Sypheros 3, 1027 YK
The party follows Grammond the Mauve’s lead, and ends up in the town of Yrlag on the northern edge of the Shadow Marches. They find that Yrlag is experiencing frequent tremors, which are causing some townspeople to leave.
Sypheros 4, 1027 YK
After speaking with the reeve, Vlayn Felstrom, they learn that the tremors are probably somehow related to the town’s close proximity to a crossing of three leylines. She also reveals that the mercenaries did indeed visit Yrlag, and were hired by the townspeople to deal with yuan-ti cultists that have been plaguing them of late. The party follows the leylines to the crossing, and discover a shrine full of the yuan-ti. After confronting them, the party inadvertently opens a rift to Thelanis, which causes the Sovereign Elk to break free and make a slow but inexorable path towards Yrlag.
They go into the rift and, after being bloodied by a troll dwelling within, come out the other side, where they are confronted by some eladrin. The eladrin take the party as willing prisoners to meet with their leader.
Sypheros 3, 1027 YK
Following up on the lead given to them by the divinations of the wizard Grammond the Mauve in the hamlet of Carbuncle, the party goes northwest, finally emerging from the swamp after several more days of unpleasant travel through the murk. Their destination is Yrlag, a valley town on the northwestern edge of the Shadow Marches — the farthest point to which Grammond’s magic was able to follow the missing House Tharashk mercenaries.
The party emerges from the swamps into a forest. As they follow a worn path — a rarity in the Marches — they encounter a dwarf peasant, approaching from the opposite direction. Just as he greets the party, the ground shudders beneath them, quickly intensifying into a dramatic shockwave. When the party recovers from the sudden quake, they speak to the peasant, a middle-aged dwarf named Sylus Ironshoe. He tells them that the tremors started a few days ago, and are getting more frequent and intense. Sylus doesn’t know what’s causing the quakes, but believes them to be worse closer to Yrlag; Sylus is leaving town to stay with a friend further south until they stop.
Realizing Sylus is unlikely to be much more help, they have him point the way to Yrlag, and he suggests they confer with Vlayn Felstrom, Yrlag’s reeve. With this information, they proceed to Yrlag. The town, while not large by any definition, is still considerably bigger than Carbuncle or Blackroot. Because the ground is more solid here than it was in the deeper, swampier areas of the Shadow Marches, most structures are built on the ground instead of stilts, and in general appear to be of better quality than the party has seen recently.
The party spends a short time in Yrlag before visiting the local inn. Here, they meet a huge blue-skinned merchant by the name of Tamztur. Galorax attempts to strike a black powder-related deal with Tamztur, while the others speak with townspeople. After extensive negotiations, Galorax manages to sell the last of their black powder to Tamztur, who expresses interest in further exploring the production of the alchemical substance. Galorax also trades his monocle, acquired from Grammond the Mauve, for a ring that has the appearance of tangled vines. Its purpose is unknown. Galorax takes his leave of Tamztur and rejoins the others, who have not learned very much.
They spend the night resting in the inn, briefly disturbed by another tremor in the night.
Sypheros 4, 1027 YK
The next day, the party makes their way to the home of the town reeve. They find Vlayn Felstrom, a middle-aged female human, to be open to receiving visitors. They question her first about the tremors, at which point she reveals that Yrlag sits near a convergence of three different ley lines; she believes this is why the tremors are stronger closer to Yrlag, and stronger still a short ways into the wilderness. When asked about the missing Tharashk mercenaries, Vlayn confirms that they came to the town and even performed a service for them, helping to clear some monsters that have been threatening the outskirts of the town. These monsters, serpent-like humanoids called yuan-ti, showed up on the outskirts of Yrlag a few months ago and have taken the lives of a few would-be travelers. The Tharashk mercenaries were also hired to investigate the tremors further, but have not been heard from since. She tells the party she has some sense of their original task: the mercenaries were looking for some place near Yrlag, but nobody in the town had heard of it to Vlayn’s knowledge.
