Thieves & Kings

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

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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.

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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.

https://youtu.be/5nl_sfYEbZE

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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Episode 19 - Daggerfall

“To see a Keeper is not an easy thing, especially one who does not wish to be seen. We have a need for those as gifted as yourself. If you’ve grown tired of how you live, come with me and we will show you a different way.”

https://youtu.be/tTKVqvAiT4c

Synopsis : A tale in which our adventurers exact revenge upon the least of the Thornkeep Blades, embark on a short quest for the Barony, and encounter an unknown entity from the depths of the Faewoods.

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Echos the 2nd, TR 1049 : During the morning meal at the hall, the group discussed the legend they needed surrounding the “Tale of the Axe”, or rather the tale they intended to tell as they gifted the masterwork greataxe they had taken from the dungeons of Caer Wyrmgrave in Mosswater to Sword Brother Eldrast for a casting of Remove Curse on “Shiv”.

Soon thereafter, they travelled to Thornkeep, noting the weather seemed colder and overcast, with a hint of new snow. Arriving at Thornkeep several hours later, they met with Brother Eldrast, and shared their intent to exchange the axe and its tale for a casting. The tale seemed to impress him suitably, and he accepted it, bringing Shiv and “Sweet” into the sanctum and performing the ritual. Shiv was no longer in fear for the burning wounds of his encounter with werewolves were going to force him to become a lycanthrope.

The group then visited the Green Forest Inn, where they stabled their horses and began discussing their next options. The first thing proposed was “dealing with” Tardin “Ironjaw” and his goons. “Ricochet” insisted he was going to remove these weak Blades from power one way or another, and laid-out a plan to humiliate them and force them into a fight. While the group was initially against the bold attack, Ricochet’s intent to confront them with or without his friend’s assistance, meant that eventually they all caved in and chose to follow him.

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With the adventurers dragging their heels behind him, Ricochet boldly strode into the shop, noting Tardin himself, and four of his thugs were present. He confronted Tardin, insulting his goods and then demanding a 100 sp per ten-day bribe to not trash the place and kill him. Tardin did not take it well, demanding the group leave his shop, and when that didn’t seem like it was going to happen, told one of his goons to rouse the guards.

“Scales”, Kahli, and Shiv were blocking the door, and as one of the thugs tried to push his way past, Scales took a swing (and missed) at the man, and immediately blades were drawn, and the fight was on.

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Ricochet took several blows from handaxes, but easily kept his ground, moving to directly challenge Tardin himself. Outside, Sweet and “Sprout” were on overwatch, and Sweet noticed a shadowy figure hiding around the corner of the shop, dressed in an odd cloak and dark hunter’s clothing. and immediately moved towards him, asking “Can we talk?”. He immediately turned and fled, almost disappearing into the open daylight, as though he had become invisible.

Inside the shop, _Scales cast several Magic Missiles at one of the wounded thugs, killing him. Kahli followed up with one of her Eldritch Blasts wounding another. Sprout slipped into the entrance of the shop but missed with a dart. Shiv managed to get in a savage murderous blow that slew another thug outright.

One of the remaining thugs got a critical strike on Scales, and Tardin got in a savage critical blow on Shiv, though he was able to deflect most of it with his uncanny dodge abilities.

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Ricochet and Tardin started in dueling each other, and he got in a good solid series of blows. Sweet ran to the spot where the figure “shimmered” away, and found a trail of glass, round as though from a bulb or a potion bottle leading off behind the shop. Scales pulled out the Sword of Zog, and struck the closest thug, then followed-up with a magic Missile., but he refused to go down. Kahli missed. Sprout caught one thug off-guard, and slew him.

The remaining thug double-clubbed Ricochet, but Ricochet strikes Tardin, once to let him know he’s present, and then once more for good measure, to slay him. Scales responded by tossing a double Chromatic Orb on the remaining thug, utterly slaughtering him. The shop went silent, and handful of people out in the streets had long since fled from the area.

Sweet, out back, investigated the glass shards, finding them covered in something like ash. She gathered several of the larger pieces and tucked them away in a pouch for later. The group began searching the room, looking for any hidden areas, but failed to find anything beyond poorly tanned hides, though there were a lot of them. The thugs were poorly paid, but Tardin had gold and six (6) of the spidery platinum coins the adventurers had begun to associate with the underdark.

While the adventurers secured the shop from casual intrusion, gathering the corpses in a tidy row on the floor, RIcochet jogged up to the castle. He was, however, unable to gain access to Caer Dragonscorn, due to his having the Yeoman’s Blade being silvered, and the guards present not recognizing either his name or appearance. He left the guards with his name and intention to meet with Lady Ivis Blackshield. Shiv went to the Green Forest Inn, but Flitter Fernwise was still nowhere to be seen. Soon the group gathered together at the former merchant’s shop, and agreed to inquire after the so-called “Hunter’s Guild”.

They made their way quickly north of the millpond, and visited Huntmaster Jaervon “Longshanks” Mardesal at his hall, finding him and several hunters gathered to discuss techniques. Ricochet interrupted the gathering, and once the other hunters recognized him, they quickly dispersed, leaving the adventurers to talk with Longshanks alone. They informed him of the incident, and that they needed to search Tardin’s quarters on behalf of the Baroness. Longshanks agreed that the brute wouldn’t be missed, and gave directions to his cottage in the woods to the west.

Taking their leave, they travelled to Tardin’s cottage, finding it a noisome place filled with the smell of curing leather hides and other debris. After a careful investigation of the cottage, they found a trunk buried under a pile of cast-off blankets, looting several pounds of gold, silver and copper coins, and a potion bottle identified as a Potion of Invisibility. The critical piece of information, however, was a large tanned hide that had been covered with charcoal writing. Careful examination of the hide revealed it to be the scattered ramblings of what one assumed was Tardin, listing various local hunters and even Longshanks. It outlined Tardin’s plan to kill several of the better hunters and frame Longshanks, thus removing him from the local Blades as a power group, though the exact details weren’t listed. It seemed Tardin didn’t quite know how to make it happen.

Relieved they had some hard evidence of Tardin’s bad intentions, the group began to formulate a plot using the evidence as why they killed the man in the Baroness’ name. Their plan decided upon, and given Sprout’s litigant seal of approval, the group made their way back to the castle, and confronted the guards at the gate, gaining access, once Shiv displayed his own status as Yeoman. They were escorted to the Great Hall, and waited for Lady Ivis Blackshield. They also noticed the number of livestock in the commons had been dramatically reduced in the last few days.

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Eventually, Lady Ivis arrived, and the group described The Incident, handing over some of the silver and gold they had confiscated, along with the charcoal plans to the Lady as proof of his bad dealings. The Lady agreed with their actions, and hinted that the merchant’s goods would be seized by the realm and would help alleviate their present hardship. The fact the realm was nearly penniless and had been forced to cull their herds to pay for fodder for the winter (as much of the realm’s fodder had gone up in flames when the manor burned). And now with the payment of mercenaries (to the tune of 10 gp per day), there were not many options available for the winter. These seized goods would help.

When asked if there was something the group might do to help, she charged them with recovering any caches of weapons or other supplies they might have encountered in their fight against bandits in the realm, as arming a militia would be crucial to any coming war. The group agreed, thinking about all the supplies and weapons they had left abandoned in Thorn River Crossing, and said they would presently see about recovering what they could.

The group made one last trip to visit Longshanks, sharing with the man a quick synopsis of their understandings of the situation in the realm, including the “Fiendish Plot of Blackmaw”, and the “Night of Claws”. He quietly listened and grew graver as their tale unfolded before him. They concluded with their explanation of the “Death of the Ironjaws”, and how he had been planned to become the means of that gang to rise to Blade status. Longshanks seemed grave, and thanked them for their efforts, before they left him and returned to Green Dagger Farm for their nightly meal.

