The Astral Gale

Meeting the Hawk Lord, Retaking the Tower (Part 1)

After freeing the aaracokcra, the giant hawk that Wendeam saw high in the sky arrived in the elven village. She flew down and transformed into an elegant human woman named Fileet, Lady of Birds. She thanked the party for freeing the aaracokcra and provided a great deal of information as well as a feather. This seemed to provoke a bit of a theological problem for Thanu, the Shaman of the Aaracokcra, who was a devotee of Law, given that the Beast Lords seemed to be avowedly neutral.

The party stayed in the elven village for the evening to rest and recuperate. Attius, Ariel, and van Rijn enjoyed themselves with the elves. Andra studied spells and Wendeam trained. Andra woke up early and had just finished preparing his spells when he was alerted by a Sending from Deven that she and Styg were trapped in the Tower in Hest by invaders. Andra alerted everyone to this fact and the group got ready to go take the tower back.

Ariel used Plane Shift to return to the Hest gates. This was Attius’ first time in the Astral, which was a mind-expanding and possibly dangerous to the mind experience. Upon arrival there appeared to be no sign of problems. The giff were being drilled and paraded for three cat-men by Phantine. Commerce was ongoing. Ariel’s Portal was used to get everyone to the tower as fast as possible. Right then it opened and a tarry demodand stepped out, foolishly getting blasted into oblivion by the God Machine.

A battle ensued while the dry voice of a demodand on the second floor of the tower—-the laboratory and library—-continued to drone on. Ariel’s Wand of Transposition was used to good effect to enable the God Machine to blast more demodands but eventually the fight went inside. Some of the bizarre creatures with the demodands were mutated elephantmen and a mutated hellboar, both of whom proved to be ferocious fighters, though they were slain nonetheless. Unlike most extraplanars they did not seem to return to the Lower Planes when slain inside the tower, which was surprising.

To be continued….

Freeing the Aaracokcra

Andra spoke with Ape Romney/Monoloog. It appears that Monoloog, the loyal servant of Yakupinyage, is disturbed by his master’s current obsession, and with the company he keeps: Artificers including Gnelam Skoradinssen, Voker Tresp, Alibinali, Kang “the Mad”, and Lao Te Kung “the Mandarin”. Monoloog proved to be a skilled wizard himself, able to cast Teleportation and Sending. He also showed images of the devices that Yakupinyage was trying to rebuild. One appeared to be a highly modified Vaati master gate and the other some large humanoid construct. He said that the were items of legend and expressed hope that Andra would help deter any further development. One suggestion he had was that Yakupinyage was known to have “the usual drives and lusts of a giant.”

However, before that, Andra returned to the elven village, to find out that the rest of the group had left for the now-abandoned lizard folk village. He went there, finding that there was another scene of carnage after the recent battle with the yuan ti. He updated the rest with the information obtained from Monoloog. van RIjn pondered the notion of asking the courtesan Devin d’Ascoli try to seduce him. She, however, was back in Hest.

Before going to Hest, the group pressed on to attack the su monsters and rescue the aaracokra and Mhryyhn. Attius and Zell scouted on foot while Wendeam scouted by air, revealing that the captives were held on top of a rock spire that had a village of carnivorous apes at its base. The gargantuan gorilla was nowhere nearby. The plan was for Zell to try to draw off the mass of carnivorous apes that served the su monsters while the rest of the group used Flight to attack, hoping that there would be relatively few guards. Zell would escape via Plane Shift and return to Hest, while the others would escape via the Dimensional Folding, assuming the fight went well.

The fight did go well. Though the large four armed su monsters threw a lot of weaponized dung it was no match for Attius’ bow, Wendeam’s crossbow, and Andra’s lightning bolts. It was close for van Rijn, who advanced into close to melee range with some of the small su monsters. He did, however, seem to observe that when significantly wounded, the su monsters seemed to bend time….

