Into the Maw

S2 E1 Paths New and Old (p1)

After Sahir is revealed to be Apophis, Siren is unable to sleep. A raspy voice speaks to him offering to help him get Dusk back. It reveals itself to be a quasit named Nabazhir who was watching them since they returned to the Beast Herald’s village. Curious to see if it would be possible to get him back Siren follows him into the forest and watches as he creates a magical circle. A shadowy figure rises from the circle and makes an offer: they will get Dusk back from Nyakimos, but Siren will owe them a favor in the future. Siren is apprehensive and he is given another day to decide. In the morning he goes hunting with Regyr and tells him about the meeting with the demons. Regyr advises him to turn it down if they don’t give a more concrete offer, a favor could be far worse than losing Dusk. At the same time Sahir tells Mortis that she thinks she is Apophis and she also tells her about her other dreams.

When Regyr and Siren return to the camp Mortis tells them about Sahir and they tell her about the demons. Overwhelmed they decide to set a trap for the quasit that night. Nabazhir wakes Siren up and tells him that he has to make a descion and then Regyr, who was pretending to sleep nearby, grabs Nabazhir. Everyone gets up and they interrogate him. He didn’t know much, but he tells them that they only thought that Siren was desperate enough to accept a deal, they weren’t watching for any other reason. They contact the shadow being again and they agree on a contract: the demons will help retrieve Dusk from Nyakimos and, in exchange, the group will give them some priests of Barsaborak.

After the deal was made the group returns to the colony and word spreads quickly about Barsaborak and the annihilation of the Beast Heralds. Paranoia and rage follows this news and the colony is forgotten, at least for the moment. During a period of two month Grrner talks to Tezcacoatl and convinces him to build a stone wall around the village. Siren goes out will Maiara and fulfills the bet. Finally, nearing the end of the two months Nabazhir gets back to them and tells them about a small group of inexperienced Barsaborak cultists. The group goes out finds them all, captures them and sends them to the Abyss. The demons make good on their promise and begin searching for Dusk. They also send Rapture, a succubus consort, to communicate with the group.

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Session 11 Apophis

In the morning the group sets out for the Beast Herald Village with greater speed than before. Along the way Dusk speaks to Siren. He asks if Siren really missed him when they though he was dead and Siren tells him that he did. Dusk thanks him and swears that he will not abandon him again, at least not without a note. Eventually, the group comes within sight of the village, but they do not see any movement in or around the village. When they arrive the village is deserted and many huts showed signs of a struggle. When the group makes their way to the center of the village they find that the fire pit had bodies piled on it and burned. Around the pile of carcasses the symbol of Barsaborak is drawn in the earth. After the shock of what they found wears off they hear someone address them. A gnoll spoke to them and seemed completely unaffected by the pile of bodies. They find that he is a cultist of Barsaborak and wanted to look at all of their left hands. Regyr grabs him and questions him learning that there is a cult of Barsaborak in the cave they visited and that they killed everyone in the village to make the chosen of Barsaborak appear. After killing the gnoll cultist the group heads to the cave.

Dusk recommends that they attempt to sneak into the cult’s lair by pretending to go along with them and then stopping whatever they were doing. The group agrees and begins to search the cave for a secret entrance. Dusk and Siren find a magical part of the cave wall and determine that it is transmutation magic and that it must be triggered. Sahir puts her left hand on the wall and it starts to decay and eventually turns to dust. They enter and run into two cultist who demand to know who they are and how they got in. Siren convinces them that they came in peace to bring the chosen of Barsaborak and it works. They are all taken into the main chamber where they see a large magic circle inscribed on the ground with the high priest chanting in it. Around the circle other priests chant and in the back of the room, opposite the entrance, there is a pedestal with a book on it and on the wall behind it there is a pulsing light. Dusk says that the circle has some sort of protection on it and that the pulsing light is the beginning of a portal.

