by his men and once again kneeled before the hag who was flanked by her two aides.

“Do not be so nervous Master Colworn,” the hag began. “You are not the first human I have afforded my wisdom to.”

“There was one who came before you,” she continued, “an envoy from Lady Lyrris of Sharn who sought the Blade of Dol Azur.”

Wrogar was about to launch into question but the Daughter of Sora Kell raised her hand and gestured to all of the mercenary company.

“You have your questions Sons of Droaam?” she began.

“Indeed my Lady,” Wrogar answered.

“Then Speak…”

“Tell us first of these Lords of Dust whom fate has deemed that we should wile away our years in conflict with. Where do find them?” the grey haired man asked.

The hag didn’t even look down at the book on her lap. In fact, she seemed to flick to a page almost arbitrarily. As the book fell open at that page, a bright light flashed through the room – so much so that all of the Ashen blades, with the exception of Cabal, shielded their eyes.

Beneath the cowl of Sora Teraza, Wrogar noticed two eyes, inflamed with some unnatural light – both beautiful and terrible at the same time. It sent a shiver running through his body.
The Daughter spoke although her voice was not the same. It was deeper in tone and sounded almost slurred. It was as if the hag was channelling someone else through her body.

“The Lords of Dust have been playing games with the common races for thousands of years. They hide in the shadows of Khorvaire, plotting to free their ancient masters from the depths of Khyber, scheming to use them to gain greater power, or spreading pain and suffering among the common races. The Lords of Dust have little interest in complex hierarchies. The most powerful fiends occasionally gather in the ancient capital of the rakshasas – the city of Ashtakala in the Demon Wastes. There they discuss their current schemes and goals, but they have no leader. Membership is earned and kept through cunning and personal power. The organization also includes a host of weaker fiends, lesser rakshasas and other demons content to serve the scheming lords. The Lords of Dust are immortal, and their motivations are difficult for creatures of flesh and blood to understand. Sometimes their actions serve a clear purpose; other times they seek to cause chaos for its own sake, toying with the common races like pawns on a chessboard. These games can continue for centuries. Some say that the destruction of Xen’drik and the collapse of Galifar were ultimately engineered by members of the Lords of Dust—fiends subtly unravelling the threads of civilization to watch the suffering and pain as societies collapse… but I will say no more of this lest I reveal too much.”

The bright eyes beneath the cowl faded away to little more than that of smouldering embers and she closed the book which sat on her lap.

She sighed and addressed Wrogar again.

“What is the second question.”

The Brelish man revealed the Ashen blades second question, still mesmerised by the display of power he had just witnessed.

“This Nevitash of Sarlona, what should we tell him?”

The hag took a deep breath and repeated the process of turning up a random page in her book. It was once again accompanied by a flash of light, the emblazoned eyes and the terrifying voice from beyond.

“Nevitash is not a man but a Kalashtar. The Kalashtar started life as monks, possessed by incorporeal entities from the alien plane of Dal Quor, the Region of Dreams who merged with human bodies and spirits to form a distinct species. They were once a minority among the quori, the native race of Dal Quor, hunted and persecuted for their religious beliefs. The evil quori spirts invaded Eberron eons ago and had it not been for a tentative alliance between the dragons and the giants of Xen’drik, they may well have succeeded. The arcane technologies gifted to the giants by the dragons shunted the plane of Dal Quor away from its rotation so that it could never again become coterminous with the material plane. The kalashtar were the first of the quori to discover a means to reach the Material Plane once more. Fleeing persecution, they transformed their physical forms into psychic projections that allowed them to enter the Material Plane and merge in a willing partnership with humans. It took centuries for the other quori to discover a similar means to psychically project their spirits out of Dal Quor to possess human bodies. Today the majority of the continent of Sarlona is controlled by The Inspired – humanoid vessels specifically bred for Quori possession. They control the lands of Riedra. To those who look on Riedra, it seems like it is an almost utopian society. There is no inner conflict or strife and the people are kept placid and obedient by the will of The Inspired. There are others, however, who see this control as a travesty and view the inhabitants of Riedra as slaves who need to be free. Adar is the mountainous region southeast of Riedra, and east of Syrkarn. To its inhabitants, Adar is mostly known as a refuge from the dictatorship of Riedra, and many of its residents can trace their lineage to refugees and dissidents of the Riedran state. To this day, Riedra considers Adar a danger to its enforced stability, and regularly sends troops to attack the borders of the region. Nevitash leads a resistance force in Adar and seeks to free Riedra of The Inspired. His task is great but he is fighting a bigger battle than he can manage. Riedra has started to make contact with the wider world of Eberron, sending high ranking diplomats to the nations of Khorvaire. These diplomats harbour dark secrets which they carry from Dal Quor. They are emissaries of Quor Tarai, the spirit of the age of nightmares. If you wish to tell Nevitash something, tell him this – Look to the obelisks for they carry the will of the Circle of Night.”

