The Walker Kings

When Plans Go Awry
Heroic Tier Conclusion

The Renegade’s lungs were filled with inhaled dust. Whilst any other halfling would weep at the devastation caused by Poortol’s defiling, he at least felt it mildly assuring. That his lungs were painfully filled with dust implies that he survived the spell, and his survival was a chance to avenge the travesty done to the land.

As it turned out, Poortol’s attempt to siphon power into himself and Volllen had the unfortunate side effect of empowering the heroes as well. Vollen mutated into a hairy, shapeshifting creature with an oddly shaped head, but even his enhanced powers were no match for Cypher, who in turn also got back part of the powers that the orb stole from him. They were quickly dispatched, but Poortol himself was proving to be quite the adversary.

In the end, Kensidan was goaded by the defiler to use defiling magics himself to strike him down. As the addictive rush of arcane energies flowed from his fingers to assault Poortol’s mind, the half-elf laughed – in his dying curse, he hissed, “I have created a powerful defiler to take my place in this world! I have won!”

With the problems at Fort Fyra solved, the salt mining began once again in earnest. The group decided that enough time has elapsed to make it safe to travel back to Nibenay.


Image taken from the Ivory Triangle, a 2e
D&D supplement. For personal use.

Thinking that you’re safe in Athas is one of the easiest ways to get yourself killed.

“These attacks will only strengthen our resolve”

The entity known only as the Zwuun may indeed have been a match for the unprepared Nibenay, but he was intriguingly informed of the plot beforehand. Siemhouk, former pandita and recently declared as the shadow King’s first wife, was able to manifest protective psionics to help the king combat the spirit. The Zwuun has been destroyed, and Thagya Phon’s Veiled Alliance has been rooted out. The Shadow King himself made a rare appearance from Naggaramakam to personally punish the preserver.

Drakkoth’s skirmishes in the Crescent Forest turned out to be more effective. Too effective. the new Pandita, Kendra Alabaster, was killed while exploring the ruins of a forest. Several tribes from the forest-city of Gulg have also been ransacked, andin an unprecedented move, the high consorts have brokered a peace treaty with their Gulgese counterparts, the nganga of Gulg.

With the combined might of the two cities’ templars, they were easily able to capture and behead Eddard of House Xenxa (the group’s former patron) and deduce the “mastermind” behind the dray’s attacks – the gladiator Bjorn Mindhammer!

Hunted down by no other than the crown prince ofNibenay, Dhojakt, himself, the party barely escaped with the help of the Giustenali templar Mon Adderath (who has assumed the identity of a nganga) and the untouchable status of Ahli Kiaka’s estate.

After regrouping, the party decides to leave Nibenay for awhile. They set off for the city-state that is closest to the Ivory Triangle but farthest from where their hunters would expect to find them – Balic, the City of Sails.

DM note. Thus the party begins its paragon games. I wanted to note how, in heroic, the party can travel but mostly stayed within the general vicinity of one city-state. Paragon tier, on the other hand, focuses on them travelling the seven city-states. Which makes you wonder – what will epic tier bring?

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The Cache of Black Salt
Heroic Tier Part 2

Previously, in The Walker Kings

Deciding to leave so as not to be implicated in the impending disasters that are to befall the City of Spires, the party heads to Fort Fyra to search for what is believed to be a haven for outcasts. They decided to march through the Ivory Triangle itself, shortening the journey by the barren salt floor that reflected the harsh light of the dark sun. There were many perils along the way, which included a hunting Athasian roc as well as a purple worm that has seemingly adopted to living in the salt waste.

Eventually, however, they found themselves in the merchant Fort Fyra, named after a dwarf baron who makes a living out of mining and selling the seemingly endless supply of salt. It sounded like an easy way to make trade, seeing as it’s all over the place, but apparently the right grade of salt that are fit to be traded needs to be mined from certain locations. Or so the druid named Lestria (who claims to be the guardian of the Ivory Triangle) would have the Fyrans believe.

