War of Fire and Ice

Much Ado in the Sodden City of Seaquen
Investigations of Arson and a Sewer Fight

The Brotherhood’s second day in Seaquen followed a dinner party with Xavious Foebane who gave them the lay of the land, caught them up on war news and invited them to the morning militia muster.

It was a muddy morning at muster in the dawn rain. Padraig Bodhrun the bard played his snare drum to cheer everyone up, and indeed he did entice many from their slumber. The militia training was a humble and humbling affair, drill marches in the muddy fields between the city and the refugee camps. It seemed that the boldest of the refugees gravitated towards a tavern called the “Royale” which was recently built amongst the ruins of the Old City at the eastern point of the isthmus.

Blackwulf demonstrated his martial technique but the militia men seemed more scared than inspired.

A fat man hectored the proceedings from the road, complaining of the Magistrates’ disregard for the plight of the refugee and promising dire insurrection should such oppressive attitudes continue… The Brotherhood spoke to him for a moment, but Picker was an obvious fanatic who continued onto town shouting his message of dissent. He was soon replaced by town crier who made their way through the muddy streets to shout the news of the day, which included a forecast of rain and work to be had for bold men at the office of First Magistrate Messi.

Then it was off to pick up the threads of this urban tapestry. There were many. There were jobs offered, people to meet, people wanting to meet them, sages to consult, taverns to visit, mysteries to unlock… Katrina had wandered off to find a tavern.

It was decided to visit the magistrate. The little man was obviously put out by the oppressive weather and the constant problems brought by increased population to his town, but his biggest concern seemed to be a series of basement fires in the posh part of town along the North Coast Cliffs, where mansions were built upon the foundations of the ancient city. He was certain that this was the work of Ragesian spies and terrorists, and he included most of the refugees in this group.

Magistrate Messi offered a golden fish and pile of white pearls to whomever could solve the mystery of the arsonists.

The Brotherhood accepted this task and wandered off. They trolled the Fish Market for a time, asking after the half-elf Nelebekus. All they could discover was that a man of that description had been seen in the company of a half-orc.

While investigating the basement of a rich shipping magnate whose clifftop views seemed to stretch beyond the horizon to Elysian Fields, it was discerned that the source of the fires seemed to be rats from the sewers of the ancient city of Bael Turath. Katrina was both excited and nervous to enter these sewers as she had studied much about the ancient devil worshipping civilization and was curious, but also knew enough to make her blood freeze at the thought of confronting the horrors.

They descended to the aqueduct beneath the city, which lead to a cross roads. A low roaring sound sound proved to be the decider over a rhythmic plop, and the group turned right. This brought them to a wall of raging blue-white fire crossing the tunnel and here swarms of fiery rats seemed to congregate. Attacking the rats revealed more than initially thought as rats poured through the wall. They were followed by a denizen of the Elemental Planes, an Emberguard from the City of Brass!

These foes were defeated and the rash warriors amongst the party decided to hurl themselves through the wall of flame, burning themselves horribly in the process. Katrina and the sensible Padraig were less inclined to hurl themselves to uncertain doom.

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A Dwarven Dinner Party
Beer and Calamari

Captain Xavious Foebane is a grim but friendly drinking companion. He is eager to hear the tales of the Brotherhood and seems refreshed by their heroism. Katrina Dio Genera the Fire Mage comes to dinner as well. She effusively describes the Brotherhood’s heroism. “You should be a bard!” says Padraig Bodhrun. Xavious relates that he traveled from the northern slopes of the World Mountain near Dun Eamon with the Stoneheart Clan when it became obvious that the Ragasians would give no quarter. The dwarves found Seaquen to be less than adequately organized and the militia unable to control the crowds of refugees so they took over to “do it right”. “We must stay focused if we are to survive. But listen, there is much news of the war.”

And so the grim dwarf told the tales of the war as ale was drunk at a prodigious rate. But the stories were sobering, and the dwarven drink went down like water.

“In Gate Pass, the war wizard Gabal, believed to have gone into hiding, emerged once the city council let the Ragesian Inquisitors inside the walls. While Gate Pass soldiers kept the Inquisitors busy, Gabal the Evocative and his students assaulted the Ragesian camps outside the gates. Reported losses for the Ragesians were nearly two thousand in one day. One of the Inquisitors, however, managed to locate Gabal and dispel his fire protection, and a mighty fire- breathing dragon incinerated the mage. In the aftermath, Ragesia’s Second Army, under command of General Danava and aided by a branch of the Third Army, breached the first district gate of Gate Pass. The Shahalesti are believed to be providing supplies to Gate Pass, forcing Ragesia to turn from siege to assault.”

