Codex VII-Chapter 2

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The journey to the Niktean Wastes was uneventful. A little over two weeks of flight and they saw the ruins. Greygook put them down at the exact spot they had been anchored at all those years ago when they had first met each other under very different circumstances.

They landed mid-morning, seeing no signs of anybody else in or about the ruins of the ancient city. After anchoring the ship, Greygook wanted to get right to looking at the voidgate; they could set up the rest of camp later. Rynn heartily agreed, wanting to move quickly to explore the voidgates, though Aestus made sure to double check nobody else was around before they proceeded.

During their journey Khaska had filled the control rod up entirely. When he touched it, the runes all glowed. They all went into the large building, the gnome beside himself with excitement. Khaska pointed at the voidgate and released one spell’s worth of energy. The air in the gate swirled, as it had in the library in the Maramos mansion, and in a moment it flashed, revealing behind it the walkway.

Sitting in a pile, right in front of them, was a whole bunch of similar control rods.

“Sweet!” Orensland exclaimed. “Now we can each have one!”

"There are more!" Sanjin was very excited, pushing past Khaska to peer inside. "Fantastic!"

Eryx (DM)
A few points.

1. Concerning Greygook, if you want to have him take all of the money and drop it off at a bank in Hammerdine in your name, he will do so. You have earned Greygook’s loyalty and trust by helping him achieve what he and his brothers spent decades researching and exploring for—the voidgate system. You also helped avenge his dead brother and helped him make sure his vampire brother did not curse the world further in undeath. His recent experience with the vampires has made him wary of wanting to reveal these secrets too early, but when they are revealed, he wants credit to be given to him and his brothers for the discovery. Greygook is now, mechanically, a follower of the party. He works for you. All the decisions about the voidgate network are yours to make. There are now 30 control rods, including the one you already had.

2. You can easily access the money and dead dragon-man’s head once you find the right path in the voidgate system that leads back to Darkcrest. Nothing in the voidgate system has changed since you were in there last that you can tell.

3. So. Voidgates. What do you all want to do? I believe Thev has some google docs prepared to help navigate the exploration process?

4. I realized that it had been a loooong time since we had updated the Quests page. Please take a look at it and update it accordingly.

5. Worldbuilding. I think the dwarves need some loving attention. They represent an under-attended portion of the world. But whatever floats your boat.

I think you underplayed Orensland's excitement at seeing the rod pile. It looks like at least one party had the same idea we had–– drop a bunch of goodies at the foot of a voidgate entrance. And if we've all had the same idea, why not some other party? Provided he has the free time to do so, Orensland will want to explore the voidgate entrances for potential other piles of goods. He will think it silly he didn't think of that earlier.

However, Rynn's quest takes priority at this moment. I'd assume we would want to explore one voidgate at a time, cataloguing them as we go. Orensland would be happy to volunteer his sneaking abilities. He'd likely suggest we open the voidgate from a slight distance–– if there is bright light on the other side, Orensland would be in plain sight as per 5e rules. He has an invisibility spell in his ring of spell storing, but best wait to see if shadowdancing is an option before cracking it out.

While Orensland dearly wants to explore all the voidgate entrances, he understands that having a crystal ball handy would be best before exploring in full. As far as I see it, we should open the gate and determine if it's safe to exit the voidgate. If it is, Orensland sneaks out using either an invisibility spell or his natural shadowdancing ability. Then they plan on re-opening the gate 20 minutes or so afterwards to let him back in. Orensland reports as best he can, giving details about the time of day, architecture of the room or buildings, the presence of Pressen in the sky, etc. We do so until we find something that may be in the marshes, by which point we strategize infiltrating the marshes.

Are there ways to knock out a group of people simultaneously? Whether by spell or some smoke device, I'd have hoped we thought about this in advance to prepare to knock out suprised parties on the other side of the entrances. We need to ensure an entrance is not the Marsh entrance before moving on to others, even if there's an armed platoon on the other side. If retconning is not an option, Orensland would suggest we go through the Dusklight entrance and buy the necessary supplies.

It makes sense to Orensland that neighboring voidgate entrances would be close together geographically as well. That may not be the case, but perhaps we should start exploring the entrances on either side of the Dusklight entrance first. The sooner we find the Marsh entrance, the lower the chances of encountering… undesirable parties. Orensland would vote for that course of action, unless anyone has a better idea.

As for sharing the voidgate system with others, the only people Orensland feels safe sharing it with at this moment are those we suspect of being metallic dragons. Off the top of my head, we've encountered four that may fit the profile. Mirwen (Codex V chapter 6), Captain Bronzebeard (Codex VI chapter 4), Akle (codex IV chapter 1), and I propose Elial as well (Codex I chapter 1). Those are the four that come to my mind, at least. I'd vote for Mirwen or Bronzebeard first, and try to get some input from them as to who else we can trust. Orensland would share these ideas with the party, seeking their input.

Khaska shares Orensland's excitement at the stash of control rods, but instantly feels some trepidation, too: more rods would mean more chances of losing control of the voidgates to other parties. Further, it seems likely that those who last used the voidgates may have met their end here, depositing the control rods in the gate before allowing it to seal itself and thereby preventing others from taking advantage of the gates for whatever ends they may have had. Those rods may have been sitting there since some millennia-old siege that created the ruins.

But Khaska and Orensland have worked well together for a long time — Khaska had basically thought of the same plan! He thinks it's a great idea to take the gates one-by-one, with Orensland being the chief explorer. We'd only open each gate a minute at a time, letting Orensland shadowdance through. If it's safe, maybe it'd be a good idea to let Greygook through as well, as he probably has the best knowledge of the moon's and could help us pinpoint locations on a map.

If it's not safe, however, Khaska would have several offensive spells prepared that could help fend off beings for the minute or so the gate is open: Scorching Ray, Wall of Fire, and maybe even Flame Strike, depending on the party's advice. If there are people outside who are non-threatening (for instance, if the voidgate in the Fortress of Vigilance is, say, in the room where the Knights of the Silver Dragons leadership is having a meeting, we should have some non-offensive way to distract or confuse until the minute's up. Would Sanjin have spells that could help with that?

Khaska also agrees that the metallic dragons are the ones we'd want to entrust with this knowledge, and that Mirwen and Bronzebeard are the best bets. Could Khaska try to Scry on them to try to locate them? What do the others think?

BTW, here's Khaska's handy diagram to help us explore the voidgates: Now we can add the Niktean Wastes voidgate (when we find where it sits relative to the Dusklight one).

And I'd forgotten about the Quests page! I actually created my own in a Doc I entitled "Khaska's Goals." Let me see about modifying the page accordingly!

Seeing all of those control rods, Rynn's immediate thought is that he could use one himself, and that perhaps we could split up the work. But then he'll immediately suppress that desire — although it might take a bit longer to explore together, it's better to do it well. So he's definitely in favor of the plan to explore together until we find the link to the marshes.

Rynn sees the wisdom in letting Orensland use his superb stealth abilities to do the exploration. Giving him 20 minutes at each gate seems prudent, but I also wonder about whether we should allow Orensland to take a rod with him? If he were captured that would be bad. But on the other hand, it would give him a means of escape if things go wrong before his 20 minutes are up?

Perhaps each party member should carry one control rod for safe keeping and giving us options in the future? Or should we be mindful of Khaska's caution: if everyone holds one then perhaps there's a greater chance of losing one to our foes?

And perhaps we should bury the others somewhere near the ruins in the Niktean Wastes? With us coming and going through the gates now, having the rods all piled up would be obvious if anyone else makes it into the system. But as things currently stand, the ruins are basically uninhabited, so even if somebody else got through, they wouldn't know to look where we've hidden them.

Depending on if we can find some other safe locations, perhaps it would be prudent to stash a control rod in some other place as well? Or maybe that's worse than letting each party member carry one?

As for the loot stored at the Darkcrest gate, Rynn thinks that's a great indicator of which gate that is, and then we don't have to risk opening it! We can take the money somewhere else; the ranger doesn't much care for money at this point of time. Nor does he have much opinion about informing others, whether the potential metallic dragons, or the Knights, or otherwise. He's too busy thinking about finally seeing his family.

For Rynn, much will depend on us finding the gate to the marshes and what we learn about that location.

Read Leaf Smoke Bombs or equivalent materials that will make people high in a hallucinatory fashion. Please tell me Greygook still has a stash. I figure they'll distrust their own memories about a giant glowing gate once they get their wits about themselves. And oh my gosh, Orensland would have so much fun pulling that stunt again.

…ok, a color spray spell for knockouts or wall of fire for offense would be more practical. But Orensland would still suggest the hallucinatory smoke bomb idea.

As for Orensland holding a control rod during his sneakery, that'll probably be a good idea. In fact, why don't we just have Orensland carry the rod and forget the 20 minute wait? Then just have a backup plan to open the gate after 30 minutes to see if he needs help.

Eryx (DM)
Nathan had the redleaf. The gnomes did not, sadly. I've also amended the text above to more accurately portray Orensland's excitement about finding the pile of control rods.

