WOTBS Edarnia Campaign Journal
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  1. #1

    WOTBS Edarnia Campaign Journal

    Hello all.

    Yes, it's another campaign journal. First, let me introduce myself. I'm the DM, a published fiction author (who will remain anon.) with a twenty-two year history of gaming. My players, a wonderful bunch of reprobates, range from my other-half, who has been gaming for three years, to a pair of elder statesmen who have been gaming since the days of the white box (though you wouldn't know it from their frequent"boot-the-door-kill everybody" notion of what passes for party tactics). Most of my guys and gals have been playing for at least a dozen years.

    We're a solid group, with a core of players who have been gaming together for five years. Two relative newbies (me and the missus) joined the group two years ago and we recruited two fresh members for this campaign.

    The Journals that follow are written by my players, using their own characters as the narrator. As such, the journals are written to reflect the prejudices and world-view of the character providing the “voice” in question. Most of the journals have been written by Dara, the Druid. On occasion, another character (such as Shadowdancer) has stepped up to the bat when Dara's player has been absent.

    We have been playing now for about five months, with one session every three weeks or so. So I will put up a journal article every few days until we are caught up. After that, they will be posted as written. Now, a bit about the world.

    Edarnia (despite some curious and coincidental similarities to the new D&D 4th ed. Setting) is a home-brewed “sword and sandals” setting that I have been running games in for nearly twenty years – tweaking it slightly with the release of each new edition of the D&D game and which has also been adapted (at various times) for 2nd and 3rd edition Runequest and even Rolemaster.

    In its current edition, a few changes had to be made to accommodate 4th ed. For example, the Senate of the Arcane Imperium is now made up of tiefling magic-users rather than the cambions who ruled the game worlds main “evil empire” in previous editions. For the sake of my players (and amidst much gnashing of teeth) I've also allowed the newer races such as Goliaths andWilders to enter Edarnia for the first time, having re-written the back story of Edarnia considerably to fit them in.

    As you can imagine, I've also had to make some (surprisingly) minor changes to the WotBS campaign setting in order to make it fit Edarnia. For the benefit of anyone reading this, there are a few basic facts you'll need to know with regards to Edarnia in order to follow the events of this campaign:

    • Edarnia is technologically, philosophically and sociologically similar to Western Europe and North Africa in the period 400BC-100CE. Therefore, any reference to “plate” armour refers equally to the type of armour worn by Greek Hoplites (think of the film “Troy”) or the lamellar, “banded” armour worn by the legions of Imperial Rome.

    • Edarnia is a human dominated setting. While other races exist, with a very few exceptions they are few and far between (orcs and goblinoids, for example, were brought to Edarnia by the Arcane Imperium to serve as shock troops and so are widely known). Most village and small-town folk consider non-humans to be legendary, or, if they ever existed at all, extinct. Only in a few human cities and nations (Gate Pass, for example) has a non-human population gathered in anything approaching large numbers. Therefore, outside major towns, a dwarf is likely to be thought of as a disfigured or deformed human at first glance. However, once revealed as a non-human, the local reaction is more akin to “Oh, I thought you folk were a myth,” as opposed to “burn the monster!”

    (Imagine a Nubian walking into a village in Post-Roman Britain about fifty years after the legions and auxiliaries left. “My grandfather always said his old centurion had skin as dark as pitch. 'Till now I thought the old boy was just tellin' tall tales”).

    • Slavery is commonplace and not considered “evil” by the vast majority of Edarnians, though the laws governing slavery and the rights of slaves vary from place to place. In Gate Pass for example, slavery is illegal outside the Zaman quarter. In Zama and even (to a lesser extent) the Arcane Imperium slavery is a temporary state, viewed in a comparable way to bankruptcy today. Slaves are viewed with some degree of pity and scorn, but a slave who works hard and saves up his tips and wages (yes, slaves can be paid) might one day earn his freedom and become a citizen once again.

    • Magic is relatively common in that there are many practitioners of magic. However, most societies have strict laws concerning who can practice magic, what types of magic may be practiced, where, when and how.

    • There are many Pantheons of Gods, and each Pantheon dominates a central theme of natural world. These Pantheons include the Solar Pantheon (sun and stars), the Pantheon of Earth, the Sky Pantheon, the Pantheon of Fire, the Pantheon of Water and the Demonic Pantheon Therefore, while almost every Pantheon has a god of War, Trade, Craft etc there is only ever one Sun God, one Thunder God, one Sea God etc.

    • The climate and weather patterns of Edarnia do not conform to any “natural laws”. They are determined by which Pantheon is most powerful in a particular area. Therefore, states and cities where the Solar Pantheon is worshipped tend to be warm and sunny, with very short winters. Those ruled by the sky gods tend to be stormy and wind-swept etc. Only the Arcane Imperium, where no Pantheon is worshipped (at least not openly or in large numbers) is exempt from this rule. The Imperium is a largely barren, dark and blighted land. It is this, more than anything else save the greed of it's Senatorial classes for more land and wealth to further their political careers, that fuels the constant expansion of the Imperium into new lands.

    • In Edarnia, Coal Tongue was a Dictator, not an Emperor. The difference being that he was an elected official who arranged to stay in office long after his term had expired. The role of the Ragesian Empire is played by the Arcane Imperium. That of Shahalesti is played by the Arcane Imperiums ancient rival, the Protectorate of Zama. The Arcane Imperium is a human nation dominated by Tiefling magic-users. Zama is a human nation ruled by the mortal descendants of the Sun God, Yhellos.

    There are many other differences as well, but as these are relatively minor, they will be explained in a “DM's Notes” section at the end of each journal entry.
    Last edited by Calavingian; Wednesday, 25th November, 2009 at 09:38 PM.

  2. #2

    The party

    Given that the party consists solely of members of the Gate Pass Resistance, all re-assigned from their own cells to serve under a complete stranger (Torrent) for the duration a specific mission, the characters have been very cagey about how much of their background they reveal. As a result, the initial descriptions of the characters I've provided at the beginning of the campaign are rather sketchy. As the journal progresses, I'll update the character blurbs as more is revealed through play.

    Please bear in mind that, at around session two and three, there are several major changes to the roster. Not just in terms of the characters themselves (indeed, some of the players are not present for the first few sessions -their characters are introduced later) but in terms of the character classes played. Most of our players were new to 4th ed at the time the campaign started and some of the players found their character's class did not quite meet their own preconceptions. These changes to the party roster will be posted prior to the journal for the session(s) in which they occurred. At the start of the campaign the party roster was as follows:

    Male (race undisclosed) Warlord. lvl 1
    Like the vast majority of the party at the beginning of the campaign, Aramil keeps himself hooded, though his eyes glitter in the shadows. He is soft-spoken, though somewhat condescending, haughty and indifferent to the plight of his lessers. Often out-spoken, it quickly becomes very clear that he considers himself, not Torrent, to be the leader of the Cell.

    Dara Salix Castanea. lvl 1
    Female (race undisclosed) Druid

    Dara is a quiet observer who keeps to the shadows and tends to keep her mouth shui. From what little can be seen under her hood, she is truly a beauty. However, it cannot help be noticed that she seems to sink ever deeper into its shadows whenever Aramil or Shadowdancer come near. That being said, she is the only member of the cell to have revealed her full name (assuming it is her real name) so far.

    Male (race undisclosed) Avenger. lvl1
    Shadowdancer has already shown himself to be both cunning and canny. Deliberately arriving late to the inaugeral meeting of the cell, something he saw as an obvious trap, his quick actions saved the Cell from an early beating. Like Aramil and Dara, Shadowdancer seems to have something to hide. He has also yet to remove his hood and dresses in dark greys and blacks to better blend in with the night-time city-scape.

    Female Human Wizard. lvl1
    Of all the cell members, the prim and proper Sonea, a ravishingly lovely young red-head, has been the most open member of the cell with regards to her origins. She proudly wears the red-robes of a Graduate of the Battle- Magic faculty at Gabals Academy of War.

    Male Dwarf Paladin. lvl 1
    Surprisingly talkative and open, Torthen is not so much the party conscience as the only member of the cell who actually has a conscience. He has made no attempt to hide his race, background or status as a member of the Order of the Aquiline Heart from the rest of the Cell.

    Female Human Cleric. lvl 2. NPC
    Allegedly the Cell leader, Torrent has done little to earn the respect -or even the obedience- of the rest of "her" cell. While seemingly confident, she quickly proves to be "out of her depth" in stressful situations, even going so far as to allow the more vocal Aramil to issue orders to the Cell in combat.

  3. #3

    Session One - Metting at the Poison Apple

    The following Journal was written by Dara's player.

    Good day gentlemen, and of course ladies,
    following the fighting of yesterday I would like to present to you the record I have kept so far of our adventure. I hope you will find it pleasing. If you feel I have been innaccurate in any way please feel free to bring it to my attention. I do not wish to misinterpret anybodies actions.

    Best Wishes
    Dara Salix Castanea

    ************************************************** **************************

    War of the Burning Sky- Session 1 Sunday 19th July 2009

    Brian- DM
    Caroline- Dara- Elf- Druid
    Coakley- Aramil- Eladrin - Warlord
    Niall- Sonea- Human - Wizard
    Ri- Shadow Dancer- Eladrin - Avenger
    Rob- Torthen- Dwarf - Paladin
    NPC- Torrent- Human- Cleric

    It’s New Year’s Eve and snow lies thick on ground. Tomorrow is the festival of dreams. However no one is really in a festive mood as Gate Pass is currently under siege by the forces of the Imperium. The city is in lock down to prevent enemies entering and magic users leaving.

    Gate Pass sits in the mountains that separate the countries of Imperium and Zama.

    We are all members of the resistance, dedicated to keeping Gate Pass free. As each of us arrives home we find a coded message. It instructs us to arrive at the Poison Apple Pub. We find the streets are uncommonly quiet and almost deserted, strange as they should be full of revellers.

    Each of us arrives at the pub of our own accord. On the main door we find a sign from the city guard advising that the pub landlord has been taken into custody and that the premise is closed until further notice. In the alley along the side of the pub there gleams a crack of light emanating from a side door to the Poison Apple, sitting slightly ajar.

    Upon entering we find a woman wearing clerical vestements displaying the symbol of Martha- a goddess of communities, alliances, negotiation and protection. Though usually a peaceful Goddess her worshippers believe in protecting their home with might iwhen bloodshed is needed.

    Looking around the pub we find it dark. All the furniture is packed against the wall, covered in dust sheets, except for one table which is set out with some chairs, a keg of ale and mugs. The building is one storey, unusual in this city, but then again it is a pub and one storey buildings in Gate Pass are more often than not Pubs and/or shops. It possesses small deep set windows which even a child would struggle to fit through. It loks like the kind of establishment the working man frequents.

    The woman introduces herself as Torrent and gestures to the keg and mugs. Inviting us to drink to the New Year, which is almost upon us. Most of the party happily obliges and most settle into chairs to enjoy the brew. Some of the guests are more cordial than others and some more observant. The small windows are shuttered and barred.

    Soon the more perceptive of the gathering (Torthen, Dara, and Sonea) hear the distant sound of bells tolling for the New Year. Torrent smiles a rueful smile and utters a mirthless ‘Well let’s drink to a New Year’. Dara raises her mug while Sonea toasts everyone. ‘May your dreams be fruitful’, a traditional New Year’s greeting.

    Torrent begins to fill them in on what’s been happening and why they have been called.

    During this they glean that the mission for tonight is to meet one of Torrents contacts at a depositary nearby. The contact is a gnome named Badger who will have a case for us to collect. We will then need to get ourselves out of the city and head for the Lyceum.
    Much discussion ensues over how exactly we can get out of the city. Some interesting suggestions crop up however Torrent puts forward one of her own. She is still quite unsure how to get out but once out of the city she asks that we head for the forest of fire- Innondottar- a forest which has been burning for over 20 years. She has borrowed a kit of various potions from her sisters at the temple that will help against the difficulties of traversing such terrain.

    During the past small while of conversation Dara has been straining to make out strange noises but now has heard the distinctive thud of leather landing on boards.
    Quickly Dara interrupts the discussion and in a level voice says ‘Not to scare anyone here but I believe we have visitors’. She points up at the ceiling.

    All at once, two people fall out of the trap door above. A loud bang erupts from a fire bomb engulfing the roof, and other explosions can be heard going off near and far. War has come to Gate Pass.

    The two scout assailants drop down behind the bar.

    Tactical encounter.
    The attackers shout ‘Nobody move!

    The smallest of the duo hurls a small ‘stone’ at the table the party sits at. Unfortunately for the intruders it doesn’t get far at all, in fact it fumbles to land at their own feet., banging with the ROAR of a clap of thunder. Unfortunately for the party the scouts seem unaffected by the explosion and both have crossbows loaded and read, one actually trained on the party themselves.

    The larger attacker shouts ‘Don’t move!’ and gives his companion (the one who fumbled his throw) an aggrieved glance.

    By now it is apparent that the roof and crawl space are on fire.

    Aramil leaps on to the nearest table but skids along on spilled beer, falling off and back onto his feet like a cat. He recovers quickly and moves for the bar.

    Outside a voice calls out ‘Ignore the explosions that’s the signal! Move in!

    Dogs begin to bark and bay outside as the thudding crash and boom of a ram hits the door and shocks dust and burning embers from the ceiling. In one blow the door is almost off its hinges.

    Sonea attacks the scouts with an acid arrow. The bar shields them somewhat but not enough to offer fulll protection. They each receive a spray of painful burning acid.

    Dara flies for the table but misses, recovering she takes aim for the scout at the bar. He ducks but too briefly for she catches him with an arrow as he rises again.

    Torrent raises her hammer into the air and calls forth a prayer to her Goddess. Ball lightning envelopes the party members giving them extra protection from their armour. Torrent shifts slightly to a better position.

    Torthen bolts round the bar in a bid to "axe" the assailants to leave in more ways than one. He takes a mighty swing with his battle axe at them but the two scoutsduck back and sneer at his axe-play.