“The first Ragesian army, led by General Magdus after Coaltongue’s death, has halted hostilities because of bad weather. The army now roams the eastern plains of Sindaire, pillaging towns to feed its troops.”

“A fleet from Ragesia is sailing for the capital of Sindaire, and the Simeon the Greyling suspects Magdus’ forces will link up with the fleet in the coming weeks. The Elves fear this.”

The Third Ragesian Army led by General Revulus is preparing to march south to Dassen, although bad weather has halted it for now.

“Meanwhile, the Fourth Ragesian Army attacks Shahalesti around the northern edge of the Barrier Peaks.”

Leska seems to be foolishly splitting her forces, and although Ragesia’s armies are winning all of their battles, they cannot hope to occupy any territory. They seem simply to be cutting swaths through different lands.”

“Of course, most of this information comes courtesy of the Shahalesti, who are keen to make an advantageous alliance, so I treat it with some caution. The Old Dragon of Shahalesti is near-sighted in my opinion. There is something much bigger than a war of conquest going on. Inquisitor Leska is playing some deeper game…”

“In the meantime, it would be good to see you lot out at muster tomorrow morning. The men are mostly refugees and a few locals, not alot of enthusiam; it would be good for morale. And I think Magistrate Messi might need your help.”

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Spies, Imperialists, and a City Under Siege

The Brotherhood of Aquiline Mercy has traveled through Fire and Ice, across many leagues, battling every step of the way to finally arrive at the famed Lyceum of Seaquen, the only Free City brave enough to stand up to the Ragesian Empire; finally their duty will be discharged: a briefcase, stained, burnt and battered, delivered to the Headmasters of the School. It is a heroic occasion, one of relief and trepidation for what would come next. Even as one chapter seems to be closing, yet more trials appear on the horizon.

While still in the Shrieking Mire, Ragasian spies were encountered, venturing far from their borders to collect the TideReaver Tears from the twisted sisters of the swamp. The weary heroes happened upon the group and slew them all in a fit of rage. They inhaled the fumes of an entire sack full of glass “tears” even as the wyvern unleashed the electrical charge of its fearsome scream. All glowed purple for a moment and felt a strange sensation…

After a final night huddled in the cold and drizzling swamp, protected by the wards and spells of the druid and bard, the group found the road that emerged from the bog on its way to town.

Walking, they encountered a party of Elven Knights, well armed with lances and writs of marquee, a delegation from the self-proclaimed protectors of the seas, the Dragon Throne of the Shahalesti.

The elves were impressed by the candor of the Paladin of Dreams traveling with the party and also with the evidence of the Ragesians they had slain. The Brotherhood discovered that the Eladrin had instituted a naval blockade around Seaquen in order to ensure cooperation. It seemed that all was not well in Seaquen.

Finally arriving at the fabled Quen-by-the-Seas, the heroes felt great pride and relief, but it was tempered some by the sea of Refugee camps that seemed to hold the city under siege. The town was overrun with refugees, filled to bursting, every inn full, and the Militia was obliged to clear the streets with regular shield charges down the main roads. The dreary weather had not broken in weeks, winter was interminable, and the town seems glum, perhaps resigning itself to defeat.

Ahleena of the Torrents lead the group across town to the Gates of the Lyceum Campus. After some discussion with the militia Captain Xavious Foebane (who invited them to dinner), the heroes arrived at the offices of the Headmaster and were finally granted an informal audience with the Lyceum Council to whom they presented the secrets of the Ragesian empire. The Headmasters of the Lyceum were Simeon the Greyling Wizard, the Head Engineer Dougan Rasmussen, and Kirkaar the Many Coloured. They immediately set to work removing the wards that bound the book closed, and releasing the demons that guarded it, then the real work of deciphering began. Spells were muttered and tomes consulted.

It seemed that the book was written by the Second Inquisitor Kevran and although written in a crude cipher it was apparent after some hours of study that the “Scourge” was much more than a political act. Further study was warranted. There were so many questions! What sayeth the book? What is this Dionem? What are “Tidereaver Tears”? Does Gate Pass still stand? What is happening with the war? More questions would have to wait until morning, though perhaps Captian Xavious could answer questions of a political bent. After hours of awkwardly standing around in the Wizards’ Library, the Brotherhood gladly left for their dinner date with the dwarf Xavious Foebane.

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Little Drummer Boy
A fellow traveler joins the Brotherhood.

