Ave Sestina

Fel Sestina

It was a foggy Spring day. The followers of the Raven Queen had anticipated this day for centuries – it is a day called Descentia, basically the Raven Queen’s version of the Rapture. Masked followers of the Raven Queen stood all over the city, standing at the edge of the canals hoping to be drawn downwards by their Goddess.

Mephistopheles, paladin of the Raven Queen, thought this was a bunch of hogwash. Idiots that read their holy books too literally. He brushed it off as antiquated superstition.

The Gate Crashers headed over to Bainsgate bridge. Bainsgate is a large rune-etched bridge, the first one that you pass under when you sail down the grand canal. During the city’s founding, that part of the river was the site of a great battle. Today, it was covered by the followers of the Raven Queen, lined up along the bridge’s edge.

The hero who would one day be called King Rinaldo fought there against the Bally Fen, a great aberrant creature which ruled the marshes in the days before Ave Sestina was built.

Rinaldo was on his way to the spot which would one day be called Lindgate bridge — his best friend Linden was busy holding off numerous aberrations. Rinaldo had promised that he wouldn’t let Linden fight alone, he would join his friend in battle. But Rinaldo’s forces engaged the Bally Fen here, leaving Linden to perish alone. Even though Rinaldo slayed the Bally Fen, he left his friend to die, and he took this guilt with him to the grave.

The adventurers stood on Bainsgate. Rinaldo had once made an oath here that he would forever stand against the Bally Fen and the aberrant creatures which plagued the region. That pact had expired – according to Council Record LV, the pact can only be renewed by Aberrant blood.

The Gate Crashers used Gehentir, the party’s strange extradimensional companion, to reach into the fourth dimension. This is called the “cross eyed reach” ritual – at the climax of the spell, they are able to reach outside of three dimensional space. While this can normally be used to store material objects in a place they will never be found, if Gehentir is put into that space, it attracts the aberrant creatures which live in that world. He is a delicacy to them. As Meph held Gehentir aloft, the party heard the discordant roar of the Bally Fen approaching.

It came from the river. As the party battled it, the phantom of Rinaldo appeared before them. They witnessed a shadow of his battle with the Bally Fen. They watched him ignore Linden’s squire and face the beast on his own. Rinaldo spoke to the party – he told them that he still carries his guilt. He intended to show the party what he had done, so they could help make it right.

As they Bally Fen let out its death cry, a cloud passed over the sun, and everybody felt their ears pop. The mist cleared, and the party felt like they were in a new place.

It turns out they had been whisked away to the Shadowfell, the melancholy nether-realm between our world and the afterlife. The Gate Crashers walked through Fel Sestina, a dark and foreboding version of the city they have come to love.

In Fel Sestina, it’s almost always overcast. The buildings are tall and dark, and the water in the canals is dark and murky, like red wine. Everyone living there wears masks. Most of the residents are Shadar Kai, but some of each race lives there too. The city has a melancholy about it – if you spend too much time there, dark thoughts creep into your mind. Your humor becomes dark and morbid. Eventually, you begin to lose hope.

The Shadar-Kai overcome the melancholy by anchoring themselves with pain. They get tattoos, brands, and piercings which remind them of their task – to transcend mortality in service to the Raven Queen. To do this, they must harvest tass, the physical manifestation of the city’s spirit. But doing this angers the city, and it sends its guardians, the Dragons of Ave Sestina.

The Gate Crashers began their trek into Fel Sestina. They were headed for St. Melar’s island, the graveyard where most citizens of the city are buried. Rinaldo had given them a task: To go to Linden’s grave and sing his dirge. What would St. Melar’s be like in the Shadowfell? Surely it would be more dangerous than it was when they visited it in Ave Sestina.

First, the party headed into St. Beck’s district. The city layout was different here – they were a bit disoriented and got lost several times. They did manage to find their way to the cathedral of the Raven Queen, where Meph communed with the Shadowfell denomination of his religion. They decided to skip the ceremonial eyes-wide-shut style orgy and keep moving.

It seemed that each of the city’s neighborhoods was ruled by a powerful being (many of whom were Sorrowsworn, the ascended form of Shadar Kai). As the Gate Crashers tried to cross the city, they would be stopped by one of these beings, who would not let them advance unless they had proven themselves of performed a task.

