Thieves & Kings

Interlude - When Worlds Collide

“An Age shall come unto the lands.
Of heartbreak and bloodshed and quickening earth.
The world. loosed of divine embrace.
Crumbles and tumbles while oceans give chase.”

“When magick seems lost and distance grows great.
All the children of Kethira shall share the same fate.
An army of old shall rise up once more.
To blacken the lands with the cold touch of war.”

“The Maiden of Shadows alone in the night.
Shunned by the gods of both darkness and light.
She trembles then bursts at the touch of their hand.
Raining down fire and scorching the land.”

“Let this vision of mine though shared by none.
Save the poison fruit of the Illimitable Tome.
Be kept close at hand and near to the heart.
So that all is not lost when the world falls apart.”

https://youtu.be/E3VImQbeOsY

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Episode 27 - Virtue of the Knife

“The sacrifice is usually chained to the rock. She does not usually dance out to meet her monster.”

https://youtu.be/dpVV9jShEzU

Synopsis : A tale in which the adventurers discover that they might be able to know more about “Old Man” Shadow than they had previously realized, and formulate a plan to potentially free him from his perceived imprisonment. They inform Lady Ivis Blackshield of their recent victory over the northern troll army, and engage in various personal tasks for several days. Eventually they attend the monthly hallmoot, where they met Morahnna, the Gray Witch an envoy from Blackmaw the Black Witch, and after demanding Kahli take fealty under her queen, the so-called Morighu, “Queen of Hags”, they engaged in combat, killing her, her minions and executed the hag captured previously. They then come to an agreement with Lady Ivis in the partitioning of power in the realm, with the “Princess of Thorns” and Baroness Neria Blackshield agreeing to eventually sign a consort agreement, to be written up over the next few weeks. They part on good terms, as they plan for more downtime activities, and fulfilling some personal objectives, before taking a blind journey off into the wilderness in search of their adopted father.

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Episode 26 - Of the Weal and the Woe

“Argoth is the scene of the battle between light and darkness, in which each creature must play their part, for weal or for woe.”

https://youtu.be/Vk0xkd8qs9I

Synopsis : The tale in which the adventurers plan how to deal with their discovery of the Altar of the Earthmaster, and plans for dealing with the frog-folk in the village below Az-Vassa. Deciding to fulfill their offer to help the Scaly Death tribe, they proceed into the village and slay all the frog-folk therein, including a powerful shaman and his frog-demon servant. They find some treasures, but also hints at a darker involvement of the gods they do not fully understand. They return to Green Dagger Farm using the Teleport ability of The Elder Scroll, and begin informing the villagers of nearby Thornkeep of their successes. They learn that the world outside has begun to suffer wars, famines and other strange portents.

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5th of Hammer, TR 1050 : Az-Vassa Troll King’s Chambers : Having successfully barricaded the chamber and taken an unmolested long rest, the adventurers begin to make plans for their next actions. Kahli took rubbings of the images of the Father of the Fields various tasks depicted on the Altar in her book as proof of their discovery.

The adventurers buried the Altar of the Earthmaster under rubble in one corner of the chamber, using a summoned Earth Elemental. Pleased with their efforts, they left the dungeons under Az-Vassa, and proceeded down the peak to the village wreathed in mists and warmth below. Kahli collected the troll king’s skull from the ashes of his corpse, and Sweet sacked it to carry away as proof of their victory.

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As they approach the village from the path leading up into the cold, snowy reaches of the mountain above, they are halted by a group of frog-folk, who demand to know their business. “Sweet” begins a brawl, with “Scales” dropping a newly developed Fireball into the central group slaying almost a third of the gathered frog-folk outright, along with two of their giant frog minions. Combat erupts as the remaining frog-folk close and begin engaging in melee.

From one of the central huts, a grandiose shaman appears, who summons writhing vines and growth to bind and grasp the adventurers, restricting their movement and turning the area around them into difficult terrain. The remaining giant frogs leap into the fray, but Scales drops another Fireball spell into their midst, slaying more and generally causing mayhem in the frog-folk’s ranks. Kahli attempts to Blind the shaman, but it avoids her enchantments with its own powerful will.

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Suddenly the shaman fumbled with its neck and after destroying a talisman it was wearing summoned a reddish frog-demon, with heavily clawed arms. The beast looked about hungrily and was immediately commanded into the fight among the remaining frog-folk. Scales fired a Magic Missile at the shaman, and then using Iceclaw flew up into the air to get a good view of the creature.

The brawl around the adventurers heated up, as the frog demon moved into the fight, targeting Sweet with a series of viscous snaps with its ravenous maw, and its massive clawed arms. The rest dealt with eliminating the frog-folk around them, taking many savage blows from their spears. The shaman and Scales exchanged many spells back and forth, as they tested each others powers and skills. Eventually Scales landed by the entrance, and engaged the shaman in close-quarters spell-casting.

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Eventually the frog-folk and their giant frog minions were defeated, and the adventurers turned their attentions on the red frog-demon, who seemed to resist many of their attacks and spells, and even seemed to regenerate from all but the most devastating of blows dealt to it. The beast got in several savage blows on Sweet, knocking her unconscious. It turned its attentions to “Shiv” and “Ricochet”, and dealt them both a couple serious blows as well.

In the middle of the village, the spell duel between the shaman and Scales had devolved into a brutal virtual knife fight, as the two spell-casters had exhausted most of their abilities and sought desperately to bring the fight to an end. Eventually, using only his simplest cantrips and the shaman using only its spear and bite attacks, the shaman fell.

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Eventually, however, the frog-demon fell under the combined attacks of the adventurers, with “Sprout” using his Chill Touch spell to good effect, and Scales joined in on the slaughter as he turned away from his fallen foe, the shaman. The demon soon turned to smoking ashes before their eyes, sinking into the swamp, Kahli healed Sweet.

Both Shiv and Sweet remakred on feeling not too well after their encounters with the red frog-demon, and so Kahli touched both, calling upon her divine Healing Touch to Cure Disease on them. Both Sweet and Shiv immediately began hacking and choking, spitting up what might best be described as a larva that was seemingly trying to take root in their guts. Horrified, they thanked Kahli and stepped way from the foul creatures, kicking them into the swamps.

Sprout and Scales approached the hut of the shaman, and peered inside, finding it a muddy morass of filth, but against the far wall lay a boulder with crude candles on it, and a rough-made cloth banner hanging along the wall. Entering, the pair examined the banner, finding it scrawled with charcoal and blood to depict a weird female figure with snaky arms, a jackal’s head bearing three eyes, and three eldritch symbols along the bottom; on the left was an eye surrounded by writhing tentacles; in the center was a black spot with more writhing tentacles, and the last on the right was an eye with three triangles drawn underneath it. None of them was familiar to the adventurers. Careful examination of the space above the head revealed draconic writing, of the word MORIGHU.

The name had meaning, though none could initially remember where they had heard the word, until Sweet remembered the weapon in her possession, Erilyn’s Kiss, and the centerpiece of its construction; the Iron Spike of the Morighu. Unsure of this meaning, Sprout carefully rolled up the banner for further study, while Scales waded into the muddy morass and found a chest buried in the hut. He pulled it out into the sunlight in front of the hut, and called over Shiv.

From the south, the leaders of the Scaly Death tribe began to appear. Sweet displayed the troll skull as proof of their actions, and the lizardfolk elders bowed to the greatness of the adventurers word. They asked what the adventurers might have of them for this great assistance they had given the tribe, and the adventurers then told them to keep an eye on the region, and report back if things should change in the future. The lizardfolk agreed, and began making preparations to leave the village, promising that they could be found on the Lisle of Claws in the middle of Candlemere Lake, should they be needed.

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Determining the chest pulled from the shaman’s quarters was not trapped, and as it lacked a lock, Scales threw it open to see a great gout of green fog explode from within, poisoning him with a magical curse, similar to a Crown of Madness. Seeing everyone around him as great frog demons, he began striking out at everyone. Most everyone backed away, but Sprout was trapped inside the hut, gathering and examining the banner, and immediately came under attack. He avoided the initial assault, and Scales moved on to attack Shiv. Both he and Scales got into another knife-duel, and both went down from attacks; Shiv from Sales attacks, and Scales from unrelenting force blasts from Kahli. Both were quickly healed their injuries, and the poison in Scales system faded away as the group explained what had happened to him.

Inside the chest they found some muddy water, a handful of valuable gemstones, including a large moonstone, and a rusty, battered “farseer” of ancient bronze and crystal, made in an unusual design, but still rather valuable.

The group bade farewell to the departing lizardfolk of the Scaly Death tribe, and once they had drifted off into the warm mists over the lake, the group returned to the long hall they had rested in before, and talked about their next action. They decided to test one of the powers granted by The Elder Scroll, and gathering closely around Kahli, they went into the nearby woods and she touched a vine-covered tree, summoning the powers of the scroll in her arms.

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Suddenly the group was standing in the area before the doors of the mothalla at Green Dagger Farm, suddenly finding themselves with lightly blowing snow all about them, and the cold of the season filling the air that had been so warm and wet. The frost immediately froze across their belongings, and they quickly threw open the doors to the mothalla and announced their return to their own people. The warm smells of baked bread and familiar sights of home, nearly overwhelmed the exhausted adventurers.

The folk of Green Dagger crowded about, taking their coats and preparing places and warm furs about the central hearth, bringing them hot tea and warm bread and broth, while those working outside were welcomed in to hear the adventurer’s tales. Amid ale and eventually a hearty meal of stew and dried wolf berries, their expedition was related. In return, they heard about wars to the north, as the town of Starfall had been attacked in the western reaches of the Barony of Archenshield by an overwhelming horde of Tauri and their orc and minotaur minions. Princess Adrianna Warduke had called out the northern militias, and various mercenary bands, including the famous Grey Feathers had been summoned to join the war.

After news and a good rest, the group parted to their own quarters for a nice long sleep.

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6th of Hammer : The group met again for a late lunch the next day, and decided to make a trip to Thornkeep to deal with various issues, and see about what else might have been occurring in the world at large. Gathering their horses, the group headed back into the teeth of the cold winter weather, making the several hour trip back to Thornkeep without incident.

The town was abuzz with rumors of the events of the recent Bells of Fate incident, as it seemed everyone had heard the strange tolling bell sounds that had echoed with the dawning of the new year. The group split-up and began visiting various merchants and on private tasks, such as replacing Sprout’s and Ricochet’s armor, and resupplying their stocks of healing potions.

Sprout visited with Iliara Starcloak at the tower of the Goldenfire Order, reporting on his expedition in the north, and learning that a new cult, calling itself the “Cult of the Tolling Bell” had appeared in Mornhaven, extolling the end of the world. Another group, calling themselves “Doomsayers”, were often found in the markets, wearing a whorling symbol of chaos, and promising the doom of all creatures. Sprout also engaged the Order to conduct some research for him regarding anything they might find about Mother Nanns Iceclaws, giving them a few coins for their time.

Sweet reported in to Sword Brother Eldrast, relating her expedition north, which he seemed to take as very important. The key aspects of their adventures were recorded by Acolyte Taronnel on parchment, and in a solemn ritual was sealed by her own blood and burned on the hearth of the shrine.

The rest of the group met with Mistress Idara, informing her of their recovery and hiding of the Altar of the Earthmaster. Kahli presented her rubbings as proof of their discovery, and the group proposed that the church plan for a recovery expedition. With one of the rubbings as proof for the Arch-Druid, she said she would bring it to the attention of her superiors as quickly as she could. The adventurers examined her collection of relics, contemplating if they wished to purchase any of them while Ric donated 500 sp to her orphanage.

The group met again at the inn for a quick ale and to catch up, and then made the trip up to the castle to inform Lady Ivis Blackshield and Baroness Neria Blackshield of the end of the troll threat. But who knows what else they might encounter…

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Episode 25 - Checkmate

“People die from checkmate…, they run and run they are always the figure king, they run and run one of their paths once it’s blocked they run and run keep it again a path is blocked they run in this place again and again…. with the time the path goes small and small one moment you have one path and then another figure comes and it has been blocked by it… so you are killed by this you can’t protect yourself. It’s the best attack ever made, it’s called Checkmate!”

https://youtu.be/49tpIMDy9BE

Synopsis : A tale in which the adventurers push one last time in an effort to destroy King Hargulka and his adviser Mother Nanns Iceclaws. Their first assault slays the hag and several of the trolls, and after retreating into the lower passages under Az-Vassa for a short rest, they return and complete the task at great cost of resources, and by turning the enemy’s own weapons against them. Victorious, they retrieve many great relics, and Dame Kahli of Whiterock takes claim over The Elder Scroll, and with it, the MapN’Dor, with the support of her companions.

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4th of Hammer, TR 1050 : Az-Vassa Barbican : The group continued their plans for assaulting the giants in their final hold-out in King Hargulka’s throne room. “Sweet” taught Kahli the word for “Approach” in Giant, so she could better apply a Command spell on the hag or the trolls. The plan was to engage them in personal combat in the tight confines of the tunnel, where the adventurers could apply themselves against hopefully a single troll at a time.

