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Author Topic: DaveTheMagicWeasel's Crown of Shadows  (Read 25461 times)
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DaveTheMagicWeasel
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« Reply #25 on: October 16, 2011, 12:27:09 PM »

Right, fallen way behind on this.  Dump of multiple sessions coming up...

Session 18: From the Muddy Banks of the Eren

Our heroes stayed in the secluded halfling village for a few days, licking their wounds, but ultimately knew they had to embark once more.  Nyvindil, a Danisil who had been living with the halflings, offered to accompany them on their quest.  He felt the pull of home, and his meeting with Eldiran was the first time he had seen one of his own kind in years, tagging along seemed as good an opportunity to get home as he was likely to find.

Singing Sparrow and a group of other halflings led the party to the edge of Wogren Moor, to the banks of the Eren, where the halflings met with gnomish traders to exchange the peat they dug from the earth for the finished goods the could not supply themselves.  With the halflings to make introductions the gnomes happily gave the heroes a lift across the enormous expanse of water, a river so wide that one can barely see the other bank on a clear day.

Once across they debated their next course of action.  To the south lay the districts of Zorgetch and Cambrial, regions teeming with orcs and the fell, regions to be avoided at all costs.  Instead, they decided to head north.  Eldiran had made the original journey across to Durgis Rock thanks to the aid of "Pirate Princes" on the Sea of Pelluria, and even if the pirates could not be located, they reasoned that the region around Baden's Bluff and the Green March would give a better chance of slipping through the frontlines.

Following the trail that ran parallel to the banks of Eren, they began hunting for food so as to preserve their own rations, and were soon met by the smell of cooking meat wafting towards their nostrils.  Creeping forwards they found a stream bisecting the trail, next to which a group of goblins had made camp.  Over their fire 3 large wild boars were slowly being spit-roasted, and the goblins were quaffing plentiful quantities of wine from a pile of barrels.  Serving the goblins was a malnourished looking ogre, bound at the ankles with whip marks across it's back.  Off to the side of the camp lay a bruised and bloodied human form, whom the goblins took to using as a latrine as they night wore on.  The group stayed hidden and watched the goblins enjoy their meal and drink their wine, waiting for their full bellies to overcome them.  Over confident this far from the frontlines, the goblins left no watch and soon the only sound that could be heard was the lapping of the stream and their drunken snoring.

Nyvindil crept across the stream and into the camp, quietly woke the captured human, cut the bonds binding him and led him back to the party.  Then they decided to launch an attack, bursting into the goblin camp and throwing flaming brands into the goblin tents.  As burning goblins fled into the night air they were quickly despatched, though the goblin who managed to reach the ogre and whip it into a furious charge against the intruders led to some scary moments before the lumbering brute was put down.

The human they had rescued was most grateful for the assistance, introducing himself as Ragnar, a Dorn, resident of Baden's Bluff and judging by the sheets of flame he'd breathed onto one crowd of goblins, a Channeler.  He explained that he was a member of the Baden Resistance, but had fled the town to wait for the heat to die down after one job went south and he was forced to use his magic in broad daylight to escape the orc patrols.

Though the goblin tents had all burned down, the goblin cart had not.  With some adaptation of a harness clearly designed for an ogre, they hitched two of their horses to the cart and took it with them, along with the remaining barrels of wine contained therein, as well as a collection of metal amulets that each of the goblins had worn.  Though none could decipher the symbols on them, they reasoned they were some form of pass that allowed the goblins to pass through the land unmolested (none of them have any Knowledge Shadow, the refrain "If only Hrothgar were here" has rapidly become something of a catchphrase).

Their next stop was a fishing village.  Eondir and Ragnar headed forward alone, shorn of their weapons and armour but wearing the metal amulets that the goblins had been wearing.  Their efforts at bluffing their way through the orc picket on the edge of town almost went awry as the story didn't match what they learned were amulets identifying the bearers as slavers, but fortunately the orcs seemed more interested in the contents of their cart than in checking their story, and having relieved the travellers of half the wine they carried waved them through.  They found the trade exchange/tavern at the centre of town and, helped by Ragnar's subtle charms on the proprietor, exchanged their stocks of wine and the cart for a pair of ponies (to add to the 3 warhorses taken from slain Smiling Killers), and a large amount of smoked fish to give them ample rations for the journey ahead.

Returning to the waiting Eldiran and Nyvindil, the group then turned off the trail and headed upwards and away from the water, seeking a route past the village that didn't involve trying to sneak the elves through the orcish pickets.  Cresting the plateau they came upon the rolling expanse of The Yellow Sea.  Grasslands as far as the eye could see, yellow flowers blooming in all directions clearly giving the region it's name.  With the hot summer sun beating down on their backs, they plunged off the trail and into the grasses.
« Last Edit: October 16, 2011, 02:00:44 PM by DaveTheMagicWeasel » Logged
DaveTheMagicWeasel
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« Reply #26 on: October 16, 2011, 12:43:40 PM »

Session 19: The Yellow Sea

It was now the height of summer, and the swordgrass grew above the heads of the travellers.  Perfect terrain for avoiding pursuit, and the group made good progress, avoiding any hazards for several days.

Ultimately, their luck had to run out though.  It was Eldiran who first saw movement behind them, and as he peered through his spyglass spotted a large striped cat following them.  Kicking their heels into the flanks of their steeds the group trotted on, hoping to lose the predator, but succeeded only in diving headlong into the other three members of the pride stalking them.  With the blazing heat having sent most game to ground the creatures hunger overcame caution and they attacked the group.  Two of the cats fell to arrows and sword swings, but the other two succeeded in isolating one of the pack ponies and brought it down, dragging the carcass off into the long grass to consume in peace.

Their journey continued for several more days, sneaking past orc patrols, going round isolated farmsteads/villages, crossed a small stream, saw a town in the distance (Gadeeb).

After several days travel they saw the glimmer of water on the horizon.  The Felthera River lay before them, a large settlement on it's banks.  Nyvindil informed the group that a beautiful elven city had once stood on the spot, Eisin, gateway between man and fey.  The impact of the orcish invasion was clear even from this distance - gone were the graceful elven spires that had once stood here, in their place crude block shaped buildings now stood, and in the centre a large black building, festooned with towers and twisted gargoyles, looming over it all.

Ragnar shivered, the sinister pull of a black mirror like a crawling sensation under his skin.

Turning away from the city they headed east, roughly following the path of the river searching for a way across as it was too wide and fast to swim.  As they travelled they had to avoid large numbers of orcs as columns marched westwards towards the frontlines and barges chock full of surly looking legionnaries sailed by.  As they travelled they saw a bridge, the ruined guardhouse manned by an orcish picket, and a gnomish barge crossing in the ruins of what must have once been a human village, manned by hobgoblins.  They passed up both these opportunities, not liking the odds, and ultimately reached another town, this time at the mouth of the river where it entered the Ardune.

Along the way they also saw a large tribe of orcs burrowing into the hillsides next to the river in the beginnings of a warren.  Worryingly, the orcs seemed to be migrating south of the Pelluria.

Ragnar no longer felt the sinister pull of the mirror he had felt at Eisin, so, hopeful that this town was held in the Shadow's grasp less firmly, he and Eondir headed for the town gates in hope of finding a way across the river within it's walls.

(click to show/hide)
« Last Edit: October 16, 2011, 12:53:00 PM by DaveTheMagicWeasel » Logged
DaveTheMagicWeasel
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« Reply #27 on: October 16, 2011, 01:57:57 PM »

Session 20: The Town of Ferona

Sited at the mouth of the Felthera River, the town of Ferona is divided into 3 quarters by the flow of the waters, bridges linking them to one another.  Ragnar and Eondir approached the southern gates, finding hobgoblin guards manning the gates.  After presenting their slaver amulets and surrendering to a search they were admitted to the town.  Wandering round the southern district they saw large townhouses, human guards in house liveries standing guard at the doors and barging aside pedestrians to allow the passage of the curtained litters containing members of the noble houses.  They also found a market, but their hopes of finding gnomish bargemen there were quahed by the large numbers of hobgoblins watching over the transactions with keen eyes, and by the presence of a man clad in a dark cloak to whom the hobbos seemed to defer, and whose approval seemed to be needed for each transaction.