Shiv began asking Sweet for details about the worship of The Gray Slayer, expressing an interest in converting. Sweet obliged. The group discussed making the trip to Thorn River Crossing, using the two carts they owned, and recovering as much of the supplies and arms as they could. They also figured, while they were there, they might be able to attract the attention of some local fey guardian and see about getting access to the Black Fens, where Scales had a treasure map.

That night, they also spoke with Shadowmist, asking him to be their spokesman if they needed to travel into the Marta’Tauri, as he was fey and had a little influence in the courts. Plied with an armful of withering, but tasty apples and some fine wine (from the stock they had recovered in Raider’s Roost ). He readily agreed, though their offer of a finely-appointed gold and gem-studded saddle was less than a popular choice for him to accept (The signs of horse oppression and bondage!).

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3rd of Echos : The day dawned cold and again threatened light snow. After a quick morning feast, the adventurers had their huntsmen and Mourde Carter ready the carts, and convinced Mistress Firlan Brooks to spare one of their oxen to help in the journey, and they paid her a “deposit” of 50 gp for the beast. The group decided to take the “easy path” by travelling the Dagger Road south to Daggermark, and thence along the old forest path to the fire camp east. From there, they would have a difficult few miles south-east to Thorn River, but the journey would be easier on their horses and the oxen for most of the trip.

The trip south was fairly uneventful, though a distant pack of wolves shadowed them for a mile or two, before fading off into the woods again, and they reached Daggermark with ease before nightfall. They found the stables to be the best part of the Grey Moon inn, though their nightly feast of pottage with fresh bread and roast fowl washed down with imported ale and wine was welcome from their rations, and the warm barracks proved snug enough.

The local farmers and huntsmen were mostly dominated with talk about the recent batch of goblin raids. Unlike previous attacks, these were by small disparate groups of goblins, and were mostly centered around light pillage of winter stores and livestock, rather than the concerted efforts of the entire tribe from the Pit of Chains to pillage entire farms of people and property. They also talked about how the cols was fast approaching and how winter was surely about to turn very quickly to harsh winds and deep snow. A Wolf Winter was indeed due.

4th of Echos : Snow was falling fairly severely, and the winds were beginning to howl. The group readied their mounts and carts (the carts proved especially difficult, as no one in the group were more than passingly familiar with either the harness or the carts themselves). They each picked-up travel rations of two loaves of warm, fresh bread stuffed with cold roast fowl, and a crockery of beer. Eventually they crossed Echo Creek and made their way on the east trail out of Daggermark into the woods, and with the snow and ill-used trail made poor time.

By mid-day, they reached the relative safety of the fire camp, taking shelter in the old buildings and stabling the oxen and horses for a mid-day meal, and pushed on through the snows along the old trail, until they reached Thorn River Crossing well after dark. The bridge that the bandits of the Stag Lord had built was gone, as was the large “torso heap” the adventurers had left of the bandits, but it was otherwise much as they had left things. The adventurers took stock of the supplies, finding some of them spoiled, but the barrels of pickled vegetables and pork was still fairly salvageable. The arms proved still intact, though rusted and in need of repair, so the group set aside twenty (20) sets of leather armor, shields, spears and short swords for the militia. They then took shelter outside the stable barn, and turned in for the night.

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5th of Echos : Early in the morning, before even the sun had arisen, Sweet happened to notice an odd light down at the crossing of the Mythwater. Intrigued, she woke Kahli, and the two drew closer, spying on what soon became an obvious figure of a woman in a white glistening robe standing in the water. They returned and woke the rest of the adventurers, who quickly made their way down to the banks of the Mythwater. RIcochet confronted her, and she identified herself as Lady Sylessi, the Lady of Silvershadow Lake, but rather ignored RIcochet turning her attentions to Sweet, referring to her as “The Herald”.

Sweet explained they were only here to gather some of the supplies left by the bandits for the realm of their own people, and Lady Sylessi was extremely uncaring about what transpired in “… the mortal realms…”. Scales suggested asking for passage to visit the Black Fens, but she called it “…a foul place…”, and demanded to understand to what purpose such a visit would be for. When they described how they thought Blackmaw the Night Hag had settled in the swamps, Lady Sylessi claimed that “… the creature you know as Blackmaw is no longer fey, she has become something more and is ever-changing. She has lost interest in the Marta’Tauri, and is no longer considered a part of the Border Court, nor the River Courts beyond.”, hinting that Blackmaw was dwelling somewhere else in the MapN’Dor.

When the adventurers proved to have some knowledge of the subject, referring to these two terms, she brightened, and they asked after the Elder Scroll, describing it as a treaty, and sharing what little knowledge they had of the object. Lady Sylessi explained that is was ore than a simple treaty, it was an artifact that clearly granted power over the lands known as the MapN’Dor. It quickly became obvious to everyone that she was very ancient, and possibly had even been around during the writing of the document, and thus held great knowledge of the matter.

She seemed introspective on the matter for a bit, and then gave the adventurers a five day window to visit the Black Fens, claiming that perhaps this would teach something of value to the adventurers on the nature of the Elder Scroll. This invitation implied they could enter at their own choosing, but that at the conclusion of those five days, they needed to be out of the Marta-Tauri, as thereafter, she would have no controls over the creatures of the realm. She also bid them to neither slay nor harm any living thing outside of the “…ruins of Caharvaniel, lest the truce be forfeit.”. With their agreement, she suddenly turned into a pillar of water and slipped away into the stream and the night.

The group returned to their cold, snowy camp, and slipped back into sleep. With the dawn, they gathered the supplies together and covering them with tarps taken from the supply cache, they made their slow, steady way through the forest until they reached Daggermark without incident late in the evening. Taking rooms in the inn and stabling their mounts, they found it a welcome respite, despite the cost.

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6th of Echos : Waking early, the group readied their mounts and the oxen on the carts, and made fairly good time through a snowy, blustery morning on the Dagger Road north to Thornkeep. Passing through town, Ricochet checked-in with Iozef Eversnow, finding his Yeoman’s Knife ready, following its silvering. Despite the hour, they made their way up to Caer Dragonscorn, and gained access, eventually meeting with Castellen Shearwater, the first time the group had met the old knight. He had some guards called to help haul the tons of supplies they had recovered. He examined the goods with some questioning eyes, but accepted them and the carts were quickly emptied and the goods set aside for storage on the morrow.

While watching the off-loading, the group acted a little haughty towards the Castellan, who seemed to look down on the adventurers. As they inquired about the supplies, the Castellen disregarded their disdain of his title and seemed to hint they should be rewarded for their actions, like other merchants had been, but he dismissed their attitude and once the arms and supplies were unloaded, sent them on their way with a curt goodbye. Ricochet was not terribly impressed with his cousin. Kahli reminded that the man was a duly appointed knight of the realms, and was due some respect for the office…

Despite the time, the group made their way through the dark and snows, eventually reaching home for a quick evening meal and broke for sleep, intending to begin their expedition to the Black Fens on the morrow.

And in the night, the snows piled-up and the winds howled worse.

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Episode 18 - The Wolf Baron

“When kings the sword of justice first lay down,
They are no kings, though they possess the crown.
Titles are shadows, crowns are empty things,
The good of subjects is the end of kings.”

Synopsis : A tale in which our adventurers take part in the latest court moot in Thornkeep, only to discover that Baron Tervin Blackshield’s secrets are darker and his soul tainted far more than many suspected. They fight a gang of werewolves, calling themselves the Stonewalkers, and the adventurers begin to jostle themselves into position to broker power in the coming days, as all the Blades in the community start sharpening their knives.

https://youtu.be/9JgjeLBBSq4

28th of Uktar, TR 1049 : Having a couple days to spend before the evening moot on the 30th, the group begins to make preparations. They gather for a morning feast in the hall, and then take a quick journey to Thornkeep to pursue various personal tasks.

