Rise of the Manticore's End

Animus of the Dead, Two Sides of the Same Coin
Someone Expects The Toran Inquisition

The morning found our heroes still recovering from the events that cost Tristian his life. With the Dented Mug being "renovated", the group had found other means of rest. The morning brought strange and interesting events for the group. 

Manchester had a vision of fire, destruction, and hellish screaming, when he tried to study a necklace he had gained from the Medusa's lair. 

Larissa's new dagger contains a presence that revealed its existence to only her, with an infernal growl, and a cry of thirsting. 

Shadow, Manchester, Larissa, and Jorn had a chance encounter with Peter, a wizarding apprentice that had been tasked with casting a spell upon the members, by none other than the deceased Tristian, in hopes the members would dispatch each other. After some awkward questioning, threats of death, Peter was set free, not before some illusionary dismemberment, to the apprentice wizard's distress. 

Zavok was introduced to the human monk, Oak, who was tasked by a forest spirit to gift the tiefling, a ring that promised to improve his skill. Also he received a strange letter, simply titled "Zavok, and Friends". The author wanted to meet with the group, but had not clarified when or where. 

The group was trying to decipher the meaning of the letter, when a halfling, named "Tom" seemed to appear in their midsts. Tom happened to be a traveling minstrel, and fan of the group, and he brought news. In Toran, an ambassador was seeking an audience with them. Tom also suggested that the group should possibly decide on a name to call themselves before this meeting. The heroes spent some time before deciding upon their official name. 

As if he knew, Tom appeared once more, with even more interesting news. A second ambassador was in Toran, seeking an audience with them as well. With no other pressing matters, the group went to the Flying Monkey to meet these ambassadors. The group arrived in time to defuse a brawl breaking out between the two ambassadors, and their guards. It seemed the ambassadors were on opposite sides of the same dispute. 

The ambassadors were both from the south of Toran. Lord Tyran, represented Siren's Binding a port city of a vast city state, while Lady Sarah was from North of The Crossing, a fledgling union of river villages, and mountain settlements. 

Apparently there was a dispute of who had legal claim to the land considered to be North of The Crossing. According to Lady Sarah, for a century and a half, the people of North of The Crossing, have been self reliant, and self governing, and view themselves as an independent nation.

However Lord Tyran says the land North of The Crossing belongs to Siren's Binding because of a claim of ownership from a long deceased sovereign, and can now be integrated with Siren's Binding, because the empire can economically handle the influx of new citizens, and would be a boon to the empire, and the people in the north. 

Neither ambassador wanted to reveal the quest they had for the newly named Toran Inquisition, so private meetings were arranged. If a diplomatic solution cannot be reached, our heroes will be forced to choose a side, and only history will reveal if that choice was the right one.

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Sometimes Anger Management Fails, and Someone Loses Their Head
Tristian's Goodbye

The two groups found themselves a brief respite in the city of Toran. Drinks and stories were shared of the time apart from one another's company. But the revelry was short lived as whispering was heard, and suddenly unbridled rage overtook some of the group members. 

Lerissa, Jorn, and Manchester used their time off to try and earn some extra gold, following a tip Manchester had heard. The task proved to no avail, and the three returned to tavern they frequent to seek their friends. 

While passing by a window of the tavern, Jorn noticed that several members of both groups had their weapons drawn on one another, and cloaked figure making a fast retreat from the area.

Lerissa was tasked with apprehending the cloaked figure, aided by members of the group, that figured it would be better for them to be outside the tavern, till the hostilities ceased. The mysterious stranger's escape was short lived as in mid stride he fell face first into the dirt, unconscious, thanks to a Sleep spell Lerissa was able to cast. Upon capturing her quarry, Lerissa manifested a tiny pair of manacles that  were promptly placed the stranger's "fingers". The Kenku Monk, Ojutai, told Lerissa, in Lerissa's voice of all things, that he needed to take the body. Lerissa warily obliged the bird in his request, after Aarn (sorry Chris if I mispelled your PC's name), and Zavok vouched for him. 

Meanwhile Manchester, and Jorn entered the tavern to try and sort their companions out. Manchester was able to pull Shadow from the fray, but received several stabs from  the Tabaxi's rapier, and dagger as thanks. Jorn responded with two icy strike from his morning star, sending the feline rogue to the floor. Tristan gripped sheer madness, cut down the Wood Elf, Aary and, set his sights on Manchester, who was trying to use his abilities to stop the large fighter from hurting others. Malleous squared himself off with Tristian, seemingly guided by more than the rage that had taken over the others. The Half Orc kept swinging, but could not seem to connect. Manchester summoned a Wild Boar to serve as a distraction, that seemed to only work on Malleous, but bought others time assess the situation, even though it was brief, as Malleous made quick work of the boar. 

