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Jan 25 2013

Chronicles of Netheril, January 20th, 2013

Editor’s Note: This game session contained a large amount of critical story-telling elements. Some of it our DM obtained from adventure books, and some he created himself. Trying to condense and write up these elements was redundant. So to avoid writing a book report I will be including large sections from the DM’s notes, as is. Some, or possibly all, of this material is copyrighted; so act accordingly.

Loudwater – Our Return

Having been returned to the Spellgard of our time, Curuvar and Lady Saharel congratulated us on our success. It was now time to return to Loudwater. Curuvar, who had made other arrangements to reach Spellgard, now accompanied us for the trip back home.

Our voyage to the past had lasted a long time; and during the trip back to Loudwater we learned from Curuvar that it had been over a month since we had first left to retrieve the Nether Scroll from Thardresk Crypt. In that time, important events had taken place in the world and upon our return to Loudwater we learned of a few of them.

The most dramatic development was the return of Mystra, Goddess of magic. Another of significantly lesser impact, but nonetheless of interest was centered on Lady Moonfire. Ever since the incident at Draigdurroch’s tower she had been studying the research notes we had taken back with us. During our most recent absence she had used her newly acquired knowledge to change her warlock pact. She was now an Essence of Karsus warlock.

Loudwater – The New Mission

After waiting a few days, in order to give us some well deserved rest and relaxation, Lady Moonfire approached us with a new mission. During our first meeting with the Lady when we first arrived in Loudwater so long ago, she had mentioned that she would one day wish to visit the Dire Wood.

That day had come, and Curuvar would be accompanying us as well.

The two arcanists sought the Karsestone; an ancient relic that was said to contain a remnant of Karsus’ short-live divinity. Once in our possession, we would have to somehow feed its power back to the remnant of Karsus’ mortal body.

Karsus’ mortal body survives as a tall butte of red stone embedded in the ground in the eastern reaches of the High Forest and eroded by the elements.

Karsus’s gigantic, ever-bleeding heart beats ponderously within the butte itself. This manifestation is essentially powerless, but it cannot be destroyed, even if its stone prison were somehow sundered.

An animate stone statue depicting Karsus in his original form resides in the temple (The Shrine of the Undying Heart – see below) built atop the red stone butte. This manifestation bleeds an ever-flowing stream of otherworldly bloodlike liquid from the gaping hole in its chest above its heart. This flow eventually mingles with the Heartblood River, giving it the colour for which it is named within the confines of the Dire Wood. The statue itself is a stone golem created by Wulgreth to hold one part of Karsus’ essence. If destroyed, it always reforms within 24 hours, emerging intact from the floor of the temple.

The elves and half-elves of the eastern High Forest view the Archwizard as the embodiment of human arrogance and recklessness and as a monument to humankind’s foolishness.

Members of Karsus’ clergy were known informally as Heartbloods.

The cult of Karsus from ancient Karse believes that Karsus would be reborn to lead humankind into a new age of magic built on the ashes of the old, but tempered with experience. (The Dogma of Karsus Worship.) {Cult has been reduced in numbers since the Spellplague.}

Daily activities of the cult included endless series of rituals designed to reawaken Karsus and usher in the promised rebirth of Netheril. There was also the consummate administration of Karse and the mining of rich mineral deposits in the neighbouring Star Mounts.

The Shrine of the Undying Heart, located atop the red stone butte formed from Karsus’ mortal form, is constructed from pink marble that has been stained a deep crimson hue. The temple consists of a circle of 36 pillars, each over 10 feet in diameter, with a total radius of 100 feet. A hemispherical roof, apparently hewn from a single stone, surmounts the circle of columns. In the centre of the shrine stands a lifelike statue of a human heart that appears to undulate in harmony with the beat of Karsus’ true heart and is covered with a continuously swirling sheen of blood.

At one time a ring of outlying buildings surrounded the temple proper, but they have long since vanished. No tunnels or chambers have been dug into the butte. Altering Karsus’ earthly form was seen by the cult as an act of heresy deserving of immediate execution. A stone golem carved to resemble Karsus that contains one part of his essence aimlessly wanders within the temple’s confines. It immediately attacks any intruders, a legacy of Wulgreth’s corrupting influence.