Many of the party members fought one-on-one duels against Shadar Kai. Other tasks involved finding a missing child and avoiding the deadly glare of a giant nightmarish statue that dominated an empty neighborhood.

The party spent more than a week navigating the city. They stayed at a familiar tavern – the Oak! It seems that Fel Sestina had an identical version of the Oak tavern, complete with the gray haired bartender named Tybalt and large oak tree growing indoors. Tybalt didn’t recognize the party, but the tavern looked disorientingly similar to the one in Ave Sestina.

In the Ducal neighborhood, the Gate Crashers encountered a canal excavation. One of the canals was being drained to search for Tass. But in doing so, a monster had been released. The locals were afraid to approach. The party wouldn’t have gone down if they weren’t looking for Obulet, the large copper coins they were told would be needed to pay the ferryman for St. Melar’s.

They climbed down the shaky scaffolding and found themselves at the bottom of a muddy canal. Glowing lichen grew all over the ground and walls – more tass than they had ever seen! But something stirred in the shadows – a Shadow Dragon pounced upon them!

The party slayed the dragon and collected 15,000 gold worth of tass. They climbed back up to the city and made a dash for St. Melar’s Island.

They paid the creepy Ferryman the six obulets necessary for passage, and sailed through the fog for the graveyard.

As they approached the island, the party could hear the dull moan of hundreds of zombies. As they landed, the horde began to amble towards them. With blades drawn, they pressed towards Linden’s Grave, leaving zombie bodies twitching on the ground behind them. Sometimes the twisted creatures got back up after being slain – the trick was to kill them on ground which wasn’t desecrated.

The betrayed hero of Ave Sestina, Linden, stood atop his grave. In the Shadowfell, they celebrate his betrayal because it became the source of his power. The party began to sing his dirge, attempting to lay him to rest. The shadow lord resisted, attacking them with his full strength.

Each party member sung a verse of the dirge. As they finished the song, it weakened Linden. Zombies continued to come from all around, but they managed to run the shadow lord through before he murdered them amongst the tombstones.

“The work is done,” said the voice of King Rinaldo, “You may return to your life…”

New Moon Reising
Tremors in the Night

Two weeks had passed since the Gate Crasher’s last gathering. They spent the downtime campaigning for Alanna and Brendel, and researching some of the questions they’ve had.

Kevian learned that the pact at Bainsgate Bridge represents Old King Rinaldo’s promise to keep the aberrations (or “Bally Fen”, as he called them) from Ave Sestina. To renew this pact, the party would need to spill the blood of a powerful aberration on Bainsgate Bridge.

Mephistopheles learned that he would need to contact some powerful mages in order to get Gehentir back to the Astral Sea.

Thorc learned that there is a Primal Node here in Ave Sestina – in fact, it is the statue of Sestina in the city square. Outsiders to the city have been going there to cast a ritual which draws Tass into the world. Tass is part of the city’s primal energy. It manifests as a teal luminescent lichen or mushroom. Both Fey and Shadowfolk have been competing to harvest the Tass.

It was a new moon, and the city was wracked with tremors. The Gate Crashers headed down to the city gates to look around. Thorc spotted a nymph (named Verdalyn) who looked familiar. The party recognized her from Raure’s initiation into the Lyceum – Verdalyn was present with a satyr, presumably the one currently locked in Sovrano castle. The nymph held a ritual knife and was scraping tass off of a statue. Thorc approached her, frothing with rage.

Thorc demanded that the Nymph cease what she was doing. She agreed, but it seemed to be too late. Tremors had been wracking the area, and they were getting worse. As the ground shook and the water churned, a large brown wingless draconic form leaped up from the canal and pounced on Thorc. It was an Earthquake dragon, summoned from the city’s primal source to guard against the harvest of Tass. The dragon could not be calmed or reasoned with, it raged against all those present. Some of the tass sprouted into creatures called Vines of the Primal City. The party tangled with them as the Dragon ravaged across the square.

A Genesai named Jett appeared during the fight. He was in the right place at the right time to assist the party with the battle. After the dragon was put down, the Gate Crashers headed to the Beast Head to sell the dragon’s head and get Jett up to speed.

OUT OF GAME NOTES: no game on Saturday May 8th! And then the following weekend is Madrigal LARP, so I think the next game will be on May 22nd? That’s a ways off.. if people are down, we can schedule a week day encounter or something to that effect.

