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Session 34 – Chapter One

21st of Kythorn of the year 1492

Several hours was used to discuss when and how they were planning on crossing the river again.  They were concerned about the pirates coming back and figured that daytime would be the best so that they would all be able to see any ships approaching as they crossed.

After storytelling and truth and consequences completed, they party did their normal routine of watches, except there was a problem.  It seems that Yllanys and Dancer had wandered away from camp and did not come back in time for the first watch.  Angelica did a Sending to Yllanys hoping to find out where he was.

“So, we are getting ready to do our watches and uh, we cannot seem to find you anywhere, um, but Fwoosh was kind of walking…”

The incomplete message as a shock to Yllanys who was not familiar with this magic and was not sure why Angelica’s voice was in his head replied out loud.

“Woah, what, what is this going on. Um, I’m, I’m just about done with what I’m doing I’ll be back as soon as I can…”

Angelica informed the group that he thought that Yllanys was being polite and had wandered away from the camp for a huge poop. It was not until the end of the first watch that first Dancer arrived and shortly afterwards from a different direction Yllanys also arrived, but with a warm pot of stew and mystery meat.

The rest of the watches all passed without any issues.

22nd of Kythorn of the year 1492

Getting an early start the group started across the wide river. Angelica cast her Water Walking twice to cover everyone in the group. The party was very careful in watching for any coming ships or any other threats that might be approaching. It was wise to be wary, but unfortunately the threat that did approach can from below them.

The 12 of them were moving carefully across when a 40-foot wide electrical struck knocking out all the dwarves, and almost taking out a couple of the party members. Large shadows approached from below and fish-type of people began attacking from below.

Fish People Warriors

Fish Person Caster

The battle was fast and dangerous.  With many members of the party falling unconscious at different times, they all managed to survive, although one of the five Dwarves that had been accompanying them took too much damage and died while floating on the water near them. The group was able to murder what appeared to be the four fish-men warriors, but the caster fled at some point.  Combat was difficult, particular when the opponents were underwater, and the caster was able to come and go from their visibility while staying deeper under the water.

 Angelica pulled out a scroll of Revivify and brought the dead Dwarf back to life before the body had time to cool. Trying to move more quickly across the river carrying the Dwarven members that were still not recovered, they managed to make it somewhat safely across the River Dessarin once again. It was not difficult to find their old trail back to their wagons and Vladimir was very surprised that their four horses were all still alive, hungry, and thirsty, but still alive.

Harnessing up the wagons and starting the journey back to Red Larch, the group began to find their way home. Traveling to an area just passed where they had found the shallow graves, they found a nice place to camp that was off the main trail hopefully hiding themselves to a certain extent.  The only item of interests was that at some point during the day, they were shadowed by flying creatures high above them.  Not knowing if they were just large birds, or perhaps the Feathergale Knights the group showed an overall lack of interested.

It was during the trip that Yllanys brought out the diary he had found in the church at the pirate keep.

Diary from Pirate Keep

Diary from Pirate Keep, Part Two

ISAC also used this time to discuss and describe his dreams of the portal, and how he thought that the statue had somehow locked it.  There was also the disconcerting thing that seemed to happen when certain creatures died nearby ISAC, and small colored balls of light floated from the dead bodies to the statue.  In this case, small blue balls of light floated out of the dead fish-people.

While the discussions were going on, Fwoosh and Ace repeated loss at cards to the Dwarves leaving them a couple of gold less than they started.

With something that had specific dates, they tried to start correlating different pieces of information and places they had been to attempt to get a better idea of the bigger picture of what has been happening.

And this where the session ended.

Session 33 – Chapter One

20th of Kythorn of the year 1492

Making their way across the river the party of seven and the five dwarves slowly walked across the water to the far side.  Looking back when they were a hundred feet away, they realized that the illusion wall blocking sight of the keep was still in place and did not end with the death of the inhabitants.  It was some sort of powerful magic that is hiding the keep. They moved as well as they could, but the fast-moving river pushed against their gains, but they were able to make across before the magic ended allowing them to walk across the water. The Dwarves were queried about their work and the party was told about how the sage new the most about what was under the Sumber Hills, but he had been taken by the earth cultists. When asked about the attack, the Dwarves relayed what they knew.

The day had dawned clear and bright, with the sun casting its warm glow over the rolling hills. The delegation, a caravan of seasoned travelers and skilled guards, made steady progress along the well-worn path. Laughter and conversation filled the air, mingling with the sounds of hooves and wagon wheels. But as the sun reached its zenith, a sudden, ominous change swept over the landscape.

Without warning, the tranquility of the journey was shattered. Massive boulders, hurled from the surrounding hills, came crashing down with terrifying force. I was caught completely off-guard, watching in horror as the caravan was thrown into disarray. Wagons splintered under the impact, horses reared in panic, and guards scrambled to form a defensive line.

Emerging from their hiding spots among the hills, the attackers revealed themselves – hill giants of staggering size and brute strength. With each earth-shaking step, they advanced, wielding clubs large enough to crush a man with a single blow. I felt a chill of fear, the sight of these colossal beings igniting a primal terror.

