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Durzibethinus: Difference between revisions

(Made corrections to Session 21, started Session 22 synopsis)
(Moved all the Adrian lore to a new subpage)
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{{Worldbuilders}} {{Infobox character|name=Durzibethinus|image=Durzibethinus.png|caption=Moments after his rebirth as a [[Dragon]].|relatives=[[Feredemius]], [[Smargarg]]|affilliation=[[Ruby Court]]|alias=[[Ruby Court#Resurrected Court|Emerald Thane of Sardior]], Durian, Adrian Grunwald|birthDate=826 [[PR]]|birthPlace=[[Northern Snowy Mountains]], [[Isonhound]]|species=[[Dragon]]|gender=Male (he/him)|eyes=Emerald|field1=Class|field2=Domain|value1=[[Quelmar Deities|Deity]]|value2=Trickery}}
{{Worldbuilders}} {{Infobox character|name=Durzibethinus|image=Durzibethinus.png|caption=Moments after his rebirth as a [[Dragon]].|relatives=[[Feredemius]], [[Smargarg]]|affilliation=[[Ruby Court]]|alias=[[Ruby Court#Resurrected Court|Emerald Thane of Sardior]], Durian, Adrian Grunwald|birthDate=826 [[PR]]|birthPlace=[[Northern Snowy Mountains]], [[Isonhound]]|species=[[Dragon]]|gender=Male (he/him)|eyes=Emerald|field1=Class|field2=Domain|value1=[[Quelmar Deities|Deity]]|value2=Trickery}}
'''{{PAGENAME}}''', also known as '''Durian''', is an [[Dragon#Gem Dragons|Emerald Dragon]] and the [[Ruby Court#Resurrected Court|Emerald Thane of Sardior]]. Prior to his ascension, he lived a mortal life in [[Isonhound]] as a [[Dragonborn]] named '''Adrian Grunwald''', son of the high sorcerer in a hidden town called [[Jadenhill]]. After leaving home in 825 [[PR]] with the hopes of finding a way to protect his clan from hostile [[Dragon|Dragons]] and [[The Second Draconic Crusades|Crusaders]], he changed his name to Durian and discovered the existence of [[Dragon#Gem Dragons|Gem Dragons]] as well as his own emerald heritage. This sent him down a path towards helping to resurrect [[Sardior|Sardior, the Ruby King of Gem Dragons]] and defeating his disgraced ancestor [[Feredemius]], who served as the original [[Ruby Court#Prehistoric Court|Emerald Thane]] before the dissolution of the prehistoric [[Ruby Court]]. Durian’s role in the ritual to resurrect [[Sardior]] caused him to be reborn as an [[Dragon#Gem Dragons|Emerald Dragon]] and empowered him to sit on the reassembled [[Ruby Court]] as the new [[Ruby Court#Resurrected Court|Emerald Thane]]. Following his transformation, he took to using the name Durzibethinus, a draconic name his father had given him, in order to protect his identity as well as his clan.
'''{{PAGENAME}}''', also known as '''Durian''', is an [[Dragon#Gem Dragons|Emerald Dragon]] and the [[Ruby Court#Resurrected Court|Emerald Thane of Sardior]]. Prior to his ascension, he lived a mortal life in [[Isonhound]] as a [[Dragonborn]] named '''Adrian Grunwald''', son of the high sorcerer in a hidden town called [[Jadenhill]]. After leaving home in 825 [[PR]] with the hopes of finding a way to protect his clan from hostile [[Dragon|Dragons]] and [[The Second Draconic Crusades|Crusaders]], he changed his name to Durian and discovered the existence of [[Dragon#Gem Dragons|Gem Dragons]] as well as his own emerald heritage. This sent him down a path towards helping to resurrect [[Sardior|Sardior, the Ruby King of Gem Dragons]] and defeating his disgraced ancestor [[Feredemius]], who served as the original [[Ruby Court#Prehistoric Court|Emerald Thane]] before the dissolution of the prehistoric [[Ruby Court]]. Durian’s role in the ritual to resurrect [[Sardior]] caused him to be reborn as an [[Dragon#Gem Dragons|Emerald Dragon]] and empowered him to sit on the reassembled [[Ruby Court]] as the new [[Ruby Court#Resurrected Court|Emerald Thane]]. Following his transformation, he took to using the name Durzibethinus, a draconic name his father had given him, in order to protect his identity as well as his clan.


== History ==
== Prologue ==
Durian was born at the [[Jadenhill#Religion|Temple on Jadenhill]], a small community off the southern coast of [[Isonhound]]. Its population primarily consisted of [[Dragonborn|Metallic Dragonborn]] and was settled by a clan of devout [[Bahamut]] worshippers who emigrated from [[Pteris]] in the early [[PR]] era to escape the chaos of the [[The Cavalry Rush|Cavalry Rush]]. The town of [[Jadenhill]] itself comprised mainly of the temple, which was partially built into the ruins of an ancient abandoned mining project.
Durian was born at the [[Jadenhill#Religion|Temple on Jadenhill]], a small community off the southern coast of [[Isonhound]]. Its population primarily consisted of [[Dragonborn|Metallic Dragonborn]] and was settled by a clan of devout [[Bahamut]] worshippers who emigrated from [[Pteris]] in the early [[PR]] era to escape the chaos of the [[The Cavalry Rush|Cavalry Rush]]. The town of [[Jadenhill]] itself comprised mainly of the temple, which was partially built into the ruins of an ancient abandoned mining project.