Aestus is confused as to why there is a pile of rods INSIDE this magical portal and doesn’t understand the party’s excitement about it. Nevertheless, he shrugs it off as unimportant as his bigger concern is of walking through a magical door.

Aestus agrees that we should make our way to the marshes ASAP, and if the fastest way to do that is these horrible magical paths, so be it. He doesn’t fully understand what Orensland can do (or maybe that’s me, I have no idea what the abilities of a shadowdancer are – haha), and is hesitant to have a member of the party go off to unknown places alone. Initially, he would volunteer to accompany Orensland, but as the party explains the absolute necessity for secrecy and stealth, he would yield his position and look among the other party members for somebody else who can sneak to go with him. Failing that, he would insist that we at least think of some way Orensland could get a signal to us if things go wrong and we could rush to his aid. Maybe at this point, Orensland explains or even demonstrates to Aestus his incredible prowess at remaining undiscovered and that going solo is the best option.

While the portal remains open, Aestus would position himself as sentry between the portal and the rest of the party where he would be able to use his Sentinel feat on any hostile coming through.

He would not accompany the party should they choose to go back to Dusklight, as he insisted that his previous peers spread the word of his death so that he could escape. Unless somebody has a fake mustache or something he could use, showing up alive would likely draw more vampire attention to himself and the party. He’s already feeling concerned that maybe he didn’t think that all the way through… His popularity in the arena is bound to follow him and somebody is going to recognize him at some point. What’s to keep word of his survival (and thus his escape) from getting back to the Ararics?

He is disinclined to carry a control rod. He has no knowledge or experience with magic and, indeed, feels he has no use for it. This equates to distrust. These rods are just sticks to him and he believes them to be beyond his understanding. But at the party’s insistence and instruction (especially from Master Tawru) he will do so. Though he’d be much more content simply playing bodyguard to those who do carry them.

Last Aestus heard, there were no metallic dragons in existence. He inquires to his friends how it is they believe otherwise and that these so-called metallic dragons can be trusted.

Sanjin can cast Rary's Telepathic Bond which will allow us to communicate telepathically at a distance -but it only works if we are in the same plane. This spell would allow Orensland to communicate what he is exploring and warn us if he is in danger.

As for non-lethal and distraction spells; Fear, Hold Monster, Invisability, and Wall of Fire. He could raise the dead -that would be distracting : )

Question: Once the runes on the Voidgate rods are charged will they loose their charge over time?

Khaska’s words instantly sobered them up. “The existence of these additional control rods increases the chance that the voidgate system may fall into the hands of others. Further, it seems likely that those who last used the voidgates may have met their end here, depositing the control rods in the gate before allowing it to seal itself and thereby preventing others from taking advantage of the gates for whatever ends they may have had. Those rods may have been sitting there since some millennia-old tragedy.”

Greygook tentatively took a step inside. He looked around for a moment, nearly overcome. “All our years of research. Finally.” He pulled out a flask of wine and held it up, looking as if to the sky. “Here’s to you, brothers!” He took a swig of it.

“Well,” Rynn said, “what now?”

Sanjin spoke up. “Once we find the Darkcrest gate …”

“Dusklight,” Aestus corrected him.

“Right. Dusklight, then at least we know which one that is. Then I see no reason to choose any particular one first. Let’s just do it systematically. Now that we have additional control rods, there are additional options.”

They discussed the situation as they ventured into the voidgates. It was agreed that they would start with the ones near the Dusklight gate, just in case closer in the voidgate system meant closer on the material plane (Sanjin had his doubts, but acknowledged his dearth of experience in inter-dimensional transportation systems of this level of arcane sophistication). Orensland would go first, shadowdancing to scout the immediate area. They would give him about 20 minutes before re-opening the gate. Since they had additional rods, it was decided to give him one with a single spell in it, an escape route if he found some kind of trouble on the other side of the voidgate.

They all searched the different pathways until they found the one with the bags of holding and the dead dragon-man body. Sanjin took some time to take notes on it, examining the body that, oddly enough, didn’t seem to have decayed as much as they would have expected given the amount of time lapsed between his death and the present day. He would have spent more time, but Rynn was anxious for them to get exploring.

Unfortunately, the first gate was completely a bust. When they opened it, dirt fell through. Clearly this gate had been buried, maybe deliberately, maybe not. There was no way of telling how far underground it might be. The party thought it best to move on. Could always come back to it and excavate it later.

The next gate opened onto somewhere in the Deadlands, as evidenced by Pressen in the sky. It was at the edge of an abandoned city, much like the one by the Niktean Wastes. Orensland found no immediate danger, and Greygook was able to come through with his compass and sextant to try to get a reading on their location. He was certain that they were a little to the south of Clearwater Lake, at the Ruins of Trik’Brin.

The next gate opened onto the living side. The smell of the sea wafted through the open gate as Orensland slipped through. The sun was high in the sky, and so he was unable to hide in plain sight, but still scouted the area. It appeared that he was near a beach, the gate a hundred or so feet from the edge of the water, sitting atop a tall dais to keep it from getting flooded in the tides that varied so wildly depending on the other moons of Pressen. He quickly hiked through the trees to a nearby hill to see, and from there was able to ascertain that he was on a medium sized island. Aside from the voidgate, there were no other signs of civilization.

However, as he approached the voidgate after doing his scouting, he noticed that there was a creature near it. It was a being made of water that was moving across the sand nearby, sort of wandering aimlessly, like some kind of living wave. The shadowdancer remained hidden in the nearby brush, but the gate began to glow and soon it opened, attracting the creature.

Aestus poked his head out, concerned that Orensland was not waiting right by the gate, and the creature saw him.

Eryx (DM)
You have begun the process of exploring the voidgate system. I have updated the google doc accordingly. I've put some notes down as well as the grid location of each gate on the main map on the Map of Jenoa page.

You have randomly encountered a water elemental at this location. It has seen Aestus, but nobody else. What do you all wish to do?

If you want to kill it, please roll initiative and give me ONE round of actions. We’ll try going round by round this time just to see how that tickles everybody’s fancy. (Or doesn’t. We’ll see how the experiment goes if this turns into a combat.)

To answer your question, DeltaWolf, the rods, as far as the party can tell can tell, do not ever lose a charge one a spell has been cast into them.

Before we start a fight: what does Khaska know about water elementals? Anything that would help us achieve a non-violent resolution?

Agreed–– a non-violent resolution would be best. Does Sanjin have any spells that could turn an elemental? I doubt any of us can speak Aquan, but does somebody have Comprehend Languages prepared? I'd be interested in knowing why there's a summoned creature on what appears to be an uninhabited island. A guardian, perhaps?

Orensland would walk up and call out to the elemental, trying to look non-threatening but ready to draw his weapon as need be. He doubts the creature is intelligent, and if it is probably doesn't speak common or Elvish, but he'd try anyways. I believe some druids can turn into elementals, who knows.

If the creature turns hostile, well, we tried. On to combat. Orensland's best weapon is likely his longsword, though something tells me the elemental is somewhat resistant to such attacks. He'd activate the flame

Initiative: 19 (rolled 9 + 10)
Hit: 15 (rolled 8 + 7)
Damage: 17 (rolled 7 + 3, fire damage 6 + 1)

I just used the stats on DnD Beyond, though I believe we agreed my longsword has the finesse trait rather than the versatile trait. So there may be a +2 to both hit and damage, as my strength modifier is +3 and my dexterity modifier is +5.

As a side note, with preparation Sanjin could cast Conjure Elemental, correct? Perhaps we could conjure an earth elemental to explore buried voidgate locations.

Eryx (DM)
Elementals fall under "Arcana." So if Sanjin wants to roll an Arcana check to see what he knows about this creature, he may do so. Nobody else has proficiency in Arcana.

Also, please have your spells prepared ahead of time at moments like this. It breaks verisimilitude if you don't prepare spells as a player so your character can always have the best tool for the job. What spells would you have prepared to explore the void gate system? Those are the spells you have.

Edit: I'm sorry, I realized that the system we set up in Codex VI-Chapter 10 was that I would roll for the players, just saving a bit of time.

Sanjin Arcana Check: 17 (roll) + 8 (bonuses) = 25.

Sanjin knows that water elementals speak Aquan, are generally summoned creatures but can on rare occasions be spontaneously generated by confluences of magic. If summoned, they obey their master. If spontaneous, they are generally non-hostile and non-friendly (neutral alignment, in game mechanic terms). They are not that intelligent.

Assuming that Sanjin relays his information to the rest of us, Khaska would suggest that the party ignore the water elemental, get Orensland back through the gate, and wait for it to shut.

Also, a quick note: one spell Khaska would want to have prepared would be Hallow, specifically on the platform in the center of the voidgate network. In addition to the normal effects, he'd want the effect of Tongues, meaning that anyone on the middle platform would be able to understand anyone else there. Back in Laishtek, he would have purchased the 1,000gp of material components needed for a casting. Would any party members be opposed to him casting Hallow on the Jenoa platform (and, perhaps when convenient, on the Arkenos one)?

