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 Episode 4 of The Iron Guard - 2013-11-24 -  
 ... of Shades 
Shades in the Forgotten Realms

In the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, many Shadovar (citizens of the City of Shade) are shades. They are a group of Netherese wizards who fled Faer n for the Plane of Shadow before Karsus's Folly. The City of Shade was one of five cities to survive the cataclysm.

The famous assassin Artemis Entreri absorbed the life force of a Shadovar shade using his vampiric dagger. Due to this absorption, Entreri's skin has taken on a grayish hue and his aging has slowed if not stopped altogether.

Erevis Cale, the butler of the Uskrevan family, was transformed into a shade in the Erevis Cale Trilogy. Drasek Riven also became a shade in The Twilight War trilogy after obtaining a piece of Mask's divine essence of shadow



Shade

Seekers of power willing to trade their souls to the darkness.

In the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game, shades are humanoids who have merged with the essence of the Plane of Shadow. In Third Edition, a shade is created by applying a template to a humanoid creature.

Shades grow more powerful in areas of darkness or shadows, including the ability to leap from shadow to shadow, to create shadowy duplicates of themselves, and even become entirely invisible. They can also decrease the amount of light in an area, and can see through darkness, even of the magical variety.



RACIAL TRAITS

Average Height: 5'6" - 6'2"

Average Weight: 100 - 160

Ability scores: +2 Charisma, +2 Dexterity or +2 Intelligence

Size: Medium

Speed: 6 squares.

Vision: Darkvision



Languages: Common, choice of one other

Skill Bonuses: +2 Arcana, +2 Stealth.

Fragile Mortality: You have one fewer healing surge than normal.

Master of Shadows: When your class grants you a utility power after 1st level, you can forgo taking that power. Instead, you can take a shade utility power of the same level or lower.

One with Shadow: You have the one with shadow power.

Practiced Sneak: You have training in Stealth.

Shadow Origin: The Shadowfell has left its mark on you, so you are considered a shadow creature for the purpose of effects that relate to creature origin.







PHYSICAL QUALITIES




Shades resemble their original human selves, though they sacrifice their native vitality to the ritual that turns them into slender creatures of shadow. Their darkness-piercing eyes become orbs of dull black, dark gray, or purple. Their coloring takes on subdued hues, with most shades having pale skin and lank, black hair. Shades prefer dark, somber clothing of silk, suede, or supple leather, decorated with brass and iron. Their metal weapons and tools are coated with special oils that dull any sheen or reflection.


The Trail of Five Darknesses has a dramatic effect on longevity; rumors abound of shades who eventually attain a level of power that allows them to stop aging altogether.



PLAYING A SHADE




Ambitious, ruthless, and paranoid, shades are humans who trade part of their souls for a sliver of the Shadowfell's dark essence. Even more so than the shadowborn--natives of the Shadowfell descended from the common races--shades are gloom incarnate. No matter what nations or land one was first born into, each shade undergoes a dark rebirth that transforms him or her into a creature of stealth and secrecy who is caught between life and death. In exchange for the twilight powers granted to shades, the Shadowfell taints their souls with dark thoughts and a darker disposition.


A human who chooses to become a shade is reborn into shadow through a transformative ritual that draws on the ambient magic present at shadow crossings--places where the veil between the world and its dark echo is thinnest. Known in scholarly circles as the Trail of Five Darknesses, this arduous ritual is as likely to slay its practitioner outright--obliterating body and soul--as it is to grant the ability to wield shadow magic.


Unbridled ambition and utter desperation are common reasons for a human to undertake the Trail of Five Darknesses, since the taint of the Shadowfell marks a shade as an outcast forever. Shades maintain a determined self-reliance when among their own kind, because they know all too well the greed and duplicity their race is capable of. However, shades also believe in strength in numbers, and as such they congregate in settlements close to shadow crossings, both in the world and the Shadowfell.


A few shades deny the self-serving nature of their kind, striving to ensure that the true nature of their souls overcomes the shadowy nature of their chosen path. Rejecting their own kind, these shades seek the company of the common races. Drawn to the life of an adventurer, such shades try to earn the trust of a close circle of friends, defending those comrades with the ruthlessness for which their kind is known. However, some decry this behavior as just another facet of the shades' characteristic avarice--treating friends as personal possessions that must be kept safe at all costs.



ATTITUDES and BELIEFS




Shades exist among all cultures, but the transformation they undergo creates a consistent sense of ambition for which their kind is known. No matter what justification inspires an individual to undertake the Trail of Five Darknesses, the conscious act of embracing the power of shadow changes that person. For many shades, having given up a portion of their own soul in the name of power means that no sacrifice is too great.


Shades value restraint, poise, and patience. They bid their time in all things, keeping a low profile as they manipulate events to their advantage. Just as the Shadowfell's malaise can smother the spirits of mortal adventurers who venture into that dread plane, the sliver of shadow within each shade subdues emotion. A shade still feels love, hate, pride, despair and the like, but he or she buries these feelings deep inside. A shade's smirk or frown carries as much weight as a halfling's laughter or an orc's frenzied roar.


Shades hold little love for the gods. Having made the ultimate sacrifice for power, they have no patience for those who beg deities for their favour. Those few shades who dedicate themselves to a faith worship Sehanine, god of trickery, or Vecna, god of secrets.


For all their fierce independence and self-reliance, some shades feel a hunger for companionship driven by the emptiness of their fractured souls. Although such shades rarely become social creatures, they gravitate to strong allies alongside whom they can prove themselves in battle. Such long-term companies are typically the only ones who ever see a shade's true emotions, even as the shade demonstrates the full strength of his or her driven ruthlessness in those allies' defense.


The shades' independence puts them in direct opposition to the intense shadar-kai and their devotion to the Raven Queen. These two races of shadow demonstrate an animosity that rivals that of elves and drow, or dwarves and orcs. However, shades are civil to the vampiric vryloka, understanding too well the effect of living under the weight of shadow.



SHADE COMMUNITIES




The dark nature of their transformation places shades firmly outside the societies they arise from. The most social of their kind distrust all except their closest companions. Truly misanthropic shades embrace their darkness fully, seeing others as pawns to be exploited in the quest for power.


In the mortal realm, a shade often takes up a life of wandering or lives as a social outcast on the fringes of humanoid society. It is common for shades to mask their true nature with magic or clever disguises, using their shadow powers as a screen against watchful eyes. In many cases, shades reject family or clan names from their past lives to take on the name of the shadow crossing where they undertook the Trail of Five Darknesses ritual.


In the Shadowfell, and around shadow crossings, shades form communities that reflect the avaricious and brutal nature of their residents. Shades who settle in the Shadowfell are typically those who have strongly embraced the darkness in their souls. Their enclaves are built on a rigid caste structure in which shade nobles plot against each other in bloodthristy political machinations that would tear other societies apart. In such communities, shades unattached to a noble house are treated as outcasts or used as pawns in attacks against rival nobles.
 Episode 5 of The Iron Guard - 2013-11-25 -  
 ... of The Shadowfell 
"Long ago, during the collapse of ancient Netheril, one of the empire's flying cities survived the realm's destruction by shifting completely into the Plane of Shadow.' Safe from outside predators and the disasters that befell their kin, the city-dwellers were free to practice their magic and experiment with the stuff of shadow.' After generations of living within the Plane of Shadow, the rulers of the city became suffused with the dark energy of that place, achieving strange and remarkable abilities.



Returning to Faerun in 1372 DR, the people of the renamed city of Shade began magically exploring the world and fortifying their defenses against old and new foes, such as the Phaerimms.' The shades consider all of Anauroch their territory, and once they have established their borders it is likely they will try to expand their realm.' Backed by the arcane might of ancient Netheril and their alien power of shadow, the shades are a serious threat to the safety and security of people all over Faerun.

The true goals of the Shades are unknown.' They may turn up in almost any part of the world looking for information, sowing dissent, defying authority, or looting old caches of Netherese items.' The shades may try to ally themselves with magocracies (such as Thay or Halruaa), groups with ties to shadows (such as the Shadow-masters of Telflamm or the church of Shar), or far-reaching political organizations such as the Zhentarim, if only for the purpose of acquiring information about the world their ancestors fled almost two thousand years ago."