As the giants closed in, another threat joined the fray. From the shadows of the hills, men clad in heavy stone plate armor, spiked and formidable. The armor gave them an almost otherworldly appearance, as if they were creatures born from the earth itself. In their hands, they carried maces and hammers, the metal glinting menacingly in the sunlight.

The guards of the delegation fought bravely, their swords and spears dancing in the light as they tried to protect the caravan. But they were outmatched. The hill giants’ clubs swept through their ranks with devastating ease, while the men, protected by their stone armor, moved through the chaos with a terrifying purpose.

Caught amid the battle, I felt a surge of helplessness. The sounds of combat – the clash of metal, the roars of the giants, the cries of the wounded – filled the air, creating a cacophony of despair. Dust and blood rose in a grim cloud, obscuring the once-peaceful hills.

In the chaos, I found myself face to face with one of the men. The man’s eyes, visible through the slits in the spiked helmet, burned with a fanatical fervor. For a moment, time seemed to stand still, the gravity of the situation sinking in.

Then, just as suddenly as it had begun, the battle shifted. The surviving members of the delegation were rounded up, the cultists binding their hands and leading them away from the carnage. As I was marched off, I cast a final glance back at the ambush site. The once serene hills were now a tableau of destruction, the ground littered with the fallen.

As I was led deeper into the Sumber Hills, my thoughts were a whirlwind of fear and uncertainty. What had started as a routine journey had turned into a nightmare, the hills themselves now a haunting reminder of the ambush’s brutality and the unforgiving nature of their attackers.

The discussion moved to the different cult groups and if the Feathergale knights were part of the air cultists or not. The party seemed to be unsure one way or the other but were leaning toward that they were just another knight society like the Knights of Samular. Fwoosh regaled them about the jumping from the spire adventure. Vladimir showed Fwoosh a note he had found in the keep on Jolliver’s desk, and then stashed it quickly back in his bag. When Ace asked about the Vale of Dancing Water, he and the rest were told that it was a Dwarven temple known for hosting marriages and probably not related to the water cult even though the name had water in it. But, without investigating they would never know for sure. When the original members started talking about dreams and prophecies, Ace and Yllanys began getting more worried about the others.

They came on to the shore and Dancer was able to see some carts that had been well hidden behind a boulder nearby.  Investigating them revealed that they were carts from the delegation.  They were a bit worn, but still functional even after being left sitting here for nearly a month in the weather.  The Dwarves confirmed that these were some of the cargo wagons that had been with their group.  None of the trade wagons were here.  It seems that after being captured, the cultists brought the cargo here and loaded it either on the pirate ships or carried it elsewhere without the need of wagons. Dancer, always on the search for some loot inspected the wagons hoping to find a hidey-hole of some sort, and he did pick up a small chest of gold that he found in a hidden compartment in one of the wagons.

Ace took the lead on finding the trail back to the ambush site with Yllanys pushing for them to hurry so he could recover his spellbook as quickly as possible. With the late start of the day, they were not able to get to their destination before darkness fell forcing them to make camp or likely getting lost in the dark.  Yllanys cooked up a cold meal for the group with some questionable mystery meat, but everyone seemed to like it. Their tent not large enough to hold everyone, they purposely left out the most farty dwarf in the group. The rest of the dwarven tradesmen all agreed to the arrangement.

The night went mostly unmolested until a group of bugbears were able to sneak up on those on watch.  The low number of bugbears proved to be only a minor and quick annoyance to the group.  The one dwarf left outside took advantage of the chaos and snuck inside the tent to sleep with most of the rest. The rest of the evening passed without too many issued beyond the tent having an odd permanent odor now. The only odd event was under the tree where Dancer was sleeping Yllanys started carving up the bugbears as if he was looking for something in or on the bodies.

While on watch with ISAC, Ace had questions, many questions.  He was interested in his nature and wanted to learn more. It proved to be interesting for Ace in many ways. Ace responded by giving some of his background and how he ended up here. During Vladimir’s watch he had a long and interesting conversation with one of the dwarven smith’s about his maul.  He had to dance around where he found it, but the smith reiterated that the maul seemed to be incomplete, or that it was so old it had lost some of its magic.

Bugbear

21st of Kythorn of the year 1492

Morning arrived with Yllanys cooked another wonderful meal of interesting meats. With the new day started, Vladimir did not wait to ask his broken sword a burning question he had.

“Where did Yllanys get the bacon?”

“No Dancer, that is not what I am going to ask.”

“Is Yllanys’ spellbook in the tree where he left it?”

“WEAL”

With that answer, they picked up the camp and marched forward with some confidence. It did not take very long to complete their trip to the ambush site once they started going in the correct direction.

