Tales of Brittanis

"Hey, I Found The Bandits" [kthunkkthunk] "...Ow." Bagram GOLD 4
In which the heroes continue staggering about the wilderness, looking for people who want to kill them.

Recovering from the previous nights battle, the party awake fresh in the morning. The essence of time slipping further and further from their grasp, they gathered their belongings and quickly proceeded with their plans to explore further north.

Scouting ahead as was his usual behavior, Grunthar used his keen senses to navigate the party to a stream flowing through shallow cliff-sides. Several boulders lay on either side of the river and a thin, decrepit rope and plank bridge was the only way to cross the expanse to the forest on the other side. The party exchanged knowing glances and took up positions behind the boulders, knowing full well that there was an ambush waiting for them on the other side of the ravine.

As lightest member of the party, Tayle volunteered Shera’s services and has her cross the bridge to test the amount of weight it would hold. Shera stepped onto the bridge, and step after step, she slowly crossed. Once on the other side, she looked back at Tayle with a plainly disapproving lupine expression.

Grunthar looked around at the rest of the party, nodded and as slow and silent as his padded feet would carry him, made his was across the bridge safely to the other side. The twang of a bowstring was heard from the side of the bridge that Grunthar had just crossed to, and two arrows darted out of separate locations in the forest; the first ending its flight buried Shera’s hide, the second hitting Aydin with enough force you pierce clean through him. Aydin staggered as blood began to ooze down his enchanted tunic.

Barthram: (steps out from his hiding spot) We have fought and killed many of your brethren. We seek only Kressle, let us pass and you do so with your lives intact. Continue to stand and fight and none of you will live to see the rising of the moon.

Dull mutterings can be heard coming from the other side of the bridge, but they are quickly stopped as another arrow flew from an unseen location in the woods, this one barely missing Tayle as he ducked behind the boulder.

Aydin: (bolstering himself from the bleeding wound caused by the arrow) Come out from hiding, fight us like men!

Clearly firm in their new found resolve, the attackers did not begin conversing in regards to this newly issued threat.

Tayle quickly leaned out from behind he boulder and called out to Shera, who quickly ran back across the bridge despite the arrow sticking out of her back. Having no desire to be isolated from all of his allies, Grunthar began back tracking across the bridge to the relative safety of the boulders.

Out from the shadows of the trees stepped a man wearing similar garb, and standing with similar authority to the captain of the bandits that the party had faced in Kennet’s Trading Post. The bandit captain quickly severed one of the ropes holding the bridge together with an upward slash of his blade, causing Grunthar to lose balance and tumble into the rushing water below.

Trifus leaped out of his safe haven and cautiously moving out onto the bridge, threw a rope over the side to Grunthar. Following the suit of his long time friend, Draxxus sprinted out to the edge of the ravine and threw a backup line out into the river.

Caelynn rushed out to Trifus’ aid, she pulled more rope from her pack, secured the line and tossed the other end to Trifus. The bandit captain seizes this opportunity and issues a command to fire to the his men hidden in the forest. A volley of arrows exit the treeline; the first two came to a halt resting deep within Trifus’ side, while the third flew long and hits Barthram. Staggering from the unexpected blow, Barthram righted himself, walked towards the bridge, and pulled the arrow free from his arm. An air of purpose surrounded him as he squared himself to his target, his eyes began to glow a faint hue of gold, and with his Rod of Office outstretched, he unleashed a torrent of crackling, black magical energies directly into the chest of the bandit captain.

Bandit Captain: (still reeling from the punishing magical assault he just received) KILL HIM! Kill the warlock!

Three arrows shot out from the forest, and all three converged on Barthram, two of which passed nearly through his body, leaving him almost dead and oozing blood onto the ground beneath him. Aydin dropped to his knees, removing his merchant’s pack in the process, and began digging through it looking for some kind of potion for his new ally, but was unable to find anything of worth in this situation.

Tayle swiftly moved to Barthram’s aid, and prepared his Life Seed to bring him back from the brink of death. Fully aware of the punishment his allies are taking around him, Trifus quickly pulls Grunthar to shore, and issues a command for a full retreat.

Draxxus: (pulling the rope out of the water) Stand tough, my friends! We will pull through this!

Renewed confidence and motivation poured into the party from Draxxus’ words of encouragement, and they fight on. Caelynn dropped her rope, and at the behest of Trifus, retreated to the safety of the boulders once more. The bandit captain, fearing a full retreat from his foes, ordered another volley be fired across the river; arrows flew, hitting home in both Grunthar and Draxxus.

Barthram rose to his feet once more, his body glowing a heavy golden aura, his eyes entirely gold and pupil-less, and began to chant words of power. The wind whipped around him, blowing his cloak around. Across the river, the bandit captain howled in obvious agony, grabbing at his head, all the while Barthram continued his chant. The force of Barthram’s magic turned the bandit captain’s mind against itself— he reached down to his belt and hastily grabs his dagger, turns it on himself, and buried it into his own chest up to the hilt; he then sank to his knees and tumbled down the ravine and into the rushing waters below.

Tayle channeled healing energies to Grunthar, before urging his allies to move forward. Grunthar, still adjusting from his earlier swim in the river, fires two arrows up the ravine, but misses both of his targets. Shaking off more water, he quickly fired two more arrows at the same two targets, one hitting home, and drawing the attention of the other bandit. Seizing this opportunity, Grunthar fired one final arrow, striking the bandit that he had previously missed.

Trifus, seeing his opening, lowered his shield and charges at the nearest bandit, bashing him into a boulder with enough force to break bones. Trifus stepped back, leaving the bandit crumpled in a pile on the ground and then swiped his axe at a nearby bandit, sending him reeling into one of his comrades. Trifus spun, reversed the direction of his axe’s swing, and brought the blade down on the bandit’s head at his feet.

Draxxus started to make his way across the bridge, switching his shield for his Dragonborn battle standard, and quickly charged through the carnage left by Trifus, bringing his bastard sword down and cleaving open another one of the bandits. Aydin, Caelynn, and Barthram all crossed the bridge in the opening granted by their two heavily armored allies. As he went to step off the bridge, Barthram lost his footing and tumbled down onto the bank of the river. The remaining bandits each figured arrows at their closest targets, hitting both Trifus and Aydin.

Grunthar readied an arrow from the opposite side of the river and fired it at one of the bandits. The arrow narrowly missed, but Grunthar called on the spirits of the wind and redirected the arrow to find another target, missing again, he called one more time on the wind spirits and directed his arrow at another target. The arrow struck the bandit with such force as to pass straight through the bandits head, leaving it instantly dead in pile against a boulder. Trifus maneuvered around one of the bandits to a better position, avoiding an attack, and swung with his axe but misses the bandit.

Draxxus roared, unleashing icy dragon breath out over two of the bandits, before turning on his heel, slashing his bastard sword into another bandit, and taunting him to attack. Aydin tried to move around a bandit, out of the line of direct combat. The bandit slashed out at Aydin, landing a glancing blow, to which Trifus quickly counterattacked using the bandit’s lack of attention to the greater threat. The dark metal battleaxe slammed home, knocking the attacking bandit prone. Aydin then called on the power of stars, creating an aura of shining starlight burning the bandit.

Caelynn unleashed a volley of flashing swordplay; first attacking the starfallen bandit, spinning around him and attacking him two more times, before nimbly leaping on one of the boulders. From atop the boulder she unleashed two more attacks, lightning dancing down her rapier on her final attack.

Barthram climbed his way out of the ravine, channeled the power of his father into a solid force and unleashed it at the bandit surrounded by Draxxus and Caelynn. The bandits scrambled to attack anyone around them, but are unable to land a hit— the tide of battle had definitely turned against them by this point.

Tayle positioned himself and Shera around one of the bandits, before thrusting his spear almost clean through the man’s body. Likewise, Grunthar fired an arrow at the final bandit standing, the arrow found its target, lifting him off his feet and pinning him to the boulder behind him.

The party agrees that they must be close to the bandits hideout, and that there is no time for searching these bodies. They continued on as fast as they could to hunt the bandits in their lair.

The Rage of the Aerie-- Draxxus Winter Break Part 1
Wherein Draxxus has a vision and a lot of things change very suddenly.

Draxxus had left the relative safety of the trading post, riding hard in the direction of the Wyrmsteeth Mountains, carrying his battle standard aloft. The scenery along the road quickly changed from hilly forests to that of burning farmland and roving, lawless bands of Humans and Tharn all over the countryside. The Aerie—his home, where the rest of the dragonborn colony was Draxxushugolocated, and where his father reigned as Clan Leader—lay ahead of him, high up in the mountain passes. Clearly things had gotten far worse since Ehod left Barradin’s Hold and rode north to deliver the word of their former lord. The mountains of Wyrmsteeth began to loom before him, against the darkening sky. He focused all his resolve and urged his horse to move faster, wanting to reach the base of mountain before night fall.

The ancient, blue-and silver standard flashed a bright radiance as it had done many times before, and Draxxus could feel himself being pulled from nowhere with a sensation of falling.

The tiefling warrior in front of him grinned with fierce glee as its blade descended upon him. Draxxus lay upon the ground, and the chaos of a full-scale battle crashed and thundered all around him. The cries of dragonborn warriors surrounded him, and the crackle and snap of dragonbreath told him that his brethren were fighting alongside him. Dark, majestic wings soared overhead, wheeling and dancing in the graceful sweep of battle. Among the mighty dragons few smaller, less well-formed shapes that harried and attacked the dragons at every turn. Demons, summoned from the Abyss by the tiefling warlocks, they kept the dragons busy in the skies and prevented their use against the infantry of the tiefling army.

He was sorely wounded, and could feel his hands slick with blood. Much of it was his, he was certain. He looked down and saw the green-brown scales of his hands (NOT my hands, part of Draxxus’ mind whispered… these are not my memories, not my life…) close upon the hilt of a gigantic, curved greatsword. His armor—made of mithril scales to mimic those of a silver dragon—was covered in the blood of demons, tieflings and dragonborn alike. With a mighty roar, he thrust his blade up to meet the wickedly-curved tiefling weapon and only barely managed to deflect its swing. He kicked upwards into the tiefling’s stomach and rolled to his feet.

He felt a tug between his shoulderblades and the familiar pull of the battle standard of his Legion. Strapped into the specially-fitted socket on the back of his armor, the resistance of the wind pulled at him and threated his balance as he arose. As he did, a thunderous cheer erupted from the battle lines to his back. A quick glance showed his allies—dragonborn soldiers and a few human knights mixed in—surge forward, their spirits rekindled by the sight of their legion standard flying above the fray. Kalathrax (no… that’s not my name… I am Draxxus, dammit!!) spun back toward his foe and swept his greatsword in a terrible sweep, parrying another attack by the tiefling warrior in front of him and shattering the armor of a second.

Kalathrax, standard bearer of the XXIII Legion of Arkhosia, dropped his shoulder and bull rushed the tiefling in front of him, using his greatsword like a spearpoint, piercing through the enemy’s armor and spitting him on its length. The battlefield reeked of blood and viscera and Kal gloried in it as he placed his taloned foot on the hellspawn’s chest and shoved it into its comrades, clearing space for Kal to step forward and sweep his blade in a mighty arc, slaying the red-skinned tieflings surrounding him. He roared a battle challenge to them all and flung himself deeper into the fray, and as he did so the cry of his legion behind him erupted as well. Kalathrax was the tip of the spear, and where he plunged into the enemy lines, his soldiers would follow.

Draxxus blinked several times, and the sound of his horses’ hooves crunching on the hard, rocky trail slowly brought him back to reality. The taste of earth was in his mouth, and he knew that he lay upon the hard gravel of the road he had been riding on. Cold, bitter wind blasted his face, and he thanked the gods that his horse had slowed to a walk while his spirit had been elsewhere. He had been riding toward his home in The Aerie when the Standard had captured his mind and he had been taken elsewhere. His mind reeled with questions about what had just happened. Obviously, it was related to the Battle Standard that he carried in his hand. He rolled over to catch his breath and then froze. Something was wrong. The weight and feel of his armor was wrong, and he as he stood, his breath caught in his reptilian chest.

The heavy dwarven-made scale armor that he had been wearing before the vision had been changed, transformed by some unknown source. Bright, shining, silvery scales clinked under his talons ad Draxxus ran his hands over the armor protecting his chest, arms and legs. Mithril—just like the dragonborn warrior in his vision. He struggled to fight off confusion; just how powerful was the Standard, and how much of Draxxus had actually been present on that ancient battlefield? Panicked, he reached for the thick, heavy broadsword he had carried on his hip. It was nowhere to be found, and Draxxus spun about in the middle of the road, looking for his lost weapon; only the silent, frigid, howling wind answered him.