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== Into the Greedy Green ==
== Into the Greedy Green ==
{{Infobox_character|affilliation=[[Harbingers of Sardior]]|name=Durian|image=Durian.png|caption=His [[Dragonborn]] form prior to his rebirth.|relatives=|languages=Celestial, Common, Draconic, Dwarvish, Elvish, Infernal, Primordial, Telepathy, Wiki|alias=|marital=|birthPlace=[[Jadenhill]], [[Isonhound]]|deathDate=|deathPlace=|species=[[Dragonborn]]|gender=Male (he/him)|height=6' 4"|weight=260 lbs|eyes=Emerald|field1=Class|value1=[[Sorcerer]]|playerName=[[User:Jeffbuterbaugh|Jeff]]|birthDate=806 [[PR]]}}
{{Infobox_character|affilliation=[[Harbingers of Sardior]]|name=Durian|image=Durian.png|caption=His [[Dragonborn]] form prior to his rebirth.|relatives=|languages=Celestial, Common, Draconic, Dwarvish, Elvish, Infernal, Primordial, Telepathy, Wiki|alias=|marital=|birthPlace=[[Jadenhill]], [[Isonhound]]|deathDate=|deathPlace=|species=[[Dragonborn]]|gender=Male (he/him)|height=6' 4"|weight=260 lbs|eyes=Emerald|field1=Class|value1=[[Sorcerer]]|playerName=[[User:Jeffbuterbaugh|Jeff]]|birthDate=806 [[PR]]}}
=== Draconic Divinations ===
=== Draconic Divinations ===
Durian leaves home for the first time and is given an alarming vision of the future before meeting a [[Silver Dragon]] with a peculiar ideology, causing him to have a crisis of faith…
Durian leaves home for the first time and is given an alarming vision of the future before meeting a [[Silver Dragon]] with a peculiar ideology, causing him to have a crisis of faith…
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[[Rooney]] and the rest of the team returned to the [[Ruby Court]] to report their findings to the [[Ruby Court#Resurrected Court|Thanes]]. With Durzibethinus' hunch confirmed, they decided that they would keep eyes on [[Feredemius]] from a distance, but not intervene upon him for the time being. They presumed that if [[Sardior]] desired [[Feredemius]] to be fully destroyed, he would have taken the opportunity five years ago rather than simply purging him of the [[The Shadowfell|Shadowfell]] energy. Perhaps disempowering him and having his successor appointed was enough, in the [[Sardior|Ruby King's]] eyes, to make [[Feredemius]] no longer a concern. The [[Ruby Court#Resurrected Court|Thanes]] thanked the adventurers for their continued service to the [[Ruby Court]] and transported them all home their separate ways…court adjourned for now.
[[Rooney]] and the rest of the team returned to the [[Ruby Court]] to report their findings to the [[Ruby Court#Resurrected Court|Thanes]]. With Durzibethinus' hunch confirmed, they decided that they would keep eyes on [[Feredemius]] from a distance, but not intervene upon him for the time being. They presumed that if [[Sardior]] desired [[Feredemius]] to be fully destroyed, he would have taken the opportunity five years ago rather than simply purging him of the [[The Shadowfell|Shadowfell]] energy. Perhaps disempowering him and having his successor appointed was enough, in the [[Sardior|Ruby King's]] eyes, to make [[Feredemius]] no longer a concern. The [[Ruby Court#Resurrected Court|Thanes]] thanked the adventurers for their continued service to the [[Ruby Court]] and transported them all home their separate ways…court adjourned for now.
</div>
== Adrian of Lyaphaire ==
{{Parallel Universe}}
{{Infobox_character|affilliation=|name=Adrian Grunwald|image=Adrian.png|caption=A lingering gold shard of Durzibethinus' mortal life.|relatives=|languages=|alias=|marital=|birthPlace=[[Northern Snowy Mountains]], [[Isonhound]]|deathDate=|deathPlace=|species=[[Dragonborn]]|gender=Male (he/him)|height=6' 4"|weight=260 lbs|eyes=Emerald|field1=Class|value1=[[Monk]]|playerName=[[User:Jeffbuterbaugh|Jeff]]|birthDate=826 [[PR]]}}'''Adrian Grunwald''' is an aspect of '''Durzibethinus''' that was created as a byproduct of his ascension into the [[Ruby Court#Resurrected Court|Emerald Thane of Sardior]]. During his transformation, the lingering gold part of his mortal ancestry was shed away and discarded into the [[Astral Plane|Astral Sea]]. It drifted there, eventually forming its own consciousness and being pulled into another realm known as '''Lyaphaire'''. Still possessing the same memories as Durzibethinus up until the [[Sardior#Battle of Five Lights|Battle of Five Lights]], this aspect reverted to using the name Adrian—Durzibethinus’ birth name—as he endeavored to build a life for himself in this new realm…and possibly reclaim his emerald heritage along the way.
''Expand this section for a synopsis of Adrian’s adventures in Lyaphaire.''<div class="mw-collapsible mw-collapsed">
=== Prologue ===
Adrian finds himself dropped into a strange new realm, having been radically altered and left to wonder whether [[Sardior|Sardior's]] resurrection ceremony had actually worked…
<div class="mw-collapsible mw-collapsed">
Adrian Grunwald was born a [[Dragonborn]] of half-emerald, half-gold ancestry at the [[Bahamut]] temple of [[Jadenhill]], a community of [[Dragonborn]] who sought refuge from the [[The Second Draconic Crusades|Second Draconic Crusades]]. His mother, [[Jadenhill|Jadenhill’s]] high sorcerer, forsook most elements of draconic culture out of fear of persecution by crusaders, using sorcery to disguise their entire clan as [[Elf|Elves]] and even giving her hatchlings elvish-sounding names. His father, however, was a practicing [[Monk|Way of the Ascendant Dragon Monk]] from the temple and gifted him a draconic name—'''Durzibethinus'''—so he could quietly retain some connection to his roots.
While all of Adrian’s clutchmates sported gold scales the same as their father…Adrian looked just like their mother, exhibiting a confounding emerald color and even displaying her same prowess for psionic sorcery. But unlike their mother, Adrian longed to leave [[Jadenhill]] and discover why he looked and felt so different from the rest of his clan.
Attacks by evil [[Dragon|Dragons]] and [[The Shadowfell|Shadowfell]] monsters were on the rise across the realm, and he used one such attack as a pretense to leave home in search of answers…also taking on the name '''Durian''', a portmanteau of both names his parents had given him. His travels led him to discover the highly reclusive [[Dragon#Gem Dragons|Gem Dragons]]—psionic creatures with deep ties to the multiverse—who divulged the truth of his emerald heritage as well as their plans for a ceremony to resurrect their god [[Sardior|Sardior, the Ruby King of Gem Dragons]]. Durian identified with these [[Dragon#Gem Dragons|Gem Dragons]] and joined their cult of [[Sardior]], convinced that the return of this ancient [[Dragon#Gem Dragons|Ruby Dragon]] god could push away all the [[The Shadowfell|Shadowfell]] monsters still attacking the realm.
Durian helped the [[Dragon#Gem Dragons|Gem Dragons]] prepare their resurrection ceremony—which required a representative for each type of [[Dragon#Gem Dragons|Gem Dragon]]—under heavy duress from the monsters attempting to halt [[Sardior|Sardior's]] return. When [[Smargarg]]—the cult’s [[Dragon#Gem Dragons|Emerald Dragon]]—failed to arrive, a presumed casualty of the [[The Shadowfell|Shadowfell]] monsters, Durian volunteered to take his place as the emerald representative…despite warnings that he was too weak and the power of the ceremony would kill him. He was willing to make that sacrifice if it meant saving the realm.
Despite a tremendous battle, the resurrection ceremony proved successful and—to everyone’s astonishment—[[Sardior]] took Durian’s emerald essence and reincarnated him into a powerful [[Dragon#Gem Dragons|Gem Dragon]] to serve the god on his [[Ruby Court]]…bestowing him the title of [[Ruby Court#Resurrected Court|Durzibethinus, the Emerald Thane of Sardior]]. With their god resurrected and the [[The Shadowfell|Shadowfell]] monsters vanquished, Durzibethinus ascended with the other members of the [[Ruby Court]] to sow [[Sardior|Sardior's]] influence across the realm and beyond.
But that was not all to Durian’s story as, despite leaning strongly into his emerald heritage…he was also part gold. This piece of him was presumably burned away during the ceremony, and it is true the last thing that he remembered was feeling an overpowering heat…followed by an intense cold…then just all-encompassing nothingness as he drifted for what seemed an eternity.
At last, he awoke near the peak of a mountain…not dissimilar to the [[Northern Snowy Mountains]] that the ceremony had taken place on. But where there had once been snow, this place was warm and wildflowers grew all along the slope. Even the sky was a different color. He wondered if this was death and tried to stand up, but his knees buckled as he was severely weakened. He eventually gathered enough strength to make his way down the mountainside.
He came across a stream and thought to follow it to civilization…but as he walked along it, he glanced his reflection and was shocked by the sight of his father staring back. But he realized as he peered closer that it was still unmistakably him, same facial features and all…but his scales from head-to-tail had all been turned gold. The only flecks of emerald that remained were in the irises of his eyes. He tried summoning a major image to act as a distress beacon and realized he could no longer tap into the pool of psionic magic that once welled within him. Devastated by the loss of his emerald essence, memories flooded back of his days as young Adrian living at the temple of [[Jadenhill]]…constantly plagued by questions about his identity and struggling for a sense of self.
Adrian carried on following the stream until it let out into a larger river, which finally led past a city where he was able to swipe a set of clothes and rest. He located a library the next day and searched for any keywords that would provide some familiarity. [[Jadenhill]]…[[Sardior]]…[[Dragon#Gem Dragons|Gem Dragons]]…the [[Dragon#Gem Dragons|Gem Dragons]] that existed here seemed just as elusive as they were at home—if not more so. But just as the [[Dragon#Gem Dragons|Gem Dragons]] had spoken of planar echoes and other realms, this place—which he learned was called '''Lyaphaire'''—was a distinct world from the one he hailed from. Adrian couldn’t quite grip the concept of a multiverse…he could only process that the place he called home was very, very far away.
After some time spent in the city, Adrian found something familiar to latch onto when a resident mistook him for “one of those [[Dragon]] church people.” He learned of a temple that worshipped a [[Dragon]] god and journeyed there to request their help. The [[Monk|Monks]] there had never heard of a “[[Jadenhill]]” temple, but Adrian’s knowledge from a lifetime spent practicing draconic scripture and temple upkeep was enough to convince them of his authenticity. They offered him accommodations in exchange for physical labor, which he agreed to. In his downtime, he was permitted access to areas of worship, a library of religious scrolls to study, and even courtyards for physical training. It was in these courtyards one morning when Adrian witnessed some [[Monk|Monks]] practicing a fighting technique which he immediately recognized as the [[Monk|Way of the Ascendant Dragon]]…his father’s chosen martial art.
As a child, Adrian had only trained with his father and clutchmates for a short time before their mother swept him away to teach him how to be the next high sorcerer. He had always carried a chip on his shoulder for being separated like that and, having lost his psionic gem powers, a future in sorcery seemed closed off to him now. Still, he was determined to build back his strength and make something of himself in this new place.
He expressed interest in re-learning the [[Monk|Way of the Ascendant Dragon]] and, after a few years of training with the temple masters, he was able to pick back up the basics and build a foundation for future growth. For the first time since being dropped in '''Lyaphaire''', Adrian’s prospects seemed bright. Still, he felt he could never truly come to terms with what he’d lost. He’d been content to die in order to resurrect [[Sardior]], but to be left alive and stripped of his emerald essence…that was not an outcome he ever could have anticipated. And without a way for him to tell whether the resurrection ceremony worked, he couldn’t even know if his sacrifice had been worthwhile. With no clear answers to these thoughts in sight and no apparent means of returning home, Adrian did his best to keep his eyes set upon the future—at least for the time being.
</div>
=== Grails & Graves ===
Adrian feels like he has hit a wall with his [[Monk]] training and takes the first opportunity to leave the '''Deus Temporis''' temple and explore more of this new realm, eventually ending up in the small village of '''Terakai''' and getting recruited for a new job alongside an unusual band of characters…
<div class="mw-collapsible mw-collapsed">
There was a time in Adrian's life when he wanted nothing more than to be a normal [[Dragonborn|Gold Dragonborn]] like everyone else at home. Now it seemed as though he could finally have that while living at the '''Deus Temporis''' temple…but his ambitions had changed since leaving [[Jadenhill]] and it was clear that simply fitting in would no longer make him happy. Additionally, he had begun plateauing with his [[Monk]] training and was feeling a pull to explore more of the realm outside the confines of the temple. Adrian found his chance to leave after receiving a message from his acquaintance '''Ashe''', a remarkably tall [[Monk]] who had visited the temple with her master for a brief time to learn draconic martial techniques. She was requesting Adrian's help providing protection for a transcontinental cargo delivery that was en route to her new place of work, a small-town tavern called the '''Grail and the Grave'''. Adrian seized the opportunity and joined the caravan headed towards the unfamiliar island kingdom, leaving the inlands of the '''Parluza''' continent and setting sail overseas for the first time in his life.
After a long journey from the '''Holy Kingdom of Islux''', Adrian finally arrived in the village of '''Terakai'''—home to the '''Grail and the Grave'''. Despite a successful job, Adrian found himself substantially shortchanged by the coachman in charge of the delivery…meaning Adrian did not have enough funds to secure an immediate trip home. He wrote a letter back to the temple to inform them that his return would take longer than expected. Adrian knew he should feel agitated by the situation…but instead he felt some odd relief, no longer feeling pressured to depart so soon. He rented a room at the '''Grail and the Grave''' for a week, exploring what little there was to see of the village as he waited for a new job opportunity to arise. He spent early mornings jogging laps around the village square, the unkept greenery reminding him of the breezy mountainside that he first awoke on after being dropped in '''Lyaphaire'''. One morning late in the week, he was rustled from his reminiscing by the sound of a panicked mother emerging from her home shouting for her five-year-old son '''Osric'''. Adrian offered to help with her search, assuming the boy could not have wandered too far off…but alas, the child was nowhere to be found. Adrian circled back to the '''Grail and the Grave''', confident that the boy would appear back home soon.
Adrian glanced around the tavern and spotted several of its regulars—'''Ashe''' was working behind the bar as usual, a short construct made of clay named '''Dave''' dutifully set about cleaning the tavern anytime they weren't painting, and an aquatic-looking [[Elf]] named '''Merys''' also sat at the bar as Adrian found a nearby empty seat. '''Ashe''' had just begun carrying out everyone's breakfast orders from the kitchen when a coin appeared from seemingly nowhere at the end of the counter, thus signaling her to wake up her boss '''Silence'''—a bubbly pink [[Tiefling]] covered in tattoos and co-owner of the tavern—to come down and deal with the situation.
'''Silence''' meandered downstairs, pulled out an ornate goblet and seemingly poured an invisible liquid into it. She took the coin and placed the goblet on the counter for an unseen patron. Adrian was intrigued by her interaction with the invisible customer and asked how she was able to see them, a question which perplexed her until she remembered "oh right, you all have normal eyes."
Shortly afterwards, the parents of '''Osric''' came into the tavern in a panic over their missing child…to which '''Silence''' immediately sprung into action ordering out coffee and comforting them. For all within earshot, she described the ongoing epidemic of children in the village going missing…and the few who found their way home refusing to speak about the thing that took them. Her partner '''Urzul'''—a physically imposing [[Half-Orc]] who often hunted dangerous monsters—had led several search parties to try and locate the missing children in the forests outside of town, but so far there had been no luck. Adrian and '''Merys''' offered to help with searching for the children, each being relatively new to town and in need of jobs. '''Silence''' also "fired" '''Ashe''' and '''Dave''' from their current roles at the tavern so that they would have time to assist in the search. With this new search party assembled, all they needed next was a lead on where to look first.
</div>
=== Ghosts & Hills ===
Adrian awkwardly consents to play ghost host before setting out with the newly-formed search party towards the '''Pericles Hills''' in hopes of finding the missing children, but instead they get rained on and punch some face-sucking monsters to death after getting ambushed in a cave…
<div class="mw-collapsible mw-collapsed">
'''Silence''' offered the group ten gold pieces to uncover the location of the missing children and five additional gold pieces for every two children they are able to bring back. She then seemed to start conversing with another unseen patron in the corner of the tavern. Fascinated by the exchange, Adrian waved his hand around the area she was talking to in order to test if there was anything tangible. '''Silence''' rebuked him for being rude and warned him not to invade her guest's personal space, "unless you're volunteering to host." Adrian replied "sure, I guess…" not quite knowing what she meant by that phrase. Just then, Adrian felt a complete loss of control over his own body while still remaining conscious and a deep, unfamiliar voice spoke from him. The voice pointed the team towards the '''Pericles Hills''', claiming it was the last location the missing children had been spotted. They responded to a few questions before vacating Adrian's body, leaving him feeling intensely cold and confused by what had just transpired. With this new information in mind, the team headed in the direction of the '''Pericles Hills'''.
As they set out on foot to try and rescue the children, their journey was slowed when it began to rain heavily and their path turned to mud. They decided to set up camp as it neared dark, but it was difficult to find any firewood that hadn't been dampened by the rain. The team gathered some wood and Adrian used his fire breath weapon to dry it off, while '''Dave''' casted a prestidigitation spell to ignite it. Adrian took fourth watch that night alongside '''Merys''' and the pair stayed awake discussing their pasts, sharing some things about their families but remaining purposefully vague on many details.
The team arose in the morning and finally made it to the '''Pericles Hills'''. They didn't spot anything that immediately stood out until they heard the whistling of a nearby cave. They stepped into the pitch-black cave and '''Dave''' casted a spell to create a copy of themself made entirely of light to illuminate the space. '''Dave''', being unfamiliar with caving etiquette, also loudly announced themself to anyone in the cave who might be listening. The noise summoned two small, rubbery-looking monsters with tentacles to drop from the ceiling and latch onto '''Dave's''' face. Startled by the hideous creatures, Adrian fire-punched one of them off of '''Dave's''' face and stabbed the other one with his shortsword. As the monsters fell to the ground dead and burning, a quietness hushed over the team and they could hear the echoing voices of [[Goblin|Goblins]] up ahead as the passage opened into a larger cavern. Just around the corner, an encampment of [[Goblin|Goblins]] talked amongst themselves, "[[Bugbear|Bugbears]] hate [[Goblin|Goblins]], but [[Hag|Hags]] hate [[Goblin|Goblins]] more." The team paused for a moment to quietly discuss their next move.
</div>
=== Caverns & Bullywugs ===
Adrian learns the consequences of trying to sneak inside a cave without darkvision and the team is attacked by [[Goblin|Goblins]], then they learn of some [[Hag|Hags]] residing deeper in the cave and also meet some '''Bullywugs''' guarding a bright stone before the team decides to leave in search of a more definitive lead…
<div class="mw-collapsible mw-collapsed">
The team waited around the corner from where they could hear the [[Goblin]] encampment and debated what they should do. Adrian was confident that he could sneak closer to get a better count of how many [[Goblin|Goblins]] they were up against, so he stepped further into the cave before realizing it was too dark for him to see anything. '''Merys''' offered to accompany him, being a creature with darkvision. Despite '''Merys'''' help, they only got a few steps inside the cave before Adrian tripped on a rock and faceplanted onto the ground. The resulting sound alerted the [[Goblin|Goblins]] to their presence and they proceeded to launch an attack. The ensuing fight resulted in half the team getting stabbed by javelins, but they proved enough of a threat that the [[Goblin|Goblins]] gave them an opportunity to "surrender." They agreed in order to let the [[Goblin|Goblins]] save face, with '''Dave''' even offering to paint their portrait sometime back at their home cave. They asked the [[Goblin|Goblins]] about the whereabouts of the [[Hag|Hags]], to which they were pointed in the direction of a rippling pool of water that led deeper into the cave. The [[Goblin|Goblins]] also pointed out another path which led to a '''Bullywug''', so the team decided to visit the '''Bullywug''' first to ask if he had seen any children pass through the cave.
They took the direction towards the '''Bullywug''' and soon found themselves wading in shallow water. The path spilled into an area that was illuminated by a bright stone sitting atop a tall pedestal at the center of the cavern. The team approached the pedestal and debated standing on each other's shoulders to reach the stone before the '''Bullywug''' hopped out from beneath the water, warning them not to touch the stone as it was the only thing keeping the cavern from collapsing. They noticed numerous other sets of '''Bullywug''' eyes peering at them from beneath the water, so they decided to comply. They asked the '''Bullywug''' if he had seen any children pass through the cave recently, to which he denied seeing any. Feeling somewhat defeated and not wanting to confront any [[Hag|Hags]] without evidence of them being connected to the missing children, the team left the cave to search more of the '''Pericles Hills''' for any other potential leads.
</div>
=== Hags & Tortoises ===
Adrian and the team return to the cave and get distracted by a gem-adorned tortoise before getting roped into a sisterly conflict between two [[Hag|Hags]], then they almost successfully beeline past a [[Goblin]] encampment and Adrian nearly gets separated from the rest of the team by running way too fast…
<div class="mw-collapsible mw-collapsed">
After a brief time wandering the '''Pericles Hills''' looking for any other signs of the missing children, the team reluctantly tracked their way back to the previously explored '''Shrieking Caverns''' by following the shrieking sound of wind blowing from the cave’s entrance. As they approached the cave, '''Dave''' was immediately stricken by a javelin. "Stupid! Same people," they heard the leader of the [[Goblin]] encampment scold as the same horde of [[Goblin|Goblins]] from their prior visit exited the cave. The team protestingly questioned why they were being attacked after having already surrendered, to which the leader shrugged and replied "attack first, talk second." Adrian asked the leader if they had heard anything else having to do with the [[Hag|Hags]], to which the leader simply said "no," before shuffling away with the rest of the [[Goblin]] encampment.
The team entered the vacated cavern—with Adrian lighting a torch to avoid making the same mistake as last time—and approached a drop-off into the rippling pool which they had initially left unexplored. They discovered a set of stairs which terminated into the water, and there was a brief debate regarding the water's potential depth before '''Merys''' volunteered to take the first steps down the stairs and into the water. He discovered that the water was freezing cold, but shallow enough to wade through. Adrian trailed shortly behind while '''Ashe''' continued to hang at the back of the group. '''Dave''', however, slipped on the stairs and fell completely into the water. Adrian scooped him up and offered to carry him the rest of the way through the water, so '''Dave''' nestled onto his shoulder as the team ventured deeper into the cavern.
The flooded path took several winds and turns before they heard the sound of splashing up ahead. Adrian cautiously investigated the noise and discovered a large tortoise with a gem-encrusted shell swimming around in the shallow pool. The team was suspicious of the tortoise, but Adrian seemed particularly fascinated by it and handed '''Dave''' off to '''Ashe''' so that he could slowly approach in hopes of talking to it. '''Merys''' suggested that the tortoise might require an offering since "it has all those gems on its shell for a reason." So Adrian took off his gold pendant from the '''Deus Temporis''' temple and held it up in a way that it gleamed by the light of his torch, hoping that this would appease the tortoise. Adrian inquired as to whether the tortoise could speak, to which the creature continued to splash around without heeding him any mind. Adrian called back in bewilderment to the rest of the team "I think this is just a normal tortoise," so they all cautiously scurried past the creature and continued on their journey. Further down the path, they came across two giant crabs feasting on a [[Goblin]] corpse and they were all able to successfully sneak past these creatures without drawing any attention.
Eventually, the path ended at a dry cavern where they could step up and out of the water. The space was adorned with impressively lavish furnishings and an incredibly beautiful woman stood at the bank of the water to greet them. "It's been a long time since I've had any visitors," she claimed while inviting the team to sit down. She introduced herself as '''Nephinza''' and they asked her if she had seen any children pass through these caves. She replied perhaps she had, but that the team would need to do her a favor first before providing any information. She instructed them to kill her sister '''Nephira''', who inhabited the southern portion of the caves and with whom she had an ongoing rivalry. When pressed why she didn't kill her sister herself, she explained that neither sister was capable of harming the other. The team tentatively agreed to locate '''Nephira''' and began backtracking towards the southernmost area of the caves.
They followed the flooded path all the way back to where they had originally entered and continued even further south, eventually arriving upon a dry patch of the cave system where they found another horde of [[Goblin|Goblins]] had set up camp. There was no other path around them and, left with few other options, Adrian proposed simply striding past the [[Goblin|Goblins]] as if they belonged there. He demonstrated by speed-walking past the encampment first—avoiding eye contact with the [[Goblin|Goblins]]—and the plan astonishingly seemed to work as the [[Goblin|Goblins]] paid him no mind. '''Merys''' and '''Dave''' followed soon behind and seemed to have similar success. '''Ashe''' was skeptical of this plan and attempted to sneak past the [[Goblin|Goblins]] as they sat around their campfire. Unfortunately, the sight of the exceptionally tall [[Monk]] caught the attention of the [[Goblin|Goblins]] and they proceeded to corner her. As soon as he realized the jig was up, Adrian dashed further into the caves assuming that the rest of the team would do the same. '''Ashe''' chose to hang back and fight, however, so '''Merys''' and '''Dave''' jumped in to help.
Adrian, meanwhile—assuming the rest of the team was behind him—dashed deeper into the cave system, taking whichever direction seemed to lead furthest south whenever he hit a fork in the path. The rest of the team engaged the [[Goblin|Goblins]] in combat and found themselves being herded further into the caves. '''Ashe''', being the only one who could keep up with Adrian, sprinted after him to alert him of the situation. She soon caught up with him and they both sprinted back towards the fight. Adrian leapt in front of his teammates, roaring "stay the fuck away from my friends," before raining his fire breath weapon on the [[Goblin|Goblins]]. The entire team fought the horde of [[Goblin|Goblins]] into submission, non-lethally at '''Dave's''' insistence, thus they found themselves with four unconscious [[Goblin|Goblins]] and a whole system of caves left to explore.
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=== Arrows & Chasms ===
Adrian gets hit by an obscene amount of flying projectiles and does some more dashing around while the team carries a couple of unconscious [[Goblin|Goblins]] for seemingly no reason, all while managing to explore nearly every nook and cranny of the cave system except the part that might contain any [[Hag|Hags]]…
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Adrian pulled some rope from his adventuring pack and tied up each of the [[Goblin|Goblins]] to restrain them before they woke up. Knowing the direction that he ran before was safe, he led the rest of the team through the caves along that same route until they began approaching unexplored territory and decided to stop for a short rest. They eventually heard the sound of the [[Goblin|Goblins]] regaining consciousness and struggling to break free, so the team decided to press forward. They continued trying to follow what seemed like the southernmost route and soon arrived at the entrance of a wide, well-lit tunnel. Adrian was suspicious of the tunnel and tried stepping slightly into it to investigate for traps, only to be shot at with an arrow. Adrian caught this projectile in midair, but was severely wounded as three more arrows shot out at him. Adrian retreated back to the rest of the team as they all sighted several bow-wielding [[Goblin|Goblins]] ducking around the walls at the opposite end of the tunnel. The team remembered overhearing that the [[Hag|Hags]] in this cave hated [[Goblin|Goblins]], so it seemed unlikely that '''Nephira''' would reside at the end of this [[Goblin]]-infested cave. Consequently, they decided to backtrack and see what they could find by exploring the other directions.
'''Dave''' healed up Adrian as they explored a few of the other paths, one of which was partially flooded and took them past some glowing mushrooms which '''Merys''' determined could be used by a skilled alchemist to enhance healing potions. As they carried on exploring, they were confronted by the javelin-wielding [[Goblin|Goblins]] they had tied up earlier. They seemed to squabble amongst themselves as to how to deal with us, so '''Merys''' casted a spell so he could understand what they were saying. From this, he was able to gather that the [[Goblin|Goblins]] wouldn't harm us if we agreed to leave the caves. Meanwhile, '''Dave''' claimed they could understand what the [[Goblin|Goblins]] were saying while trying to speak to them in dwarvish. The team began meandering back towards the exit of the cave system while the [[Goblin|Goblins]] followed shortly behind, presumably to ensure they were actually leaving. As they approached the last fork in the path before the exit, Adrian dashed in the other direction away from the exit and the [[Goblin|Goblins]] launched all their javelins at him. This opened up the rest of the team to knock out the rest of the [[Goblin|Goblins]], who were already severely injured from their prior battle. They killed two of the [[Goblin|Goblins]] while merely knocking the other two unconscious. '''Dave''' insisted on bringing the two unconscious [[Goblin|Goblins]] with them, thinking they could be befriended and provide directions for navigating the caves. Severely injured again by the javelins, Adrian regrouped with the rest of the team and they carried on down another unexplored cave.
The path they took initially led them to a chasm that had no obvious path around, so they decided to try another route. As they ventured down the next path, they discovered cave paintings of [[Goblin|Goblins]] being maimed and killed in various grotesque scenes. They pressed onward until arriving in an area that was littered with the corpses and skeletons of countless [[Goblin]] bodies scattered all along the sides of the path, which was being blocked by a monstrous creature with hollow white eyes that seemed to glow within the darkness of the cave. Already in very poor condition and preferring his odds with the chasm, Adrian dashed back the other direction before the monster had a chance to notice them. The rest of the team followed shortly behind, catching up with Adrian as he was plotting how to get across the chasm so that the monster couldn't follow them. He took out what was left of his rope, handing one end of it to '''Ashe''' before using his [[Monk]] agility to leap across the chasm. Unable to find anything to tie the rope to, he yelled over to '''Ashe''' to hold the rope taut with him so that the other teammates could climb across. '''Dave''' attempted first, but lost their grip and fell into the chasm. Thankfully, the chasm turned out to only be thirty feet deep. '''Merys''' tried climbing across next, but Adrian was too injured from the prior [[Goblin]] attack and lost his grip on the rope. This caused '''Merys''' to also fall into the chasm, but was rescued from damage by '''Dave''' casting a spell to feather his fall.
'''Ashe''' was able to leap across the chasm with ease, so her and Adrian lowered the rope to pull out their other teammates. As they held the rope to pull '''Merys''' out, '''Dave''' found a way to climb up along the rock wall and out of the chasm. '''Merys''' tried climbing the rope, but the added weight of the unconscious [[Goblin]] he was clinging to proved to be too much and he fell back down after making it halfway. '''Ashe''' yelled at him to tie the rope around his waist instead of trying to climb. This method proved more successful as '''Ashe''' and Adrian were finally able to pull up '''Merys'''. Now successfully all together on the other side of the chasm, the team hoped the path which laid before them would finally lead to the [[Hag]] that they had searched nearly every corner of the cave system for.
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=== Nothics & Mimics ===
Adrian has some secrets about his past exposed by an unknown creature lurking in the darkness and the team finally locates the bone-riddled lair of the second [[Hag]], who offers the same murderous proposition as her sister before shedding some light on the reason for the pair's soured relationship…
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The team entered into the cavern which sat across the chasm, hoping for a safe place to rest before facing '''Nephira''' the [[Hag]]. The cavern was dome-shaped with a high ceiling and was casted in nearly complete darkness except for a set of stairs which led to an elevated platform, upon which sat a treasure chest. Aside from that, the cavern appeared empty and the team breathed a sigh of relief. '''Dave''' offered to take third watch before immediately collapsing to sleep on the ground near the entrance. Adrian and '''Merys''' dropped the two [[Goblin|Goblins]] they had been hauling around like dead weights, and Adrian sat up against the opposite cavern wall intending to rest.
They had all just barely settled in, however, when they began to hear an unfamiliar voice echoing throughout the cave. The voice talked directly to them, addressing each member of the team by name. Adrian answered back asking if they were '''Nephira''', which the voice denied. Adrian tried guessing other names, even asking the voice if they were a god, as he stood up with a torch to search around the cavern for the voice's source. The voice grew agitated with the guessing and hissed back, "I know that you come from another world, but surely they must still have manners where you're from." Adrian questioned how they could possibly know that unless they were a mind reader and the voice replied, "I cannot read minds, I can only learn secrets…such as how your scales used to be of a different color." Adrian alarmingly glanced back at the rest the team who, thankfully, didn't appear to have picked up on any of that.
Adrian decided to plainly ask the voice for their name, to which they finally divulged, "you can call me '''Kyar''''…now there, isn't it easier when we're direct with one another?" He continued to fruitlessly search around the cavern while '''Merys''' began questioning '''Kyar'''' as to what they wanted, and '''Kyar'''' answered that they were still deciding whether to let the team leave or stay. At one point, the voice spoke something in another language to the two [[Goblin|Goblins]] which seemed to visibly scare them. '''Dave''' was finally stirred awake by all that was happening and tried to make '''Kyar'''' an offer of friendship, to which they scoffed that there wasn't enough gold amongst the whole team to be their friend. Dave offered them ten gold anyway to try and buy a "trial run" of friendship, so '''Kyar'''' instructed '''Dave''' to place his gold in front of the chest atop the platform. '''Dave''' obliged and as soon as '''Kyar'''' commanded the chest to "fetch," their pet '''Mimic''' sprang to life and devoured the gold pieces. This seemed to satiate the '''Mimic''', and '''Kyar'''' by extension, for at least a little longer. '''Kyar'''' spoke something else in a foreign language which caused the [[Goblin|Goblins]] to hop up and press a hidden panel on the wall, revealing a tiny tunnel that they both used to scurry out of the cavern.
Adrian spoke back up and suggested that the team have a rest until '''Kyar'''' decided to kick them out, to which '''Kyar'''' fiercely objected, "I still haven't decided whether to let you leave!" '''Kyar'''' said their real interest was in objects of the magical variety and, even without exact knowledge of what was in the team's backpacks, they knew that none of the team carried anything of that sort. In spite of this, '''Dave''' declared "since we're now friends on a trial basis, I like to try and inspire my friends…so here" and casted a spark of inspiration which physically manifested as it floated toward the ceiling where '''Kyar'''' was apparently hanging in the shadows. '''Kyar'''' took immediate interest in the tiny point of magic as they played with it in their claws, making it dance around. This seemed to entertain '''Kyar'''' long enough that the team was able to get a long rest.
The team took turns taking watch until the next day when they were able to speak to '''Kyar'''' a bit more, who revealed that there was once a third [[Hag]] sister named '''Nephilla''' and that each of the surviving sisters blamed one another for '''Nephilla's''' death. Before departing the cavern, Adrian tested '''Kyar'''' by speaking "we'll try not to be any more bother" in draconic, but '''Kyar'''' claimed to not understand the language. '''Kyar'''' warned the team not to return unless it was to bring them magical objects.
As they left the cavern and prepared to once again cross the chasm, '''Ashe''' impaled a spike into the ground and handed Adrian one end of her rope before leaping across the chasm. She impaled a second spike on the other side and they each tied their ends of the rope to the spikes to create a secure crossing. '''Dave''' and '''Merys''' climbed across without issue, but the rope on '''Ashe's''' side began to snap while Adrian tightroped across and he was barely able to leap the rest of the way over the chasm. With the team safely regrouped, they headed back towards the bone-covered path where they'd presumably find '''Nephira''' if they could only get past the monster.
As they approached the bend where they remembered seeing the monster, '''Merys''' scouted slightly ahead to get a closer look at it. The monster remained exactly where they had left it, appearing to have not moved in all the time they'd been away. '''Dave''' casted a shiny illusion of themself in front of the monster to see if it would react, but still it did not move from the middle of the path. At this revelation, '''Merys''' cautiously slid past the monster while pressed up against the cave wall and Adrian followed suit from the other side. With still to movement from the monster, '''Dave''' and '''Ashe''' followed behind and the team proceeded further down the path towards '''Nephira's''' lair.
They found themselves wading through water once again and, just as with her sister, '''Nephira''' was waiting for them at the entrance to her lair. While '''Nephinza''' took on the visage of a beautiful woman, however, '''Nephira''' was far more conventionally [[Hag]]-like in appearance and her lair was littered with bones piled all about. "It's been a long time since I've had any visitors," she spoke while gesturing for the team to sit. They asked if she knew why they had been sent, and she surmised it was no doubt the work of her sister. The team inquired if she had seen any children in the caves and she claimed to know where they were, but—just like '''Nephinza'''—she would only divulge that information in exchange for killing her sister. The team pressed for a reason behind the animosity between the two sisters and if it had to do with their third sister's death, and '''Nephira''' confirmed that she held '''Nephinza''' entirely responsible for '''Nephilla's''' demise. Recalling how '''Kyar'''' said each sister vehemently blamed one another, the team asked if they could somehow prove that '''Nephinza''' was not responsible for the death of '''Nephilla'''. However, '''Nephira''' insisted that such an effort would be pointless as she was completely certain of '''Nephinza's''' guilt. She lamented how '''Nephilla's''' lair had been overtaken by a [[Bugbear]] leading a horde of [[Goblin|Goblins]], but she wouldn't stop them if the team wanted to waste time and chance death by poking around there. '''Merys''' expressed his desire to not kill anyone without evidence of their guilt and Adrian agreed, preferring to stay neutral in the sisters' conflict until they could uncover proof. The rest of the team concurred and they departed '''Nephira's''' lair, heading towards the [[Goblin]]-guarded corridor where they presumed the former lair of '''Nephilla''' to be.
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=== Bugbears & Goblins ===
Adrian and the team confront the [[Bugbear]] who has taken up residence alongside his horde of [[Goblin|Goblins]] inside '''Nephilla's''' lair and they finally figure out where all of the townspeople's missing children have been disappearing, but what they discover is far from what could be considered a happy reunion…
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The team discussed their plan of attack as they approached the [[Goblin]]-guarded corridor for the second time. '''Dave''' remained adamant that he had picked up enough of the [[Goblin|Goblins']] language to be able to befriend and talk to them. The rest of the team, deciding that this would be a hard but much-needed lesson for their small friend, allowed '''Dave''' to take the lead as they turned the corner towards the corridor.
As everyone else waited out of sight and listened for the codeword "strawberries," '''Dave''' raised their arms outwards as a sign of peace and cautiously trudged forward. Calling out in what they believed to be the [[Goblin|Goblins']] language, which sounded suspiciously like common but spoken very slowly, '''Dave''' beseeched them for a chance to speak to their leader. The [[Goblin|Goblins]] raised projectile weapons against '''Dave''' upon noticing their approach, but they were haulted by the sound of a gruff voice coming from the end of the corridor. "Interesting…" the voice growled and ordered the [[Goblin|Goblins]] to bring '''Dave''' to him.
'''Dave''' was led into a cavern with a fountain at its center and piles of bones strewn about, and on a throne at the opposite end sat a [[Bugbear]] who commanded the small army of [[Goblin|Goblins]] posted all around with their weapons pointed. '''Dave''' attempted to state their case with the [[Bugbear]], relaying their situation with the [[Hag|Hags]] and how they needed evidence of '''Nephilla's''' death in order to know which of the sisters to kill. "Kill both of them," the [[Bugbear]] snapped back, to which '''Dave''' elaborated that them and their friends didn't want to kill anyone without proof of guilt. Upon hearing that '''Dave''' had brought friends, the [[Bugbear]] immediately ordered his [[Goblin|Goblins]] to kill them. '''Dave''' took hits from several arrows before running back as fast as their little legs could carry them.
'''Dave''' alerted the team by shouting every type of berry they could think of, to which Adrian came sprinting out to scoop up '''Dave''' and dashed them to safety all the way at the far side of the fork. The team regrouped there to figure out a new plan and, having just beared the full brunt of the [[Goblin|Goblins']] attack, '''Dave''' was no longer keen to befriend any of them. They attempted to pick off the [[Goblin|Goblins]] by luring them out with mockery and bottlenecking them in the fork. They were only able to kill one of the [[Goblin|Goblins]] with this bait, however, and it seemed clear to Adrian that they would need a more direct approach.
Adrian took off sprinting back down the corridor, dodging the [[Goblin|Goblins']] projectiles, and into the cavern to confront the [[Bugbear]]. Adrian pleaded with him to call of his [[Goblin|Goblins]] so they could talk and that they were only there in search of some missing children. "Do you see any children here?" the [[Bugbear]] laughed. "No…you come into my house, you die," and he ordered his [[Goblin|Goblins]] to shoot their arrows. Adrian dodged most of them, remaining standing long enough for the rest of the team to catch up.
Adrian pulled out his shortsword and began slicing up several [[Goblin|Goblins]] while '''Ashe''' stormed forward to engage the [[Bugbear]]. Meanwhile, '''Merys''' launched projectile spells and '''Dave''' provided much-needed healing magic. Adrian once again roared at the [[Bugbear]] to call off the attack as he struck down three more [[Goblin|Goblins]], which the [[Bugbear]] waved off. Adrian argued that even if the [[Bugbear]] managed to kill their whole team, they would still put a heavy dent in his [[Goblin]] army. The [[Bugbear]] dismissed him, laughing "make your dent, there will always be more [[Goblin|Goblins]] to replace them."
'''Ashe''' landed several strong hits on the [[Bugbear]], but the final blow came from one of '''Merys'''' beams of crackling energy which the [[Bugbear]] tried to guard from with his shield, but the sound of splintering wood and skull bone reverberated throughout the cavern as the [[Bugbear|Bugbear's]] lifeless body crashed to the ground.
The moment that the [[Bugbear]] was killed and the shield broken, Adrian clocked a change in expression of the [[Goblin]] he was about to stab. Their eyes fluttered as if coming out of a trance before they realized what Adrian was about to do, threw down all their weapons and collapsed to the ground bawling. Just as his other teammates were readying to kill another [[Goblin]], Adrian shouted to stop attacking them as they seemed to have been under a mind control spell. The other [[Goblin|Goblins]] followed suit, crying and clinging to the team's pant legs.
Adrian lumbered over, the [[Goblin]] still clinging to his leg, to inspect the [[Bugbear|Bugbear's]] corpse. He found a wooden cross section that had separated from the rest of the shield, adorned with two gems on either side as well as magic runes inscribed on the back. This seemed to account for the mind control, but it still didn't explain where the missing children had gone.
The surviving [[Goblin|Goblins]] continued to desperately sob and plead, so '''Merys''' approached one of them and casted a spell to be able to understand their language. The [[Goblin]] begged him not to hurt them, crying that they didn't know how they got there and that they just wanted to go home to their parents.
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=== Journals & Fountains ===
Adrian barters with '''Kyar'''' for information on how to turn the transformed children back into their normal selves, '''Dave''' talks to a strange pointy-toothed man in a two-way mirror, '''Ashe''' gets nearly killed after being flung off a balcony, and '''Merys''' gets turned into a [[Goblin]] after drinking from a fountain…
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With the [[Bugbear]] defeated, the team was left with a mob of crying children who had been transformed into [[Goblin|Goblins]] by some unknown source. Adrian picked up the [[Goblin]] child still clinging to his leg to try and calm them down as well as free himself up to move around '''Nephilla's''' former lair. Meanwhile, '''Ashe''' and '''Dave''' headed up the stairs to explore the balcony. They came across a large pile of crates and a mirror with glowing runes similar to what were inscribed on the [[Bugbear|Bugbear's]] shield. As '''Dave''' picked over the crates and pocked a rind of cheese, '''Ashe''' touched the runes and suddenly a strange pointy-toothed man appeared in the mirror, questioning the two of them about what had happened to '''B'rogo'''. The man lamented that the [[Bugbear]] had been killed thus rendering this branch of his operation redundant before casting a spell which shattered the mirror outwards, knocking '''Ashe''' from the balcony and impaling several shards of glass in both her and the [[Goblin]] child that she was holding. '''Dave''' was able to avoid the strike from the mirror and used their own magic to slow '''Ashe's''' fall.
Not long after, '''Kyar'''' appeared at the entrance of the cavern. This was the first time that the entire team had gotten a glimpse of him, a grotesque creature with lanky limbs and a large green eyeball. He said he detected that the [[Bugbear]] known as '''B'rogo''' had been slain, so he came to make use of the fountain in '''Nephilla's''' layer as it possessed strong magical properties. Adrian investigated the fountain by twirling his hand around in the water, which felt cold but did not ripple or respond to his touch. '''Merys''' tried drinking from it, which tasted refreshing but immediately shrank him into a [[Goblin]] standing in a heap of his now-too-large clothes. He could no longer understand or speak to the rest of his team in this form, but on the plus side, he could now communicate with the [[Goblin]] children. He gathered that the oldest was a girl name '''Kylie''' who had taken on a leadership role amongst the children in the absence of any adults.
Interestingly, '''Kyar'''' could communicate with both the team and the [[Goblin]] children and relayed messages between both groups. Adrian asked what they could do to change '''Merys''' and the children back, but '''Kyar'''' would only part with this information for what he deemed a fair trade. According to '''Kyar'''', the team had first pick of any contents in the cavern due to them getting there first, so Adrian searched around for anything valuable. He returned to the crates that '''Dave''' had previously picked over and found some items of substantially higher value, including a silver figurine of a raven. Adrian offered seventy gold pieces that he found for the information, which '''Kyar'''' seemed to reluctantly accept. He revealed that the effects of the fountain would wear off after twenty-four hours so long as those affected did not drink from the fountain again in that time.
'''Kyar'''' offered to remove the glass shards from '''Ashe''' if she allowed him to use drops of her blood in the fountain, to which she agreed. The transformed '''Osric''', the [[Goblin]] child who had also been embedded with glass shards, agreed to the same offer. '''Kyar'''' removed the shards and mixed their blood into the fountain, revealing a journal that he pulled from the water and took over to a corner of the cavern to sift through. With '''Kyar'''' seemingly satisfied, the team and the [[Goblin]] children took the opportunity to rest.
During Adrian's watch, he tried talking to '''Kyar'''' to try and get a better understanding of his affinity for secrets. Making small talk about the contents of the journal, '''Kyar'''' revealed that it had belonged to his old friend '''Nephilla''' and that he was reading it "for nostalgia." He seemed to come across a page that was especially interesting and Adrian asked what it said, but '''Kyar'''' would not reveal anything more without another trade. He took particular interest in the silver raven figurine as it was apparently some sort of wondrous magical item, but Adrian said that it belonged to the team and it was not his alone to trade away, which '''Kyar'''' seemed to accept. Before returning to his rest, Adrian also asked '''Kyar'''' about the glowing rock that the '''Bullywugs''' in the cave worshipped. '''Kyar'''' laughed, explaining that it was a simple '''Luckstone''' that the '''Bullywugs''' assigned superstition to after an earthquake had coincidentally occurred at the same time they had last touched the stone. With that, '''Kyar'''' returned to his reading and Adrian went to sleep.
In the morning, it was a harder task than expected to keep the [[Goblin]] children from drinking the fountain water as many of them woke up extremely parched. '''Merys''' attempted to explain the consequences to them but they were in no mood to listen to him. '''Dave''' scared off most of the [[Goblin]] children from the fountain, however, by waving a weapon at them. By morning, the bodies of the slain [[Goblin|Goblins]] had turned back into children and the team, determined not to leave them behind, coordinated amongst themselves how to carry the bodies back to '''Terakai''' as well as get the surviving [[Goblin]] children to cooperate as they left the caves. Ultimately, '''Kylie''' volunteered to drink from the fountain and remain a [[Goblin]] for a while longer to help keep the other children in check. So the group departed the caves, with '''Merys''' taking great glee in being able to cuss out the real [[Goblin|Goblins]] who had attacked the team previously as they passed their encampment.
Along the way as they marched through the '''Pericles Hills''', the children as well as '''Merys''' started returning to their original forms in the same order that they had drank from the fountain, just as '''Kyar'''' had said. With '''Ashe''' leading the team, the child '''Osric''' sitting atop her head, they all made it out of the hills and back on the path to '''Terakai'''.
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=== Children & Monks ===
Adrian and the team make a less-than-heroic return to '''Terakai''' with a mob of uncontrollable children in tow and they all agree to ask '''Silence''' for help in dealing with their families, then a mentor from '''Ashe's''' past appears in town and the rest of the team must suddenly say goodbye to their friend…
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It was one day's journey back to '''Terakai''' after leaving the '''Pericles Hills'''. Adrian and '''Dave''' attempted to identify the raven figurine along the way, discerning that it was magical in some way but not how to activate it. All of the living as well as deceased children ('''Garland''' the 4-year-old [[Halfling]], '''Anton''' the 5-year-old [[Human]], '''Rupus''' the 7-year-old [[Human]], and '''Huru''' the 9-year-old [[Half-Orc]]) had reverted to their original forms as they reached the outskirts of town. It was the late evening and the team decided to come up with a plan for how to deal with the children before re-entering town, opting to take them to '''Silence''' as she seemed well-rehearsed in dealing with conflict amongst the townsfolk. '''Merys''' relayed this plan to the oldest child '''Kylie''', and she relayed it to the younger surviving children.
As soon as they entered town, however, the children realized where they were and the team began to lose control of the situation. '''Kylie''' and '''Henry''', a [[Gnome]] boy, remained calm, but two of the other children immediately tried to run straight home. '''Dave''' attempted to stop the children by stunning them with a magical bright flash, but this merely blinded them as they continued running haphazardly towards the wrong houses. Harmony, the [[Tiefling]] girl, stumbled straight into the door of a random house and got her horns stuck. Adrian chased after '''Osric''', the [[Human]] boy, attempting to stop him from also slamming into the wrong house. But as soon as he picked him up, the boy screeched even louder and caused Adrian to compulsively drop him. As '''Osric''' is throwing an extremely audible fit, the lights come on from inside the house. Turning back to the other house that '''Harmony''' had slammed into, the team saw a very tall [[List of Races#New World Crossbreeds (After 0 BR)|Half-Elf]] woman who had emerged from the house, gotten '''Harmony''' unstuck from the door and began to soothe her. '''Ashe''' recognized this woman and began pleadingly looking towards her to assist with the other screaming child. The woman directed '''Harmony''' over to '''Ashe''', who hung off of her pant leg as the woman went to calm down '''Osric'''. An old man had emerged from the house that '''Osric''' was screaming in front of, but it only took the woman's reassurance that all was well for him to go back inside.
The woman returned to the rest of the team, introducing herself as '''Artemis'''. She performed some type of tiger-based martial art move on '''Dave''', slamming them from behind into the pavement and warning them not to ever use magic against the children of the town again. She offered to take the surviving children home, to which '''Ashe''' vouched that she is trustworthy and the team let her guide the children back to their correct houses.
The team headed for '''Silence's''' tavern, the '''Grail and the Grave''', only to find it still bustling. '''Ashe''' went inside to explain the situation to '''Silence''', who was directing floating plates around and gestured '''Ashe''' towards the back door, while the rest of the team waited outside with the cart of deceased children. Adrian went to move the cart to the side of the building so as to draw less attention, but the cart began pushing itself towards that very direction and the team followed behind as it came to rest at the tavern's back door.
'''Silence''' opened the door to meet the three of them and they began struggling to explain what had happened, but '''Silence''' was adamant about not wanting to know anything. '''Merys''' continued to relay the story, however, presumably out of shock and nerves. '''Silence''' protested, annoyed that she would now be forced to lie in order to keep things under control. She ordered "you three, take the children upstairs and make them look comfortable." Just as Adrian made a move to lift one of the bodies, '''Silence''' snapped back "I wasn't talking to you," as the bodies seemed to float out of the cart all on their own and into the tavern. The visage of this shocked Adrian…it had been several years since he'd lost the ability to see invisible things, but something about being unable to see '''Silence's''' ghostly servants in this moment truly shook him and he let out an audible gasp. '''Silence''' retorted, "what's wrong with the dead helping the dead?" Adrian sheepishly clarified, "nothing…it's just that the floating surprised me." '''Silence''' invited the group back into the tavern, as their previous rooms were still available. '''Ashe''' chose to camp in the woods to get some distance from the situation and '''Dave''' decided to spend the rest of the night strolling around town in case any commotion happened. Adrian and '''Merys''' retired to their respective rooms for the night, however, and all they could hear outside were the occasional sounds in the hallway of some parents' grief which quickly became muffled by a closing door.
When morning finally came, Adrian walked past '''Merys'''' door hoping that he was also up as he did not quite feel ready to brave downstairs alone. Luckily, '''Merys''' was walking out at that exact moment and they both went down together. '''Ashe''' and '''Dave''' also re-entered the tavern in that moment through the front door. They all sat at a table except for '''Dave''', who started trying to clean all around the room as if nothing had happened. '''Silence''' descended the stairs with a yawn, seemingly back to her normal spirits, and called to the kitchen for four morning sunrise platters. She sat with the team, apologizing for her impatience the night before as four platters of food floated towards the table and were placed in front of each of them.
As they ate, '''Silence''' handed the team ten gold each—the promised payment for having saved four children—as well a sack of thirty extra gold to split amongst themselves as thanks for bringing the bodies back. "You did not need to, but the families were incredibly grateful," she explained. Adrian tried proposing that instead of paying him, that she might help identify the raven figurine they had found instead. '''Silence''' rebuffed, "I see no reason why I can't do both" and grabbed his hand, reassuring him that what happened wasn't his fault and insisting that he take the money. Adrian reluctantly agreed as he pulled the raven figurine from his bag for her to inspect. She identified it as a '''Figurine of Wondrous Power''', an uncommon magical item that could come to life for a brief time and deliver a message. She explained she would need to spend some time to figure out its power word, but that she would return it as soon as she was done. Adrian also ran back up to his room to fetch the shield with the runes on it, which '''Silence''' recognized as command glyphs that would have allowed '''B'rogo''' the [[Bugbear]] to control anyone who drank from '''Nephilla's''' fountain.
As they were eating breakfast and having these items identified, the tall [[List of Races#New World Crossbreeds (After 0 BR)|Half-Elf]] named '''Artemis''' who had helped them the night before entered the tavern and requested to speak to '''Ashe'''. The two of them went outside and '''Ashe''' pleaded to teach her the tiger-based martial art move that she had performed on '''Dave'''. The [[List of Races#New World Crossbreeds (After 0 BR)|Half-Elf]], who was an inch or two taller than even '''Ashe''', eventually agreed after some coaxing, but warned that they would need to start her training right away. '''Ashe''' darted back into the tavern intending to quickly shout goodbye to her friends and dash off, but '''Artemis''' turned her around and instructed her to say proper goodbyes as "you won't be seeing them for awhile."
Adrian was surprised to see '''Ashe''' go, stuttering "you're kind of the whole reason I came here in the first place." She gestured to the other teammates, responding "and let them be the reason you stay." After saying her farewells to each of them, the mentor and mentee took off in a sprint towards the sunrise as '''Ashe''' struggled to keep pace with '''Artemis'''' long strides.
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=== Dreams & Bartering ===
Adrian makes use of some much-needed downtime by distributing the loot he picked up in the '''Shrieking Caverns''' to his friends and teammates, but his momentary feeling of calmness is disrupted by a nightmare that unlocks a lost memory from the day he sacrificed his emerald essence…
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After returning to '''Terakai''' from their first mission together, the team had a couple of days in town to spend however they pleased. '''Dave''' first headed to the general store to try and purchase a new broom, dropping most of his possessions and coins on the counter as they had no idea how to barter. The [[List of Races#New World Crossbreeds (After 0 BR)|Half-Elf]] shopkeeper, taking pity on them, refused this "trade" and haggled '''Dave''' down to a more reasonable price, even snapping the broom's handle down to a shorter size to make it easier for '''Dave''' to use.
Meanwhile, Adrian gathered together the items he had found in the '''Shrieking Caverns''' and asked his teammates if they wanted dibs on any of the stuff before he sold it off at the general store. '''Dave''' took a roll of twine and a multicolored stone disk, and Merys took a pair of engraved bone dice. Adrian also visited '''Silence''' to make her the same offer as thanks for all of her help and accommodations, and she accepted two carved bone statuettes. She also expressed interest in a copper chalice with silver filigree, but she insisted on paying Adrian twenty-five gold pieces for it. Afterwards, Adrian headed to the general store to sell the rest of the items. The shopkeeper asked Adrian if he knew how to haggle, recounting his previous experience with '''Dave'''. Adrian presented an embroidered silk handkerchief and a spool of thread, for which the shopkeeper offered him twenty gold pieces. Adrian accepted and also presented a wedding ring he had found but, being unfamiliar with the courting customs in this kingdom, the shopkeeper explained that wedding rings were most often custom-made and that this ring had most definitely been designed with a specific person in mind. He offered to purchase the ring anyway, but Adrian decided to hold onto it just in case he could find out who it was designed for. Adrian thanked the shopkeeper, who introduced himself as '''Cornago Harker''', before heading back to the '''Grail and the Grave'''.
Afterwards, '''Merys''' also stopped by the general store to inquire about mailing a letter to his family. '''Cornago''' explained that letters were often delivered by birds such as those kept by '''Lord and Lady DuPont''', nobles without any real power who had been relegated to '''Terakai'''. Mailing a letter through them would have been too pricy, however, and '''Merys''' chose to go with a different option.
After the team met back at the '''Grail and the Grave''', Adrian gave '''Merys''' and '''Dave''' equal shares of the silver and copper pieces he had brought back from the '''Shrieking Caverns'''. Not knowing what to do with money, '''Dave''' immediately went to the town's non-denominational shrine and left all of his coins there in neat little stacks.
Adrian struck up another conversation with '''Silence''', inquiring what would be the best way to return to the '''Holy Kingdom of Islux''' on the continent of '''Parluza''', if he ever wanted to return to his '''Deus Temporis''' temple. She replied that the best way would probably be to return with one of the caravans back to the port towns on the "prongs," spurs of islands that go north along the bay of the '''Tenabrask Kingdom''', and hitch a ride on a ship from there. Adrian also asked where he could find the nearest temple of '''Deus Temporis'''. She said that the '''Tenabrask Kingdom''', not being a particularly religious continent, had a single '''Deus Temporis''' temple at the kingdom's capital which worshipped all three heads—'''Alram''', '''Meozith''', and '''Lethos'''—of the [[Dragon]] god of time. '''Silence''' also mentioned, although she wasn't certain, that she had heard this temple also worshipped another [[Dragon]] who was known as the "[[Dragon]] of stories." Adrian expressed interest in visiting this temple to pay his respects, should he ever find himself in the kingdom's capital.
That night, Adrian had a nightmare which harkened back to his final moments in the [[Sardior#Battle of Five Lights|Battle of Five Lights]] when his body was burned away as part of the ritual to resurrect [[Sardior]]. Unlike his original memory, however, he heard three distinct voices once his consciousness had been left to float in a sea of nothingness. The voices argued amongst themselves: "It is foretold, the young one will die." "But he cannot die, it would disrupt the timelines." "Then we will leave him enough. Just enough so that he is not lost…but we will also take." In that moment, Adrian felt as though he was suddenly not all there. Then, just as he recalled before, he was left cold and adrift until he felt his memories become overpowered by soreness and the sudden need to breathe. Adrian gasped awake, still in his bed at the '''Grail and the Grave'''.
The next day during breakfast, a [[Half-Orc]] named '''Urza'''—the other co-owner of the '''Grail and the Grave''' and '''Silence's''' partner—entered the tavern with a caravan returning from the north. '''Silence''' leapt into '''Urza's''' arms, exclaiming "you're home!" The caravan also consisted of '''Maple''', a young [[Artificer]] woman with extremely long pigtails and an enormous hammer, who immediately took up an interest in '''Dave''' and began bombarding him with questions about how he functioned. The majority of the group, however, was made up of a dozen of the town's missing children who '''Urza''' had successfully located. Each child carried either a porcelain or wooden doll and was completely silent with vacant eyes. '''Urza''' had apparently employed '''Maple''' to watch after these children in her caravan in exchange for a piece of information about a particular sword. Despite the children being found and returned to '''Terakai''', however, it was clear that something terrible had happened to them.
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=== Fans & Flames ===
Adrian and the team run some field tests to try and figure out what could have caused the enchantment on the returned children, then they debate amongst themselves what their next course of action should be before finally deciding to travel to '''Gorothair''', the city where '''Urza''' had located the children…
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'''Urza''' stood behind the counter in the '''Grail and the Grave''', sizing up the team as they watched '''Silence's''' unseen ghosts usher a dozen recently found children through the front door. None of the children put up any fight or protest, simply allowing themselves to be nudged in whichever direction they were guided. Adrian asked '''Urza''' if there was anything he could do to help, to which she responded "don't see how." The team began asking her questions about the children and where she had found them. She explained that she found them dispersed all around '''Gorothair''', one of the larger cities located on the western prongs just north of '''Terakai'''. She said "once I found a few, it became easier to track the rest down," and that the children were in this vacant state when she found them. Most of them were already holding a doll, but the few who had become separated from their doll were struggling desperately to retrieve it. She had found one of the children at a house where their doll had been locked inside, and "they were trying to claw straight through me to get it back." Adrian kneeled down to one of the children to ask their name, but they gave no response and their eyes seemed to only barely track him. The team asked if the children were only attached to their specific dolls, to which '''Urza''' replied "I don't wanna know what happens if you try to switch them."
'''Silence''' was visibly upset by the state of the children and had left to retrieve something from her room, eventually returning with a keyring that held various pieces of stained glass. She peered at the children through each piece of glass before landing on one and determining that the children were under an enchantment spell. The dolls, however, bizarrely did not appear to have any magical properties. She retreated back to her room to fetch another item and '''Urza''' followed, leaving the team to babysit the children. Adrian and '''Merys''' went back and forth speculating what could be the cause of this enchantment. As soon as '''Dave''' spoke up, however, all of the children moved their heads to stare directly at '''Dave'''. This gave Adrian an idea: assuming these children were victims of the same operation as the children they had rescued from the '''Shrieking Caverns''', perhaps they had been enchanted by the pointy-toothed man who had spoken to '''Dave''' through the two-way mirror and the children were being used to psionically spy on them. '''Merys''' agreed this was possible, but also expressed concern about the children being potential sleeper agents who could be remotely activated at any time to carry out some devious task.
'''Dave''' decided to paint a picture of the pointy-toothed man to see if the children would react to the sight of him. '''Maple''', meanwhile, was exhausted from the sleepless caravan and dozed off at one of the tables. While that was going on, Adrian tested another theory by grabbing a towel from behind the counter and tying it over one of the children's eyes like a blindfold. He then took '''Dave''' and led them to the other side of the room. All of the children's heads swiveled to continue tracking '''Dave''' except for the blindfolded one, who merely moved their head around confusedly. Adrian excitedly declared this meant that the children were not acting as a hive-mind, but rather, they were probably all merely attached to the same puppeteer.
The team ran some other tests, such as seeing if the children would track illusions of '''Dave''', before '''Silence''' and '''Urza''' eventually returned holding what looked like an eight-pointed folding fan. '''Silence''' explained it was an item that could dispel enchantments, but they would need to be careful as it only held eight charges a day. '''Urza''' expressed concern, "how do you decide which child gets to go home tonight?" They opted to keep all the children safe in the upstairs inn until they could remove the enchantment from all of them. '''Silence''' couldn't decide which child to test the fan on first, so '''Dave''' pointed out the child that he deemed the most "disposable." She waved the fan at the child and one of its points dimmed, but there was no visible change in the child's demeanor. '''Silence''' tried again and upped the ante by expending two charges. This time, the child began to blink and look around as if coming out of a daze. '''Silence''' was visibly relieved, muttering "good, good…it can be dispelled."
As the enchantment broke and the magic began to dissipate into the air, however, '''Dave''' saw the magic as pretty colors and absorbed the magic into their body before immediately expelling it. The wild magic caused the painting that '''Dave''' was holding to catch fire, as well as any other flammable things that '''Dave''' grasped in their hands for the next minute. '''Silence''' scolded '''Dave''' to not absorb wild magic as doing so always had unforeseen consequences. '''Silence''' kneeled down to the child to see if they were alright and ask if she could borrow the doll. The child appeared back to normal, except their strong attachment to the doll seemed to linger and they were extremely reluctant to give it up. '''Silence''' and '''Urza''' exchanged a brief aside in infernal that only Adrian could understand, speculating that the enchantment might have lingering effects that would hopefully dissipate over time. '''Silence''' wielded the fan again, expending three charges to disenchant a second child. She felt the enchantment put up no resistance this time, which was good as she now had a grasp on how powerful this enchantment was. '''Dave''' did not heed '''Silence's''' prior warning and once again absorbed the wild magic, this time taking heavy physical damage. '''Dave''' remained convinced, however, that they were still capable of summoning fire.
'''Silence''' spent the last two charges of the fan to free one more child and '''Urza''' led all of the children upstairs to get them settled into some rooms. When she returned, the team debated what their next move should be. '''Urza''' said it was up to them where they wanted to go, but offered to find them some jobs around town if they chose to stick around. Ultimately, the team decided to travel to the city of '''Gorothair''' as it was their only lead on where the children were disappearing to. '''Urza''' let them know that the journey there took roughly six or seven days, not accounting for long rests. Despite not knowing anything about the city, the team was hopeful that they could figure it out as they went, just as they had on their prior mission.
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=== Bowls & Dolls ===
Adrian and the team begin their journey towards '''Gorothair'''—the unofficial capital of '''Westprong'''—in hopes of tracking down more of the culprits responsible for abducting the children of '''Terakai''', but a creepy doll they meet along the way ends up splitting the team on what it means to be sentient…
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After settling on traveling to '''Gorothair''', the team debated amongst themselves what would be the best way to get there. '''Urza''' weighed in, offering that the trip would take them seven or eight days when accounting for long rests. They considered purchasing horses, but the only people in '''Terakai''' that owned horses were farmers who would most likely need them for the impending harvest season. They decided to travel to '''Gorothair''' by foot for the sake of ease, figuring they would have an easier time acquiring a horse and cart in the substantially larger city for their journey back. Adrian asked '''Urza''' what the road there was like and she reassured him that it was a well-defined path traveling northwards from '''Terakai'''. With their plan set, the team awoke the snoozing '''Maple''' to ask if she wanted to accompany them and possibly act as a guide around '''Gorothair''', seeing as she had just come from there. '''Maple''' accepted their offer as she had intended to return to '''Gorothair''' regardless, but warned them that she would be of very little help showing them around as she had only spent about all of ten minutes in the city. The team brought her on anyway and they left the '''Grail and the Grave''' for the general store (which '''Dave''' was surprised to learn sold more than just brooms), topping off their supplies of rations and rope before starting their journey north towards '''Gorothair'''.
Their first day on the road was relatively uneventful, taking them through what looked like relatively flat farmland. They passed by a small pile of ash with a plain-looking bowl sat atop it which contained a few pieces of copper. Adrian and '''Maple''' passed it by, figuring it was some discarded junk or a trap set by bandits. The superstitious '''Merys''', however, left a gold piece in the bowl and '''Dave''' followed suit, leaving behind their roll of twine. That night, they set up a fire and decided to take turns keeping watch. They argued for an unnecessarily long time over their watch order as nobody ended up seeing anything of note the entire night anyway.
The second day, they walked for some time until deciding to take a break to eat their rations by a tree at the side of the road. As they sat beneath the tree, '''Dave''' noticed a creepy wooden doll—very much like the ones the children of '''Terakai''' had—sitting nearby him. '''Dave''' picked up the doll and began trying to talk to it, much to the rest of the team's dismay. This quickly escalated into '''Dave''' dancing with the doll, and the doll suddenly grew to '''Dave's''' size as they did so. The rest of the team brandished their weapons upon witnessing this, ready to turn to doll to dust. '''Dave''' dissuaded them, however, explaining they had made the doll grow. Adrian asked how, to which '''Dave''' replied "oh, like this," and casted a spell on him. He tried to shake off the spell, but the magic caused Adrian to grow to double his normal size. To avoid being a twelve-foot-tall gold beacon that could potentially attract enemies, Adrian hunched down until the spell wore off after a minute. Adrian did concede later, however, that being a large creature would be really cool in a combat situation.
'''Dave''' insisted on carrying the doll with them, despite the rest of the team's protests. That night, they agreed to the same watch order as before with Adrian taking first watch. This night was more eventful, however, as Adrian saw the doll spring to life beneath the moonlight and start sprightly marching back the way they came with '''Dave''' trailing closely behind. Adrian woke up the rest of the team and they followed for roughly ten minutes, lagging in the dark until Adrian had enough of the creepy doll's shenanigans and breathed fire upon it. The doll continued to creep forward while torched ablaze, so '''Maple''' launched a bolt of lightning at it with her hammer—fusing the doll's joints together and making it fall still—before exhaustingly turning back towards the campsite to catch up on her sleep. The rest of the team followed suit—including a dismayed '''Dave'''—until '''Merys'''' watch when he realized that '''Dave''' had slipped away from the camp. The team begrudgingly cut their rest short to retrace their steps and figure out where '''Dave''' was headed.
After several hours of walking into the early morning, they found themselves back at the tree '''Dave''' had originally found the doll beneath. They thought they had spotted '''Dave's''' head pop up amongst the tall grass, but they quickly ducked down and disappeared again. The team scoped out the area but, despite their best efforts, they could not seem to find '''Dave''' anywhere. Adrian tried one last-ditch idea, invoking the power word for his '''Figurine of Wondrous Power'''. The small silver figurine transformed into a real raven, so Adrian instructed it to find "a clay-looking creature" and deliver his apology for torching the doll. The raven took off into the sky, flying in circles until landing on a limb of the overhead tree and relaying the message in a perfect imitation of Adrian's voice. The sound of Adrian's apology was soon drowned out by Adrian's real voice exhaustedly cursing out '''Dave''' to come down from the tree. '''Dave''' initially refused, claiming that the doll spoke to them and had invited them to a tea party at this location. The doll also told '''Dave''' that Adrian and '''Maple''' would hurt them just as they had hurt the doll, since they and the doll were "the same." This led to a long back-and-forth with the team regarding what it meant to be sentient, but '''Dave''' finally agreed to come down from the tree after Adrian and '''Maple''' unequivocally promised not to hurt them. They left the doll at the base of the tree, however, so that they could still attend the tea party with whatever other dolls were on their way there. At last regrouped, the team backtracked towards the campsite to continue on their journey towards '''Gorothair'''.