By this time the others had returned with the cloaked figure, and upon depositing him outside the tavern door, realized he was dead. While accusations we flying between Lerissa, and Ojutai on how their quarry died on the way back to the tavern. Zavok entered the tavern to aide the others. His mission was cut short as Tristan, leaped across the room, and cut the monk down in a fiery blast. Jorn tried to engage his fellow fighter, but his strikes seemed to miss the mark. Tristian seemed to grown larger, and his strikes seemed to hit harder.  Eventually Jorn could not stand against the fighter's might, and fell as well. 

Malleous set with murderous intent rushed again toward the giant human, as he stepped out of the tavern, seeking Manchester to be his next victim. Lerissa managed to stop the human from harming the wizard, but the Half Orc was not satisfied with having Tristian simply unconscious. The Half Orc raised his hammer axe, cutting off the human's head, and then cutting the head in half again. Upon Tristian death, a bright white energy seemed to shoot out of the body dissipating in the heavens. Despite this Malleous kept attacking the corpse, and Lerissa struck a blow that ended the orcish rage. 

The end of the battle not only saw Tristian dead, but revealed that Zavok, and Jorn had breathed their last. While the party sought clerics to return two of the fallen to them, they feared that since they could not guarantee that whatever entity that had been within Tristian would not come back with him, that the fighter would not return to the material plain. 

The group now seeks to recover from the ordeal. Short a member, some sought quiet solace, mementos of the fallen, and most importantly, answers. 

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Joyous Coincidences

The two groups, once separated but now rejoined. Friendships of old rekindled, new meetings forged and general mirth shared with sprinklings of merriment. Coming to the high-class/high-strung metropolis of Sunscradle, The parties move to get resupplied and look for something to occupy their time while they recuperate.

Utilizing some shady contacts and even shadier diplomacy, they manage to locate the whereabouts of an uncover fisticuffs contest. While most of the enlarged party is excited by the prospect, two members do not attend (one took too kindly to her alcohol and another sought a free room for the night courtesy of the local paladin guard).

Arriving at the shady location to conduct shady dealings with other shady people, our shady adventurers/misfits joined the festivities. Some partook in the brutal displays, while others merely saw fit to bet on who was the better brute. The organizers quickly noticed that a surplus of wealth had impacted the system and quickly put a cap to all bets.

The group had a good few days of revelry and they ready for their next cause…

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Wait...There Are More Orcs?

Our misfits find themselves waking from a well-earned rest. They regroup and begin moving toward their objective: eliminate the orcs. Their plans though seem more difficult to accomplish than they anticipated.

Since they are unaware as to the location of the orc camp, they find themselves wandering through the wilderness. During their lost adventures, a few things happen: some shit went down with the elves (abrupt and unfriendly chat), an orc attack, and Tristan finding a friend.

Tristan’s friend was a wild mountain lion. While searching for a dry place before continuing their goal, they found a cave occupied by an unfriendly and rather large kitty. Tristan, pulling out his best ‘friend of the forest critters’ act, managed to calm the beast enough to let the party rest for a moment before moving on.

Their prolonged search proved unsuccessful so they moved on towards the city of Sunscradle in the south. Once there they seek to find aid in their quest and who know what else they will find in a big city. However, the journey was longer than anticipated and they tried to push themselves but ended up collapsing from exhaustion. They reluctantly set up camp….

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Rising Aggressions

The company becomes aware of creatures in the sky, viewing them as some foreboding omen. They move to continue their mission. Returning to the other side of the mountain they begin to make camp. H.P. quickly interrupts any talk of setting up watches and takes ten minutes to cast H.P.'s Hidey Hotbed (I think that's what you called it, let me know), and walls of pink force spring up and surround the party, protecting them for the night.

Their next day of travel was disrupted by an onslaught of orcs. Although they weren't particularly hard to kill, there were a lot of them. The rest of their travel went unimpeded.

When they returned to Toran they found it buzzing with activity. The people of the town had energy, there were a lot of people in town. A good number of buildings in town looked restored and it seemed as though Toran's rough stage was at an end.

Reporting to Skree in his office, the group got some disturbing news. Skree believes that an ancient evil is awakening, an evil that the world hasn't seen for centuries. While Skree attempts to discern the nature of this evil, he gives the party another mission. In local regions orc raids are becoming more and more frequent and their hordes seem to be getting larger. It is an issue of growing concern that needs to be dealt with.