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They approached the “watchpoint” carefully, spotting the usual ice troll with his chained winter wolf. The group moved into the chamber and began firing bows and spells against the pair, while the wolf howled warning. Then Kahli cast Command, and the troll suddenly became slack-jawed succumbing to her spell, while the wolf called after the troll in giant, warning against his approach. Nonetheless, the troll moved forward, dropping the chain and the wolf took off running back towards the throne room, howling as it fled wounded from the corridor. The troll, virtually helpless, was ruthlessly cut down and its body set on fire, as the adventurers quickly moved forward.

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Advancing down the wide corridor, the adventurers tried to lure the trolls forward, but only a pair came into the light around the corner, the rest held back.

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From the troll king came another of the flaming jewels, exploding in a gout of orange flame as a fireball. Everyone reeled from the explosion, and “Sprout” was knocked unconscious from the blast. Quickly learning of the uselessness of attacking Sweet, the trolls would step up to her, reaching around her attack the closest foes with their ice axes, which proved vicious and caused cold damage.

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“Scales” slipped forward, and cast Crown of Madness, on both the troll king and his companion winter wolf, succeeding on both, and forestalling further fireballs for the time being. One of the lead trolls went down under a barrage of arrows, force and fire spells. The king and his companion wolf exchanged blows, howling and savagely attacking each other.

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The other winter wolf was released and strode forward, breathing on the front ranks with its icy breath. And then the frost witch appeared in the corridor behind them, with a companion ice troll who charged forward to attack. Mother Nanns once more sent a Hold Person Kahli’s way, but once more she shook the effects off quickly.

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The hag then dropped an Ice Storm directly into the corridor, buffeting the adventurers and filling it with deep, bone-chilling death. Sprout was once more brought nearly to death’s door, as he fell unconscious from the assault once more.

Recognizing the party was in grave danger, Scales pulled his iron door patch from the Robe of the Hag, and stepping forward, affixed it facing outward into the throne room, threw the bolt and effectively sealed the corridor from further pressure against the adventurers. From the iron door sealing the throne chamber, muffled shouts could be heard, as the king directed his remaining trolls on how to open the iron door using something called “leverage”.

The group began downing potions to summon some healing, and Scales concentrated a double-attack of Chromatic Orb against the remaining ice troll and the hag. Sweet took up position as the wall once more, and defended against several brutal attacks by the troll, “Ricochet” fumbled with Sprout’s belongings, digging out one of his potions, and roused his companion, while the group continued to assault the lone troll. “Shiv” got off a lucky critical shot and the ice troll collapsed.

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Mother Nanns, recognizing the imminent danger began retreating, firing a shot of icy frost from her staff, while Scales responded with a Magic Missile barrage. As she retreated, Kahli cut her retreat off, while the rest of the group piled in behind, determined to make certain she could not escape. As she seemed intent on mounting her staff like a broom and fleeing, she was cut down by another Magic Missile barrage from Scales, she turned into a sudden block of Hag-shaped ice, and shattered into a thousand splinters of blue ice. From behind came the muffled thumps from the trolls efforts to remove the iron door.

The group slipped away from the chamber, Scales snatching up Nanns staff, while Sprout grabbed a bone ring he found in the wreckage, and they returned to the crossroads passage, figuring they had about a minute or two before the door would be removed. Examining the larder closer, since Nanns and the troll had come from this chamber, they used Shiv’s Wand of Secrets, and exposed that the bear corpse hid a secret cavity, capable of holding a large-sized creature, though the cavity beyond was filled with frozen viscera. Scales hopped in and quickly recovered a gore-covered chest, mindless of the filth and disease the hidden chamber hinted at.

The group quickly retreated back down past the Barbican, choosing to hide in the lower tunnels leading to the Deep Way, reasoning that the cramped access wold give them some advantage if the trolls pursued. Kahli cast a Remove Disease on Scales, ensuring nothing bad happened to him from his excursion.

The group then made their way into the lower passage, moving through the long stair, and took up a short rest in the corridor. Scales identified the staff as Iceclaw, and Sprout identified the ring as Nann’s Bone Ring. Unaware of the Curse attributed to the ring, the two chose to attune to both items, though Sprout alarmingly discovered the curse of the hag’s ring, as it snapped shut, grafting itself to his finger. They found the trunk held various sacks filled with powder, jars filled with liquid, a scattering of gold coins, and a leather-wrapped tiny package. Opening the package, they recovered the Heartripper Blade, which Rico claimed.

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After this second short rest, the group decided to bring an end to the remaining trolls, having weakened them appreciably, with the death of their hag adviser. They made their way up the stairs, through the Barbican, and approached the barracks/workshop, finding it lacking guards this time. They proceeded into the corridor approach the troll’s throne room, with Sprout assuming the image of Mother Nanns. He slipped down the corridor, and in the shadows hoped the trolls wouldn’t notice his change of clothing, but entered the cave and silently waved to the closest ice troll to follow him/her.

It seemed to work, with the troll following into the corridor, until it noticed the adventurers and howled an attack, charging down after “Mother Nanns”. The other trolls and winter wolf quickly charged forward, bellowing for Mother Nanns, who of course, would not help them this time.

A confused brawl erupted in the crossroads, with the trolls rending into the adventurers with a fury not seen before, the first couple trolls went down in a typical barrage of fire, force and arrows, when the winter wolf got in a gout of frosty breath, and the troll king refused to throw more fireballs, finally using his gnashing maw and heavy hammer to vicious effect. While the king pushed his way into the crossroads, the winter wolf bore Sweet to the ground with a vicious bite, and forced Rico to retreat, as he called encouraged Sweet to better actions.

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Sprout spotted the glittering gold necklace about the troll king’s neck, and using his deft abilities, critically managed to slip the necklace from off the king’s neck, and bring it to himself via Mage Hand. Necklace in hand (literally), Sprout placed it about his own neck as the group cheered his success. The party managed several hard shots on both the king and the wolf, eventually killing the wolf to the angry howls of King Hargulka, who started shouting to “Mother Nanns” to help them. “She” responded by throwing a glittering fireball into their midst, with Sweet taking the brunt of the explosion.

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The trolls cried for their “Mother” to help them, but she ignored their cries, and tossed yet another of the decreasingly few jewels, again striking directly into their midst, killing the last troll minion, and severely wounding the king, who eventually fell under the barrage of fire, force and arrows. “Ashes, ashes, they all fall down…”.

Kahli grabbed up the massive maul used by the king, finding it to be Trollhammer, while Sprout laid claim to his own stolen treasure, Hargulka’s Necklace. The group advanced into the throne room, finding a handful of frog-folk cowering in the corner, which they quickly defeated. The adventurers began tearing it apart the room, while Shiv and Scales worked on the Altar of the Earthmaster, opening the gold altar’s cunningly locked lid to reveal it was filled with rocks and earth. Scales and Kahli started digging through the box, while the party uncovered another trunk hidden in the king;s “bed”. opening the trunk they found a collection of coins, jewels and valuable relics; the treasure of the ice trolls.

Eventually the adventurers pulled from the depths of the golden altar, The Elder Scroll. They had found the relic that an entire barony had died for. A discussion began as to what to do with it and the Scroll, eventually with the adventurers choosing to support Kahli on her possession. The adventurers then made the remnants of the destroyed iron door into a makeshift barricade, and settled in for a well-deserved long rest. After this, they attuned to their respective items after another short rest, and discussed how they might proceed from here, including how to recover a gold-plated stone box weighing 2500-lbs.

The adventurers also learned about the real powers of the Scroll, and just how deep they had dug themselves. As thieves and kings.

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Episode 24 - The Trouble With Trolls

“There are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them.”

https://youtu.be/r__Dk4oWGJQ

Synopsis : A tale in which the adventurers push deeper into the troll lair, find a passage leading to the Deep Way and an unknown force of dark elves. The adventurers return to slay one of the troll king Hargulka’s own sons in a raid, but face the fury of Mother Nanns Iceclaws “Mother of Trolls” as she reveals herself to be a powerful frost hag. After several hours of detente, and a quick scouting session, the adventurers move to make a final assault on the trolls in their throne room.

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4th of Hammer, TR 1050 : Az-Vassa Barbican : The adventurers re-examine the passages and connected rooms of the ruined tower’s barbican, as the sounds of the trolls and their winter wolf allies recedes in the distance. After ensuring the group is in relatively good condition, Rico began exploring the stairs leading down where the large fish and green globs of goo were lying frozen.

The stairs circled down for many hundred feet, eventually opening into a narrow 5’-wide passage leading off into the darkness at a sharp descent. The walls here were roughly carved and bore the claws of countless trolls, hinting on their travelling this passage from time to time, even though it obviously meant they did so with great discomfort. Eventually it opened into a rougher 10’-wide passage roughly carved and continuing off into the distance, pushing ever deeper. Rico noted this, and surmising it might lead to the Deep Way, retreated back up the passage to reunite with his companions.

The group advances into the next few chambers, with “Ricochet” taking the lead, his Cloak of Elvenkind guarding against casual inspection. Down the stairs they find a hall with a long, central stone table, and its once decorative walls slashed with troll claws to deface their art. Filth lies strewn across the chamber, and a headless humanoid corpse rests on the table, clawed and chewed upon by large trollish fangs. Two large carved arches to the right and left lead from the chamber.

Inspecting the right chamber, they find it leads to a smaller carved room with three rough black iron chains bolted to the far wall, and the floor covered in bones, half-eaten rotting meat, and foul-smelling dung. Carvings on the walls show images of large dogs chained and held by large stunted figures. Assuming this accounts for the three winter wolves they had encountered, the group moved on.

Down the passage to the left they found a similarly sized chamber as the kennels, but iwith stacked barrels, boxes and loose goods stacked 20’-high to the ceiling and filling the entire left side. On the right was a heavy iron shelf stacked with bags and pottery jars of a fragile nature. A gaping hole was carved into the passage beyond, revealing a roughly ten-foot round tunnel leading off into the darkness.

Quickly examining the supplies, they found many typically mundane goods, such as one might gather in a castle storeroom; pickled meats and vegetables, bolts of simple cloth, ironmongery and other household goods, and sacks of grain and dried beans. There seemed to be enough goods here to supply a small army, or fill several wagons.

Moving on into the tunnel, it quickly turned right, and meandered a ways until it reached a cross-roads. The passage continued on straight, or turned and angled right away into a large club-shaped chamber. To the left lay a 20’-across pit, filled with brackish, though potable water. Rico and _“Sprout” examined the cave for tracks, finding both used, though the one to the right was far more commonly travelled.

Kahli and Rico examined the pit, testing the water and seeing if there was a large outlet, noting that water melting from the caverns collected here, but did not seem to be filled with the filth of the trolls. It was cold and somewhat cloudy, but drinkable (for a troll).

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Rico then chose the more-travelled route, and crept ahead, peering into the chamber to find a wide cavern strewn with a half-dozen odorous piles of leaves, branches and uncured hides. A large stone shelf was carved along the left wall, with several barrels and tools strewn across it, and four (4) Ice Trolls clustered about it shushing each other, each dressed in thick hide armor and grasping a battleaxe made of wood and pure, smoldering ice. Another stood in a passage across the chamber, sitting with a winter wolf, who sniffed the air and howled, sensing Rico’s presence. The adventurers all began to hurry into teh chamber as combat ensued.

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“Shiv” began by firing his bow at the closest, and while “Sweet” called encouragement, Kahli fired two green flaming bolts of energy into the same target. “Scales” lobbed a pair of Chromatic Orbs, striking the far troll with flaming magic, while the flames struck its winter wolf companion behind him as well.

The wolf charged forward, and breathed a freezing cone of cold air across Sweet, but couldn’t strike all the adventurers. Two trolls charged into Sweet, who went purely defensive, and their strikes wildly struck and missed her, gnashing with teeth, claw and ice axe attacks. The wounded trolls and winter wolf fled the chamber, as an ear-splitting howl rolled through the caverns, coming from back behind them. As the group began to pull back to the throat of the chamber to better defend themselves, a whirling blast of ice chunks and freezing wind exploded in the center of the group, and a howling white witch appeared from the distant tunnel into which the trolls had retreated. Callum disappeared in the onslaught, his physical form slain with a sharp yelp.

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The group pulled back further, flinging arrows and spells against the new threat, but were mostly ineffective. Down the earlier passage they had ignored, came charging the largest, foulest troll they had yet seen; this time with two heads, wearing piecemeal iron and hide armor and iron-clawed hands, howling as it came. Sweet stood her ground taking point in a defensive stance, and the group reorganized themselves, trying to set up a defensive point down one tunnel.

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The other ice trolls pulled back to cover the witch. As the troll charged and began taking ranged fire from the adventurers, a sudden wall of ice grew up from around the edge of the tunnel, and catching Sweet in its sudden growth, blasted her with frost and knocked her back away from the trolls, as it moved to sheet the entire corridor in an icy wall. The large two-headed troll growled and howled and clawed at the ice wall, but couldn’t push through. The group took this as a sign, and while Sweet downed another Potion of Healing, they retreated back to the Barbican chamber, and discussed what they had encountered.

Recognizing this group of trolls were led by yet another witch, this one with some degree of knowledge and skill, the group were reluctant to retreat knowing she had used powerful magic to attack the party and save her large champion from almost certain doom at the adventurer’s hands. They considered themselves still quite capable, so instead, chose to see if the deep passage Rico had uncovered earlier led in a round-about fashion into the chambers beyond where they had encountered the witch and her trolls, and retreated from the chamber into this deeper, winding passage.