His hands grasped almost frantically for the shield that had been strapped to his back… and found the thick handle of a greatsword in its place. His scaly hands trembling, Draxxus drew the blade from the scabbard that had appeared on his back. His eyes closed tight and Draxxus uttered a brief prayer as he drew the weapon and settled into a fighting stance that felt as natural as any ever had. He slowed his nearly-panicked breathing and focused his mind before his eyes opened. He knew the blade, as he had suspected—and been afraid—that he would. It was massive and curved like a dragon’s wing, and indeed had the engravings that increased the resemblance. The pommel was sculpted to resemble a dragon’s head, and the crossguard was shaped like two scaled talons outstretched. It was the same weapon that Kalathrax had used in the vision.

What was happening here? Was he being possessed? Did the spirit bound into the standard provide these, or had some modern divine agency gifted him with them? Draxxus’ mind reeled as he pondered the possibilities. Eventually, he decided that nothing else was going to change and he was not going to fall into another vision-fit, so he remounted into the saddle and continued his slightly bewildered way to The Aerie.

The sun was at its apex when Draxxus began to lead his horse up the rocky path leading into The Aerie, the sun’s rays reflecting off his shiny new scale armor. Every once in a while, Draxxus looked down at it and stared in wonder… if this was the armor that Kalathrax had worn so long ago, then the armor had to be thousands of years old—and the sword too. Draxxus barely noticed when he approached the high stone walls of the Aerie. Suddenly, he reigned his horse in hard—finally his mind had snapped out of the fog that had accompanied him all the way up the mountain. He stared at the gates of The Aerie.

They were closed, and had been reinforced since he had visited last. Heavy iron bands had been added to the doors, reinforcing them against siege weaponry. Armed soldiers lined the battlements in the narrow passage, and Draxxus identified three different silhouettes on the wall. It appeared that dragonborn, human and eladrin soldiers all stood duty to defend their home. Draxxus couldn’t help but smile at the thought—of course his father had started to build the Aerie into a fighting force. The dragonborn were a naturally warlike people; conflict and combat are the truest tests of character in their culture. With so many refugees from elsewhere and war brewing among the human nations in the lowlands, a program of self-defense training for all able-bodied residents would be an efficient way to keep busy those who might otherwise cause trouble. He called to the gate guards and they answered in turn, and again Draxxus smiled—it had been a long time since he had been able to use his native tongue. He spurred his horse through the gates and heard them thunder closed behind him.

Hushed voices and furrowed brows followed Draxxus as he tied his horse to the post outside his house. He saw members of all the Aerie’s races working in the open spaces between buildings as he rode toward the center of the settlement; everywhere he saw armor being made, arrows being fletched, and the constant ring of hammer on anvil told him that several forges had been built in his absence and were now busy beating hot metal into tools and, from the looks of things, weapons. Two heavily armored guards—one human, the other a hulking dragonborn warrior whose face Draxxus knew but not the name—greeted him with stern expressions outside his father’s door. Again, Draxxus mind spun with the implications of this. Never had his father needed guards at his own door; the clan leader by necessity was a powerful warrior in his own right. What reason could his father have for stationing guards at his own door? It made little sense, and a deep sense of foreboding began to seep into his heart as Draxxus identified himself to the guards and pushed back the heavy hide door that kept his father’s home protected from the harsh mountain climate.

“My Lord Draxxus,” the human warrior growled. “If you seek your father the Clan Lord, he is not within. You will not find him there.” Draxxus wheeled on the smaller human and he realized that the man’s face bore three grisly scar-lines from above his left brow, across his recently-broken nose and down the opposite cheek. The scars were the livid purple-red of a wound healed recently by magic—very recently, in fact, because it had not even changed colors yet. Within a week of being healed by magic, normally all that remained of even a grievous wound were thin white lines to mark where the wound had been.

Draxxus’ anger began to rise. What was going on here? He had to find answers, and find then quickly. “Then where is he? I need to speak to him immediately.” Draxxus’ voice was harsh and clipped.

“The council chamber, Sir. He is conferring with the rest of the Council.” The guard didn’t flinch from Draxxus’ angry gaze.

“And what of my mother, then? Is she inside or do I need to hunt her down as well?” Draxxus’ anger began to rise.

The guard flinched and recoiled as if struck. His skin blanched, and his eyes swept to the ground. “No, Lord. She is not within. You should go find your father.” His voice seemed to get smaller with each word. “Sir.”

Draxxus spun on his heel and headed across the green from where his father’s home was to one of the few stone buildings the dragonborn had found intact when they arrived through the Waygate so many years ago. The Aerie had obviously once been a large and advanced colony of the ancient Aquilonians, but time and the harsh climate of the mountains had reduced much of the area to ruins. Some dragonborn like Kraxis had decided to build an entirely new home out of wood and hide, but many others had used the ruins as a basis for building a home. Thus, the Aerie looked like a patchwork of buildings—some made mostly of wood, other a hybrid of wood and the walls left by the Aquilonians. The Council Hall was the largest and most intact building they had found when they came through the Gate, and it was used for gatherings of large groups of people when needed.

The council building was largely underground—an amphitheater made of stone dug almost two full stories into the earth. It would hold several times the Aerie’s population, so massive was the building, and the thick stone roof was buttressed by stonework so ancient none could identify who had built it in the first place. It was here that the dragonborn fought their battles of supremacy to see where one stood on the chain of command. It was here that Draxxus learned the ways of battle, and it was here that he and Trifus had met and first become friends. The angry tone of the gathering washed over Draxxus as he stepped up to the back of the crowd. Human, eladrin and dragonborn stood in segregated groups in the hall, many with arms raised and yelling toward the dais at the bottom of the ampitheatre.

Kraxis crop“SILENCE, damn your eyes!!” he heard his father’s voice roar out in the council chamber as he worked his way forward so that he could see. He inhaled a deep breath, calming himself. His father’s voice was filled with rage and fury in such a way that Draxxus had never heard before, even in the midst of their most heated arguments. But instead of the deep breath calming him, the scent that slammed into his nostrils set every nerve in his body to tingling, and every sense on high alert. A cold knot formed at the pit of Draxxus’ stomach as he pushed his way to a vantage where he could see… and there he froze, stunned and shocked at the sight before him.

The harsh scent of holy incense assaulted his nostrils, and he shook his head to clear it. Still Draxxus’ mind spun and tried to make sense of things. Specific incenses were used by the dragonborn in preparation for specific rites and ceremonies. The acrid, pungent odor of the incense he now smelled was what the dragonborn warriors burnt immediately before they went into the arena; the scent was supposed to mimic the fires and blood of battle. At times it was also used by the reptilian warriors if they were preparing for an ordeal that promised to be particularly difficult, strenuous or dangerous. But the Clan Leader was forbidden to use that incense except on two occasions—if his leadership had been challenged by another and he himself was headed to the Arena to defend his right to rule… or before the dragonborn went to war. Draxxus shook his head a second time and stepped into the amphitheater proper to confront his father and get some answers. Something was wrong in the Aerie—very wrong, and Draxxus meant to find out what in the Hells was going on.

The crowd quieted quickly, and Draxxus used the opportunity to push and shove his way down the steps to the front of the crowd, all the way to the front. It was only at the bottom that he stopped to look up at his father, and as he did the cold pit in his stomach became ice-water that pumped itself through his veins.

His father stood beside he podium at the center of the council chamber, dressed in massive full battle armor of darkened steel that Draxxus had never before seen the Clan Lord wear. It was customary for the Clan to gift a new Clan Lord with a full set of armor upon his acclimation to the position of leadership. Typically, the set of armor gifted to the Lord was lighter set of training or parade armor, and the new Clan Lord was by custom supposed to put his previous battle armor in a place where those coming to meet with him could see it displayed prominently. This was symbolic—it represented the Clan Lord setting aside the warlike ways of his youth and taking up the calmer role of a leader and guide to his people. Only in the direst circumstances would the Clan Lord remove his old, scarred battle armor from its stand and don it once more. Only when challenged to combat in the arena or on one other occasion did the Clan Lord put his battle armor back on. Draxxus’ mouth went dry as he father began to speak. A thick, livid scar crossed his face, directly across his left eye, and Draxxus saw with horror that his father now wore an eyepatch made of leather-covered iron there as well. Two of the huge old warrior’s teeth had been broken, and they gaped as his father’s voice rang out across the hall.

“It has been two weeks since we were attacked, my brothers and sisters. Two weeks since the craven assassins snuck inside our walls and began a night of terror and murder that will never be forgotten in this land. At the final toll, sixty-one of our brethren were laid to rest because of the cowardly attack, at least one from each race that calls The Aerie home—dragonborn, human, Erin’Tar and Free Dwarf all suffered the assassin’s blade that dark night.” Kraxis’ voice echoed in the nearly-silent chamber and the only sound that interrupted his silent pauses was the creaking of leather or the sound of metal clanking. Quickly Draxxus looked around and he realized that nearly every single person in the room, regardless of race, was armed and armored as if they were going into battle.

“We have buried our dead, and begun to mourn their loss.” Kraxis’ voice caught, and he stopped briefly. He took a deep breath, released it, and continued. The force of his personality radiated like light from the dais, and Draxxus was just as spellbound as everyone else. He had never seen so much emotion from his father before. He wondered what could bring his father to such a place emotionally.

“Though we have only begun to truly feel their loss. The killers who survived the assault were…” His father grinned a horribly malicious smile, and the shattered teeth only enhanced its terrible appearance, “…questioned, and the information they gave us was interesting indeed.” The crowd murmured approval at this, and a couple of the dragonborn in the back clapped at the words.

“Not long ago, we of the Aerie decided to send emissaries into the world below. We can survive here in our mountain home, but to flourish as we should be able to do we must have trade with the outside world. I sent my own son into the lands below to seek those who would deal with us with honor and integrity.” Kraxis’ voice crashed among the walls, echoing. “I sent my son to find those who we could call friend, and we thought that the humans in the lands of Lyonesse could be partners with us here in our Aerie.” The armored dragonborn paused for a moment, and then his voice roared out, louder than Draxxus had ever heard it. He cried out with the force of a thunderstorm, a wall of sound that assaulted the ears of the son of Kraxis.

“But we were BETRAYED, my people! Those with whom we thought we had made peace have declared war upon us!! It is THEY who have sent their assassins into our homes and slaughtered our families, our loved ones,” his voice choked, “even our children IN THEIR BEDS! It is the servants of Lyonesse, the one whom they have lifted up and called a Knight and Lord, the one to who I sent MY OWN SON who has betrayed us! And the humans below us repay us with knives in the dark, striking like serpents from the shadows. All of us have lost friends, and many have lost family.” Kraxis voice fell to almost a whisper, and his head drooped.

“Even my own wife fell beneath the poisoned blades of these monsters. As the fever took her, she grasped my hand and begged me to avenge her death. She told me to don the armor of my true calling once again, and take the fight into the human lands and scour the foul betrayers from the face of this planet. Already, our best warriors have traveled to the human lands to eliminate the leader of their depraved and vicious host.” The crowd cheered at Kraxis’ revelation, a thundering cacophony that reverberated off the walls and stunned Draxxus almost as much as the words that had come from his father’s mouth.

He hadn’t expected this—nothing even approaching this. Draxxus sood stock-still, frozen in place. Assassins in the Aerie—sent by Lord Tremayne? It was preposterous! But the wording of the letter Tremayne had sent to Kennet’s Hold made it seem as if he had been responsible for King Connor’s death… if that was the truth, would he not have been capable of even worse? Could Lord Tremayne have sent assassins to the Aerie to murder Draxxus’ own mother? His brain reeled and spun, and he felt the bile rising in his throat.

“We ride to war, my brothers and sisters! The united forces of the Aerie will fall like an avalanche of steel down this mountain and destroy those who have dared raise their hands against us! We will ride united—for all here present are my family, regardless of race—and we will smash and crush and bleed this foe until the poison of his blood is spilled upon the ground and his castle is tumbled stone by stone to the earth. We have been wounded, my friends, but we are by no means beaten! They shall know what terror comes when the dragon is roused from his lair, and we shall not rest until every last one of the murderous bastards who took our family from us are avenged!” Kraxis’ voice and the force of his will erupted over the assembled throng and he grasped the huge glaive that was his trademark weapon and raised it above his head, screaming a draconic challenge to the stone of the roof above him. The assembled folk of the Aerie roared back at him—eladrin, dragonborn, human and dwarf alike—and the bloodthirst in their cry was terrible to behold.

Draxxus stood, stunned, as the chaos roiled around him. He stood stock-still, his mind and heart a roiling thunderstorm of emotion and confusion and rage and despair. Draxxus stood, while the world began to tumble around him into death and chaos and blood.