The book on the seer’s lap closed once more and her hands grew limp, almost letting it slip out of her hands. Gem bent forward and lifted the book back firmly into her lap. There was a moment of silence and Wrogar could hear heavy, almost laboured breathing coming from beneath the hag’s cowl. A decrepit hand waved the young changeling girl away.

“What is your final question,” Sora Teraza began, “and speak quickly!”

Wrogar noted the distinct change in her voice – she was angry. He thought it best to proceed as quickly as possible.

“Our final question is about this Orryn. Tell us what we should advise him to do.”

For a third time, the book was opened and the hag’s transformation began again.

“Orryn is a gnome of Zilargo though he has made a home in Breland over the last few years. He travels with an odd collection of companions – an ebon skinned elf from Xen’drik, one of the eladrin of Thelanis, a man from Cyre and one of Karrnath and a lycan who has plegedd herself to the Penitent Brethren of the Silver Flame. They carry with them a prophecy mark, seared into their flesh four years ago but they have not yet uncovered the power which lies therein. They think that they have been wronged – their memories taken from them by a being who does not belong on this plane and who is now fighting an accidental war. They have left the city of Hatheril to seek more answers though fate may yet take them back there for that is where she has been anchored until the connection with Shavarath is severed. She is, for the meantime, an ally. They follow a trail to Wroat, led there by the very thing that their ally was trying to protect them from. They may yet find the answers there but they should consider carefully whether or not they want to find the answers they seek. It will lead them down a dark path – targets for those who lurk in the shadows of The Twelve. They are a coalition; a trust of Dragonmarked heirs who operate outside of their houses. It is through this trust that the Lords of Dust will strike.”

Wrogar looked deep into the seeming void below the hood of the hag and stared deep into the blazing eyes beyond. He noticed that they had started to glow all the brighter.

“There is more,” she continued, “but I cannot…”

There was a pause of a few seconds but to Wrogar, it seemed like minutes passing as he waited on the seer’s next words.

“…and yet I must…” she started again.

The hag rose to her feet, holding the book in one hand and reaching her other withered hand out towards Wrogar.

“You can tell them…”

She stopped. Her deep breathing was audible above everything and every in-breath seemed to be accompanied by a low rumble on the air. Then she cried out, almost as if in pain.
It was reactionary, but each of the Ashen Blades rose to their feet and some of them even twitched their fingers at the side of their weapons. Garn and Gem, by contrast, who had been standing the whole time, now fell to the floor, planting their faces into the wooden floorboards as if to hide their eyes.

The low rumbling became louder and louder and when it reached its crescendo, bright light erupted from within the Daughter of Sora Kell. It was the same hue as the light which accompanied each opening of her book but its intensity was unmatched by anything Wrogar had seen before. He shielded his eyes but desperately tried to glance beneath his arm to see what was happening to the hag.

Sora Teraza’s cloak had been cast off and the full horrid visage of the dust hag stood uncovered before the Ashen Blades. Her arms were wrenched backwards as if some force behind her was pulling at them. The bright light poured from her eyes and from her mouth which was agape as if crying for help.