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The passage went for some distance, eventually reaching the 10’-wide passage noted earlier by Rico, and they followed along it for some hours, recognizing they had entered, once more, a minor passage of the Deep Way, as suspected.

Eventually it opened into a wider cavern some mile or so beneath the crust of the earth; to the left a long black stone wall ran across the entire cavern, some 120’-long and 30’-high, with large iron spikes jutting from the parapets. A complex-looking gate was positioned in the exact center of the wall, and humanoid figures could be seen walking along the top of the wall. The cavern before the wall was empty of most debris, and scorched in places, hinting at fights in the distant past. A feeling of great immensity could be sensed beyond the gate and wall.

To the right, however, about 50’ along the wall another, wider opening yawned, leading deep under the earth, and hinting at the continuation of this ancient underdark trade passage. Taking care, the group slipped from their passage, and along the right-hand wall, before slipping into the new passage. Kahli noted that it appeared several of the figures had seen the passage of the adventurers, but raised no alarms, simply watching them quietly pass. They continued along this larger passage for about an hour, before camping and taking a much needed short rest, while they discussed their options.

They were obviously somewhere along the Deep Way, with what appeared to be Drow guarding something nearby. Knowing little to nothing about what lay ahead, they were loath to continue, and they still had a chance to keep the pressure on the trolls and their frost hag leader. While they discussed these matters, a pair of gnolls appeared at the edge of their light, carrying a single, battered chest between them. Both sides stared at each other for a few minutes, the gnolls croaking out something in their guttural tongue that no one could understand. Eventually, the two gnolls approached the party along the edge of the tunnel, keeping an eye on them as the adventurers watched them pass, and once they were beyond their light, the pair began loping off down the corridor with the chest grasped between them.

Eventually the adventurers broke their short camp, and turned back the way they came, reaching the entrance to the large cave and its fort, before slipping back down the corridor from before and hurrying back up from the depths for several hours, returning to the tower Barbican. They used Shiv’s Wand of Secrets in the long hall with the corpse to see if there was a hidden passage somewhere nearby, but found nothing. The group decided to investigate where the single large two-headed troll came from, and carefully moving back into the troll caves they reached the crossroads by the pool without incident.

Rico slipped ahead, and he proceeded down the long corridor, this time carefully avoiding getting anyone’s attention that might be guarding in the troll’s chamber they had recently fought in. He made his way down the long passage without incident, and about a minute later entered another large, roughly-shaped cavern. 30’-high, this cavern was partially natural, with long stalactites dripping from their frosty tips. Gnawed bones littered the floor, while the northern portion held a wide section cleared of debris and painted in gore and filth like a mage’s teleportation circle, with hundreds of animal and humanoid heads arranged in patterns around it. From a niche in the far right corner, out of sight from casual entrants, was a filthy troll nest, with the large, two-headed troll sitting and muttering to itself in giant.

Rico retreated, and reported his findings, and the group decided to try and lure the monster back into open combat. Scales volunteered, and crept back up the passage Rico had recently taken, seeing things much as had Rico. He then shot a Firebolt at the troll, missing, but getting its attention, and sprinted back down the passage, with a snarling, slavering troll charging down after him.

(DMs Note : The following series of events weren’t recorded well by the DM, so they’re a little muddled. Just roll with it.).

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As Scales retreated down the corridor, Kahli set up a globe of darkness, covering the approaches from deeper in the troll lair, something she could see through perfectly well and waited patiently for her companions to spring their trap.

The adventurers allowed the troll monstrous two-headed to close, laying in flame, arrow and many other attacks, hurting it and forcing it to retreat back down the corridor, screaming “Mother Nanns, Helpes Us!” in fairly articulate Giant. As it retreated, the adventurers pursued, following it and cornering it in its cavern lair. They quickly overwhelmed the beast, and slew it with fire and necrotic energy, destroying its corpse down to ash. Nargundi was dead.

The adventurers retreated back down the corridor, when a light, casual sense crossed Kahli’s mind, sharpening to a hard icy spike, telling her to surrender. She refused the Hold Person spell, and glanced about in the darkness, unable to see her attacker, but knowing them to be close.

As Scales and the party returned to the cross-corridor, this time the command was a sweet, icy whisper like a promise, sending shivers up her spine, but again, Kahli refused to listen to the magical spell and started tossing globs of greenish force energy about, looking for her attacker, but unable to sense anything beyond a cold brisk breeze that seemed to float past her. Kahli continued flinging blobs of energy at points she supposed the witch might be hiding beyond her sight, but continued to hit nothing. The witch seemingly moved about like a wind, unseen and unheard.

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Suddenly, a glittering jewel sprung into the heart of party from the darkness, and a gout of flame exploded around the center of the group, knocking down Shiv into unconsciousness and setting everyone else reeling.

Sprout and Scales roused Shiv from the ground with healing spells, and the group set themselves up to search for the frost hag in their midst. Sprout, advancing into the edge of the darkness globe, using his Blindsight ability from Elzid’s Staff, finally sensed the hag hiding just in the edge of the darkness spell and screamed to everyone where she was.

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The witch retreated, but was quickly swarmed by the adventurers who attempted to keep her from retreating. She managed to escape, taking several sharp strikes from the adventurers, but quickly disengaged and vanished into the dark cave once more beyond their immediate range. She disappeared back deeper into the caves, while the group collected themselves together, and retreated back towards the Barbican. In the distance, Mother Nanns could be heard exhorting the trolls and ice wolves to hold their attack, and they returned back to their chambers beyond.

After a quick consultation and more healing magic, Scales suggested a scouting mission using his Potion of Invisibility, and the group approached the caves once more, entering the corridor beyond, where the ice troll and winter wolf had been keeping watch beyond the Barracks/Workroom. With the Lantern of the Deeps and another precious flask of its fuel, they proceeded cautiously forward.

Beyond the watchpost, were two other corridors, one straight ahead that dropped down sharply, and another to the left. Examining the one directly beyond, they found the air of eh chamber beyond was colder, though the stench of decay filled their nostrils. The cave was about 20’-high, and dipped about fifteen feet below the crossraods, with every surface coated in frost and ice. About the wall, stacked like cordwood were corpses, sheathed in icicles and frost. The carcasses included more of the man-sized fish, wolves, deer and globs of the frozen green goo. Along the right were two frozen horses and a massive cave bear corpse. To the south lay a more grizzly sight; headless humanoids, including fish creatures, frog-folk and others.

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Retreating from this horrid chamber, with Sweet handling the lantern around the edge of the tunnel, allowed Scales to slip unseen down into the corridor and chamber that had lain to the left. With the lantern carefully following along behind him, he managed to peer into the chamber and see the ceiling of the cave rose 30’-high overhead. A wagon missing its wheels lay strewn with moldering hides and cloth, with a barrel of water lying next to it. Against the far wall was a crude throne of rough-hewn stones, with a large number of bear skins covering its seat and back. Beside it lay a rotting stump, and before the throne lay the coveted Altar of the Earthmaster.

Between the throne were five ice trolls, sitting in dejection, one with a winter wolf tightly held in an iron collar and chain. On the throne sat King Hargulka, who also held a chain with a winter wolf of his own, this one larger and the size of a horse. As he peered into the chamber, the closest winter wolf began sniffing the air and howling, began to drag its handler towards Scales near the entrance.

Scales retreated quickly and reported back to the group what he had seen. They took position back near the water pool, and waited for the trolls to approach, but after some shouting in giant, they didn’t rouse to attack, and after about an hour of impatience, with Sweet acting as a lure, they retreated back to Nagrundi’s chamber, and looted both his corpse of Nargundi’s Bracers, as well as finding a cache hidden behind a large boulder near the northern wall, that contained a stash of silver and gold coins, along with a large dusty rose gemstone that was later revealed to be the Stone of Protection.

The group then retreated once more to the Barbican, and took a short rest, counting the coins and discovering the primary magical properties of the recovered relics. They decided to take a second short rest, to allow Rico and Scales to attune to the recovered relics, and recharge one of the healing spells into Elzid’s Ring. They discussed their options, and prepared for another assault, this time to deal with the threat of the trolls for good.

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Episode 23 - Az-Vassa

“Droskar is dead. I hope we will no longer be troubled by his dreams. But I wonder, too, what the ghost of a god would be. And can a dead god dream?”

https://youtu.be/lbUM0HpxdBI

Synopsis : A tale in which our adventurers take a side trip to investigate the rumored treasure cache of Elzid Natholin near where they had camped. Completing this investigation, they continue on their way, and soon encounter the “Scaly Death” clan and their somewhat reluctant leader, Old Snapjaw. After befriending them and taking refuge in their camp, the adventurers promise to defeat the trolls, and are led to the entrance of Az-Vassa, beginning their assault on King Hargulka’s troll minions.

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3rd of Hammer, TR 1050 : The adventurers awoke to a chill wind, but no new snow. The group commented on the relatively green nature of the local grasses, and spent an extra hour preparing for their day. Eventually, they agreed to wander off west, looking for the supposed statue, and broke camp.

Some hours later, after trudging through the snow of the western limestone Troll Heights, the group eventually spotted a black basalt statue wielding a worn black iron sword and shield. Facing east, the statue stood out on its black stone slab among the snows of the surrounding hills, and didn’t seem to have attracted much in the way of visitors.

After searching about base, the group determined that it once bore whirling designs long-worn away by wind and rain, hinting at its great age. Finally, the group pulled out Shiv’s Wand of Secrets, and were assured that the base of the statue was a secret door. Poking about the base, he found one stone shaped like an axe could be depressed, and activating everyone marveled as gears began to click, and the entire statue shifted back away to the west, revealing a stone stair twirling down into the darkness. Shiv found no traps and they prepared to drop down into the darkness.

Ricochet took the lead, his low-light vision revealing the passage ran deep, and carefully crept down the stairs. Almost immediately, he nearly tripped, as the stairs about 10’-down seemed to twist and leap. Catching himself, he called down Scales, who took some time to enact a Ritual Detect Magic, and identified the spot mentioned was glowing with Evocation magicks. He marked the side of the wall next to the spot, and proceeded down, identifying two other spots along the stairs with similar traps, and marked them as well. The rest carefully moved down the stairs, while Ricochet took the lead once more, and finally reached the end of the stairs.

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At the bottom lay a 20′×30′ chamber, with a squared opening in the center of the far wall. The floor was flagged in black slate, and the ceiling 20’-high. An amber, flickering light could be seen from the far end of the corridor. Facing the entrance, was a tall, throne-like chair of native limestone, a skeleton slumped in its seat, draped in ragged robes and a wooden staff clutched across its knees.

RIco slipped into the chamber, and the others carefully moved down the stairs avoiding the marked passages. At the entrance, Scales stopped again to cast Detect Magic, but couldn’t identify anything of magic in the area. Sweet slipped in and poked about the far right wall, where some sort of pegs were holding up ratty old cloaks and robes, that nearly crumbled in her hands as she poked at them.

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Ricochet quickly grabbed-up the staff from the skeleton’s grasp, and watched in anticipation as the skeleton slumped further, collapsing in on itself. Dejected, he began poking about in the bones, but found nothing. Sweet heard… something… like metal scraping on stone, and looked up to the place where the passage met with the chamber, seeing nothing of note.

Kahli slipped into the passage, and pulling out Scorbane, began looking where Sweet directed, but could only hear the same sound, of metal scraping against stone. Scales went fully into a defensive pose, preparing for the worst. Then, a sudden sliver of rusted metal seemingly dove out of the wall, and started stabbing at Kahli, hitting her, though her magic armor held away what seemed to be some malevolent power. The jagged, rusting dagger swiftly darted about, but took a quick hammer smash from Sweet’s wooden mallet, giving off a strange almost broken keening sound. Scales started shouting various words, recalling the scrap of paper he had recovered back in Elzid’s Fallen Tower Vaults, unable to get the exact words.

Kahli struck out with Scorbane, though he replied with a sudden “Whoa! Whoa Whoa!”, and then she shattered the rusty blade with another keening wail, as it exploded into a puff of rust. The group poked about a little bit more, but began moving about, especially interested in the amber, flickering lights coming from a carved figure down the corridor. Ricochet, convinced there might be something under the chair, attempted to pry the chair from the ground with the staff, only to watch it explode in slivers of dry wood. Disgusted, he dropped the remnants and hurried after the group.

The 10’-wide, 60’-long corridor headed towards a stone door adorned with the face of a laughing gargoyle carved into it. The eyes and mouth were gaping black holes, while the face was lit by a weird amber glowing Faerie Fire light. Scales once more cast Detect Magic, this time using the actual spell slots, and identified that the glowing light was indeed magical and Evocation based.

Convinced after some investigation that the door was not trapped, Scales asked for Kahli’s visual help; she identified that the dark holes hid two potential traps in the left eye and the mouth, but that the right eye contained only a bronze handle. Scales slipped his hand into the darkness, and grasping the handle, gave it a tug and several tentative twists, until it finally twisted right and after pulling back into the eye somewhat, a grinding sound began, as the door opened revealing several gears, and revealing a room beyond.

Suddenly another rust dagger slipped into the group and attacked Ricochet, striking him and destroying the metal studs of his studded leather armor. He bravely grappled it, and holding it relatively still, Shiv dropped his magical Imperial Blade on it with a sudden strike, and the weapon exploded in another shower of rust.