Orensland's initial course of action stands. Approach the voidgate (and presumably the water elemental) looking non-threatening. If it doesn't threaten, walk into the voidgate and wait for it to shut. If it does threaten, attack.

Orensland also wouldn't mind the Hallow spell. Go for it!

My comments about spell preparation were more for later, after we find the marsh voidgate and save Rynn's family. Just writing it here since we may come across a couple other buried gates in the future, and that may help. I doubt Sanjin would have prepared Conjure Elemental prior to entering the voidgates.

Eryx (DM)
Unfortunately, the water elemental seems intent on exploring this new thing that has opened up. Its curiosity has been piqued. It's not acting aggressively towards anybody, but it wants to come in.

My first question was if I had seen the elemental (maybe it’s translucent or something), but your latest post implies that I do. It seems to me that I would have been the first to see the elemental (other than Orensland), and if so, when seeing it approach, I would have drawn my weapons, ignited my battleaxe, taken an attack posture, and alerted the rest of the party. Not seeing Orensland, I would suspect that he is in danger since he is the one who made the arrangements precisely for a scenario like this, and seeing this elemental instead, I would jump to the conclusion that we are under attack and we need to go through this guy to go rescue Orensland. Thus, my first instinct would be to attack, unless Khaska or Sanjin yells to me to stop before I do. [Initiative = 8; rolled 6 +2]

If I am stopped, I would adhere to Khaska’s suggestion to ignore the thing until we figure out what is happening. However, Khaska’s previous concern about exercising EXTREME caution about who we let into this network would still be in the forefront of my mind and I would bar the way, shouting at it to stop and keep away, then would try to physically restrain (grapple?) it [Strength (Athetics) check = 24; rolled 15 + 9], and lastly would attack.

If somebody is able to open communications with this being, I would stand defensively until my force is needed (if needed). During conversation, I would step just outside the gate and look for any sign of Orensland while keeping watch on the elemental, ready to move on it if needed.

If combat occurs:
Initiative = 8; rolled 6 +2
Bonus action for offhand attack
Attack 1 Hit: 23 (rolled 14 + 9)
Damage 1: 22 (rolled 7 + 5 slashing, 4 + 6 fire)
Attack 2 Hit: 29 (rolled Nat 20! + 9)
Damage 2: 24 (rolled 8 + rolled 7 + 5 slashing, 3 + 1 fire —another 6 + 2 fire if this is added on a crit)
Attack 3 Hit: 29 (rolled 18 + 11)
Damage 3: 21 (rolled 7 + 7 bludgeoning, 7 superiority)
-Superiority: Menacing attack – elemental must make Wis saving throw (DC 17) or be frightened of me til end of my next turn (I want to scare this creature back out the way it came)

Rynn doesn't know what to make of this elemental. It isn't like anything he's ever encountered in nature. But the living side is not his goal, so he would have been sitting and waiting just a few feet along the pathway that leads to the central platform. So I imagine he's also the furthest from being able to see this elemental through the gate.

But if combat breaks out, Rynn will pull out Shatterheart (I decided to go with that name) and fire on the magical being:

Initiative: 11 (rolled 6 + 5)

  • Attack 1: 29 (rolled 15 + 14), damage: 15 (rolled 2 + 10 + 3 cold)
  • Attack 2: 23 (rolled 9 + 14), damage: 16 (rolled 3 + 10 + 3 cold)

(Also, it looks like rangers in 5e just have known spells, similar to a bard or sorcerer? I don't see anything for preparing a spell like a wizard, but let me know if I'm just missing something.)

@BlackWolf - Yeah, 5e Rangers just have known spells. A cool thing, though, is that several of the cool Ranger spells are just bonus actions, like Hunter's Mark, Hail of Thorns, and Ensnaring Strike. We're not level 13 yet, but one of my favorite spells in the whole game is a level 4 Ranger spell, Conjure Woodland Beings - not sure how thematic that is to your character, but it sure is fun.

You can scope out all the spells here:

Sanjin would probably start to explain about the Water Elemental -he would try to stop Aestus by calling after him, “Wait! It probably won’t harm us unless you attack it…(probably)”

  • Initiative: 3

If combat;

  • Cast Ray of Frost
    • To hit: 18
    • Damage: 5

Sanjin does not have Conjure Elemental in his spell book, but he can add it with a spell scroll or at the next level up.

Note: I prepared all the spells I think Sanjin would have planed for as part of my last post -so the spells that are currently prepared on my character sheet are the ones he has access to.

Given the seeming determination of this… living wave, Khaska would suggest that we try to frighten it away before we fire on it: by shouting and jumping, for instance. Silly, but it could prevent violence.

I've also prepared the spells that Khaska (I believe) would have prepared for voidgate exploration. If the party would think it beneficial, he could cast Tongues and attempt to speak to the water elemental; his purpose in any such conversation would be to say that the world on the other side of the gate is not a good place for such a being.

If it comes to blows, though:

  • Initiative: 17

Light Crossbow

  • To hit: 17 = 13 + 4
    • Damage: 1
  • To hit: 12 = 8 + 4
    • Damage: 2
  • To hit: 9 = 5 + 4
    • Damage: 4

It moved closer, not aggressively, but slowly, as if curious about this previously inert circle now demonstrating magic properties.

Aestus immediately thought that this magic creature had perhaps injured Orensland. He drew his weapons and whispered the command word, his battleaxe igniting in flame. Khaska moved forward, drawing his scimitar as Sanjin readied a spell, positioning himself to better see. It took the wizard just a moment to identify it as a water elemental, and he quickly assessed that it was probably not summoned, but a chance creation of spontaneous magic.

“Wait! It’s a water elemental. It probably won’t harm us unless you attack it… probably,” the wizard said. “Greygook, go get your reading. Fast.”

Aestus did relax a little as Orensland emerged from the brush, his arms up as if to show this creature he meant it no harm. However, the creature still moved forward as the gnome hurriedly sighted where the sun sat in the sky.

“Get back in here, Orensland,” Khaska said. “Perhaps if we ignore it it will go away.”

The rogue was able to move around the creature, getting into position and then sprinting past Aestus and into the voidgate. Greygook was already inside.

The creature continued to move closer.

“I still don’t think we should let it in,” Aestus said. “You warned us about letting other things into the voidgates, did you not?”

“Perhaps we can scare it away!” Khaska said. And then he began yelling at it and jumping up and down. Everybody was amused for a moment at the sight of the usually taciturn cleric hooting and hollering, but then Sanjin shrugged and joined it, as did Orensland, though the rogue was half-laughing, half-yelling.

Aestus, instead, just moved forward and yelled at the creature, striking it with his warhammer and using his combat prowess to intimidate the creature that way. The elemental shied away after being hit, water splashing in an arc away from it and landing on the ground. It backed away from Aestus, and the warrior was content. He backed into the voidgate, and the creature did not approach.

The gate closed.

“Well, that was exciting,” Orensland said. “So far it’s seemed that everything has been abandoned when we come out. Could that being have been guarding this site?”

“I suppose it’s possible,” Sanjin said, “but it would likely have acted much more aggressively. I think it was just a spontaneous creation of magic. These kinds of things happen occasionally. With such a creature, it might not even survive for long, eventually dissipating when the magic that created it wears out or moves on.”

When the next voidgate opened a blast of frigid air chilled the party. Snow blew into the voidgate network from the outside, and Orensland rushed outside, calling for this one to be shorter than the agreed upon twenty minutes. As was seeming to be the pattern, there were some ruins, but no people nearby. Greygook was able to get a nice sextant reading.

The party started to relax. Most of what they had found so far had been abandoned on the outside. Whatever civilization had developed these voidgates had long since vanished, and what had come in the intervening millenia had not followed the same patterns of development. However, the next gate opened, and Orensland actually took a step back.

A dragon skull stared right at him. It took Khaska a moment to realize what he was looking at, his vision not as acute in the dark.

“Wow. Uh, that’s interesting. Is this the dragon’s graveyard?”

“No,” Sanijn said. “That is outside, open to the elements. The sun shouldn’t have set. This is indoors.” Orensland poked his head out to look around.

“Uh, guys, there are more of them.” He felt the hair on the back of his head stand up. “Someone’s been collecting dead dragons.”

“And not small ones, either,” Sanjin said. His voice was filled with fascination as he took one step out into the room to look around.

Eryx (DM)
You managed to scare off the water elemental with only a little violence. It’s free to continue living its life, short as it may be, based on Sanjin’s assessment.

I’ve updated the google doc yet again.

You have discovered a very large indoor room with multiple dead dragon skeletons, all of them metallic, from what you can see. These are at least adult dragons, some of them even older and larger.

Khaska’s passive insight of 19 gives him an unmistakably bad feeling about this.

Man, I feel kinda bad about that elemental. I'm picturing it cowering and walking off whimpering, like a scared puppy or something lol.

Aestus is in awe of the dragon skeletons and the power and ferocity shown in just the size of their bones. The party mentioned they know some of these beings and he starts to think on them in reverence and a strong desire to meet them and ally himself with them, as he has done with Tawru. He may even get a little distracted just staring at the bones, but he will mainly keep to his sentinel position at the gate or at Khaska’s side.

