This story begins, as many do, with a young woman. In our case the lady in question is Audra Bulgakov, of the Athkatla Bulgakovs. She had been tasked by her father to put a halt to bandit raids of family caravans. To that purpose she hired a number of, for lack of a better term, adventurers who were loitering in the Friendly Arms Inn north of Beregost. They were Yan von Eyss, a newly reborn deva, Grumnil Doomshield, a dwarven priest of Oghma, Charles, a half-elf “entrepreneur”, and Mazikeen, a human female of alien dress and mannerisms.
The group was able to root the bandits (members of a group known as the Black Talon) from their fort in the Cloakwood easily enough, but there were a number of unanswered questions. Who was the scarred draconian? Did he have any connection to the possessed draconian the group found attacking the bandits? What was the nature of the shadowy guardian of the portal in the basement? Why did the bandits have a portal in their basement? What was the purpose of these engraved stones? Why is Audra’s brother here? The last question had an immediate answer: fratricide. Andreyev decided to burn down the fort with his sister and her companions inside. They decided to make a tactical retreat through the active portal rather than be immolated.
The party found themselves in a strange land. It quickly became apparent that they were not in Faerun anymore. A small amount of investigation put them on the path for a second stone and a second gate, as well as, it turned out, a second guardian. With guardian defeated, stone obtained, and gate entered, they found themselves back in what was for most of them their plane of origin.
Further mucking about with Black Talon bandits resulted in two gains: a new employee for Charles, and the name of the Black Talon’s leader: Damon Gant. Gant’s trail led back to Athkatla and the party followed. While they were in town, Audra dropped in on her father. Her brother had said the man was dead, but her brother was also a back-stabbing scumbag, hardly a credible source. Indeed, Nikolai was very much alive, and very much happy to see that Audra was too. However, he was very unhappy about his new neighbor, one Lando Mollari. Turning a deaf ear to the merchants’ petty bickering, the group investigated a warehouse owned by Gant. While the man himself was absent, they did find a list of Black Talon personnel and a number of clues pointing towards a theater in the bridge district. The adventurers tried to gain entry, but they were turned away for lack of tickets. At this point, Mollari approached them with a deal: he would give them his tickets if they could get the mine that Charles had obtained through a combination of luck and even more luck running again. Apparently it was haunted.
So off they went to Nashkel. After shouting down the merchant’s guild, the party entered the mine, only to have the entrance immediately collapsed behind them by Roderick Chumpton, one of the merchants. Also, as Charles remembered all too late, one of the names of the Black Talon roster. The party fought their way past zombies, more zombies, and laser bats in an attempt to find what had corrupted the mine. It was yet another shadow creature. Someone had shipped this one to the mine, probably with the intent of letting it taint and destroy everything within. What actually happened, however, is that it was defeated. The adventurers returned to the surface with the intent of having a “discussion” with Chumpton. However, it turned out someone had already “discussed matters” with Chumpton. It was the sort of “discussion” that involves poison. The wiki will tell you it was suicide. The wiki will tell you lots of things.
Having fulfilled their part of the bargain, the group headed back to Athkatla. Mollari was good to his word and handed over the tickets to a performance of “Trapped in the Cage”. After a fascinating performance that flawlessly depicted what life in Sigil wasn’t like, the professional thugs turned theater patrons were ambushed by, well, another group of professional thugs, as well as a possessed drow. All were handily defeated. When the drow came to his senses, he explained that he was Ryltar Baenre, he had no idea how he got there, and he really wanted to hurt the parties responsible for his possession. This motive was found to be acceptable.
The newly expanded party barely had time to leave the theater before they were accosted by Mollari’s sniveling manservant Vir. He told them to meet Mollari in a warehouse later that night, and gave them a card he said might be useful. They went to the warehouse and found a bunch of crates with zombies in them, as well as Audra’s now possessed brother. Audra attempted to talk to him, but he would only respond to violence. Luckily for the Bulgakov bloodline, the spirit released its hold on him before he had to be killed.
The group took the unconscious Bulgakov scion back to his home, where his father revealed that Andreyev had returned to the estate a few weeks earlier, confessing his misdeeds and asking for forgiveness. Instead, Nikolai banished him. The father was now very distraught, believing that he had driven his son to this fate.
In the morning, the adventurers confronted Vir regarding his base treachery. The man graciously took time out of his busy schedule of hitting on one of Audra’s sisters to proclaim both innocence regarding the trap and ignorance regarding his master’s whereabouts. Undeterred, the group went to Mollari’s mansion and found it seemingly abandoned. Closer examination revealed a series of secret tunnels beneath the house. These puzzling passages led to a chamber housing none other than Damon Gant. The man took the time to finish whatever he was writing on before attacking the group. During the fight, it became clear that Gant too had been possessed. After his death, the party took closer stock of the room. In addition to Gant’s journal, the contents of which can be found elsewhere, there was also a picture of a city with a card-shaped hole in it. Mazikeen placed the card in the hole, and the group found themselves transported to her home: Sigil, city of doors.
Immediately, half the party went wild from culture shock. Luckily the rest were able to keep their heads. Plenty of time was spent unlocking memories and being stonewalled by bureaucracy before the group received two letters of import. The first was from one Damon Gant, which told them to look for a Richard Vann. The other was addressed specifically to Mazikeen and was from Sarin, Factol of the Harmonium, who wanted to question her about her possibly treasonous actions. Eventually both paths pointed to the Gatehouse, Sigil’s insane asylum and orphanage, which had recently gone on lockdown. The group entered and discovered that the Gatehouse had been enveloped by some sort of pocket dimension. After fighting their way past insane doctors, deluded guards, and exploding Richard Vanns, they found Sarin, of all people, standing in front of the door to maximum security. He wanted the keys the party had been gathering, the party was a little suspicious, and battle ensued. Sarin was apparently possessed by a Reaver, and went down the same as all the others.
I’m almost done, just a bit more. They met some quasi-penitent serial killer, the pocket plane collapsed, it turned out that what they killed wasn’t Sarin but rather his kidnapper, the real Sarin showed up and explained that Mazikeen was a homunculus and hey here are some keys, maybe if you put them in this gate you’ll go somewhere. So now the group is off to Eberron to track Shade the Warforged ninja. There. A year of plot condensed into two and a third pages of exposition. Blarg-arg-arg!