The 30′×30′ room beyond had a heavy curtain laying across the right diagonal of the room. To the right lay an iron stand in the corner, and what might have once been a mirror lay shattered and strewn in front of the frame. Opposite from the door lay a long workbench, and to the left lay a comfortable-looking chair with a footstool.

RIcochet slipped right and peered behind the curtain, to spot a small alcove holding a narrow stone casket, its top having been removed and filled with… something. Scales approached a strange glowing source of magic from within what appeared to be a cabinet built into the bottom of the workbench, and noticing an inset lock, poked at it until Shiv heard the word “lock”, and he hurried to investigate and attempt to open it himself. Meanwhile, Rico stepped back from the curtain trying to get Scale’s attention. Sweet and Sprout also slipped into the chamber, though Kahli stayed out in the chamber.

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Shiv opened the cabinet and a large Iron Cobra spilled out, attacking him, but missing with its attack. THISSUM!” cried Scales, and immediately the Iron Cobra collapsed with a jerk, halting in its progress. As the group gathered around the 500-lbs of Iron Cobra, they remembered that Elzid had used such a creature before to protect his treasures, and Shiv began poking about inside the cabinet to determine what it might have guarded, but could find nothing.

Scales then moved his attentions to the casket in the alcove, noting a large number of tools and adventurers gear strewn within. Poking about more intently, he recovered an old staff, and soon discovered it was magical. He also identified several took kits (cobbler’s and mason’s tools), some old rope and a box of wooden pegs, a pair of work gloves, and a pair of old boots, a bone casket and some other odd treasures, including a pair of crystal goblets and an exceptional silver hand mirror. There was also a scattering of 120 gold crowns.

The group then decided to activate Shiv’s Wand of Secrets, and discovered that something about the chair was either a trap or a secret door. Shiv poked about the chair, looking for traps, and unable to find any, examined the underside of the chair to just make-out a tube or something attached to the underside. He pulled out a slim bone scroll tube, and within were five draconic words written on a long scrap of parchment. Scales identified them as non-sense words, like command phrases for some magic items, like a wand. They were;

“Archinon”, “Explicitus”, “Zabbalas”, “Zoun”, and “Thorsus”.

Taking the treasures, they quickly heard the sounds of combat out in the corridor, to discover Kahli engaged in a duel with another rust dagger, that she quickly dispatched.

The group then made their way back out of the inner rooms and the corridor, and taking a short rest in the outer room, had a cold lunch and discussed their next plans of action. Rico was determined to find treasure under the stone chair, and spent his hour slowly prying aside the massive limestone chair, eventually toppling the thing over onto its side, with a grinding of broken machinery, where it shattered, to reveal a shallow cavity. Within were three grey bone scroll cases, each narrow and made of an unusual smooth bone. Within these cases were three scrolls; Purify Food & Drink (1st Transmutation), Color Spray (1st Illusion), and Illusory Script (1st Illusion). Sprout was convinced the cases were made of dragon bone, probably the wings of some great beast, and worth a good amount, as well as being quite damage resistant.

Sprout also laid claim to the staff, and spent the time attuning to it, eventually finding it was Elzid’s Staff. Scales divide the gold crowns giving everyone a share of twenty, and put the tools and other treasures in a sack, and tied it to his pack. Unable to haul 500-lbs of iron, they left the deactivated Iron Cobra and left it to lie in the inner room.

After their rest and meal, the group headed back out of the ancient tomb, and after avoiding the traps on their way to the surface, quickly talked about their next steps. They then headed back east towards their previous camp, and after a couple hours reached the shores of Candlemere Lake once more.

Continuing along the shore, they quickly noticed the snow was melting to a slushy pulp, and after an hour reached another creek, as the shore began bending north-east towards the heart of the Troll Heights. In the distance, they could see what Scales felt was the ’Hammer Crag", spotting its steady plume of smoke that escaped into the midday sky many miles away to the north.

As they traveled further, the snow began to melt completely on the ground, revealing only puffs of snow on the trees and rocks; the sound of frogs and even insects were beginning to be heard from the lake and all around them. Even the air seemed to have warmed, and the mists wafting in from the lake were palpably warmer.

About an hour later, the ground began to be filled with creepers and vines, and a strong, sour odor began to fill the warming air. Suddenly, Sweet detected a sweet, flowery smell in the air, with an after-taste of something like garlic. She knew she had smelled it before, but couldn’t place the scent. She called a halt, and the group all stopped, smelling the air at her direction. No one could place their finger on it until suddenly from the thickening undergrowth, six small little lizardfolk burst from their hiding spots; Candlemere Bog Lizardfolk!

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They jabbered at the adventurers in draconic, but luckily both Scales and Sweet could speak the language. They demanded to know who the intruders were, and when the adventurers made it clear they were hunting trolls, and the lizardfolk grew apprehensive about a potential attack against the “… great Masters…”, Scales bluffed his way into convincing the leader that they were looking to bring the Great Trolls treasures and to serve them. The leader then offered to bring them directly to the Master’s lair, and led them further along the edge of the lake.

They chatted a little about various nonsense matters, until after another couple hours the air was noticeably warm and all remnants of snow were gone. Foggy bands of mist floated about obscuring vision beyond 30’ or so, and everyone loosened their heavy winter gear, asking about the weather. The sound of frogs and insects became almost hypnotic, despite and with the obscured sun, the light was growing dimmer and dimmer, heralding the end of the day.

Suddenly they came upon a mixed village of huts clustered along the muddy banks of the Candlemere. The closest were built on a raised portion of the ground, about five long halls made in a cunning fashion with swamp reeds and grasses. The furthest ones were about a dozen muddy little round huts of sticks and dung, built into a low-lying portion of the swamp, and filtering swampy water back and forth from within. Between the two lay a wooden palisade half in the mud, from which strange growls could be heard.

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As the adventurers were led into the camp, a series of croaks went up from the far huts, and immediately a group of six strange frog-like humanoids shuffled from the mists brandishing spears, and made directly for the adventurers. They bullied their way past the lizardfolk, and jabbered away in Common about who the “Intruders” were. The leader of the group of lizardfolk that had been chatting with Scales began to act in a very obsequious manner, placating the frogfolk with compliments and ensuring the adventurers were here to serve the Great Masters.

Scales held out the sack he had liberated from Elzid’s tomb filled with “treasures” of tools and other bits, and two of the frogfolk pushed past the lizardfolk to see. They closed with Scales and one grabbed for the sack, “offering” to bring the “… loot, CROAK… tribute…” directly to the Great Masters for them.

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Scales and one of the frogfolk began a tug-of-war with the sack, and it quickly exploded when Shiv slipped in behind the creature and slit its throat in a broad slash with Imperial Blade that killed it instantly. Sweet told the lizardfolk to stay safe, but missed with a sewing of her mallet. Scales decried the further slaughter with a “Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!”, missing with twinned Firebolts, and the group persisted; Kahli slew one and Sprout cast a Sleep spell that drove one of the others unconscious. The lizardfolk suddenly drew their weapons and backed away from the fight, holding their fire.

Over the next few seconds, the group laid into the frogfolk, striking them down with brutal efficiency, though they had managed to give off a strange croaking cry that echoed across the misty glade, and was quickly picked-up by numerous frogs and other frogfolk. Scales quickly explained that he was willing to help the lizardfolk, if they helped him. The leader stared at Scales and the others, and then quickly led them into the cluster of longhalls, where the adventurers found the places unusually large, dry and impossibly clean. A central small fire was kept contained in a stone firepit, clean grass mats covered the clay floors, and pegs along the walls held bedding, weapons and food in bags. The adventurers were told to stay quiet, and the lizardfolk slipped outside to join various other gathering lizardfolk, and an equal number of the bigger frogfolk, who all gabbled back and forth in Common.

The lizardfolk quickly explained that a “Great Flying Serpent” had swept down out of the mist and slaughtered the lot of them, before dragging off one of their kin. There was some arguing, but the frogfolk grumbled and agreed to the explanation, before splashing off to their own lodgings. The hall quickly filled with the small lizardfolk, and it was apparent that there were very few of the little beasts, for the amount of halls they had built.

Their leader, identified as Old Snapjaw proved to be one of a handful of “elders of the tribe”. These elders quickly began to discuss what the adventurers were doing here and why. Snapjaw became the adventurer’s advocate, and after explaining that the adventurers had promised to help eliminate the Trolls, they discussed matters for a while and finally agreed that if the adventurers could bring back proof of the death of King Hargulka, then they would help over-throw the threat of the frogfolk, because then they would finally have numbers on their side.

The lizardfolk offered to hide the adventurers until later, when all the frogfolk had gone to sleep, and since they tended to sleep together in large piles, they would be able to sneak the adventurers through the camp and up towards the Great Master’s home, which they called Az-Vassa.

Taking several hours to rest, they were fed various fishy treats (mostly clams and roasted eels), and found the longhalls warm, comfortable and dry. Surprisingly nice, actually. They learned how the trolls had promised the lizardfolk weapons of great power to assist in preparing for the coming war. They learned that there was an island of lizardfolk hidden somewhere in the mists of the Candlemere, where the tribe had long lived in relative peace and prosperity. They learned about the frogfolk having appeared only a few months ago, and how they quickly took over control of the camp and the tribe by eating their leader, Suncaller, and have since been bullying the smaller lizardfolk. They learned that a great white hag served the Masters, and brought ice and winter to the folk, calling her “Nanns Iceclaws”. They also learned that there were many trolls in the caves nearby; many more than one might think.

Eventually, as night fell, Old Snapjaw gathered the adventurers and led them out of the hall and into the camp. The group passed surprisingly quietly, until they passed into a cleverly hidden path along the cliff leading up into the Troll Heights that overlooked the camp and Lake Candlemere.

The walk was steep, but relatively easy to the adventurers, and the higher they got, the warmth of the bogs below began to swiftly fade, until the cold breezes of the season once more began to have an effect. Soon, Old Snapjaw explained the adventurers should continue up the hill, and eventually they would find a stone tower; this was Az-Vassa. He slipped away, chattering and looking miserably cold, back down to the camp, and leaving the group to their own devices.

Az-Vassa.jpg

Up they climbed, for some time, the winter winds returning and the snow blowing into their eyes once more. Eventually they reached the peak and saw the tower Snapjaw had spoken of; Az-Vassa. Barely visible in the night, it stood at the edge of the precipice, over-looking the boggy lake far below. Approaching with care, they found a short bridge leading to a sturdy stone door, still intact, though claw marks were all about it surface, obscuring once fine engravings.

Slipping inside the door, they found a foul chamber smeared with layers of filth, bones and broken debris. Directly ahead a dark stone stair led down along the left-side of the tower, while another led up into the heights above. Deciding to go up, the adventurers carefully crept up the stair into the parapet above, revealing an upper parapet strewn with filth and bones, marking a “nest” in which a large, bony troll was curled under a bear skin of surprising girth. Great snores ripped from the figure, though the winds whipping about the tower heights rivaled it at times.

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Carefully the group assembled as the troll snored, and they eventually laid into the beast, with it barley able to stumble and stare with wonder and confusion as the adventurers laid spells, blades and bows into the beast, slaying it in quick order before it could react. Quick examination of the beast revealed it to definitely be the kind of monster they had encountered in the Accursed Halls; tall, green, long-limbed and with a large mass of greasy black hair tied into a knot on its head.

The adventurers then slipped back down the stairs, through the entry chamber, and carefully peered down into the lower chamber, finding it to be another foul chamber caked in mud, filth and broken bones, heaped into two large nests. In the south wall passed a wide stone stairway, and another passed to the right/west, both heading down into the darkness. In the two nests sat/stood a pair of large green trolls, each naked but with their black, greasy hair swept into a tall top-knot, tied with raw hides.

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Chattering away in Giant, only Sweet could understand them, as they were talking about the boredom of the duty here, and how they were cold and how the “King” would reward them soon with lovely human meats. The group quickly made a plan, with _Shiv_finding a perch over-looking the pair and his bow-strike would mark everyone else to swarm in and defeat the pair as quickly as possible.

He positioned himself well, and his bowshot was an amazing critical strike that gravely wounded the closest beast. Sweet slipped down into the chamber in a series of bounds and leaps, positioning herself in the southern passage and wielding her mallet in a effort to defend herself, rather than strike out. The two trolls swiftly moved to attack the only visible enemy, Sweet, and laid into her, though they found her defensive stance difficult to hit her.

Shiv laid in another successful hit on one troll, using one of his Thorn Arrows, wjhile the adventurers stumbled down the stairs throwing spells and blades at the trolls. The two trolls both managed to bite Sweet, but it wasn’t as effective as they would have liked. Ricochet closed in and managed an off-hand strike on the wounded troll, and finally one of them exploded in flame as Scales hit it with a Firebolt, and it collapsed screaming and howling.

Sprout dropped down over the edge, floating to the ground using Elzid’s Staff, and then casting his Chill Touch to keep the monster from regenerating (as his research had suggested), while Sweet took a bite and a viscous claw attack from the troll. Noises could be heard down the right-hand stairs, shouts in Giant that Sweet relayed as something akin to “Release the Hounds!”.