    The small scout drops his crossbow and takes a swing at Torthen with his morning star, landing a hefty blow. The taller one tries the same but misses.

    Aramil moves round behind the other end of the bar. He orders wolf pack tactics and swings at the tallest scout with his long sword bloodying him, and allowing Torthen to move into flanking position.

    The thundering noise of hooves draws close outside. The dogs grow louder and more fervent, closer too. The ram hits home smack centre on the door bursting it off its hinges and into the centre of the room. Through the masonry dust and wood chips can be seen another attacker (a recruit) dropping the ram. Another recruit and a thug can be seen outside too along with a man on horseback shouting orders. He’s wearing the scuptled brpnze plate armour of an Imperial officer, with a raven sitting on his shoulder, and carries a helmet on his belt- a helmet that has been split in two.

    Sonea cries out ‘Friend or foe?’ to the newcomers.

    Friend!’ comes the questionable reply from the recruit.

    Sonea believes him. Swinging round ( turning her back on the new arrivals in the process) she casts Gabal’s superior missile aimed at the two scouts behind the bar. Missiles scream out and hit their fated targets, who recoil in pain.

    Dara in turns wings one of the scouts with an arrow loosed from her long bow. Successful she swings her precious weapon over her back and pulls out her staff, ready for the oncoming hand-to-hand combat.

    The recruits enter through the now empty doorway.

    Torrent shouts a warning of ‘Don’t trust them!’ while attempting to strike with her hammer but missing the agile recruits.

    Dara swings round to crack them with her staff but misses as they duck quickly past.

    (DM Notes: These last two attacks were Attacks of Opportunity as the recruits move past)

    Torthen uses a divine challenge to mark out the scout who looks like he’s failing. He then swings his axe straight through the scout next to him. Stepping over the mass of gore and meat he moves towards his other victim.

    Sparks and timber crash down onto tables nearby as part of the roof caves in. Smoke fills the buildings, obscuring sight and bringin tears to the eye. The pub is lit by a flickering red glow and could collapse at any moment.

    The last scout, though bloodied himself, still manages to bloody Aramil with his morning star. Aramil returns the favour with a swing from his long sword, rendering the final scout unconcscious and dying beside his companion. Aramil leaves the bar and mounts a table to give himself a better position to survey the combat.

    Outside the man on horseback shouts over his shoulder at further unseen assailants "The side door is blocked".

    Above and out-with his knowledge a pair of eyes observes the scene keenly. Shadow Dancer leans out from the cover of a chimney stack and takes sight on the horseman. *click* the bolt fails to fire. With some select obscenities he swings back into the shadows and moves to another corner of the rooftop.

    The thug outside shouts at the recruits ‘Get the hell out my way.

    Sonea shifts sideways past a table to allow her to hit the thug outside the main door square in the chest with empowered lightning. Unsurprisingly he is blownbackwards for some distance by the spell.

    Dara tries to hit the recruit nearest her with her staff but with all the obstacles and commotion she has a hard time landing a blow.

    The other recruit attacks Torrent with his club and hits home, staggering the new cell leader.

    The recruits know what’s best for them and move to allow their employer, the seeming thug, in.

    Torrent moves round to the doorway to block the entry of the thug and tries to attack the recruit nearest but fails.

    Torthen then moves towards the fighting. He calls out a divine challenge against a recruit. ‘When you get to Harrum's Halls tell him Torthen sent you!’ Swinging a valiant strike with his battleaxe, the dwarf sends the recruit to the otherworld.

    Aramil slides past Torrent and out the door. He enacts a concentrated attack, allowing Sonea a free attack with her Superior magic missiles.

    (Out Of Turn- Free action) Sonea lifts her wand of accuracy and fires Gabal’s superior missiles. A missile misses a recruit as he ducks aside but the thug is blown to eternity.

    Outside, unseen by anyone but themselves and Shadow Dancer; three dogs and two men (a thug and a minion) come round the corner of one of the other buildings.

    Shadow Dancer removes the debris which had become jammed in the crossbow mechanism and takes aim again, determined to hit his quarry. Aiming at the horse the bolt flies free and true burying into the rump. A scream is heard from horse and rider as the animal rears, pitching the officer to the ground, and bolts off into the night.

    Shadow Dancer smiles in satisfaction to himself and melts back into the shadows on the rooftops.

    Sprawled on the floor the armour clad officer gets to his feet and shouts impatiently ‘Arathane! What’s happening in there?

    Sonea ,using Gabal’s superior missile fires at the recruit but misses. Trying to blast down the door with her other arcane bolts, all she manages is to blow a small hole in it.

    Dara strikes down the last recruit with a lethal blow. She makes her way outside via the main entrance of the pub to what she feels is a safe distance from the men and dogs she finds out there, taking up a defensive posture behind an outdoor table.

    The largest of the men outside (a minion), a hulking mass of muscle runs straight for her but Dara being Dara, she side steps out of his grasp.

    Torrent pushes out of the door and leaps up onto the outside table. She lifts her hammer and she leaps off using the spell earth mark and slams into the hulk attacking Dara. The massive man crashes to the floor as a dead weight.

    Torthen charges out the door onto the street behind the table Torrent just leapt off.

    Someone shouts ‘Korthan!

    Korthan the armoured officer yells ‘Fall back!

    The officer, the remaining thug and two dogs retreat down the streets and alleyways. The loose dog takes one look at the party and decides against it doing anything stupid. With a whine and a howl it follows its packmates.

    Tactical encounter ends.

    It has been noticed by all in the Cell that each of the assailants, from the scouts to the thugs, recruits and the officer all had a red armband with a black horses head on it and strange arcane symbols underneath. Even Sonea cannot fathom their meaning.

    Looking westward the Cell sees the dark snow clouds of the night glowing red from reflected firelight, with balls of flame dropping from the sky. Flaming trebuchet boulders are streaming over the walls of Gate Pass. The Western most city district is aflame. Roars of giant beasts can be heard overhead and blood drops like rain onto the snow.

    End of Session One.

    DM Notes: In the published campaign Torrent is an Axe-Wielding Cleric of a Water Goddess. However, the Water Pantheon is very week in the part of Edarnia where I sited Gate Pass (in the mountains North of the Middle Sea, between the Imperium and Zama). Given that Gate Pass is therefore landlocked and slap in the middle of what was once Doldovan territory, I redesigned her as a Cleric of a popular Doldovan Goddess, Martha (also known as Nartha), a former Earth Goddess. Martha married into the Sky Pantheon to prevent a war between the Solar Pantheon and the Sky Gods and henceforth became a goddess associated with peaceful negotiations and diplomacy. That didnt stop her descending into Hell with her new husband and his enemy Yhellos to recover the corpse of the Sun God her husband murdered. Thus Yhellos could take up his fathers mantle and restore light to the world. Hence she is considered to be something of a martial diety as well.
    Last edited by Calavingian; Wednesday, 25th November, 2009 at 11:37 PM. Reason: Added DM Notes to bottom of page

  4. #4
    Acolyte (Lvl 2)

    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Hi! Welcome and congartulations on the journal!

    One note (spoliers!):


    Torrent will return in adventure 3 to it's mentor and to a coast city, so the Sea Cleric theme will be brought.
    Is the Sea Goddess also weak on coastal cities?

  5. #5
    Thanks for the welcome

    With regards to the spoiler: Yup, I realised that myself. But I felt I just couldn't explain why a water cleric would travel to Gate Pass. Even if she was a native of Gate Pass and wished to return home after training as a cleric elsewhere; what was her motivation for worshipping a goddess of the Water Pantheon?

    Instead I decided to reinforce her links to the Resistance by making her a cleric of Martha and by making Buron her mentor and religious superior. I also decided that one of my PC's would have a connection to Torrents original mentor, to keep that particular plot thread alive and to create a sense of emotional investment for at least one player when things take a turn for the worse in module 3.

  6. #6
    Dracolich (Lvl 29)

    Morrus's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Excellent! I love reading peoples' accounts of their WotBS campaigns!

  7. #7
    Glad to hear it. I'm a self confessed campaign journal junkie myself. Here is part two of the journal, our second game session. A much longer one, you'll notice, since we didn't have to worry about character generation this time.

    Good day and well met again,

    I would like to continue on from my first record and regail you with our continuing adventure in Gate Pass. Much happened in the cold night air you should know about.

    Please feel free, as I have said before, to bring to my attention any mistakes I may have made in my scribblings. I do not wish to misinterpret anybodies actions.

    Best Wishes
    Dara Salix Castanea

    War of the Burning Sky- Session 2 Sunday 26th July 2009

    Note: The players for Torthen and Sonea were unable to make this session. Hence their convieniant seperation from the rest of the party for most of the session.

    Quickly reminding ourselves of where we stand- we know that originally a resistance member called Peppin was meant to be meeting the gnome Badger to receive a case. Peppin is now dead and Torrent has taken up the quest along with ourselves. We are making our way to the depository tower in the next district. Once we have the ‘case’ we are to escape out of Gate Pass and make our way to the Lyceum.

    Where the hell have you been?’ Torrent calls to the figure on the roof ledge above.

    Shadowdancer spreads his hands to point out that clearly he has been where he stands just now- on a roof. Folding his arms he stares down at the group standing on the body strewn snow and cobbles. ‘Did it never occur to you that the location was compromised?

    Before Torrent can answer Dara speaks up, ‘Who exactly are you?

    Aramil feels he recognises something familiar about the stranger but can’t quite place it. ‘I can tell you one thing about him. He won’t be who he says he is.

    With a smile the stranger replies ‘You can call me Shadow Dancer.

    What is your reason for being here?’ continues Aramil.

    Silence hangs in the air. Shadow Dancer walks away from the ledge to make his way down to the street level.

    The sky to the West is still lit by burning buildings. Overhead and to the West can be heard the screeching of gryphons, cries and the clashing of arms.

    Soundless, Shadow Dancer appears out of the gloomy street and begins to strip the fallen bodies. Noting they all wear the same red armband, he discards some of the items with a sneer pertaining to their inferior quality.

    Quickly, Dara scoops up a small hand axe sitting unwanted and secretes it under her cloak onto her belt. ‘Waste not want not.’ She thinks to herself.

    Torrent suggests that we should get moving, although the bombing has stopped, the streets are now growing full. Crowds of the panic struck and the wounded begin to throng. We make our way quickly towards the district gate before the streets become too full for passage. The surrounding buildings are damaged from the bombardment but nowhere near the devastation that would have been if they were made from wood instead of Gate Pass’s stone construction.

    It would be questionable that able fighting bodies such as ourselves are heading away from the fighting instead of heeding what really should be a call to arms to protect our city. However Torrent has papers from the council as she’s on official business. These will allow us to accompany her to the district gates and pass through unquestioned. When she showed us the papers earlier in the Poison Apple it was Dara who noted to herself that the papers weren’t quite correct. The date had been scraped and amended, changed from last months’ to the current one.

    Rounding a corner we find a family struggling out of a still burning house. The man collapses just outside the door with his wounded wife in his arms, the children wailing beside them. He looks up as we pass and pleads for assistance.

    Shadow Dancer strides ahead unconcerned. Dara continues walking, intent on the figure of Torrent, too far ahead to have seen the family emerge. Sonea seems shocked by the actions, or rather lack of them from the others and protests as she carries on as well so as not to be left behind. Torthen, however, stops to aid the family (ever the Paladin), while Aramil pauses but thinks better of it.

    Carrying on Torrent keeps an eye behind her to see we are keeping up. Perhaps because of his short stature, she does not seem to notice that Torthen is missing.

    Up ahead there appears to be a commotion. Bystanders are pointing up at a burning building. Screams echo off the nearby houses.

    Quickly looking up we see that four floors up there is a young woman screaming. The building is on fire with flames licking from the room behind her as she clings to the balcony. With an explosion inside, blind fear grips her and she puts a foot onto the balcony frame in a bid to jump.

    Shadow Dancer deftly ties rope from his pack to a bolt and fires it at the balcony, thudding home just short of the girls reach. Desperate, she looks as if she could jump at any second.

    Dara sighs at the attempt. Within seconds she’s drawn her longbow attempting the same with her own rope. Striking the wooden frame beside the girl the arrow hits securely. In sheer panic she grabs the rope and jumps. Amazingly both she and the arrow keep their holds and the girl screams the whole way down to safety.

    Both Dara and Shadow Dancer retrieve their ropes with a swift pull.

    Torrent nods approvingly, and beckons for us to move on.

    The streets are thick with people, many of them wounded. Just around the next block is the district gate.

    Impatiently Aramil shouts at the people in a bid to clear a path ‘Gangway! Council business!’

    It has the opposite effect that those who hear him stop to ask what he said thus making it even harder to move.

    The crowd seem to consist of two groups of people; men folk running to the gate’s armoury; with women and children heading for the gate itself to be waived through to relative safety.

    Pushing on through the crowd a noise begins to rise above the din. Screams from the East. Far away, then louder, growing quickly nearer. Closer.

    With a scream a soldier leaps from the battlements above. Crashing into the cobblestones nearby.

    Everyone stops and looks up. Screams thicken the air, deafening the entire area.

    We all scatter as a wave of fear hits home. In a moment it passes us and we gain control of ourselves in the mass of panic. Looking up again a huge, bulky, dark red shadow looms and swoops overhead trailing blood. Blasts of magical fire shoot towards it; gryphon riders are tailing it. Definitely a dragon. Heart beats and blood pound in our ears.

    We are buffeted by the crowd in the turmoil. Managing not to get too damaged in the clamour we fight to regroup. Back together we find there is no sign of Sonea or Torthen, who failed to keep up after pausing to heal the wounded man and his wife.

    As the guards tend to their dead comrade lying on the cobbles, we follow Torrent and slip past. On the way through Torrent grabs the guard who was in the armoury. She presents her papers and gives a description of Sonea and Torthen, telling him to let them through when they make it to the gate.

    The streets have emptied now. Everyone has gone into hiding.

