War of Fire and Ice

The Froghemoth Cometh

After some mucking about with the white Omphalus (and a vision of Leska), the heroes marched up to the roof and battled the corrupted Druid Sidoneth at the edge of the raging sea! The party was immediately swamped by a rogue wave while Sidoneth cackled madly and worked his Hurricane Orb (on a stand at the edge of the seawall). The Padraig the Bard tossed out a staggering note to push the druid over the edge and ran up to battle for control of the Orb.

Sidoneth disappeared into the waves, only to be replaced by the Wrath of Dagon itself the FROGHEMOTH!!!

It was a long long fight, with monsters and heroes getting repeatedly launched into the ocean, but of course they eventually prevailed. Cue the ticker tape parades, feasts and dark tidings of the wars to the north.

It seems that Sidoneth escaped…

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Put Him in the Iron Maiden
Rivers of Magma in the Pyromancer's Tomb

Padriag lowered himself into the strange tube that plunged through the flooded floor of the old cambion prison. Outside the winds and the savage tides of the hurricane battered the old stonework, but below was silent. An intense heat dried his clothes instantly even as thick steam fogged his vision. He heard a tick as some strand of twine broke and an object like a canteen fell to the floor, 30 feet below. He reached for it too late and the object struck the floor with a resounding BANG. The mists parted a bit to reveal a wide tunnel of slick black rock and a stream of pulsating liquid stone running through it.

The party gathered themselves warily in this new, eerily quiet place. It was certainly fiery enough. Suddenly the high seas and weather seemed far away. A harsh but familiar voice floated through the haze, its distance and direction distorted by the fog:

“You devils have been worse than useless. Why Leska and the Wulf deals with your kind at all is beyond my ken. We should recruit that stone skinned barbarian to ours. He already looks the part. This Dagon seems worthy. In a day or so this city will be leveled and we can pick apart the survivors. The elves arrival was a stroke of luck, eh?

And another, different but also familiar voice: “Yes, warduke, these ones are strong I can attest that destiny guides their steps, but do not discount my Lord in his cave of ice, for he will escape once again and he seeks merely to dominate the world, not destroy it. You will find that Dagon, once awakened does not share in my lord’s cares.”

“Bah, you stay here and sell your immortal soul dearly. My archers will cover. I go to continue my sport…”

The party snuck into the room, but their foes were aware. They were ambushed by Ragasian artillery and once again dueled the corpulent and bearded devil called Kazyk, the Perfidious One. The Ragasians broke and fled, but one was captured. He knew little of the tomb, only the quarters where he was billeted. The heroes played upon his soldier’s disgust for his assignment to get him to agree to aid their cause, promising death as an alternative. He warily agreed.

Passing through a makeshift soldier’s camp, and ignoring a yawning maw that offered ingress into the very heart of the Pyromancer’s Tomb, the heroes came upon a large laboratory, filled with stinking vats of brine, a spring of magma, and a shelf which featured a book both divine and terrible, the storied “Dagonomicon” upon whose cursed pages it is said that one look causes madness and worse. Other bric a brac littered the workstation as well.

Pressing further, the Brotherhood entered a second magma cavern, this featuring a large oozing portal that blazed with the fury of the Elemental Chaos. There was also a strange white stone monolith and a few doors. Then a heart wrenching scream echoed from behind stone door number one.

Within was a dour dungeon, blood spattered, a vision of every prisoner’s worst nightmare. Corpse hung from hooks on walls, an Iron Maiden stood against the far wall, and in the center, a wrack, upon which was an elven maiden, her once fair features now shredded by the tender ministrations of the Inquisitor, who bent over her, still intent to inflict one last prick before he turned to battle.

“You again! The blood has spoken that I will fall before you here, but I will take you with me, for the ball has rolled beyond this crypt. Ha ha ha!”

Mere moments later Hours was slamming the door shut on the brute, crushing him within his own iron maiden. A last burst of strength saw the Inquisitor free, stepping forward, gore gushing from a dozen orifices, he stumbled and fell. The only sound was the whimper of the elven maiden, covered in leaking scars, blind, maimed, but alive and grateful.

Hesperiana, she was called, and she had come to Seaquen as a merchant spy, she admitted, to serve as a liaison when the Shahalesti made their appearance, but she had become suspicious of the strange professor and come upon the Temple of Dagon. There she was captured by Ragasian soldiers. She clung to Blackwulf with a fierce strength. “Protect me evermore, barbarian!”

Katrina now burst into the room. She had been dealing with the rag soldiers and investigating the monolith. She had found another set of prison cells and machinery, and a prisoner. This rescued refugee was a middle-aged main named Waif who was wild eyed with terror.

