Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Warlock's Update and the Fate of Saltmarsh

Greetings once again, supplicants and knowledge-seekers. Your friendly neighborhood Warlock is back, and once again deciding to record his exploits.

Unfortunately, events in the so-called real-life have taken their toll and, due to some stress on my part, I have not been able to record all of the information from the Saltmarsh Tribulations. However, come this fast-arriving summer, my time will be more than free for gaming, and prospects are already drawn up. I'll keep you posted on what will be occuring, as time grows nearer.

As for now, though, let's take a brief look at what happened in Saltmarsh with our heroes:

After aiding Jasker and several other prominent citizens, the heroes were recommended by Mylor Orvid to the head watchman to investigate the mysterious murder of "Crazy Nettie," who was less mad and more a guardian of a major artifact. In the group's investigations, they managed to ostracize (through blackmail) the local druids of Oak Island and were forced to look elsewhere for clues--particularly, the nearby Silverhame Mountain.

However, while gone, a gnomish follower of Obox-Ob, demon lord of vermin, managed to steal the artifact guarded by Nettie and release it into the city's park. The characters arrived just in time to stave off the creature killing off much of the town.

Their failed investigations, though, did little to endear the adventurers to the city's nobility, though their actions in saving the park made them somewhat of cult heroes. This earned them a special feast at the Dancing Dryad and an audience with the headmistress of the tavern. However, Ayadi (the headmistress) was more than she seemed--the Dancing Dryad was little more than a front for the local theives' guild...which wanted the adventurers to pursue a massive treasure. Unfortunately for them, the treasure stood beneathe one of the standing stones of none other than Oak Island.

The adventurers reluctantly agreed to the job, but their attempts at stealth failed, as the Hierophant druid of Oak Island caught them red-handed. Their slaying of her proved to be most dire as time would tell.

Luckily, the adventurers had been gaining allies. Concerned about the devilish and demonic incursions into Saltmarsh, the players sought out aid from the Temple of Pelor. This was granted in the person of Ashlyn, a Lightbringer Paladin. Ashlyn and Daishar began a romance early on which lasted the duration of their partnership.

Ashlyn accompanied the players on another delve, using a map found within the treasures of Oak Island. This map--displaying a dwarven catacomb--held much treasure, but was guarded by several warring factions including illithid-created abominations, Glasyan devils, and mysterious suits of dwarven armor. It was here that the adventurers ran afoul of the powerful harvester devil Acanthus, but came upon a powerful magic--the Cerulean Sign. The Sign was a massive runestone capable of permanently sealing planar rifts, disallowing all planar travel around it.

Keeping the entrance amulet to the runestone's chamber, the players returned to Saltmarsh to spend their newfound wealth. However, their victory was a short-lived one. Saltmarsh was in flames--it had been invaded by illithid seeking sustanance. The players, along with over half of Saltmarsh, were captured and enthralled.

Trapped within the walls of an illithid slave pen, the adventurers were starved, beaten, and forced into servitude by Xil'ti'Carn, the illithid who enthralled them. Xil'ti'Carn also sent the group twice to the surface, forcing them to kill off a Scarlet Brotherhood monestary (including a former friend of Daishar's) as well as a Paladin/Topaz Guardian who had uncovered the illithid city. Ashlyn and Jathalain suffered direly during their abscences, as the illithid subjected them to psychic tortures beyond imagination.

It was on this second event that Daishar came upon Acanthus once again. The devil, noting the fact that the monk had resisted the illithid enthrallment, offered a deal--an even trade. The devil would provide the Annullus--an artifact capable of destroying psionic creatures en masse--if Daishar would steal the amulet of the Cerulean Sign from Brighid, thereby allowing Acanthus access to the runestone. Daishar, after much soul-searching agreed.

As Daishar activated the Annullus, destroying the illithid compound, Acanthus led his devilish expedition back into the dwarven catacombs and pulled forth the runestone, teleporting it back to Maelbolge.