The party tends to forget that Khaska spent his childhood and early adolescence in the wilderness. Hooting and hollering is par for the course for scaring off curious critters. He just doesn't do it much lately. ;)

This looks like a pretty terrible place. Any place filled with metallic dragon skeletons and this sense of dreadful forboding cannot be good. So much so, in fact, that Khaska would suggest leaving it for another day when the party can prepare specifically for it. We can explore several more gates today and return to it on the morrow (Khaska might prepare different spells, basically). How's that sound?

While leaving this gate for future exploration sounds like a good plan normally… this is actually something we might expect to see in the Marshes. From what we learned from Gulnith, it appears that the Cult generally hunts down a metallic dragon as soon as they hear about them. Just leaving a fresh dragon skeleton around would be foolish, so stockpiling them at HQ makes sense to me. Orensland would want to explore this place to ensure it is not the Marsh voidgate before moving on. I take it there are no windows? Is there a nearby door?

So Orensland would contend strongly that we investigate long enough to see where we are, especially given that we seem to be alone. If Khaska feels he wants to have some more firepower on hand (preparing appropriate spells or what have you), Orensland would grudgingly oblige, but he would point out that next time there might be unfriendlies nearby.

Orensland would want to investigate the bones, too–– do they look like the dragons died before the last Dark Times? Or are they slightly more… fresh, suggesting they were hunted after everyone thought they were extinct?

Investigation: 14 (rolled 3 + 11)

Since it appears we're alone, additional investigative assistance would be helpful, especially since we have a second rogue in the party.

EDIT: Meh, scratch that. In speaking with Eryx briefly, it appears my initial visualization of the scene before us was a little off. This place is apparently huge, where we can't even see the walls or ceiling (with our 60' darkvision). Perhaps if Rynn was feeling adventurous and wanted to shoot an ice arrow in one direction to see if it shatters against a wall somewhere, or up at the ceiling. If the room is truly ginormous and the walls/ceiling are super far away, exploring to find out where this voidgate is might take a long time in what appears to be a very dangerous location. Moving on might be best.

Eryx (DM)
I thought the size of the room would have been obvious from the description of the many dragon skeletons you can see, but hadn't factored in the fact that darkvision only goes for 60'. So, to be clear, the folks with darkvision can see three dragon skeletons (and they are skeletons, they aren't like, fresh kills) in front of the voidgate. One right in front. One to the left. One to the right. It seems very … ordered. You cannot see any of the walls. You cannot even see the ceiling. This room is very very large.

Sanjin is intrigued by these bones, he will want to study them. Perhaps Orensland can look around a bit -then if he finds nothing that looks immediately threatening then Sanjin will cast Light to get a better look.

Seeing the dragon skeletons, Rynn can't help but wonder if this is the gate into the Marshes. We know that we're up against a dragon-worshiping; could this be the one? The ranger's first impulse would be to explore and find out, but since there is potential danger here he's willing to move on and try some more gates. The logic that we can return later is sound, so he'd heed it after the initial flush of excitement wares off.

The wizard cast Light on his staff, drawing a hiss from Khaska. “We have jumped into the storage room of a group that hunts and kills ancient dragons successfully. Multiple times. May I suggest that we come back and explore this later on?”

“I could sneak around,” Orensland said, but then looked up and to the sides. He couldn’t even see any of the walls or the ceiling. This room must be massive.

“The marshes are controlled by a metallic dragon-killing cult,” Rynn mused, getting excited. “This might be the gate into them.”

“I still think prudence dictates,” Khaska said, grabbing Aestus and gently pulling the human away from gawking and the enormous gold dragon skull in front of the voidgate, “that we specifically prepare for this gate if we decide to go through it. Let us finish exploring the other voidgates before choosing to investigate this one.”

Looking around the room more closely, Greygook piped up. “If y’all want to go exploring a place like this, you’re on your own. I’ll not be joining you. You can take your own sextant reading. This seems so …” he glanced from one skeleton to the other, each spaced relatively equidistant from each other, “… orderly. I don’t want to mess with whoever’s room this is.”

Rynn’s body language shifted from sheer excitement to caution. “Perhaps you’re right. We can always return tomorrow.”

They re-entered the voidgate, and a few moments later it closed.

The continued their explorations. One voidgate opened onto an island in the North Gallidan sea (Orensland saw some gnolls in the distance but his presence went unnoticed).

The next was very weird. They came out into a large room with an entrance to the outside nearby. When Orensland looked, he found himself on a balcony, way way above a stormy sea. There was still enough light that Greygook could get a rough estimate, but the reading made no sense. They were in the middle of the ocean with no large landmasses nearby. They weren’t on a cliff. And they couldn’t easily see around the stone balcony (dwarven make, it appeared) to get a better sense of what surrounded it. Perhaps, Greygook suggested, they could investigate the site itself with the skyship later on.

The next opened near a huge stone bridge. The smell was quite overwhelming, making all of them gag. Even Aestus looked a little green. The area was abandoned, but eventually Rynn was able to determine that they had appeared near the North Hagarit Bridge, the fumes wafting off of the Sacrous River creating the smell. And sure enough, when the ranger got up a bit on the ruins and looked to the northeast, they could see the Zyrbryxion Marshes. A few days travel would put them into the outer edges.

The next opened onto an obsidian hillside, full of jagged volcanic rocks and obsidian pebbles. Four massive volcanoes dominated the skyline—the Lonely Sisters. They beat a hasty retreat before any fire giants could see them.

The next opened on the plains just south of the Dragonsbane Cliffs, a few miles from the shore of the ocean. There were remnants of an ancient old stone road headed in that direction. Khaska mused that the voidgates might have been used for trade purposes, and one close to a shoreline could be particularly useful.

The next popped out on the north end of Gallidus, somewhere in the Tlerian Empire. In his scouting, Orensland found a hunting expedition of humans a few hundred yards from the voidgate, but the party’s presence again went unnoticed before they retreated back into the voidgate system.

The second to last opened on the western coastline of Slyn. Once again, it was only a few hundred yards from the ocean.

The final one opened into an area that was clearly urban, and Orensland immediately blended into the shadows of a nearby building. He explored a bit before rounding a corner and gaping at the size of the building that rose high into the air. Higher than any building he had ever seen. Higher than anything the elves had built in Drequorun. Higher than anything in Hammerdine. Higher than anything in any of the major cities he had been to. Higher than even the North Hagarit bridge (and the shadowdancer had been suitably impressed by the size of those ruins). It was huge, a giant gleaming metal spike sticking up into the air. It gave the elf a sense of vertigo, looking up at it, straining his neck to see all of it.

And there, off to the west, hovering in the sky, was Arkenos.

This, he assumed, was the Fortress of Eternal Vigilance.

Then he heard voices, and immediately ducked into some shadows. The sun had set in this part of the world, and he easily was able to blend into the shadows. A male elf and a woman walked by, both in armor, clearly on some kind of patrol, talking to each other softly as they moved past. One of them had on the tabard of the Hammerdine chapter of the Knights of the Silver Dragons.

Most definitely the Fortress of Eternal Vigilance, then.

Eryx (DM)
You have completed your exploration of the voidgate system. I’ve updated the google doc accordingly.

Greygook indicates that the notes from his brother may have been wrong—they were just assumptions based on ley lines, and points out several instances where the hypothesized voidgate locations were not-quite-accurate (metagaming, where they were one square away from the notes hypotheses, like Tjavan, which is two squares away technically, but in reality about 1.25, and the North Hagarit Bridge, which is one square away from the marshes), and several others where they were accurate (Lonely Sisters, Fortress of Eternal Vigilance). Ultimately, with this data on the locations, perhaps more study into ley lines could be performed, something he (as a rogue) is ill-equipped to do. He suggests that’s more Sanjin’s provenance.

Orensland has seen the Fortress of Eternal Vigilance now. It’s the equivalent of a modern skyscraper that would be found in southern Manhattan—made with technology or magic that is currently unavailable to the denizens of your fair moon. The shadowdancer is completely aghast at it. He’s never seen anything like it, and his brain has a little trouble even processing it.

What do you all want to do next?

Drat! Nothing directly into the Marshes as of this moment. Orensland would propose we prepare to explore the two "unknown" gates first— the buried one and the dragon skeleton one. Probably in that order for the sake of safety, though the latter seems most likely to be what we want. Regardless, we should prepare for both–– as stated earlier, perhaps Sanjin could summon an earth elemental to help with the buried one? While it can't take a sextant reading (or can it?), it could probably burrow through and at least tell us how far the surface is, whether or not Pressen is in the sky, what the surrounding land is like, if people are nearby, etc. While we could put in greater effort in the future to determine the exact location of that voidgate, we could at least rule out whether or not it is the Marsh voidgate.

Presuming that doesn't work out, on to danger! Let's go check out the dragon skeleton collection. Perhaps Zyrbryxion liked to kill large metallic dragons in his day.