Freeing the Aaracokcra and the Giant Ape, Bug Men and an Old Friend From the Past

Short summary:

  • The hidden complex inside the Tower of Ionah was flooded to prevent interlopers from the Underdark.
  • The remaining aaracokra were brought to the elven village in Ambartzumian. However, the scouts appeared to be missing and Mhyrryn was also not present. Andra found them using the crystal ball. They appeared to be prisoners of the su monsters.
  • One of the elves in the village, Quenella, spoke with van Rijn, Ariel, Zell, and Wendeam. Andra was busy. She said that she’d received a messenger bird from Vidania about some missing scouts in a valley to the south. Phantom Steeds were employed; Andra cast them but stayed behind in the village. On the road, Vidania met Attius, an elven archer from the same world as van Rijn, Ariel, and Andra. Ariel and Attius had fought together in Robrenn to free it from the reign of the Archdruid Ederyn. After a tense moment, Attius joined the group. He seemed somewhat more worn than last time Ariel had seen him and indicated he was searching for Sithney, the daughter of the now-deceased Queen of Robrenn, Orlaith, who had been kidnapped by snakemen. The Mercane had hired him and indicated that coming to this world would help him find her. While they had skirmished with ant men, it turned out that the Mercane alchemy colony was wiped out by a surprise attack of snake men!
  • The scouts were trapped in a valley that had been taken over by a hive of aspis, strange alchemically-skilled ant men with a massive plant they were using as an alchemical factory. This was in the valley the elves had harvested in the past. The aspis seemed to have a hive mind of some sort but were willing to speak with Wendeam given that he is a “lawgiver”. They didn’t appear to be too bright but gave a token of passage which seemed to allow its bearer to pass in peace. van Rijn seemed very pleased by this trade arrangement but its value remains to be seen.
  • Upon return to the village, Andra proved to be absent. He left a note saying that he had received a Sending from Ape Romney, whose name proved to be Monoloog. Andra was to go alone. Andra had not yet returned from the parlay.
  • The rest of the group proceeded to the abandoned Lizard Folk village, where a sizable force of yuan ti proved to be casing about. A vicious fight ensued, with the fight-to-the death snakemen losing.
Towers of Ionah

After studying new spells, the group readied itself to return to the giant ruins, although a few events in Hest took precedence.

Haile discovered two new formulae and asked for Styg or Ariel to examine them. Ariel noted that one was for Oil of Slipperiness; she already knew the formula but lacked the ingredients. The other was for Oil of Acid Resistance. This seemed useful given Andra’s new spell, the mighty Death Fog. Ariel also demonstrated novel abilities: She was able to turn a block of stone into something thinner than paper, and then shatter it using one of her fractal blades. van Rijn pondered the possibilities, though she indicated that it was extremely difficult to maintain the necessary focus to push an object into a lower dimension.

Borat approached van Rijn with a problem: It seems that Tkalec had bitten his tongue off through the ball gag. Being trapped in a gimp suit had driven him mad as he decided that his tongue tasted better than pablum. Haile was consulted and discussed with the rest of the Council of Hest the fate of the ill-begotten pair. After some deliberation, it was decided to execute them and then dissolve them using Death Fog cast by Andra to ensure that only the most powerful of magics could revive them. This wad done, with Borat relishing his new role as executioner.

Eventually, though, it was time to leave. Plane Shift took Ariel, Wendeam, van Rijn, Andra, and Zell back to the giant ruins. Wendeam spoke with Thanu, the leader of the aaracokcra, who was interested in finding out about the new world, though the scouts had not yet been contacted.

Everyone descended to the giant ruins, studying what appeared to be a door with a puzzle lock sized for a massive giant. It contained three massive glass pillars. The one furthest from the door had four disks, each copper clad around a precious metal: silver, electrum, gold, and platinum, in order. After a substantial amount of work and some Auguries by Ariel, who seemed to have an affinity for such things, the disks were properly moved to the pillar closest to the door. Nothing happened until Andra discharged lightning bolts into the device, which opened the door and banished the disks back to their starting point.

Inside was a massive giant ruin with various statues. At the far end there appeared to be a much smaller hole leading to an irregular cavern. Wendeam summoned a dust devil and proceeded in further, revealing a cavern with strange looking monoliths that had bodies impaled upon them.

To be continued….

Debate with a Brain in a Jar

After dealing with Ape Romney and the gnomes, the group left to try to deal with Yakupinyage’s offer. Checking out the giant ruins the aaracockra lived on was of interest, but it was decided to return to Hest to try to get some suitable gift for Yakupinyage and to check up on happenings there. As it happened, eight giff had arrived in Hest, which soothed van Rijn’s nerves. van Rijn gave Phantine the magical tetsubo that had been captured from the oni as the loxo captain drilled the troops under his new command.

