And Then The World Ended

Power Overwhelming
Strategic advance to the rear!

The party fled from the Ancient Black Dragon that was in the process of being crystalized, but soon realized they were not being pursued. After locating the recently slain young black dragon’s small treasure hoard, they tried to exit the dwarven ruins and were set upon by another strange crystal creature and a pair of small dragons. After defeating them, the party made all haste to Whistledown to organize an evacuation via airship to the safety offered by Ruch. The evacuation plans were interrupted by a small force of Half-Dragons, but the party vanquished those in turn. All the gnomes were loaded onto a pair of airships and they took to the sky, but had to swing wide around the mountain as the Ancient Black Dragon had dragged itself out of its hiding place and onto the side of the mountain, along with a great swarm of its offspring.

The Ancient Black Dragon sent many of its (uncrystalized) offspring after the fleeing airships, forcing the party to man what meager weaponry the ships had to repel the waves of attacks. Despite a troubled start where Hazarex was briefly transformed into a wolf, the party brought down all the dragons that attacked the airships. No further pursuit followed, so several hours later in the early morning the inhabitants of Whistledown landed safely in Ruch.

The party immediately sought out the tiefling sisters and requested that Princess Faila come to them so they could all be informed of the that a Crystallized Ancient Black Dragon portended. Akta speculated that the reason the Crystalline Devil would corrupt the dragon was to gain enough power to kill Wee Jas and the Raven Queen in order to break the time loop cycle that was enabling the group to work against the crystal creatures’ designs. The party was quick to realize that the nearest portal large enough to accommodate a creature of the dragon’s size is the city gates of Ruch, making the dragon’s next point of attack likely to be the city of Ruch.

Akta had some good news, though. She had discovered an analog to the dark power that the King of Highgore had infected them with; a glorious golden power wrought of their own reality, so therefore safe to use. The power was easily bestowed on everyone by a brief ritual. This only left the problem of the sheer might of an Ancient Black Dragon. Here the Princess Faila came through. She offered to let the group pilot the Royal Family’s giant constructs if they were able to modify the mechs to be able to amplify the new golden power. Widget and Akta were then taken to the Royal Artificers’ Guild to work on this problem, and the rest of the party left to their own devices.

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Evil's New Goals

In the river of souls the party questioned the Emissary of the Raven Queen about two topics; the Rieta and Akta’s time looping thanks to Wee Jas, and the method by which the Raven Queen is able to send them back in time. They learned that in order to send them back in time the Raven Queen has to essentially die, and that it is likely the same for Wee Jas and the tiefling sisters. They then emerge back into the past at the ruins above the Horned Gap and find that the tiefling sisters did the same to meet up with them and the sisters have news from their Emissary. When they are sent back in time, their aging reverses. This essentially gives them an eternity to find a solution to the problem as long as they play their cards right.

The group then made their way down to the Horned Gap to find Princess Faila, and then up to the castle in an attempt to locate Bookface. Unfortunately, no one is able to find Bookface when they are sent looking for him, giving more weight to the fears that the Crystal Creatures have somehow taken him. The group is then notified that there are gnomes other that Bookface who are looking for them. They are introduced to Rintinbimbligin (aka Namfoodle) and Ticker (aka Ellywick) Nackle, a married couple from Widget and Glimtoggle’s home hovel, Whistledown, who taught Widget about tinkering! The Nackles informed the group that after Oaktown fell to Highgore forces many years back, the hovel population decided to move to a more remote location. They ended up in the foothills of a mountainous region near some old dwarf ruins. Everything had been fine for them until three days prior (6 days before the world ends) when a glinting light was seen at the dwarf ruins and black dragon activity in the region suddenly went off the charts. Scared for the hovel’s safety, the Nackles flew their airship to Ruch to look for help.

The party left Rieta and Akta behind in Ruch (the sisters wanted to go through Bookface’s research) to fly to Whistledown and investigate. Shortly after arriving, the hovel was attacked by dwarf skeletons that had been fully encrusted with crystals, confirming the fears that the Crystal Creatures were behind the trouble in Whistledown. When the party then traveled up to the dwarf ruins, Aderyn recognized the site as from an old hill dwarf legend where an ancient black dragon’s control over a greedy dwarf king eventually led to a civil war. Despite fears that the ancient dragon survived the war, the party explored the ruined underground passageways and found traces of crystal on the ground and younger black dragons that had been party crystalized. This lead them to a huge, hollowed out pit filled with gold and an enormous ancient dragon with the Crystaline Devil attached to its forehead, seemingly spreading crystal across the dragon’s face.

