Dreams surely are difficult, confusing, and not everything in them is brought to pass for mankind. For fleeting dreams have two gates: one is fashioned of horn and one of ivory. Those which pass through the one of sawn ivory are deceptive, bringing tidings which come to nought, but those which issue from the one of polished horn bring true results when a mortal sees them.

- Homer “The Odyssey”

 
 
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CHAPTER ONE: Dream of Horrors
Tirna Umbersularday & Umberfreeday
 
Session 1

Prologue,
Chapter I

THALAZZAR

It seemed ironic to Thalazzar that Riot's Gate had seemed so tranquil after the phantasms that had plagued his sleep the night before. He had smoked through almost the last of his pipe weed clearing the horrors from his mind. With morning and Plake's best breakfast the horrors seemed less real but remained vivid. Savouring his meal, Thalazzar considered two things that intrigued him in the early hours of the dawn.

Firstly, the host of horrors impressed him with its mindless power. Such aggression and violence! It was all tentacles and maws but there was a sinister, driving presence behind those masses of yellow eyes... If such abominations could be turned to ones own purposes, what power would they bring.

The other issue that intrigued him was the strangers from the dream. Were they companions, adversaries, or linked to him somehow? He had never seen any of them before, and some of them he didn't care to see again. Yet, from the first conversation he had that morning, they were real and some of them were there with him in Riot's Gate. And if they were real, so too were the horrors and the power they could bring.

The Zularian, Tiberio, seemed the most reasonable at first glance. He had been the first one that Thalazzar encountered that morning. Apparently he was spending his life singing songs. He had also been the one most concerned with his well-being in their shared phantasm. The dwarf and the knight seemed to share a sense of law and justice, but the worst was the beggar. It was obvious that there was more to this man than simply scars and rags. He moved too fast, spoke with too much authority and the others seemed to follow his lead. Thalazzar didn't trust him but at least he respected his strength. The gnome, on the other hand had lived up to everything he had heard about their kind - devious with their devices and tricks, yet foolish with their irritating, incessant babble.

There was some talk of Orindish wizards, exiled royalty, priests and ancient dwarven legends but, in the end, it was Thalazzar's memory of a tapestry depicting the portals in the dream that seemed to be the first clue. Rather than taking the tapestry, the beggar sent the group of them off on a mission of mercy to rescue the merchant's daughter from a group of local thugs. No sooner had they tracked the thugs to the Dregs of Humanity bar, than the beggar had them doing another damn fool errand to protect the honour of some orc who had more fleas than the beggar did. What was worse, the errand was to a part of town filled with gnomes.

Thalazzar had immediately regretted his decision to remain with this group of misfits but was convinced that there was some connection between them and the power of the horrors in his dream. Even still, encountering the pathetic Scuz and his less than challenging accomplices was risky. Thalazzar didn't know the extent of the Dripping Blade's network in this city but he had already come to their attention once for smuggling as a free agent and now he was going to come to their attention again by harassing some of their low end thugs. Thalazzar only hoped that this crew was too pathetic to warrant much attention if they disappeared. Unfortunately, the justice leaning elements of his new companions decided to spare their lives and turn them into the authorities. This made Thalazzar very uncomfortable because not only would the pathetic worms they captured squeal to the authorities but the ones that got away, Whitey and Gotek, would certainly report the incident to their Dripping Blade masters.

Again, Tiberio the Bard seemed like someone Thalazzar could work with as he very effectively managed to force some information out of the pathetic Scuz on the location of the merchant's daughter. Arek the dwarf could fight at least, having backed Thalazzar when he went up against the large half-orc.

According to Scuz, the Hankuan girl had been traded to the Gluttony Cultists who practiced their foul rituals in the city sewers. Thalazzar presumed that his duty-filled companions would next drag him into the muck in their quest. He could only hope that his companions would be less averse to the disappearance of Cultists than they were to the so-called "Viper's Watch". Thalazzar craved power and was willing to risk the wrath of second-rate thugs to get it. Flesh eating cultists, however, he was pretty sure he didn't want to risk leaving alive to come looking for him later…

 
 
  

     

Prologue,
Chapter I

FRANKIE
[author's note - some content has been deliberately removed]

Tirna Umbersularday: I find that my usual note-taking on schematics must wait; the events of last night and today have been most nerve wracking.