After asking a passing pedestrian they established that the southern part of town was the noble quarter, the middle part was the poor quarter, and the northern part had been taken over by the orc military for resupply purposes.  So, heading across a bridge to the poor quarter they made their way to the docks, still seeking a gnomish barge.  On their way there they passed through a square in which a crowd had gathered, staring with rapt attention at a figure in the centre.  Pausing to listen in they heard a man preaching the word of Izrador, promising that, as foretold in the Book of Shadows, once the fey had finally been defeated then would his Dark Magesty rise once more unto the heavens, break down the gates and cast down the Traitor Gods.  And on that day would the faithful be rewarded, and the unrighteous punished in fire and blood.

Both Eondir and Ragnar found themselves unable to pull their gaze away from the man, joining the rest of the crowd in rapt attention.  When the preacher called for volunteers to step forth to receive the Blessing of Shadow Ragnar managed to snap out of the trance, but Eondir joined the procession heading towards the preacher.  He only snapped out of it when the Dorn gave him a vigorous shake and the two of them quickly slipped out of the crowd and away from the square.

Their next stop was the docks, but again they found hobgoblin overseers watching each transaction, tallying the cargoes passing on and off the vessels.  Playing upon their slaver amulets the two engaged the hobbos in conversation, going so far as to negotiate the purchase of a Dworg slave from one (promising to return later with the promised coin), and so established enough of a cover story as to be able to grab a few words in private with one gnome captain.  His vessel was heading south, the opposite direction to our heroes, but he did arrange to meet them in a tavern that evening where he would introduce them to a business associate.  At that meeting the gnome captain agreed to transport the group and their steeds to the northern shore, in exchange for their pony.  When the party then asked if they could be collected to the south, away from the town to avoid "customs issues" he still agreed, but demanded one of their horses as well as the pony.

Mission accomplished, Eondir and Ragnar went to leave town to regroup with the elves, but found the town gates had been shut for the night.  Reasoning the noble quarter would be the safest place to spend the night they found a darkened alleyway and tried to bed down for the night as best they could.  Sadly, their reasoning was flawed, and a group of patrolling human guards chanced upon them.  The two split up as they raced down the alleys, and though Eondir managed to duck out of sight and evade them, Ragnar had no such good fortune and was unceremoniously dragged across the bridge and dumped in the poor quarter "where you belong filth!"

Ragnar's night then got worse, as he rounded a corner and bumped straight into a group of rather drunken orcs.  They decided a quick game of "humiewhack" would be a good way to end a fine evening, and poor Ragnar, not daring to use his magic within the city walls, took the beating and soon found the blissful escape of unconsciousness.

The next he knew was when he was brought to upon being thrown into the water, assumed dead by the guards who had found him.  Unable to swim he struggled until welcome hands reached down and lifted him from the waters.  His spluttered thank yous were choked off as he looked up into the face of his rescuer, the same black cloaked preacher from the day before...
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DaveTheMagicWeasel
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« Reply #28 on: October 27, 2011, 04:03:33 PM »

Session 21: Don't Split the Party!

The next morning, with passage north arranged and the gates reopened, Eondir emerged into the light of day and headed for the gates.  His slaver amulet again saw the guards allow him through and he headed for Eldiran and Nyvindil's campsite.  The elves quizzed him as to Ragnar's whereabouts, but Eondir assured them he was fine and they all sat down for a tasty squirrel breakfast while they waited.

and waited...

and waited..

Until, eventually, Ragnar appeared.  In full sprint.  He burst into the campsite and in a panic informed the group that a large group of orcs was heading towards them from the south even now, stripping the land bare searching for elves.  "We have to get inside the city NOW, there's no time, we''l never be able to hie out here!"

His companions were shocked, and more than a little puzzled as to this sudden news.  Where had Ragnar heard it?  "I overheard some orcs in town talking about it, trust me, we have to go!"

However, they didn't trust him, and the thought of smuggling elves into town was rejected out of hand.  Nyvindil hotly accused Ragnar of having been corrupted by the Shadow and demanding he tell them where he had been all this time.  Nyvindil insisted that they should go West, as far way from Ferona as possible, and as fast as possible.

The two newcomers argued bitterly for a long time.  Eondir & Eldiran were not inclined to follow either of their suggestions, demanding explanations from both of them as to why these sudden and unexplained changes of heart.  Nyvindil then confessed to the group that he was not alone, that the voice of a strange spiritual companion spoke to him in quiet moments, and was now screaming that Ragnar speaked falsely and plotted against them.

Far from gaining their trust, this revelation served only to spook Eondir and Eldiran further.  Ultimately, they talked Ragnar into waiting for them at the campsite and look after their steeds, they would return soon once they had scouted the approach to the city.

Then, once they were out of sight of the Dorn, they persuaded Nyvindil to double back on their trail and keep a close eye on Ragnar, while they would scout to the west.  Then, with Nyvindil out of sight, the two remaining members turned south, heading for the rendezvous point agreed with the gnomes, checking for the orc bands Ragnar had warned them about.

As the players left that night Nyvindil and Ragnar's players were seriously debating what their new characters would be, convinced there was no way to reconcile the group.




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« Last Edit: October 27, 2011, 04:06:51 PM by DaveTheMagicWeasel » Logged
DaveTheMagicWeasel
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« Reply #29 on: October 27, 2011, 05:07:09 PM »

Session 22: Something Goes Bump in the Night

Eondir & Eldiran crept slowly south, pausing to scan the horizon through Wendell's spyglass frequently - the last thing they needed was to run into Orcs now.  But, nothing ever appeared on the horizon, and they reached the bay where they had arranged to meet the gnomes without incident.

Perched atop the cliffs, with the steeds they had offered up as payment for their passage left behind, they watched as the gnome barge pulled into the bay.  It didn't wait long before the captain gave up on them and cast off once more as they watched powerlessly on.

They were back to square one.  On the plus side, no orc warbands had been sighted, it seemed Ragnar had lied, and Nyvindil had been correct.

Meanwhile, Nyvindil perched amidst the branches of the trees, covertly watching Ragnar as he paced back and forth about the campsite nervously awaiting the rest of the groups' return, muttering incoherently to himself.  Ultimately, the elf grew bored and decided to confront the Dorn, vowing to kill him if he was not happy with the answers he was given.

As the elf dropped into the clearing and began to approach menacingly Ragnar turned and cried out "Nyvindil!  Where are the others?  We have to go west, as far from the town as possible!"

This was decidedly not what Nyvindil had been expecting, and he stopped in his tracks dumbstruck.  Was the human merely deranged?  No, he claimed, just that he had fallen under the spell of a Legate in the town, but now he was free of his grip.  Nyvindil was unconvinced, but sufficiently knocked off-balance as to stay his sepi hand until the others returned.

Ultimately, they did, much later.  Another long and rather circular conversation ensued, Ragnar's claim to have suddenly broken free of the Legate's hold was met with some suspicion, but Eondir's own knowledge of magic suggested that such temporary enchantments were not too common.  Ragnar now seemed terrified of returning to the city, fearing another run in with the preacher, so the group now headed back west, creeping through the undergrowth along the Felthera River.

Though none of them turned their back on any of the rest for very long.

Once more they searched for a way to cross the river, and after hiding as barges laden with fresh orc troops sailed on by had a stroke of luck.  A gnome barge heading back east, upon which they could see no sign of orcs travelling.  Surely here they would find aid!

Ragnar stepped out of the undergrowth to flag the barge down, calling out to the captain across the waters, offering up their remaining pony in payment for passage to the other bank.  The gnomish captain's captains response was brusque "I ain't havin' no truck with no resistance types, tha's nowt but trouble!  Get out of my sight, afore I report youse all at the next waystation!"

But Ragnar was not willing to take no for an answer.  Flame and smoke belched forth from his mouth and nostrils, and a deep booming voice echoed across the waters "Do not anger me Gnome!  You'll take us across or I'll see the ashes of this ship beneath the waters!"

Cringing before the fire-breathing stranger, the gnome decided that accepting the deal was the wiser course of action and our heroes were soon standing on the northern bank of the river.

Heading rapidly away from the river they quickly left the line of orc march behind and plunged back into trackless wilderness and tall grasses.  Huge mesas of red rock abruptly the long grasses at irregular intervals, casting long shadows over the plains.  They struggled to get back into the rhythms of the open road though, for sleep did not come easy, for each night the western sky glowed an ominous orange as strange screams and howls echoed across the plains.

As they travelled the next day they saw other travellers on the plains, humans, peasants from the look of them.  All travelled in groups, some with mules or carts laden with personal belongings, others with barely rags upon their backs.  All headed East.  Stopping the least threatening looking band they could find, a family riding a mule-drawn cart, they asked them why so many travelled east?