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=== Airships & Guilds ===
Adrian learns that his temple chores imparted some transferrable skills when an [[Airship]] crash-lands on the team's path, then they briefly lose track of '''Dave''' moments after arriving in '''Gorothair''' and they all consider joining a guild, except for Adrian who seems very opposed to that idea for some reason…
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By the third day of their journey, the team had only managed to cover a day and half's worth of distance due to all of the backtracking they had to do. Thankfully, they were able to make it back to their campsite and retrieve any possessions they had left behind before carrying on towards '''Gorothair'''. As they walked further down the road, however, they heard a ground-shaking crash far off in the distance. Adrian scouted ahead of the team—attempting to stealthily get a glimpse at the source of the crash—but '''Merys''' soon noticed the flaw in Adrian's plan as there were no places in the open road to effectively hide.
Adrian was the first to see what caused the crash…a massive [[Airship]] that had made an emergency landing on the road in front of them. Adrian dropped his stealth attempt, calling out to the humanoid-looking figures surveying the crash site to ask if everyone was okay. They shouted back to affirm they were unharmed and began walking towards Adrian just as the rest of the team was catching up. Adrian asked one of the approaching men—who introduced himself as the [[Airship|Airship's]] captain—if there was anything he could do to help, to which the captain asked "I don't know, what can you do?" Admittedly, Adrian was not sure how much assistance he could be in such a situation. He had flown on [[Airship|Airships]] before, but did not know anything about how they operated or what could have caused such a crash. He called back to '''Maple''', who seemed the most mechanically inclined of the team. She confessed that [[Airship|Airships]] were more of her sister's field of study, but that she would be willing to take a look. The captain was appreciative to have a set of outside eyes inspect the engine, so he invited the team aboard. They loaded onto a rowboat and, as the captain tapped its oars, the boat began hovering upwards towards the main ship's deck. The team noticed '''Azarail Shipping Company''', a large and well-known freight transporting business across '''Lyaphaire''', painted onto the ship's hull.
As they stepped aboard deck, one of the [[Airship|Airship's]] crew members guided '''Maple''' towards the engine room while the rest of the team were left to talk amongst the crew. Adrian asked where they were headed, to which a crew member answered they were planning to cross the '''Warp''' at the '''Shattered Isle''' before they crashed. Adrian had heard of this '''Warp''' before, as anyone who crossed through the '''Warp'''—which lined all along the edge of '''Lyaphaire'''—would be dispensed at the exact opposite side of the realm. Adrian asked if they happened to be traveling towards '''Gorothair''' to see if the team could hitch a ride, but unfortunately they were flying southwest away from the city. Regardless, the team still wanted to help and they offered to lend a hand with whatever chores the crew happened to be busy with.
Meanwhile, '''Maple''' had been led below deck to the engine room and went about inspecting the [[Airship|Airship's]] machinations, drawing detailed notes as she sought any possible causes for the crash. Everything seemed to be in working order except for the power source, which had become drained. Knowing how magic could act wonky in some regions of the '''Tenabrask Kingdom''', she proposed that the [[Airship]] had simply traveled through a magical dead zone which killed the battery and that they could recharge it using some magical items they had aboard. Concurring with this conclusion, the crew member thanked '''Maple''' for having a look and guided her back above deck to meet up with the rest of the team.
During that time, Adrian discovered that the mundane chores of maintaining an [[Airship]] were extremely similar to the daily chores he performed at the '''Deus Temporis''' temple…so he ended up completing many of the crew's chores with exceptional haste until '''Maple''' returned with her explanation for the crash. The captain paid the team two gold pieces each for their help, then a crew member loaded them onto another hovering rowboat and delivered them to the other side of the road past the [[Airship]] so that they could continue trudging towards '''Gorothair'''.
As the team entered into their fourth day of travel, the weather turned against them as they were stricken with a torrential downpour of rain. The heavy rainfall soaked them and drastically limited their visibility of the road ahead, thus slowing their pace and adding a couple of extra days to the length of their journey. They were relieved once the rain finally started to ease up and they could resume their normal speed along the muddied road. They soon came across another bowl sitting along the side of the road, sunken into the mud and filled with water. Just as he had before, '''Merys''' dropped two pieces of gold into the water-filled bowl. Adrian questioned why he continued to do this, to which he responded "local customs, man." This caused Adrian to recall something that one of the [[Airship|Airship's]] crew members mentioned about the forest along this road being home to spirits. Deducing this must be some kind of offering bowl, Adrian also dropped a gold piece into it before the team carried on their way.
After over a week's worth of walking, the team finally spotted the silhouette of '''Gorothair''' in the distance. As they approached, they passed a group of three [[Elf|Elves]] leaving the city. One of the [[Elf|Elves]] looked ancient and immediately got really close to '''Dave'''. The senior [[Elf]] muttered "it couldn't be," and began angrily raving how "they were all supposed to be destroyed" while his daughter attempted to calm him down. '''Merys''' put his hand on his sword out of an abundance of caution, and the [[Elf|Elf's]] son responded in kind. Thankfully, the daughter [[Elf]] was able to talk her father down long enough for the team to hoof away from the confrontation before any fight could ensue. Adrian asked what that was about and '''Dave''' claimed that the senior [[Elf]] was a friend of theirs from 267 years ago, but they wouldn't go into any more detail as to how they knew him.
The team entered through the gates of '''Gorothair'''. Towards the center of the city sat a tall tower with three [[Airship|Airships]] docked around the top. They decided to duck into one of the first taverns they came across, '''Rosie Friar's Lodge''', to sit down with some actual food and plan their next move. The place was super busy, but they were able to nab a table and put in some orders for cheap beer and shepherd's pie. The barmaid warned that their shepherd's pies were quite large, so '''Merys''' and Adrian opted to split one while '''Maple''' was adamant she would need one of her own and passed the barmaid a gold piece to "keep the beer coming." Not being a creature that required sustenance, '''Dave''' wandered off to do some cleaning with their new broom. The tavern staff shooed them off, however, and they wandered out of the bar to find somewhere else to clean. The rest of the team was already enjoying their shepherds' pie when they realized that '''Dave''' had gone missing. Adrian got up to search around the bar, but could not spot them. Meanwhile, '''Merys''' asked the barmaid where they could potentially find a job board…with the thought that any local cases of missing children might be posted there. The barmaid suggested the '''Razorwind Mercenary''' guild hall. When Adrian returned, they also asked if there were any toy shops or anything that might sell strange dolls, to which the barmaid suggested a particular shop which specialized in esoteric items. The team picked up their things to give the guild hall a try, but first they would need to find their missing friend '''Dave'''. They scuttled out of the bar hoping to catch '''Dave''' before they wandered too far off, but the team could not immediately spot them. They were just about to search deeper into the city when they spotted '''Dave''' wandering out of a nearby building. The team scooped '''Dave''' back up—determined not to lose them again—and headed in the direction of the guild hall.
Upon entering the '''Razorwind Mercenary''' guild hall, they spotted a green [[Tiefling]] with one spiraled horn jutting from his forehead manning the front desk, who introduced himself as '''Dolomite'''. The team inquired with '''Dolomite''' about the guild's job board while '''Dave''' took to sweeping the lobby. '''Dolomite''' did not take kindly to '''Dave's''' cleaning, repeatedly warning him to cut it out. He told the team that the guild's job board was for members only and that they would first need to become members by filling out an application, paying membership dues, and doing a trial job to prove their competence to the guild. Based upon his prior experience with being a part of guilds, Adrian refused to join…citing "religious reasons" for his objections. He stated, however, that the rest of the team were free to join the guild if they wanted. '''Merys''' and '''Maple''' expressed interest in joining and each took an application. '''Dave''' was still attempting to sneakily clean the lobby as the team departed in search of an affordable inn to stay at for the night.
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=== Inns & Talismans ===
Adrian and the team get lost while trying to find an inn to stay at before debating the benefits of joining a guild, then they visit a shop called '''Les Talismans''' which sells esoteric magical items and they get their strongest lead on the missing children yet in the form of a small, mysterious black pyramid…
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The team left the guild hall and emptied back onto the street, unsure of which direction was best to go in order to find an inn. They decided to pick a random street and just start walking. They walked for a couple of hours until the street terminated at a wall marking the edge of the city, yet they hadn't spotted a single inn. Realizing they had wandered into a residential district, they backtracked for a bit and entered the first building that looked like a shop to ask for directions. They found a quiet teashop inside and explained to its owner, '''Sylonia''', that they were new to the city and searching for an inn. She was kind enough to offer them some recommendations. She suggested the '''Welcome Rest''', located between the '''Zephyrus Docks''' and '''South Gate''' near the tall [[Airship]] tower the team had spotted when they first arrived in the city. She also mentioned the '''Red Crest Inn'''—a pricier inn towards the center of town—as well as the '''Bloody Oar'''—an inn on the outskirts of town located above a blacksmith's shop. The team opted to try the '''Welcome Rest''', reasoning that it would be easiest to find if they simply followed the [[Airship]] tower (plus if it turned out to be too expensive to put them up for multiple days, they could always just stay one night and then relocate to the '''Bloody Oar'''). They thanked '''Sylonia''' before heading back outside in the direction of the [[Airship]] tower.
Using '''Sylonia's''' directions, they were able to locate the '''Welcome Rest''' with relative ease. As they entered, the interior appeared to just be another tavern until Adrian turned left through an arched corridor and found the front desk for the inn. Adrian waved over the rest of the team as he got the attention of the [[Dragonborn|Blue Dragonborn]] sitting at the desk—who was wearing a pair of spectacles while reading a newspaper—to inquire about the price of a room for the night. He said it would run three silver pieces each night for a room with two beds, which the team found surprisingly affordable. They each opted to purchase their own rooms…except for '''Dave''', who had begun their usual "bartering" technique of emptying their entire inventory on the counter before the Adrian halted them mid-negotiation. '''Merys''' offered to let '''Dave''' stay in his room, which they agreed to. The [[Dragonborn|Blue Dragonborn]] passed them their keys and the team headed up the stairs towards their rooms (which were nearby, but not directly next to each other).
They debated their next move, with '''Merys''' and '''Maple''' both determined to join this '''Razorwind Mercenary''' guild. '''Merys''' reasoned that—despite Adrian's objections—it was still their strongest lead for finding the missing children, whereas '''Maple''' was mostly interested in what sorts of weaponry the guild possessed. Adrian countered that there was no reason to believe the guild had any leads on missing children, and that all they knew for certain was that the guild had a job board. '''Maple''' argued that they were both missing the point and that the job board was not important, but rather, joining the guild would give them access to members who undoubtedly had connections to the criminal underbelly of the city and could help them obtain leads on whoever was trafficking the children. '''Dave''' asked what a guild was, to which Adrian rather hastily explained that it was a group of people who did jobs for money. '''Maple''' interjected that there was more to guilds than that, but '''Dave''' enthusiastically exclaimed "oh, so they're like a cult?" The team went back-and-forth like this for a while, standing in the hallway outside of their rooms. '''Maple''' took this time to study her guild application and see if it contained any exclusivity clauses, but it was relatively sparse on information. Regardless, '''Maple''' and '''Merys''' each filled out their respective applications which contained a lot of strange questions, such as whether they were worshippers of any particular deities or if they were attempting to use this guild membership to fulfill some debt to a patron. Adrian remained firm about staying away from the guild, but reassured that he would still help follow any leads on the missing children that might arise from their potential membership. He suggested that '''Merys''' and '''Maple''' split off to return their guild applications while he and '''Dave''' checked out the esoteric shop that the barmaid had previously suggested. However, '''Merys''' and '''Maple''' also wanted to see this esoteric shop…so they decided to wait until the next day to return their applications and the whole team left the inn to explore the shop together.
The team followed the directions the barmaid gave them to a shop with a sign out front which read '''Les Talismans'''. As they entered, they were immediately struck by the wide array of peculiar-looking artifacts and weapons which lined the walls and shelves of the shop. However, there were notably no dolls in sight. A large [[Loxo]], whose name they learned was '''Boloro''', sat behind the counter. The team asked him if any creepy moving dolls had ever come through the shop. He sluggishly responded no, suggesting they may have simply met some '''Geppettan'''—an offshoot of the [[Warforged]] who resemble various children's toys—but that they were sentient creatures who would not be sold in a shop. The team clarified that the dolls they sought were not sentient creatures, but rather enchanted objects. '''Boloro''' called through a curtain to consult with his partner, an '''Owlin''' named '''Sintara''', who ran the more esoteric side of the shop.
'''Boloro''' directed the team through a door leading to the back half of '''Les Talismans''', which contained expensive-looking esoteric items displayed in cases. This annex of the shop had clearly been set up to appeal to a higher-end clientele. They asked '''Sintara''' about the creepy dolls, to which she recalled seeing some in the possession of several "urchin children" that she had to shoo out of the shop on multiple occasions. She was pleased to learn that the team intended on taking more of those children out of the city, if they found any, and described how the children used to gather around a particular item in the shop. The team asked to see the item and she directed them to a black, three-sided pyramid that was small enough to fit in the palm of one's hand. '''Sintara''' theorized that it could be the '''Crystal of Djinn''', an artifact known to give its owner great elemental mastery. She was having trouble deciphering it, however, as the runes carved into its sides were very small and appeared eroded. Adrian inquired how much such an artifact would sell for even if left unidentified, to which '''Sintara''' named an obscene amount of platinum and remarked how there had already been a few bidders. '''Dave''' showed her one of their paintings of the pointy-toothed man from the mirror to ask if he might be one of the bidders, but '''Sintara''' did not recognize him.
'''Maple''' requested a chance to study the artifact more closely. '''Sintara''' said it would cost ten gold pieces for an hour to study the item in its case, as well as receive access to an etching she had taken of the artifact previously. '''Maple''' paid the fee and was given a rough, hastily-made etching that remained difficult to decipher. Adrian peeked over her shoulder to see if he could help. Some of the runes appeared adjacent to dwarvish and draconic…but Adrian struggled with deciphering arcana ever since being split from his emerald essence, so he sloped away to let '''Maple''' handle it. Despite her best efforts, however, the etchings were simply too small and illegible to discern anything of value by the end of the hour. '''Dave''' suggested that they use their enlarging magic on the artifact to make the runes easier to read and get better quality etchings. '''Sintara''' very reluctantly agreed, but insisted on fifteen more gold pieces for a second hour with the artifact as well as permission to keep the older, lower quality etching. '''Maple''' once again paid the fee and '''Dave''' casted their spell on the artifact, causing it to double in size. '''Sintara''' was too astonished by the effect of the spell, however, to get a better quality etching. She requested that '''Dave''' cast the spell again, to which they agreed…but suggested Adrian also help by taking an etching from another side of the pyramid simultaneously. '''Sintara''' handed Adrian some parchment and charcoal, as well as a pair of gloves for handling the artifact. As Adrian slipped the gloves on, they were initially far too snug before slowly growing to fit his hands. '''Dave''' casted the spell on the artifact a second time and Adrian used his [[Monk]] speed to create a thorough etching of his side of the pyramid. These new etchings gave '''Sintara''' a clearer copy of the runes to decipher, and she agreed to let the team know if any more peculiar children came around to the shop before the team emptied back out onto the street in front of the shop.
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=== Rats & Basements ===
Adrian and the team stop by the '''Razorwind Mercenary''' guild hall so that '''Merys''' and '''Maple''' can drop off their applications as well as accept their trial job, leading them all to kill rats in the basement of the '''Yellow-Bellied Baron''' tavern where they discover another missing child with a creepy doll…
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After departing '''Les Talismans''', the team figured that it would be easier to find their way back to the '''Welcome Rest''' from the guild hall rather than from their current location. Thus, the they took a detour to the '''Razorwind Mercenary''' guild hall to allow '''Merys''' and '''Maple''' to drop off their applications. Adrian waited outside, but '''Dave''' accompanied the pair into the lobby and started cleaning as usual. '''Dolomite''' was still manning the front desk and told them that it would only take a few hours to process their applications. They inquired if there were other '''Razorwind Mercenary''' guild halls outside of '''Gorothair''', to which he confirmed yes and that their main headquarters was in the kingdom's capital…but that they would need to be pretty high-ranking in the guild to receive any benefits there. They also asked if they were permitted to hire contractors to assist on jobs and '''Dolomite''' explained that hired help was allowed, but paying for it would need to come from their own wages and that contractors would not be entitled to any benefits of guild membership. They accepted these terms, and '''Maple''' opted to stick around the guild hall and wait for their paperwork to be completed so that she could get started as quickly as possible.
Meanwhile, '''Merys''' left with '''Dave''' and Adrian to head back to the '''Welcome Rest''' in order to get some food at the tavern they saw when they first entered. They sat down and ordered some beef stew as well as beers, but '''Dave'''—not requiring nourishment—sprung up and proceeded to leave the tavern like last time. Adrian followed them outside, concerned about losing them again, and tried to convince him to stick around the inn. '''Dave''' was very determined to explore around, however, and promised to return in ten minutes. Adrian, trying to respect that '''Dave''' was an adult who could do what they wanted despite their stature and tendencies, very reluctantly let them off to wander. As they explored, '''Dave''' stumbled upon an open market which they thought about returning to later, and miraculously made it back to the '''Welcome Rest''' within the promised timespan.
During that time, '''Merys''' and Adrian discussed what their working arrangement would be like if '''Merys''' joined the guild. Adrian clarified that he would not expect payment for his assistance on guild jobs so long as they were a team and their work was bringing them closer to the missing children…after all, he had the option to join the guild himself if he wanted compensation. As they wrapped up this conversation, '''Dave''' and '''Maple''' entered at around the same time to join them at their table. '''Maple''' relayed the trial job they had been given in order to join the guild…destroying a swarm of rats that had infested the basement of the '''Yellow-Bellied Baron''' tavern. The job was not urgent and could have waited until the next day, but the team decided they had enough waking hours left that evening to at least swing by the establishment and get a measure of the task at hand.
So they left for the '''Yellow-Bellied Baron''' and, upon entering the tavern, they were approached by the night manager—an [[Aarakocra]] named '''Sqecia'''—and they discreetly explained that they were sent by the guild to deal with the rat problem. She directed them towards a cellar hatch with an attached ladder, and the team all descended into the dark basement. '''Sqecia''' warned them that the tavern had an arrangement with the '''Thieves' Guild''' and that if they saw any of its members pass through the basement, they were to pretend they didn't see anything.
Left alone with those instructions, Adrian began pushing a few large crates around—hoping to scare up some rats—and inadvertently revealed the entrance into the '''Thieves' Guild''' network of tunnels dug into the wall. Simultaneously, a couple of rats scurried out from behind the crates and '''Dave''' lulled the vermin into a trance using their flute. The tunnel was pitch-dark except for an eerie green lantern glowing around the corner—which '''Sqecia''' had warned that the tunnel was booby-trapped beyond the lantern—so Adrian opted to stay clear of the tunnel and check under some sacks of grain instead.
Upon lifting up a couple sacks of grain, however, Adrian was spooked by another creepy wooden doll suddenly sitting upright in front of him atop the stack…as if it had just been placed there the moment he lifted the sacks. '''Merys''' answered Adrian's call for backup as '''Dave''' and '''Maple''' were preoccupied with more rats that had suddenly swarmed at them. '''Maple''' casted two thunderous waves to try and knock away the rats, but accidentally deafened '''Dave''' in the process while '''Merys''' and Adrian successfully covered their ears. All the while, Adrian noticed a child peek out from behind the stack of grain as they lunged to retrieve the doll. Adrian dashed to block the tunnel and keep the child from running off, but the child picked up the doll as well as a sack of grain with an inordinate amount of strength. The child beelined for the tunnel—the large sack of grain blocking their sight—and upon feeling resistance from Adrian blocking their path, they chucked the sack at Adrian to try and knock him out of the way. Adrian kept his balance and grappled the child as they attempted to bolt past him, but not without the child landing a brutal gut-punch on him. Adrian felt a strong power trying to suck away his life force as the child's punch made contact, but he managed to shake it off and kept his grip on the child.
At the same time, '''Merys''' had instructed his familiar to swipe the doll from the child and escape out of the cellar hatch with it. As Adrian served as a distraction, the familiar sneakily slid off with the doll and scurried up the ladder leading out of the basement. The child fought back against being restrained while Adrian pled with them to calm down. Based on the look in the child's eyes, however, it didn't seem like the child could even register what Adrian was saying. Then, as the child continued squirming to try and escape, it was as if the string connecting them to their puppeteer had been snipped…and the child suddenly went limp in Adrian's arms.
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=== Tunnels & Alcoves ===
Adrian gets stuck in the denial phase of grief after another child dies on the team's watch, then he gets in a shoving fight with '''Dave''' while '''Maple''' investigates a familiar-looking mirror which violently shatters and forces her to strike a deal with a mysterious [[Warforged]] to avoid permanent death…
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As '''Maple''' and '''Dave''' stamped out what remained of the swarm of rats, Adrian propped the child he was holding atop the stack of grain—so as to not drop them on the ground—and checked them over for any signs of life. However, he detected no pulse and the child's eyes remained open and unblinking. Adrian hurriedly felt around the basement for any unseen force that could have harmed the child, but he found nothing. He squabbled with '''Merys''' about what to do next, with '''Merys''' adamant that they should report back to '''Sqecia''' and accept responsibility for what had just happened. Adrian, however, refused to believe that the child was really dead and called for '''Dave''' to try using one of their healing spells. '''Dave''' obliged, but the child remained completely unchanged. Adrian continued to sputter—struggling to accept that another child had died under the team's protection—and began thinking aloud about what they could do to track down the people responsible. '''Merys''' went over to the child's body and attempted to close their eyes, but their eyelids were completely paralyzed and could not be shut. Adrian took this as proof that the child was not really dead, but merely under the effects of a spell which feigned death very convincingly. '''Merys''' reasoned that certain powerful spells like that did exist, but they almost always required physical touch to cast. Adrian exclaimed that the doll must have casted it, considering he had last seen the doll tucked into the child's shirt collar. The team then noticed a thudding sound emanating from the cellar hatch as '''Merys'''' familiar repeatedly banged against it, attempting to follow its orders to escape with the doll. '''Merys''' called for it to return and it scurried back to him, the doll still in its grasp where it would have been far out of reach from the child.
Meanwhile, '''Dave''' studied what remained of the rat swarm and found that the carcasses were strangely lacking in the amount of blood one would normally expect from a squished rat. In '''Maple's''' pursuit to kill all the rats, she chased several of them partway down the '''Thieves' Guild''' tunnel before finishing them off. She decided to explore a bit further into the tunnel—being careful to not go past the green lantern—before tripping through an illusionary wall and into a hidden alcove containing a rune-inscribed mirror. She approached the mirror, intending to see if any of its runes matched the ones she had observed while studying the black pyramid artifact in '''Les Talismans'''.
At the same time, Adrian conceded they should relay everything that had just happened to '''Sqecia''' if there was even a small chance that the child might still be alive. The rest of the team was in agreement and Adrian called down the tunnel to '''Maple''' to see if she agreed with their plan. After receiving no response, he lit a torch with the intent to creep down the tunnel himself in search of '''Maple'''. Only a few steps in, however, he reached the line of rat carcasses '''Maple''' had left behind and he refused to go any further…convinced that the tunnel was booby-trapped beyond that point. '''Dave''' decided to sneak up behind Adrian and provide some encouragement by shoving him, but they did not put enough force behind the shove and Adrain stayed planted in place. Adrian attempted to return the favor by shoving '''Dave''', but he got tripped up by '''Dave's''' short stature and merely brushed the top of their forehead. '''Dave''' shoved Adrian again, this time successfully pushing him forward as they both realized this portion of the tunnel was not booby-trapped, after all.
All the while, '''Maple''' remained alone in the soundproof alcove and reached out to touch the runes carved into the frame of the mirror. Upon making contact, the runes began to glow and the reflection in the mirror became pitch-black. A menacing voice emanated from the mirror, stating "oh, it's the group of you again…you all are making yourselves quite a nuisance for me." After that, the mirror shattered outwards just as it had in the '''Shrieking Caverns'''…filling '''Maple''' with shards of glass and ejecting her out of the hidden alcove. Upon hearing the sound of '''Maple''' slamming against the tunnel wall, Adrian rushed into the tunnel and found her unconscious. Interestingly, no shards of glass remained in '''Maple's''' body as they seemed unable to permeate the illusionary wall of the alcove. '''Merys'''' familiar had also followed deeper into the tunnel as Adrian attempted to stabilize '''Maple''' with no success. Adrian grabbed ahold of '''Maple''', dragging her back towards the main room of the basement while calling for '''Dave''' to ready some healing magic.
Unbeknownst to Adrian, however, '''Maple''' had already crossed over. She found herself in the workshop that she had always dreamed of constructing with her sisters. But she was not alone inside the workshop…a [[Warforged]] with glowing, cobalt-colored eyes stood there with her. The [[Warforged]] gazed at her in judgement, explaining that her and her friends were at a nexus point where they could be of potential significance to the multiverse. The [[Warforged]] let it up to '''Maple''' to decide whether it was worth her returning to the living, but warned that being revived would require a favor in return. She agreed to be brought back to life under those terms…so the [[Warforged]] laid out that she would be required to construct something for them, and that she was to obtain an item known as the '''Crystal Xhr'''. Supposedly, she would know the item when she saw it and she was to steal it if necessary.
With those terms set, '''Maple''' awoke to find herself being dragged by Adrian out of the tunnel. Both '''Merys''' and '''Dave''' casted healing spells on '''Maple''' as soon as she was in sight, but she broke off from Adrian and marched her way back towards the hidden alcove…taking her anger out on the mirror as the broke what was left of its frame into splinters. Adrian sheepishly followed behind—trying get a grasp of what she had just underwent—and recognized the remains of the mirror as being like the one from the '''Shrieking Caverns'''.
They both returned to the basement and Adrian went back to their plan of debriefing '''Sqecia''' on what happened. With the rest of the team's agreement, Adrian scaled the ladder and exited the hatch into the tavern. He approached '''Sqecia''' who asked if the rats had been dealt with, to which Adrian replied "I think we have a bigger issue on our hands than rats." '''Sqecia''' reluctantly followed Adrian back into the basement and—upon seeing the body of the dead child—let out an exasperated sigh and grumbled "I should have known they were involved."
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=== Orphans & Galleries ===
Adrian and the team relocate the child's body back to their rooms at the '''Welcome Rest''', then Adrian gets in a skirmish with a [[Yuan-Ti]] outside of a circus tent before they all decide to revisit '''Les Talismans''' and follow a new chain of leads which brings them to an orphanage as well as an art gallery…
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As '''Sqecia''' begrudgingly assessed the scene in the basement, the team felt unnerved by the lack of concern she was giving to the situation. Adrian tried explaining how the child had just seemingly died without any clear cause as he tried to apprehend them, but '''Sqecia''' reacted with agitation. '''Sqecia''' had been content assuming that the child was simply a street rat from the local orphanage who had snuck into the tavern basement to steal food, and that the team had merely "dealt with the rat problem." Adrian sheepishly confessed that the child was trying to make off with a sack of grain when the team had apprehended them, to which '''Sqecia''' shouted "so why are you trying to complicate your story by telling me that the child 'just died?'" '''Merys''' pointed out that the child had no visible marks which would indicate any obvious cause of death, to which '''Sqecia''' beelined to the body and stabbed them in the chest several times with a dagger. She plainly stated "there…you came down here to take care of the rats, you caught the street rat stealing food, and you took care of the problem." The team was shaken by her brazenness, but the only thing they could think to do in that moment was reluctantly accept this alibi and get the child's body out of there as quickly as possible. Adrian requested anything they could use to carry the child with, to which '''Sqecia''' tossed him a burlap sack like the ones the tavern used to store grain. He folded the body into the sack with as much dignity for the child as he could feasibly manage, given the circumstances. Meanwhile, '''Maple''' got a glimpse at the child's face and, with her photographic memory, recognized them from a missing children's poster she saw back in '''Terakai'''. She also scooped up several carcasses of the rats that had swarmed her earlier and realized they were not real. The team promised '''Sqecia''' that they would return the next day to confirm whether the actual rat problem had been fully dealt with, then they departed the '''Yellow-Bellied Baron'''—with Adrian carrying the child's body in tow—back towards the '''Welcome Rest'''.
They re-entered the inn very late at night and found the tavern on the ground floor mostly cleared out, so the team faced no issues smuggling their "parcel" upstairs. Adrian volunteered to stow the child's body in his room for the night while '''Merys''' kept the doll. They all returned to their rooms and got a full night's rest. The following morning, they met back downstairs for breakfast as well as to re-rent their rooms at the front desk. Adrian and '''Dave''' rented their rooms for three additional nights. '''Merys''' and '''Maple''' opted to rent only one more night, intending to move into the '''Razorwind Mercenary''' guild hall once they obtained membership. Over breakfast, '''Maple''' disclosed what she had learned by studying the fake rat carcasses she had taken from the basement…having found them to be intricate wooden toys. The team planned their next move and asked the inn staff if there were any toy shops in town, to which they suggested trying a chain store with varied specializations called the '''Bottomless Boon'''. It was also suggested by '''Merys''' that they revisit '''Les Talismans''' to see if '''Sintara''' could tell them anything about the wooden doll they now had in their possession.
The team left the inn with a plan, intending to pay a visit to the first '''Bottomless Boon''' location they could find. '''Merys''' asked some of the city guards for directions and they were able to get pointed in the right direction. After a bit of walking around, they located a '''Bottomless Boon''' store which seemed to specialize in distributing ingots. They approached the proprietor of the store, a '''Goliath''' woman hauling around heavy boxes, and asked if she knew of any '''Bottomless Boon''' outlets which specialized in toys. She kindly went to the back storeroom and returned with a map of '''Gorothair''' that marked all of the chain's locations. She pointed to a store near the edge of the city which specialized in home goods, but that seemed to be the closest thing they had to a toy store. Recalling the intricacy of the toy rats' design, '''Maple''' inquired where they might be able to find some craftsmen…so the '''Goliath''' woman suggested asking around at the circus in the fields outside of the city. The team thanked the proprietor for her help and left the store to see what they could find at the circus.
They left the walls of the city in the direction of the fields…but all they found resembling a circus was a single, small tent guarded by a man whittling a stick into a point. '''Merys''' approached the man and asked if this was the circus, to which he replied—without even looking up from his whittling—that the circus had already passed through. '''Merys''' questioned what was inside the tent, but the man dismissively retorted "nothing that concerns you." '''Merys''' tried to press more by mentioning the toy rats and asking if he knew of any craftsmen who could have produced them. The man, however, sternly insisted that he didn't know anything about them. As Adrian listened in, he checked the man as having lied through his teeth for that entire conversation. He interjected to ask what was inside the tent if it didn't have to do with the toy rats, but the man kept up his act of completely stonewalling the team. Adrian responded "fine, then I guess you won't mind me taking a look" while attempting to slip past the man and enter the tent…but the man slashed him across the abdomen as his whittling knife elongated into a sword. Adrian attempted to press forward as the man's jaw unhinged, biting into Adrian as the man transformed into his [[Yuan-Ti]] form. '''Merys''' approached Adrian from behind and grabbed his shoulder intending to pull him back, but—upon feeling Adrian standing his ground—he removed his hand and backed away from the confrontation. Meanwhile, '''Maple''' sat down on the ground and avoided getting involved altogether. The [[Yuan-Ti]] gave them a warning to leave, but Adrian attempted to dodge past him again and was stabbed once more before falling unconscious. '''Dave''' casted a healing spell to reawaken Adrian and the team lugged him away from the encounter.
When they re-entered the city, the team found a sufficiently seedy dive bar where nobody would pay any heed to a bit of blood on someone's face. As they regrouped, Adrian chastised '''Merys''' and '''Maple''' for just watching as the [[Yuan-Ti]] nearly killed him. They reasoned that they didn't know what kind of forces could have been waiting inside the tent. Adrian relented it was true they didn't know who was in the tent…but they knew the [[Yuan-Ti]] was lying about the toy rats and he could have just as easily had an entire sweatshop of missing children set up in there. '''Merys''' retorted "we can't save the children if we're dead." Adrian argued that he would have had their backs if they ever initiated a fight…but if they wanted to try and solve everything by just talking all the time, he would hang back and let them do so.
The team left the bar, opting to investigate the orphanage that '''Sqecia''' had mentioned to them. Upon locating the building, they found it in a state of complete disrepair…part of the roof had caved in, and any vegetation that grew from the cracks of urban sprawl seemed to die completely within the building's vicinity. '''Maple''' knocked on the door, inviting the sounds of children's muffled chatter as their beady eyes peeked out of the windows to get a glimpse at the woman with a mechanical arm. A girl in her early teens answered the door. She had a scar over her left eye—the eye itself milky and clouded over—indicating that she was probably blind on that side, and she went by the name of '''Sarah'''. She asked what they wanted, to which '''Maple''' asked if any children possessing a creepy doll had stayed there recently. She confirmed that some children matching that description had been there, but they hadn't been back for several days. '''Maple''' thanked the girl, offering her some gold to help buy food. She asked if '''Maple''' had any candy instead, to which '''Maple''' promised to bring some candy if they ever returned. '''Maple''' relayed this all back to the team, explaining that she was trying to build a rapport with the children to potentially gain access to inside the orphanage later. Notably, the team observed the teen girl conferring with someone on the second floor before coming downstairs to answer '''Maple's''' knocks.
Their next stop was a revisit to '''Les Talismans'''. They entered the shop with the creepy doll in tow and—just as suspected—'''Sintara''' was none too pleased to see one of those dolls in her shop again…but she reluctantly agreed to help the team and she inspected the doll for any traces of magic. She confirmed that there were no enchantments, just as '''Silence''' had observed back in '''Terakai'''. Based on the design of the doll, however, she suggested consulting with her colleague '''Dakiva''' who owned a local art gallery and displayed a very similar object at her most recent exhibition. The team followed her advice and headed for the '''Dakiva Gallery'''.
Upon their arrival, they were asked to check any large weapons before being permitted into the gallery. The team split up to cover more ground, with Adrian intending to find the creepy doll that was supposedly on display. He nudged his way into a crowd of people surrounding a frame—which was painted to look like a bottomless black void—installed on the floor. Being a former courtier, Adrian still had some working knowledge of the art world and he made an observation about the artist's likely intentions to the crowd of observers, who grumbled in approval. Meanwhile, the rest of the team came across a woman—possibly a [[Warforged]]—who appeared to be made entirely of iridescent glass and was most likely '''Dakiva'''. At the same time, Adrian prodded his way through another group of onlookers and discovered a familiar-looking doll inside a display case.
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=== Paintings & Eyeballs ===
Adrian inspects the doll inside the glass display case at the '''Dakiva Gallery''' while '''Merys''' shows the team's own doll to '''Dakiva''' herself, then a shadowy creature follows them back to the '''Welcome Rest''' and they discover a pair of disembodied eyes spying on them from underneath Adrian's bed…
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Adrian encircled the display case containing the doll, attempting to discern whether this doll was of the same stock as the doll that their team possessed. As he walked around it, the light caught the doll at just the right angle for its surface to illuminate with shimmering runes that were barely visible for only a brief moment. He fetched '''Maple''' to see if she could recognize any of the runes. She inspected the doll, concluding that the runes were arcane in nature…but were not the same type of runes they had seen on the black pyramid artifact at '''Les Talismans'''. Meanwhile, '''Merys''' got '''Dakiva's''' attention and told her that their team was in possession of a doll very similar to the one she had in her collection. She seemed skeptical—professing that other people had made similar claims about owning such a doll—but she admitted that the make of the doll implied that there was more than one in existence. As such, she humored '''Merys'''' request to discuss the matter in private and led him down a secluded corridor away from the crowds in the gallery. Adrian noticed '''Merys''' being escorted away and followed behind from a distance. '''Maple''' hung back to continue inspecting the doll in the display case, but '''Dave''' saw Adrian striding off and took a break from their sweeping to also follow.
'''Dakiva''' led '''Merys''' down a hallway, at the end of which hung a large painting guarded by two [[Warforged]] on either side. '''Dakiva''' walked straight through the painting—revealing it to be a portal of some sort—and '''Merys''' followed close behind. Adrian turned down the hallway just in time to see the painted figures of '''Dakiva''' and '''Merys''' enter a door inside the painting, so he opted to wait and see if '''Merys''' would reemerge from the portal. As he waited, Adrian was scared by '''Dave''' sneaking up next to him to ask about the shadowy figure that had followed the pair inside the painting. Adrian hadn't seen the shadow himself, but he believed '''Dave''' nevertheless as he was well accustomed to the idea of creatures that were invisible to the naked eye.
Inside the painting, '''Merys''' found himself entering what appeared to be '''Dakiva's''' office. '''Merys''' pulled out the doll and asked '''Dakiva''' to examine it, to which she agreed as she entered another door into what looked like her workshop and returned with a parcel. She unraveled it, revealing a collection of various tools which included a whittling knife. With '''Merys'''' permission, she took the knife and began lightly scratching at the dolls face…revealing a series of arcane runes like the doll displayed in the gallery. Having authenticated it as genuine, '''Dakiva''' offered ten gold to purchase the doll. '''Merys''' countered that their team could not part with the doll just yet, to which '''Dakiva''' offered fifteen gold…expressing her desire to remain the only art gallery with a doll of this sort. In return for her help, '''Merys''' pledged to give her the doll free of charge once their team had finished their business with it. Upon realizing that '''Merys''' was not going to sell the doll then and there, '''Dakiva''' dismissed him from her office. '''Merys''' left with the doll, reemerging from the painting to be met by Adrian and '''Dave'''. They returned to the gallery to retrieve '''Maple''' as well as their checked weapons before departing for the '''Welcome Rest'''.
As they walked back, '''Dave''' and Adrian attempted to explain the shadowy creature that '''Dave''' had seen stalking '''Merys''' into the painting. Adrian had asked them to keep a lookout for the shadow, to which '''Dave''' confirmed that the shadow was still following the team. They took a sudden turn down an alley—attempting to lose the creature—and '''Dave''' claimed that they had lost sight of the shadow following this maneuver. So the team approached the '''Welcome Rest''', still a bit paranoid with the knowledge that they had a potential stalker.
The team all gathered in Adrian's room, feeling that they could safely discuss what had just transpired. As a means of extra precaution, '''Dave''' casted a point of light in the room in an attempt to disperse any potential shadows. However, this had the unintended effect of casting even more shadows throughout the room with the addition of another light source. '''Dave''' did a thorough inspection of the room to be safe, and very nonchalantly mentioned a pair of floating eyes underneath the bed. This immediately sparked Adrian's interest—having dealt before with [[Smargarg|disembodied scrying eyes]]—and he ducked under his bed to investigate. As he peered into this set of purple-colored eyes, however, he felt a sensation of his soul being sucked from his body and he was forced to avert his gaze. Adrian arose from under the bed and confirmed to the rest of the team that there really was a pair of floating eyes under the bed. '''Dave''' crawled under the bed to try and talk to them and, surprisingly, the eyes replied "well this is unfortunate…you weren't supposed to notice me." It seemed safe to assume at this point that these eyes belonged to their shadowy stalker. Adrian also quickly rejoined them under the bed to ask if they were a friend or foe, to which they replied "that's not for me to say, my mistress simply sent me to discern your intentions." '''Dave''' and Adrian chose to just be upfront with this creature and say that they were trying to return some abducted children back to '''Terakai'''…hence the child's body in a sack at the corner of the room. The eyes seemed somewhat sated with their explanation for the time being, but the team was not convinced they were free of their shadowy stalker just yet and debated their next move amongst themselves. '''Maple''' was determined to follow up with the '''Yellow-Bellied Baron''' to confirm that their trial job for the '''Razorwind Mercenary''' had been adequately completed, so the team agreed to go there next before the sun completely set.
As they entered the '''Yellow-Bellied Baron''' to inquire whether they had done a sufficient job killing all of the rats, the night manager '''Sqecia''' handed them an envelope that had been left at the tavern and addressed to the "exterminators." The team opened up the envelope to find a message written in slashing cursive which read "I hate you, and you annoy me. You tried to intrude on my home once, so now you're invited." The letter was not signed, but they discerned from context clues that it was most likely sent by whoever was in charge of the singular circus tent located in the fields outside of the city. The team resigned themselves to get a full night's rest before paying the tent another visit the next day. Adrian and '''Merys''' returned to their rooms at the '''Welcome Rest'''. Meanwhile, '''Maple''' returned to the guild hall with a signature from '''Sqecia''' confirming the completion of their trial job and opted to sleep there. '''Dave''', on the other hand, left to explore the market street under the cloak of night.
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=== Tents & Mirrors ===
Adrian takes a leap of faith into a mirror and the rest of the team jump in after him, then they are finally confronted by the pointy-toothed man responsible for all of the child abductions and they face off in his lair against a swarm of creepy dolls after refusing his bribe to stop meddling in his affairs…
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During the team's slumber, '''Merys''' dreamed of a ritual that could strengthen his bond with his familiar and improve their communication. However, he would first need to gather several spell components in order to perform it. Upon waking up in the morning, '''Merys''' went downstairs to the tavern to find Adrian already having breakfast. It was not long until '''Dave''' also wandered in and met back up with them, after having already entered two other buildings they had mistaken for the tavern.
Following breakfast, the team left for the '''Razorwind Mercenary''' guild hall to retrieve '''Maple'''. When they arrived, '''Merys''' opted to check the job board—since him and '''Maple''' were now officially guild members—to see if there were any jobs pertaining to missing children posted there. He found no jobs specifically mentioning missing children, but he did find two notices which stood out…the first warned about an increase of pickpockets in the market square, and the second advised against accepting any jobs pertaining to the orphanage the team had visited earlier. After relaying these findings and reuniting with '''Maple''', the team agreed that their next move should be—in response to the letter they had received the previous night—to revisit the tent in the fields outside the city.
Upon their arrival at the tent, they were met with the same disguised [[Yuan-Ti]] still whittling away at a stick. He scowled and remarked "you've kept the master waiting," to which '''Merys''' attempted to justify why they had waited until the next morning to return…such as it being late at night when they received the letter and not wanting to disturb them. Adrian, however, simply strode past the [[Yuan-Ti]] while avoiding eye contact and was allowed to enter without any confrontation. The rest of the team followed shortly behind into the tent.
The interior of the tent appeared completely empty except for a large, round mirror which laid on the ground at the center of the room. Adrian approached the mirror, prodding its reflective surface with his shortsword. He found that his shortsword penetrated the mirror as if it were liquid and created ripples upon its surface. He also noticed that the mirror did not create a perfect reflection…but rather, appeared to be a portal to some sort of demiplane. Adrian whispered a small prayer before plunging into the mirror like a pool of water and disappearing beneath its surface. '''Maple''' quickly leapt in after him, whereas '''Merys''' and '''Dave''' briefly squabbled between themselves—questioning why Adrian had just done that—before finally also jumping into the mirror.
Adrian briefly experienced the nauseating sensation of falling before landing on his feet inside a cavernous, seemingly barren room. It appeared completely dark except for a spot of light which hung directly overhead. '''Maple''' soon materialized alongside Adrian and they began jokingly taking bets for how long it would take the other two to catch up with them. Eventually, however, '''Merys''' and '''Dave''' also appeared with them beneath the spotlight. A voice began to echo throughout the room to which Adrian replied "you must be that pointy-toothed guy that '''Dave''' saw in the mirror." The voice confirmed this fact and even offered up his true name—'''Locanth'''— after more prodding from Adrian. '''Locanth''' offered the team one thousand gold each if they agreed to drop their investigation into the child abductions. Suddenly, two mind-controlled children descended into the room carrying a treasure chest and '''Maple''' recognized them—like she had with the child from the basement at the '''Yellow-Bellied Baron'''—as being missing '''Terakai''' children. The team questioned '''Locanth''' why he targeted children and he simply remarked "they're easier to persuade." Adrian questioned what he was after—asking if he desired the black pyramid from '''Les Talismans'''—to which '''Maple''' revealed she had concluded the pyramid to be fake. '''Locanth''' also offered them the two children carrying the chest—claiming "they aren't needed anymore"—and suggested that the team could "return as heroes" back to '''Terakai''', having rescued two more of the town's missing children. But they refused his offer, believing that children would only continue to disappear if they didn't stop the abductions at the source then and there. Additionally, '''Locanth''' had hinted there was at least one child still in the custody of the abductors.
"So you choose to die," '''Locanth''' declared as the two mind-controlled children took up fighting stances and a swarm of creepy dolls crawled from the shadows of the room…joining the children in attacking the team. In addition to the physical pain, each blow laid on the team felt like a tug at their mental faculties. As they fought back against their aggressors—tactfully avoiding striking either of the children—'''Dave''' casted a spark of inspiration on '''Locanth''' which manifested as a point of light and floated towards its target, revealing his location in the dark room. In response, '''Locanth''' descended from the ceiling—lowered down by a series of marionette-like strings tied to his limbs—and joined in the fight. '''Locanth''' and his forces came very close to knocking out the team several times, but they were eventually able to stamp out the dolls and take down '''Locanth''' himself. With his final breath, '''Locanth''' mused "no matter…her plans will proceed without me."
The previously hypnotized children dropped to the ground unconscious, but still visibly breathing. '''Dave''' inspected under a table and discovered a cross brace—the type used to control marionettes—embedded with glowing gemstones like the shield they had recovered from the '''Shrieking Caverns'''. A sinister quietness fell over the room as the team was left to stew on '''Locanth's''' final words.
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=== Carts & Caravans ===
Adrian and the rest of the team make it out of the tent with two more rescued children before splitting up to find the quickest and most affordable way to travel back to '''Terakai''', then '''Maple''' strikes a new deal in her dream and Adrian is shaken awake by the child who had been presumed dead…
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Just as '''Dave''' reached out to try and grab the gemstone-embedded cross brace, everyone inside the room felt a pressure pressing upon them as the mirror shattered and they were all launched out of the demiplane. As the team regained their bearings, they found themselves back inside the tent…albeit scraped up from the shards of glass. They looked around and realized none of the items from the demiplane—such as the cross brace—had been expelled with them. But the two children—a [[Half-Orc]] and a [[List of Races#New World Crossbreeds (After 0 BR)|Half-Elf]]—sat on the ground completely disoriented. '''Merys''' and Adrian darted over to the children and checked them over while trying to talk to them, but they remained in a state of shock. Adrian suggested grabbing the children and carving their way out of the tent with his shortsword to avoid the [[Yuan-Ti]] guard posted out front, but the [[Yuan-Ti]] heard him and called out "if being discreet was your goal, you have already failed." Adrian exasperatingly picked up the [[Half-Orc]] child and beelined towards the only obvious exit, with '''Merys''' close behind carrying the [[List of Races#New World Crossbreeds (After 0 BR)|Half-Elf]].
As the team emerged from the tent, the still-disguised [[Yuan-Ti]] snidely remarked "so you all made it out alive…that has never happened before." Adrian was very determined to leave the whole situation and simply replied "well if you aren't intending to try and stop us then we'll just go," as he speed-walked away from the scene with the child in tow. '''Merys''', however, lingered behind and attempted to coax more information from the [[Yuan-Ti]] about his boss. At the same time, '''Dave''' asked several earnest questions regarding the traveling circus. The [[Yuan-Ti]] plainly explained to '''Dave''' that the rest of the circus had travelled south, but that they would be unwise to try and catch up with it. '''Merys'''' line of questioning quickly devolved into an argument in which he stormily asserted "you henchmen are all the same." The [[Yuan-Ti]] snapped back "you're just a fucking highborn," disparaging the noble class as morons while strongly urging '''Merys''' to "leave like your friend" and not pick a fight while holding a child in his arms.
Once Adrian realized the rest of the team was no longer close behind, he halted at a safe viewing distance to make sure a fight was not about to break out. As soon as '''Merys''' noticed Adrian waiting for them to catch up, he walked away from the argument along with '''Dave''' and '''Maple'''. Adrian quipped "I hope you got what you wanted out of talking to him,” as the team walked back towards the '''Gorothair''' gates.
As they re-entered the city, '''Merys''' realized that he had forgotten to pick up his payment from the '''Razorwind Mercenary''' guild for their trial job, so the team agreed to swing by the guild hall before returning to the '''Welcome Rest'''. Along the way, they discussed their next move and seemed in agreement about returning the rescued children back to '''Terakai''' as soon as possible. Adrian urged '''Merys''' to ask his guild about the best place to acquire a cart and horse. '''Merys''' did so, learning that there were typically carts for rent and sale along the edges of the city near the gates. However, '''Merys''' feared that these carts would be out of their price range and suggested formulating an alternative plan as they walked back to the inn. Seeing as '''Maple''' had initially rode into '''Terakai''' with a caravan, it was suggested that the team offer their services as protection for a caravan headed back in that direction. Adrian still wanted to at least get a quote for the price of a cart and horse…so when they got back to the '''Welcome Rest''' and gathered in '''Merys'''' room, the team agreed to split up. '''Merys''' would hang back and babysit the children, '''Maple''' and '''Dave''' would explore the market to figure out where in the city caravans typically launched from, and Adrian would visit the tradesmen around the city gates to get a price on a cart.
Adrian took about an hour to return to the city's edge and was able to find a vendor selling carts rather easily. He entered their tent and inquired about the price of a cart that could carry the weight of at least three children. The friendly cart vendor explained that the heavy-duty carts used by most guilds could be rented for around thirty gold, but that a lower-end cart could be bought outright for around fifteen gold. Adrian also asked where he might buy a horse and the vendor said that he could arrange that, as well. A draft horse would cost around fifty gold, but a donkey could also be purchased for eight gold each…with the stipulation that they were slower and could not carry as much. Adrian thanked the vendor for the prices and promised he would return later after consulting with his teammates, to which the vendor said he could have a cart ready for them by the next morning if Adrian could return with the team's decision before sundown.
Meanwhile, '''Maple''' and '''Dave''' visited the market to track down the caravans. '''Dave''' approached a stand selling fish and asked the vendor how he got his produce delivered, to which he pointed them in the direction of the '''Merchants' Guild'''. The pair decided to pay the '''Merchants' Guild''' headquarters a visit and upon arriving, they were met by a man at a desk who seemed immediately bothered by their presence. They declared their intentions, hoping to offer their team's services as protection for a caravan in exchange for aid in transporting three children. However, the man at the desk assumed the children—as well as the two absent teammates—to be liabilities who would require additional protection and refused their offer. After some further back and forth, the man conceded by offering passage to just one child in exchange for the pair's services. He also questioned them as to whether they understood how a caravan operated, as it would likely take longer for them to reach their destination than if they simply traveled on their own. Having gathered that such an arrangement would not meet the team's needs, '''Maple''' and '''Dave''' left to meet back up at the inn.
As '''Merys''' waited in his room babysitting the children, they seemed to break out of their state of shock as the [[Half-Orc]] fully passed out. The [[List of Races#New World Crossbreeds (After 0 BR)|Half-Elf]], however, remained conscious and began to fuss over the scrapes they had received earlier in the day from the shattered mirror…which quickly turned into a full-blown meltdown. '''Merys''' attempted to comfort the child and got them to calm down enough so that their cries were at least not audible to other guests in the inn. The rest of the team reconvened at '''Merys'''' room around the same time, walking into the scene of one child bawling and another entirely passed out. They checked over the [[Half-Orc]] and confirmed that they were still okay before running down to the tavern on the ground floor to grab some soup for dinner. They brought the food back up to the room and offered portions to the children, which was enough to stir the [[Half-Orc]] child awake as they immediately began scarfing down the soup that was given to them. Even the [[List of Races#New World Crossbreeds (After 0 BR)|Half-Elf]] child's basic instinct for sustenance soon won out over their crying and they settled down to eat their soup.
Upon finishing their meals, the children seemed as though they could have carried on eating as it was clear they had not been sufficiently fed while in the custody of '''Locanth'''. However, they were satiated enough that the team was able to coax them to bed with the promise of more food in the morning. As the children passed out asleep on '''Merys'''' bed, '''Maple''' and '''Dave''' reported to the rest of the team that the caravan idea was probably a dead end. Adrian also reported back regarding the cart and horse, noting that the prices seemed to surprisingly fit within the team's budget. Seeing as they weren't in a huge rush to escape '''Gorothair'''—especially if they intended to avoid catching up with the southbound circus—the team decided that a donkey would be sufficient to help haul the children in a cart while the rest of them walked. Each teammate handed Adrian a portion of gold to help cover the cost and he returned before sundown to the cart vendor, who let him know that the cart and donkey would be ready for the team by the next morning.
With the team's transport back to '''Terakai''' secured, '''Maple''' retired to the '''Razorwind Mercenary''' guild hall for the evening. While sleeping, '''Maple''' had a vivid dream in which she encountered a child-sized clockwork monkey who repeatedly echoed the phrase "busy day" before addressing '''Maple''' directly…claiming to be a representative of the '''Dealmaker'''. The monkey explained that the '''Dealmaker''' was offering to renegotiate their deal…instead of being required to obtain the '''Crystal Xhr''', she would instead be entrusted to care for a small, furred creature with clawed feet. This renegotiation would also come with the benefit of enhanced physical strength…in exchange for her connection to magic. '''Maple''' lamented that her connection to the arcane was what allowed her to operate her dominant mechanical arm, but the monkey offered a solution…cut off her biological arm and reattach it to the left side of her body so that she could retain the use of her dominant arm. '''Maple''' ultimately agreed to this new deal and the monkey carried out the ritual, mirroring and reattaching her biological arm in the place where her mechanical arm used to be. When she awoke the next morning, '''Maple''' realized that the changes made to her body carried outside of the dream…and she found a small, furred creature resting on her chest.
Meanwhile, '''Merys''' chose to stay with the pair of children in his room and sleep on the floor with his bedroll. '''Dave''' also opted to stay in the room with the children "for protection," so he stood vigilant and unsleeping to ensure nothing happened to them. Adrian retired to his room next door, inspecting underneath his bed for any disembodied spying eyeballs before checking the sack—still propped up in the corner of the room—to confirm that the dead child was still there. He cautiously went to sleep and got a full night's rest, only to be shaken awake by the feeling of someone pulling at his arm. He first assumed that it was some sort of breeze and tried to ignore it…but after the shaking increased in intensity, Adrian rolled over to see a child covered in dirt and with matted hair standing at his bedside. The child pleaded that they were hungry and, as Adrian sat up in his bed, he realized that the sack in the corner of the room was empty.
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=== Rubies & Prophecies ===
Adrian departs with the rest of the team in a cart towards '''Terakai''' to return three more of the town's missing children and has a dream along the way confirming that [[Sardior]] has been successfully resurrected back in [[The Quelmar Realm|Quelmar]], but learning any more information will come at an undisclosed price…
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Adrian stared into the face of the [[Human]] child he had confirmed to still be dead just the night before, but who now stood beside his bed complaining of hunger. After shaking out of his momentary shock, he glanced the child over for the stab wound inflicted by '''Sqecia'''…noticing that the area on her chest where the dagger had been plunged was already beginning to heal and scar over. Adrian reached into his backpack and pulled out the rations he had left over from the journey to '''Gorothair''', handing them to the child before leaping out of bed towards the door and promising to be back in a minute with something more satiating. Before he could even turn around to speak, however, the child had already scarfed down the rations he had handed her. Adrian closed the door behind him, darting down the stairs to order a breakfast platter from the tavern.
Meanwhile, '''Merys''' shared the room next door with the other two children—'''Destor''' the [[Half-Orc]] and '''Nokiar''' the [[List of Races#New World Crossbreeds (After 0 BR)|Half-Elf]]—as well as '''Dave'''…who stood in the corner all night staring with one eye on each child. They suddenly heard a knock on their door and '''Dave''' answered, only to be met with a dirt-covered child asking if they had any food. '''Merys''' urged '''Dave''' to let the child in and they obliged, likewise offering the child rations which she once again scarfed down before asking for more.
'''Maple''' walked into the tavern with her new furred companion just as Adrian was picking up a plate of food for the child. Adrian—still visibly shaken—asked about '''Maple's''' new friend, and she decided on the spot to name the creature '''Roskva'''. Adrian blankly responded "that's good…the dead kid came back to life" as he wandered back towards the stairs. '''Maple'''—understandably confused—followed close behind asking questions as they returned upstairs to find Adrian's door left askew and they could hear voices emanating from '''Merys'''' room. Adrian and '''Maple''' crowded into '''Merys'''' room as Adrian handed the child the breakfast platter, which she similarly devoured in seconds before requesting more food. '''Merys''' and '''Dave''' had already pieced together where this child had come from and learned that her name was '''Sela'''. Believing that it would not be a great look to go downstairs with the children while '''Sela''' was still so dirty, Adrian suggested that the team attempt to clean her up a bit as he went to fetch her more food from the tavern. '''Dave''' began speaking a cantrip meant to clean the child, but the mere words of the incantation caused '''Sela''' to recoil in fear. Instead, '''Dave''' used their paints to manifest a comb which '''Merys''' used to try and brush through some of '''Sela's''' matted hair…but it was far too tangled to comb with any ease.
Adrian returned—seeing the child still a mess—and handed her another plate of food which she began to devour as quickly as the first one. Adrian suggested to '''Dave''' that they use one of their spells to try and clean '''Sela''' up while she was distracted. '''Dave''' attempted to oblige, but the words of the cantrip once again ignited a primal fear in '''Sela''' which caused her to launch the plate of food she was holding at '''Dave''' and dash out of the room with uncanny speed. '''Dave''' dodged the plate as it shattered against the wall as the rest of the team bolted after her down the stairs. '''Dave''' stayed back in the room with the other two children, who seemed mostly unstirred by the commotion as they continued to lay in bed.
Adrian was the only one quick enough to overtake '''Sela'''…but he purposefully followed close behind as she sprinted out the door of the tavern and bolted down an alley which trapped her at a dead end. Adrian attempted to talk her down, but the girl was so terrified that none of his words even seemed to register as she laid in a fetal position on the ground. '''Merys''' and '''Maple'''—as well as '''Maple's''' new companion '''Roskva'''—soon caught up with Adrian and were equally at a loss about how to calm the child. '''Roskva''', however, approached '''Sela''' and shrunk down into her arms, appearing to soothe her as her panicked breathing began to slow. Taking note of this change, Adrian carefully approached and sat near the child, trying to reassure her that him and his friends were there to take her home. He asked if she knew of '''Terakai''', to which she gave an affirmative nod. He promised that him and the team would get her home to her parents—as well as the other two children they had in tow—and that they would refrain from using any magic around her if that helped her feel safe. With these reassurances, they were able to persuade '''Sela''' to return to the '''Welcome Rest''' where the team made final preparations for their journey back to '''Terakai'''.
As soon as they gathered their possessions and departed the inn later that morning, the team picked up the cart and donkey that Adrian had secured the day prior—as well as a couple quick stops to obtain some rations and spell components—before finally riding out of the gates of '''Gorothair'''. They did not make it far down the road before passing a character from '''Maple's''' past…an apprentice named '''Gusckar''' from a rival family who was traveling into '''Gorothair''' to sell a few sets of armor he had crafted for a fair price. He offered the team first dibs on his wares, but Adrian—being a [[Monk]]—preferred to keep light on his feet. The rest of the team also declined '''Gusckar's''' offer and wished him well as they departed in opposite directions.
As nightfall approached, they found a place near a wooded area to pull off and settle down for the night. They ignited a campfire and Adrian volunteered to take first watch. The evening was mostly uneventful, except for a brief incident when '''Sela''' suddenly bolted into the woods with '''Roskva''' and reemerged after a few seconds clutching a dead squirrel…a single hole in the creature's head and one of '''Roskva's''' claws dripping with blood. The child crudely impaled the rodent onto a stick and walked it over to the fire, attempting to cook it fur-and-all. Adrian went over to and showed her how to properly prepare the creature…throughout his two lifetimes of traveling, he had grown plenty accustomed with how to skin an animal. He asked '''Sela''' what she had done that for, to which she said she had overheard the team commenting that they may need to do some small game hunting if their rations did not last them to '''Terakai'''. Adrian tried to reassure her that she did not need to fend for herself and that it was the adults' job to make sure she was taken care of. However, she appeared unconvinced as she slinked away to feast on her now-cooked squirrel.
As Adrian reached the end of his watch and drifted off to sleep, he had another dream in which he found himself back atop the mountains where he first awoke in '''Lyaphaire'''. He returned to the stream and glanced at his reflection. He recognized his own form staring back at him, except that his scales were no longer gold…instead, he appeared entirely greyscale while the world around him remained full of color. As he gazed into the water…his reflection began speaking to him, saying "I will answer one question from your past for free. Future questions will come at a price." Adrian thought carefully about how to respond…but a single question rang in his head which had haunted him ever since his arrival in this new realm. Replying to the reflection, he simply asked "…did it work?" His reflection nodded in affirmation, stating "the [[Sardior|Ruby King]] reigns again, where you're from."
This revelation slammed into Adrian like a wall of bricks…what a relief it was to finally receive reassurance that his sacrifice at the ceremony several years ago had not been all for naught. But as his mind raced, it also began to dawn on him…what good was he to the resurrected [[Sardior]] if he remained stuck in an entirely different realm?
"I have to go back…" Adrian pleaded. The reflection amusedly chuckled and asked "why?" This response deflated him and he reasoned "because he needs me…surely he still needs me." The reflection—still humored by Adrian's worrying—replied "you poor, deceased child…you really don't know, do you? But as I said, this first question was free…future ones will cost you." Adrian asserted "that's fine…I've already sacrificed everything that really mattered to me." The reflection chuckled once again as it broke apart and began to drift down the stream. Adrian readied to chase after it before he was abruptly stirred out of his dream by the light of the morning sun.
The team loaded back onto the cart and began their second day of traveling. As they journeyed down the road, they came across an oddity in their path…a stone loop filled with random, indiscernible shapes. '''Maple''' hopped from the cart and approached the loop to investigate, with '''Merys''' not far behind. As '''Maple''' inspected the loop, she noticed a void spirit standing far off in the distance…seemingly watching her. Any perceivable light caught in this creature's vicinity appeared to bend to its threatening aura, and '''Maple''' seemed to have some degree of familiarity with how these creatures operated. Not wanting to take any chances, she took out her purse containing all of her gold and placed it inside the loop. Additionally, she asked '''Merys''' to toss in any gold he had on his person with the promise that she would pay him back later. '''Merys''' concernedly obliged and the pair returned to the cart as the team carried on with their journey.
That night, '''Dave''' dreamt of a cave which they recognized from their past…but where they had recalled the walls being decorated with their own paintings, the cave appeared almost entirely deprived of any artwork. They approached the only visible painting, unable to remember if they had painted this one. It depicted a person—who they knew to be named '''Philip'''—holding a single bead of color in his fingers. Dave touched the bead before suddenly awakening back in the cart.
As the team was pulled over for the night, '''Merys''' also took the opportunity to slip behind the cart—out of view of the children—and use the spell components he had gathered before departing '''Gorothair''' to cast the ritual he had been shown in his dream a few nights prior. The ritual proved successful and strengthened the bond that '''Merys''' had with his familiar.
The next day, the team came across another bowl sat atop a small pile of ash along the road. '''Sela''' approached the bowl and asked the team for a match, so '''Merys''' lent the girl his tinderbox and she used it to ignite a small fire beneath the bowl…revealing the reason there was always ash beneath these sorts of bowls as the girl demonstrated proper execution of this roadside ritual for the fire spirits. As far as offerings, '''Merys''' did not have any gold after the team's prior obstacle and tossed a silver piece as well as some rations into the bowl. Adrian peeked from behind '''Merys''' and tossed a piece of gold into the bowl, remarking "hopefully that's enough to appease the spirits" before returning to the cart. '''Merys''' and '''Sela''' also returned shortly afterwards, so the team set back off down the road.
However, it would not be long before the team encountered another bizarre hazard blocking their path…a boat entirely smashed to pieces and several bodies scattered across the ground. Adding to the confusion, the boat was not an [[Airship]] like the one they had previously encountered…but rather, it was a standard seafaring boat that had somehow been wrecked this far into the mainland. The team considered stopping to check on the boat's passengers, but decided that the scene felt too strange and seemed like the setup for a trap. As such, they tugged on the donkey's reins and navigated their cart around the wreckage. But as they passed by, a [[List of Races#New World Crossbreeds (After 0 BR)|Half-Elf]] man covered in veins fell from the boat's mast and onto the cart. To the team's horror, the man regained consciousness and began grasping at their shirt collars…moaning warnings of doom about how "her" and the spirits were going to destroy '''Tenabrask'''. They tried questioning the man for more information, but his replies remained cryptic and mostly unhelpful…simply repeating that the team was leading the children towards destruction by bringing them further into '''Tenabrask'''. The man's raving scared '''Nokiar''' and made him start to panic, so '''Maple''' attempted to toss the man overboard. However, he simply bounced off the ground and landed back inside the cart. '''Maple''' was finally able to rid the man from the cart after knocking him unconscious…but as they rode away, they noticed that he visibly floated a couple of inches off the ground. '''Merys''' asked the team if it was worth trying to help the man, but Adrian argued their priority at that moment should be getting the children to safety. Still, '''Merys''' tossed a couple of rations on the ground near the man who had once again lost consciousness. As the team rode away from the unpleasant encounter, '''Sela''' scooted closer to '''Maple''' and muttered "…he wasn't wrong."
</div>
=== Teapots & Circuses ===
Adrian sets fire to a creepy tea party by the side of the road before being briefly transformed into a '''Blink Dog''', then the team make it back to '''Terakai''' only to discover that the circus has set up just outside of town and they decide to pay it a visit to search for any trace of the final missing child…
<div class="mw-collapsible mw-collapsed">
Coming soon…
</div>
</div>
</div>
== Appearance ==
== Appearance ==
 
