Mordallend Story Hour

Galfridus

First Post
Welcome to the Mordallend Story Hour. The campaign website can be found here.

Enjoy!

The characters

Thorald Stone, strange wizard (Human Psion-Savant6)
Jonetello, minstrel extraordinaire (Human Rogue1/Ranger1/Fighter4/Psychic Warrior1)
Magnimiliar Ivellios, scoundrel and adventurer (Human Rogue3/Sorceror3)
Alamar Sunin, priest of Ehlonna (Cleric6)

Missing, Imprisoned, Deceased

The following events took place prior to the current beginning of this story hour:
Darius Exeter, minstrel (Bard3) - slain by henchmen of the Order of the Lily in Meohall
XecZorn, necromancer (Sorceror4) - slain by the necromancer Malefice's Glyph of Warding at Littlewater Keep
Coral Four-Finger, troubled wanderer (Rogue2/Sorceror1) - kidnapped by the half-demon Seriya, whereabouts unknown
Thorfinn, cynical ranger (Ranger4) - slain by night goblins in a castle of the necromancer, Malefice
Grugg, warrior (Barbarian5) - imprisoned for murder (bar brawl gone bad) in Merelin
Entia, Druid (Druid5) - taken by the dragon Sygwerdan, presumed dead
The following events occur during this story hour:
Kalenthas Thistleberry, priest of Pelor (Halfling Cleric6) - fell fighting a barbazu in the village of Kavael
Zook Mirnig, knight errant (Gnome Paladin5) - also killed fighting barbazu
Mystarion Thyastacia, wizard (Elf Wizard6) - killed by mysterious shadow energies associated with the Medallion of Twilight (now in the hands of Rasilar, "Lord of the Shadow Realm")

No longer with the party

Kanavin Loxham, outlawed prince (Human Fighter1/Ranger1/Rogue2) - hiding in the village of Magehaven
Leilen, seeker of knowledge (Elf Bard6) - left the party to pursue an errand for the Council of Magehaven
Ravenfield, errant armorer (Human Fighter3/Sorceror3) - left the party to seek his way as a blacksmith
Elbryn Diasion, wanderer (Half-Elf Ranger6) - left the party to join the Loxham rebellion


A brief history of the region

The Tataiafar Empire lasted for thousands of years, reaching across a wide continent and two oceans. Near the imperial province of Tataya lay a mountainous strip of land leading to the bulk of the Empire's lands. This region was named Mordallend: home of the Knight Order of Ardinor, birthplace of the poet Kastran, bridge between the seas of Mardens and Tallos. Countless caravans and ambassadors traveled its highways on their way to the seat of Imperial power in the city of Fadrah.

A thousand years ago, the last Empress, Jianna, was murdered by her disinherited brother Kessetarl. Kessetarl, learned in black sorcery, used his power to conduct a series of purges, aided by the monastic Order of the Lotus. These purges resulted in death or imprisonment for all who had been friendly to the cause of the dead Empress. An uprising against his rule, led by the Order of Ardinor, evolved into a decades-long civil war. At its height, priests of the god Latarin restored Empress Jianna to life. With the knights of Ardinor behind her, Jianna defeated and slew Kessetarl, retaking her throne.

The passions stirred up by this conflict did not die out with Jianna's resurrection. Uprisings and revolts continued in every province of the Empire. In Mordallend, in the province of Nardallend, the powerful dragon Sygwerdan laid the countryside waste, sacking cities and slaying thousands. Farther from Fadrah, some provinces were abandoned, as the Empress had no forces to spare. Assassins and followers of Kessetarl exacted their revenge on the priests of Latarin, sacking temple after temple.

After only a few years, Kessetarl returned, brought back as a creature of the undead by his followers. Raising an army in the province of Felkar, he marched through Mordallend and into Tataya, leaving behind a besieging force to seek out and destroy the hidden citadel of the Order of Ardinor. The Empress engaged his army within the Imperial city of Fadrah. Her forces were victorious -- destroying Kessetarl, his army, and the Order of the Lotus -- but the city was destroyed, and the Empress was lost. Its ruling family dead, the Empire disintegrated.

In Mordallend, the few survivors suffered under the rule of brigands and outlaw chieftains who descended from their mountain strongholds to rule the abandoned countryside. It would be many hundreds of years before King Kalden would unify the lands around Lake Drelmist (formerly known as the province of Drahelland) into the kingdom of Rellenor, in the year now known as Year 1 of the Later Era (abbreviated LE 1). A descendent of the last governor of Drahallend, Kalden I recognized the ancient claims of the Empire to the lands of his kingdom, but declared that in the absence of an Emperor or a Senate to elect a new Emperor, he would bring order to his lands. Along with rulers of the elves, gnomes, and dwarves, he formed the League of Sygwerdan, forging a peace with the dragon that has lasted through the centuries. (Chieftains of the nations of Velland and Kinfeld later joined the League.) Under the rules and contracts of the League, Sygwerdan refrained from assaulting the League's lands, so long as his own lands and sovereignty were recognized. Today, in LE 653, the lands of Mordallend are sparsely settled, but largely at peace.
 
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Galfridus

First Post
Alding village

The party is currently in Velland, a mountainous land along the south edge of Mordallend, bordering the Sea of Mardens. Having recently rescued the outlaw Prince Kanavin Loxham from the clutches of the Order of the Lily (a monastic order devoted to the preservation of law in the kingdom of Rellenor), they are traversing the mountains in search of Thorald's home village of Magehaven. Thorald knows the village's location, but does not know how to bypass the magical wards that protect the village - or, for that matter, whether the village council will allow his return...

Of late, the party battled a mimic and a group of fire mephitis, and lost several horses to a chimera. They have reached a remote village at the eastern edge of Velland, still a week or more from their destination.

