Adventures in Aberland
Episode One (April 2018) to Episode Thirteen (October 2018)
“You Meet in a Tavern”
Aevar Dragontide, Ana Goldleaf-Hatfield, Fingers Ol Susage, and a gnome wizard named Dyvan Gonff met one evening in the Gardenarea Ale House in the island kingdom of Aberland. They agreed to help move a cart of mining supplies up the Highland Road to Winterhollow for the dwarf merchant Duncan Balmoral. Winterhollow lay across the river Strier in the Threllkeld Province, a region agitating for its independence from the peaceful kingdom of Aberland, as Duncan’s companion Roderick Winterhallow explained. Ana, a bard by trade, played an authentic Valksvard song for Aevar and everyone drank a lot of ale and whiskey.
Having traveled a day north, the hung-over group camped overnight still south of the river. Early in the morning, Dyvan heard a human voice in the woods scream for help and then fall silent. The group tracked goblins to their hideout in some ruins deep in the woods. The group fought the goblins and entered the hideout, which was an abandoned temple to the god of chivalry and valor, Hieroneous, and still filled with their artifacts and murals. The group fought the goblins and discovered they had kidnapped a 12-year old girl named Clare from the nearby town of Strierbridge to sacrifice her to their god, Maglubiyet. The group also met a friendly goblin named Keeva, whose tribe had given her to this band of goblins as a slave.
The group—minus Dyvan, who’d become incapacitated—explored the temple and learned more about the ancient order, the Knights of Hieroneous. In order to access a sealed chamber, Keeva took the Oath of Hieroneous to earn the trust of the group. After fighting skeletal knights (and acquiring a magic sword), the group exited the temple with Clare, Keeva, and Dyvan in tow. They were confronted by a rescue party sent from Strierbridge who believed them to be the kidnappers. After several minutes of tense discussion, the Strierbridge rescue team stood down and their leader, Viper, stormed off into the temple. The remaining two, Trev and Del, begged the group to help them rescue two members of their party who’d become trapped in a giant spider’s web en route here. The assembled group rescued the would-be rescuers—a Sarusian archer named Zora Bersk and a halfling named Garret Underbrough—from the giant spider’s cave. The group carried on to Strierbridge and reunited Clare with her family, the town Blacksmiths, Leoline and Mary.
To ease their entry into Strierbridge, Ana disguised the goblin Keeva in a white veil. The group claimed the groggy Dyvan was drunk from his bachelor’s party. The townspeople were overjoyed to learn they could host a wedding for these heroic adventurers.
“The Baltane Festival”
The next morning, Aevar married Dyvan and Keeva as Strierbridge belatedly celebrated its spring fertility festival, Baltane (which had been postponed while Clare was missing). The festival featured games and contests, performers and fires, and much merriment (drinking). Fingers won an eel-eating contest and earned a magical spice pouch, while Aevar triumphed in a feat of strength and won gold. However, a wounded guard stumbled into town, announcing the threat of a monster approaching. As Dyvan was off celebrating, the group took the archer Zora with them to engage the monster, a giant insect called an ankheg. With the ankheg defeated, Aevar had the guards haul the carcass back to town.
That night, the featured performers of the festival were a group of Tiefling fire dancers known as “The Firebrand Troupe.” The athletic, spectacular, and sensual performance around a large pyre was interrupted when fire imps burst from the flames and began to attack the town. On a ridge overlooking the town, several devils appeared and hurled fireballs at the crowd. While the group and the town guards were able to defeat the imps, the tide of battle turned in favor of the devils. Then, from the skies, a brass dragon landed on the field of battle between the devils and the town and, with a swipe of its tail, sent the devils sailing into the distance. The metallic dragon surveyed the town before alighting and flew off in pursuit of the devils, leaving all assembled to question what they had just witnessed.
