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