"The dead are walking.  Great plagues o' them from the west.  They say the elf witch unleashed some terrible magicks on the front, and now legions of Fell descend upon us.  If you want my advice, you'll head east same as us, and as fast as ye can!"

The travellers needed little encouragement, and from there on they headed in a north-easterly direction as fast as they could.  And yet, no matter how hard they pushed their steeds, each night the screams on the wind seemed that little bit closer.

A few days later as they rode Ragnar suddenly sat bolt upright in his saddle, looking off the east.  He explained that before he had been captured by the goblin slavers he had been searching for a magical nexus he had detected in the grasslands.  That same pull now drew him east.  Reasoning they had little to lose by checking it out, the group followed Ragnar's sense, and a small hamlet came into view, the occupants busying themselves constructing makeshit barriers about the outskirts of town.  "Here," said Ragnar, "the nexus is in that village."

Ragnar and Eondir approached first, and were met by a man who introduced himself as Corinor, the town Sheriff.  He was happy to offer them sanctuary behind the town walls, "We'll need all the sword arms we can get when the fell get here ... and a few swords wouldn't go amiss either!" he said waving his pitchfork.  It seemed as good a place as any to make a stand, so they dismounted and led their horses through the barriers and into the village.  As the two elves came within the barriers work on the walls stooped as an eerie quiet settled over the scene.

"Look mummy!  He has pointy ears!  Is it an elf?"

Nyvindil scanned the crowd, meeting each set of eyes in turn.  He did not speak the tongues of men, but the language of hard work was universal, so he shouldered some timber and started reinforcing the walls.  Slowly, the villagers returned to working alongside him, though more than one cast sideways glances at their strange new ally.

"Well, I guess I did say we could use all the help we could get.  Never thought I'd be fighting alongside an elf tho!"

With Nyvindil distracting the crowd's attention the other three took the opportunity to slip away, and investigate the nexus Ragnar had sensed.  He led them to the town well, and asserted that this was the site of the nexus.  He needed to be right over the top of it to attempt to tap its powers so clambered atop the well and balanced over the shaft, eyes closed in meditation.

This strange behaviour attracted Corinor's attention, who came over to ask what they thought they were doing?  They confessed they had been drawn here by their search for a source of magical power which they believed to be beneath the well.  Corinor was cagey at first, but when he cast eyes upon Eondir's signet ring he soon opened up.

"Well I'll be!  We ain't seen a Herald in these parts in many a year!  But a nexus ... well, ain't been anyone born in town with the mage's blood in generations, but I did have a few stories passed down to me.  Supposedly there's an angel buried underneath that there well, my Da told me it's spirit protected us.  Always figured it was just stories to tell the truth, but if you folks think it's something you can use well be my guest."

Long hours of meditation later Ragnar finally succeeded in connecting with the nexus pulsing beneath the earth.  Arcane energy rippled through him, an ecstatic buzz filling his senses.

As darkness fell, the occupants of the village of Darinholt readied their weapons and waited for the dead to come.
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arnon
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« Reply #30 on: November 14, 2011, 11:42:48 AM »

  Hi Dave,

I can't say that I read every word you write,  but I do enjoy reading over your Midnight campaign, picking up ideas for my own upcoming one, and especially the DM notes.

So thanks a.d keep it up  Smiley

Cheers,
arnon
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DaveTheMagicWeasel
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« Reply #31 on: November 15, 2011, 11:56:14 AM »

Cheers, yeah could probably do with some editing at times, but I want a full record I can refer back to.

I'm actually several sessions behind on this - they reached Caradul last session (well ... some of them did Wink ).
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DaveTheMagicWeasel
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« Reply #32 on: December 04, 2011, 02:56:21 PM »

Session 23 & 24: Zombiegeddon!

The First Wave

Howls echoed through the night as the defenders waited nervously behind their barriers.  They did not have to wait long, as a mass of shambling Fell, hunger and madness in their eyes, emerged from the Shadows.  A mix of orcs, goblins and men they were, for only in the hunger of death are the peoples of Eredane united.  Looming over them all was an even more terrifying sight, an Ogre, it's flesh sloughing from it's bones as it lumbered forward, a tree trunk clutched in its fist.

Eldiran and a few of the villagers with hunting bows stood atop the roofs of the village, launching volleys of missiles into the mass of Fell, but there were too many for that to stop the tide and battle was soon joined at the barricades.  The people of Darinholt fought bravely, but lacked training and the ferocity of the Fell pushed them back and breaches were soon made across the lines, made worse as several of the fallen defenders lurched to their feet and turned upon their former friends.  Only where Corinor led the line did the defenders hold the barrier against the tide, the Sheriff showing himself an able commander and inspirational leader of men.

Ragnar rushed forwards, repelling one breach with blasts of flame, the smouldering corpses illuminating the grisly scene.  Eondir spurred forward his mount and charged into another group, hacking limbs off with his elven-forged sword, until a swing from the Ogre's club smashed into him, almost knocking him from his steed.  The ogre raised the club above it's head for another swing, but an arrow from Eldiran's bow embedded itself in it's brain and the lumbering brute toppled forward.

Meanwhile, on the other side of town, Nyvindil was also there.  One of the villagers later thought he'd seen him cut one of the Fell with his blades, but in the confusion no-one could verify the claim.

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Aftermath

Ultimately, all the Fell were slain (again) and the village of Darinholt was saved.  But the price had been a heavy one, even with Ragnar's magic and the healing powers of the well half the village's inhabitants had died that night.  With the danger passed, for now, the defenders began to take it in turns to catch a few precious hours sleep, and fortunately no more Fell came upon them that night.

When the light of the morning came the bodies were piled up on a pyre and burnt, for there were too many to give any true honour to, not when the village's defences still needed fortifying.  Corinor also noticed a strange anomaly - none of the residents of Darinholt had risen as Fell during the fight, only those who had arrived as refugees from other settlements had risen.  Could it be that the waters of the Well had some other power, some ward against the curse of the hungry dead?  It seemed the best theory any of them could devise, and so soon they were hauling up as many buckets of water as they could and everyone eagerly drank their fill.

While the locals of Darinholt set to repairing and improving their barriers, our intrepid heroes volunteered to scout around the local area.  As they travelled they came across more scattered groups of refugees, each with their own tales of horror and loss, and pointed each group in turn towards Darinholt where they could find succour, and a chance to defend themselves.  At a village to the north they also found something more worrying - an Orc warband.  The village was long-ruined, but judging by the hastily constructed barriers and the large pile of corpses they were burning, it seemed the orcs had taken it over as a place to amke their own stand against the Fell.

As they watched they saw groups of orcs set off in all directions, seemingly on their own scouting missions.  While the idea of trying to form some common cause with the Orcs against the Fell was discussed, it was soon dismissed, and instead the band decided they had to avoid the Orcs learning of their own presence, or that of the resistance at Darinholt.  The group of scouts that had set off southwards was therefore followed and ambushed in the wilderness, slain to the last Orc.  Hacking the bodies apart as messily as they could, the group hoped that the other Orcs would take it as the work of Fell and avoid the southern road.

Returning to Darinholt before the day was finished, they prepared themselves for another night of terror.  Eondir spent some time with the peasants of the town, and the refugees who had joined them, passing on some of the benefits of his dwarven training in the arts of war in the hope that it would help them in the battle to come.

The Second Wave

That night, again they came.  Orcs, goblins and humans as before, but this time the decay on the shambling corpses seemed more pronounced.  Perhaps the sheer volume of Fell that had been unleashed was their own worst enemy, stripping the land of food before their relentless advance and leaving them starving?

No matter, for this night they still walked.  Again they swarmed towards the barriers around the town, desperate to feast upon the warm flesh within, but this time the defenders held firm, pitchforks and makeshift spears fending off the scrabbling claws whilst the archers behind poured missiles into the mob.

There was no ogre this time, but at the back of the mob dark hounds could be seen roaming, seemingly driving the Fell towards the village.  Soon enough, those same forms joined the assault and the defenders got a good look at them.  Wargs, favoured mounts of the goblins serving the Dark Lord, but with their flesh rotting from their bones and their fur blackened and charred.  With their bite came the touch of flame and against them the defenders could not stand as they ripped chunks of flesh and bounded over the barrier and set about the men and women of Darinholt, the shambling corpses flooding over the breach in the line in their wake.

