Starday, Reaping 15, 552 CY (50 AN)
Having rested and prepared themselves, Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Peren, Torinn, and Valna proceed further into the caverns. After walking through winding little passageways, they find themselves in a large chamber. This chamber appears to be roughly fifty feet high, and the walls are squared off, lacking the features of a natural cavern. The chamber contains ruined structures and walkways indicative of humanoid construction, although the strange architecture combined with the chamber’s structure makes it appear as though someone took this whole area from elsewhere and fitted it into this cavern. The suspended walkways hang over a floor roughly fifty feet below.
As the Shields of the Sorrowfell enter the room, a massive roar shakes the cavern, its origin unseen behind walls, rubble, and the strange crystals that protrude from the floor. Peren remains hidden while the rest of the group immediately fans out to assess the situation and confront the white dragon. Most take cover to assess their surroundings while Bosabrieln darts through the open and hexes the dragon. It flies out of sight, but as Torinn and Bosabrieln start taking the middle walkway to follow it, shouting taunts in Draconic, it flies back into view, swooping down to confront Bosabrieln and Torinn. As it flies into view, the burn scars marring its scales are easily visible, and its eyes glint with recognition. It unleashes a mighty roar as it attacks. Soon, battle is joined — Peren and Torinn confront the beast, striking it and keeping it off balance while Valna and Bosabrieln provide support. Bezaldooz circles the outside of the battlefield, slinging spells at the dragon.
Quickly, it is all over. After a brutal battle on the bridge, a decisive blow from Peren sends the beast skittering over the edge where it lands, with a loud crack, on the ground below. It remains still.
The group takes a moment to gather themselves as Bosabrieln calls to Bezaldooz, aware that he has not been sighted for a bit. Bezaldooz replies that he has found something — the beast’s horde, a pile of dung and rotted meat scattered with bits of gold, artwork, and weaponry. Bezaldooz has started cleaning the area with his cantrips, although he leaves an obfuscated pile of dung for Torinn to unfortunately discover. All told, the group finds assorted gold and art objects, as well as a magical sword, an enchanted choker, and the Belt of Dwarvenkind. They also find five mysterious objects which appear foreign, having more in common with the current strange, technological environment. These objects are varied — small objects that whir and spin, large rifles that fire energy, exoskeletons that function as armor — but all seem to originate from a similar source as pieces of alien magic or technology.
Loaded with gear, the group leaves the caves. As they exit through the dragon’s skull that adorns the entrance, they sight a group of travelers on the road. As they approach, it can be seen that they are a group of hobgoblins and goblins with a lone elf, dressed as a scholar. The group approaches, showing great deference, and introduce themselves as a group of Wordbearers, seekers after the Ashen Crown. One by one, the Shields of the Sorrowfell give their objects. The elf asks Bosabrieln for their names, so that he may keep record of the keepers of the Crown, and he notes that Yeraa thought very highly of them. The two groups then part, with the Wordbears traveling back the way they came.
The Shields of the Sorrowfell arrive in Duchy Jepson in the late afternoon, and they decide to go to the Addled Alchemist inn and speak to Edric Grimboldsson, the herbalist who requested the Shields find his wife’s ring. They find him, apparently about to leave, and as Peren, Torinn, and Valna go to the bar, Bezaldooz and Bosabrieln go to speak with Edric. Bosabrieln presents the ring, for which Edric is very thankful. He then explains that he doesn’t really have much in the way of money to repay them, but he does have something his wife has been after him to throw out. It’s an antique and he doesn’t know if it’s worth anything. He then presents Bosabrieln with a sheaf of yellowed papers and tells the Shields of the Sorrowfell that they should visit he and his wife if they ever have any herbal needs. After thanking them again, he leaves.
Bosabrieln examines the sheaf to find that it is a series of erotic drawings, and to his surprise, he finds he recognizes them. About 150 years ago, noted satyr bard Eropanus the Rake took to sketching the most beautiful women in the Nerathi Empire. His art was subsequently collected, printed, and circulated, and this is probably a collection of prints from his lifetime (which is to say, before he simply fades from history).
