Monthly Archives: May 2012

SOW Chapter12: The Hunt for the Githyanki – Fane of Chanhiir


The Hunt for the Githyanki – Fane of Chanhiir

Githyanki hunting
north the heroes will travel

who is that hot pixie?

Fane of Chanhiir




Thiradith
T
hiradith
exists on the outskirts of civilization, far from the well traveled paths of
man. It is

the northern most fortification of the
city-states. A place where desperate men, and half-elves go to be of service.
Thiradith is as much a penal colony as it is a military outpost. The watchtower
houses only raw recruits, and the outcasts others might call criminals, along
with veterans whose injuries would make them a liability on the front lines.
This motley crew’s main mission has been to guard against and warn of incursions
from the savage Northmen; lawless barbarians who dwell in icy wastes beyond the
crooked spire, but these Northmen being mainly seafarers rarely make use of the
mountain passes favoring their dragon-headed longboats as they do. So the rangers
of Thiradith spent most of their time performing the tasks necessary to endure
in this harsh land, a job no one familiar with the northlands underestimates.
The truth is the many of the men stationed at Thiradith are fulfilling
sentences, punishments handed down by the justices of the seven great
city-states. The watchtower is thought of as a place capable of testing a man’s
soul as well as an inescapable prison. A harsh mistress where most will face a
slow death, but some few find salvation from the corruption that fills their
souls. Some men stationed at Thiradith are actually volunteers seeking to avoid
dungeons or some other punishment such as a severed limb. The disgraced, the
bastards, and the unwanted all call Thiradith home.

And now the war has come to Thiradith.
The watchtower’s scouts have spotted githyanki warriors moving through the
mountain passes and the Captain of Thiradith, Birkeni, a veteran half-elf
warrior concedes that his men are ill-suited to hunt the githyanki through the
hostile northern terrain. He has sent out the word, an urgent call-to-arms.

For most of you it takes at least three
days to journey get to Thiradith. The lord’s gateway nearest to the outpost had
been shutdown making more mundane methods of travel necessary, but your trip to
Thiradith is otherwise is uneventful. These remote badlands are uninhabited and
far removed from the front lines of the invasion. Wolves and crows are the only
company on the road, but these give you a wide berth as you make your way north.
Just before sunset, you see the watchtower in the distance. It stands atop a
high, upthrust snowy embankment at the foot of the mountains. A rough rocky path
approaches its sheer stone walls. From atop the white bluff, the site commands a
sweeping view of the rocky scrubland that spreads to all sides. A gate and
drawbridge allow access across a steep-sided ravine that protects the site on
all sides. Sun-faded flags fly high above the ramparts, and the bridge is
already down as you approach. Captain Birkeni meets you as your enter the gate,
his continence one of relief as he greets you.




Captain Birkini
“Welcome
to Thiradith. I apologize but you will find no stores, or frivolous services
here, but you are welcome to use the outpost’s other amenities … we have a
weapon smith, and a fine armorer. You will have private accommodations within
our barracks hall. Truth to say we’ve plenty of room here now undermanned as we
have been.”

“You are not the first to
answer our summons, another group arrived just this morning, and one other
arrived ahead of them yesterday. I would guess you have heard of the Freeriders
by reputation if nothing else, and the other one, he is even more flamboyant
than they are. The Freeriders knew him, his name is Firestorm, Vani Firestorm …
He flew in mounted upon a manticore.”

 

Map: Fane of Chanhiir

 

The CRYSTAL CAVERNS

Along with the Freeriders and Vani Firestorm, the coalition’s
other heroes, Bingus, Chen, and Finellior are all honored guests at that night’s
mess within Thiradith, but the mood is more somber than celebratory. Over a meal
of military rations, heavy bread, and ale, Birkeni announces,

"I told your compatriots this morning all that I can
report beyond what was sent in our missive. A week ago, one of our patrols found
three dead githyanki within a hundred strides of each other on one of the
foothill tracks. The soulsucks had been in some sort of fight by the look of
them, but as the scouts turned back to report on their finding, they noticed
that they were being stalked by at least half-dozen more gith, very much alive.
The men were chased all the way until they were within sight of the watchtower,
then the githyanki fell back into the mountains again.”

During the dinner the heroes organize themselves into one of
two camps, the Freeriders on one side of the large table, and the coalition’s other heroes on the other side of the table. Megan opens a dialog
between the camps,

“Well met, friends … Bingus, Chen, and friends. You
seem well, and well-traveled. How is the rest of the Brigade? … Well I hope.”

Bingus responds, “The others are well, I hope. At
least Bairdyn was when I left him a few days ago. He was waiting on news of
Bhenedict. Our cook has been traveling with Fariex’s Restorationists, it has
been some time since we’ve seen him. Jerion has been recovered, in good form so
it would seem, but that itself is complicated, and we are uncertain as of yet
whether he is wholly well. I can’t really speak about that now. He seems well
enough. He is with Bejam of the Thraxinium. Eoffram has been busy with both the
day-to-day operations of the Platinum Shields and the ongoing defense of the
Elsir Vale. Of course, James was lost to us during the siege of Overlook. Other
friends have come and gone, yet our fight continues … We have been spread thin
as the war has required.”

Continuing Bingus asks, “What of you Freeriders? I
had feared the worse, did you not say some of you had, forgive me … died?”

Megan: “That was both true and exaggeration. The
truth of it was that we were for a time in hiding until we could properly deal
with the Lost Ones and the more insidiously danger of the Cult of Exquisite
Agony. Sylen and Ghena had fell in one battle, and Ragnum fell trying to save
them. Buying time so that Madrick and I could escape. I went back and recovered
the bodies of Sylen and Ragnum and with the help of the priests at the Stone
Anvil they eventually recovers, but Ghena truly went missing. Ragnum and Madrick
eventually found her while I took santuary within the Mottled Tower of Talar.”

Ragnum: “Glory of Icehome! Chen you look well, and
healed. By Moradin’s steady hand, it is good to see you again my friend. Megan
you forget to credit Master Chen, without his help I would never have survived
the Fist of Mourning, and Madrick would never have been cured.”

Chen: “You give me too much credit, it took all of
us to survive the horrors we found there. Is there news of the tortured man
within the Fist?”