A day celebrating fertility, cleansing fires, and the arrival of spring led to a night flamed with passion. As a thunderstorm rolled in, most sought refuge in pubs and taverns, homes and inns. Aevar, cleric of the storm god Valkur, worshipped in the howling storm and slept rough on the hillside in the thunder and rain. Ana, the bard, spent the night with their new ally Zora, while the rogue Fingers found himself in the company of a pair of the tiefling acrobats, Limber and Tumbler.
Each member of the group had disturbing, yet visionary, dreams. Aevar relived the shipwreck that brought him to Aberland’s shores, when the maiden voyage of The Hunter’s Fortune marked Valkur’s one holy day, the Shattering. A storm at sea initially seemed a portent of Valkur’s blessing, but soon revealed itself the work of the rival sea goddess Umberlee. The Hunter’s Fortune and all aboard were lost, save for Aevar, who, as he struggled to stay above the waves, saw the triple lightning sigil of Valkur crack the sky and the god himself call to him. Though he was but a common sailor when they left port, Aevar awoke on the shore south of Tempest Cove Bay, donned brine-encrusted armor, and set forth inland as a Cleric of Valkur.
The rotund elf Fingers didn’t need to sleep, but his meditation showed him a dream of his youth in the bucolic tree city of Philawoodelphia, in Aberland’s Merkinsaw province, land of the wood elves. He remembered, too, moments of death, loss, battle, and fire. He then relived time in a fetid prison cell moments before a mysterious figure unlocked the door and set him free.
Ana dreamed of her teenage years in Goldleaf Hollow, also in Merkinsaw. She remembered meeting the most famous bard in all the realm—Bowie Elelfson—at her human father’s luthier shop. But in her dream, as was happening before she left, the music went silent and the lush land turned cold and barren. It was her father’s masterful instruments going out of tune that she knew—in real life—was a harbinger of the music dying across the land. The half-elf ventured forth to find an answer to what was taking the music and magic out of the material plane.
“Local Heroes, Big Problems”
With Dyvan no longer available, the group asked Zora to join them on their adventures and Ana’s new girlfriend agreed. The group sought to unravel the mysteries of dragons and devils appearing at the festival, but found their pursuits interrupted as citizens and town officials sought their help because of their successful (if somewhat accidental) rescue of the Blacksmith’s daughter.
Felekya Cassidity, a whiskey merchant, approached the group at breakfast and asked them to track down her caravaneers who had failed to arrive at the festival. Hungover and lovestruck, the group failed to negotiate terms with Cassidity whey they agreed to help her. The town constable, Simon Deryngdon, wanted to talk with them, which seemed ominous. And then there was the matter of the cart they were supposed to have taken to Winterhollow.
Aevar led the investigation into the mysterious appearance of devils and dragons at the festival, talking to Adherents of Oghma at their temple and a gregarious gnome bookseller, Maester Humphrey. From them, the group learned that Strierbridge had been the site of an historic battle over five centuries ago when invading forces from the north sought to open a portal between planes and unleash a demon apocalypse across the lands. The Knights of Hieroneous and the combined forces of the kingdoms of Cambry, Merkinsaw, and Threllkeld met the invading forces near Strierbridge, drove them back, and closed the portal, saving the world. The cost was great. A legendary arcane forge—at the center of the “hellmouth”—was lost and the Knights of Hieroneous vanished from this plane. This crisis prompted the kingdoms to unite under one monarch and to found the present-day kingdom of Aberland.
Yet, the rift remained. Certain days of the calendar weakened the boundary between planes, but for devils to appear was indeed quite odd. As for the dragon, they were at a loss. Humphrey did explain that chromatic dragons might be evil, but metallic ones—such as the brass one that appeared—are often good.
Against such grand issues, Strierbridge’s constable Simon Deryngdon had a very local problem: the town harbored an underworld organization, the Whitesnakes, who had grown bolder and more dangerous in recent weeks. With his constabulary compromised, he hired this band of effective outsiders to investigate the group’s hideout, which was outside of town near the Crow Crag Tavern. The group reluctantly agreed after haggling for a more lucrative reward.
