[Author’s note: What are these “AoA” tags? Check out this post to know why I’m writing these and why they don’t have anything to do with superheroes. After writing only the occasional cut-scene, I decided to do a quick narrative before every Pathfinder session instead of a recap. We already had someone in the group writing recaps, so mine felt redundant, and there were too many opportunities for fiction writing that I was letting pass me by. Below are a collection of intros from our sessions. I don’t love using present tense, but it’s what fits best into these tabletop roleplaying sessions.]
Session 88: Theft in the Regents’ Vault
Session 89: Brigven and the Cops
“Is that them?” a voice in the shadows asks.
“What in the bowels of the Darklands do you mean, ‘is that them?’ They aren’t dwarves, for Torag’s sake! I see two humans, a goblin dressed like a human, a silver-skinned elf, and a rat in armor. That’s all five of them.”
“Do we get ‘em now, then?”
“No. The Regent wants us to merely watch them for now. So stay hidden and eyes open.”
“Right. You think we can take ‘em?”
“They look tough and battle-hardened, and it would be two on five. No, I do not. But, always remember that we have the law on our side. We will be saving the city by taking these five off the streets.”
“Right. Don’t see why we wait to take ‘em, then.”
“The Regent said watch, so we watch. The time to act will come soon enough.”
Knuckles pop in the darkness of the alleyway. “I think I could take ‘em. At least a couple of ‘em.”
“No. We do this by the Regent’s wishes. The city is at the precipice and about to topple. We are the law that will set things right.”
“We’ll be heroes, then.”
“Alright. We watch.”
“It looks like they’re moving now. Stay hidden, and let’s see what they do next.”
Session 90: The Earthfire Prison
In a dwarven city deep underground, before a heavy, squat, stone structure, we have ourselves a situation.
A half dozen dwarves, all bearing identical seals of the Guild of Arms, surround the party. Obedience has disappeared. Leilani looks wary. Margaret blurs with defensive magic. Tak has both swords out in a defensive position.
And a strong dwarf grapples with the taller Sabine amidst them all.
“Tell your friends to drop their weapons,” she growls, so only the elf can hear. “We had planned to just take you off the streets for a few days, but you’re about to land in a dwarven prison for years.”
“Marda!” one of the dwarven city guards says, panting as he runs up. “What’s this all about then?”
Marda raises her voice to the gathering crowd of guards. “These outsiders seemed to be breaking into this building! When we questioned them, they drew their weapons!”
“Aren’t they the ones Hammerson deputized?” another dwarf asks.
“I don’t care who they are! They’ve drawn weapons on Guardsmen!”
The squat, ugly dwarf with Marda has paused from blowing his heavy brass whistle. In the break you can hear other City Watch whistles blowing in the distance.
Session 91: Confronting the Alljoiner
Since it’s been TEN FRIGGIN’ DAYS, let’s briefly recap where we are, a la Troy in GCP:
As part of gaining the Court of Regents’ favor in the dwarven city of Kovlar, you all were doing several mini quests for the various guild leaders. You ventured out into the lake for the Guild of Arms and Commander Grokar Hammersong, discovering lower doses of the same poison that wiped out Cypress Point.For the Guild of Coins and Goldhand Wuldi Irontemper, you investigated a theft from the vault of the Regents, exonerating Fortunate Algera Kord of the Gamblers’ Guild and uncovering that she too had been the victim of a theft, but not yet finding the true culprit. You helped Adorned Stosk Dolgindir and the Guild of Finery explore a missing tailor, Algret, who you realized disappeared somewhere in the Earthfire District.
And finally, before she would agree to get the Court together to address what you (particularly Obe) believed was a threat from the Scarlet Triad, you helped Forgemaster Kelda Halrig and the Anvillers’ Guild settle a dispute with some merchants who claimed that they were receiving shoddy weapons. You traced the forged weapons back to a disgruntled dwarf named Brigven, who revealed three things:
- There is a secret cult to the evil dwarven god Droskar somewhere in the city, and they were the ones paying Brigven to replace good weapons with shoddy forged ones.
- Though he doesn’t know where it is, the cult is operating out of someplace called the Hidden Forge.
- They are being led by a fearsome woman named Ilssrah Embermead, the first name of which matches the name in Laslunn’s journal as a higher-up in the Scarlet Triad.
Convinced you now had enough evidence for the Court to act, you implored Forgemaster Halrig to gather the Regents and she agreed to do so the next morning. That night–last night, in game terms–Leilani also became convinced that her mentor, Gwenryl Longbraid, had gone missing, and you searched her empty house to no avail.