While Devin d’Ascoli indicated she wanted to return to her home, van Rijn suggested she be an agent for the Company in Hest, a role she agreed to, although she was concerned with her safety given that Master Lupo presumably knew her location. Clockwork van Rijn seemed very taken by her. She also started studying spells from Ariel’s old spellbooks.

Mercane Prime delivered the goods that had been bargained for, including several powerful spells that Andra began studying, as well as a large collection of books requested by Zell, more doses of Elixir, and a sizable chest of gold that the githzerai removed. The minotaur guard made eyes at Ariel, who was bemused at the attention she seemed to draw from randy minotaurs.

Styg used some of the Elixir to revive the Brain in a Jar, Captain Timeresh. After some initially philosophical questions about the experience of being a brain in a jar from Styg, he proved to be somewhat hostile but a font of information about the previous expedition to follow the trail of Zerthimon and the aftermath, when failure and frustration set in and the expedition was unable to proceed, leaving the githyanki among them to return to their old ways, turning some of the githzerai and enslaving or killing the rest along with the ee’ar who were part of the expedition, who uniformly refused to join. He laid out a breathtakingly nihilistic view held by the pirates, who he had said had returned to the path laid out by the founder of the githyanki race, Gith, as a predator.

However, once he got into a debate with Zell, it became apparent that Timeresh’s nihilism was born of desperation and despair and the githyanki unwillingness to return to the slavery of which the dual gith races emerged. Eventually he spoke to Zell in the gith tongue and said that he preferred oblivion or death to being a brain in a jar, in part answering Styg’s philosophical question about how being a brain in a jar was: The answer was truly horrifying, although so, it appeared, was staying in the Astral for too long. Zell was unsure how she would have reacted when he told her the state of the expedition, though she didn’t think she would have turned to piracy and would have chosen death instead.

In the end, after much discussion and debate with van Rijn and later Zell, Timeresh, in a fit of both guilt and pique combined, decided to take revenge on his former Lieutenant, now Captain Sitirthra, by giving the way he knew to the Star Leviathan corpse that made up the Gith Pirate base. van Rijn and Andra felt that with the information Voy was now gathering to update the charts, it would be likely to be able to find the pirate base.

Impassively but also somewhat disappointed, Styg indicated that van Rijn should power the treadmill that activated the van de Graaf generator after he removed the vaporized elixir keeping Timeresh alive. Zell discharged the voltage into Timeresh, who was destroyed and freed. Styg seemed at loose ends, but Ariel gave him the collection of captured alchemical samples (oni, stone trolls, etc.) and he brightened, turning his attention to such matters.

The issue of a suitably impressive gift for Yakupinyage was a vexing one and generated much debate. The mechanical crossbows captured from Yakupinyage’s apemen were repurposed into a ballista-sized mechanical crossbow as a gift for Yakupinyage at Ariel’s suggestion by the mechanical in Hest. It was felt that he would gain relatively little from it in terms of power but likely be very pleased. A few Trobriand gears were incorporated into the crossbow for added allure.

In addition, everyone who had been active recently seemed to be a bit… stronger.

Bargains with a Giant, a Mystery in Hest

The conflict with the Cloud Giant sorcerer Yakupinyage was brought to a pause when a surgically altered aaracokcra with a voicebox escorted by several apes appeared. The voicebox spoke with a tinny voice of what everyone supposed was the voice of Yakupinyage. van Rijn negotiated the return of the captive aaracokra three days hence and also indicated that more mechanical components might be available. Yakupinyage agreed and suggested that these components be sold three days hence.

Zell was put on the trail of the lizardfolk in Ambartzumian, who, it was later determined, had been recruited by Adrienne the Fire Witch, for some unknown purpose. The aaracokra scouts and Mhyrryn followed them as they scouted Ambartzumian for a new homeland for the aaracokra.

Everyone else returned to Hest, finding that Orixia, Clockwork van RIjn, and Borat the Bugbear were holding off an angry crowd who had insisted on voiding two humans. The ringleader of the crowd was the tiefling butcher Meerk. The two fellows proved to be the hapless but horribly destructive rogues Tkalec and Korban. They had followed Nicholas van Rijn, their onetime business partner, whom they’d stranded, looking for revenge on him. van Rijn, who was nowhere to be seen but was now selling art objects from a world called Balaton in Hest through a now-deceased agent named Sumegh.

