Flight from Ixis
As dawn came in the plane of Ixis, just as mist-strewn and bleak as the day before, the party would set out on the Jade Serpent once again. By sunset, they would complete their journey through the foreign realm.
Before leaving, Tierriaryi had Belias inspect the artifact she had found the night before – the black metal arm torc. Belias was able to identify that the magic within the torc was of two varieties – magic of the Feywild, and magic of the Shadowfell. Inscribed on the torc was a phrase in a strange dialect of the Sylvan language, “Step through Fey, step into Shadow.” Belias felt confident that the magical properties of the torc were beneficial, with no malicious side-effects or curses.
For most of the day, the Jade Serpent’s course down the river was quiet. As their journey neared its end, however, a horrifying threat reared its head.
From the waters arose a gargantuan monstrosity – a massive serpentine beast with a chitinous carapace. With it came swarms of the beasts they had previously been assaulted by. The Jade Serpent activated it’s magically-powered turbines, barreling full-speed across the waters.
The party fought valiantly to defend the vessel, striking down their assailants with arrow, blade, tooth and claw. Fearing for the worst, Tierriaryi put on the mysterious artifact she’d found; through stealth and lethal strikes, she fought, but never saw the effects of the torc. Taking on the form of feral beasts, Faydra Withersnap pounced upon the attackers, and savagely tore them apart. In a moment of heroism, Nathan fired a magic-infused arrow into the gaping maw of their pursuer, slowing it down and buying them the time they needed to escape. As the great monstrosity terrorized the small vessel, nearly slaying Nathan with its massive scythe-like talons, the portal opened, and the Jade Serpent left the horrific plane of Ixis behind.
Arrival in Vol-Thagoryx
A blast of chill air hit the party as they found themselves in the bay of a great port city, Vol-Thagoryx. A light snow fell as the Jade Serpent sailed into port. The boat docked at a port-side warehouse belonging to the local House Gardelaine. The Jade Serpent was greeted by Lady Anissa Gardelaine and her son, Mortimer. It was revealed that Lady Gardelaine was the client who had ordered the armaments that the Jade Serpent was delivering for the Kharnadas Consortium. The party helped unload the cargo from magically expanded storage compartments on the boat (much like the Bag of Holding). They had delivered what Heckle referred to as “Bladewalls”, which appeared to be bundles of large metal blades. Their purpose was not clearly explained, but words exchanged between Lady Gardelaine and Madelaine Crow suggested that they were magically powered defensive devices, of some sort.
The party was given the final portion of their payment from the Consortium (500gp each, making the total for each character 1000gp). Wilfred then explained to the party that the portal taken by Irontooth was traced to somewhere in the countryside surrounding the city. He promised he’d check with his contacts, to see if he could find any more information.
The party decided to head to an inn for the night, choosing to stay at Fold’s Rest Inn, which offered comfortable accommodations at a modest price – and it was close by.
As they walked, the party took in their first view of the city. Everyone was bundled up, as much as possible, to protect against the cold air, while they complained about the sudden onset of an early winter. Other citizens shared frightening rumors about approaching army of Gnolls, to the north east. Others, still, complained about the city’s noble houses, their greed and their incompetence. In addition, there was talk of a new cult in the city, proclaiming the arrival of a new god. Tierriaryi overheard a particularly shady exchange, in which was said, “The Oldorran’s haven’t paid off the Grimslov’s yet, and the Butchers are upset about it.”
At the inn, the party continued to seek additional information about the possible whereabouts of Irontooth. From an old farmer, they heard that there have been several accounts of strange portals opening in the countryside, through which all manner of unsavory beasts have arrived.
Tierriaryi, seeking information about someone by the name of Ral Fayn, stumbled upon information about an organization known as the Butchers Block. It was an underground business that specialized in custom-made undead. This character that Tierriaryi was interested in had supposedly made connections with the unsavory organization.
Faydra was inquiring about local gambling spots, and some suggested she visit the Drudgers Cleft. The party decided against going there that night, and instead retired to bed. Faydra paid for a room with a nice view. Nathan got a room with a view of a brick wall.
The next morning, the party received a message from Wilfred to meet him in the Grand Market Round. They arrived to the market a bit early, and so picked up some supplies from various vendors. When Wilfred at last met up with them, he brought with him some Bugbear Cocoa, to share with the party. It was tasty.
Wilfred reported that his sources had seen a portal open up to the east, near the Gorman Homestead, from which three people emerged, matching the descriptions of Irontooth, Ninaran, and the mysterious wizard who was with them at Winterhaven. Wilfred also let them know that it appeared as though he’d be staying in the city for a while – the Consortium was taking an interest in a variety of potential threats to Vol-Thagoryx.
Encounter in the Countryside
The party rented horses, and made their way to the Gorman Homestead. From there, they tracked their quarry through some nearby woods. They found Irontooth, Ninaran, and the wizard standing together, engaged in a meeting with three gnolls. Nathan approached, stealthily, with Faydra at his side in the form of a small cat. When they got close enough, they listened in on the conversation.
“The Goliath tribes have joined the main force,” said one of the gnolls. “They should be here in just over a fortnight. How goes your work from within?”
“I’m working with my contacts,” answered Ninaran, “But things are going according to plans.”
At that point, Nathan had knocked an arrow, prepared to strike. The wizard began laughing, then raised a hand in Nathan’s direction. Nathan felt the pull of a magical force, but was able to resist. The wizard gave the command, and the gnolls charged into the woods, after Nathan.
While the ranger fled, Faydra was able to stay and listen a little longer.
The wizard said to Ninaran, “Go back to the city, do your part on the inside,” and then to Irontooth, “Let’s go get for you what was promised.”
With those words, the three of them disappeared in a shimmer of magic.
Faydra darted after the gnolls, to assist Nathan in the conflict that was soon to come. Suneun heard the commotion, and hurried to protect her allies.
With the gnolls hot on his trail, Nathan ducked behind some bushes, then surprise the pursuing gnolls with swift strikes from his new hunting knives. Faydra engaged one of the other gnolls. A brief, yet brutal, fight ensued, and in the end, one gnoll was dead, the other two incapacitated (one of which had his arm sawed off by Nathan).
The party then employed barbaric interrogation tactics, to get the gnolls to talk. The gnoll was resilient, but eventually he gave them the information they needed to hear. The army of gnolls was, indeed, approaching the city. Ninaran was infiltrating the city, to weaken it from within. The wizard, who was revealed to be named Gargonnas, and Irontooth were also involved, buy those details were never explained.
The gnoll also let slip the words, “Our new god will rise up and crush the city beneath its feet.”