[[File:Durian flying.png|thumb|Durian providing aerial support during [[The Shadow Forge Shutdown]].]]
=== Durian ===
=== Durian ===
Durian was sturdily built like most [[Dragonborn]], although he was not exceptionally strong. His scales were a shimmering emerald color with a fine, prickly texture and translucent at the surface. He had draconic emerald eyes and long head tendrils which hung down his back like a mop of hair. He also had a tail, uncommon but not unheard of amongst [[Dragonborn]]. His garbs would forego the customary blue of most [[Bahamut]] worshippers, instead opting for assorted metallic hues to better resemble the [[Dragonborn|Metallic Dragonborn]] most common amongst his clan. He still expressed his allegiance to [[Bahamut]], however, by donning a conspicuous pendant with his religion’s traditional symbol and color. He also wore a necklace that he handmade fastened with a [[Tear of Sardior]], symbolizing his mission to help resurrect the god of [[Dragon#Gem Dragons|Neutral Dragons]].
Durian was sturdily built like most [[Dragonborn]], although he was not exceptionally strong. His scales were a shimmering emerald color with a fine, prickly texture and translucent at the surface. He had draconic emerald eyes and long head tendrils which hung down his back like a mop of hair. He also had a tail, uncommon but not unheard of amongst [[Dragonborn]]. His garbs would forego the customary blue of most [[Bahamut]] worshippers, instead opting for assorted metallic hues to better resemble the [[Dragonborn|Metallic Dragonborn]] most common amongst his clan. He still expressed his allegiance to [[Bahamut]], however, by donning a conspicuous pendant with his religion’s traditional symbol and color. He also wore a necklace that he handmade fastened with a [[Tear of Sardior]], symbolizing his mission to help resurrect the god of [[Dragon#Gem Dragons|Neutral Dragons]].
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Despite his imposing natural shape, he often favors disguises and will even polymorph into his prior [[Dragonborn]] form. In this shape, he appears nearly identical to how he looked before his rebirth, with the addition of wings which are similar to his old spectral ones except that they remain a permanent fixture.
Despite his imposing natural shape, he often favors disguises and will even polymorph into his prior [[Dragonborn]] form. In this shape, he appears nearly identical to how he looked before his rebirth, with the addition of wings which are similar to his old spectral ones except that they remain a permanent fixture.
=== Adrian ===
Adrian is identical in appearance to Durzibethinus' [[Dragonborn|Emerald Dragonborn]] form, except that all of his scales are a metallic gold color. The flecks of emerald in his eyes are the last visual remnants that hint at his original gem heritage. He wears lightweight garb with accents of emerald hues to try and bring out the color of his eyes and bolster what remains from this side of his ancestry. He wears a pendent around his neck from the temple of '''Deus Temporis''' that trained him…specifically, a gold pendant shaped like '''Alram'''—the [[Dragon#Metallic Dragons|Metallic]] '''Gold Dragon God of the Past'''—from the three-headed [[Dragon]] god of time.