Hullashfjord, October 21, LE 653

Alding Village is a small settlement at the head of a minor offshoot of Hullashfjord, easternmost of the fjords of Velland. The village is not walled, but numerous watchtowers and the readiness of it warriors speak to the need for frequent defensive efforts. Most of the villagers spend their evening in the chieftain's great hall, at the center of the village.

The party enjoys a raucous night in the hall of Karl Alding, chieftain of the Alding clan. Much drink is consumed (and many Delay Poison spells are cast). Leaving the fun early, Leilen casts Identify on the magical treasure from the chimera/mimic's lair, producing the following results:
  • Rose Colored, Cloudy potion: Potion of Endurance
  • Emerald, Oily potion: Potion of Enlarge (5th level)
  • Gold ring with wavy design: Ring of Swimming
  • Unmarked wooden wand: Wand of Detect Magic (12 charges, "Enahl")
  • Dark wooden wand: Wand of Shocking Grasp (Lvl 1, 8 charges, "Cuern" carved on wand)
  • Breastplate: +1 Breastplate. (Command word "Fedar" inscribed on inside was discovered by experimentation to Create Water, at least sometimes…)
  • Mysterious box: Command word "Kawool" produces an unspecified magic mouth effect (which no one attempts).
Meanwhile, Karl Alding asks to speak to "Lord Lowthar" (Magnimiliar's nom de plume) in private. He explains that while he has told his warriors that Lowthar and his retinue are off-limits for looting or robbery, some of the younger ones might forget this command. In such an event, Karl would have no complaints if Lowthar were forced to defend himself, although it would be nice if the warriors in question were left alive. Karl also mentions that if Lowthar intends to make his village a base for "chimera hunting', he should be ready to present Karl with a significant share in any riches that might be found. Magnimiliar agrees to these terms, thanking Karl for his hospitality.

Magnimiliar and Jonetello learn from several warriors that a group of raiding hobgoblins ("Maybe 20 to 30 left, though there's more in the high mountains"), with at least one spellcaster, has taken up residence on a ridge near the village. As if on cue, the drumbeats that the group has heard the past few nights start up again, echoing off the high slopes a few miles away.

The group spends the next day resting and recovering - mostly. Jonetello completes his song about "hunting" the chimera (artfully neglecting the part where they ran until their horses were exhausted, and the part where the chimera ate three of their horses). The song plays well, as long as you were not witness to the real events or can keep a straight face.

Thorald meditates, unlocking from within himself the ability to neutralize magic spells and psionic powers with a thought. There aren't many spells to practice on, so he manifests a few.

Zook receives a vision of a divine warpony awaiting his call, but decides to wait until he is in Garl's better graces before issuing the call.

Garl: "What would a paladin do when giving his word to a mimic?"
Zook: "Um...keep his word no matter what?"
Garl: "That's what a human paladin would do. A gnomish paladin would play a good trick! Look into it!"

Magnimiliar purchases a morningstar from the aptly named Gallar Morningstar, an older warrior with a well-known liking for his namesake weapon.

Mystarion begins scribing a spell (Mage Armor), and is nearly interrupted by Kalenthas, who yells for everyone to come see the new spell he just realized he could cast! A small crowd gathers at the water's edge as Kalenthas gestures, intones, then dashes merrily across the water, out to a fishing boat, and back, grinning widely. "It's a great spell, and it lasts for…" he checks his fingers quickly "…an hour!"

Thorald, done with meditating, decides to test his battle prowess against the warriors of the village in unarmed combat. Magnimiliar and Leilen decide to test their odds-making prowess, and manage to earn several gold pieces while Thorald bests the village's youngest and brashest warriors.

As night falls, the villagers gather in Karl's hall to drink and sing (repeating as needed). Jonetello wows the crowd with a rendition of his new chimera-hunting song, then listens politely through a series of Vellandish songs: five battle chants and one song of peace (about sharpening one's weapons the night before battle). He listens closely, committing melody and words to memory.

Before long, hobgoblin drums are heard once more echoing from the hills. Magnimiliar and Leilen decide it's time for a scouting expedition, and slip quietly out the door and along the road leading southwest out of the village. After a couple miles, the road ascends a high ridge, climbing back and forth across the steep terrain. At the top, it passes through a narrow cutting and passes out of sight. The drums have ceased, but the pair agree they must have been coming from atop the ridge. Casting a pair of Invisibility spells, they press on. As they approach the top, they see that an earthen barrier, topped with wooden spikes, runs the length of the cutting. To either side, crude ramparts provide near-complete cover for sentries and defending forces. Indeed, a long silhouette, generally hobgoblin in shape, can be seen in the faint moonlight atop the left rampart.

Magnimiliar sends his raven, Malagen, to scout. Before he can send back any report, a bowstring is heard, and Malagen is struck. He flees with a loud squawk, swooping back toward the safety of the village. Magnimilar, after assuring himself the bird will survive, instructs him to summon the others. With Leilen, he scales the barrier and moves slowly up the road, avoiding several hobgoblin patrols. Finally, he decides that this is too unsporting - the hobgoblins should have some chance of finding him. He looks around for the most important-looking hobgoblin, then sneaks up and tickles him on the ear. The hobgoblin startles, then shrieks and begins casting a spell. Soon, he is pointing toward Magnimiliar and motioning his comrades forward. "That's enough sport," thinks Magnimilar, retreating swiftly.

The party and the villagers alike are rather startled by the bloody raven which bursts into the great hall shouting "Hurt! Hurt!", but the party quickly calms the crowd and heals the bird. Malagen delivers his message and then flies from the hall, leading the party toward the ridge. They halt a few hundred yards short of the ridge, seeing nothing but figuring that trouble lies ahead. Jonetello borrows Elbryn's Cloak of Elvenkind and sneaks up the ridge. As he climbs, he hears shouting from above, then sees several hobgoblins behind the ramparts, just above his position. Figuring that Leilen and Magnimiliar might need assistance, he hurls a flask of Alchemist's Fire at the nearest hobgoblin, burning it badly. Unfortunately, the firelight gives his position away, and an arrow strikes him in the leg. He retreats down the hill to a safer position. Two more arrows find their mark as he descends, but do no serious damage. The rest of the party, concerned about the bright flash from the ridge, dispatches Zook to fetch help from the village. From behind their defenses, the hobgoblins hurl insults, which only Kanavin can understand.