“Ricochet” took Vesina shopping for clothes, and rounded the day with a visit to Mistress Idara. “Shiv” spent the day discussing furnishings for his room in the Fallen Tower Vaults. “Scales” visited with Master Farakin Thumbwhistle, and purchased the pair of “treasure maps” he had reputedly stashed away; one was for a place in the far north-east known as “The Temple of the Stag”, the other was known simply as “The Ruins of the Black Fens”. According to his notes, the former was a forgotten temple to the Lady of the Forest, and the latter was an ancient fey ruin that was host to a large number of spiders. The problem with the latter location, was its presence in the Marta’Tauri. “Sprout” visited the Goldenfire Order, to speak with the apprentice Timber, and finding it rather quiet, spent a little time buying potions and equipment from Brishtargera Greenbottle. After their full day, the group met back at the Green Forest Inn, and after a great feast, returned back to their farm to sleep.

29th of Uktar : The adventurers spent the day conducting personal repairs on equipment and clothing, doing some work on their training, and just laying about for a day. Mikmek and his companions began “advanced training” regarding goblin-hunting.

30th of Uktar : The adventurers gathered and after some preparations left early to gather for the moot. The two-hour trip into town was quiet. The group made their rounds among the Thornkeep shops they had previously visited, picking-up various goods, and then leaving their horses at the Green Forest Inn, made their way up to Caer Dragonscorn and the moot.

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Quickly passing through the guards into the great hall, they found the council arrayed along the east wall, and a variety of local milling about the center, while they were organized by the lead clerk. Baron Tervin Blackshield was lounging in the center throne-like chair, while his daughter Lady Neria Blackshield and wife Lady Ivis Blackshield sat on either side. A handful of guards were present, scattered about the hall, and one of the sergeants stood near the stairway leading into the upper levels. Most of the adventurers made their way to the empty benches along the west wall, while Ricochet took Vesina to meet with the few farmers and craftsmen present for the moot.

Eventually the Baron growled the moot to order, and one of his sergeants began bringing forward claimants requiring various forms of recompense and judgement. The scribe would call out the registered names, and each would step forward. Without the Bailiff to lead the proceedings, the good Lady Ivis Blackshield would adjudicate the matter, often seeking the lowest fine or easiest amercement, with the Baron scowling and agreeing. It became apparent of the relative destitution of the local farmers, as they were all effectively serfs; unfree tenants who did not hold the land and owed all they had to the Baron for a share of their crops and pastures. Rare in the Forest Kingdom, everyone noted how lives for these people were waged in a few coppers here and a silver there.

At one point, the Baron’s personal man-servant, Yeoman Karse Blackstone, appeared from one of the doors behind the ruling family, swiftly stepped up to the Baron, and whispered something in his ear. The Baron sat upright and immediately gave an evil stare at the adventurers clustered against the west wall, almost snarling at them. He said something back to the Yeoman, and the servant slipped out of the great hall, avoiding looking at the adventurers as he left through the main door.

The adventurers grew tense, readying themselves, and expecting Blackmaw herself to appear at a moment’s notice. Sprout sent his familiar Callum to follow along behind the yeoman. It soon began to send images of slavering wolves and the constant feeling of fear, as it retreated back, sending images of slavering wolves or wild dogs. Sensing the problem, Ricochet immediately stuffed Vesina under the closest table, warning her to stay down.

A dark cry was suddenly heard on the wind, like a chorus of wolves, as the yeoman returned, to stand by the doors. He gave a knowing nod to the Baron, and everyone in the hall went suddenly silent as the Baron stood, throwing back his chair, exclaiming;

“Enough with this charade. RISE UP MY SCIONS of the STONEWALKERS! RISE UP,…”_, and he suddenly underwent a hideous change as his form devolved into a half-man, half-wolf hybrid, still in his armor and wielding his longsword. Furry and immensely strong, the beast finished its statement from a surprisingly capable mouth, despite its fangs and the muzzle on its maw that sprouted whiskers and fur as it said, “… RISE UP, and slay them all…”.

The Baron was a werewolf.

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Scales immediately slipped up to Lady Neria sitting on the Baron’s right, and grabbed her, dragging here away and stuffing her under the western tables out of danger, despite her half-hearted protestations. Sprout stepped back behind the table, readying his spells, while Sweet grappled Lady Ivis, and stuffed her behind herself, away from the Baron. As the Baron finally finished his transformation into a werewolf, he directed the guards presnt to “KIll all of them. ALL OF THEM!”. The guards began to reluctantly comply. Shiv and Ricochet leaped to the main door, and engaged the Yeoman, who was transforming into werewolf as well.

The sergeant standing next to the one serf pleading his case was stuck down in a savage series of claws and bites. The council members and surviving peasants retreated in horror into the far corner of the room, staying out of the fight.

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Sprout transformed himself into a gnoll shape he’d previously done, and then menaced the closest guard. in the corner. Sweet attacked the closest guard, but also menaced the Baron, brandishing her silvered short sword. The Baron responded with a flurry of sword, claw and bite, managing to claw her fairly deeply. Shiv got in a solid strike on the werewolf/Yeoman at the door, and was also struck by two powerful Eldritch Blasts from Kahli, and finally Ricochet got in a savage series of strikes, felling the werewolf, and then sealed the doors on the great hall as a pack of wolves accompanied by another werewolf approached the hall. They were sealed outside with a great flurry of howls.

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Lady Ivis fired a deep black bolt of shadow magic (which Scales identified as a variant Magic Missile spell) at the closest werewolf that was battering at Sweet. Scales downed the guard in the far corner with a Magic Missile, freeing Sprout and Shiv to grab one of the closest benches and drag it over to the main hall door, bracing the thing to the best of their ability. Kahli double-blasted the closest werewolf with a pair of Eldritch Blasts, while Lady Ivis ran across the hall to begin trying to coax Lady Neria out from under the table. To everyone’s horror, a pair of well-dressed werewolves came running out of the stairwell leading from the upper level, stopping at the base of the stairs to menace the room and take in the situation.

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Scales Fire Bolts the two new werewolves, critically wounding one, and Kahli, in a stroke of bravado, pulled out Scorbane with a flourish, charging and intercepting the two new werewolves to buy the adventurers some time. Starting to bear the wounds of dealing with three enemies at once, Sweet chose to simply Dodge and managed to defend herself quite well, the magic of Breastplate of Shades and Rushes once more proving its worth. Shiv quickly crossed the hall leaping the fire and stuck the werewolf guarding the Baron with the Imperial Blade. It turned and in a flurry of blows, bit Shiv solidly, but it seemed to have little effect. The other werewolves flurried several bites and claws against Kahli, but other than the usual damage, seemed to have no other effect.

Lady Ivis dropped a veil of darkness covering only the two werewolves by the stairs, which aided Kahli who could see through it unaffected, while the two werewolves were troubled by the spell effect. She finally coaxed her daughter from under the table, and thrust her behind her to protect her better, starting to push her back down the aisle behind the table on the west wall.

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Scales lobbed a pair of Chromatic Orbs at the corner werewolves, but one splashed off its armor without effect. The wounded one, however took a savage critical blow from Kahli’s blade Scorbane, and she savagely focused her eldritch might into the strike, and it was torn in two by the blow, dying.

The Baron, having grown weary of the inability get past Sweet’s defenses, uttered a few arcane words, and channeled a massive lightning bolt strike into her, with the rest of it exploding into the wall behind her. She staggered under the attack, nearly dead. Shiv slipped in behind the Baron, leaping onto the table and stabbed him with a deadly blow, then retreated away again.

The remaining werewolf slipped out of the darkness covering the stairs, but failed to do more than cursory damage to Kahli. Ricochet and Sprout switched places, allowing the former to run across the hall, rallying Sweet and then pulled out his longbow, for a couple ranged shots with his magic arrows. on the Baron. Sprout began to feel many severe blows on the doors from the werewolf outside the great hall, while his minions howled and whimpered. Lady Ivis began retreating with her daughter down the length of the table.

