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Oct 8, 2018

Heroes of Silvermoon, Chapter 7: The Curse of House Lightwalker

Contents:
  1. The Cultist
  2. Arena Games
  3. Phoenix Sorcery
  4. The Half-Moon Crucible
  5. Castle Mistamere
  6. Bringing Back the Dead
  7. The Curse of House Lightwalker
  8. Captured
  9. Far from Home
  10. Through the Underdark
  11. A New Port of Kings

The Tale of the Heroes of Silvermoon

Chapter 7: The Curse of House Lightwalker

Reunited and with duties to attend to, the group prepared themselves to set off again to Silvermoon. Gorthuk spent a couple of days with his new clan of orcs, teaching them to raise pigs and hunt the forests to the north rather than to pillage from Waterbrink as they had been previously taught. They also revealed to him a strange journal they had found in the ruins of the castle that bore the emblem of House Lightwalker. Gorthuk gave the journal to Julian, who examined it on the trip back. A couple of days into the journey, Nysae felt the call of the wild, and decided to bid the rest of the group goodbye as she took her own path for a while.

When they reached Silvermoon, they were surprised to meet Xilmar at Julian's restaurant. He looked different from when they had seen him months before, with shorter hair, darker-colored (though just as fancy) clothes, and a red-jeweled cane that he never seemed to go without anymore. Unbeknownst to the group, Xilmar had had a rough few months. All his life he had swindled others and used illusion to fool people's minds for the fun of it, but he had never been deceived himself so badly as he had in the Half-Moon Crucible. Questioning what was real and whether he still had the skills he had focused on, he had made a deal with a dark entity in order to ensure he never had to lose his mind again.

Soon after arriving, a group of the Crown Guard arrested Julian. The group soon found out that the local tabloid newspaper of Silvermoon, the Corellon Times, had published a story slandering Julian's noble house because of an incriminating journal they had found. The journal, they claimed, was written by Julian's great-great-grandfather. It spoke of illegal necromancy practiced in the family and completely discredited the family's claim (via their Lightwalker name) that they were descended from an angelic ancestor.

The heroes visited Julian in the elvish prison, which was rather comfortable by human standards. Julian didn't know much about his ancestors, but he urged the group to learn more and exonerate him and his house that he had just been trying to build up again after so many of his family had died.


Cristoff joined the town guard, which was something he had been aspiring to do for quite some time. Ari and Xilmar turned to the Silvermoon thieves' guild, of which they were both members, and searched for rumors there. Gorthuk and others visited the Corellon Times and tried to find out more about the journal, but he didn't know much except for what one of the lord of House Silverlance, the noble who had found the journal, had said. He offered a cash reward if the journal could be recovered, as it would bring him and the Times more business. Gorthuk tried to intimidate one of the Corellon Times's employees by following him and using his divine powers to instill fear in him, but this only drew attention to him and forced him to use his powers to feign death when he was caught by the guards.

The group met together each evening, combining the things they learned. They realized that in order to find out more, they would have to find the journal, or at least learn more about it from the noble houses. Xilmar cashed in a favor from a half-elf informant from the thieves' guild named Skinny Quinn in order to get a seat in the back of the Silvermoon High Council meeting. He couldn't hear much, but he narrowed down the noble house that had information about the journal, House Silverlance. Xilmar also found out, along with Cristoff through his connection with the guard, that there was to be a Harvest Festival in a week or two in Silvermoon where they might be able to learn more.

The group visited Julian a couple more times trying to find out clues, but Julian couldn't think of any other way to help them being locked up. He did recall one of the only remaining connections to House Lightwalker, a fired servant named Jude, who might have some inside information. They found him working for the thieves' guild and, with his help, found a way into the magically-restricted House Lightwalker estate. They investigated the building, but all they found were old books and a strange symbol on the wall in the basement. Trying to lay low after his stunt with the guards, Gorthuk decided to stay in the mansion and study the books to see if he could figure anything out. Meanwhile, Xilmar reluctantly visited his parents, clerics of the goddess Celanil, asking if they knew anything about the religious symbolism. The only thing he could find out was something about the name "Jezreel."

The day of the Harvest Festival came, and Xilmar forged an invitation for himself, taking on his old guise of Tevis, a wealthy high elf merchant from the countryside. Ari also snuck in with a stolen invitation, and Cristoff entered for free as a member of the town guard. The group spoke with the various guests trying to learn more. Xilmar focused in particular on Meriele Silverlance, trying to charm her into giving more information. Unfortunately, she herself had been curious about the journal but had had no success in finding out more from her father or breaking into the vault where the journal was kept.