Again, it was our intrepid heroes who turned the tide of battle, leaping into the fray and slicing down the vicious wargs before turning their ire on the remainign Fell.  Darinholt was saved once more, but the price in blood had been high again.

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The Heroes of Darinholt

The following day, yet more trickles of refugees arrived, and each told a similar tale - that there were less Fell abroad in the night, that those that still walked seemed slower than they had at first, at one group that even reported seeing them turn upon one another in their desperation for flesh.

Our heroes stayed in the village for a few more days, helping with repairs where they could and helping watch the shadows each night, but no further Fell attempted to assault their walls.  Some travellers still reported small bands of Fell in the wilderness, but in the Last Age of Eredane such dangers were merely the norm, and it seemed that the plague had indeed burned itself out as quickly as it had arrived.

Corinor offered all those who had fled before the Fell the chance to settle in Darinholt, proclaiming that the village would be rebuilt larger and stronger than it had been before.  The same offer was extended to Eondir, Eldiran, Ragnar and Nyvindil but they refused, the importance of their mission pressed heavily upon them and they had been delayed long enough in their journey.

So it was that the Heroes of Darinholt left along the north road, but not until after all its inhabitants, old and new had gathered to bid them farewell.  Corinor gave voice to their thanks:

"All hail Eondir, Warden of Erenland and Herald of the True King!"
"All hail Eldiran, master of the bow!  Bane of Ogres!"
"All hail Ragnar, the Flamebreath! Touched by the old gods!"
"And all hail ... I wanna say Ny...ringil?  Who was also there!"


And so with the grateful shouts of the villagers echoing in their ears our intrepid heroes resumed their quest, marching north towards Baden's Bluff...
« Last Edit: December 04, 2011, 02:58:36 PM by DaveTheMagicWeasel » Logged
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« Reply #33 on: December 16, 2011, 07:49:28 PM »

Session 25: The Westlands Part 1

The party headed north through the vast expanse of the Westlands, grass as far as the eye can see, interspersed with towering mesas looming over them.  As they travelled the fall-out from the fell plague was plain to see, burnt out villages, fleeing refugees, and no small number of corpses scattered about.

"It mostly comes at night.  Mostly..."

One group of refugees they came across seemed particularly agitated.  As the party conversed with them it became clear that the fell had been only the start of their ordeal, that something even worse was stalking them.  When they had first fled the fell there had been many more of them than there were now but their numbers had dwindled.  Some had disappeared in the night, nothing more than a spray of blood on the ground in the morning to mark their passing.  One refugee even swore to having seen something, a huge dark shadow with vicious claws, before seeing another of their party vanish before his eyes.

They were scared to stop, scared to sleep.  The party offered to camp with them for the night before pointing them in the direction of Darinholt on the morning.  The group camped up against the side of one mesa, so as to guard their backs, and then set up a perimeter of torches about their camp.

The creature struck during Eondir's watch.  He heard a noise behind him, and whirled around just in time to see a shimmering on the face of the mesa above the camp as the creature appeared, crawling down the face of mesa head first.  It was larger than a human, some 8 ft tall when at it's full height, with 6 limbs, the upper four each ending in large claws, and from it's mouth flickered a barbed tongue.

(click to show/hide)

No sooner had Eondir laid eyes upon the creature and shouted out a warning than it attacked, leaping down into the middle of their camp and impaling two sleeping refugees before anyone had a chance to react.  The party scrambled to their feet, taking up weapons, a few swings of blades and arrows glancing off the beast's carapace.  The refugees, brought face to face with their tormentor, panicked, and soon the battlefield was thrown into chaos as they fled in all directions.

Just as the party were preparing for a more concerted assault upon the creature, it vanished into thin air.

Tense moments followed, shouts of "where the f**k is it?" as they all readied their weapons waiting for it to reappear.  Then, it did.  Outside the line of torches this time it appeared looming over one of the fleeing refugees, a giant claw bursting through his chest, lifting him into the air for the beast to take a large bite out of.  The expression on it's face almost seemed to be a grin, was it mocking them?

Then, it vanished again.

Again, they waited, bowstrings and sword arms taut, until it appeared again, this time attacking our heroes directly, claws ripping into Eondir.  A few more blows were struck against it but it vanished again before it could be brought down.  Then, Nyvindil sprang forth from the group, crying out "it's there!"  as he swung his sepi through the air.  The blade obviously connected with something as a spray of blood could be seen, and a cry of pain and rage, though muffled, could be heard.  Angered, the beast reappeared, its huge claws arcing towards Nyvindil.  Though the Jungle elf was wounded by it, another hail of blows from his allies gave him some respite before another swing of his sepi cut deeply into the creature, spraying gore across the scene before it toppled to the floor, finally slaying the beast.

Nyvindil was, without doubt, there.

By morning, the grateful refugees bid the party farewell as they headed south in the direction of Darinholt, and our heroes resumed their journey northwards.

Wargs

Days passed as they traversed the sparsely populated lands, the baking summer sun beating down upon their backs.  Then, as they came across a lake, in the distance they spotted riders.  The loping forms of their steeds suggested wolves.

The party dodged the first group they saw, using the nearby mesas as cover, but were not so lucky with the second group of riders and battle was joined as the goblins spurred their warg mounts forward, strafing the party with their short bows.  The party returned fire, scything down most of their foes with their superior firepower, though not before one of the goblins had pulled forth a horn and sounded 3 long blasts.

Ultimately, the last couple of goblins attempted to make run for it, heading north, but the party's own steeds and the reach of their bows proved sufficient and none of the goblins survived to report back to their fellows.

And so, they continued, ever northwards...
« Last Edit: December 18, 2011, 09:37:14 AM by DaveTheMagicWeasel » Logged
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« Reply #34 on: December 18, 2011, 11:46:41 AM »

Session 26: The Westlands Part 2

As our intrepid heroes pushed further north they spotted a dust cloud on the horizon, extending to both east and west for as far as they could see.  Approaching cautiously they came into sight of what seemed to be an entire Orc Legion.  Spread out across a wide front, they were systematically searching through teh undergrowth and ruins as they passed.  As Eldiran eatched through his spyglass he saw one group of Orcs happen upon a couple of fell lurking in a hole in the ground and hack them to pieces.

After the events of the last few days, it was not an activity the party objected too, but it did make their own progress rather more difficult.  Fortunately, the speed of their steeds and the benefits of their spyglass meant they were able to evade the orc sthanks to a rather large easterly detour.

The Eren Road

So it was that they entered the Baden's Bluff district a fair distance to the East of the city itself.  As they travelled they came across another of the great roads that criss-crossed Erenland, this time the Eren Road linking the two great cities of the southern Pelluria, Erenhead and Baden's Bluff.

To the north of the road lay the Plague Hills.  Ragnar had not often travelled beyond his home city, but even he had heard the tales of this strange region - of strange red mists that kill and of twisted deformed beasts that kill.  Still, the risk of Orc patrols also weighed heavily on the party's mind, and so it was that they chose to travel alongside the road as much as possible, skirting the edge of the Plague Hills.  All except Nyvindil, who chose to travel to the southerly side of the road.

As they travelled they spied a succession of caravans, hobgoblin guards marching alongside as supplies were ferried up and down the road.  As one such group passed by their luck gave out and one of the guards spotted them.  As a group of mounted hobgoblins wheeled around to investigate the party took flight, Eondir, Eldiran and Ragnar spurring their steeds into flight and heading into the Plague Hills...

Watch Your Step

Evading the hobgoblins proved fairly easy, for they were reluctant to leave their caravan too far behind, or to venture too deeply into the Plague Hills.  But, just as they began to breathe a sigh of relief, the ground beneath Ragnar's horse suddenly gave way beneath him as a group of bizarre creatures, oozing yellow snake-like things, burst forth from the ground to take bites from his steed.

The horse tumbled to the ground, throwing Ragnar to the floor, and then things went from bad to worse.  The boggy ground all around him dissolved beneath him and a huge gaping maw rose up - the snake-like creatures were in fact merely the appendages of a much larger beast, which promptly swallowed the unfortunate Dorn whole.

Eondir and Eldiran leapt to the rescue, blade and bow turned against the oozing monstrosity.  Nyvindil, pursuing them on foot once the hobgoblin caravan had passed him by, raced forward at the cries of horror and leapt into the fray.  Between them, they hacked off tentacles and slashed open the vile creature, ultimately hacking open its bulging amorphous form and pulling clear a badly wounded Ragnar, his clothes and skin tattered and blistered by the digestive juices.