Magnimiliar and Leilen, in the midst of skirting yet another hobgoblin patrol, hear the commotion behind them and decide to return. Bypassing the defensive position by the road, they descend the ridge and come across Jonetello shouting insults in broken Goblin.

The villagers are enjoying a easy night's carousing when Zook, still mounted on his warpony, bursts into the hall. "Come help us fight the hobgoblins!"

The warriors look at him strangely. "Fight the hobgoblins at night? Only a fool would do such a thing!" They exchange glances. "LET'S GO!!!" About twenty men rush out of the hall behind Zook, grabbing torches and axes.

Minutes later, the mob meets up with the now-visible scouts and the rest of the party. Calmer heads prevail, and the whole lot returns to the village.

"Next time," says Magnimiliar, "we tell them when we want to go scouting. Sheesh."

Back at the village, there is a lengthy discussion of strategy and tactics - given that the party has an important mission of their own, should they even attempt an assault on the hobgoblins? Prince Loxham suggests that a raid the next day would seem worth the risk, but remaining in the area for much longer than that seems too long a wait. The party asks Karl to send some of his warriors with them, but Karl reminds them that he has a village to protect. He is willing to ferry the group down the fjord to a small beach on the other side of the ridge, where the approach is less steep, but the party is not interested.

After a time, an unspoken consensus to attack falls into place. The final plan calls for two groups of invisible flankers to scale the sides of the fortified position on the ridge, while the main body climbs the road openly, protected by tower shields. After the flankers take out most of the hobgoblins with spells, the main force will assault the ridgetop with little opposition.

The discussion continues into the evening, until people begin to notice a strange breeze, slowly gathering in strength, sustaining itself with an unnatural constancy. "They are upon us," someone says, as the wind blows stronger.
 
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Galfridus

First Post
Hobgoblin assault

Hullashfjord, October 22, LE 653

The strange wind blows steadily for several seconds, as the party looks around nervously, but then fades away. The party is alert for an attack, but nothing comes. They finalize their assault plan and retire for the night. Morning is spent in preparation, until Kalenthas receives his spells at noon. Leilen and Magnimiliar form the first scouting group. Concealed with Invisibility and a Cloak of Elvenkind, they scale the steep ridge on opposite sides and take up positions behind the two hobgoblin scouts manning the ramparts. One of the hobgoblins senses something is amiss and tosses two pebbles toward Magnimiliar, but both miss and the hobgoblin seems to lose interest.

As Magnimiliar moves away from the ramparts, he notices a small mound of dirt, covered in ferns and bushes, that seems out of place. He moves closer, and discovers a one-man bunker behind it, and a hobgoblin inside who is watching the other sentries closely.

After a half hour of waiting, the two scouts spot a patrol of three hobgoblins and a giant rat approaching from the north. The rat pauses, sniffing at Magnimiliar's trail, and then begins tracking, leading the hobgoblins slowly toward Magnimiliar. The lead hobgoblin barks an order, sending one of the others dashing up the road. Magnimilar backs slowly away, easily keeping his distance, and begins leading the patrol in a large circle, hoping to cover his own scent. That trick fails - but the patrol continues to follow him for several minutes, growing visibly frustrated as the trail circles back on itself time after time. During this time, Mystarion and Thorald (both Invisible) climb the ridge and take positions closer to the ramparts, undetected. They are just in the nick of time - moments later, twenty or more hobgoblins march down the road. Most are armed with swords and glaives, many carrying shortbows as well. The largest hobgoblin calls the group to a halt, then gives a series of commands, sending several hobgoblins to man each ridge and leaving a reserve of about half his troops standing around him, spread out but ready for trouble. The rat patrol continues to track Magnimiliar; otherwise, everyone waits.

Soon, shouting rises from below (Kanavin teaches everyone the Goblin for "Your mother was a kobold"). The party advances up the road slowly, taking care to remain behind their tower shields. The hobgoblins wait until they are within close range, then the rampart commander shouts, and a volley of arrows flies forth (only Jonetello is hit). No further order to shoot is given - the hobgoblins sneer confidently as the small group approaches their mighty fortifications. Then Jonetello gives the signal, and the attack begins.

From behind the tower shields, Kalenthas casts Summon Monster. Four celestial hounds appear on the southern rampart, barking merrily before sinking their teeth into the started hobgoblins. Mystarion, standing nearby, unleases a Lightning Bolt which crosses through the reserve force, catching five hobgoblins including the leader and his priest before stopping just short of the invisible Magnimiliar. Two hobgoblins fall down dead, and the leader is badly wounded. From the other side, Thorald lets loose a Mind Blast, stunning the leader and the remainder of the reserve force. Jonetello, Kanavin, Elbryn, and Zook drop their shields and rush the ridge - the archers are too distracted to fire at them as they climb. Magnimiliar hears the sounds of casting from nearby - but there is no hobgoblin there. Loading up his Crossbow of Ventriloquism, he shoots a bolt near the source of the sounds. "Invisible hobgoblin spellcaster right here!" Leilen hears this and moves toward the sounds, casting Detect Magic from his wand. Sure enough, there is magic directly ahead.

Finally, the hobgoblins have a chance to respond - their priest dead, their leader stunned, their wizard being hunted down. To the north, Thorald stands along between a half-dozen hobgoblins - and pays for it when he is struck by three arrows. A glaive-armed hobgoblin rushes him, but barely misses. To the south, most of the archers have their hands full fending off the dogs. One, however, tumbles nimbly past the glowing hounds and tosses a Tanglefoot bag at Mystarion. Mystarion tries to duck out of the way, but is rooted in place, unable to move. Unused to this level of distraction when casting, he flubs a spell and decides that using a wand would be a better idea.