I, Padraig Bodhran, have finally found myself at ease and happy with my station in life; a pity it took abandoning my adopted home and family to finally get there. There was nothing for me under the stifling and short-sited rule of the ignorant human Rego – nothing but ridicule and condescension. Not that Mum and Pa didn’t try to understand my magical and musical talents – Gods know they tried. They simply did not know how to deal with someone as brilliant and unique as me! But with this unlikely group of fellow adventurers, I can let my drum sound freely and with more resonance and power than ever before. They treat me as an equal, not a child, and with their help I can show the world that though the halfling may be short of stature he can be as wise as a wilden, as valorous as a paladin, and as brave in battle as a goliath!

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On the Road of Princes
Traveling Through Dassen and into the Swamp

Ahleena cinched a strap on the saddle and mounted her horse. The Road of Princes stretched to the south, a cobbled track girded by gleaming snowfields. Finally, the way was clear! After so much violence, grueling toil, hellish passage and heartache, the way was now clear to Seaquen, and finally delivering to the Wizards of Lyceum the vital war secrets of the Ragesian Empire kept so safe in the satchel of the towering BlackWolf, who was obliged to ride in a chariot rather than break the back of a Dassen horse.

This Brotherhood of the Aquiline Cross was a motley crew, unlike any heroes assembled in the legends of yore, and at times the had frustrated her with their whims and dalliances amongst monsters’ lairs and drinking taverns, but she had to admit that she could not imagine a more stalwart escort through the dangers of the mountain passes. Indeed, even the delays in Tamerlane, throwing gold about, buying finery and feasts even unto supping with Lord Duke Rego himself seemed to be worthwhile, for Elias the Paladin had asked courtly questions and they had learned much about the political landscape of Dassen, particularly that there was to be a Council of War before the spring thaw.

Ahleena was in a good mood indeed, perhaps bolstered by the welcome addition to the travelers of a local guide, one Little Drummer Boy, whose peradidles, songs and stories were as welcome as his knowledge of lodgings and local custom.

It was a pleasant journey, though each Duchy proved to be quite different from the next. The Knights of Lady Namin demanded a stiff tax for use in the upkeep of the road and also the importing of finery from Asgulan for the wardrobe of the fashionable Duchess who was said to be wintering in the court of King Steppenguard, her childhood friend. The Brotherhood responded magnanimously, buying passage for all the assembled refugees at the border, to great acclaim. They party was followed by a pair of Knights of the Flower, chivalric empty-headed warriors who loved to gossip about their Lady and the wines of Asgulan.

Lord Iz was most welcoming, for he came down out of his Highlands to greet the heroes of whose hard exploits he had heard great ballads already sung. Lord Iz feasted the Brotherhood in his rough quarters and impressed upon them the gravity of the war: “For this effects all peoples, and none can hide from the burning skies just as none could hide from the Winter’s Dark. It behooves the Lords of this Kingdom to think upon the great responsibility bestowed upon us by the Gods of Man, Daladon, Demeter, Paladine, Moradin and Mithras, as given to us in the Book of Eight Lands. We have no choice in this matter. We are bound to defend the people of Dassen.” Lord Iz was grim man, so Ahleena was happy to see Blackwolf’s enthusiasm at encountering Goliaths like himself in the honor guard of Iz, even if he expressed it by beating one of the Guardians senseless.

Lord Megadon did not honor the Brotherhood with his presence, but his soldiers did exact a heavy toll of ten gold coins from each man to cross the threshold of his realm. The keeps and walled towns of Megadon were well repaired and furnished, especially with votive portraits of the Duke and his family, the Duke looking down arrogantly from every mantle as he bestrode his horse or put a foot upon a defeated beast of the hunt. The vassals of Megadon scoffed at the war, certain that the armies of Ragesia had little hope against the might of Megadon.

After some weeks of travel Ahleena was relieved to cross the River Eamon and enter the lands of Lady Dene. Here the gardens were well tended as these more southern climes did not feel the frost of winter so strongly. Truly these were beautiful lands, but the prices of food and lodging were high, and after such a long journey few refugees had two coppers left to rub together. It was with great sadness that Ahleena noted small pitiful graves along the Road of Princes, evidence of those whose exodus proved too taxing, and evidence of the pleasant callousness of she who ruled there.

The village of Satori was hardly worthy of the name, a lawless backwater if ever there was one, merely a collection of woodsmans’ shacks at the edge of the Sunken Isthmus, where the old road dunked itself beneath the tides of the Sea of Swords, offering a grim final step to the remote city of wizards. Rigorous negotiations finally produced a boat and keg of beer in exchange for tired horses and the Brotherhood entered the swamp in the tracks of many intrepid refugees as Leo the Boatbuilder smiled with satisfaction.