The once-disturbed earth along the secluded path had settled, the upheaval of combat softened by a carpet of new growth. Fresh leaves and underbrush had sprouted, partially obscuring the ground where the struggle had occurred. Yet, beneath this veneer of tranquility, subtle irregularities in the terrain hinted at the desperate conflict that had unfolded. Faint indentations, now almost level with the surrounding soil, marked the hastily dug graves where the fallen were interred. The piles of stones that covered these graves had begun to blend with the natural landscape, though their arrangement was just too methodical, too deliberate to be the work of nature alone.

The passage of time had dulled the more immediate signs of the ambush. Rain and wind had erased the tracks of the hill giants and cultists, leaving only the most resilient traces of their passage. Broken branches and trampled undergrowth had mostly recovered, their damage concealed by new leaves and shoots. Yet here and there, the forest bore subtle scars: a tree with a barely healed gash in its bark, a bush whose growth was stunted and uneven.

Scattered remnants of the caravan itself lay hidden in plain sight, ensnared by the forest’s embrace. Rust-covered weapons, their edges blunted by time and the elements, lay half-buried under a layer of leaves. Fragments of torn cloth, once vibrant and colorful, were now faded and frayed, clinging to the underbrush like forgotten flags of a defeated army. Small, personal items – a broken wheel from a cart, a dulled piece of jewelry, a cracked leather strap – were strewn about, each telling its own silent story of the tragedy that had occurred.

Yllanys ran to a tree and recovered his spellbook.  Finally feeling complete again.  While the rest looked over the ambush site. The only thing that really stuck out were a couple of piles or stone that were similar to the graves they had seen before. Looking around they were able to find more evidence of the ambush, broken trees, a few boulders out of place, and just a general mess that should not be in the wilderness.

The trip back down to the river went far more quickly than the one up to the ambush site, mostly because they did not have to move as slowly to find the trail to get to their destination. Arriving at the coast by sunset they decided to camp and rest again. Before settling down for the evening, Fwoosh set up a Zone of Truth for an interesting game with the rest of the party. It was funny enough to cause the party to be interested in doing this more frequently.

The trip back down to the river went far more quickly than the one up to the ambush site, mostly because they did not have to move as slowly to find the trail to get to their destination. Arriving at the coast by sunset they decided to camp and rest again.

And this is where the session ended.

History Lesson

Good evening gentlefolks and cretins.  I am your host Dr Weedlebucket.  Your normal host Professor Bourgh-Ettin has taken a leave of absence to spend some time exploring the continent of Maztica.  Hopefully he will not be eaten and come back soon enough to do his damn job. While he is relaxing in some jungle being chased by hostile natives and giant lizards, I shall take you on a different path of education. Now that I have your attention, we will move on to our topic this week.  The Elemental Plane of Water.

The Elemental Plane of Water was an Inner Plane or Elemental Plane of the Great Wheel cosmology and the World Tree cosmology models. After the Spellplague, the Elemental Plane of Water collapsed into the Elemental Chaos, mixing with all the other Inner Planes. Water is one of the four elements and two energies that make up the known universe and therefore of great interest to cosmologists. This plane was abundant with life: native creatures born of the elemental nature of the plane itself, sentient water-breathing peoples, and most every species of aquatic life that could survive after being sucked through a vortex from their plane of origin.

Cosmology

According to the Great Wheel cosmology model, the Elemental Plane of Water could be reached via the Ethereal Plane, an adjacent elemental plane, or by an elemental vortex. The Pale River vortex on the Elemental Plane of Earth had its source here, and there was a vortex to the Plane of Air called the Bubble Net. If traveling through the Deep Ethereal, a green curtain of vaporous color indicated the boundary of the Plane of Water’s Border Ethereal region. Once in the Border Ethereal, a traveler could observe the Plane of Water and be detected by its denizens. Using the spherical model, this plane was adjacent to the para-elemental planes of Ice and Ooze and the quasi-elemental planes of Steam and Salt. Elemental vortices could occur wherever a high concentration or nearly pure form of an element was found, and could be temporary or permanent. Vortices to the Plane of Water could often be found in the deepest parts of the seas and oceans, in clear underground lakes, or as surface whirlpools in any large body of water. Temporary gates could be created by the plane shift spell or the abilities of high-level druids.

As described by the World Tree cosmology model, the Astral Plane connected all planes with the Prime Material Plane and the Ethereal Plane was only used for journeying between locations on the Prime. The Elemental Plane of Water was not connected or coterminous with any other elemental plane, however both the cross-planar rivers Styx and Oceanus were known to have vortices to the Plane of Water and there were known portals to the Fated Depths. The spell astral projection could be used to reach the Plane of Water via a dark blue color pool. Additionally, the gate and plane shift spells could be used to open a temporary portal to this plane, provided a lead fork tuned to the note of A was used as a spell focus.

It was said that portals to the Water Plane could be found in the cold, clear depths of the Moonsea in North Faerûn and the Riftlake in the Great Rift of South Faerûn.