    Passing through the gate we see the depositary tower. Bright banners advertising many mercantile wears billow from it. To the left is a well dressed man shouting forlornly ‘Kiki? Kiki...Kiki!

    Broad and tall, he is well dressed, if garish. His garb marks him as one who is obviously affluent. He notices our presence and pleads ‘Please, please, help me find my baby.

    Your baby?’ Dara looks at him.

    Falling to his hands and knees he pleads his case. It seems that in all the commotion of the bombing his beloved Kiki the dire weasel was terrified into running away. He is concerned at the damage little Kiki could do to neighbours if they come across her.

    Torrent looks at him in utter disgust. A grown man wailing over a dire weasel! She walks away to continue to the depository. Arguments ensue among the others.

    Shadow Dancer walks away in the direction of Torrent. The rich man wails ‘Where are you going?

    Looking for Kiki.’ is the curt reply.

    Their personal interests piqued in different ways, Dara and Aramil decide to find Kiki.

    The long and the short of it is that Aramil quite quickly finds Kiki and corners her through a hole in a temple wall nearby. In doing so he is on the receiving end of Kiki’s fangs and claws. Kiki is finally coaxed into Dara’s own arms with some encouragement. For Aramil’s troubles he finds a stash in the temple gutter; a gold ring with an amethyst gem; a purple potion he judges to be for healing; and a small pouch of 30 gold pieces of mixed change.

    Dara turns to the gentleman and asks his name.

    Corrine.’ He gratefully informs.

    Corrine begins to measure out handfuls of gold from his purse but is so overjoyed he thinks better of it and hands his whole purse to Dara in return for saving his beloved Kiki. Dara takes about a third of the gold and tosses the purse to Aramil as she walks away with gold and dire weasel in arms without so much as a by-your-leave to Corrine. She feels gaining a dire weasel is recompense enough for her time and effort wasted.

    Angry at his unwanted injuries, Aramil strides past the gentleman shoving a hand in his face as he leaves.

    At this the dire weasel leaps out of Dara’s arms to protect its master, lunging for Aramil. A grave mistake indeed on Aramil’s part- to strike a dire weasel’s owner!

    Corrine scoops up the rather large furry body as Kiki muzzles him gleefully. Weasel and master quickly disappear behind a door with a slam and insults aplenty.

    Dara swears foully to herself. Aramil swears also, throwing at her the bounty of the weasel hunting and warning- never again! They both trail off to find Shadow Dancer and Torrent.

    Meanwhile, Shadow Dancer has been ghosting after Torrent who has been oblivious to her follower. Arriving at her destination she finds three orcs and a dwarf standing before the doors of the depository. Well dressed with clean and polished armour.

    Torrent steps forward with a greeting, and hands over the ‘owners’ key’. The dwarf nods and whispers something in to the bronze speaking tube by the door. A latch lifts and it creaks open. The guard gestures for her enter but Torrent holds up a hand and explains she needs to wait.

    Suddenly a figure from behind places a hand on her shoulder, making her jump; and the guards crack into a defensive stance. Nonchalantly Shadow Dancer comments ‘They’ll be a while.

    Smoothing the fluster from her voice and features, as being unseemly, Torrent demands: ‘Where are the others?

    The guards relax as the visitors seem to know each other.

    Looking for Kiki.’, Shadow rolls his eyes.

    Torrent finds this very vexing. After all they are on a mission as part of the resistance to aid Gate Pass and her companions have decided to go chasing after some overweight merchants pet! Upon this Torrent and Shadow decide to head into the depositary alone. She still pauses to give a description of Dara and Aramil as well as Sonea and Torthen. She instructs the guards to give them access once they arrive.

    Stepping inside the thick wooden doors they find themselves enveloped in a beautiful garden. Not exactly what they were expecting. The air is warmer here than the winter of outside. The sheltering walls hide a magical vision of green trees and no snow on the earth. Between the foliage and branches they see openings filled with fountains and statues, including one of the four elemental creatures and another of the Dictator, Coaltongue.

    As they pass through Shadow pauses for a moment to eye a statue of a dragon.

    Walking on they find four guards patrolling the grounds; dwarves and orcs again. Continuing on they come to the large iron doors of the tower itself. Outside stands an armoured orc who takes a look at Torrent’s ‘owner’s key’ and lets them pass. Passing them a lantern he warns them there are guards inside. He grins a yellow crooked smile ‘Watch out for that Badger now. He be the ugliest gnome I ever did saw! So don’t be holding that lantern too close now. Wouldn’t want to be offending your sensibilities?

    Just as Shadow and Torrent enter the tower, Dara and Aramil get to the main gates. As instructed the guards let them pass and instruct them to make their way through the gardens.

    In the gardens they too are surprised by what they see. A tall statue nearby holds a flaming torch high above its head. Aramil pauses to look closer, recognising the glowing torch on the statue to be the product of a cheap and nasty spell he sneers and walks on.

    Inside the gloom of the tower it can just be made out by lantern light that lockers line the circular walls. Though the square lockers are small (about the size of a buckler), they are piled one on top of the other with ladders for access. The room itself is two stories high with a central spiral stone staircase and trap doors to access the next floor up. Every 5 ft along the wall is a gap in the lockers, and in the stonework is embedded a strange metal ball. It hums audibly and smells of ozone.

    Torrent takes all this in as her vision adjusts to the low light. Thinking to herself she considers just how expensive it must be here to have such good security.

    She places her foot on the first step of the circular staircase. Another lantern suddenly shines from above at the hatch to the next floor. Holding the lantern up to his face the ugliest gnome either ever did see looks down at them. ‘Ah Peppin! Follow me.

    At this point Dara and Aramil enter the tower and everyone makes their way up the staircase to the first floor.

    They find it to be one huge room. These lockers circle clockwise and upwards, each one slightly larger than a coffin. Squat round columns support the walls and in the light we can see the gnome is in blue and red robes. His hair is long black with braids, his beard not so long and black.

    I hear the war outside. Good to be in here. Nice and safe.’ Badger talks away to himself more so than anybody else. He also seems to have a winter cold and is quite a bit clumsy. Gnomes.

    He continues up the stairs to the second floor.

    Torrent whispers to herself, slightly concerned, ‘I thought he was supposed to know Peppin.’

    At this Shadow Dancer silently slots bolts into his crossbows, just in case.

    On the second floor Badger stops, it seems we have reached our destination. He stops at a locker and opens it with the key. ‘Ok, here we are.’

    Inside is a very ornate blue leather-and-brass covered box. It glows with a dangerous arcane aura. Unconcerned, Badger pats the top of it affectionately to show that merely touching it doesn’t cause any harm.

    We’ll be needing the password now to be opening this.’ asks Badger.

    Torrent looks at him ‘Password? You were supposed to ask me a coded question.

    Shadow Dancer pulls out one of his crossbows and Aramil draws and points his sword at the gnome. Dara draws her quarter staff and Torrent’s grip tightens on her hammer.

    Something isn’t right here.

    Tactical encounter.

    Aramil wades in without a second thought. Shouting encouragingly at Dara ‘He’s an ugly wee bastard. I’m sure you can hit him!’ he swings his sword at Badger who jumps back. The blow just catches the gnome cutting him slightly.

    At this Badger straightens up a bit. He’s certainly a lot taller than they’d taken him for. His skin begins to slough off, and then his whole magical disguise sloughs off, revealing him to be a middling height human.

    By Sehanine I will smite you down!’ Shadow shakes his head grimly at the unfolding actions and points his crossbow at the hatch at the top of the stairs in anticipation of further trouble arriving from above.

    Dara strikes out with Flame Seed at what had been a gnome but misses, striking against the wall and sending small embers splattering amongst the lockers.

    A very loud hum rises. The air takes on a charge and their hair begins to rise.


    A bolt of lightning arcs between security balls behind the gnome.

    At this Torrent steps in front of Dara to protect the magic user, her hammer ready.

    Maybe want to lay off the spells a bit!’ shouts Aramil.

    The human who was a gnome cries out ‘Help Aphistise!’ At this a flash of flame breaks nearby and a being of fire appears. Shadow recognises it as a solon; a divine servant of the solar pantheon, the patron divinities of Zama.

    What is your business here?’ demands Dara of the human, but her question is lost with the voice of the solon.

    Accept divine retribution for your actions!’ With that the flaming bird man attacks Torrent with a whip of fire. She manages to impose her war hammer between her and the attack.

    The human tries to dodge past his assailants while making his way for the stairs but is clumsy to say the least. Aramil just misses the figure as he dashes past but Torrent sees him coming and lands a swift blow with her hammer. The momentum keeps him going upwards even when Shadow Dancer’s bolt hits him square in the back, though not very deeply, as his cloak is made of very thick wool indeed.

    Just as he reaches the trap door Shadow shouts a challenge ‘Hold agent of Zama! We have no quarrel with you. Explain yourself.

    No reaction. The trap door opens and he disappears to the third floor.

    Aramil takes a quick glance at the blue box sitting abandoned. Strange that it’s been left behind. Quickly he pursues the runaway to the third floor.

    Up there he finds a dead orc with a flame wound across its chest and back. Against a wall is a pile of bound, unconscious dwarves and on top of them is what he hopes is the real Badger, also gagged and bound. Too busy to do anything he continues up the stairs. The human seems just in reach but on the staircase grappling is not so easy and Aramil just brushes the edge of the cloak as it just disappears out of reach again.

    Downstairs Shadow Dancer throws the spent crossbow at Dara, shouting ‘Hold that.’ At the same time he takes his main crossbow and *boof* disappears in fire and flames. Teleporting himself upstairs he is engulfed by flames and flash burned. Teleporting more than a level he lands deftly on a flat part of the slanted roof, beside the trap door the runaway is just trying to exit.

    He shoves the bolt firmly against the human’s temple. ‘Hold means stop’.

    Intimidated the human raises his hands slightly, ready to move if and when the opportunity arises.

    Downstairs Dara decides against catching the flying crossbow and swivels to let it shoot past her. She isn’t carrying anyone else’s weaponry at a time like this! She also thinks the disappearing figure in flames are proof if any that this Shadow has some questions to answer.

    ‘Any ideas?!’ she turns to Torrent.

    Torrent quickly holds her hands up with a clueless look as a bead of sweat rolls down her cheek.

    If in doubt run like the wind! Dara bolts round the staircase so it’s between her and the solon. Just at that the air charges again with all the magic flying around and a lightning bolt strikes the solon jolting it.

    Torrent decides she likes the idea too and moves behind the staircase.

    Out of sight, the solon looks up and *whoosh* in a sound of rushing flames it disappears. It *whoosh* appears right before Shadow Dancer. Staring him straight in the eyes, radiant beams of bright sunlight shoots from its own eyes, blinding Shadow Dancer.

    Blinded and hurt from the heat he remains focused and pokes the bolt forward ever-so-slightly. No good, in an instant the crossbow is thrown aside. The human dodges round the blinded figure, out of Aramil’s grasp again.

    Not wanting to be face-to-face with the big flaming spell caster thing, Aramil helps the bound up gnome. Pulling off the gag and untying him he’s met with a blasting tirade.

    Don’t let him get away you idiot! Get after him!’ Badger continues to shout at him.

    Meanwhile a fiery voice inside Shadow’s head questions him silently. ‘Why should this one hold -off it’s attacks when it acts in self defence?

    Your first act was betrayal!

    Betrayal of whom?’ questions the solon. ‘We are not bound to you.’

    But you deceived us!’, Shadow Dancer protests.

    The mental response is a placid one. ‘Lord Yhellos has taught this one that such deceptions are an honourable and permissible ruse of war.’

    In the room below Dara finds Aramil being shouted at by what she hopes is the real Badger. ‘So I’m a guessing you are the real Badger. What is going on?

    He continues to shout at them. ‘That’s not the real box!

    Torrent yells up the stairs as she runs. ‘What’s going on up there? We have the box!

    Informed by Badger’s shouting, Aramil also shouts at her ‘No! Drop it; it’s not the real one.’

    Just as she drops it a bolt of lightning zings past her too close for comfort.

    !!’ she flies up the remaining stairs as if the Goddess herself chased her.

    Still blind Shadow hears a scurrying noise growing fainter. The solon speaks. ‘The one who serves this one’s master is gone. If you have anything to say, say it now.

    He opens his thoughts to show what actually happened. To show that they were actually acting in self defence too and meant no harm. ‘Is it not better to make allies than enemies?

    He hears the emotionless voice in his head reply, ‘This one will convey your intentions to the servant of its master.

    The heat fades and Shadow’s eyes clear. Blinking he can see no one on the roof top. He can hear the scurrying noise far below. Peering over the edge he sees a man running down the outside wall of the tower with his cloak flapping in the wind. How in the blazes? Is the best approximation of his thoughts at this strange sight.

    End of tactical encounter.

    HOLD!’ Booms Shadow as loud as he can manage.

    The guards are roused and begin to run for the tower.

    Downstairs Torrent comes up to the third level holding a suit of hide armour with runes embedded; and a bag of coins. ‘That lightening busted open one of... (Badger looks at her sharply, then to the now awake guards) ...our lockers.’

    The guards look impatient; they are still tied up and too close to each other for their own comfort.

    Badger looks at Torrent for a moment and focuses on the ring she’s wearing. ‘Where’s Peppin? Why are you wearing his ring?

    Peppin is dead, they sent us.

    During the exchange Dara and Aramil step forward to help those still bound, just as the guards from outside arrive. Badger tries to diffuse the situation with a thorough (but not too thorough) explanation of events and soon there are guards leaving the room on different orders. The room is soon empty except for the party and Badger the gnome. The air has also quietened and stilled- no more audible humming or the smell of ozone.

    Coming back to himself, Badger explains as best he can what happened.

    It’s a long story....’ he’s emotional at the recent news, ‘I was waiting on Peppin. *sniff* I’m sorry it’s just hard to take in. I felt something hit me and blacked out. When I awoke I found myself trussed up on top of a lumpy pile o’ guards.