--From the 3e Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting

History

The Shadowfell was created in'1385 DR'when'Shar, having successfully arranged'Mystra's death, bound the energies of the'Negative Energy Plane'with the'Plane of Shadow. Since then, the Shadowfell has existed as a center of Shar's power as well as a transitory place for dead mortals on their way towards judgment on the'Fugue Plane.



shadowfell


The'Shadowfell, sometimes simply called'Shadow, is a parallel plane'from which'necrotic'energies and'shadow magic'stem. It exists as sort of a counterpart to'Feywild'in the sense that it is a reflection or "echo" of the'Prime Material Plane'except that it is a bleak, desolate place full of decay and death. The Shadowfell is a type of underworld, and the thematic successor to the Negative Energy Plane and Plane of Shadow from earlier editions. The Raven Queen makes her home here rather than the Astral Sea. Creatures native to or connected with the Shadowfell generally have the shadow origin.

The Shadowfell is a dark reflection of the world, the gateway the dead pass through en route to their final destination. While is it not necessarily an evil place, it is certainly a place where evil has a strong presence. It has small populations of most civilized races from the world, but it also has a number of native (or now-native) races including'Death Giants,'Dark Ones'the'Shadar-Kai'and'Zamar-Sha. Most of all it is populated with the'dead'and'undead.

Sages from the world will tell you that the Shadowfell's'geography'corresponds to that of the 'real' world, but that is only half the truth. While every part of the world is reflected in the Shadowfell, that does not mean every part of the shadowfell is reflected in the world. The full extent of the Shadowfell's scope is unknown, except perhaps to the gods.

At first blush, the Shadowfell seems much like the world. It is not a lush and verdant hunting ground like the Feywild, nor is it the tumultuous battleground of the Elemental Chaos. Its appearance can be deceiving, though, for the Shadowfell's differences are woven into the fabric of the plane.

In this dark and imperfect reflection of the natural realm, shadows and gloom replace light and hope, suffusing everything with melancholy. A sense of fear and isolation fills living creatures with the urge to surrender to fate. Only those who are strong of heart and mind can survive in such a place.

Even though it's an echo of the natural world, the Shadowfell is nevertheless unique in both its fundamental nature and the mood it evokes. The Shadowfell is a bleak realm that houses both the dead and those among the living who have embraced a dismal existence there.

The Shadowfell is in a state of flux. These alterations can be dramatic or subtle: A giant sinkhole might swallow up a swath of land, or a path that leads through a forbidding mountain range might alter its course to descend into the Shadowdark. These transformations can be physical, but they can also be a by-product of the plane's ability to warp the memory and imagination of those who walk its shadowed paths.

There are a number of locales of interest in The Shadowfell:

Gloomwrought, the City of Midnight
Letherna, Realm of the Raven Queen
The House of Black Lanterns
Moil, the City That Waits
Nightwyrm Fortress
The Plain of Sighing Stones
The Shadowdark (Underdark of the Shadowfell)
Winterhaven

The town of Winterhaven stands watch over a ruined keep that was once a bastion of good in the realm. Within two short decades of the collapse of the Nerath Empire (the most recent Empire that ruled across the world, bringing peace and prosperity that collapsed), the keep was abandoned for reasons that vary from miltary uselessness to it being haunted. The keep is rumoured to overlook a Shadow Rift, a dark scar in the world that was once a gateway to the Shadowfell. This portal was said to have been blocked and maybe destroyed by the last remnants of the Nerath empire who guarded over it.

Gloomwrought

The City of Night; The City of Shadows; the largest city in the Shadowfell. It serves as a port that serves as a hub of travel and trade. The streets of Gloomwrought are unforgiving. Undead prowl the unlit alleys at night, and gargoyles lurk on rooftops, watching for unwary travelers to pick off. If one is to survive in the City of Midnight, he or she needs allies. Even as certain groups such as Midnight's Own, the Ghost Talon, and Houses Harskel and Carradh vie for control of the city, other individuals and organizations are content to play at neutrality. However, few in Gloomwrought are without motivation, and friends can quickly become enemies when different goals collide.

Dead Empires

There are places long lost to the world that still echo in the Shadowfell. Fortresses from the Tiefling Empire, Pyramids of the Illumians, Ziggurats of Moil and other impossible ruins still linger in dark corners.

Dread Domains

There's no way to tell how many of these there are, and each is a unique location, isolated , but not entirely disconnected from the rest of the Shadowfell. Each is the kindgom (or perhaps prison) of a being of great power, and its environs reflect the nature of its master. These are mostly known in rumor and lore, for it is generally accepted that a rip into a dread domain is a one way trip.

The North

Wherever you are in the Shadowfell, if you go north far enough you will find your way to a land of ice and snow. Somewhere in the center of this eternal winter is the tower of the'Raven Queen. The dead who find their way here subject themselves to her judgment, and those who fail become the undead who haunt the ice and snow. Scholars may call this place "Letherna", but no one who lives in the Shadowfell calls it anything but the north.

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Inhabitants

Much of the Shadowfell is a twisted reflection of the Prime Material plane and is populated primarily by dead creatures such as ghosts, specters, and other undead who for whatever reason have refused to leave the Shadowfell and continue on to the'Fugue Plane. There are however, numerous other inhabitants such as communities of'shadar-kai'and'dark ones.

Creatures of shadow plague both travelers and residents of the Shadowfell. Souls drift across the desolate landscape, sometimes becoming trapped or tormented. Great forces vie for control of this land, waging war for dominion over death. For these reasons and more, the Shadowfell beckons heroes who have a thirst for adventure and a desire to do good.

As a shadowy reflection of the world, the Shadowfell can manifest differently to visitors. The plane is an amalgam of differences and similarities to the world. Each person finds something both recognizable and disturbing in its grim landscape.

The Shadowfell is not inherently evil, but evil creatures are strong and plentiful there. Fearsome opponents await heroes in the Shadowfell, for the darkness provides a safe haven for dark and sinister things. Adventurers can expect straightforward fights against mindless undead and shadow beasts, as well as intrigue and conspiracy as they face off against cunning sneaks and master manipulators.

Creatures in the Shadowfell use darkness and fear to their advantage, surprising and ambushing unwary foes. A situation need not lead to a battle in order to instill tension and fear. A narrow alley with dark windows where assassins could be hiding can put players on edge, even when no threat is present.

The monstrous denizens of the Shadowfell can be as insular and dejected as those of the world. The people of the Shadowfell are more xenophobic and mistrustful, though. They are apt to draw steel first before talking. A band of travelers in the Shadowfell, for example, represents a greater threat than one in the world. The constant danger of attack can lead adventurers to feel suspicious of anyone they encounter.

Death is a fundamental part of the Shadowfell, as ubiquitous as life is in the mortal realm. Any heroes who come to the Shadowfell should expect to stare straight into the face of death. Creatures of death roam the dismal landscape, feasting on the vitality of those foolhardy enough to wander the desolate landscape. Also, the Raven Queen keeps a watchful eye on those who visit her domain, dispatching her sorrowsworn to deal with any who threaten her rule.

Passage of Time

Creatures sometimes perceive time differently in the Shadowfell from how they do in the world. Rather than passing with the rise or fall of the sun, time moves based on the gloom infecting one's mind. As a person succumbs to depression and apathy, time seems to slow to a crawl. If one sinks into the deepest depths of despair, time seems to stop entirely.

A visitor to the Shadowfell might feel as though days or weeks have passed, when in fact years have gone by on his or her native plane. More than one traveler has ventured into the Shadowfell, only to find that when he or she returned home, everything that person loved and cherished was gone.
 Episode 5 of The Undaunted - 2019-10-26 -  
 A Leaf on the Wind 
Everything was coated in oranges and reds now; the sun had almost finished it's descent and the heat was finally starting to break. He mopped beads of sweat from his brow with his now damp sleeve, a sigh of relief that they'd reach their destination before nightfall.

The dry breeze did little to offer relief on the well-worn road; but at least this road was smooth compared to the winding path from their village; days in the wagon with his family was starting to wear on him.

"Are we there yet?" Came a familiar call from the covered wagon behind him.

"When the wheels stop, we'll be there." Grenyl replied with unmasked sarcasm. "And if your little brother asks next he'll be the first one unloading."

"Boys, leave your father be and wrap your things, we'll be there soon."

"Yes, mother..." both boys responded in unison as Alea came to join her husband at the reins. Adjusting herself comfortably on the creaking bench of the wagon, she leaned in close and wrapped her arm around Grenyl's sighing contendedly, admiring the scene as they rounded another hill.