The remaining troll went down under a volley of fire spells from Scales and Kahli, assisted by the blades of their companions. Sweet took the time to use one of her Potions of Healing, while Ricochet checked down the southern star to find a smaller round chamber streaked with filth. A single 5’-wide stair wound down into the darkness below against the far wall, and to the right were stacked the corpses of several large (medium-sized) fish, along with great frozen globs of green slime.

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He quickly joined the others as they arranged themselves to receive a trio of snow-white wolves, that charged up the western stairs, howling as they came. The lead one took a series of spell blasts from Scales and Kahli, but managed to get off a gout of frosty breath that flooded the chamber beyond with frost, striking Sprout with a full blast. The lead wolf took more fire damage, and another sharp bowshot from Shiv above, going down under the onslaught.

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The second wolf was still smoldering from the sheet of green fire that had sheered off its brother, when the adventurers let loose another series of spells and blades, with it managing another gout of frosty breath, striking Kahli and Sweet with frozen air. Beyond, the adventurers could just make out a handful of smaller greenish-blue trolls who called-off the third wolf, and began gabbling away in Giant to retreat to the “… second echelon…”. As they retreated, the third wolf howled vengeance in Common, promising to bring the death of those who slew its brothers, and scampered off to the left down an unknown passage beyond. The remaining snow-white wolf also went down in a barrage of spells, arrows and blades, with Ricochet getting in a killing blow.

The adventurers took stock of the chaos around them, quickly downing potions and taking stock of their wounds, the cold, stinking air of the tower dungeons closing in among them, and shouts in Giant and wolf howls coming from deeper in the dungeons…

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Episode 22 - The Bells of Fate

“Feather to fire, fire to blood
Blood to bone, bone to marrow
Marrow to ashes, ashes to snow.”

https://youtu.be/ny7NZPfl0l4

Synopsis : A tale in which the adventurers pursue several personal matters, but also learn something of trolls and the Ethereal Plane. Gathered again for the Bells of Fate, during which everyone acknowledges the death of the old year, various supernatural activities occur, and leave many puzzling questions regarding their dreams. Finally, they travel north into the lands around Candlemere Bog, seeking to discover the lair of the Troll King Hargulka, and recover the Elder Scroll for themselves. They are attacked by a band of goblin riders, who herald that other, powerful forces are moving their attentions into the region.

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24th of Echos, TR 1049 : Green Forest Inn : Awakening at the inn, the adventurers met quickly to break their fasts, and then proceeded off on their own tasks.

Bresal “Sprout” Darkharrow : Visited the Goldenfire Order’s tower, and gaining the help of Timber, the resident clerk, took advantage of their research library, trying to find out information regarding the trolls of Mosswater. He was somewhat successful, but learned nothing new from the subject. He was reminded that the tales regarding the end of the town and its barony, were marked by the sudden appearance of the trolls, followed by a week of constant raids against the surrounding smaller communities and losses of patrols, until they assaulted the town and sacked it. Reports indicated that in the end, the locals sought refuge in the cathedral of Korg, and in the grain windmill, as both structures were solid stone. Those that escaped, claimed both locations were engulfed in flames before being destroyed, which seemed odd given trolls normal fear of fire.

Yeoman Ricard “Ricochet” Shearwater : Took his consort Mistress Vesina “Shearwater” to court, and then spent the day training under Huntmaster Jaervon “Longshanks” Mardesal to better improve his athletics skills.

Master Roland “Scales” Bywater : Spent the day studying “Waking Dreams of a Starless Sky, Or On Aspects of Astral Dreamers”, a book which proved difficult to understand, having to stop repeatedly to cast Comprehend Languages to decipher its Gith script. He proved successful for the day in understanding it.

Dame Kahli of Whiterock : Spent the morning getting her dimensions measured by Mistress Nessa Greenfoot for a suit of plate armor, though Kahli was, as yet, unsure whether to order it through Greenfoot, or make the long, cold journey to Mornhaven herself. She then began speaking with the local huntsmen, trying to understand what they knew about the northern regions around Candlemere Lake. WHile some were afraid to speak with her, some had personal experience with her activities in healing their injuries under Sword Brother Eldrast’s direction, and learned that most did not travel that far north for the obvious fact that trolls wandered about and were fond of wanderers. There were a few willing to explore the area, but it would take some time and prove expensive (minimum a ten-day and 100 gp for the task). She then traveled the long journey back to Green Dagger Farm, and spent the night with Anilda speaking of fey matters, and continuing her studies of the sylvan language..

Siusaidh “Sweet” Ironhand : Spent the day with Brother Eldrast, continuing her diet and health regimen to improve her stamina.

25th of Echos : The group continued in their various private tasks, though Sprout spoke with Mistress Starcloak, and sought to gain access to the castle library on behalf of his group, as a member of the Goldnefire Order. Spending the day at the Inn doing some light reading, he returned later that day, to discover that he could visit the castle and conduct some research from its library on occasion (once a month or so). As thanks, he gave her two of his spell scrolls; a Friends (Cantrip Enchantment) scroll, and an Identify (1st Divination) scroll. Delighted, she asked if he could stay for tea, and he and his familiar were treated to elven sweet treats and spice tea from her private stash. They discussed many light topics and she answered many of his polite questions regarding her homeland in the Elvish Havens.

26th of Echos : Bresal and Ricochet both visited the castle together, and swiftly gained access to the great hall with little difficulty, while Vesina made her way to visit with the Baroness Neria Blackshield. Gaining directions to the library on the upper level of the great tower, they entered the small, but magnificently ancient collection of books, finding it covered topics such as History, Medicine and Nature in fair detail. While Bresal settled in for some research, and Callum curled up at his feet, Ricochet did a little snooping about the walls, before slipping away and leaving for his studies with the huntsmen, pleased that he was increasingly able to more about freely in the castle.

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Sprout found the information of trolls quite detailed, though references to some key texts which should have been present in such an extensive library were missing, hinting someone else was studying them. He learned that trolls were noted for being voracious monsters like most giant-kin, who ate everything and anything, and not known for their capability to form organized bands (let alone kingdoms). They willingly worked for food and treasure as mercenaries among other forces, however. They had remarkable regenerative powers, which they had actually seen once, and this often led to strange mutations among them, such as two heads or extra limbs, or unusual abilities. He also noted that someone had been taking notes, and was interested in something, having noted a word in draconic in one border, which he wrote down for later study.

Kahli returned from Green Dagger Farm after a day of Sylvan study, and visited with the huntsmen, having nearly determined her plans. She offered 100 gps in goods owed by Greenfoot Coster to the party, in exchange for conducting a survey of the area around Mosswater, which one of the huntsmen accepted. She then inquired about a guide to visit Mornhaven, which a couple were willing to do; she chose one tall drink of water named Eriad, a young woman who offered to take her down a “short-cut” that would take two days, despite the weather. She wanted coin, however, since she would have immediate expenses in Mornhaven when they got there. She agreed, saying she wished to begin first thing in the morning, which Eriad agreed to, offering to meet Kahli at the Green Forest Inn.

Kahli also made inquiries with Bresal regarding fees for members of the Goldenfire Order to conduct research on her behalf, finding they charged roughly 20 gps for any given topic, and needed a ten-day to ensure completion.

27th of Echos : Blustery winds, but not as cold as it should be. Some blowing snow.

As the rest of the adventurers continue in their private tasks, Kahli met with the huntsman Eriad, at the inn, and they proceeded out of town. Traveling down a road Kahli had never gone, they passed the Goblin Market and passed close by the Briarwarren, before taking a well-maintained, wide trail south-west of town. Despite the blowing snows and the cold, they made good time, generally sheltered by the thick trees and the condition of the road. Eriad called it “The Road of Claws”, and though fairly quiet, they arrived at the Triumph Quarry by mid-day, where they stopped for a short rest to warm-up and take a meal in the shelter of the quarry buildings. The place was not presently in use, so they took their ease of the facility.

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They soon headed back out on the trail, where it became increasingly less-well-maintained, eventually becoming a simple fire trail for foresters and timber-cutters, but they pushed on easily, and some hour before nightfall, arrived at a small community that Kahli (and most of the adventurers) had never heard of; the Village of Timberstar. A pleasant place in the current weather, they took rest for the night at the “Boar’s Bones”, warming themselves in the crowded tap-room, and listening to the local huntsmen and timber-cutters. The fact the so-called “Ripping Chains” goblins from the Pit of Chains had been unusually quiet for the last few weeks, with their raids on homesteads almost ended. Kahli began to tell the tale of their destruction at the hands of adventurers recently, performing well enough that her tale was welcomed with few commenting on its veracity. Eventually, the pair took their leave of the locals, and their rest in the inn’s small rooms.

Meanwhile, Scales had successfully completed his study of the “Dreamers” book, and learned a great deal about the concepts behind the Ethereal Plane. He discovered it to be a misty, fog-bound dimension, which shares its “shores” with the Prime Material Plane, such that every location on both planes has a corresponding location. Visibility is quite limited, and its depths are limited to a swirling fog and mist called the Deep Ethereal, where visibility is even more limited. Various spells can allow access to both portions, as can certain abilities.

His study also triggered a better understanding of how Blackmaw the Night Hag had been spying and attacking people in their dreams, including the night after they had raided the “safehouse” she had maintained in the Marta’Tauri, when she personally attacked Scales himself. He also learned many esoteric facts about the plane, which he could access whenever he wished, provided he had access to the book. Lastly, he also discovered a recipe for the rare Oil of Etherealness among its pages.

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28th of Echos : Cold, freezing day, with blowing snow.

While everyone worked on their private tasks, Scales traveled to Thornkeep through the snows, and visited with Brishtargera Greenbottle, offering her access to his recipe in exchange for production of a pair of them. She agreed, with Scales turning over a handful of moonstones and rubies, a pair of silver armbands, and a jeweled clasp from the group’s treasure brought for the purpose.

He then visited with Master Farakin Thumbwhistle, with whom he was slowly building a good reputation, and asked about Elzid’s Map, particularly the two peaks marked on the map, labeled Hammer Crag north of Candlemere, and Zog Crag near Hexwater. He was reminded “Zog’s Crag” as being a dormant volcano that dominates the skyline all along the southern Ambarin River Valley, and makes its presence felt throughout the region around Hexwater in the form of mudpots, geysers, and the large Hexwater Marsh that lies east of town.

“Hammer Crag” was a term he was unfamiliar with, but based on his own research, he suspected it was likely the “Smoking Crag”, a tall basalt peak north of Candlemere, that dominates the Crucibles hill chain. It was so-named because it constantly seemed to be shrouded in gray smoky mists, and smelled like a smoldering forge. Scales also picked-up the two scrolls of Locate Object (2nd Divination) he had ordered from Greenfoot, before returning back to Green Dagger Farm.

Regarding the “statue”, the old gnome pondered and said that there was indeed a well-known landmark in the general area marked on Scale’s map, known as “Ironguard”, and rumored to be the ancient tomb of some unknown dwarven warrior. This, Scales believed was likely the site of the treasures Elzid had drawn the map to relocate one day.

Kahli woke early, and with Eriad made good time along the rutted old forest road south to Mornhaven. After some hours, they noticed several steadings cut from the woodlands, and soon broke from the southern edge of the Smoke Woods, where a large fortified manor was built, with numerous obvious facilities for a large force of troops as well as a small village, obviously recently built, with the hard edge of the forest more than a bowshot distant. Eriad identified it as “Firehammer Hold”, the Grey Feathers base of operations and home to the Firearrow clan.

They took a less-traveled path between the many woodlots and farm steadings as they approached Mornhaven, which quickly hove into view, the brown pallor of its many hearth fires filling the horizon. They made their way to the eastern gate at the village of Shadows, passing through the settlement, where Eriad said she would wait to meet back with Kahli on the morrow.

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Parting their ways, Kahli wandered about the area, passing quickly through the Royal Quarter, and finding herself in the Market Quarter. She quickly got directions to a couple smiths, eventually being directed to the “Sign of the Hammer”, a massive weaponcrafter specializing in custom-fitted heavy armors, and commonly dealing with adventurers. The lead smith, Olaf Olafson, a deceptively slim red-headed grandson of a northern Vulcaniri raider, he quickly got to work with Kahli, taking her pre-measured measurements, but taking a few others given her efforts to improve her strength and stamina. He promised delivery in Thornkeep soon after the snows melted, but demanded the entire amount up front. After some discourse, she agreed, and he set about gathering the proper materials for the task.

Kahli then travelled to the the Coin and Mage Quarters, looking for a couple scrolls that Scales had been interested in, but was quickly directed to the Temple Quarter and the priests of Nolom. Nervous she might be identified, she first spoke with a simple acolyte, but was soon directed to a mid-level functionary of the church, one Master Vothric Dawnshield. After explaining what she was looking for; preferably for one of the three senior priests of the church to travel to Thornkeep and cast a Commune (5th Divination) or something similar in an effort to determine whether or not their adopted father, Coinneach “Old Man” Shadow was still alive, and possibly his whereabouts. Offering one of the group’s Floatchests for the effort, the priest was non-committal, mentioning that such powerful divination magic would require one of the temple’s few high priests to alter their present efforts and make a journey of a ten-day or so on the off-chance of casting a spell, which meant they might be able to make the journey come spring, when they have time. Disgusted they wouldn’t “bend the knee”, Kahli left immediately, and found lodging in the Shadowgate Inn back in the village of Shadows, where she spent the next few hours quietly brooding and thinking, before taking to her private room for some meditation and sleep.

