Oakenheart

Goodbye
Take Care of Blossom for Me

 

To my family and friends,

If you’re reading this, then I can only apologize for the pain I have caused you. I hope this letter finds you in good health and I wish that you find solace in the knowledge that I understood this was always a possibility. While I will always beg the gods for a chance to spend a single additional minute with each of you, I understand that fate does not always favor our wishes.

To my dearest sister, Alcina:

    You are my other half. You know my heart and mind better than anyone in this life, even better than me sometimes. I cannot imagine the grief you must be experiencing. I know you though and I ask that you keep your heart open to our family and our friends. They’re all we have and they love you just as I do. No matter the circumstances of my death, I forbid you for shouldering any guilt for it. We all knew the risks we were taking as bannerettes and Caretakers. I know without a shadow of doubt that if there had been anything you could have done to prevent this outcome, you did it. Do not be saddened for my passing. This is just another transition. We will be together again. I love you.

To my closest friend, Loxley:

    I bet you never thought you’d outlive me, did you Gramps? We’ve been through some tussles and close calls before. I’m certain neither one of us saw this coming. I do hope that Gowdy isn’t too sad. Give him a snuggle from me, would you? We’ve been companions almost all your life. I hope you know that I consider you a brother. As my brother, I need you to look after Alcina. She will need your support and guidance. You’ve always been a calming voice. I’m sure that you are being hit with this just as hard as she is, but I have confidence that you’ll be able to keep her on an even keel. I’m trusting you, old man! I love you Gramps. Take care of yourself.

To my beautiful mother, Quelanna:

    You were always the lighthouse in my storm. When I was abroad and worried about losing my way, you were the beacon that guided me safely home. I can’t put into words what you’ve meant to me. I know that you worry about the boys and Alcina. You and father have been the best parents I could have ever asked for. Know that your children will be alright. You’ve done an amazing job. As I write this, the only thing that brings sadness to my heart is the knowledge that I will never get to embrace you again in this life if you read this. I beg that you do one thing for me and that is to make amends with Alcina. You know she’s always had trust issues and to find out that you were concealing the truth about our brothers couldn’t have settled well with her. I love you and we’ll see each other again.

To my father, Arannis:

    One thing I will never discredit you for is being a source of much-needed structure in my life. Without your guidance and protection, I dread to think of what may have became of my life. For this, I want you to know that I have always been thankful, no matter our disagreements. I know you’ll take care of our family. My last ask of you would be to express more compassion and flexibility towards them, especially Alcina. She favors you, you know? Definitely more-so than myself. I won’t write a message to my brothers because they are too young to properly process what has happened. I place my trust in you to tell them and ensure they are able to process it in a healthy way. I love you, you stuffy blowhard. 

To my new family:

    I regret that I’ve only met most of you within the past few months, but I feel a kinship towards you that I can only describe as familial. We’ve certainly seen some interesting things during our time together. I would lay down my life in defense of any one of yours. Ki’irel (Ki-Ki), you’ve become like a sister to me and I greatly enjoyed our time together. All the gossip sessions, peeping on those guards, and watching your determination to find justice for Rin. You possess a good soul and I don’t know if there is a darkness powerful enough to snuff your light. Please watch over our friends and keep them safe. Tarek, what can I say? I definitely appreciate a man who can hold his liquor and dissect a complicated arcane text all at the same time. If you’ve outlived me with your proclivity for explosions and dangerous magics, I will be surprised. All the same, I want you to know that you’ve become a trusted ally and I want you to help my sister better understand and grow with her abilities if you can. Midori, I’m not sure what to say here. You always seem very distant and quiet, but I have a strong feeling that your personage belies a greater destiny and power. I am saddened that I have not survived long enough to see what fate holds for you. Daemon… Oh Daemon, you are certainly one odd guy. You are extremely capable with your sword and have a fierce loyalty streak. If I knew nothing else about you, that would be enough. However, as much as you try to hide, I sense a deep well of emotion behind that stone-cold facade. I’m not sure what impact my death would have on you, considering your opinions on death. But, if you find yourself saddened, do not be. I am in no pain and I know I will see you again, my friend.

This is the part where I say goodbye, but my hands tremble as I try to finish this letter. Know that I do not fear death; we signed up for it. My greatest fear is that my absence will prevent me from being able to watch over and protect you all. So, instead of saying goodbye, I will just ask you all to do a favor for me: Be stronger than I was. Follow your hearts and protect the things you hold most dear. Our time in this life is fleeting, so cherish every moment. 

 

 

 

 

I'm Home.

 

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I'd Rather Be in Hell
Oh Lord, my Soul to Take; Oh Lord, see me to the Gate

What they Want

The request seems simple enough: find the giant city, turn it back on, and disable whatever took it down. Do this while in a soup of magical energy powerful enough to keep an army of world-conquering monsters at bay. Easy. They got pretty ominous with the “don’t fight Vestible” stuff but I am not worried. We stopped a serpent god from coalescing in our presence, closed an interdimensional door, and survived the farthest exploration any citizen has ever made. These giants are just breaking diamonds with us.