    This vision of fire were in front of me with two men and two women. One of the women had a box in her hands. I recognised it to be the box Peppin was coming to collect. It was very important you see! I used to work in the Palace back in the Imperium. I was enspelled by the Arcanis so I could never tell of what happened there, but what was in the box meant I could show it instead. I told those imposters that the box was trapped. That they needed a password to open it. Whether they believed me or not is uncertain for they made off with it.

    I could hear them downstairs. They spoke of putting an illusion of the box in the locker, so at least one of ‘em were a magic user. They even spoke of a contact they have at Gabbals’ school but I didn’t catch a name.

    One thing though! Solons can’t keep secrets ye see. Comes of serving a decent God, like Yhellos. It addressed one of them women by the name of Shallis. Ahhhhtchhooo!’

    Badger wipes his tears and blows his nose on a handkerchief he’s produced from his robes. The party consider the information. They understand ‘Shallis’ not to be a common name but not to be obviously foreign either. Certainly not Zaman, for Zaman names tend to end with sounds such as –bar or –car or -il . They also consider that the solon must have been a minor angel of the Solar Pantheon, perhaps no more than a guardian or messenger.

    Who knew you had this box and its contents?’ Shadow Dancer turns to the gnome.

    Just me and Peppin.

    Turning to Torrent, Shadow continues. ‘How did Peppin die?

    She answers solemnly ‘Murdered in an alley somewhere. He was never very secretive about being in the resistance.’

    Badger heaves a saddened sigh.

    Shadow looks at Dara ‘Got my crossbow?

    No I missed it.’ She looks innocent but he can tell it’s . He gives her a wry look.

    Torrent turns everyone’s attention to the problem at hand. She suggests that they should leave and make their way to a safe house as quickly as possible. At this the party begin to discuss what to do about the Zamans.

    Badger leans forward ‘I hope you can all come with me to Gabbals’ school to retrieve the box. It’s vital for the resistance of Gate Pass! We must get it to the Lyceum soon.’

    Torrent helps the gnome to his feet and they all make their way down the stairs and out towards the temple safe house a few blocks away.

    They find the streets are quiet and that the fires have thankfully petered out. Between the imposing buildings, mist hangs and swirls around the figures nearby. They appear to be wounded citizens heading for the temple. Mostly women and children as the menfolk must be at the walls, fighting.

    Still hours from dawn the air is still but harshly cold and the snow has been trudged into a muddy mess. They make their own way to the temple.

    Suddenly high keening cries erupt from above. They see the shadowy form of a wyvern and its rider wheel about the sky, pursued by one of the guards’ griffon riders. The wyvern tumbles from the sky, crashing into a street just ahead. Shortly thereafter a woman’s’ blood curdling scream is cut off, followed by a child’s crying.

    Dara, Aramil and Shadow Dancer feel a surge of adrenalin and take off at a run to find the crash site. Torrent stays with Badger for the gnomes cough seems to be worsening in the chill night air and she is loathe to leave him alone in this state.

    Seconds later they find the beast lying dead in the street. Looking inside the doorway of a nearby house they can make out a hulking figure- the rider. A huge hairy barbarian of a man armoured in dark armour glowing with eldritch runes; shining silver sword in one hand and an impossibly large battleaxe in the other.

    In front of him lays the body of a woman, head raggedly hacked off and a sword wound gutting her belly. Cowering before the rider is a small boy holding his hands up as though to ward off an expected blow.

    Dara retrieves her longbow from her back and arms it with an arrow. Aramil has his long sword already at hand and brandishes alchemist’s fire in the other. Shadow too has loaded his crossbow and has his hand crossbow ready in his other hand.

    Tactical encounter.

    Slipping through the doorway and into the corner immediately right Dara lets loose an arrow. It misses its target but her thorn whip doesn’t. It hauls the rider over the counter he stood behind, and onto his feet, burning him.

    Aramil runs at him, striking him with such force he reels back into the counter.

    Shadow lets fly a bolt, attempting to nail him to counter. He drops the crossbow as the bolt deflects off a pauldron into the roof. Pointing his sword at the rider he uses his oath of enmity- ‘DEATH.’ He calls, trying to intimidate the rider, but the huge hulking axeman merely grins.

    ‘Ah, we’ve been introduced already then!’ The rider rises quickly, scything his battleaxe round in a great arc to strike Aramil who flies back to lie crumpled on the floor.

    Continuing to swing he cleaves round throwing Dara against the corner wall where she slumps to the ground. She tosses her long bow out of the door not wanting her precious friend damaged by this monster. She gets up swinging her staff but parts only air, undeterred she hits out with faerie fire engulfing the rider in dancing flames.

    He smirks. ‘Fire! Ha! Fire won’t... argghhh...’ the magical flames take effect, much to the rider’s obvious surprise.

    Aramil has risen from the floor also and takes advantage of the situation, slamming into the rider with his long sword. He also shouts to Shadow using his warlords’ favour.

    Shadow Dancer uses all his strength and strikes home with his sword using an avenging echo.

    Recovering from the surprising pain from the fire and the blows of the company, the rider scythes round again sending Aramil bleeding into unconsciousness on the floor. Shadow Dancer ducks under the blow but it cleaves onwards to strike Dara too, knocking her down to the floor once more.

    While Shadow’s avenging echo continues to deal its damage Dara stand ups again with adrenalin affording her a second wind.

    Seeing Aramil fall, Shadow Dancer steps over to try and cover him. He lashes out at the rider again, this time using bonded pursuit.

    The fall from the sky and wounds are starting to take their toll on the giant man. The rider is looking very unsteady on feet. It shows as he misses Shadow completely, again hitting Dara on the follow through. She now slumps into darkness on the floor.

    His companions beaten, Shadow Dancer pulls out all the stops. Roaring at battle pitch ‘Torrent!!!’, he slips one hand inside his clothing to whip out the Royal Raven Seal of the Fae Wild’s EverQueen and brandishes it at the rider. Energy pours out as the rider ducks beneath. With his other hand Shadow upswings with his sword just missing, the armoured forearm of his foe.

    With one hand the rider thrusts with his sword, missing, but with the other he swings the axe with force. Shadow feels his hair moving as the blade cuts the air just above his head.

    Torrent arrives just as Shadow is ducking another sword cut. Putting everything into a final lunge at the rider’s throat, Shadow Dancer hits him in the Adam’s apple, nicking an artery. The figure clasps desperately at his throats, gurgles and reels against the counter for the final time before slumping down to die.

    As the light fades from his eyes, Shadow Dancer leans over and whispers. ‘When you get to Hell tell them Shadow Dancer sent you.

    Torrent administers healing to Aramil and Dara to allow them enough strength to rise from the floor and help themselves.

    End of tactical encounter.
    Last edited by Calavingian; Sunday, 29th November, 2009 at 04:27 PM.

  8. #8

    Session Three

    War of the Burning Sky- Session 3Sunday 16th August 2009 Brian- DM *Caroline- Dara- Elf- Druid *Coakley- Aramil- Eladrin - Warlord
    Niall- Sonea- Human - Wizard
    Ridh- Shadow Dancer- Eladrin - Avenger
    Rob- Torthen- Dwarf – Paladin
    Ali- Adahan (Boomer)- Human- Swordmage
    NPC- Torrent- Human- Cleric

    Following the near-death experience of fighting off the wyvern rider from the house he’d crashed into, everyone was keen to make their way to the nearby safe house of the temple. Taking the now orphaned child with them, Aramil, Shadow Dancer and Dara follow Torrent through the cold dark streets. The cobbles are slick with muddied snow and frosted in untrodden parts. The hours aren’t far into the (so far) bleak New Year.

    Not far away we come into an open square between the houses where we find the Temple of the Aquiline Heart (a cross-pantheon, multi-faith temple to the healing gods) in the form of an old hill fort sitting atop a man-made mound. Inside it seems the priests have remained throughout the attacks to care for those seeking healing, protection and sanctuary, as there always will be in times such as these.

    Entering the building we are met with the sight of almost a hundred nervous citizens of Gate Pass- women and children- the young, the old and the infirm- covering all available space including the floors, makeshift bunks and squeezed into side rooms. The walls emanate a blue magical glow, illuminating the white habits of the few priests bustling among their charges. It’s clear that the night’s activities have drained the holy men; their faces are drawn and tired. Even with healing powers at low ebb they continue to tend and console those in their care as best they can.

    Torrent speaks to a priest nearby, arranging for Badger to be taken to the infirmary with his suspected pneumonia where he’s settled into a makeshift bunkroom. Before departing with Badger the priest spies the little boy clinging to Torrents’ tabard. He recognises him and makes enquiries. Gratefully for the little one the priest shepherds him off to some relatives who are sheltering in the Temple.

    Work done, Torrent takes this moment to lead on through the crowds and beds to an old oak door by the altar area. Just inside are two half-orc guards and a well-worn spiral staircase of stone leading down to a series of cellars. The party are invited to bed down for the night in as private a quarters as the priests can manage.

    The cellars are found to be lit by torches and tallow candles lending a thick fragrance to the dark. It is quite clear that one of the cellars is a weapons store with a door in one wall.

    Torthen is finally making his way through the cold, dark streets where he finds Sonea lying in a red cloaked heap on the cobbles. She’s dazed and bloodied from the crush of people at the gate earlier on. Helping her to her feet they make their way towards the gates where the guard on duty follows Torrents’ instructions and directs them to go to the depositary tower. More empty chilled streets and they find at the tower a dwarf who informs them their friend is at the Temple of the Aquiline Heart.
    Soon they find their destination as being on a small hill, and being a fort of sorts, it’s quite a feature. Upon entering they are met by two men who are clearly expecting them, as well as a hall crammed with people.

    The large portly priest in the white habit of the Order of Aquiline Heart steps forward. The magical blue light catches the embroidery on his habit showing the heart embraced by a protective eagle. Possibly this is the gentleman in charge?

    Next to him is an unusual looking stranger. Tall, slim with a fairly toned physique and skin with the permanent deep tan and leathery texture you would expect of a blacksmith. His hair is long and black but very unusual, not quite like hair at all. He also sports deep scars on his face - many straight across his eyes- with several intricate scars exposed on his forearms. Armed with two swords; one at either side, and wearing a suit of light brown hide armour it is there that the resemblance to a blacksmith ends.

    “Ah there you are! This is no place to talk. Follow me to the sacristry where you can rejoin your companions. I am Buron, proctor of this temple.” The priest seems personable but certainly a man of purposeful intent as he quickly leads the way through the injured, stopping to pat the odd hand or give some kind words to those in need.

    Sonea leans towards to the unnamed stranger on the way through and asks his name.
    “Call me Boomer.” He says with a smile.
    Arriving at the altar Buron gives the door a cautionary knock before stepping in. Ushering in those that follow, he bars it quickly behind them.
    Quickly they are led down the spiral staircase past the guards to the cellars where
    Aramil, Shadow Dancer and Torrent are settling in.

    Do you have the box?
    ” Buron bustles in and looks at Torrent urgently without a glance at anyone else. Torrent looks sheepish.

    Before she can answer Shadow Dancer turns to Sonea and Torthen: “We don’t have the box. Had you arrived at the tower with us we could have forestalled its’ theft.

    Torthen defends his actions, “For all your speed you did not prevail. There were wounded for me to attend to.

    Theft? Theft from where and by whom?
    ” Buron steps forward.

    Shadow Dancer speaks to nobody in particular. “I think I have an idea regarding whom. I may have fostered the seeds of an alliance with them that took the box. Agents of Zama I believe.

    Buron sputters “Agents of Zama?That’s nearly as bad as the Imperium having the box!

    ” asks Shadow.

    With a sigh Buron explains “The box was potential leverage against them. We in the Resistance know better than to trust any of our neighbours, Doldovan, Imperial or Zaman. For all their protestations of neutrality, the Zaman Queens have always manipulated regional events through clandestine means as well as by mercantilism.
    Isn’t it bad enough that they have their own enclave in this, our city, an entire district ruled in accordance with their own laws and by their soldiers?

    Shadow Dancer looks bored by these petty human concerns. Looking at Sonea he adds “We do have one lead: the wizard’s college.”

    You mean Gabal’s Academy of War?Most of the Guard officers in the city trained there as well.” Buron interjects.

    Do you know of one named Shealis?
    Shadow continues.

    Sonea sounds disgusted, “Shealis! That wench! She’s Gabal’s latest slut. She’s nothing more than a Harlot. A strumpet.”

    Making a delicate noise of disgust she goes on to explain that Shealis is a recent addition to the faculty at Gabal’s School, a Zaman wench whose rapid rise to assistant head of the faculty in Evocation studies has almost certainly been acquired through means of sexual favours.

    Buron asks the obvious, “And you are familiar with this person?”

    ” she indicates her red robes with a brush of her hand. “I only recently graduated from the school myself.”

    Then we have some inroads. I suggest you all rest here and we will explore these new avenues that have opened up before us in the morning. Which it very nearly is already!”
    Buron seems pleased that though they do not have the box, they do have some avenues of enquiry.

    Turning to leave he stops for a moment, clearly remembering something. “Ah. Before I leave, with Badger ill, Boomer here will be his replacement within your cell.”

    Shadow raises an elegant eyebrow, “...and he is who?”

    With a quick wave of his hand Buron indicates the human stranger standing beside him then leaves, a Proctor has much to do on days like these.

    The fatigue is beginning to show with everyone as, almost as if he didn’t exist, the newcomer Boomer is left to his own devices.

    With one eye on this ‘Boomer’ and the other firmly on the stock in the weapons store, Shadow Dancer takes note of what’s available and refreshes his crossbow bolt supply.

    Sitting on some of the makeshift beds placed in the cellars for them Aramil, Sonea and Dara take the time to sort through the items they’d gathered. They pay special attention to the more unusual artefacts such as the black runic plate mail armour.

    The inspection reveals that the plate mail armour (seemingly sized for someone with the breadth of shoulders of an Ogre) is specifically black iron plate mail providing protection against magical attacks dealing in the likes of necrotic energy and fire.

