Serpent's Skull in Eberron

Deep vaults and even deeper holes

My reputation as the Last Defender has grown. The humanoids that have flooded into Saventh-Yhi fear me. Most avoid me when they can, the rest tolerate me when they have to. I’m not sure of my traveling companions intentions, but I’m even less certain of everyone elses’. Therefore, I was thoroughly surprised when one of the tribes approached me about my shield. They asked me to accompany them deep in to the vault where I found it. They seemed very interested in my tales of the Azlanti empire’s time in this area. I was happy to share my many memories of those long gone days. They had me speak to someone named Chronicler and he wrote down everything I had to say. He seemed particularly interested in my listing of the emperors. I didn’t have the dates of rulership that he wanted, but he recorded the names all the same.

When we arrived in the Vault, the humanoids showed me a vast mural depicting the original Shield Bearers. They were using their Last Defenders to generate a magical barrier to protect the rest of the Azlanti army. It was an impressive display. I asked my shield what I should do, and it said “Protect them! Protect them all!” I was expecting it to say something else. This profoundly changed my attitude towards this tribe.

Returning to camp, I met up with my traveling companions. They had varied accounts of what they had been up to in my absence, but I’ve grown somewhat accustomed to their erratic behaviour. I pressed them to uphold their pledge to help me find the serpentfolk lair. They agreed and we left for the Government district to search for the second vault.

Upon arriving, we quickly determined that there was too much ground to cover, and no obvious sign of entry. I-Da-Dak transformed in to a Earth elemental and searched underground for the vault. He was able to find it, but was spooked by a monster and could not determine the entrance. He did however find an unlooted basement. Anxious to find relics of the past, I began to dig out the stairwell that led below. I-Da-Dak returned some hours later to assist me. Iyum Kreshton took the rest of the party to walk along the lakeshore.

After hours of digging, we were making some decent progress. However, Iyum Kreshton disrupted our efforts when he returned with news that he found a sewer. I didn’t find the presence of a sewer drain more interesting that an undisturbed cellar, so I continued digging. However, the rest of my travelmates countered that the serpentfolk could be in the sewer, so I relented, and left my digging for another day.

We entered the sewer pipe and found nothing out of the usual. It was muddy and overgrown with vines. There was a huge flytrap hidden(?) amongst the vines. It was an obvious ambush, but there might be undissolved metal bits that could be of interest to us. So, I strolled in, knowing that flytraps do not eat other plants and that the humanoids were too afraid. To my surprise, the flytrap lurched towards me and took a bite. Caught offguard, I thickened my bark to resist further damage. I looked to my allies for help, but they mostly moved away to keep themselves out of reach. To my surprise, Iyum Kreshton took this opportunity to pollinate me. He vigourously stroked his tool until a gooey liquid spurted out all over me. At first, I was confused, then I was flattered, but ultimately I was appreciative. It turns out, Iyum Kreshton’s pollen provided enough lubrication for me to slip out of the tight place I currently found myself in. This gave me all the edge I needed to bash the flytrap to pieces. Now, we must plumb the stinky depths of this exit only hole.

The Death of Trond the Protector
Dadak's Tales

The shadows grow longer as the sun slowly descends upon the western horizon, gradually melting into the ground as it descends. It grows colder as the sun’s warmth fades. The elder orc, oblivious to the increasing cold, heaves a deep sigh into the breeze. With increasing agitation the pixies and sprites flit about, buzzing in annoying and unintelligible agitation. One more brown leaf falls from the ancient oak tree, gnarled beyond belief in patterns unfathomable and deep. The brown and last leaf gradually descends and gently settles upon the earthy soil. The old orc utters, with tears in his eyes and deep sorrow, “ I release you from your burden. I release you from your burden. May you rest knowing that we will carry the burden forever more. Rest now. With deepest humility and deepest gratitude we thank you for your patron and protection. We thank you. We thank you. Rest now and slumber.”

At first quiet. But then slowly, from the deep, an earthy shudder begins. Softly, full of melancholy, a deep woodsy crackling and rumbling occurs. The very sun halts in its descent. The sprites and pixies intuitively know the occurence, they settle and cry on the branches of the old magnificent tree. Some settle upon the Orc for reassurance. The Great Oak is dying. The Great Oak who has protected them all for millennia beyond fathoming is gone. The Great Oak taught by Vvaraak herself, is no more. The Orc sits with heaving shoulders upon the roots of the great tree. He grasps the little brown leaf which fell to the earth and ponders the significance of the failing of this Great Seal.

