Douven's Avengers

Into The Tower, part 1.
The Life & Times of Mikael Stormriven, ch. 5

We made our way through the decrepit offices of the mushroom farm and towards the entrance of the upside-down tower, set upon a massive stone platform. A pair of Eladrin statues stood in front of a massive staircase spiraling downward into the earth. My comrades began to step eagerly forward onto the platform, but I stopped them. For set into the corners of the platform were four arcane runes, surrounding a massive pile of bones.

Steeple and I set about inspecting the runes, careful not to set foot on the platform. The runes hummed with a magic that seemed to be linked to a faint energy field I could now perceive shielding the entrance to the stairs. This seemed to be a dangerous, dangerous place. I muttered a brief prayer to Aladra towards one of the elven statues. I suddenly felt a calming warmth spread over me and felt emboldened with some kind of supernatural courage. I took in a deep breath and was about to try to magically disable one of the runes when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Tor take a brazen and impatient step onto the platform.

The earth began to rumble around us as the runes flared up with an intense light. The giant pile of bones in the center of the platform began to swirl around and coalesced into the form of a giant skeletal cyclops!

KNEEL BEFORE ME, PITIFUL WHELPS! ALL WILL FALL BEFORE LURGORAAK!”

We leapt into action as Douven had taught us, a well oiled machine bringing death to any opposed us. Yet our immediate attacks seemed to glance off of Lurgoraak. The light leaking from the runes was joining into a shield surrounding Lurgurak. Steeple shouted out in his metallic voice that we needed to stand on the runes in order to make the cyclops vulnerable to attack. We did so, and the shield faded from Lurgoraak. Standing over the runes exacted a foul toll on us, and the evil magic of one of the runes spawned a pair of skeletal centaurs who joined the fray, along with some reanimated dwarves.

All of a sudden, Lurgoraak let out a mighty bellow. I felt my skull crush a bit under the pressure of his roar, as every fear I’ve ever felt screamed out in my brain simultaneously. I was deafened, but in the silence a solution presented itself to me.

THE STATUES,” I screamed. “THE STATUES MIGHT CLEANSE IT!” But I could not be sure that the rest of the party could hear me, for I couldn’t even hear myself.

I tumbled over to one of the Eladrin statues and once again prayed to Aladra, and blessedly felt the roaring fade from my ears.

The rest of the party caught wind as to what I was doing and did the same, all except for Romana, who braced herself and stubbornly kept firing arrows at Lurgoraak.

And so the battle ensued, a desperate dance as we tried to balance standing on the runes with running over to the statues to cleanse Lurgurak’s foul roar from our ears. Romana, who must not have believed in prayer, seemed to get worse with every mighty scream that ripped from Lurgoraak’s lungs. We almost lost her.

Finally, Lurgoraak seemed to sag a bit and Tor took advantage of the moment to plant a foot onto Lurgoraak’s knee, which he sprung off of as he thrust his greatsword through the cyclops’ lone eye socket and out the back of his skull.

We began mopping up the rest of the skeletons. The dwarves exploded in a hail of bones upon death, so I smartly leapt backward and threw Aecris at the last remaining dwarf. Unfortunately I was just a bit too zealous in my throw, and Aecris whistled past the dwarf to clatter upon the stones. The rest of the party collectively rolled their eyes at me. Well, it would have been amazing had it worked.

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The Upside-Down Tower
The Life & Times of Mikael Stormriven, ch. 4

After a long wagon ride, we pulled into Graywall, a backwater city on the border of the monster nation of Droaam. I have often heard Graywall mentioned by smugglers as a wondrous place where a bit of coin can buy the kinds of exotic treasures and pleasures that more civilized society outlaws.

We weren’t in town long before we were approached by a medusa named Meletchka. Despite the snakes in her hair she was actually quite stunning, but she rebuffed my attempts at charm and got right down to business. Meletchka explained that she is an agent of one of the Daughters of Sora Kell. She is apparently quite well informed, for she promised us personalized information in payment for completing a task for her.

As I have written previously, our group seems to have lost it’s sense of purpose. Yet the information that Meletchka promised us in exchange for completing her task has served to revitalize us. Specifically:

I will be given the identity of my father. Not Corlin Brightwaters, but my birth father… the bastard human who abandoned my mother so long ago.

Maaka will also be given the location of her father. While I sympathize with this, I suspect that her father is mixed up in her trouble with the black dragon Shadowmire, so I’m not sure this is such a good thing for us to learn.