The Campaign Trail
Politics and Skullduggery

The Gate Crasher’s friends Alanna and Brendel continue their campaign to be elected in St. Beck’s district as members of the city council. The party focused its attention on St. Beck’s district, sometimes known as Cathedral Quarter due to its numerous churches and cathedrals.

(I couldn’t find the map we used, so here’s another version… ignore the numbers…)

  • St. Beck’s district was being hounded by fey creatures. The party arrived at the scene and slayed two aquatic owlbears.
  • The party immediately headed to the Beast Head where they sold the severed owlbear heads for phat loot. Lusk nailed one of the heads to the signpost.
  • Some merchants were being hounded by Lemitri thugs collecting on debts. The party intimidated them out of the square.
  • The party talked to a group of Minotaur fishmongers who were experiencing some racial tension with their neighbors. The party brought the Minotaur with them in order to help give them some status in the district.
  • They ended up on [[St. Frederick’s Bridge]], the nucleus of the kidnappings going on in the region. Griff inspected the bridge and found some graffiti which said HUBEGON. The party chanted the word and inadvertently summoned the creature it named.
  • Hubegon was the ghost a troll who had ravaged the city during the days of its founding. Hubegon could not be put down, so King Frederick made a deal with him: leave the people alone, and I will pay you 10,000 gold every 500 years. Hubegon was satisfied and St. Frederick’s bridge was consecrated with this pact. The debt had not been paid in some time, and the troll demanded it from the Gate Crashers. They refused, and faced him in combat. Upon his defeat, the troll spirit was banished for another five centuries.
  • The party found thousands of gold in the water underneath the bridge. Using the minotaur’s help, they dredged it up and spent it on the political campaign.
Roll Them Bones
  • The Gate Crashers went to the Church of Ioun to ask if they could draw a map of the cathedral basement. The aging templars said No.
  • The party staked out the Lemitri bank. Late in the day, they observed some shady masked character able to wander in and out without being harassed by the Halfling guards. Could this be on of the Shadow assassins they’ve been looking for?
  • The party gave chase through Ave Sestina. First, they followed him through a crowd. Then they pursued him through the narrow channels of St. Beck’s district on gondola. Finally, they took to the streets and ran him down.
  • Their quarry led the party into an ambush – Shadar-Kai attacked from all angles. The party defeated them and captured their mark.
  • The party took the mark over to a warehouse in the ridge district, where they turned him over to Griff’s guild contact. The guild contact allowed them to ask three questions of the prisoner.
  • The party confirmed that the shadows are being let into Ave Sestina by the bankers. The deal is that the shadow folk get to live and work in the city, the bankers get to use them as assassins.
  • Why do the shadow folk want to live in Ave Sestina? Apparently there is a magical material called “tass” which grows near the statue of Sestina. This is a ritual component for the Shadar Kai’s ascension into immortality. They want to become these creatures called Sorrowsworn, knights of the Raven Queen, and they need tass to do it. Tass can be found in the Shadowfell, but it’s much easier and less risky to get it here.
  • Later, the party had a run-in with some upstart shifters, punk kids following a werewolf named Birch. Thorc gambled with Birch until the white wolf became angry and flipped over the table. Birch and his “Lost Boys” attacked.
  • The party killed Birch and knocked out the Lost Boys. Thorc gave them a stern talking to and set them back on the right track. It turns out that they were trying to strike at the Crowns an the Bankers who are pushing people into debt and then indenturing them into slave-like jobs in the ghetto of Ave Sestina.

Next Up:

Check on Alanna and Brendel’s Campaign

You'll Shoot Your Eye Out, part II
The Thrilling Conclusion of an Adventure on St. Melar's Island

The Gate Crashers found a lot of books in the tower. They seemed to be stolen from the Lower Stacks.

Coracandro, the head of the Cult of Vecna, appeared before the Gate Crashers and asked if they would agree to parley before the battle. “We will talk, then, if you choose, I will return to the third floor and you can meet me there in battle.”

Enigmas of Vecna brought down a table with wine, bread, and cheese. Coracandro sat, most of the party stood. The aging cultist was bald, wore an eye patch, and sported a stylish pencil thin mustache.