Description

There was no deep or shallow, no dark depths nor wavy surface, just an endless ocean that felt as if you were submerged several feet in any body of water on the Prime Material Plane. There was no sun, yet the water itself seemed to glow dimly with a bluish green luminescence. Volumes of water at any temperature and salinity could be found if you knew where to look or had a guide. The Great Wheel cosmology model explained this by the proximity to the para- and quasi-elemental planes: water became cold and formed icebergs as you neared the Plane of Ice; water became brackish as you approached the Plane of Salt; water became silty and slimy as you neared the Plane of Ooze; water started to boil as you approached the Plane of Steam. The World Tree cosmology described this plane as having all varieties of water constantly in motion, influenced by currents and tides. Life that depended on conditions flowed along with their preferred environment or suffered the consequences. Impurities such as bubbles of air, chunks of earth, and even short-lived balls of fire could be found floating about due to elemental vortices or the workings of powerful beings. Habitats and settlements typically formed near sources of food and shelter, or near portals and vortices to facilitate trade.

Supporting the teeming life of this plane were the corals and plants that made their way here and found purchase. Huge drifting three-dimensional reefs and loose spheres of freshwater grasses, kelp, and seaweed were home to myriad species and were fertile fishing spots. Travelers had to keep in mind that large predators knew of these fishing grounds also, or else they might discover just how bite-sized they were. Just like a Prime Ocean, the Elemental Plane of Water seemed to have no limit on how large some creatures could be as giant squid, aboleth, and kraken were known to prowl the plane. Small creatures could be deadly too, with poisonous spines or barbed tails. The smallest of them all was perhaps the deadliest: algae that formed the infamous “red tide”. Exposure of the eyes or lungs to the red tide caused blinding sickness.

If the Plane of Water had any weather, it was the currents, whirlpools, tidal bores, and flows of ice, steam, or silt that could inconvenience a traveler or be a deadly surprise. Usually invisible, currents could be strong enough to pull visitors off in some direction for long distances before they were able to exit the current. Tidal bores were the most dangerous currents, hitting like a thrown boulder and carrying the unlucky creature away for miles (kilometers). Whirlpools were caused by countervailing currents that sucked everything in a tightening spiral, some of which led to vortices to other planes. Ice and silt flows were easy to spot before encountering, but steam flows were nearly undetectable and could cause nasty burns or boil the flesh from your bones.

Inhabitants

It is difficult to determine what type of creatures were the most numerous in the Elemental Plane of Water but presumably the water elementals had the upper hand because they were manifestations of the plane itself. They could take on any shape their fluid bodies could form but they were extremely hard to see, similar to the effect of a robe of blending, and therefore were often described as blurry versions of Prime Material Plane animals and monsters typically of the aquatic variety. Water weirds, an intelligent life form that could possess water elementals, were also thought to be native to this plane.

All other peoples and creatures are interlopers or inadvertent immigrants by way of being sucked through an elemental vortex. Those that made a home here and thrived included some jann, the marids, the nereids, and the tritons. Besides almost every species of salt- and fresh-water marine life, there were reports of sightings or encounters with many creatures including aboleth, charonadaemons, black and bronze dragons, eyes of the deep, mephits of the ice, ooze, steam, and water varieties, mud-men, sea hags, tojanida, varrdig, and will-o’-wisps, a a variety of monstrous creatures that would be able to dwarf mountains with their size.

Trade also brought many different races to the Elemental Plane of Water. Merchants that traded with the dao and the marids included aquatic elves, humans, kuo-toans, lizardfolk, locathah, mercanes, and sahuagin.

Survival

Basics: In many respects, the plane of water is the safest of all. Thirst isn’t a problem if you stay away from the salty areas. Light shines from all directions as if you were just below the surface of a lake on a sunny day in the Prime Material. No gravity except a slight tug towards anything bigger than a ship if you’re close. You can carry your food around: any wooden barrel with decent buoyancy weighs nothing and you can tie it to a rope. What’ll kill you is the overwhelming vastness of it. I had a friend who was swept off the deck of the ship by a freak current. Once he’d gone about 60 feet from us, we couldn’t see him anymore and there was no chance of finding him. He probably floated for days before starving. If he found a coral reef or a seaweed ball, he’d have enough raw fish to live for months or years. Until scurvy or slavers got him really. If he was lucky, he was swallowed by a kraken before he knew what killed him. The lack of fire is a problem though. Cooking, metal-working, keeping warm, reading, smoking, signaling, branding, all of that is so difficult, you just wouldn’t believe. It’s why everyone converges around the air pockets I suppose.

Breathing: Oh, breathing? Obviously, you can’t breathe, you dolt! It’s water! What did you think? Most are happy enough staying in the City of Glass or in some prosperous bubble in the Sea of Worlds. We travelers need to get Water Breathing somewhere. Not from the party wizard because it’s got a verbal component and I’d like to see her cast with her mouth full of water. Not from the Glass Nixies either: they can undo their spell any time they want so there’s a better than even chance they’ll keep you as a slave, dependent on them for your every breath. No. We’ll have to buy you rings of water breathing. If you can’t afford that, you’ll have to settle for decanters of endless air to make a bubble around your ship.