Aestus is intrigued by the idea of exploring a buried gate and will join in with hope that it gets us closer to the marshes. But having recently learned of the power of dragons and seeing so many dead in one place, even as one-tracked as he is, thinks it would be foolish to meddle with an entity that is so powerful as to slay not one, but SO MANY, dragons. His main focus is to help his new friend locate his missing wife and he believes the best and safest way to do that is to use the gate to the North Hagarit Bridge and head north into the marshes. He supposes that we could go back to Dusklight if it’s closer, but he knows his presence there will draw dangerous attention.

Khaska is very grateful that his friends decided to exercise the better part of valor regarding the dragon skeleton chamber. For now, he's on board with Orensland's suggestion to summon an earth elemental to learn more about the buried gate. One thing that's promising: if it's soil falling through, it's unlikely that it's too deep underground!

If no one object, Khaska will cast Hallow on the "Jenoa" platform of the voidgate network, in preparation for future events and to free up a spell slot for future exploratory endeavors.

Khaska has couple questions about spells: Scrying requires that you be on the same plane of existence, Sending is complicated by cross-planar communication, Locate Creature has a range of 1000 feet, and Clairvoyance has a range of one mile; given that we'll probably wait until tomorrow to attempt any exploration of the dragon chamber, Khaska won't mind casting a couple of these spells to see if they work through a closed voidgate. If Orensland wouldn't mind, we can find a safe, abandoned location where he can sit outside while Khaska tries the spells. If they turn out not to be useful, that's more knowledge we have! (Of course, if we know the void is another plane, that answers the question already…)

EDIT: By the way… would Aestus know anything about the crazy pacifist gnolls who disappeared from Dusklight years back and were said to have settled on some islands out west somewhere, and still visit sometimes? (See: Khaska wouldn't, but Aestus might…!

Eryx (DM)
Good question about the spells. I rolled an Arcana check for Sanjin and his result (16 roll + 8 bonuses = 24 total) let him deduce some basics about the pocket dimension the voidgates access. First, for purposes of spells, it counts as a different plane. Second, this applies even if the voidgates are open. i.e., if you try to Locate Creature on Orensland, who is standing on the other side of an open voidgate literally in front of the rest of you from your point of view, the spell will not work, since he's on a different plane of existence, and hence more than 1000 feet away.

As DeltaWolf explained above, Sanjin doesn't have Conjure Elemental, so you would need to go to a location and buy a scroll of the spell or have him inscribe it into his spellbook the next time he levels up. So you currently have no way to explore the buried voidgate except for digging.

Edit: Actually, Sanjin does have that spell. Assuming he saved the spellbooks from the Darkcrest library in the pocket dimension, he has literally every wizard spell available, though he has to take the time to decipher and reproduce it himself. That would take 10 hours and 250 gold worth of materials and special inks. It certainly makes sense to me that he would have such supplies available if he saved the spellbooks. (I don't know how we want to handle the "evil" spells. I gave you permission to use spells from a different rulebook from 3.5 edition, but there's no equivalent in 5e. Maybe that's not even something you care to spend time on since you're more of a self-proclaimed "audience member," DeltaWolf.)

So, three questions for DeltaWolf.

1. Would you have copied spells from the spellbooks during your time in Darkcrest? Such spells come free of charge. The Maramos clan paid for everything.

2. Did you save the spellbooks from Darkcrest? If not, do you want to go back to the library right now to see if they're still there?

3. Would you have picked up materials to begin exploring and copying spells into your own spellbook?

@Thev Aestus met several gnolls in the arena and in the "employ" of the Ararics, but most of these would've been guards and the like, not the pacifist type. So while news of gnolls (individuals and/or families) going missing would've reached his ears and he'd hear the stories/theories as to why they've gone missing, he wouldn't know any personally, nor would he be able to recognize the bunch that we saw as the ones who have fled based on sight alone. More information would be needed for him to make that connection. So if/when we explore that island and acquaint ourselves with any of the gnolls there, he'd be able to figure out who they are and share their history with the party.

In is in line with Sanjin's character to have copied and/or save the spellbooks from Darkcrest. I would like to have materials to copy spells into Sanjin's own spellbook, but he currently lacks the funds. Also if Eryx could resent the "Book of Vile Darkness" then I'll look thorugh it.

Eryx (DM)
Sanjin has plenty of funds. Everybody has plenty of funds. Even if Orensland dumped most of the stolen cash into the voidgate system, the Maramos couple paid you all handsomely for going above and beyond in getting Lady Maramos back to Darkcrest, and you would all have that cash on hand.

By my calculation, Sanjin had 48 working days with the spellbooks in the Maramos library, a collection of wizard spellbooks from dead vampires, vanquished foes, or simply stolen items. At 8 hours a day of working time, that means you had 384 hours of working time, which means 192 levels of spells you could have copied into your own spellbook(s). I can find nothing on this in the rules, so by DM fiat I declare that a level one spell takes up one page, a level two spell takes two pages, etc. That means Sanjin currently has 70 pages worth of spells. Adding all 192 levels of spells would require two more spellbooks, which again would be free of charge from the Maramos coven.

What this all boils down to is:

Sanjin does have access to the Summon Elemental spell. But would he have taken the time to decipher that particular spell and therefore be able to cast it? If he does, the party will explore the buried voidgate.

If he does not, there are two proposals on the table. Explore the dragon skeleton room and surrounding environs, or head the Marshes from the North Hagarit bridge? Which will the party do? (I'd like to point out that you know the specific reason the Marshes are so dangerous. They are patrolled by forces from the Cult of Skyrnyn. The fact that you know this gives you some advantages in trying to avoid them, instead of blindly marching into the marshes not knowing there's a heavy military-ish presence dedicated to keeping intruders out as everybody else does.

In light recent events allowing me to increase my spell books -I think it makes sense to comeback to the dragon bones tomorrow when Sanjin has Summon Elemental studied and prepaired.

Rynn can't help but feel a pang of despair that none of the gates have led them into the marshes — at least as far as we can tell so far. But he'll push that feeling aside and place his hope in the guidance he received centaur and the storm giant. He has to hope they were right.

The ranger believes that the gate with the dragon skeletons is the most likely chance of getting into the marshes now, but he sees the wisdom in checking out the buried gate first. If we can use magic to help us get through all that dirt, then it's worth spending a little time on.

But in the back of his mind he begins to worry. Several gates didn't line up with the ley lines as predicted. Perhaps there is no gate that would take us deep into the marshes? Mentally he begins to prepare himself for the possibility that the North Hagarit Bridge may be the closest they'll be able to get. We've been told that going into the marshes would mean death. How can Rynn ask his friends to take that risk? In the back of his mind, he begins to wonder if he'll have to take that chance alone.

Orensland would vote we explore the dragon room before trying to infiltrate the marshes from the outside. However, given that dragons tend to see Orensland when he's sneaking about (and an adult dragon killer is possibly nearby) perhaps we could use Sanjin's bat familiar to fly around the room and give us an idea of where a possible door or window is/if something deadly is nearby? If I recall, Sanjin can use his bat's blindsight ability when seeing through the bat. If we feel something evil is in the room with us, we walk back into the voidgate and decide to explore it… later.

But, it wasn’t the Zyrbryxion Marshes, so he returned to the voidgate, waited for it to open, then hastily returned. Greygook didn’t need to make a sextant reading, the shadowdancer reported, and it was probably best they not make their presence known. A minute later, the gate closed, and they were alone once again in the pocket dimension.

The group debated about what to do next. Aestus was of the opinion they should take the voidgate to the North Hagarit Bridge and then into the marshes. Rynn seemed reluctant, aware of the danger to his friends. Khaska assured him that they were with him.

“Besides,” Orensland said. “We know why the marshes are so dangerous, and it’s not because of any natural danger. The cult patrols the area, so we have to be stealthy and avoid their patrols. Now that we know what we have to do, it will be at least a bit easier, between Rynn and myself, to stay hidden as we explore.”

"Based on what I know about dragons, which isn't much, it seems foolish to meddle with an entity that has killed so many of them," Aestus replied.

“Before any of that, however,” Khaska said, “we should try to explore the buried gate. Sanjin, would it be possible to magically burrow through the earth to the surface?”

The wizard shook his head. “I don’t have any spells like that. We’d need an earth elemental or something …” he snapped his fingers. “And with some work, I think I can summon one!”

It took him some time, but he was able to find the spell Conjure Elemental in one of the spellbooks he had pilfered from the Maramos coven. It would take him a day or so to study and master the spell with the supplies he had on hand, but it would be possible. The party agreed this was the best way forward for now.

While he did that, Khaska took the time to cast a Hallow spell on both of the two central platforms, remembering the experience with the Lancel crypt. Rynn and Ranna were antsy, actually leaving the voidgate network to return to the ruins near the Niktean Wastes and be in the open air again. Greygook joined him. The gnome wanted to know what he should do when the party left. He couldn’t take his skyship through the voidgate, and he certainly wasn’t going to leave it sitting around for who knows how long?