The ancient dragon then raised its head and let out a bellowing roar. The party, wisely, decided to cheese it.

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Searching for a New Direction

The party, along with the tiefling sisters, returned to the ruins near Ruch through a linked portal carved by the King of Highgore and were immediately set upon by Crystal Golems that burst through the portal after them. Using the new power granted to them by the King of Highgore, the Crystal Golems were struck down and a sample was harvested for Bookface to study. The group then returned to the city and explained what had happened to Princess Faila and Bookface. Bookface and Akta retired to his lab to study the materials given to them by the King of Highgore and the crystal sample the party had harvested while Rieta and the party were left to their own devices.

Early in the morning of the third day, Rieta found the party. She was wounded and Akta was unconscious and nearly dead. Something had torn Bookface’s lab apart, nearly killing Akta and wounding Rieta when she arrived to rescue her sister, but fled when it discovered that Rieta could injure it by using the power from the King of Highgore. Rieta described a crystal creature much more lithe and seemingly intelligent than the Crystal Golems encountered thus far. And to top it off, Bookface is missing. The party tracked the creature from Bookface’s lab to the Royal Artificer’s Guild, the organization that builds and repairs the royal family’s giant artificery constructs.

In the Royal Artificer’s Guild, the party tracks the creature to the R&D lab, fighting many constructs that have been infected by the crystal creature’s controlling power, overcoming them using the dark power that the King of Highgore granted them, and eventually engaging the creature on the scaffolding built around a new prototype giant construct that the creature was trying to break into. Before the battle could reach a conclusion, the world shattered to pieces around them, dissolving into the frothy water in of the river of souls. The crystal creature fell away from the party and was lost in the darkness. The party splashed down into the water and found the Emissary of the Raven Queen in shock at finding them there more than half a day before the world should have ended.

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True Evil

The party traveled with Hans and Franz to the Iron Church of Kord where they took respite for the night and plotted their next move. The next morning they set out for Malington and disguised themselves as workers making a delivery to the castle. They were successful in bluffing their way into the walled inner city and then into the castle itself by pretending to deliver vegetables to the kitchens. Once inside the castle the party moved with the stealth of a parade through the first two floors of the castle, drawing the attention of multiple groups of guards. The party also managed to catch sight of a great hall filled with hooked horrors touched by Far Realm power, a fleshy and twisted portal spilling down from a balcony above the portal, and slow but steady force of the Crystalline Golems leaving the portal only to be destroyed by the hooked horrors. On the third floor they had more success and were able to disarm the magical safeguards blocking their way to the King of Highgore.

Though the King of Highgore awaited in the next room, the party was briefly interrupted as the Tiefling sisters, Rieta and Akta, arrived. They too have snuck in to get to the king, but they wanted to talk with him rather than assassinate him. A brief conversation with them reveals that the sisters have also been looped in time much like the party, but by the goddess Wee Jas. It turns out that they have repeated the past three days several more times than the party has so far. The sisters convinced the party to let them talk to the King of Highgore before they kill him.

The group then held a very frank discussion with the King of Highgore (whose lower body had indeed become a twisted wreck of a portal to the Far Realm) where the king convinced the party that he foresaw a world-destroying threat that could not be averted so all his actions, though admittedly cruel and unsavory, were done with the aim of allowing some shred of the sapient races of the world to escape to a new plane of existence. The party then in turn convinced the king that he would fail, that the world would end before he is able to orchestrate an escape from this reality. For this, the king delivered copies of all his research on the Crystalline Creatures to the group and carved a gateway back to the Horned Gap for them. The king then also infected the group with a touch of Far Realm power that would enable them to fight the Crystalline Creatures. Finally the king offered to let the party kill him for his failures, but they declined and stepped through the gateway.

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A Glimpse of a Foe

The party returned to Ruch in time to reclaim their book from Fonkin “Bookface” Timbers and to watch the end of the world from the top of a tower in the royal palace. As the sun neared the horizon they watched through telescopes as the collapsing ground broke towards them from the direction in which the kingdom of Highgore lay.