Hazards, combat, and “weather”: It’s not all smooth sailing and calm seas. Doldrums are dangerous but so are currents if you don’t know them. Some currents plunge you down to the Darkened Depths, others trap ships in century-long loops. That’s how you get Flying Dutchmen, ships maintained by the undead skeletons of the crew. Then there’s salt patches, ooze patches, steam, and whirlpools. Places that boil you alive and others that freeze you to death. Always be on the lookout for red tide or it’ll blind you and melt you. Finally, there’s the sea monsters. You can feel their pull long before you see them: aboleth, kraken, giant squid, leviathans, giant darkmantles, dragon turtles, dragons, giants, and -if rumor is to be believed- gods themselves and a tarrasque.

Don’t expect to be able to fight any of those or even the average sahuagin: ranged weapons fail, melee attacks become slow and ponderous and magic words must be pronounced differently underwater. Tridents, nets, sharks, and other swimmers on the other hand become deadly. You’ve been warned.

Locations within the Plane

City of Glass: The City of Glass is a great metropolis enclosed within a sphere of hardened water, a nigh unbreakable barrier that protects the city. Half is underwater, half is filled with air, depending on the districts. This inter-dimensional trading hub is filled with merchant ships and portals to every other plane. That’s where we’ll start our journey. Each race and each great merchant family have a “House”; every five years, each House elects their leader to sit on the ruling Council. It is highly cosmopolitan with every kind of air breather and water breather from halflings to giants, fae to merfolk.

Sea of Worlds: The great bubbles of air your “maps” come from. There’s too many to list them all and they’re far too varied to say much. Imagine a giant bubble of air the size of a planet with bits of rock and earth trapped on the edges by the surface tension, always half in and half out, with an air-breathing civilization living on one side of the “island”, trading with a water-breathing one under their feet. They’re littered with unexplored islands, coves, plains, beaches, and jungles. Many become wealthy because air lets you have forges and agricultural land. Metal and timber are so rare in the Plane of Water that they’ll trade for pearls and gold. Of course, fire, soil and metal attract wealth, but wealth attracts pirates, and some bubble-worlds are nothing more than raiding bases and hideouts.

Isle of Dread: We’re not traveling to the Isle of Dread. Out of the question. I’ve shipwrecked there enough times to do me a lifetime. It’s one of the largest bubble-worlds out there, a continent crawling with dinosaurs, undead, strange natives, warring kingdoms, and the odd lunatic trying to find the City of Gold. I came back from the Valley of Diamonds myself, but I repeat. It. Is. Not. Worth. It. Not unless you’re in desperate need of riches or have a desire to meet an exciting end.

Citadel of Ten Thousand Pearls: “The Citadel of Ten Thousand Pearls is the greatest of Marid communities and the seat of the Coral Throne. From this court emanates the wise rulership of the Great Padishah of the Marid, the Keeper of the Empire, the Pearl of the Sea, the Parent of the Waves, the Maharaja of the Oceans, Emir of All Currents, and so forth.” Which is to say, it’s a dangerous nest of backstabbing courtiers with a lot of wealth and magical power but no capacity to enforce their claim to ownership of the plane beyond their walls. Even other Marid only pays lip service to the Padishah’s edicts.

Floating outposts & sunken cities: Remember what I said about any large body pulling smaller things to it? A patch of coral or seaweed can snowball into a great reef or deep jungle with shoals of fish living in them. Some folks let ships or specially constructed wooden structures grow into floating castles; sunken cities or rocky “planets” become moving metropolises, messy amalgamations that house millions within their towered homes or interior caves. Obviously, it’s mostly merfolk and water-breathers but all the large ones have water-tight centers filled with air for guests, books, or artisans. In this manner, most of the plane’s inhabitants are nomads of a kind.

Deity Realms

  • Blibdoolpoolp, the Sea Mother of the Kuo-toa, once dwelled in the Elemental Plane of Water in her domain called the Murky Depths.
  • Eadro, deity of the locathah and merfolk, had his realm of Shelluria on the plane.
  • Istishia, The Water Lord, God-King of Water Elementals, once had a realm called Sea of Timelessness here. After the Spellplague he was revealed to be a primordial and he formed a domain in the Elemental Chaos called Cresting Spires.
  • Kalbari al-Durrat al-Amwaj ibn Jari, Padishah of the Marids, Pearl of the Sea, Mother of Foam, Mistress of the Rivers, Savior of Fish, Patron of Waterspouts, and many more titles, had a palace near the Bubble Net called the Citadel of Ten Thousand Pearls.
  • Olhydra, Princess of Evil Water Creatures, once inhabited the ruins of a huge citadel made from black coral. She claimed it was the capital of a great empire that she destroyed long ago.
  • Persana, God of the tritons, shared the realm of Shelluria with Eadro.
  • Tefnut, mother of Geb in the Mulhorandi pantheon, was said to live here, though she also had a realm in Bytopia.

Campaign Notes

The party finally got to the delegation ambush site and while not finding anything new, but were able to recover Yllanys’ spellbook.