You woke up this morning ready to meet with the Court, but on the way two members of the Guild of Arms accosted you and told you to follow them for questioning. You did so, all the way to the Earthfire District and to a squat, stone building. There a tense standoff ensued that could have gone a lot of different directions, and eventually ended with you agreeing to be escorted back to the Court of Regents to sort out what was happening.
There you found that the Court had broken up when you didn’t show, but not before those who didn’t trust you–led by Mountainheart Kolarun Chiselrock of the Stonemasons’ Guild–cast suspicion on YOU. Thankfully, Forgemaster Halrig and Commander Hammersong remained on your side and vowed to help you. Indeed, Hammersong said that he’d question the two corrupt guards who accosted you and ensure no patrols went through the Earthfire District for a couple of hours so you could investigate. He warned you, though, that you were no longer deputized, and if you were caught breaking the law you would be imprisoned.
Back to the Earthfire District you went, and through a hole in the ceiling at the back of that squat, stone building. You discovered Gwenryl and Algret, both of whom had been taken captive by some corrupt faction within the Guild of Arms. You freed them both, and now find yourself in pitched battle with those corrupt guardsmen. There is a wall of hairy, fleshy, baby arms to the east, and a patch of grease in the hallway. One of the guards is dead, three remain. Margaret and the southernmost guard are currently Grabbed by the hairy baby arms. Tak is currently Restrained by them.
Session 92: Entering the Hidden Forge
There is no sun to signal dawn in Kovlar. Instead, members of the Physic Guild make their morning routes throughout the city, lighting the “dawn torches” to announce a new day.
Those lights shine upon a city in disarray, brimming with tension. And as a dwarf lights the torch outside of the Sleep Like A Stone inn, we are transported inside.
There, in a bed too small for his frame, is a warrior from Tian-Xa. His sleep reflects the city outside, full of disquieting dreams. One such dream visits him often…
[player-written dream sequence]
Session 93: Tak Revealed, Coxsackie Returned
“Well, well, well. So the children have finally arrived. You all have caused quite a ruckus. I don’t suppose it’s a surprise that you found this place, but I do find myself fascinated that you have surived to do so. Kralgurn, though admittedly annoying, was no slouch. I suppose he’s dead now, ‘cause that’s what you all do, bodies piled everywhere. You would have made powerful allies had you not been so…” and she makes a sour face, “chaotic. I just can’t rely on wildcards.”
“Speaking of which, allow me to introduce my associates. Folks call this charming human here The Anarchist, our own agent of chaos like you all. But unlike you, she is adept at preparing places the be ready for a new order. Despite her moniker, she is 100% a servant of Order. Isn’t that right, The A?”
The A looks around nervously, the blowgun at her lips.
“And that hulking fellow over there is called an Accursed Forge-Spurned, a rare dwarf whose failure to Droskar in life was so profound that he has been consigned in undeath to gorge endlessly on others’ suffering. I’m sure he’d love to see you slavin’ away here, but as I’ve explained to him, you’re too dangerous to be allowed to live.”
“They don’t look dangerous to me. They look small, and fragile.”
“Oh, I think you’ll find them quite the chore, my friend. But let’s be polite and finish our introductions. I am made to understand you’ve been tellin’ folks in Kovlar that the Scarlet Triad takes over a place quietly, and that’s right on. We are, truth be told, less inclined towards blood and death than you lot. Butcherin’ gets you meat but wastes labor, in my view.”
“But when threatened, we do our best to put down the threat. Allow the seeds we’ve planted to weaken a place to rise up and snap shut like a purple worm’s jaws. And you all are definitely a threat that needs to be put down. Isn’t that right, Toshifume-san?”
Session 94: The Battle of the Forge
Ilssrah Embermead pauses in the rough, stone tunnel. Even above the sounds of battle and the spinning blades of her spell, she hears the forge-spurned, undead giant roar and expel its fiery breath.
Perhaps I should stay, she thinks, ensure these children are put down with finality. The forge-spurned, Tak, The A – these are valuable game pieces with unique skills. She grips Fleshroaster, and the black chain begins to glow red-hot. It would be delicious to watch them suffer and die in Droskar’s embrace.
Damn the timing! No. I may already be late for my negotiation, and the dragon was quite clear on the importance of manners. Within the Hidden Forge, temple to the Dark Smith himself, my allies must prevail. There are only four of the children, after all.
Saying a quick prayer and with a grimace, Ilssrah pivots and storms into the darkness.
Session 95: Hidden Forge Aftermath
Obe’s arrow appears mid-air, sails twenty feet, and vanishes into the accursed forge-spurned’s open mouth. Ice crackles from its lips and the creature groans. Its head swivels ponderously slowly towards the molten lava of the forge, then to the cowering, chained dwarves, and finally, back to Leilani. Its burning eyes lock onto the necromancer-hunter as its flesh begins to flake away like ash. And then, a puppet with its strings cut, the undead giant’s form collapses in on itself. The warhammer and chains clatter to the stone floor first, followed by sections of its plate armor. Kthunk, kthunk, kthunk.