    The hide armour, also acquired in the depository tower, is specially designed for Druids and their kin. Those who deal and dabble in transformation would find it particularly useful as it morphs with the wearer and enhances their agility and control while in another form.

    After a pretty quick discussion it’s decided that Torthen should take the plate and that Dara would make best use of the hide.

    This is all well and good but what rewards are there for the rest of us?”
    Shadow Dancer interjects obviously feeling hard done by in the loot stakes.

    Torrent is having none of it at this time of the morning. “I should think that serving your city would be reward enough. But if you need additional equipment I am sure our quartermaster will be able to fulfil your needs – for a token sum of course.

    Eager to ready themselves for the day ahead Torrent leads Shadow Dancer and Torthen down the hall to visit the quartermaster. Seemingly ousing him from his bed they learn the man has in fact been awake all night with the uproar of the attacks. He is in much demand at a time like this.

    Torthen no longer needs his old scale mail now that he has black iron to protect his back so he sells it on for a reasonable price. Shadow also sells a shortsword he had in his possession and trades the crossbows he’d captured from the attackers at the Poison Apple pub for one of a better calibre.

    The quartermaster is happy to add more armour and weapons to his supply and goes back to bed content.

    When they get back to their quarters they find that Aramil, Sonea and Dara have bunked down for the night already and that the stranger Boomer is asleep in a corner on his own.

    Tallow candles don’t last forever and the torches seem reluctant to give much light to the dark. Quietly there begins what sounds like scratching and digging noises. These are, however, sporadic. Those who do wake to the noise drift off again in their fatigued slumber.

    With no
    more than an hour of sleep under her belt Dara is woken by one of the white-robed priests holding a small candle for light. With quick and quiet words she gathers her belongings and leaves with the brother. She looks alarmed.

    Shadow Dancer never sleeps easy and within moments of the candle’s orb of light leaving the cellar he’s up and ghosting after them, advising Torrent of his actions on the way.

    True to his name he soundlessly follows Dara, unbeknownst to her. Out on the streets nearby the air tears with the ungodly screaming of a wounded gryphon. Its’ rider lies dead on a stretcher beside its mount. Dara calls to the gryphon in a soothing, calming voice and sets about tending to its wounds.
    Shadow is content with what he sees and returns to the temple to catch some form of rest.

    By what must be about 5am a strange crashing sound fills the cellar and reverberates off the close stone walls.

    Torthen, who has been lying awake and listening to scratching noises, half-convinced they are the sound of digging, looks around to see if anyone else noticed the crash. No one moves. Quickly putting his armour on he rouses the others. Realising Shadow Dancer is already awake and that Dara is no longer with them he raises a questioning eyebrow.

    Make something of the noise?”
    asks Shadow.

    Yes. Digging
    .” Torthen replies.

    At such an obvious and simple answer Shadow Dancer pokes some sarcastic fun at Torthen. “Not rats in the sewers?

    Not unless they're 6ft tall
    !” laughs Torthen as he leaves the cellar to alert the half-orc guards.
    Shadow Dancer loads his crossbows in anticipation.

    Torthen tells the guards to inform whoever is in charge of the temple defences that he has heard tunnelling coming closer to the temple cellars and that they should expect that an attack could be coming from below as well as above.

    One of them grunts something about how dwarves would know about that kind of stuff and runs off. Torthen returns to the cellars and quickly after so does Buron, looking dishevelled.

    What’s all this about attacks from below

    I hear burrowing from below.”
    Torthen informs him.

    Considering for a moment Buron thinks out loud. “We aren’t near sewers the only thing near is…” he pauses a moment as the thought hits “the old crypt. Oh, not good.”

    The dwarf agrees with the priest.

    This temple wasn’t always here. Before Myceneans came to this land the temple used to be an old Doldovan hill fort. The only thing beneath these cellars are the old crypts.”
    the Proctor explains.

    Shadow Dancer steps forward. “Call in your priests.” he instructs flatly.

    Our Priests are healers, not soldiers. They are ritual casters, not Clerics or Invokers. Our Temple Guards are not-yet ordained paladins.”

    Almost amazed at this Shadow asks “You don’t have priests who can fight the undead?

    Only lay priests, not clerics

    Why would Imperials attack a hospital?”
    asks the Eladrin.

    Buron explains “During the occupation, when the Imperials tried to close all the temples and exile the priests, a miracle occurred. No Imperial could remove this temples sole attendant; a priest. If they tried to kill him their swords would break, if they tried to move him they could not lift him. Eventually the priest challenged the Imperials who attempted to evict him- if he could stay within the temple for a year and a day, not eating and not drinking, then his order would be allowed to remain in the city and the temple itself would become a safe haven that no Imperial could enter. The priest miraculously survived, bathed in light for the whole year and a day, only to die shortly after winning his challenge. The temple became a symbol of defiance for the City and it was here, in its very precincts, protected from the roving eye of the Arcanum, that the resistance was born.”

    So if they were to choose a target, this would be it
    ?” Shadow Dancer sighs at how obvious it seems.

    This temple stood as a symbol of Gateway Pass’s resistance 40 years ago

    The eladrin rolls his eyes. “And you STILL use this place as a ‘safe house’?”

    It was 40 years ago!”
    Buron says in his Orders defence.

    By now Aramil, Sonea and Torrent are fully awake and ready, having listened to the exchange.

    Didn’t we block up the crypt? We’d better go down and take a look
    .” Torrent looks concerned as she pulls her breastplate, signalling for the others to follow her to the crypt.

    Buron pulls Aramil aside and asks that, as an experienced war-leader, could he take charge of the temple defences above ground? The Eladrin agrees with him that it would be a sound plan and that he will be back in a moment once his curiosity is sated.

    A short flight of steps down from the cellar they’d been in they find a wine cellar and a door blocked with loose stone. Dust and small fragments of rock are shaking lose.

    At the top of the pile of debris a face sized hole appears and a brief glimpse of a hand pulling matter away is seen. From the other side seeps the chattering of strange voices, sounding vaguely Doldovan, accompanied by an eerie glowing light. Without warning there is a scurrying noise and the glow and voices fade away.

    Boomer steps forward from the gloom whispering “All of you stay behind me and watch out.”
    He places his sword in a gap in the stones, as though about to use his sword as a lever.

    Shocked, Torrent hisses “Don’t do that, you’ll wreck the sword! I have a hammer.”

    Boomer sneers and mutters an incantation over his weapon. The sword makes a noise like a thunderbolt striking home and lumps of stone fly from doorway showing darkness beyond the opening. Soon the doorway is clear for passage.

    Torrent lights a lantern she finds nearby and the others follow Boomer and her. Inside they find a long passageway and a spiral staircase leading down into the darkness. No sign of those doing the clearing, just an eerie green glow that recedes before the light of the lantern.

    Some sort of undead perhaps?”
    whispers Torthen.

    Boomer answers back. “Someone’s raised the dead!

    OnHoly ground?”
    Shadow sounds surprised.

    Holy ground is the temple itself. Do you think they bothered to consecrate the storage areas?
    ” snorts Torrent.

    Shadow Dancer sounds disgusted. “We of the feywild do things differently. We would not make such a basic error as to assume any area was safe. Nor do we need to protect ourselves from being risen from the dead. We do not die.

    Torrent sighs. “Oh you can die allright. Someone just has to shove a sword through your heart.
    The hard part is having to find it!”,
    jokes Torthen in a show of dwarven humour.

    Shadow smiles in the dark.

    Ahead, Boomer starts making his way down the spiral staircase while the banter continues.
    Descending a good 20ft before green glow becomes visible again.

    Shall we follow him or simply brick it up again
    ?” Shadow whispers to the dark with a smirk.

    It’s Aramil who answers. “We should follow him, but if there’s a chance of an attack upstairs. I had better go look after things.” He sheaths his sword and walks away in measured strides.

    The rest follow Torrent’s lantern down, hearing metal against metal and sounds of discussion, as though from all around them. At the bottom of the stairs is another passage way with a door to the side. Boomer is already at the door.

    Torrent strides confidently to the other side of the door, placing the lantern on the floor and readying herself.

    Boomer (being Doldovan) knows that ancient Doldovans hated fighting unfairly and using traps, so he has no fear that such things will be used against them. He pushes at door but it doesn’t move.

    In a moment Torthen is scrutinising the door closely. He thinks to himself: “it pivots both ways, fresh grooves in the floor (so recently been turned), hmmm, indicates someone should stand on the other side”. Without a word the dwarf moves in and grabs the door, wrenching it right open.

    Encounter Begins.
    The old crypt is surprisingly illuminated. A hanging lantern floats by itself in the middle of room, dispensing eerie green light. Some of the ceiling has collapsed onto some coffins in one corner. Several other coffins stand empty. An ornate and large sarcophagus dominates the far end of crypt. Above it hangs a banner, seemingly as new as the day it was woven, bearing a Black Lion Rampant on a field of white.

    Inside are four skeletal archers standing ready to fire in two ranks. Four more axe-wielding skeletal figures stand in near ruined chainmail, their eyes produce a gleaming green glow, surrounding a lager armoured figure bearing a mighty two handed hammer. Crown atop his forehead, he is a huge hulking green skinned wreck of a man. In death even pallid flesh clings to his yellowed bones. That same eerie green glow emanates from the torn cavities that should be his eyes, nose and mouth. The two handed hammer grasped in his bony hands radiates darkness.

    Tuathan Wight!
    ” Boomer whispers in awe.

    The archers let fly.
    A bowstring snaps and three withered arrows smash against the door frame closest to Torthen. Everyone's attention is snapped back to the situation at hand.

    Sonea leaps into action, putting her academic training to good use. A magic missile screams at one of the archers and tears through a rotten gap in its ribs.

    Take it thats not a friendly welcome?”
    Shadow sneers as he moves to a firing position at the doorway.

    Boomer is already in the room, spinning his sword to crash it down on the closest rikkle of bones he can reach. Bone shards fly in all directions. Pity skeletons don’t need all their limbs and bones. He quickly swings his sword to point at the Wight, casting an Aegis of Ensnarement.

    The old Doldovan king turns his attention on the intruder, silently swinging his great hammer round in an arc just missing Boomer by the breadth of a hair. Unfortunately for the human the nearby axe wielding skeletons round on him and don’t miss.

    Torrent steps into the fray lending magical help. Sweeping her hammer above her head the deafening clap of a thunder shield surrounds her allies.
    Torthen charges the figures attacking Boomer. Missing them with his axe he does manage to knock Boomer back a bit, nudging him to one side.

    More arrows fly through the air as Sonea replies with a trade mark of her education as three Gabal’s Superior magic missiles scream through the doorway, narrowly missing the Wight but reducing a skeleton archer to a barely upright ribcage.

    From the doorway, Shadow Dancer lets fly with a crossbow bolt. It explodes in one of the dead archers chests sending it flying across the crypt and against the sarcophagus. Shadow holsters his trusty weapon and draws his sword for his next victim.

    Boomer whirls from the impact of Torthen and smacks an incoming axe blade to the ground with his sword. Swinging his blade up into the air he calls forth a thunderblast around him, unfortunately it seems to have no effect on the assailants. Undeterred he skips further back from the Doldovan Wight yelling “Focus on the Wight!

    The King turns on Boomer but lacks the agility of his living foe. The hammer smashes a sizeable hole in the flagstones as the axe wielding skeletons crowd in to bloody the foolhardy human.
    Torrent sees the man in need and calls on Martha’s tide to help regenerate Boomers’ health.

    Torthen the dwarf however is still tied up with the archers. Dodging between them he avoids arrows but fails to bring down any of the walking corpses.

    More Gabal’s Superior magic missiles whizz in, exploding an armoured skeleton, in mid swing with its axe, to smithereens. Another strikes home on the Wight, only seeming to rile him some more.

    At this Shadow Dancer sees he has a gap and strides out of the doorway, raising his blade to point at the Wight. Calling an Oath of Enmity, his words are lost in the melee, he continues forward and swiftly dashes behind the rotting form of the Wight waiting for the backlash.

    Boomer is still in the thick of it with axes coming from all directions. His only saving grace is the healing spell Torrent cast.

    The Wight rounds on Shadow with a huge blow sending the Eladrin flying backwards. Continuing on, the king moves towards Torrent who’s standing too close for her own good.

    She holds her ground regardless, singing out healing words that envelope Boomer. Lucky for him the skeletons are missing so many vital parts that they lack the coherence to do any real damage if they strike home at all. Torrent doesn’t miss the Wight either as she cracks her hammer straight into his oncoming jaw with a crushing wave making him roar and stagger back.

    The dwarf is in his element and totally crushes an archer to bits with a single well-planted valiant strike of his weapon. Another archer comes at him, bouncing off his shield. More magic missiles fill the air managing to blow up another archer, only one shamble of a bow wielding skeleton remains.

    Shadow Dancer flashes the undead a grim smile, flashing his cloak to hide Torthen’s charge. “I’ve not done with this one yet.” He swings his sword with a renewed strike just missing the Wight. He takes this point to draw on a healing surge.

    Boomer shifts into a luring strike which just misses the ribcage of the intended target. “Focus on me you mess of bones!” He is determined to get the axe wielding skeleton's attention.

    Another axe wielder just misses Shadow but hits home on Torthen. Ripping a shard of bone from its arm it tries to drive it between the dwarves’ shoulder blades. Fortunately the black iron runic plate mail absorbs a lot of the damage.

    One of the other skeletons engages Shadow Dancer with a pristine greataxe which manages to open a wound on his shoulder and almost knock him to the ground. Shocked he notices the other two only have old rusted axes.

    More healing words ring out between the fighting from Torrent to envelope Shadow.

    Torthen turns on the skeleton trying to stab him to death and cracks him with a bolstering strike. Taking the time to shift back to give himself a clear shot at it.