Sword Mountains

Description

North of Waterdeep, the Sword Mountains march north toward the Neverwinter Woods. Although not militarily significant, this range shields the Dessarin river valley and the High Forest from the
worst of the storms that blow in from the Trackless Sea. The western flanks of the range are home to
orcs, bugbears, kobolds, leucrottas and other dangerous creatures. Self-styled bandit lords, such as
Amalkyn the Black and the wizard Helduth Flamespell, have long-established holds in the region. The
southern peaks are home to stone giants and more fearsome menaces, as well as sylphs on the high ledges and peaks. The Sword Mountains is littered with ruins dating back to the orcish empire of Uruth Ukrypt and the dwarf and gnome clanholds that preceded it.

Geography

With an arc-like shape, the mountains were located northwest of Waterdeep and east of the Mere of Dead Men. Their western slopes led to the Trackless Sea in rolling foothills.

History

The mountains were home to orcs and trolls, but after the orcs were united by Wund and the Brotherhood of the Scarlet Scourge in the Year of the Red Rain, 927 DR, a shaman named Wund arose among the orc tribes of the Sword Mountains. On the eve of the Feast of the Moon, as Wund had prophesied, blood red thunderclouds engulfed the Sword Mountains. For three days the slopes ran wet with blood, leaving behind the sickening stench of rot and decay. All manner of plagues quickly swept through the region. Many orcs (and other folk) died by the White Hand of Yutrus, including every tribal chieftain, but the spawn of Gruumsh who survived the crucible of plagues grew stronger.

In the immediate aftermath of the Blood Plagues, Wund established a monastic order known as the Brotherhood of the Scarlet Scourge. Members of the order organized the surviving orc tribes into a united realm under the spiritual guidance of the brotherhood. The most powerful chieftain, a massive, unintelligent tusker named Uruth, was crowned king by Wund. This was a contributing factor to the Trollwars.

In the Year of the Sky Raiders (936 DR), the armies of Uruth Ukrypt swept down the eastern slopes of the Sword Mountains. The armies of Waterdeep battled the orcs of Uruth Ukrypt in a series of pitched battles known as the Orcfastings War. Early orc victories in the Battle of Whirling Blades, the Battle of Sarcrag, and the Battle of Withered Fields drove Waterdeep’s forces back to the gates of Nimoar’s Hold. However, a timely feint by the Duke of Calandor enabled Nimoar’s forces to break the orcs’ siege of the hold in the Battle of Burning Cliffs. They hatched another plan to attack in the Year of the Cold Claws, 940 DR, but this plan was ruined by the gold dragon Palarandusk.

Due to a raid on Ukrypt’s crypt by a human adventuring company called the Dawnbringer Company in the Year of Lathander’s Light, 1024 DR, the orcs of the Brotherhood of the Scarlet Scourge formed a horde called the Broken Bone with the intent of destroying Waterdeep. Their plans were once again ruined by a dragon; this time Lhammaruntosz. Still determined to exact their revenge, the orcs formed another horde, calling it the Black Claw, and in the Year of Crimson Magics, 1026 DR they came from the mountains to attack Waterdeep. This attack proved unsuccessful, and they were defeated, causing the orcs to lose their unity and plunge into a period of tribal conflict and the orcs of the Sword Mountains disintegrated into warring tribes.

Sumber Hills

Description

Covering an area of some 2,600 square miles, the Dessarin Hills are lightly settled by remote, walled farmsteads, armed mining camps, and small trade posts supported by villages nestled in fertile valleys and trade along the Dessarin River. Thick woodland cloaks much of the hills, crisscrossed with old drover trails leading between higher moorland and hay meadows. Hundreds of small streams have carved valleys through the hills, supporting many fertile farms.

The Sumber Hills were a range of hills in the middle of the Dessarin Valley. The River Dessarin flowed through the hills, providing a source of water travel between Yartar and downstream communities such as Beliard, Bargewright Inn, and Womford. The Larch Path and the Dessarin Road provided passage through the hills.

  • Area: 2,600 square miles (53% woodland, 24% moorland, 13% meadows, 6% farmland, 4% other)
  • Population: 9,800 (59% human, 8% halfling, 6% half-orc, 6% dwarf, 4% half-elf, 3% elf, 14% other)
  • Allies: The Emerald Enclave is represented in this region by the Greywood Circle, a group of druids who are named for their place of meeting amid a tall stand of grey weirwood trees near the village of Three Waters. The Lord’s Alliance is represented by Mayor Cassandra Thorne of Three Waters, owner of the Three Waters Trading Coster. Sigrun Greyshield leads her dwarven clan, who have become wealthy from iron and silver mines throughout the hills. Various other leaders can be found amid the region’s other settlements.
  • Threats: Several goblin clans lair in caves up in the foothills, mostly serving a small tribe of hill giants that lack the tactical acumen to mount an effective attack against the folk of the valleys. A roc claims the tallest peak in the hills, occasionally swooping from the sky to snatch a cow or sheep in each of its mighty talons, but otherwise leaving humanoids alone. A few ettins also have their dens in the hills.