Ragnum: “I last heard that he somehow yet endures,
his mind trapped, his body ravaged. Nothing has been able to grant him
any peace. Ghena somehow blames herself for his affliction yet when we found her
she too was not of her own mind. Through these difficult times I have
found comfort in the tales of the Brigade’s victories. They have served to
inspire us all through our trials!”

Unnoticed, Madrick had already slipped away from the table. He
was distracted, his sharp senses had detected a hidden cohort, May Hem, a pixie
whose own concerns had prompted her to travel from the Feywild to Klarn with
Bingus, intent on keeping the gnome safe. She spent most of her time hidden
beneath Bingus’s top hat. Such was not the case now, May Hem had snuck out of
the hat just before the dinner had started, and only now she was skulking about
the perimeter of the hall trying to find her way back to the gnome’s hat. Having
spotted her, Madrick quietly withdrew from the table removing a bag from his
pouch as he quietly snuck up behind the distracted pixie snaring her within the
bag. He let out a shout of glee, clicking both heels in the air and raced back
towards the table shouting, “I caught a bug! … a pretty sparkly one!”

As Madrick skipped to the table, May Hem immediately escaped
the bag by teleporting out and turning invisible. When Madrick arrived at the
table she was already back under Bingus’s hat. As the brownie approached the
table Ragnum called out,
“Hey,
Madrick what is that you’ve got in your bag?”

“It’s a pixie I think,”
answers the brownie; then peaking in the bag he exclaims,
“Awe its gone! I just wanted some of it’s
dust.”

Thinking quick Bingus shouted, “If its dust you
want, I’ve got plenty!”
Bingus waves his hands with a flourish that
ends with a loud clap and spread fingers. Gold, glowing dust explodes in the
air, Bingus begins spinning one hand, the dust swirls becoming a small cyclone
in response.

“Open your bag Madrick, be quick about it!”

shouts Bingus excitedly.

Madrick does as Bingus asks, and with his free hand, the gnome
directs the conjured dust to filling Madrick’s bag.

“Now that’s magic dust Madrick, don’t let it leak
out!”

offers Bingus. 

Early in the morning all the heroes leave following seven of
Thiradith’s rangers. The rangers lead the party down a patrol trail from the
watchtower through the foothills. The trail is easily followed, winding through
thin stands of jack pine and patches of scrub grass that slowly disappear as the
rocky ground begins to climb. The mountain air is cold and the day is overcast
as they reach a marker, a great arch of rust-colored stone, one of Ishtar’s
gates. Trellara of the coalition had warned Bingus that the Lord’s Gate near
Thiradith had in someway been neutralized, and so here now the gnome confirmed
the magic of the gate had in some way been drained, turning the normally white
stone to this dirty rust color.

Beyond the gate the wall of the mountains began to rise. It
didn’t take long to locate the site the captain had described, the place where
the dead githyanki were found—three patches of blood-stained rock on the trail
marked the location at a point the path winded roughly up the side of a
mountain. Of the bodies, there is no sign. Finellior conducted a quick search of
the area and found signs that the bodies had been picked up and moved, but he
finds the week-old tracks impossible to follow through the rubble and scree of
the trail. Soon Fin is joined by Bandit, Madrick’s strange badger. The beast put
nose to ground began moving rapidly up the mountain. The party gave chase,
Madrick leading the way, the badger didn’t stop until several hours had past at
a point well beyond any of the watchtower’s patrol routes. Madrick ran back to
the party pointing out a faint trail cut into the rocky ground and a set of
rough cut steps that have were carved into a wall of crumbling shale. The steps
led to a narrow track twisting off into the shadows of some adjacent cliffs.
Ahead, a bluff of black stone rose like a broad spike in the cloudy gloom.

“I am of a mind that I should scout this out, but I am
not foolish enough to believe any of us, me included would be wise to allow
ourselves to be cutoff from help … Besides myself, who among you knows how to
travel quietly in such terrain?”

asks Fin.

Quickly the rangers volunteer.

Smiling Madrick giggles and says, “Brave swains,
oh, tut, tut, ye young squire-pants … Ye know no more about being quiet then a
mockingbird’s tail.”

Then suddenly, popping out from beneath the brim of Bingus’s
hat May hem appears, “Aye, and ye Madrick, of the wee folk should
know better than to call me a bug! Mayhap I should turn ye into a grub and let
thine own hungry badger feast upon you!”

Excited Madrick exclaims, “Oh, and could you, that
sounds fun … All but in the chewing and eating.”

Quickly changing the subject Fin says,“I might not
be as quiet at you but, I am at least focused on the task at hand, and if you
can follow my lead I would welcome your assistance Madrick, and you men of
Thiradith, I appreciate your offer as well, if you could but follow, and at
least keep sight of us I believe Madrick and I will be more the capable of
scouting out the area ahead.”

“I’m well travel with ye too, though I promise you’ll
not see or hear me,”

says the pixie, still scowling, twisting up her pretty face …
She disappears as Bingus’s hat floats into air, and then drops down retaking its
roost upon the gnome’s head.

“Well then, I guess it is settled.”

With a shrug Fin and Madrick make their way up the mountain,
followed by the rangers; of May Hem, there is no sign. Within the a the hour the
scouts return and Finellior speaks out,

“We have found them! The githyanki are ahead, but
those dwelling at this remote location are hardly vanguard scouts, at least they
show very little aptitude for it. They’ve no patrols in sight, we have clear run
of the trails that wrap around the black stone bluff on both sides. We easily
spotted two caverns that look to be entrances into some sort of complex within.
These lie on opposite sides of the bluff, out of sight and sound of each other.
However, the echoes of the surrounding cliffs gave us warning of the guards
stationed at both locations, far before we even saw them—githyanki voices,
arguing and laughing in Deep Speech. Whatever the origin of this force, its
members seem to have no interest in hiding their presence here.”

“I believe these of the Crystal Caverns, said to be a
place of great power, but I can’t tell what the githyanki are doing here, nor
could I get a count of the guards.”

Appearing behind Finellior, May Hem appears and adds,
“There were ten warrior on one side and a dozen on the other. Those at
the rear entrance be distracted in the extreme, they draw X’s upon the floor
with bits of charcoal they’ve collected. Those at the other entrance are hardly
more attentive.”

Fin adds,
“The rear entrance may be the easier to approach, but it lies atop a steep cliff
about forty feet high.”

“Well, with no patrols around the area, we can easily
split-up to approach the complex at both entrances separately, thereby
preventing flight and decreasing the odds of an ambush from behind,”


suggests Megan.