In a harrowing journey back through the ruins of Saltmarsh and the Hool Marshes, the adventurers led the remaining refugees of the city past the Silverhame mountain and to the gates of Cauldron, a city ruled by the Hextorian Guard of Slade Starblade. Starblade reluctantly agreed to allow the refugees to become citizens of Cauldron, but only after Harvinion used much of his newfound wealth to purchase enough land within the city limits to force Starblade's hand. Harvinion became a noble of Cauldron in an ostentatious ceremony, and swore fealty to Starblade's cause, much to the party's chagrin.

However, a contact within Starblade's cabinet tipped the party off as to their next destination--the city of Sigil. Tracking down Acanthus was their highest priority, and anything or anyone could be found within the City of Doors. The party moved quickly through Sigil, enountering several harrowing groups, including the morose Dustmen and the entropy-obsessed Doomguard, including the cambion Factol Ely Cromlich. However, they also began to learn a horrible truth--not only was there a planar gate on Oak Island, as they had suspected, but a gate between Obox-Ob's layer of the Abyss and Maelbolge was about to destabilize the Blood War.

Hiring a Styxian charter, the players made their way into the Nine Hells, but were ambushed in Maelbolge by two Styx-swimmers. The creatures slew Azumi, Harvinion, and Amadis in an epic battle, and Jathalain, Ashlyn, Brighid, and Daishar were forced to retreat back to Greyhawk with a Plane Shift spell. The trio was resurrected, but not without several side effects...and an oath to return the runestone to the Cathedral of Pelor.

Using another Plane Shift, the party arrived in the midst of a massive Blood War battle, just in time to see Acanthus begin the incantation to seal the breach in Maelbolge. The party stopped him, but not without cost--Ashlyn fell beneath the hellspear of a powerful orthon. Devastated, Daishar demanded that they pursue her spirit, which was being held within the Bastille of Souls, several layers above them.

Traveling in harrowing methods, as their unity began to split, the party crawled through the Worm of Minauros and up the chains of Jangling Hiter, arriving within the silent City of Dis and to the doorstep of the Bastille of Souls. There, they reclaimed Ashlyn's spirit and returned to Cauldron. There, they found out some dire news--several members of the council of Cauldron were pushing Starblade towards war. The target: Greyhawk.

However, one major task remained. Under divinations, it was revealed that Xil'ti'Carn had in fact survived the blast of the Annullus, mainly because he had already prepared his body for lichdom before being slain. Now, he was attempting to return to Oak Island to precipitate the final breach between Oerth and the Far Realm.

The adventurers joined together one last time to defeat their old slaver. Traveling through the creature's living phylactery--a dungeon pulsing with unholy, aberrant power--they arrived just in time to confront Xil'ti'Carn, who raised two Neolithid worms to defend him. In the end, the circle of Zerthimon was too strong to be broken, and Daishar's mighty fists crushed the illithid threat once and for all.

Casualties, however, abounded. Baron Harvinion had died, as did Azumi. Ostracized in Greyhawk for the death of the Topaz Guardian and wanted in Cauldron for helping Ashlyn and Jathalain to escape inprisonment earlier on, the group had nowhere to go. As such, they disbanded, their fates scattered to the four winds. Without the influence of Harvinion on Starblade's council, Cauldron declared war on Greyhawk, destroying it with a weapon forged by Ely Cromlich of the Doomguard--one of the massive Ships of Chaos.

It is said that Amadis went mad from his travels, releasing an Abyssal Nightmare onto the world, stolen from the gem-prisons of the Bastille of Spirits. He fought valiantly, but died in the end, his soul consigned back to the Nine Hells to fight forever in the Blood War.

It is believed that Daishar returned to Sigil, in an attempt to find the original Circles of Zerthimon amongst the races of Gith there. His success is unknown. Reports are also conflicted as to his status with the paladin, Ashlyn. Some say that his time in the Hells corrupted him, driving her away, while others claim that, in enduring, he grew stronger...and she, with him.

Jathalain and Brighid are believed to still remain on Oerth, though their whereabouts are unknown. Rumors abound of two rebels who fight against the ever-expanding Empire of Cauldron, though these are quickly quieted by the Hextorian Guard. It is unknown whether these rumors are related to the pair, or if they still live.