Following the encounter with the Black Dragon, the party had to cope with the loss of Valindra and their failure to save both of the children at the temple. Having had one of the children die in his arms, Horacio was deeply upset, and spent most of his time blubbering and drowning his sorrows in Longbottom Ale. Meanwhile, Stasi walked all the way back to the city on his own with the surviving child held tightly to his chest. When he arrived within the city limits, he made his way through the rain-soaked city streets to carry out his solemn duty: to deliver the news of her child’s tragic death.
Within the next few days, Valindra returned to the party as a revenant just as Stasi had before her. The party welcomed their lost friend back into their company, but could not help but wonder if Valindra and Stasi’s resurrections came with a price.
Having served their time in prison, Enna and Jim were released from custody by Ravenshore’s police forces. They rejoined the rest of the party, and learned of what had transpired in their absence. Jim was greatly upset from being denied the opportunity to defend his friend and ally, which moved him to confront Lieutenant Bullock and Chief O’Hara, and demand that they allow him to act with impunity when it came to defending Ravenshore and its citizens. In response, Jim was promoted to the somewhat indistinct—yet authoritative—rank of Sheriff.
In the days that followed, the party was contacted by a desperate Bullock, who let them know that nobody in the city had received word from Hannah Eladrin’s tower for several hours. With the city vulnerable to unwanted other-worldly visitors, we expected the worst, and left immediately for the tower.
Once the party reached the tower, they were surprised by the presence of Beak bearing a particularly vicious-looking scar. By whatever means, he had managed to escape the prison, and dropped many mysterious hints about hidden allies.
The main doors of the tower had been all but shattered, and once inside it the party found it filled with countless dead bodies. Those with arcane senses could tell that whoever had done this must be at the top of the tower, so the party began to scale the tower floor by floor. Each floor was filled with dead bodies, and all of the magical reagents, potions, and supplies in the storerooms of the tower had been destroyed. Jim attempted to signal for help by lighting a signal fire upon a small bale of hay on the street.
As we reached the top level of the tower, we were met with a closed door, and could hear only the sounds of faint sobbing from behind it. As the party entered the room, they were confronted with the scene of Hawkeye (on of Duncan’s Brigadiers) slowly moving his sword closer and closer to Hannah Eladrin, who was desperately deploying new magical wards and defenses to hold off his attack. Accompanying Hawkeye was a squad of five soldiers who looked identical and moved in unison, and a sixth soldier who moved of his own free will and carried a silver magical rod.
The party struggled to take down Hawkeye and his allies before they could harm Hannah Eladrin, but despite our best efforts the brigadier managed to push through Eladrin’s magical defenses, and cut off her hands with two swift strikes of his sword.
Meanwhile, back at the Angry Owlbear, Stasi and Horacio’s signal rings (given to the entire party during the first sessions) alerted them that the rest of the party was in grave danger. Much to the dismay of the patrons of the Owlbear, they dropped their respective activities of brewing and cooking immediately and headed for the tower. There they met The Shade, and hurried up to the top of the tower to join the battle.
The battle ended unexpectedly when both parties sensed the beginnings of another planar portal somewhere within the city. Hawkeye offered to set aside his current disagreement with the party in order to deal with the more pressing danger of the portal. The party agreed reluctantly, and set out to find the portal with Hawkeye and The Shade in tow. The police arrived at the tower as we exited, and Hawkeye’s soldiers were handed over to them as collateral for his cooperation. One of his soldiers, however, was handed over to Beak’s “boys”, also known as The Raven’s Sword.
Hawkeye was able to get a quick reading on the location of the portal, and the party accompanied him deep into the catacombs. All of those who stood against the Cataclysm Dragon in the past immediately recognized the hooded figures from the rooftops. They had formed a ritual circle in a large cross-shaped room, with a figure in the center of the room channeling their power into a nearly-opened portal. The man in the center of the room appeared to be their leader, and wore a resplendent cloak of shifting color.
The cultists were quite candid about their goals. They explained that they were servants of the little-know deity, Pondera, and were behind the opening of all the recent portals in the city. The more portals they opened, the weaker the inter-planar boundaries became, and the easier it would become for their god to pass into this realm. They explained that Pondera is a god of balance, and that the party and the cultists were fated to have had this confrontation. They believed that whoever emerged victorious was blessed with Pondera’s favor, and was meant to have prevailed.
As the fight began, events took an unexpected turn: Stasi immediately grabbed Beak and stabbed him through the heart – killing him in an instant. Valindra was also turned against her allies, and the pair joined the cultists in battle. With their friends turned against them, Horacio, Jim, and Erik had to work with Hawkeye and the Shade to stop the opening of the portal, and attempt to restore the free will of their friends.
A short ways into the encounter, the leader of the cultists communicated with everyone in the party except Erik. He told them that they did not exist before they came to Ravenshore. Pondera created them for the sole purpose of restoring balance, and that the lives they thought they knew and lived were not their own. They realized that in that instant that they could not remember the names of family members, or where they were from, or what they were doing before they fled to Ravenshore. Despite their confusion, the divided party fought on, and eventually defeated the cultists and closed the portal. This combat marked the first instance in which The Shade revealed his true form, and shape-shifted into a massive metallic dragon.
Once the ritual-casters and their leaders fell, Stasi and Valindra were once again granted their free will. The remaining cultists surrendered immediately, and pledged that they would offer no more resistance, as the party’s victory was the will of Pondera. With threat of the portals eliminated, the party now turned its focus back to the brigadier.
Hawkeye was interrogated about his and his soldiers’ unprovoked slaughter of countless Ravenshore citizens at Hannah Eladrin’s tower. In reply, he would say only that he was operating under sanction of Duncan and the Aulonian military, and that he believed his actions were justified. When the questioning was finished, Hawkeye was offered fair treatment in exchange for information about Duncan’s anti-magic crusade, and aggression towards Ravenshore. He promptly refused this offer, which led the party to leave the brigadier to the mercy of The Shade. Breaking from his earlier tradition of employing mostly non-lethal violence, The Shade promptly murdered Hawkeye.
The Shade then made his exit, and Jim prepared the remaining cultists to be taken into police custody. The party attempted to recover Beak’s body, but it was nowhere to be found, which seemed to hint that he might be resurrected as a revenant like his comrades.
After the cultists had been locked up in the prison, Jim and those that accompanied to the police garrison passed by the cells holding the men that accompanied Hawkeye in the tower. They asked what had become of Hawkeye, and were informed that he was murdered by the hands of the criminal known as The Shade. When they heard this, the soldiers laughed with sick satisfaction, for by killing Hawkeye, the city-state of Ravenshore had committed an act of war.