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Scales twinned his strikes again, but missed the Baron, though he struck the remaining werewolf. Kahli struck down that one with another savage blow from Scorbane, then charged the growing cluster around the Baron. The Baron, recognizing the changing tide of combat, and hearing his minions howling outside, retreated back through one of the doors behind the great hall, taking a passing blow from Kahli fueled by an arcane smite. He snapped a bite at Shiv, and managed to hit. The effect was immediate, as Shiv felt the burning venom of something settling into the wound. Ricochet slaughtered the remaining guard in the corner with several well-placed blows, including a critical strike. Lady Ivis dismissed the dark veil near the stairs.

Everyone begins to lay ranged fire into the Baron,and even Kahli follows him into the corridor, firing a savage smite-fueled blow into the Baron, while he replied with a savage claw and bite attack, though neither did anything worse. Ricochet returned to help hold the door, while Shiv fired a magic arrow at the Baron_, and -Scales missed his ranged spell. Severely wounded, Kahli disengaged and slipped back around the corner, out of the fight. Sprout healed Kahli from Elzid’s Ring.

The Baron clearly out-matched at this point, slipped around the corner into the room beyond, and with a bright flash of light seemed to magically transported himself from the room and the great hall. In the space beyond the main doors, the wolves and their master gave a series of howls and began attacking livestock from the commons yard, before retreating.

The hall went quiet.

The adventurers began healing themselves, exhausting all their spell reserves, and passing around healing potions. Amid discussions of pursuit, Ricochet brought over Vesina and placed her safety in the hands of Lady Ivis. Both Vesina and Lady Neria seemed to clutch at each other, whispering about the horrors they had just witnessed. The group examined the werewolves, finding them all having been the Baron’s own Yeomen; Yeoman “Black” Daer Barstone, Yeoman Darvin Blackstone, and Yeoman Karse Blackstone. The one werewolf slain near the Baron was one of his sergeants, Imlach. The other sergeant, Elba was soon found missing. The mercenary guards had never changed into werewolves, but had followed his directives. Opening the main hall doors, they could hear the wolves out in the village below the castle, and found several of the livestock slain and wounded, including Ricochet’s henchman Korman, still tied to the wall. Several guards by the main gate were also found dead.

The adventurers soon headed down into the village, tracking the wolf pack south into the forests leading out of town, though they had a good 30 minutes head start, and the wolves were faster. They discussed options, thinking they should return to the farm, as their own dependents were in some degree of danger now. They retrieve their horses from Green Forest Inn, and then head up to the castle to report to Lady Ivis regarding what the next steps were.

They returned to find the villagers dispersed, Lady Ivis speaking with the Town Council in a confused babble, and Lady Neria and Vesina close together seated to one side, whispering together conspiratorially. The group intervened, getting the Lady Ivis’ attention, and the Council stepped away, talking amongst themselves about the night’s events. The adventurers reminded Lady Ivis about their suspicions of Blackmaw’s corruption. She said she was aware that something was wrong with her husband, but no one; NO ONE had seen this coming. She admitted he had changed after his arrival in Thornkeep, but this was unexpected.

Sweet kept her eyes on the Council, and sharply noticed Master Daemon Tarrasque, of all the Council was quiet, thoughtful and introspective. She intuited that he, as the most powerful Blade in Thornkeep, was likely planning for his next move. There was no way he would allow this opportunity to pass without a response.

Suddenly, Ricochet dropped to one knee before Lady Ivis_, and pledged his fealty to the -Blackshield clan. He loudly proclaimed, “Your daughter has my… blade…”. Lady Ivis pulled her trembling daughter to her feet, and standing behind her, gently pushed her towards Ricochet. Lady Neria stumbled forward, and steeling her nerves, placed her hand on his head, and said with a trembling voice, that gained strength as she spoke, “I accept your blade, and your trust. I pledge blood for blood, oath for oath. You shall be my blade, and I shall be your honor. I name you Yeoman of Thornkeep.” Shiv quickly followed suit, and the pledge was repeated.

Looting the corpses, the group found only a few gold and silver coins and their masterwork Yeoman’s knives, which were returned to the hands of lady Neria, save one which Ricochet kept for himself. The group asked to search the Baron’s quarters, but Lady Ivis refused, stating that he had long since moved into one of the guest chambers and lived a life of austerity over their time in Thonrkeep. Asking after her son, Halst, Lady Ivis stated he was safely at the Goldenfire Order’s tower taking lessons. Lady Ivis did, however, give leave to search the _Yeoman’s- own farms, describing them as being on the northern edge of town, near the ruins of Thornkeep Manor. She invited the adventurers to attend the next moot, to be held (as was traditional) at the next full moon on the evening of the 15th of Echos, where her daughter would be formally invested in the title as Baron of Thornkeep, and they quickly made their way out of the castle.

A swift search of the yeoman’s farms revealed a few pricey treasures, a usual collection of trinkets, coins and other basic goods (and a lot of meat!), and that each had a shrine dedicated to the Beastlord. Each lived alone and without any servants or family. The group then returned back to Green Dagger Farm, swiftly heading to sleep with the late hour, though they all waited in the hall on guard for the evening.

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1st of Echos : Starting late in the morning, the group informed their farmers and henchmen of what had occurred the night before. Shiv had a growing concern over the deep bite marks in his arm from the werewolf Baron, which were bright red with infection and refused normal healing. Plus, he had been troubled by even more violent dreams, of him stalking the village of Thornkeep at night…

The adventurers gave Mourde Carter a silver longsword from their armory, to better defend the locals. He hinted that this wasn’t the first time he might have faced werewolves. Scales gave him one of their silver trade bars, and urged him to cut-forge as many silver “bullets” as possible for slings, to equip the farmers and huntsmen with simple and cheap silver weapons. The group discussed arranging for as many silver blades and arrows as possible, given their excess monies, from local craftsmen and ordering more from Mornhaven through Mistress Nessa Greenfoot, acknowledging that it would be at least a ten-day (or more!) before they might see the results. The group then readied their horses again, and headed into Thornkeep to do some research on werewolves and lycanthropy, and order their weapons.

The two-hour trip into town was uneventful, and while Kahli and Ricochet made their orders from the weaponsmith and provisioners, Sprout headed to the Goldenfire Order tower, and Shiv went to the castle to request access to their library for some research. Sprout found Master Starfire away on business again, apparently investigating a nearby ruin with some of her Order, but was given access to the library by Timber, who helped him find any materials he needed. They quickly found a lot of speculation, but there were some good references on the monsters, particularly regarding their nature, their vulnerabilities, and their powers. From what he read, this Stonewalker clan was a more civilized band of werewolves, that chose to live in the comfort of society (hence “Stonewalkers”, as they lived in buildings), rather than the chaotic abandon of pack life in the wilderness.

Shiv headed to the castle, and was quickly given access to the castle library, located on the upper level of the great tower, in the clan’s own apartments. He was also given the assistance of Lady Ivis’ own handmaiden, Maid Larista Farburrow to assist him. Shiv found the library to be small, but well-equipped with lore regarding History, Medicine and Nature. His research wasn’t as thorough as Sprout’s, but the records were more interested in how to cure the curse of lycanthropy, which hinted that one had to find such a cure before the first full moon , when the curse would be permanent with the infected’s first change and kill. He also discovered that Arianna Redfern and her Blue Basilisks had been hired to guard the great tower of the castle, while the regular mercenaries had been removed to defense of the walls and remainder of the castle, under the remaining sergeant Ragnar and the guard captain Ser Moireach Spearbearer.

Sweet visited with Sword Brother Eldrast, asking about the curse, and he admitted that lycanthropes weren’t his strong suit; he was more conversant in topics regarding undead. He did know, however, that there were powers that could be summoned, such as Remove Curse (3rd Level Abjuration), and based on Shiv’s recent knowledge, had to be cast before the next full moon. He demanded, however, that a suitable offering was required to summon these powers, and that he needed a day’s advance warning to prepare for the ceremony.

The group gathered again at the Green Forest Inn, to trade their information, and then travelled once more back to Green Dagger Farm, to spend a night in generally quiet contemplation of their situation by the warm fire…

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Episode 17 - Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!