    Still staggering from the hit from the greataxe, Shadow glares at the Wight “I’ll deal with you later!” Dealing with the skeleton standing in his way, his sword almost rips through the old tarnished bronze mail with an avenging echo strike also ripping off a limb and some ribs in the process.

    Boomer points his sword at the Wight, “I’m fed up with you Wight!” He’s taken a lot of damage and has clearly had enough of it. Quickly he dashes round the king’s back to flank. Shadow sees this and shouts “May the spirit of the feywild fight with you!” giving divine guidance. Boomer’s khopesh strikes across the Wight’s back gouging deep.

    The Wight’s attention is on Sonea as he smacks Torrent out of the way with his hammer and gets a few footsteps towards the read robed magic caster before being teleported back by the Aegis of Ensnarement.

    The skeleton with the bone shard manages to slice into Torthen again, angering the dwarf to the point of rage. “Bloody coffin dodgers!” he roars.

    Shadow is impressed the skeleton is still standing as it swings its greataxe again. With a smile the Eladrin uses an illusion to create two of himself as the axe swings through the illusion and the other rips apart more of the skeleton. More bones and mail fall to the floor.

    The last standing archer lets loose an arrow that snaps home through Torrents’ breastplate and into her shoulder. She forces out a harsh song of healing words for herself and casts tidal force on Torthen allowing him the speed to smite his foe, throwing the blasted form into the air.

    In the corridor Sonea hears footsteps running quickly down the stairwell. Dara appears at a run, looking tired and alarmed, having been told by Aramil of the attack below.
    Sonea I’m glad to see you here!
    ” Dara takes up a position beside her, readying her longbow.
    The Tuathan Wight turns to attack Shadow Dancer but he is ready and darts out of the way of the blow.

    Sonea tries a different tactic of throwing out empowering lightning on the Wight but it shoots off into the ceiling, missing him.

    Using the momentum of moving out of the way of the Wight, Shadow slams the skeleton with all his strength with his sword. As the greataxe hits the floor with the corpse, he uses his foot to slide the weapon to Torthen. Pointing his sword at the Wight, he grits his teeth saying, “I make you mine.

    Boomer marks the final archer, swinging to hit with a luring strike. An arrow flies loose, dropping Torrent unconscious and bleeding to the floor. The archer still stands.

    Seeing Torrent drop, Shadows attention is compromised for a moment. The Doldovan king’s great hammer cracks into him as an arrow from Dara just misses its crown.

    As Shadow lands at his feet, Torthen kneels to try laying on of hands but finds he cannot concentrate with the attacks going on around him and the Eladrin shoves him out of the way as he struggles to his feet.

    Determined, Sonea uses her wand of accuracy, enhanced by empowering lightning, to try and bring down the Wight but he swings out of the way to confront Shadow Dancer who already running at him.

    Boomer swings back again with luring strike at the archer once more, just missing him as he’s seen the Eladrins vulnerable position. He tries yelling at the Wight “Come here!” trying to divert its attention.

    As the king turns slightly at the voice he misses the figure of Shadow Dancer flying at him. Shadow growls and lets loose a symbol of faerie as he manages to strike the Wight with his sword.

    Attention back on Shadow the Tuathan King’s mouth moves in what must have been a smile. Instead an echoing voice fills the room above the din of weapons clashing “dhk lthi lenkc” (challenge me, you fool?).

    Dara drops her longbow beside Sonea and draws her quarterstaff as she runs into the room casting fire seed at the Wight. It just misses and a fiery purple burst of flame explodes around his feet.
    The remaining skeletons are in no shape to be hitting those they attack. Torthen hits the axe wielder with a bolstering strike scattering it across the floor and a bolt from Shadow Dancer’s hand crossbow finishes the final archer off.

    Boomer swings his sword overhead and smacks the ground in front of the Wight. A pulse of force rips through the Tuathan King, splitting his skin to shreds. An inhuman cry screams from the sarcophagus and a blast of green light flashes the room, receding into a vanishing eerie glow.

    End of combat encounter

    Everyone pauses for a moment to take in what has just happened. Enemies gone, Dara uses her skills as a combat medic to bring Torrent round and stay the bleeding with some of her wounds. Soon she is conscious enough to murmur some healing words for herself.

    It offends Boomers sensibilities to leave the dead in such an undignified state in the crypt. He gets to work moving the intact skeletons and what bones he can find to the coffins nearby.

    The dwarf picks up the greataxe Shadow Dancer had slid him during the fight. On closer inspection he reckons it wouldn’t be all that useful to himself but may be to Aramil.

    Fighting done, some of the others attention slips to what could be of value in the crypt. This offends some of the others in the party, including Boomer. He points out to the others that the banner of the Black Lion Rampant on a field of white with a surround of golden embroidery is actually a Tuathan Pennant of the Lost Tribe of the Black Lion- a magical item enchanted to aid against enemies.

    Long ago, before the Myceneans took over Gate Pass, it was a small town held by the Black Lions of Doldova. The last chieftain of the time, a man called Culann, was so powerful a warrior it was said he managed to defeat and seduce the goddess Nudd- a chaste goddess of skills at arms who dips her hair in the blood of defeated foes.
    The legend goes that he bragged of this deed once too often. One night when he was holding a feast the doors to the broch were thrown open to admit the fiery tempered goddess herself; naked with her modesty only covered by her long red hair. She slew Culann there and then in his own hall as easily as a grown man would slay a child and pronounced a curse that the dead chieftain would never pass to the summer lands and that his house would fall within a year. It’s said that it was only a year to the day that Gate Pass fell to the Myceneans.
    Pointing a figure at the sarcophagus he continues. “If you look towards the sepulchre the words engraved are a curse. The curse is this- ‘Here lies one cursed by Nudd, let his folly serve as a warning to all others.’”

    Shadow Dancer shrugs and turns his attention to the lamp floating all by itself just below the ceiling. Throwing a rope up to haul it down does nothing, the rope just slips off. Torthen tries with a rope with a hook, a little luckier the hook catches on an oil ring and he pulls with all his strength but it doesn’t move anywhere either.

    Boomer watches the attempts and wonders out loud who is good at climbing. Shadow Dancer looks taken aback when Boomer offers him a boost up. Jumping up Shadow manages to grab the lantern. It comes loose but stays in the air as he holds on. Gently he wills it to move down towards the floor and the lantern complies.

    Loot safely underarm and Boomer’s history lesson still hanging in the air they decide not to explore anymore of the crypt. Considering the state of the ceiling it would be unwise to disturb anymore of the now unstable structure. Everyone returns upstairs to their quarters.

    Shadow Dancer seeks out Aramil in the temple above to fill him in on what had been happening. He allays his fears that it may have been an Imperial attack, instead explaining it was more of an attack from within, now resolved. Aramil decides to have some resistance members keep guard downstairs for a while till the crypt can be safely sealed and re-consecrated.

    Downstairs the dwarf Torthen is surprising gentle for a thick fingered being and helps Torrent into bed to help her heal and rest. Forever the dutiful, Torrent tells Torthen that she will teach everyone the ritual of ‘Stand the Heat’ to help them when they get to the burning forest, but for now she must rest.

    Dawn creeps over the mountains only lending illumination to the howling blizzard which has risen in the small hours of the New Year. It’s early morning and it seems safe that considering the conditions there will be no further attacks coming presently. Freezing, poorly armed and unsuitably clothed men huddle around braziers and fires on the ramparts of the walls. Because most of the resistance members are still defending the walls this leaves very few available to go out and gather intelligence on Shealis.

    Torrent wakes and prepares herself for what she must do. She explains that she will try and detect the box magically but first she must find a wizard she knows to help. While away she will try and find some supplies she needs for ritual casting, including Residiuum, needed for when they finally leave Gate Pass. She also suggests that no-one does anything conspicuous before nightfall, explaining that there is a blizzard outside putting out any fires still burning from the attack, making further attacks unlikely for now and providing good cover for scouting as well as making it highly unlikely that the box will leave the city just now.

    As she leaves Sonea announces she will travel to of Gabal’s Academy of War to find out what Shealis has been up to. Shadow Dancer, Aramil, Torthen and Boomer are keen to accompany her. Dara explains that the task doesn’t need them all to accompany Sonea and that she would do best to stay behind at the temple and treat the injured.

    As they arrive at the school they find that it is as Sonea said- a castle sitting imposingly in the middle of town, several of its towers in ruin from the attacks last night. Many red robed figures flit in between the flurries of snow. The high walls protect the courtyard from the blast of the blizzard.
    Just inside the main gates they find a man leaning against one of the gateposts, he’s well built and appears to be in his late thirties. Blue smoke hangs in the air around him and his pipe glows bright and fierce when he inhales, his small paunch expanding to draw in the fragrant tobacco smoke.

    Diogeanese smiles as they approach and greets Sonea. “Welcome daughter. I did not see you last night. I had expected you to report here for defensive duty.”

    Sonea nods and smiles in return. “Dad.”

    He quickly leads them into one of the ruined towers. They have to duck to walk under the lintel of the doorway since it has collapsed on one side. The furniture is a shambles and the room looks like it had the blizzard blow through it for good measure. Despite the mess the furniture is that of an influential mage shelf upon shelf heaped with curiosities and momentos.

    After small talk Sonea and the others fill in the mage regarding the events and the role Shealis had in them. Boomer (another of the schools former students) butts in and is rapidly made to look like an idiot by an acid-tongued Diogeanese who does not appreciate interruptions while he talks to his daughter.

    Leave the conversation to adults and proper spell-casters, if you please

    !” Sonea looks shocked.

    Her father cuts to the chase. “I’m Knackered daughter. Gabal and I had to bring down that bloody red dragon all by ourselves last night and some bastard wyvern rider killed my gryphon. What do you want from me? I know you’re not here just for a cup of tea and to bitch about Gabals new piece of meat.”

    Shadow Dancer excuses himself. “Mind if I look around?”

    Sure but watch out for areas protected by red-robed wizards, the boys are a little security conscious right now.” Advises Diogeanese.

    Boomer leaves with him, lifting some of the tension in the air. Aramil and Torthen remain at a polite distance in the room.

    Sonea asks for her father’s help and also for some Residiuum if he can spare it.
    Take a few pinches from cookie jar.”
    He watches her. “No! That was your mum’s urn, the other jar.” Sonea bites her cheek in embarrassment.

    Outside in the swirling wind and snow Shadow Dancer wanders for a bit. His senses prickle under the gaze of someone unseen, he’s being watched but it’s someone other than the obvious men in red robes with glowing swords or glowing wands.

    Boomer grows bored. “What are we looking for?”
    I just want a look around
    .” Shadow replies gruffly.

    The air in the temple is warm from the number of people crammed in, but melancholy- there are many wounded. The blue light from the altar glows dimly.

    A half-orc female mournfully plays a flute as she sits beside the bed of an injured half-orc boy, possibly her son. Nearby a group of young human men sit (too young for fighting but too old to be children). They are eyeing up the female resentfully. Tension builds silently like an undercurrent to the music.

    Priests continue with their duties but are beginning to look harassed.

    Dara asks Buron what she can do to help. She has already been eyeing the situation. She suggests she could sing,
    If you must sing, sing something cheerful! That flautist is driving me insane
    !” Buron snaps uncharacteristically.

    Dara observes the situation and takes the time to move towards the half-orcs, asking her if she knows anything else as Dara would like to sing.

    All my music burned down with my house!”
    Snaps the female. “Besides I don’t feel like anything cheerful!”

    Not to be put off Dara asks that if she began to sing could she find the thread and play along. She grumbles but it’s not an outright no. Dara starts low and begins to weave a soothing melody in a beautiful language. The female begins to accompany Dara, noticing two of the guys glaring at her. As the music shifts from being so melancholy they stop glaring and soon their attention is elsewhere. The mood of the room lifts and eases.

    Shadow Dancer and Boomer continue to walk through the snow, careful to stay visible but out of the way of the red robes. They find three of the towers guarded- two very securely with the other lightly so, only Diogeanese’s is unguarded by any but him.

    Shadow tries to slip away as he is beginning to find Boomer’s company tedious, the human has been very eager to share his knowledge of his old school. Slipping into a bush, Boomer continues to rabbit on about fountains and gardens totally unaware his companion is gone. Waiting till he is out of sight Shadow Dancer finally exhales and sighs. “Thank the throne!”

    One of the temple’s side doors flies open as a dwarf runs in and heads straight for Buron. He is out of breath and looking very alarmed. Quick words are exchanged before they both come over to find Dara, who recognises the dwarf as one from the depositary tower. Buron fills her in. “We have trouble. There is an Arcanis cell already in the city and they are planning to assassinate the Assemblymen!”

  9. #9
    War of the Burning Sky- Session 4 Sunday 13th September 2009

    Part One

    Brian- DM
    Caroline- Dara- Elf- Druid
    Coakley- Aramil- Eladrin - Warlord
    ***Niall (absent)- Sonea- Human - Wizard
    Ridh- Shadow Dancer- Eladrin - Avenger
    Rob- Torthen- Dwarf – Paladin
    Rob- Mikal- Human- Rogue
    Ali- Adahan (Boomer) - Human- Swordmage
    NPC- Torrent- Human- Cleric

    Back In the ruined tower that serves as Diogeanese’s quarters the air is tense. The mage has spent all night trying to protect Gate Pass and now his patience is wearing a little thin.

    Sonea can see her father needs a rest so gets to the point. “We think Shealis has the box. We need to get the box from her. Dad we need your help here.”

    Aramil joins in. “We’ll be needing resources, anything you can provide us with.”

    Diogeanese nods and holds up a hand. “Fine, Fine. I happen to know for a fact she’s been prying into things that don’t concern her." He ticks of points on his fingers."She’s a Zaman. She’s got a solon for a familiar. What sort of warmage takes the risk of bonding a familiar? She has Gabal under her thumb. I can’t help directly you understand. What I can do however is help you get to her. I can create a globe of force around Shealis’s cottage, to prevent anyone entering or leaving; a ritual which I can conduct from the top of my tower. I will only drop it once I get a signal from you. All depends on whether you will confront Shealis.” Diogeanese watches them intently to judge their strength of resolve in their cause.