The group decides to let Sahir enter because she is the only one who can and have Dusk sneak invisibly around to the book to try to stop the ritual. When Sahir enters the circle the fight breaks out. Sahir strikes the high priest, but doesn’t kill him and he manages to open the portal behind Dusk nearly pulling him into it. He tries to stop the ritual with the book, but right before Sahir decapitates the high priest the portal pulses and dusk is pulled backwards into the portal. When Sahir strikes down the high priest there is a blinding flash of light and a crashing sound as the portal closes. Eventually the remaining priests are dispatched and the group contemplates their bittersweet victory. The group reasures Siren that Dusk should be able to get out, he took the book with him and he is capable.

The group leaves the cave and returns to the village. They burn the pile of bodies and get as far back on the road as they can before setting up camp. Everyone tries to make small talk to lighten the mood, but soon everyone just goes to sleep. Sahir arrives back in the desolate wasteland when she sleeps. Instead of finding her corpse she sees a roiling mass of darkness. It tells her that she did what she was told like a good soldier. Sahir retorts that they defeated the cultists and stopped the ritual. The darkness chuckles and says that was what it wanted. The scene fading in darkness, Sahir is told that she can tell whoever she wants what has happened to her and that it will be watching. Finally, it tells her farewell, calling her Apophis.

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Session 10 Dusk's Return

The group decides that figuring out what Dusk knows should be their next step and they go to his hideout. When they get there they find him inside a large hollow tree where he was thinking. He explains to them his hypothesis of how everything they found fit together. The gnoll Maiara gave blood to disappeared for long periods of time and the only place of significance he could have gone to would be the cave they visited. Dusk believed that he was a part of some cult of Barsaborak, given the nihilian writing in the cave, and that they somehow used the blood to taint these gnolls, possibly as part of some ritual to summon Apophis. The group decides that they should investigate that cave once more and hopefully exterminate whatever created the tainted gnolls.

The group says their goodbyes to the people in the village and the colony and set out towards the Beast Herald’s village. One the second day of travel they immediately pick up the smell of carrion and they come upon undead gnolls and some tainted gnolls who appeared to have clusters of scales mixed with their fur. After the abominations were slaughtered the party realized the implications of more tainted gnolls and undead and decided that they should pick up speed the next day.

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Session 9 Horror and Homecoming

The group arrives back at the Whispering Warrior’s village and Mortis goes to investigate the writing that was on the cave wall while Regyr, Grrner and Siren go to report to the chieftain. He informs them that Vraen returned with Maiara and they tell the chieftain that the Beast Heralds were hurt badly, but will give their support of the tiefling colony. The chieftain also reveals that representatives of the Divine Speakers arrived, but the presences of Tezcacoatl made them reluctant to make any statements and they are now sending word back about the dragon. Regyr goes to meet his father directly afterwards where they talk briefly about their experiences and their hopes that everything will calm down for a while. He also informs them that Dusk went to his hideout to think over the information that he found. After this they go to meet Willers to get some better equipment and supplies. After this, Siren and the rest go and find Maiara. They find her relaxing in the colony and after a brief exchange they discover that she left the aasimar’s of her own volition, went to Dimos where she became a opium addict and was eventually sent to The Maw for various crimes. She tells them that she got to the Beast Heralds about a month ago and stayed with a gnoll named Bihn who took samples of her blood as payment and was often not in the village.

After talking to people around the village, including Regyr showing his hyenna, Ripper, to Bhagrah, the group eats and goes to sleep. Sahir; however, does not have a pleasant night’s rest. She dreams that she is a a vast gray wasteland. Before her she sees her own rotted corpse wearing old, rusted armor. To her horror the corpse begins to stand and addresses her. It reveals that it is Barsaborak and that it was the dark force that was surrounding her. It speaks plainly that she will serve it and keep quiet or she will watch as everything she loves decays and dies for all eternity. When Sahir awakens the next morning she finds that her left hand has been branded by some symbol. She goes to Mortis who fell asleep doing research and it is revealed that Sahir can suddenly read, write and speak Nihilian. Mortis and Sahir work together to translate and decipher the text.

…For naught but Barsaborak could eclipse its might
It slays all life in its presence
Even the gods would tremble before its approach
the void knows its name
it whispers from the dark: ‘Apophis’…"

Mortis finds that the phrase was written by insane followers of Barsaborak who also would illustrate this “apophis” as a giant, dark, ophidian creature. This monster apparently has power that rivals the gods and is an instrument of Barsaborak to destroy the world. Unsure of what to make of all of this information in addition to Sahir’s brand they find Regyr, Grrner and Siren and try to figure out what to do.