Steeple will NOT be given the location of his father, but rather his former master, Augusto Bellaroosa. As with Maaka, while I am happy for him to know this, I am also disappointed that this information may lead to the cheerful ol’ tin can leaving our company, as I have grown quite fond of him.

Romana will receive the location of a cave that contains secrets from her mysterious past. I’m not too sure that’s a cave I ever want to visit.

And lastly, Tor will be given information that will help him ascend to his rightful title of Warlord in some particularly monstery region of Droaam.

So while the answers that Meletchka promises sound like they may ultimately threaten to break up Douven’s Avengers, we are all very excited to get some resolution in our personal lives. Needless to say, we agreed to take on Meletchka’s job.

Meletchka gave us a map to an “upside-down tower” located in the Watching Wood where members from House Kundarak as well as nobles from Aundair have recently been sighted. The presence of foreign officials on Droaam soil could be considered grounds to declare war, so clearly there must be some great driving purpose for them to take such a risk being there. We are to enter the tower and attempt to discover House Kundarak & Aundair’s motivations and report back to Meletchka.

The tower itself, Meletchka explained, is a site called Dur Barad. It was built long ago by the Fomorians (an evil race of giants) in a cruel parody of an Eladrin feyspire. More recently, some dwarves used the abandoned tower as a mushroom farm.

We refilled our provisions, and many of us took advantage of Graywall’s spectacular black market scene to obtain some new magical gear. I picked up some magic bracers, a belt, and a fantastic set of catstep boots that should help keep me from further embarrassing myself falling down in front of the group. I also bought a magic circlet that I find quite dashing, despite Maaka jokingly referring to me as “princess”.

The journey to Dur Barad took two days. We were jumped by some bandits on the way, but made short work of them.

When we arrived at the tower, we found that several outbuildings had been constructed around the entrance. These seemed to be the offices of the mushroom farm that Meletchka had mentioned. While investigating one of the buildings, Tor’s sharp eyes caught a glimpse of a kobold who was trying to hide from us. We tried to chase him down, and ran straight into a pack of lizardmen… leading a huge dinosaur!

A ferocious battle with the beast ensued, but we emerged victorious. As I write this, we are seated around our campfire, feasting on some dinosaur meat. Steeple seems preoccupied trying to fit one of the dinosaur’s rotting eyeballs onto some kind of tripod he’s constructed, and Romana is humming what is probably some long-forgotten tune. Maaka refused to eat any of the dinosaur meat, claiming it is a little too close to cannibalism for comfort for her. Tor is nowhere to be seen, but is probably lurking in the shadows somewhere.

Yep, just another day in the life of Douven’s Avengers.

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A Crown Fit For A... Warforged?!
The Life & Times of Mikael Stormriven, ch. 3

Come the morning, we returned to the dungeon to find my silver bell lifted off the jamb and set off to the side; clear evidence that at least one other group of adventurers was now ahead of us. Romana made a big deal out of studying the tracks, as she often does, and declared proudly that something had come through here. Great to know!

We raced onward, all pretense at stealth thrown out the window. In the next cavern we encountered some sort of hobgoblin drill sergeant inciting a bunch of ghosts into a frenzy. We made short work of him, and the ghosts seemed to calm down.

After a bit of climbing, we were upon a plateau overlooking a chamber containing a shallow pool of glowing water. Face down in the pool were a handful of hobgoblins, no doubt the remains of one of the parties who had passed us up. Surrounding the pool, I smirked to see the unconscious form of that foppish parrot Turlough Berwick… but the smirk faded quickly when my eyes slid past him to meet the gaze of none other than Demise! The Skullborn elf had just finished the ritual to reforge the Ashen Crown, and after taunting us, placed the crown upon her brow. Zarinthra Faireen, who was chained to the wall next to Demise, cried out in hope at the sight of Steeple but was immediately struck down before our very eyes by Demise’s foul magics.

Knowing we had to act quickly, the group surged forward and met the vile (yet admittedly quite beautiful— if only she hadn’t been Skullborn, sigh) Demise in battle, who was in the process of using the Ashen Crown to reanimate the forms of the dead hobgoblins. Tor led the attack, nimble on his feet as always, but was ambushed by Corwin Gunders, who had been hiding in a side passageway.

The sound of Corwin’s distinctive lilting accent sent me into a fury at the embarrassing memory of how he had repeatedly polymorphed me into a rat during our last foray. Corwin had apparently betrayed his group of Dark Lanterns to join forces with Demise, and as much as I hate to say it, I actually felt a little sympathy for Turlough. A little, mind you. Our group seemed to agree that he would be trouble if left alone, so Steeple, his magic sword and I surrounded Corwin and set about punishing his betrayal. Corwin must have been a little cocky or else just careless, for when he attempted to cast a lengthy spell, Steeple and I took the opportunity to strike. Corwin did not last long before our combined blades. I am grateful I did not have to again endure the shame of rathood.