Everyone takes a moment to examine the art before finishing their drinks and going to a local shop to get everything appraised. Altogether, the gold and art objects are worth 3,600 gold pieces, while the erotic art of Eropanus the Rake is worth 840 gold pieces. At Bosabrieln’s request, they do not sell the art; Bosabrieln instead acquires a leather case in which to store the pieces.
The group then returns to the inn to rest and eat. Bosabrieln tells the tale of their battle against the kobolds and the dragon, Vilustuminen the White. As the night wears on, everyone retires to their rooms — Bosabrieln and Valna to one room, Peren and Torinn to another, and Bezaldooz to his own room.
That night, Bezaldooz awakens to find soft moonlight filtering into his room. As his eyes adjust, he notes a figure standing in the room. She is tall, thin, and beautiful — raven hair, alabaster skin. Despite his initial shock, he manages to maintain his composure and ask what she wants. She asks, in turn, if he wishes to continue his studies and if he wishes to have more time to do so? He acknowledges this, and asks how this is possible. She responds with a sly smile, and runs her tongue along her right eyetooth. Bezaldooz cannot help but notice its sharpness.
The woman admits that this is quite a lot to ask someone, and if he needs time to decide, he has it. She does offer him tutelage, which he accepts, and she spends several hours explaining some “forbidden” principles of magic and the power that can be wrested from the Abyss. She then tells him that she will be in touch with him again, and that she will continue his studies through sleep-teaching. She commands him to sleep and he falls into a deep slumber immediately.
The next morning, Bosabrieln, Peren, and Valna awaken first and go down to breakfast. They find Adeptus Spellweaver awaiting them. They make small talk over breakfast, deciding to go meet Headmaster Jepson afterward, and they are joined by Bezaldooz, who seems to be in an extremely good mood, and Torinn. After everyone is done with breakfast, they walk to the Wizard’s Tower.
The group makes its way to the campus, and Adeptus Spellweaver leads them to a lift which will take them to the top of the tower.
As they arrive, they find a large room, apparently encompassing the entire top floor of the tower. It appears to be a library with several windows overlooking Jepson, as well as a dock leading to the Spelljammer anchored to the tower itself. The center of the room is dominated by a large orrery. At the opposite end, two figures flank a desk. The first, whose back is to Spellweaver and the Shields, is a tall woman with short, grey hair. She wears colorful robes and bears a staff; her robe and staff are adorned with many bangles and baubles. The man seated at the desk is a similarly old man with long, white hair and a white goatee. He wears a blue robe, and between his teeth, he clenches an unlit, ornate pipe bearing a leering, demonic visage. He is writing in a book and does not appear to be making eye contact with the woman. The room is silent, but the pair occasionally nod at each other as if engaging in a conversation. As Adeptus Spellweaver and the Shields approach, she nods to the man and leaves, her movements at once serene and wild.
The man looks up and after Adeptus Spellweaver acknowledges him, he introduces himself as Headmaster Ebenezer Jepson. He speaks to each person in turn, betraying prior knowledge of the group. Peren and Torinn are humored when the Headmaster refers to Bezaldooz as “Apprentice,” although as the Headmaster explains, Bezaldooz was an Apprentice when he left even though he would probably be considered a Disciple or higher these days. The Headmaster also mentions to Peren that he knows some abolitionists in Scandshar, and he doesn’t know if that might be up his alley, and he further indicates to Bosabrieln that he knew his mentor, Vianibrar. At Bosabrieln’s request, Headmaster Jepson explains that they have encountered each other in Nainimdul — Bosabrieln recognizes the features of the half-elf in the Headmaster Jepson, even though his ears are covered by his hair — and that Vianibrar occasionally guest lectured at the University.