29th of Echos : Hard stormy snows made travel difficult, as snow continued to pile-up.

Ricochet returned back to Green Dagger Farm with Vesina, having completed his training, and since his consort was interested in preparing for the coming New Year’s Day festival.

Sprout continued studying his book “From the River to the Mountains”, finding it difficult to follow all the maps and terms. Eventually, late in the day, he and Scales followed along the snowy path left by RIcochet and returned back to Green Dagger Farm themselves.

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Kahil met with Eriad at the nearby “Stonepost”, and the two made their way back north along the same track they had taken the previous day, arriving with hours to spare at the Boar’s Bones in Timberstar. They spent another night in the warmth, listening to locals talk about timber prices, the scarcity of game and upcoming plans for the Bells of Fate festival on the morrow.

30th of Echos : Hard snowy day, with harsh winds and blowing drifts of snow.

Sprout gave up his study of the folio “From the River to the Mountains”, and spent a day in quiet preparation for the group’s proposed trip north to Candlemere, gathering supplies and sharpening his weapons.

Ricochet helped with the huntsmen on a quick patrol of the edges of the farm, checking their few traps for game, and checking for wolf tracks. He also helped out watering and currying the horses.

Scales contemplated his recent education regarding the Ethereal Plane, and spent part of the day training the two kobolds, Nakpik and Kerzak to handle his two rust monsters, Frisky and Skuttle. As it grew later, he acted on one of his thoughts, that maybe “Little” Sulli Hurler was not everything she appeared. He took her and her mother into a corner of the mothalla far from the farm’s preparations for the coming festival, and informed them he had some ideas he wanted to try. He promised it wouldn’t hurt little Sulli, but that it might make her better. Her mother agreed.

First he cast Detect Magic, to no avail. Then he cast Protection from Evil and Good on her and immediately she changed from the distant, vacant stare she normally had, to begin crying and hugging her mother. She immediately shared that the “… lady in black…” had been visiting her every few nights, asking her to do things. When pushed, she admitted that the whispers from the black lady told her to take things; never forcefully, but as a friendly suggestion. As though to help a friend. These things were mostly “… the books…”, which she was to “… take away to the north…”.

Horrified, Scales suggested that maybe Sulli and her mother spend the night in the Protection Circle in the Vaults to be safe tonight, but her mother Doireann refused, saying there had to be some other way. Taking nothing to chance, Scales gathered all the original books recovered from Elzid’s Fallen Vaults from the farm’s small library, and placed them with his own possessions.

Reaching Thornkeep as it was growing dark, Kahli paid-out Eriad for her work, and parting ways, made her way slowly through the blowing snows and growing darkness of the evening trail east to Green Dagger Farm. She arrived frozen and tired to discover the entire farm’s inhabitants gathered closely about the central hearth of the mothalla, sharing tales of their greatest fears. She took some tea, and settled into what had best been a family atmosphere; she realized these people, however diverse and different, were the closest thing she had to a family.

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The night also reminded every one of the adventurers present, of the old days when they were still small children, sitting about the hearth at “Old Man” Shadow side, as he told tales of elves and dwarves and the god-heroes of old. Everyone was growing restless, as the midnight hour slowly approached and the darkness and storms grew in closeness outside.

And then they heard it.

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An almost gentle clang of a bell that seemed to echo across the hall. Everyone looked around, even the younger children rousing themselves from their listless sleep on this dark, unholy night. As everyone began looking around, trying to determine the source of the sound, the reverberations grew louder and louder, very quickly rising in pitch to an almost deafening sound that made everyone clap their hands over their ears and brought tears to everyone’s eyes.

And just as quickly, the sound drifted away on the harsh winds, to be replaced by the howl of the snowy storm outside, and the swish of snow across the walls and roof.

Several of the adventurers, and the huntsmen and the smith Mourde Carter began gathering their gear, and strapping on armor, while Kahli and Scales made their way to the main door, unbolting it and peering outside into the storm. They both saw a series of lights, like blue lightning and green witchlight streaking across the skies high above, accompanied by distant thunder as they passed. Soon the lights tapered away and all that was left was the storm. Ricochet and Sprout quickly clambered up onto the roof, and peered about, but saw nothing beyond the storm and the blowing snows.

Returning back inside, and securing all their exterior access routes, the group began to settle in once more, though much quieter. No one dared say anything in the darkness of what was now the “Night of Darkness”, unholiest time of the Mistress of the Night. Several fell asleep, including most of the adventurers, though Sprout bravely stayed awake through most of the night, keeping watch despite facing exhaustion with the morning.

The rest began to dream their usual Group Shared Dreams, though as the usual moment of terror approached, a whisper was heard, soft and quiet as a bird’s wings, saying each of their names in unison, like a choir. They all slept soundly, and the night passed with little of the usual terror and disquiet. Except for Sprout who was exhausted.

1st of Hammer, TR 1050 : The adventurers awoke to the sound of chattering folk, gentle music from reed pipes wielded by Crooner, their huntsman, and the spreading of food saved for the occasion following the night;s fast. The adventurers discussed continuing their trip north to Candlemere, despite the night’s odd portents, and prepared themselves, taking dried beef and cheese for rations from their stores and filling their skins with wine. Ricochet was ambushed by the children in a flurry of snowballs when he went to check on the horses, as was Kahli when she went to ready her own horse for the trip. Few talked about the night’s activities, as they tried to celebrate a new year.

Eventually, it became apparent the storms of the night before had ceased, and there was actually sunlight trying to break through the clouds, though snow drifts were deep on the ground, and it was bitterly cold. The manor inhabitants wished the group well, waving to them from the shelter of the main doors as they trudged into the snowy trail heading west to Thornkeep. The trail was buried, and the trip was difficult, but Kahli’s horse and Sweet’s experience proved instrumental in pushing their way along the trail.

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They found Thornkeep mostly dug out of the storm, and that small family celebrations were happening in various farms, and at the inns. Not stopping to visit in town, they pushed north, finding, as usual, the road to Sandpoint Logging Camp was open and well-traveled, making good time. Stopping for a quick rest at the camp, they continued north, making good time despite the storm-wrought snow across the trail, passing Echo Cleft, and taking a short rest in the ruined farm they were familiar with, for a noon meal.

They then traveled along the abandoned roadway north to Mosswater, despite the bitter cold and difficult trail, eventually reaching the ruins of that town as night approached. They also took notice of the burnt shell of the windmill, and settled into the ruins of the cathedral to Korg, that they were almost intimately familiar with by now, barring the ruined doors and making sure the holes in the walls were still covered by rubble. The place where the altar once lay was noticeably vacant to their eyes now, especially since they suspected it held the lost Elder Scroll. They settled into the night with the usual watches, though the usual dreams and nightmares returned to all.

2nd of Hammer : The sun still struggled to come out, but it remained bitterly cold.

After a quick breaking of their fast, Bresal and Ricochet both searched about the western edge of town, finding tracks of large unknown humanoids, and a number of smaller, almost kobold footprints in the frozen snows along the lake. Candlemere itself was mostly covered in mist and only frozen out about 10’-15’ into its grey surface, the rest remaining open and unfrozen; a well-known winter trait of the Candlemere.

The group headed out west of town, following closely to the shore, and keeping an eye on the forests to the south. The snow wasn’t very deep here, and they made fair time, following along for several hours, crossing two streams and slowly making for the western shore of the lake, where they stopped for a short rest to discuss their journey.

Scales reminded them all that Elzid’s Treasure Map hinted there was something nearby, though it might be a couple miles inland, among the low hills north-west. They continued for about a mile or so, when out from a cover of mist and darkness, burst a pack of wolves and their riders, Goblins wolf-riders!

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The force quickly moved to spread-out and encircle the adventurers, firing their bows with great effect on both Ricochet and on Kahli’s horse, the closest and largest targets, respectively. some of the wolves seemed larger and fiercer, though they all howled as they came forward across the snow, apparently unaffected by the terrain. Kahli’s horse went down shrieking under the volley of arrows. The adventurers responded, with Kahli casting a Darkness (2nd Evocation) as a shroud to cover the adventurers from further bow fire. Several goblins along the far north edge of the group went down under bow and spell attacks.

The group of wolf riders moved out, continuing to try and flank the adventurers, though the three biggest goblins fired away with Thorn Arrowss, striking into the adventurers. The two unridden wolves struck against Bresal, taking him to the ground and savaging him, before he brutally slew one.

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Shiv and Scales combined forces to slay the big goblin on the north, and eventually slew his dangerous-looking wolf as well. The wolf-riders immediately took stock of the situation, and turned, bolting directly back the way they had come. One more wolf went down, though its rider managed to slip away pelting across the snow, as the rest faded back into the woods west of the encounter.

Gathering a large amount of mixed silver coins from the three fallen goblins, they suddenly recognized the mark of the band; they served the Iron Crown Legion, likely as scouts and raiders. Well-paid, it hinted that there was a growing interest in the region, and that perhaps, a large force of hobgoblins might be heading into the lands around Mosswater soon. In addition, they had heavy bags filled with local game, berries and even somewhat fresh-looking leaves. Sweet and Kahli dragged/pushed the horse’s corpse into the nearby lake, to ensure no goblins could scavenge it for food.

The group moved continued north for an mile or so, and then began looking for a place to camp for the night, eventually settling on a relatively shielded and safe spot to have a small camp fire, where they took a long rest and settled in for the night. Shiv noticed that the grass and trees around these parts seemed, for lack of a better word, “healthier” than what should be the norm. The night was filled with wolf howls in the distance, but otherwise passed with no encounters…

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Interlude - When a Star Falls

“…And the manfools piled rocks on rocks and raised a treesie roof, hammers saws tear the skin of goodsie wood… and laughs at the Woodsie Lord… And when He learns the Lord of this, He sends His beastesses to the manfools… who attacks and hammers saws their useless fleshes, and builds Him a house of they rotted skins…” – Unattributed Trickster Song

“Come the Time of Peril, did the ground gape, and did the dead rest unquiet against us. Our bands of iron and hammers of stone prevailed not, and some did doubt the Builder’s plan. But the seals held strong, and the few did triumph, and the doubters were lain into the foundations of the new sanctums…” – Collected Letters of the Smith-In-Exile

“The ancient corruption was again contained. To do more would have upset the balance, but we knew to remain ever vigilant lest it resurface. Neither the Hammers nor the Pagans could be trusted not to meddle…” – The Keeper Annals

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“The Vault”, the Fallen Fortress of the Lost Starfall

TR 1049, 28th of Echos, The Drawing Down

“What a blessedly chilly day!” Krevan of the Starfall Militia exclaimed to no one in particular. He was dressed typically in a coat of scaled armor under a thick parka of woolen-lined leather, trimmed in wolf fur. His spear and arming sword at his side were well-worn, but serviceable, and the helmet on his head was fitted with a warm under-cap of knitted wool. His boots were stuffed with wool and his gloves, were similar to his coat; scale covered with warm and weather-proofed leather. His shield leaned against the tower battlements, along with his crossbow and quiver of bolts, all within easy reach, as he rubbed his hands together to give them more warmth, and the streamers of his misted breath slipped off towards the east, in the direction of the prevailing wind.

It had been several weeks since one could actually mount a post on the towers, primarily because of the freezing snows and rains that had knifed their way across from the Beast Shards, sealing most people in their homes and only rarely drawing people to the town Great Mothalla for trade, or to the community alehouses for warmed cider and fireside companionship. A “Wolf Winter” was what they called it, and so it had seem, with the Drake River freezing solid, and even the wells requiring daily clearing of ice to allow water to be drawn. Firewood was at a premium in the markets, and in the break of the storms, the woodcutters and charcoalers were out in force daily, regardless of the weather.

From his tower roost, the only one built on the new portion of the walled town of Starfall, he could see across the frozen stream and had a good cover of the bridge leading towards the town’s north gate, as well as the town itself. Ancient beyond his reckoning, the market and the Great Mothalla next to it were the only notable features. To the north of town lay the newer businesses, and the prosperous inns. Further north he could see the large sprawling stone complex of the “Shrine to the Radiant Sky”, an abbey dedicated to the Shining One and known for its scriptorium and library, though none could access it without due authority. Scattered east and west down the valley, were the numerous farms and snow-swept fields of the faded Kingdom of Starfall, now only a local market town on the fringes of the Forest Kingdom.

Trevan thought on the recent rumblings of war in the highlands to the north, and cast his eyes to the distant peak of Myre’s Den. Armies had been marching west of that peak along the Drake Valley, not a few months ago, and had never even come near the town, due to its isolation and the fallen bridge away to the west. Small miracle the ancient thing was gone; its absence had saved the town from trouble this harvest, yet again. Certainly the local Highland Ninn tribes had been a little more active, but they rarely came into town anyways of late, and other than the usual wool merchants, the market and the taverns, cared little for the locals. He knew that only a few miles north, lay the ruined fortress of the Kingdom of Starfall, known now only as “The Vault”, and just beyond it, the Ash Barrens, but nothing ever stirred from that desolate place.