Compounding the matters further, Fyra’s best friend seemed to have matters of his own. Known as Xynon, the guads that he use to protect Fyra all seem to be escaped gladiators and slaves, and as skillful warriors tend to attract Bjorn’s aggressive attention, there was a lot of tension between the group and the guards. In addition, Xynon himself seems to resent Lestria’s meddling.

The party decided to help Fyra by getting on Lestria’s good side, so that they can convince her to speed up the salt mining operations. The druid confessed that she’s stalling the salt mining because her attention was currently taken by the presence of a half-elf defiler named Poortol. She believes that she must supervise the mining of salt so as not to inadvertently strip the Ivory Triangle of the little natural beauty it has remaining.

The name Poortol struck a nerve with Kensidan Alabaster. He knew that the defiler was responsible for the death of his parents, so he convinced the rest of the group to hunt down this defiler. They found him working with the elven tribe known only as the Shadows. They hunted them to where the elven tribe stashes their goods – and eventually found the elven cache.

Unfortunately, it was a trap set by Poortol and Vollen, the talon-master of the Shadows. As they ventured deeper into the cache, they found Poortol holding The Orb of Darkest Defiling that was used to strip Cypher‘s princely powers. Made even more powerful by a captured and uprroted Tree of Life and protected by Vollen’s elves, Poortol made a bid to claim the heroes’ intrinsic power. As the Renegade charged toward poortol to stop a powerful defiling ritual, poortol unleashed his dark spell.

And the heroes’ world was turned to ash.

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Terrorist Machinations
Heroic Tier Part 1

Previously… in The Walker Kings

Antloid

As the party stayed longer in Nibenay, a few things began to clear up:

  • Antloids are creepy giant ants with psychic powers
  • The Shadow King has a legion of wives, but has very few children.
  • The children that he does have are either half-man, half insect monstrosities, super-powered little girl-psychics, or shapechangers with… issues. And
  • It is in the party’s best interest to destabilize Nibenay.

To that end, the party sought out the local chapter of the Veiled Alliance. At first they had little to go on, as they’ve run afoul of the only VA member that they have encountered. Eventually, however, they were able to deduce that the crazy old man with one dilated eye, Thagya Phon, leads Those-who-wear-the-veil in the city of spires. After gaining his confidence, he has agreed to unleash the Zwuun, a mysterious spiritual entity that resides within the hot springs of Nibenay, upon the sorcerer-king himself.

Meanwhile, Visarion’s hourney toward the city of Nibenay was not entirely solitary. As he passed Dregoth’s ruined town of Kragmortha, a group of 1st generation dray followed him in the hopes of currying favor with the Dread King. They were led by Drakkoth, a large dray with four spiderlike limbs and a vicious bone axe. The dray templar easily convinced his “lesser brethren” to ransack the Crescent Forest in an attempt to halt the activities of the shadow wives there. Coupled with the impending Zwuun attack, the party felt confident that Nibenay will be a city of chaos, so they decided to leave for Fort Fyra in the meantime.

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The Dagger of Khirim-Jan

After revealing the malpractice of a certain Veiled sculptor, the group decided to pursue other matters that promised a quick profit. This time, they are to disenchant a certain cursed dagger that was causing trouble in one of the templars’ residences. Most members of the group disliked the templar-wives of the king and did not want to help them, but such attitudes were dispelled by templar Leaza’s claim that the dagger was made of iron.

The fight with Marluc of the Veil destroyed Bjorn’s warhammer, though, so while the dwarf procured a replacement warhammer, the rest of the group decided to enjoy the festivities for awhile. Renegade ran into an elf with a peculiar game that involved ceramic cups. One of the three cups had a piece of valuable amber, and for only 5 ceramic pieces, they can try to guess which cup held the amber. Guessing the right one means the player keeps the semi-precious stone.

