Our heroic Knights of Valor wake early in the morning as they usually do. Except not everyone appears to be rising and shining in equal fashion. Three seets are empty at the breakfast table at the Bright Apple in the metropolis of Minghonda.
Ulfgar starts banging on Noa's door, and suddenly Ulfgar smells a rancid, scorched smell seemingly coming from outside. Moving out into the streets to see, or smell, what is going on, he notices a paper boy yelling about the news:
"Extra, extra! Knights of Valor burn corpse in the street and cause rancid smell in entire northern quadrant!"
Lumivarax groggily wakes up and promises to see how Noa is doing. Heading downstairs, the partners in crime awkwardly attempt to explain their nightly escapade without the rest of the group, as well as the loss of Andrea to a [[Darion Arendale|Darion]] that dejectedly stares off into the distance.
Realizing they did however resolve the ongoing serial killer case, they elect to move to the guard post where Mister Grumpy Desk Guard is working on a ton of extra paperwork. Despite his bad morning, he fetches the captain of the guard for them, Ungvar Durkoske.
The captain is not particularly happy about our heroes' decision to entertain the entire city with their rather original concept of disposing with a rotting corpse, but admits that they have been exceedingly helpful so far. He grants them the bounty of 1500 gold pieces, but does take out 100 for cleaning up the messy scorch spot on the streets.
Pocketing the money, they move to the market square meeting spot where they find Ezvair Kimberley, unexpectedly accompanied by a young woman in robes whom he introduces as Catharina Regalia, the daughter of the leader of Minghonda's mages guild, Jorvah Regalia.
(editor's note: not actually this impressive yet)
He goes on about how Jorvah and him have contacted a few trusted people in the guild and are performing an extensive inquisition into the Resurgence. They have thus far apprehended one more person and executed them in a very secretive manner.
Upon further inquiry by one of our more innocent heroes, he explains that they ensured proper punishment by sending this person's soul to hell. Our champions decide to not follow this line of questioning further.
Catharina suddenly, eagerly mentions she wants to travel with Knights of Valor, as she has heard much about them. Especially considering they were all over the newspaper this morning. [[Ezvair Kimberley|Ezvair]] is clearly uncomfortable having her there, saying her father would not approve of this decision, but she pertinently ignores any and all of his advice.
The Knights grill Catharina extensively on her intentions and motivations, and decides there is no harm in taking her along to deal with the dragon in Cape Merton, despite there actually being a lot of potential harm in that plan.
Saying their goodbyes, they waste no time in renting seats in the carts of traveling merchants with the destination of Cape Merton.
In the middle of the afternoon on the 7th day of The Fading, our heroes arrive at Cape Merton without any incidents on the road, and are incidentally also completely done with traveling by cart. At least the heat has been lessening somewhat in the past days.
Getting out of the carts and saying their goodbyes to the merchants, they ask a random passerby on the streets who leads this town. They tell them they should talk to the mayor, Viola Parthridge, just down the main street.
In true Noa fashion, the man immediately finds the nearest baker to inquire about cream puffs and the local delicacies. Cream puffs are apparently imported from Minghonda, but the local delicacy is a strange combination of fish and cake. Somewhat apprehensively, the party partakes of this outlandish delight. It tastes appropriately fresh, but strange to their now city-food-attuned tastes.
After this, mostly very new experience, they visit the mayor's house and knock on the door. A maid servant answers and looks at them in a concerned and troubled way, as leads them to the living room to wait for the mayor.
When the mayor arrives, a lanky, older woman with a charismatic statutre, she tells them about the dragon attack on the farm house of [[Aberthy Nadle]]. Somewhat sadly, she also tells them that they are not the first party of adventurers to come along and try to help the people of Cape Merton. Another group, calling themselves the Knights of Honor, have attempted and failed. They are now buried in the graveyard close to the town.
For their stay, she directs them to an inn down the main street and promises they can stay for free. Ulfgar cannot contain his desire for obtaining all wealth in the material world, and asks her whether they have any shops that sell magical items and peculiarities. Viola Parthridge replies that yes, they have a trader in the town by the name of Errin Devos that has a penchant for magical items.
They decide to visit this trader, as they still have quite some time in the day.
Errin Devos' interest in magical items appears to be no more than a hobby, however much an extreme one. His house is full of regular wares and cloths, as he initially tries to sell them some fine silks from Lareya.
When our heroes show him the magical daggers that they had taken from Fizam Deepwind, his interest is clearly piqued and he leads them to a backroom of his home. In the room is a cabinet-sized lockbox, or one could even call it a safe. As he opens it to display his wares, the greedy eyes of [[Ulfgar Fireforge|Ulfgar]] rapidly scan the assortment:
- Some rocks that Errin insists are magical.