== Personality ==
== Personality ==
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=== Durzibethinus ===
=== Durzibethinus ===
Becoming a [[Dragon]] has altered his mind in ways that even he does not fully understand. Emotions feel larger than before, for better and worse. He is more confident and curious, but also more paranoid and mistrusting. It’s difficult to discern if these changes are entirely the result of his new form, enhancing traits that were already there, or if they are in part due to [[Sardior|Sardior’s]] influence. When he begins having an intrusive or self-doubting thought, it’s as if another part of his mind rushes in to squash the thought before it can fully form. He is persuaded to his core that this is what he was meant to become…and yet he sometimes feels a dissonance between mind and body, as if he’s merely the same insecure [[Dragonborn]] piloting this huge, powerful creature. He quietly hopes and trusts that these incongruent feelings will dissipate as he acclimates to being a [[Dragon]].
Becoming a [[Dragon]] has altered his mind in ways that even he does not fully understand. Emotions feel larger than before, for better and worse. He is more confident and curious, but also more paranoid and mistrusting. It’s difficult to discern if these changes are entirely the result of his new form, enhancing traits that were already there, or if they are in part due to [[Sardior|Sardior’s]] influence. When he begins having an intrusive or self-doubting thought, it’s as if another part of his mind rushes in to squash the thought before it can fully form. He is persuaded to his core that this is what he was meant to become…and yet he sometimes feels a dissonance between mind and body, as if he’s merely the same insecure [[Dragonborn]] piloting this huge, powerful creature. He quietly hopes and trusts that these incongruent feelings will dissipate as he acclimates to being a [[Dragon]].
=== Adrian ===
Being new to '''Lyaphaire''', Adrian can come off as endearingly naive when encountering new things. He hides a chip on his shoulder due to feeling forsaken by his god, [[Sardior]], after sacrificing himself for the [[Dragon#Gem Dragons|Gem Dragon]] god's resurrection and being consequently discarded into an unfamiliar realm. He speaks about his past in vague terms and is often reluctant to talk about it since he is doubtful that anyone would believe him, yet alone be able to provide the sort of closure he desires. Optimism is a shaky habit to kick, however, so he hopes for a day when he is able to prove his worthiness to the [[Dragon#Gem Dragons|Gem Dragons]] once again and reclaim his emerald essence…and maybe even return home to learn whether his efforts to revive [[Sardior]] had paid off.