Suddenly, a throng of undead attacked the Silvermoon Citadel where the ball was taking place. Dropping their disguises, the group fought off the undead and saved as many civilians as possible. Xilmar used his fly spell to travel rapidly back to the Lightwalker estate to alert Gorthuk, but he found upon arriving that Gorthuk and the estate were already under attack by shadowy behemoths. After he helped Gorthuk fight them off, the pair were surprised to meet the vampire Sergei. Sergei explained that something odd was happening in the Shadowfell—the undead were being drawn to Silvermoon, specifically against the Lightwalker house. Sergei showed them several copies of a journal he had found that was identical to both the one they had found in Castle Mistamere and the one described in the Corellon Times. They inspected them and realized the journals were each written in a different language. From studying Julian's great-great-grandfather's handwriting in the mansion's study, Gorthuk determined that the handwriting was slightly different, and Xilmar's skill in forging confirmed the fact. It was clear that someone was trying to defame House Lightwalker. Sergei bid them farewell, demanding that they fix the problem, which he claimed was "bad for business" now that he had overthrown an entire region of the Shadowfell.

Xilmar brought one of the journals to the Corellon Times and sold it back to them, but before they could profit off of more stories about it, he also turned in the other copies to the Silvermoon High Council, proving that it was more of a propaganda tool than a legitimate journal. With the heat off of House Lightwalker and his name more or less cleared for the time being, Julian was let out of jail.

The group returned to House Lightwalker and examined again the symbolism of the various markings they found. Through Julian's insight and Gorthuk's study, the group found a secret door leading into a basement chamber, where there was a sarcophagus strangely not covered in dust. They tried to open the coffin, but it was magically sealed. Inspired by an inscription written in Celestial on the coffin, Gorthuk cast a speak with dead spell. All of a sudden, the room erupted with angelic light. A beautiful angelic being appeared before Gorthuk, then used his body and voice to speak with the rest of the group.

The being identified itself as Jezreel the Lightwalker, the original angelic ancestor of the Lightwalker bloodline. He spoke of the origin of Silvermoon and an impending danger coming toward it. He explained that, millennia ago, a terrible dark power manifested in the world that threatened to destroy all of elvenkind. Despite his celestial brethren wanting to leave the elves to fend on their own to preserve the balance, Jezreel wanted to save them, having fallen in love with one of them and begotten a child—the first of the Lightwalker line. Jezreel sacrificed his life essence, infusing his child and wife with divine power that they could use to defend themselves against the darkness. This power ran through their very blood, and unbeknownst to the other elves of the world, their very life was what kept Silvermoon safe by sealing the darkness away. Unfortunately, with the slaughter of Julian's family months earlier, the bloodline of the Lightwalker family had run thin, which had made the barrier holding back the dark power thin as well. When Julian had died, even for a week, the barrier had opened. Jezreel warned the group that, having failed at killing the last Lightwalker through incrimination, the darkness was now heading toward Silvermoon to destroy it once and for all. The angel expressed desire to speak to Julian, but because of his dabbling in necromancy and his bitterness, he could only depend on the heroes instead. He bestowed powers upon each of the group—the last of his power—and bade them ward off the darkness so that it could be imprisoned once again.

The heroes alerted the High Council, and thanks to their help defending people at the ball and Julian's testimony, they believed them and prepared for battle. Gorthuk aided in evacuating the citizens while Julian led the guards to the gates. That evening, an army of undead marched on Silvermoon, and at their head was the dark power's avatar—an immense, shadowy dracolich. The town guard with Julian fended off the undead creatures while Gorthuk, Ari, Xilmar, and Cristoff fought the dracolich at the palace. The battle was long, but with Gorthuk's healing, Xilmar's firepower, Ari's cunning, and Cristoff's divine might, the dracolich at last fell, and the shadows lifted from Silvermoon's streets.

The group were hailed as the "Heroes of Silvermoon," and were given special recognition among the nobility of the city. With Julian exonerated and his house ready to grow again thanks to his fame, the pathway looked bright for them once again.

Oct 3, 2018

Heroes of Silvermoon, Chapter 6: Bringing Back the Dead

Contents:
  1. The Cultist
  2. Arena Games
  3. Phoenix Sorcery
  4. The Half-Moon Crucible
  5. Castle Mistamere
  6. Bringing Back the Dead
  7. The Curse of House Lightwalker
  8. Captured
  9. Far from Home
  10. Through the Underdark
  11. A New Port of Kings

The Tale of the Heroes of Silvermoon

Chapter 6: Bringing Back the Dead

Leah of the town watch of Waterbrink commended the heroes for their work in purging Castle Mistamere from Azulius and his minions, and she told the heroes they could keep the castle as a base of operations for their adventuring if they so chose. She was wary about the orcs who had remained, but Gorthuk assured her that any damage they did would be compensated for personally, and she reluctantly agreed. She gave the group her sympathies about Julian's death, and recommended they see the town harvest witch, Gwynedain, to see if she could help bring him back to life through magic.