After leaving Deryngdon’s office, the group were met by the halfling Garret Underbrough, whom they had befriended earlier. Garret suggested the group go to the posh Royal Radicchio Inn to meet with a representative of the Whitesnakes and hear what they had to say before they rushed to judgment.
The group now had a missing whiskey caravan to find, a hideout to investigate, and a counterproposal to hear. The last thing they needed was another problem. And yet, Keeva the goblin feared for her life after a gang of thugs menaced her. The group took Keeva to the Smithy, where Aevar had Keeva reveal her true nature to Leoline. With his daughter Clare and the group as character witnesses, Leoline agreed to protect the goblin who had helped to save his daughter.
Up to Strierbridge Keep, a massive gothic fortress, to address the matter of the ankheg carcass with Lodovich Keepdown, a Seebruckian elven officer of the crown. The group was surprised to find Roderick Winterhallow here with militia from theThrellkelds, the Greycloaks. Impatient with his cart having not arrived, Duncan Balmoral sent the officious barrister Samson Brass and the Greycloaks to retrieve his property. Tensions simmered between the Greycloaks and the red and white Crownsguard of Aberland, but did not boil over into violence. The adventurers relinquished their promise to deliver, realizing that a paltry 10 gold pieces each was nothing compared to the hundreds they stood to earn from Deryngdon and the Whitesnakes themselves.
Loose strings tied up for the moment, the group met with the mysterious representative of the Whitesnakes. They asked the group to retrieve a ceremonial bowl that had been stolen from a wealthy client, Daviton Cloverdale-Sykes. The bowl was of tremendous value and had be taken by a group of dragon cultists hiding out in ruins within the dark and dangerous Bysshe Woods, which lay to the northeast of Strierbridge. The reward for returning the object was 400 gold, rising to 500, depending on punctuality and the mood of their new employer, Mr. Whitesnake.
The group ate lunch, drank a bit, and decided to keep their options open as whether to help the town or “the Sneks,” possibly playing both to maximize the coin they could earn. They embarked to follow up on the missing whiskey merchants and learn more about the Sneks.
“Snakes and Ladders”
The group (Aevar, Ana, Fingers, and Zora) traveled east out of town along the riverside road and fought a goblin ambush, dispatching the would-be assailants with relative ease.
The group inquired about the missing whiskey merchants with the Strierbridge dockmaster (a guy named Morle), who confirmed the shipment had arrived and had been picked up. Morle noted Cass’s caravaneers had a shady local hoodlum with them, one Jorrel Slait, which bothered the dockmaster. He told the group they would deliver to the furthest taverns before heading into town and pointed them to the Swimming Firkin, a bar and tackle shop frequented by river workers.
Upon arrival at the Firkin, Fingers was recognized and feted as the champion eel eater. The proprietors, Rancis and Ziri, confirmed the caravaneers had stopped, delivered, and moved along. Rancis said he didn’t much like the look of Jorrel. Seemed a snake in the grass, so to speak. While there, a drunk said to Fingers that he thought he knew the only fat rogue in the kingdom. Chatting further, the besotted fellow—name of Seiveril Flameflaw—dropped that he and his friends were hired to retrieve some rich guy’s arcane trinket in some ruins above the Bysshe Woods and they’d all died except for him. Aevar, despite having lived through a similar loss, had little sympathy for this sad man, but was curious about his story. Now Seiveril spent his days drinking to ease the pain. Everyone drank more.
The next stop the caravan would have made was the Crow Crag Tavern, which they were supposed to investigate for Deryngdon. Errol Aberlish, the Crow Crag’s proprietor, claimed he ran the oldest pub in the land (he didn’t) and that the caravaneers had never arrived. Curiously, he was amply stocked with whiskies, so that claim seemed a clear falsehood, too.