It’s That Bad

I take it back. This is the worst place in existence. I don’t know which of the gods decided to place its asshole here, but I’ll curse all of them to be sure. Everything aches. I cant see. I’m hot-cold. HOT-COLD. I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW THAT WAS POSSIBLE. Both twins look miserable. Even Ki’irel doesn’t smile right away when you call her name. This place blows glass. I’m not sure I would even care if the Void took me at this point.

We’re following the only other sign of life we have found in this blasted place; pretty sure they’re trying to take us to the Gates (…holy Harold I know what that means now) but its all we have for a lead.

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I still expect her to just sit up and start talking. She looked so peaceful. Ki’irel fixed her bruise, cuts, and the fracture on her skull. Alcina wrapped her up. She’s out of her armor, clothed in a dress Alcina had been saving as a present. I don’t think you realize how much motion life has until you see a friend beyond the bones of the Gate. She’s just so still.

eb44295cfcd124f147e6b65f0756fefd.jpg What else could we have done? Everything happened so fast; the flyby, the crash, and her fall. Even then, we knew we could get to her, knew we could save her. But those….things, they banished her and fled. We could do nothing but chase and try to force them to bring her back. Even when this Calamandicus guy showed up and pulled us out, Alcina and Ki’irel arrived seconds too late. Ki’irel tried to pull her back….but it was not enough. I have never seen Ki’irel cry, and I am sure I never want to again.

These pale, quiet creatures haven’t done anything aggressive since we came back. Tarek was communicating with them; he apparently was able to convey our loss and our purpose in the Caldera. I’m of the opinion that the Void can take this place. I just want to go home. bed7385f8d35d8954c4d705370acd257.jpg

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City in the Sky with Diamonds
I wonder if they have normal sized beds here

The arena fight was pretty close for a minute, but once we got an advantage, we were able to easily overwhelm them. They’re competent though, should probably watch them in the future. We immediately met some of them after the fight, seemed nice enough. After the big event, we headed back to Lotus Hall and prepped for our departure in the morning.

Travels

The council sent this fat obnoxious dwarf named Glatur Metalbreaker with us. He was useful for a second when he handed up fly potions, but other than that he just talked with the giants for a minute, then flew off to talk to the rest of the council. Not super helpful, to be honest. The city is pretty cool, seems like. Its a mobile frontier outpost, from what I can tell. There are barracks, practice fields, and a large wall all the way around the city. Seems kinda like what we might see in the Raven district.
Oh yeah, the giants. They need help with something, apparently. Big surprise, right? One of their other flying cities is lost, and some terrifying threat or some other is rising in the North. We will probably have to go crush it or stop it or something. I don’t know, but right now we just wait until the dwarf guy sends word to help them.

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A Favor Down
The-Who-Do-What-Now

Professor flowers asked us to do him a favor: find a couple doors in the mine of Lower Oakenheart and close them. Seemed simple enough.

Oh boy, that wasn’t even close to true

The “mine” was a minor death trap, designed to keep out intruders. Beyond the traps and death, a ethereal procession of ghosts looking to walk into the afterlife greeted us. Then, unbeknownst to us, one of them possessed Tarek! After getting pretty spooked, we continued on down into the mine, and ran into these six weird guys dressed in full armor. They were incredibly tall, and standing next to them felt like standing next to a giant, although they were not quite as tall. They spoke in the most infuriatingly confusing manner, referring to us as Those-that-have-come-around or something and themselves as Those-that-stand-before but one of them is one-who-went-before and he isnt supposed to be that, but hes gone and they might unmake the way or something, WHATEVER.

The Upside Down

We eventually figured out that we needed to go through the open door and find our dude-who-went-somewhere. On the way, the ghostie inside Tarek freaked out, and we had to subdue it (and him, go figure) before proceeding. Once we were on the other side, we ended up in a place of fog and shadows. Loxley managed to find tracks through the fog, and we set out in pursuit of the one-who-went-before. We found him getting feasted on by this gross black predator; we fought it and some small, dead-smelling minions, bringing the doorman back to life immediately after. Six more of the same predators popped up after the doorman took off running back to the portal, and you better believe we sprinted after him. Once we got to the door, the one-who-is-now-before-I-guess turned around and incinerated our pursuers (by the gods, how did he get dragged out in the first place then?). He then shut the door, we did our duty, and woke up at home in Lotus hall. If it wasn’t for the fact that we all remembered our experiences (mostly, sorry Tarek!), I would have thought it was some weird fever dream. Oh broke diamonds, the arena fight is tomorrow? We lost a week??
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Trial Run
Justice I Suppose

Ril goes free

After the trial, Ril is a free woman. Registered and entrusted to work her penance for the us, Ril is now able to slowly and properly integrate her children into society. The trial wasn’t without its revelations and struggles, but it ended well enough.