After getting their new mission they found out the reason for the town's excitement, the wizard that supplies the magic shop is in town. The wizard is loved by the townsfolk, not only does he supply magic, but whenever he visits he puts on shows for the public and is basically a one man carnival for the day. H.P., enthralled by the prospect of acquiring more magic runs off to the magic shop and the party follows (Tristan however heads to the smithy to inquire about some heavier armor). After some general shopping at the magic shop, the wizard emerges from the back room. 

Standing about 6' tall, the wizard wears elegant green robes and a very fancy green top hat. His smiles goes from ear to ear and his eyes seem full of energy. Oh, I almost forgot, he is also quite clearly a gnome on stilts also wearing a pair of glasses with a fake nose attached. The party recognizes the gnome as the peddler Venzor, an eccentric gnome with shops in odd places.

After some talking, some donkey…caretaking, and some drinking the party went to sleep, resting before their next mission.

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Split Loyalties

Here's what went down today.

The party moved forward with their current goal, evict the whatsits from the one place for the other dude. You may wonder, "Hey man, if you're going to fight a Medusa, what should your first step be?" I'll tell you what, if you follow the group's example the first and maybe most important step is to make a kick-ass team mantra. Although a piece of advice would be to not use "Yes to life!" there's just something weird and anti-abortiony to it, makes you sound like you're protesting something.

Next step in fighting a Medusa, find the damn thing. The party moved forward and the tunnel narrowed, but no Medusa. Next they found a flight of stairs descending into the abyss, in fact the aesthetic significance of this area was so high it is almost like the omnipotent force had something else planned for it but changed it's mind as the last second. Yet still, no Medusa. After the stairs they cam upon a ledge set into the inner wall of the mountain. This place was just one huge mess, someone had dropped their broken pillars and stonework all over this place and really just needed to clean it up, honestly it's safety hazard. Come to think of it, that stairway should have railing, these guys easily could have just fell right off into the abyss. Before they evict the Medusa they should really send them to an OSHA training about workplace safety as this cave is not up to code.

After the ledge, they entered a very large room, it's hard to detail the size of the room but this room was way cooler than the rest of the cave. Not only because it had a bad-ass fountain and the best water you have ever heard of, but above the fountain guess what there was. A damn skylight! Like, how cool is that! They soon had to ignore the cool as they had found the Medusa.

After a short chat with her and her beautiful gorgeousness, they party was all like "Shit she's attacking, oh god oh god oh god, please help us!" For a short spurt it almost seemed as though this god they were talking to turned into a six year old girl who wanted the Medusa to attack H.P. but didn't want to roll.

The fight went on for quite some time, party members were all like "oh no I'm freezing this sucks!" and "oh wait never mind I'm OK" and Tristan was all like "Guys I'm just gonna look at her." then he was like "oh that's why we avert our eyes." Then Zovak, Jorn, and Lerissa are all like "Oh snap we're actually turning to stone, this is rather inconvenient!" Then H.P. was all like "Nuhuh, not I'm my watch!" and mumbled words from his scroll of nope and shooed that stone stuff right out of existence. 

Finally Shadow, sick of this entire ordeal, ran the Medusa through using her rapier. In anger, Shadow began rage stabbing the body with her rapier and shouting "Take that Arry! Can't take this kill!" Meanwhile Jorn was laying on the ground like, "Bro i'm dying please help."

They took a short rest, looted what they could find and moved on through the tunnel on the other side of the cave. As they continued they soon saw a light…at the end of the tunnel. As they approached what they perceived to be the cave exit, they were suddenly in a familiar looking shop with a small and wildly entertained gnome. After purchasing some some potions and other such things the group then proceeded to bicker just outside of the cave.

As the argument wound down, H.P. looked to the sky and saw shapes circling the peak of the mountain.

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Such Sweet Sorrow

Shadow came down the steps with news for her fellow mercenaries. Skree had entrusted her as his Second, a rank that came with moderate prestige and a lot more responsibilities. The group was to spend a few days resting up then talk to Skree to get their new orders.

After a few days recuperating, the party sought to reassemble itself. Gathering what members they could, they moved forward with Skree's order. They were to return to the mountain and begin travelling along its base, investing it for any sign of evil tidings. They reached the former entrance to the dragon's lair and found it to have a box. They remember from helping back up camp that there was not a box left behind near the cave or anywhere close to the cave.

Upon opening the box they found an old nemesis. The elegant silver mirror erupted in a storm of psychic attacks. Most of the party became incapacitated by the onslaught and were even driven away by fear. Those who resisted tried to cover the mirror once more but were unable. During these attempts, Tristan was grabbed by a snow white hand which reached from within the mirror. As he felt his strength begin to leave him he quickly recoiled from the mirror and retreated. The party regrouped a fair distance from the mirror and decided it best not to trifle with it any further and move on.