Surmization: I have been assaulted magically (I still cant' believe this) and have been exposed to "racism." I am still trying to decide which is worse. I even shot someone with my prototype crossbow! I committed assault (I guess it isn't assault, Arek is a lawful authority, and I am part of a militia) err, getting off track again!

So I talked to my fellow victims' about reporting us getting magically assaulted, and to my dismay the majority of the group I am with stated nothing would be done. I need to talk to [contents removed]. Now I find myself stuck in a real life "fictional" drama (never did like reading fiction). Merchant girl kidnapped by "racist" thugs, thugs terrorizing communities, selling people to demonic cults as slaves... this HAS to be linked to that magical assault!

Hmmm, I need to start from the beginning. If something happens to me (like that Thalazzar gets me alone!) this journal can be used as state's evidence.

The magical assault occurred in a dream I was having. I usually dream about schematics I am working on; I have solved a lot of technical issues that way! Anyways, this dream was in this underground magical room, during the night of the eclipse (two nights from now). Myself and a group of others appeared to have come out of some kind of magical portal thingies.

So anyway, we all start talking, and this woman shows up. The woman was ready for a fight, but was calmed down.

Just when the woman was about to open up why she was there, a man rides up on horseback, dressed as some kind of foreign officer. The man thought I was a human girl (how embarrasing). The worse part was that the man was using [contents removed].

Then these tentacles appeared and started ripping people apart! I thought I was dead, but woke up.

Things are really crazy now. Once I talk to [contents removed] that should take care of everything, and I will be able to get back to being an undergrad and put this all behind me. Note to self: make up an excuse to avoid going into the sewer. Riot's Gate really needs to adopt gnomish technology for sewer maintenance.

 
    

  

Prologue,
Chapter I

NIMBUS

Awakening

I had a dream where I awaken
The real was lost, the known forsaken
Bells echoed met by friendship
Hence formed the lucid fellowship

In the ancient halls of Creation
Vivid beyond imagination
By foreshadowed reminiscence
Crept the Hordes Chaos essence

I had a dream where I darken
The known was lost, the real forsaken
Lucidly awakened into my space
Real to me was neither light or dark place

 
   

 

Prologue,
Chapter I

DOMALDI

Day 1

I start this journal on the Day of my father's burial in the Crypt of Heironeous in Riot's Gate. I spoke today in the Hall of Heroes of the circumstances of my father's death and the events of his life. Tomorrow, I will leave this city to Eoport on the Gold Coast.

I woke from a terrible dream that could not have been a dream. In it, I walked through a door into a central chamber carved from the living rock. I was fully armed and among the strangest group I have met in some time. We were all similarly confused but entirely convinced it was real. We determined that we had all given coins to the beggar Nimbus outside the "Bell and Dragon". He was similarly confused but we could find no other common connection. The dwarf Arek I did remember from the Hall of Heroes as a Claimer of the Maddock. I sensed no evil from this group and even a sublime goodness from Nimbus. Arek told us that the walls were bithat bithal, the steel stone. This place reminded him of stories of the Bones of the Earth. It involved the Cradle of Creation where there were chambers with portals.

As we were struggling to recall facts, a woman ran in with an owl. She was frightened beyond description and a wielder of magic. Nimbus displayed a way with words and gestures that calmed her down. I have never seen such a thing in one so young: usually that sublime calmness comes from years in religious study. Together, him and I were able to convince her to trust us. Her name was Tallum and she too was confused by the situation. She said she had been here for days and was going mad from the silence. Suddenly we heard the sounds of hooves and a magnificent knight rode in as if being chased. The stature, demeanour, and equipment of this Red Rider marked him as a noble soldier, a commander of some rank. While arrogant, I knew he was not evil and he appeared Orindish.