Developments

The envoy from the City of Night is preparing to leave, after opening trade options with Oakenheart. In the west, Brightpointe has made contact with a nomadic race of scorpion like sentients. They seem to be open to trade, and talks have commenced with only a few conflicts.
On the horizon, however, a massive flying object approaches the city. It looks like a fortress resting on a solid foundation of bedrock, with massively tall creatures standing on its walls. We are sent to investigate, once the city draws nearer to the forest. Arena fight first, then we can go see about this city.

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New, Old, and Everything In-Between
What a crazy couple weeks.

First, the Debt Collectors

Turns out, Ulfric, RIl’s brother, owed some gambling debts. These debts were picked up by a group of collectors known as the Aqueduct Gang. You and your friends set out to see how you could possibly resolve this debt, and approached a dragonborn named Maliath, a subordinate to a rather shadowy, quiet boss.

More than just a Gang

While they wouldn’t quite admit to sending the worm-like hunter after Ril, you were all very suspicious; you tried to force the answer out. This angered the shadowy figure, who revealed himself to be a terrifying beholder! While you and the party survived the encounter, it was clear that the beholder you fought was merely a shade of its real power. Stuck and confused within the complex, you all regrouped to find a way out.

The Lower City

Eventually, poking around the little chamber revealed a path below the city; secret tunnels led to darker, warmer passages. A long walk down many stairs led to a wide open cave; vast and enormous, the expanse before contained a specter of the city above. Similar in make up, with familiar, out of place landmarks, this lower city is ages older than the one above. Tentative, but curious, you and your party spent time exploring the various nooks and crannies of the abandoned city, looking for the reason why it was abandoned, and how it exists below the city above.

The Chamber of the Gods

At the city center, your friends and you found yourselves staring into a eerie-ly perfect copy of the doors to the Chamber of the Gods in the city above. Wrapped in vines and roots, the door remained closed to you. You were followed here, however. Lukhal Forgemaul, aka Professor Flowers, revealed himself to you. He also spoke as the guardian of the ground you walked on. While Adrie lit into him about his callous attitude towards the Aqueduct Gang’s traversing of his “protected realm,” he revealed that all the party needed to do to pass into the chamber was to ask for permission. Adrie, frustrated, but unable to make any headway with Prof. Flowers, turned to the door and grudgingly asked to be allowed in.

A Vision of Time

Once inside, you were greeted with a strange sight: ten thrones and chairs of various sizes and shapes, one blasted and broken. After resolving the odd riddle of the room, where the Void was a player on a throne and one throne was extra, you were all filled with a vision; a vision of history.

You saw the world as it once was; vast, beautiful. You bore witness to the founding of Oakenheart. Weary travelers, brothers in oppression and ostracism, banded together to build a city that would welcome all it could with open arms. As time passed, the city survived attacks on its walls and its sovereignty. It grew and expanded to what the ruined city once was; and bore witness to an attack that not even the proud and mighty denizens could defeat. Legions of undead, demons, and other monstrosities raged across the land, spurred on by their evil masters. Desperate, with no other resort, a small group of adventurers uncovered an item of untold power: a black jewel, darker than the emptiness between worlds.

Loathe to use it, but left with little choice, the adventurers banded together to use the artifact. They clashed with and struck down the gods below, who sought to burn the world, and the gods above, who did nothing to prevent its downfall amidst their petty politics. In their desperation, however, they did not anticipate how deeply ingrained the gods were in the making of the world; and in saving the world, the now-godly adventurers destroyed it. A few gods, faithful to their own, descended to the world of the Material and saved what they could. Oakenheart appeared to rest peacefully throughout the turmoil.

Eventually, the Cataclysm passed, and the New world was born. The new gods debated over what to do with the jewel, where one god, unrecognized by your party, argued passionately. You did not see what eventually came to pass.

The Gifting Room

Pulled from the vision, and resolved that there was nothing else to see, you made your way out of the chamber, and into the city at large. A little bit more exploring, and you found yourself standing again at the doors. A keen eye in the party discerned that there was a path up the trunk, eventually resolving into stairs. Making your way up the tree brought you to a smaller chamber, with illusory guards. Illusions turned to danger, as two stone guardians arose from the ground, attacking the party! With only the slightest of danger, you and your companions managed to defeat the guardians, although your exhaustion was beginning to show. Tarek took a look at a grate protecting a door at the other end of the room. After touching it however, he was struck with an hallucination and went temporarily mad, accidentally injuring his companions. He recovered, eventually, and then the party was able to access the room beyond. Within this room floated 9 fires, of various colors and shapes. Continuously holding onto one consumed the bearer. Each party member grabbed one, moving on into the light.