Their second day of travel Jorn's observant eye spied a cave far up the mountain side. The rogues did their best to sneakily scale the peak but Lerissa soon found herself outmatched by the angle of ascend and slide back down the mountain. Continuing alone, Shadow climbed the mountain to the cave. Upon reaching the ledge she looked over and saw a ladder built into the opposite side of the ledge going down towards the base of the mountain.

"Silly humans, needing ladders" Shadow thought, although this did seem a little racist to just call out humans as many races utilize climbing aides akin to ladders.

After amusing herself she climbed atop the ledge. However, much like an unfortunate contestant on a strange game show, a large creature popped out of the cave and knocked her down the mountain side. Shadow managed to catch herself on a convenient handhold…also known as the ladder she was previously mocking.

She quickly scurried down the mountain and told her friends that the creature she saw was a manticore, the strange cross of human, dragon, and lion. The vanguard of the group, Jorn and Tristan, having never seen a manticore quickly began scaling the ladder. Shortly after their ascent, they began descending…quickly. Lucky saved by H.P.'s feather fall. It was so fun the first time Tristan decided he wanted to go again and found similar results.

After wasting two of his spells and what appeared to be a rather strange and unpleasant carnival ride, the group moved on and into another night.

The next day they found a cave. Unlike the previous entrance into the mountain, this cave was unworked. Stalagmites and stalactites were numerous and it was obvious that time and erosion had fabricated its existence. The rogues once again moved ahead of the party and after about twenty feet they disappeared. Not into the darkness did they disappear, but somewhere else entirely.

Lerissa and Shadow found themselves in a shop. The room and its furniture all made with beautifully polished, stained, and engraved wood. The shop was full of all sorts of different items, from armor and weapons, to scrolls and books. Behind the counter stood a small figure, a gnome to be precise.

Before they could get a better look at things, their companions initiated an entertaining series of events before they were able to calm them down and gather in the store.

The gnome appears to be early into his middle years and has been wearing a large grin while watching the party's dysfunctions. His hair light brown and unkempt yet his beard has been styled so that it curls back up toward his face.

Conversing with the shop keep, Venzor they found his name to be, they discovered that he wound, upon the completion of a couple odd jobs, bestow them with some magic artifacts. Venzor though, appears to be a large fan of mysteries as he would not directly answer questions pertaining to the power(s) held within these items.

The group agreed to do these tasks. Task the first, serve an…"eviction notice" to a "rather nasty somebody" so that Venzor may acquire another shop location. Task the second, return to the manticore's cave and lay a coin as far into the cave as possible.

Seeking to first serve the eviction notice, Venzor opened a door allowing the party to use the cave passage through the mountain. During their travel they found what appears to be a petrified man, who Tristan promptly fondled…for strategic purposes? The party knows not whether to expect a gorgon, a basilisk, or any other terror from the Underdark.

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Moving Forward

The dread morning has come to pass. Each party carried with it some hazard from the night before. Some tribulations are more easily overcome than others however.

Lerissa, Aeron, and Liana were able to deal with their illness and issues quickly and set upon getting back to camp and seeing what they could do to retrieve their spelunking allies. 

Those in the depths awoke to a more solemn fate. They lifted the fallen Shadow onto H.P.'s floating disc and made their way out of the cave. To further their emotional trauma, the cave brought them to the epicenter of last nights slaughter. The bodies of thousands of goblins lay before them. Their bodies mangled and strewn across the landscape in some twisted tapestry of gore. Steeling their nerve, the party moved through the sea of the slain and made their way back to camp.

Upon reaching camp they quickly rejoined with their allies and sought clerics for Shadow. Jorn put up the money for a resurrection and they waited.

While most waited near the medic tent, H.P. sought out Fredrick to anally… to meticulously brush and care for his donkey, seeking to distract himself from last nights events. The stables had different plans in mind, as when he entered, Fredrick already had a visitor. Wearing a dark cloak and his signature grin, H.P.'s stalker had decided to stop flirting with the shadows and come to light.

Shadow emerged from the tent awkwardly, seeming not used to being alive again. They then went and found H.P. and the unfortunate fate of the stable boy.

They watched and attempted to acquire some explosives that were being delivered into the cave but were unable to attain possession. They assisted in the camp's disassembly and went to the goblin fields to invest the strange statement that a good portion of the goblins were unarmed. It seems that what was left of the goblins was picked clean and the headed back to Toran.