The marsh nearby continues to pulse its unearthly sickly purple and green glowe. Unholy aura manifests as it always has.

Yet, hope is not lost. The great orc, with effort and creaking bones slowly stands. He holds the leaf to his chest and begins to hum. With closed eyes and bulging muscles he calls forth the ancient powers of nature. Powers so ancient beyond measure of chaos and Law, beyond good and evil, beyond even the will of the Titans. Dark clouds begin to form as the old Orc hums and chants incantations to protect this Earth from evil. Howling echoes from nearby woods in response to the summons, and slithering gasps come from the nearby swamps. The old Orc, respected and beloved by all of the world’s creatures, asks for help. Mighty creatures come. Some crawling, some emerge from the marsh, some glide from the depths. Some come from without, burning with a fury of vengeance. But none come too soon.

Fore as the sickly purple already pulses with deep malevolence, already challenging the living of this world.

The pixies fly. The orcs eyes’ burn red and wild. The time is now, yet again.

The Black Pit

I have convinced the native human to seal us in. I piled the charred bodies against the doors. For better or worse, the conspirators are trapped in here with me. I am the Last Defender, and I intend to destroy the serpentfolk menace or perish in the attempt. If I fail, I hope at least to contain this pestilence beneath the ground.

They don’t realize how much I know. They are too strong to defeat outright. If I lead them quickly into the deep, perhaps I can put them on the back foot. There are malevolent forces ahead of us and behind. I can feel them losing focus on their scheme. Disarray is setting in as I march them with a quickened pace.

We cannot get out. A shadow moves in the dark. We cannot get out…. They are coming.

Stranger Days

The humans that travel with me are acting particularly unusual lately. They indicate that they are willing to pursue the serpentfolk underground, but they intend to hide their endeavors from their leaders. I’m not sure what to make of it.

The witch decides to visit the spired monument in town that Iyum-Kreshton and I-Da-Dak had previously been avoiding. He flies over the walls and disappears from view. A short time later, he flies down and informs us that the walls surround a large tomb, presumably of Saventh. As fascinating as this discovery is, the others seem thoroughly unimpressed. What’s more, the witch tells them that they are under the effect of a powerful mind altering spell that is changing their perception of the world. Again, they seem unconcerned. I take note of this, but don’t act on it.

We continue to the village of the Radiant Muse and meetup with our guide. He takes us to the location where he saw the dumb human running. We projected her path and followed it back to a cliff. Up on the face, Iyum Kreshton spots an opening. Hopeful that this will lead us to Ilmuriya, we enter.

Upon entering, we find signs of habitation. Before we can even investigate, a clutch of Ketches attack us from the shadows. Their efforts are weak and ineffective. It looks like it’s going to be an easy battle of little consequence. Then, with riotous laughter, I-Da-Dak wades into the mix with Iyum Kreshton and myself, then spouts flame all around us and onto us. I am surprised by his sudden but inevitable betrayal. I should have known better; the clues were there all along. I wonder now just how deep I am in this conspiracy. And to think, I pollinated Iyum Kreshton!

c4fc71c3fdd0b01c82f9281eafe30575.jpgWith enemies all around, I whisper to the Last Defender. It responds: “Kill them. Kill them all!”

New District, New Problems
What is that smell?

We seem to be getting nowhere in this new district of Saventh-Yi. All we have found are violent troglodytes roaming the city. There does seem to be some method to their actions; they are definitely separated into patrols or groups. Once we made it to their plaza, and fended off some very large mantis creatures (that kinda looked like giant spiders), we were surrounded by even more troglodytes. These kept their distance, or threw a javelin or two in our direction, and avoided challenging us further. Good for them, Leif had a look in his “eye” of disgust and Dadak looked at them in distain even more so. I can barely stand their smell and have gagged a few times I’ve been downwind from the troglodytes. I thought they smelled bad on the outside, but once we killed one, and their entrails spilled onto the ground, it was worse!

The large, tall columns were certainly carved up with pictograms and strange writing, but nothing seemed familiar. If Goland weren’t back at base camp recovering, I would expect that he would be excited at what we found. I could just image him forgetting the pains of his old bones in a rush to decipher everything. But, alas, we three ended up scratching our heads and decided to move on.

We’ve realized a while back that the ziggurats are the most important edifice of each district, so we made our way there. Sure enough, several larger troglodytes had stationed themselves there. These seemed even more hostile than the others, and it would take little to prompt me to challenge them. But, when we discovered that they held a prisoner, a young female human at that, I knew that there was no way I would not pull out my shining blade and rise to meet them in battle.