Ana sang a song at “Aberland’s oldest establishment” while the group drank and chatted. The sad bard Seiveril showed up again and recalled little about how his group’s adventure went wrong. He told them about a trap door in the store room that led to the Whitesnake’s hideout. Fingers stealthily explored it and returned, reporting that an enormous snake inhabited the canyon where the tunnel had led. That was not a good route into the hideout.
The rather soused group left the Crow Crag to find another way into the Snek’s hideout. Noting some unusual plumes of smoke in the woods, they followed them and discovered an empty whiskey cart outside a set of stairs that led down to some doors. Stepping inside the underground room, the group were hit with stifling heat from many open fires. The room was filled with crates and barrels. A lone female met them and was eventually joined by a male. Both seemed aloof, arrogant, and serpentine. The pair told the group that their shop was closed and suggested that they leave and return during business hours.
In a moment of senseless violence, the group attacked the pair, who were no match for them. The group carried through with their assault. The shopkeepers died pleading for their lives. The noise of battle alerted the others in the hideout. Before they arrived, the group worked fast. They scattered goblin weapons (gathered after the earlier ambush) around the room. When confronted by well-armed guards, the group managed to persuade them that goblins had attacked the shop and the group’s arrival had scared them off, but—alas—not in time to save this unfortunate pair.
In the tense moments that followed, Fingers turned to his friends and asked them to trust him. The portly rogue asked to speak to someone in charge—first in common and then in thieves cant. After agreeing to surrender their weapons and be blindfolded, the group was led into the depths of the hideout to meet Mr. Whitesnake himself, Daviton Cloverdale-Sykes, the “wealthy client” whose ceremonial bowl they’d been hired to retrieve.
More revelations followed. Fingers revealed to his friends and Cloverdale that he was, in fact, the eldest son of Varis Tel-Merkin, the long-serving ambassador for Merkinsaw and representative to the King’s Council. Framed for crimes he did not commit and then exiled, Fingers had returned to Aberland to settle the score with his father and usurping brother, Lucan. Fingers asked for Cloverdale’s help in this matter.
Cloverdale said he would see what he could do, but first needed them to retrieve his stolen artifact from the dragon cultists. He added that their leader was a former associate of his named “Krazec” and very dangerous.
Back at the Crow Crag, the group reflected on their actions and deemed what they had done to the shopkeepers an unjustifiable and dishonorable act of murder. They resolved to talk first and murder later, if at all. With that, Zora asked Fingers if he really was royalty. She discussed her own childhood as the illegitimate daughter of a baroness and a tutor and challenged Fingers to show who had the better courtly bow. Unsurprisingly, the bard Ana performed the best bow of them all. Aevar ignored the flirtatious suggestions from the dwarven barmaid Ringa, telling the group he wasn’t celibate, but had no time for such matters of the flesh.
Seiveril again joined them and recalled that his group died in battle with kobolds before they could reach their destination. He weeped and asked them to buy him more drink, as he was short of coin. Seiveril knew the way and wanted closure, so he offered to accompany them on their journey.
“The Bysshe Woods”
The next morning, supplied with a cart and two horses, which they christened the Shaggin’ Wagon, Whip, and Neigh-Neigh (respectively)—the group and Seiveril embarked on their not-very-noble-quest for a crime boss of literal snakes (yuan-ti).
Traveling into the wilderness proved as dangerous as they had anticipated, as a battle with giant spiders left Seiveril paralyzed.
Deeper in the woods, they heard a flute melody from a grove. Upon investigation, the material plane gave way to the Feywild for a moment—leaving behind scores of alchemical plants. The magic flautist’s jaunty tune alerted a nearby mage who had been driven mad by songs stuck in his head. Ming the Mad Mage attacked the group with the hope that killing them would grant him silence. His fireball took down everyone except, ironically, the actual bard. Ana reacted quickly to heal the party while Ming was distracted by a dragonborn who was visiting his cottage and looking for cheese. When the battle resumed, Ming failed to dispel Ana’s hold person spell and, bound by Zora’s grasping shot, Aevar and Fingers finished off the mad mage. Finding no cheese, the dragonborn (Gwenda Steadlost) walked off into the wilderness.