“That makes sense,”
agrees Sylen.

“There are more of us Freeriders, we should take the
front entrance and leave the rear to Bingus and his friends. More of Bingus’s
group can fly anyhow.”

“Yes, and we can even up our numbers with the rangers,
if that’s agreeable … 3 with us and 4 with the Brigaders,”

adds Megan.

“We serve at your pleasure,”
offers the ranger’s leader.

“It sounds like a good plan to me,”
responds Fin, taking measure of his friend’s faces searching
for any sign of disagreement and finding none. The Freeriders salute as they
take their leave of others, heading along the low track that will bring them
within sight of their own entrance.

As the leave, Sylen calls out,
“I look to the day we will all return to the Salty Mug
and share a pint when these troubles have past; until then you will always be
able to count me among your allies, my bow is yours Master Bingus.”


Entering the Fane

ENTERING the FANE


A twisting path leads to the cliff, atop which a broad shelf of stone is
lit by the pulsing white light of magically glowing crystals as if the
crystal were absorbing ambient unseen energies. Beyond the entrance the
cavern quickly fell into darkness and shadow, but a narrow passageway
leading farther into the mountain was clear.

As the heroes approach they whispered plans together.

Vani asks, “Bingus could you carry me upon the ebony fly?”

“Of course, your no bigger than me, it will be no problem,”
answers the gnome.

“And what of me?”
asks Fin.

“Seriously?”
asks Bingus.

“I guess I’ll be climbing then,”
answers Fin.

“I could teach you to fly,”
points out May Hem.

“I appreciate your offer, but I fear we’ve no time for that now … I can
climb well enough, and I only need to close to use magic of my own,”
answers Fin.

“What of you Chen?”
asks the bard.

“I can also fly, at least enough to the top of the cliff,”
answers Chen.

Flummoxed Fin adds, “Then it will be up to all of you to secure the
landing, just keep them distracted while I climb.”
Turning to the
rangers, Fin adds, “You men stay hidden here below and secure this path.”

Fin climbs quickly finding purchase upon the steep cliff as one githyanki
warrior rains past him to his left. The warrior lands hard with a thud,
surviving the fall only long enough to be pin cushioned by bolts of the
rangers. Good to his word, Fin magically closes the distance teleporting the
shelf above as he nears the halfway point of his climb mere seconds after he
had begun. He is greeted by his friends and nine freshly slain githyanki.
The dead githyanki littered the shelf and strangely the shelf floor had been
scarred with enormous X’s scrawled in charcoal which possibly explaining
their earlier distraction.

“We surprised them,”
announces Chen.

“Well let’s search,”
suggests Fin, “I’d like to keep surprising them, let’s keep it quiet.”

Fin waves the rangers to join them atop the shelf. Searching the fallen,
While they wait for the ranger Bingus begins searching and finds a
potion of vitality and two very unusual diamond-like
gems of amazing clarity. Playing on hunch he examines the gems intently,
holding one up close to the nearest of the scrawled X’s; it glows
brilliantly in response.
Deeper upon the shelf, Chen cautiously approaches
the cavern’s entrance pausing as he detects the stale smell of death.
Turning the others he asks, “How did the rangers say the other githyanki
had died?”

“One of them had been found with blood pooled about his ears and eyes.
They said the first gith’s eyes had become crimsoned orbs and by the look of
him he died in great pain. The others were more mundane, cut down by sword
blows,”
answered Fin.

Continuing he adds, “My guess would be they were killed by other
githyanki, maybe another faction?”

“Gather close,”
calls out Bingus, “Careful of these X’s … These gems, (Bingus presents
the two beautiful gems, perfect octahedrons) these are concentrated magic,
they are called astral diamonds. They are fabulous, they slowly emit
residium, the stuff of magic. I read they are formed by souls lost within
the astral plane. The unfortunate souls slowly crystallize in the empty,
infinite expanses there. Something is wrong here within this cavern. These
X’s mark astral vents. There is no telling what might happen if you were
caught up in one of them.”

“What about the gems, are they valuable?” asks Vani.

“Oh them, well yes they are valuable, very much so. They are worth 100
platinum pieces each,”
answers Bingus.

“We can divide treasure later, lets keep moving,”
suggests Finellior.

Entering the cavern they travel down a ten foot wide passage quickly
arriving at a rising stair. The stairway ends in a small landing and fixed
double doors. The doors were not locked and they stood partially ajar.
Beyond the doors the passage T’d immediately, quickly ending in a dead-end
to the right, but leading towards a downward stair to the left. The rangers
took lead, moving quickly but quietly down the stairs. At the base of the
stairs they found the passage T’d again, opening to the right and leading
further downward towards the left. The halls were dark in both directions,
but the stench was stronger towards to left; thankfully the smell was muted
by the cold. The open passage was more promising, shadows danced in an open
space beyond. In that direction the rangers heard unintelligible voices
arguing. One of the rangers summons Fin with a wave. As Fin approaches he
recognizes the guttural intonations of Deep Speech, the language of the
githyanki.

Fin gestures for everyone but Chen to hold their position, then quietly
the two of them advance toward the voices, the shadows envelope them as the
move towards the sounds. The foul stench grew stronger as if it was
welcoming their every step. Soon they found themselves within an open
chamber. A distant firelight provided dim illumination revealing that they
were in a square shaped chamber. Huge statues of githyanki warriors had once
lined the walls, but these formidable warrior now lied shattered and broken
upon the floor of the chamber amid the rotting corpses of a half-dozen
githyanki. The dead were all well-armored warriors. The chamber was divided
at its center by a thick, solid column, and too the right the walls gave way
to a banister which revealed a lower chamber. The open balcony was the
source of the both the light and the raised voices, both issued from some
point below.

Moving silently toward the balcony they two heroes was what appeared to
be a temporary camp on the floor of the lower chamber, there were three
dozen bedrolls set around a pair of smoldering fire pits. At the nearest of
these pits, three githyanki sat—warriors by their appearance, and all of
them sounded angry. One mutters in Deep Speech, and Fin struggled understood
what they were saying …

“Bad straights being out of touch, rule of fives I say. We should be
busting the piker birdcage, and bleeding them dry, trolley-womp-em!”

A second responds, “Bar that, we got orders!”

Unimpressed the first adds, “The addle-cove astraan tickers can
chant their useless rituals over the shielded circle without us, they‘re all
screed.”