Orensland took the spare time to travel through the gate into Dusklight. He wanted to see the results of their work. He returned after a few hours.

“Things worked out as well as they could have! The horror of Lady Drakh going so crazy and Khaska's inspirational speech as Tawru seemed to have created a new faction, the Dawnbringers. I didn't want to reveal myself, but they've at least loosely allied with the remaining Bringers in the city, and they went on a vampire purge. As far as I know, there aren't any vampires left. We took out the major ones. Lady Drakh took out the next group down, so to speak, and in the civil war that ensued these Dawnbringers managed to play the odds and take out factions that grew too powerful. Eventually leading to the destruction of all the vampires! I … I think we succeeded! The Dawnbringers now kind of run the city as a quasi-military institution. There are some vampire worshippers bent on revenge, but no vampires to actually worship.”

"Any word on the Ararics?" Aestus asked. "Do we know they are dead for sure?"

Orensland shook his head. "This is just what I gathered from conversations and asking a few questions here or there. I didn't have time to inspect vampire mansions myself or verify such minute details."

"Well, nonetheless, I am glad of the news," Khaska said. "Day came for darkness, indeed."

They had to sleep the night, doing so on a campsite near the ship at Greygook’s request. In the morning, Sanjin completed his study of the spell and was able to cast it. They returned to the network and went to the buried door. Once again, when it opened, some loose dirt came tumbling through. Sanjin cast the spell, and the soil in front of them coalesced into a squat form—an earth elemental. Sanjin sent it through with instructions to go to the surface and look around before reporting back.

It was only gone for a minute or two. The gate wasn’t all that deeply buried, apparently. When it returned, it was able to communicate to Khaska (who had prepared the Tongues spell for this purpose) that it had come up in the middle of a city, having broken through the earth without any trouble at all. The city was in daytime, and there were a lot of startled elves. It hadn’t taken much time to notice anything beyond that before completing its instructions and returning to the voidgate.

“Could be any number of cities, if it’s an elven city,” Sanjin said. “Right now the entire continent of Slyn should be in daylight.”

Eryx (DM)
You have control of the elemental for another 55 or so minutes. What do you want to do with it? Sanjin can command it, Khaska can understand it. (Khaska could even cast Tongues on it so that it could communicate with the elves above if you wanted.) As it explains the situation, it’s not sure if it could actually burrow a tunnel for you to come up in the time the spell will last. It can move effortlessly through the stone and earth—which Sanjin would know means it’s not been artificially manipulated. That doesn’t tell you much, since elves rarely create cobblestone roads or the like; their aesthetic is much more in tune with nature than fighting against it.

I also just remembered (and I think we’ve all forgotten) that you all have two scrolls of Scrying available for use, given you by Lady Isabelle Maramos. Now that we’re in 5th edition, anybody can use them at any time. (In 3.5 edition, only Sanjin or Khaska could have.) I’ve updated the voidgate google doc again accordingly.

If Orensland wanted to more thoroughly explore one of the other voidgate areas or, say, head back to do some reconnaissance of Dusklight during the day Sanjin had to study the spell, that's easily enough retconned in.

Aestus would be very excited about visiting an elf city and meeting more people from the light side and hopefully making more friends. "A whole city of elves?! You mean, we could meet more of your kind?!" gesturing towards Orensland, Rynn, and Sanjin. But he'd remember the priority of reuniting his friend with his lost wife. "Well, I guess it's back to the North Hagarit Bridge. Orensland, Master Tawru, follow me. I know the way!" And he'd eagerly walk back toward that gate.

Khaska thinks it would be alright to cast Tongues on the elemental so that it could communicate, though we wouldn't necessarily need any more information than the name of the city (and, perhaps, the location within the city of the buried voidgate — street address or whatever). Anything more and we might make them prematurely suspicious!

As to Greygook, Khaska would ask whether he'd mind scouting out the voidgate locations from above under, perhaps, the guise of a research cartographer and/or merchant; that would give him a pretense to contact some of the peoples we saw afar off without tipping them off to a supernatural portal nearby. Would he be up for that? In any case, we should figure out a means to communicate with him over long distances. (I'll have to review spells for that; anything in Sanjin's pile that would help?)

Do we want to explore the dragon chamber any more, just in case it is a way into the Marshes? After all, it could be the Citadel of the Cult of Skyrnyn and, however much evil its existence proved once held sway somewhere in the world, it could be a location abandoned for hundreds of years; the dragonslayer might be long gone. Could we send, say, another elemental to do some reconnaissance?

If we decide to not continue with the dragon room, Khaska will bring up that, while he's not the most subtle of the lot, he does have a very handy Hat of Disguise, that would hide him (at least) visually.

Orensland would want to explore the voidgate that is out at sea (D5). If there's time, he'd then want to check out Dusklight as well.

Orensland would also be in favor of exploring the dragon skeleton room. He'd ask Sanjin if we could use his bat familiar to take a look around–– Sanjin can see what the bat sees, which with blindsight means we'd get a solid layout of the room and any possible dangers. Orensland would push strongly about exploring the skeleton room, since it could well be the Marsh voidgate.

As for the elemental, Orensland would recommend it burrow 50 up the street from the voidgate location to hide it's basic location. He would vote for casting Tongues on the Elemental, giving it 15 gp, then getting it to request the specific city and address/local shop name from a nearby individual for pay.

Rynn is torn between exploring the dragon skeleton room vs. just heading straight to the marshes. Obviously the marshes is where he wants to get to, but if there is one last chance of getting in behind enemy lines, he'd want to explore it. There's obviously danger in going back to that room, but we could also learn some important things which would likely relate to the Cult.

So returning to the dragon skeleton's is Rynn's vote, but he'll defer to a group decision on this one. Although he's anxious to get going, he'd be patient enough to wait a bit longer if the group wants to confirm the Slyn city.

I like the idea of using Sanjin's bat familiar to scout the room with the dragon skeletons.

  • Note: I just relized when I made my DnD Beyond character I didn't give him any feats -so I will be doing that :p

“A whole city of elves?” Aestus exclaimed. “You mean, we could meet more of your kind?”

“Did you think we were the only ones?” Sanjin’s face was completely expressionless. Aestus wasn’t sure if he was kidding or not. (The others, more accustomed to Sanjin’s dry wit, knew he was.)

Aestus paused, wondering if he was being made fun of. “Of course not. Still, it would be a good experience. However, if the goal is to head to the marshes, then it looks like the North Hagarit Bridge it is! Orensland, Master Tawru, follow me. I know the way!” And he began to stride off before Khaska held up his hand.

“I can cast Tongues on this elemental,” the cleric said, “allowing it to communicate with the elves there. We could at least find out which city this voidgate is under.”

Orensland pulled out some gold. “He could even pay off a local shopkeeper for his trouble. Find out where in the city it is, specifically.”

The plan agreed upon, the elemental, now able to communicate with elves and with some gold, disappeared into the voidgate’s soil once again.

It returned a few minutes later.

“There were many elves, some in armor, some in robes, and many onlookers. The ones in armor ordered me to halt, and asked what I was doing in Drequorun. I tried to pay one of them, but when I reached my hand out they attacked me. I returned with this knowledge to you, master.” It held its hand out. “They did not take the gold.”

“Well,” Sanjin said. “At least we know the city now. Looks like he attracted some unwanted attention. I suggest we not explore further at this time, since it is not our objective.”

“Agreed,” Rynn said. “I have been thinking that perhaps we should explore the dragon skeleton room more thoroughly before ruling it out.”

Khaska was surprised. “Didn’t we decide that was too dangerous.”

“Actually,” Orensland said. “I was wondering if we could send Sanjin’s bat to do some exploring. That would pose no danger to any of us, right?”

“That’s not a bad idea, actually,” the wizard replied.

Khaska was wary, but agreed. Sanjin dismissed the elemental, and they walked to the other gate.

Sanjin gave instructions to his bat. It would scout out the room as best he could and then come back for further instructions. Sanjin would be able to see though his eyes (the wizard explained this was a weird experience because of the bat’s echolocation senses, but he had learned well enough to “translate” the bat’s sensory input that it posed no difficulty), but could only command him if it was relatively close.

Khaska opened the voidgate, and Sanjin sent the bat in. He reached out to steady himself on Khaska his eyes turning white as he gave his senses over to his familiar’s.

“Okay,” the wizard narrated. “Heading up to the ceiling. Looks like it’s about a hundred feet above the ground. Now flying along it. There are more skeletons. Also, looks like some other items, like the gate. Those are interspersed throughout the room. Pretty equidistant from each other. Everything is very well organized. Reached a wall. Now flying along it.” A pause. “There looks like there’s a red dragon head inscribed on the wall in relief. Found a corner. Room looks to not be square, it’s got more sides than four assuming it keeps the pattern up. This time a green dragon head in relief. Another corner. Looks like there are five sides to the room. Ooh, there’s a door ahead. Black dragon in relief above … ”

His eyes suddenly returned to their regular state. “He … died. There was a brief flash and then, he died. I think the door was trapped, probably magically.” He thought for a moment. “I’d say probably a Symbol spell.” He pursed his lips. There was a symbol that I caught on the door right as it died, but I didn’t get a good look at it.”