Winter Break-- Trifus & Barthram Part 1
Travels, the war in the south, and the final fate of Cedric Tremayne

The heavy grey clouds poured rain on the day Trifus and Barthram found the grave of Cedric Tremayne. Huge drops pelted off of the companions clothing and armor, so cold as to be nearly on the verge of freezing. The noise of the rain in the forest east of Barradin’s Hold was nearly deafening—a constant barrage on the ears that blocked nearly everything out. Both men stood at the foot of the grave, stunned and speechless for a long time, the only sound in the tiny clearing the rain beating on fallen leaves and armor. Silent figures closed on them from the woodline, blending with the shadows thrown by trees long bereft of leaves. The rain obscured the sounds of armor creaking and steel blades slithering out of their sheaths.

Neither Trifus nor Barthram noticed, consumed by their own silent thoughts.

Trifus and Barhram had saddled and ridden south within an hour of returning from the assault on the Thorn River Bandits. The letter sent by Tremayne and carried by Ehod had spurred them both into immediate action and they set forth to Barradin’s Hold with all the speed they could muster. Almost immediately they realized their headlong rush to find Cedric Tremayne—Trifus’ sworn Lord and Barthram’s father— would take them far longer than they had anticipated. The roads were a mire of sludge and muck, transformed in just the small time they had been in the Greenbelt. On their trip north, the rain had been constant but the roads were ancient and had been traveled by cart and foot and horse since before the Tiberian Empire came. They had been muddy and sometimes slowed travel, but the situation had become considerably worse since the heroes had traveled north. Now, though, the constant rain and cold had turned the trade-ways into ankle-deep muck that froze at night and only barely thawed by mid-day. It was hard, slow, miserable going, and when the adventurers came upon the first settlement south of Kennet’s Hold, they were both visibly relieved.

What should have been only two days of travel had taken Trifus and Barthram nearly a week, and during that time they had seen not a single soul—not one. Fields along the road lay untended, houses sat empty or burned to the foundation. On two occasions, Trifus stopped their travel to cut down bodies that had been mutilated and tied up to posts on the side of the road. Barthram nearly gagged when he got near the corpses—the aura of blood magic was so thick on the bodies that it was even palpable to Trifus’ untrained senses. To Barthram, skilled in the identification of magical energies, the effect was like standing next to a charnel house.

“Who… what could do this?” Barthram asked. “The souls of these poor folk have been… harvested! Torn from their bodies to use as fuel for more blood magic. I’ve never seen the like. It’s… it’s horrible. It’s blasphemous, no matter what god you pray to!” His voice quavered as he spoke his thoughts aloud.

“Kairn.” Trifus growled to his companion. “It’s got to be them. But how?” His brow furrowed, Trifus’ scarred face was a glowering mask of both confusion and anger. “We scattered them at Tellern Creek. There shouldn’t be enough of them to so this kind of damage.”

A week later, the two were still slogging their way southwards, far more slowly than they had hoped for. Even pushing themselves and their horses as hard as they dared, the going was still murderously slow and exhausting. Two small villages they had passed were completely burned to the ground, with signs of large numbers of troops camped nearby—a small army, though neither companion could decipher who the troops belonged to. The camp appeared to be orderly and at least slightly well organized, but the magical after-effects of blood magic were obvious as well.

Patches of ground lay wilted and dead, and what appeared to be a makeshift stone altar had been constructed at one end of the now-abandoned camp. Barthram could not force himself to come near the altar, so horrid was the magical aura of blood magic around it. Plants that should have been merely brown and waiting for spring were instead burned to ash in a radius around the altar. Barthram found his magical abilities were greatly diminished within the circle of destruction—as if the life energy that fueled his magic was hard to reach within the circle of ash.

A second village they found was much the same, but this time Barthram followed a “trail” of the magical residue left behind by blood magic into the woods near the village wall and found a mass grave—easily twenty or more villagers had been sacrificed and their souls harvested to power blood magic spells. This time, Barthram’s bile rose and he spilled the meager travel rations they had eaten for lunch upon the blackened, ash-strewn ground. The constant, pouring rain mixed with the ash residue of blood magic to make a thick black soup that surrounded the pit filled with the twisted, broken bodies of the villagers. Men, women, and children—Trifus recognized the face of a comely barwench who had served his drinks during their journey north. Barthram remembered speaking with the village elder and asking about the Greenbelt. Now that elder’s blank eyes stared upwards, his body contorted among the pile of corpses in the pit. A dark, smoldering fire sparked in the hearts of both adventurers.
“This is wrong, Trifus. These folk deserved better.” Barthram’s throat was tight with fury, his words escaping between clenched teeth.

“They will be avenged, Barthram. They must be avenged.” Trifus looked to the sky, cold rain pattering his face. “But first we must find Tremayne. Alive, dead, or something else, we must find him.” Silently, they returned to the road and continued south.

The first of the silent assailants closed on Trifus, a wide-bladed spear aimed squarely at the middle of his back. Long-limbed and covered in coarse hair, the attacker rushed forward and attempted to skewer Trifus completely through. Barthram saw the assault out of the corner of his eye and cried out in alarm, but the attack was already coming and Trifus barely able to react in time. He spun sideways threw himself towards the muddy, fresh-turned earth of Tremayne’s grave.

The spear slammed into the back of his new plate armor, and Trifus knew that if he had been wearing his old scale armor, he’d likely be dead now. The air was blasted out of his lungs, and he staggered forward with the force of the blow. Barthram’s calling in the language of magic was uncannily loud, clearly carrying over the constant rushing of the rain. Trifus turned to face the foe, gasping as he did and thankful for Thorad, the dwarven armorer who had arrived at Kennet’s just before their return from the Greenbelt excursion.

Trifus had been right—somehow the Kairn had returned to Lyonesse. The savage, lanky warrior with the spear again tried to skewer him, the primitive weapon still more than enough to kill, especially when wielded by the heavily-muscled Kairn fighters. Trifus steeled himself for battle, sucked in a deep, cold breath and cried out as he rushed forth to meet the enemy—and perhaps his own death—with honor. He had done what he came for; his lord lay cold and dead in the ground beneath his feet, and Trifus would be damned to the coldest hell before he let the Kairn blood mages scavenge his Lord’s soul for their own use. Not now, not ever. They would fall beneath his axe like ripe grain. His battlecry echoed around the small clearing, and his axe raised in challenge to the Kairn warrior who had ambushed him.

“For the Guardian Lion!” Trifus roared as he hurled himself in near-suicidal fury into the enemy throng.

Purple-white lightning erupted from the heavy clouds above; laden with power, it cracked and blasted the clearing with thunder. Trifus’ teeth gleamed white in a feral smile; his axe threshed through the Kairn like a scythe.

Barthram invoked arcane energies as he placed his magical curse on yet another enemy. Eldritch bolts of golden energy erupted form his palms and seared the oncoming Kairn as they flung themselves at him. He felt a surge of power from above, and then the strangely-colored lightning blasted between the clouds. He called forth a more powerful spell, and its energies flew from his hands to yet another Kairn warrior. This time, the Kairn’s eyes glowed golden for a moment, and Barthram took control of its mind for a split-second. Barthram forced the Kairn to lash out with his spear at an ally, and then the possessed Kairn’s eyes erupted in golden-white flame. It screamed a primitive cry of utter anguish and it fell to the ground dead, its eyes burned into two gaping red holes in its skull. The warrior that it had stabbed also collapsed to the ground, pink foam erupting from its mouth as it drowned on its own blood.

Barthram called his curse down on another enemy, and felt a prickling, rippling power resonate through him. The ground beneath his feet trembled, and again the multicolored lightning cracked among the clouds overhead. Barthram spared a glance upwards and saw that the clouds had turned a strange shade of golden-grey, and had begun swirling in a circular pattern above them.

What in the Nine Hells was going on?

By the time they made it far enough south to encounter Lord Tremayne’s remaining subjects, the situation had become even worse. Redwall Castle was under siege by an army of unknown origin—Trifus and Barthram were unable to get close enough to positively identify the invaders. The two of them realized they could do little to help the defenders, and that their mission lay southwards. Reluctantly, Trifus and Barthram turned southwards and continued their journey.

From what Ehod had said before they left, Trifus was nearly certain that the invaders were the Dalriada, come over the western mountains to invade Lyonesse. In their last meeting, King Connor had stated that he was worried about an incursion from Orkenay to the north. Instead the invasion had come from the most unexpected front, troops pouring over the mountains and into the Lyonesse; already weakened by the war against the Kairn, Lyonesse had little hope of prevailing against an organized attack.

The land was at war, and as always the peasantry and smallfolk paid the hardest price. But how were the Dalriada raiders and the Kairn connected? Evidence of both forces was evident all over southern Lyonesse. When Trifus and Barthram made it as far as the village of Krokar, they got their answer. Nestled between the Whitefang mountain range and the edge of the Blackfen swamp, Krokar had managed to stay relatively safe from the invasion. The forbidding terrain of the area had allowed them to fortify their borders and when they neared the settlement, well-armed scouts challenged the two adventurers a long ways from the heavy wooden walls that now surrounded the small town.

Krokar had been a wealthy silver mining town during more peaceful times, and Lord Tremayne had encouraged many of the Free Dwarves in the region to settle there. The town provided dwarf-crafted arms and armor to the area, and the scouts, Barthram noted, were far better equipped than the bandit Dalriada they had been avoiding for days. Dwarves armed with steel-armed crossbows and thick dwarven armor were likely quite a deterrent to the roaming bands of brigands.

“State your name and business!” one of the outriders called, well out of melee distance but holding a powerful crossbow aimed directly at them. Trifus’ battle-trained ears heard the creaking sound of multiple crossbows being armed coming from the treeline surrounding them. The grizzled warrior looked over to the young man to his side; he hoped their plan of action wasn’t about to get them killed.

Barthram cleared his throat and then called out in a clear voice, “I am Barthram Tremayne, heir to my father’s title and estates, come to speak to whoever is left in charge here. I come on behalf of my father, and in his name.”

The outrider’s eyes went huge, starkly contrasted against his dark, braided dwarven beard. The whites clearly showing, he was obviously surprised, and the crossbow in his hands began to shake visibly. The thick-limbed pony under his saddle shifted uncomfortably, and the startled dwarven guard suddenly fell heavily to the ground, still obviously stunned by Barthram’s declaration.

“Well, you certainly have their attention.” Trifus growled under his breath. “Hopefully—“

“Hopefully, this is still a place where law and civilization hold power. I pray that Father’s name still holds some influence here.” Barthram interrupted.

Trifus looked up towards the gloomy, rippling sky. Dark clouds roiled overhead, and Trifus knew that rain was going to come sooner rather than later.

“Are you listening up there?” he muttered to himself.

The clouds continued to roil and shift, a foreboding omen of what was to come.

Farewell to Grunthar-- Bagram GOLD
Grunthar takes up the mantle of new responsibilities and fades back into the shadows.

The silence following a battle always seemed out of place to Grunthar. Till recently, he had always been a solitary kind of person, especially while on the hunt—which is where the swift and stealthy primal archer had spent most of his adult life. Till Tremayne, most of his world had been silence; the silence of the hunt, the silence of the stalk and the kill, the silence afterwards as the world returned to its normal patterns and ways. Till Tremayne, Grunthar had never seen or heard the enormous noise and clamor a full-scale battle brought. He had never heard the screams of dozens dying at the same time, the roar of beasts bred for battle, the thunderous explosions of mighty magics. Till Tremayne, most of Grunthar’s life had been silence. Nowadays, though, Grunthar lived for those moments where the world was calm and ignored his presence, when shadow and silence wrapped him like a heavy concealing cloak.

This silence was different, though. It was the silence before a battle—the harsh, tense silence that whispered in his soul that he might never hear the sound of nothing ever again. The rush of anticipation flowed into him and he channeled it into his senses, feeling his awareness push into the area surrounding him. His sense of smell heightened to the level of a predatory animal, and he pulled the cold air into his nostrils. He balanced himself carefully against the branches of the trunk and looked down through the dark, dense needles to the scene below. Pine needles fallen to the ground silenced the slow, careful footsteps of the figures moving below him, and as he smiled, the small tusks in his lower jaw protruded.

Finally the stubborn, willful girl was learning. Finally she had absorbed the lesson that every animal predator knew as its basest instinct: stalk the pray slow and silent, then burst into action and lay your target low as quickly as possible. Caelynn passed slowly under the tree Grunthar was scouting from, oblivious to his presence. The thick hide armor he and Tayle had crafted for her creaked slightly, and she reached down to tighten the straps and keep it from making noise. Oh yes, the girl was learning—it had taken half of the winter to finally convince Caelynn to forego the protection of metal armor but once she did, her training in hunting, stalking and the ways of the wild proceeded well. She was a quick learner, and Grunthar was pleased with her progress. She had hidden her golden locks under a leather hood, and carried her rapier in one hand and a heavy handaxe in the other. Several identical handaxes hung by loops from her belt, and Grunthar knew she was as accurate with those as she had once been with the dainty daggers he had once scoffed at. A noise ahead of Caelynn made her freeze, and she held her hand out beside her palm down, gesturing toward the earth.