You Awaken at Home.

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Trouble on the Home Front
This was supposed to be our Vacation

As you gather together around an eating table in the Lotus Hall, you each see a variety of faces looking up from their meals. Hungover, contemplative, exhausted, content, maybe one or two somewhat cheery faces. Silence is the only shared sentiment, as even those unaware of the previous night’s events can sense the tension.

Ril’s children.

Ril, Ulric’s sister, is a refugee. Aided by the renown Professor Lukhal, the siblings had undergone a subtle yet profound change to no longer represent their snake-like heritage, along with many other yuan-ti fleeing the violent and terrifying culture of the City of Night. In a safe place they refer to as the Haven, Ril and Ulric care for a number of yuan-ti children, waiting for their turn to integrate into Oakenheart society.

Regardless of what happened between Lukhal, Luhkal’s son, and Ulric, Lukhal holds no apparent grudge against the refugees and continues to help them transition. The transistion itself, hower, cannot occur until the children have fully matured. As such, Ril and Ulric, with a couple others, have been tasked with keeping the children isolated and safe until they are old enough to undergo the transition.

Whether by your own carelessness or some other means, Ril’s Haven for the children has been discovered, to some extent. Fearing for her children’s life, and hoping that she can satisfy the hate directed towards her, Ril has turned herself into the Greencloaks, hoping that she can keep the public focused on her, rather than her children.

As Daemon, Ki’irel, and Loxely fill the party in on the missing details, you each take a look around the room at each other, expectantly waiting for someone to speak first.

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Blood for the Blood Ritual
Well... shit.

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Well, that didn’t go as planned. Well, kinda. The giant (surprisingly) came willingly with us to the ritual. But then….the snake people turned on us. They weren’t too much of a problem, but still. They had been so kind! The betrayal may not even be the worst of it……

While we don’t know much about blood magic, it was very obvious that everyone involved wanted to make sure this primordial did not destroy the mountains. The ritual supposedly sent it back to its home plane, no longer needed to make the range of peaks we stood in; but, something else was in that chamber. We didn’t stay to find out. As soon as Daemon and Tarek finished bleeding the corpses on the altar for the ritual, we ported the hell out. Now, I suppose we must head back to Oakenheart and tell them whats happened.

Were all the snake people in on it? Did they know the whole time they were going to betray us? Even Thekli?

Either way, there is much for us to consider as Tarek begins scrawling the teleportation circle back to Oakenheart: the bloodmarks, the blood dagger, the giants, this unknown “threat” beyond the mountains, and of course, the ghostly visage in the ritual chamber.

We could use a break.

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Worm Food
Gross.....

Ki’irel’s cheerful smile belies the rather dangerous encounter she survived.
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The massive purple worm has fallen, its body a mere remnant of the glorious form it was. When you found out that the storm giant and the ritual were relatively close to each other, you were initially relieved. The yuan-ti were oddly secretive about certain things, but at least they agreed to let you walk freely and provided guides. Walking an eight foot ledge, with a thousand foot precipice on one side and a sheer rock face on the other, has tossed things into sharp relief.
Somehow, being up in the highest parts of the Great Oak never feels as dangerous as running into a cave where a massively powerful worm is thrashing around. The beast has been slain, however, and your two guides prevented the giant lizard mounts from becoming harmed. You are each offered one to mount up on, as they will make the climb much easier with their climbing claws. Your guides warn you of other dangers in the mountains, such as several flocks of bird people, some which are peaceful, and others that attack on sight.

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Scales, Scales Everywhere
Why does it always have to be snakes

You each sit in the waiting room of your guest quarters. The beds and couches are carved from stone, and only lightly padded. Comfort does not appear to be a priority for these people.

The trolls proved to be only a slight deterrence, nothing more than a little morning adrenaline to start the day. The real highlight of the day was emerging from the treeline and seeing the endless fields of grass; never in your life had you ever seen so much space. In Oakenheart, space is a privilege paid for by the rich and lost on the poor. Here, however, there was enough space to build a hundred Oakenhearts and still have room for everyone to own some land.

The land aside, the city of snake people is even more intriguing. Our escorts could not remember the word in common for their race; but, after arriving and speaking with a few of the “malisons” (the half to fully-formed snake people), we learned to call them yuan-ti. Their ways are alien and strange; they seem to express fewer emotions and ignore questions they do not wish to answer. Their city is beautiful, and mostly underground from what we can see.

Most importantly, they can fix the issue we came to resolve: they can reseal the primordial. They merely ask that we bring a rogue storm giant near their shrine in the mountains to them. They proposed this and considered our requests for transport and assistance, and we wait here, in this room, while they deliberate.

Recently, however….we found a book of terrifying and exciting rituals, that could perhaps enhance our power….but at what cost?

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