When the crowd was dispersed, van Rijn noticed a figure wearing a moon amulet with the symbol of Selune. A search was mounted, and the group found that the figure had gone through the 8-sided gate. Inside they found an obviously Feebleminded half elf that van Rijn recognized, the famous courtesan Devin d’Ascoli, a half elf who ran Selune’s Kiss in the city of Lion’s Bridge in his homeworld.

After capturing Devin d’Ascoli, Andra used an Antimagic Shell to suppress the Feeblemind. This proved to have been likely cast by a Master of the Festrilan Mage Guild named Lupo de Lucarello, who is a Guild ambassador. He was one of her clients but “not one she enjoyed.” She remembered very little of her experience, just going to Lupo’s home. Andra realized that Feeblemind would likely block out memories so it was unclear if any were there to be investigated.. After some more discussion it was revealed that she was an agent for the Countess and had been an agent for the Count before that. It seemed that the Guild ambassador sold her to someone, with Tkalec and Korban—-now safely imprisoned in Borat’s special creation he called “gimp suits” and subject to ever-increasing but carefully nonlethal humiliation and “punishment” by the creepily sadistic bugbear. It was decided they should wait the judgment of the God Machine. Devin preferred to be restored and was rilling to risk the Rod of Law to avoid being Feebleminded. It worked but she seemed to age slightly after it. She stayed in the tower in Hest, feeling safe there for the moment, but was eager to return home as soon as she could. Around this time, Orixia was called to the scene of Meerk’s murder. He’d had his throat cut neatly with his own killing blade. No clear culprit was in the offing, however, even after thoroughly searching. Zell was called back from Ambartzumian and then searched for clues but none were to be found. van Rijn gave the description of his ne’er do well cousin Nicholas van Rijn.

More searching in Trobriand’s laboratory commenced, looking for parts to trade to Yakupinyage, without giving him anything of great importance.

Styg approached the party with an update on his research on restoring the Brain in a Jar. He noted that the torpedo fish he’d tried had revived it for a while but that magical electricity would be too damaging. He also had to soak it in a solution of void salts and palm sugar. Voy indicated she needed to take observations and decided to join Captain Yna Emet’s crew, now made up of former courtesans rescued from Sitirthra’s Pleasure Palace. Styg was reluctant but Andra felt that it was time for Voy to travel. Phantine had returned with a large crew of giff, and took over as city captain, freeing Orixia—-frustrated at dealing with squabbles among merchants—-to travel with Voy.

Andra, Ariel, Zell, van Rijn, and Wendeam returned to the aaracokra and briefly explored the giantish ruins on which the aaracokra dwelled. A strange electrical construct was found but left for later. Soon the group departed for the rendezvous with Yakupinyage to deal with gears and such. A distinguished appearing apeman with silvering hair and a robe, one Ape Romney, was waiting along with some apemen soldiers and an “expert” who proved to be a gnome working for Gnelam Skoradinssen… an unwelcome name, given that Skoradin, the gnomish priest of Talos was an old (though vanquished and deceased enemy) who had build many horrifying gadgets. However, the gnome identified the gears as being “Trobriand work”. Zell eavesdropped on his conversation with the distinguished apeman and realized that the gnome insisted on buying everything. The apeman’s bargaining position thereby undermined, van Rijn took him for nearly all the money he had, but left a bit back. Eventually this led to an invitation to visit “Prince Yakupinyage of Cloud Castle”, but only if a proper gift was proffered.

The Stone Trolls

To stave off recruitment of trolls to Yakupinyage’s nascent army—-as well as to feed their insatiable desire for alchemical components—-the group decided to attack a group of trolls found on the road. The fight was pretty brutal as the trolls appeared to be elementally-touched and were very good at hiding in the rocks. They ambushed the group with thrown boulders. However, after a nasty fight they were finished off and harvested. Off in the distance, Yakupinyage’s castle could be seen, floating.

Meeting Theodorus

The aaracockra scouts returned with Myhrynn, having been attacked by some apemen in the service of Yakupinyage. More of the aaracockra had fallen and Myhrynn was sorely wounded by the accurate shooting of the apemen, who were guarding a caravan of some sort.

