Summary: The heroes are tasked with their most difficult mission yet – to remove the stain of the demon- cult from the nation. They travel to the demon-infested city of Dun Tharos to retrieve the evil relic, the Moaning Crown of Ndulu.
Welcome to Demon City
Takes place 1st-3rd of Uktar (The Rotting) in the year 1478DR (The Year of the Dark Circle)
After having his heritage explained to him and feeling that he had discharged his obligations to the Emperor, Ryu agreed to accompany the heroes back to Impiltur. In their absence, the members of the Grand Council that were still loyal to the monarchy had begun circulating rumors of the return of the king. The Greatsword of Impiltur was placed on guarded display in the Capital building of New Sarshel and each day, three individuals that wished to lay claim to the throne were invited during common assembly to draw the sword and try to unlock its power. When the heroes returned with Ryu and presented him to the assembly, members of the Fraternity of Tharos summoned a Balor, a powerful demon, to try and kill them. Ryu drew the Greatsword, and unleashing its full power as only a true heir to the Impilturan line-of-kings could, slew the Balor with one strike. He was immediately recognized as king by all those assembled and his first act was to declare all cultists and demon summoners enemies of the state with their lives and lands being forfeit.
Thus began a great civil war of Impiltur between the nobles and populace that were still loyal to the monarchy versus those that were under the cult’s influence. As forces clashed all over the countryside and the death and destruction began to pile up, the party was assembled to try and figure out how to land a critical blow against the Fraternity. The problem was that the Demontower, the main headquarters and base of operations for the cultists was within sight of the capital building and all but impregnable. The heroes were introduced to Smoke, a spy that had been working in the employ of Count Gozem Adamas, and he presented the following report:
FRATERNITY OF THAROS
The demon cult currently running wild in Impiltur is called the Fraternity of Tharos. The group takes its name from the ancient Nar capital of Dun Tharos in the Great Dale’s northern forest, Dunwood. The name also reveals the source of Impiltur’s demonic contamination, the demons loosed in that northern forest. The fraternity inducts new members by requiring them to kidnap an innocent victim (usually a child) from among Impiltur’s populace, and then slay that victim in a bloody ritual calling upon various demonic names inscribed with fire in the Demonstone. The Demonstone lies at the top of a windowless tower in New Sarshel. The tower’s exterior is a bland, unexceptional gray; its interior is filled with all manner of demonic horrors. The tower has no doors either. All attempts to pierce the towers defenses have failed. Only fraternity members that have completed the ritual are able to enter.
The tower is generated by a powerful artifact known as the Demonstone. Formerly known as the Dwarfstone, the ancient artifact was once a power for the forces of good. The stone was capable of creating a tower that could only be entered by the pure of heart. A demon (most agree Orcus) tricked one of the occupants of the tower into giving him the stone. He infused a piece of his own essence into the artifact, corrupting it. Later along with the 1st Crown of Narfell (see below) the Demonstone was gifted to the 1st Nentyarch (king) of Narfell. During the early years of warfare and strife in Narfell the Demonstone passed through many different demons’ hands. Each imprinted the stone with a piece of their own essence (kind of like the Stanley Cup of Demons). The Demontower appeared in various locations throughout the fortress-city of Dun Tharos until the city was leveled by powerful magical forces in the year -176. In the Year of Visions (731) the tower was sighted again in Dun Tharos when the paladin Sarshel entered the tower and shattered the Crown of Narfell. The tower was not sighted again until about 90 years ago (1390) when it mysteriously appeared in Impiltur in the town of New Sarshel. Now only those calling upon the essence of one of the demons on the Demonstone and cloaked in the blood of the innocent can enter the tower. A recent expedition by Smoke into the long-lost tomb of Sarshel has retrieved his chronicles. In it he reveals that he was able to enter tower by being pure of heart and cloaked in the blood of the demon-prince Orcus.