Not long after leaving Vlayn’s home, the party experiences another shock wave. Now knowing that the Tharashk mercenaries were investigating the tremors, they seek the source. They decide to follow the ley lines to their convergence, with Duine using his innate senses, and Samson using a device he constructed to follow the flow of arcane energy into the woods. They are led through a dense forest to a clearing, where they believe the ley lines converge.
Here, in a natural basin, several large trees have been cut down. In the middle of the basin is a domed shrine, dilapidated and ruined with age. Around the shrine stands a covenant of scaly humanoids and half-humanoid, half-snake creatures, and further out, the shrine is surrounded by six squat stone obelisks covered with pulsating, serpentine sigils.
The party takes their usual approach of stealth, with Duine using his psionic powers to try and calm the yuan-ti cabalists and convince them that he is one of them. They believe him, at least by his appearance, but it soon becomes apparent that he cannot speak whatever tongue they are using. This complicates matters, and soon a fight breaks out. When the party has defeated most of the yuan-ti and the rest have fled, they inspect the shrine. Peril recognizes some script in the shrine as being Sylvan, and with some work, they decipher the meaning: “a bridge without a bridge.”
With some further study, it becomes apparent that the six obelisks are magically entwined and highly unstable, and are fully attuned to one another. Additionally, they are clearly connected to the tremors. They decide to try and damage one, and in turn all of the obelisks burst. With their destruction comes a thundrous boom and and causes the entire basin to shudder. The ground opens up, and a rift is formed.
When the rift has opened fully and the party regains their footing, a gargantuan elk climbs out of the arcane rift, with antlers stretching above the forest canopy. The massive creature proceeds to walk out of the basin in the direction of Yrlag, shaking its horns and easily reducing all trees in its path to splinters. In its wake forms a trail of gnarled roots and briars. Intuitively, by his time spent in Thelanis, Peril recognizes that the elk is an archfey: powerful avatars of the Fey that represent aspects of nature. Meanwhile, the rift, 45 feet across, spews arcane energy. Thorny tendrils creep out of the rift, which steadily begin to cover the entire basin.
They discuss their options briefly, realizing that they have to decide what to do before they are swallowed by the tendrils. They agree that following the elk is probably extremely dangerous; even staying at a safe distance could lead to being strangled in the overgrowth. Further, if the Tharashk mercenaries went missing and became untracable by Grammond’s divination magic, the party speculates that they may have gone into the rift. They decide to climb down into the rift, and on doing so discover that descending into it causes an apparent inversion of gravity, leaving them at the bottom of a thorn-strewn pit.
The six begin to scale the rift through various means, with Laxus being the first to reach the roots that choke the passage 30 feet up. As he climbs up through the roots, he encounters a large humanoid with gangly arms, and green flesh covered in brambles and thorns. Four motes of light, like those seen elsewhere in the rift, swirl around the creature, which appears to be some variety of troll. It leaps at Laxus, quickly beating him into unconsciousness. His body tumbles past the others as they pass upwards, warning them of danger. Their battle with it bloodies them badly, but they manage to defeat it without any casualties (after the retcon, at least), excepting some bad wounds and an unconscious Laxus and Duine.
With the briar troll defeated, they drag themselves out of the rift to find themselves in another natural basin, this one surrounded by huge trees, fragrant wildflowers, and thick patches of clover. The air is filled with the sounds of chirping, unfamiliar birds, and while the elk’s tracks are visible here as well, the hoofprints are already grown over. After exploring the basin for a short time they hear the snap of a twig, and soon find themselves facing five eladrin, wearing curvaceous leather armour engraved with elk imagery and bearing fine-looking weapons.
After some communication difficulties that nearly escalate to violence, they realize that they have followed the rift into Thelanis. The eladrin view them as intruders, and wish to take the party to their home, a place called Ironwood Spire. Here they will bring the party to meet with their leader, who will decide what to do with them. Because the eladrin look like capable opponents, and because the adventurers are in bad shape after their battle with the briar troll, they decide to go along.