Jonetello, Elbryn, and Kanavin climb the rampart and assault the hobgoblins, felling two in their first rush. Kalenthas and Zook, being shorter, are having a much harder time climbing the steep earthen barrier. Across the field, Thorald strikes at one of the hobgoblins surrounding him, but the hobgoblin just grins through the pain and advances. The archers fire a second volley, but only one strikes home - still, at this point Thorald cannot afford any additional wounds.

Then, the invisible wizard's chanting slows for a moment. A giant dire bat appears mid-air above the battle, then swoops to attack Mystarion. Its bite, glowing with fell power, nearly knocks the wizard unconscious. The hobgoblin rogue tumbles to the other side of Mystarion and tries to finish him off, but misses. Things are not looking good for the elf wizard.

Magnimiliar decides that the hobgoblin in the bunker, sniping at Thorald, needs to be dealt with. He fires his crossbow once again and hits the hobgoblin square in the chest. "I am a sucking chest wound!" cries the bolt, and it is not mistaken. The hobgoblin still stands, however, and it draws a sword and charges toward Magnimiliar.

Leilen continues to focus on the spellcaster's aura, seeking his exact location.

Thorald finally gets his bearings long enough to manifest Control Body, directing one hobgoblin to attack his companion.

Mystarion draws his Wand of Shocking Grasp and stabs at the bat, but misses. Kanavin comes over and begins cutting away the tanglefoot strands. Two of the dogs leap at the bat, eager to engage a fiendish foe, while the other two attack the remaining archers. With their help, Jonetello slays one archer. Elbryn dashed toward the bat and deals it a vicious stroke with his bastard sword. The bat is not slain, however, and bites Mystarion a second time. As unconsciousness looms, Mystarion feels cold power emanating from the Medallion of Twilight, and he disappears.

Zook and Kalenthas are still stuck at the base of the rampart.

A second bat appears, this time over Thorald, but it and the archers attacking the psion all miss.

Mystarion finds himself in a strange, shadowed land, devoid of color and silent despite the cold wind that blows across the pale grass. The landscape is similar in appearance to the ridgetop battlefield, but the hobgoblin ramparts are absent -- as are the hobgoblins, and Mystarion's companions. The shadows begin to lengthen as if night is falling, and Mystarion feels a chill closing in around his heart. He invokes the medallion with its command word "Obilon". He reappears, barely conscious, in the battle, free of the tanglefoot strands. He steps back and finishes the nearest hobgoblin with a pair of Magic Missiles, then falls unconscious. The medallion does not save him this time.

Leilen continues to concentrate, receiving a definite location where several auras including an Illusion spell are at work. He readies his bow for a surprise attack.

Thorald shifts his Control Body to the bat, forcing it to slay a hobgoblin. (DM Note: You can't do this, since Control Body only works on humanoids - but we forgot until after the battle was over. Lucky for Thorald...though it all works out in the end.)

Elbryn, Jonetello, and the dogs take all but the rogue and one of the archers down on their side of the battlefield. The rogue manages a telling blow against Kanavin, wounding him badly in the leg. Kalenthas gives up on climbing and starts to assist Zook instead. Zook makes it about halfway up.

A third bat appears, heading directly toward Thorald. The archers fire another volley at Thorald, but once again they all miss. Jonetello breaks free from the southern skirmish and runs across the battlefield toward Thorald.

Leilen looses two shots at the heart of the spell auras, but strikes nothing. His curse echoes off the mountains as his form becomes visible.

A Summoned wolf appears near Magnimiliar and bites him in the leg. He screams in pain, but the wound is quite minor. (That's Magnimiliar for you.)

Thorald continues to control one bat, forcing it to fight the other. The second bat, rather than interfere with the archers' sightlines, defends itself. Batfight! The archers loose another volley, but all the arrows miss.

Zook reaches the top of the rampart and heads toward the nearest hobgoblin. Elbryn and Kanavin finish off the bat and the rogue, as Leilen gives up on the spellcaster and instead fires two arrows into the stunned goblin leader. Thorald, meanwhile, has had enough of summoned monsters. He manifests Dispel Psionics toward the cluster of summoned creatures. The wolf and one bat vanish. Magnimiliar, standing too close, loses his Shield. And a hobgoblin, in the midst of casting a spell, becomes visible just behind Magnimiliar. Jonetello seizes the opportunity and charges, giving the wizard a nasty wound but failing to disrupt the spell in progress.

Kalenthas, climbing with only the aid of Pelor, reaches the top of the ridge just in time to see the stunned hobgoblins begin to recover. Close by, Zook lays hands on Mystarion, bringing him back into the fight as well.

Another wolf appears near Jonetello, but missed with its bite. The hobgoblin wizard, now visible, steps away from Jonetello to cast a spell: Thorald feels a pair of invisible hands appear at his neck, choking the life out of him. Thorald retreats and attempts to manifest Concussion, but loses his concentration.

Leilen and Elbryn attack the leader, staggering him back before he can act. Jonetello engages one of the leader's escort, as Mystarion sends a Magic Missile against another. Kalenthas runs toward the battle as quickly as his little legs will carry him, not even noticing the brilliant flash of light as Pelor calls his hounds home.

The hobgoblin leader snarls an order, then slashes Elbryn's shoulder with a nasty swing of his long sword. Elbryn falls back in pain, but the stress of the attack was too much for the hobgoblin, who collapses at Elbryn's feet. Seeing this, the other hobgoblins begin to fall back, firing arrows wildly as they move. The spellcaster retreats as well, but Elbryn recovers enough to charge after him.

