It's a small world

Too close for comfort

They can hide, but they can't run, but they can fly

Upon returning to Brinn, a depleted morning street market of bedraggled farmers tells them that something is up in the countryside. They hear that bullywug sightings are through the roof, and, while not openly hostile, are unnerving the farmers who have to transport their produce to the main towns. When they meet Abraxis to report on their mission, he seems to care more about the party finding a reinhabited necromantic cultist lair than the repercussions of the summoning ritual. Unsatisfied with this closure to their mission (and feeling their wallets progressively lighter), they head back to Port Cullis to get closure and get paid, in that order.

Port Cullis, in the meantime, is ablaze. Or rather, the docks are ablaze and in the process of being overrun by a sahuagin raid. The semantics of that qualification however do not mitigate the party’s concern for their adopted hometown, and they rush to the defence of the town that is rallying at the northern entrance to the fort. They undertake a daring mission to rescue elements of the Fighter’s Guild that has gone missing among the docks while trying to evacuate the last citizens there, and on the way they rescue the crew of a man-o’-war whom Jeru suspects of being used to move ships into the shallows to bombard the fort with cannon fire.

The rescue of 1 man-o’-war crew helped somewhat, as it was one less beached ship hailing down iron onto the fort, but the situation looked grim for the citizens of Port Cullis as the sahuagin began to slowly overwhelm the fort with unprecedented numbers. Then, out of literally nowhere, an enormous rock, 500m tall and 100m round at its centre, teleported into existence about 10 miles east of Port Cullis, just off the coastline.

Immediately, many of the sahuagin are thrown into disarray as they began to rush towards the rock. Amid the confusion among the Port Cullis citizens, Lucius orders the party to fetch the person he thinks has the greatest chance of knowing what’s going on – Aremedes, who was sent to the Iron Tower to investigate Alumus’ workings a day prior. Unfortuantely, the party arrives to find Aremedes’ guards slain, and Aremedes himself mortally wounded.

Aremedes tells the party that he is secretly a seer for an underground network of ‘stonetouched’ (imbued with powers from manifestations of the Pandemonium Stone) individuals who call themselves the Clockwork Brotherhood. Each member has a special ability that allows them to manipulate time in some way, and each member is apparently hunted ceaselessly and tirelessly by a cadre of Maruts called the Watchers of Tomorrow, for reasons unknown. Because of this relentless hunting, the Brethren have taken to constantly being on the move, as the Watchers can detect time magic and hence “time-walkers” when they stay in one place for too long.

The Brethren tend to have codenames that are only known to other Brethren in order to maintain lines of communication that cannot be intercepted by Watchers. Aremedes’ is “Juno”, and he tells the party, who have found that Uthal has been stonetouched with the ability to “time jaunt”, to use this codename to find other members of the Brotherhood in order to help protect themselves from the Maruts. He also urges them to leave the area as soon as possible as the Watchers have taken up residence on the Pandemonium Stone itself and will be scouring the area for time-walkers soon.

Of course, no sooner does the party return to Port Cullis than they discover a band of 3 maruts (with a platoon of warforged) bargaining with Lucius about protecting the town from the increasingly dangerous mobs of demonic creatures massing towards the Stone, in return for a free run of the town to search for “a piece of the Stone”. The party steps in (sans Uthal) and negotiates that the Maruts may do so but with the party as observers.

Thus began a week of the party talking with and tracking the movements of the maruts (Exos, Arkos, & Jegos) while Uthal manoeuvred around their rituals of detection. After a few close calls, however, Uthal is forced to camp outside the town. Caught in an untenable situation, Jeru the silver-haired bugbear weaponsmaster informs them that he knows Uthal is a timewalker, and he has gotten Lucius to give him a way out of the town. The party obviously wants in, and they awaited the arrival of the “way out of here”.

The way out of here appeared in the sky a few days later in the form of a pirate ship converted into an airship, complete with 4 embedded hull propellors and a main mast propellor. Swinging from the anchor came a dashing half-elf captain eyeing the admiring crowd, but also the marut who was standing below.

“Belay your gawking, landlubbers! Who called for the Lupe?”

Exos calmly orders any who board the ship to be scanned by one of the Watchers, and somewhere in the intangible ether, there is the sound of 4 facepalms. Tricks manages to live up to her namesake by convincing Exos to split up his 2 comrades, while the ship, now with the non-stonetouched party members aboard, veers outside the town to pick up Uthal and Jeru.

Success! Jeru and Uthal clamber up the rope ladder just in time to see Arkos teleport onto the deck and demand that they come with him back to Port Cullis. The air pirates wash their hands of any high-level encounter shenanigans while various members of the party attempt to engage Arkos who, despite being garbed in naught by bronze-colour clothing, evades their attacks easily and takes minimal damage from a few point-blank elemental arrows.

With unerring calm, Arkos immobilises most of the party and “convinces” them to hand over Uthal. A hasty plan is made wordlessly among the party, and Arkos grabs Uthal and begins to fly the 200ft down to the fort. Quick to act, Uthal tries to break free of Arkos’ grip during the trip, and eventually does so, beginning a 100ft plummet towards the cold ground.

OK, OK, this can’t be that hard. Just let the time magic do its thing instead of resisting it, and direct it back in time to—

One incredible perfect jaunt later, and the party grabbed onto the railings of the Lupe and careened off into the low clouds envelopping the coastal landscape of their former hometown, watching the blocky form of Port Cullis and the flying speck that is Arkos disappear into the distance…

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Lazarus

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