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Session 8 Cryptic Notes

As the group continues to travel they hear the scream of a gnoll in the distance. Unsure of what may be happening they move forward cautiously and they find six of the tainted gnolls attacking a wounded gnoll. Regyr, unsure of whether or not it may be his father, rushes into battle and the others follow. After a quick skirmish the tainted gnolls were dispatched and the wounded gnoll was saved. after healing him he reveals that he went out to kill some of the remaining tainted gnolls, but was overwhelmed. He leads the group back to the village, but he unfortunatly does not know about Regyr’s father, Vraen.

When the group gets to the village they find it in shambles and being constantly patrolled by several gnolls. They find the gnoll in charge who appears to have inherited the job recently due to his age. When they question him about Vraen he reveals that he an his men stayed to help them exterminate many of the remaining tainted gnoll. He then went with Dusk who he said arrived about three days ago. When the group questions him about Dusk he gives them a note that Dusk left behind for them. It was written in aasimar so Siren was the only one who could read it. The letter reveals that Dusk came to investigate the tainted gnolls and discovered an assimar woman by the name of Maiara who had similar powers to Siren. He also said that he, Vraen and Maiara went to a nearby cave that is considered cursed thinking that it might have been the cause of the outbreak. The group decides to follow and thye get a guide to bring them to the cave.

Once at the cave the group begins to descend and finds many corpses of slain tainted gnolls. Upon investigation they do determine that they were dispatched with magic, most likely from Maiara and Dusk, a great axe, most likely from Vraen and a sword. The corpse decrease in number as they go deeper and eventually the cave ends abruptly in a small chamber. Upon investigation Siren and Regyr find something etched into the wall in a language none of them can understand. SIren identifies it as nihilian and Mortis believes she may be able to translate it at length with the books she brought with her. After copying down the writing on the wall they leave and return to the Beast Herald village. Regyr, Grrner and Sahir go along with a group to kill more tainted gnolls and Siren and Mortis stay in the village. Siren questions the gnolls about Maiara and he learns that she arrived about a month ago and has mostly kept to herself after being accepted into the tribe. Everyone regroups at dinner and they decide to stay for the night where Regyr befriends a stray domesticated hyena. In the morning, they talk with the new chieftain about the tiefling settlement and get his support although they couldn’t provide much military support. Once everything was settled the group begins the long trek back home.

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Session 7 Truths

After getting Tezcacoatl settled, Regyr asks Grrner and Siren if they would help him find his father and they agree. Siren asks Sahir and Mortis if they would like to help and they also agree. To take his mind off his father Regyr decides to fight with Gerrner for fun and he is able to win each time even when Gerrner uses his divine magic. After wrestling, Regyr, Siren and Sahir go back to their respective beds, but Gerrner and Mortis stay to talk to Tezcacoatl. Gerrner simply wants to get to know him, but Mortis brought a mass of paper to take notes. They question him about many aspects of draconic life and his past. He reveals that the dragons are ruled by a senate of twenty dragons that are replaced every twenty years by a randomly selected group. Dragons worship Daray their creator and do so by proxy, they truly worship the wyrms, great dragons maintaining a saint-like status. Tezcacoatl himself was an architect and after some prodding he tells about his murder. He learned aasimar because he wanted to go to them and make peaceful contact; however, when he was going to fly there a friend saw him and thought he was going to attack them. They didn’t recognize the misunderstanding and tensions flared and eventually led to the friend’s death. Tezcacoatl horrified by what he did, waited for him to be taken away. After talking with Tezcacoatl for a long time Gerrner and Mortis return to their beds.

