Tl;dr: The Council required the heroes of the island to deal with a threat to the existence of all halflings everywhere. We are happy to report they succeeded.
Future Adventure Notes:
•Against superior numbers, tight hallways can help turn the tide.
•Fleeing from massive dangerous dragons is sometimes the better call.
•Who is “He Who Watches” and what needs to be recovered east on Ruined Oak?
Session Title: Half a Memory
Session DM: Geokhan
Session Date: 07 Mar 2022 @ 23:59
Session Risk: 8
•Bardy (Bard 16/Cleric 1) with Sisyphus the Pegasus
•Eddings (Bard 16/Sorcerer 1) with Pery the Peryton
•Eight (Monk 16/Wizard 2)
•Chemist (Wizard 17/Rogue 1) with El Diablo the Demon
For a prologue, I would take a moment to mention for posterity that recently I was summoned at night, and pulled into an Obelisk. There I had a pleasant if strange conversation with an entity known as Elera, a commander of an Obelisk (of which there are many), who works for Vela a member of the The Council, considered to be The Manifestation of Wisdom. Elera’s primary opposition is The Leonid, A Stranger who works for The Council’s opposition.
In agreeing to Elera’s request to serve The Council (refusal meant having to leave the Island), I was given a mark on my arm that all who work for The Council will have, but this mark can be manifested or dismissed at will. Though I have yet to see them, I believe my fellow adventurers who have been inside an Obelisk also has this mark.
Some of what I was told still beggars my mind. About how the Obelisks can shift through space and time and, planes and dimensions, more I am still struggling to understand. The Council’s responsibility and authority is beyond my limited comprehension. I have added this information as a prologue as the events that transpired require some basis of such knowledge to understand.
I believe all of us with a mark received the following message from Eddings:
“Word has reached me of an upcoming assignment. We’re going to the wastes of the Shadowfell known as Har’Akir. In these desolate, hot, sands lies the town of Muhar. We’ll meet with a merchant there named Kawab Ebu.
The Muhari are very religious, do not like necromancy, and do not accept coin in trade. If we intend to resupply there we’ll need to bring supplies to barter with. Otherwise, we should bring plenty of water and rations. Magical nourishment will not work on the sands of Har’Akir.
The mission that Kawab Ebu will assist us with is the retrieval of a stolen memory. It is contained within an “orb” which the enemy is attempting to destroy. This enemy is led by a being named Hydri who is beyond our capabilities. He will be led away, leaving us to deal with his forces: the Kezef. They’re a nasty aberration which melt their surrounds. Lesser forces include Bronze Greatwyrms, Ervis Cale, and hardened bandits.
There will be life-draining mists about and it is within Hydri’s nature to defend with traps. Aside from that, we have very little information on the location in which the orb is kept. Kawab Ebu will know where it is but we may wish to find other sources if we’d like to know anything else.
It is imperative that we retrieve the Memory Orb. If we don’t, all halflings, everywhere, will die. By either force or farce, once we have the prize we’ll be notified of our exits. The civilian population must be protected but other than that, we’re under no constraints.”
The enormity of this task still boggles my mind. All halflings everywhere, all planes, all realms, possibly universes, a concept I am still struggling with.
We prepared to the best of our abilities for the circumstances described by Eddings information, then gathered. In the mysterious ways of The Council a smaller, darker Obelisk appeared before us, the familiar red light pulling us inside. Greeting us was (a rather boisterous) individual named Zi-Ka’ne. He worked the arcane (more than simply arcane, something additional, something technological?) controls, while talking about making sure we were prepared and hoping we did not die, (we hoped that as well.)
With no movement detected he declared we had arrived at Har’Akir, then part of a wall disappeared, revealing stark desert all around. Zi-Ka’ne said to follow the road to the town, Muhar, and that he would pick us up when we had what we came for, a quick good luck, and then as the obelisk disappeared casually mentioned not to go into the mist to the east, it was very bad.
The desert seemed similar to the Desert of Flies on the island, and we thought (correctly it would turn out) we had arrived in the morning. With little else to go on, we followed what appeared to be a road. Eddings flew up high to try to scout, seeing sand and dunes, but also a lone individual approaching our party. We greeted him and him introduced himself as The Guide. He said he was here to take us to Muhar, but stopped when he noticed El Diablo.