    Sonea, Aramil and Torthen agree with the plan and discuss the finer details. Torthen advises he will give the signal. He will hang back while the others go ahead so seeing how the land lies.

    The mage and his daughter set to work discussing the casting of the ritual. He explains to the others that he’s had a long night and may not be able to keep this up long. He will need Sonea’s help.

    Totally unaware he has been given the slip, Boomer continues walking and talking to his missing companion.
    Not far off, outside some of the lecturer’s cottages, Shadow sneaks quietly out from his hiding place in a bush. Within a minute or so, along one of the many paths, he enquires from a red robed man if he can point him towards Shealis.
    Unfortunately for him he didn’t remember the warning to stay away from the red-robed wizards as they are on high alert just now. Though, he does look vaguely bemused when he is frog-marched back to Diogeanese’s tower under escort.

    Boomer hadn’t been far away and seeing Shadow under escort he follows at a distance, shaking his head.

    As Aramil and Torthen leave the tower to find Boomer and Shadow they too meet with the red-robed wizards escorting Shadow Dancer, and are held at wand tip and interrogated too. Security is imperative in times like these.

    The senior red-robe wizard Orpheo raps on the door with intent; addressing Diogeanese about the matter at hand. The older mage explains as much as is needed and advises Orpheo that all is well. Sonea’s group are ushered back into the room once again, shutting out the snow and prying eyes.
    Sighing deeply he turns to them “I can see we may need an invisibility spell to get you there.”

    The dwarf hits on an idea “You know they are all wearing red cloaks. If we wear some we can maybe walk around a bit less conspicuously, Diogeanese?

    Look in my wardrobe.” He points at an old solid oak-doored cupboard and waits a moment.

    Do I have any?” silence follows. “No. I’m not a student.” Her patience obviously wearing thin, Sonea glares at her father’s sarcasm, prompting him a little.

    But I can get you some.” He finishes.

    Mikal had been scouting and fighting around the City Walls all night and is now cold, wet and knackered, not to mention hungry.

    Dressed all in black, his face covered by a black silk scarf, he pads quietly back into the city with several other members of the Gate Pass military, loaded down with soot blackened weapons, including his precious chakram.

    Arriving at the temple he seeks out Buron who quickly introduces him to Dara, who is tending the wounded.
    Dara, this here is Mikal. Mikal, meet Dara.” Buron introduces the pair and moves them aside out of other’s earshot.
    Buron continues and explains for Mikal’s benefit. “We’ve got some bad news. It would seem there is an Arcanis cell already in the city, here to kill off influential people. We only have Dara’s cell available to do anything about it.”

    Dara advises that she will need to track down her companions and Buron assigns Mikal to aid her.

    Mikal gives his report of what he seen outside to Buron while Dara disappears to get kitted up.

    Diogeanese and Sonea spend around twenty minutes sorting materials and preparing for the ritual. He points out which cottage belongs to Shealis before leaving for a few minutes to return with the cloaks.

    Diogeanese reads instructions as to where things go while Sonea runs around acting as his hands- father and daughter, mage and assistant.

    Leaning against a wall, Shadow Dancer stands nearby observing and writing down notes for his own future interest.
    There is a knock at the tower door.

    Get that door will you!” Barks Diogeanese from above.

    Aramil walks over and finds Dara covered in snow and soaking wet. Next to her is a man dressed in black, scarf obscuring his face, looking much the same.

    Now downstairs in the room with them Diogeanese is tired and can’t abide the cold. “Come in and shut that door!
    Both sorry figures enter as the mage eyes them up. “We don’t have enough red robes for this.”

    Torthen the dwarf makes a suggestion. “We can put robes on those who look like they should wear them. They can escort the others.

    Quite quickly a discussion ensues over who looks like they should be wearing them.

    Ignoring the argument, Aramil addresses Dara. “We are going to be heading down to see Shealis. You are going to be following us.”

    Mikal steps in. “I am Mikal. From now on I shall be joining you. This is the word from our leader, Buron.”

    You’ll be joining us? Any particular reason?” Aramil raises a questioning eyebrow.

    Mikal quickly looks at the present company and judges them to be together. “Yes. You lot are to help us out here. The Arcanis have a small cell in the city and are targeting some high ranking officials. Naturally they asked me to come get you to help.

    Aramil nods. “First we shall do our thing. Put on your cloak and we shall go get our wee blue box.

    Description?” enquires the black figure.

    Sonea raises her voice. “You’ll know it when you see it. It glows.”

    That is as much as we know.” Aramil makes it clear that’s the end of the conversation for now.

    Diogeanese get’s to the point. “You need to be close to the walls or inside the cottage when I begin the orb. It will last for around twenty minutes, or as long as I can hold it. It is completely invisible. I will release the globe as soon as you come out and show the signal.”

    Cloaks are handed to Aramil, Torthen, Mikal and Dara as Boomer already wears a one. It’s only Shadow Dancer who doesn’t as he was the one who was caught before - the less attention from the red-robed wizards the better.

    The escort leaves and takes a fairly straight forward route to the cottage. Boomer begins asking questions about the intended tactics. At this Shadow Dancer suggests that they walk in and ask for the box and negotiate by bluffing that they have the password. Aramil agrees but Torthen suggests that they bring the box out, use the password, therefore ensuing everyone is happy. It is pointed out by Boomer that there is no actual password. So any negotiations should avoid a situation where they are required to open the box there and then. Aramil affirms: “Our plan is to get the box.”

    Assuming that Shealis doesn’t just attack us.” Dara states the obvious problem.

    Boomer nods. “As I said, we need tactics, as that fight in the crypt was abysmal.”

    Aramil laughs at this. “I take it that you all missed my inspiring presence.” The dwarf chokes a laughing grunt. Aramil fires him a sharp look. “Shut it shorty!

    Boomer sides with Aramil. “I suggest that we listen too and obey the warlord.”

    Thankyou.” Aramil is grateful for some sense from someone.

    Dara suggests that as she has the ability to shapeshift into a handy small size such as a mouse, she could do a quick bit of scouting?

    This leads to more discussion with Boomer suggesting that Dara steals the box if she can. Aramil suggests simply killing the wizard and searching her cottage for the box, and Shadow points out that everyone is assuming that the box is there, which infact it might not be.

    Changing the subject slightly Shadow Dancer smiles. “Does Shealis have a cat?

    Dara smiles back and decides that a large spider will suffice for the needs of this expedition. “I’ll need someone to get me in close in my more diminutive form.” Mikal offers to sneak close enough to get her to the thatched roof, thus letting the others stay out of the way.

    Someone sniggers, making the comical suggestion of Mikal just using his chakram to get Dara there- a flying spider. The druidess rolls her eyes as such nonsense.

    Aramil grunts about humans being a bunch of "shaved f****g monkeys. He gets everyone to quit it and split as they are starting to look conspicuous.

    Mikal and Dara move on with the druidess dipping into a bush to shed her clothes and shapeshift into a large black spider with velvet red-tipped hairs and glistening black eyes.

    Scuttling up and under the thatch of the cottage, Dara finds her way onto a beam and along onto a suitable vantage point to dangle from. She finds the whole cottage seems to be only one room- one door in and out, and one closet with a fiery red glow from beneath its door. The walls are lined in bookcases with shelves covered in the usual magical academic clutter.

    The room’s occupant is a tall woman in her late twenties/early thirties. Blonde hair braided back from her temples to keep the thick of her mane at her back. She’s scantily dressed, in Dara’s opinion, as her svelte figure is dressed in long flowing layers of near transparent purple silk, emphasised by a purple wrap around her ample bosom. She sits at a table facing the door into the cottage, a wand close by her fingertips, which drum at the table as though she is waiting for someone.

    Dara is happy she has seen enough and quickly returns to her clothes then Mikal with the rest of the group. She explains that there is only one room- one door in and out, and what appears to be one cupboard door, with the fiery red glow.
    Shadow Dancer suggests he may be the one that is expected. So he should just go and talk to her.

    Mikal asks if there could be extra rooms inside the wall or extra-dimensionally? If mages are capable of this would it not be advantageous to a mage not just to have an extra room and a bolt hole but even a whole extra cottage?

    The tendency to break into discussion is ensuing again. Shadow simply rolls his eyes and begins walking to the door.
    He knocks firmly.

    Come in.” Replies a female voice.

    The door opens to reveal the purple swathed woman looking serene but intent on the men in her doorway.

    Come in gentlemen and stay along the walls. No funny moves.” She indicates with an immaculate finger the wall in front of her for the benefit of Aramil, Shadow Dancer, Boomer and Torthen as they file in.

    Dara and Mikal remain outside as they had stepped aside when Shadow had moved off with clear intentions of knocking on the door.

    Shealis inspects Shadow Dancer from her seat.

    I believe you have been expecting me.” Shadow is unruffled under the gaze.

    She nods an affirmative and enquires about the nature of the negotiations Shadow Dancer indicated he wished to enter into while being interrogated by the Solon at the depository.

    Outside Mikal has sneaked along one of the walls to try and peer into a window. Dara is pressed against the other wall next to another window. Looking up she sees the tower and two figures giving off the distinct feeling of confusion and expectation. She gives the signal to Sonea and Diogeanese to begin the orb.

    Shadow knows with his insight that Shealis can’t be intimidated, infact it would be counterproductive, so he relaxes and leans against the wall. “So you do know what we are here to talk about.”

    Aramil remains quiet. Just watching how things play out.

    Torthen interjects. “With regards to the item we are talking about. I realise that you have it and you know what we are talking about. You haven’t been able to open it or see inside it?

    That is correct. This is the reason we are here to negotiate is it not?” Shealis gives a short smile and looks back at Shadow Dancer who advises “I have ssured our privacy.”

    I have assured this also.” Nods Shealis.

    Boomer speaks up. “You know it’s been agreed by many that Gate Pass is independent today because Zama stepped in to prevent it’s conquest by the Imperium before, to provide a buffer for it's own borders. Gate Pass was left as a neutral territory at that point as the Imperium wasn’t in a position to go to war with Zama. Would it not be in the common interest of Gate Pass and Zama to keep the Imperium out of the city again? So we should consider working together in the matter of the box.

    Shealis listens. “I concede that keeping the Imperium out of Gate Pass was in Zama’s interests at the time but Zama has been expecting the Imperium to break the treaty all along. We have had forty years to prepare for the day the Imperium would go to war. Gate Pass is no longer so vital to Zaman interests, though of course its continued independence is still desirable.”

    Exactly what is it you plan to do with the box?” asks Aramil.

    Shealis explains a little. “The box will come with me to Zama, to be studied by Zaman wizards at the temple of Yhellos. There the information within be studied. Zama wants Gate Pass to be independent. We are happy to share the information we find. I have other points I would like to discuss otherwise I wouldn’t be here.”

    Shadow Dancer looks at Shealis. “I am obviously a stranger in this world. Does Zama need to remain uninvolved in this current war?” Shadow Dancer tries to imply that there would be trouble if the resistance were to permit knowledge that Zama has the box to reach the Arcanum.

    Actually I think you’ll find that the Arcanum and ourselves have been involved in a for tat espionage exchange for the better part of forty years. It would come as no surprise to them. In any case, we fully expect to be in a state of open war with the Imperium very shortly. When they are finished with Gate Pass they will surely focus their attentions on the Protectorate.” Shealis watches the bodies of those in front of her, their stance, breath and eyes.

    Torthen continues. “Even so, given the situation with the box that you have acknowledged, I wonder would it be all that advantageous to you for the Arcanum to know that you are in possession of it. What are you willing to give for them not to know? That you have been withholding it and the information and secrets within it?

    Shealis laughs quietly at the attempts of diplomacy. “Well I don’t have the box in my possession. So ultimately I wouldn’t care if they knew. But yes, ultimately the Arcane Imperium could move against me as an individual if they knew my colleagues and I personally had the box.

    Torthen nods. “So the fact is that you are personally at risk and could be assassinated...”

    Comes with the job.” Shealis finishes his statement. She is beginning to grow cold with this line of questioning.

    Boomer speaks again. “We are aware of the political situation between the two Empires...” Shealis noticeably stiffens at the insinuation that Zama is an “Empire”, but Boomer does not realise why. “...and that we are a buffer. We know we won’t get through this war without loss. We can make sacrifices however.”

    Shealis looks pointedly at him. “Really? What sacrifices would you be willing to make?

    Boomer continues. “We would be willing for one member of the Zaman Empire...” Shealis flinches again and grits her teeth. “... to accompany us to the Lyceum, an ally of Gate Pass, where we shall have the box examined by the most highly regarded magical school in the Known World.”

    Boomer is not entirely sure but thinks he has upset her. What he does not realise is that Zama is called a “protectorate” for a reason – they are non-expansionist and see themselves as the last vestige of the ancient Punic culture which they are sworn to preserve. Zama has never started a foreign war in all its existence. Boomer does not realise this, but Aramil, Shadow Dancer and Torthen most certainly do.

    Shadow Dancer tries to smooth things over, stating that the party is in a position of strength and would like to bargain.
    Shealis seems dubious about the strength of Gate Pass’s negotiating position but allows them to continue.

    You can’t open it.” States Torthen.

    How do you know we can’t? The Sacred Band and the Eighty have many powerful wizards among them.” Shealis asks.
    Shadow Dancer successfully deduces that she herself has no idea how to open it. “You ‘can’t’ open it.

    Boomer tries again, pointing out that Gate Pass is willing to make fairly hefty concessions to share information and that it is still in Zama’s interests to keep the city as a buffer. The box might contain information that helps the city hold out longer.

    Looking slightly puzzled Shadow speaks. “You say that were it to become known Zama has the box it would not lead to a deepening of hostilities? Would the box not contain information about where the vanished Dictator has gone? In which case would it not be preferable to take the box where there are wizards most likely able to open it?” He suggests that there are wizards in Lyceum who know the password to open the box.