(click to show/hide)

Lucky to have survived, they limped onwards, warier now of the denizens of these strange hills.  Soon, they saw the Pellurian Sea stretching beforew them to the horizon, and the city of Baden's Bluff perched on the coastline up ahead.

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« Reply #35 on: December 18, 2011, 02:30:35 PM »

Session 27: Baden's Bluff

With the walls of Baden's Bluff ahead of them the group deferred to Ragnar.  A resident of the city he assured them he could make contact with the local resistance there.  While the Elves found a place in the wilderness to make camp, Ragnar and Eondir headed along the road to the main gates, having left their weapons and other contraband with the elves.

It didn't go to plan.  Ragnar's tale of having been out of town on an errand for his master received short shrift from the hobgoblins on guard, and his lack of an appropriate pass to be travelling beyond the city walls tipped the balance.  One rather viciously administered beating later and the two humans were unceremoniously dumped on the roadside outside the city, left to crawl away.

(click to show/hide)

Plan B

The duo limped back to their compatriots, whereupon Ragnar declared that he had another plan - an associate of his living in the nearby village of Elsweir could perhaps help them find entrance to the city.  Eondir wished him luck, but declined to accompany him this time, convinced that the Dorn was liable to get them both killed.

So it was that Ragnar headed into Elsweir alone, and there located his associate, Tim the Fisherman.  After sharing a few drinks Ragnar broached the subject, and Tim agreed to take him into the Bluff by boat in return for a day's work on the boat.  The next day, Tim's vessel joined the flotilla of fishing boats returning to the Worm Docks at the end of the day and Ragnar succeeded in mingling into the crowds and past the bored looking orcs stationed on the Docks.

Old "Friends"

Ragnar made for the Beggar Bowl Tavern on the northern side of the Tidewood District.  It was there that his resistance cell had usually met, so seemed as good a place as any to reacquaint himself with a few old comrades.  Ragnar made his greetings to Kels, the barman, and then he and Tim settled down into a booth to enjoy a drink.

It wasn't long before Ragnar's old cell leader barged through the doors.  "Sir" Hakon Druman stormed up to the waiting pair with thunder in his eyes.  If Ragnar had expected a warm welcome he was to be disappointed as the first words out of Hakon's mouth were "What the bloody hell are you doing back?"

Ragnar's hurried explanation of a party of elves with a message for their queen did little to improve Hakon's mood;

"Elves?  You brought Elves here?!  Which part of leave town and lie low did you not understand?  I ought to have you tossed into the sea you fool!"

But, something about Ragnar's tale had clearly piqued Hakon's interest, for he did no such thing.  Instead, he ordered him to get out of the tavern at once and lie low for the night.  He should come to the Worm Docks at first light, and perhaps he could have something for him...

As a chastened Ragnar hurried through the streets he thought he heard footsteps in his wake, but whenever he turned he saw nothing in the shadowed streets, and hurried on.

Squatters

His destination was his old home - a ramshackle place on the Steeps, where he had stashed some of his belongings.  But, upon arriving at his home he found a family had taken up residence there.  His natural charm proved enough to talk his way past the threshold, and once he'd managed to find a minute to himself the crossbow he pulled from beneath the floorboards proved sufficient to intimidate the family into vacating the premises at speed.

Ragnar settled down for a good night's sleep in his own bed, but his night was interrupted when his door was beaten down.  The father of the displaced family had returned, with several of his friends in tow, and a brawl soon broke out.  Unwilling to use his magic within the confines of the city, Ragnar was soon on the receiving end of a few good punches and was forced to make a speedy exit of his own.

(click to show/hide)

A Conference on the Waters

As dawn broke Ragnar headed down to the Docks as instructed, and found Hakon waiting for him.  He was pointed towards a fishing boat, crewed by a pair of surly looking Dorns.  The two of them remained taciturn and silent throughout the journey as they rowed, and Ragnar began to wonder if he would be sleeping with the fishes this night.

Eventually, with the city of Baden's Bluff long out of sight, the boat rendezvoused with another fishing vessel, into which Ragnar was quickly transferred.  There he came face to face with a burly tanned skin Erenlander;

"Well Ragnar, your return has certainly caused quite a stir already.  Never could keep your head down could you boy?  Well, you've done it now, my name is Colin Dalmark, leader of the Baden Resistance, I'm told you have quite the tale to tell?"

Still nervous under the steely gaze of the man's Dornish bodyguards, Ragnar recounted the story of how he had met the unlikely band as they made their way across Erenland, and of the message they bore for the Queen of the Elves.  Colin kept his cards close to his chest, but was sufficiently intrigued as to have the vessel head east, making for the coast.  There the group alighted and he had Ragnar lead him to the party's camp.

Colin conferred with the group as a whole before agreeing to arrange for transport for them.  "After all, I figure the sooner we're rid of you people the better...".  He told them to stay hidden deep in the wilderness and to return to this point 3 days hence to meet him again, by which time he should be able to find them a vessel.
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« Reply #36 on: December 18, 2011, 03:13:49 PM »

Session 28: A new friend ... and some old ones

First up - had a new player join the group this week:

Kondar, Pureblood Erenlander Rogue / Swashbuckler
Mechanically, a Dex-based fighter - TWF, Clever Fighting, Fallen Courtier + Shadow Killer, plus Daring Outlaw (the feat that makes Rogue and Swashbuckler stack for sneak attack progression, etc).  As his Tome feat he's got Expert Tactician which let shim Feint as an Immediate action for trggering his sneak attack.

Background-wise - he's a member of the Baden's Bluff Resistance, from the same cell as Ragnar used to be in (for a nice easy intro to the group).

A Warning

Things had been quiet in the Bluff of late, the endless war in the back alleys and sewers reaching one of it's periodic lulls.  Which was why Kondar was rather surprised to get Hakon's summons.  Still, he headed to the Beggar Bowl to find out what was up.  It was soon clear that the peace wouldn't last much longer - Ragnar was back in town.  Kondar sighed, everyone knew the man had his uses, but he was a loose cannon and Kondar hadn't been the only one to breathe a sigh of relief when he was bundled out of town.  The peace was about to be broken.

Ragnar had obviously been up to his usual tricks, for Hakon explained he was running courier for the Elves now and had been back in town looking for help with their current mission.  But that wasn't the worst of it, now apparently a new Legate had shown up in town, an Inquisitor from the looks of him, and started asking pointed questions looking for a band of insurgents that matched the description of Ragnar and his companions.

With a sinking heart Kondar listened as he was ordered to head out to Elsweir, for they were camped somewhere in the woods nearby, find Ragnar and his friends and warn them that someone was on their tail.

Kondar slipped onto a fishing boat and headed out to Elsweir.  He knew Ragnar had an old drinking buddy there so his first stop was to check in on old Tim.  Sure enough, there he found Ragnar nursing a drink.  He delivered Hakon's warning over a drink of his own, and Ragnar agreed they should let the other's know, just as soon as we finish this last round...

"It" Hits The Fan

"This last round" was not soon enough, for very soon the drinking trio heard a loud voice outside, booming over the persistent patter of raindrops on the roof.  The booming voice called out a single word in challenge: "EONDIR!"

Peeking through the shutters they saw a large figure, wrapped in a heavy cloak, walking through town calling out the name.  It stopped, seeming to sniff the air, before heading off out of town - in the exact direction of the party's camp.

Ragnar and Kondar hurriedly downed their drinks and left, but even as they crossed the doorstep they could see orcs marching into the village.  On their armour they bore a symbol of a burning man, and in their midst marched a human.  Handlebar moustache, wearing a blood red cape over blackened mail, the horned skull of Izrador emblazoned on his breastplate, they'd both been in the resistance long enough to know an Inquisitor when they saw one.

"Turog, find it's trail, we're too close now for any mistakes!  The rest of you seal off the village - no-one leaves!"

The two resistance operatives ducked down the side of the building, creeping through the backstreets of Elsweir.  In each direction they turned they found more Orcs encircling the village, panicked cries breaking out across the village as the residents were dragged from their beds and corralled into the centre of town.  Some manner of luck was with the duo at least, for the confusion provided them enough cover to slip into the trees on the outskirts of the village and hurry away.

A Reunion

Meanwhile, back at the campsite, Eondir was on watch.  Through the relentless pounding of the rain he spied a cloaked figure approaching down the trail.  Most likely Ragnar, drunk again, but even so his fingers crept down to his swordhilt as he stood to greet him.