"Beautiful here even during the drought, isn't it?" She mused.

"These fields used to be brimming with crop; trees bursting with fruit and these last few months have hurt..." Grenyl replied, his usual pessimistic inclination showing.

I think I can almost see it, Alea straighted a little and pointed into the distance, the path still winding into the distance with a few hills in between.

"Yep, that's it... Hildebrand. We'll let you and Samea off at the inn first then the boys and I will unload at the mill, ok?"

The rattle of the wheels and the trudging and breathing of the horses mixed with the dry breeze whistling through the trees along the road, when without warning, a startling clap shattered the quiet afternoon and echoed over the landscape.

Wincing at the sudden sound, and trying to keep his grip on the reins of the startled horses, Grenyl exclaimed "What in the name of Omir!" and Alea was sitting up now, looking all around to find the source of such a noise.

"What was that!?" both boys stuck their heads out, wide-eyed and looking around them as well.

"There!" Alea exclaimed, pointing into the distance ahead of them. "What could..." but she was cut off in bewilderment when she realized what she was seeing... in a cloudless sky of blue, a dense, dark cloud formation seemed to whirl and spin just over the next hill... storm-like clouds in place of the road.

Another ear-splitting clap of thunder sounded and Grenyl snapped the reins to quicken the horses' pace...



The peaceful wood echoed with the second clap of thunder, but instead of lightning, an explosion of light; a whirlwind of arcane force seemed to tear at the air itself; flashing and screeching at reality as it tore at the trees and ground around it.

The cacophony then stopped as abrupty as it began; though the echoes surely travelled far into the forest. The underbrush burned away and nearby trees scorched as witness to the violent cyclone that now vanished, leaving the forest around still in shock.

But in the center of this burned and charred scar on the forest floor lay a figure, cloaked and hooded, sprawled akwardly, unmoving amidst the still smoking forest floor.



"There, Pa!" one of the boys pointed into the treeline from the road, his eyes wide and already leaping out of the wagon.

"Boys, you come with me. Girls you stay here at the wagon." The smoke was still rising just past the treeline and the boys rushed with their father to get a better look.

"Hold on", Grenyl said, his arm outstretched to caution his sons. "Let's just see here..."

Walking cautiously into the threes, Grenyl could now make out the scene, a figure, lying in the centre of a circle clear of any vegetation, the ground gray, black, and smoking. The trees bordering the small clearing were singed, smoking and black, but looked on at the unmoving figure below.

"Hello?" One of the boys called out anxiously. With a quick look from his father, the boy snapped shut but moved still closer with his brother through the brush towards the clearing.

Daring to step into the circle formed, Grenyl crept closer to the figure, watching for any sign of movement, but there was none. Reaching out, he touched the shoulder of the figure, his robes charred and burned and pulled his hand back; perhaps thinking to provoke a reaction, but there was none. Certain now the man needed help, Grenyl gently turned the stranger's shoulder to roll him over and caught his breath... this man's skin was grey as ash.

"Whoa!" one of the boys exclaimed.

"Now, now... " Grenyl regained his composure, trying to set an example for his sons. "I don't think he's breathing... this man needs help... ok help me with him, get his legs...". The boys looked at each other and the older did as he was told, helping to hoist the unconscious man up and towards the wagon.

"Get those things, boy." Grenyl called to his youngest.

"...these!? ..." he called back looking at a smoldering walking staff, and little more than a charred bag, its contents blackened and destroyed.

"Yes, boy, now do it!" Grenyl's voice now strained under the weight of this strange being.

"What's wrong with him, Pa?" the older asked as they made their way back to the wagon.

"I don't know boy, but it's not right to leave him, ya hear?"

Making their way back through the grass and shrubbery to the road, Alea jumped down, clearing space on the back of the wagon for this strange figure.

"Are we bringing him to Hildebrand, Pa?" the youngest asked as he caught up to his brother and father.

"That's where we're going, and there are people there who can help him."

Omir knows, we can't...
 Episode 8 of The Undaunted - 2019-12-19 -  
 Shadows over Eldolan 
"Servants of the Lich King..."

Although this was the most obvious conclusion, there was still something unsettling about hearing Therilsa say it out loud. The half-elf seemed to be completely recovered from whatever spell had incapacitated her at the beginning of the combat. She gathered you all in a small circle to get your version of events; after listening intently for several minutes, her beautiful eyes narrowed as she stroked her chin thoughtfully.

"It's hard to understand the plans of the One-Eyed Lord, sometimes...a being that has existed in one form or another since the 1st Age thinks in ways most of us do not. Still, this is likely not the result of the Lich King himself, but those who seek to curry his favour. So, we need to ask ourselves: what is here that wretches hoping to impress the Lich King would want to acquire?"

Hawker's Square was still a shambles, with overturned carts, broken vendor stands, and produce everywhere. Several citizens and one Silver Shield lay dead, with tarps pulled over their corpses. Several Silver Shields were interviewing witnesses, trying to form a picture of what happened. Therilsa Stormhand didn't seem impressed. She stared at them for a moment longer, then returned her attention to you.

"I have been in Eldolan for well over 2 years, now; if I was going to be targeted by some faction for something I did on my own, it would have happened already, I should think. Do we believe it's a coincidence that the attack happened the day you arrived?" Meeting each of your stares, one at a time, she accepted your respective silences as answers. "So...now we ask: what is it about you that might be of interest to the Lich King? Some responses," she continued, with her stare landing on Legion, "are more obvious than others...or perhaps he is interested in these two," she said, indicating Milo and Legion, "for the same reasons the Great Gold Wyrm is?" She let out an exasperated sigh, putting her hands on her hips, and staring at the Silver Shields again.

"Or perhaps it's something else entirely! One thing I know for certain: those fools won't solve anything," she hissed, indicating the Silver Shields with a nod of her head. "They are afraid, undermanned due to other issues, and won't make the effort necessary to root things out; they won't risk exposing one of the magic schools if this was the result of a powerful magician making a statement against another school. No...it's going to have to be you." Therilsa took both Idris and Aegus' hands. "This is nothing less than an attack upon the Great Gold Wyrm. As members of the Golden Order, it is your duty to uncover the forces that would wreak such havoc and bring them to justice, even if it's justice at the end of your blades." Letting go, she turned to the group as a whole. "There is something else going on here, and there may be more lives at stake. It is important to be smart about things; if you falsely accuse anyone in the name of the Great Gold Wyrm, things will go very badly, especially with the forces of the Crusader present in town."

Therilsa then broke away from your huddle, all business. As she took a few steps, you could see her stumble a bit; the spell had obviously done some damage. "I am going to arrange some quarters for you for your stay in Eldolan. In the meantime," she indicated the people being clumsily interviewed by the Silver Shields, "go do a better job than they can do. There must be something to be learned here..."
 Episode 12 of The Undaunted - 2020-01-20 -  
 Leaving the Dead Vaults 
It's only a few hours to dawn. You are walking the streets of Eldolan, heading back to the rooms rented for you at the Red Quill Tavern by Therilisa. Many of you are lost in your own thoughts; for some, like Nidalru, thoughts are of where to pawn the rings taken off Grayson (if that's his real name...) and where to spend money on magic here in Eldolan. For others, like Legion, they are of the recent combat in the Dead Vaults and the odd events that took place within. Meanwhile, Idris wondered at what kind of people the Golden Dragon put in his path as he walked alongside the necromancer and Milo, now reverted to his considerably-less-menacing halfling form.

One thing you all had in common though: You felt you were being followed.

Whoever (whatever?) it was, it stayed just beyond your sight, even with the lamps providing illumination in the dark of night. Every now and then you'd stop, listen, scan the shadows...but nothing. You'd swear it was paranoia, but each one of you had that feeling...

You began walking again, whispering amongst yourselves that you should perhaps not head to the Red Quill until you somehow ducked your tail...but ducking this pursuer seemed impossible at this point, and you were already exhausted from the day's battles.