As Jonetello, Kanavin, Zook, Mystarion and Leilen fell most of the remaining hobgoblins, Thorald is choked unconscious. Elbryn chases down the spellcaster and cuts him down with one stroke. A lone hobgoblin, trapped between Leilen and Kanavin, throws down his weapon and demands quarter. The battle is won.
 
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Galfridus

First Post
Hobgoblin's Revenge

Hullashfjord, October 23, LE 653

Unfortunately, though the hobgoblin spellcaster has fallen, his spell has not. Elbryn notices that Thorald’s face is turning a deep blue and tries to open his windpipe, but an unseen force keeps pressing down. As Thorald gasps his final breath, his throat reddens with the mark of two spectral hands. Kalenthas tries a healing spell, but to no avail. The group pauses briefly out of respect for the fallen wizard.

Leilen collects a set of items that seem to radiate magic:

  • 5 unlabelled potions (4 are identical, brown and thick; 1 is a clear beige)
  • 1 suit of Studded Leather
  • 1 parchment, tied around a rock (thrown at Jonetello during the fight)
There is some debate over whether to head back to town and rest (which might allow the hobgoblins to retake this position) or to press onward and risk a battle at less than full strength. Magnimiliar scouts ahead and reports (through Leilen, who finds him and returns) that another earthen embankment is about a mile up the road. This one has a series of poles with what looks like strips of cloth tied between them, and a couple unmistakable hobgoblin figures standing guard. There also appears to be a flock of sheep just outside the wall. Kanavin and Mystarion question the captive, who seems unwilling to talk. At last, the group decides to press forward, taking the heads of the hobgoblin leader and spellcaster with them as "negotiation incentives". Elbryn goes to behead the spellcaster – and is startled when he sits up and tries to Daze Elbryn! A brief battle ensues; this time, the hobgoblin wizard is slain for good. (The group makes sure no one else is pretending either.) This incident seems to sway the captive, who reveals that all of the hobgoblin leadership has no been slain, and that only ten or fifteen footsoldiers remain at the camp, but promises that many more are waiting in the mountains. Kanavin promises the hobgoblin his freedom if his facts are true. After mounting the two hobgoblin heads atop polearms, the group advances on the main camp.

Fortunately for them, the hobgoblin was not lying. As they approach (emerging from behind a blast from the Horn of Fog, hobgoblin heads presented prominently), they are greeted by a barrage of arrows from the three hobgoblins brave enough to fight, while nine or so others can be seen trying to sneak through the flock of sheep to safety. Before anyone else can react, Mystarion charges forward and cuts loose with a Lightning Bolt, frying three hobgoblins and ensuring an ample supply of cooked mutton for dinner that evening. As the rest of the group advances to give support, the three hobgoblins on the wall decide they have made their point and turn to run as well. All are killed save for one which escapes into the hills, and one which Elbryn grapples and takes captive.

As the fight winds down, Magnimilar and Leilen climb a wooden barrier blocking the road into the hobgoblin main camp. They see a human-sized hut as well as several low lean-tos erected over trenches dug into the hill. Leilen searches the lean-tos, while Magnimiliar heads for the hut. Inside, he sees a pair of beds, a table, and a small chest, as well as a beautiful, ornate scroll case (emanating magic) lying atop one of the beds. After checking for traps, he opens the chest to find a wealth of treasure:

  • 1159 gp, 780 sp, 39 pp
  • Several Gems (a colorless sapphire, a white opal, and five pieces of amber)
  • Silver Circlet (magical, with the phrase "Hennit Ta" inscribed on the inside)
Outside, Kanavin and Elbryn interrogate the new prisoner. He is quite willing to talk, suggesting that the hobgoblins would pay a generous ransom for his return. Kanavin is inclined to doubt this, but believes him when he says that this was the last of the hobgoblins deployed atop the ridge: the sentries to the west and north had been recalled, and everyone else was sent east to fight. Elbryn ties the hobgoblin securely until they are ready to depart.

As Magnimiliar finishes his search, Mystarion enters the hut. His eye immediately wanders to the pretty scroll case, and he opens it, revealing a single piece of parchment inside. He unrolls the parchment and reads…

Magnimiliar, distracted by the other treasures in the room, is just beginning to form the "N" in "NOOOOOOO!!!!!!!" when the Explosive Runes detonate. Those outside see gouts of fire burst from the windows and doorway of the hut, followed by a lightly smoking figure (Magnimiliar) who dusts himself off and walks away. Inside, Mystarion lies in charred and deadly silence. Kalenthas rushes in and tries a healing spell, but to no avail. "Well, this sucks!" he announces, and no one seems to disagree.

The group sets the heads of the goblin leader and wizard atop two of the poles, then plasters the camp with threats (in Goblin) should any hobgoblins return to the site. They gather what treasure they can find, release the prisoner, and begin the trek back to town, lugging Mystarion’s body with them. On the way back through the battle site, they pick up Thorald’s corpse, and release the other captured hobgoblin. Shortly after descending the switchbacks into the valley, they become aware of a strange wind blowing down from above them. Unlike before, this wind is rhythmic, coming and going every few seconds or so. "It’s the hobgoblin’s pet chimera," someone quips – and then a old man appears on the path in front of them, dressed in robes of dark purple and carrying an ornate staff with an enormous ruby set in the top. The wind dies down. Kalenthas starts to say something, then furrows his brow, confused.

"Are you companions of Thorald Stone?" the man asks, peering around them at the two corpses they are carrying. "Who wants to know?" a couple people ask. "You may call me Vorn," the man replies, still looking at the bodies. "I have business with Thorald Stone."