THE CROWNS OF NARFELL
In -970 DR, the first Nentyarch (king) of Narfell, Thargaun Crell, constructed the great tree-lined fortress of Dun Tharos. Some attribute his rise to the acquisition of a fell artifact that came to be known as the Crown of Narfell. Although the true origin of the Crown may never be known, it is thought that Orcus, the Demon Prince of Undead, gave the headpiece to the Nentyarch as part of a dark pact. In any event, after proclaiming the empire of Narfell and donning the Crown, the Nentyarch proceeded in a bloody war to unite the various Nar realms under his rule. The empire of Narfell lasted nearly 800 years until a war with the neighboring empire of Raumathar unleashed some mighty spell of unspeakable power that leveled the entire area. In the Crown’s early days, its powers were relatively benign, extracting a dark price from the bearer only upon his death. Those who dared call upon the powers of the Crown found their souls absorbed into the Crown at death and their bodies transformed into crown-wraiths. At its height, however, the Crown of Narfell had grown powerful indeed, and its evil persuasiveness almost certainly turned the Narfelli court toward consorting with demons that ruled the hearts of a succession of Nentyarchs. In 731 Impilturan explorers awoke the long-slumbering demons beneath Dun Tharos. A powerful balor named Ndulu gathered a host of demons and marched directly toward the Demontower. Some claim the balor was guided by the hand of Orcus, while others claim Ndulu simply sought the artifacts within to claim their power for himself. Whatever the fiend’s motivation, his ambitions were halted when the paladin Sarshel entered the tower and shattered the Crown of Narfell. The destruction of the artifact somehow broke the back of the demon army, enabling the defenders of Impiltur to prevail. Although Sarshel gathered up all the physical pieces of the Crown, the crown-wraiths escaped, and with them went the darkness that had beset the artifact. High priests of Ilmater, Torm, and Tyr collaborated to reforge the physical crown into a shining beacon of justice, truth, and mercy. The 2nd Crown of Narfell now serves as the imperial crown of Impiltur. Ndulu corralled the crown-wraiths to forge a shadow crown, later known as the Moaning Crown of Ndulu. Reports indicate that the Moaning Crown of Ndulu has recently been spotted again in the ruins of Dun Tharos.
This half-buried ancient city sprawls for miles through the pines and bogs of the Dunwood. It was once the seat of a great and terrible realm of dark keeps and sinister lords. The war between the great kingdoms of Raumathar and Narfell in ages past led to the city’s magical destruction and with it the fall of the demon-haunted kingdom of Narfell. Nentyarchs of ages past raised a fortress of living trees over Dun Tharos, and created the druidic Circle of Leth to stand guard against foolish treasure seekers and insidious demon worshipers alike lest the fell powers slumbering within the city be disturbed. The tales of ancient Nar treasure hoards still resound in taverns and travelers camps across the Dale, and such tales brought the Rotting Man to Dun Tharos in the year 1373 DR. The Rotting Man drove out the Nentyarchs, and before his fall unleashed an even worse power. Now demons of every shape move through the catacombs of Dun Tharos and the forest above. Any creature that comes looking for ancient Nar treasure risks much.
There are only two confirmed ways to enter the Demontower. The 1st is to complete the ritual of the Fraternity of Tharos. This vile act is not recommended but is included for sake of completeness of the report. The 2nd is to obtain the blood of a demon inscribed on the Demonstone. The only confirmed demon on the stone is Orcus. Travel to his abyssal realm is possible through the Star Sextant. This option is not recommended due to the low probability of success. Best Recommendation: Retrieve the Crown of Ndulu from Dun Tharos. Research indicates that both the Demonstone and original Crown of Narfell were corrupted by the same demon. It is likely the strength of corruption on the crown will be sufficient to enter the tower. At the minimum the wraiths trapped within the crown should have additional knowledge about the secrets of the Demonstone.
The heroes decided to try and retrieve the crown from the demon-infested ruins of Dun Tharos. Smoke agreed to accompany them on the mission due to his expertise on the subject. Also joining the party was Kriv, an acquaintance of theirs from the Brotherhood of the Griffon. He had recently lost his mount and was looking for some action while the rest of the Brotherhood was out flying around fighting the demons in the skies. Alkorahil also brought along his secular associate, Brother Thomas, due to his ability to fluently translate Abyssal (the language of demons). The heroes used the Star Sextant to teleport into the trading post of Bezentil in the Great Dale and then set out from there into the Dunwood. Madrakkar summoned some flying phantom steeds for the party to speed them on their journey. In the skies over the pines and bogs of Dunwood, the party encountered a flight of rimefire griffons that were fleeing from some other danger. In a panic, the griffons attacked the heroes and the party was forced to subdue several of them before continuing on their journey.