A second growls, nodding in agreement … “Ninny-chanters, all of em!
With good reason this place has been named the shuttered world … These
mud-lovers are clueless beyond barmy. Let kill em all and be done with it
then!”

And from deeper in the chamber someone calls out “It’s the coward
Kada’ne keeps us here, while he kips-up on Cev’ren while we shelter like
dogs because he‘s busy dumping his bowels.”

“What are the saying?”
whispers Chen.

“They are difficult to understand, but I believe they are saying that
Thiradith should be taken. They are upset about orders holding them here
while ‘astraan’ sages chant rituals over a shielded circle.”

“And there’s more, they are complain about someone named ‘Kada’ne‘ … They
say he is safe in ‘Cev’ren’ while they are forced to wait here. I believe
he’s someone important to them, an admiral or something like that.”

Distracted by the githyanki below, the heroes fail to notice the movement
of shadows of the wreckage behind them. From the rubble, three glowing
shapes rise and begin drifting silently across the chamber—their forms are
those of armored githyanki warriors, dead, grim warriors, translucent in the
gloom. Without word or warning, the haunts attack.

The shades were all that was left of once proud githyanki knights. They
had been the champions of the Chanhiir. They had been revered in their
society. Cast out, here within the Fane of the Chanhiir the warriors had
still been icons among the insurgents. Now all the Chanhiir were refugees,
but they had not fled their duty, rather they fought and died, defending the
fane against their enemies, but with no queen to honor these honored
warriors found no salvation in their deaths, only torment, unfilled promise,
and their mission they were driven to complete. That mission was to defend
this hall, the resting place of the Chanhiir’s honored dead upon this hated
world. It had been the site of the knights last stand. The dead interred
here were riled, vengeful, due to the violation and defilement of their
resting place. And so the knights had found no rest.

The rangers yell out a warning, but too late as a ghostly blade drove
deep into Finellior’s back ripping free an involuntary shriek of pain
alerting the githyanki in the lower chamber. Chen spins towards Fin,
reacting with lightening speed, but finds a second foe striking out towards
him. Reflexively, he sets a block for a second shade’s blade, but the
githyanki weapon passes through his staff which offers no resistance to the
ghost’s blade. The sword sinks deep in the monk‘s chest causing the monk’s
body convulse and go numb. Chen tried to retreat, stumbling, his back to the
banister, then saddening, gasping he drew as much of the stale air in to
lungs as they could hold and exhaled with all his might covering the three
spirits in a spiritual flame born of his own life force. Then sudden magic
rips through the hall bursting upon the three ghosts as Vani appeared within
the chamber, his hands still smoking. The three restless shades each had
great holes torn through their ethereal forms, they struggled to maintain a
grasp of their forms. May Hem flew through the air leaving a sparkling trail
behind her floating above the flames, she pauses just long enough to aid
Chen calling out to him with a spell of invigoration restoring enough
strength to allow the monk to make a calculated withdrawal, still struggling
just force his legs to move.

Fin found himself alone as the three spirits again closed upon him,
trapped against the banister, he straighten himself, standing tall and
gathering his courage he begins taunting the spirits without mercy, so much
so they ignore his allies as they move in flanking the ghosts, then in
another explosion of arcane might the spirits are gone leaving only Vani in
their wake of the explosion.

In the lower chamber the githyanki first paused as they first heard the
scuffle above. They weren’t anxious to approach the spirit’s hall. They knew
they had gone to far when the desecrated the dead of the Chanhiir by pulling
down their statues. The warriors were well aware of the restless dead within
the upper chamber. They made sure they never dallied within that chamber,
but the sounds they heard from above did not sound like the spirits, but
they didn’t not sound like reinforcements either. Dreading each step the
guards began slowly moving up the stairs, and they caught the briefest
glimpse of May Hem as her wave a beguilement hit them forcing them into a
sudden retreat down the stairs where entrance they began attacking each
other.

Rapidly the heroes regroup above, at the top of the stairs, preparing as
githyanki came to their senses. Below the three guards were joined by a
githyanki mind-mage as they began to furiously climb the stairs once more,
no longer fearful of the ghosts. The heroes organized themselves
strategically to concentrate their fire on the approaching githyanki,
whether by spell or crossbow they prepared, then suddenly pain explodes
within their skulls as if their heads were caught in a vise. Vision blurred,
and their equilibrium crumbled as the heroes fall tumbling upon the ground,
writhing in pain as the mind-mage attacks. Only Bingus escapes his wrath,
mounted upon his ebony fly, the gnome weaves his way through the air taking
a position behind the githyanki where he begins peppering them with an array
of spells.

On the landing above, Vani is the first to rise, to his horror he sees
all of the rangers are dead, their faces had become masks of pain, and blood
seemed to be oozing from every orifice. Furiously, he drew deeply from his
inner reserve of power as he blast the githyanki with everything he could
muster, his power struck with such force his foes bodies were left charred,
and smoking in the wake of his power.

From above Bingus yells, “Make sure you search them!”

Bounding down the stairs, Chen arrives, and looking at the githyanki,
confirms they are dead, calling out to the gnome, “There’s little left
to search.”

As Fin arrives he glares, gathering everyone’s attention and in a hushed
tone tell them,“Keep Quiet!”

Interviewing the Dead

“You had better double, check those guards I pulled
back a bit, they may still be breathing. I thought you would want to
question them,”
points out Vani.

Bingus lands as Chen examines the fallen and says, “These three
are dead, but the mind-mage yet lives.”

As Fin joins them, he sits-up the githyanki and offers water. The
mage bats the water away weakly.

Fin says, “Let me talk him, I speak his language.”

“Fine by me,”
Vani answers, “I am going back to check the passage we skipped
anyhow.”

“Alone?”
asks Chen.

“Nay, I’ll go with him,”
replies May Hem.

Vani cocks his head before saying “Fine,” as they leave Chen
hears him explaining, “I don’t really need assistance, but I welcome
your company.”

Getting back to the githyanki, Fin focuses his thoughts, trying to
quickly recall as much Deep Speech as he could. Carefully, using the
githyanki’s language he says,
“You can still survive this, we could heal you, if you tell us what we
need to know.”

With an evil grimace the githyanki replies with a harsh cracking
voice using the common tongue perfectly, “You are dead already,
meat-bag! You will be counting worms soon enough. Your cities defenses
spread wide to receive us, just like the primer whores spread their
legs.”