"Are you a friend of Kelon", Jonetello asks, infusing his rapier with magical power. Vorn seems to ignore the comment. Magnimiliar, standing toward the back, seems doubtful. "How do we know who you are? You could be a hobgoblin in disguise!" Vorn smiles briefly, and his form begins to shift. "I could indeed," he declares, as his features become one of a tall, snarling hobgoblin. He begins to move toward Magnimiliar, focused if not menacing. Jonetello draws his rapier and advances toward Vorn, who sweeps his staff downward, shattering the rapier. Jonetello draws a short sword and attacks as Vorn moves away. His strike draws blood, but Vorn does not seem to notice. He advances on Magnimiliar, who promptly runs through the group as fast as his feet can carry him. From behind, Jonetello hurls a flask of alchemist’s fire, which sets Vorn aflame; but again, he takes little heed. He frowns a moment as Magnimiliar flees, then begins to shift once more. A faint purple glow surrounds him as he grows…and grows…and grows, into a tremendous dragon of light purple hue (causing everyone but Zook to shake in their boots with fear). With a swift wingbeat, he glides over the group to land next to Magnimiliar. Elbryn Creates Water with his breastplate, putting out the alchemist’s fire and hoping to placate the beast. Magnimiliar turns on his heel and runs the other way – but this time, the dragon is too fast, and pounces on him with both foreclaws. However, Vorn turns his talons away from the helpless rogue, battering him greatly but doing no lasting damage (14 subdual). Zook, seeing a helpless and innocent man trapped, charges the dragon and strikes, but his blow glances off the dragon’s scaly hide.

Vorn pauses, then in a halo of purple light, returns to human form once more, staff still in hand. "I think that is enough," he says, and none of the group seems to disagree. After a moment of uneasy silence, he continues. "I would…examine Thorald Stone." "Why? "What for?" asks the group. "Because I wish to." "Can you tell use why?" Vorn smiles briefly. "I could tell you, but I will not." He steps forward to Thorald, and no one tries to stop him. He leans down and pulls Thorald’s robe aside at the shoulder, revealing a pale purple tattoo. Leilen recognizes the tattoo as magical, but has never seen anything remotely like it in the past. Vorn turns to his staff. "I cannot bring these two back to life, but he can," he says, turning to Kalenthas. "This is a Staff of…" "--A Staff of Life!" Kalenthas exclaims, foolishly interrupting Vorn. "It’s…it’s a holy staff of Pelor, and it can heal you or bring…bring you back from the dead." He falls into a reverent silence, looking meaningfully at the rest of the group.

Vorn indicates that he will return Thorald and Mystarion from the dead, but requires two volunteers in exchange. Each will receive a tattoo like Thorald’s. In response to repeated inquiries, Vorn will only say that the tattoos allow him to view the bearers from afar. He also says that he may call on each bearer once to perform a favor. Mystarion will be one of the volunteers; after a short discussion, Leilen steps forward as the other.

* * *

Thorald finds himself in a formless grey fog, lit from all directions. He drifts for more time than he can measure, or no time at all – there is little way to tell. Eventually, he recalls his companions, and the choking hands at his throat, and concludes he must be dead.

After a while longer, he perceives a shadow in the mist, a form that is slowly approaching him. Eventually he can make out the shape of a tree, rooted in a small hillside. Underneath, roots emerge from the dirt and trail off into nothingness. An old man is seated at the base of the tree, watching as Thorald draws closer.

"You are a psion," the man says without preamble. Thorald is caught off-guard. "Yes, I am," he says, surprised. They talk briefly, and the subject quickly becomes the Order of Ardinor. "I have not been able to find Ardinor, though I have been looking for some time," says Thorald. The man chuckles. "I imagine that they would find you." Thorald shakes his head. "In my time, the Tataiafar Empire is no more, and Ardinor is lost," he says. The man seems surprised. "Really? Do you wish to know more about Ardinor?"

Thorald’s eyes bug out, and he gives a civil nod at the prospect of satisfying a quest which he has come to realize represents the purpose for which he was exiled from his village, trained by an amethyst dragon, and transported across the planes. "Yes," he manages to speak aloud.

The man sighs. "The Knight Order of Ardinor," he muses. "The most important thing about the Order of Ardinor is…"

[…We interrupt this program to bring you an urgent Resurrection…]


The man’s words fade into nothingness as Thorald feels a strange tug: at the end of a tunnel of light, he sees Kalenthas Thistleberry, priest of Pelor and follower of the cause of good, calling him to return to life. He hesitates for an agony-filled moment, then accepts the call, feeling the pressures of mortality return as his spirit flees the Astral and floods onto the Prime.

* * *

Kalenthas stands over Thorald’s body, listening as Vorn whispers in his ear. He speaks several words of power, and the staff begins to glow. The glow drifts down over Thorald, closing his wounds and restoring color to his flesh. His eyes open and he sits up, absently touching his neck where the mark of two spectral hands endures. His eyes widen. "Alvornux!" Vorn nods. "Greetings, Thorald. It is good that you had the forethought to die so close to my dwelling." Thorald scrambles to his feet, ignoring for the moment the insistent questions from his companions. "Now for the elf," says Vorn, and Kalenthas repeats the words over Mystarion’s body.

* * *

Mystarion is floating in a formless mist – doubtless the Astral Plane, judging from the uniform gray and consistent lighting. He is content to drift for a time, but then a tremendous shape looms out of the fog. He watches as a stone fortress approaches, drawbridge up, ramparts empty. It grows closer, and closer – and then from within, a sound of deep thunder issues, and the stone seems to darken. At that moment, he feels the tug of life from Kalenthas. He pauses a moment, drawn to this fortress, but it’s almost sinister appearance makes his decision for him. He returns to life, hearing the strange rushing of his own blood as it begins to flow once more.