As the figure approached it became apparent that it was not Ragnar.  Too large for that, his gait too much that of a warrior.  Eondir's sword came free from its scabbard as the newcomer paused on the edge of the clearing.

"Hello Eondir.  I've come for the scroll case."

He threw back the hood of his cloak and Eondir could not help but recognise the face.

"Hrothgar?!  But ... but, I watched you die."

"Oh yes, I was quite quite dead.  But I have been redeemed my friend.  It's not too late for you too,"  He raised a hand to indicate the two slumbering elves, "strike down these abominations, let their blood wash your soul clean in the eyes of blessed Izrador and give me the case."

Eondir's eyes narrowed, "NEVER!  ELDIRAN, NYVINDIL, TO ARMS!"

As the two elves woke and hurriedly scrambled to take up their own weapons Hrothgar threw off his heavy cloak, pulling his vardatch free from his back, to reveal his still tattered breastplate, a pulsing black mass festering in his chest where his heart once was.  In the moonlight the now exposed flesh of his arms revealed a tracery of scars, blasphemous runes carved directly into his flesh.

A malicious grin appeared across the dead flesh of Hrothgar's face, "So be it."
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« Reply #37 on: December 28, 2011, 02:49:20 PM »

Session 29: Hrothgar's Vengeance

Hrothgar charged with a blood-curdling battlecry "For Izrador!".  He and Eondir duelled a little, but Hrothgar's prodigious strength had, if anything, been strengthened by his new undead form and his blows hacked through Eondir's guard and into his flesh, whereas the cuts of Eondir's own blade seemed to trouble the Dorn only a little.

Nyvindil sprang forward, his sepis flashing in the moonlight as they slashed, but Hrothgar merely reached out a mailed fist, grabbed the jungle elf by the throat and tossed him aside.

Eldiran pulled forth the last of the alchemical flame arrows he had been gifted at the Pass of Eagle's, launching volleys of them into their erstwhile friends chest.  Hrothgar staggered back under the onslaught, the smell of charred flesh filling their nostrils, but the advantage did not last long - he remembered enough of his old life to know the danger the Snow Elf posed, and a single swing of his vardatch shattered Eldiran's precious Icewood Bow into a spray of crystals, forcing Eldiran to resort to his fighting knives.

Then a backhand swing from Hrothgar struck true, cleaving through Eondir's neck with irresistible force and the unfortunate Erenlander dropped to the floor, dead.  By this time Hrothgar was staggering from his wounds and a fresh onslaught from the blades of the two Elves finally struck him down.  It was too late though, they had lost another of their number, and now only Eldiran remained of the group who had set forth from Durgis Rock all those months before.

Not long after Ragnar and Kondar returned to the camp, bearing their warning, too late now.  Kondar also revealed that he had recognised the Legate he had seen at Elsweir, a much feared Witch Taker whose reputation went before him - Jael Caryan, the Crowseye.  It was said that his demonic servant occupied the bodies of a whole murder of crows which served as his eyes when on the hunt.  The party was left to reflect on the flocks of carrion birds they had seen on the edge of Elsweir upon their arrival, and on the crow that had flown above them prior to the River Eel's assault on the Honoured Beauty weeks earlier.  Was this how the Inquisitor had managed to dog their steps across the whole continent?

Quoth the Raven

As they hurriedly gathered up their belongings to strike camp, a raven swooped down low into the clearing, alighting upon Hrothgar's fallen form.  It hopped onto his chest and looked down into the deadened eyes, but then stopped.  Turning to look directly at Ragnar it squawked at him.

With the warnings about Jael's demonic minions fresh in their minds the group starting drawing their weapons, until Ragnar cried out "Wait!  This is no Astirax!"

There then proceeded a rather surreal conversation, of which the rest of the group only understood Ragnar's part, but the Dornish channeler seemed to understand the words of the Raven.  Ragnar explained that the bird was merely the mortal shell of a benevolent spirit of the north, a Meruros, Herald of the Dead, come to claim the souls of the fallen for the Dornish afterlife.

But .... there is no soul here.  It has been taken by another, and he shall know no peace.

The rest of the group continued to watch the bird cautiously out of the corners of their eyes, but did not interfere as it flapped up onto Ragnar's shoulder.  With their new companion, and a watchful eye on the skies, they headed into the anonymity of the trackless wilderness.

(click to show/hide)

Passage

Their precautions in hiding their trail proved sufficient, and they saw nothing of Jael or the Witchburners that night.  So, by morning crept cautiously to the rendezvous point to meet the Baden Resistance.  Colin Dalmark was there, his face like thunder, a mix of rage and grief.

Long moments passed before the resistance leader spoke;

"Do you know what you have brought down upon us?  Do you know what horror you have caused?  Elsweir is no more, a charnel house, no survivors."

His gaze fixed on Ragnar, "And all because of you.  I hope this message of yours was worth all this.  Now go, follow my man to the shore and get on the boat before I change my mind and turn you all in myself.  And do not think to return here."

Then he turned and strode away, leaving only one of his men to serve as the party's guide.  In solemn procession the group trudged through the wilderness to their waiting vessel.  As they went they reflected on how many had given their lives for this message - who knew how many of the Dwarves of Durgis Rock, Eirinn, Rhiann, Wendell, Fairwait, Thran, Hrothgar, dozens of the Halflings of Wogren Moor, Eondir, the people of Elsweir.  Colin's question hung over the group, was this message truly worth all that had been lost?

The Pellurian Sea

The vessel that the Baden Resistance had arranged for the group turned out to be one of the infamous Pirate Princes vessels, the fleet of House Norfall, still fighting the good fight out on the Pellurian Sea after all these years.  A bireme, small, fast and highly manoeuvrable, named the Short Serpent and captained by a Dornishman named Torin.

As the boat glided across the water they spotted larger vessels on the horizon on the odd occasion, huge Orc hulks carrying fresh soldiers and supplies across the Sea to join the war against the Elves.  With its greater speed the Serpent easily kept its distance and the miles flew by.

As night fell they found themselves sailing past the western coast.  In the distance could be seen two lights flickering, which Torin explained were the "River's Fangs".  Orc fortresses blocking the mouth of the Gamaril River.  "But don't worry boys, we know another way in..."

Althorin

The next day the ship came within sight of what must have once been a beautiful and majestic elven city, but now all that remained was ruins.  Eldiran recognised the place - it had been from here that he, Rhiann and Eirinn had set forth on a similar vessel when they first undertook their journey.  Torin steered the vessel towards the overhanging canopy of trees and into a darkened tunnel, invisible until you the vessel was right on top of it.

With torches lit to light their way they slowly made their way through the passageway and out into the subterranean dock that was now the hub of Althorin.

They had reached Erethor.
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DaveTheMagicWeasel
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« Reply #38 on: December 28, 2011, 03:16:36 PM »

Ding!

So, with the defeat of Hrothgar the players levelled up and reached the dizzy heights of level 5!

Eldiran - more True Archer.  His attack bonus, when Point Blank, is now at a rather ridiculous +18 from the various stacking things.  Widely accepted as MVP, as evidence by the fact he's the only original character still standing and the fact he's probably racked up more kills than anyone else.

Nyvindil - bit of a rebuild, now using Doomed Hero's version of the Steelblooded.  I think he ended up a Barbarian/Wildlander/Fighter in some proportion, but honestly I'm not 100% sure as a few different versions of Nyvindil got tossed around.

Ragnar - another level of Channeler, and Greater Spellcasting (Evocation).  Fireball and Stinking Cloud added.

Kondar - now a Rogue 3 / Swashbuckler 2, between Daring Outlaw and Shadow Killer he's up to +4d6 sneak attack.

New Character

And with Eondir's unfortunate demise we needed another new character:

Aaredhiel, Stormbringer Caransil Rogue 3 / Channeler 1 / Fighter 1
Mechanics: TWF-ing Transmuter, with bonus damage from Stormbringer Shock, Sneak Attack.  Spells almost entirely swift action buffs (swift haste, swift fly, blades of fire, etc).
Background: A fully paid up member of the Pathwalkers/Order of Hope (more on them later...), and connected to the Order of Truth (the outsider org in Erethor looking for Aradar).  Sent to Althorin to meet the party and guide them and their precious cargo through Erethor to Caradul.
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DaveTheMagicWeasel
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« Reply #39 on: December 28, 2011, 04:21:02 PM »

Session 30: Into the Green

Torin led the group off the ship and through the tunnels of Althorin.  As they walked they saw that the city's occupants were probably the most multi-racial group any of them had ever seen in one place - elves rub shoulders with humans, gnomes, halflings, and even a dwarf is seen walking through the corridors.  All of them wear the same mottled green cloaks fastened at the neck by a silver broach bearing an image of a golden tree.  Obvious to all of the Elves as the symbol of Aradil, the Witch Queen herself.