The group were led to a strange hut just outside of Waterbrink, where they found a short, senile old woman. Gwynedain sympathized with the adventurers, but said that she herself did not know how to "unzombify" an undead corpse for reanimation. She did, however, remember a gnome lover of hers from years back who had spoken of an artifact that could do such a thing. She gave the adventurers directions to hike northwards through the hills to find a gnome named Mungo, advising them to take gems with them to pay for his services, rather than coin.

Gorthuk knew the laws of divine magic gave them ten days to raise Julian from the dead before his condition required more powerful and expensive spells. What's more, he could not use his gentle repose spell to extend the time or prevent his decomposition, because of his undead status. The group set off quickly toward the hills to find Mungo before it was too late.

Nysae used her ranger skills to navigate, but despite her expertise in the wilds, she ended up leading the group to a dead end cliff and losing them a day's travel. They also were attacked by manticores in the night, but were able to fend them off without a problem.

After three days of travel, they finally found the remote hut out in the middle of nowhere, where they met the eccentric gnome. Mungo was exasperated that Gwynedain still remembered him (and was amazed that she, a human, was still alive after all these years), but seeing the gems they had brought him, he agreed to hear the heroes out. Examining Julian, he was impressed to see that his zombified corpse still had a shred of humanity left in it. He asked if Julian had dabbled in necromancy, since exposure to necrotic energy while alive could help in the resistance process. Mungo declared Julian only "mostly undead" and told them there was still hope to bring him back, provided they acted with haste.

Mungo spoke of a type of artifact called a "deva prism," which converted necrotic energy into the same raw radiant power used to bring the dead back to life. He only knew of three deva prisms remaining, and one of them was thousands of miles away. The other two were held by creatures a few days' travel away from his hut. The first was three days' travel westward down the river, at the home of a cyclops. Mungo didn't know much about the cyclops or its attachment to the deva prism, but since Nysae spoke Giant, he imagined that they had a chance of bargaining for it. The other prism was held two days' travel northeast in a marshland by a medusa baroness named Moivette.

Being as time was of the essence, the group decided to take the shorter route to the medusa, though it was a more dangerous and wretched path through swamplands. Mungo promised to take care of Julian's corpse in their absence, and would start the preparations for the ritual as he awaited their return. He also sold them a jeweled mirror that they could use as a weapon against the medusa.

The trek through the swamp was miserable for the group. The toxic gases and vapor of the swamp spoiled their water and food, forcing Gorthuk to use some of his spell slots conjuring more. But thinking of Julian and their quest, they pushed forward until they found a half-sunken stone temple. They entered in cautiously, finding an ancient structure, somewhat clean and filled with decor despite its ruined status. After looking around for a short time, Gorthuk found the doorway to an immense hall filled with strange, eyeless froglike creatures. They were all bowing and chanting praises in a croaking language to Moivette as she stood at the top of the balcony speaking to them. Seeing Gorthuk, she demanded that he be brought forward. When he would not look at her in the eye, she assumed he thought her ugly, and attacked.

The group burst in to aid Gorthuk, slaughtering the frogfolk and making their way up to Moivette to fight her as well. None of the group got a good look at Moivette, averting their eyes, which made the battle all the more difficult. They often missed their attacks as they fought to keep her out of the corner of their eye. Gorthuk specialized in necrotic attacks, but he soon realized that the gem Moivette wore around her neck healed her wounds whenever he used them against her.

Throughout these setbacks, Moivette fought firing arrows from her bow and biting attackers with her poisonous snake hair. At last, with Gorthuk using his staff of swarming insects, the group killed the medusa. Cristoff was unconscious from blood loss, and after rousing him and catching their breath, they claimed their prize from the medusa: the small gem called a deva prism.

Ari was curious to find what other loot the medusa was hiding, and found some fine wine and gold, as well as a room filled with shattered mirrors. His curiosity got the better of him, however, when he pried open a boarded-up door and found a ghost haunting a room. The ghost attacked the wounded group, possessing Cristoff and attacking the rest of the group with his prodigious strength. Once again, Gorthuk came to the rescue as he channeled the divine power of Bwonsamdi to Turn the ghost and expel it from Cristoff's body.

At last, quiet fell again in the sunken temple. Carefully examining other rooms, they found three more frogfolk in a bed chamber downstairs. Rather than killing them, Gorthuk used thaumaturgy to scare them away from the temple, likely never to return.

The trip back was uneventful, and they found Mungo ready to perform the ritual on Julian. Gorthuk was sad to sacrifice the deva prism, having seen its power and usefulness in fending off necrotic damage, but he knew he owed it to his friend to bring him back to life. Mungo placed the deva prism on Julian's rotting corpse, and asked all those present who had necrotic attacks to focus them directly on Julian. Gorthuk cast empowered blight spells, and Ari was able to channel some of Raksha's energy through an inflict wounds spell. Mungo himself revealed himself as a spellcaster as well as he blasted Julian with necrotic energy.