She looked towards Wrogar and started to speak. The tone of her voice was lower than it had been at any point before. There was no hint of Sora Teraza in it – it was like a completely different person speaking.

“The child of the Qabalrin can save his friends but to do so he must give in to that which he fears the most – that which dwells within…”

“Do not listen to the stories of High Walls. None survived the cataclysm for those who walked out of the fallen nation are not the same as those who lived there before…”

“There are two voices within the Flame. Beware the second for it seeks only misery for all…”

“The wyrds of the Fading Dream seek to release a cataclysm of nightmares upon the world – penance for their years in exile. Their tower hides in the lands of the Rhiavaar settlers."

“Evil stirs in the Pit of Sorrows, corrupting those who watch over the prison there. Be vigilant, for the same fate awaits Vulkoor’s chosen who guard the gates to the Demon-Web.”

“Eight gather at Krona Peak and that which was gold has now become platinum. Look to her fingers for they will unveil the Shadow Cabinet.”

With those final words, the book slipped out of Sora Teraza’s hand and the hag fell to floor unconscious.
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The Ashen Blade Chronicles - The Exiles Return

In the Drooamish wilderness, the Ashen Blades (led by Wrogar Colworn) are attacked by the Sere Blades, the Third Watch of the Gray Mantle, at the behest of Karkillian Draal. The Sere Blades give the Ashen Blades to courtesy of explaining their crime – conspiring against the nation of Droaam. The Ashen Blades are confused and insist that they are merely following the orders of Karkillian. Karkillian in turn, however, is following the orders of the Rakshasa Ravanna.

Battle between the two Watches erupts and ends with the Ashen Blades killing the Sere Blades down to the last.

The Ashen Blades face a difficult choice – what do they do next. If they are wanted for treason then Greywall is not longer safe – Xorchylic’s Flayer Guard will doublessly be looking for them.

Instead, they turn to the half-orc whose life they saved not a week ago – Garn. If nothing else, Garn can maybe use his Mark of Finding to help the Ashen Blades investigate the false charges levied against them.

On arrival at the hidden cottage where they dropped Garn off, they find him in the company of a Changeling named Gem and a figure they did not expect – Sora Teraza herself awaits their arrival.

Sora Teraza explains the situation in Droaam – Ravanna’s plots and how she has tried to second guess his maneuvers and ultimately play the Ashen Blades against him. She explains that there is one piece of her plan left -

The Ashen Blades must return to Graywall and kill Karkillian Draal.

This is not an easy task – Karillian is guarded by the last of the Gray Mantle Watches, the Cinereal Blades, but they carry out Sora Teraza’s orders and Wrogar deals the final blow to his former commander.

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The Ashen Blade Chronicles - Ravanna's Tetraptych
"Cause chaos across the nation..."

The rakshasa manipulating Karkillian and the Grey Mantle is affecting a secret plan to try and overthrow Droaam, attempting to bend a piece of the draconic prophecy to the will of the Lords of Dust.

Uncovered in an ancient codex, the Lords of Dust found an ancient prophecy mark which seemed to say -

If the wilds in the west fall to the Lords of Khyber, the Bear in east will surely follow

The servants of the Overlords took this to mean that seizing power in Droaam would be the first step to taking Breland. As such, the rakshasa, named Ravanna, has been plotting how he could take out the hags authority in Droaam and stage a coup. He plans to use the Ashen Blades to do this, pawning them off as traitors and keeping Xorchlic’s Flayer Guard on their trail instead of his.

Ravanna’s plan is to cause chaos across the nation in the hope that its fragile state of balance will just tip over the edge into anarchy. He has deduced what he sees as four points where he can induce this chaos and plans to use his pawn Karkillian to affect this choas through the Ashen Blades-