* * *

Mystarion rises without comment. Vorn declares that the rest of the group should return to the village while he completes his business with the two volunteers. They take his advice and depart. Over the next several hours, Alvornux enacts a magical ceremony over one, then the other. They feel a cool magical power flow into them as he inscribes a mystic tattoo on the backs of their shoulders. When at last he is complete, it is dark outside. "There are two things I would say before I depart," he says. "Firstly, should you travel through the lands of the great dragon Sygwerdan, keep these symbols hidden –- for should he learn that you possess them, he can use them as easily as I can to spy on you." Mystarion and Leilen roll their eyes, but Vorn does not deign to notice. "Secondly: should you actually encounter the dragon, I would suggest that you say nothing of my visit to lands bound by his Treaty. I am certain he would take a dim view of such a breach, and would likely perceive you as my accomplices, given the symbols you now bear." Vorn continues to ignore the expressions of dismay on the pair as he accompanies them back to the village. Mystarion wants to know what plans Vorn has in store for them, and for Thorald in particular. Vorn chuckles. "I am sure he will tell you both, as soon as he figures it out for himself." He will say no more. As they reach the edge of the village, he bids them farewell, and disappears. A swift downdraft of wind blows over them, and Alvornux is gone.

Back in the village, there is a mighty party being held for the victors in the battle against the hobgoblins. Magnimiliar presents the chieftain, Carl Alding, with much silver, some gold, and a few pieces of amber. Many toasts are made, many drinks are downed, and many songs are sung. Zook, sitting at the table, sees a golden gnome seated across from him. "Defending an innocent and attacking a dragon was very brave. Garl likes bravery. You did good." The gnome winks and grows blurry; Zook blinks his eyes, and the hefty human warrior seated across from him grabs him by the shoulders and shakes. "Wake up, little one!"

As the rest of the group celebrates, Leilen and Mystarion examine the magical items they have found. Mystarion examines the circlet: the phrase is from the Sylvan tongue, and translates: "Trust Me". After enjoying a good laugh, he settles down and allows Leilen to Identify the circlet along with the other items:

  • 5 unlabelled potions: (4 are identical Potions of Bull’s Strength, brown and thick; 1 is a clear beige Potion of Feign Death. "So that’s what the wizard did!&quot ;)
  • 1 suit of Studded Leather: +1 Studded Leather of Light Fortification
  • 1 parchment, tied around a rock: Target of an Explosive Runes spell
  • Several Gems (a colorless sapphire worth around 1000gp, a white opal worth around 400, and five pieces of amber worth around 30 each)
  • Silver Circlet (a Circlet of Persuasion)
Magnimiliar immediately offers to forgo anything else he would be entitled to from the treasure, in exchange for the circlet. The group agrees. Jonetello takes the Studded Leather, the potions are distributed amongst the melee fighters, and the gold is divided up. Elbryn and Mystarion donate the majority of their shares to Kanavin, to assist him in his struggle to clear his name and regain his title and lands.
 

Galfridus

First Post
Journey to Magehaven

Hullashfjord, October 23, LE 653

The celebration continues, but suddenly several people notice a group of warriors leaving the hall. Following toward the edge of the village nearest the hobgoblin camp, they come across a bewildered looking sentry with a shattered greatsword in one hand and a bundle in the other. “Some old fellow…broke my sword with one swing of his staff!” He looks into the crowd. “Lord Lowthar? He left these for you…for you and your group, he said. Said you left them behind.” He hands a small gold figurine (of a vicious looking rat) and a thick book to Lowthar. Several of the group’s spellcasters identify the figurine as the focus for a Conjure Monster spell [a longer-lasting campaign variant on Summon Monster], and guess the book to be a spellbook. Leilen opens to a random page, and seeing magical writing, casts Read Magic. The book contains a number of cantrips, several first level spells including Conjure Monster I, Mage Armor, and…more explosive runes! Leilen survives the blast, but the book does not, and he is left with a charred and smoldering binding in his hands. The group settles on a new policy: “Don’t read anything!” and calls it a night.

The next day (the 24th) is spent resting, composing songs, repairing gear, and readying for departure and the trip to Magehaven, concealed in the mountains just a few day’s trip away—shorter if they travel a ways down the fjord. Magnimiliar speaks to Carl Alding about transportation. Carl is happy to offer the “Lord” and his retinue passage along the fjord, though he is not sure why they want to depart at the foot of an uninhabited mountain. Magnimiliar assures him they have heard word there are more chimeras on the slopes, and Carl seems satisfied with that answer.

The boat trip is uneventful, and the Vellanders wish the group a hearty farewell and much battle before rowing away down the fjord. Following Thorald’s best recollection, they find a steep valley and begin the climb upward.

That afternoon, their journey is abruptly interrupted by the appearance of a huge spider (easily ten feet across), pale with dark blue markings, that bites Thorald twice and then disappears before more than a couple people can dismount. Before the group can react, it appears again to bite Mystarion, who clutches at his shoulder, collapses – and promptly disappears, as does the spider. Before it vanishes, however, it is struck by several Magic Missiles and a well-aimed arrow. Finally given some time, the group is ready when the spider next appears. A series of charges from Jonetello, Zook, Kanavin, spells from Magnimiliar, and a pair of arrows from Leilen finish the creature.

Mystarion, drawn by the Medallion of Twilight to the strange shadowed realm he has seen before, walks to the analog of where he recalls Kalenthas standing. Speaking the word “Obilon” before the darkness can deepen, he reappears beside the halfling, who Cures him before he can fall to the ground.

Kalenthas wants to camp nearby, but several people feel it would be foolish to stay near the fallen monster. Jonetello and Elbryn look for tracks but find none – then decide that it might be foolish to continue. If this creature had a territory, remaining here might be the safest place to spend the night. Magnimiliar congratulates Kalenthas for having a good idea. Sure enough, the night passes without incident.

The group continues the climb the next day, following traces of a road, until they are led to a sheer rock wall with a high mountain above. Thorald thinks this is the way to Magehaven, but does not recognize the peak. They pause for a moment. Leilen casts Detect Magic, and is so sure that there is no magic here he ends the spell immediately.