The group stayed overnight at Ming’s former cottage, finding contraband drugs sold to him by the Whitesnakes, a shoulder bag of holding, and a map to the Oracle of Wyldwynd Peak (whom Ana had been told could help her on her quest). Fingers read an erotic novel that—much to his surprise (but not displeasure)—featured characters based on his parents partaking in an orgy with a secret society in Cambry. Fingers “medibated” with candle wax and left the mold of his “undersausage” for Aevar to find. Teasing Fingers that it was no bigger than a tealight, Aevar started a running joke that would lead to the group’s moniker, TEAM TEALIGHT.
Resuming their journey, the Tealights met a pair of travelers on the road being attacked by wolves. They joined the fray and helped the mace-wielding woman defeat the wolfpack and its dire wolf alpha. The woman introduced herself as Astrid Morninghide, cleric of Kelemvor, god of the dead. Her companion was a student from Cambry University named Iselde Krazec-Cloverdale. Recognizing the young woman’s surname, the Tealights inquired about her relation to Daviton Cloverdale-Sykes and the mysterious “Krazec.”
In the conversation that followed, all learned that, while they shared the same destination, they were at cross purposes. Iselde explained that the “dragon cult” was in fact a team of researchers excavating the ruins of a draconic temple, not cultists themselves. Cloverdale, her father, had lied to them. Furthermore, “Krazec” was no cult leader, but Yulia Krazec, Cloverdale’s estranged wife and Iselde’s mother. Yulia Krazec had indeed stolen the arcane bowl, but had done so to stop a transformation ritual that required human sacrifices. With the help of the halfling Garret Underbrough, Yulia had managed to escape Strierbridge and find refuge with her daughter’s research group.
Iselde had departed the dig site after her father sent a band of mercenaries who threatened to kill them all. (Unbeknownst to Iselde, Seiveril was one of those mercenaries. He slipped away during the conversation and returned to the cart.) After leaving, Iselde traveled to Gardenarea to find Astrid, her former language tutor and a retired adventurer to ask for her protection. The previous night during her prayers, Astrid’s god appeared to her and told her it was time again to travel.
Realizing Cloverdale had tried to play them for fools, the Tealights renounced their association with the Sneks and joined Astrid on her quest to save Yulia, Iselde, and the researchers.
A kobold barricade barely delayed the adventurers on their way to their destination, as Aevar cast shatter to devastating effect.
“Temple of the Brass Dragon”
The researchers hoped to learn more about the origin of the dragonborn race. They were delighted to see the group arrive and offered them a tour. At the main building, an earnest guide showed them a room that had been sealed for centuries. It contained statues of dragonborn, a cryptic poem about a “Sick Rose,” and hundreds upon hundreds of red candles.
After the tour of the excavation site, Team Tealight (with Astrid) used their skills to shore up the defenses around the shanty town and ruins and to motivate the workers to be prepared to repel any attack from kobolds and Whitesnakes.
With the site secure for a while, the Tealights turned to the scholars to learn more about the strange appearance of a dragon and devils. Gorian Erectus, professor of the College of Lore, explained that dragons were territorial, but had a different sense of time than humanoid races. The one in Strierbridge probably had a connection to the place, even if it was from centuries ago.
In regard to devils, they appeared frequently when the Knights of Hieroneous still existed. Unless someone had taken the Oath of Hieroneous recently, it was like an anomaly.
Team Tealight had a collective facepalm. Yes, as it so happened, they knew someone who spoke the oath the day before the devils appeared. Gorian referred them to a book on the Knights, which Astrid spent the day studying the connection between devils and Knights, as well as the sexist culture the Knights engendered.