GruntharGrunthar scanned the terrain around her but his vantage was poor; he adjusted on the branch ever so slowly and re-focused his energies, whispering a quick prayer to the primal spirits of the hunt. His vision tightened down, and he saw the three figures moving in silence behind Caelynn. Like the girl, their training had taken most of the winter—these men had once been the surviving the bandits of the Thorn River camp. Now, they served Kennet’s Hold as scouts and rangers. It had taken them a long time to learn how to work together and for Grunthar to mold them into a cohesive fighting pack, but in the end it had worked. By placing Caelynn in their training group, all of the bandits had realized from the start that Trifus and Draxxus were true to their word. The Marshal and the General had agreed to take the ruffians in, but it had fallen to Grunthar to train them in scouting and teamwork. Now his students moved like a wolf pack on the hunt—silent, swift and communicating without conscious thought. Caelynn came to a crouch, her weapons at the ready. The three former bandits formed up behind her, waiting for orders.

Silence like the grave covered their corner of forest like a heavy blanket of snow. Nothing moved—not a birdcall sounded, nor the sounds of small forest mammals going about their business. The copious hairs on the back of Grunthar’s neck began to tingle. Something was wrong. He reached down into the magical quiver at his side and the nock of an arrow materialized in his hand. That quiver would never run empty, and Grunthar prized it as his most treasured possession. The mystical arrow fit perfectly to the greatbow held in Grunthar’s other hand—nearly seven feet from tip to tip, it could punch steel tipped arrows through platemail. The endless quiver only produced regular arrows, however, so Grunthar has a second quiver of “specialty” arrows strapped to his back, too. Never knew when they’d come in handy. His fingers traced the silver runes along the arc of the bow, lightning-shaped patterns contrasted by the dark, oiled wood. He shifted his awareness around, seeking the source of danger. Below him, Grunthar noted that Caelynn, too, was searching the forest for danger. She sensed the wrongness of it as well.

The unnatural silence of the wood was shattered as several dark forms erupted from the half-melted snowdrifts encircling the patrol. The dark forms moved fast, but awkwardly—humanoid-shaped, Grunthar’s preternatural senses noted instantly—and they lurched towards the patrol below him with alarming speed. It was too cold out for a natural creature to be able to move that fast after being buried under inches of snow. There would be some residual stiffness and sluggishness, but these creatures launched themselves forward with no difficulty whatsoever. Caelynn came to the same conclusion as Grunthar an instant after he did.

Her voice cried out to the former-bandits behind her, “Undead! Hit them hard—edges won’t hurt them as much! On me!” and rushed toward the oncoming shamblers. Before the words had left her mouth completely she had hurled an axe from her off-hand, striking the lead shambler in the chest and sticking there. She followed it with several cuts from her rapier and then danced away from the undead horror as it groaned in infernal hunger and attempted to slam her with its deadly fists.

Three of Grunthar’s arrows flickered through the air before Caelynn had even begun her sprint. He drew and fired repeatedly, arrows smacking into a shambler with wet thunking sounds, the arrows piercing it entirely; one arrow went completely through and Grunthar saw it sticking out the other side. Still, the undead appeared to not notice his onslaught, moving towards Caelynn and her patrol as if Grunthar had not just poured enough ammunition into it to stop an onrushing ogre. Grunthar decided to switch tactics—and ammunition. He swung down deftly from the tree, catching branches on the way to slow himself, and landed with a silent whumph at the foot of the tree, launching more arrows at the same target, strafing sideways a step or two with each shot. He drew an arrow from the quiver on his back and then froze, murmuring a prayer to the spirits of the plants that lay so dormant in the winter months. As the arrow hurtled across the distance, Grunthar completed the prayer and watched the arrow streak with a green-yellow radiance as it slammed into the shambler. This time, the arrow had far more effect, and Grunthar’s tusks poked up outside his upper lip as he smiled grimly. The greenish, vibrant radiance had called the thorny vines of this region to sudden life, and the shambler had not been damaged by the cold iron-tipped arrow, but the thick rose vines that had sprung up around the zombie’s feet hampered and delayed it.

“I was wondering where you were at, old man!” Caelynn called out from across the battlefield as she and another of her rangers closed in on a shambler. Grunthar glanced over his shoulder and saw her and the former bandits moving in predatory unison, isolating one target and focusing on it before moving on to another. Already he saw that the four of them had combined to bring down the first undead that Caelynn had attacked—lighter armored attackers either learned to focus fire quickly or they died. It was the way of the wild, and it applied equally to the world of steel and iron as well. Caelynn engaged the shambler and then backed away deliberately, allowing the others in her patrol to shift around behind it for an easier attack.

“Focus!” Grunthar bellowed as he turned back to his own problems. His enhanced senses were nearly overwhelmed by the stench of the rotting bodies and the thick, sludgy black fluid that seemed to leak from them continually as their bodies decayed. The zombie in front of him lurched forward faster than Grunthar thought possible and slammed its fist into him, staggering him backward and causing his breath to escape him in a whoosh. Grunthar reeled, slipped sideways as his head cleared, and reached back for another arrow—silver-tipped broadheads glittered in the early morning light as the arrow streaked toward the zombie. This time, though, Grunthar didn’t aim for the torso. He wasn’t going to risk that thing getting ahold of him again, so he put a bit less force on the draw of his mighty bow and the arrow flew unerringly into the zombie’s thigh, piercing it nearly perfectly and wedging the broadhead in the bone of the dead man. It howled in undead rage and swatted at the shaft embedded in its leg as if in real pain. That was certainly interesting—as was the smoke and sizzling sound that came from the thing’s thigh where the arrow punctured it. Silver—they’re vulnerable to silver. The zombie stayed stationary as the vines round its ankles and Grunthar’s arrow combined to immobilize the beast.

Pic1Caelynn yanked her axe free from the skull of the zombie she had slain, its limp, heavy weight keeping her pinned as her rangers fought desperately for survival. Things had gone from bad to worse in a hurry—the first wave of shamblers had been a distraction as the second wave moved in. There had to be a dozen now; they closed in with staggering, clumsy movements, hungry for warm flesh. She placed her foot on the chest of the fallen zombie and hauled with both hands, finally freeing the axe. She immediately pivoted, hurling it into the skull of another, rushing towards the gap its fallen corpse left in the closing circle of undead. There were too many. The trap had closed around them and they were outnumbered. How the undead got here, and how they had known where her patrol would be, Caelynn had no idea. Her concern now was to get her rangers and herself out of the mess they had stumbled into. She called her team to follow her and they plunged towards the hole Caelynn had punched in the closing wall of undead flesh.

“Grunthar! Time to go! Follow us!” she cried as she hurtled past the primal hunter, searching for a clear path out of the trap.

“Go, girl! Grunthar cover you!” he answered back in a harsh, guttural yell. Inwardly, he cringed—he hated sounding like a simpleton, but damn if the human languages weren’t ridiculously over-complex. Had they been speaking Dwarven, Grunthar would never have had problems communicating like he did when speaking the human tongues. Bah. Caelynn knows what I mean. He sidestepped towards the gap she had made and loosed two more silver-tipped arrows, hitting one of the shamblers in the head, killing it instantly. The second arrow sunk deep into another zombie’s collarbone, spinning it around and knocking it to the ground. Again, Grunthar shifted a step or two towards the gap and fired. Again, the arrows streaked towards their targets, and two more zombies fell. Grunthar was about to turn and make a break for it— to follow Caelynn and the rangers in a hasty retreat. But then everything changed.

Grunthar had a sickening moment of realization as the second arrow pierced the milky-white eye of a massive, hulking shambler. The bile in his throat rose as he recognized the zombie… or rather, the man the zombie had been formerly. His mind flashed back to the fight against the Thorn River bandits and their axe-wielding leader Kressle. The hulking zombie he faced now had been struck down by Trifus’ axe in the opening moments of the fight, and still bore the massive gaping wound that had killed him. Someone had gone to that battlefield and re-animated the Thorn River bandits to plague the Greenbelt once more. Rage exploded within Grunthar and he stopped in his tracks, pivoting on one foot and reversing his strategic retreat entirely. He squared his shoulders to the oncoming zombie throng and shifted his awareness.

Caelynn and her rangers had made the right choice, and were even now headed to safety and to gather reinforcements. They would return here and they might eliminate the zombies. Or they might find another trap laid by whoever decided to raise those Thorn River bastards in the first place. Grunthar wasn’t going to let that happen. He drew on the magic of the primal spirits and breathed out forcefully. Immediately a thick, heavy mist erupted from the ground to envelop the battlefield. The shamblers suddenly stopped as the magical mist confused their senses. They could sense him, but couldn’t pinpoint his location. That was all the advantage Grunthar needed.

Immediately he sprang into action, bowstring twanging as his senses focused on each target like a lone wolf in search of prey. His silver arrows dwindled rapidly, but each found its target among the zombies who staggered drunkenly in the stalker’s mist that hung in the air. The fog deposited a layer of wet, moist dew on the undead as they moaned and staggered about wildly. On one occasion, Grunthar got too close to one of the zombies as he strafed sideways to kill one of its comrades, and he found out that the mist wasn’t effective up close. After that, he skirted the edges of the mist, pouring arrows into the zombies. Eventually, his silver arrows ran out and the Grunthar released the mist.

As the curtain of white fog settled, so did the silence. Zombie bodies lay in the half-melted snow, the arrows that had slain them sticking up at odd angles from eyes and skulls and heads of the disgusting creatures. Grunthar crouched down in the snow and just listened. The heavy blanket of silence seemed to roar in his ears after the loud, reverberating chaos of the battle. Eventually, the birds began chirping again from the pine trees nearby and he saw a large raven flutter down to the ground to pick at one of the corpses. Only then did Grunthar stand up and stalk silently back into the forest. His path took him directly back toward Kennet’s Hold; Lord Barthram, Trifus and Draxxus needed to be told immediately of this new threat.

Grunthar paused at the edge of the wood and turned back for a moment, his face as contemplative as it had ever been. As much as he enjoyed the chance to lead the rangers outside the walls of Kennet’s Hold, Grunthar was an essentially solitary creature. He did not enjoy nor did he particularly excel at the leading of people—especially those not of his race. He had taught Caelynn a great deal, but she had just proven that she was capable of leadership on her own now. Grunthar nodded as he turned back to the Hold and continued his journey, and smiled to himself.

Lord Barthram had spoken to him at length about fulfilling a different purpose once Caelynn was fully trained. The nation needed a spymaster—someone who could manage the intelligence gathered by those whose deeds and functions might not be as public as the General or the Marshal. Someone who would be comfortable and content standing in the shadows, protecting the nation even though many might not even know of his existence. Someone who could live in the silence and stalk the enemies of his homeland. And also someone who would be feared at least a little to deter and avoid betrayal by those same agents. He fit all those criteria perfectly. Grunthar’s grin turned into a full smile, and his tusks puckered his top lip. Caelynn was ready to step into her role as chief of scouts; Grunthar was ready to slip back into the blessedly silent shadows.

Farewell to Tayle-- Bagram GOLD
The Gael'Dar druid hangs up his adventurer's cloak and takes on a new role in the fledgling kingdom

Surrounded by verdant green, the sharp scent of damp loam in his nostrils, Tayle breathed in the power of the wild. His mind was calm and quiet—the effort of forcing his mind to be so had taken him most of day. But eventually his will overpowered the fear and tension and uncertainty that plagued him, and the tall Gael’Dar—elf, as the humans said it—managed to put his emotions in check and reach the kind of serenity that this task required. Tayle knew the enforced mental peace would not last beyond this task, but for now that was enough. He breathed in again, and a small smile played on his thin elven lips. The warm, moist scents of the deep, untouched forest were both calming and exhilarating to him; his spirit was in touch with both the predator and prey, and the aromas of the forest meant different things to those with different places in the Great Wheel. Tayle’s mind slowly began sloughing off the boundaries of his mortal body.

His consciousness expanded along with the air in his lungs, and his body slowly stopped moving entirely as his spirit pulled free from the fetters of flesh it was normally confined to. Immediately the world faded into the silver-grey mist of the Spirit Realm, combined with lashes and wisps of color so vibrant they might have come from a painter’s pot. Finally, after what might have been a moment or an eternity, Tayle stopped simply admiring the beauty and grandeur that was the spirit world and called out with his mind. Immediately all the fear and heartache and uncertainty came flooding back to him, and he almost lost his connection to the world of spirits and snapped back into his body. To do so would be failure, and Tayle’s will was stronger than fear. He steeled himself for a heartbeat or an eternity, and cried out again. He heard the desperation in his own voice as he did so, and knew there was no helping it. The situation was indeed dire, and he knew it.