Torin led them into the central chamber, cavernous above them, with the roots of some great tree weaving through the walls around them.  There he introduced the group to two Elves.  Firstly, Mishalla, Lady of Althorin and Avatar of the Queen.  Long blonde hair cascading down over a green gown, but it was her eyes that drew all the focus - jet-black, just as Rhiann's were.  Secondly, Alashal, the Dragonsbane, with black hair that hung down to cover half her face, but even that could not obscure the mass of scar tissue that was half her face, pitted and discoloured as if by grevious burns.  Her name went before her, it had been Alashal who had slain the dragon Amorktia when the city above had fallen to the Shadow in the chaotic aftermath of the fall of the Kingdom of Erenland.

The two Elves welcomed them, on behalf of the Lady Aradil and the Elven people, offering them the chance to rest a while and lick their wounds, and to provide them with guides for the last leg of their journey to Caradul itself.  And so they introduced the party to a Caransil named Aaredhiel, sent from Caradul by the Queen to lead them through the woods.

The Gamaril Valley

Though the party were now beneath the eaves of Erethor, still their journey held dangers for Althorin, secretly reoccupied by the Elves as their sole remaining link with the outside world, lay on the wrong side of the warfront.  They would need to travel through the contested Gamaril River Valley to reach their ultimate destination.

So, after a few days rest, and stocked with fresh provisions (including a new bow for Eldiran) the group continued on their journey.  Aaredhiel and 5 other Caransil travelling with them as their guides.

A Plague of Daemons!

They travelled for the most part by boat, making good time through the swamps of the Gamaril.  But, on their 3rd night out of Althorin, whilst camping amid the branches of a looming maudrial tree, the elves as one suddenly started upright as a gentle wind blew through the leaves.  The Whisper spoke, and on its breath it bore dark tidings.  A horde of daemons was invading the forest, spewing forth from the Black Fang to the south.

And what was worse, they were getting closer.

The group crouched in the branches, nervously hoping that the horde would pass they mby, but they had no such luck and soon the shifting mass could be seen through the trees.  In huge numbers the small creatures swarmed across the forest floor, their snouts twitching as they scurried ever closer to the party.

Nyvindil identified them thanks to the lore of his people - Straga Daemons, lesser daemons, but dangerous nevertheless, with long raking claws that could disembowel an elf, and with a maddening chattering sound that could drive their prey to madness when encountered in numbers.

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As the creatures were clearly tracking their scent the group abandoned any thoughts of stealth.  Their Caransil guides let loose a volley of magically illuminated arrows in a rought circle around the maudrial tree in which they camped, and then the killing began in earnest as the elves loosed volley after volley into the horde.  When they came too close to the tree for comfort Ragnar was there, the flames of his dragon breath scorching the creatures.

But, it was not to be that easy.  Without warning an explosion rocked the tree as a ball of fire struck down from the skies above.  One Caransil was left a burnt husk, dropping to the forest floor where the Straga Demons leapt upon the feast.  Eldiran too was caught in the blast and knocked out of the tree, landing with a thump on the floor, barely alive from the combination of flame and fall.

Then it struck.  From out of the skies the lord of the infernal host descended.  As tall as an ogre, covered in black and red armour plating and with four viciously taloned arms and huge bat wings sprouting from its back.  Again, Nyvindil recognised the breed - a Cornugon, horned devils forged in the fiery pits of the nine hells in ages past.  "At least," he said with an ironic smirk, "it's only a small one..."

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Terrible the beast was, where its claws struck elves fell like chafe, ripped to pieces or thrown from the branches to die with a sickening crunch as they hit the ground.  In it's eyes blazed the fires of hell, a sight no mortal was ever meant to see, filling those who caught its gaze with a desire to kneel before the beast.  One Caransil was so overwhelmed by the beast that he flung himself out of the tree to his death below.  As the daemon prince ripped into the defenders the swarm of lesser daemons below started up their infernal chattering, clouding the minds of the defenders.  So confused was Kondar that his sword arm, guided by some infernal hand, stabbed into the exposed flesh of Nyvindil's back as he tried to fight off the horde of Straga clambering up the trunk of the tree.

Their fates hung in the balance, and despair began to creep into more than one of our heroes hearts, but the daemon's assault was slowed as Ragnar called upon his arcane powers to conjure up a cloud of vile choking gas about the daemon prince.  As the creature beat its wings to gain altitude and escape the choking fumes the heroes were able to gain a brief respite and regroup.

This time when the daemon dived to strike it was met by a volley of arrows, and though many bounced harmlessly off its armoured plates some few found their mark, most notably the silvered arrows launched from Eldiran's bow.  Then, Aaredhiel, bathed in gleaming white light and with a silvered short sword crackling with the power of the storm leapt forward.  His blade struck true, slicing through the daemon's armour like a knife through butter before blasting lightning through the creature.  It twitched as the current flowed through it, and at the last, it died.

(Or at least, the mortal shell it currently wore died...)

With the Cornugon vanquished the group made short work of the last few Straga and emerged victorious.  Though many of them had taken grievous wounds, of their Caransil guides, only Aaredhiel had survived.

Through the Trees

Insert Travel Montage through Erethor here - trees, flowers, treetop villages, over the Skytree, past some Dire Bear sentries at the edge of the Caraheen, and on to Caradul

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A long, but uneventful journey later...

Grace of a Queen

They entered the great city of Caradul through the canopy of the forest, as all must do, to be greeted by the joyous tones of the elves Ballad of Welcome.  There they were met by an elf named Durelion.  He led the group through to the centre of the city, the enormous Elder Tree at its heart, and then upwards to the great hall of the Witch Queen.

There, bathed in the light of the sun and surrounded by the fragrant smells of flowers, our heroes came face to face with Aradil.  Ageless, with skin that seems to glow like the sun and eyes of deepest jet-black she cuts an impressive figure.  The full council was not in attendance, but a few of her advisors - an elderly Sarcosan, introduced as Seliatan, Master of Truth.  Beonoul - an ancient looking Erunsil, introduced as Lord Councillor of Autilar.  And Durelion himself , Lord Councillor of Caradul, Master Instructor of the Queen's Academy, and father to Rhiann and Eirinn to whom their quest had originally been entrusted.

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Aradil thanked them for their efforts, praising them for the heroism, their bravery, and their sacrifices, and honoured each of their fallen comrades.  Then, she paused for a moment, "Now, I believe you have something for me?"

Eldiran drew forth the Dragon Case that he had carried for so long and gave it to the Queen.  With words of Old Dwarven she invoked the enchantments binding the case, the dragon coming to life and unwinding itself to reveal and opening at the end.  Pulling forth the scrolls within Aradil leafed through them, a smile of satisfaction on her usually impassive face.

“Do you have any idea as to the significance your gift?”

“You have brought the elves one of the greatest secrets of the Dwarves, the last remaining copy of A Treatise on the Binding of Mithril written by Durum Wyrmbane, greatest of the Dwarven Loremasters of old.  These scrolls contain the formulas and runes used by Durum in forging his greatest items, Covenant Items infused with the innate magic of the land, and to which the Dark Lord’s servants are blind.  A new and powerful weapon to use against the Shadow.”

“Long did Woden and I negotiate the terms, alas they could not be fulfilled.  The agreement was for Rhiann to travel to Durgis Rock when he came of age, to aid him in deciphering its secrets and studying the last of Durum’s creations, whilst copying the scrolls to bring a copy back here.  Truly we are blessed that Woden had enough wisdom to see it safely taken away from the Shadow’s grasp.”


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Aradil's Gifts

Then, the Queen gestured to Durelion, who brought forth bundles or cloth.  Aradil unfurled each cloak in turn, wrapping them about each of the heroes shoulders.  Each was of a mottled green, with a golden tree broach fastening them, matching the cloak worn by Aaredhiel and by the inhabitants of Althorin.