When they wake in the morning Mortis leaves Willers in charge while they are gone, much to his chagrin. During their travels Mortis introduces them to a Tiefling game where everyone takes turns asking others something about themselves or to do something embarrassing. The group agrees to play and decides to talk about themselves. Eventually the topic of romance comes up and everyone quickly asks about each other’s love life. Regyr reveals that he doesn’t have a female mate to the displeasure of the tribe, but he has been seeing another of the tribe’s warriors in secret. Mortis reveals that she hasn’t been involved in romance, but her necromancer colleague created a homunculus that fancied her, but was eventually destroyed. Sahir also reveals that she has been in an arranged marriage for many years, but after the Dimo-Qurturbian War they went their separate ways and haven’t seen each other since.

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Session 6 More Questions than Answers

After cutting open Siren’s arm Aerhae tells the group that she will be able to examine the black bones tomorrow. They move away from her hut and settle down for the night. Sahir dreams that she is back on the front lines during the Dimo-Qurturbian War. The fighting and blood eventually ends and she is the only person left alive and the corpses seem to be staring at her. Tezcacoatl wakes Sahir with his tail because she was thrashing around in her sleep. After she walks around to calm herself down she goes back to sleep.

In the morning Tezcacoatl is gone and Regyr goes hunting. When they are about to eat four gnolls come out of the forest. Three are large and have crude spears and the other is thin and has a dagger. The thin one tells them to give them their possessions and Regyr attacks. The gnolls are quickly dispatched with one captured alive and only Grrner was injured. Appearing suddenly, Tezcacoatl runs out of the woods with Aerhae riding on his back. She informs the group that she was attacked by two gnolls associated with the ones they killed and that Tezcacoatl returned from hunting and killed them. Gerrner heals and they eat breakfast. After eating they question the surviving gnoll who tells them that they were exiles from the Blood Wardens and the thin one was a blooded of Karaso. Not wanting to kill him, the group lets the gnoll go and they go to Aerhae’s hut. She determines that the bones belonged to an aasimar prisoner who was sent by the samsaran and survived long enough to reach the old temple and was killed. The fact that he survived so long implies that he had similar powers as Siren and his bone color supports that idea.

The group decides that it is time to leave and Regyr and Gerrner say goodbye to Aerhae and promise to return. They get to know each other a little better as they travel and Sahir continues to have nightmares, but doesn’t tell the others. When they get close to the village they tell Tezcacoatl to wait for them and the rest of them continue into the village. Gerrner, Regyr and Siren go to the gnoll village where they notice everyone looking at Regyr with concern. When Regyr questions one of his friends he tells him that Hyraer sent his father and a few other gnolls to check on the Beast Heralds, but they haven’t returned. They find Hyraer and Regyr tells him that he is going to find his father and Hyraer knew he would feel that way. They also tell Hyraer about Tezcacoatl and while he is worried at first he soon sees the advantages and allows him to stay in a cave near where the tieflings are mining. Gerrner, Regyr and Siren then go to get Tezcacoatl and meet Hyraer at the cave.

Mortis and Sahir go to the colony and they see that another ship has arrived. Willers comes up to them and tells them that the ship brought the extra soldiers and supplies Dagnia Taggart promised. Willers was upset over Scudder getting to go home and explains that he just wanted to see his wife and daughter. Willers explains that the colony has built some more buildings and they are about ready to start mining. He also says that Dusk was translating for them and that he hasn’t seen him in a few days.

Everyone meets at the cave with Tezcacoatl and Hyraer greets him and welcomes him into the tribe. They agree that he will hunt away from their territory to avoid conflict and that he should avoid entering the village for a few days. Afterwards, they enter the village spreading the word of the dragon and that he is friendly. They also find out that Dusk was asking around the gnoll village about the rumors of dragons and that he hasen’t been seen for at least three days.

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Session 5 Dungeons and Dragons

The group arrives at the temple and begins to explore it. The first large room they come upon is filled with rubble and has three hyenas. Grrner, approaching cautiously, speaks to the hyenas and tells them that they won’t attack them and don’t mean to invade their territory. When they advance further they come upon a smaller room where they are attacked by spiders. They quickly dispatch the spiders with only minor wounds that were easily healed. Finally, they enter the main chamber and begin to look around. Regyr discovers a leather-bound journal written in aasimar and calls Siren over to look at it. Siren reads through it and discovers that is the journal, or at least part of the journal, of Erer, Galxis’s master. He mentions something about an unusual skeleton that has some sort of connection to Siren. Siren tells Galxis about the journal, giving it to him, and then begins to search for the skeleton. After some time they find the skeleton hidden in one of the corners of the room. It is an aasimar skeleton, but the interestingly it is black. They find nothing else and take the skeleton with them as they leave.