The Guide told us how the people of Muhar are simple by religious and would not understand nor tolerate El Diablo’s presence. He further mentions some of their religion, that they are followers of Osiris and Nepthys, and that the Ma’at teaches them about truth, harmony, law, morality, and justice (quite like the religions from our realm I would think.) Chemist’s plan was to simply instruct El Diablo to bury itself in the sand outside sight of the town. (simple plans are something the most eloquent.)
As we approached the town, The Guide told us that the oasis in town was a miracle from the gods. One sip per day provided nourishment for the entire day. No one is allowed to fill containers and we must absolutely not pollute or desecrate the water. He provided a map of the town and told where Kawab Ebu would found, indicating a market in the centre of town.
The Guide mentioned some of the history of Muhar. A small settlement, of less than three hundred people currently. Ages ago, Eckapot the Dark Lord founded it, and the people live here in an eternity of dreaming about the glories of an ancient and forgotten empire. They are now a fragile people, and the we must be careful to not disturb the balance. The Guide waited at the entrance, (but we did not encounter him again, so perhaps he left us when we were out of sight.)
Moving through Muhar, it seemed similar to towns from our realm, children playing and people going about daily life, (we noticed people seeing us and mumbling to each other “outsiders”, but I can hardly fault them, we stood out.) The market building had three tiers, a placard saying (according to Eight) Ebu’s Elaborate Emporium, and a place for stabling animals. We stabled our mounts and went inside, (with Eight staying out to keep a watch on everything.)
Noticing us immediately, Kawab Ebu quickly finished a trade with someone haggling, then ushered us to an inner chamber, while asking his assitants to make sure we were not disturbed, as we had trade to discuss. (he seemed to have a reason for deception here, so we agreed to play along.) We sat at a table where Kawab Ebu talks about a great problem threatening the lands. (his or ours, I am not sure.)
He says he has procured the item we need and that it was already paid for, producing a map of the surrounding area. North of the city he indicated an area known as The Sinking Sands and that not visible to the eye were ruins where a great evil had taken up residence. We were to take this knowledge and go remove the evil as our part of the bargain. (To be honest, I am not certain we removed this great evil, we did disturb it a great deal, perhaps that was sufficient.)
He described The Sinking Sands, saying those with good eyes can avoid the softer sand, but those without will quickly sink to their death, with it being at least a mile through the sands to the fortress ruins, the name for which is lost to history. He then pointed to a smaller ruin, between the town and the fortress and said that here we could find The Finder, who may have a map or knowledge of a way through the sands.
Kawab Ebu mentioned we would need something to barter with The Finder, gems preferred. (It was not clear if they do not accept coinage or have no concept of it.) Eddings was curious what sorts of gems were common in the area, discovering it was ebony, ruby, amethyst and black onyx. Eddings then bartered a dagger for enough clothing appropriate for the hot climate for the party. (It was greatly appreciated, thanks again Eddings.)
When we enquired about what night was like, Kawab Ebu, said it was dangerous, with predators coming out at night, such as sand sharks and scorpions. He said a single moon rose at night, and was a portal to the afterlife. Referring to the rest of town, he mentioned a temple of Osiris, and one to Nephthys, the last building of note being an inn, called The Monk’s Fist, the owner is an outsider like us, named Bramble, and we were cautioned about mistreating animals around him.
We left the emporium, and went the oasis to take our single drink of the day, (quite refreshing.) We took our mounts to the stables for the night then went to The Monk’s Fist. (Eight confirmed it was written on a sign above the door, but it was nothing like any language I have ever seen.) Clearly having seen better days, this establishment had suffered from serious wear and tear. There was a forest gnome, the sole occupant, running the place.
We introduced ourselves and we greeted in return by Bramble, who was remarked how long it has been since he last spoke common. We spoke to Bramble about various things, some in town, some just personal to him. He quite strongly dissuaded me from trying to visit the temples, suggesting that the priests would not look kindly upon it, with many customs to follow be entering. He and Eight did some monk training exercises upstairs, where Bramble revealed he was trained in the Ways of the Four Elements. (I wonder now how old Bramble might be, since as I recall we found an old Altist temple dedicated to those arts.)
