Beyond Bale Keep

Episode 21: "Death is Temporary--Mold is Forever"

**Even the best fall**

Recovery in Fifthsent sets the survivor’s mental wheels to turning. Though nothing can be done for brave Ilveck, the Heroes do find a way to revive Aurina, whose role as heir to the Goldstone throne make her survival paramount. Through a combination of research and mysticism — Xant received images from the Dragon’s Heart — the party finds out they’ll need to raid a Dragon’s Lair to recover what they need to revive Aurina. In the meantime, fearful of Orst incursions by the Orst and Green Leaf Goblins against the now bereft of magical defenses village, Gromm and Xant begin training the populace in matters martial. Training proceeds apace, until…

A gathering of Elves from Ilveck’s tribe appears, led by a shaman whose name means Fire. They gather outside Fifthsent, and begin a ritual chant in honor of their fallen comrade. As the party has treated Ilveck’s remains with respect, they garner the friendship of the Wild Elves, which proves to be pivotal later on.

With Ilveck’s remains cared for, the party sets its sights on the Orst pit it passed on its way to Fifthsent from the mountain home of the Strazh. It is a location well marked by Gromm, who feasts on such battles against the typical dwarven nemeses. However, the pit has changed in nature over the past couple weeks. From the depths of the underdark, a terrible creature has seeped to the top, a Dusanu, a creature of mold and magic. It has absorbed the Orst and set up a lair here. And the party, having never seen nor heard of such a creature, is due for the rudest of awakenings.

A scouting party led by Gromm discovers the change, and a warrior party is quickly put together. They approach the pit stealthily, before putting their plan into motion. At first, all goes according to plan. The party uses the advantage of higher ground to draw the enveloped orst to the pit edge, where fearless fighters Gromm and Xant begin hacking at the minions. Meanwhile, the ringleader of the troop, the central “brain” as it were, rises high in the air above them all and begins floating forward. As the party dodges the fatal swipes of Orst club and claw, the enveloped brain creature, a being of some magical ability, unleashes a devastating cloud of death upon them. Elven rangers pledged in service to the party immediately fall. But worse, worse than than that, worse than any other fate they can imagine, Warren, the conscience of the party falls, fatally enveloped by moldy death.

In short order, there are but 2 stalwarts left up right, Gromm and Xant. The two dive into the pit beyond the creatures, only to find the only way is down into darkness, where they hear a torrent of water rushing. As they hide beneath the pit’s lip, weakened and vulnerable, their foes turning to come after them, they are faced with the prospect of possibly plunging to their doom, or fighting it out in the pit. The prospects look bleak when…

A torrent of fire engulfs the lands above…and all is silent. The surprised Dwarf and stolid Paladin come out of their safe haven to find the Elven Shaman at the pit’s lip. The mold creatures are finished off. Unfortunately, the sacred fire has also torched what remained of Warren’s body. Once again, the party triumphs, but this is their most pyrrhic victory yet. The number of Bale Heroes is now down to 2.

There is little to do now but revive Aurina, balance the scales of life and death, and try to do the right thing in a world whose cruel hand has touched the group too many times. With the location of the object firmly set in Xan’ts mind due to meditation and prayer, the party heads for the Gnomish mines they previously passed. Thankfully, they have additional help — Ethan Easter appears from out of nowhere, bringing with him the Blademasters Laurance and Brownen, a halfling thief named T.T. McBiggins, a dark protege, Agaaro, a former Silversword fighter and follower of Dimitry named Galen Wrack, and a tale of Ztirul’s next move. It appears the party nemesis is intent on “reviving Ouroboros, the sleeping God.” The repercussions are impossible to fathom, but Easter does know that reviving Ouroboros will give Ztirul power over time. What he intends to do with this power is unknown. In any case, Easter informs the party they must return to Foursquare within 2 weeks. There is intrigue involving Harold Goldstone, and a possible civil war that could engulf all of Dozelmair.

So the party has a pair of problems to deal with, and not much time to deal with them. They only know reviving Aurina Gem’Aurel, the direct descendent of Ferring Goldstone, is key. So off to the Gnomish mines they go.—

The small set of caverns is completely deserted, and it doesn’t take long to see why—a vicious creature from the Underdark has taken up residence there, a floating, vampiric Death Kiss beholder. A somewhat dicey encounter ensues, and the creature is slain, mainly thanks to Gromminique’s offering himself as the thing’s main target. The party searches the area and finds the passageway seen in Xant’s visions.

The passage is cramped and small. Party members end up crawling one behind another through the cramped space. Eventually, it opens on a sheer cliff high above a great chamber, the bottom of which features a mound of treasure. Of course, the party is suspicious, and carefully makes its way down using a secured rope. Naturally, they find evidence of the invisible dragon, snoozing on the pile. But the object they need is there, a philter tucked in the treasure pile.

Such a scenario is ripe for the skills of a thief, and T.T. McBiggins is up to the task. He stealthily creeps up to the treasure pile, snags the object, and the party hastily makes its way out, leaving the trove — as well as the fatal danger — behind them. In the end Aurina is revived, the dragon’s heart placed within her frame, the elixir melding the whole together. The addition of the heart outwardly transforms her into a being of almost ethereal beauty and presence. As for what inner changes have taken place, the group does not [yet] know. But certainly the blessings will probably be mixed.

And so the adventures in Fifthsent come to an end. With a long journey ahead, the majority of the party sets its sights on a trip into the Underdark, the quickest way through the now frost-covered Orstfell. Laurance parts with Bronwen to take the overland way, in an attempt to contact the Blademasters to guage where they stand in regards to the impending civil war. For the rest, it is a return to the site of Warren’s demise. Below, the Dragon’s Throat, and the great river it is said to contain.

For a party that has experienced much darkness, the darkest journey yet remains…
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Meanwhile…in the land of the dead...

Warren recovers in the utter darkness of the afterlife, knowing full well what has happened to him. Surely his life as a hero means he will ascend to the peaceful lands of elysium. But there is only a shrouding darkness. Within that darkness, a pale light appears, glowing from an extended hand.

Your journey need not end here, my friend, the voice soothes. Take my hand, and I will show you how…

As Warren turns to the source of the light and sound, he looks up into the face of Breddith, and pauses…

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