At the entrance of the cave the group hears what they discover is the beating of wings coming from a dragon. They suspect there are others remaining invisible and hide just inside the cave. Eventually, they hear the dragons land and Mortis figures there’s about five of them. As the group hides they hear the dragons speak in draconic which Mortis can only pick out a few words, getting the impression that something bad happened. Gerrner sends his pet squirrel to get a look at the dragons and it learns that there are five of them and four of them (presumably the ones who were invisible) are speaking to one of them. Galxis and Mortis move to get a better look and they see two of the dragons violently break the wings of the middle dragon. It roars in pain as the dragons make certain that it will never fly again. After this the other dragons turn invisible and fly away, leaving the injured one on the hill. The group unsure of what to do goes to move away, but when they look back they see the dragon looking at them.

They stay still and Galxis addresses it in aasimar asking if it is alright and it responds saying its fine. Galxis offers to heal it if it agrees to not attack them or other like them. The dragon agrees saying it would never eat sentient meat and Galxis and Gerrner heal his wings, enough to stop the bleeding. THey discover that his name is Tezcacoatl and that he was sent here because he is a murderer and in fact he is the first. Galxis leaves for the north to find his master and the rest of the group, along with Tezcacoatl, to see Aerhae to possible find anything else about the skeleton and see if Siren’s bones are black as well. When they arrive Aerhae tells them that she would be willing to do another vision tomorrow and they agree to stay the night. They also cut open Siren’s arm and determine that his bones were somewhere between the bones they found and regular bone.

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Session 4 Visions and Visionaries

After the attack by the aberrant gnolls, everyone just tries to get some sleep. Regyr wakes early and goes to check on Siren, and Galxis wakes up a little later to check on the wounded. While Regyr assures Siren that he doesn’t think he intentionally caused the attack and that he told the chieftan his viewpoint, Mortis arrives. She asks for some samples of Siren’s skin so that she can compare it to the flesh of the aberrant gnolls, hoping to prove his innocence Siren agrees and Mortis returns to the colony to study the samples. When Mortis leaves Galxis meets up with Regyr and Siren and asks if either of them have seen Dusk, neither of whom did. As the three of them are talking the gnolls of village slowly wake up and Hyraer tells them his decision. He tells the three of them to go with Mortis and Sahir to find a diviner on the outskirts of the Divine Speakers territory. The diviner will have a vision to determine if Siren is responsible and what actions they should take. Hyraer also cautions against telling anyone they meet about the colony just to stall its discovery. The three of them agree and go to the colony to get Mortis and Sahir.

Galxis, Regyr and Siren find Mortis hard at work with vials of liquid and a large book of formulas. They tell her about the mission and she and Sahir say they will go along. Mortis also reveals that while the sample are similar in structure, the only differences are probably between Aasimar and gnoll biology, the aberrant gnolls seem to have a stronger or more invasive form of the affliction though. She also discovered that it is not something parasitic, it permeated the entire body. Still unsure of what all of this could mean, the group begins the week long trek north, leaving Willers in charge after Scudder returns to Dimos.

After six days of traveling they come to a hut in the wilderness that Regyr knows belongs to Aerhae one of the gnolls that helped raise him. At the hut they see another gnoll emerging from the woods, Grrner, one of Regyr’s friends when he was just a cub. They great each other warmly and reminisce on how they went their separate ways, Regyr to the tribe of his father and Gerrner to become a priest of Karaso. Aerhae emerges from her hut and greets Regyr with surprise. She asks about the aasimars, tiefling and nagaji that are following him and he tells her that the aasimars are his companions and the tiefling and nagaji are prisoners. Mortis interrupts him and tells Aerhae the truth to which Regyr explains the entire problem of the tiefling colony. Aerhae, unsure of what to think, asks them why they came and they explain that they were sent by their chieftain to have a vision about Siren, the tieflings and what their next steps should be. Aerhae agrees to have the vision and when she finishes preparing the herbs she needs, she throws them into the fire, inhaling their fumes. She reveals that answers are in the old temple, a cave where the Divine Speakers resided until it nearly collapsed. She also says that the old temple holds answers for Galxis. When she finishes speaking she opens her eyes and immediately falls backwards in horror. She points to Sahir and talks about some sort of darkness surrounding her. Regyr and Gerrner quickly go to help her and when she calms a little, she explains that she saw this dark aura around Sahir, but it seemed like it was not from her, but following her. When the group makes sure that Aerhae is fine, they head to the old temple, a few hours away.