Eventually, the adventurers arrived outside the ruins of the city of Dun Tharos. The fortress of living trees erected by the druids around the city still stood, but the decay brought about by the Rotting Man’s entry had left gaping holes in the defenses. The entire area now had a worn-down and ominous feel. The adventurers approached one of the gaps in the wall and there they could see scarecrows hung by the druids to warn off visitors and a tattered cloak hanging off of a gate that was blowing in the chill, winter wind. As they got closer the scarecrows animated and attacked and the cloak turned out to be a Cloaker Lord that also tried to kill them. The heroes defeated their attackers and had barely stepped past the wall into the ruins of the city before they were attacked by a demon patrol of Vrocks and Mezzodemons. During the fighting, one of the griffons displayed a ferocious hatred of the demons, broke free of its restraints, and flew into the battle to attack them. Kriv was able to use his training to leap onto its back and together the pair scoured the demons from the skies. An immediate bond was formed between the two and Kriv named the griffon, Peter.
The adventurers realized the enormous scale of the demon infestation and that moving around the city to search for the crown was going to be a problem. Alkorahil used his knowledge of military history to deduce that what they needed was to establish a beachhead in a defensible position. Smoke agreed, and said that in streetwise-lingo what Alkorahil had described was a “safehouse.” The heroes had been given an ancient map of the city and looked for any landmarks that still survived that would offer them some shelter. Where the ancient temple of Chauntea was marked on the map, the party spied a gigantic rosewood tree with golden flowers – totally out of place among the rotting pines of the Dunwood. Maddrakar used his Eagle-Eye goggles to zoom in on the tree and noticed a small crevasse at the bottom suddenly open with stairs leading downward. Smoke crept forward to scout it out but was spotted by a gargantuan, antlered demon the size of a castle-tower. Smoke sprinted into the tree and down the stairs as the passage closed behind him.
The wooden stairs led below the roots of the tree and deep into the earth. There Smoke encountered the ancient gold dragon known as Heartburn. Smoke explained the heroes’ mission to dragon. Heartburn agreed to help but only if “the knight” agreed to prove his worth by using the old ways of trial by combat. Smoke bravely (stupidly?) agreed to fight the ancient dragon. As the two squared off, Heartburn then went on to explain that he was a “nail-biter” so he wouldn’t use his claws, he had a sore throat so he wouldn’t use his breath weapon, and that a had a very low pain tolerance so that he would surrender after loosing only 10% of his hit points. Smoke “defeated” Heartburn and as a reward he was given a magical “key to the city” from the dragon’s treasure horde. Prior to the corruption of Dun Tharos, the key had been given as a gift to Heartburn for saving the city. When they key was touched to a location on a city map it would instantly transport the owner to that location. Heartburn also agreed to let the heroes use his lair as a base of operations until their mission was concluded.
Smoke’s street-smarts and knowledge of intelligence-gathering told him that the next move was to locate a “snitch” that could give the party some information about where to find the crown. The adventurers used the key to investigate an old, collapsed, dockside warehouse and encountered some Kazrith demons in the tunnels below but were unable to get any information out of them. Next they investigated the old underground section of the marketplace. They came upon an old storefront that was being used as a “tavern” by a bunch of small demons. The demons had captured an ice-troll and were serving frosty “beverages” made of its blood from its ever-regenerating, screaming body. The heroes rousted the bar and succeeded in capturing a Quasit demon that was invisibly trying to sneak out the back. After interrogating the Quasit, the party learned that the crown had long been in possession of a demon known as the Queen Abiding that resided in the old Tailor’s Guildhall. However just a short while ago, the crown had been stolen from her by a group of Tannarks ( ½ orc & ½ demons) led by the demon Eschar. The Quasit directed the group to where Eschar and his allies were holed-up on the upper stories of an old, ruined manor.