The battle was fierce. They rained down javelins upon us from their greater heights atop the ziggurats. They cast spells in our direction as well, in-between what I expect were spells to buff their martial prowess. In the confusion that we created, the bound woman was able to slip her bonds and make her way to cower behind Dadak’s massive frame. All I could see was a bruised and battered form wrapped in rags as she pitifully moaned and averted her eyes from the battle. Wrapped in several magical images of myself, I waded into the battle looking for the biggest threats and a way to flank their position. Leif seemed indecisive between his whistle (to draw even more foes onto us) or bashing his way against the line of troglodytes; once he put away his whistle, he was the wrecking machine he normally is. Dadak and Kylia did their best to protect the young ex-prisoner using spells and teeth.

I must admit, it was a tough battle, but, of course, we were triumphant. The troglodytes and the troglodyte clerics (my brief training in spellcraft came in handy identifying some of their spells) lay at our feet. But we found a new secret of Saventh-Yi in the person of the battered woman. The poor thing continued to cower as we tried to succor her and deal with the many wounds she had. Gallantly, I whisked off my Sleeves of Many Garments, reverting to my regular jeweled doublet from the glamored plum I had been wearing, and clothed her in flowing yellow robes. She stepped back with fear in her eyes, but accepted a bit of healing from a wand. The whole ordeal must have been quite traumatic; she would not answer questions and only responded with whimpers and a blank look.

Mayhap, some time surrounded by a bit of civilization will help begin some healing. We all decided, even though it was somewhat early in the day, to return back to our camp with her. Goland was still recovering, so Captain Lewin tasked another camp member to the woman’s care. This “person”, a teifling male, seemed competent and friendly but had little news about his brief examination of the addled woman. She seemed to have lost her mind, and a lesser restoration spell seemed to do no good in changing her state; some spell more powerful may do the trick. He did notice that the woman had a tattoo on her which looked like a Pathfinder symbol. I suspect that since we are in good standing with the Pathfinders after I returned the journal we found when we first entered Saventh-Yi, that if we returned to their camp, with this woman in tow, it could solidify an alliance between us. They may have some spell services that we lack and be able to release the woman from whatever has bound her mind in its endless circle of fear.

I need a bath to get this troglodyte smell off me. Probably several.

Tree Herder

Dadak was glad to have his fathers armor back. The camp armorer had done a good job of repairing the leather bindings on the armor, but as always it is the Oak Heart’s wood that was the true beauty and power of the armor. This morning, Dadk decided that rather than reflect upon the chaotic order of the natural world around him, he would instead spend his meditation on remembering the story of Oak Heart and the sacrifice he made to save his forest.

Dadak sat with Oak Heart’s chest piece in his lap. Imagining the great Treant in all his glory ushering the trees of his forest away from the flames. As Dadak stared into the fine grain he could almost see the flames reaching up around oak heart. He could almost feel the urging of Oak Heart willing his trees towards the river that meant safety from the fire. The grain on the wood before a writhing fire, now seemed the the flowing water of a river. The waters of the river swollen by the storm began to flow faster and grow wider, grow hungry. It began eating it’s way through its old banks devouring its way to the village.

Dadak realized that he was no longer remembering the great fire, but another incident. One of which Dadak had been told stories as a child, though he had been but an infant at the time. The rains had been relentless that season. The waters of the swamp had already been higher than ever, the waters already running too swiftly. On this fateful night though, a dam had broken somewhere upriver. Now the great river that had always given life to the swamp had decided to try to eat its way through the swamp and drain the life away from it, and the orc village was right in its path.

As Dadak watched, he once again could see Oak Heart commanding the trees to move, but this time toward the danger instead of away from it. At Oak Heart’s, urging, great banyans uprooted themselves and waded out into the center of the torrent trying to split the flow of the river. Mighty oaks moved to the river bank before the village securing the soil of the shoreline to prevnt further erosion. Many trees were sadly lost in this epic battle, but in the end as the waters slowed and lowered back down, the village was still standing, and the waters of the great river still flowed throguh all of the many arteries of the swamp. Dadak realized then that it had not been Oak Heart but Dadak’s father that had been commanding the trees. Wearing this armor, he had somehow learned to command the tree’s themselves as Oak Heart had.