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Session 3 Dragon Tales

After Aeleon Mouch leaves, the group heads to the village for the feast. Along the way Scudder pulls Dusk and Siren aside. He offers them a deal, if they make sure the colony lasts, he will grant them a pardon for whatever crimes they committed. After thinking it over both Dusk and Siren agree to the deal. When they arrive at the village many of the other Gnolls stare as the Tieflings enter. Hyraer gathers everyone around the animal carcasses from the hunt and declares the feast in honor of the new alliance with the tieflings.

While the feast is going on, Regyr takes Siren and Galxis away. He questions Siren, with Galxis as translator, if Dusk can be trusted. Siren assures Regyr that Dusk is trustworthy. When the three of them return to the feast, they hear rumors that gnolls of the northern tribes saw dragons flying inland. Unsure of what to think of this they meet with the chief who tells them that they have a lot more pressing issues to deal with than rumors of dragons on the other side of the continent. Hyraer asks for their council on the matter of allies; he doesn’t think much of their chances against the Divine Speakers and even less against the rest of the tribes. Three tribes call them friends: the Beast Heralds, the Forest Shades and the Ardent Seekers. The Beast Heralds are close, but small and their strongest ally, the Ardent Seekers are the farthest, but they have limited gnolls to send if they want the village defended.. Regyr, Dusk and Galxis advise that they should get aid from the Beast Heralds who are close and send an emissary to find Garx to possibly win him over.

The sun now setting, the group as well as the gnolls gather around for the storytellers to begin their art. One such storyteller begins with the ancient gnoll tale of the great hunt. The gnoll race, still young, was willing to prove itself and Karaso wished to test their strength. Karaso took boulders from the mountain and fire from the earth and fashioned a monster of rock and fire, the fire giant. He spoke to his children, if they wished to prove their strength and their faith in him they would have to slay the fire giant. Dauntless, the gnolls fought the fire giant for days until Garx slew the beast. Garx was gifted the powers of the divine becoming Karaso’s avatar and the fire giant fell into the earth creating a smoldering rift which smokes even to this day. Upon completion of the story the storyteller asks if anyone else would like to share a tale. Galxis stands and tells of the first dragon slaying. The Aasimars had been preyed upon by the dragons since their creation, but once, when a dragon appeared before them, the aasimar’s tricked the dragon into landing and they slew it and feasted upon it, gaining its strength. When Galxis finished Mortis stands up and tells of the birth of the tieflings. In the realm of The Abyss demons roam the wilderness, but in one moment in a cacopheny of fire and pressure several demons were launched out a flaming mountain and heard the voice of Barsaborak. When they awoke they began to build, to conquer this new land and in defiance of the voice that brought them here.

After several more epic tales of gnoll heroes with questionable accuracy the tieflings return to their colony and the gnolls to their huts. Later that night, Mortis and Sahir awake to the horrifying scream of one of the tiefling mercenaries. They rush out into the dark and find the colony under attack by what appeared to be hunched, sickly gnolls; however, when they attacked they mutated and altered their limbs into blades. Regyr, Dusk, Galxis and Siren wake to a gnoll shouting of an attack. They find similar monstrosities looking like members of the Beast Heralds, shooting acid and morphing into weapons, in ways that were similar to Siren’s powers. After dispatching most of the creatures the group meets along with Hyraer. They quickly discover Siren’s peculiar similarity to the monsters and the fact that none of the creatures were hostile to him. Tired, confused and agitated they put Siren under watch.

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