== Abilities ==
== Abilities ==
[[File:Durian flying.png|thumb|Durian providing aerial support during [[The Shadow Forge Shutdown]].]]


=== Durian ===
=== Durian ===
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His psychic presence seeps into his surroundings over time, a trait which he can use to purposefully imbue certain items and even other creatures with his own emerald essence. He used this ability to transform [[Rooney]] into his first [[Ruby Court#Resurrected Court|Harbinger]], forging a [[Warlock Patrons|Patron]]-like relationship and psychic link which allows him to see through the [[Ranger|Ranger's]] eyes as well as telepathically communicate.
His psychic presence seeps into his surroundings over time, a trait which he can use to purposefully imbue certain items and even other creatures with his own emerald essence. He used this ability to transform [[Rooney]] into his first [[Ruby Court#Resurrected Court|Harbinger]], forging a [[Warlock Patrons|Patron]]-like relationship and psychic link which allows him to see through the [[Ranger|Ranger's]] eyes as well as telepathically communicate.


=== Adrian ===
== Adrian of Lyaphaire ==
Adrian no longer has access to any psionic abilities after [[Sardior]] took his emerald essence, which initially left him severely weakened upon first arriving in '''Lyaphaire'''. Over the course of a few years residing in this new realm, however, he steadily rebuilt his strength by training as a [[Monk]] in the [[Monk|Way of the Ascendant Dragon]].
[[File:Adrian.png|thumb|[[Durzibethinus/Adrian|Adrian of Lyaphaire]], the lingering gold echo of Durzibethinus’ mortal life.]]
[[Durzibethinus/Adrian|Adrian of Lyaphaire]] is an aspect of Durzibethinus that was created as a byproduct of his ascension into the [[Ruby Court#Resurrected Court|Emerald Thane of Sardior]]. During his transformation, the residual gold part of his mortal ancestry was shed away and discarded into the [[Astral Plane|Astral Sea]]. It drifted there, eventually forming its own consciousness and being pulled into another realm known as '''Lyaphaire'''. Still possessing the same memories as Durzibethinus up until the [[Sardior#Battle of Five Lights|Battle of Five Lights]], this aspect reverted to using the name '''Adrian Grunwald'''—Durzibethinus’ birth name—as he endeavored to build a life for himself in this new realm…and perhaps someday regain his emerald heritage.
 
''[[Durzibethinus/Adrian|Click here for the story of Adrian’s adventures in Lyaphaire.]]''


== Trivia ==
== Trivia ==
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File:Durian turnaround.gif
File:Durian turnaround.gif
File:Durian miniature.png
File:Durian miniature.png
File:Adrian turnaround.gif
File:Adrian miniature.png
File:Durzibethinus miniature.png
File:Durzibethinus miniature.png
</gallery>
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Revision as of 02:52, 9 July 2024

Durzibethinus
Moments after his rebirth as a Dragon.
Relatives Feredemius, Smargarg
Affiliations Ruby Court
Aliases Emerald Thane of Sardior, Durian, Adrian Grunwald
Date of Birth 826 PR
Place of Birth Northern Snowy Mountains, Isonhound
Species Dragon
Gender Male (he/him)
Eye Color Emerald
Class Deity
Domain Trickery

Durzibethinus, also known as Durian, is an Emerald Dragon and the Emerald Thane of Sardior. Prior to his ascension, he lived a mortal life in Isonhound as a Dragonborn named Adrian Grunwald, son of the high sorcerer in a hidden town called Jadenhill. After leaving home in 825 PR with the hopes of finding a way to protect his clan from hostile Dragons and Crusaders, he changed his name to Durian and discovered the existence of Gem Dragons as well as his own emerald heritage. This sent him down a path towards helping to resurrect Sardior, the Ruby King of Gem Dragons and defeating his disgraced ancestor Feredemius, who served as the original Emerald Thane before the dissolution of the prehistoric Ruby Court. Durian’s role in the ritual to resurrect Sardior caused him to be reborn as an Emerald Dragon and empowered him to sit on the reassembled Ruby Court as the new Emerald Thane. Following his transformation, he took to using the name Durzibethinus, a draconic name his father had given him, in order to protect his identity as well as his clan.

Prologue

Durian was born at the Temple on Jadenhill, a small community off the southern coast of Isonhound. Its population primarily consisted of Metallic Dragonborn and was settled by a clan of devout Bahamut worshippers who emigrated from Pteris in the early PR era to escape the chaos of the Cavalry Rush. The town of Jadenhill itself comprised mainly of the temple, which was partially built into the ruins of an ancient abandoned mining project.

The temple practiced its worship in relative peace and seclusion for nearly three centuries, finding ways to honor Bahamut while they awaited his inevitable return, such as studying the Way of the Ascendant Dragon. However, they would fall victim to the Razing of Isonhound in 700 PR…which flattened most parts of the temple that were not housed in the repurposed mining tunnels. Most lives were spared, but it was a devastating loss that would prove too difficult to build back from without outside help. They began tiptoeing back into the outside world to attempt trade and other forms of participating in greater society.

Blaming the Dragons of Tiamat—the only Dragon Deity they believed to be active at the time—for their misfortunes, the town wrote letters declaring their allegiance to the church of Kragnux the Dragon Slayer and added him to their pantheon of deities. Around this same time, a few of the town's hatchlings had been born with brilliant, emerald-colored scales and proved to be gifted with psionic powers and sorcery. The source of their unusual ancestry was unknown, but the temple leaders referred to these gemlike hatchlings as "patinas" and believed them to be a blessing from Bahamut…serving as living proof that their clan was on the most righteous path.

This interpretation would prove regrettable as the growing church of Kragnux became radicalized against not just Dragons, but against all draconic races. The temple heard word of the Dragonborn being slaughtered in the Second Draconic Crusades and quietly dissolved their ties to the church, but it was too late to recluse their community again. They had rebuilt and thrived with the benefit of outside trading partners who knew of the temple and would soon be visiting in greater numbers.

The temple leaders devised a system for receiving guests, erecting a mage tower dubbed the Court of Quartz to serve as a visitors center as well as house many of the artifacts pulled from the former mining tunnels over the years…including a large amethyst gem shaped like a Dragon egg. They also appointed a high sorcerer—one of the "patina" Dragonborn—to reside in the tower and perform an essential part of their plan using one of the few gem relics in the collection brought over from the old continent.

Dubbed the Selune Splinter and described as a fragment from an ancient moon crystal imbued with peculiar paranormal properties, it was able to amplify illusionary magic to increase its effect and distance. Wielding this artifact, the high sorcerer could cast a spell over the entire town to disguise its Dragonborn residents as Wood Elves…the primary inhabitants of the Woldlin region. This deception was successfully kept up for the remainder of the century and the monotonous high sorcerer position would be passed between "patina" Dragonborn before reaching Durian's mother.

Ironically, the long-awaited return of Bahamut in 795 PR would also soon signal the end of the town's ruse. As all Dragons had been set free to inflict their will on the realm, the temple came under attack by an unidentified Dragon at the start of 825 PR and the Court of Quartz was robbed of its collection…including the Selune Splinter which they had spent decades relying upon for protection. The town's residents were suddenly left vulnerable in a realm which found itself increasingly at odds with Dragons for the first time in over a century. How long would it be before the rest of the realm grew frustrated and turned its sights back on who was left of the draconic races?

Adrian Grunwald, son of the high sorcerer and presumed next in line for the position, adopted the alias of Durian (a portmanteau of his elvish and draconic names) to conceal his origins and snuck away from the temple with aspirations to show the realm that the Dragonborn were equal victims of the Dragons' ransacking ways and could be strong allies in the fight against them. If he could also uncover a new means of protecting his clan somewhere along the way, that would be all the better.

Into the Greedy Green

Durian
His Dragonborn form prior to his rebirth.
Player Name Jeff
Languages Celestial, Common, Draconic, Dwarvish, Elvish, Infernal, Primordial, Telepathy, Wiki
Affiliations Harbingers of Sardior
Date of Birth 806 PR
Place of Birth Jadenhill, Isonhound
Species Dragonborn
Gender Male (he/him)
Height 6' 4"
Weight 260 lbs
Eye Color Emerald
Class Sorcerer

Draconic Divinations

Durian leaves home for the first time and is given an alarming vision of the future before meeting a Silver Dragon with a peculiar ideology, causing him to have a crisis of faith…

Durian did not ask for explicit permission to leave Jadenhill, but after the Dragon attack and theft of the Selune Splinter, he felt an obligation to protect his home and find a new way of defending his clan from annihilation. He wore his Wood Elf disguise everywhere early in his journey due to fears of hostility towards Dragonborn, but dropped this precaution soon before arriving in the city of Synàra to gage how people would respond. Sensing no immediate animosity, he ceased the pretense of a disguise while still remaining guarded about the hometown of Dragonborn he heralded from.

He had arrived just in time for the celebration of Asar Ogalas, an elvish festival of rebirth which commemorated the Razing of Isonhound. Durian jumped aboard a cart which offered guided tours, marveling at the town's trees with trunks wider around than the columns of any tower and branches which seemed to graze the sky. The sight of them made him fantasize about how his hometown of Jadenhill must have looked prior to the Razing, secluded by dense canopies of foliage. All manner of folk from across the continent had gathered to hawk their wares and labors, including some elvish jewelry which, at least in Durian's eyes, did not compare with what had recently been ransacked from the Court of Quartz. Pixies and satyrs were also abound cross the festival, but Durian had been raised to leave the forest's Fey creatures unbothered.

He entered a fortune teller's tent, expecting an entertaining swindle for one gold piece…what he got instead was a cryptic prophecy. The teller gazed into his scrying sphere as the lights dimmed and he described a flood of smoke which would precede the return of powerful Dragons. The teller peered to Durian, staring him down with a bewildered expression and asked "who are you?" Durian could only stutter out, "I'm a Dragonborn," unsure of how to respond. The fortune teller warned, "you should leave Synàra," before light returned to the tent and the prophecy faded from view.

Durian exited the tent shaken, but barely a minute passed before he would experience his first crisis of faith in the teachings of Bahamut as he witnessed Sro the Silver Dragon, seemingly allied with a Red Dragon and a Black Dragon, descending upon the festivities and attacking the city. Durian joined a group of adventurers who were dashing towards city hall to confront the Silver Dragon. Once they caught up, however, they quickly discovered the Greatwyrm was simply too powerful to take down as it laid waste to the building's stone walls as if they were parchment. Durian avoided a breath weapon which took down most of the city guard and followed the massive creature inside the building. He tried to get closer to its head by climbing onto a balcony, but one whip from the Dragon's tail sent Durian tumbling back to the ground floor. As Durian struggled to stand back up, he tried sending Sro a telepathic message: "child of Bahamut, what is it that you want? Let us help you and cease this destruction!" The Silver Dragon turned his head towards Durian and bellowed out "bring me the mayor!" What they didn't know was that some of the other adventurers were smuggling the mayor out of the building as Durian helped distract Sro. The mayor was rescued, but the Dragon grabbed one of the mayor's assistants in its claws before flying away with a thunderous boom.

Durian was left confused and with so many questions…why would a child of Bahamut conspire with spawns of Tiamat to commit such a seemingly evil act? To find out why, Durian responded to some local calls for aid and joined a rescue party that was on its way to confront Sro at his lair. The journey took several days to navigate Isonhound's thick forests, but after scaling a mountain and finally arriving at the lair's cavernous entrance, the Silver Dragon was surprisingly receptive to them. Sro clarified that he was not allied with the Chromatic Dragons, but rather, he had been abducting mayors in order to better prepare humankind to battle Dragons again. Durian was not impressed with this answer but held his tongue, knowing better than to fight or argue with one of the children of his deity. Still, he could not shake his worries…was it really wise to be raising armies of Dragon killers only a few decades after the heedless genocide of the Second Draconic Crusades? How long would it be before a new generation of crusaders rose up to finish off the remaining Dragonborn? He returned to Synàra in search of another job, one that he hoped would reveal a better path forward.

Surprise Sapphire

Durian discovers the existence of Gem Dragons and attempts to befriend one of them, leading him towards questions about his own identity…

Not yet convinced that fighting was the best solution for his clan, he found himself in the town of Tsoljcanth where he was intrigued by the unique problem plaguing its residents: they were being rendered invisible to one another at seemingly random intervals. Durian joined a search party in following clues to the potential source of the problem: a stolen Dragon egg, strange in appearance and not dissimilar to the "egg-shaped gem" that had been stolen from Jadenhill. The party tracked the egg into the forest and found themselves battling invisible monsters. In a last-ditch attempt to shake them off, Durian shouted at the monsters that "I need to protect that egg!" In that moment, the monsters became visible to him and a brilliant Sapphire Dragon appeared flying overhead. Durian had never heard of a Gem Dragon before. He called out to her "who are you, who do you follow?" before witnessing her fly off with the egg, questions unanswered. Shortly thereafter, the party heard a voice in their heads declaring them friends of Gem Dragons and being granted the Boon of Bleucorundum the Sapphire Dragon, a protection which would render them "invisible to any Dragon who would hurt you, so long as you don't shed any Dragon's blood." Possibilities raced through Durian's mind, could this boon lead to the solution for his clan that he'd been looking for? What is a Gem Dragon, could this be the reason he looks and feels so different from the other Metallic Dragonborn at home?

Bronze Boating

Durian tests the limits of the boon that Bleucorundum gave him by taking a job which would lead him to encounter another child of Bahamut

Eager to find out how Bleucorundum's boon really worked, Durian took a job in an area where a Bronze Dragon had reportedly been sighted. He would be providing protection to a cargo boat named the River Queen while it sailed from Sneerwell to the Ssaphíbían River. He met the rest of the adventuring team at the dock and they all boarded the vessel, which was being captained by two Korreds. They were not on the river for long before they had their first sighting of the Bronze Dragon swimming towards the stern of the ship. They managed to put some distance between themselves and the Dragon by kicking the boat's engine into temporary overdrive, but the Dragon eventually caught up and attacked the boat with its lightning breath weapon. The team managed to get one more boost out of the boat's engine to escape the Dragon again, but the engine was shot afterwards.

The Korred captains docked the boat to address any damages and refuel at their midway station, which turned out to be an illicit mining operation in the Isonhound forests that the captains were involved with, even hauling mining equipment on their boat. As they pulled in, however, it was clear that the site had been completely destroyed, presumably by the Bronze Dragon. The team explored what was left of the site—displeased with the environmental scarring that the mining had caused—and quickly turned against the unapologetic Korreds. So much so, that when the Bronze Dragon eventually caught up with the team, they fed the Korred captains to him. They had a brief conversation with the Dragon, who revealed that there were still enslaved workers trapped in the collapsed mine. He was unsympathetic to them, however, as he believed that anyone involved with this mining "deserve their fate." Durian also spoke to the Bronze Dragon, but it was very clear that Durian was invisible to him as the creature struggled to make eye contact and follow the sound of Durian's voice. This was curious to Durian…did this mean that the Bronze Dragon still sought to harm him, or was he simply now invisible to all Dragons of the Metallic and Chromatic variety? More importantly, what did it say about the moral perspectives of Gem Dragons if Bleucorundum viewed all non-Gem Dragons as potentially harmful? There was a Warforged on their team who also seemed to be invisible to the Dragon, but Durian did not know where the Warforged sourced their invisibility from.

After the Bronze Dragon took off, the team's Druid melded into stone in order to rescue the enslaved workers trapped underground and return them to the surface (including a Shifter from the Igneous of Isonhound tribe). Meanwhile, an Artificer worked on the boat's engine to make it operational again and the team was able to sail home.

Hoping to further test Bleucorundum's boon, Durian took another job not long afterwards which he hoped would lead to him encountering a spawn of Tiamat. This job proved to be a bust, however, as the alleged Red Dragon who had been causing trouble for the town of Briar Glen turned out to merely be a major image that a retired Wizard had been casting in order to manipulate the local Kobolds into doing his bidding.

Sardior Secrets

Durian meets an ancient witch who is the first to divulge the existence of the Ruby Court as well as his god Sardior, the Ruby King of Gem Dragons

Durian's questions regarding the Gem Dragons would remain unanswered until he met Yggwilv, a powerful witch possessing ancient powers and knowledge. Durian asked her about the Gem Dragons, to which she unfurled the story of Sardior the Ruby Dragon, the lost third pillar of Dragonkind. She explained that he was an ancient god of neutrality who once had a court consisting of each type of Gem Dragon, but that he had died sometime before Prehistory. She told Durian that Sardior was his god, and that if Gem Dragon eggs are suddenly appearing in the realm, it may be a sign that this forgotten pillar of neutrality is needed once again. Durian left Yggwilv's Hut, unsure of what it means to worship Sardior but determined to do all he could to find out.

Seglock Siege

Durian struggles to enjoy a festival in Seglock when Horatio Cheshire crashes the party, riding atop what appears to be an aspect of Tiamat

The people of Seglock had been gifted with an artifact known as the Moonwell, capable of encompassing the city in a magical dome that Dragons could not penetrate. The city threw a festival to celebrate their newfound protection, which Durian attended. He arrived at the festivities to mingle with other adventurers, as he had heard whispers of another team returning from a job with an item of great personal importance to Durian: the Selune Splinter. It had been months since a Dragon had raided it from the Court of Quartz, leaving his clan without any means of protection from the outside world. Durian never expected to see the item again but, to his astonishment, the rumors were true! After some wandering around, he spotted the familiar Selune Splinter in the possession of another adventurer at the festival. To Durian's horror, however, the adventurer was using the item as a mere barstool.

Before he had a chance to confront them and explain the item's importance, however, the festival was interrupted by the familiar sounds of chaos in the distance. A horde of strange, mutated-looking monsters had begun assaulting the city. Durian flew towards the noise emitting from the center gate of Seglock University, helping to fight off the attacking monsters along the way. Upon reaching the gate, he discovered that it had been overtaken by a horde of Cheshire Goblins. He helped to fight them for a while until Professor Nguyen, a staff member of the school, appeared with his Autom bodyguard and began shooting the Cheshire Goblins with a liquid which melted them in one hit. Durian and a group of adventurers followed Professor Nguyen deeper into campus, hoping to obtain more of this miracle liquid. As they darted through a courtyard towards one of the campus buildings, however, Horatio Cheshire flew overhead riding what looked like an aspect of Tiamat, raining the team with acid. Thankfully, the team was able to patch each other up and help everyone into the building. When the team questioned the professor about the liquid he had used to melt the Cheshire Goblins, he explained that it was Drakkoth blood and that they would be able to obtain more from his laboratory. The adventurers helped Professor Nguyen fight off the monsters through several halls and classrooms until finally reaching his laboratory, where he was able to supply them all with vials of Drakkoth blood. They used the blood to help push back Horatio Cheshire's siege on the city and take down whatever was left of his forces.

Over the next several weeks, Durian and the other adventurers used the Drakkoth blood to continue fighting against Cheshire's monsters until Professor Nguyen's supply ran out. However, they would soon be approached by a woman named Brenna, leader of a group calling themselves the Protectors of the People. She invited Durian and some other adventurers back to the group's hideout, where they brokered a deal which would provide both Seglock University and the Protectors of the People with a steady supply of Drakkoth blood for the foreseeable future.

Shadow Showdown

Durian is recruited by the Curator to help shut down the Shadow Forge and put an end to Horatio Cheshire's abominations once and for all…

Despite the adventurers' best efforts, it was clear that Cheshire's monsters would continue to wreak havoc across Isonhound until the mad alchemist could be stopped at the source. Durian answered a correspondence from a Fey entity calling himself the Curator, requesting his help with that very matter. He joined a large group of adventurers at a secret location where the Curator debriefed them on his plan. As it turned out, Horatio Cheshire had somehow broken into a forge located in the Shadowfell and was using the equipment in this Shadow Forge to create his monstrous abominations.

Durian was split into a team tasked with infiltrating the forge and destroying the machines used to create the monsters. As they snuck in through one of the Curator's Fey portals, they heard the humming sound of several capsules lined along the walls continuously spitting out more Cheshire monsters. Fighting off an endless supply of monsters would have been a fruitless effort unless they could also cut off the machines' power supply. Across the room, they heard the blare of another enormous machine powering up. In a flash, the machine produced a gargantuan assemblage of reanimated flesh and metal. The grotesque abomination sprung to life, creeping forward with thunderous steps towards the team. Durian's psionic attacks proved very ineffective against a monster which had no means of thought, so he flew swiftly past it and focused his attacks on points of the machine that appeared to be feeding it power. Targeting the machine seemed to work as parts of the forge began to crumble around them. Much of the team fought through the horde of monsters towards the other end of the room, joining Durian in attacking the weak points of the main machine before it could produce another abomination. As they appeared to finally cut off the last thread of power to the machine, the ceiling of the forge started to cave in and they were all forced to retreat back through the Curator's portal.

Having successfully taken down the machines in the Shadow Forge, the Curator sent their team to defend a portal leading to the mad alchemist himself, as it was currently under attack by invisible Shadowfell monsters. Being capable of seeing invisibility, Durian hovered over the battlefield and relayed to his teammates where to target their blows. This method proved effective, as they were able to protect the portal long enough for the adventurers on the other side to weaken Horatio Cheshire and his Dracohydra that he had been passing off as Tiamat. The team made their way through the portal themselves and joined the rest of the adventurers to help land the killing blows on Cheshire, finally putting an end to his abominations. The Curator thanked the adventurers, offering them each a favor of information from his vast library of Fey knowledge as gratitude for their service.

Splintered Priorities

Durian joins a guild in order to reacquire the Selune Splinter, an artifact of tremendous significance that had been stolen from his clan…

Before Durian could put any more legwork into pursuing the path of Sardior, he would first need to address the loose thread from his past which had made an unexpected reappearance in his life: the Selune Splinter. Unbeknownst to him, the Wold Order had taken possession of it sometime after it was stolen from the Court of Quartz, using it in one of their training grounds to create the illusion of a Red Dragon's lair. Even more frustrating, the adventurer who had swiped it from the Wold Order refused to hear Durian out about the significance it carried to his clan. In a move that felt almost mocking, they also seemed to openly carry the Selune Splinter around with them everywhere they went. Durian kept close tabs on them, awaiting an opportunity when he could negotiate for the artifact that, as far as Durian was concerned, was the only thing standing between his clan and certain annihilation. After three months, he learned that the Selune Splinter had traded hands once again. After formally meeting the Band of the Iron Hawk at the battle of the Shadow Forge, however, Durian was invited to join their guild—giving him the title of Psionic Sorcerer—and they used their connections to help negotiate the reacquisition of the Selune Splinter. Having finally recovered his coveted artifact, Durian spent lots of time on his own practicing how to channel illusionary magic through the Selune Splinter, trusting that it would not be long before he could arrange for its safe transport back to Jadenhill. In the meantime, however, he returned his attention to uncovering all he could about the Gem Dragon god: Sardior.

Jeered Tears

Durian sets out to learn everything he can about Sardior and acquires one of the only known physical remnants of the Gem Dragon god…

Following the battle of the Shadow Forge, the Curator offered a favor of information to those who aided in the battle. Durian used his favor to ask the Curator about Sardior, but he was unable to provide any new leads except to reaffirm all that Yggwilv had already said. He suggested seeking out the Gem Dragons for more answers, a recommendation which Durian felt very intent on following. He spent six weeks conducting research on Sardior and the Gem Dragons, using bribes and favors in order to compile a list of nearly everything ever put to paper about the ancient ruby god. It was not a terribly long list, which is predictable when conducting research on Prehistory beings, but Durian was confident that it was at least comprehensive. One particular find caught his attention: stories of an unknown sixth type of Gem Dragon. He immediately connected this sixth type with The One That Waits, a mysterious dark entity who had recently began plaguing Isonhound. Durian surmised that Sardior must have casted this sixth Gem Dragon out of his court and that they had returned to exact revenge on the reemerging Gem Dragons. He felt further supported by this claim after some other adventures turned up a previously unknown Gem Dragon type: Obsidian.

Around the same time, a handful of adventurers returned from visiting Sro with six ancient artifacts called the Tears of Sardior. Durian was shocked by the possibility of a physical remnant of Sardior still existing on the realm. He attempted to leverage his research in exchange for one of the artifacts. He soon felt guilty for withholding information and apologized for attempting that trick, freely sharing the research with the Band of the Iron Hawk as well as his theory about the identity of The One That Waits. Durian would eventually acquire a Tear of Sardior by bartering with someone outside of the guild. Being the only artifact of Sardior that he knew, he fastened it into a necklace to wear as a holy symbol in the same manner as his pendant of Bahamut.

Sanctified Machines

Durian meets the Most Sanctified Disciples of Sardior and pledges to support their efforts to resurrect Sardior by any means necessary…

Not long afterwards, Durian accepted an invitation from the Wold Order in Synàra who proceeded to grill him on how he was able to remain invisible to Dragons. He was familiar with the Elves of Woldin, having dealt with their diplomats frequently at the Court of Quartz, but he could not discern what their intentions would be if they found out about the Gem Dragons. Durian pretended not to know anything, but they still asked him to join a search party to track a Warforged-Centaur back to a mine inside the Northern Snowy Mountains. Deep inside the mine, the party discovered the base of the Most Sanctified Disciples of Sardior, an alliance of Warforged bearing gem names and colors, who explained their mission to resurrect the Topaz Dragon from the court of Sardior. Durian was ecstatic to learn of another group who shared in his goals, as it had felt like an uphill battle at times trying to convince other people that Sardior was important. He bombarded the Warforged with questions and showed them the Tear of Sardior, which they excitedly verified to be a genuine artifact. After departing the base, Durian was determined to do all he could to support their efforts in locating the missing members of the court of Sardior.

Emerald Epiphany

Durian tracks down the lair of an Emerald Dragon who teaches him how to read minds in exchange for helping to return one of his eggs…

Durian spent the next month conducting research to track down the potential whereabouts of the Emerald, Amethyst, and Crystal Dragons. He joined a party sailing up the Ssaphíbían River in order to follow a lead he found on the location of Feredemius, the Emerald Thane of Sardior. The expedition was contracted by Professor Miranda Wright, a psionic professor from Katharda Academy. As they arrived at the fiery entrance to an underground lair and the professor sensed the psionic activity within, Durian and the professor realized that they were both after the same thing. Durian, hovering over the entrance, folded his wings and plummeted straight down the hole leading into the lair, soon joined by the rest of the group as they each jumped in. It was immediately apparent that they were being watched as Durian spotted a clairvoyant eye peering from a nearby lava pillar, which disappeared after its owner was taken aback by being spotted. The group negotiated their way through the lair, encountering major illusions and conversing with the disembodied voice of a Gem Dragon as it picked through each of their memories. They eventually found their way to the main hall where the Dragon resided, but it was not Feredemius, but rather Smargarg the Emerald Dragon. It may not have been the Emerald Dragon that Durian had set out to find, but it was still the first physical evidence he had encountered that Emerald Dragons still walk the realm. He found the experience both incredibly validating and intimidating. Smargarg explained that all draconic emerald beings trace their lineage back to Feredemius, and that he could sense the psionic presence of Feredemius somewhere in Isonhound. Durian asked the Dragon if he could be taught to sense Feredemius, and he promised to grant the party this power if they could return an Emerald Dragon egg that was stolen from his hatchery.

A couple days later, Durian connected with another adventurer who had also been along to meet the Most Sanctified Disciples of Sardior, who confirmed that their most recent party had come into possession of the missing Emerald Dragon egg. However, the egg had been damaged and possibly possessed by The One That Waits, so they agreed to bring the egg back to Smargarg in hopes that he could help repair and purify it. Upon the egg's return, Smargarg granted the party a Boon of Telepathy and tasked them with "searching the minds of men to see if you can discern the presence of the emerald Feredemius, or maybe even The One That Walks Among You, or the presence of other mental powers such as The One That Waits…" Durian accepted this assignment and, with his new mind-reading ability, set his sights back on reassembling the court of Sardior.

Fairly Devious

Durian uncovers the true identity of The One That Waits and weighs the consequences of sharing his revelation with any other adventurers…

As the party left the lair of Smargarg, something that the young Emerald Dragon said continued to echo in Durian's mind: "I can feel Feredemius' presence…everywhere…he is still alive somewhere, somehow, in Isonhound." It seemed like such a strange thing to leave on. After all, had Smargarg seen everywhere lately? Isonhound was falling into disarray, being slowly overrun by shadow monsters. If Feredemius was truly so omnipresent, why had all this looming chaos not yet lured him out? How could his psionic presence be so strongly felt without leaving any physical trace? Durian returned to his research and combed through it closely, looking for anything he may have overlooked. He came across a piece of information that he had previously regarded as insignificant, namely, that Dragons could achieve a form of immortality by allowing their soul to repeatedly possess an egg of their same or similar type. This tidbit seemed to be backed up by the Most Sanctified Disciples of Sardior's mission to resurrect Tuschello using a Gold Dragon egg. So why would The One That Waits want to possess an Emerald Dragon egg with his corrupting shadow energy? Durian had a silent epiphany. "Fuck, The One That Waits is Emerald…" he thought to himself while flipping through his notes, praying to Sardior that he had missed something. It had made so much sense for The Once That Waits to be the forgotten Obsidian Dragon, but was it possible that Durian had unintentionally misled his guild and the other adventurers? And if what Smargarg said was true about all emerald creatures being descended from Feredemius…could Durian really be descended from such a sinister being? He wanted to broach this newfound revelation with the rest of the adventurers in Seglock, but he felt he needed to handle it delicately…lest he earn the their wrath and they turn against all emerald creatures. The realm had already attempted to massacre the Dragonborn race only a few decades ago, it seemed foolish to think the masses would be above taking up arms against Emerald Dragonborn specifically. Durian decided to bide his time with revealing The One That Waits' true identity, holding out for an opportunity to share the truth with a reliable group of people in hopes that he could mitigate the fallout for himself and any other emerald creatures.

Harbinger Havoc

Durian learns names for all of the original Ruby Court members and ponders what it means to be a Harbinger, forming the Harbingers of Sardior to share information more efficiently…

Shortly after returning to Seglock, Durian began compiling everything he had learned about the Gem Dragons from his visits with Smargarg as well as the Most Sanctified Disciples of Sardior…attempting to organize his scattered notes into a tome of more comprehensible information that others could benefit from. Arguably the most significant discoveries from his most recent outings were names for two more of Sardior's court members…the EmeraldFeredemius—and the AmethystThe One That Walks Among You. Durian was among the first to meet the SapphireBleucorundum—early on in his journey, and another party had uncovered the name of the CrystalEros—several months ago. All that had yet to be uncovered was a name for the fifth court member…that is, until another adventuring party returned from the Northern Snowy Mountains wielding an artifact called the Topaz Astrolabe and finally putting a name to the TopazTuschello. Additionally, the party claimed that the artifact gifted them boons of a Harbinger upon its activation and that it had briefly opened a portal to the soul of Tuschello within the Astral Sea. Durian was impressed by these claims and was particularly intrigued by the party's use of the word Harbinger, as it was the first title he had heard which resembled anything pertaining to a formal role in the court of Sardior. He certainly had theories about what such a role may have entailed in the context of an ancient court, especially since the benefits of the Harbinger boon—namely, a gem-based breath weapon and resistance—seemed to mirror his own innate abilities as a Gem Dragonborn. But it was the only title he knew thus far to describe a follower of Sardior…so regardless of whatever its official meaning once was, Durian was determined to be a Harbinger, too. He finished compiling his tome of Gem Dragon notes—deciding to title it the Harbingers of Sardior—and treated it as a pseudo-guild, extending invitations to share the tome with any adventurer who expressed interest in learning more about the Gem Dragons and who might want to contribute any relevant information that they pick up along their travels.