The swamp itself was a horrid affair of leaning trees and hanging moss. In some places the water weeds were so thick the Blackwolf was obliged to wade ahead and drag the boat through the morass. A steady drizzle kept everything chilled and wet. Nevertheless a decent journey was made and as they made camp the party spoke of reaching Seaquen the next day with luck.

Ahleena was just finishing the stew, when she looked up at a rustle of leaves from Hours that she knew too well: Danger! A drifting light came into view in the mist and behind it a boat was slowly poled through the murk by two desperately unnatural women with identical features except that one was reddish with goat horns curling from her forehead while the other, pale and bonewhite oozed black ichor from an abundance of sores. “Hark! I hear something behind!” the smooth thoughts of Elias the Dreaming Knight came into her mind.

“Fire fire toil and trouble, the blood of innocents fills my bubbles… tears of blood, tears of the torrent, tears for storms and weather abhorrent…”

The battle that ensued was a desperate one as the sisters were not twins but triplets, and they were escorted by vice jawed crocodiles, but soon two sisters lay mangled upon the ground, and the third, C’adria, was fleeing through the swamp like a pale ghost.

Hours and Blackwolf followed the witch to her lair then retreated to a knew redoubt where Hours wove his primal evocations to hide their camp from sight. At dawn the brotherhood attacked, wading through a horde of vengeful undead to strike down the White Witch.

The witches were busy it seemed, capturing traveler and desperate refugees to boil them down for their wicked potions, or hanging them up to be gnawed on at their leisure. Rifling through sheafs of parchments Hours found amid the iniquitous poetry and tales of demonic couplings (four sisters birthed of Moloch upon the Winter Queen) were diagrams of something called “Tidereaver’s Tears” and a crude map of Seaquen upon which was annotated a list of alchemical ingredients and the description of a half-elven youth called Nelebekus.

Amidst the mess a single shelf held a row of crystal spheres, that seemed to drip blood that evaporated nigh instantaneously.

There was also a note: “Ask Nelebekus: Is the fire wench a spy?”

The fire wench was discovered in another shack, chained but un-chastened, who introduced herself as “Katrina Dio Generes of Gate Pass, Mistress of Fire, prisoner of witches. I hope no one died on my account?” A quick witted lass, upon donning her red leathers and retrieving her magic wand she soon informed the party that they needed to leave quickly as the Ragasians were do to arrive today to pick up their order of Tidereaver Tears. And Katrina was going with them!

Ahleena looked sideways at the wizardess in red leathers who so casually ordered the men around. This one needed watching!

The party shoved off in their heavily loaded boat, but it was not long before the foggy silence was pierced by the familiar screech that those who survived the assault on Gate Pass could only recognize as a Wyvern!

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Strange Brew

Malefice

Where mandrakes, crying from the moonless fen,

Told how a witch, with eyes of owl or bat,

Found, and each root maleficently fat

Pulled for her waiting cauldron, on my ken

Upstole, escaping to the world of men,

A vapor as of some infernal vat;

Across the stars it clomb, and caught thereat

As if their bright regard to veil again.

Despite the web, methought they knew, appalled,

The stealthier weft in which all sound was still. . . .

Then sprang, as if the night found breath anew

A wind whereby the stars were disenthralled. . . .

Far off, I heard the cry of frustrate ill,

A witch that wailed above her curdled brew.

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The Kingdom of Dassen

To reach the Lyceum, the whole Kingdom of Dassen must be traversed.

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Rebirth of Hourz Len Braidpath

A Tale of 4 Stones… Hours Lenn Braidpath Reborn

(PART ONE: FIRE STONE)

For Hours Lenn Braidpath the fire-forest was hugely transformative… in all his years had he never experienced such rending imbalance and natural suffering in the wild… it was his greatest joy to have been part cleansing of that corruption…

...but a very pivotal event took place that day in the destiny of our hero… it was asked of him to carry the ‘Lifesong Living Blade’, artifact of Innendotdar, cut from the home-tree of the forest and the very center piece and key to the great mystery of that ravaged land.

Unbeknownst to Hours, upon accepting this great honor, there happened an agreement of sorts… between the soul of our hero and the soul of Innendotdar itself. This agreement which was channeled through first contact of Hours hand to the ‘Living Blade’.

In their touch, this spirit bonding agreement was the beginning of not only an alignment of their wills, but of a powerful chain-reaction as well… within moments of contact the sacred wooden artifact of Innendotdar began growing into Hours body, assimilating into his mutable form…. like key to lock …

And after a few moments passed and he felt some ancient gears to turn somewhere deep inside him… then…

...CLICK!

