It all started when…
The party was on their way to the city of Whitestar to look for information on the mysterious Orb of the Ancients. They stopped in Witchfield, a small town consisting of a small castle and a single street of houses and establishments leading up to it. The party was enjoying a quiet drink in the local tavern, when suddenly they heard something crash through the window and everything was on fire. Orcs were attacking the town! After they killed many and drove the rest away, the guard revealed that Lord Blackstone’s daughter had been kidnapped! The party raided the Orc stronghold, defeated the Orcs and their Orog master and saved the damsel in distress. Lord Blackstone rewarded them with a favor and treasure from his vault.
The City of Whitestar
After a brief encounter with some bandits, the party made their way to Whitestar, where a tall cliff looms over a bustling city. The party checked in the obvious places for information regarding the Orb of the Ancients – the library and the temples. A mage clad in black robes confronted them after hearing they were looking for the Orb. He introduced himself as Garvan, and offered them information on the Orb in exchange for a favor – retrieving an artifact from the ruins of the undercity. The party, joined by a Half-Orc woman who was skilled with an axe, found a secret entrance in the poor side of town and entered the Undercity. They entered a sinking temple and retrieved a magical bowl after fighting the temple’s guardians.
A run-in with the Thieves’ Guild
As they journeyed back to the above ground to finish the job, they were confronted by a group of bandits, demanding their cut of the treasure from the job they completed. The party refused, and a battle ensued on the bridge over the subterranean river. The party prevailed, but their leader, a man named Vinn Rivers, escaped. The party then made it to the surface in the early evening. A town crier announced that the Grand Champion of the Arena would be fighting, and so the party decided to celebrate their success with some entertainment. They drank and made bets and watched the Grand Champion destroy his opposition.
The Order of the Black Codex
The next day, they met with Garvan, who took the bowl and told them the name of the contact – a Wizard who had dedicated his life to studying the Orb named Aldebrande Valharad. Garvan pointed the party to the wizard’s location. However, he also said that he could help them more if the party’s Warlock would join the Black Codex – the guild of Wizards dedicated to mastering the technology of the lost Valori civilization. The Warlock was faced with a tough decision to make. In the meantime, they decided to pursue the lead they had.
The amnesic Wizard
They ventured to the poorest party of the city and found him living in a small hovel in the remains of a former prison. The wizard Aldebrande was very forgetful, constantly referencing a large tome to remember even small or recent details. He was happy to discuss the Orb and agreed to share his information if the party could retrieve his books from the Arcane University. He could not go himself since his falling out with the headmaster. The party agreed and ventured to the University. After bringing their problem to the headmaster, they discovered that Aldebrande’s former offices had been locked off several years ago after a conjuration accident that killed several students. The party convinced the headmaster to let them in, and fought off several creatures summoned from the outer realms, including a Succubus that disguised herself as a trapped student. The Paladin was briefly put under her spell, but the party was able to overcome this obstacle and retrieved the books Aldebrande needed, as well as an apparently friendly Mimic named Mimi. Aldebrande received the books and said he’d need some time to look over them.
A warning from the Guild
The party returned to the tavern, where a letter was waiting for them with the innkeeper. It requested payment for the Thieves’ Guild men they killed, and was signed “Spider”, the mysterious leader of the Whitestar Thieves’ Guild. The party laughed at the notion of paying Spider’s exorbitant price and dismissed the letter.
The Warlock’s decision
The Warlock decided in was in his best interests to join the Order of the Black Codex, trading some independence for access to the guild’s resources. He visited Garvan with this news, and Garvan said that in a few days he would be properly inducted.
In the period of downtime, the Paladin decided to become an Arena Fighter. He wrote a letter to Lord Blackstone, using his favor to request a patron for equipment, housing, and arena fees. Lord Blackstone obliged, giving him and the rest of the party access to a small house in the middle residential district. The Paladin then also persuaded the merchant they had befriended to sponsor him if he won three fights. Elistine, the half-elf recruiter, also encouraged him to craft a persona so that he could build fans and gain more sponsors.
New Robes, New Masters
Garvan finally sent for the Warlock, and introduced him to the guild’s purpose – to study, discover, and use ancient Valori artifacts to drag the world out of the comparative dark ages. He gave the Warlock his own cloak and an Eyebook, an enchanted device for communicating among members of the guild. Garvan then explained why they were in the city – it was the last known location of the Master Key, a device capable of controlling every Valori construct, unlike the weaker keystones, which are bound to a specific construct. Finally, Garvan gave the Warlock his first orders – to scout out a previously unexplored section of the Undercity and prepare it for excavation.
As the party set out on their new quest, they went back to the same tavern in the poor side of town they had previously visited to enter the Undercity. A group of Thieves’ Guild thugs, led once again by Vinn Rivers, confronted them. Faced with almost certain defeat from being out-numbered and outgunned, the Paladin challenged Vinn to a duel. Vinn was cocky enough to accept. But as he came close to putting the finishing blow on the Paladin, the rest of the party stepped in, turning the duel into a full-fledged brawl. With some help from a Drow and a Half-elf who were sitting in the bar, the party was able to defeat the thugs, though they once again left Vinn Rivers alive.
Into the Deep Realms
With their new companions, the group set out into the Deep Realms, the vast cavernous expanse below the surface world. They followed a ruined road past miles and miles of collapsed city, fighting off strange creatures of the dark. They finally came to their destination – a Black Codex excavation camp, deep and secluded. The party resupplied and met with the head of the camp, a Codex mage named Claudia. She took an immediate dislike to the Warlock, resenting his position in the Codex when she had to spend several years as an apprentice before she was allowed an important role. She told them that the Mages she had sent had not returned and no longer answered her messages on her Eyebook. The party resolved to investigate after a night of rest. That night, they were awakened by mournful music that echoed across the caverns. They could find no sign of it.
“Turn back, or face the consequences…”
They ventured forward, borrowing a tool to navigate the huge chasms. They soon entered a tunnel, where they encountered magic-resistant constructs who had made short work of several Codex mages. After fighting them off, the party continued out of the tunnel into a vast open cavern, where they saw several small buildings across from one that could have been a large palace. They were confronted with a disembodied voice telling them to return from where they came. They ignored it and ventured forward. They investigated the smaller buildings, finding them to be barracks or quarters of some kind, and then moved to enter the castle. The voice warned them once again, but again they ignored it.
Robots and Vampires
They entered the palace, which mostly consisted of a single open room with an open wall. A huge mechanical dragon was suspended from the ceiling, intimidating but in disrepair. They worked their way through the palace, fighting off a guardian eye creature and several constructs. They then came to a door and heard the music from the other night on the other side. They opened the door to reveal a man sitting and playing a dirge on a strange stringed instrument. The man greeted them cordially and invited them to drink some wine with him. He soon revealed that he was a vampire who had moved underground to avoid the hazards of the surface world. He again asked them to leave him in peace, and the party was nearly to agreement on this when they heard a scream of anguish echo from the stairs behind him. Though this did not affect the Warlock’s or the Paladin’s decision to go, the Bard determined that she couldn’t leave the victim to the Vampire, and they resolved to fight.
After defeating the vampire, they rescued the half-insane Codex mage he held captive, claimed his sword Bloodfyre, a suit of blood red plate armor, and lots of other treasure. They also discovered an letter detailing some kind of sinister plot. With these in hand, they returned to the Black Codex camp.