The first is to target the lands of the Znir pact. Thousands of years ago, toward the end of the Age of Demons, some of the ancestors of the gnolls of Khorvaire came together in Znir and threw down the statues of their demon overlords. The gnolls of the Znir Pact no longer worship gods or demons, but honor their ancestors and their decision by raising cairns in their memory. Droaam has the largest gnoll population in Khorvaire, but these gnolls are not led by a warlord. Instead, the gnoll communities offer mercenary services to other power groups, reasoning that they will then be on the side of whoever wins in the ongoing power struggle. Gnoll rangers work for both Tharashk and Deneith. Because of their neutrality and fighting skills, gnolls are a stabilizing force in Droaam. Ravanna is aware that to take down the entire Gnoll fraternity would be folly. Instead, he wants to create a cascade – trigger one small event which will break the Gnolls tentaitve allegiance to the Daughters of Sora Kell. He has calculated that trigger to be stealing an artefact from the Dagnyr clan; a small clan of guardian gnolls about 30 miles outside of Znir. It is said that their artefact was blessed by the ancestors of the Znir and that it holds the power to predict or even control the weather. Ravanna thinks that having this stolen by humans who are famously supported throughout Graywall and wider Droaam will suggest to the Gnolls that the Daughters of Sora Kell have betrayed their monstrous servants in favour of the civil. More than that, Ravanna wishes to suggest that the Ashen Blades think themselves the true force in Droaam – more important than any gnoll or ilithid. When the time is right, he intends to spread propaganda from a completely dreamt up group called the ‘Sons of Droaam’ – a group purporting to be the heirs apparent to the Daughters of Sora Kell and a group who will not sleep until every monstrous inhabitant of the land is subjugated beneath their yoke.

This is a simple enough task for Karkillian to get the Ashen Blades to complete. He simply informs the group that a buyer has paid good money for this artefact and the mercenaries excercise his will.

The second goal is to attack an Orc enclave deep in the Graywall mountains about 50 miles from Graywall as the crow flies. Known locally as The Deep Dwellings, this seems to be nothing more than a civil, peaceful collectivised group of orcs. On closer inspection, however, the orcs of the Deep Dwellings guard an ancient gate to Khyber. The Ashen Blades are curious as to why anyone would want to wage war against the Deep Dwellings but Kariliian explains this simply by suggesting that the Orcs harbour a deep secret within the Graywall mountains and that someone, again, has paid a high price to ahve them taken out of play.

The Deep Dwellings is, in fact, a clan of Gatekeeper Druids. Members of the Gatekeepers, a druid sect dedicated to protecting nature from the unnatural, spend their lives fighting aberrations and guarding against extraplanar invasion and the release of ancient evils. The Gatekeepers maintain the oldest druidic tradition on Khorvaire. Over fifteen thousand years ago, the green dragon Vvaraak came to the Shadow Marches and gathered followers around her. She had foreseen a cataclysm that only the younger races would be able to avert, and so she taught the orcs how to work with earth and wood, and how to read the future in the movements of the Ring of Siberys. She charged her students to watch for the signs of the great disaster, and always seek to preserve the balance of nature against those forces that would corrupt it. It was over seven thousand years before the Gatekeepers faced the first real threat to Khorvaire: the coming of the daelkyr. Leading armies of illithids, beholders, and other aberrations, these fiends sought to remake Khorvaire. The war that followed shattered the hobgoblin empire and left terrible scars across the continent, but Vvaraak’s students ultimately prevailed—the gates to Xoriat were sealed, and the daelkyr who remained were driven into the depths of Khyber.

The Ashen Blades, unaware of this at the time, attack the village and kill the Gatekeeper Druid of the Deep Dwellings. While not entirely aware of what they have done, the Ashen Blades are aware that the Gatekeeper was supporting wards of some kind. Little do they know that they have set in motion a chain of events which may well result in Khyber being unleashed first into the Graywall mountains and then into Droaam and Breland.

Ravanna’s third goal is to attack the lands of a minor ogre warlord. The lands of Skarutz lie only 40 or so miles outside Graywall and the ogre and his mercenaries are responsible for many of the border skirmishes with Breland. An attack on Skarutz’s lands and even Skarutz himself will make it look as if the Sons of Droaam harbour a desire to prevent the attacks on Brelands – further suggesting that they intend to bring Droaam under human control again. Ravanna has a second reason for attacking Skarutz. The warlord is a minor player in the political scene in Graywall and he suspects treachery from within. Somehow he has come upon evidence of backhanded deals between unnamed factions vying for power in Droaam. He planned to take his findings to Xorchylic which could have outed Karkillian’s involvement in Ravanna’s treason plot. Skarutz’s death or at least discrediting should take care of that.