..and from that moment something began to change…

What just happened? he wondered briefly…. and then it came… subtle at first, almost , as the two merged in physical form, Hours began to feel an ebbing wave sweep through his mind, body and spirit…

Like a great wash eroding him from the inside…. he felt the distinctive glimpsing rush of the great spirit working through him… a soft voice of cycles beginning to dissolve everything he had known of his bodies gifts and primal powers…

This voice beckoned to him in the trickling wash, of a promise to something more…

...of himself, and yet, something new to be born from inside him…

...it was clear to be something of great benevolence and power! But what… ?

Not yet understanding these changes that he felt building within him, Hours knew it would be several days before this transformation would truly come to pass. So, in knowing this, he there-fore decided that he would go to see a mystic at first chance upon their travels beyond the fire-forest…

..but until he consulted a shaman or druid, to discern these changes, he need not worry his companions…

...for the process although strange, also felt natural and good…

(PART TWO: WATER STONE)

After several days, and arriving at the rural civilization below the fire-forest, Hours had suffered what felt like an extended tropical fever, ever washing him over with waves of dissolve and renewal…

Never did this strange fever hinder his abilities to support his brothers in combat… and yet, he felt with every step, that he must soon to see a mystic… lest something unknown to him cause complications in this process of rebirth that was ever quickening to come …

... And so, after saving the frightened wizard from the Owlbear and kenku, Hours took the old man aside to ask his advice in finding someone versed in the Fey wilds and the arts of primal power.

The wizard said he knew of such a person… a wild medicine woman living in a cave on the backside of a near-by ridge. And so, as his companions took to their own interests and headed back to the town and tavern, Hours took his leave from them, explaining that he was long over-due for a real walk-about to feed the soul…

...He told them he was to make for the back-side of the ridge and to come looking for him should he not return by dusk of the following day!

Hours set out, making the base of the ridge by late afternoon, but with each step came the swelling surge of transformation close at hand. And so, with this change and the nights darkness nearly upon him he hoped in earnest to find the woman soon …

With shaking stealth he made his way up the ridge-line, casting traveller’s camouflage around him to keep any stalking predators un-awares of his presence. Then, the fever took him, hot boils of bark and vine began bubbling all over his body, his breath became short and he couldn’t help but laugh at the harrowing trial that he felt upon him…

With teeth chattering now, the crazing fever was followed by chills of ice, his vision blurred and he could barely carry on… wildly he ran now, scouring as best he could in the falling darkness, for any trace of this woman. And while thankfully the full moon rose on the eastern horizon to light his way… no clear signs could be found.

And at last, whilst high atop the ridges eastern pass, he felt that he was truly fit to burst with fever or dissolve entirely… when his shaking feet gave out beneath him… and he fell, tumbling down the ridge-side!

His body became a writhing pile of living matter, his body erupting with feverish chaos in the fall… the vine-covered bark and wooden bones of his form then began to breath and ripple in mid air, coursing with wild erratic energy as he coiled for 30 feet of free fall…

...and as the earth fell towards him he bellowed out an echoic primal cry!

...then… there was nothing… the empty, black, eternal…nothing…

(PART THREE: AIR STONE)

...Eyes opened to see the ragged outline of someone blowing smoke into face…

...As if from some distant world then, a conversation could be faintly heard…

...The all-voice of thunder and earth spoke with magnificence to a old woman…

...The body reeled up then wildly like an acute gust of wind out of a dream, eyes rolling around in a blur… ...shapes and shadows could be seen in slow motion, gently playing against an orange wall of cave lit by campfire…

...a great moan escaped the body and then laughter echoing from inside out, hands reached up from the body to touch the face and rub the eyes… more laughter…

...and then a sharp scattering pain scorched the mind, everything was electric and burning alive… and a crones voice cackled from behind, followed by several quick words of power which seemed to release all scent and memory of pain.

The world collapsed into a focus then… and words, thoughts, ideas and memories flooded the brain and soon took root in the body… like dropping a warm lump of metal into mud…

Ahhh… There you are… said the woman.

She chuckled under her breath and then leapt gracefully into action, quickly spreading dark red soil over his whole body while dripping golden-silver wax from an iron kettle into all the joints and across the vital organs.