He gazed in the western approaches, and thought he saw a dark cloud gathering, but turned away to the south, seeing if he could glimpse the dark mass of the Gaunt Forest, but the ridge line prevented him, except for the little bit he could see through the pass, and the mountain peak overlooking the valley beyond. He knew that the foot of the tall spire known as Cairngloom was cloaked in trees; the Elven Wood some called it, but he knew better… “Demon Wood” was more apt. The place was home to foul magicks and fouler beasts, he’d heard. The only thing that kept the locals in Whitebore overlooking the place was the salt mine, and that was little enough. He silently hoped he never drew a lot to stand watch at the Wolf Tower, in that forsaken community.

He glanced back to the west, and thought the clouds looked like they were moving closer. “Drat!”, exclaimed Krevan, “…not another storm!” He gave a curse as he hugged himself and swung his arms a little to get them warmer. Returning his gaze to the eastern valley, he gazed across the fields to the scattered woodlands of the Gray Woods, and thence to the distant sharp pass and the peak that overlooked it, The Thane as it was known. He could just see the smudge of Healer’s Grove, where a small cloister of Amalthean Preistesses served the valley and all travelers as healers. Beyond the pass, lay the small village of Shale and the ancient tower of the valley mages. Beyond to the north-east lay the Old Forest, and the distant community of Hark, a forest village that was only loosely affiliated with Starfall, but had come to prominence with the recent rumors of a Wolf Winter, and the surge of wolves wandering through their woodlands. The Lady of Starfall had offered a substantial bounty, and many adventurers had arrived to take advantage of the chance at easy money, though the storms had isolated the community.

Again, casting his eyes to the west, he noted the dark clouds were moving very quickly down the Westfold from the across the Fellreeves and Drake River. He figured the clouds were dropping more snow over the distant village of Greensedge, where Princess Adrianna Warduke’s Magistrate lived. At that present speed, the clouds would be in the town within minutes. He made certain his coat was secure, and tightened his cloak, then checked his crossbow and shield, finally grasping his spear and trying to spy a battlement to hunker behind, away from the increasing winds…

“Hmmm… Odd that…” Krevan noted that there was no real wind proceeding the clouds. Yet they moved swiftly. Then he heard it,… a distant sound of chattering, like a market at noon. He peered over the battlements at the growing darkness a little closer, and thought he also heard thunder and a rustle come from the growing clouds. Then he spotted it… that was not a cloud of snow or rain… it was a cloud of flying birds…

The dark mass of birds were winging their way across the snow-covered fields, and started to circle around the town, filling the sky with their presence and cawing as they swept across the battlements and the towers. Krevan dove behind his chosen place of cover, and looked in horror as he spotted they were no ordinary crows… they were Krell, the dark and twisted cross between raven and vulture, and only seen in small numbers along the edges of the Beast Shards, and always portents of dread and war. The flock swarmed around the town for a few minutes, then began winging away to the ruins of The Vault a some miles away to the north. After a short time, they seemed to settle onto the ruins, and disappeared from the sky.

The town guard became active, and a horn blew from the south gate, announcing to all that it was closing, and the north gate followed suit and local farmers made for the gates swiftly to get behind the walls. The town walls came alive, and Krevan could hear the booted feet of his fellows coming up from below to investigate. Krevan peered north and then back west, and his blood froze in his veins as he heard a distant horn away from the west… an ancient sound that all humans knew was trouble… the Tauri armies were on the march…

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Episode 21 - The Ice Rose Garden

“She walks across a garden full of snow,
In this garden, wild roses grow.
The roses are not red, pink or champagne,
They don’t need sunlight, and they don’t need rain.”

“They show no sign of life, but they are not dead,
Ice covers each delightfully rose-shaped head.
The girl walks ahead, looking at the ground,
The snow makes a peaceful and flowing sound.”

“She looks at the roses, sees her face in return,
She looks at a face, teared up and concerned.
She looks away, from the mirror roses,
As if looking at it, would somehow expose it.”

“She walks along the path between the trees,
She folds her arms, as she starts to freeze.
She stops because she can hardly move no more,
Snow covers her dress, forming a beautiful decor.”

“She can’t shut her eyes, all she sees is a rose,
She sees everything, all that no one knows.
Her mirror image shows a tear on her cheek,
Down her pale skin, it shows she is weak.”

“The tear never reaches the ground, it freezes on the way,
The girl sees the world fade, as everything goes gray.
Now, she stands there, in a garden full of snow,
As a fountain of everlasting beauty, where the ice roses grow.”

https://youtu.be/SIJOnyu8qYY

Synopsis : A tale in which the adventurers spend some personal time, while Ricochet and Sprout spend time together in close quarters spying on Master Daemon Tarrasque’s operations and personal manor. Eventually, spying a strange, lonely figure in the Manor’s gardens, the pair discover that it is a beautiful young woman, before retreating and sharing their experiences with the group.

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16th of Echos, TR 1049 : Green Forest Inn, Thornkeep : Following the events in the previous night’s moot at Caer Dragonscorn, the adventurers awaken at the town’s best inn, where they had spent the night. Over warm honeyed oatmeal, they discussed the situation, and decided to spend a few days in town pursuing some personal tasks.

Ricochet and Sprout agree to spend some days examining the comings and goings at Thornkeep Mercantile, Master Daemon Tarrasque’s merchant compound. They spend the day securing supplies, including a “smolder pot”, essentially a crockery filled with charcoal and wool, that will generate heat for days, but not give any real smoke or other noticeable identification of their whereabouts. Food would be cider that could be warmed in proximity to the smolder pot, and a couplke sacks of jerked meat. They spend the rest of the day looking for a good spot to hide, high enough up the western slope of Brokenhelm Hill to keep an eye on the compound, but good enough to keep their presence unknown.

17th of Echos : In the early morning hours, before the sun arose, Ric and Sprout slipped into a crevice they had located near the entrance to the Accursed Halls, and climbing into place, settled in for a cold and uncomfortable three days. They noticed that the compound was quiet throughout the night, with only a small extension attached to the main shop showing light and movement.

In the morning, several hours before dawn, people began hauling water to the stables and the shop really began to light up, with staff moving some goods from the storehouse to the shop. About an hour after dawn, Master Tarrasque arrived in a small carriage with a couple guards, and he spent most of the day in the main shop, with only a short trip to Green Forest Inn for lunch. Customers tended to be those seeking equipment, rather than provisions, and most of his customers were the northern small farmers and hunters, seeking “hard goods” such as ironmongery, pots, and what adventurers might seek to buy. About an hour before dusk, he left the shop in his carriage, returning once more to his home at Tarrasque Manor.

“Scales” spent the next couple days studying “Mastering the Unseen” from their library, successfully mastering the Illuminating Manuscript after several days of study.

“Sweet” began a series of athletic and meditative practices under the watchful eyes of Sword Brother Eldrast to improve her health.

18th-19th of Echos : While the rest continued their personal tasks, Sprout and Ric observed that while Master Tarrasque didn’t return on the 18th, he did on the 19th. They had hoped to see something in the way of night-time activity that could be suspect, but there was nothing that smelled of smugglers, thieves or other wrong-doing. The staff of the mercantile seemed very normal.

Late in the night of the 19th, the two cold to the bone adventurers returned to Green Forest Inn, ordering warm baths, and a hot, meaty meal of roast fowl. They quietly conferred with their companions what they had observed, and speculated on what might lie in the cellars.

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20th of Echos : Ric and Sprout took a long break, heading to the castle after a late start. They managed to meet with Lady Ivis Blackshield and her maid Larista, and after apologizing profusely for “forgetting” to swear fealty in open court to Baroness Neria Blackshield, due to the events regarding the hag Adelinda. Lady Ivis claimed the hag would be held until tried at the next moot, when the adventurers might better show their intentions to the local community… They agreed, referring to themselves as “The Green Daggers” for the first time. Also, Vesina’s presence was welcomed at court whenever she might choose to attend at her liesure, with Lady Ivis hinting that her daughter needed more women of substance her own age to associate with. Lady Ivis also returned “Lady Anisa’s Journal” to the adventurers, having studied it at length.

The pair requested a visit with the hag in the prisons, which Lady Ivis granted, handing her signet ring over to give them access. They slipped out, making tehir way to the Old Bailey, and followed the route they were familiar with, leading them into the dungeons below the Bailey, where they found a single guard, the several prisoners of Bailiff Setrew’s cult, and a screaming, spitting green hag in the far corner. She swiftly changed to appear as the innocent little Adelinda the group were familiar with, but noted that despite the change, her gag remained tightly bound and Sprout noticed her manacles shimmered and refused to be removable despite the change in her size.

The adventurers were unimpressed with her activities, however, and even when she changed shape into a semblance of Kahli, which Sprout copied as well with some difficulty. After discussing the situation with the guard, they learned that any execution would likely be conducted by Ser Kranstin Shearwater, and the hag’s fate was ultimately the responsibility of the Baroness. The pair then returned to teh Great Tower, and returning the signet ring to Maid Larista, who had remained behind for that purpose, they left for the inn.

Noting that his consort might need some better clothes, Ric went shopping for dresses with Vesina, informing her to take advantage of the opportunity, as he and Sprout would be gone for another few days. He and Sprout gathered another selection of supplies, smolder pot and jerky for a three-day scouting mission of Tarrasque Manor.

Later that night, the pair left their rooms at the inn, and made their way north to Tarrasque Manor, finding the place larger than they were led to believe. They settled into a spot where they could observe the compound from a nearby tree, but far enough away to give them some isolation.

21st-23rd of Echos : While Sweet continued in her athletics studies, Scales began in on mastering a new book, “Waking Dreams of a Starless Sky, Or On Aspects of Astral Dreamers”, though its writing in Gith made such a study, a difficult proposition.

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Ric and Sprout found the stay in the wilds easier in many ways, with an ability to move about. Observation of the compound identified that in addition to a small guard and servant’s area, the compound included a kennel for a pack of Mastiffs who had the free reign of the place at night, a coop for chickens, a carriage and small stable for a pair of horses. The western portion of the compound was a large garden, with several tall trees and what seemed to be a maze of shrubs and rocks.

The manor itself was massive, easily as large as the master merchant’s compound in town. There were perhaps a dozen guards who patrolled the 12’-tall stone walls on a regular basis, and perhaps a half-dozen servants. Activity at the manor was mostly during the leave-taking and return of Master Tarrasque, around the dawn and dusk of each day. There was little other activity about the manor, though one oddity stood-out; soon after the master left each morning, a lone, heavily-cloaked figure would move about the gardens each day.

Intrigued, they noticed that the guards never left the compound, but they were dedicated to performing regular patrols despite the snow and winds. Nonetheless, on the early morning of the 23rd, Ric was determined to identify the lone figure in the gardens. Using the departure of Master Tarrasque as a good diversion, he headed to the walls, with Sprout on look-out duty, and attempted to scale the slippery, ice-covered walls. After several tense seconds, he finally found a purchase and scampered over the stone walls to drop into the gardens with a silent “thump”.

Taking a place in the bushes near the north-west tree, Ric hunkered down for some time, listening to the guards move about the wall. Eventually, he heard the tell-tale sweep of cloak and gown on the stone path of the garden, and noticed the guard hailed the unknown figure as “Morning Ma’am!”. After a quick exchange of pleasantries with a feminine-sounding voice, the guard moved on. Ric heard a sound of someone brushing stone of snow, and moved forward to see. He stumbled upon a life-sized graven stone statue of a gargoyle and right into the sight of possibly the most heavenly young woman he had ever seen; The Ice Rose.

Dressed in a warm gown and with a heavy wolf-fur cloak, she looked startled as she stared at Ric, and asked him “How did you get here?”, with a little fear in her eyes. He responded “I seem to have gotten a little lost…”, and quickly bolted back out the way he came. From behind him, he heard her call out “.. please, don’t go…”, as he vaulted into the tree and jumped out over the walls to drop outside the compound. A horn went off behind him and guards began to crowd the walls, as Ric ran one way and Sprout ran the other. The pair quickly made their ways through the forest and eventually found their way to Thornkeep, returning to the inn and another warm bath and hot meal.

That night, they related what they had learned, commenting on the sheer opulence of Master Tarrasque’s home; it was increasingly obvious he had a great deal of wealth before he came to the town, and that he was more like a wealthy man hiding, rather than a master thief trying to amass a fortune. This bore extra thought. The group also reflected on the fact that there were a handful of books originally found among the “treasures” of the dead wizard Elzid; books that seemed to match in a remarkable fashion, the topics related to the powers and interests of Blackmaw herself. Perhaps these books had more of value than seemed apparent…

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Episode 20 - Howling Winds

“Faeries, come take me out of this dull world,
For I would ride with you upon the wind,
Run on the top of the dishevelled tide,
And dance upon the mountains like a flame.”

https://youtu.be/RBUtBrk7yzo

Synopsis : A tale in which the adventurers are attacked at their own steading by a small army of fey beasts led by an unknown green hag. They later attend the mid-month moot and coronation of the newest ruler of Thornkeep, Baroness Neria Blackshield, and stop an attempt to bring ruin to the ceremony by the unveiling of one of Blackmaw’s servants, a young green hag disguised as a local child.

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7th of Echos, TR 1049, Early morning, Green Dagger Farm : The adventurers, fresh in their return from Thorn River Crossing, had snuggled into their various quarters.