Wizards in the cult of Karsus formed the Order of Thaumaturgists. Many researched new spell in the wake of Mystryl’s demise and the subsequent transformation of the nature of magic. Some of their long-lost spell tomes may still survive in shattered towers scattered about the confines of the Dire Wood.

All Heartbloods were expected to garb themselves in blood-red robes with gold and silver filigree.

The Sharrans are suspected of being within the pyramid-like structure at the top of the butte. (Not to be confused with the Shrine of the Undying Heart.)

The city of Karse was founded over 17 centuries ago, a little after Karsus brought Netheril down. A refugee group was drawn to his corpse by dream visions and began to worship his dead body. This really angered the Lich Wulgreth. He destroyed the entire city and moved into the ruins so it would never be rebuilt.

The Lich Wulgreth was defeated not long after Shade returned. His spirit remains within his phylactery, which happens to be the Karsestone.

The Karsestone holds part of the divine power of Mystryl taken by Karsus. Shar has been trying to steal the power within, and has finally sent a servant to Karse to attempt it there; within the pyramid above, in the shadows.

The High Forest – Reaching the Dire Wood

The Dire Wood was located in the South-Eastern region of the High Forest, in close proximity to the Star Mounts. The powerful winds coming from those damnable mountains made the whole region a severe navigation hazard; rendering travel by airship nearly impossible. The strange magical anomalies emanating from the Dire Wood removed the ‘nearly’ from the equations. We therefore had to make the entire trip on foot.

For the most part, travel through the High Forest was not particularly dangerous or difficult. It was a forest like any other. But the closer we got to the Dire Wood, the more that place’s wrongness could be felt. For example, the weather patterns became chaotic, constantly changing. One moment you were fighting your way through a blizzard, the next it was a beautiful sunny day. And moment after that it was a torrential downpour.

The strangeness had just begun though, because we had now reached the edge of the Dire Wood. According to our map it was a roughly circular area 60 miles wide composed of concentric rings; and it was said to have been warped by Karsus’ magic and mad regret.

It definitely lived up to its reputation.

The first part of the Dire Woods to be encountered was the thin outer ring. It was only a few miles thick, and was composed entirely of bleached white albino oaks. After passing through, we reached the blackened petrified trees of the similarly sized inner ring. We eventually found ourselves in the massive inner forest. Ahead of us were miles of broken hills under a canopy of living and petrified trees.

After many hours of travel, we finally arrived in the ruined city of Karse at the foot of the great butte.

Dire Wood – The Butte

A spiralling game trail wound its way to the top of the butte. The path was littered with small green crystals that grew bigger and more numerous the higher up we went.

We eventually reached an area where the butte wall pulled away from the path. At the end of this short side path a huge face in the likeness of Karsus was carved in the stone wall. As we approached the face its mouth opened, revealing was appeared to be a throat. According to Curuvar, this is where we had to “feed” the Karsestone to Karsus’ mortal body. Since it was a relatively safe spot, Lady Moonfire and the old wizard decided to stay here while we continued to the top of the butte.

As the top of the pyramid came into view in the distance we were ambushed by a group of angels that had been hiding behind the now gigantic green crystals. They meant to stop us from reaching the pyramid.

The fight was a short one; but not because we were particularly good or they particularly bad fighters. The green crystals resonated with the pain of any creature in their vicinity. With their giant size they had become pain amplifiers. The fight had therefore not been about which side could defeat the other, but about which could sustain the most damage without dying. Healing abilities were more important than combat abilities.

{Editor’s Note: The crystals worked as follows. When any creature sustained damage, every crystal within 5 squares of it was activated. Any other creature that was within 5 squares of an activated crystal would receive 15 damage for each activated crystal in range. If no other creatures were in range, the creature that took the initial activating damage also received the bonus damage.}

Having destroyed our ambushers we pushed on until we reached the top of the butte. An ancient encampment stood in ruins in the plaza at the foot of the pyramid. Three more angels were skulking around in the rubble. They were led by a Marut that was guarding the pyramid entrance.

The presence of the crystals posed a serious problem; they were everywhere in the plaza, and no spot was in range of fewer than 3 crystals. But we were able to make the best of a bad situation. The Marut was guarding the pyramid’s entrance and didn’t look like he was planning on moving from his post. By engaging the angels at the front of the plaza, we were far enough away from the Marut that he was essentially not even part of the fight.