Three tries later, the halfling was broke and the elf had a wide grin on his face. Everybody knew the elf was cheating somehow, but they couldn’t figure out how. Cypher’s just about had enough, however, and was about to try out the game himself when he was stopped by a dwarf with old, leathery skin. “Don’t try to outrun the wind, and don’t try to outplay the elf. You’ll lose everytime.” The old man said.

The group quickly established that the elf and the dwarf knew each other but were definitely not on friendly terms. The elf shooed them away, claiming that they were blocking other potential customers, and they left in the company of the friendly old dwarf (although Cypher would later return to get swindled into buying some thieves’ tools at a high cost. To be fair, Cypher also swindled the elf with his shapechanging abilities). Introducing himself as Rigahz, the dwarf told the group that he was a scolar-slave of the Noble House of Kiaka, and that his mistress had allowed him to enjoy the festivities.

Bjorn rejoined the group just in time to hear Rigahz talk about himself, and he wisely asked the older dwarf what he knew about the house that contained the dagger (the dagger itself was ommitted). Rigahz then explains that the house itself belonged to an extinct noble house called the Family Jan. He remembered the family from his younger days, but he doesn’t recall how their power dwindled. Eventually, with no political or economic clout to shield themselves, House Jan fell prey to the templar-wives, who seized House Jan’s magnificent home for their own.

Thanking the dwarf for the information, the group decided that they knew enough to attempt to retrieve the dagger. Even with the festivities in full swing, a Nibenese templar, a no-nonsense shadow bride by the name of Jezka, guarded the entrance to the house. Allen tried to disarm Jezka through some clever use of the Mage Hand spell, but was caught by her in the process of attempting the spell. Recognizing the skill as arcane, she drew the obsidian sword that Allen was trying to rid from her side and proceeded to arrest the wizard. Some prepared to fight, but Cypher pointed out that Nibenese templars are no pushovers. Instead, the mutant used his shapechanging abilities to assume the form of Amare, the Tyrian ambassador.

Jezka voiced out her personal distaste at Tyr and its dead king, going as far as to spit on the ground at the mention of the faraway city. But Amare was the Tyrian ambassador, even if Cypher was really not Amare. After a few envenomed words, she left the group alone to “proceed with their business.” They ventured into the house to locate the dagger.

Immediately, they were beseeched by a horde of undead under the command of what appeared to be a giant viper. They fought of the foul creatures as the snake howled the words, “BRING HER BACK!!” Despite the ability to speak this one sentence, though, it seemed that the snake was unable to actually answer the group’s attempts to help. They instead destroyed the creature, releasing a wraith that had been possessing it. The wraith was invulnerable, however.


Art by Steve Argyle. Property of Wizards
of the Coast, used for the wraith of the
D&D 4E MONSTER MANUAL.
Used for nonprofit.

Visarion then tried to recall his undead lore, and correctly remembered that wraiths are connected to an object that was important to them in life. They searched the house, and eventually found the iron dagger. But it wasn’t wholly there – the other half was in the Grey. But as the curse in the item opened up a portal to that dreaded realm, the group decided to enter.

The Gray was a shapeless realm, but Bjorn found that there was enough tangible material there to be shaped by his mind. He sculpted stable footing that was patterned after his own home back in the world. Soon after they have stabilized, however, the wraith appeared again, this time flanked by phantom knights and accompanied by sneaky spectres. The fight commenced.

Being a realm devoid of life simply being in the Grey made it difficult for Allen and Visarion to cast their spells. Often they had to draw power from their own vitality just to use spells at an efficient level – otherwise it would just be a shadow of what they can do in the outside world. The wraith was a terrible opponent in its place of power, but it was at least vulnerable to their attacks.

Eventually Cypher wrenched the dagger from where the heart of the wraith should have been, and he was momentarily flooded with the dagger’s memories. He saw the dagger’s owner, Khirim-Jan, leading a Nibenese force against impossible odds in battle with Gulg’s Hunter-knights. He saw Khirim-Jan’s wife, trapped in Naggaramakam and forced to be wife to the king, receiving the dagger, all that remained of her husband. He saw the dagger plunging into the wife’s exposed breasts as she took her own life.