The Ashen Blades take it upon themselves to disgace Skarutz but humiliating his forces in the Graywall coloseum. Making the warlord’s forces seem weak there has the knock on effect of several other minor players around Skarutz’s land challenging his power and ultimately ousting him.

The fourth and final goal of the Lords of Dust is to unleash a terror of darker days into the lands of Droaam. Long ago in the foothills of the Byeshk mountains, a gatekeeper druid sealed away a Daelkyr horror of Xoriat. Ravanna wants to unleash this power into Droaam to quickly terrorise and halt the Byeshk mining process which is so crucial to Droaams economy. Aal’drash was a hobgoblin prince who ruled the fertile plains of what is now northern Breland during the Age of Monsters. Not content with his kingdom of wheat, Aal’drash betrayed the Dhakaani to side with the daelkyr invaders, who promised him an empire of lamentation. He rode with his honor guard of five tentacled monstrosities, the Hand of Corruption, and slaughtered many orcs and goblins before the Gatekeepers sealed the six here in Aal’drash’s former stronghold. His prison bears a warning to any who draw near -

“Here lies the Aal’drash, sealed in Vvaraak’s name.”

The Ashen Blades never made it to Aal’drash’s stronghold – Karkillian acted in haste and ruined the plans of the Rakshasa who was subtly manipulating him. Under pressure from Xorchylic, who had received reports of the initial disturbances caused by the Ashen Blades, Karkillian dispatched the Third Watch of the Gray Mantle – the Sere Blades to hunt down the Ashen Blades.

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The Ashen Blade Chronicles - Garn's Escort
"Garn was safe enough there until the Gray Mantle sent someone..."

Wrogar’s journal describes the fact that he and his companions – Cabal, Riven, Simm, Thalaen and Tuaranak all work for a group of mercenaries, known collectively as The Grey Mantle, opperating out of Graywall. While day to day life is anything but normal for these adventurers, they are about to step into a whole new world of wierd.

Something foul is at work in the heart of Droaam – one of the many reasons that some of the Ashen Blades find themselves in Droaam in the first place.

Shreds of the Draconic prophecy seem to point towards Droaam being a site of importance. This is no great surprise given that Sora Teraza, one of the three sisters in charge of Droaam, is an accomplished seer who may well know an incredible amount about various subjects including, but not just limited to, the prophecy.

There are few legends of Sora Teraza. Until the founding of Droaam, only the most erudite bards had heard of the blind crone said to wander the Demon Wastes. Many believe that she is the motivating force behind Droaam – that she was the one who sought out her sisters, guided by an oracular vision. She speaks rarely, but her sisters pay close attention to every word.

All dusk hags possess oracular abilities, but Sora Teraza’s are unnaturally powerful. However, she does not control these visions; instead, the visions control her, as she seems to feel an obligation to fulfill the visions she receives.

Ultimately, though they do not know it initially, the Ashen Blades will find that through sway and influence, they are not working for Karkillian, the minotaur in charge of the Grey Mantle, but for the Daughters of Sora Kell who are trying to combat the real force in charge of the Gray Mantle.

The one who is truely controlling the actions of the Gray Mantle is a Rhakshasa, one of the Lords of Dust, manipulating events in Droaam for the fiends gain. He has spent the last four years or so building up the mercenary company and founding a reputation for it. Nowadays, even Xorchylic, the Illithid Governer of Graywall can call upon the skills of the Mantle for certain tasks which need resolving.

Now that the group has almost free-roam of Graywall and the Rhakshasa feels that now is the time to put his plan into motion. Fortunately, however, Sora Teraza has seen this. It hasn’t even entered the minds of the Lords of Dust that they could be being played by the Daughters of Sora Kell. Sora Teraza is moving her chess pieces along with the Lords of Dust but she is a few steps ahead and has set in motion a chain of events which should rid Droaam of the fiend and give them a better understanding of how the prophecy relates to Droaam.