Serpent's Bane

The Last Defender in his hands, Leif felt suffused with both humility and pride. He felt an immediate bond with the artifact. They shared a singularity of purpose, of time and place, and of being the last to survive and carry on the defense of the Azlanti empire.. Leif could sense the magics of the shield almost urging him on eager to be back at work after so long a slumber. Almost immediately Lief was overcome with not just a desite,, but an urgent need to drive the serpentfolk from the heart of Saventh-Yhi.

Dadak and Kreshton tried to convince Lief to move on, to move on with their explorations, telling him that the serpentfolk in the government district had been routed and were no longer a danger. for leif, though, routing was no longer enough. The serpent folk must be eradicated forever from the surface of the world. For some time Dadak and Kreshton aided him in his purpose, but Leif was relentless and eventually Dadak and hreshton succumbed to fatigue and were forced to take rest. Leif continued his hunt, glad to be free of the distraction of his party, for while they were worthy warriors, being relieved of their distraction gave Lief the peace he needed to focus on The Defender’s magic and learn more of what the shield and he could do.

When they had first come back to the island, It had not been hard to find serpentfolk. Some would come to challenge them at the sound of Lief’s whistle, other just didn’t run away fast enough, but once Dadak’s spells had run out and Kreshton grew weary of the chase, the few serpent folk they could see would flee before the party could get close enough to engage them, and leif felt strongly like many more unfound. He could almost feel their taint upon the city. Now as he focused upon that feeling, he realized that he could in fact sense their presence, and as he concentrated, gazing through the top of his shield, he could even discern the exact location of those that were nearby. He renewed his hunt quickly hunting down many that tried to hide from him. The only option left to the beleaguered was flight. Unfortunately for Lief, though the island was small, and hiding was no longer an option, some of the serpentfolk were able to elude him by simply running away.

Leif had been in pursuit of this last troop of serpent folk for the better part of the night. He felt certain that once he destroyed these last few he could rest easier knowing that Savnth’s heart was free from their corruption. Now, He’d tracked them down again. He did his best to come upon them quietly, to leave them no escape, but once again, he failed to catch them by surprise. As his rounded entered the doorway to their hiding place, they were already bolting toward another exit. In frustration Lief cried out, Cursing them in the name of Savith, and fet a surge of magic from the shield. To his surprise the band of serpentfolk stopped in their tracks and turned upon him attacking him ferociously. Lief set about the work of killing. These put up little more fight than the rest of their wretched kind, all but the last one, the largest of the group, were quickly dispatched.

Knowing the the end of this purge was at hand, Lief was eager to take down this last serpent. Even so, he was caught off guard when the snake man threw himself bodily upon Lief wrapping not just his arms and legs, ut his entire body around Lief, much as the arger of his limbless brethren might. For a few moments, the Serpent had the upper hand, pinning Liefes Arms and keeping him from bringing his weapon to bear as the serpent repeated bit into Leaf trying futilely to poison this Serpent’s bane. Unable to strike the serpent, Lief once again found his answer in the Defender. hunkering down close to the shield, he let the serpent try it’s best to squeeze him. Squeeze it did, but in doing so, it pressed itself aginst the razor sharp edges of Ydersius’ scale. Before long the enraged serpentfolk had done mortal damage to itself, and despite coming to its senses and trying to disengage, was able to do little more than collapse at Lief’s feet.

Battle's Aftermath

Leif’s leafy bulk against the cellar door gives me the courage to close my eyes and finally get some sleep. I’ve been obsessed, I admit it, that Egsamora was trouble and I’ve only slept fitfully the last couple of days. In the end, I was right about her, but I doubt my companions will acknowledge it. That woman was up to no good; Goland’s mutilated body, held gently in Leif’s massive arms, is proof of it.

That Egsamora woman had begun her experiments on him and now I do not know WHAT he is or if he will recover. I do know that the poor creatures she used as guards may have been once people like myself, and I pity them. I even pity them for once having been vegipigmys and then turned to whatever monstrosity they ended up as. She twisted their bodies into gruesome half-animal, half-plant creatures. Their corpses now lay in a heap in a corner of this basement; perhaps we can burn them in a small ceremony later tomorrow. They remind me, somewhat, of Leif; walking plantlife. I have nothing against Leif, though, as he started life the way he is; he is proof of how wonderful and varied life is on Khorvaire.

In the meantime, I think it will be quite a while before Leif stirs again. The smell of his sap is strong in this confined room. It oozes from several wounds he took battling that sorceress. He has several spots on him that are blackened and charred from the lighting she through at him as he chased her around the small basement she used to entrap these denizens of Saventh-Yi. I’ve used a few charges of my wand on his bark and I can already see clean wood underneath as he slowly heals.