Coracandro mentioned that he had a pet coyote, Acerack, whom he loved very much. If worse came to worse, would the party take care of Acerack? They agreed.

Coracandro said that Vecna has blessed the party. Why else are they so successful at keeping secrets? And surely they understand at this point that some information is too important to be brought into the light of day. Why else does the party carry masks? The foolish Iounites wish to make everything public, this would only cause chaos. Can you imagine if the people of Ave Sestina knew that their government worked with Devils? So Vecna blesses them.

Coracandro mentioned that the secrets they were guarding were very interesting. It seems that there is a power source underneath Ave Sestina. And several foreign groups are tapping into that power source. The problem is, the power source is guarded by a great beast. The guardian stirs in his sleep and will soon awaken.

The party gave Coracandro the option to surrender peacefully. He said he would prefer to retire to the countryside and never contest the party again (best to get out of the city before the beast awakens). They agreed. He started to leave, and the party began to talk of tying him up and taking him prisoner.

“Wait,” said Coracandro, “that is not part of the deal you struck.” Norrin had enough, and shot Coracandro in the chest with an arrow. He spat at them, calling them dishonorable for attacking during a parley, and retreated to his floor.

The battle was gross. Kevian went toe to toe with a bronze warder, Norrin backed him up. Coracandro blasted the party with lightning as his Norkers attacked. They eventually felled Coracandro and took his head.

The party’s next stop was the High Cathedral, where High Counselor Samos Burien was pleased to hear about the cult’s defeat. He awarded them a large sum of gold, a marble elephant, and gave them a writ which they could take to the Lyceum to have a magic item made (level 9 or lower).

The party agreed to work with Samos on a more long-term basis. He would seek funds to give them a house in St. Beck’s District. “It’s a very nice house,” he said as he smiled.

The Marble Elephant turned out to be a Figurine of Wonderous Power. Once per day, it can turn into a full sized elephant. Kevian quickly headed to the market district where a doll maker created a sedan for the elephant figurine’s back. Now they’d be riding in style.

You'll Shoot Your Eye Out, part I
An Adventure on St. Melar's Island

Raure discovered a crystal ball in the Lower Stacks under the Lyceum – it had been used to communicate with Coracandro, the head of the local Cult of Vecna. After the battle with the beholder, she backtraced the connection and discovered that Coracandro was somewhere in the western half of the city.

Malharath, having been recently rescued from the Cult, couldn’t remember a lot of what happened to him. He did have a snippet of a memory of being carried through a graveyard before numerous rituals were cast on him by the Vecnites.

With these two pieces of information, the Gate Crashers were able to figure out that the Cult of Vecna was operating out of St. Melar’s, the graveyard island. The party’s patron, High Councelor Samos Burien, sent them there with a special writ to use the ferry.

Before heading over to the island, Thorc led the group to The Oak, where they met with an acquaintance of Thorc’s. He was a Dragonborn Ardent named Transk. Transk has been living in Ave Sestina for a few years, but had been jaded by the city’s inability to fix its problems. Inspired by the recent actions of the Gate Crashers, he decided it was time to get back into the adventuring life. He asked if he could tag along with the party, and they agreed.

After midnight, the party took the ferry over to St. Melar’s Island. On the way over, they talked with the ferryman Milan, who was quite annoyed at having to make so many late night trips. You mean more people access the graveyard during non-standard hours? Some investigation revealed that there were a number of people on the island right now.

The Gate Crashers located a passage underneath a mausoleum. Climbing down, they found a teleportation circle. As they approached, the God Vecna appeared within.

Vecna said he would allow them access to his temple, but required secrets in trade. He desired knowledge, power, and their souls.

The party bluffed their way into the tower, telling Vecna believable lies about other forces within the city. They also incriminated Splug, the hapless Goblin lackey they met in the Keep on the Shadowfell.

Within the chamber, the Gate Crashers were assaulted by Norkers and Enigmas of Vecna. The Norkers engaged in melee while the Engimas ripped memories from their victim’s heads. There were also a few Bronze Warders, gigantic minotaur statues made of brass.

The third and final floor lay ahead of them…

Dear Diary
A Diary Entry by Justin

42 22582111

Dear Diary,

Today was the best yet at the Lyceum. It started off as a bad day. I didn’t want to go to class, and I hadn’t done my alchemy homework. As I was on my way to Drennemain’s class, a man with a big mustache told me he’d pay me a few coins if I carried some baggage for him. I said yes.

