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…”

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