Once Corwin fell, I leapt after Demise, who was shooting necrotic beams at Tor whilst her undead henchmen chased after Maaka. Romana’s arrows seemed to be successfully distracting the Skullborn, and she had also somehow made a bunch of thorny roots form beneath Demise’s feet. Steeple had catapulted one of his creepy dolls into the middle of the room, which seemed to be invisibly lashing out at Demise with every blow we landed. Against my better judgment, Maaka cast a healing spell upon Turlough Berwick, who surprised me by taking up his rapier and assisting us against Demise.

Even the mighty power of the crown was not enough to save Demise, whose vile magics could not overcome us once we had her surrounded. In the end, Tor landed the killing blow.

Immediately, Turlough began badgering us about our intentions with the Ashen Crown. I reminded him that he was lucky to be alive, and told him to take a message to Kalaes and the King that we would visit the Worldbearer tribe and decide for ourselves whether they were worthy of the crown or not. He took his leave, tail between his legs. As much an idiot as I think he is, I have to admit that I admire his tenacity. I only wish an old hag had been on hand to offer him a cup of tea, to fully repay him for what he did to us.

Standing over the fallen form of Zarinthra, in a majestic moment Steeple lifted the Ashen Crown off of Demise’s corpse and placed it upon his own brow. With a newfound gleam in his eyes, he began chanting and carving arcane runes in the rock surrounding Zarinthra. The rest of us just rested and watched in awe. A short time later, Zarinthra gasped and opened her eyes to find Steeple cradling her. By bringing her back to life, I think he definitely won some points in her book. In any case, it was a miraculous sight to behold. The legends of the Ashen Crown’s power are not exaggerated.

And so our quest has come to an end for now. We are back on our horse-drawn cart, meandering our way back towards Graywall. Zarinthra is alive, and hangs on Steeple’s every word. Steeple spent the journey repaying my assistance in saving her by instilling some more arcane power in my longsword, Aecris. Tor seems quiet, but I have noticed him stealing covetous glances at the Ashen Crown when he thinks no one is looking. Romana has been quiet as well, meditating for long periods in the back of the wagon, and wandering off into the forest whenever we come to a stop. Maaka keeps busy driving the wagon, and fills the silence by talking to the horses in a nonstop flood of draconic chatter.

As for myself, well, I have been keeping quiet as well. This adventure brought out some of the worst aspects of myself, and I have a lot of soul-searching to do. I just wish Douven were here to set me back on the correct path. All I can do is continue to live by the principles he taught me, and try to deal with the growing storm I feel in my mind on a day-to-day basis.

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Last Place In The Race
The Life & Times of Mikael Stormriven, ch. 2

With a sense of growing dread that we were far behind in the race for the pieces of the Ashen Crown, our group pushed onward through the crumbling, disgusting passageways of Six Kings. Before long, in a chamber ahead we spied some dolgrims engaged in a losing battle against some ghostly apparitions. Our group, exhausted and dangerously low on stamina, briefly debated just letting them all kill each other, but we decided in the end that we would utilize the element of surprise to ambush both groups.

Romana and Tor successfully guided us stealthily into position, which surprised me a bit since every previous group effort to sneak had resulted in Maaka accidentally knocking over something loud. Romana let loose with a volley of arrows, and the rest of us jumped out of the tunnels and began cutting down everything in sight. We employed our usual tactics, although at one point I was simultaneously surprised and disgusted when one of our enemies knocked into a nearby crusty old hobgoblin tapestry, which exploded outward in a cloud of noxious dust. Fortunately I covered my mouth with my cape before it could get into my lungs, but I still can’t seem to get the last out of my hair.

Thanks to our ambush, the battle was leaning pretty heavily in our favor, but before long a dolgaunt appeared! Remembering the horrid brush of tentacles from last time we fought a dolgaunt, we immediately concentrated on him but not before another pair of fearsome aberrant beasts joined the fight. These vile beasties looked like bugbears put through a meat grinder and then left out to rot. They must have regarded Maaka as the most menacing member of our party, for they kept picking her up and throwing her at the rest of us. Fortunately, we were always able to dodge, but I suspect it will take a while for her bruises and scrapes to fully fade.