Suddenly, the lamps of the street flashed brightly, lighting up your street as though it were midday. Temporarily blinded by the sudden light, you regained your sight in just enough time to see a dark figure fleeing down an alleyway at great speed. Looking around for the cause of the flare-up, you see a Lamplighter Wizard with his staff raised. He lowers it, and the lamps return to their normal levels of illumination. From his vantage point in the street, he looks down the alleyway where your stalker fled, then turns to you and gives a friendly nod. Returning the gesture, you finish the walk back to the tavern, feeling a bit safer here in your first night in Eldolan.
 Episode 15 of The Undaunted - 2020-01-30 -  
 Exploring the Dream Theater 
You check out the sturdiness of the bars blocking access to the chute the Dreammaster used to escape. Tough. Eventually, they would break, but it would require considerable effort and time, and you weren't sure if he was retreating to a defensible position or escaping the theater altogether. Better to look for other avenues to find him.

Looking throughout the rest of the theater, there are three backstage storerooms, plus a latrine and an obvious trapdoor in a hallway floor that opens to reveal a set of
stairs going down to the cellar. One storeroom is filled with old construction materials from the theater days and other debris. The other two have been converted into living quarters and a simple kitchen/eating area. The living quarters holds food, drink, a pouch with 20 gp, and 3 packets of dreamleaf worth 30 gp each on the black market (according to NIldaru) or half that as a reward if handed over to the Archmage's people (according to Legion)...and two threadbare robes: one is a dark blue robe that has a very faded Lamplighter's Guild symbol on it, while the other is a tattered blue Eldritch Master's robe.

There is also a back exit from the theater, but it's boarded and nailed shut, with a pile of debris stacked against it from the inside.

The total coins on the assembled downed foes is 220 silver pieces.

Wednesday at 8:15? I don't know about you guys, but I am loving 13th Age so far. I haven't done a spectacular job rping the villains, because I am paranoid about missing stuff in a new game, but I am confident that will improve!
 Episode 20 of The Undaunted - 2020-02-25 -  
 Hildebrande 
The city of Hildebrande is a medium-sized city located on the shores of Pocket Bay, between the two forests just northwest of Gorogan's Maw. Its primary source of wealth has traditionally been from its large shipyards, but in recent years commerce has dwindled in this are due to the oversized influence of the crime guild known as the Syndicate. Using means both mundane and magical, the Syndicate has a stranglehold over the wharves, and this has resulted in a lot of commerce that previously came to Hildebrande going elsewhere. The citizens of Hildebrande are suffering from a lack of resources, as a result, causing much turmoil throughout, and a small exodus to other cities.

Religiously, one faith has taken prominence over all others in Hildebrandee, the faith of Makaria, goddess of community. Itotia, the high priestess of Makaria, is beloved by all the citizens, and with good reason: during this time of economic depression, Itotia makes sure everyone coming to her temple (the only one in the city) gets what they need, whether it's food (usually), or a cure for some disease or injury (more rarely). In fact, Itotia makes sure any adventurer who goes off to make their fortune with the promise of returning to Hildebrande gets several healing potions when they go. In fact, the temple of Makaria is known far and wide as being a provider of particularly potent healing potions.

Hildebrande is also known for its unnaturally tall buildings. There does not seem to be any written record as to why the buildings are so tall...and the people who are old enough that they might remember aren't talking. The elite ruling class of gnomes in Hildebrande supposedly keep detailed records, but no one has access to them; the gnomes are too busy with their mechanical creations, automating important tasks within the city.

Hildebrande exists underground as well; the Undercity runs at least the length and breadth of the city above. The Undercity is largely run by dwarves; though they do not form a separate government, they do control the tunnels and wield an outsize influence on the city, largely due to their ability to procure resources the city needs. Rumours circulate that the dwarves are keeping some things for themselves, allowing citizens in the upper city to suffer...

The knighthood of the Great Gold Wyrm has a secret training ground for the Wyrm's heroes in the city; everyone seems to know the facility exists, but only those who serve the Wyrm seem to know exactly where it is. Rumours amongst the populace is that there is a powerful magical artifact hidden in the facility; one that people hope the knights will use to expel the Syndicate once and for all.

Another claim to fame that Hildebrande has is that the city is home to what is considered the oldest tree in all of the Dragon Empire. While some contest this claim, the fact that the High Druid sent one of her most esteemed druids, Nakato, to the city for the sole purpose of guarding the tree lends the claim credence. Nakato herself takes her job very seriously, too seriously for some; people wonder why she doesn't use her magic to care for the people as well as the tree...especially since the weather wards of the Archmage seem to be failing, creating random weather patterns in the area.

The populace of Hildebrande are somewhat unique in their own way: the citizens all seem to be virtually supernaturally talented musically. All kinds of music, too: singing, different instruments, musical writing...and no one is sure why. Every so often, a traveling bard known as Antoine will come by and recruit a citizen to come with him to a major city where he will apprentice them to a popular bardic college. They never return to Hildebrande though...and no one has ever seen one of their performances, though everyone has heard of them.

The musicality of Hildebrande was affected in another way in the past: A red dragon, presumably from the Red Wastes (unconfirmed), would come once a year and demand tribute from the city...but not for the last five years. No one knows why the dragon has stopped showing up; people hope that a group of courageous dragonslayers killed the beast, but on that anniversary of the last time the dragon showed up, people stay in their homes and board up the entrances.

Notable Persons of Hildebrande
Ursel is a paladin of the Great Gold Wyrm who runs the training facility in Hildebrande. Missing 3 fingers from her left hand from the slicing blade of a Marilith, Ursel remains excellent at dice games, though she always donates her winnings to the city temple. Always with a mint in her mouth, Ursel is honest to a fault, making her a great instructor. She believes deeply in the sanctity of life and honoring tradition; this last, combined with her honesty, sometimes makes her an easy mark to unscrupulous persons.

Itotia is the head cleric of Hildebrande's only temple. Stunningly attractive, Itotia's personality is just as beautiful; everyone loves Itotia for her generosity, compassion, and skill at diplomacy. Like many of Hildebrande's citizens, Itotia has a special talent for a musical instrument; it seems to be some type of harp, though she will not confirm what it is, exactly. As part of her diplomatic nature, Itotia tends to enunciate overly clearly; citizens know she is not condescending, but outsiders are not sure. She is quiet, but it seems to be a quiet born of confidence. She sees the whole of Hildebrande as one big community and sees the Syndicate as eroding that.

Jocelyn is the gardener the city has assigned to the Oldest Tree, and he takes his role very seriously. Highly intelligent, though failing in health as his age increases, Jocelyn was intimidated by Nakato at first but now is quite in awe of her. Sometimes Jocelyn likes to just sit against the tree and draw, something he is quite good at. He once tried to make a gift of one of his drawings to Nakato...no one knows how this gift was received and Jocelyn isn't talking. Jocelyn is coming around to the philosophy of the High Druid, and no one had better threaten the tree when he is around.

Mayor Wesley has been the head of government for over ten years, but has been reduced in status severely over the last five. Pulled in all directions by the various factions in Hildebrande, Wesley has become obsequious, stressed, and somewhat pathetic...a fact not unnoticed by his wife Patricia and their three children. Rumours circulate that Patricia has taken a lover; other rumours say that Wesley knows and cannot do anything about it.

Saelorn, preferring the name 'Sally,' is a local celebrity. Intensely charismatic, people seem addicted to him; everyone seems to love being in his company. Sally possesses an eidetic memory, and uses it to entertain, but not commercially; he does manual labour instead, and isn't very good at it. His charm keeps getting him work opportunities, enough to support his wife, Rhea. Sally is a functional alcoholic, who can often be found in the taverns of Hildebrande, having drinks bought for him.

Condon runs the Freighter Pub with his wife, Aife, and their three children. The Freighter used to specialize in service to the mercantile ships that would frequent Hildebrandee, but with the recent plummet in traffic to the city, he's had to become creative...and he is experiencing more success than ever by specializing in dwarven cuisine, or more precisely, his interpretation of dwarven cuisine. The dwarves of the Undercity have graced the Freighter with so much business that Condon is considering changing the name of the long-standing pub. The dwarves have named Condon an 'honourary dwarf' and he is known to offer the Freighter as a place to negotiate business between the city and the Undercity.

The sheriff of Hildebrand is named David. No last name, and never, ever, refer to him as 'Dave,' 'Davey,' or anything of the sort. David won't tolerate it...not that he ever reacts with any great emotion. Any emotion at all, really...but misfortunes tend to happen to those who disrupt order, which, to David, is paramount. David has no lieutenants, no deputees, no standing militia...it's just David. Astonishingly, he remains quite effective and maintaining law in Hildebrande, though no one is quite sure how. What everyone is sure of, from the Syndicate to Sally, to Itotia...is that David is frightening. Terribly, terribly frightening. No one feels at ease in David's presence. Is it supernatural? His mannerisms? Both? Something else altogether? No one knows...and no one is going to ask.