The calm was broken when Seiveril revealed that, despite having once been a student at Cambry, he had been one of the mercenaries sent by the Whitesnakes to retrieve the arcane bowl and kill everyone here. He also admitted he had joined the Tealights to leave a trail for the Sneks to follow. He now saw the error of his ways and begged forgiveness.
Startled by his words, Yulia grabbed the ceremonial bowl and fled with Adaire, an elven professor, into the crypt below the building, securing the door behind them so no one else could follow. Gorian pleaded with the Tealights to venture into the dungeon, which had claimed the lives of any who had gone into it. Yulia and Adaire faced certain death.
The Tealights agreed. Before they left, Aevar told Seiveril he forgave him—and then punched him in the nuts, leaving him for Iselde and the others to “take care of.”
Entering through the top level of the ruins, the Tealights fought skeletons and a fungus before descending to the base of a broken tower with a large statue of a brass dragon surrounded by smaller statues and an empty plinth. The group was attacked by zombies, which they defeated. A line of red candles led them to an ancient library. Within, Astrid found a journal and learned that the zombies had been students exploring the dungeon on a dare. A guard found them and was also trapped. They perished from injuries or by murdering one another. The Tealights solved the riddle and placed the statue of a teenage girl on the plinth before the dragon BEOZZONTHAEUM. The doors unlocked and they continued.
The Tealights learned that before it became a dragon temple, this was a castle called Honorbow Keep. The girl in the statue, Roisin Honorbow, was the daughter of Rosellus, a Knight of Hieroneous. Roisin’s tale unfolded through journals, notes, and the dungeon itself as the Tealights ventured on, the path being lit with red candles. Roisin claimed to have become pregnant when a dragon visited her on a stormy night. Her pregnancy became a source of shame and vexation for her strict father and he imprisoned her within the family crypt, where she made candles and sang “The Sick Rose.”
When the Tealights visited one section of the family crypt, they found a note on the corpse of another Knight, which warned Rosellus that his behavior endangered the order of Hieroneous and that he had inadvertently let a disguised necromancer into his castle.
Warnings from his fellow Knights unheeded, Rosellus turned Roisin over to the so-called ‘holy man’ for an exorcism. With Rosellus’s consent, the ‘holy man’ tortured Roisin. She gave birth to a dragon wyrmling and two eggs before the ‘holy man’ revealed himself as Oyogan Nightfall, a necromancer. He had used the rituals to bind Roisin’s soul to this place and power his arcane magic, becoming a lich. Roisin died before the dragon Beozzonthaeum and an army of kobolds lay siege to the castle and reduced it to rubble. Over time, dragonborns built a temple upon this holy ground.
In a room filled with red candles and sculptures of humans, dragons, and things in between, a ghoulish waxen construct of Roisin hovered and bid the Tealights enter. It asked them to find Roisin’s remains, free her from the necromancer’s hold, and release her soul from a millennium of bondage.
They quested deeper under the crypt through hazardous rooms and tunnels until they reached a seemingly impassable crevasse once spanned by a crystalline bridge. To the group’s astonishment, Astrid began to radiate white light and she unfurled ephemeral wings, taking flight and soaring through the cavern to scout the terrain. Astrid later explained that her father was human, but her mother was a deva—a celestial being—and this heritage made Astrid an Aasimar. She also said that she had spotted a mausoleum on the other side of the chasm.
The mausoleum was guarded by a large construct in plate mail armor with a red cavity in its chest which held a glowing heart wrapped in a rose. Using the terrain, some lubricant they’d found earlier, and abandoned siege weapons, the Tealights engaged the fearsome Iron Golem, eventually prevailing after a long battle that saw Aevar fall unconscious and most of their attacks rendered useless. They retrieved the heart from the golem and—gathering Roisin’s bones from the mausoleum—prepared for their return to the dungeon to find Yulia, Adaire, and the arcane bowl they needed to free Roisin’s soul.