Eryx (DM)
The elven voidgate is somewhere under Dreqorun, the capital city.

Further exploring the dragon skeleton room, it appears to be five-sided and there were reliefs of different types of evil dragons carved in relief on at least three of the walls. When the familiar approached the door, a pre-existing magic spell activated and basically vaporized him. (Since he has literally 1 hitpoint, you have no way of gauging how advanced the spell was. Bats have many interesting advantages as familiars. Hitpoints ain’t one of them!) I rolled an Arcana check to see if Sanjin identified the dragon types and made an educated guess about the spell that got the bat.

Arcana: 16 (roll) + 9 (bonuses) = 25 total.

You may roll any checks you wish to see if you can piece together the elements about the room.

How do you all wish to proceed? The voidgate will remain open for just a few more seconds (I assumed you would only open it for 1 minute to give yourself some protection).

Also, something I forgot to mention earlier. When Khaska was initially exploring the voidgate system, he noticed that one of the proper names on the upper platform corresponded grammatically with one of the names on the lower platform. Something like the draconic equivalent of the City of Yin and Yangville (yin and yang). That gate on the lower platform was the one that went to the Fortress of Eternal Vigilance.

Well, it looks like we won't be unburying that voidgate for a while!

Here are a couple rolls for Khaska:

Knowledge (Religion): 7 = 1 + 6
Knowledge (History): 15 = 9 + 6

Knowing that there are devastating traps in wait gives Khaska some pause about exploring the room further, and he's concerned about the loss of Sanjin's familiar. He's curious, too, whether there are other means by which we could explore the room without endangerment. Any suggestions? Another elemental?

And is there a way to dismiss a Symbol spell?

Eryx (DM)
Your Religion Check, even as low as it is, allows you to realize that a five-sided room with chromatic dragons probably represents Tiamat. You're lucky the DC on that was 5.

The familiar isn't lost. It's a magical construct, not an actual bat. (Question, DeltaWolf, is it celestial, fey, or fiend?) Per the Find Familiar spell description, "When the familiar drops to 0 hit points, it disappears, leaving behind no physical form. It reappears after you cast this spell again."

The only way to get rid of a Symbol spell would be with a Dispel Magic spell. Since none of you can cast 7th level spells, you would need to make a roll to succeed. However, whatever the bat familiar triggered is active for 10 minutes, and then it will dissipate on its own.

Khaska is relieved to know that the loss of Sanjin's familiar is a relatively minor matter! And would ask if he'd mind summoning another to continue the exploration. We're here and can be relatively safe, so we might as well take advantage of our time. Do we know if activating a Symbol spell could alert someone to a trespasser, including if such alert would include information about the being that tripped the trap? If not, we could just continue exploring, using familiars and, perhaps, elementals to discover any other traps around the room. (Is there any moral concern for elementals? Is that a relevant question?)

Indeed, if the entrance the bat discovered is the only (non-voidgate) entrance into the Unhallow of Tiamat (as Khaska will likely start calling it), the Symbol spell might act as a protection while we explore (though apparently it can let certain beings through). That actually raises a question — how much dust is there around the room?

With all the information we're gathering about the Unhallow, Khaska could prepare Legend Lore the next day and ask about it.

Eryx (DM)
Alarm spells can alert someone, but not Symbol spells.

The room is quite clean. Aside from being very orderly, it's also meticulously been cared for.

Do you have 250 gold worth of incense and four 50 gold ivory strips? Then you can't cast Legend Lore. Those are the material components needed for that spell.

Edit: You could probably get those at Lord Hayward Yellman's lands just a bit away.

LOVE "the Unhallow of Tiamat." Fantastic name.

So what we basically found was a trophy room dedicated to Tiamat? Yeah, sounds like the Marshes to me. After a Symbol spell is triggered, does it dissipate? Or is it still on the door? If it does dissipate, an Alarm spell would be unnecessary. They know somebody tripped the spell simply because there isn't one there anymore. And with the possibility of someone cleaning the giant room regularly, they will not take long to notice.

Also, it worries me that whoever built this room would think of trapping the interior side of the door. It suggests they know magical transportation into the room is actually possible–– aka, they know somewhat about the power of the voidgate. Orensland would vote we try to explore the room a little bit more (get an idea of what magical items are present, see if there are any other doors without getting too close, what is in the direct center of the room, etc.) but in terms of using it as a way into the marshes… well, they'd be expecting something, and we still don't technically know if it does lead to the marshes. They may even trap the area around the voidgate as a precaution if that's what they suspect let intruders in.

With that in mind, Orensland would vote on entering the marshes via non-magical means. Who wants to scout out some patrol patterns with Orensland?

Ah, I just reviewed: Symbol does dissipate when triggered! So it's not there anymore, though it will glow dimly for about 10 minutes.

Khaska would be fine with more exploration, but doesn't think he'd be the best one to do it. He'd be willing to help out whoever goes, though, with spells to buff him!

I was thinking we re-summon the bat to get a final layout of the place. Regardless, it seems the patrols are our best bet to get into the marshes. I'm guessing there are safe pathways through the marshes, Orensland would feel perfectly fine tailing a patrol and marking the safe way through.

Eryx (DM)
A failing of mine as a DM is that I constantly forget about characters that aren't the party. In this case, Greygook. (I once ran a dungeon where halfway through the party rescued a gnome cleric and after the entire dungeon was over one of the players was like "Wait, didn't we rescue a guy?" And I was all "Oh yeah, I just totally forgot about him.") I'm sorry.

Greygook thinks you are all crazy and before you open the gate a third time to explore this Tropy Room/Unhallow of Tiamat, he wants to be long gone. "Y'all are going into this room, which I want no part of, or into the marshes, which I also want no part of. So I'm leaving now. What do you want me to do with all your stuff? Money. The armor. The control rods. I assume you're not taking it with you!"

What do you want him to do? He basically works for you. In 3.5e rules, he'd be an official "follower." Consider him your skyship-owning butler.

The control rods. He wishes to take at least one for himself, for now, and suggests keeping one outside the voidgate network at all times.

Your money. Keep it? Store it? Hide it? Go open a bank account with it in Hammerdine?

Baroness Moretti's Armor. Take it back? Keep it until you can return it in person?

Where is he going? We've only explored half of the gateways by this point. :) He may want nothing to do with the Marshes, but I'm sure he's far from finished with us/the gates. We are also his best method for full voidgate exploration–– between the sneaking, the spells to charge the rod, the ability to ward off the majority of likely threats we'd encounter by opening any given voidgate, etc. Orensland would be happy to fully flesh out the voidgate system after Rynn finds whatever closure he can. Perhaps he can start writing a book on what we have discovered about the voidgates for future publication while he waits, which I believe was part of his intent to tag along with us. He could also fly to the D5 voidgate and take a look at what's happening over there. Or both, frankly.

How about he goes to explore the D5 voidgate via skyship while we take on the Marshes, with the agreement that we leave written notes inside the gates to communicate/set rendevous times in the future? Orensland would suggest that option. We certainly have plenty of things to do while we wait for him, presuming we finish with the Marshes before he gets back.

And I don't believe this has been clarified in the past, but Orensland has no problem giving full historical credit to the gnomes for the discovery of the voidgate system. He's curious about the system and wants to use it for the benefit of the party, but when we do eventually share this secret with others, Orensland doesn't mind not getting a footnote in the history books for it. Besides, given what the party has already done and where we are headed, leaving a mark in history is probably going to be happening anyways.

I was thinking we'd just leave the stuff here, in the pocket dimension, for easy retrieval when we're finished. Was that everyone else's impression? Unless we want to run out and deposit a large part of it in a bank. Perhaps we give a note to Greygook for our merchant friends in Hammerdine so he can set up a large bank account for us all.

However longer entering the Marshes on foot will take, Khaska thinks it might indeed be the best option.

Regarding the other matters:

  • The armor: we should leave it in the voidgate system to retrieve when we can return it in person.
  • The money: let's keep some in the voidgate system, but send most of it with Greygook to a bank in Hammerdine, I think.
  • The control rods: Greygook can have one, so long as he pledges to tell no one of it. He probably realizes as well as we do that the moment anyone of any power (let alone a nation with an army!) hears about the voidgate system and gets a control rod, we basically will lose control of it for any purpose — storage, research, travel, exploration, or more. With the others, Khaska has an idea: he can use Stone Shape in the Niktean Waste ruins to create a hollow in which to deposit the rods, which he then can fill in using the same spell so that it looks untouched. That way we know exactly where the others are and can access them if necessary. Thinking about it, Khaska could also hide single rods in the more remote, uninhabited locations accessed by the voidgates — the island off Thanor, the coastline of Slyn, perhaps that coastline near Sethrayin, etc. That way we wouldn't have to travel back to the Niktean Wastes all the time to use the network.