Instead of withering his corpse further, the spells were funneled into the deva prism, which radiated golden light around Julian until he looked like a normal corpse again. Finally, the deva prism shattered, its power spent and its job finished. Gorthuk excitedly asked if Mungo had the components for a raise dead spell, but he did not. They would have to make their way back to Waterbrink before Julian could be brought back. The group's spirits sank as they realized that seven days had passed, and that they may not make it back in time to save Julian. However, Mungo reminded them that, now that Julian was no longer undead, he could be preserved by a gentle repose ritual. He offered to join with Gorthuk in casting it, but Gorthuk simply used his ritual knife to carve the symbol of Bwonsamdi into Julian's shoulder, a method of accomplishing the same thing, though it shocked Mungo.

The group made their way back to Waterbrink, then, using a rune they purchased from Gwynedain, Gorthuk cast a raise dead spell to bring Julian back to life. Julian was grateful and glad to see the group, though they were surprised to see that his blue eyes had turned green. His brush with death and his experience with necromancy had granted him powers few other necromancers had ever been able to gain.

Oct 1, 2018

Project Month: Phone Phast

It's been a few year since I've done one of these. Usually I do one in November or February, but this morning I woke up with the beautiful pre-fall weather outside and decided "why wait?" With the recent iOS update that tracks the hours you spend on iPhone apps and a couple of interesting videos about the healthiness of boredom, I got to thinking about all the time I waste staring at a phone or watching a tablet. What happened to the old days of waiting to look up something until you could get home to a computer or watching movies on an actual television through a VCR or DVD player? What happened to reading a magazine while on the toilet instead of swiping incessantly through Facebook posts that only give a nanoiota of delight each?

Thus, I present this year's project month that I will be following from today till the end of the month and (as usual), hopefully, longer:

Phone Phast!

I've been nostalgic lately, and I've been thinking about my childhood in the 90s and 2000s. Back then, there were no phones, no pocket devices. You were bored a lot more often, and that was healthy! I realized lately just how much I depend on my stupid, stupid phone to constantly entertain me. I open it for a game of Hearthstone when I'm bored. I automatically pull it out at the urinal to read 5-Stage Dungeon Rooms or answer Quora questions. I listen to Critical Role on it in my car. I check my email constantly. I open my phone to occupy my time even when I'm letting something load for less than a minute! And with the iPad, I always have to be watching something while cooking, while eating, and while putting away dishes or laundry.

This has to stop.

I need to go back to the root ways to entertain myself. I don't need to constantly be listening to music or playing games to distract myself. Why can't I just listen to the sounds of cars outside or stare out the window for a few minutes? A part of me wonders if the reason depression cases are skyrocketing nowadays more than ever is simply that our brains are too occupied and don't have enough time to just sit, meditate, breathe, and recalibrate.

Hence, my rules for this project month are as follows:
  1. No phone use except for texting, calling, and if necessary, finding directions.*
  2. The iPhone will be placed somewhere other than my pocket whenever possible.
  3. No iPad use whatsoever.
  4. Facebook and other social media only once per week, on Saturdays for 10 minutes only.
  5. Other websites are allowed, but only by accessing them through the computer
  6. Playing computer games is allowed, but emphasis on older games (from the 90s or early 2000s) is encouraged.
  7. No watching movies on the computer! This didn't exist in the 90s. Go sit down on the couch and put in one of your many DVDs, ya smag!
  8. Maybe listen to the radio instead of other forms of media, especially in the car.
  9. Maybe don't watch as much YouTube, but honestly, if you follow #1 and #2, this probably won't be a problem.
  10. For heaven's sake, draw more, man! Bust out those colored pencils and fire up those childhood creativity engines for a while.
  • Addendum 1.1: I am also allowed to make animations on my phone, since I did so with Palm Pilots back in the 90s or early 2000s.

Since this was such a spontaneous project, I'm still a bit iffy on what I want to accomplish this month, so the rules are a bit scattered. I may even add or modify these as time goes on. But I think they're a good basis. By following these, I anticipate receiving the following rewards:
  • More time for projects, which is always a plus!
  • More mental energy—apparently multitasking and constant entertainment expend lots of neural resources
  • Autumn, my favorite season, will pass more slowly since I'll be bored more often!
  • More time to read books!
  • Less wasted time in the bathroom
  • More nostalgia, which I realized I've been lacking quite a bit of lately.
So, a-wish a-me luck. Also, by way of announcement (in case anyone but me actually reads this), I've been working more on my personal history lately, which has been a plus, and you can expect more summaries of the adventure arcs of the Heroes of Silvermoon.

I just really can't wait for this year to be over, but I also want to enjoy this fall time as much as possible, so I have high hopes for this month.