When the party fell into the river of souls they grilled the Emissary of the Raven Queen on the possibility of other people being send through time loops. The Emissary was only able to tell them that it was something another deity might be able to accomplish if they too were able to draw power from some aspect surrounding the nature of the end of the world, such as how the Raven Queen was able to due to the domain of death being part of her nature.

The party once again stepped through the archway behind the waterfall of souls and returned to three days in the past. They delivered letters to Princess Faila and Bookface to secure their aid, then had Bookface establish a gateway to the rune-marked location that Badgergeist’s Dripping Grimoire volume 4 showed as nearest to Malington, the capitol city of Highgore. Stepping through this archway brought the party to an underground chamber being excavated Highgore forces. The party was able to fight their way to the surface, but before they could overcome the final soldiers that stood between them and freedom, they were attacked by a new foe.

A crystalline creature ripped itself free of the ground and slaughtered the last Highgore soldier before turning on the party. Much to their dismay, all the attacks the party could level against this monster were ineffective at best or caused it to slowly grow in size at worst. The party was rescued by the arrival of two preposterously burly men that, through sheer bludgeoning strength, were able to knock the crystalline creature through a wall, giving them all enough time to escape as the creature turned from them to attack more Highgore soldiers that the party had avoided fighting underground.

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Chasing a Dream

The party set out to track down the troops that had attacked Michael’s family’s town. After traveling for many hours, they made camp for the night and were shortly set upon by a small group from the war-band that was scouting its rear. This scouting party was made up mostly of the kinds of twisted creatures left to besiege the villagers in their cave, but was led by elven monk who recognized Rex. The elf, Sariel, apologized even while fighting the party, which led them to render her unconscious and tie her up for questioning.

When awakened, Sariel told a story of being a prisoner in her own body. Of capture when her monastery was attacked, being forced under the influence of far-realm creatures, and of how the king of Highgore (whose body has been twisted into a wreck of a gateway which the aberrant forces he commands use to enter the world) corrupted of the head of the monastery by into the willing leader of this marauding war-band and master of those controlled by the same parasite as she. Sariel claimed that she had seen an oily parasite ooze its way out of other captives under its control as they were on the brink of death, so proposed that the party nearly kill her in an attempt to free her of its power.

When the party was successful in driving the parasite from Sariel’s body by bleeding her to the edge of death, then healing her back into stability, Sariel proposed a bold plan. Capture a few more monks, free them in the same fashion, then sneak into the war-band’s camp to kill the half-elf head monk, Theren Xiloscient. Sariel believed that this would break the parasite’s control over all the captured people that were forced into the war-band. These captured people made up about half the force, so once freed they would be able to rise up and destroy the twisted creatures that had been willingly pillaging and slaughtering for years.

The attack worked. Once Theren Xiloscient died those who had been under the parasite’s control took up arms. The party joined them in putting down the twisted forces, and in the confusion of battle caught a brief glimpse of familiar two tieflings who fled after recognizing the party in turn.

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Mulligan

Defeating the Highgore army before they could launch their attack on the Horned Gap did not save the world, and the party fell back into the river of souls. The Emissary of the Raven Queen seemed unaware that this was not the party’s first time through, but took them back to the portal behind the waterfall where the party stepped out into the world once again. They quickly journeyed down to find Princess Faila at the Horned Gap to deliver her own letter to her, then up to the city to warn Ander Stormwind of the danger to his life (and to collect the artifacts he had), and then to the castle to give Fonkin “Bookface” Timbers the tome with his notes.

Before they could meet with Bookface, a young woman found the party and identified herself as Jennifer Shepard, Michael’s younger sister. Jenny (along with the young Matthew Baker whom she had been with) told her older brother that the town of refugees their family had resettled in had been attacked by a war-party of monstrous creatures. Jenny indicated that the townsfolk had taken shelter in a fortified cave near the town, but that it was a four day ride back to the town. She also had a torn piece of banner from the attackers that Glimtoggle and Widget recognized from the forces that wiped out Oaktown.

Bookface came to the rescue. Using his notes, notes the party took on the portal behind the waterfall of souls, and a symbol-covered map of the realm found in Badgergeist’s Dripping Grimoire volume 4, Bookface was able to convert the ornate archway at the back of the palace’s great hall into a portal connecting near to Jenny’s town.