Eddings took a moment to show Bramble his magic dog, which delighted him, saying it warmed his heart . Bramble remarked how there are not many animals in those parts, and thought well of us for how well treated our mounts were. (I took a slight peak into his benign secrets and Bramble has been secretly hiding animals and getting them water some how.) We slept a quiet night at the inn, gathered our mounts and then went to the demon buried in the sand.
Chemist used some magic to make the demon appear like an enormous kenku, then we set off to try to find The Finder. We followed the road to the northwest, until we meet an individual speaking an unknown language. Eight was able to interpret, and this was indeed The Finder. With Eight’s continued interpreting, we managed to make arrangements that in exchange for three blue gems, (that the Finder found most appealing,) he would lead us through the sinking sands, through a barrier of some kind and then lead us as close to the fortress ruins as he was willing to go.
The Finder led us north, taking us to a spot of no note to us, but what he deemed the be the place. He then began casting a ritual, (with an abjuration component) causing a spinning, shining, golden disc to appear, growing to be a portal, stepping through. We quickly followed. The Finder said we were passed the sinking sands and the barrier, then lead us to a spot where we could see the ruins.
The Finder told us that what we sought was in the complex under the ruins, and that the was to access that was through two massive cisterns in the ruins. He also strongly warned us from entering the gash in the ground nearby. We thanked him and then gave The Finder his gems and he left us then.
Chemist summoned a magic hand to allow Eight to float off the ground, and in a loose formation we approached, all of us flying slightly above the ground. When we got close, a massive bronze dragon, roared and came at us angrily, breathing a massive cone of lightning that severely hurt me and Sisyphus, then knocking Eight unconscious with a different breath weapon. Quickly, we determined that slaying this dragon was beyond us, so we raced for the cisterns, large enough for us (well not Sisyphus, but I had magic to get him through), but too small for the dragon to follow.
Chemist used his magic hand to get Eight close enough to him to dimension door them to the cistern, Eddings being the first to actually go through. El Diablo ended up being a sacrifice to the dragon, as one by one we all got through. Eddings arrival alerted the inhabitants, and our strife continued. (Before Eight got down the cistern, a creature appeared out of the gash, drawn by the sounds of combat. A massive skeletal dog, with writhing maggots and a greenish colour. This creature alarmed the even the dragon.)
In the tunnels below, we found ourselves fighting what I would term sand bandits. This battle last a few minutes, as we tried to used their tunnels against them, allowing us to focus some down. Amongst the bandit combatants were crossbowmen, swordsmen, and some powerful divine and arcane casters. Eventually, as we thinned their numbers, the few survivors capitulated and surrendered. (Eight found a map in the section he was fighting in.)
Searching through the complex of tunnels, we eventually found an altar where a large alien demonic-like creature sneered at us, saying “its ritual was interrupted but it had time to prepare an escape,” then it and the few of its remaining followers disappeared. (We have no idea what this ritual was currently.)
With continued searching, Eddings came across the item that matched the description he had been given (or shown perhaps.) When he grabbed it, we began to hear Zi-ka’ne’s voice telling us he was nearby, at the smaller ruins outside the Sinking Sands. We were unsure how to get there when one of the surviving bandits prompted us that right beside where Eddings found The Memory Orb was a portal device (they wanted us to leave). Chemist checked it, and figured out how to safely activate it, causing a portal to appear, which we entered.
We found ourselves briefly outside the smaller ruins, then in the red light of the Obelisk, as we got beamed back up. He was pleased at our success at finding The Memory Orb, (again, overly boisterous), telling Eddings to place it in the column (he gestured here to indicate where.) When Eddings did so, there was a shimmer, and the next thing we knew we were safely back on the island.
(The map that Eight found is rather troubling, since it is clearly of Ruined Oak and the roads to the East. How or why this map of our realm was in Har’Akir is yet a mystery, as may be “He Who Watches.”)