Oakenheart

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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Giants Divided
More than a simple problem

The giants are fierce foes, and your party looks around at their fallen corpses with a small sense of pride in victory, tinged with some trepidation about the task set before you: rebind a primordial. A creature that cost the lives of powerful giants to bind has begun to loosen its restraints, and the party finds themselves with an important choice. Report back to Oakenheart and reassess the situation, or push on to the West, before it is too late?

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Not everything outside of Oakenheart wants to kill you though; the small cabal of stone giants you met appeared to be civil, at least. They hid you from the marauding fire giants, and answered some of your questions. The fire giants outside though, emerged from the cave and descended on the three members left behind, and the returning party arrived just in time to turn the tides. They attacked without warning, and seemingly did not care about Ki’irel and Adrie’s calls for conversation. Life outside Oakenheart is hostile, and although not everything you have met is attempting to kill you, the things that fight are quite challenging opponents.

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So, as you turn to regard your bloody and tired companions, what happens next?

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The First Steps
What the hell is that....

As the many-headed beast falls, you all think back to your first steps out from Oakenheart, truly grasping the dangers that exist this far from the city…

You were given a task; while ambiguous, seems mundane enough. Violent tremors have been felt to the north of Oakenheart, northwest of Gift Lake. As the first sponsored explorers, Bannerets, you all were tasked to discover the source of the tremors, and if possible, shut them down.

A half day out from the city, the party encountered humidity and a swampy river. Easily pulled across, you continued on their way, sneaking around some odd, green, savage creatures (not before leaving them a nasty trap). At nightfall, the party found themselves at the shore of another swamp, this one more of a lake. Tucked in for the night, sentries assigned, you fall asleep, leaving the task of crossing the swamp for the morning.

Two thirds through the night, the twin elves heard further rumbling after the now-constant tremors passed….putting the part face-to-face with a monstrous, many-headed, lightning-spewing monstrosity, eyeing them as its next meal.

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In the Council Chambers....
Your companions await.

Walking into the chambers of the Council of Illyenos

You step into the brightly lit room; arrayed in front of you are seven stone chairs, beautifully engraves with the images of the greater deities, excepting Gareth and the Void. A diverse group of creatures mill around, speaking softly with each other. Grand Arbiter Deirson Telirr, speaks with each before turning to you: “Welcome to the Illyenos Chamber. How was your rite of passage?”

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