He cried out again, and again. The silver-grey mist did not respond. It swirled around his mind-form, like the cold, thick breeze coming off a frozen swamp. Tayle’s mind began to race… had he done something wrong? What had he done to anger the spirits so? Had they abandoned him?

Immediately, Tayle shook his head in frustration. No. He still called upon the primal spirits and channeled their magic in the natural world— therefore, he could not have been abandoned by them. The spirits would never allow one who they had forsaken to continue to use their power in the ways he had. But then, if that were true, why were none of the Primals speaking to him? Why had none answered his call? Why had they—

Aureus. That had to be the answer. Quickly Tayle’s mind flashed back over the terrifying night in the ruined temple. Undead howling by the hundred outside the hastily-erected barricades, bursting through and seeking to fill their mouths with living flesh. A seemingly unstoppable horde of vile, putrescent things, animated by the magical crystal filled with necromantic energy, seeking to spread their curse at all costs. A fight to the death that lasted an entire night, hour after bloody endless hour until all seemed lost. Tayle and his companion Trifus had appealed to Aureus, the goddess whose temple they had been holed up in, to preserve their lives. Trifus had pledged to build a temple to the goddess elsewhere, should the heroes survive the night. He had already begun to set the groundwork for that task. Tayle… well. Tayle had declared that he would serve the goddess’ will instead of his own—and therefore the will of the primal spirits—for six months. He would dedicate himself to the goddess of civilization, and mercantile efforts, luck, and trade. Nearly the exact opposite of his own philosophy as a druid… and he had agreed to serve her in exchange for saving the lives of Tayle and his friends. The goddess had taken them up on their offers, but as of yet Tayle had not begun to fulfill his end of the bargain. The goddess of merchants and trade is not one to back out on a deal from, he thought to himself. But how? How can I fulfill my oath to Aureus without betraying the spirits completely?

YOU THINK LIKE STONE, LITTLE BROTHER a familiar voice said, right behind him. The Presence of the voice filled up Tayle’s spirit completely, and he closed his eyes in relief and his shoulders sagged as if unburdened. BE LIKE WATER

Tayle turned around, and his spirit-form was encompassed by a wolf, huge as a building to his senses, that seemed to take up the entire world. Its eyes bored into his, black and without iris, filled with the stars of a thousand night skies. This was the First Wolf, his spirit guide and friend since the first time Tayle had ever traveled to this silver, misty world. This was the primal urge to hunt, to run with the pack, and to live a life full of everything. This was the First Wolf, of whom his spirit companion Shera was a tiny sliver, and to whom she returned when Shea was not on the mortal plane. The First Wolf expanded in his view until it was all he could see, all he could feel Tayle’s spirit-hands gripped the thick, shaggy fur of the monstrous spirit wolf, and his body sagged into hers and all the emotion of the past months poured out from him. All the frustration, pain, anguish, loss and fear, anger and rage and terror of the past months erupted from him and for a long, long time, he simply wept into the comforting expanse of the First Wolf’s flank. Eventually, his emotion subsided and he was left calmer, but no less troubled. Now he would seek the answers that had eluded him so long.

“Mighty One, I am… troubled. You obviously know of the oath I swore to the Golden Goddess in order to preserve my companions and I. That action was rash, and perhaps ill-advised, but I do not regret it. We would have perished, and any good I have done since then is testament that the decision was not a wrong one. But the long-term effects of that oath are troubling to me, like a rock tossed in a still pond. I know there are already those druids who think I have forsaken myself… but if you are here, that cannot be true. Can it?”

The First Wolf’s black and starry gaze simply lay heavy upon Tayle’s consciousness. He continued, talking out the problem.

“I am a druid—devoted to you and the other primal spirits, those who embody the hunt, the wild places, the untouched wilderness. How can I not betray you and still serve the goddess of gears and civilization and gold? If I am forsaken to her, all my power will be lost—the Doom of Aureus is well known and mighty. But that you still bless me with primal magic means you have not given up on me yet.”

The First Wolf’s presence pressed in upon him, insistent and crushing in its power. The First Ones were of the mightiest of the primal spirits, and that the First Wolf had chosen Tayle had been an amazing honor. Now, the pressure of the ancient being’s mind on his made Tayle feel like he would nearly rupture like over-ripe fruit from the power swelling within his spirit-form.


Tayle’s mind spun, and power ripped through him like a waterfall rampaging through his spirit. “Water…water. Water conforms, it flows around obstacles in its path; water goes where the resistance is least and prospers there. Water makes do with the situation and continues on. Water adapts. It is the chalice, the cup of life and growth. Dreams and divination and…healing. Water of life. Spring of renewal. Healing and growth and life. ” A tiny flicker of inspiration hit him. Like a glittering stone being pushed downstream, his mind followed it farther down the path and he looked up into the eyes of the First Wolf. Incredulous, the full form of the idea shocked him with its audacity.

“Is this… is this what you REALLY want of me?” He stood and squared his shoulders and faced the First Wolf. He looked down and realized that his spirit form had conjured the Imperial Battle Armor he had found as well as the mighty bronze-headed greatspear. Thick, leafy vines writhed and twined from the haft of the spear around Tayle’s arm, protruding from the shaft of the spear itself. The tips of the vines were red as if they had absorbed blood and been dyed by the life-giving red fluid. Blood. Water. They served the same function—one for plants, the other for animals. Life.

BE WATER TO THE THIRSTY, LITTLE BROTHER. FLOW AND HEAL AND ADAPT The First Wolf’s force of will blasted into Tayle, knocking him staggering and nearly forcing him to kneel from the strength of the mental command. He straightened, squared himself again, and light bright as day began to pour forth from the First Wolf. It breathed out onto Tayle, wrapping him in warm, cleansing radiance. Tayle breathed in the blessing and basked in its warmth—the hot, damp radiance of the spring sun, and closed his eyes.

Tayle’s eyes snapped open, and riotous sensory information assaulted his brain, still reeling from the overwhelming power that was the First Wolf. The scent of wet loam again filled his world, along with the warmth of real, natural sunlight on his face. His muscles screamed in protest as he began to attempt moving. He had been kneeling, in the stance of supplication, for hours—possibly days. Time in the spirit realm flowed differently than the natural world; sometimes it moved slower there, sometimes faster. From the furious, ravening hunger in his belly and the aching knots in his entire body, Tayle had a feeling he had been traveling the spirit roads for at least a full day, maybe more. He performed the last few closing prayers and rituals, closing the doors in his mind to the spirit realm once again and then stood, slowly working the atrophy and cramps out of his muscles. Then he turned smartly and began the long walk back to Kennet’s Trading Post. There was work to do.

Months later, when the tiefling bard known as Abbath Doom began writing stories about the newly born nation in the north of Brittanis, one of the first stories he recorded was that of Tayle of the Wrathwood—spiritual leader and de facto High Priest of the young nation. Though a druid himself—and now head of a small sect of druidic acolytes who had traveled from far and wide to learn from the Gael’Dar –Tayle did not lead the new nation in his own faith. Instead, as the nation grew and prospered, Tayle preached a hybrid faith whose one core tenet was this: Life and Healing.

Many of the citizens of the new nation were refugees from one thing or another, and the civil wars among the nations of the south meant that many who arrived on the new nation’s borders were injured, scarred, sick or in need of aid. Tayle and his companions began the formation of their nation by establishing that no-one in legitimate need would be turned away, and all would be allowed to live and be aided in whatever way the heroes could. “Coia Fallanae”—Gael’Dar for “Live and Heal” became the unofficial motto of the new nation, and then started appearing on the banners and symbols produced by the people of the nation even without the leadership declaring it so. Tayle preached a philosophy of working together and aiding one another so that the whole might prosper, adapting to the situation and doing what was best for the people instead of oneself. Tayle became the founder of the Order of the Golden Oak, a fellowship of druids, followers of Arturian and those who live off the land and deeply influenced the area around which the new kingdom was based.

Thus it was, when the warriors of Siluria came pouring out of the moors and swamps of their desolate homeland, they found a people with near-fanatic devotion to their homeland, and willing to fight to the bitter end to protect all they had built. The folk of the new nation stood hard against the oncoming warriors, but eventually they were not enough. Heroes were needed to repel the invaders and stop the threat from the northern swamps.

Scaly Doom-- Bagram GOLD 3
In which the party goes searching for the bandits plaguing the Greenbelt and manages to find a crag drake instead.

The battle won, the blood fury cleared, the party caught their breath and Angus was escorted to the storefront inside the trading post, where Tayle began to perform aid on him. Feeling like he was going to pull through, the party headed back out to interrogate the captured bandit. Much to their surprise, upon return to where the bandit was being held, he had bitten down on a rather sophisticated capsule hidden in his tooth. Tayle identified the poison as Blackbark, having heard of this sort of poison being used before. Although the only guilds he knew that could afford to manufacture it were the League of Shadows and Merrick’s old guild, the Red Scales, two of the most dangerous assassin’s guild known. The rest of this day was spent moving and burying the bodies of the slain bandits, in the forests nearby.

The next morning, Saarah had confined Angus to bed rest, and as such was taking over his daily duties. When the opened the gates to the trading post, she was pleasantly surprised to see Aydin, the travelling merchant walking towards the post. As he came upon the trading post, he was greeted warmly by Saarah, as Trifus quickly came to her side.

Trifus: Good morning, I am Sir Trifus Remington. I know that Angus would love to be here to greet you, however… (Trifus motions toward the bloodstained courtyard). The events that transpired here yesterday have left him rather indisposed.

Aydin: (Aydin is noticeably curious about the blood in the courtyard, and becomes more so at the mention of the events that caused the bloodstains) May I see Angus?

Trifus: I don’t that is the best idea, but please enter. Im sure that Lady Saarah will gladly attend to you. (At the mention of “Lady Saarah”, Saarah slightly loses her composure, but quickly gathers herself)

Aydin and the party gathered near the tables to discuss his business at the trading post.

Tayle: What can you tell us about these parts and this Sheriff Duncan we’ve heard tell of?

Aydin: The sheriff and I are on different travel schedules, from my understanding he usually arrives about two weeks prior to myself. As for the area, I don’t know much, just the basic terrain.

Draxxus: Do your travels ever take you further north from Kennet’s?

Aydin: Never alone, it’s far too dangerous for me to go alone. If there were good business and able-bodied hunters and trappers that would accomany me, I could see to adventuring further north.

Barthram: We have a lot of business in these parts, and we could use someone that knows the area, could you be persuaded to travels with some adventurers like us?

Aydin: I would be inclined to agree to such an undertaking, but I would be remissed if I didn’t ask what caused all of these bloodstains.

The party recounts the events of the prior evening in detail for the travelling merchant before pressing on with the conversation.

Tayle: In your travels, have you ever carried Blackbark by chance?

Aydin: I do recall a tracker asking for a large quantity of Blackbark. I believe his name is Breeg Orlivanch, a rather vicious man as far as the trackers up here go.

Barthram: About how long have you been trading this far north?

Aydin: I would say about a year after people began moving here for the resources. This land is rife with natural resources, for those men brave enough to seek it, and who better than to keep this trading post stocked with everything you would need, than a travelling saleman. (A sly smirk dashes across his face)

Tayle: You’ve never seen a golden band with leaves and vines of ivy engraving upon it on any of the people you trade with, have you?

Aydin: At a trader’s meet I attended to the east, I was threatened by one of the other traders. She carried twin axes, and called herself Kessle, her hand was so close to my face, I definitely remember a ring matching that description on her finger. By the way they were packing their gear at the end of the meet; I can’t imagine that they were travelling very far.

Tayle: Well, we are currently on a mission to pacify the Green Belt for the King of Lyonesse. We intend to reclaim these lands in His name, and bring civilization back to these parts. Would you aid us in this venture, Aydin?

Aydin: Bringing civilization back to these parts would most certainly increase the business I do… And getting in the King’s good graces couldn’t either… Yes, I will join you.

The party spent much of the day cleaning the coagulated blood from the central courtyard, so as not to scare away any potential business, or allow for the breeding of illness, and preparing for the journey ahead of them. Much time was spent discussing how best to locate the bandits that have plagued Kennet’s Trading Post, and whether it best to rally them to their cause or just to be rid of them altogether. During the night, while everyone slumbered peacefully, Draxxus and Tayle were not among them.