My body, not to mention my raiment, has been torn and rent as well. I’ve stopped the bleeding as well as I could (along with a charge or two from the wand for myself). My wounds are closing up fine but I expect that I will be pulling out slivers of wood from them for the next several days. Even if Leif hadn’t decided to take root where he is, I think it would have been prudent to hole up here. Once again, a foe has eluded us at the last moment with the aid of invisibility. I don’t blame them, their defeat was at hand, but it doesn’t stop from angering me. I can only hope that she has fled the city altogether and not found some other way to cause us trouble. Our camp now has another reason to stay vigilant every night. I may suggest moving the whole Shackles camp to this new location, but the keep we liberated for them is probably much more secure.

Once we get out of here, I would like to explore Egsamora’s mansion some. Perhaps she has some silk sheets and a proper bed I may be able to get move back to camp? With her retreat, I believe that this district is ours. My name will be displayed prominently in the history books as the discoverer and explorer of Saventh-Yi. My only worry is that Leif is once again in one of his 10,000 year slumbers. Dadak and I may have to chop our way through one of the walls to escape.

—From the log of Kreshton Rel’Astra

Enough Is Enough, Woman!

This is just ridiculous.

Now, I know she’s up to something, but I can’t seem to prove it to my friends. I tried to catch her in a lie by calling her Zakayya (the succubus), but she didn’t even flinch. Her response was too perfect but I have only my gut to go with her; still, she did sound sincere.

I also tried to leave and watch from cover as she communed with nature alongside Leif in his normal state and Dadak wildshaped into a tree. They just stood there in the clearing outside her home drinking in the sun, or something. It was boring. I paced back and forth to pass the time and to avoid any vegipigmies from sneaking up on me. Every time I looked back up there, I could see her shape mocking me.

Eventually, Leif and Dadak came to find me and we returned to camp. Kasada Lewin was interested but it was obvious that she was leaving the mystery in our hands. One bit of news that Kasada did tell us was that Goland had left camp earlier to try and catch up with us, along with a couple of guards as escort (that was wise). A bit of fumbling about (hey, I’m a city boy, I know little about tracking) but finally Dadak found a possible trail along the shoreline belonging to Goland. We followed the tracks and found one of the guards, dead and hidden in some bushes. How they were ambushed, I have not a clue, but I instantly suspected our new green friend.

It took some fast talking, and a bit of lies, to get Leif and Dadak to return to her abode. I tried to overstate that she may be in danger all the while secretly knowing that she was the culprit. Time to break into her home and do a more thorough search of it, not a “tour” like the one she gave us, all the while looking over our shoulders. She must have Goland prisoner there and I intend to rescue him from his peril. It is much too perilous.

—From the log of Kreshton Rel’Astra

Ain't I Something!?
Stop Ignoring Me, Woman!

Nope. Nope. Something is wrong here with this strange woman we’ve met. I gave her my most charming smile. I’ve spoken to her like she is a highborn lady. I’ve done my best to impress her. But I did not receive the reaction to my presence that I expected. Yes, there is something wrong with this woman.

I mean, look at me! I’ve got a stunning personality. I’ve got fresh clothing (that smell faintly like lilac). I’m obviously an accomplished adventurer! I’m young and virile. I’ve found the lost city of Saventh-Yi, for Olladra’s sake! It’s obvious that I’m some kind of noble; my bows are perfect! I’ve been more than courteous.

But, all she has is eyes for Leif. She talks to him more than she does to me. I can see appreciation in her eyes for him.

I don’t know, maybe being alone for so long, with the vegipigmies and their “forest” of moss and fungus, has rattled her brain. Saventh-Yi is a strange place. She has a bit of an accent that I can’t seem to place which is making me wonder.

This has got to be a trap, one that I will not fall for again. Several days before we arrived at Tazion, Pol, Dadak and I came across several women bathing in the river; one of them turned out to be a succubus! Maybe this woman is Zakayya, once again, but in disguise. I’m not going to fall for her whiles this time. I’m not going drink a thing she offers me like I did before! The only reason she’s paying so much attention to Leif is because she’s already sized Dadak and me up from our last encounter. She knows, from that last encounter, that she must be wary of Dadak, he held her off alone until Pol and I gained our wits again after drinking that foul brew she served us.

I need to get a signal to Dadak that our “new” hostess will not discover. Maybe Kylia could smell her and let Dadak know if this is indeed Zakayya. What will we do?

—From the log of Kreshton Rel’Astra


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