- An engraved compass of which the hand is constantly spinning around.
- A plain wooden staff.
From outside the safe, none of our heroes' magic users are able to detect anything magical at all about these items. Errin does not appear surprised by this, and prompted he tells them that he paid a powerful mage to enchant his safe to hide items from magical detection.
He offers to take them out for his customers to peruse. [[Catharina Regalia|Catharina]] detects a moderately strong Divination aura from the compass as soon as he takes it out, but otherwise knows nothing of the items.
As Errin takes the plain wooden staff out of the safe, they are stunned to suddenly hear the dragon roaring furiously in the distance.
He attempts to sell the staff and the compass to our champions for the meager price of 1750 gold pieces. Suspect about the synchronicity of the reveal of the staff and the uproar of the distant dragon, they reason that perhaps the dragon is after this particular item.
They try to make Errin give it away for his own safety but he refuses, citing needing to feed his poor, poor family and protecting his investments. As the moments pass however, he looks increasingly nervous at the roars of the dragon in the distance. Despite this, the party does not seem to particularly distrust his motives.
Trying to work out a deal, he finally agrees to let a few of our more brave heroes atune to the magical items to figure out what they are, and how they work. Catharina chooses the compass and Ulfgar chooses the staff, mistaking it somehow for a beating stick that he is familiar with.
Spending the time concentrating on the items to solidify their magical attunement, Catharina completes her connection to the compass. She innately understands that this item is called a Compass of the Planes and it points the way to any planar portal that is within 3 miles of it. She also feels that the artifact is quite old, maybe older than an entire millennium.
Over at the other side of the room however, Ulfgar completes his connection to the wooden staff and lets out a sharp yell as seemingly thousands of tormented voices scream in unison inside his mind and soul. When the wave of terror passes, the staff floats up into the air in front of the poor druid, and then snugly latches onto his back.
"Lady Mystra, reduce our existence to ash."
When triggered, it will drill itself in the ground and the meteors will fall down in the area after a minute of time. Otherwise it does not seem to want to leave Ulfgar's person at all.
When the terrified druid reaches inside the staff to try and understand how it is magically powered, his mind touches upon a reservoir of sorts and the thousand screaming voices answer his query.
The dragon roars more furiously in the distance and, running outside, Lumivarax runs out and sees him circling above the Esmerian Wilderness. Now truly scared, Errin eventually concedes that perhaps he should not be having these items, and only asks for the 500 gold buy-in compensation, which the party happily pays.
Staring at the dragon in the distance, Lumivarax feels his Dragonborn blood boiling into a seething rage the distance and suddenly starts running out of town, racing towards the dragon.
He gets tired after about a mile of running, but all the other Knights of Valor have confusedly run after him. Suddenly, the dragon lets out a furious roar and starts flying towards them at breakneck speed.
But his divine magic warps into strange and unexpected patterns, and through his arcane knowledge he instinctively recognizes the arcane magic of Contingency as he is swept away into a strange, hopeless vision.
Before his mind's eye, a city burns. Elves are running around in a frenzy as they are slaughtered left and right by ashen-haired invaders, accompanied by horrible monsters and shadowy apparitions.
In the sky, black dragons are flying, carrying warriors on their backs and occasionally dipping down to swallow up an unfortunate Elf.
In the center of the invasion force, he sees an Elven woman with white hair walking casually. Any and all that dare to stand against her are swiftly evaporated by powerful, spine-chilling magic.
Looking around his surroundings, the cleric realizes he is higher up in a tower. An Elven man is next to him, and with a sudden flash of realization he knows the man to be Ceanasan Dakear, the artificer who's reanimated skeleton they had fought inside the man's own tomb. He speaks to [[Lumivarax Firevale|Lumivarax]], seemingly echoing across the ages:
A powerful anger and desperation radiates out from the artificer, and [[Lumivarax Firevale|Lumivarax]] is faced with the force of his will, locking them both in mental combat. Our valiant cleric does not emerge the victor in this battle of wills, and as the vision abruptly ends, the staff explodes in a burst of necrotic energy, knocking him back and wilting his skin.
Healing himself from this unexpected recoil, they attempt to run back towards the town. Seeing the speed of the dragon, they realize they might not make it back there in time to obtain the help of Cape Merton's guards.
Staring at the shape rushing towards them, to their dismay they they also make out three smaller shapes flying behind the bigger one. Running for their lives, they make it back to quite a ways out of the town's border still and opt to attempt a strategy with their new-found terrible artifact.
Will our foolish, but lovable heroes survive or is this where they make the last stand (pun intended)? Tune in next time for session #13, the Quest For Less Foolish Decisions.