History

One of the first settlements in the Sumber Hills was the underground city of Tyar-Besil, a part of the shield dwarf kingdom of Besilmer. Tyar-Besil was abandoned and fell into ruin in −4190 DR, after the king of Besilmer died in battle. The Sumber Hills were left alone until the Knights of the Silver Horn started clearing the area of its native inhabitants in the Year of the Raised Sword, 893 DR. The knights attempted to set up fortresses in the hills but were stopped by Uruth Ukrypt. These events eventually played a part in the Orcfastings War, and the First and Second Trollwars. Around the Year of the Wailing Winds, 1000 DR, settlements started springing up around the Sumber Hills, creating roads and trails that bisected the hills.

Locations

Settlements

  • Red Larch
  • Beliard

Points of interest

  • Vale of Dancing Waters
  • Sacred Stone Monastery
  • Feathergale Spire
  • Rivergard Keep
  • Stone Bridge
  • Summit Hall
  • Tyar-Besil

Campaign Details

The Sumber Hills are windswept badlands sparsely covered in dry grass. Many of the hills have exposed rock faces or steep escarpments. While the hills are dry, countless tiny streams rise from hidden springs (usually clean and drinkable), then flow down to join the Dessarin River, which bisects the hills. Most locals only think of the wilder, higher hills west of the river when they hear “Sumber Hills,” because it’s there that once had rich quarries and good hunting. Some hunting lodges and keeps owned by wealthy Waterdhavians or adventurers remain-and in recent times have become homes to bandits and monsters.

Those who quarry the Sumber Hills for building stones and gravel often trade tales of finding gemstones and rich veins of ore in the hills-but for the most part, these persistent tales have never been more than talk. In the last few years, the infamous “Haunted Keeps” in the western Sumber Hills have all been reoccupied. Sightings of strange beasts and menacing figures have increased, too.

Sighing Valley

The Sighing Valley was a canyon that ran through the southern stretch of the Sumber Hills in the Dessarin Valley. It earned its name from the whipping winds that created a sighing sound as they passed by the canyon’s features.

Features

The Sighing Valley comprised a wide canyon floor dotted with several tors, rocky spires, and mesas. Winding between these features was a rather small waterway known as the Lost River. One of the more notable features of the Sighing Valley was Feathergale Spire, a tower that served as the headquarters of the Waterdhavian Feathergale Knights in the late 15th century.

  • Fog: At night, fog fills the canyon, limiting visibility to 100 feet. Beyond that range, creatures and objects are heavily obscured.
  • Light: The canyon is brightly lit during the day, and light varies at night from dim to dark.
  • Walls: The canyon walls are 200 to 400 feet high.

Rumors

There have been unsubstantiated rumors that there is an ankheg nest somewhere in the valley.

Sacred Stone Monastery

Description

A trail leads into an ever-narrowing defile between bluffs of wind-sculpted sandstone. Eventually the walls draw in so closely that you can reach out and touch either side, but then the narrow space opens into a hidden canyon in the heart of the hills. A sprawling monastery with dark, narrow windows and red tile rooftops stands in the middle of this natural amphitheater, ringed by sandstone cliffs all around.

Ahead, a weathered flight of stone steps leads up to the closed monastery doors. The plain doors are made of heavy timber with iron studs. A dusty footpath circles the building.

Ruined Moathouse

This is an old Dwarvish fortification used to supplement the defense of the valley.  Through the years it has been mostly forgotten, but it has been occupied, sacked, and reoccupied several times over the years helping its poor condition.  It was constructed in 1060DR (432 years ago) by Baron Kragrut Underforge.  He ruled the area for over a hundred years.

There are a few additions and repairs each time it is reoccupied, but the current occupant is not as interested in rebuilding a full fortification.

Getting There

Just getting to the keep is a difficult trek.  It is over ten miles off Cairn Road.  While the land around the road is mostly simple grasslands and some woods, the area around the Moathouse is a very damp and swampy area.  Movement is 25% formal for anyone moving through the area.  This is primarily to decrease the chance of falling into a bog or overly muddy area.

Description

A scrub of thorns, thistles, weeds, and shrubs grows thickly along the edge of the track which leads to the ruins. Even the track is mostly overgrown and cluttered with fallen branches and trees. Here and there it is washed out, in other places a mire.

Some game evidently still follows the pathway, however, for after a mile or so faint traces can be seen. But even considering this, going is slow, and it takes over an hour to reach the place on horseback, or two to trudge along on foot. Considerable hacking and clearing are necessary to make the way passable, so double the time required for the first trip. After two miles, as the track turns more northerly, the land begins to sink and become boggy. Tall marsh plants grow thickly where cattails and tamaracks do not. Off to the left can be seen the jagged silhouette of the Moathouse.