Regarding historical memory, Khaska wouldn't mind crediting the gnomes, especially because two of the three gave their lives for it. However, he does think we need to carefully guard knowledge of the voidgates for the time being (see above) — so no publications yet!

I just realized Alarm spells don't need to be audible. Which means we may or may not have tripped an alarm with Sanjin's bat. So Orensland now votes no to re-entering the dragon skeleton voidgate until we can get a crystal ball.

I personally would vote on keeping most of the control rods in the pocket dimension itself. Perhaps two with our party, one with Greygook. We are running off the assumption that others don't know about voidgates in any capacity. That may be true, but we did just come across a trap Symbol spell designed specifically against people magically appearing in a fortified room. Best not take chances.

Sanjin's bat familiar would have been Fey. On that note I can cast Find Familiar as a ritual -it will take be an hour and ten min. (even if I prepare the spell it will take an hour to cast).

What has happened to the stone elemental we summoned and sent to Dreqorun? Is it still available? If so, after witnessing its earth glide abilities, Aestus will suggest we have our new buddy travel through any earth/stone inside the trophy room to maybe see what it sees on the other side of the room's walls. Perhaps it has the ability to move through the stone walls in such a way that it can get just up to the walls' thresholds and see beyond without exposing/revealing itself. With the disintegration of Sanjin's familiar upon approaching the door, Aestus would believe that whatever harm lie in wait within the room has already happened and as long as we (elemental/familiar) don't give ourselves away, we have some time before we risk discovery.

Aestus is all for getting to the marsh on foot, especially if we don't use the Dusklight path, and he will eagerly volunteer to help Orensland with scouts/patrols within the marsh. If this means sneaking, he will do his best, but will feel vastly inadequate next to Orensland.

I don't remember 100% all of the things the party has shared with Aestus. Does he know about the money? How much there is? How the party got it, etc? As a player, I feel weird offering opinions on what to do with the money since I had no part in its collection. Does Aestus know about the armor? If so, due to his distaste with vampires and the evil they cause(d) in the world, he would voice to the party that returning the armor in person would be a grand and very meaningful gesture. He would be with Khaska in keeping the armor inside the void space.

Rynn is really conflicted, because there is likely a connection between the cult and this room of Tiamat. However, they are called the Cult of Skyrnyn, not Cult of Tiamat, so maybe this is not connected to them at all? (Cult of Tiamat would be pretty on-the-nose though.) It's a shame we don't have a more clear answer, because it feels like all the info we've received so far boils down to two options:

  • Option 1 - Hope that the Tiamat room is connected to the Cult's Citadel in the Marshes. Probably get killed.
  • Option 2 - Take the North Hagarit Bridge way and walk to the marshes. Probably get killed.

But of the two, Option 1 seems like the one where you'd get killed most abruptly, and we don't know whether it connects to the Marshes at all. So Rynn will agree with his companions that we avoid further exploration of the Unhallow of Tiamat for now and opt to go to the Marshes via the Bridge.

As for Greygook, Rynn thinks we should give him a control rod (can he use it himself? I can't remember if he is a caster) and let him do what he will for a while to avoid the dangers we're going into. He can run any errands we want, but honestly, it seems like the voidgate system is a pretty safe place to store stuff — after our experience in Hammerdine, Rynn would trust the voidgate platform more than any bank in "civilization!" Ha!

If Greygook doesn't want to stay in the voidgates, Rynn will suggest that he should go to Lord Hayward Yellman's lands. Then he won't have the airship parked conspicuously at the ruins, but he'll be relatively close when we return.

“Do people know if a Symbol spell was activated?” Orensland was very worried. It was one thing to explore a hidden room in relative safety behind enemy lines (assuming the enemy was still alive), it was quite another to make one’s presence known.

Greygook shook his head. “That would be an Alarm spell, something we used frequently to guard our campsites overnight. It was how we discovered you sneaking up on our site all those years ago, Mister Orensland.”

“A five-sided room with the chromatic dragon heads on each wall? Sounds like a room dedicated to Tiamat, the evil dragon goddess,” Khaska said. He was reminded of Amara, who had worshipped Tiamat in secret right under their noses. Whoever was the master of this room was not worshipping in secret. He glanced at the floor. “And I should point out the floor and skeletons seem relatively clear of dust. The room is well-kept.”

Just then the voidgate closed.

“Well, I can summon my familiar again, but it will take an hour,” Sanjin replied. He was holding his spellbook in hand. “Do we want to explore this room further?”

“I. Am. Leaving.” Greygook said. “If you all crazy people want to tempt fate a third time and explore this room you can do so without me. Y’all are going into this room, which I want no part of, or into the marshes, which I also want no part of. So I'm leaving now. What do you want me to do with all your stuff? Money. The armor. The control rods. I assume you're not taking it with you!”

After some discussion, it was Rynn who finally broke the tie. “As much as this room might lead to the marshes, it would lead directly to the Cult’s Citadel, and we’d probably get killed. So I guess we can head to the marshes the regular way … and probably be killed.”

“That’s cheery,” Sanjin said.

“You put too little faith in us,” Aestus said. “I vote we head for the marshes. Fight our way in if need be. But I trust in Master Orensland’s stealth and Master Rynn’s skills as a hunter to help us sneak in.”

“But since we don’t even know whether this dragon room …”

“An Unhallow of Tiamat,” Khaska said.

“Unhallow of Tiamat even leads to the marshes, let’s take the voidgate to the North Hagarit bridge and head on in.”

“So what do you all want me to do while you’re off adventuring?” Greygook asked.

It was decided to give Greygook one of the control rods. He had his brother’s spellbook. “Maybe it’s time I learned me some wizarding ways,” he said. “I should be able to activate the rod on my own sometime in the near future.”

“I can help a bit with that before we go,” Sanjin said. “Give you some of the basics on reading magical notations.”

It was decided that keeping the money and the control rods in various places would be useful. Khaska was able to use Stone Shape to hide some in the ruins near the skyship camp. They left others in the voidgate system itself, along with the baroness’ armor and one of the bags of holding filled with jewels and coin. Greygook would take the other bags to Hammerdine and speak with Haalak about depositing the rest in a bank account. From there, he would continue exploring the voidgates on the outside, more accurately mapping them in the real world. “Though,” he said, “I will have to hire at least one other person to join me in keeping the ship up and sailing her. Not really feasible to do it on my own all the time. I think it’ll be easy enough to find a gnome with wanderlust. And Orensland’s reputation preceeds him. Maybe could even find some allies of yours to join me.”

As they finished packing up the ship, the small gnome came around to shake the hands of each of them. “I wish you luck. Especially you, Mister Rynn. I hope you find her. Stay in touch with Sending spells or the like. All you need to do is ask and I’ll come running. Er, sailing.”

“You have been a good friend these past few months,” Khaska said. “When the time comes to reveal the voidgate system to the world at large, we will ensure that you and your fallen brothers receive their due credit. We consider ourselves lucky to call you a friend.”

With all the farewells completed, the gnome ascended to his ship and took off, it rising into the sky and catching the wind northward, sailing towards Hammerdine. In a few minutes, it was out of sight.

“To the marshes?” Orensland asked.

“To the marshes. Whatever evils lurk there will regret the day they met Master Tawru and his allies!” Aestus said, marching back to the voidgate.

Khaska wished he felt as confident as this human warrior. But to the marshes it was.

As they walked to the voidgate, Khaska noticed Rynn's demeanor. He was holding his new magic bow in hand, contemplating it.

“I am sure that weapon will serve you well as we search for your family,” the cleric said.

“Shatterheart,” Rynn said.


“Shatterheart. That's what I've decided to name it.”

Khaska nodded. "A worthy name. Fitting both in its magic and in it's meaning for you.”

The smell from the Sacrous River washed over them as Sanjin opened the voidgate near the North Hagarit Bridge. It had been morning when Greygook had sailed off. It was the middle of the night here, Pressen backlit by the sun, the light playing off the rings of the gas giant and casting itself in bits and pieces over the land. Their arrival seemed to go unnoticed, and they began making their way north.

The Zyrbryxion Marshes awaited them. And, possibly, Rynn’s wife. The ranger pushed ahead, knowing the wisdom and necessity of exploring the voidgate system first, but now with a new sense of haste. The words of the seers he had met the past year weighed heavily on his mind. “You will find her soon,” the Storm Giant seer had said. He wondered if a being such as the Quintessent would have the same definition of “soon” that he did, but he pushed onward.

Cults and marsh creatures and slavers and whatever else was in front of him be damned. He wanted to find Juliet.

Eryx (DM)
The next time you meet Greygook, he will be a level 5 rogue/level 1 wizard. Maybe he’ll take up an instrument in honor of his bardic brother. He’s on his way to run the errands you’ve tasked him with, and then will continue to explore the voidgates in the real world to more accurately map them out, continuing the work of his brothers. He will have to hire another hand or two to help out with the ship. This person will also be a follower of the party.

As he explores the wizarding magic of his brother, he’ll discover the possibility of Sending Stones, and suggest the party use them as well to keep in touch once they are reunited, whenever that is.

That will end this chapter.

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