You are just in time… She tones these words with a soft reverence while confidently adjusting all aspects of the body’s form into some naturally functional alignment. She coughes once and then claps down firmly on the chest…

Are you ready to breath? Asking as if it were already answered she raises one fist in the air and proclaims:

Yes…. yes you are! The fist comes down with great weight of purpose, as to an anvil would fall the forging strike of a smiths hammer. (Somewhere Geth is putting the final touch on his braces of power)

A gasping wrench of wind nearly breaks the bellows lung as life is jumped into the awoken form… and Hours takes his first breath a new…

(PART FOUR: THE EARTH STONE)

The night was spent in slow and quiet movements, and gentle exchanges of gratitude…

By first light Hours had regained some degrees of physiological acclimation… all the while speaking little and learning much from the sagely old medicine woman. She spoke to him of his new birth and body, and of the powerful spirits that have now chosen to move through him… she speaks to him as if a child learning for the first time about fire… of its great power and the great responsibility that we must have in harnessing it…

It became clear, by the heat of the midday, that Hours would not be leaving anytime soon… as he could still barely stand with-out quickly falling to his knees. And although frustrated by knowing that he had told his comrades he would return before nightfall today, there was also something relieving in the process… something humbling and basic.

He learned that when he fell from the ridge last night, that he had miraculously landed, in a pile of his own primordial pieces, directly in front of Shaore’lenns eastern medicine cave, where she goes to perform rebirthing rituals at the winter solstice… which just happened to be the full moon of the previous day!

Shaore’lenn spent the afternoon instructing Hours on the basic tenets of druidic power… his first lesson would entail befriending an animal of some sort to send message of his safety back to the town, so that his friends need not come looking for him… as he would be spending the next days in ritual-instruction and communication with the spirits, so that he might be fit to continue on his great quest… which Shaore’lenn informed him was of the utmost importance for the balance of cycles in this age.

Hours found that much of this druid knowledge seems to have been hard-wired into his new body in the rebirthing process, Shaore’lenn focused her instruction mostly on the art of ritual practice and the subtleties of harnessing natures will in combat, (herself a veteran druid priestess of the last great invasions of Cold Tongue and the Ragasian Empire 40 years ago) and she is pleased to find that he is a bright student and diligent apprentice.

He learns how to shift his botanical form into animals of all shapes and sizes, as well as how to channel the new and unique magical properties of his body; the ‘Lifesong Totem of Earthfall’ and the walking ‘Staff of Defense’, for they are to be his most trusted allies in the times to come!

He was told that to properly invigorate the ritual of his rebirth that all of the precious metal coins that he carried were boiled down to appease the offensive spirits held within his old form, which in turn were then reforged to alchemize the enchanted blood that now courses through his joints and veins.

At the end of several long days of intensive study and practice with Shaore’Lenn, Hours training comes to completion, and she blesses him in ceremonial initiation to go unto the world as an ‘Earthfall Guardian-Druid of Innendotdar’. As a token of gratitude Hours gives unto her the remaining precious gems that he carried, so that they be returned to the earth or used in ritual as she sees fit.. and Shaore’Lenn gives unto Hours, as a parting gift to symbolize the druidic torch being passed, a pair of her old claw-gloves.

And so… Hours Lenn Braidpath is reborn unto the world… a druid of the wilds.

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From Fire to Ice
Out of the Mountains: Battlebeasts

Gramercy: 1000xp, and dragon’s horde. An invitation to supper at the Lord’s Keep.

They left the scorched and rapidly cooling forest to face a winter that seemed fiercer than before. The only road that lead south had been untouched for forty years and was in disrepair. At first the travel was easy, but the full fury of winter posed great danger within the Two-Range Pass where the Stoneheart and Tundra Mountains meet. Ice had broken great chunks of rock that now lay across the road. Fissures twenty feet wide revealed craggy ledges that split and crumble at the lightest pressure, and a constant icy wind raced northward like smoke through a chimney. The going was slow and meticulous, helped somewhat by Ahleena’s recitation of the final scrolls at her disposal to protect from the elements.

On the second grueling day, after crossing a terrifying fresh avalanche field at the edge of a sheer chasm, Hours discovered a path leading skyward. Following this path, the party came upon a huge ice cave. A conversation could be heard:

“…yes maassterrr.”

“I have flown over Innedotdar and I saw it covered in snow. This winter claims all the land. It is the first good news in 40 years. I grow tired of preying upon the heifers of Cornwood and the precious ‘wealth of well-being’ of Brightstaff. Bah! It is nothing like the traffic of the Old Imperium, when the Dark Merchants bore gifts of respect and veneration to add to my horde, like the Black Axe! Even the elves and Coaltongue’s orcs new enough to bring a treat. Not so these insolent men.”