With introductions and such out of the way, the Headmaster Jepson explains the situation: a couple of months ago, strange monsters began appearing in the Black Moor swamp, occasionally making forays into the lowlands. This, in turn, prompted the bandits who lair in the swamp to also make forays south so as to escape the monsters. A few weeks ago, the Platinum Claws went into the Black Moor to investigate, but they never returned or sent word back. The Headmaster tells the Shields that they are the last hope for the Duchy Jepson — if a small team cannot quietly stop the source of monsters, then a force of mages and soldiers will have to do it, and the town has no desire to start a war with whatever mysterious force exists in the swamp. The Headmaster further explains that the Black Moor swamp was created when the Fatehammer comet slammed into the mountains fifty years ago. Over time, the swamp blossomed in the impact crater. He theorizes that the monsters either come from the Fatehammer comet itself, or from a lone magus — someone who would have appreciated the seclusion of the swamp and used it as a quiet place to perform experiments. In either case, he tasks the Shields with apprehending the Black Moor bandits — particularly their leader, Arneth — and determining what is behind the strangeness in the Black Moor. He says he will pay 5,000 gold pieces, plus expenses. The group agrees and indicates that they can leave later that day.
Before everyone parts ways, Adeptus Spellweaver also brings up something that was mentioned over breakfast — the strange findings in the cavern of the Ebon Maw. Bezaldooz and Bosabrieln proceed to explain to Headmaster Jepson and Adeptus Spellweaver about the magic circle written in Supernal, and the weird, magical place where the dragon laired. Peren also presents some crystal shards he gathered while there. Headmaster Jepson thanks them and says he will investigate further.
Valna decides to leave her new horse, Penelope, behind. However, Bezaldooz plans to ride to the Black Moor on Wilson, while Torinn plans on riding on his new clawfoot, Happy. After making some purchases and trades, the group meets at the north gate and finds that they have three more companions, supplied by the Duchy. Tineld will be their guide to the Black Moor swamp, while Endtur and Reth are guardsmen who will transport any captured bandits back to the Duchy. The group then sets out.
That night, Bosabrieln is mentally contacted by Headmaster Jepson who congratulates them on finding a summoning circle, possibly the very circle that summoned the Fatehammer comet.
The group spends the next day hiking up the mountainsides before finally reaching the Black Moor swamp on the following day. As they trek through, they come upon a cabin. Peren initially assumes it is the hut of the “old man” to whom Tineld cryptically refers, but Tineld indicates he is deeper in the swamp. Peren also notes a wasp nest in the trees, although the group cannot identify it — it conforms to no variety of bee they have ever seen. The creatures are large and completely gold in color.
While the group is planning what to do, several bandits rush at them from the surrounding swamp. Battle is joined.
A man, dressed in leather armor and wielding a longsword and handaxe, steps from the cabin and takes position to leap into the fray — by his look, he very well might be the leader. One of the bandits falls quickly, but this pales in comparison to when Torinn taunts the group and six bandits and their leader rush at him. The six bandits die while the leader is whalloped.
The fight progresses quickly after that. Two bandits rise from the muck of the swamp where they were hidden in ambush, and they fling themselves at the group. Another man, wielding a crossbow, takes position on the porch. However, one of the remaining bandits surrenders, and after the leader is grievously injured by Peren and Torinn, Bosabrieln entreats the group to surrender. The leader drops his weapons and suggests that his men do the same. Bosabrieln asks that they join forces to rid the swamp of its dangers, but the man indicates that he would rather be taken into custody. They are tired and hungry, and the monsters of the swamp have taken many of their number, including his father, the bandit leader Arneth. As such, they are more than pleased to go quietly.
Before they go, Bosabrieln asks if they saw the Platinum Claws. Arneth’s son replies that his scouts saw them passing through the swamp a couple of weeks ago, but they left them a wide berth and have not seen them since.
As the guardsmen lead them away, the Shields search their cabin, only to find 175 gold pieces and a few more examples of the strange technology they found in the dragon’s lair.
As they rest, Bosabrieln asks Tineld about the “old man” to whom he keeps referring. Tineld explains that there is someone in the swamp known as the “Terrible Old Man.” He seems somewhat pleasant, but he sells discount magic items that have a high risk of being cursed objects.