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Revision as of 01:38, 9 July 2024 by Jeffbuterbaugh (talk | contribs) (Creating this as a containment page for all the Adrian lore since it was starting to take up too much space on Durzi's main page.)
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Sardioric Warning: A fragment of Quelmar has leaked into a parallel universe, which means you are now entering a lorespace from an entirely separate realm. If you come across any beings, places, or items with Quelmarian counterparts throughout your multiversal travels, please report these echoes to Sardior.

Adrian Grunwald
The lingering echo of Durzibethinus' mortal life.
Player Name Jeff
Date of Birth 826 PR
Place of Birth Northern Snowy Mountains, Isonhound
Species Dragonborn
Gender Male (he/him)
Height 6' 4"
Weight 260 lbs
Eye Color Emerald
Class Monk

Adrian Grunwald is an aspect of Durzibethinus that was created as a byproduct of his ascension into the Emerald Thane of Sardior. During his transformation, the lingering 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—Durzibethinus’ birth name—as he endeavored to build a life for himself in this new realm.

Adventures in Lyaphaire

Prologue

Adrian finds himself dropped into a strange new realm, having been radically altered and left to wonder whether Sardior's resurrection ceremony had actually worked…

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 Second Draconic Crusades. His mother, 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 Elves and even giving her hatchlings elvish-sounding names. His father, however, was a practicing 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 Dragons and 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 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, the Ruby King of Gem Dragons. Durian identified with these Gem Dragons and joined their cult of Sardior, convinced that the return of this ancient Ruby Dragon god could push away all the Shadowfell monsters still attacking the realm.

Durian helped the Gem Dragons prepare their resurrection ceremony—which required a representative for each type of Gem Dragon—under heavy duress from the monsters attempting to halt Sardior's return. When Smargarg—the cult’s Emerald Dragon—failed to arrive, a presumed casualty of the 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 Gem Dragon to serve the god on his Ruby Court…bestowing him the title of Durzibethinus, the Emerald Thane of Sardior. With their god resurrected and the Shadowfell monsters vanquished, Durzibethinus ascended with the other members of the Ruby Court to sow 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. JadenhillSardiorGem Dragons…the Gem Dragons that existed here seemed just as elusive as they were at home—if not more so. But just as the 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 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 Monks practicing a fighting technique which he immediately recognized as the 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 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.

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…

There was a time in Adrian's life when he wanted nothing more than to be a normal 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.

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…

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 Goblins up ahead as the passage opened into a larger cavern. Just around the corner, an encampment of Goblins talked amongst themselves, "Bugbears hate Goblins, but Hags hate Goblins more." The team paused for a moment to quietly discuss their next move.

Caverns & Bullywugs

Adrian learns the consequences of trying to sneak inside a cave without darkvision and the team is attacked by Goblins, then they learn of some 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…

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 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 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 Goblins gave them an opportunity to "surrender." They agreed in order to let the Goblins save face, with Dave even offering to paint their portrait sometime back at their home cave. They asked the Goblins about the whereabouts of the Hags, to which they were pointed in the direction of a rippling pool of water that led deeper into the cave. The 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 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.

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 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…

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 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 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 Goblins had set up camp. There was no other path around them and, left with few other options, Adrian proposed simply striding past the Goblins as if they belonged there. He demonstrated by speed-walking past the encampment first—avoiding eye contact with the Goblins—and the plan astonishingly seemed to work as the 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 Goblins as they sat around their campfire. Unfortunately, the sight of the exceptionally tall Monk caught the attention of the 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 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 Goblins. The entire team fought the horde of Goblins into submission, non-lethally at Dave's insistence, thus they found themselves with four unconscious Goblins and a whole system of caves left to explore.

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 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 Hags

Adrian pulled some rope from his adventuring pack and tied up each of the 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 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 Goblins ducking around the walls at the opposite end of the tunnel. The team remembered overhearing that the Hags in this cave hated 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 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 Goblins wouldn't harm us if we agreed to leave the caves. Meanwhile, Dave claimed they could understand what the 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 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 Goblins launched all their javelins at him. This opened up the rest of the team to knock out the rest of the Goblins, who were already severely injured from their prior battle. They killed two of the Goblins while merely knocking the other two unconscious. Dave insisted on bringing the two unconscious 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 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.

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…

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 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 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 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 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.

Bugbears & Goblins

Adrian and the team confront the Bugbear who has taken up residence alongside his horde of 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…

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 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 Goblins' language, which sounded suspiciously like common but spoken very slowly, Dave beseeched them for a chance to speak to their leader. The 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 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 Goblins posted all around with their weapons pointed. Dave attempted to state their case with the Bugbear, relaying their situation with the 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 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 Goblins' attack, Dave was no longer keen to befriend any of them. They attempted to pick off the Goblins by luring them out with mockery and bottlenecking them in the fork. They were only able to kill one of the 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 Goblins' projectiles, and into the cavern to confront the Bugbear. Adrian pleaded with him to call of his 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 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 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 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 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'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 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'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 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.

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…

With the Bugbear defeated, the team was left with a mob of crying children who had been transformed into 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'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 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 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.

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…

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 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 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 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.

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…

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 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 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.

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…

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.

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…

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.

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…

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'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 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 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'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'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'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 Elves leaving the city. One of the 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'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 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.

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…

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 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 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.

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…

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.

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…

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."

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…

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.

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…

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 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.

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…

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.

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…

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 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 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 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 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.

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 Quelmar, but learning any more information will come at an undisclosed price…

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 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 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 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."

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…

Coming soon…

Appearance

Adrian is identical in appearance to Durzibethinus' 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 Deus Temporis temple robes 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 Deus Temporis faction that trained him…specifically, a gold pendant shaped like Alram—the Metallic Gold Dragon God of the Past—from the three-headed Dragon god of time.

Personality

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 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 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

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 Way of the Ascendant Dragon.

Gallery

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