'Nasty Nate' runs a gambling den and bar 'The Loaded Die'. A typical breeding ground for thieves and other neer-do-wells, the Loaded Die is the place to find someone to do something you don't want known. Nate keeps the business running well, despite tough economic times, by taking a finder's fee for any deal brokered within the confines of the Die. Of course, the Loaded Die has long been rumoured to be a front for Syndicate, but bar was torched only two years ago, also presumably by the Syndicate, so no one is entirely sure where Nate's allegiances lie. Assuming he has any.

Branda Tulles has lived her whole life in Hildebrandee as a community worker, volunteer, and do-gooder. What she wants most is to make peace here, and as such openly opposes the Syndicate in some very public ways. More than once, the Syndicate has attempted to silence Branda, but she has, thus far, resisted all attempts to at control or on her life.

Judith is the madam of Hildebrande's one brothel, and as a result is one of the most knowledgeable people in the city. She often operates as a broker of secrets and other information. While some believe she is firmly in the pocket of the Syndicate, most believe she is an independent agent, though how she operates without Syndicate protection is unknown. Her courtesans are always unfailingly polite but also dangerous; there are no visible bouncers at Judith's brothel because all the workers can take care of themselves...and then some.
 Episode 23 of The Undaunted - 2020-03-13 -  
 The Aftermath 
Most epic fights end with a fairly lengthy period of denoument, and this one was no different. After transforming back to Milo, the halfling went to round up some Silver Shields to appraise them of the situation that had been brewing under the streets of Eldolan. While he was gone, the remaining heroes combed through Garados' laboratory, to try to get clues as to what else the dark wizard was up to.

Searching the area revealed two more humanoid bodies with surgically removed organs and muscles lying in tubs along the back wall. Some of the magical equipment in the lab seemed rare and valuable, and would bring in approximately 500 gp to the right buyer (according to Legion). The bookshelves contained tomes on anatomy, rituals for creating undead and constructs, and other dark topics. They are the sort of books the Archmage's people would want to confiscate and lock away, but on the black market they could be worth another 200 gp (100 gp reward from the Archmage's people). There was also a handful of magic items on one of the workbenches that Garados was using to build the construct, including two Potions of Healing (adv), a +1 Rune, and a Potion of Negative Energy Resistance. In addition, a Manual of Enlightened Flesh that Garados was using to help him with the golem; it has a lot of notes in the margins about how the ideas in the book might apply to reanimated flesh.The study held a large table for the Seekers to meet, and various mundane items including a store of water, wine, and food. Finally, in his haste to escape, Garados seemed to have left behind his +1 Deathmark Wand.

The secret door was easy to find after a basic search by Nildaru. It led to another tunnel out of the lab; she surmised it led towards the docks area and therefore, his freedom. Between Garados and Landon Smithson, the traitor from the Dead Vaults, the dark elf was sure she'd get another chance at cutting some Seeker members.

Eventually, a contingent of Silver Shields showed up, with many others in tow. Therilsa Stormhand was amongst them, as were Odessa Rilantes, the head cleric at Dead Vaults, Laredes the sage, and Cornelius, the gnome wizard they had met at the Lamplighters Guild. The gnome looked especially upset; Therilsa leaned over and whispered to him causing him to nod in response while obviously holding back tears of embarrassment. You wondered what that was about...

The Silver Shields were following the directives of an impressive-looking woman named Michael. She was quite different from your previous contact, Levi; she was assertive, calm, collected, and seemed genuinely upset that this should have happened in Eldolan. She made sure to express gratitude to you all for "the great service you have done, for the Silver Shields, the citizens, and Eldolan itself," but she did it through gritted teeth. Not that you got the sense that any negativity was directed at you; rather, you saw it in the way she snapped at the men under her command, especially when they mentioned Commander Levi at all.

Therilsa nodded towards a somber Cornelius and walked over to you. She congratulated you all on routing the Seekers of the Lost from Eldolan, and presented a gift to Idris from the Golden Order: a gorgeous ornate metallic gauntlet for one's sword hand...a fabled Dragon's Claw Gauntlet. She then proceeded to explain how, while you were dealing with the Seekers, she was working on the original problem that brought you to Eldolan in the first place. She explained how Cornelius has a cousin, Moz, who is a wizard specializing in intra-dimensional magic. While the Archmage and the Great Gold Wyrm aren't exactly allies, Cornelius acted as a go-between and has arranged for Moz to meet with you to discuss Legion's dimensional sojourn and how it seems to have bypassed the Archmage's wards. Only Legion, though...Therilsa explained how the life-form grafted to Milo needed to be examined more closely, to make sure he was free from demonic influence, and the Golden Order was better suited for that task. Realizing that it meant more time spent with Therilsa, Milo happily agreed.

Before plans could be made to seek out Cornelius' cousin Moz, a figure stepped out of the shadows...Malice Sureshot. With the wide grin of a shark, she brazenly made small talk with Nidalru, right in front of Therilsa and the Silver Shields, talking about seemingly inconsequential matters. The frown on the beautiful drow's face told otherwise, however...when the heroes finally got a moment to themselves, she explained how Malice was simultaneously speaking Thieves' Cant, a language known to those familiar with the Prince of Shadows. Using the Cant, Malice explained how the time to pay her (and by extension, the Prince) back was now: the heroes were to eliminate a rival gang, the Redfangs, before leaving Eldolan. Consequences for refusal were left ambiguous, but Nildaru explained that it would mean looking over your shoulder for the rest of your lives...and that may not be all that long.

Resigning to completing this task, the Silver Shield in charge, Michael, came to your group; you noticed that she wasn't wearing the silver clasp that all the Silver Shields wore. She explained how she had wanted to be more involved in the Seeker case, but was met with discouragement and obstacles at every turn. She explained how she was embarrassed at how the Shields handled everything, and was very impressed at how you all stepped up. So, she quit she Shields in disgust and was hoping you had room for one more in your group...

***************************

Dragon's Claw Gauntlet (quick action - recharge 11+): This

elaborate golden gauntlet is made to resemble the claw of a
dragon. Your next attack that would normally target AC now
targets MD instead, as you hew at your enemy's soul. Quirk:
Quick to judge.


Deathmark Wand (quick action - recharge 11+): This ghastly wand

resembles a bony finger. When you activate the wand, you must
nominate an enemy on the battlefield. Your next attack on that
enemy inflicts 1d4 extra negative energy damage for each round
since you nominated the foe (champion: make those d6s; epic:
d8s). So, if you mark a foe for death in the first round of combat,
but then don't attack that foe for five rounds, your attack on that
enemy will benefit from 5 extra dice of negative energy damage,
hit or miss. Quirk: Enjoys watching others struggle or run.
 Episode 24 of The Undaunted - 2020-03-14 -  
 Heedlessness 
"What do you mean, needlessly provocative?!" Michael piped up.

"The armor, my love. Despite giving you protection at the start of your engagement with those you must deal with to allow you a window to calculate your next moves, it has a quirk to it. At times, you may be overwhelmed by the armor and say or do something needlessly provocative", her elven mother replied.

"I am not being ungrateful, and it's quite elegant and surprisingly form-fitting and flattering but, do I really need to have something like this?" Michael respectfully replied as best she could.

"Now now, my love. As much as your father and I respect your life choices, and this being the second time you have been left for dead and being the sole survivor of such attacks, we think it would be best to wear it. Not to mention it looks good on you. Perhaps it will help you get the attention of a good lad... or lady", her mother said encouragingly.

"Dragon cunt fuck lick! My nipples are sensitive!" blurted Michael, and quickly clasped her hands to her mouth in surprise and embarrassment. Michael started to explain, "I! I!"

"It's alright my dear. It's the armor" her mother replied with a smile. "Your father loved how it looked on me, and thankfully, he also thought it was humorous when this happened. I could always tell because his halo would take on a brighter hue. In time, you will grow accustomed to the armor, and it will happen less and less."

"I miss him, mom."

"Me too my love."
 Episode 26 of The Undaunted - 2020-03-20 -  
 Fate Still Follows 
Legion stood long in front of the largest of Garados''tables of trinkets and horrors.

Here too, these things seem to 'find' me...