The heroes used the key to teleport into the manor. After a brief battle, the heroes defeated Eschar and his crew. Eschar was similar in form to a large, scaly ogre. He appeared to have a crown of horns protruding from his head that pulsed with a fiendish light. However, when he was slain, the Moaning Crown reverted to a more traditional, metallic shape and fell from his brow. After the battle, the group was startled when someone started slow-clapping for them. Standing on the balcony of the manor was none other than their old nemesis, the turncoat Akneth. He was accompanied by several Drow warriors and Babau demons. Akneth claimed to be working in the interests of the Queen Abiding. He condescendingly went on to explain that he too and been present when the heroes experienced their vision of a ruined Demontower in the future, knew that they would be too “weak” to kill anyone to enter the tower, and would eventually come looking for the Moaning Crown. He also stated that the Queen had let Eschar steal the crown from her because she knew that the heroes would show up and eliminate her rival for her. Too late into his villainous monologue did the heroes realize that he was using stall tactics against them (a trick that that they had seen him use several times on enemies while Akneth was allied with them). Before the adventurers could react, Akneth fired a spider-web at the crown, pulled in to him, and leapt from the balcony with it into the night. At the same time, Akneth’s allies attacked, and although the heroes defeated them, all chance of pursuing the crown was lost.
After regrouping, Smoke tried to scout out an approach into the Queen’s lair. He was constantly harried by demons wandering through the ruins and found the outside of the Guildhouse to be heavily defended by Drow snipers. The building was obviously on high alert and expected a counter-attack from the heroes. Instead of risking an outright assault, the party opted to use the key to the city to teleport into the middle of the Queen’s stronghold. Smoke teleported in alone to scout it out and was surprised to find himself trapped in a cage-match with a demon. The cage was formed from some type of silvery metal and the bars were arranged in a pattern that resembled a spider’s web. Although the cage seemed to look incredibly delicate, it resisted attempts to bend the bars and blocked magical escape (as Smoke learned to his distress when he tried to use to the key to the city to escape). Smoke managed to delay the demon long enough to pick the lock and escape the cage (leaving the demon locked in). Once outside of the cage, Smoke used the key to return to the hideout where the rest of the group was resting. The heroes were not thrilled about the prospect of teleporting into the cage with the demon but decided it was still a better option than trying to assault the Drow stronghold directly. This time, the entire party used the key to transport themselves into the Tailor’s Guildhall and once again they arrived inside the magical cage. The original members of the group were shocked to discover that the demon locked in the cage was Iyetrayoo. Knowing the consequences of killing the demon, the heroes fought a delaying action while the door to the cage was opened again. They managed to leave the demon stuck inside the cage and were left wondering how he got out of the Shadowfell and into the cage in the first place.
The adventurers stealthily made their way through the Drow headquarters. They managed to avoid some nasty traps but it looked like the building’s main defenses were focused outwards. Eventually they arrived in a room with a bunch of pipes leading into it where the tailors had mixed their dyes back in ancient times. Akneth and many of his Drow and demon friends ambushed the party here. As the demons attacked the heroes on the ground, the Drow crawled on top of the larger pipes that crisscrossed the top of the room. The Drow had another surprise waiting as they opened the spigots on some of the pipes and acid came splashing down into the room. Madrakkar cast a spell that gave the party resistance to acid and Akneth commanded his allies (in Abyssal) to “kill the mage.” Alkorahil valiantly shielded Madrakkar while the rest of the heroes battled their attackers. During the fighting, Akneth placed a special brand of darkfire onto Smoke which stripped away his disguises and revealed him to be a Drow elf. Akneth claimed that Smoke had been working with him all along but Smoke continued to aid the adventurers during the fighting. Akneth also displayed much more spider-like and demonic powers than he had when travelling with the party. Eventually the heroes won, but Akneth managed to escape by spider-climbing through a hole in the ceiling.
Shortly thereafter, the heroes made their way to the throne room of the Queen Abiding. The chamber was like something out of a tailor’s nightmare. Empty spools of thread littered the floor. Fibers made up all types of sewing material was interwoven with strands of spider-webbing and strung up everywhere. Barely visible was a giant throne in the center of the room. The Queen Abiding was herself a powerful demon in the service of Lolth, the goddess of the Drow. Her lower body was that of a large, bulbous spider and her upper body was that of a beautiful Drow. Upon her head was the Moaning Crown which had once again morphed and this time looked vaguely like a crystalline spider and its web. The Queen emanated a shroud of darkness that had the chill of the coldest winter. She, her Yochlol handmaidens, and Haures “consort” viciously attacked the heroes. Once again the champions of Impiltur prevailed and they claimed the crown after they had won the confrontation.