In the Tower Vault Ruins, Dame Kahli, “Sweet”, and Yeoman “Shiv” were snug and safely sleeping in their beds. Kahli, however, slept as fitfully as usual, and felt a certain… presence, a watchful eye in the dark… that woke her up. She had the distinct feeling of being scryed upon by… something… and swiftly woke Sweet, who distinctly felt the same. The pair gathered their equipment, and waking Shiv, they asked him to watch the vaults and keep the group’s treasures and Anilda safe, while they made their way up the stairwell poking out into the dark, snow-blown teeth of a full night’s storm. They began trudging through the growing snow drifts to the Mothalla.

In the Mothalla, the rest of the adventurers were sleeping soundly, when “Sprout” felt the same scrying presence, which woke him from his own regular nightmares. He wakes both “Scales” and “Ricochet”, and set about rousing the rest of the hall. Vesina, Sulli Hurler and her mother bundled together and settled into the far corner near the books. Mikmek and his two minions hid themselves behind the blankets, but armed themselves and readied their weapons. Mourde Carter gathered his own equipment, and stood calm and ready.

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The pair from the Vaults quickly made their way through the storm, hearing… something… over the howling northern winds, and joined the rest. After a brief discussion, they agreed that waking the huntsmen who lived behind the smithy would be useful, so Ricochet and Sweet headed back out, while Kahli dressed herself in the Armor of the Wyrm with Sprout’s help. Ric and Sweet made their way out into the storm, and went around to the back shack where the huntsmen slept, waking them. Ricochet barely perceived a figure moving slowly through the snows from the southern cliff edge, and decided to try and get closer to identify it. He soon realized who it was; Tiressia, wounded and struggling to make her way through the deep white drifts. He ran to her, and caught her in his arms as she swooned. He quickly “rallied” her with soothing words.

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The group gathered once more in the Mothalla, while Kahli took watch outside the doors. RIcochet dropped the wounded Tiressia on his bedrolls, as she whispered one word; “…Bloodfeathers…”. Sprout began looking at her wounds. The group heard it again,… a distant howl on the winds from the north. There was a sudden crunching sound against the back wall, and then the hard splinter of claws digging into the walls as whatever it was climbed onto the roof. Scrabbling across the ice-slick, slate roof, the beast made its way to the front, where Kahli saw it; the largest, meanest-looking owlbear only imagination could summon. Blood red feathers crowned its mane, and the beast gave a sharp, echoing cry that rose above the howling, cold winds. Kahli slipped back into the Mothalla, and quietly pulled the doors closed, but did not lock or bar them. The beast dropped onto the spot she had previously occupied, and gave off an odd “hooting” sound. It tested the doors and with a tentative shove pushed them open. From the darkness of the night, beyond the light of the great hearth spilling through the open door, a small army of writhing, thorny vines approached.

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Scales wove a tale of heroism, encouraging those around him, while Kahli gave off a divine Bless. Sweet and Mourde stepped forward, swinging several solid blows, while the beast howled and hooted striking back. Ricochet and the huntsmen began peppering arrows on the beast, with the former using his Thorn Arrows. Sprout seemed to be ineffectual on helping Tiressia, and slipped out to take a stance and fire a Ghostly Touch on the beast, but missed. Everyone noticed that the beast was wearing studded barding of some sort, and bore various packs and other goods across its back. They also noticed, for the first time several small “bundles of twigs” had slipped into the hall from the rear.

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Scales dropped a flaming chromatic orb on the massive owlbear, and Mourde landed a critically vital blow on the hissing owlbear, though he took a series of rending strikes that would have fallen a lesser man.

The real surprise, however, was when Tiressia appeared from behind the blankets of Ricochet’s living area, sprouting black iron-like talons, and then proceeded to rend Scales with a critically damaging couple of blows. Sprout missed in his sudden panic, and Kahli responded with a solid green-flaming blow from Scorbane on the faux-Tressia. The kobolds began firing on the swarming little twigs that began appearing in pairs from the corner back wall, taking one out.

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Scales dropped a Shatter on the clustered foes gathered outside, and retreated, taking a glancing blow from the faux-Tiressia. The owlbear then struck down Mourde with its strong arms and bite, who fell prone. Kahli fired two Eldritch Blasts into the faux-Tiressia, who responded by shredding Sprout with her claws, though he too responded by twice striking her with his daggers. Ricochet took a position over the fallen Mourde, assisted by Sweet. The twigs began swarming Sprout, and took several sharp hits from the kobolds. The thorny vines outside began burrowing under the walls, and two of them slipped into the Mothalla.

Feeling the situation to be dire, Kahli unleashed her celestial heritage, sprouting ghostly skeletal wings as her eyes became pools of utter darkness. A wave of terror spread out causing the enemies closest to her to tremble in fear. Unfortunately Sprout and Callum were also caught in the Frightening blast and, overwhelmed, they too shook with horror.

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Scales touched Mourde to Cure Wounds, while the owlbear proceeded to inflict some grievous wounds with its claws on RIcochet, who struck back with Sweet’s assistance. One of the twigs managed to rend Sprout with its thorny claws, as did the faux-Tiressia hissing angrily at him to die. As Ricochet called for the fake Tiressia to be destroyed, Kahli closed with her, taking down the dividing privacy curtains that separated Ric’s sleeping area with the common area as she came. One of the vines grappled Scales, pinning him, and clubbing him with its woody vines, while the other grappled Sweet. Mourde scrambled for safety away from the entrance, and two more of the vines crawled under the walls.

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Scales struggled against the vines holding him, and Ricochet took another savage couple blows from the owlbear, before striking back with a savage DIE MONSTER! DIE!”. Sweet struggled free of the vines, and Scales protected himself from a savage blow from the vines. The twigs swarmed the kobolds, one dropping Mikmek with a savage claw strike.

Kahli dropped a Hex on the faux-Tiressia, and followed up with empowering Scorbane with both her Green-Flame and Smite in a savage critical strike that literally cut the creature in two. (76 Damage!). The kobolds retreated with Mikmek in tow to a safer place in the corner. A revitalized Mourde stood and critically struck the nearest vine, as did the one huntsman who was confronted by a vine. His companion slew the most wounded vine.

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Scales dropped another Shatter, this time among the swarming horde of twigs, slaying many. The owlbear began hooting and howling, looking distracted, but once more clawed and bit Ricochet, nearly felling him, and forcing him to retreat. Sprout healed Scales. Kahli fired an Eldritch Blast into the owlbear, Ricochet is then grappled by one of the vines. The vines managed_ several solid blows, one of which felled Mourde once more. Another knocked one of the huntsmen unconscious as well.

The owlbear’s interest in the fight seemed to wane and it stepped back provoking an attack of opportunity from Sweet who stabbed the owlbear, toppling the wounded beast. Giving a final mournful cry, it collapsed on its back and drew a heaving final breath in the drifting snow.

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The vines and twigs seemed to suddenly lose interest in the fight. Ricochet revived himself with a Healing Potion before joining the fight once more, and Sweet used a Healing Potion on Mourde. Scales was entangled and knocked unconscious by a vine. The twigs began to dwindle in interest, and ceased swarming in from the back wall, and the last of the vines were destroyed. The corpse of the faux-Tiressia proved to be a hideous green hag.

Slumping wearily, _Kahli_’s celestial display dissipated and she moved among the fallen helping to revive Scales, Mikmek and the fallen huntsman, the group then proceeded to close and seal the front entrance against intrusion. Making the place as secure as possible, the group settled in around the central hearth, and tried to get back to engaging in a long rest.

When morning dawned, the group spent the remaining hours of the morning ensuring everyone was in good health. The huntsmen spent some time butchering the owlbear, and recovered its strange studded leather barding, that had a collection of supplies of questionable quality, and a sack of several hundred gold coins. The adventurers determined they might be able to fix the armor to operate as standard barding for a normal mount, if they brought it to a leather worker for alteration.

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The group decided to spend the next couple days close to the farmstead, in case there should be another assault on the Mothalla. Until the moot on the 15th, each would spend some time on their own personal activities.

Kahli began learning Sylvan from Anilda, offering to donate her sight for an hour each night.

Sprout began study of the text “Perfection and the Craft of Lasting Magic” from the Green Dagger Archives, mastering it after several days of study. He also learned many techniques and recipes for the construction of “common” dwarven constructs, including a Homonculus, and a Flying Sword.

Scales tried to master the text “Mastering the Unseen”, but after several days, failed in his first attempt to do so.

Sweet spent her time reading the book named the “Order of the Thistle”, finding many of the arcane rituals and traditions of that fallen order, sufficient that she could recognize them if she ever encountered them in her travels.

Ricochet learned many of the recipes in “The Book of Beer”, finding many of them oddly unusual, but enough that he could compile them should he ever want to start his own brewery.

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15th of Echos : Morning of the moot arrived, and the adventurers, well-rested and ready for a change after nearly a ten-day of being cooped up in the Mothalla, headed out to Thornkeep later in the day. The roads were heavily drifted with several days of blowing snows, making the trip hard; there were virtually impassable forest trails off the main road. The stretch from the iron mines had been somewhat cleared and were easier to travel, but still the two hour trip was nearly four hours long.

As usual, they left their horses in the Green Forest Inn stables, and after a quick meal, they headed up to the castle. Caer Dragonscorn proved to be well-lit and almost festive. Making their way through the castle yard, they entered the Great Hall, finding the place filled with all the community’s most notable folk, and many of the farmers and otherwise “wealthy” individuals. Hob-nobbing ensued.

While Ricochet and the rest moved about the hall, tasting the sweet meats and wine poured for the guests, Kahli noticed the young Adelinda, daughter of Master Miles Firestone, sitting alone near her kin providing the music, and being her usual despondent self. Feeling something of a kindred spirit with the young girl, Kahli moved over and engaged in casual conversations with the quiet, introspective girl.

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Soon the musicians changed their tune and engaging in a royal processional tune, heralded the entrance of Lady Ivis Blackshield and her daughter Lady Neria Blackshield. Lady Neria was resplendent in a full, flowing gown and dripping jewels. As all eyes turned to her, the group on the dais grew silent, and Lady Blackshield began a speech about the powers of nobility and the promises and pacts that the baron made with the and and its people. She then had an iron box brought forth, revealing its contents to be the Crown of the Wolf Baron. She then crowned her daughter, and everyone in the hall kneeled in honor, and broke into applause, with a cry of “Long live the Baron!”.

While everyone else was distracted, Kahli noticed the young girl, Adelinda was bent over, shaking as though she were in a great deal of pain. She noticed, as well, that the girl’s skin on her arms and hands seemed to be rippling, with an odd, green cast to her skin. She recognized it as some sort of possession or other action, and immediately cast a Protection from Evil and Good on the girl, who promptly collapsed. Her transformation seemed to stop, and she looked once more, like the girl everyone knew her as.

Kahli summoned one of her musician cousins, to seek out and bring Sprout to her side., while she kneeled by the girl and kept an eye on her. As time passed, several members of the group were gathered, and informed of the situation. Sprout determined that the girl was indeed not entirely human anymore, and when Sword Brother Eldrast and Mistress Idara were informed, Sword Borther Eldrast confirmed what he knew of hags, saying that one of their traditions was to kidnap children when very young, and replace them with their own spawn to be raised by the human family. He felt, indeed, that Adelinda was a “hag baby”. A discussion ensued as to what to do with her.

The parents were informed, and while the rest of the community seemed blissfully ignorant of the goings-on, and slowly made their ways through a line to acknowledge their fealty to the new baron, Brother Eldrast approached Lady Ivis and quietly informed her of the situation. Lady Ivis seemed to lose her enthusiasm for the situation, giving her signet ring to the priest, and a quick word, before once more turning her attention to the crowds pledging their fealty. He returned, and said that they were to bring the hag to the castle prison, where she would be gagged and manacled, and her fate would be determined later.

The adventurers then left the great hall, making their way across the garth to the old bailey, which once served as the main hall, but was now the primary barracks and armory for the baron’s guards. Entering the old fortress, they passed through a commons area, past several doors and then down a narrow flight of stairs, twisting around to the left, and then down another long hall, turning abruptly left down another flight of narrow stairs. From here, they entered a T-intersection, turning right and came to an iron door along the corridor, and entered the castle prison.

The room was roughly 25′×25′, with a narrow bunk to the left of the door, with a small hearth on the wall and a round table with three chairs in the far corner. Along the right were five (5) 10’-long cells, each holding a barred door sealed by a padlock, the floors covered in old straw and bedrolls. The three closest to the entry wall held several prisoners, the group identified as the cultists captured months ago back at Thornkeep Manor.

Brother Eldrast explained to the single guard present the orders of Lady Ivis, presenting her signet ring as proof, and the guard presented an iron gag and iron manacles, which were used to bind and secure the hag. She was tossed into the farthest cell, with the reminder that he was not to remove her binds or gag without the express order of the Baroness or Lady Ivis, no matter what the girl might seem or try. Kahli offered to remain and keep watch over the girl until the morning, and Eldrast told the guard to allow Dame Kahli to stay until the morning. The adventurers then returned out of the Old Bailey, and Brother Eldrast returned to the Great Hall to return the signet ring, and inform Lady Ivis of the situation. The adventurers chose to take their leave, and sipped back down to the town, and spent the night in the inn, talking about matters late until the evening.

And the wind howled and the snow continued.

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