A side path banked high to cross over the wetland to either side, just north to the entrance of the ruin. The track here is only about 15 feet wide or so, with crumbling embankments making travel near the edge dangerous. The bogs stink. The vegetation appears dense and prolific, but somehow sickly and unhealthy, creepers and vines throwing their strangling loops over the skeletons of dead saplings and living bushes alike. The rushes and cattails rustle and bend even to a slight zephyr, and weird birdcalls, croaking’s, and other unwholesome sounds come faintly across the fen.

The Ruined Moathouse was set off the main road in the fetid marshes.  The track continues past the ruins for many miles.  It takes more than a day to reach the place via horseback from Cairn Road.  It would easily take several days by foot.  Considerable hacking and clearing are necessary to make the way passable. 

Fill was added to the center of a sluggish stream which now flows around the structure forming a natural moat.  The water surrounding the small castle is five to eight feet deep and choked with reeds and vegetation concealing the water’s edge.

The Moathouse walls are constructed of fitted stone blocks a full ten feet thick.  The tops of the outer walls are crenulated battlements, providing cover for soldiers standing on the parapet.  Arrow slits are indicated on the map.  These provided full cover to archers or crossbowmen that defended the Moathouse.  Several sections of the walls have been destroyed and can provide access to the interior. 

Rivergard Keep

Description

A small but strongly built castle on the banks of the Dessarin River, Rivergard Keep is one of the Haunted Keeps of the Sumber Hills. A taciturn mercenary lord named Jolliver Grimjaw and his band of sells words occupy the keep. They are repairing the old castle and protecting trade along the river from the depredations of monsters and bandits, or so they claim. In fact, Rivergard Keep is the secret stronghold of the Cult of the Crushing Wave. Grimjaw and his followers are the very outlaws from whom they claim to be defending trade.

Red Larch

Description

The town of Red Larch was a way stop on the Long Road seven days north of Waterdeep and was located at the intersection of three trails. One trail led to the Bargewright Inn, another to Kheldell, and the third ran into the hills to derelict, monster-infested keeps. The town was named for a stand of red larch trees that were chopped down about the time of the town’s founding.

Red Larch is a town on the Long Road, a few days’ travel north of Waterdeep and a few days’ travel south of Triboar. It’s a way stop for caravans coming to or from the cities of the North, with an inn named the Swinging Sword, a tavern called the Helm at Highsun, and many craftspeople who cater to travelers.

Hills partitioned into fields and pastures by fieldstone fences or hedges surround Red Larch. A mile or so outside the town, cultivated areas give way to unspoiled wilderness. Miles of hills, woods, and grassland stretch on as far as the eye can see, filled with plentiful wildlife.

The Swinging Sword and the Blackbutter Inn are the only inns, and the Helm at Highsun is a large tavern across the street from the inn. Locals gather at Guelker’s store or the tavern to gossip. Ironhead Arms is the best place to buy weapons and armor, and Halvor Tarnlar sells well-made clothing for travelers. Red Larch doesn’t have a mayor, but Constable Harburk keeps the peace. Characters affiliated with factions might know the names of faction agents and supporters in town.

Trade

Red Larch was known for its nourishing, though otherwise non-noteworthy food, called crumblecake. Crumblecakes were made into moist loaves from nuts, chickpea mash, chopped roots and greens, turkey, and wildfowl scraps, all baked together.

Defenses

Around the Year of the Staff, 1366 DR, the town had a militia of around 100 skilled archers, mostly younger boys, who train by keeping predators away from the poultry farm, Mhandyvver’s Poultry. This led raiding parties amongst the orcs to avoid the town.

History

The town was named after a small forest stand of larches that extended along the ridge. The trees, however, were felled by the first settlers in the region, who chose that location thanks to a natural water spring that fed into a small pond that could serve as drinking water for burden animals.

Lance Rock

Description

A prominent landmark near Red Larch, Lance Rock is a slender stone monolith that juts up out of the plains a few miles west of the Long Road. It stands only about 50 feet high, but the land nearby is flat and open, so it can be seen from miles away on a clear day. Lance Rock is made of granite that doesn’t match any other stone nearby and looks like it was dropped from the sky-which it was. Long ago, Claugiyliamatar, the ancient green dragon known as “Old Gnawbone,” took the enormous stone from the Sword Mountains and dropped it on a rival red dragon. The red dragon’s bones are long gone, and few but Claugiyliamatar know the origin of the stone.

This cave complex was originally occupied by different groups of bandits over the years.  It was not until Oreioth took it over did it start being more than a temporary camping area for those avoiding the law.  It has been expanded to have the large open area and subsequent tunnels.  While the large area is used for mass undead rituals and experimentation, the back tunnels are for Oreioth’s real passion, getting the dragon skeleton up and moving.

Geography

Lance Rock was located about 15 miles southwest of Red Larch and stood on an open plain. It could be seen from miles away when the weather was clear. It was gray granite, had nothing noticeable growing on it, and leaned to the east at about 30 degrees from vertical.

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Description A prominent landmark near Red Larch, Lance Rock is a slender stone monolith that juts up out...

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