The mind-mage chokes as he laughs, then pinching his face he begins
to scowl intently and with purpose, then his eyes roll back in his head,
white orbs as the githyanki begins to drool. Fin grabs the githyanki but
the crippled mage convulses, and his head begins to bleed, first from
the eye sockets, followed by his ears and mouth. Within moments it is
over, the githyanki is dead.

“Now is it my turn?”
asks Bingus.

“What do you mean?”
asks Fin.

“Dead men tell no lies. It will take a few minutes but I’ve learned
many things from my brother … I know how to speak to the dead,”
explains Bingus.

“Great! Then ask him who were they fighting here.”

Minutes pass slowly as Bingus prepares his ritual. After 5 minutes
Vani and May Hem return and advise that the skipped passage had ended in
a finished chamber filled with scores of rotting githyanki corpses,
possibly as many as 100 of them all stacked there like timber.

With his preparations complete, Bingus announces that he is ready to
begin.

“Now, I won’t be able to ask many questions, but his answers should be
truthful.”

Chen interrupts, “I rill ratch at door.” pointing out a
set of double doors which appeared to exit the lower chamber. “Given
the number of bedlolls, we will be facing many more enemies before we
are frough.”

Agreeing Vani says, “I will take the stairs.”

As Chen begins checking the doors he starts noticing sounds from the
room beyond; muffled sounds like deep heavy voices … inhuman voices,
resonating at a level no man could match, they sounded threatening and
angry. Thinking to warn the others Chen begins to call out, but stops as
he notices the ritual had already begun.

“Why are you fighting the other githyanki?”

Mind Mage“They
are the Chanhiir.”

“I didn’t ask who they are, but why you are fighting them?”

“They are traitors, rebels … Death to them all!”

“Traitors to what, the githyanki?”

“Traitors to the Emperor.”

“Why do you fight them here?”

“They guard the World Gate.”

With that final declaration, the dead mind-mage falls mute.

Fin stares at Bingus, as Chen calls out, “Something is
happening just beyond these doors, something bad.”



Formorian Giant

Prisoners of
Chanhiir

The stench of the filth becomes stronger as Chen cautiously opens the
door holding it slightly ajar. The dull and intermittent pounding grows
louder and clear, the sound of steel on stone rises grows as the heavy
door is cracked open allowing everyone present to hear the harsh voices
shouting beyond the door, but only Fin understands what they are saying.

“You like that, small ones? You keep your silence, you all meet the
same fate!”

Beyond the doors, a ruined martial training hall is lined with
shattered weapon racks and there are a number of pillars formed of
blue-white light extending from floor to ceiling throughout the large
hall. These columns of light shift slowly as they flare and fade in
intensity. In the haze of light, ten githyanki wearing tattered robes
are chained together hand and foot. They huddled along one wall with two
hulking fomorians pacing before them, one of the giants busies himself
clubbing the sodden remains of a freshly dead githyanki with a huge
flail.

Chen quickly notices that both the fomorians are branded with the
same glowing sigil upon their wrists. It looks like a sword wrapped in
an outline of flame. Chen remains unseen as the giants are distracted,
not only by their prisoners, but seemingly even more so by the blue
tinged pillars of light. Keeping a wary eye upon the pillars as they
continue to rail against the chained githyanki. Regardless, the
prisoners show no fear.

The prisoners, however, are quick to notice Chen. Seeing him, they
flatten against the nearest wall. Confused the closest giant screams
even louder, the power of his voice causing a shudder within the large
hall. As the giant raises his flail it drips with the gore of his recent
victim. At his feet a total of two githyanki lie dead, both almost
unrecognizable due to the horrific damage the giant has caused to the
corpse’s bodies.

Taking advantage of the giant’s distraction Chen attacks, his staff
catching the thicker, closer of the two giants low at his ankle such
that the giant stumbles, more due to the surprise of the attack than
even the significant power of Chen’s blow. The giant trips backward
colliding with the nearest pillar of light. The pillar flares slight as
if in anticipation of the giant, the radiant energy of the pillar
burning the fomorian as he near the light. Before he can stop himself
the giant touches the pillar; there is a loud crack and a hum as the
giant is thrown off. He tumbles away from the light as though he weighs
nothing. He comes to the stop near the second giant when suddenly fairy
dust appears in a burst veiling the first giant’s face. With out warning
the giant turns attacking his ally, but the second giant deftly dodges
the clumsy attack, and growls a threateningly at Chen.

The other heroes race into the chamber, Fin taking lead; the bard
shouting out his wrath in the form a deep speech threat. No normal
threat, his words take on power, stabbing deep within the taller giant’s
consciousness, likening to a miasmic glow encompasses the giant’s thoughts.

“If your skill was half as sharp as my wit I might be concerned,
consider yourself lucky you’re too stupid to understand your own peril
giant!”

Fin knew the magic curse would renew and burn within the giant’s mind
each time one of his allies struck the giant, and that his allies would
benefit drawing strength from the giant’s weakness. Fin yells to his
friends, “Toy with the tall one as you will, but keep his alive
until the end, with each blow you score you will be healed.”

As Vani enters the chamber arcane lights erupt spinning madly about
the halfling sorcerer, then suddenly exploding outward filling the room
with a brilliant display. In the midst of his spell Vani disappears only
to reappear in four perfect copies in each in a different corner of the
chamber. Laughing Vani hollers,
Pillar of Light“You
couldn’t beat one of me, but now your face four giants, prepare to feel
my wrath giants.”

Satisfied Bingus flies in above the fray and begins examining the
chamber, but what he is most interested in is the pillars of light. From
his vantage point the wizard guesses that the chamber was once a
training ground for the those that lived here, most likely the same dead
githyanki they had been seeing. The ten pressed against the wall might
be their only survivors. The other living githyanki appeared to be
invaders. As Bingus turns his attention to the pillars of light they
suddenly began moving, shifting about the chamber. It take all Bingus’s
skill upon the ebony fly to avoid being hit by a pillar. Some of his
allies don’t fare so well. Chen goes flying across the chamber, and Fin
flies in yet another direction, but the giants given their size fare
much worse. Soon the room stabilizes as the pillars stop and everyone in
the chamber gathers themselves.