The cold, damp air might not have bothered him, but the sharp blade of that skeletal minion sure did.. Legion's robes were still damp with his own blood.' Taking the long, slender wand in his hand, Legion turned it over and over, closing his eyes in concentration.

Ah... so that's how it works...

Turning to the others, Legion's voice was tired.' "I believe this could be useful... and perhaps suited to those like me..."

Milo piped up, "You mean no-breaths?"

Puki, stifling a smile, gave Milo a subtle'nudge from behind.

Legion smirked at the halfling.' "Not quite, but these other items could be useful as well."' Turning, Legion took from the table the tome, dog-eared and marred by much use.' "This, for instance... I believe would be most helpful to the more martially-minded of you..." his eyes fell on Idris, Nidalru and Puki.' "It won't take long to leaf through it, even for those... less well-read.' Come, look and see."

Legion stepped away from the table and hearing no objection, slid the wand up his sleeve for later use.

The Seekers of the Lost... what do they want with me?' How do they even know me?

Legion was beginning to think it was related to the nagging sensation he'd had since arriving in this... place.' It was certainly more than just the adjustments he'd gone through when he had jumped before.' Ever since the confrontation in the Dead Vaults when he felt as though he was able to 'push back' against this oppressive energy... things were... tense... heavy.

I must meet this Archmage, whoever he'is.' He will know where the shard is.' He will find it for me...
 Episode 33 of The Undaunted - 2020-06-21 -  
 E - TBD 
Legion sat quietly as soon as they reached the top of the well. Perhaps for the first time now, he found himself glad that climatization to the magic in this 'Dragon Empire" spared him having to breathe in the foul air and the stench of their clothes. Puki, who never ceased to remind him of this oddity, might even be jealous about now. This amused Legion.

But it was fleeting; for the mention of this "Flesh Tailor" bothered Legion... was this Garados? Surely not; how could he have arrived so much earlier to be known already throughout the dungeon.

Sighing... Legion turned his mind to the distant past; remembering so many years ago when he himself was.... different. Lost for months (or was it years!?) in solitude, pursuing that which he was convinced would finally rid him of Blackcross'. Perhaps this Flesh Tailor was also a single-minded individual, so consumed by his 'art' that he is scarcely aware of his surroundings? What a thought.

Legion closed his eyes now, hard... and tried to conjure again the image he saw first in his vision, and again in his waking nightmare. The shard... the bane of his existence and perhaps the only thing that can save him.... glowing amidst the massive treasure hoard... but it was no use. He could not 'feel' it. Was it down here? Swallowed by this bizarre stone thief monstrosity?

Then the orcs... those huge, brutal, hulking beasts different from those in the realms, or even in the Flannaess... could those be what these goblin runts were referring to?

Legion stood... his minion slowly circling... it's eyes on him... on everyone... silent.
 Episode 33 of The Undaunted - 2020-07-08 -  
 It's not like Greenwell was some sort of Important Village, but... 
It's not like Greenwell was some sort of Important Village, but...it was nice. Filled with really nice people. And a peaceful way of life. The kind of place it might be nice to retire to.

But now...nothing. And for what? You looked over at the windmill, still on its side...what did the Stone Thief want with it?

Gods, what did the Stone Thief want with ANYTHING?

You survived...that's surely an accomplishment. You wondered who else had, and what insights they might have to offer...

Then you thought about the good people of Greenwell again...and how they DIDN'T get out. Taken as slaves, or worse...

You turned to your new companion Yaarel. He explains what he was doing in Greenwell:
The Disciples of Lagoz, a subgroup of the deity of knowledge, Cobboc, have made a discovery within a set of ruins that were lost to the world for ages. Among the ruins, the Lagozians found a relic of holy significance to their faith (indeed, perhaps all faiths). Enemies have dogged them throughout their search for the relic (both from within the church calling them heretics, as well as outside enemies), and so the Lagozians contacted the Priestess' people for help.

Through the icon, they have arranged for capable heroes to escort them and their prize from the ruins to Horizon, where there will be a temporary teleportation circle to whisk them to the Cathedral in Santa Cora.

There have been several different groups escorting them, one group for each significant leg of the journey. Yaarel was part of a group that was supposed to escort them on the last leg, from Greenwell to Horizon. Unfortunately, after the Stone Thief's assault upon the village, the bard is now without a group to help protect the Lagozians. Will you help?
 Episode 33 of The Undaunted - 2020-07-18 -  
 Once again, there was a gathering 
Once again, there was a gathering of Hildebrande's citizens to welcome you upon your return. Mayor Wesley, was, of course, at the forefront.
Several automatons, gnome-created machines with a semblance of life, held up banners with varying messages of adoration to "their heroes." Mayor Wesley, ever the political opportunist, started to coin the name "The Hildeys," and it was unfortunately catching on with the general populace.
Priestess Itotia was there as well, smile beaming and welcoming each of you with a warm hug. ON behalf of the faith of Makaria, she had one of her acolytes (the one you are familiar with, Jyn) come forward with a silver tray. There was a potion for each of you. (You can each add a Champion-tier healing potion to your inventories). While somewhat less of a political gesture than the mayor's, it still had the added effect of causing spontaneous (and loud) public prayers to Makaria.

You were soon surrounded by a mob of well-wishers, obvious sycophants...a growing fandom. Some seemed desperate, asking for favours that only "great heroes" could accomplish, and what hero could be greater than one that survived the Stone Thief?! A living dungeon that had been myth for most people in the Empire!
Mayor Wesley soon came to your rescue, dispersing the crowd and inviting you back to the mayoral office. Priestess Itotia accompanied you as well. Once there, in the privacy of his meeting chambers, the Mayor once again thanked you for your service to the empire, and wondered aloud if you could do so once again. No, no...nothing too dangerous.
You see, there's an up-and-coming politician of sorts, by the name of Tarius Rolle. He's a bit of a rabble-rouser, causing discontent in different cities within the empire. No, never one of The Seven, but still...he seems to enjoy causing unrest. Well, he's here in Hildebrande, and due to give a speech this afternoon. Mayor Wesley doesn't want to stop the event (and you wonder if he even has the strength of will to do so, even if he was a mind to do it), but he also doesn't want a riot on his hands...it's been known to happen after one of Rolle's speeches.
So...if you could be there? Just to keep an eye on things? Crowd's far less likely to riot if The Hildeys are there, right? Now, don't make yourselves obvious at first; don't want to cause a conflict if there's none brewing. But if it looks like the crowd might get into an uproar, well...just make yourselves known. Townsfolk love you after all, and that should calm any negative emotions right down. Itotia agrees; it's the most peaceful solution to a potential problem. Dinner at his Mayor's residence after it's all done!
In exchange, you ask for access to the archives of the elite gnome ruling class, ostensibly to see if there's any mention of the Stone Thief. The mayor and Itotia exchange a concerned look, and after some sputtering, Mayor Wesley promises to get you access "Limited, you understand. They aren't known for allowing others to access their records, for ANY reason. Still, I'm sure I can do something..." The way he said it, you weren't so sure yourselves.
Leaving the office, you decided to get some refreshments at Condon's before heading to the public square. By now, you'd think you would have gotten used to the unnatural stare from the sheriff, David...but no. Still as unnerving as ever...
See you at 8:30 tonight!

PUKI: Why is it so hard to find anything about the demon Nuzbok? Sure, you can find mentions of the demon's name, and it is usually accompanied by a fairly standard warning that his release portents doom, etc. What's not clear is -why- that would be...just a vague warning. Now, it IS interesting that the warnings also counsel against slaying Nuzbok...so you pursued that lead. Unfortunately, Hildebrande didn't have as much to work with as, say, Horizon or Santa Cora.

Frustrated, you began to pray; as much to clear your mind as to receive guidance. Just when you were starting to feel the benefits, you were interrupted by a tap on your shoulder. How rude! Wasn't it obvious you were in prayer? Annoyed, you looked to see who had disturbed your meditations; an aasimar cleric of Cobboc, god of knowledge smiled down at you. "I thought you might be interested in this; the librarian mentioned what you were researching." The cleric handed you a scroll, smiled and bowed slightly from the waist, and left.

The scroll didn't mention Nuzbok by name, only "The Fiend in the Prison of Clay and Gold." Still, that could easily be Nuzbok: captured by the Golden Knights and held by the clay jars placed in a ritual circle. The scroll went on to describe a demon of great cunning and unsurpassed ambition. It was said that, in its lair in the Abyss, it had an artifact that allowed "travel between worlds and times."