Wendeam and Ariel went ahead to try to use the portal to summon van Rijn, Andra, and Zell, avoiding a long mountain journey. The caravan was moving down a switchback in the road where it went down a steep slope, which seemed like an ideal ambush location. The apemen were riding bird mounts and seemed alert. The caravan itself had a massive wagon drawn by a grunting and straining ettin. A wizard riding a chestnut stallion and another human rider on a bird completed it.

Wendeam summoned the dust devil, preparing to send it across the stream. Zell tried climbing down the ravine to cross it, hoping to ambush the outrider across the stream. Unfortunately the githezerai rogue fell when a rock broke, and the ambush was broken.

The apemen reacted with coordinated ferocity, using whirring mechanical crossbows to pepper any target they could see with bolts. Ariel and Wendeam warded off their bolts while van Rijn and Andra used destructive magics. The wizard and the other human disappeared from view while the ettin advanced, throwing boulders. Unfortunately at this point the wizard rallied, throwing a fireball—-warded off by Andra’s sagacious Minor Globe of Invulnerability—-but the apemen seemed to draw bead and peppered Ariel with bolts. She retreated behind a boulder to avoid t hem. The wizard was clearly using Improved Invisibility because while he appeared after the spell, he rapidly disappeared again.

The other human proved to be a polymorphed ogre of some sort, dressed in outlandish clothes carrying a massive iron-bound club. Having Andra, Ariel, and Zell packed up with Wendeam in the way was a big temptation. The ogre breathed forth a massive cloud of cold, which Zell managed to avoid, Ariel being just out of the range. However, Andra and Wendeam took it, leaving both quite hurt. van Rijn was simply not nearby, having engaged in a magic and missile duel with one of the apemen.

At this point, Ariel used the fractal blades to bisect the obviously incredibly deadly ogre, killing the erin in the process. Zell chased after the invisible wizard, realizing that he was a threat that needed to be dealt with. However, with the rest of his troops dead he struck his colors and surrendered to Andra.

Theorodus proved to be a wizard and claimed to be a peer of the slain Gurwulf. He expressed surprise at the fact that Andra was a man and not dressed in the garb of the swamp, which seemed odd. His story proved to be this. He had been hired by Yakupinyage at a tavern—-the story was a bit bizarre, though strangely compelling to Andra—-to escort a caravan of goods. He indicated that Yakupinyage was “a fell master” and that he was not sorry to have been defeated so he could return to the tavern.. As he had been defeated, he surrendered the caravan contents, which proved to be a large collection of various mechanical and clockwork parts, including a mysterious gold tube and a strange black rod with a glass sphere on the end. These latter seemed ominously reminiscent of the mechanical parts that had been found in Trobirand’s laboratory and later incorporated into the God-Machine of Hest. Ariel shrunk the entire wagon down and van Rijn stored it in his Bag of Holding, along with the crossbows, the club of the ogre, and other items. Ariel also harvested the ettin and ogre for alchemical components, using a large syringe. The corpses of the apemen were left for the scavengers.

Theodorus indicated that Yakupinyage was building some kind of magical device in his castle and that the parts were for it. The clockwork parts had been purchased from a merchant named Kubetonn who was from a city known as Karadur. Kubetonn proved to be a goblin of some sort. He drew a picture of it, which proved to vaguely resemble a Master Gate, one that would allow entrance to the Vale of Aqaa. However, it seemed oddly malformed and containing other protuberances. Andra and van Rijn argued about negotiating with Yakupinyage, with van Rijn seeming to favor negotiating, but the tentative word was to attack him.

Andra accepted Theodorus’ parole and Theodorus indicated that he wanted to return to the tavern, which he said was only a few days away. van Rijn pondered going there but Andra thought that that would be… very dangerous to him in particular. As a battlefield seemed a poor place to camp, some searching turned up a better spot where one of Blaise Radlock’s sphere spells was employed to provide shelter.

Later on, the group came across a group of odd looking goblins wearing identical blue robes and bearing small blunderbusses. After some bizarre discussion they proved amenable to joining Andra. More travel ensued, and a war band of obviously chaotic gnolls was avoided. However, after more journeying and nearing the location of Yakupinyage’s castle a band of war trolls seemed to be wandering. Not sure whether they were working for the cloud giant, the group decided to ambush them.