Every fomorian giant has one malicious, exaggerated evil eye, and
neither of the giants within the hall wasted anytime fixing their gaze
upon a chosen foe. Chen and Fin are the first recipients of their
attention, both warriors are suddenly filled with a loathing, as they
feel their defenses falling away under the giant’s corrupting gaze. It
seeps like tendrils of pain weaving through their bodies, spiraling down
like a silent scream. The pain explodes within like broken glass
swelling deep within their chests. It ultimately climb to an almost
indescribable crescendo of woe issuing tremors throughout either of the
hero’s bodies before the attack finally passes while the giants look
down upon them with something like rapture upon their faces.

The various Vanis begin gesturing as one after the other they begins
relentlessly blasting the giants. Chen turns his attention to the taller
giant, attacking and landing several blows. He gains strength with each
successful strike just as Fin had promised. As Chen battles May Hem
darts by circling the second giant, then suddenly she stops and throwing
both arm forwards at the same time with her fingers spread wide. A great
flourish of pixie sparkles blast in the giant and with a vroom, the
giant shoots backwards, irresistibly crashing into a great mass of the
glowing pillars. As the giant hits each pillar bursts with radiance as
the beleaguered giant is thrown from one pillar to other, time and time
again.

From high above Bingus shouts, “These light pillars are formed
of astral energy that has somehow bound within this chamber!”

The pillars begin their dance again. Helpless to defend himself the
squat giant finds himself trapped within a cage of light. In a fury he
fixes his evil gaze upon Vani. The halfling just chuckles, and unleashes
spell after spell, first from one Vani, then another until the giant
falls.

Forgotten the githyanki work together to escape their binding chains.
One by one they gain their freedom and rush to arm themselves from amid
the cache of weapons lying about the chamber. Unaware, Chen continues
dueling the taller giant, but even with his clumsy strikes, the giant
manages to wrap his huge flail upon the monk’s face sending a wave of
pain through Chen’s body. The blow forces Chen backward, but Fin catches
him, steadying the monk and with a call of determine, announces with his
firmest resolve, “Chen with me! The day is ours. STRIKE NOW!”

Fin charges shielding Chen from the giant’s flail, and providing an
opening for Chen to attack; they allies both attack scoring two hits;
the giant falls back dead before he hit the ground. Victorious, the
heroes gather in the center being careful to stay clear of the pillars
of light, as thy do they finally realize that the githyanki are free and
now armed.

Quickly the heroes set themselves in a defensive stance but the
githyanki don‘t attack. All of the former prisoners show signs of having
been repeatedly beaten. One elderly female steps forward demonstrating a
pronounced limp.


Big Trouble for Flea-Liders


Talanee“I
am Talanee.” says the githyanki’s leader in deep speak. “You have our
thanks for your aid, but you must leave this place. The injury done to our
temple must be addressed, but this battle is not yours.”

Finellior replies, “These other githyanki, those who you are
fighting, they have attacked us as well. Who are you, and why are they
attacking you?”

“We are the Chanhiiri, the faithful of the Fane of Chanhiir.
The invaders are the forces of Zetch’r’r the False. They have claimed this
fane and bestowed on the Chanhiiri the sentence of death.”

“How do you plan to battle the invaders, you appear to be the only
survivors?”

“The destiny of our people is struggle, and we will die free as
we lived if that is our fate.”

“What brought this on you? Why are you fighting the other
githyanki?"

“The usurper Zetch’r’r reshapes the will and destiny of the githyanki
in the name of his own ambition. We reject that ambition, for which our
people name us traitors.”

“Then why has this Zetch’r’r attacked us?"

“You brought that wrath upon yourselves when you sent assassins to
kill our queen. For 10,000 years she reigned, until her slayers attacked.”

“I may have heard tales of this mission, I have no doubt that it may
have gone amiss … You owe us nothing, but pray tell, did these so-called
assassins include the names, Halfred Hastings, Aerdaluna or maybe, Solaris,
among others, a monk or monks.”

“Those you mention were counted among the villains.”

“And what might have happened to them?”

“They did not escape our wrath, and neither has your world. This fate
was earned.”

“We do not oppose you, nor do I nor do any I am aware of know of any
plan to assassinate your queen. Here and now, we share a common enemy. What
is this place, what
is the Fane of Chanhiir?”

“This temple is an
ancient site—old as the githyanki empire. Chanhiir, a legendary githyanki
mage, was its founder. His faithful numbered nearly a hundred before
Zetch’r’r’s force despoiled this place.”

“Why were you left alive?”

“They questioned us and planned to return us to Tu’narath, where our
execution would have acted as a warning to all those who oppose Zetch’r’r’s
rule.”

“Why are the invaders still here? Why were the fomorians threatening
you?”

“There is power here that Zetch’r’r’s curs yearn to control, but its
secrets are ours. Neither threat nor death will take our knowledge from us.”

From the door exiting the chamber, Chen calls out: “The
chamber beyond doors lead to a glate auditolium, wide tellaces and slur
cule of right, but sum ting wong, gith yank ee EV-.Lee where! Big trouble
for Flea-Liders!”

The World Gate


Portal Hall

Roused to action by Chen‘s warning Fin lower his head and while
holding an open hand to Talanee announces, “With all respect, the battle will not wait. In this fight we are
not your enemies. We move now to help our allies. We welcome your
assistance, as the invaders are a threat to us all. Join us if you will,
we will not oppose you I ask only that you show us the same respect.”

Having said his piece, Fin turns taking lead of his allies, he
calls out, “With me, lets not let the Freeriders grab all the glory!”
Megan Swiftblade

From beyond a second set of double doors comes a shout of alarm
and the sounds of combat. Over the clash of swords and the shrieks of
dying githyanki, the familiar voice of Megan Swiftblade rings out. “You tried to lay claim to Elsir Vale, but our lands still stand free!
Our people have not kneeled to you, mudskins, nor will the wider world
you covet! Know you face the Freeriders, and we will not fall!”

As Fin enters he stares across the hall to the head of the stairs
on the far side of the hall. There Megan Swiftblade stands with the
severed head of a githyanki captain clutched by the hair. With her, the
Freeriders stand injured but defiant behind her, the githyanki in the
chamber spread out in preparation for the Freerider’s attack but
entirely unprepared for the second group of heroes led by Fin.