Draxxus’ dreams were wracked with visions of a great Dragonborn battle against the Tieflings and Tayle was violently awoken as he felt Shera being torn from this world by an unseen force, only to reappear in the wood line, walking back to his tent. The party awakens at dawn, gathers their gear and prepares to set off. Final words are spoken to Angus and Saarah. They are told to keep the gate closed, and never to answer the gate without checking who is out there first, and only for hunters, trappers, and themselves. Tayle proposes that if the trading post should come to any harm, that the compost should be ignited and used as a signal fire to attract the adventuring party. Goodbyes were said, and the party took their leave from Kennet’s Trading Post.

They travelled northeast, constantly searching for tracks and signs of the bandits that had been pillaging the post. Grunthar, the most adept tracker, scouted ahead of the group, relaying back anything he found. Tayle periodically attempted to commune with the primal spirits of the Green Belt. These spirits, however, proved far more reclusive in the presence of people, whereas the spirits he had spoken with before had been much tamer. The party continued on their course for nearly two days, only stopping to make camp in the dead of night, eventually they came across an old ferry crossing.

A small dock lay disheveled and broken on southern shore of the river, nearby was a signpost that read “Ferry 5 Copper”, on the other could be seen the run-down, dilapidated boat house. As they approached the dock, Tayle felt an overpowering surge of hatred. As the feeling abated, a terrible cold wind began to blow—seemingly out of nowhere— and the bloated corpse of a ferryman, punting pole still in hand, arose from the river. His eyes glowed with a yellow-green menace and round his neck was a thick heavy iron chain attached to a crude iron anchor. The undead ferryman dragged the chain and anchor out of the water and towardds the heroes, obviously intent on their harm. Quick on his feet, Aydin placed five copper coins in the pail hanging on the signpost. The ferryman stopped moving towards the party and in a low gravelly, underwater tone, he spoke.

Ferryman: I have no need for your pathetic coins now, Mortal…

Aydin: Well, what might you have need of, Ferryman?

Ferryman: My only desire is the head of the Stag Lord…

Tayle: There isn’t a way you could ferry us across the river, is there?

Ferryman: (Pausing to look at the dock behind him) As you can see, I have no boat…

Aydin: If you let us leave and we come upon the Stag Lord, I will bring you his head personally.

The ferryman nodded in agreement, turned, and walked back to his watery grave, as the sun set behind the trees in the west. The party travelled on for a few more days before reaching a rather morose monument in the distance. It looked as though a man was chained to a massive boulder, but other further inspection through Aydin’s collapsible spy-glass, it was discovered to be the skeletal remains of what looked to be a Tharn chained to the rock. Not wanting to inspect this macabre scene at this very moment, the party sought rest from their travels and made camp, sleeping in shifts to guard the camp from would-be attackers.

In the dead of night, during Grunthar and Caelynn’s guard shift, a rumbling can be heard from the distance, the two of them raise their guard and look around for what is causing the noise, only to be caught off guard as a massive green scaled drake erupts from the ground mere feet from the slumbering adventurers. The drake immediately lets loose with a burst of fiery breath covering almost the entire camp. Grunthar quickly calls on the primal spirits, healing himself, before launching and arrow that snaps on the drake’s scaly hide. Unflinching, the drake leans down to Aydin, who was still in his bedroll, and clamps his jaws down on him, and leaps over the camp attempting to make an escape. Caelynn gathers herself and lunges, slashing her swords at the beast. The first strike hit home, but the second glanced off.

Barthram freed himself of his bedroll, sprang to his feet, and began channeling the power of Lord Tremayne. A dim golden glow overtook his body, as he channeled his Lord’s might into a forceful magic attack. Golden energies burst from his fist and struck the drake, but dissipated on its hide. The drake shrugs off the previous attacks, and returns its attention to the morsel wriggling in its mouth, shaking Aydin’s struggling body back and forth.

Caelynn takes this opportunity to pierce the drake’s hind leg with her rapier. Without moving from his bedroll, Trifus deftly hurls his golden shield at the beast, smashing into its face, drawing the ire of the drake. Tayle seeing the fighting around him leaps to his friends’ aid. Harnessing the natural energies around him to heal Aydin while charging the drake and driving his spear deep into the beast.

Grunthar distances himself from the drake, nocks and releases an arrow, striking and immobilizing his prey. Realizing its meal wasn’t going to be as easily taken as it had imagined, the drake dropped its prey, instead choosing to lash out at its would-be attackers, claws and fangs striking flesh and metal. Caelynn, finally noticing the flames licking her around her armor, rolls to douse them before lunging and sinking her rapier into the beast for a second time. Barthram called forth the words of his lord, placing a curse on the drake, channels his magic to douse the flames on his cloak, before launching a psychic bolt of energy directly at the drake, confusing it and causing it tear at its own flesh.

The drake lashes out in rage again. Narrowly missing Talye with its claws and biting Draxxus. Aydin frees himself from the torn and tangled bedroll, swings his staff out at the drake, strikes home, and yells to his new allies to get into better positions. Draxxus lashes his shield to his back, pulls out his dragonborn battle standard, and unfurls the banner. He unleashes a draconic battle cry; a bright flash of silver erupts from the standard, rejuvenating all of his allies. Trifus wriggles free of his bedroll, gets his footing and surges forward, smashing his shield into the drake. Tayle strikes out from behind Shera, with his spear, simultaneously calling down words of healing.

Grunthar zeroes in on his target, and launches an arrow into the neck of best, immobilizing it again. In its fury, the drake claws out at Draxxus, gravely wounding him, and bites Trifus, denting his armor and causing him to bleed from the wound. As Caelynn’s rapier pierces the beast scaly hide for a third time, she call out words of encouragement to Draxxus, bolstering his resolve. Barthram creates a burning dark sigil in the air before him, and attempts to sear it into the skin of the drake but is unable to penetrate its scales with his magical prowess. The drake roars in fury, shuddering the very ground beneath him, then barely misses Draxxus in an attempt to tear him apart with its claws, but succeeding in an attempt to savagely rend flesh from Trifus with its gnashing teeth, who retaliates with a punishing blow on his axe to the side of the drakes head.

Aydin steps back from the rampaging beast, and with a cocky wink, fires a bolt of lightning into its chest. On the brink of exhaustion, Draxxus let out a bellowing roar, rallying and spurring on his allies. Spinning his broadsword overhead, Draxxus brought the blade down swiftly into the hide of the drake, sending it careening into Trifus and Caelynn, allowing them to attack the beast in the confusion. Lightning crackled across Caelynn’s rapier as she buried it into the drake, while Trifus brought his axe down in a massive overhead arc, leaving a wound the height of its body, gushing blood. Spurred by their attacks, Draxxus issues command to reposition for another attack, taunts the beast to move toward him, and allows his allies to punish the drake with a series of charging attacks. Trifus tactically retreats, deftly outmaneuvering a bite from the drake, only to turn around and charge the beast, slamming his axe into it with such ferocity as to send the drake staggering.

The drake loses balance and falls to the ground, allowing Trifus an advantage, which he rightfully takes; bringing his axe down on his foe a second time, and revitalizing his bloodied frame. Tayle attempts to drain some of the drake’s health into one of his allies, but is unable to do so in the heat of the battle, and instead chooses to call down more words of healing to aid Trifus.
Grunthar, seeking aid from the primal spirits, summoned a masking mist, covering Draxxus and Trifus, then attempted to fire two arrows at the drake, which narrowly missed his target. The drake, still bleeding from Trifus’ attack, roars in a fury unleashing fiery breath down on the party.

The dragonborn standard glows a silver hue again, abating the pain from the engulfing flames. The drake then lashes out attempting to bite Trifus and gouge Draxxus with its claws, but in its rage completely misses both targets. Caelynn, seizes the opportunity and pierces the drake with her blade again, causing another bleeding wound, while Barthram attempted to channel the darkness around him to envelope the drake, but was unable to coalesce enough shadows to prove useful. Feeling its demise was neigh, the drake leapt over its attackers, and began to flee at great speeds into the surrounding wilderness, at a speed that would be nearly impossible to follow. The party gathered their belongings, healed their wounds, and prepared to venture out to find the bandits again.

Kennet's Trading Post-- Bagram GOLD 2
Many meetings, explorations, and the plot thickens...

After their individual missions were complete, the party returned to Barradin’s Hold and assembled for the funeral of the fallen hero, Xanathan. Among those in attendance were both King Connor and the Lord Chamberlain. Lord Tremayne gave a heartfelt and moving eulogy and Xanathan’s body was placed to rest in a simple barrow den, as were his people’s customs. The party paid their respects, gathered their equipment, and left to begin their journey of exploration to pacify the north.

The northern border of Lyonesse was a dangerous place, traversed by only the heartiest of people. Hunters and trappers frequent the trading post, exchanging goods with Angus Kennet and his alleged wife Saarah. Electing to travel mainly by road, and avoiding the towns and villages, knowing that they didn’t take too kindly to races they weren’t familiar with, and that Draxxus would easily be mistaken for one of the people biggest threats, the lizardfolk. The party arrived at Kennet’s Trading Post roughly one week after setting out on their journey. The trading post was situated in a very strategic locale, which was fitting as it was previously a human outpost before the fall of the empire. High walls kept the post defended from unwanted guests, as well as the catapults situated atop the four towers. However, on further inspection, the catapults seemed to have fallen into an advance state of disrepair, and would need serious work to be in service again.

Trifus lead the way up to the gates of Kennet’s Trading Post, where the doors were pushed open by a large barrel-chested man with a stern face and a freshly bandaged left hand. A feminine voice called to the man from within the post, after which he turned and walked away going back to his previous task of patching a building. The party entered the trading post, walking in the direction of the woman’s voice, being watched carefully by the man the whole way in. Further inside the party is greeted by the woman whose voice they had heard calling moments ago. She welcomes them and says her name is Saarah, and takes the party to the store front.

Saarah: Excuse me, but you don’t look like our normal clientele. What is your business in these parts?

Trifus: We would like to start friendly relations, as we will be doing a lot of work in these parts over the next few months. However, I cannot divulge much more that than, ma’am.

Tayle: Can you tell us about the recent comings and goings in around the trading post?

Saarah: Im not sure what you are looking for, but the recent activity is the same as it always has been, only… lessened as of late. Hunters and trappers pass through, trading their goods. A group of dwarves passed through, saying they were traveling north to explore the wilds, but we never saw them again and, Aydin stopped through to trade goods, like he always does.

Trifus: What of the man we saw earlier?

Saarah: Oh you must mean Angus? That is my …husband.

Tayle shifts uncomfortably as he senses Saarah’s blatant lie.

Trifus: I saw Angus repairing a building outside, why has this trading post fallen into such disrepair?

Saarah: (looking slightly suspicious) Wait… You weren’t sent by the sheriff to help us?

The party looks at each other, slightly confused at the mention of “The Sheriff”. Saarah sees this and all the color drains from her face, she turns from the group, and opens the store front door, calling for Angus to come inside. The door closes behind her, but through it words exchanged between Angus and Saarah can barely be heard. The alleged couple discuss the sheriff and a letter that was sent to him. The door opens, and the couple return to the adventurers.

Angus: So, you weren’t sent here by the Sheriff? We had sent word to him, and were told that help would be on the way…

Trifus: Who is this sheriff that you speak of?

Angus: Sheriff Duncan. He moves from town to town, and stops here almost every two months, to see if anyone is having any problems. We had just sent him word two weeks ago, about this:

Angus removes the bandage from his hand, revealing stumps were two fingers had once been attached. The cut was clean, as if severed in a single blow, however it had been enough time that wound was almost fully healed.

Angus: A group of brigands appeared in the area some three months ago. They stormed the trading post with a large group demanding we pay them in goods or gold, or they would raze the post to the ground. They were led by a brutal looking woman that carried two axes, she is the one that did this, (raises hand, motioning to the severed fingers) they threatened to take my wife, and I fought back. Since then, they have returned on the first day of the month, just before sunrise.

Trifus: Do these bandits look like an organized group of fighters?

Angus: (pauses and thinks about the bandits) They look like common rabble, there bare nothing in common but for the fact that they all follow the woman with twin axes.

The party begins discussing the best way to proceed with this information, be it fortifying the trading and fighting it out, preparing for a siege, or even the possible conscription of these bandits to their cause. Angus overhears this conversation:

Angus: Conscription? Just who are you? What gives you the right to conscript people? Who are you really working for?

Caelynn: I am Lady Caelynn of House Neverwinter, we were sent here to reclaim this land for Lyonesse, and we were told that your trading post would be our best place to start.

Angus: Well my lady, titles of nobility are thrown around quite often around these parts, and usually those that claim them are as much nobility as myself and Saarah. But, if you wish to help, then I wont refuse.

The adventuring party requests, and is given a tour of the trading post, questioning the well-being of the walls, towers and the catapults. Angus explains that the wall are the most often repair thing in the post, and as such are the strongest. The towers are in decent shape, however the catapult will takes weeks to fix. The tour ended, inside the store front where it began, and it is there that Angus and the party discussed how best to deal with the bandits that were to arrive the following morning.