“Indeed maassterrr”

“Now I snatch what I can carry from the farms and knights of the miserly Rego! But lo this winter has an arcane smell. I think soon I shall wing to the lower lands on wings of storm and fury to plunder as never before!”

“Oh maasssterrr, your scales will awe the hill people!”

“Hissssss, I smell warm blood!”

There was no retreat into the sheer snowfield of the alpine massif. The heroes entered the cave and beheld a massive ice cavern lit with blueish light, dominated by a pool of water, four pillars of stacked frozen meat, and the dragon Hoarfrost, massive, lolling serpentine on a bed on coins and precious things.

A parlay ensued, in which the honey-tongued ingenue, Indigo, coddled the great wyrm into allowing he, Blackwolf and Geth to approach bearing the entire cargo of the party horde. They did so, but came to an impasse when the dragon accepted their offer and told them to leave. Geth hefted his mallet, and instantly the dragon roared, rooting the fighter and barbarian to the ground in shock. The dragon then knocked a pillar of frozen livestock onto the pair and made to swallow Driemz Darkblade whole. Driemz barely survived that first assault but was rescued by his lady love, Ahleena, who stepped forward and presented the Splendor of the Shining Seas, which in turn stopped the dragon in his tracks. From then on it was carnage as Geth applied his multiple weapon expertise and Blackwolf grasped the axe from the Dragon’s horde and used it to gash the neck of the mighty beast. Indigo followed with a precise sound that caused the monster’s head to explode. An easy victory for mighty heroes, though not without its share of luck.

Approaching the town of Cornwood, the sharped eyed spied signs of marauding beasts. Upon entering the town and discussing the current state of affairs with a surly constable, they found this once proud trade stop to be reduced to a piteous border town, abject, and scraping by with little coin. Bitterness was the cupped supped by every towns-person. It took every ounce of Indigo’s performance to draw out the locals into a party at the Palladium Inn. Geth made do at a smithy, and other went to see the local wizard, who it was discovered, had gone missing. They found him, wild eyed and manic, treed by a rabid Owlbear and the Kenku scavengers who followed in its wake.

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Victory!!!
Snow Falls Again on Innendotdar

Gramercy: 1100XP, Kazyk’s Glaive of Wounding +2, Lifesong the Living Bow, Cape of the Mountebank +2 (in a Devilish Red), 15 ash pearls(100gp each), The Frozen Heart of Indomitability, Gratitude of the Seela, enmity of Deception, Indomitability, and Perception

The young Brotherhood of Mercy extended their mailed hand to both the Seela and Indomitability as they dove into the Lake to break the curse of Innendotdar. After a fierce battle in the lake with aquatic scrags and the flaming stag itself, the heroes returned to land to find the village under attack by shifting spirits and the dark faerie Vuhl, who it turned out, was possessed by a being that called itself Deception. The brotherhood vanquished all comers and Blackwolf took in hand the Lifeblade of the Forest. Afterwards he gifted the wooden weapon to Hours who bonded with the heart of the Mother Willow and re-shaped the Lifesong into a great bow.

There was much rejoicing as the flames died and snow began to fall, turning the forest into a slushy, ashy mush, but one that would soon recover from its 40 year nightmare. The travelers rested and recovered from battle, then set forth back up river to try to solve the mystery, for they were still confused.

Here is the story as told in second person by the Indigo Kid in the Palladium Inn:

The group trudges back upstream, accompanied by Tiljann the Seela. The forest is already covered in snow and seems like a different place.

(Ahleena stays in the village preparing for the next leg of the journey: “This has taken far longer than expected. We must hurry to get to the Lyceum. Professor Sidoneth is waiting, as are the people of Gate Pass, waiting for relief!”)

Where the White River feeds from the mountains into the valley of Innenotdar, a beautiful waterfall cascades over the sheer side of a tall cliff face, its waters pouring off the roof of a small shrine that sits on a island in a lake at the base of the waterfall. The spray of the falls creates a constant haze and fog. The shrine is known as the Mouth of the White River, and it is the home of the last unicorn of Innendotdar Nelle, who waits for you, surrounded by the sleeping forms of elves who she protected these 40 years.

Her coat is stained with ash and her horn is pitted. The unicorn looks deep into the eyes of each of you, and you can feel a natural wisdom in that soulful touch.

Hours knelt in supplication. The Unicorn touched him with her horn.

“The seasons have completed their cycle 40 times since the Fire began, and always the stubborn struggle of Indomitability would not allow them to die. The elf disciple Bhurisatva brought them here. These poor elves have suffered that whole time, and I have watched over them. Now they sleep so that untroubled dreams may calm their souls.”