“What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

Synopsis : A tale in which our adventurers take a couple days to investigate rumors about a nearby bandit camp of Raider’s Roost, finding it to be a fortified stronghold held by the bandit lord Eirikk Ram and his followers. Examination of the site reveals a deep escape tunnel that leads to a lesser path of the Deep Way, and further exploration leads them to assault the goblin stronghold of the Pit of Chains, slaying its demonic lord and scattering the goblin tribe.

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25th of Uktar, TR 1049 : Green Dagger Farm.

Over an early morning meal at the mothalla, the group discusses their options, and they decide to act on rumors regarding the bandit camp known as Raider’s Roost, located west of Thornkeep, which “Scales” insisted was an important site among the bandits, and where their next most powerful “bandit lord” lived. Perhaps, it was surmised, he might know more about the mysterious Stag Lord.

The group saddled up their horses and set about making their way into and through Thornkeep, passing a small, late caravan of traders headed into town. Further passing through the western timber camp, filled with merry singing and wood-chopping, they reached the crossroads beneath Raider’s Roost, a series of rocky hills north of Hexwater Road, and west of the trail north to Darkmoon Manor.

The adventurers headed into the trees below the heights, leading their horses and finding it thick and snaggled with snow and thorny hedges, but eventually reached the cliffs south of the heights. “Ricochet” tracked some scattered foraging, but nothing too great in the snows below the camp, and located a fairly good place to hide the horses, while they headed around the cliffs to the east, quickly approaching the summit and the main trail to Darkmoon Trail.

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The place was revealed to be the ruins of an abandoned manor, fortified and converted into a small hold for the bandits. And someone was home. The western walls were lower and made of timber, while the taller eastern walls were higher and likely observed. They decided to slip around north of the summit among the easier slope and its woodlands, quickly making their way beyond the remnants of the manor’s pasture and fields, until they could approach through the ruins of some small farms to the western walls.

The group found crossing the 8’-high wooden palisade fairly easy, especially assisted by Kahli, and they were quickly inside the compound, and made their way through the debris of the yard to the door of the small great hall. Listening, they could hear scattered laughter and talk, but make nothing of exactly who or how many. Kahli broke the ice simply by opening the unbarred door, and revealing seven rough-looking foresters sitting around a large wooden table in the small hall on tree stumps. A pair of smoldering iron braziers were in the corners, and a narrow stair along the left wall headed up to the higher level. The small great tower behind them was stuffed with supplies and a ladder rose to the next couple levels.

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The bandits were both surprised caught flat-footed, unable to react (“WHOA! WHOA! WHOA!”), with all but one of them and the leader slain outright, and those two were badly wounded and quickly surrendered. The adventurers identified the leader as the one and only Eirkikk Ram, and he had proven a tough fighter, just not when caught unprepared for a counter-raid. Another trio of bandits tried to sneak over the walls near the stable, apparently having been in that out-building, but scorching rays and eldritch blasts later, two more were dead and the third surrendered (“WHOA! WHOA! WHOA!”). The survivor joined the other two.

They began interrogating the leader Ram about the Stag Lord, and he offered to let them know everything if they let him and his companions go free. Ricochet took the lead in the discussions, though Kahli seemed the least likely to let them survive, but Ricochet gave his word and the bandits seemed to trust this.

They claimed to have never met the actual Stag Lord, but they had met their agents a couple times since they had taken over this site some months ago. Each time, the agents of the Stag Lord, identified by their silver badge, and matching the descriptions of the two badge-holders the adventurers had previously slain, had come seeking fealty in their pillaging to the Stag Lord, but Ram had trusted in the defenses of his little fort enough that he and his were safe enough. They learned little else. The bandits, after some discussion on the matter, in which Kahli was the least supportive, and Ricochet the most vocal, were each given their boots and regular clothes, a sack of food from their own supplies and sent out the door. They quickly disappeared into the early-winter woods.

Searching the compound they found the stables empty, the other building to be a storehouse filled with typical supplies (provisions, ale, some blankets, torches and other essential goods), but otherwise fairly empty. The upper level of the great hall was stuffed with a dozen bedrolls, and a large trunk sealed by a common enough padlock (DC 15), found a fine masterwork longsword, a well-made pair of fur-lined winter boots, a potion, a pouch of assorted gemstones, a sack of gold coins and third filled with various coins of all sorts of origins. The supplies in the hall seemed the best of the lot, mostly sausages, cheese, dried fruit, three barrels of ale and a bundle of blankets.

Surmising there might be more hidden somewhere, the group thought about where a bandit might hide their special treasures, and “Sprout” identified the small great tower foundations. They began removing the barrels and other supplies stored there, piling them about the rest of the hall, and found one old barrel in the corner had sunken into the clay of the floor, and would not budge. Unable to figure out how to open it, “Shiv” used his Wand of Secrets to reveal it was indeed a secret door (or a trap), and Siusaidh “Sweet” Ironhand made short work of it, dismantling it to reveal a narrow 3’-wide shaft dropping 30’ into a small chamber below, accessed by ancient iron rungs.

Suspecting the worst, Scales quickly found the second rung heading down to be trapped, and disabled it by forcing one of his iron spikes under the rung to disable it somewhat, and telling the rest to avoid it. Below they found a small 10′×15′ cellar room of masonry, with a rough wooden table along one wall and a narrow 5’-wide rough passage hewn into one wall. On the table were twenty-five clay flasks of sweet wine, engraved with a purple-painted oval (no known vintage mark), and fourteen (14) silver trade bars (common coster marks : 5-lbs silver, 25 gp each). Below the table were a pair of fine Hepekerian nomad’s saddles embossed with silver and studded with many small turquoise gemstones (900 gp each). Kahli downed one of the flasks to determine if its was a magical potion, but only found it to be tasty, fine purple wine (one pint per flask, 5 gp each).

The adventurers retrieved some torches from the common supplies in the hold, and headed down the small 5’-wide tunnel, finding it head in roughly the same direction (they think), though having numerous curves and places where the raw stone had been carved and other places where it ran smooth and untouched. Travelling for nearly 500 paces, they entered another small chamber, this time a natural cave, 40’-long and about 15’-wide, with a narrower 3’-wide and 5’-high tunnel along the right-hand wall. This new passage travelled steeply down, with roughened floor to make the descent easier, for another 600 or so steps before entering a rough-hewn 10′×10′ chamber with no exits. Once more using the Wand of Secrets, they discovered a secret door directly opposite to the tunnel into the room.

Examining the site, Sprout found a clever slit in the wall above the suspected site, that opened the door by placing a dagger within and twisting slightly. The door ground open, pulling into the chamber slightly, and then rising into the ceiling, revealing its complex mechanical apparatus while open. Beyond lay a 20’-wide tunnel, flat and clear along its floor, rising perhaps 10’-15’ in a gentle arch above. The newest tunnel ran to both the right and left, off into the darkness, and a wagon could pass along it easily, without touching either side of the tunnel. They closed the passage behind them, ensuring there was a similar opening slit in the wall, and Kahli made a mark with charcoal on the wall of the tunnel opposite, to mark where it lay.

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Taking the right hand passage, they began walking, marvelling at the tunnel, some distance deep under the earth, and easily passed along. Strange purple lights lit the walls in places, and those with Darkvision could see a rainbow of rock formations all along their journey. The passage twisted and turned here and there, sometimes around a sinkhole along one side, sometimes across a narrow fissure with a cunningly carved arch. Debris had been carefully pushed against the sides of the passage, or filled pits and cracks in places, smoothing the floor, though no one could detect and general direction either up or down. After an hour of walking (in an unknown direction), the group quickly began to recognize they had possibly found some smaller branch of the Deep Way, the Underdark’s trade road. (“WHOA! WHOA! WHOA! Where are we going?”)