Eventually we prevailed, using some of what Douven taught us and some of what our harsh experiences on our own have taught us. I was all for pushing onwards, but the rest of the group looked like they couldn’t handle any more wounds. They seemed a bit surprised that I was in such a hurry to find a piece of the Ashen Crown. It was at this moment that I levelled my gaze at Tor and Maaka and said, “I think it’s time we told them the truth.” Romana and Steeple exchanged a confused glance.

They had already known that while they were gone on their little foray into the forest, the rest of us had been assaulted in town by Turlough Berwick, Corwin Gunders and three other Dark Lanterns. What they didn’t know was the Dark Lanterns’ goal: they had been sent by Captain Kalaes to recover Ashurta’s Blade— and they had succeeded. Our group had lost the artifact! Furthermore, there were at least two other parties headed to Six Kings— we were in a race to find the pieces of the Crown interred here.

Romana was a bit angry that we hadn’t been truthful with her, but Steeple just accepted that I must have had a reason to hold back that information. He was right; my reason was my own embarrassment at failure, at losing something we all worked so hard for to a joke of a group like Turlough’s. I shot back at Romana that we never would have lost Ashurta’s Blade if her and Steeple had not disappeared, a statement I feel a bit bad about now; Douven tried to teach me not to blame others for my own shortcomings, but it is so hard sometimes.

Still, even knowing that the stakes were high did not sway the rest of the group into pushing onward. I was outvoted, and after finding a tunnel to the surface we camped for the night and nursed our wounds. In an effort to be warned of anyone coming in or out of the dungeon, I placed my trusty silver bell on the doorjamb and laid my bedroll nearby where I could hear it’s ring. This was really just an excuse to sleep away from the rest of the party, whom I was still angry at for not pushing onward.

And here I lay, too anxious to get much rest… for tomorrow will either end with us being a major player again in the race for the crown, or will end with us shamed once again.

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A Crown Unfit For A King
The Life & Times of Mikael Stormriven, ch. 1

As I write this, we are resting inside a canyon in Droaam called Six Kings. We have been chasing down the pieces of a busted old artifact called the Ashen Crown. Everyone and their cousin seems to want this thing. So far, this seems the kind of endearing fool’s errand that Douven would have sent us on, a shared sentiment which I suspect is all that keeps us going after the pieces. For the quest has not gone well for us so far, I’m afraid…

I’ve had my favorite scarlet cloak ripped to tatters by kruthiks in some gross old tomb, the seat of my trousers is wearing thin after sitting on some splintery old cart riding across what seems half of Droaam, and worst of all my pride has been damaged after getting knocked out by that poppinjay Turlough and his cronies. Waking up to some old hag offering me tea is not my idea of a good time. I’ll stick to younger ladies, preferably of Elven descent, thankyouverymuch.

The others do not fare much better. Romana grows a bit more despondent with each day that dawns with no new memories resurfacing. Steeple seems to have taken after Romana a bit, after mysteriously disappearing from camp for several days with her. Last night in camp, I even spied him making one of his creepy dolls that looked like Romana. If I didn’t know as much as I do about Warforged anatomy, I’d suspect something romantic was going on. On that note, I hope he finds his girlfriend and his master soon.

Tor has been getting increasingly deranged and violent. The rest of us suspect that this is related to his possession of Ashurta’s Blade, which makes me question whether we should really be pursuing any more pieces of some evil old hobgoblin crown. He keeps mentioning something about his father being a warlord in Droaam, but I suspect that this may be another delusion induced by carrying the artifact, as it seems a bit coincidental to have just come up now.

Our old friend Splug has abandoned us, taking coin to accompany another group on the quest to find the crown. This betrayal still stings, for Splug and I shared many a merry night of drinking together, and none of the rest of my companions can even tell an Aundain brandywine from a Darguunian gutwhiskey.

Maaka is the only one who seems to be just as happy-go-lucky as always. While the rest of us wearily trudge along unsure of our commitment to this quest, she stomps around humming happily and incinerating anthills with her breath. The fact that she apparently has a black dragon angry at her doesn’t seem to bother her a bit.

My hope is that if we recover enough of the pieces, we can use them to buy some much-needed favors. I still want to know what the hell happened in Winterhaven, and it would be nice to get a promotion within Lyrander so that I can put Ashleigh in her proper place. Also, coming back to Breland with the Ashen Crown would thoroughly embarrass that ridiculous rooster of a man Turlough and his employer, that uncompromising hobgoblin-lover of a captain.

Looks like the rest of the group is finished licking their wounds… I shall continue this later, should we survive.

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