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.