The group was pulled from the Gray, and Cypher held up his prize – a dagger fashioned from the iron of Tyr. Recognizing that they’ve had enough, they rested in their own homes amidst the joyful noise of the Starlight Pageant.

Before the oppresive sun even rose on the next day, the group was off on another quick cash scheme. Bjorn’s sponsor, Eddard of House Xenxa, asked the dwarf to take care of a certain antloid infestation that nests on one of his hot springs. For some cleanup work, they will get paid with a decent amount of ceramic pieces. The giant insects were not that hard to spot – they were nonchalantly stealing the abundance of food brought about by the festival. This should be easy enough.

But then, nothing’s ever easy on Athas.

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Of Chickens and Pageants

As Bjorn attempted to enjoy himelf in the festival after a successful match in the arena, he was approached by Orlon, a halfling pantmaster. At first the paintmaster attempted to earn a lot of money by asking Bjorn to let him ink some tattoos onto the gladiator’s skin for a cost. The dwarf had no interest in losing money, however, an when he began to walk away Orlon made another offer. A contest of various artworks have been held as part of the Starlight Pageant of the High Sun, but Orlon keeps getting beat by a sculptor known as Marluc. Orlon thinks Marluc is cheating by paying Tyrian scultors with metal tools for some of their works. If Bjorrn helps him prove that Marluc has been cheating, he can present ink two tattoos for free – and he hinted at his tattoos being stronger than normal.

At the same time, Amare is approached by a shadow bride who goes by the name of Leaza. The safety of the Tyrian ambassador in Nibenay is not secure, and Leaza knows it. She promises to keep amare in favor if she helps with a little problem that the templars cannot attend to at the moment, for they are busy with tasks related to the Starlight Pageant. A cursed, metallic dagger has been smuggled into Nibenay by the elves and have found its way to one of the templars’ homes. Now the house is inaccessible, and nothing short of disenchanting the blade will do the trick. If they are able to fix the problem, Leaza tells Amare tht they can keep the dagger.

The party talks it out and decides that Orlon’s problem is easier to fix. They paid Marluc a visit. The half-elf sculptor wasn’t just an artist, as it turns out, but he also kept some breed of bird that he called chickens for food, and even offered some dipped in boiling oil. They were highly suspicious of Marluc, however, especially when the sculptures didn’t show any hint of chisel marks on the body. They began to suspect that sorcery was involved, and all save the halfling declined the opportunity to eat an exotic bird.

As they left, Amare noted that Marluc favored Bjorn above everyone else in the party. So they set up a trap that involved getting Bjorn alone in a dark alley. Sure enough, Marluc showed up again after the others were gone, offering the gladiator a chance to see him work on the sculpture for tomorrow’s contest. They went back to the half-elf’s studio, with the rest of the group stealthily following along.


Art by Kent R Caldwell.
Used for nonprofit.

Finally, Marluc showed Bjorn how he performed his sculpting – by way of the breed of birds that he called chickens. These delicious fowl creatures also has the uncanny ability to petrify its potential predators. Thinking the gladiator was alone, he set the chickens loose on Bjorn, hoping to turn him into his next award-winning piece. Thanks to Cypher’s not-so-awesome lockpicking skills as well as Amare’s better teleporting capabilities, the rest of the group got back into the studio in time to help Bjorn. They dispatched the chickens as well as Marluc (who turned out to be practicing sorcery illegally) and his two bodyguards.

Luckily, one of Marluc’s past “masterpieces” was a missing templar, so the authorities forgave the fact that certain foreigners took part in the killing of a Nibenese citizen. That he apparently works for the Veiled Alliance helped, too.

And so, with Renegade and Bjorn sporting new tattoos, the group decides that they still have time (it’s late, but the Starlight Festival means everybody’s up anyway) to look into Leaza’s dagger problem.

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