You slumped back to consider this. If true, it made a certain sense why the Golden Knights would want to imprison Nuzbok instead of destroying it. Most times, when a demon is slain on this plain, if powerful enough, it's merely the physical form that is destroyed; its essence reforms in the Abyss.

Did we just send Nuzbok back to its home plane and give it access to its artifact...?

NIDALRU: Once, the dungeon had Eyes. It could see where it was going; it could pick its targets from far away. It was much more powerful and much more dangerous.
The Prince of Shadows, it’s said, stole the dungeon’s Eyes. (If he didn’t, he’s certainly blamed for it.) One Eye he kept; the other he gave to a fellow rogue. That Eye got traded and sold a dozen times, changing hands for a king’s ransom in one place or handed over to cover a bar tab in another. Not all those who had the Eye knew what a treasure they held.

Blind, the dungeon was forced to rely on other means. It began to hunt using other senses, to act on instinct instead of looking ahead to the future. It never stopped searching for its Eyes, but as the years went by and there was no sign or
scent of them, the Stone Thief went mad and feral. Did the Prince mean for this to happen...?

In their original form, the Eyes looked like stone tablets, each the span of a man’s forearm, carved to resemble a human eye.
The pupil of the Eye was a glittering sapphire the size of a fist. The magic of the Eyes is held within the gemstones, so the stone tablets may have been removed by the Eyes’ new owners.

You also get the sense that the Prince has agents (yes, plural) within the Stone Thief. It's always been said that the Prince's network extended everywhere, but this is beyond the pale.

It's still not clear why the Prince of Shadows stole the Eyes in the first place (people have long stopped asking how the Prince steals things; the answer is always "Because he's the Prince of Shadows.")

MERRIAN: When consulting Imperial histories about the Stone Thief, you learn that, while the living dungeon itself is a great threat, there are others as well. Foes both within and without threaten the Dragon Empire. There are obvious, overwhelming threats like the Orc Lord or the Lich King, and then there are more subtle dangers, like the Cult of the
Devourer.

This secret society has agents in many places, hiding their occult beliefs, conspiring in secret, all preparing for the day
when the Stone Thief rises as a Living God-Dungeon to devour all civilization.

Membership in the cult is hereditary for the most part. According to cult traditions, their ancestors were exiled (unjustly)
from the Empire many ages ago, and they swore to bring down civilization and have their revenge. In the intervening centuries, the descendants of the exiles crept back into society, but the oaths of vengeance are still passed down, parent to child. The cult also recruits or blackmails useful minions. Others seek out and join the cult to get access to the cult’s arcane secrets.

These days, the cult worships the Stone Thief as a god. Some cultists believe their ancestors were exiled for this veneration of the living dungeon, but it’s more likely that the cult adopted the dungeon as a doomsday weapon long after they were exiled. At this point, who’s using who as a weapon is unclear—that’s the problem with pinning your hopes on sentient dungeons. They just don’t bring about the end of civilization when you want them to.

But that doesn't mean the Cult hasn't found a way to prime certain targets for the Stone Thief...you remember what Idris told you about their encounter with the tiefling with right before the Stone Thief attacked Harrowdale.

There is mention of Secret Masters (whatever they are) and Dream Communication (useful considering typical methods of correspondence would be impossible) but not much else...though you're sure there's more information out there.

LEGION: It was odd...you knew your compatriots were also looking into the Stone Thief, but you also knew it was for different reasons. Altruistic ones, you supposed. What did that feel like, you wondered?

Your concern was more...personal.

Fortunately, as fate (or something else?) would have it, Moz "the Magnificient" was in Hildebrande. Mostly with bad news. While very careful not to disparage the Archmage in any way, the gnome did mention how the wards the Archmage has set around the empire to prevent interdimensional incursions have...decayed. He makes mention of an incident up north in Starport, where agents of the Archmage had to fight off an invasion of...things. Things that the gnome didn't feel comfortable discussing.

So, he was very happy to discuss another living dungeon entirely, even if it was the Stone Thief of legend. From what the two of you were able to determine, the Stone Thief mostly seemed attracted to targets that had magical architecture of some kind, or contained a valuable artifact, or even several. Not always though...not that there was a complete record of everything that the Stone Thief had taken (to your knowledge anyway), but some targets were decidedly non-magical.

The other problem was that the Dragon Empire had no shortage of places with magical architecture and artifacts. The potential 'hit list' for the Stone Thief was in the dozens.

Frustrated, you slammed the table in a fit of anger. Moz was startled and had a worried look on his face...did he think you were going to kill him. In another time, you might have,,,

Eager to assuage your anger, the gnome proffered a dangerous idea: The Inverse Observatory

The Inverse Observatory looks down at the land below. It even looks through the land, to spy on the twisting caves and elemental energies of the dark underworld. The observatory moves slowly through the overworld, making a lazy circle around the Midland Sea. In the west, it floats over the Giantwalk Mountains, roughly following the Koru behemoth migration route once it leaves the highlands.
Sagely giants of great power and wisdom built the observatory, and they still operate it. The ultimate purpose of their observations is to cross-check their astrological findings. Since the movements of the stars affect events, then by watching
those events and correlating those observations with the matching astrological conditions, the giants hope to one day create a perfectly accurate, scientifically falsifiable model of fate.

The giants do not welcome intruders. At best, the intruders might be supplicants or nosy seekers, hoping for a glimpse of the future. They might be thieves, here to steal the giant’s valuable instruments, or religious fanatics clinging to outdated notions of divinity.

Worse, the intruders might be heroes.

Heroes, you see, are thick with destiny. Potential fates and the possibility-matrices of cataclysmic events cling to them.
Heroes must be observed at all times, and their every movement correlated with the stars. A hero on the observatory cannot be observed, which throws all the giants’ calculations out of whack. The only way to correct such a discrepancy is to kill the hero and record the precise time of death, then cross-check that with the stars. Fate is a tricky quarry to hunt down, and heroes meddling in the instrumentation makes it all the harder.

From the observatory, Moz believes that you might be able to detect the Stone Thief as it moves, and predict where it will next emerge.

IDRIS: While the others went to libraries, record halls, or underworld hangouts, you went to bed.

Lighting an incense you kept for such things, you laid your head down and tried to open your mind to the tuggings of the Great Gold Wyrm...tugging you to the Dreamscape.

A familiar haze settled over you. You were back in the Gauntlet, having discovered a secret lair near the Minotaur's hunting ground.
The dwarven master-smith Grommar died in the bowels of the Stone Thief, but before he went mad, he scrawled the instructions for making a weapon that he believed could kill the dungeon. In the dream, you can see the feverish writing on the wall...Grommar’s formula calls for:

• The ichor of a Koru behemoth

• Meteoric iron from the overworld and everburning coal from the underworld

• The soul of a hero

• The blessing of the Dwarf King.

There is something referred to as "a sixth component" but it's not your memory that is faulty, but rather Grommar's writing; it is illegible.

The dream continues. It seems there is more than one way to catch a thief...you see mysterious figures, cloaked in deep purple. They are reading from ancient scrolls, chanting. Two carry an orb of immense magical power. Two more are carrying a huge heavy chain made from a metal you don't recognize. You see shells from some great monster...a behemoth again?

Awake. Groggy and disoriented, you allow yourself a few moments to recover from your journey in the Dreamscape. An hour later, you are sipping cool water from a tall glass when the meaning of the dream becomes clear to you.

There exists a Rite of Binding.
 Episode 33 of The Undaunted - 2020-08-01 -  
 Merian poses this to Nildaru 
Merian poses this to Nildaru as they are cleaning up from their most recent battle: "Why did you kill her? She was defenseless. There was nothing she cold do against us. Is this what the princes ways have taught you?"

Merian now looks to the rest of the group: "why didn't any of you do something or speak up? I remember not long ago when we were in a similar situation and Legion had defeated an enemy and wished to retrieve information, but after doing so wished to kill them. Idris and Puki had no problem chastising him for his bloodthirsty ways and I wonder why this time was any different. Idris said that it wasn't our way. Is it the fact that it was a drow? That drow deserve to be killed? Except for the 'good ones'?" gaze now turning back to Nildaru

"There are ways we could have dealt with her without bloodshed." Merian continued. "There is a difference between killing in battle to defend yourself from harm and premeditated murder. I wish to know where and when these exceptions to the 'way we do things' will come up."