    You are correct and it may have information about this “disappearance”- or maybe even more valuable information.” Shealis agrees.

    Shadow Dancer continues. “So if someone of Zama were to accompany us to the Lyceum- keeping it out of Zama for now- we get it open and share the information, this would be acceptable?

    Shealis agrees in principle but has conditions. No one in the room disagrees with this.

    Ok, so the conditions are to guarantee the safety of the person going. We would like a hostage in return to undergo a ritual linking the hostage to their representative. What befalls one will befall the other.”

    Looks fly around the group at this. Torthen takes a half step forward, so volunteering himself. He offers some heroic words in support of his decision.

    Very well then under these conditions it is agreed. I shall not be accompanying you as I am needed in the city but one of my trusted colleagues will go with you and the box to the Lyceum.” Shealis smiles at her negotiation so far. “We have no wish to antagonise Gate Pass and we are willing to share this information. I will however accompany you to the box's location, where the exchange of blood samples between the envoy and the hostage will occur so that they are linked. Then the box shall be handed over to your keeping.”

    Boomer agrees for everyone. “These terms are agreeable.”

    Shealis offers that if they want to discuss their decision then they are to go ahead. She opens the closet door revealing a flaming bird man. Before entering she points out that all her possessions have wards.

    The dwarf turns to the others looking grim. “First off if I’m being exchanged so none of you touch the envoy!

    Of course! It would not be in Gate Pass’s interests.” Assures Boomer.

    Shadow Dancer smirks, he can hardly contain it. “Cold feet so soon?”

    Torthen grunts. “No, merely an inclining of what you lot are like.”

    Aramil looks innocent. “Trust us?

    As far as I can comfortably... never mind.” Torthen shakes his head and grumbles to himself.

  10. #10
    Session 4 part 2

    Shealis leads everyone from Gabals, with Mikal and Dara introducing themselves as the others join them outside. Naturally, Sonea is left where she is as stopping to collect her would reveal to Diogeanese’s involvement. They are led East through various lightly manned gates. The first day of the New Year is still very, very cold with the complete white out of snow. This makes it difficult to follow the path but eventually they reach the Zaman canton. The men on the gates are obviously members of the Zaman Sacred Band (professional soldiers of Zama’s standing army -widely regarded as the finest fighting men in Edarnia).

    Tall well muscled men in enchanted runic bronze armour, carrying tall spears, large circular bronze shields and wearing crestless hoplite helmets greet them coldly. Despite the cold all they wear under their armour are leather cups, sandals and a thick purple war cloak.

    Within the walls of the canton the streets are clean and organised. Everyone is well dressed. The place is calm and all the buildings are untouched. As they are lead through a maze of streets they see that the homes are villas and the shops are large and open, definitely affluent.

    Along a street they are lead to a shop, a door makers shop by the sign outside, and lead around the back and in through a no-longer quite- so-secret door.

    On the way from the gates Dara has noticed a rat behaving strangely outside – it does not scurry close to the walls as a rat should and instead runs in the open.

    Inside they find the loud yapping and barking of three fire-wreathed dogs. Dara immediately smiles and thinks to herself ‘I want one of those!’ She recognises them as Guardian solons- the weakest form of solon.

    Three large stocky men dressed as members of the Sacred Band stand in the room along with the man from the depositary tower. None of them look surprised to see who Shealis has brought with her.

    Inside the house is one big empty unfurnished nothing, a space with a ladder going up to the loft.

    Shealis excuses herself and, accompanied by the man from the depositary- her lieutenant- she climbs the ladder.

    Torthen stoops down and pets one of the dogs without ill effect (thanks to his fire resistant armour). It’s hard to determine who is more surprised, the dogs or the guards.
    A few moments later Shealis and the lieutenant come back down the ladder with the blue glowing box. It looks just like the illusionary one. The guards are close by.

    Shealis has two glass vials and a long silver needle. She turns to one of the guards. “Bomilcar.” He steps forward and presents his thumb.

    Discussion arises among the party about do they really want an eight foot tall heavily muscled man-hardly inconspicuous- following them about. Torthen has other opinions and is all for being bonded to someone who has a considerably good chance of surviving any tough fights along the way. The silver needle extracts some of the guard’s blood which is placed in the vial.

    Shealis turns to Torthen. “Would you mind presenting me with your hand?

    Sure.” He takes off his glove and extends his hand. Again Shealis extracts some blood to be placed in the same vial, and mixes them together while saying an incantation. She decants the main vial into two smaller ones and passes them to Torthen and Bomilcar for safekeeping.

    The man from the depositary tower, the Lieutenant, steps forward to Aramil. “Here you go.” He hands the box over. “I’d rather you don’t tell us how you are getting out the city.”

    Meanwhile, Boomer speaks to Bomilcar. “Should the need arise will you fight alongside us or stay behind?” Bomilcar responds with some well executed air thrusts of his spear.
    At this Boomer asks. “Might I ask you to stand behind us in battle?

    The Sacred Band does not stand behind anyone.”

    Aramil steps forward with his package. “Will you be willing to follow my orders in battle?

    Do your companions?” Bomilcar fixes an eye on him.

    Aramil shrugs. “Mostly.”

    Bomilcar nods. “If you earn my respect then I will follow you.”

    Aramil accepts this. “We will see how it goes.”

    Shealis smiles quickly and claps her hands in command. “I am fairly gratified to see you boys getting along so well but go!
    Bomilcar nods quickly at Shealis and turns to the others. “I will meet you at the enclave gates. I must change.

    So after... he can find his way back?” enquires Boomer of Shealis.

    He can return by himself, he is quite capable. Torthen and Bomilcar need to be in the same room to break the spell.” With that Shealis leaves.

    While making their way to the gates to wait for Bomilcar, who is changing into less conspicious garb, (leaving the box behind, of course) the group quietly discuss their situation. They have the box and Zama tentatively onside. At present they don’t have a way out of the city and there is an Arcanis cell in the city looking for the box and trying to assassinate officials.

    It is agreed that Boomer should collect Sonea as they swing past Gabals on the way to the Temple where Torrent should meet up with them.

    The blizzard seems to be lessening, no longer a white out, but still snowing with drifts. Dara knows this isn’t particularly natural. A blizzard like this should be blowing for the rest of the day. She also notices that they are still being tailed by the strange rat but now a crow is at it as well, neither of them appearing at the same time . The way the crow flaps its wings it should not be able to fly. The rat isn’t actually scurrying the way it should either.

    As the groups waits, Aramil relates what he knows of the Sacred Band. The sacred band of Zama is a religious order as well as a professional army- all its members are sworn to the God Yhallos and the Goddess Tanit. Most of its martial types are Paladins with a strong smattering of clerics, invokers, swordmages, fighters, wizards and warlords. Bomilcar arrives a moment or two later, dressed as an outdoor traveller.

    Bomilcar has short hair and is built like a small ogre, he looks rather martial. He doesn’t say anything, just falls in behind and marches.

    Mikal looks at him sideways. “Oi soldier boy! Breakstep.”
    Bomilcar changes his gate.

    Aramil observes this. “Oh great, instead of an eight foot soldier we have an eight foot man who walks like he sh*t himself.

    Walk like you’re a skirmisher.” Adds Boomer helpfully.
    Bomilcar looks indignant. “Do I look like a skirmisher to you boy?

    Boomer shrugs. “No but that is the problem.”

    He looks more like a trebuchet.” Laughs Mikal.
    Shadow Dancer is greatly amused at the exchanges.

    The group heads off, Boomer to Gabals and the rest to the Temple.

    The box is the size of a small crate; it’s double wrapped in red cloaks and stuffed in a pack to hide the glow as it is carried on Aramil’s back.

    Eventually arriving at the temple they find it to be largely deserted. The few wounded that are left are the ones who probably won’t make it. No sign of Buron and Torrent but a priest advises that they are downstairs where some of the priests are cleaning up and reconsecrating the tomb below.
    Inside the door beside the altar the two half orcs glare then relax as the door opens. They advise that there have been no more problems from the crypt.

    Everyone heads down to the room in the cellars where they find Buron and a Halfling dressed in leather clothing, not particularly martial looking, talking to Torrent and Badger (who looks like the walking dead). Badger is sitting in a chair and is wrapped in several blankets.

    The conversion stops abruptly.

    Aramil walks in. “Don’t let us interrupt you.”

    Buron fumes visibly and points a white finger at Bomilcar. “Who is that and why is he here?"

    Bomilcar here is going to be accompanying us.” Aramil informs him cheerfully.

    Buron looks at the huge man “Would you excuse us?
    Bomilcar shrugs and leaves, closing the door behind him.

    Buron turns on those present. “Bomilcar is a Zaman name! Why is he here?”

    Aramil holds his hands up. “Good news and bad news. We have the box.”

    Buron nods. “Excellent.” Going quiet and with precise speech he continues. “Why is he here?

    Unintimidated Aramil looks at him. “That’s why he is here.”

    You know the dwarf? We swapped him.” Adds Mikal helpfully.
    The Halfling holds up his hands “Wait, wait, wait! I don’t need to hear anything else. I was here only to help in getting the box.” He turns and leaves though the door, closing it behind him.

    Torrent explains just how unhappy she is. She has spent half the morning looking for the Halfling sorcerer only to find they won’t need him!

    The air just about seethes with the anger from the senior resistance members, upset is an understatement.

    Ok. For the moment we have the box. We are assisting the Zamans to an extent. Most importantly we have the box.” Aramil tries to placate the gathering storm.

    Torrent narrows her eyes. “What did you promise them?

    Aramil cracks half a smile, hopeful. “A wee look?

    Mikal assures quickly. “When we are on neutral territory and we open it.”

    Torrent glares almost open mouthed at them. “What was the last thing I said before I went to sleep?” Her hands are almost shaking now with anger.

    Goodnight?” Aramil, Shadow Dancer and Mikal know they shouldn’t have but they couldn’t help themselves and offer the pithy answer in chorus.

    Torrent holds her breath and turns a fetching shade of purple.
    Before she can explode Mikal suggests that they don’t let the Zamans get to see what is inside the box.

    Shadow Dancer leans forward. “Buron, I strongly suggest you don’t carry on with your line of questioning.

    Aramil nods. “It’s a problem we can work around, for access to the box.”

    Torrent’s arms are straight through tension, she just manages to voice through clenched teeth. “DON’T. DO. ANYTHING. CONSPICIOUS!

    Mikal shrugs and gives it a stir. “It’s not conspicuous. Blatant, but not conspicuous.”

    Torrent and Buron do not look in any way, shape or form amused.

    At the end of his rope, Buron turns to Torrent. “I thought you would have been able to control your own cell!

    Badger raises a pale hand. “Let’s not discuss this in public. Gentleman you have the box. What have you done about the assassins?

    Working on that now.” Aramil gladly answers Badger.

    We had to get the box before we could work on those.” Adds Mikal.

    Would knowing they have been here a week help?” offers Shadow.

    Badger eyes him. “What else do you know?

    The Zamans are aware they are here.”

    Badger nods. “Interesting.” He explains “Generally speaking the Zamans only tell us what they want us to hear. Half of it is lies.

    Outside Boomer arrives at the temple and in the stairwell finds Bomilcar at the door.

    Ah Bomilcar! Having a discussion in there are they?” Boomer asks slyly.

    Bomilcar nods curtly. enitely unabashed.

    Not listening are you?” he continues.

    Bomilcar shakes his head, evidently trying to hide a smil .

    They didn’t send out anyone else?
    Bomilcar shakes his head again, stifling his laughter.

    I think you should accompany me to the common room.” Boomer smiles and nods agreeably.

    The giant of a man agrees. “In the interests of cooperation between our two covert bodies I’ll accompany you.

    Thanks!” Mikal’s voice is heard from behind the door.

    Boomer leads Bomilcar away to a common room and has some off-duty half orc guards keep an eye on him. They have orders to come find Boomer if need be

    You do know you sent him to listen at the door?” Mikal looks at Buron.

    Buron glares. “Mikal get out! Just get out! All of you just get OUT!

    At this Boomer enters. “Which idiot just told him to stand outside the door?

    Buron erupts completely. “GET OUT!

    The party leave for the relative safety and calm of the common room to find some heat and refreshments. In the stairwell Mikal asks “Quick question. Has anyone noticed anyone following us or anything strange or magical with Bomilcar?

    Dara explains about the snow and the strange creatures following their movements.

    Mikal asks if the rat or crow was at the same time.
    Separately.” Dara is sure.

    It could be one creature taking two forms or many.” Mulls Shadow.

    Next time you see either of them give us a sign.” Aramil asks.

    On entering the common room some people can’t help but angle for some fun.

    Ah! There you are Bombastic!” Boomer grins.

    BOMILCAR.” Bomilcar roars at Boomer.

    Hello Bobblehat.” Mikal joins in.
    Bamboozel.” Laughs Shadow.

    Oh.You were addressing me?” Bomilcar looks round at them. “I thought you were addressing the others. You haven’t introduced yourselves.” He snarls pointedly.

    At this they give in and make their introductions.

    In the common room while having a rest, drying off and having refreshments, discussion forms over other ways to get to the Lyceum -noone seems keen to risk the Burning Forest. First of all they need to get out the city. Mikal suggests leaving through the Eastern gate and then travelling South.

    It is pointed out that only people with approved passes can exit through the gates and as Bomilcar explains Gate Pass has descriptions and sketchings of all Zamans in the city for immigration control so this will make things tricky.

    As they are speaking Boomer detects a very faint glow coming from the cat’s eye gem in the pommel on Bomilcar’s sword- a scrying gem. He observes that it’s faint and muted, musing that this is probably because it is inactive. Boomer decides to tell Aramil about this as soon as he can.

    Aramil focuses people’s attention by summing up where they stand currently. “We have the box, the Zamans are on-side,” He nods at Bomilcar. “we are being surveyed, we need a writ to exit the city, Diogeanese is the highest placed person in the city we know, and there is an Arcanis cell trying to kill high up people in Gate Pass.

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