Honoring the Pact

After departing the vault that contained a part of the Rod, the group—-somewhat beat up—-returned to the Lizardfolk town to rest. Andra needed a long time to recover. Wendeam and van Rijn spoke with Myhrryn, the Ee’ar survivor of the Vault. She seemed… off. Once she was outside she seemed better, but refused to go into any building with enclosed walls and to fear even roofs.

More scouting revealed a Beast of Chaos—-their trails not being subtle it was easy to follow—-and Wendeam, van Rijn, and Myhrryn killed it using arrows and crossbow bolts from the sky. The beast proved to be tough and hard to hit but did not require magical ammunition. Upon approaching it with the Rod it appeared to change back to a mundane animal.

As Andra recovered, he worked on many cosmological calculations of the location of Ambartzumian. He also spoke with the lizardfolk but felt alienated from them. Ariel studied their herb lore.

Wendeam continued scouting and, strangely, heard a voice in his mind: “We call on a Lawgiver. Honor the pact! We need aid!” He ignored it but over time the voice grew louder. Eventually he asked what to do and felt a strong pull, and knew how to get there to the askers, though he knew it was not in this plane. He answered the call and appeared, floating above a strange temple of massive proportions with a flock of birdmen—-the aaracokra—-doing an elaborate dance in the sky. An older one, the shaman who led the dance, approached, and invoked the old pacts. Wendeam realized that these pacts were true and saw that the aaracokra were pressed by massive winged apes, who were approaching in the distance. The shaman, Thanu, spoke in Auran about how the grahluks were in the service of a cloud giant sorcerer named Yakupiniyage, who enslaved the aaracokra in his cloud fortress a day’s flight away.

At van Rijn’s behest, Ariel determined the location that Wendeam had traveled to and began opening the portal. Andra and van Rijn chose to go, and Myhrryn, somewhat savagely, picked up her bow to go with. Both were prepared with flight.

Wendeam began a crossbow duel with the grahluks, who proved to be able shots themselves. The aaracokra began flying around wildly and two with bows returned fire themselves. At this point van Rijn, Andra, and Myhrryn appeared. van Rijn moved up to interpose to prevent the grahluks from entering melee, calling one out to duel. Andra used Chromatic Orb to paralyze one, which fell to the ground. Archery fire brought down a third, which continued its cruel barrage of crossbow bolts. The battle went on for a bit. van Rijn began a duel with the one remaining grahluk but nobody seemed to accept it, most notably the aaracokra, who began to barrage it with javelins and arrows. Eventually all the grahluk were killed.

After more cosmological calculation, Andra determined that this plane was yet distinct from any other place he had been but determined its location. He used Sending to have Ariel open the gate again, but assured Thanu that, after the chimera in Ambartzumian was defeated, the group would return to deal with the cloud giant.

A Fight with Corrupted Followers of Zerthimon

Ariel miniaturized the incapacitated Andra and put him in her pocket. When the Rod of Law approached the githzerai wizard, he disintegrated, seemingly undone by the Disjunction he had been casting.

Not knowing what to do, Zell proceeded back through the doors, hoping to scout out the passage out and wondering what had happened. Unfortunately she was attacked by her former compatriots. The ee’ar captain, an elf lightly armored but well-muscled to support her wings, had a mad look in her eye and turned on Zell, joined by the two githzerai warriors, who appeared to be even worse, possibly drained of life by whatever had held them in stasis for so long. Meanwhile, van Rijn began skirmishing with the two elven warriors, who also betrayed signs of madness. They shot at him with arrows through the bars.

Zell was distraught and attempted to reason with them. The four warriors, two githzerai and two elves, proved to have become some sort of wraith but the captain managed to maintain a tenuous hold on sanity. However, the warriors were more than challenge enough, managing to knock Zell out of the fight. When that happened the ee’ar captain, who had been quelled and only parrying, turned on her former soldiers, who were tough opponents whose attacks drained strength.

Ariel’s fractal blades, however, proved to be their undoing, along with Wendeam’s dancing spear and summoned Dust Devil and van Rijn’s use of everybody’s favorite Magic Missile.


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