Despite Megan’s bravado, at first, the Freeriders find themselves
vastly outnumbered. They battle against almost two dozen githyanki, but
suddenly the githyanki find themselves trapped between the Freeriders
and Fin’s Brigade of heroes and the two groups of heroes are joined by
the rescued githyanki led by Talanee. Joined by these allies the battle
ends in seconds the githyanki warriors overwhelmed by the two groups of
heroes and the vengeful githyanki, but the invading githyanki do not
retreat or stop fighting until all lie dead upon the hall floor.

The chamber beyond the doors has the look of an shrine, an
auditorium set with wide terraces formed as an amphitheater of seating
that descends from the walls. Scattered across the terraces, a number of
wide altars blaze with a searing white flame. At the center of the
floor, a raised dais holds a brilliantly shimmering sphere of force that
sends tendrils of deadly white light pulsing into the room. It is
apparent that the sphere of light had been the focus of the invading
githyanki that fill this area, now lying dead upon the floor the
chamber. During the course of the battle it had also become clear that
the glowing sphere was very dangerous. With the battle finished, Bingus
quickly examines the sphere determining that it contains a teleportation
circle, the sphere acting as a powerful ward blocking approach. Bingus
also quickly determines that the altars spread throughout the chamber
were burning with raw astral energy.

For a time Bingus struggles within
his own mind to explain these phenomenon until his musings are
interrupted by Sylen, “Bingus it has been a long time since our adventure at the Salty
Mug … How fares Bairdyn?”

“Last time I saw him he was fine if disappointed. We battled in
the Feywild together, but Bairdyn is just not the same without
Bhenedict. At the end of the conflict he left to find his
brother-at-arms.”

“Ah, that explains his absence then, I was concerned it was
something else.”

As Finellior takes in the aftermath of the battle, he is approached
by Ghena,“It is Bahamut‘s will that we come together as
allies, this is the time of heroes. We must prove our worth, we cannot
always count solely upon the gods to protect us.”

Joining them Bingus adds, “More and more, Bahamut and his dark
sister seem intimately involved in these matters which oppose us. I
should has seen this sooner, but now the evidence of their involvement
is clear.”

Suddenly Megan yells at Fin and Bingus, “Brigadiers, see to
your rear flank, the githyanki approaches!”
as she stands blades
drawn, still dripping githyanki blood.

“Calm yourself! They are with us,” orders Fin.

Talanee and her cluster of survivors approach. Behind Megan,
Badger growls menacingly.

Stepping in front of the githyanki, Finellior introduces her.
“This is Talanee of the Chanhiiri. This fane was theirs before they were
attacked by our common enemies. I imagine you found dead githyanki as
you approached?”
he asks Megan.

“Yes,” responds Megan.

Points to the glowing sphere Bingus asks Talanee, “Can you please
explain this place?”

Answering Talanee says, “It is the Chanhiiri’s task is to keep
watch over the World Gates, but in making our opposition known to the
plots of the false emperor Zetch’r’r, we were first shunned, and now
assaulted. However, our craft allowed us to guard this fane. We have
sealed the gate in ways that Zetch’r’r’s thralls could not overcome.”

Fin asks, “What is a World Gate?”

“The World Gates are the prime portals through which the
githyanki have mastered the connections between planes,”
pointing to the bright sphere within the hall
Talanee adds, “This World Gate is set within this mortal realm,
with others in the Feywild and the Shadowfell, and there are other gates
within in other prime planes. Still more distant gates lie within the
nameless planes, those which are whispered of but never named, but those
are beyond my even my own knowledge.”

Excited Bingus asks, “How are the World Gates different from
permanent teleportation circles?”

“The World Gate functions as a portal in the same manner as any
teleportation circle. However, the ancient magic of the World Gates sees
them also act as anchors that connect their realms to the Astral Sea.”

Bingus continues, “But it seems this place is also drawing in
arcane power?”

“Astute … This gate also siphons planar energy, feeding it back
to the Well of Worlds.”

“What!” exclaims Fin, “I have heard of this in the tales of my father.
Can you explain what this is in more detail?”

“Of course, but we have a
tasks of our own. We are grateful for your intercession but we remain
loyal to our purposes, and your fate is not yet sealed. Still, in
consideration of your assistance, we will not oppose you, nor will we
intercede of behalf of Zetch’r’r the False. The fane is ruined,
despoiled duty calls us elsewhere, to a place you cannot follow. So it
seems we will leave this place to you, but despite how Zetch’r’r would
label us we are not traitors. For now a single task yet tethers us to
this miserable plane, if you would see to its completion I will assist
you.”

“Of what do you speak?” asks Finellior.

“This hallowed place has lost its sanctity, debased as it is by
the blood of Zetch’r’r’s traitors. Our fate lies elsewhere now, but our
dead yet call out for attention. If you would help us gather the bodies
of our dead while I consecrate some of the empty chambers to contain
them after we depart, I will explain more.”

“Agreed,” announces Fin.

“The Well of Worlds is a site of powerful planar magic, built by
Chanhiir in the lost age of our race and open only to those of githyanki
blood. It is a planar mote existing in no world—fueled by the energy of
the Astral Sea but not set within it. The Well of Worlds is the center
of the portal network that is the lifeblood of the githyanki empire. It
is the site through which elite githyanki strike teams travel the
planes, including the force charged with seizing this fane. It is a
place that touches all other places—all planes of existence, all sites
in those planes. From the Well of Worlds, the githyanki have access to
anywhere in all of creation.”

“What can you tell us of the turmoil within
the githyanki empire?”
asks Finellior.

“Zetch’r’r is a dog leading dogs, but those who lash themselves
to his leash see not the chains he wears. The false emperor talks of
rebuilding the glory of the githyanki, but he is a pawn of forces he has
not the mind to understand or the will to stand against.”

“In the long eons since the gods and primordials fought for
control of all creation, Bahamut and Tiamat have undergone a
never-ending sibling war. Driven apart yet drawn constantly together by
their dichotomous natures, the two gods fight endless battles, both face
to face and through their proxies in all the many worlds. Among all
races, long ages of peace follow epochs of tyranny as each deity ekes
out a temporary victory over the other, but in the end, always, the
battle continues. Until now.”

“In this age, a new war looms between these two ancient
adversaries. On both sides, armies amass across worlds in preparation
for brutal conflict, but Tiamat means to see that this battle with
Bahamut is the last. The dragon queen seeks to slay the platinum lord,
and Zetch’r’r has sworn himself and the githyanki to the service of this
dark goal.”