They celebrated and drank a few too many before retiring for the night (some took a more winding and flirtatious path but that is neither here nor there). In the morning they sought assignment to which there were none. Skree called Shadow to his office for words and now the group waits, alert for what may come next.

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Inevitabilities

The party continues on after their fight with the shambling mound. Anxious to end their task so that they may return to the encampment and rest, they actively search for their next objective.

Scouring the dungeon in its entirety (at least what they can access) they determined that their next course of action is to investigate the well. Using all of their rope, they still could not reach nor even see the bottom.

Using a bit of magic, H.P. was able to relocate a few of the team down into the waters below. However, the party chose its delvers poorly and as soon as some of their…denser allies touched the water they sank like stones. Tiring of watching his teammates nearly drowning, H.P. summoned a floating disc which they were able to hold onto and swim about with.

The ones left above decided to spend their time searching the dungeon once more. They came upon a room that the rest of the party seemed to ignore. The room was colorful and the myriad of mushrooms which lived there lit it with a soft blue/purple hue. Aaron spied a body amid the mushrooms and quickly went to acquire any assets it may have held. Walking through the mushrooms proved to be a rough decision however as shortly after he began to throw up and his limbs went limp. Quickly Liana worked to get him out of there and back to fighting shape.

In the depths things were not so easy. The need to find an exit was soon becoming dire and the group had still seen no glimpse of shore. Fortunately H.P.'s owl companion saw light below the surface of the water and an end to their watery prison. The path to the light was long and the delvers were not so good at swimming. Jorn, Vovoc, and Shadow all passed out from lack of oxygen. Tristan, mighty warrior that he is was able to dive in and retrieve his comrades. Shadow did not wake up.

Is this Shadow's inevitable end? Is this tunnel the parties salvation or just another death sentence? Will the group complete their task? Do they even remember what it is?

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Arry vs. The Party

Rested and recovered from their encounter with the currently undefeated door, the party runs a few errands before heading off in search of their quarry.

As they approach the cave entrance they find an encamped army surrounding it, the army drafted by Captain Skree. After being backed by an old….friend?.. they are permitted into the camp to discuss plans with Skree.

While Jorn solely attends the planning meeting, the rest of the group tried their best to get in some form of trouble, excluding Lerissa and Arry who decided it would be way more fun to play with Mr. Nibbles.

Dovhakiin went in search of Wolf due do his recent obsession with acquiring one of his own. During their brief talk the dragonborn made a rather large creep of himself, had his life threatened, then handed out some money and left. Truly a tale for the ages.

The party regrouped and Jorn relayed Skree's battle plans, the group was to infiltrate the cave during the night, kill anything they found inside, then seal it once and for all.

As they entered the cave, they noted some small differences from the last time they were hear, doors smashed open, bodies plastering the walls and ceilings, you know…just small things.

They entered the alchemist's workshop which had been torn to pieces, the shelves and table destroyed, but an old nemesis awaited them. The mirror from Hell stood unmarred on the wall of the room. The woman's laughter penetrated the minds of those she recognized, H.P. and Jorn. The party attempted to move on past her when three of their members were taken from their own minds. They were able to snap Tristan, the giant, and Shadow out of their trance. Little Arry however, proved a greater challenge.

As though she was hellbent on making her way into that mirror she persevered ever forward. Her mind completely captivated by the mirror's call, she deftly eluded and outmaneuvered her teammates, Even Tristan and Jorn could not contain her for long. Eventually Tristan, growing tired of playing "catch the halfling" punched her right in the face attempting to shake her trance. Coming to, Arry scowled at Tristan and kept her distance.

Following a rather distinct blood trail, the group moved deeper into the cave, heading straight toward the dragon's previous lair. Upon entering, they found no dragon and the blood trail lead to a large well, the party could track no more.

While discussing rope quantities, Lerissa became aware of something approaching. Shushing the party, the turned and watched the creature approach. The size of it was larger than even Tristan, towering above the giant it was slightly larger than the dragon itself. It slowly moved closer to the party as they tried to decide what to do. Its body looked to be made of some dark and dense ooze. The party, unable to make a timely decision, was attacked by the shambling mound, making their decision for them.

The battle was long and arduous. The monster appeared to be unaffected by the spells H.P. threw into it and it even swallowed Tristan into itself crushing him repeatedly. The creature was even seen to regenerate its wounds when in contact with electricity. Finally, a last shot from Arry broke the magic that held the ooze together and it fell harmlessly to the ground, freeing Tristan.

The party now sits exhausted in the caves, pondering their next move.

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