Taking stock of this new information, and having no idea where it might lead, the group agreed that they would return to the surface and take a nice long rest in the bandit fort they had recently cleared. Once rested after their long trips to the fort and now underground, they could return and explore this new discovery at their leisure. They turned around, and headed back to the site of the secret door, and began the long trek back to the surface. Once back at the fort, they retrieved their mounts in the hollow below the fort, and brought them, stuffing them into the crowded stables with a few measures of grain from the stores, and then settled themselves into the second level of the great hall, after securing the door.

26th of Uktar : During the night, the group heard something large snuffling about on the slate roof, but it soon lost interest and after a few circles above the fort, flew away. The night was otherwise uneventful, and they woke late, but dry and warm, and feasted on the supplies available. Shiv took the time to identify the boots as Boots of the Winterlands, and attuned to them, finding them a delight considering the season. The group then ensured the horses and outer doors were secure, and headed back down the hour-long trip into the Deep Way below them. They slipped through the secret door into the Deep Way, and returned back along the right-hand passage, once more sealing the door behind themselves.

The adventurers walked for about two hours, noticing how its twists and turns and sometimes carefully carved slopes led them without any distinctive features beyond the odd sinkhole or small bridge over a crack in the floor. Here and there a minor passage, most barely wide enough to crawl into, or a small cavern with stalactites and stalagmites cleared down its center could be found, but the trip was otherwise uneventful, and lacking in notable features. Suddenly, a 10’-wide, 10’-high passage delved sharply away from the main passage along the left wall. Beside it were piled a heap of various beasts (and humanoids!) skulls.

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Taking heart in this, they chose to take the smaller passage, and after shifting about some of the mostly filthy and moss-covered skulls, wandered down the new passage, leaving the minor passage of the Deep Way behind them. This route was a miniature version of the other, but less-travelled, and filthy. Mushrooms of an unhealthy appearance, and patches of debris were haphazardly left across the passage, hinting at it not being considered a part of the trade network. They travelled for several hours, having to stop on occasion to carefully cross small crevasses and pits.

After about three hours, they began to come across moldering skeletons and a few smaller piles of skulls, hinting that whatever lived here, had done so for generations, and the adventurers agreed the skull piles were likely marking their territory. Soon, chains of rough-hammered iron could be found, most 10’-long lengths of rusted metal that sometimes bore manacles, but were generally broken and rusted beyond value.

Suddenly, they came upon an entire forest of chains, most crusted in corroded iron, but some seemed newer, with manacles and even one or two sporting bodies of humanoids of some sort. Many of these newer ones still bore the sharp rough hammered spikes of iron that made the group realize whose lair they had just discovered… they were in the lower levels of the Pit of Chains, located a couple hours somewhere south of Thornkeep, in the northern Thistle-Tops.

The adventurers readied themselves and the filthy caves they followed showed the long generations of a goblin tribe’s habitation; most passages were horridly carved 5’-wide and 5’-high, debris, stone rubble, broken ironmongery and wood, old bones and in horrid condition. They soon came upon a branching of the passage; angling off to the right and left, or continuing straight. The adventurers continued to the right, and soon saw unsteady firelight ahead, and heard the yammering of goblins in their harsh tongue.

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The 20’-wide by 40’-long chamber was crudely carved, but most of the room’s debris had been pushed against the walls. A small fire of dried dung lay against the left wall, smoldering and filling the chamber with thick, acrid smoke. Something unidentifiable burned on a spearhead over the weak flames. Against the far wall were a crude stone table, and a stone cistern lay in the corner opposite the opening. A handful of goblins were in the center of the room, making crude stone javelins, and combat quickly ensued.

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One goblin in a crude iron chain shirt, wielding a rough 6’-long spiked iron chain, ran to the far corner and opened a secret door, yelling something beyond. He then joined his companions in the fight, before Sprout cast a Sleep spell on the center of the goblins knocking many unconscious, and allowing Ricochet and Sweet to leap forward and into the opening, finding an ogre looking around bewildered, grasping his club. He quickly joined the fight with a loud, ear-splitting roar.

In the sharp battle, “Shiv” used his assassin abilities to slaughter each goblin on the ground quickly, while Kahli and Scales fired their Eldritch Blasts and Flame Bolts, and all the enemies in the two rooms quickly fell under the adventurers blades and spells, though some of the goblin’s javelins found their marks, and the goblin leader’s ability to reach around allies was unique.

Examining the room, they heard distant drums suddenly burst out, hinting their presence was now known to the tribe as a whole. They quickly moved onwards, following the sound from which the drums were coming, and ignoring a couple of other passages, until they came to an opening to the right from which a flickering firelight could be seen. The passage here narrowed into slim 2’-wide slot, that could be better defended by the goblins if they were more prepared, but the Ricochet pushed into the room suddenly.

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Beyond were a couple dozen goblins stumbling about what must be a common room for the tribe. The 30’-wide by 40’-long chamber opened on the far side into a smaller chamber with three more passages branching out from it. A large opening on the left-hand wall spouted a smoking fire of foul-smelling dung and timber, that seemed to have some draw, lessening the smoke that should have been present. The room was strewn with heaps of bedding, small stone blocks that served as tables and chairs, and even wooden furnishings from human homes in evidence. The debris and filth of a goblin warren were rife in the chamber, forcing everyone to operate as though it were difficult terrain, to avoid damage. Both male and female were armed and several more “boss” goblins were present with their spiked chains.

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Green eldritch fire and flame bolts scattered into the room, along with a devastating Shatter, clearing the center of the room in a barrage of deadly shrapnel.

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The tribe surged forward and laid into the front ranks with stone clubs, iron chains and their companions laid-down a devastating series of javelin volleys, but another Sleep spell, and the adventurer’s sharp blades quickly cleared the front rank, to hear the remaining goblins cry out “Skarmag! Skarmag! Skarmag!”, as a large wolf-like creature loped into the chamber.

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The beast quickly closed through the remaining goblins, and in an inhuman voice cried out arcane words to the closest, toughest looking individual in the group, Sweet. She immediately turned and cried out WOAH! WOAH! WOAH!” This Skarmag guy is my friend, nobody hurt him!. Skarmag also uttered something in goblin to his followers, and they began diverting their attacks everywhere else.

Another volley of stone javelins thus quickly downed Shiv with brutal efficiency, knocking him unconscious, as the party began lobbing everything they had at Skarmag, but its thick, hairy hide seemed to resist most of their damage, except from spells and arcane-enhanced weapons, hinting at its demonic origins.

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Sweet struggled to try and revive Shiv, but was unable to staunch the blood from his numerous javelin wounds. The beast got off one more arcane spell, aimed at Scales, which made him falter as the beast Suggested he step back from this fight. As Scales stepped back from the fight, the beast then closed and savagely bit Scales on his torso, nearly downing him as well. The goblins continued their volleys of javelins, causing some minor wounds, but continuing to pressure the adventurers. Sprout spent his time using Elzid’s Ring to heal Ricochet, and bring Shiv from the brink of death, while the others concentrated on the beast in their midst.

RIcochet dropped his sword and using his longbow, managed to get in a savage shot that disrupted the beast Skarmag’s concentration, and shook his control over Scales. A savage series of spells from Kahli drew the beast’s attention, and Scales finally drew forth the Sword of Zog, shaking it before the beast’s eyes, recognizing they were likely fighting a Barghest, and stuck down the creature with a single mighty swing from the sword. Skarmag was dead.

The rest of the group, free to concentrate on the remaining goblins quickly slew most with ranged spells, or turned their blades on the remaining downed and unconscious goblins, with three remaining goblins, either grovelling on the ground, or, as one poor bastard didn’t see it coming, having recognized the blade strode forward to touch it. The group slaughtered every other goblin present, except for the last boss goblin, grovelling on the ground. The six goblin kits found cowering in one corner were slaughtered as well, with some regret from Kahli, and happy murder eyes from the rest of the group.