When their task is completed the survivor Chanhiiri waste no time
as they move to leave the fane by way of the World Gate. As she prepare
to do so Talanee shuts down the ward leaving the portal vulnerable for
both the heroes and anyone else to use including the githyanki invaders.

Finellior is quick to grasp the danger, and as the githyanki prepare
to leave he approaches Talanee again,“Where are you going?”

“To a place you cannot follow. Many githyanki are united in their
hatred of Zetch’r’r. Do not seek to follow us.”

Having said that Talanee and her
Belazendafollower
vanish.

With concern written clearly upon his face Finellior takes charge,
“We need to defend the fane! Bingus contact the Platinum Shields, we
will need more back-up. Megan can we count on the Freeriders?”

“Of course! Our blade are yours,” answers Megan
Swiftblade without hesitation.

Then their witch Belazenda adds,“There is a great darkness upon us and a fearsome prophesy, it
tells me we must be diligent and unyielding in your pursuit of our
enemies, it says if we fall so shall the world. Hear and be warned.”

The elements this day go to war
The earth moving towards something new-
-a fear to bind all save few
Light is haunted by darkness
If light fails darkness will lead our way-
The sound of dead silence consuming our voice
Demons rising to undermine sin-
-soon there will be nothing left to win
The defeat of light will setting things right for evil’s reign

“In this there is a small, but great hope, that we
might succeed in our quest. As long as we live and fight victory is yet
within our grasp. Shed all darkness banish it within … Light every part of
our existence… and it will grow and spread until it spills out into the
world.”


SOW Chapter12: The Hunt for the Githyanki

The Hunt for the Githyanki

Githyanki hunting
north the heroes will travel


who is that hot pixie?

The Hunt Begins

AmyriaWhile resting up and taking care of personal business, you receive a message from Amyria, most of you are in the city of Sayre at the time, but regardless of where you are the message reads as follows:

“Word of githyanki activity continue to come in from across all frontiers, but one of these reports demands quick investigation. The watchtower at Thiradith marks the northernmost frontier of the settled lands and is within striking distance of the outpost we learned of as a result of our mission in Cachlain’s fomorian court. Three days ago, rangers from Thiradith reported seeing githyanki warriors along the mountain pass. Their numbers were reported to be small and they’ve shown no sign of wanting to engage the outpost, but that has created even more concern for the watch commander of the watchtower. As is the case in every far corner of the frontier, there are and always have been rumors of ancient ruins in these mountains and there are some that are convinced that the githyanki are seeking a new weapon or relic to give them even more advantage in this war.”

“Even if I did not share this concern, that githyanki scouts are in the northlands is reason enough for worry. There are precious few known resources for us to lose in those wild lands, but in this case it is the unknown that concerns me. The githyanki might be staging yet another assault, and the guards at Thiradith consist only of raw recruits, outcasts, and veterans whose injuries have kept them from the front lines. They are fit enough to bolster the barricades well enough, but they are ill-suited to hunting githyanki through hostile terrain. As such, their commander has sent an urgent request for assistance to all the agents of civilization including our Coalition. It might well be that you will meet up with others when you get there, so share this assignment as you see fit, but we must find out what kind of presence the githyanki have in the northlands if for no other reason than the importance accorded these activities by the githyanki themselves, at least, if we can trust the recollections of the Stone-skinned King.”

Thiradith

Thiradith
exists on the outskirts of civilization, far from the well traveled
paths of man. It is the northern most fortification of the
city-states. A place where desperate men, and half-elves go to be of
service. Thiradith is as much a penal colony as it is a military
outpost. The watchtower houses only raw recruits, and the outcasts
others might call criminals, along with veterans whose injuries would
make them a liability on the front lines. This motley crew’s main
mission has been to guard against and warn of incursions from the
savage Northmen; lawless barbarians who dwell in icy wastes beyond the
crooked spire, but these Northmen being mainly seafarers rarely make
use of the mountain passes favoring their dragon-headed longboats as
the do. So the rangers of Thiradith spent most of their time
performing the tasks necessary to endure in this harsh land, a job no
one familiar with the northlands underestimates. The truth is the many
of the men stationed at Thiradith are fulfilling sentences,
punishments handed down by the justices of the seven great
city-states. The watchtower is thought of as a place capable of
testing a man’s soul as well as an inescapable prison. A harsh
mistress where most will face a slow death, but some few find
salvation from the corruption that fills their souls. Some men
stationed at Thiradith are actually volunteers seeking to avoid
dungeons or some other punishment such as a severed limb. The
disgraced, the bastards, and the unwanted all call Thiradith home.

And now the war has come to
Thiradith. The watchtower’s scouts have spotted githyanki warriors
moving through the mountain passes and the Captain of Thiradith,
Birkeni, a veteran half-elf warrior concedes that his men are
ill-suited to hunt the githyanki through the hostile northern terrain.
He has sent out the word, an urgent call-to-arms.

For most of you it takes at
least three days to journey get to Thiradith. The lord’s gateway
nearest to the outpost had been shutdown making more mundane methods
of travel necessary, but your trip to Thiradith is otherwise is
uneventful. These remote badlands are uninhabited and far removed from
the front lines of the invasion. Wolves and crows are the only company
on the road, but these give you a wide berth as you make your way
north. Just before sunset, you see the watchtower in the distance. It
stands atop a high, upthrust snowy embankment at the foot of the
mountains. A rough rocky path approaches its sheer stone walls. From
atop the white bluff, the site commands a sweeping view of the rocky
scrubland that spreads to all sides. A gate and drawbridge allow
access across a steep-sided ravine that protects the site on all
sides. Sun-faded flags fly high above the ramparts, and the bridge is
already down as you approach. Captain Birkeni meets you as your enter
the gate, his continence one of relief as he greets you.

Capt Birkeni

“Welcome to
Thiradith. I apologize but you will find no stores, or frivolous
services here, but you are welcome to use the outpost’s other
amenities … we have a weapon smith, and a fine armorer. You will have
private accommodations within our barracks hall. Truth to say we’ve
plenty of room here now undermanned as we have been.”

“You are not the
first to answer our summons, another group arrived just this morning,
and one other arrived ahead of them yesterday. I would guess you have
heard of the Freeriders by reputation if nothing else, and the other
one, he is even more flamboyant than they are. The Freeriders knew
him, his name is Firestorm, Vani Firestorm … He flew in mounted upon a
manticore.”

Freeriders