Four weeks ago, Sora Katra sent an envoy to meet with a House Tharask half-orc crossing into Droaam from Breland. The Scion was excoriated, ousted from the House for shady investigations into matters pertaining to Droaam. Needless to say the matter was quickly swept under the rug by the House whose valuable position within Droaam they thought worth protecting.

The Daughters, however, thought that they could make use of this disgraced inquisitive. Sure, he wouldn’t have the resources of the House but he still had his incredible capacity for investigation and the backing of the entire nation of Droaam.

The half-orc, named Garn, was instructed by Sora Katra’s envoy to make for the town of Graywall and enquire after the Gray Mantle. He was assured that that this group could get him across Droaam safely and, more importantly, neutrally. Garn had taken refuge in the House of the Nine; a small inn and public house as well as Droaam’s sole temple to the Sovereign Host, run by a human family from western Breland. Channa and Cord Perryn are tactful people and Garn was safe enough there until the Gray Mantle sent someone to help get the half-orc out of the city and to his rendezvous destination on the road to the Great Crag.

That someone was the Ashen Blades – Wrogar Colworn and his team. Despite some conflict in Graywall and the threats which lay along the dangerous road to the Great Crag, the Ashen Blade safely escorted Garn to his destination – a small cottage off the beaten track about half-way between Graywall and the Great Crag. Garn thanked the adventurers and bid them farewell.

…but this was not the last the adventurers would see of the Half-Orc.

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Wrogar's Journal
"I have a delivery for Orryn Wyrdsmyff..."

After a short stop in the Brelish countryside to ensure that all is well with the lightning rail coaches after the assault, the lightning rail pulls into the main station in Wroat, capital city of Breland.

The party disembarks with their minds buzzing regarding the web of intrigue they have found themselves embroiled within. It seems, however, that the web is destined to expand as a House Orien courrier stands near the platform and calls out to the group -

“I have a delivery for Orryn Wyrdsmyff.”

The gnome accepts the parcel and opens it to find a journal inside. It belongs to one Wrogar Colworn, a Brelish soldier who fought in the Last War. The events described in the journal are incredible and seem to have some bearing on the traveller’s from Hatheril.

The party takes a few hours to sit in the concourse of the lightning rail station and digest the soldier’s words.

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The Lightning Rail to Wroat
"The Five Nations Express is House Orien’s premier lightning rail route..."

Boarding the Five Nations Express to Wroat, the adventurers happen upon one key piece of information – Roondar d’Sivis is aboard the train. He is apparently travelling in first class along with something of an entourage.

The party elects to travel in the standard class – not as expensive as first class and not as claustropobic as steerage. Regardless, the adventurers elect to sneak their way up to first class in the middle of the night to spy on the House Sivis Gnome and see if they can uncover how he is involved in this web of intrigue.

Azan and Riardon take to the roofs of the carriages to try and subtley make their way towards Roondar. While atop the train however, the situation takes a turn for the worse when the lightning rail is attacked by unknown forces.

A group of humans, all possesing telportation abilities like those who bear the Mark of Passage board the lightning rail carriages from a Skycoach and Soarsleds.

A battle ensues between the adventurers and the boarders with the threat of being cast off the lightning rail train a genuine fear for both sides.

When the adventurers eventually dispatch the hostiles, they uncover the same thing they had in the caravan park. All of the boarders bear tattoo-like faux-dragonmarks designed to emulate the special abilities of House Deneith and House Orien scions.

The party try to get further up the train but are preventeed from doing so by train guards and legitimate House Deneith Blademarks – guards presumably hired to protect Roondar on his journey. It appears as though these Blademarks had to battle off boarders as well which leaves the party of adventurers with one question burning in their mind… Who was the target of this assault – The party? Roondar? All of them?… or none of them?

It seems as though Roondar survived the assault and is also due to disembark at Wroat. Perhaps the party can find out more then.

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