“These cloaks mark each of you as elf-friend and lets all know you have earned my grace.  They will grant you passage and aid in any of my lands.  Wear them in pride and kinship, items of great use as befit heroes such as you.”

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“It will take time and experimentation to unlock the secrets of Durum’s work, but I would be honoured to offer each of you an item forged with his knowledge as soon as those secrets have been revealed to us as a token of our thanks for all you have done.”[/i]

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A New Hope

“You are free to stay here in Caradul for as long as you please, as our honoured guests.  But, there is something else I would discuss with you.”

She gestures to Seliatan, who takes over:

“I am sure each of you will have noticed that you all have powers beyond those of most mortals.  Strange, unexplained powers.  You are not alone.  Over the last 20 years the phenomenon has been witnessed many times of unusual powers manifesting themselves in all the races of Eredane – Elves, Dwarves, Humans, Gnomes, Halflings … and even amongst the Orcs and Goblins.”

“Tell me, how much do you know of the different flows of magic through the land?”

“Put simply, there are three types of magic.  Innate Magic, the magic of the elthedar, a small spark of which still flows through the veins of the elven people.  Divine Magic, the magic of the gods, such as was once wielded by the servants of the Lost Gods, but which you will have only witnessed in the hands of the Shadow’s Legates.  And Channeled Magic, the magic of the Arcane, as wielded by Ragnar and Aaredhiel amongst you.  As you are no doubt aware, The Dark Lord’s hounds can smell the scent of Channelled Magic, but their abilities do not extend to Innate or Divine magics.   I assume you have noticed that your abilities are not detected by the Shadow’s servants.”

“Our Order has spent centuries accumulating as much of the lore of the Old Gods as we can find, and amongst that lore is a great prophecy.  A prophecy that foretold of the rise of an ancient evil in the north, of a daughter of the Gods who would lead her people against it,”
he nods towards the Queen, “and of the birth of a new power, a light against the darkness, Aradar, and of the champions of light who would serve this new power, the Pathwalkers.”

“We do not believe that the Old Gods were caught surprised by the Sundering, or of the casting of Shadow over the world.  We believe that they left aid for their children here in this world, and that we must decipher the puzzle they left behind in order to defeat the Shadow.”

“We believe that the new power that was foretold is being born, that you are the champions of light promised to us by the Old Gods.”


The Queen takes over from Seliatan once more,

“My people cannot stand against the tide of darkness forever.  Alone, our doom is inevitable.  Either the free peoples of Eredane rally to the light and stand together against the dark, or be consumed by the night.  To that end we have created a new organisation, we are drawing together as many of the Pathwalkers as we can find, of all the peoples of Eredane.  You shall be the torch that lights the way, an Order of Hope to stand against the Order of Shadow.  Will you join us?”

The heroes pondered this offer for long moments, each was tempted by the idea of stepping back from the wars, from the deaths, to a quiet retirement, but each had also suffered at the hands of the Shadow and yearned for a chance to strike back.  One by one, they nodded - they would join the fight.

THE END

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« Last Edit: December 28, 2011, 04:31:16 PM by DaveTheMagicWeasel » Logged
DaveTheMagicWeasel
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Spell Energy / Taint +1/-0
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« Reply #40 on: December 28, 2011, 04:38:07 PM »

Epilogue

(Not at all ripped off of Harrowed's pbp Wink)

Arc of Obaras, 3rd Day
Somewhere in the Northern Kaladruns


The screams of the prisoner echoed through the high halls, as they had done for months.  Her delicate features were disfigured by scars and bruises, her once lustrous red hair a tangled mess, the tattered remnants of her dark green cloak hanging limply about her broken form.  Her body had given up many times under the torturer’s attentions, but each time The Master had forced her soul to return to the broken shell.  She would not know peace until he found what he wanted to know.

As her latest scream died down the waiting guard spoke up, “Master, the Crowseye returns.”

The torturer’s gaze did not leave his prisoner as he replied, his voice hollow and rasping, “Excellent, no doubt bringing your precious friends to me my dear.”  A single bony finger lifted up her chin, forcing her to meet his gaze, “You see, all your resistance, all your pain has been for naught.  Izrador cannot be denied.”

She convulsed violently again as pain lanced through her, her screams cut off abruptly as her body gave out once more.

“Come.  We shall receive him in the main hall.”  The Master swept out of the torture chambers, his black robes flowing behind him like a tide of darkness.  From beneath his cloaked form several chains drag across the stone floors.  Where his face would be there is only a grey mask, the horned skull of Izrador lacquered across the front.  The strange mask has no eye, mouth or nose holes.  On his head he wears a crown of pure black obsidian.

As he sweeps through the tunnels of the stronghold he passes burning braziers, sculptured to represent the twisted forms of elf maids holding aloft their own butchered hearts.  The baleful flames make the condensation dripping down the stone walls appear as blood.

His own personal guard fall in behind him as he walks, a dozen men cloaked in black cassocks that expose only black hilted swords and blood red tabards.  The group strides into the main hall and The Master takes his seat on a simple wooden chair atop a small dais.  Blood red banners bearing the horned skull adorn the walls, beneath which the Sword Brethren take up position.

Moments later the doors to the hall are pushed open, a single human walks through at the head of a group of orcs wearing the symbol of a burning man.  The orcs drop to their knees and touch their heads to the floor as soon as they enter and then stay kneeling, but the man strides forward.  A black skull helmet tucked under one arm, blood red cape flowing behind him he approaches the dais before dropping to his knees.

“Master, I return bearing gifts.”


“Did I ask you for gifts Jael?  Where are my prisoners?  Where are the Pathwalkers?”

Jael reaches inside his tabard and draws forth a hunk of bloody flesh, “The heart of the Dwarven messenger my lord, I offer up this soul to feed the Crown.”

Jael cries out in pain as he is violently slammed onto his back.  A black chain hovers unnaturally in the air, one end wrapped around Jael’s ankle, the other end disappearing into folds of shadow.

“I gave you a simple task, intercept the fey couriers.”  The voice takes on a menacing, rasping tone, “and you failed me.  I give you a second chance, bring me the rebel scum the fey met with, and you offer me a single heart?  What of the rest of them?  What of the scrolls?!”

“They would have been mine had Grial not unleashed Maugrim ahead of schedule.  In the confusion of the Fell Plague we lost their trail.”

“I do not wish to hear your excuses Jael, you have failed me again.  Do you know the price of failure?”  Another chain stretches forth from the folds of shadow and wraps itself around his other leg.  The two chains twist like snakes, lifting Jael up and hanging him upside down.  “What of the rest of the rebel scum? Where are my souls?”

“The humans are dead Master, cut down like dogs and left to rot, but their fellows retrieved the bodies before I could claim their hearts.  The last elf escaped with the Badens’ help, he must have taken the scrolls with him.”

“And the Gauntlets?  The Dwarf had them did he not?  Did you at least bring them to me?”

“I … ah … no My Lord.  The orc who killed the Dwarf stole them Master.  My orcs seek him even now.”

Another chain stretches forth from the darkness and winds itself around his neck, squeezing until his eyes begin to bulge.

“I am not without mercy and understanding, so I will give you a choice.  I can shred your soul to feed my Crown, or I can give you one last chance to redeem yourself.  Would you like that Jael?”

The chain releases its hold just a little, enough for him to gasp out a response, “I will not fail you again Master, I swear it.  I am yours, body and soul.”

“Your soul belongs to Izrador, never forget that.  But your body, that belongs to me … and I have a use for it yet.” The chains abruptly release their hold, dumping Jael onto the floor.  The Master signals to the Sword Brethren to either side, who step forth and place their hands upon Jael’s shoulders, “Take him to the Mirror, show him the price of failure.  If you survive you will be given another chance to serve.”

The two Sword Brethren drag the limp figure away between them, Jael’s screams echoing round the hall as he is taken deeper into the bowels.

A hush settles over the chamber as long moments tick by.

“Torug!”

One of the orcs who entered with Jael lifts his gaze, “Yes Master.”

“Send out the Witchburners.  Find the thief, bring the Gauntlets back to me.   None are to taste of his flesh Torug.  Any who do will join Jael, do you understand?”

“We follow into darkness, and at every command will be ready.”

“Go then.”

The orc bows low to the floor once more before turning sharply and marching out of the chamber.  The rest of the Witchburners dip their heads to the floor before rising and following him out.

“It seems we are not yet done with our prisoner after all…”

The Master sweeps from the dais and heads back the way he came, back to the torture chambers. 
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