“The have started Dagon’s Call! I never meant for this to happen! I found the book in my master’s tower in Sindaire after the Rags burnt it. I brought it here thinking Sidoneth would keep it safe, but the lure of the depths of abyssal knowledge corrupted him and when the Ragasians found him, he did not mind their bargain, for they only aided his own newborn desire, to raise the Wrath of Dagon!”

And what of the white monolith? The Omphalus, Waif explained, was stone that attracted magic and channeled eldritch power. It was used to magnify the power of the Hurricane Orb, and to aid in the Inquisitor’s escape to this refuge. It could be used now to restore vitality to tired sword arms, but it required a sacrifice to energy. Items of magic could be cannibalized to give greater hope against the inevitable showdown with Sidoneth and his army of the deeps.

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A Perfect Storm
Windbags and High Winds

Returning to the wet streets of Seaquen, the heroes did some investigation and enjoyed some downtime.

The druid purchased a tome of rituals from Sidoneth who was very friendly and helpful.

The Bard snooped around and managed to find the mysterious Nelebekus at the Royale (he also tried out the “Best Joke Ever” on the bartender, which floored him, but he was unable to eavesdrop on the half-elf.

The group returned to the Royale the next day and the barbarian challenged for supremacy in the arena. He managed to slay the orcish champion in single combat, earning a bronze cup and two large pigs for his troubles.

Drunkenly driving a cart back to town they were ambushed in the driving rain. Ragesian archers, Inquisitor Damius the Warduke, and a lurking assassin devil attempted to end the threat, but underestimated the strength of the Brotherhood, even when drunk. The Inquisitor escaped in a burst of fire. The Shadow Devil did not, getting ripped to shreds within a cloud of darkness. Hours judged that the Inquisitor could not have teleported far and resolved to follow up on the villains mention of a ‘fiery tomb’.

Finally, the Brotherhood of Aquiline Mercy were invited to the Seaquen War Council, thanks to the recommendations of Katrina Dio Genera.

The council was full of dignitaries: magistrates, wizards, ambassadors and professors. The Brotherhood took their seats in the audience gallery, a small cove, for this was not a public forum. Headmaster Simeon began the proceedings with a short soliloquy:

“Ladies and gentlemen, you’ll pardon me if I’m brief. Our enemies are many, and we know their eyes are constantly watching. We don’t have much time for this meeting, so, even though I encourage each and every one of us to have our time to speak, I need to ask that we not get too bogged down in discussions of minutiae and other small things. “We have a great task ahead of us, and it is a task that we do not do simply to protect ourselves, but to save the lives of all our families, brother, and sisters. The new emperor of Ragesia, Leska, who proudly calls herself the Supreme Inquisitor, has set her armies to conquer all our nations. Everyone is in danger, from lowliest warrior to mightiest mage. I have vowed as my duty that I will fight against this Scourge from Ragesia, but I don’t know much about how to run a war. What I do know, though, is that we all have knowledge and skills that will be valuable in his fight. I hope that you will trust me to lead this fight against tyranny, and I will trust you to give me your best wisdom and aid so that we may be victorious. Our goal is to stop the Scourge, to drive back the armies of the Ragesian Empire, to dethrone Leska, and to ensure our families and homelands are safe. Now, I hope you all have some idea how to do that. My ears are open.”

Magistrate Messi then stood to recite the litany of problems the city was facing due to refugees, overcrowding, and dwindling goods.

Commander Xavious gave a grave but encouraging report on the state of the militia, suggesting that perhaps the refugees could become the basis of a liberation army. Others scoffed at this.

The Ambassador of Dassen declared that his king, Steppengard had not yet decided whether or not he would pursue a truce with Ragesia. This obviously worried the masters of the Lyceum for a neutral Dassen could conceivably allow a Ragesian army passage through to attack Seaquen.

Sindaire Ambassador Cranston Snord, a withered old man, insisted that his nation’s people wanted to resist Ragesia, but the politicians could not pledge their support to Seaquen and risk drawing Leska’s ire. He suggested that if Seaquen could defeat Ragesia in a notable battle, it might be enough to make a difference. As for the Torch of the Burning Sky, Cranston Snord was confident he knew where it was; just impossible to reach.

“The evening that the Old Dragon — Coaltongue — was slain,” he says, “a storm of fire opened up in the heavens over the late emperor’s castle, a place called Korstull. It’s a canyon in a broad field. Now everything there is dead, burned by months of searing rain. Sometimes the dead wander out of the storm. I don’t know how anyone could have gotten into that firestorm to retrieve the Torch, nor do I know how you would expect to either.”