The party was able to rescue the townsfolks from a portion of the war-party that had been left behind to finish them off. They now find themselves to be the saviors of the villiage and it is only early afternoon on the first day. Bookface will not open the portal back to Ruch until sunset.

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To win a war

Having solved the murder of Ander Stormwind, the party was called before Princess Faila again. Thanks to the research material that they had brought Fonkin “Bookface” Timbers the scholar had devised a way to transport people and things through what he called Runes of Gating. Bookface says that normally the connection provided by the Runes would be too tenuous to allow the actual transportation of physical objects (instead it would only normally allow for a kind of scrying to take place), but with a sort of weakening of the fabric of reality has allowed for a stronger connection. These connections require Runes of Gating to be drawn as parts of magic circles to establish portals between nearby locations.

Princess Faila has come up with a plan to use these Runes. While the Princess was still skeptical of the claims that the world itself was going to end, she did believe that some disaster was coming and suspected that since it coincided with Highgore’s attack that invading army had unleased some sort of dark power as part of their assault. The princess planned to stop them before they had a chance to do it. Through an exhaustive ritual Ruch’s mages can connect Runes drawn in their war camp to a tent within the Highgore camp. Once there, the party was told to find several other locations to paint large enough connecting Runes back in safe locations to allow Ruch to pour its forces unexpectedly into the midst of Highgore’s unprepared troops. The party was able to trick and fight their way into drawing the connecting Runes in a stables, a storage tent, and the pantry of a mess hall. To signal that the assault was ready to begin, the party tracked down the location of Highgore’s high command (kept hidden through frequent moves and false command tents throughout the large war camp) and launched signal rockets in there air. The Ruch royal family used these rockets as a beacon to assault Highgore’s generals and officers, breaking the army’s back.

With the day won and Highgore’s army defeated the party returned to the Horned Gap with Princess Faila to watch the sunset. As the sun touched the horizon the sound of grinding and crashing stone echoed around them. The Princess turned to the party and told them they would have to find another way as the world broke apart and crashed into darkness around them.

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Murder Mystery
Session 3 summary

The party returned to the Horned Gap where they were taken before Princess Faila. Though she chastised them for leaving without reporting in first, she had work that she needed done. The party was told to report to the estate of Naeris Johnson where a lunch party that we being thrown to investigate the murder of one Ander Stormwind who was due to bring artifacts to Fonkin “Bookface” Timbers later that day.

Before reporting to the murder scene the party first stopped in to visit Bookface to deliver the book that he did not yet know he wanted. Fonkin was confused as he had left the party in the library only to find them in the main hall. After some explaining Fonkin took Badgergiest’s Dripping Grimoire volume 4 along with a description of the books he had been researching when the party was initially with him, and promised to accelerate his research down those lanes.

Upon arriving at the Stormwind estate the party conducted a series of interviews with the nobles and merchants who were in attendance at the luncheon along with the staff of the estate who were serving that day and investigated the manor for clues. Their findings were shocking as they indicated that only the party’s host could have committed the murder! Upon confronting Ander Stormwind the noble and his warforged butler unleashed a storm of deadly artificery that might have left the party dead if not for aid from an unexpected source; the tiefling servants from the manor! But once Naeris Johnson was subdued the party discovered that the tiefling sisters had made off with artifacts that were supposed to go to Bookface! Artifacts that had born a resemblance to the archway from the river of the dead and both Ruch’s city gates and the crests on the back wall of the main hall of the palace.

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Back in time
Session 2 summary

The party snuck off to Warlock’s Coven Collegiate Institute of Higher Summoning to retrieve Badgergeist’s Dripping Grimoire volume 4 without telling anyone they were going, relying on Fonkin “Bookface” Timbers’ note as their authority for the mission. They arrived late in the evening and found the college littered with dead bodies and suffused with a strong trace of fel magic. There they met Quentin, who after a bit of “mischief” lead them to the library to find their tome, but when they tried to remove the book Quentin revealed himself to be a mysterious scarecrow wearing human skin. The party defeated Quentin and found what remained of the college staff and students tortured and broken in magical circles designed to keep them alive despite their being too far gone for even magical healing, as if Quentin was feeding off their suffering. The party gave those poor souls the release of death and left the school, not wanting to spend the night within its grounds. This leaves the party in possession of the book that Fonkin “Bookface” Timbers won’t know he wants for another day and a half.

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