Festive Fall

Durian brings the Topaz Astrolabe to Sneerwell in hopes of deciphering its purpose, instead confronting The One That Waits face-to-face while Isonhound is enveloped by shadows…

Durian and another member of the Iron Hawks made plans to take the Topaz Astrolabe to Sneerwell, knowing that the home of Pendergras Industries was a hub of technological development, in hopes that somebody there could help identify the artifact's function. His guild mate fell ill, however, and Durian had to make the trip alone. Upon arriving in Sneerwell, he discovered a festival taking place as it was Asar Oglas once again. Durian hadn't realized that it had been a full year since he left Jadenhill. So much had changed since then, and festivals made Durian feel uneasy these days as he couldn't forget the previous year's celebration in Synàra which had been attacked by three Dragons. Still, he stopped by a fortune teller's booth as he had last year for old times' sake, but used his newfound mind-reading ability to discern that this city's fortune teller was a swindler.

Durian emerged from the tent, wiser than he was the year before, and his weariness around festivals was quickly validated as a thunderous, quaking boom crashed the celebration. In the panic, Durian noticed a commotion coming from the Pendergras factory and darted towards it with another group of adventurers to investigate. They saw a shouting Half-Gnome man remote controlling a group of Automs and demanding to know what was going on at his factory. It was Tolmè Pendergras, who turned to the adventurers and asked what they knew about the situation. Durian noticed a familiar sight barricading the entrance into the factory: the amethyst Warforged-Centaur from the Most Sanctified Disciples of Sardior. "It's a Warforged-Centaur," Durian shouted in surprise, but this did nothing to clarify things to Tolmè as he readied his Automs to attack. Durian turned invisible, trying not to rouse a showdown, and spoke in the minds of the other adventurers to convince them to help the MSDOS. Likewise, he sent a telepathic message to Tolmè pleading to stand down his Automs and let them handle the situation. Tolmè seemed very skeptical, but allowed the adventurers to push through to the entrance of the factory.

After a bit of struggle crossing the Iron Horse track that circled the factory, they entered to find it in the midst of a large-scale heist. Warforged-Centaurs were rolling around collecting as much Wovenstone as they could for use in the MSDOS' project to resurrect Tuschello the Topaz Dragon. Durian also spotted the topaz Warforged from MSDOS standing atop a high balcony giving directions, and he called up to ask how they could help. The Warforged thanked him, telling them to grab Wovenstone and start carrying it to the cart they had parked outside. Durian began to do so, but Tolmè soon caught up with them and discovered his factory in the midst of being robbed. He turned his Automs on the adventurers as well as the Warforged-Centaurs and even began shooting at them himself. Durian tried to escape by hitching a ride on a conveyer belt deeper into the factory, where he discovered MSDOS' Clockwork Dragon also wreaking havoc. This gave Durian an idea and—in the chaos of the factory floor—he casted a major image of Smargarg the Emerald Dragon. Echoing the prophecy he had learned from MSDOS, the illusion roared "court is called, the five complete the four, the ruby will be…Sardior's return is inevitable!" This served to briefly distract the Automs in the ensuing fight which persisted until everyone heard a monstrous roar coming from outside. The adventurers fled the factory to find the source of this roar and discovered an enormous Red Dragon attacking the town. Believing that he couldn't help in this fight without drawing Bleucorundum's wrath, Durian fled through one of the Fey portals that the Curator had left behind, depositing him and the Astrolabe at the Lunaran temple in Seglock.

Within the safety of the temple, Durian met Echemus the Crystal Dragon for the first time, who was using his healing tears to cure adventurers' wounds. The Lunarans debriefed Durian on just how bad things really were on the outside. The seismic explosion he heard in Sneerwell had actually been felt all across Isonhound, its epicenter being the Northern Snowy Mountains. Dark Shadowfell energy was flooding from the exploded Mountains, rendering the surrounding areas uninhabitable and quickly sweeping across the entirety of Isonhound. Even Sneerwell, which was closer to the southern coast, would soon be enveloped in darkness along with the rest of the continent. On the bright side, the Lunarans and the adventurers held up in the temple had discerned that the Astrolabe was capable of producing a protective dome that repelled dark energy, similar to the dome that the Moonwell created around Seglock. This meant they could potentially use it to save one other city, if only they could figure out how to activate it. At first they thought it might attach to the Moonwell somehow, but none of the configurations they tried seemed to securely fit them together. So they tried a different approach, postulating from the Lunarans' books that the Astrolabe could only be activated once in a lunar cycle. They counted the time since its last activation, discovering that the next cycle was set to begin in a mere couple of hours. The adventurers debated the best location to activate the Astrolabe and landed on Gammelgard, reasoning that it was a port city which could allow them to transport refugees safely off the continent. Durian, ready to jump back into the fray, took the Astrolabe and leapt into the Curator's portal headed to Gammelgard.

Durian emerged from the portal, finding himself inside Gammelgard's main forge as other adventurers were battling hordes of twisted shadow monsters. Durian summoned his spectral wings and joined in the fight, raining attacks from overhead as he cradled the Astrolabe and tried his best to stall for time. Thankfully, just as they had hoped, the Astrolabe began to glow with a pulsing light the moment the clock rang in a new lunar cycle. An adventurer suggested activating it atop Gammelgard's lighthouse to secure the artifact while allowing it to serve as a beacon of hope. They all agreed and departed the forge, fighting their way through the darkness-engulfed city and towards the coast. They confronted more mobs of shadow monsters as Durian flew towards the lighthouse, inserting the Astrolabe into its beacon and pressing the button to activate its magic. In an instant, a bright light emanated from it and pushed outwards in every direction, enveloping the city and warding back the dark energy of the Shadowfell. Once things finally seemed handled in Gammelgard, Durian retreated back to the Curator's portal to make another stop: the Northern Snowy Mountains.

As Durian flew out of the portal, all he could see below was a flood of smoke and darkness. One of Pendergras' airships idled overhead, an epic confrontation taking place on its deck. Directly in front of him, however, was the visage of a massive Ruby Citadel that drifted slowly closer. Atop the floating structure was a giant Obsidian-looking Dragon, The One That Waits, sitting on it like a throne. Durian glared into the monster's green eyes and sent it a telepathic message: "were you part of the court of Sardior?" The One That Waits looked down at him and roared back, "Sardior is a fool!" Durian asked "how do you figure?" But the Dragon only continued to menacingly study him as the Citadel nudged ever closer. Durian shook his head disappointingly, responding "you better not be Feredemius," before folding his wings and falling straight back down into the Curator's portal.

The portal dispensed Durian in the skies above Sneerwell, the city where he had began this chaotic day. He glided over the city searching for any signs of life. But just as he was warned, the city had been completely swallowed by darkness. The only signs of movement came from various shadow monsters, including one shaped like the Warforged-Centaur he had fought alongside earlier. At a loss for what else to do, Durian turned invisible and landed back at the Pendergras factory to search for survivors there. Inside, he heard another group of adventurers and the familiar voice of Tolmè shouting angrily. Durian shouted back at him and the moment Tolmè heard his voice, he began storming around the room shouting "where is that Dragonborn?! Look what you and your Warforged friends have done!" The two of them got in a heated squabble, Durian blaming him for hoarding so much Wovenstone, while he blamed Durian for not using the Astrolabe to rescue Sneerwell. Exhausted and everyone feeling at their lowest, they surrendered their fight and loaded a cart with the rest of the survivors to head north towards the safety of Seglock.

Slight Sworn

Durian becomes disillusioned by the network of guilds and decides to leave the Iron Hawks in order to focus all his efforts towards resurrecting Sardior

By this point, Durian had gained a reputation in Seglock as the go-to expert for any information pertaining to Sardior. Other adventurers both in and outside the Iron Hawks were routinely directed to him to answer any gem-related inquiries. For a long while, he gladly accepted this role and did his best to assist anyone who requested his expertise. But with the quantity of questions he received, it eventually started feeling like a chore and it became difficult to rise above the feeling that he was being used. After being called upon by multiple parties all at once to answer some oddly similar lines of questioning about Gem Dragons, he asked one of the questioners if there was anything more going on. They revealed their plan for a so-called “alliance of the guilds” which they had dubbed the Lightsworn in order to deal with the shadows which had overtaken Isonhound. They made Durian an offer to come on as an Advisor and help lead their “research department.” Knowing what he knew about The One That Waits' true identity and still hoping that Feredemius could be redeemed, he agreed to help them on the condition that he would have an equal say in any group decisions pertaining to Sardior and the Gem Dragons. They agreed to these terms, and Durian was initially relieved that he’d be able to safely disclose his knowledge of Feredemius to the leaders of this new group. Since they were amicable to giving him a say in decision making, they weren’t simply going to turn around and vote to slay his ancestor without his knowledge…or so he’d thought. The next day, he accidentally overheard a conversation amongst this new group’s leaders, which included several Iron Hawks, calling the Advisor title a “hollow role.” Durian confronted them and they immediately swung into damage control, but the harm had already been done. Feeling betrayed, Durian questioned why the Harbingers of Sardior had been excluded from this supposed guild alliance in the first place and argued that the only fair path forward would be for them to give him an equal council vote so he could represent his group’s interests. They condescended and lashed out at him in response, accusing him of being “overly possessive” of all the information he’d acquired about Sardior. They scolded him for “making demands” and “bring ungrateful” after the Iron Hawks had helped him reacquire his ancestral artifact…as if he was supposed to be perpetually indebted for this and tolerate blatant deceit. After this fuming back-and-forth which went nowhere, Durian decided that if he was going to help these adventurers going forward, it was going to be on his own terms. He broke ties with the alliance and, in the dead of night, packed his things and departed the Iron Hawks’ guild hall. He had allied himself with these Dragon slayers long enough, especially if he was going to help resurrect an ancient Dragon god.

Amethyst Altercation

Durian encounters Bleucorundum once again, who sends him on a mission into a city with no name that is being guarded by a possessed Amethyst Dragon

Durian joined a party that was venturing into the Shadowfell-infested forests in search of a city whose name could not be remembered by anyone. As they delved deeper into the gloomy woods, they spotted the head of The One That Waits peeking out from the forest ground as the creature seemed to swim towards them. The group found themselves grappled by his shadowy tendrils, and they would need to pull out all of their tricks to escape his grasp as he crept ever closer, eager to assimilate them into his hive-mind. Some used magic to teleport away, others used brute strength to rip out of his clutches. Any attempt to communicate with The One That Waits was met with the same word echoed loudly in their heads: “fall.” This was all they could hear repeated from him until Durian attempted to read his thoughts, demanding to know “where’s Feredemius?” The One That Waits fell quiet at the mention of this name, turning with his head cocked to stare directly at Durian. Unable to tell if this expression was one of being pleased or of animosity, Durian shook his head in frustration and fled with the rest of the team.

Eventually the party came to the Ssaphíbían River where some of them heard yet another voice inside their heads, beckoning them into the river and offering them sanctuary. The voice was familiar to Durian: “…Bleucorundum? How do we know it’s really you?” She responded, “surely you don’t expect me to reveal myself?” With that, Durian waded into the river. The rest of the party joined in and were swept downstream into the protected underground lair of Bleucorundum, cluttered with a magnificent hoard of weapons and other such trophies of battle. Bleucorundum continued to speak to the party while remaining invisible to everyone except Durian, who had learned to see invisibility following his first near-death encounter with the Sapphire Dragon. She explained how her lair was shielded from the shadows which had overrun the outside world, gesturing to a quartz-looking gem egg which Durian recognized as the one which he’d helped save nearly a year prior. Durian inquired, “is this egg one of the Keys to the Court?” Bleucorundum narrowed her eyes at him and said with a smile, “you’ve clearly been doing your research, you seem to know more than you let on.” It was funny to think that a year ago, Durian hadn’t even known what a Gem Dragon was before being nearly eaten by her invisible gelatinous cube.

The party inquired about what it meant to be a Harbinger, and the Sapphire Dragon did her best to draw upon ancient memories…from long bygone times when she sat on the Ruby Court. She recalled that a Harbinger was a position in the court, typically held by younger Gem Dragons but could also be held by Gem Dragonborn or really any creature who possessed some trace essence of the Gem Dragons, tasked with taking the place of their respective Gem Dragon's court seat on occasions when their Thanes could not be present for meetings. She pondered, “it’s been so long since I’ve had a Harbinger, I don’t know what I would even do with one now.”

By this point, the rest of the group began to reconvene, chiming in with their own questions about the Ruby Court. Durian asked if she has had any contact with Feredemius. She said no, but that Feredemius is a master at hiding, protecting his location by dispersing his essence amongst the Weave. Echoing what Smargarg had described prior, “I can feel Feredemius' presence…everywhere, he is still alive somewhere, somehow, in Isonhound.” She asked Durian, “you’re an Emerald Dragonborn, can you not sense his presence everywhere, as well?” He responded, “I guess, but…have you seen everywhere lately?” He then asked about Kristang the Obsidian Dragon, to which Bleucorundum began to loudly laugh. “For as much as you seem to know, it’s funny that you would still believe in a bogeyman like Kristang!” He questioned why Kristang had been given a Harbinger if he wasn’t real. Bleucorundum theorized that since it had come from the Topaz Astrolabe, it was likely merely a tribute from Tuschello the Topaz Dragon who had something of an obsession with Kristang. But Bleucorundum was adamant that there had only ever been five Thanes on the Ruby Court, never six. Durian insisted that, even if not Kristang, there was at least some sort of Obsidian-looking Dragon terrorizing Isonhound on the surface. But Bleucorundum was entirely certain, “shadow and Obsidian are different,” and whoever The One That Waits really was had merely taken the form of a Dragon as a means of intimidation and that they seemed to have a vendetta against all Gem Dragons for whatever reason. Durian replied how that seemed accurate, seeing how Smargarg was having a similar rough time trapped underground in his hatchery of Gem Dragon eggs. At the mention of there being more Gem Dragon eggs in danger, Bleucorundum’s face filled with surprise and worry before slowly recomposing herself; “no…Amethyst first, then we can focus on saving the hatchlings.”

She told the party that if they could arrange to rescue Smargarg and his hatchery, she would provide him sanctuary in her lair. But in the meantime, her priority was trying to locate her friend the Amethyst Thane. She described rumors of an Amethyst Dragon in a nearby city with no name that was also being protected from the shadows (presumably by one of the Gem Artifacts), and she offered the party shelter in her lair if they agreed to venture into this city in search of the supposed Amethyst Dragon. The team readily agreed, as the city is why they had come out there to begin with…but there was also a catch: the city had been overtaken by the cult of Att-Annalo who were keeping the city heavily guarded and under quarantine. Bleucorundum granted the party one of her Boons of Neutrality, rendering them invisible to the cultists so long as they don’t harm any of them (since Bleucorundum’s boons could not stack, Durian opted to keep his existing boon of invisibility to Dragons, reassuring the group that his normal invisibility spell would be sufficient for him to avoid detection by the cultists). So after resting off their head-on encounter with The One That Waits, the party ventured back to the shadowy surface of Isonhound in the direction of this unnamed city.

As the team made their approach, Durian imparted his knowledge about Amethyst Dragons being the most powerful type of Gem Dragon due to their ability to deal force damage and manipulate gravity. Just then, they got close enough to take in the entire city, portions of it being torn apart and lifted upwards into the sky. The cultists were alerted to the approaching party members by the sound of clanking armor and turned invisible to try and engage them. Having a visual on the invisible guards, Durian leapt from the rooftops to try and help escort the rest of the party through the inconspicuous chaos while taking four direct hits of necrotic damage from the cultists. Still managing to retain his invisibility, he teleported out of that mayhem and into the nearest floating building he could spot in the distance. Despite immediately recasting invisibility, he was briefly spotted by a crazed Halfling known as Father Mel who launched into a long villainous speech and challenged Durian to strike him down. Not being one for obvious bait, Durian chose to hide. At the first opportunity, Durian leapt from the floating building, narrowly avoiding landing on the rest of his party as they all regrouped on the rooftops.

As the team investigated another floating building, they located a humanoid figure with dark Amethyst-looking skin and pitch-black eyes sitting in a trance on the bed. They repeatedly warned, “you shouldn’t have come here…they know you’re here…you need to leave.” The party questioned them about the Amethyst Gem Artifact as they seemed to struggle for control, but they replied that it was safe and deep underground. It was then the group realized that there was no Gem Artifact protecting this city, but rather, it was the sheer force of will from this Amethyst Dragon constantly pushing the shadows away with gravitational force. The group began discussing other ways of extracting the charmed Amethyst Dragon, but they refused to leave so long as there were people in the city. Meanwhile, Father Mel discovered the rest of the party’s presence and began sounding alarms across the city.

Finally, the Amethyst Dragon lost control and transformed into their Dragon form, rapidly launching the room high up into the air. Most of the party was able to jump out, but one teammate got caught in the Dragon’s grasp. Seeing his friend get launched ever further into the sky and panicked by his inability to reach them, Durian casted a major image of The One That Waits to try and briefly distract the Amethyst Dragon. This would prove just barely enough assistance for them to wriggle free and feather fall one hundred and twenty feet from the skyward room.

Meanwhile on the ground, another teammate kept Father Mel at bay by darting through the streets of the city and making as much noise as possible to lure him away from the rest of the party. This gave everyone enough opportunity to successfully escape and report back to Bleucorundum, confirming the presence of an Amethyst Dragon within the city.

Kill Durian

Durian resists The One That Waits as his true identity is confirmed and he sneaks some of his shadow monsters into Seglock to take out his uncooperative descendent…

In a grubby tavern at the edge of Seglock, Durian sat alone as he conjured a small image of an Emerald Dragon on the tabletop in front of him before dissipating it into smoke with his fingers. He did this repeatedly, feeling defeated after his last encounter with The One That Waits failed to produce confirmation of what he dreaded to be true. Over the sound of a lone tavern musician, they heard a particularly loud howl from one of the Shadowfell monsters which roamed outside the magical dome protecting the city. "There's another one," the barkeep remarked dismissively, no doubt accustomed to the sounds by that point due to working so close to the dome wall.

Durian peeked outside the tavern window to see a towering monster banging impotently against the wall of the dome. He went outside to get a better look as other Shadowfell monsters also began lining along the protective barrier, unable to penetrate it. Sensing the commotion, some other adventurers also exited the tavern to see what was going on. Durian cautiously approached the wall, slightly concerned with how it would hold up against such a brute force attack. As soon as he stepped within thirty feet of the monster, however, it ceased its banging and began to sniff the air as if it smelled something familiar. Locking its eyes on Durian, it leaned its head back and let out a chilling wail as the line of monsters began to part. The wailing sound summoned another monster which swam through the darkness right up to the wall of the dome, and Durian once again found himself face-to-face with The One That Waits. Just as he had before, he stared Durian down with his piercing green eyes without uttering a word. Durian broke the prolonged silence with his telepathy, entering the creature's mind to say "hello again…remember me? I'm going to ask you one more time…where's Feredemius?"

Durian was unable to gleam anything from this question the last time he had encountered The One That Waits in the forest…but for some reason, this time was different. The One That Waits gave an unsavory smirk as visions began to flash in Durian's mind with such vividness, it was as if he was really there. He saw the court of Sardior as it had once been, very long ago, when the Thanes all presided together to serve the Ruby King. Each type of Gem Dragon appeared to be present and getting along, including Feredemius and even Kristang the Obsidian.

Suddenly, the scene flashed forward to a moment after Sardior had been shattered. He saw Feredemius sinking into a life of hedonism after the Ruby Court had broken up, occupying a village as its people tried and failed to satiate him. "More food, more merriment" he demanded, but the villagers pleaded that he was wringing them dry and that they would have no food to last them the winter. One villager protested "you really are a Greedy Green," but Feredemius did not care and as soon as they had nothing left to offer, he simply moved on to the next village and left the people to starve. This pattern repeated until eventually, villagers began to fight back against Feredemius wherever he appeared. Feredemius did not take kindly to their unruliness and unleashed an onslaught to take what he felt entitled to. He eventually became such a problem, that five heroes wielded the Keys to the Court to imprison Feredemius in the Dwarven Citadel beneath the Northern Snowy Mountains. Energy from the Shadowfell continued to seep into the Mountain as he sat waiting within the Citadel for nearly a millennia, further corrupting his mind and turning his brilliant emerald scales to a dark obsidian color (his eyes, however, remained the same emerald green). He carried on sowing his influence over other creatures' minds from within the Citadel, amassing a cult of followers using the mantle of The One That Waits. Once there were no more Keys to the Court in or around the Mountains to suppress the Shadowfell energy, the mounting pressure set Feredemius free in an enormous umbral explosion, the sound of which stirred Durian out of his vision.

"My child…" Feredemius beckoned, "join me, and I'll grant you power beyond your imagination. We will rule the realm together." Durian, ashamed to be proven right in this moment, rebuked "you're too late, Feredemius. My soul belongs to Sardior…and soon we'll have all the Keys to the Court and you won't be able to stop us from bringing him back." Feredemius paused before staring down Durian yet again. "But Sardior cannot return if the emerald court seat can't be filled," he hissed before slithering back into the veil of darkness. The other Shadowfell monsters retreated alongside their leader and everything seemed strangely quiet, at least for the moment.

Suddenly, they heard screaming coming from further into the city and Durian ran towards the noise alongside a handful of other adventurers. They discovered a group of dripping, ogreish Shadowfell monsters attacking various people and buildings, seemingly looking for something. To everyone's horror, Feredemius had found a weak point in the protective dome and managed to sneak in some of his monsters. Some adventurers tried to fight them head-on, but their hits would cause anyone in the vicinity to get doused with necrotic goop. As they kept up their attack, the monsters' eyes flashed green and they spoke as a single voice, promising protection from the shadows to anyone who would kill Durian. The adventurers refused this offer, and a couple of them even tried to get Durian to play along with faking his death so see if they could trick the monsters. They were unconvinced, however, and Durian ducked away to hide as the voice from the monsters continued to echo "kill Durian." One of the shopkeepers opened his door to the adventurers, however, and they all rushed in. Inside, they were able to get properly suited up to deal with the monsters and staged a plan to attack them with projectiles. This approach proved more successful as the monsters were whittled down from a distance and safely neutralized out of range from any bystanders.

As the dust finally settled and Durian processed his greatest fears being confirmed, he realized that he also had a new problem to deal with. Being a descendant of the original Emerald Thane meant that he carried potential to fill the emerald court seat, when the time came…but it also meant that Feredemius would stop at nothing to prevent that from happening, even if it meant killing Durian and every other emerald being in the realm.

Green Tech

Durian returns to the Pendergras factory in Sneerwell and is once again forced to confront his ancestor, The One That Waits, who has taken over the facility…

Following his recent revelation, Durian was left stirring with a lot of complicated emotions. He felt vindicated for being proven right, he felt concerned for his loved ones' safety…but most overwhelmingly, he felt ashamed. How could he be descended from such a terrible creature as The One That Waits…and what might that mean about him? Could the emerald court seat ever be redeemed, or were all emerald beings forever doomed to be tainted by the shadow of their progenitor? For now, all Durian could think to do is continue to try and help ward off the umbral void left across the continent by his ancestor.

It would not be long before another such opportunity arrived, as word had spread that Tolmè Pendergras was seeking adventurers to revisit his factory in Sneerwell and retrieve an essential component for his latest invention…an artificial Moonwell that could produce a dome of protection similar to the authentic Gem Artifacts. Durian had not gotten along with Tolmè in the past, but he recognized how vital such a device would be for protecting Seglock while they utilized the real Moonwell for Sardior's resurrection ceremony. So Durian joined a small group of other adventures to answer the call. But he took one precaution beforehand—both for self-preservation and as an outward expression of his shame—employing a spell that he hadn't used in over a year…he donned his Elf disguise that he was forced to wear back in Jadenhill. After what had felt like such progress towards overcoming his identity issues…at the moment, Durian couldn't stomach the thought of being spotted as an emerald being in public.

Tolmè picked up the adventuring party in one of his Airships. Durian lingered at the back of the group, hoping that Tolmè would not recognize him from the last time they had fought. As they approached their destination from the skies, Tolmè debriefed the group on their mission: navigate through the shadow-infested Pendergras factory and into its underground hangar, grab the component for the artificial Moonwell, and commandeer the resting Airships to fly out of there. Tolmè idled his Airship over the main entrance to the factory and allowed the adventurers to disembark before flying off.

The factory was in a shocking state compared to the last time Durian had been there. All of the walls and ground were coated in a black, tar-like substance. Any sources of light were tinted with an eery, green hue. The adventurers approached the door, but a thick layer of tar was sealing it shut. They heard a sound as a corpse which appeared to be melted and fused with the tar sprung awake and began taunting them with a familiar set of glowing, emerald green eyes. "Open the door, Feredemius," Durian impatiently commanded. To the group's surprise, the monster obliged as the tar receded from the crevices of the door and it slid open. The inside of the factory was not any better for wear, however, as every square inch of the floors, walls, and ceilings were coated in the same tarry material. Durian didn't normally wear shoes, but he was grateful to be wearing some that day. The party inched their way down the first hallway, passing more corpses that appeared similarly fused with the tar. Occasionally, one would spring to life and reach out to smear tar on one of the party members. The tar had a strange effect when it contacted skin, eating through one's flesh while gripping their mind in a state of euphoria. Thankfully, the other party members were able to wipe off the tar using a solvent.

They carried on deeper into the factory, descending lower until finally reaching the basement. Another one of the corpses with glowing, emerald green eyes sprung up in front of them as they approached the hangar bay, but most of the party simply walked past it. Durian, however, hung back and questioned The One That Waits, "I don't understand…why haven't you tried to kill us yet? All you've done so far is taunt us." By this point, Durian's Elf disguise had worn off and The One That Waits slyly hissed back, "which one of your friends do you care about the most?" Indignant at the question, Durian refused to answer and stormed past him to catch up with the rest of the team. They located the component they were searching for on a nearby worktable and grabbed it before turning their attention to unchaining the fleet of Airships. As he was helping to disconnect the chains, Durian heard the familiar voice of The One That Waits cackling in his head, "I'm going to kill you, but first you're going to watch me kill all of your friends!" Just then, the entire party heard a loud, monstrous roar from one of the far-off dark corners of the hangar. They had already managed to unchain two of the Airships, so they quickly designated pilots for each Airship and all hurriedly climbed aboard, launching off as quickly as their thrusters would propel them.

As Durian peered off the stern of the Airship, he saw the reanimated skeleton of a gargantuan Dragon flying towards them with incredible speed. Its eye sockets were filled with green fire and it was steadily gaining on the two Airships. Members of the party launched ranged spells and weapons at the monster, which seemed to slow it down for a while. Thinking back to the massive Ruby Dragon woven into the tapestries in Bleucorundum's lair, Durian casted a major image of what he imagined Sardior to look like and yelled out, "you cannot stop him!" For a brief moment, The One That Waits seemed startled by the visage of his old boss before coming to his senses and flying straight through the illusion. The party continued pelting heavy blows at the monster until they managed to put a respectable distance between them. Durian casted another major image while standing on the stern of the Airship—this time of a massive Emerald Dragon like how Feredemius appeared in his vision of the prehistoric Ruby Court—and shouted "if you want to stop the return of Sardior, you'll have to kill me first!" Seemingly accepting this challenge, The One That Waits was visibly enraged as the skeletal Dragon became entirely washed over in green flames and caught up to the Airships with a sudden burst of speed. In his shock, Durian roared his breath weapon at the monster as it quickly bolted towards him. This was in vain, however, as the skeletal Dragon grabbed Durian in his teeth and slammed him into the deck of the Airship, knocking him unconscious. His wounds were stabilized by another party member as the rest of the group threw a final round of blows at the monster before its bones began to break apart and land scattered on the ground below them. The party carried on their course towards Seglock, having secured two Airships as well as the vital component for Tolmè to craft an artificial Moonwell.

Chronoseptic Antics

Durian is sent to Gammelgard by the Curator to investigate the Dwarven Citadel and is hurled back in time by the Dragon Uhlm to free Kristang from his imprisonment…

As the day of Sardior's resurrection ceremony quickly approached, Durian kept busy trying to assist anywhere he could in the meantime. He had practiced how to cleanse Shadowfell corruption using Moonflowers by purifying an Emerald Dragon egg from Smargarg's hatchery, so he volunteered with the Lunarans in Seglock to help cleanse incoming refugees of shadowy contamination from outside the Moonwell's dome. In return, the Lunarans offered to keep the Selune Splinter safe in their temple and even gifted Durian a key to access the artifact anytime. Not long afterwards, he received a message from Smargarg pleading for help with escaping his lair as he had been trapped inside by Shadowfell monsters. Durian assembled a team straight away and helped escort Smargarg back to Bleucorundum, who had offered her lair as a sanctuary for displaced Dragons since it was protected from the shadows by her Corundum Egg. Durian chose to also stay in Bleucorundum's lair for the night, discussing with the Dragons about the upcoming ritual before retiring to his bedroll. He felt so tired from fighting off shadows by that point, he would have been content to rest his head just about anywhere so long as it was dry.