Professor Sidoneth reported on the naval readyness of the harbor, admitting that the Shahalesti fleet was imminent but still undeclared.

Then the Ambassador of Ostalin spoke:

“The inestimable Khagan Onamdammin, generous monarch of Ostalin, deeply regrets that his neighbors might be endangered by the Ragesian armies, but is willing to lend his elite, fierce armies if his neighbors are reasonable. Ragesia intends to conquer your entire nation. Would it not be reasonable to trade us one- third of your land, so that you may keep the rest from the greedy, cruel Ragesians?”

At this, the council seemed poised for fierce debate. Just then a guard burst through the door to announce that unexpected visitors had flown into the courtyard and approached the chamber. Moments later a guard of Shahalesti knights entered, escorting the Princess Shalosha the Silver Princess, daughter of the Elven Emperor. All the Shahalesti are dressed in silver armor and blue cloaks, and stand tall and bright with straight blond hair and straight swords at their hips. Their leader is a pristinely beautiful eladrin woman whose eyes shine like sun on the bluest sea.

“I apologize for this sudden intrusion, but I bring a message of great importance to this castle,” said the lovely lady. She then spoke with the cadence of a memorized text:

“I come with an offer of safety and salvation for your city, and those who shelter here. As you know, Shahalesti is the shining jewel of civilization, and now the armies of Ragesia attack us. For every loss we suffer, the progress of all nations suffers. We are the only power strong enough to drive back the fires of Ragesia, but even for our greatness, victory is not assured. “My father, Lord Shaaladel, knows that some of the nations whose ambassadors stand in this very hall would like to see Shahalesti fall, for they don’t realize that in so doing they are wishing for their own doom. Even the most trustworthy here can admit that it is difficult to have faith in the leaders of other nations when the most they can do is send a few diplomats to the banner of Seaquen. Shahalesti sends a fleet. Seventeen of our ships sail now to this peninsula, surrounding it from all directions to protect it from hostilities. By this we show our devotion to the fight, and — so my father believes — we prove that it is our nation who should lead that fight. “We invite you to join with us in the war against Ragesia. Many potential allies have found their way to your city, and so we have come here to meet them. However, we will not risk betrayal on any scale, nor would it be wise for you to risk it. So we ask that you hand over control of Seaquen to the Shahalesti fleet, so that we may begin checking the purity of your allies’ spirit. Admiral Telshanth will serve as provisional governor of Seaquen—”

The council broke up in pandemonium of course, the Princess left after promising to give the town some days for deliberation.

Professor Sidoneth did not participate in the post debate bluster and left the council. Blackwolf and Driemz followed him to his house but he was nowhere to be found. Entering the house, they found a precarious seacliff trail that lead around the point to the Sea Temple of Dagon.
Meanwhile, Hours hit the books, ransacking the the library stacks of the Lyceum for hints of where the Tomb of the Pyromancer lay.

Then the hurricane hit! Towers and trees fell, people were blown away, and but Blackwolf walked nonchalantly through gale winds. It seemed that the Brothers’ exposure to the Tidereaver Tears gave them some protection for the elements! They were the only hope of Seaquen and entire harbor! Perhaps the Elven fleet was in danger, if they were not in fact behind this suspicious weather

The druid had been consulting ancient maps and scrolls to discover the drowned Tomb of the Pyromancer and when the storm hit was able to aim towards its eye.

The party entered the prison and fought a horde of Burning Bones skeletons. They then found a shaft of pure force that offered some entry below the water’s surface. A hot draft blew forth…
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Tragic Escape from the Aqueduct
One step too far

And so a hero, a friend new-found was lost to the remnant horror of a people long vanished from the earth. Elias Juun the Dreaming Knight fell to save his fellows from the merciless golem of tombstones and devilwrought statuary. His final moment was not witnessed by the Brotherhood, and so it cannot be known if his final prayer to return to his Dreaming World was answered. All that is known is that he offered himself so that others might live.

Lost and aimless, the Brotherhood had wandered through the devilish and fire haunted tunnels beneath old Seaquen, swimming through water grates and attempting to reconstruct a map from memory that might help to situated their position. Blackwolf’s uncivilized instincts proved invaluable in this. Finally, a dead end was reached. Rubble blocked the water’s flow until it tumbled down a steep chute into uncertain darkness. Above, a circular shaft seemed to offer some escape. And there was a door, ironbound wooden planks swollen with moisture and some immense pressure from within.

Blackwolf shimmied up the the vertical shaft and encountered a large wooden object blocking the path, but saw some light beyond, maybe a star. He hacked at that wood until it fell away, unfortunately sweeping him down with it in a massive crash. The way was clear, but the halfling was curious about the door. The companions duly wrenched the hinges and the edifice exploded as the restrained weight of a ton of rubble spewed forth into the corridor, causing much pain.