We then heard unearthly noises from all sides and the others formed a circle on the central mound. I urged the Red Rider into the circle with us but as we were attacked all he did was smile, stroke his moustache and say, "This I remember". Tallum loosed her owl after speaking to it in hopes that it could escape by some unseen means above. We were attacked on all sides by a hoard of the foulest evil beasts: man-sized masses of eyes and tentacles. The bard Tiberio played a rousing song and all fought fearlessly but to no avail. I struggled to protect Tallum as I had promised but I too fell in the end. I looked to the Red Rider and saw him using magic and sword as he was pulled under. As I woke from this evil dream, I heard our foes say as one in a chilling voice, "I am large, I contain multitudes."

I woke in a sweat, got up, washed, prayed and dressed for combat. The barrack warden saw me leave but did not stop me. I went directly to the Bell & Dragon and found the others but not Tallum or the Orindish Red Rider.

Assembled:
Arek - dwarven Claimer of the Maddock
Tiberio - Gallatish-Zularian bard
Thalazzar - a tall and suspicious sorcerer whose motivations were hard to fathom
Frankie - a female gnome from the Technical University
Nimbus - the freed slave, the beggar who fought bravely and better than many a knight I know but only with hand and foot.

Nimbus could recall seeing Tallum earlier in the day escorting a mysterious figure in a leather mask. This Woden is an Orindish wizard connected to the Orindish royal family. It seemed strange to us that while the others were unaffected, Tiberio, Arek and myself all felt physically harmed by this experience yet with no common thread. Thalazzar said he had seen the carvings in the Dream of Horrors earlier that day on a tapestry in the Little Hankuo market. His behaviour implied he was doing some dishonesty there but I detect no evil intent, just self-interest. The world is full of that and his did not appear harmful yet so I let it go.

We resolved to meet in daylight and find the tapestry.

Day 2

We went to the Little Hankuo market and found the merchant named Hsi Jiang. He would not let us see it and told us his seven-year old daughter Mei-Mei was taken by a lowlife named Skuz. This Skuz was part of a group of thugs connected to the Dripping Blade and apparently led by a goblin called Phillip. We tracked this gang (Phillip, Skuz, Whitey, Bruser and Golthek) to the Happy Acres Refugee Camp. The villainy of the whole thing made me rage but I wanted Mei-Mei returned safely: Riot's Gate justice under Arek's stewardship would be enough, not an early grave. Our strange group easily subdued these dregs: Nimbus was a crack fighter, Frankie was fearless against these bullies, and we fought as a unit. Skuz told us they sold the girl to the Gluttony Cult. They were housed in the sewers between the Acres and Little HanKuo.

 
    

  
 
 
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CHAPTER TWO: Into the Maw
Tirna Umberfreeday
 

Session 2

Prologue,
Chapter II

THALAZZAR

Sitting once more in the Bell & Dragon inn, Thalazzar smoked some cheap Dakar pipeweed absently perusing the pages of his spellbook, sorting out his thought regarding the events that had occurred that day. He still had some of his fine weed remaining but it was looking like there were darker days ahead that that weed would be needed for. This time yesterday he had thought little of demons, cultists or gnomes but tonight they weighed heavily on his mind.

It seemed clear that the quest to unravel the mysterious Dream of Horrors would force him to rely on his newfound companions a while longer. If the days ahead were filled with evil such as he witnessed today, he doubted some of his companions would long survive.

After being forced into cooperating with the authorities, the group acquired an additional burden to carry in the form of Corporal Pikett. Apparently the Corporal's duty was to add legitimacy to our efforts to reclaim the Hankuan's daughter Mei Mei. Thalazzar was little concerned about the watchman's presence as it seemed that Riot's Gate was so preoccupied with other conflicts that his group could pretty much do whatever they wished - a situation that Thalazzar had little problem with.

Thalazzar and his motley crew descended into the filth-ridden sewers to search for the Hankuan and her Gluttony Cultist captors. The gnome, constantly babbling her ridiculous thoughts out loud, proved to be quite a burden being incapable of even walking by herself in the sewer depths. Thankfully, Pikett made himself useful by carting her around and lending his ear to her chatter.