As the last piece of battered iron falls, the forge in the room suddenly blazes. Fire erupts, flowing upwards and spilling across the ceiling. Sabine finds herself scrabbling to get away as the heat washes over her. For all of you, the already sweltering room becomes oppressive in moments. And, somewhere in the roar of the flames, you distinctly hear a deep, male voice, bellowing in anger.
As suddenly as it began, the fire dies, taking the unseen voice with it. The room cools to merely hot. There is only the quiet of low, crackling flames. No distant, echoing hammers. No haunting groans. You hadn’t realized that there was an unseen presence with you in this place until now, when it’s gone. Yet there can be no doubt, even for those of you blinded by the forge-spurned’s stinging embers… something has changed. You are more alone in the Hidden Forge now than moments before.
Session 96: Getting Ready for Saggorak
As Obedience and Sabine are finishing the dismantling of the machine in the southernmost room, the echoes of dozens of dwarven boots fill the Hidden Forge. Commander Hammersong’s voice rings out.
“Fan out! I want this place picked clean, and any remaining survivors tended to. Someone find me one of the outsiders!”
Session 97: Entering the Old Workshop
As you make your way to the Earthfire District, you are aware that all dwarven eyes are on you. People point and whisper. Some scowl and make fists, their hard eyes following you. Mothers with babies turn and shield their children from you with their bodies. People cross the street or duck into buildings to get out of your path. It is clear that although some people may see you as the saviors of this city, no one feels particularly safe in your presence. And of course it is also clear that many people in the city see you like predators stalking their streets.
Eventually, though, you are back at the alley on the edge of the Earthfire District, through the short door into the basement of an abandoned warehouse, through the secret entrance, down the stairs, and back into the Hidden Forge. There is Commander Hammersong and around a dozen of his Armsmen. Many don’t look like they’ve slept.
As Hammersong approaches, you see dark circles under his eyes. “Ah, you’re back. Good. What news from the city?”
Session 98: The Old Workshop
Commander Grokar Hammersong sighs heavily and smooths his black, thick beard with a calloused hand. For the thousandth time, his eyes wander to the dark tunnel.
“You look exhausted, Commander.”
He blinks slowly and turns to the speaker, a middle-aged dwarf with brown, wavy hair pulled back from her broad face.
“Ah. Sergeant Arna. You snuck up on me.”
Arna grins. She has painted a long black line from forehead to chin on the lefthand side of her face, something she always does when on duty. She had explained the significance years ago, but in the moment Hammersong can’t remember it.
“Actually, Commander, I’m wearing chainmail and clanked over here making quite the racket. I believe you’re going on a third day without sleep, sir. Perhaps you should take a break. Leave this guard post to us while you get some rest.”
He sighs again, his ornate black and gold platemail feeling impossibly heavy.
“I appreciate the concern, Sergeant. I had only hoped…” his voice trails off. “It’s been, what? Almost three hours since they went in?”
“Well, I suppose I hoped they would be back by now. That this whole business would be behind us. What does it mean, do you think, that we have heard nothing?”
The dwarf shrugs her shoulder, chainmail clinking. “They are the most powerful force I’ve ever seen, Commander. The stuff of legends if I’m honest. We found the bodies of those lake serpents washed ashore, giant things. And it looks like they carved through these forces here like a hot knife through butter. What I guess I’m trying to say is that they can handle whatever’s out there, sir. If it’s taking awhile, it just means the threat is far away or there’s a lot to handle.”
“Yes, that’s precisely what I’m afraid of. If they fall…”
“They won’t, Commander.”
“You sound quite sure.”
“I feel quite sure, sir.”
Hammersong smiles wearily. “Alright. I suppose your faith will have to be enough for now. You’re right that I am not doing anyone any good here. I’ll go get some sleep, be back in six hours.”
He groans as he stands, slinging his warhammer across one shoulder. “I’ll bring with me a change of guard so you too can get some rest when I’m back.” He glances at the silent tunnel again and purses his lips. “And Sergeant?”
“If three more hours pass and they haven’t returned, send for Archmage Nalruven. The Guild of Spells can begin to ward this tunnel. If you’re wrong and our enemies break through, we’ll need to weaken them if we stand any sort of chance.” Hammersong drags himself heavily towards the staircase in the Hidden Forge. He has none of Arna’s faith in his chest. Instead, a cold dread has filled him, a feeling that he and everyone here are falling through darkness, and that the only question left is when the impact will kill them.