Hours climbed the well shaft and found himself on the surface on a promontory cliff above the sea, nearby to a tall lighthouse, at the edge of town.

The Brothers decided to climb the stairs instead of Hours’ rope. They found themselves in a large basement area strewn with rubble and broken statuary. Light trickled in from a corner. Hours found a sparkling ruby diadem in another corner, the light of which mesmerized him. As he took up the jewelry the heaps of rubble heaved up with sudden vigor and formed a monstrosity of wrathfulness, a reflection of man made of the ruined castoffs of civilization. The thing moved to crush Hours, pinning him down in a corner and causing fear to come to the old Wilden’s eyes.

The Brotherhood moved to help but the thing was beyond their ken. Only through the sacrifice of Elias Juun were they able to save themselves.

The Brotherhood escaped through the well shaft and returned to the Lyceum of Seaquen. Along the way they were reunited with Driemz Darkblade, who had returned from the Tower of Timor with new and secret knowledge. He carried a slim blade with which he seemed to have formed a close relationship. Ahleena of the Torrents was with Driemz as well. She was distraught as she had just come from the house and laboratory of her professor Sidoneth who seemed greatly disturbed and had cautioned her to leave his presence, a breach of etiquette and trust that was new to the young cleric. She worried for her mentor.

At the Lyceum, the Brotherhood was happy to rest for a time and discuss with the Wizards about their researches. It seemed that the Dionem was an unfinished device meant to facilitate the control of fearsome beasts, the Tidereaver Tears meant to protect from elemental pressures, and the Book of Kreven hinted at a broad nefarious plot that endangered all practitioners of magic.

It seemed that Katrina Dio Genera had gone back into the fiery aqueduct to research the Wall of Fire. Her whereabouts were unknown.

The party did not search for her, instead recruiting one Jaunt Ellias to bring them to the house where he had brought a message to the people looking for the Brotherhood. It was a macabre looking warehouse used for the processing of fish, judging from the carts full of fish guts parked alongside the building. After some deliberation and a fruitless introduction by Jaunt, the Brotherhood surrounded the building and attacked. They encountered fierce resistance, but eventually to captive a wizard, though a halfling accomplice got away.

The wizard was called Mekong the Blusterer, a Lyceum dropout and talisman of many privateering ships who claimed that he was a great patriot of Seaquen, only one at odds with the political decisions of the establishment. Under pressure, he did admit that his quasi criminal organization had accepted funding from Ragasian factors of unsavory disposition.

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Napalm Death and the Temple of Brine
Explorations of the Demon Haunted Aqueducts
The pursuit of arsonists has lead the Brotherhood into the ancient aqueducts below Seaquen where fire ruled supreme. The Fire Mage Katrina turned back to deliver the mystery to the town Magistrate and to gather tools for a ritual dispelling.

Battling with some kind of spirited ooze from the Plane of Fire reinforced Padraig’s sage suspicion that here the barriers between worlds was thin.

A collapsing ceiling drove the party north (or so the Seeker surmised) into a cool side passage where a weary attempt at rest was made upon the wet cold stones of the underground waterway.

Rest was difficult, for a scavenging mollusk happened by, questing tentacles reaching out for the limbs of Blackwolf. Another shell to be cracked.

Exploration lead to another crossroads, east towards smells and sentiments of sulfur? Or west, in salty fog, down stairs laden with the smell of rotting seaweed and encrusted with the icthyic barnacles of the stonemason’s hand.

The Brothers choose to turn west, back towards the heart of the city. Dark stairs lead down, but improbably, a draft of fresh air was smelt. An empty temple and tomb was discovered, the vaulted rooms were dedicated to placating the denizens of the ocean deeps, and it seemed to have seen recent use. Muddy spore lead the tracker through a hidden door and up a narrow stair.

The pulsing roar of the seashore was heard, for the temple abutted onto a hidden strand of beach on a great sea cave guarded by a spire of rock. Such a place could never be entered by ship. A narrow tidal beach revealed another winding stair offering egress from this oceanic grotto.

But escape was not forgone. Out upon the water a storm had gathered strength and great waves crashed against the cavern’s mouth, bringing with them creatures anathemical to the intrusion of the heathen. A swift battle with a squid the size of a horse that tried to drag Elias the Dreaming Knight into the deeps, crabs like blue horse-carts, and a man shaped thing of inestimable fishy horror left the Brotherhood of Aquiline mercy scrambling for an exit before more armies of the deep arrived.
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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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