“Long have I watched this forest suffer under the desperate dominion of Indomitability. Always the Seela have sung their forms while the forest whispers ‘Trillith’ like the rumbling of a slumbering giant and dark forces gather.

“But now that spirit has left the land, and the Heart of Inendotdar still beats! Though I sense that heart is no longer that of a Dryad, still this is a joyful thing!”

GETH reels at the word “Trillith”. Unbidden, memories of eyes and burning fury lash through him. “It was the Dreaming Dragon!” he says.

Hours spoke: ”...We have come now to set our minds at ease concerning the mystery of these last 40 seasons. We would have council with you to learn what you know of the history of this land Nelle. What truly took place here so long ago that the lands were wrapt in flames for 40 years as punishment… its seems that nothing could have deserved this act of cruelty!”

”...Does Cold Tongue and the Torch of the Burning Sky play some part in this magic ?! Or the Elves to the East?? What of the Kenku… and the powers we have learned of: Indominibility and his brothers… there are devils and demons and shadows of a darker sort still freshly at each others throats in the passing of this fire… do you know of these tales and how they might weave some clarity??”

The Unicorn regards you with misty eyes. “It is good that you have taken the mantle of Forest Warden of Innendotdar, wild one, for I see in you a youth and vigour that could save all the forests of the world. A blessing upon you.

The affair that brought these years of torment is a story of mortal folly that I do not fully understand, for the politics of the civilized world are beyond my ken.

“The whole sordid story perhaps can be discovered in the Flint Rock Caves whence the shadows came thither. There, I believe the ultimate tale was told. For it is known that the Kenku are a fallen tribe of fey, easily lured by the temptations of this world, by shiny promises and easy favors.

“Go now, my friends, and know that you will always have a friend in this forest, though I fear that more enemies will come in the wake of the flame…”

Your weary band makes the journey back downriver, a difficult route of picking your way over ice sheathed rocks and climbing up and around a narrow gorge of tumbling cascades -it has not ceased snowing since the fires went out and Innendotdar is blanketed in fresh snow.

Upon rejoining the road the going is easier and you make swift time back to the home of Croaker the Warbler, your singing friend. But now your blood runs cold as the winter wind as you see that the door to his rootbound chambers is broken open and flurries of snow have drifted in. The hearth is cold and the whole place is frosted as if abandoned for many days.

Laid out upon Croaker’s table is the old ledger that you found in the Cold Spring Cave where you spent your first night in the forest. There is a new note upon the ledger, a sort of bird scratch, “What fools we were to trust that bargain!”

Quickly you hurry down the path to the Flintrock Caverns and there you behold a gruesome sight…

The Flintrock Caverns have changed, no longer reeking of fetid fungus, something else has taken its place. Instantly, the Badge carried by Indigo leads him to the remains of the Eladrin Knight. “This was a brother of Eteranth the Ghost Knight. I know that bringing these bones to him would bring peace to both spirits. The Eladrin blood of my fathers calls to me…”

Below, the cold fungal caverns hold a scene of catastrophic carnage. Myconid wreckage is followed, in deeper caverns, by a room filled with the dessicated bodies of an entire tribe of Kenku, seemingly sucked dry. Worse yet, upon an altar lies the ultimate victim, your former friend Croaker, his warble silenced forever by gruesome sacrifice. His slayer, another Kenku, lies in a heap at his feet.

Looming over the seen is a disturbing archway that pulsates with eldritch darkness, and radiates heat. What manner thing is this?

Then Driemz Darkblade stumbles and moans softly. He speaks with quiet intensity in a voice not entirely his own. “The blood walls course with life, and the heart of man and beast fills with its fire. The mask is laid bare and with the submissive spirit’s willful release, the world’s vitality is restored. Spring will dawn at the last flight of the Phoenix and the land shall rejoice.”

Ahleena of the Torrents turns to Driemz, “How do you know the hymn of the Order of the Aquiline Heart? for they too speak of fire in hearts of man and beast.”

Blackwolf speaks: Cursed birdmen! I swear an oath to slay all birdmen who cross my path! Chop off their wings and bind their beaks! while i’m here i should search them for treasure, I know how much they like to pocket shinies.

Finally the Brotherhood of Mercy returned the bones of Sir Torfendar of Solies Palancis to the Ghost Knight Eteranth, who received the remains with great dignity and sorrow. “Now we shall see if we can wash the stain from his soul,” said the knight as he turned and stepped into the Elysian Fields beyond.

The party shrugged and returned downriver through the gathering snow to make preparations for their mountain march.

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