Legion had found a suitable chair among the wreckage and sat now, leaning against the wall, pondering what they had found so far in this "stash house".
Hearing Merian pose these questions to the group, Legion watched everyone's reactions closely, and met Merian's gaze when she looked his way as the holy warrior turned to each of them, waiting for an answer.

Such an honest, lovely creature... Legion thought to himself. Such purity and conviction.... He sighed quietly, growing accustomed to the dank, moist air of this place. ... but... such naivete... still so young...

"You are right, Merian... I said nothing. Did it surprise you that I was silent?" Looking down at his hands, a spark of light grew in Legion's palm and hovered there, sparkling and dancing while Legion continued: "I know now my arrival in this... reality... (Legion paused as the word left his lips) was not just chance. I am here to correct a mistake I made... long ago... but the lives of only a few in my travels have meant anything to me... really."

Legion snapped his hand shut and the spark disappeared. Standing now, leaning heavily on his staff after the battle with the drow, he addressed everyone. "YOU are the few I would protect. YOU are the few that I know will shape this reality for the better." Looking behind him, into the room where the corpses lay, "It is not those I would mourn, nor will I give much thought to them again. They are pebbles on the road WE travel on the way to our goals. What preconceived notions I had of their motivations matter not at all, but I have known men and women, beings of all backgrounds and stigmas, and few of them... very few have ever surprised me. Would this one have been different? No, I think not."

Legion turned to Merian then, and his echoing voice lower now, "I carry with me a silent curse, my dear. You see, to my eyes, you are all very young. Few may match your prowess in battle, but I fear there are fewer still who will be able to answer the questions you've asked of them now. In a way, I envy you."

His glance turned again, back over his shoulder, to the rest of the companions: "We are all products of our past, whether we are willing to admit it or not. I do not ask that you forgive mine, but perhaps in time, you may come to understand it."

Kindra laments to herself, “was this a mistake joining the Hildes? The words of Puki were not of a wiseman, but of the wicked. Perhaps this is the reason for not being king dwarf. Is it the wrong for me to think it the ok that Nildaru kills the prisoners of war because she is the drow? Idris does not appear brave unless he is killing the something. Legion, such a poor fellow. Despite his the long age, does not the appear any wiser than the young Merrian... it the seems his pain blinds him, or he truly is the unredeemable.” Kindra turns to Merrian and says, “There is the saying, i’ve heard. Never meet your heroes. For you will be the disappointed.”

As Nidalru calmy wipes the Drow blood from her dagger she turns and focuses her gaze at Merian, "Do you really believe this has anything to do with the Prince or the Drow...humm...you must be more naive than you look". She quickly shifts her focus towards Kindra "And no it is not wrong of you to think that what i did to our enemy was OK" Nidalru quipped while cracking a slight smirk. "But it is not because she was a Drow that I granted her her fate, it is because she was our enemy" Nidalru once again gazes towards Merian "and if you have made an enemy of a Drow, well .....heh....there is only one way to convince them otherwise!" As Nidalru speaks those final words her gaze turns to a smile and with a playful wink of the eye she turns her focus away from Merian back to the mundane task of cleaning the Drow blood from her dagger.
 Episode 33 of The Undaunted - 2020-10-02 -  
 You Are An Exact Replica 


"You've been staring at me forever now... is someone going to say something? This is starting to feel weird..." The woman who looked exactly like Casila Artalin looked to Itotia, who put her arm around her, when no one broke the silence despite her request.

Finally, Legion cleared his throat. "Forgive us. It is simply that you are an exact replica of someone we know...it is uncanny."

"Yeah, that's what she said," said the stranger, indicating Merrian. "Wouldn't say from where, though; insisted on waiting for you all."

Idris' golden globes narrowed and he stroked his chin. Eventually, he addressed Itotia "We're going to step aside and discuss this situation. Please...umm..." He didn't know how to finish. The priestess simply nodded and placed a reassuring hand on his forearm. The swordmage thanked her and joined his friends in a pair of pews.

Legion was sitting with his standard scowl of suspicion. Merian looked genuinely concerned; Idris wondered what she had done to be able to turn up this...twin (?). Puki was already at work in his head, trying to figure out what this all meant. Nidalru? She had a wry smile on her face; she no doubt found the chaos and intrigue interesting, even exciting.

Idris sat down and looked at his friends with a grin. "Sooooo...."

"There are deceptions afoot," began Legion.

"Yes, darling," cooed Nidalru with a patronizing look that Legion ignored. Or was unaware of.

Practical-minded Puki spoke next. "So we're not going to entertain the idea that it's the same person who has escaped the Stone Thief but has somehow lost her memory of us?"

Silence.
"I suppose it's possible," said Idris.

"If that's the case," continued Puki. There's not much for us to do...except perhaps mourn the people left behind in Marblehall."

"Unless Marblehall has been restored as well...?" ventured Legion.

Nidalru's eyes widened in surprise. "Wouldn't -that- be something!"

"We've seen stranger things, that's for sure," responded Merian.

They all knew that was true.

"So...what can we do to determine the reality of her identity?" asked Idris.

"That depends on what she is," answered the shade. "Some deceptions are easier to unearth than others."
"What are you thinking?"

"Could be any number of things: Doppleganger. Polymorphed demon or dragon. Rahshasa. Possessor demon. Or..."

"Or?"

Legion's eyes narrowed. "An emissary from the Flesh Tailor."

An uneasy feeling passed over Legion, Idris, Nidalru, and Merian.

Merian broke the silence. "Is there a way to magically determine what she is that a, say, Rakshasa, couldn't defeat?"
Legion sighed. "There would always be doubt."

"Then perhaps we should just speak with her. Find out what her story is, and proceed from there. I think I," said Merian with a sidelong glance at Nidalru, "should go first, if that's all right with everyone?"

No one objected.

Over the course of a long conversation (that eventually everyone participated in), the Hildeys learned a few things:She claims to Calisa Artalin. An adventuring wizard in a group called The Wayfaring Strangers
The group's name is accurate; they were effectively strangers when they answered an ad in an adventuring guild. They worked well together and registered as a professional company.
She lists her companions (she doesn't use the word 'friends') as Bartholomew, Efric, Tallis, Virgil, and Arzimyat.
She is shocked to learn that they are likely dead. She has identified the body in the temple as Arzimyat
She is confused by recent events in her life. It had been some time since The Wayfaring Strangers had been on a mission together, and her gold count was getting low. So she reached out to the other members to see if anyone had dungeon to loot or somesuch. No answer. She waited and waited, and finally decided to go see them personally; she admits she was worried that they had replaced her with someone cheaper. When she got to Virgil's home, his manservant seemed surprised to see her. When she asked about Virgil's whereabouts, the old man said "He's supposed to be with you, isn't he, mistress?"
When she asked what they were supposed to be doing, he said they were supposed to be investigating the Stone Thief. Artalin had never heard of a "Stone Thief."
Confused and suspicious, she decided to return to her ancestral home of Marblehall. She got as far as the town of Dwardel, and stopped for a meal at the Giant Flagon's Inn. She says that she had a "bad vibe" in the inn and took her meal in a shadowy corner; her instinct was right: A famous bounty hunter named Talek came in and asked at the bar if anyone had seen her in the environs. The bartender, an extraordinarily strong woman with red hair, told him no, but he mentioned he might check out "the old estate." Casila knew it wouldn't be prudent to return home.
So, she went on the run. It was hard; she was already low on funds, and wasn't exactly...street smart. It was tough. She had to start taking some mercenary work. Unfortunately, it seems that is what made her presence known to whatever enemy that was hunting her. She had already survived 2 attacks on her life, barely, when Merian found her in Hildebrande.
Why was she in Hildebrande? Because she heard there was an adventuring group, the Hildeys, who had ventured into the "Stone Thief" and since that term was her only lead, she came here to find them.
Her last mission was a long one that took her to the northernmost regions of the empire for over a year; she was so off the grid that she considered returning for safety sake...but finally admitted that she couldn't survive there on her own without the rest of her troupe.
She is anxious to return to her home of Marblehall, as well as her tower that is nearby where she keeps her wizardly paraphenelia.
*nearby to Marblehall, that is.
She feels there may be answers there...but is also worried that her mysterious enemy may have gained access to it.