When he awoke the next morning, however, his pillow was far more comfortable than he remembered it and for a moment, he felt as though he was back in his bed in Jadenhill. He tried to rest with that memory of home for a few more minutes until all of his memories flooded back to him and he jolted awake. He sat up, realizing he was not in Bleucorundum's lair anymore. He climbed out of the strangely cozy bed and found himself in what looked like the chamber of a gorgeous crystalline cavern, the walls embellished with accents of emeralds not unlike what he had seen decorating Smargarg's lair. Aside from the bed and ornamentations, the room was oddly empty except for a contrastingly simple door embedded in the opposite wall. Suddenly, an image of the Curator materialized in the room and invited Durian outside. Durian followed the apparition towards the door and opened it, flooding the room with the golden light of a new morning.

As Durian's eyes adjusted, he crossed the threshold and found himself looking out upon a semicircle of cabins sat within the clearing of a dense Feywild forest. The faces of five other familiar adventurers stumbled out from their own individual cabins, and at the edge of the semicircle stood the Curator. The other adventurers seemed similarly surprised to find themselves there, and they pressed the Curator to know what was going on. The Curator revealed that he knew they were about to attempt resurrecting Sardior, but that it would be nearly impossible while the Shadowfell was still spilling out from the Northern Snowy Mountains. Additionally, he warned that the chaos plaguing Isonhound had drawn the attention of Chronepsis—the Dragon Deity of time—and that she was preparing to purge the existing timeline if it steered any closer towards a realm-wide cataclysm. As such, he had handpicked this team for their unique abilities and summoned them all there to help seal the Shadowfell rift before the resurrection ceremony. Durian irritatedly asked why the Curator pretended to not know anything about Sardior the first time he had inquired about the Gem Dragon god. The Curator simply smiled at Durian with a glint in his eye and replied "you were not ready yet."

The Curator claimed to not have an exact plan, but he suggested that they go to Gammelgard and seek out Longfang (also known as Dippy in his Dwarf form) to learn what had originally attracted him to the Northern Snowy Mountains during his brief alliance with Cheshire's Goblins. The team agreed and decided it would also be wise to ask Falgrim Norest for help in tracking down Longfang. Durian had not spoken to Falgrim since being recruited by the Order of the Watchful Eye several months ago to help take down a coven of Hags, but everyone seemed to agree he would be a good place to start. The Curator opened a Fey portal and the team stepped through, finding themselves just outside the entrance of Gammelgard.

The team entered the city and found Falgrim at the Watchful Eye's usual base of operations, so they asked him about the whereabouts of Longfang. He unfortunately did not know where to find that specific Dragon, but he was able to put the team in touch with Longfang's uncle Gideon, a Copper Dragon. Gideon met with the team and, after some questioning, he agreed to lead them to his nephew Longfang. He guided them through the Gammelgard sewers which eventually led into a cave beneath the city containing Longfang's lair. Gideon explained why they were there and the team offered Longfang a diamond tribute to his hoard in exchange for a brief moment of his time, which he agreed. The team asked about his time in the Northern Snowy Mountains and he described feeling drawn to the area as a place to build his lair. While there, however, he would hear the psionic voice of Feredemius urging him to enter the Dwarven Citadel and free him from inside the Mountains. After infiltrating the Watchful Eye using his Dippy persona, he learned just how much trouble the Citadel could prove to be and settled on a different location for his lair. The team thanked Longfang for the information and returned to the Watchful Eye's barracks to reconvene with Falgrim.

With assistance from Falgrim and some added insights provided by the Curator, the team devised a plan to try and close the Shadowfell rift inside the Mountains. Since the Gem Artifacts repelled Shadowfell energy, they got the idea to construct a bomb which integrated essences from as many types of Dragons as possible—most importantly, Gem Dragons—in the hopes that it would counteract the Shadowfell rift if set off in close enough proximity. Falgrim offered to help construct such a bomb if they could gather all of the essences needed, but there was still one problem…given how polluted the Mountains had become with Shadowfell energy, the team would die before they got anywhere near close enough to the rift for the bomb to work. The Curator reassured them, however, that he had an acquaintance who could help them work around that issue.

So the team went about collecting the various Dragon essences they required. Between the entire team, they had connections to at least one of every Gem Dragon type who would be willing to contribute to their plan. They paid visits to each of their contacts—Durian even brought them back to Bleucorundum's lair where they obtained essences from Bleucorundum and Smargarg—and soon they were able to return to Falgrim with all of the Dragon essences needed to construct their weapon.

As soon as the team was ready with the bomb, they set off to ask for help from the Curator's acquaintance. But as was frequently the case with the Curator, his directions were less than straightforward and the team was led to a tavern inside of a demiplane where time seemed to exist on an endless loop. It was inside this tavern that they were introduced to Uhlm, a massive purple-scaled Dragon whose body filled nearly the entire room. This Dragon pitched them a deal: in exchange for a compelling story, he would send the team back in time to before the Northern Snowy Mountains were engulfed in shadows. Specifically, he would send them back one thousand years, just before the Dwarves locked down the Citadel. Durian surmised from this offer that Uhlm must be some sort of aspect of Chronepsis…or perhaps one of her Harbingers or Thanes. The team entertained Uhlm with the best story they could, acting out their various adventures that had brought them all to that point. Uhlm seemed adequately pleased and bestowed each of them with a single-use, round-trip time travel watch. He issued a warning, however, that they would remain stuck in the past should they do anything to drastically alter the timeline. Durian asked Uhlm if he had ever considered joining the fight against the shadows himself, to which he quipped "is that not what I'm doing right now?" The team graciously thanked Uhlm for his help and prepared to travel to the Northern Snowy Mountains the next day.

Upon their arrival at the Mountains, they endeavored to get as close to the sealed Citadel entrance as they could without suffering harm from the shadows. The Curator accompanied the team to see them off, preemptively casting Dwarf disguises on each of them. They went over their plan one last time, said their farewells to the Curator, and activated their watches all together. In a flash, they saw the shadows over the land rapidly melt away and the heavenly bodies race through the sky as time traveled backwards at an alarming pace, until everything finally began to slow down and steadily march forward once more. The team glanced at their surroundings. They stood in what seemed assuredly the same location…but where there was once complete deadness, there was now the bustle of urgency as Dwarves ran in every direction, absorbed in the midst of some major conflict. They blended in with their Dwarf disguises and approached the now unsealed entrance to the Citadel. Durian was the only member of the team who could actually speak dwarvish, so he would need to take the lead. Thankfully, he did not have to say much to convince the guards to let them enter as the Dwarves were constantly rushing in and out of the Citadel to complete their tasks. They made their way through the mines, guided by a foreboding draconic energy as they traveled increasingly deeper into the Mountains. Finally, they turned a corner where none of the Dwarves dared tread and walked into a truly terrifying sight: Feredemius, with his original brilliant emerald scales, looming over a chained Kristang as the Obsidian Dragon's sprawled body was forced to prop open a large Shadowfell rift. The team gasped in horror, synchronously slamming their watches to flee the past before they could be spotted and disrupt the timeline. As they were hurled back to the present, the visage of Feredemius evaporated before them…but Kristang remained restrained atop the Shadowfell rift. The team shook at the chains, struggling to rip them apart as Durian whimpered repeated apologies for what his ancestor had done.

At last, they managed to break through the chains and free Kristang from his thousand-year-long imprisonment. The team activated their bomb and flung it into the Shadowfell rift, praying for the best as they fled back in the direction they came. Durian gripped Kristang, who was still too weak to run, teleporting the both of them repeatedly upwards through the mines until they reached the surface in front of the Citadel entrance where the rest of the team had broken themselves back outside. They all propped up Kristang and dragged themselves as far away as they could manage, marveling as they glanced back to see the erupting geyser of Shadowfell energy from the Mountains steadily wither and dry up. They continued to walk for some time until Kristang mustered back some of his strength and spoke for the first time, muttering "time for you to go back" before suddenly teleporting the team far out of sight. They regained their bearings and realized that the Obsidian Dragon had dispensed them just outside of Seglock. Durian's relief from having accomplished their mission suddenly turned to panic. It was the day of Sardior's resurrection ceremony…and he now had a lot of catching up to do. He rushed towards the Airships, praying he wasn't too late and that Smargarg was already on his way to the emerald ritual site.

Divine Rebirth

Durian wields the Emerald Blade during the Battle of Five Lights, causing him to be reborn as an Emerald Dragon and transformed into the new Emerald Thane of Sardior

Smargarg was supposed to meet them at the Mountain peak, but as the emerald team docked their Airship into place there was still no sign of him. They unloaded the brazer and began carrying it towards the ritual site when all disaster broke. The frightening presence of Feredemius landed right in front of them, and in a booming voice demanded they hand over the Emerald Blade. But they could not dispense it even if they were charmed to, as Durian had grabbed the Blade and teleported high into the air, flying well above everyone’s line of sight. When the shadow-corrupted Dragon’s demands were not satisfied, he summoned all manner of monsters to attack the team before flying off to antagonize another of the five ritual sites.

The ritual was already in motion, Durian could hear the incantations of the Amethyst Tome reverberate in his mind. It was now or never, they could not wait for Smargarg any longer. Durian let himself fall safely back to the ground and yelled out to the rest of the team, “I think I need to be the one to do it.” As an Emerald Dragonborn, he was suited by blood to wield the Blade…but he was small and weak compared to the mighty Dragons it was intended for. He had been warned by Bleucorundum the Sapphire that the power of the ritual would undoubtedly kill him, hence why they’d recruited an Emerald Dragon to do it instead. But in truth, Durian hadn’t really felt alive anyway until learning of the Gem Dragons and their Ruby Court the year prior. He had set out to track down Feredemius the Emerald and ask him for a job, but from how things were going with the shadow monsters, Feredemius didn’t seem in any mood to be dealing favors.

Half the team was already engaged with the monsters, while a couple others stayed close by, casting wards of protection and healing around the site. They lit the brazer and, as per the ritual’s instructions, Durian held the Blade over the flame to heat it. He closed his eyes, attempting to block out the chaos around him and focus on attuning to the Blade. What should have only been six seconds felt like an eternity as he took a few heavy blows from monsters who snuck past the wards of protection, but his trance-like concentration and the wards of healing helped him endure through the pain.

At last something happened with the Blade, as a wave of psychic energy jolted out from it and blasted everyone in its radius. Durian took the most direct hit but, having natural psychic resistance, maintained his hold on the Blade still. The sky glowed even redder than it was before and beams of ruby light shot out and bounced between each of the ritual sites, strengthening their connection. The team just needed to hold out for a bit longer and Sardior the Ruby King would finally be resurrected. Durian wished he’d be around to see it, but took solace knowing he could at least serve Sardior in death.

Feredemius appeared again for one final confrontation, blasting the team with a breath weapon of necrotic energy. Fearing another hit like that may shatter the Blade, Durian prepared to teleport away with it again if necessary, but thankfully the team was able to knock the shadowy Dragon away with purifying magic.

Finally, another wave of psychic energy blasted from the Blade with twice the intensity as before, knocking back everyone in range…except for Durian. At first he felt nothing, but then began to feel a dull heat rising in his chest cavity. The warmth quickly grew and soon worked its way into every crevice of his body. He realized what was happening as the energy from the Emerald Blade flowed directly into him, and showed no signs of easing up. The warmth escalated into an intense heat, and then a writhing inferno. His hands squeezed tighter around the Blade’s hilt as he was paralyzed by the seething pain. Durian could not even open his mouth to scream in agony as every fiber of his body was being burned away at the same time. It took no time at all for the power to eat through his physical form and, in another blast, his consciousness exploded out and suddenly he became hyper-aware of everything and everyone on the Mountains. He could see the five ritual sites all at once, including the Corundum Egg which now glowed with a blinding ruby light. His consciousness bumped into the other “court candidates,” and in their momentary mind meld they saw each other’s similar ordeals. Their swelling consciousnesses hit their limits, and Durian felt a ruby tether connecting him to the Blade as it pulled taut and began slipping loose. He knew in this moment he could choose to let go and have his soul carried to whatever peaceful afterlife awaited him. But remembering the words of Yggwilv, he knew his soul belonged to Sardior…and he was determined to stick this out until the very end. So he grabbed the tether and held onto it with all the strength of an incorporeal consciousness. The explosion began to subside, and his consciousness intermixed with the energy from the blast as it receded back to its origin point.

Durian felt himself yanked back to the ritual site. The immense psionic energy that had melded with him began clumping back into a solid, humanoid-sized mass, but the intense burning returned again and did not relent. The pain only seemed to intensify until, like a dying star revolting against its own collapse, the energy inside him pushed outwards in all directions, expanding his form and twisting it into a powerful new shape until his body grew large enough to contain the energy and the burning sensation waned. He should have been exhausted from the ordeal, but the psionic power which had been searing him moments ago now vibrated through every part of his being and even hummed in the air around him. He stood up, disoriented, his line of sight rising far higher than he recalled, despite feeling his feet planted firmly on the ground. Before he had any chance to process what had occurred, he heard a new yet familiar voice ringing a single command inside his mind: “fly.” Compelled to obey, he leapt from the Mountain peak intending to summon his spectral wings but, strangely, he found them already protruding from his back as he flapped them with unfamiliar might. The Emerald Blade still firmly gripped in his hand, he flew towards the Corundum Egg with incredible speed before landing at the site with a ground-shaking thud. He knew from the Egg’s blinding ruby glow that it was time for him to fulfill his role. He approached the Egg, recalling how intent he was on protecting it over a year ago…it felt right that he must now be the one to break it. Wielding the Emerald Blade high in the air, he plunged the weapon into the Egg, splitting the shell and causing a brilliant ruby light to shine forth. It glowed so brightly that he was at last forced to look away and noticed his other surroundings. He towered over the other adventurers as they slowly gathered and seemed to gawk up at him in awe. He felt the weight and power of his body as he lumbered back on four legs to give the Egg space to hatch. Four brilliant Gem Dragons of differing types—Amethyst, Crystal, Sapphire, and Topaz—encircled the Egg with him to witness the final portion of the ritual. It finally began to sink in for Durian: he had been reincarnated into an Emerald Dragon. But not just any Emerald Dragon, he was the Emerald Dragon. The Emerald Thane of Sardior.

His conscious mind thought to panic, but a strange instinctual pride and reassurance grappled him in place. He found surface feelings of self-doubt were immediately snuffed out by something rooted to his new nature. “Was this not a mistake?—No, Sardior doesn’t make mistakes. But should this not have been Smargarg?—No, you are the chosen, otherwise Smargarg would be standing here.” It didn’t sound like something he’d say, but his core commanded him to believe it. He found odd comfort in this overbearing confidence, and he understood now why Dragons seem to often behave in such arrogant ways.

A high-pitched hum accompanied the Egg as the brightness reached its final intensity. More cracks formed along the surface until, at last, the Ruby King burst apart the shell, scattering its remnants to parts unknown. For the first time since Prehistory, Sardior arose from the Egg and levitated into the sky to bless the gathered crowd of heroes.

As the intense glow subsided, however, Durian looked around to discover he was no longer standing atop the Northern Snowy Mountains. He and the other transformed Thanes had been transported to a Gem Demiplane composed of brilliant crystalline structures. He could sense that these halls contained incredible ancient power…but this place also made him feel at ease for the first time since his adventure began.

The five Thanes would not be alone for long as suddenly their King flew in from above, ready to conduct the inaugural meeting of the revived Ruby Court. He was a humbler size than any of them expected, certainly nothing like the colossal figure woven into the ancient tapestries. But this was Sardior, no doubt, as his scales were a brilliant ruby and he emanated an incomparable psionic power. He took the form of a slim Dragonborn, even smaller than Durian had been prior to his rebirth. But perhaps his appearance made sense…a god's power is linked to their followers, and the Ruby King had been nearly forgotten to history until now. Durian realized his next purpose with Sardior…it would be the task of the Ruby Court to build him back up and herald his great return. Durian turned to the other Thanes as they all deliberated where to start, for their real work was only just beginning.

Emerald Atonement

Durzibethinus sends Rooney, his first Harbinger, to help investigate a surge of psionic activity which leads to the lair of a purified Feredemius

Five years after Sardior's resurrection, the Ruby Court sent a request for aid to the adventurers who fought in the Battle of Five Lights. Those who answered the call were summoned to the Gem Demiplane and the Thanes debriefed them on the situation: they had detected major surges of psionic activity at two separate points in Isonhound—one at Seglock University, and another in an unexplored cave beneath the Ssaphíbían River—so they asked that the adventurers split into two teams and scope out both areas. Durzibethinus had a hunch about one of the psionic sources and sent Rooney, his first Emerald Harbinger, to help explore the Ssaphíbían River so that he could watch over the mission from afar through the Drakewarden's eyes.

Upon reaching the point of activity along the Ssaphíbían River, the team discovered an underwater entrance into the cave they were searching for. Rooney and Smaragdos—his Drake companion who had hatched from the emerald egg in Smargarg's hatchery—took a flying start, dive-bombing into the water and through the entrance. They had to quickly pull up, however, to avoid hitting the boiling pool at the bottom where water flowing in from the river merged with an underground stream of lava. Once the rest of the team had carefully made their way down, they began delving further into the subterranean cave system and found sporadic clumps of emerald geodes growing from the cave walls. They came to a fork in the cave where one path had collapsed from the burdening emerald geodes, and the rest of the team verbalized that they may very well be in Feredemius' latest lair. Rooney asked who that was, having not been present for the Battle of Five Lights. When they explained that Feredemius was an Emerald Dragon, he hurriedly started pulling away rocks from the cave-in to try and rescue the Emerald Dragon he thought might be trapped inside. They tried to reassure Rooney that, despite his boss's background, this would not be an Emerald Dragon he would want to be saving. Rooney was doubtful, but gave up on his futile rescue attempt to follow the rest of the team down the other path.

The team carried on deeper down the path as it began to narrow and they grew concerned they were reaching a dead end…until they turned a corner and witnessed an Elf standing in their way. Some of the team recognized him as the infamous Baron Faro, a wealthy socialite from Seglock, as he called out to them to try and dissuade them away. In this moment, however, they received a distressed message from the other team sent to explore Seglock, warning them that this Baron Faro was actually Feredemius in disguise. Some of the team started swinging at him, to which Feredemius responded by growing into his full Emerald Dragon form and raining psychic breath upon his attackers. Rooney became confused by this sight—being rather face-blind when it came to Emerald Dragons—and mistook the now Shadowfell-cleansed Feredemius to be Durzibethinus. Rooney pleaded with his "boss" asking why he was suddenly attacking his teammates. Feredemius tried taking advantage of this case of mistaken identity, snapping back "either help me end them or stand out of my way!" Rooney, still hesitant to attack, pondered aloud "that doesn't seem very neutral of you…"

After some brief combat, the team realized that Feredemius was only targeting those who had attacked him in his lair first. Consequently, the team's Bard casted a spell to calm everyone's emotions so that they would cease their fighting and have a chance to talk things out. They all had a long huddle where Feredemius claimed he took up residence in the cave as a means of self-imposed banishment to try and atone for his actions while under the influence of the Shadowfell. Since this lair had been found out, he declared that he would need to move again. The team seemed skeptical at first, but they could think of no other explanation for why he hadn't killed them all outright. At least for now, it seemed like Feredemius truly just wanted to be left alone. The team chose to leave Feredemius to relocate after he promised to keep self-isolating and not cause any more trouble.

Rooney and the rest of the team returned to the Ruby Court to report their findings to the Thanes. With Durzibethinus' hunch confirmed, they decided that they would keep eyes on Feredemius from a distance, but not intervene upon him for the time being. They presumed that if Sardior desired Feredemius to be fully destroyed, he would have taken the opportunity five years ago rather than simply purging him of the Shadowfell energy. Perhaps disempowering him and having his successor appointed was enough, in the Ruby King's eyes, to make Feredemius no longer a concern. The Thanes thanked the adventurers for their continued service to the Ruby Court and transported them all home their separate ways…court adjourned for now.

Appearance

Durian providing aerial support during The Shadow Forge Shutdown.

Durian

Durian was sturdily built like most Dragonborn, although he was not exceptionally strong. His scales were a shimmering emerald color with a fine, prickly texture and translucent at the surface. He had draconic emerald eyes and long head tendrils which hung down his back like a mop of hair. He also had a tail, uncommon but not unheard of amongst Dragonborn. His garbs would forego the customary blue of most Bahamut worshippers, instead opting for assorted metallic hues to better resemble the Metallic Dragonborn most common amongst his clan. He still expressed his allegiance to Bahamut, however, by donning a conspicuous pendant with his religion’s traditional symbol and color. He also wore a necklace that he handmade fastened with a Tear of Sardior, symbolizing his mission to help resurrect the god of Neutral Dragons.

Durzibethinus

In his true form, he is a massive Emerald Dragon with shimmering, translucent scales and two lengthy horns crowning the top of his head. Clusters of smaller crystalline protrusions encircle the rest of his head like a mane. His eyes glow with a pupil-less, emerald hue. Powerful, sinewy limbs match his long neck and tail while broad wings spread from his spiny back. Hard spikes stick out from each of his leg joints. His feet are adorned with razor-sharp claws.

Despite his imposing natural shape, he often favors disguises and will even polymorph into his prior Dragonborn form. In this shape, he appears nearly identical to how he looked before his rebirth, with the addition of wings which are similar to his old spectral ones except that they remain a permanent fixture.

Personality

Durian

Durian’s prior knowledge of what existed outside Jadenhill had all been secondhand, so he looked upon the realm with wondrous eyes. He asked lots of questions, seeking knowledge and solutions to problems that may not have even occurred yet. He had a deep appreciation for his own mortality, but would go all in for a cause he felt was just. He would try to fall back on the teachings of his temple when confronted with a new moral dilemma, but often privately struggled to fit all quandaries into the good-versus-evil paradigm that Bahamut espoused. He hoped that joining the fight against Dragons would help bring clarity to his religious anxieties. The realities of the conflict, however, only further muddied his outlook.

Durzibethinus

Becoming a Dragon has altered his mind in ways that even he does not fully understand. Emotions feel larger than before, for better and worse. He is more confident and curious, but also more paranoid and mistrusting. It’s difficult to discern if these changes are entirely the result of his new form, enhancing traits that were already there, or if they are in part due to Sardior’s influence. When he begins having an intrusive or self-doubting thought, it’s as if another part of his mind rushes in to squash the thought before it can fully form. He is persuaded to his core that this is what he was meant to become…and yet he sometimes feels a dissonance between mind and body, as if he’s merely the same insecure Dragonborn piloting this huge, powerful creature. He quietly hopes and trusts that these incongruent feelings will dissipate as he acclimates to being a Dragon.

Abilities

Durian

Durian was naturally gifted with psionic abilities, but the way he wielded those powers was often lacking in finesse. Aside from communicating via telepathy, he could also psychically lash out at enemies like a mind whip and exhale psychic energy as a breath weapon. When dealt damage at close range, he reflexively retaliated with a burst of telekinetic energy to push away the aggressor. He could also summon temporary spectral wings which allowed him to fly.

He could create fire at will, drawing upon the Gold Dragon part of his ancestry. He was also taught a number of illusionary spells meant to prepare him for being the high sorcerer of Jadenhill, such as disguisement and invisibility. Additionally, he was very multilingual as a result of his upbringing as a courtier.

He utilized his innate magic abilities to find new ways of avoiding close brushes with death. He figured out how to feather fall after being thrown from a crumbling balcony during his first encounter with Sro. After being nearly digested by Bleucorundum's phase gelatinous cube, he learned how to see invisibility.

Following his reacquisition of the Selune Splinter, Durian used it as an opportunity to practice some of the ranged illusionary magic that he was only just beginning to learn before the artifact was stolen.

After tracking down the lair of Smargarg the Emerald Dragon and requesting his help with locating Feredemius, the Emerald Thane of Sardior, the Dragon taught Durian the Boon of Telepathy, which strengthened his existing psionic abilities and enabled him to read the minds of other creatures.

Durzibethinus

The Thanes of Sardior are meant to be Exarchs for their gem types, so Durian’s psionic and psychic powers were radically amplified by his transformation as well as his physical size and strength. He has unmatched prowess in telepathy, clairvoyance, and illusions (skills which he can further project while interfacing with his Gem Artifact, the Emerald Splinter). He is able to exhale a disorientating breath weapon of psychic dissonance. He has a powerful bite and claw attack. He can also fly, teleport and change his shape at will.

His psychic presence seeps into his surroundings over time, a trait which he can use to purposefully imbue certain items and even other creatures with his own emerald essence. He used this ability to transform Rooney into his first Harbinger, forging a Patron-like relationship and psychic link which allows him to see through the Ranger's eyes as well as telepathically communicate.

Adrian of Lyaphaire

Adrian of Lyaphaire, the lingering gold echo of Durzibethinus’ mortal life.

Adrian of Lyaphaire is an aspect of Durzibethinus that was created as a byproduct of his ascension into the Emerald Thane of Sardior. During his transformation, the residual gold part of his mortal ancestry was shed away and discarded into the Astral Sea. It drifted there, eventually forming its own consciousness and being pulled into another realm known as Lyaphaire. Still possessing the same memories as Durzibethinus up until the Battle of Five Lights, this aspect reverted to using the name Adrian Grunwald—Durzibethinus’ birth name—as he endeavored to build a life for himself in this new realm…and perhaps someday regain his emerald heritage.

Click here for the story of Adrian’s adventures in Lyaphaire.

Trivia

  • Durian’s family was primarily of Gold Dragon ancestry, hence why his simpler spells were often fire-based. Exhibiting gem features seemed to be a recessive gene as Durian’s immediate family were all gold sans for him, his mother, and grandmother.
  • Despite knowing that he differed from his siblings in a major regard, Durian identified as a Gold Dragonborn until his encounter with Bleucorundum. Being faced with the existence of Gem Dragons completely shook his sense of self.
  • Durian was one of very few telepaths in Jadenhill and took extra coaxing as a child to verbalize his words, so he was overly eager when meeting other telepaths on his journeys and would try using telepathy as the primary means of communication with them.
  • In 820 PR, visiting representatives attempted to scout Durian for Katharda Academy, a proposal which his mother outright refused as he "has a purpose here" and stated that the school "cannot accommodate our unique situation." The representatives warned of the escalating War of Dragons but, after implying that they could see through her Wood Elf disguise, she angrily dismissed them, exclaiming "this is your fight, we're just trying to survive through it." Durian kept a longstanding grudge against his mother for not allowing him to go, and he likely would have gone himself had he not been a year short of fifteen (the age of adulthood in Dragonborn societies). His place was instead offered to Frances Langford, the next candidate on the school’s list.
  • Durian's mother eschewed many aspects of Dragonborn culture due to the fear of her family being discovered by Crusaders. This included conventional draconic names, so she named her son Adrian at birth with the intent of making him sound more elvish. His father, however, was far more relaxed and gifted him the draconic name Durzibethinus on his fifteenth birthday. Upon leaving home, he combined both names and began calling himself Durian in a halfhearted attempt to reclaim some part of his identity.
  • Before leaving home, Durian had never seen or tasted the fruit of his unintended namesake. Coincidentally, however, durians are one of the few fruits that appear on the Scavenging Table for the Dragon-populated mainland of Kiston. Additionally, a single durian fruit once came into Jadenhill as a gift from an overseas diplomat, but it just ended up used as a kickball.
  • While visiting the lair of Smargarg, Durian came across the Amethyst Dragon egg which had been stolen from the Court of Quartz. He left it alone as he could not tell it apart from any other gem egg, but the party's ship captain managed to swipe the egg and fled before anyone could see as it almost immediately hatched into an Amethyst Dragon wyrmling.
  • Throughout most of history, the Gem Dragons went to great lengths to keep their existence in the realm a secret…a behavior that the Dragonborn of Jadenhill seemed to similarly display. By choosing to forgo his Wood Elf disguise upon leaving his hometown, Durian inadvertently helped lead the charge for Gem Dragons and other gem beings to allow themselves to be seen once again.
  • Following his ascension, Durian became a LEGNdary Character throughout the mortal realms and his adventures were echoed over the centuries, even inspiring a myth about an Elf who accrued so much knowledge of Dragons that he ultimately turned into one.

Behind the Screen

  • Durian was created out of a desire to introduce Gem Dragon lore into Quelmar following the release of Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons, as well as to help answer the question of why Dragonborn continued to sporadically appear after the point in the Quelmar Timeline when Dragonborn were presumed to have gone extinct (the implication being that a few clans managed to survive undetected throughout the Second Draconic Crusades). Some secondary elements from Durian's backstory, such as the Selune Splinter, served as callbacks to previous Quelmar campaigns that his player participated in.
  • Several elements of Durian's backstory drew upon themes of queerness, such as the power of language and its impact on identity when sufficient vocabulary does not exist to properly describe oneself. This manifested as a Gem Dragonborn, ignorant to the existence of Gem Dragons, identifying as metallic as it was his culture’s closest (yet entirely inadequate) approximation for what he was. Other themes included masking to fit into a social order and how such forms of suppression can be multilayered, as in the case of an Emerald Dragonborn masking as a Gold Dragonborn masking as a Wood Elf.
  • Despite being an Emerald Dragonborn, Durian also possessed Gold Dragon ancestry due to his Draconic Bloodline Sorcerous Origin.
  • Another one of his player’s goals was to test the outcome of playing a character whose motivations for learning new spells were entirely narrative-based (specifically as a Sorcerer, a class whose spells remain the same from day-to-day). For example, Durian learned Feather Fall following a session in which he nearly died after falling from a great height. The next time he leveled up, he learned See Invisibility after being nearly killed by an invisible monster. Following this approach, the highest level that Durian reached as a player character was level 8.
  • One of the primary inspirations for Durian's name was Adrian Greenburg, a costume designer most famous for designing the ruby slippers in The Wizard of Oz.

Gallery

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