It turns out the man’s name was Janos and he was a member of an adventuring party called the Gate Crashers. They were going to kill the bad guys camped out in the lower stacks. I’m not allowed to even go NEAR the lower stacks so I was excited and a little scared. I told them I had homework to do, and a hairy man told me he could help. I gave him my alchemy worksheet and he did it for me!

Most of them were pretty nice… There was a Dragonborn named Raure who I’ve seen around the Lyceum. She was very worried that I might get hurt. A Tiefling named Meph had a really big axe. He was talking to himself all the time. That guy Janos was very well dressed and seemed kind of annoyed with the mages. There was an elf named Griff, he was always looking over his shoulder. The hairy guy who did my homework was named Thorc, he reminded me of a big doggie. And there was a really tall green thing named Kevian. I don’t know what kind of thing he was.

They went down into the lower stacks where there was a lot of ooze. I waited outside the room while they dealt with it.

Then all of the sudden they were yelling for help. I ran into the room and somebody tossed me a sword. They said to wash it in the holy font in the corner. I did and the sword started to glow a little bit. I tossed it to somebody and they hit the monster with it. It turns out they were fighting an undead beholder. It kept biting them with its tentacles and floating away.

My job was to run weapons over to the holy font and wash them. This made them hurt the beholder more. I basically saved everybody’s lives.

There was another guy they found down there – his name was Malharath, he has really green eyes. I think the bad guys had been casting rituals on him. When he woke up he looked really confused like he couldn’t remember what he was doing there.

The beholder was about to kill everybody, so I grabbed my wand and I shot it with a few magic missiles. I’m only one in my class who can cast Magic Missile, so I’m glad I’ve been practicing! The beholder died and everybody looked really relieved.

Everybody was so proud of me! Drennemain was angry that I went into the lower stacks, but I think she forgave me because I saved the city and all. I still got detention, and I’m on hench duty for the rest of the week, just carrying things and doing chores. But it was totally worth it. I helped destroy the Cult of Vecna.

A bunch of my classmates don’t believe me, but it doesn’t matter. I’m gonna be a hero some day.


Building Blocks
(not an adventure, just pix)

This isn’t an adventure update, I just wanted to post some pix of the board setup.

Excuse the awful cell-phone camera.


Here are some building blocks from Ave Sestina. The building images are actually print-outs of photographs from Venice, Italy. The white building is the Ca D’Orro


Here is some dungeon set-up. The arched walls are made from photos of Venice’s Palazzo Ducale

The Devil's in the Details

The Gate Crashers were awakened by Brendel and Alanna. A vizier devil was in the drawing room downstairs, and he said he wanted to speak with the party.

Most of the party managed to peel itself out of bed. Downstairs, a devil named Surakahn had a few offers for the party. He wished to trade information or magical relics for a few things: Gehentir, Council Record LV, and an agreement not to pursue the pact at Wolfsbridge.

The party flatly rejected his offers. He had one more before he left – would the party accept an olive branch of neutrality? The devils and the gate crashers would leave each other alone. The party’s warlord, Janos von Penderdam, pushed to keep Wolfsbridge out of the negotiations, but it was a sticking point for Surakahn. “Very well. No neutrality then.” He put out his clove cigarette and left the building. Behind him, a shard slave hovered in the doorway.

The Gate Crashers drew steel and fell upon the Shard Slave. They put it down, leaving the thoroughly-disturbed house servants to clean up the bloody Lovecraftian mess.

The next course of action was to talk to Drennemain, Archwizard of the Lyceum. The party was pledged to take down the Cult of Vecna, and they wanted to know if Drennemain knew anything more. Drennemain reported that in the week since the cult was found to be infesting the Lyceum’s Lower Stacks, none of her mages had been able to cut to the heart of the matter. The entrance to the lower stacks was covered with black pudding, and the evil mages had retreated deeper into the basement.

Raure confessed that her party had broken into the lower stacks last week, and had discovered the cult along with council record LV. Drennemain was frustrated, but a bit relieved that Council Record LV had been removed. Perhaps the Cult hadn’t gotten to it yet. She asked for them to return the book, and said they could make up the B&E to her by clearing out the basement.