As the sun began to rise, the party lay in wait, ready to ambush the bandits as loaded there carts with ill-gotten goods. The two nobles, Caelynn and Draxxus hid inside the stables, while Trifus, Tayle and his spirit-wolf Shera stood in silence behind the guest quarters. Grunthar and Barthram, both capable ranged fighters, were to take perch atop southern most towers and prevent any escape. The bandits arrived right on time, and their demands for entry were met as Angus wrenched open the gates, allowing them to head straight for the storehouse to plunder his goods. It was then that the trap was sprung:

Grunthar and Barthram launched a volley of arrows and magic respectively. Grunthars arrow struck home, but managed to alert the other bandit, allowing to barely dodge Barthram’s destructive bolt. Hearing the attack start, Draxxus vaulted over the hay bale he was hiding behind, ran to the door, kicking it open, and bellowing a deep frosty breath. As Draxxus’ breath engulfed two of the bandits, Trifus burst forth from his hiding and charged the closest bandit, smashing the bandits full in the chest with his shield. The bandit stumbled, giving ground, and allowing Trifus to strike him again, almost knocking the bandit to the ground. Seething with rage at Angus’ betrayal of their deal, another of the bandits rush by Trifus, lending opening to a counterattack, and drives his blade deep into Angus, who falls to the ground, the life draining from his body. Tayle, accompanied by his wolf, rush to aid Angus and succeed at bringing him back from the brink of death. The man leading these bandits, turned on his heel and unleashed an attack on Draxxus, spurring his men to action, two more bandits attacked Draxxus, who almost fell under the flurry of blows. Caelynn leaped from behind her hay bail and sped to her dragonborn companion’s aid, stabbing and slicing at two of the bandits, electricity crackling through the air from her blades.

With a clear view of the entire battle, Grunthar summons forth a dense mist and urges it to cover Draxxus and Caelynn decreasing the bandits’ visibility of his allies. He then fires two at the same time, both finding their mark in two separate bandits, quickly knocking and firing two more arrows. One barely misses it mark, but the other hits home, dropping the bandit, and taking his life. Spurred by the fresh kill, Grunthar fires yet another arrow into the previously missed target, blood pouring from the wound. Seeing an enemy near death, Barthram runs from the tower and along the ramparts, magic crackling around him.

Pointing his rod at the wounded bandit, a crackling bolt of dark energy rips through the air, and tears the life from the bandit. With a loud roar, Draxxus’s wounds begin to heal in front of the bandit’s eye. Draxxus attacks the bandit leader exposing a weakness, then quickly feints purposefully exposing a weak point of his own, taunting the leader to attack. Trifus, seeking vengeance for the near death of Angus, bashes one of the bandits into the gate, causing the bandit to fall upon his shield, to which Trifus again smashes in to the bandit. However the bandit regains his composure much quicker this time, feints left, and slides his foot up and behind Trifus’. As Trifus begins to fall to the ground, he is met with the pommel of the bandit’s weapon in his face. One of the bandits attacking Draxxus slips inside the stables and attempts to attack the dragonborn with a garotte, but is unable to gain a foothold. The other bandit at the stables turn his attention to Caelynn, and bellows in her face, drawing her attention as well. The final bandit left alive charges the down Trifus, attempting the skewer him, but despite his heavy armor, he quickly rolls to the side, avoiding the attack. Tayle thrust his spear deep into one of the bandits that were attacking Trifus, ending its life, while at the same time commanding his wolf. Shera leaps from the shadows, burying her teeth into the leg of another bandit. The bandit leader seizes the opening left by Draxxus and attacks, this attack however was fully anticipated and results in a counterattack. The leader steps back, further from the stables, and renews his assault on Draxxus, landing a devastating blow, piercing his chest. Caelynn again steps to her companion’s aid, attacking both bandits in the barn, but only landing one blow.

Grunthar, seizing the opening left by the bandit leader being out in the open, looses a arrow straight for him. The arrow pierces the leader’s neck, blood spraying from the wound. Gurgling, the bandit falls to his knees, dead. Seeing the bandit locked in Shera’s jaws, Barthram unleashes another crackling black bolt of magical energy that punches through the bandit’s chest, leaving it dying in a heap, then gracefully leaps from the parapet. Draxxus again summons his strength, and his fresh wounds begin to heal anew, allowing him roar a command for Caelynn to press the attack on the bandits. Caelynn follows the command given and quickly slips her rapier between the weak spots in the bandit’s mail, blood oozes from the wound. Now free of the bandits, Trifus moves to assist his allies in the stables. One of the remaining bandits attempts to side step Caelynn to gain better position, but is easily out maneuvered by the female noble, who thrusts her rapier deep into the bandit’s chest. With an agonizing cry, the bandit falls to the ground, never to rise. But seeing his brother fall spurs the remaining bandit, who quickly trips Caelynn, and delivers a blow to her face with the pommel of his dagger. Tayle, hot on Trifus’ trail, speeds toward the stables, casting healing spells as he moves, and quickly resuscitating the prone Caelynn.

Grunthar, unable to assist the battle from his current locale, takes a running jump, flipping from the tower to the building below, he continues his run to the edge, stopping only to fire one of his golden arrows at the last remaining bandit. The arrow strikes the bandit, completely immobilizing him in shock. Seizing the opportunity, Draxxus grabs the bandit, who wriggles free, tripping the dragonborn as he had his ally, and dealing a near deadly blow, leaving him limp on the ground. Caelynn attempts to counter, and as she narrowly misses, Tayle tries to strike the bandit with the wooden shaft of his spear, but his attack lands just as unsuccessful as the previous. Caelynn steps in tries to grab the bandit in the same fashion as Draxxus, and is assisted by the warlock, Barthram. Draxxus moves to his feet, and tries to move into a less dangerous position from which he can assist his allies, but the Dragonborn Standard he carried with him echoed Draconic battle commands deep in his head, forcing his hand to fight. Regaining his sense, Draxxus quickly turns his assault at the bandits life, into an attempt to knock him unconscious. Thinking fast through the heat of battle, Trifus brings forth a length of rope from his pack, and uses it with Tayle, to bind the bandit.

In the aftermath of the battle, the party assisted Angus to the store front and into the care of his alleged wife, the captured bandit was imprisoned in one of the empty compost pits at the back of the trading post, and the bandits moved to woods and buried, so as not to contaminate the people in the trading post.

Funeral Pyre-- Bagram GOLD 1
Saying goodbye to a comrade, and the beginning of the Greenbelt Campaign

[This post provided courtesy of SPC Mike Hunt—yes, that really is his actual name— the player of Draxxus]

The sun began to rise as the battered heroes emerged from the Temple of Aureus, tired from their bloody battles against the impossibly large hordes of undead. Though victorious, a trusted companion had fallen in battle. The party stopped to catch their breath, and gather up the treasures amassed by the dragon they had just sent back to its eternal rest. Amongst which was found a large wooden tube, capped in gold, and littered

with Draconic pictograms, upon his touch, Tayle’s vision blurred and his hand appeared as a draconic claw, and images of a battered Dragonborn warrior trudging home flashed before his eyes. When the link was broken, his body fell to the ground, eyes taking on a golden hue and lids fluttering. As quickly as he fell, Tayle was back on his feet, and the party ventured off to Barradin’s Hold, Xanathan’s beaten body born aloft on Draxxus’ shoulder. As they approached the quiet village of Haeven that Trifus proposed a more inconspicuous method of transporting the treasure, as well as the body of the fallen Xanathan. Tayle was sent into the town to procure a small horse and wagon with which to carry their goods, and the journey to the Hold continue.

Upon the party’s return to the Hold, they were met not with the familiar sight of Lord Tremayne colors flying on the parapets, but instead the banner of the young King Connor. Taking lead, Trifus approached several of the guards. The guards however knew nothing except that the King had arrived only about a week prior, with no notice, and that Merrick had standing orders to see the adventurers as soon as they arrive at Barradin’s Hold. Led by Trifus, Draxxus and Grunthar, wagon in tow, hurried to Merrick’s office, where they quickly exchanged words. The party relayed the happenings of their previous quest, and how they fared in finding and eliminating the Necromancer. Merrick listened quietly, drinking in the story being spun before him, growing somber after hearing about the death of Xanathan. After a deep exhalation, he began:

Merrick: As you have clearly gathered by now, the King is currently residing inside the walls of Barradin’s Hold, arriving shortly after you set out on your journey to find the Necromancer. Connor has been here almost a week now, and has never once spoken to Cedric as to why, although he does seek audience with all of you immediately. Something about the King seems… different.

Merrick seems clearly hesitant to send the party before the king, and instead, a secret meeting between Lord Tremayne and themselves is arranged in the stables. Tayle arrives at the stables after having been retrieved by Grunthar at Trifus’ behest, and only moments before a worn down, older version of the Tremayne the party remembers appears. Lord Tremayne graciously greets his returning champions, and listens intently as the again relay the happenings at the Temple of Aureus, to include the difficult promises some of them had made to appease the sullen deity.

Tremayne: I know you have had words with Merrick, and he has told you all he knows. Unfortunately, I know not more than he. The King has not seen it fit to share with me the reasons for his sudden appearance.

Trifus: My Lord, you look unwell. Has something come over you?

Tremayne: Ah, keen eyes Sir Trifus. Since the absence of Strahd our magical forces have been… lacking. I have since imbued another with similar powers. A warlock named Barthram.

Trifus: My Lord, our allegiance is foremost to you, and as such, how would you have us interact while in audience with the King?

Tremayne: (visibly moved by the sentiment) I would have you act as you normally would while before the King, however we should not mention the business with the Necromancer. If questioned, it was a simple bandit uprising.

The conversation moves to the acquired treasure, and what to do with the body of their fallen comrade.

Tremayne: Draxxus, I want word sent immediately to Xanathan’s sister in The Aerie. Let it be known that we shall have a heroes’ funeral for him, and if she should so choose, she is more than welcome to remain here as one of my own. As for the treasure, I would only request a standard tithe.

Draxxus: Lord, there is also this…

Draxxus shows the draconic tube to Tremayne, who quickly responds with shock and awe. He reaches out and lightly places his hand on the object. At his touch the pictographs seem to come alive, and distant draconic battle shouts can be heard ringing in Draxxus’ head.

Tremayne: I would not let this object from your sight, Draxxus. I believe this is the last extant battle standard from the Arkhosian Empire.

Draxxus dipped his head in gratitude, before the group gathered their belonging and went to clean up for an audience with the King.

As the party approached King Connor, they couldn’t help but notice that he looked much better than the last time they stood in his presence. His hair has filled out and some of the lines in his face had filled in. However he was dressed very plainly, and his face read completely neutral.

King Connor: I am pleased to see you; when last we spoke it was not on the best of terms. I only wish I could have told you more at that junction, but what I say now is best kept behind closed doors.

The king motions for the guards to stand outside the room, leaving the room empty but for the King and his chamberlain, Tremayne, Merrick, and the party. The Lord Chamberlain leans forward and places a scroll in the King’s outstretched palm.

King Connor: (to Lord Tremayne) Im sorry my friend, I know how this looks…

King Connor: (to Trifus) Sir Trifus, do you speak for this group?

Trifus: I do, your majesty.

The king then handed the rolled up scroll to Trifus. As the scroll was read outloud, the group of adventurers standing before the kind grew increasingly somber and looked from one to the next; Trifus finished reading and re-rolled the scroll. King Connor takes a slow look around the room.

The scroll reads:

Be it so known that the bearer of this charter has been charged by the Lord Protector, acting for the greater good and authority vested within them by the Crown of Lyonesse, has granted the right of exploration and travel within the wilderness known as the Greenbelt.

Exploration should be limited to an area no further than thirty-six miles east and west and sixty miles north of Kennet’s Trading Post. The carrier of this charter should also strive against banditry and other unlawful behavior to be encountered. The penalty for unrepentant banditry remains, as always, execution by swordor rope. So witnessed under the watchful eye of the Crown Council, under authority granted by Connor MacGregor, King of Lyonesse.

King Connor: It seem there are far less of you than there were last we met.

Tremayne proceeds to explain to the King the various reasons for his diminished forces, to include death, separate mission, and personal affairs.

Tremayne: My Liege, I believe I have two suitable additions to this team of adventurers. My right hand, outside of these walls, and the last surviving heir of House Neverwinter.

A slender man clad in leather armor that the party had seen many times, but had never given a second look, walks into the throne room, accompanied by a blonde armor-clad female. The young man seemed far different than before, he seemed to radiate authority, and his eyes had taken on golden hue. The female emanated a cold air of nobility, and her golden hair cascaded over her shining mail.