In the distance, the sounds of goblins yelling and screaming, and scattered fighting hinted that the tribe was in full retreat down its numerous tunnels and holes throughout the obviously large complex. The party managed to pull a few pounds of crude copper coins from the goblin corpses, but nothing else of note among the two dozen corpses in the room. Kahli set about hacking off the Barghet’s head with her magic axe, intending to take it as a trophy and proof of the defeat of the tribe.

Stripping the goblin boss of his weapons but letting him keep his armor and clothes, the group forced it to lead them to the leader’s chamber. He was piled with a crude sack filled with the coins, and forced to haul the demon’s head wrapped in a couple goblin blankets, as it and the body began to smolder and within minutes turned into a sticky pile of flesh and black hair, oozing away into nothing. Skarmag was gone. From its remains, they pulled a silver and gem-studded belt (worth 600 gp!), and a pouch holding a few platinum and gold coins.

Using his whip, Ricochet threatened to teach the goblin a lesson, unless he show them to the Barghest’s personal chambers. The creature grovelled for a bit, and them led them down one of the exit tunnels turning right down another one past an abandoned guard chamber, and into a large chamber filled with a mushroom garden and a half-rotten pile of barrels and boxes holding barely intact food and other goods. He led them across this to a narrow door, and then down a short corridor to another intersection, turning left up a sharply steep corridor with crude steps hacked into it. This led into a small guard chamber with a stone table and a rack of javelins, through a door and into a 20’-wide by 50’-long room crowded with furniture and junk of various origins.

A quick search revealed nothing. Using the Wand of Secrets one more time, they were attracted to a large iron box in one corner, filled with mangy flea-ridden pelts of various beasts. Unable to find any concealment, Ricochet used his “thieves tools” (crowbar) to pry apart the iron box, pulling a smaller wooden box from the wreckage of the base, holding a collection of coins of all types, a potion Kahli identified as a Potion of Healing, and an amythest (100 gps).

Shiv grabbed the potion, and drank it down, needing some healing, and promptly found that it was actually a Potion of Poison. He immediately keeled over once more and started to convulse, making his ave, but suffering a deadly dose of the poison, but before anyone could heal him, Kahli held them back, warning them it was a waste until he had suffered through the effects of the poison completely. One more quick convulsion, and he went quiet, and Kahli herself raised him back with a touch of her own healing. Shiv was conscious once more, but the action reminded the group they didn’t know if any more of their potions were poisoned or not… Ricochet took a chance and drank one of their other potions down, but it wasn’t poisoned.

The group heard distant goblin shouts and sharp fights, so they barricaded themselves into the Barghest’s chamber, and decided to take a short rest while the chaos continued. Despite some goblin drums once or twice, and what sounded like a sharp fight down the stairs, the hour passed without any event intruding on them.

The group, with the goblin whip-length ahead of them, led them back down the path they had taken to get to the Barghest’s chamber. They paused in the first guard room, with Scales to cast Detect Magic in the ogre’s nest-like cave beyond the room, and along with several sacks of various coins (and all of the copper were added to the goblin’s sack), they found a quiver with six remarkable-looking Magic Arrows and two leather scroll tubes holding a Scroll – Cure Wounds (1st Evocation) and a Scroll – Hold Person (2nd Enchantment). Taking these treasures, they retreated from the Pit of Chains, travelling back down the main tunnel for several hours until they came to the minor branch of the Deep Way they had become familiar with.

About an hour or so later, they came upon a small pitiful-looking band of eight goblins, wielding crude stone clubs and only their leader, a larger female, wielding a shortbow and an actual sword. The small clan looked on in fear as the adventurers approached, bowing and grovelling in best goblin fashion. Their blood-lust mostly sated by the recent combat, the adventurers informed the band they should not proceed down the tunnel where the skulls were piled, as it was dangerous, and left the goblins behind. The leader managed to croak out a “Vuhrond thanks you”, as the adventurers continued along the tunnel.

Several hours later, the adventurers reached their secret door and making certain they weren’t being observed, opened it and slipped through the door, and sealing it behind themselves, made their way up the long tunnels that led to the surface. The sun was low on the horizon, hinting at how they’d spent most of the day underground, sop they decided to stay another day in the bandit stronghold, restocking supplies from those left in the great hall, and checking on and watering the horses in the barn, who seemed crowded and uncomfortable. After a quick walk around the yard to get them some air and exercise and making certain they were curried, the group crowded them back inside for the night, and settled down for the night, splitting their salvaged coins, and talking about their next steps, before going to sleep under their usual watches.

27th of Uktar : Waking in the morning, the group decided to return back to Green Dagger and spend a couple days on personal tasks before the Moot at Caer Dragonscorn the evening of the 30th. They saddled their horses and dragging the goblin along on a rope they made quick time through the slushy trail of Hexwater Road, passing the timber camp some miles east, and then through Thornkeep, drawing a few odd glances from the locals as to their prisoner. They spent another hour on the rutted Old Forest Road, and then an hour after that, reached the placid isolation of Green Dagger Farm, located about six miles east of Thornkeep, high on the ridge over-looking the eaves of Echo Wood. They were home at last.

The rest of the day was spent on their weapons and repairing armor and clothing, restocking supplies from their own inventories and having a late meal with their farm families, relating their recent excursions against the bandits and the goblins of the Pit of Chains. Mikmek and his companions cast evil eyes on Korman, showing off their higher status as warriors to its slave status. The farmers (especially the children) listened in rapt attention to the tales, and eventually everyone went to sleep in their own quarters for the night.

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Episode 16 - Connecting the Dots

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever."

Synopsis : A tale in which our adventurers return to Thornkeep with evidence of great treachery occurring north in the ruins of Mosswater. They begin to investigate their suspicions regarding their nemesis Blackmaw, bringing the proof and their theories to the attention of Lady Ivis Blackshield. They all investigate several branching theories and gather back to share their findings, some of which hints to the great age of the Treaty, and its proper name as The Elder Scroll, which is believed to be a powerful artifact, grating its attuned ownership over all the lands of the MapN’Dor. They also hear about a mysterious being, a half-dragon scholar named Thornruin, who was the author of this artifact.

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20th of Uktar, TR 1049 : Early Morning : Mosswater town ruins :

Following the tough fight in the ruins of the bonding house, the adventurers gathered themselves together and took a short rest and a sorted-out healing issues.

Discussing their next steps, the group agreed that Lady Ivis Blackshield needed to be informed about the situation; they weren’t going to bother with Baron Tervin Blackshield, because they didn’t particularly either trust or care for him. “Ricochet” discussed his “conspiracy theories”, that someone in Thornkeep might actually be a disguised Blackmaw, corrupting the townsfolk as was her want. The group agreed in principle.

After their short rest, the group took a sack of gnoll ears as proof of the band they had just slain, and retrieved their trunks of lore scrolls from the castle. They then slipped back into the low part of town along the west (where they had earlier built the raft and slain a smaller band of gnolls), and then retraced their steps through the woods south of the barrows, and eventually managed to find their horses, mostly untouched by the local fauna, though it took a little searching to gather them all together again. They saddled back up, making room for their two trunks of scrolls, headed back south out of Mosswater.

Carefully pushing south along the Mosswater Road, they passed Echo Cleft and Sandpoint Logging Camp, eventually arriving back into Thornkeep an hour before sundown. The group then headed back out east along the Old Forest Road, though “Sweet” seemed to sense something was moving along the northern woods, shadowing them. Ricochet took the opportunity to ride out into the woods, finding the woods too thick to see very far through, and had some difficulty with his horse, eventually giving up. The thing(s) shadowing them soon lost interest, and slipped back north into the woods, allowing the adventurers an otherwise quiet journey as the sun descended behind them. About an hour after sundown, the group arrived back in their homes at Green Dagger Farm.

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Everyone stayed at the mothalla for a late dinner, where Kahli counted out shares of the gold coins recovered from their excursion into Mosswater, promising more once she had some time to do some accounting on the morrow. The group learned it had been quiet, though a day previously, the farm had been visited by a traveler, Mourde Carter, a smith who had heard the adventurers might be looking for workers at their farm. He had promised to be at Green Forest Inn for a couple days, to await word. After some idle talk, the group split-up and went to their respective beds.