The Gate Crashers drew steel and headed for the basement. Awful black pudding covered the floor. In places, it had coalesced into larger blobs hungry for living matter. A few rounds of hacking and slashing later, the party kicked its way deeper into the stacks.

Undead and aberrations guarded the next room. A beholder gauth was flanked by two Mad Wraiths. The Mad Wraiths filled the room with insane babbling, distracting people who got too close. The Gauth kept at a distance, pelting the party with its eye beams. The party managed to keep him back by closing doors.

It was a close fight. Several party members hit the floor, but they managed to pull through anyway. Badly injured and heavily fatigued from combat, they scurried up the stairs to rest in a nice warm bed.

There’s not much room left in the lower stacks, so the party must be getting close to the cult. The last time they were down here, they put down a woman named Lareth the Beautiful; she was in the service of a bald man with an eye patch. He must still be down here.

During the battle with the Gauth, some noticed that the party was being watched… their arrival will be eagerly anticipated.

Enter The Gate Crashers
Thats you, btw

The party decided on a name for themselves: The Gate Crashers. This name represents their history with interplanar rifts, and also establishes that they like to party.

Where did Felix go?

The Gate Crashers began their day by trying to hunt down that bastard Felix, the halfling whose group was killed by Nashrou and then impersonated by the party.

After hitting a lot of dead ends, the party decided to be proactive. They put up posters in the main city taverns asking to audition halflings for a spelunking adventure. The next day at Frills! the party interviewed a number of halfling explorers, but none of them were Felix. They did, however, find out that Felix assembled a party and left town via boat.

Samos Burien

Alanna set up an appointment with High Counselor Samos Burien, of St. Beck’s district. Counselor Burien is an older man who wears a mitre. The party didn’t get a chance to speak with him too much, but they had a very productive meeting.

Thorc concisely presented their case: the party wants to take down the Cult of Vecna. They want the Counselor’s prestige and influence to aid them in doing this. Counselor Burien was very agreeable to this goal and agreed to sponsor them for this task. In short order he was able to acquire some of the relics apportioned by the council for the dispatch of the aberrations.

Counselor Burien suggested that the party meet him in a few days at his office at the Citadel so they can speak at length.

Under the Rose

The Gate Crashers headed over to the Cloak and Swagger to meet with the mysterious guild contact. Griff sat in the right spot for an hour or two and was contacted by a masked woman. She gave Griff two missions:

  1. Kidnap a shadow and bring it to a specific address in the Foreign district.
  2. Make a map of the basement of the Cathedral of Ioun.


The party went to Wolfsbridge to investigate the pact with the Wolf King. There are three stained glass windows there, each depicts part of the People’s Revolution.

The first window depicts the old monarchy – the aristocracy ruled over sad looking peasants.

The second window depicts the revolution – the peasants, led by the Wolf King, attack the chevaliers who defend the crown. They follow the Wolf King with torches held aloft.

The third window depicts the republic – peasants eagerly vote en masque for just rulers.

Raure correctly deduced that to contact the Wolf King, the party had to hold torches aloft at midnight. Kevian passed out sun rods and the Wolf King, a city spirit with the head of a wolf, appeared from the shadows. He told them of how he overthrew the monarchy and promised that the castle and the council house (which he pledged to build) would be free of infernal influence. He told them that he was promised blood… Chevalier blood. And that it has not been spilled on this bridge for some time. To renew the pact of Wolfsbridge and repel devils from the city government, the party would have to make a human sacrifice.

The Chevalier are a blooded caste. While 95% of the town guards are regular people who have signed up as foot soldiers and town guards, they are led by a chivalrous knightly order only accessible by blood or by deed. So not just any chevalier will do, the Wolf King wants the blood of one of the old Aristocratic families.

As the meeting drew to a close, the party was ambushed by adventurers. Street thugs, a javelin dancer, and a hexer attacked, and were slain. The party suspected that these people were another group hired by the masked people at the Chateau de Bellois.

Next Up….

After a long two days, the Gate Crashers crashed at Kelson’s manor. Right now, four goals seem most salient:

  • Make a human sacrifice of a chevalier
  • Kidnap one of the Shadows
  • Investigate where Felix went
  • Investigate and defeat the Cult of Vecna

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