Voulge, being our only healer, stayed back and was able to heal us while at the same time avoiding being hurt by the crystals. Whenever he had the chance, he used his shoulder cannon to attack the Marut. And although it was not a powerful weapon, the Marut was far enough away from the fight, that any activated crystal would reflect the pain right back onto him. {shoulder cannon + 4 crystals = 72 damage on an auto-hit attack}

When this latest set of obstacles was defeated, we entered the pyramid.

The interior of the pyramid was very disorienting. The pyramid itself existed in both the Shadowfell and the Material Plane, and the temple inside flickered back and forth between both realms. At any given moment we could find ourselves in either of the planes, or even both at the same time.

To make matters worse, the pyramid was not empty; both of its reflections were defended by imposing beasts. The Shadowfell version was protected by a huge void nexus nullifier and two large nightwalkers; while in the material plane the pyramid was protected by an eldritch titan and two large void nullifiers.

Despite their imposing size and numbers, they were actually fairly easy to kill. It would appear that rather than there being 6 creatures, there were in fact only 3. They each possessed two different forms, only one of which existed in each realm.

Returning the Karsestone

With the temple now unprotected, we were able to take the Karsestone and return to Curuvar and Lady Moonfire unmolested.

Curuvar and Lady Moonfire await the PC’s return at the face of Karsus. Here they will encourage the PCs to feed the Karsestone to the mouth.

Lady Moonfire then mentions that she had a prophecy from Lady Saharel of Spellgard.

“The heroes of many to be shall open the way at the frozen tower – changing your link to that of the failed god. In time after this, said heroes shall aid in said failure – causing the momentary one to swallow more than his pride, and rise up once again.”

Only the Heroes of Loudwater, Heroes of Spellgard, Saviours of the Grandfather Tree, who have assisted Karsus rise in the past, are able to make him swallow his pride (aiding Curuvar) and make him swallow the Karsestone (for the maw would open for no others) – also allowing Curuvar to feed it Heavy Magic, causing Karsus to rise once again as a deity.

 

The PCs then witness Curuvar put an orb (which he says is an orb of Heavy Magic that was collected for him by another group of adventurers who travelled in the Ruins of Spellgard…) into the mouth, which causes a beam of light to spew from the mouth onto Curuvar, who turns into the familiar form of Karsus.

He explains that he rose from the butte of Karse when the Spellplague hit. He is/was but a part of Karsus’ mortal shell reborn on Toril.

He rises as a deity once again, but not as powerful (for a portion of the divine essence remains on the astral mote). He is ever thankful, and vows he has learned his lesson.

He then makes Karse rise as the enclave reborn; retaining the name Karse rather than going to the egotistical name of Karsus Enclave.

Many Netherese who are nationalists rather than Sharrans will join. This creates a clear cut division between the two Netherils – Eastern and Western. Shade Enclave and Sakkors belonging to the Sharran east and Karse and Spellgard belonging to the National west.

 

Karsus/Curuvar and Lady Moonfire mention that it would be great if the PCs could aid in the following quests whenever convenient for them:

  • Help spread the word of the new National Netheril, with Karsus as its Patron Deity
  • Assist with the reconstruction of Spellgard
  • Build alliances with Cormyr and other neighbouring countries that may be opposed to the Netherese of Shade
  • Journey to the Astral Sea with our Spelljamming Airship and retrieve the remaining divine essence of Karsus on the Astral Mote to increase his divine power to more easily oppose Shar

 

They also mention the following issues that may require the PCs’ attention:

  • They can sense the Primordial rising and trying to escape from Dirty Pig – can journey to the icy prison within with his allies for complete power of cold
  • They sense a disturbance on the tears of Sel√Ľne – which can be visited via Spelljammer
  • The Tarrasque, which the PCs defeated for a spell component and put back to sleep when it was young, is stirring and nearing awakening. It may need to be destroyed for good this time, and they have a ritual scroll that can assist in this task. It is however much older, and more powerful
  • Insanity seeks the Raven Queen
  • Advanced Warforged components that haven’t been seen since the fall of Ancient Imaskar have surfaced among the Sands of the Raurin Desert.
  • Eramus’ blades could be combined if tempered by a flame of most intense heat; probably by a Great Wyrm Red Dragon’s breath