21st of Uktar : The morning dawned cold and foggy, but with no promise of new snow.

“Scales” revealed his intention to disguise himself as a random hunter/bandit, and during the group’s trip to Thornkeep, would attempt to get “noticed” by the folk who visited The Thirsty Ogre, and see about possibly joining a bandit group to find more about this “Stag Lord”. He only brought a small cache of silver and gold coins, to better cover his appearance, and brought none of his usual weapons or equipment, picking-out a selection from the adventurer’s armory in the mothalla. Kahli brought the group’s remaining silver and electrum shares of the recovered coins.

The group gathered after a late morning, and saddling their horses travelled along the slushy road into Thornkeep. Some distance east of town, Scales dismounted, and walked his horse south through the woods to the Daggermark Road, where he cautiously remounted and headed north into town, without incident.

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The rest of the group made their way to the Green Forest Inn where they stabled their horses for the day. “Sprout” took his leave of the group, and headed to the Goldenfire Order’s tower, where he intended to do research regarding fey treaties and possibly The Scroll. The others spent some coin buying rounds of ale for the handful of farmers and woodsmen taking a break from their late autumn tasks, while RIcochet started carousing with the locals for news. It seemed everyone had heard of the attack on Hurler clan farm, and was generally perplexed about wolf attacks this early in the year. They also talked about Eliseera Applewarden, though everyone agreed on the same stories regarding her, and had nothing bad to say about her.

Meanwhile, Kahli managed to attract the attention of one of the travellers, who was revealed to be Mourde Carter, the smith. She interviewed him regarding his expectations and skills, and agreed to hire him for a fair wage of 100 sp per month. She wrote off a scrap of parchment as a short note of introduction, and told him to head to the farm and take service as soon as possible. He thanked her and left. Growing tired of the discussions, she left with Sweet to visit with Mistress Nessa Greenfoot, and discuss business matters, before heading over to Iozef Eversnow to retrieve their new weapon, Erilyn’s Kiss, which Sweet took possession of. Kahli then took a little time to walk around town, letting her presence be known…

Sweet then went to talk with Sword Brother Eldrast, discussing her intention to work on training, and then asked about the lore behind the “Ballad of Firebrand”. He admitted he wasn’t too certain about its origins, but everyone locally knew the song (and many other dwarven ballads and drinking songs, as well). Sweet then spent the rest of the day talking and sparring with him and Acolyte Taronnel.

Meanwhile, Scales easily slipped into his new personae of an itinerant blade, and was seemingly accepted by the bandits and rougher huntsmen who stayed at The Thirsty Ogre. As the day progressed, he learned that the Stag Lord had become silent over the last month, and his agents had lately been almost unheard of in town.

Sprout managed to gain access to the Goldenfire Order’s library, but Iliara warned him that most of their research had been regarding the Amber Mages, and the ruins of the Accursed Halls, not the fey woodlands. He quickly discovered his own recent journey into Echo Wood had been recorded and had a place as one of the Order’s newest lore scrolls. He then settled down to work, poring over the libraries tomes and scrolls for information.

Towards the end of his trip back in time, he uncovered a scrap of parchment regarding a retired adventurer’s explorations in The Crucibles. In his rambling tales, he mentioned something called The Droskari Stone. This ancient record was referred to as a “copy” made by the dwarves of an ancient treaty known as The Elder Scroll. It was also mentioned that this treaty was witnessed by an ancient half-dragon named Thornruin. This quote stuck out in his research, the plea of an older adventurer to a younger;

“…“Just before the end I uncovered a large tablet called the Droskari Stone. The translated text breaks off in places. The text speaks of a ‘divine plan’ and a ‘doomed prophecy’. I fear we are running out of time. I am too old to go down and brave those beasts. But you are strong…”

RIcochet, having grown disinterested with his carousing, then made his way up to Caer Dragonscorn. The smell of the place was palpable, as the interior commons had been filled with livestock for the winter, following the burning of the castle manor. He was stopped at the entrance by a sergeant Ragnar, a homely but capable man who resisted his initial entrance, but eventually sent one of the guards to inform Lady Blackshield that someone named “Shearwater” sought her attention. After waiting for some time, the guard returned, and Ragnar escorted Ricochet through the mud-slick commons to the main keep. Brushing their boots, the pair were eventually let into the formal dining hall (behind the great hall), and waited a few minutes until the Lady and her maid Larista arrived. Ragnar left.

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Ricochet described his group’s recent trip north “hunting wolves”, when they encountered a number of gnolls and a small band of ogres. Lady Blackshield seemed interested in their banners or clan marks, and had Larista set about drawing them for her own records. Eventually sweet-meats and wine arrived, and the discussions became a little less dark.

Eventually, bored of wandering town, Kahli headed up to the castle herself (she had agreed to do so eventually), and after talking her way thorough the gate and Ragnar, she was escorted directly into the meeting, and brought wine for herself. Kahli also brought one of the iron armbands of the ogres, and the sack of gnoll ears as proof. When the discussions turned to the adventurer’s experiences in the cellars of Caer Wyrmgrave, they presented the Shield of the Crowngaard and Regalia of the Greatwyrm as further evidence, as to whom they believed they had encountered. Backing their claims, were two books they had recovered; “Lady Anisa’s Journal” and the “Tome of the Advisor”.

The pair then laid-out their belief that Blackmaw the Night Hag was behind a concerted effort to destabilize the realm. They connected the dots of the recent Bailiff’s Cult of Rot, the Dream Fever, and even the recent wolf attacks, combined with a potential two groups of troops having been raised for the purpose of bringing Thornkeep to eventual ruin. Combining this with the local Blades, they felt displayed how desperate her husband’s claims to the realm truly were. They inquired as to the safety of the lower cellars, implying there might be a hidden entrance to the castle of which the Blackshields might be unaware, but Lady Ivis assured them that she has had years to search the cellars and that there were no such hidden entrances that she was not aware of. She insisted they need not worry about such things.

The pair assured Lady Blackshield that they intended to see these threats brought to an end. She inquired after their own personal intentions regarding the realm, and their long-term plans in Thornkeep. Ricochet had no intentions of “settling down”, admitting his desire for a simple life of wenching and wine. Kahli admitted she had her own lands to be concerned with, and that she had no reason to stay in the region for a longer period of time than was needed to ensure the protection of her friends and servants.

Lady Blackshield said she must ponder the information the adventurers had brought to her attention, but she invited them to attend the next Moot, on the 30th of Uktar, as their presence and witness might be needed. They agreed, and left the castle to return back to the Green Forest Inn, where their friends were gathering. Everyone eventually returned to the Inn, even Scales, where they shared the information they had recovered.

The group began a late discussion, eventually agreeing to take a few days to gather more information from their various sources, or otherwise sort out a few personal issues, taking a three-day downtime. They agreed they needed to investigate the region north of Mosswater and Candlemere Lake, not only for the possible troll hole, but also because there was likely a dwarven citadel in the area, and the group had a treasure map set in the area as well. While the rest stayed at the inn of the night, Scales returned back to the Thirsty Ogre to spend three days as a potential bandit.

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22nd – 24th of Uktar : Several days of foggy, cold weather with no new snow. Various personal tasks were engaged in by the adventurers.

Scales : Spent time carousing, eventually finding that the Stag Lord was not hiring (or even talked about much lately), but that “Raider’s Roost” was a popular bandit fort used by the most powerful “bandit lord” at present, Eirikk Ram.

Sweet and Sprout : Both spent a few days working on their health regime to improve their fitness (HP +1), under the tutelage of Sword-Brother Eldrast, spending 50 sp.

Ricochet and Kahli : Spent three days carousing and attempting to gather information regarding the local Blades. but found nothing special regarding their activities or intentions beyond the information they already had.

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