Tremayne: (gesturing towards the young man) This is Barthram, a young man whom I have granted my power. And this (gesturing towards the woman) is Caelynn, the heir to the Neverwinter House.

King Connor: I cannot stand for Orkenay seizing contested land near our borders. We need to bring enough law to those parts that we can reclaim the lands for Lyonesse. Those lands currently have no protection, and as it stands I don’t even have enough men to send there. We must reclaim the Greenbelt for Lyonesse to again rise to its former glory.

Trifus: My King, what should happen if we encounter forces from the neighboring countries?

King Connor: I have no soldiers to send you at this time, however, know that as emissaries of the crown, any attack made against you will be as though made against the crown itself. I have also heard that you have made promises to reinstate a certain temple. While I don’t have any soldiers to send you, I do have civilian labor. For now we will cut back the growth around the temple and build a path leading to it, and when you have taken back the Greenbelt we shall uproot the temple and relocate it to an area of commercial prominence. Caelynn, should the castle of Neverminter be restored, I will see to at the your family will also be restored to power in that area. Trifus and Tayle, in regards to your destroyed homes, when the Greenbelt is restored, your people will be given land and everything they will need to establish a new life. Draxxus, Clan Ashirokk will also be given land, free from our laws, but tithes are still to be paid to the crown.

Trifus: Do we have permission to conscript people to assist us with our mission?

King Connor: Conscription against a person’s will is tantamount to slavery, so no. However, as nobles, Caelynn and Draxxus may allow people to pledge allegiance to my name and assist you on your mission.

Tayle: Is there a way that we can get a writ of credit for supplies that we may need to assist the people in these wilds?

King Connor: I shall grant you a stipend of 200 gold per month to begin. As you begin to prove successful I shall increase your stipend. I will also be expecting bi-weekly reports by raven. Cedric, I must take my leave. Again, I am sorry for the way this has played out.

The party of adventurers take leave of Lord Tremayne, and begin to prepare for this long endeavor. Tayle ventures to his home and retrieves a single sprig from the Sacred Tree. Grunthar purchaces necessary equipment, and melts down some coins to make both gold and silver tipped arrows. Caelynn prepares a letter home, with limited details on the events to come, and speaks to the remaining members of the party on how best to prepare for this adventure. Trifus prepares a call to arms looking to gather as many people to his cause as possible, prepares a letter to his people, speaks with Tremayne on the topic of setting up towns, and begins preparations for Xanathan’s funeral. Draxxus returns to his clan in the Wyrmsteeth, first delivering Tremayne’s letter to Xanathan’s sister in regards to the pending funeral, then presenting Trifus’ people with his letter, and finally speaks to his father about the challenge before him. Before returning to Barradin’s Hold, Draxxus presents his father with the Arkhosian battle standard, stunned by this enormous piece of history, Kraxis requests that his son carry the standard into battle and bring honor to the clan. The party meets back at Barradin’s Hold, and gathers for Xanathan’s funeral.

The Dark, Dark Night-- Bagram RED #3
More explorations and discoveries in the shadow realm...

[this session recap written by Erin, the player of Janeva Arbor]

Tonight the group learned that the shadow world, called the Shadowfell, can shift into the real world with the aid of a powerful curse. Sometimes the shift is permanent and sometimes it’s temporary. The Shadowfell is most certainly intruding. It’s a place though which the souls of the dead travel on their path beyond death, but undead and other shadow creatures can also utilize the Shadowfell for travel. These creatures are not inherently evil and driven to do evil things, they are just morally ambiguous.
Grimbold, the dwarven guard, asked the party for assistance with the monsters roaming the street. The armory has been taken over by creatures that are killing the militia that is trying to rally. The north gate guard Eddin was found injured claiming to have been stabbed when he tried to stop the servant from feeling the city. He said the man ran as though a thousand demons were licking at his heels.
The party decided that before they could leave the town to pursue the servant in an attempt to get some answers, they had to take back the armory and arm the people to protect themselves. The stepped out of the inn and all immediately felt a bone-chilling shiver go up their spines. The place had a dark, cloudy, eerie gloom to it. Light only reached half as far as usual and the city was a different layout than before. The pine houses were now made of a dark oak. The light granite cobbles that had been shipped from the northern cliffs to line the streets were a deep, brown slate, cracked and barely functioning as more than gravel. The party skill-checked their way to the armory, trying to avoid an ambush by creatures with glowing red eyes. Through the keen eyes of Fargrim the dwarf, they managed to make the short trip without incident.
Upon arrival at the armory the group sees it is surrounded by shadow fiends. Janeva shot a burst of ice towards on and one shattered into a million shadowy pieces and the other foes quickly retreated through the walls into the building. Kalak charged in and threw the door open, finding several members of the militia laying unconscious and half-armored, weapons scattered across the room. Wattain sprinted up behind Kalak in time for three mastiff-sized spiders to leap from the roof. Kalak teleported backwards behind Wattain and the poor Paladin took the hits from all targets. As the rest of the party converged on the armory, Janeva leapt onto a statue to get a better vantage of the battlefield and unobscured views of enemies. The shadows returned and latched onto Janeva and Fargrim. The two adventurers felt a burning, sapping, leeching, necrotic energy as the shadows melded with them physically and both missed their next attacks. Kalak summoned a mighty fireball and took out two of the shadows. With one spider now on fire, Wattain severed one of its legs and dying with a shriek, it summoned the other two spiders to jump away from the Paladin and engage other targets.
As the battle raged on, a swarm of spiders appeared from inside the armory and another from the riverfront. One of the spiders decided to attack Janeva, in what would be the last bad idea of its life. Janeva skewered the spider, plunging her blade into its head and dropping it to the ground, twitching and dead. She then leapt from her perch and landed on the back of another spider as her icy blade removed its head from its body. She channeled the power of its death to fuel her Fey magic and teleported to assist her allied. The tide had turned and the party surged on, invigorated. One of the spider swarms drops Wattain unconscious and Wrath healed him back to his feet. The Paladin felt tainted by the touch of the undead and attempted to shake it off and clear his head, unsuccessfully.
Across the battlefield, Fargrim turns his enormous axe to the side and uses the flat of the large blade to squash one of the balls of spiders. In his fury of adrenaline at having seen his comrade fall, he sprinted as fast as his short legs could carry him across the field and unleashed the same treatment on the last ball of spiders.
Foes vanquished, the party regrouped. Wrath looked to the militia, healing those he could. It was time to find the servant. Hopefully he would lead them to the young scribe, the prime suspect for casting the curse that opened the Shadowfell.

Into the Shadowfell--Bagram RED #2
Horrible news and a mission from the newly-crowned Queen take our heroes un

(recap written by Erin, the player of Janeva, with much and many thanks from her GM)

Since there’s nothing like a good interrogation to get the blood pumping, that’s how Red Team started off the evening. As soon as the captive was questioned, however, he bit down on a poison capsule and the the race was on to gain information in classic skill challenge fashion. The interrogation commenced and the party was able to learn that nobody in the group of henchmen had actually seen Treymane. They were originally 12 men, all from the Greenbelt north of Redwall. They had been paid through a masked intermediary to wear an armband with Treymane’s symbol (a golden seated lion with one paw holding a shield embroidered on a red background) and wreak havoc on the area, all the while screaming Treymane’s name. They were to split into two groups of six, perform their task, and disappear, never to meet up again. This was the last piece of information garnered before the captive bowman succumbed to the poison. Kalak and Orranis attempted to pry into his mind to try to get additional information but he was shielded by strong magical wards to prevent just such an intrusion. Whoever was behind all this had indeed covered their tracks well.

Kalak was able to determine that the poison used was called Blackbark. In small, unrefined quantities, it served as an analgesic; in larger doses, a hallucinogenic drug. The amount of money and resources required to refine the blackbark into a strong enough potency to kill as a neurotoxin was immense. There are only two assassin guilds with enough money for such an undertaking, one of which is the Red Scales, the guild from which Merrick escaped. From the bodies the party looted two black velvet bags, each containing 100 gold in trader rolls fresh from the mint.

As the party set forth for Duponde, ominous rain clouds began to roll in, starting with intermittent gentle showers and transitioning into a non-stop torrential downpour. The weather persisted with mostly heavy rain for the next 3 days as the party made their way to the town at the only river crossing for days in either direction.

“We’ll be sick by the time we get there!” ~ Janeva
“Nah, I have a +10 to Chicken Soup.” ~ Wattain

Upon arrival, wet, miserable, cold, and muddy, the group was ushered quickly into the town and pointed toward the inn, the Old Owl, by a guard who was fighting a hacking cough. Duponde was full of dilapidated houses surrounded by a 12 foot stone wall that was crumbling in multiple locations. General disrepair seemed to be the status quo. The city was busier than usual and the party soon found out the reason; the bridge leading east across the river, the direction they needed to go, had been washed out from the flooding river. They found the inn, run by innkeeper Tilda Greenfield, and were finally able to get warm, clean, and have a hot meal to fill their aching bellies.

As dinner was concluded the hour had grown late and the only patrons of the inn were themselves, Tilda, the grey-bearded barkeep, a trio of dwarves, a dwarven guard in a brown cloak, and a young scholar in dark robes with his servant. The rain continued to pound on the roof and the wind howled eerily through the rafters.

“Tonight is a night of ghosts,” Tilda almost whispered as the sound of the wind chilled her to her core.
“Is it the ghost of Evard?” the young scholar asked.

Kalak’s ears perked up at the mention of Evard. He told the group what he knew of the old wizard. Evard was a famous wizard of shadow magic who lived and died decades ago. He had a powerful enemy, a wizard named Mordenkainen, who, in some circles, was rumored to have killed him. Evard was known to most scholars of the arcane for his most powerful spell, aptly named, Evard’s Black Tentacles. Supposedly, Evard was buried in Duponde as that is where his tomb lies. Wanting to know if the scholar has more information, as he was immediately interested in the idea of the wizard’s ghost, Kalak moves to speak with the scholar. Upon approach, Kalak noticed that the scholar was very taken aback by his appearance. Clearly the youth had not met a dragonborn before. The only new information Kalak was able to learn was that Evard was last seen in Dupont 50 years ago.

Wattain ordered another stack of warm, buttery pancakes for dessert and commenced gorging himself.

Orranis went to talk to the barkeep to learn what he could of the local lore. Evard was the student of the renowned wizard Vontarin. When he began to dabble in shadow magic, Vontarin turned his back on his pupil and became his enemy. The two wizards eventually met for a duel at the monastery and when the dust had settled, it seemed Evard was left for dead and Vontarin was missing. The townsfolk looked for Vontarin in his home in the town, but he was never seen or heard from again.

Wrath talked with the guard and learned that the town was generally in good spirits, no shady characters wandering around, everything was quiet, and he had heard no news of anyone named Treymane. Fargrim bought a round of ale for the table of dwarves and approached them speaking in Dwarven and was invited to sit and share their company. Their names were Katha, Krystid, and Kildrak. He inquired as to their business in the area and found they were on their way back from a masonry job when the bridge washed out and they were commissioned to rebuild it.

Janeva asked Tilda to point her towards the nearest pleasure house, hoping she could overhear gossip there about local activity and any travelers who were passing through, but Tilda was a motherly type who had no knowledge of such establishments, and was mildly put off that someone would ask.

Having gathered as much information as possible, the party retired for the night to their rooms. In the middle of the night, a sudden jolt awoke everyone and they saw that their furniture was out of place and felt a general aura of unease. A scream from downstairs brought all the party members out of their rooms to investigate. Kalak recognized that everyone had somehow been transported into a shadowy realm, a dimension of evil from which the world is usually protected. Something had merged this realm with the normal world. Upon reaching the bottom of the stairwell, they were assaulted by gargoyles with curling horns, large stone wings, and glowing red eyes. They were soon joined by ethereal ghosts which seemed to leap from the shadows and latch onto the party, melding with their shadows and becoming almost invincible. Realizing that radiant damage would destroy them the most quickly, Wattain was set forth in all his radiant glory to dispatch the ghosts.

When the fight was over, Tilda was worse for wear and the barkeep was dead. The masonry dwarves ventured downstairs to try to find help for Katha, who had been wounded in their own fight against the shadow fiends. When the scholar and servant had not joined everyone many minutes later, Tilda, Fargrin, and Kalak went to check on them. The door was locked so Tilda produced a key to unlock it. The room was empty, but not uninhabited. It was almost as if the scholar and servant had known of this impending doom and had fled before it could occur, or perhaps they had caused it…. Back downstairs, the party discussed how to go about locating the scholar and it was agreed that the monastery was the first place that would need to be searched. Suddenly the guard who had been drinking that evening rushed into the inn.

“There’s something wrong with the entire town! Will you help me?!”

The party shared a quick glance amongst themselves and the choice was clear. Yes, they would help.


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