The first omen of dark things to come was when the group encountered a foul aberration covered in mouths and eyes, known as a gibbering mouther. While this creature proved quite the challenge for the group it was eventually felled by the warriors Pikett and Domaldi. Domaldi did demonstrate considerable skill of arms in that encounter and notably faced the aberration with little fear. The beggar, in contrast, demonstrated that he was useful only as a sacrifice, throwing himself into the maw of danger time and again with little regard for the consequences. Over the course of the day, the beggar needed to be prevented from bleeding to death several times. At least by opening his mouth and exercising his flagellant behaviour, our enemies were distracted enough to ensure that Thalazzar and the others attracted less attention from the mouther and other horrors.

Tiberio continued to be the one that proved his respect in Thalazzar's eyes. He was the one that kept the team from fleeing from the gibbering mouther and the one that spotted the entrance to the cultist's lair. The lair itself yielded new evil. The cultists, in their perversion, had manacled several humans on stone slabs and had been feeding them vile sustenance to the point that their obesity spilled onto the floor, preventing one from even identifying where man or woman met the pathetic creature beside them. In the centre of this horror was a pit filled with gurgling grey ooze.

The cultists fought to protect their lair, but ultimately tried to flee under cover of magical darkness. Domaldi and Pikett fought with valor while the beggar eviscerated himself once again. Surprising, even the gnome contributed to the fight launching several bolts from a curiously modified crossbow. Thalazzar, while still disgusted with the gnome, found himself wondering if he might have something in common with this creature and her love of mechanics.

Although Thalazzar managed to slay a cultist himself and help apprehend another, the leader of the cult managed to escape in the confusion. One cultist demonstrated his fanaticism by jumping into the pit of ooze rather than face our gang. Further, as the remainder of the group pondered what to do in order to save the obviously doomed mounds of flesh, Tiberio and Thalazzar proceeded to the business at hand, freeing the savable prisoners, Mei Mei first among them, and searching the cult's stores. The other acquisitions were Grist, a capable seeming orc-blood who later proved to have mysterious connections with the town guard, and Drizzen, a half elven merchant who had been sold into captivity by his Dripping Blade enemies.

It fell upon Thalazzar, Pikett and the gnome to return to the surface as they were the only ones fit enough to travel. Grist, reliably enough, volunteered to stay in the lair and protect those that were wounded in case more cultists returned. Once more above ground, they rendered the captive cultist to the authorities, returned the Hankuan to her family and gathered assistance from the priests of Heironious before returning to help rescue his companions.

The end result of the day's struggle was the same tapestry that Thalazzar had seen previously. Indeed, the tapestry did contain images from the Dream of Horrors and it was determined that, while not Hankuan in origin, it had been acquired from a mysterious Hankuan bard known as Wooden Toad. It seems that this character brought the tapestry with him during the arrival of the first Dragon Fleet several years prior and that he now lived in Seluna Port in proximity to the remaining Hankuan flotilla. It seemed that tomorrow would bring more than just a celestial event, it would also bring a decision as to whether Thalazzar and his companions would take the long journey across the sea together, prolonging their association into possibly unbearable periods of time. In any event, based on what he had encountered today, Thalazzar decided that tomorrow it would be wise to memorize some spells…

 
    

  

Prologue,
Chapter II

NIMBUS

As I traveled to the center of the city to release our thug prisoners my mind was clouded with events that lead to their capture. Usually I am very peaceful but one viewing my recent actions would not be convinced. I brought harm to a goblin and felt anger towards him. I am very fortunate to have encountered this goblin for he has taught me that my mind in not as disciplined as I would like it to be.

Inside the central precinct an orcish clerk is approached by Domaldi who is looking for the captain and Arek. He is told to wait while the captain gathers the rest of the party and leads them to separate rooms to wait while statement are taken. Practicing patience, Nimbus gives his statement about the events that transpired at the Happy Acres Refugee Camp several times.

The watch releases us and allows us to enter the sewers with the escort of corporal Pikett to pursue the gluttonous cultist. Outside the watch headquarters the party decides to travel to the temple of Heironeous to gather equipment from Kulac the quartermaster and information. Once ready the party passes to Dregs of Humanity and heads to the warehouse districted to access the sewer entrances near House Praelos buildings.

Opening a sewer grate reveals a dank tunnel which Nimbus leaps into. The v shape troth tunnel is filled waist high with the unwanted liquid. Nimbus watches the others as the descend into the darkness. Most of the others throw up as soon as the smell of the excremen