As the group decides what to do next, a man appears, clad in light armor and carrying, though not aiming, a bow. He greets the group, and Thorald recognizes him as Alden Massen, chief Hunter of Magehaven. Alden welcomes the group and leads them to the wall. He speaks a word, and the wall grinds open, revealing a tunnel. After a few dozen feet, the tunnel opens onto a cavern occupied by another dozen or so lightly-armed warriors, many of whom Thorald recognizes. The group is escorted to a side chamber, where Alden takes their names and bids them wait.

After a few minutes, a beautiful young woman with raven black hair enters. She is clad in robes of deep blue. She introduces herself as Maia Azure, Diviner of Magehaven, and smiles to Thorald. She casts a spell (identified by Mystarion as Detect Thoughts) and concentrates as Alden begins asking the group about their purposes and backgrounds. Most members choose to fail their saving throw in order to prove themselves to the diviner, who focuses on them one at a time as Alden asks about their purpose in coming. Magnimiliar has trouble keeping his thoughts straight: “Think good thoughts…think good thoughts…wow, she has a nice pair of…” Maia sighs and rolls her eyes, then moves on to the next person. Jonetello requests that Prince Loxham be allowed to remain in safety in the village, but Alden insists that only the Council of Magehaven can grant such a request. “For now, he says, you are welcome to remain in the village, as long as you abide by our rules. Firstly, you may not leave the village without leave; we are a hidden place, and we must remain so. Secondly, don’t touch anything!” He rises and, with Maia, leads them through another tunnel and into the village of Magehaven.

Magehaven sits on a plateau just above the cliff that halted the party; apparently, the mountain peak above is but an illusion. The group follows a narrow path past newly-harvested fields, until they come to a large swamp, dark and overgrown with moss and ancient trees. The path winds through the swamp, and Maia and Alden encourage the group to proceed. They do, slowly, until they spot a large crocodile resting in the middle of the path. “An illusion,” says Mystarion, and attempts to see through it. He manages to perceive the dweomer sustaining the swamp itself, but the crocodile remains solid. Then Thorald remembers himself. “Hi, Smiley,” he says. “Hey there, Thorald,” says the crocodile, flashing a toothy grin. “Good to see you again!” He introduces himself to Thorald’s friends, offering a paw to each of them. “See you around,” he declares, then crawls off into the swamp. The group continues; after a few minutes, the path emerges in the village of Magehaven itself. Maia and Alden lead the group to a large hall, bid them wait, and then depart.

During the walk, Magnimiliar was doing his best to make light conversation with Maia. Maia, however, seemed interested only in discussing the astrological implications of various divinatory wards and auguries that had been shifting in recent months toward a configuration similar to that mentioned in Master Simon Overe’s journal of 513…Magnimiliar’s eyes began to glaze over, but he managed to understand that there was some sort of meeting taking place that evening.

The group waits in the hall for a short while before Leilen, standing at the door, spots a stunningly beautiful half-elven girl running toward the hall. Thinking quickly, he immediately casts Hold Person to restrain Magnimiliar, but he makes his save and is able to drop his jaw as the girl bounds inside, cries “Thorald!!!!” and gives the psion a tremendous hug. Thorald seems a bit abashed, but introduces his friend Selphyra to the group. “Hi everyone!” exclaims Selphyra. “It’s so great to meet you all…and to see you again Thorald! I didn’t think you’d ever come back! Your parents are just sooo happy you are there – they’ll be by soon. Anyway, I have to go, I’m in the middle of a lesson with Master Enam, and you know how he can get. Bye!” She flits out the door to a chorus of sighs. No one seems to object to staying in Magehaven for a while.

Shortly thereafter, the group is visited by the Council of Magehaven. Thorald sees his mother, Elaina Skye, in the group. The head of the council, Carl Whitebeard, says that the group’s request is impossible to grant. Magehaven is a place for study, not politics, and if the prince were allowed to stay, the village would inevitably be dragged into his affairs. On the other hand, the group is welcome to stay for at least a few days while they determine their future path. Carl was expecting to deny Thorald even this boon, but the head Diviner, Reddick the Seer, insisted there was no danger from the Calkyrix, so he will be allowed to stay. Carl declares the meeting over; as he does so, someone mutters in his ear. Jonetello and Leilen catch a few words: “conjured…out of the village…”, but choose to say nothing. As the council departs, Magnimiliar spots Maia and asks if he could attend the, uh, divination thing that evening. Maia smiles. “That would be up to Reddick, of course.” Magnimiliar puts the question to The Seer, who replies in a deep voice, “Of course you may attend,” before turning away. Magnimiliar is busy congratulating himself when an addendum rises from Reddick’s lips: “…at your peril.” This warning does not seem to faze Magnimiliar. Meanwhile, an apprentice left behind announces that he is to give the group a tour of the village.

Magehaven is a walled village divided into quarters, once for each school of magic (as well as one for generalist, or hedge, wizards). The apprentice glumly heads them past the Tower of Divination, the Hall of the Dead, the Three Towers of Defense, the Hall of Change, the twin Halls of Evocation, the ruined Tower of Enchantment, the Dome of Conjuration, and the Artificer’s Laboratory. Several sets of ears perk up at this last one (“Magic items?!?” ), and the group requests a tour of the lab.

The apprentice leads them to a thirty foot wall in the middle of a wide courtyard. On one side of the wall is a thick oak door. The apprentice knocks on the door, and a mouth appears: “Come in!” He opens the door, revealing a vast room filled with tables, shelves, books, engines of alchemy, and at least a dozen scurrying wizards. The Chief Artificer, Quewellen, hurries up to meet them. “Oh, the outsiders! So glad to meet you all. We were just about to—say, could one of you volunteer?”

Zook volunteers instantly, and is soon holding a gold flute while Quewellen casts a spell on him. “Alright, now just play this simple tune…” and he whistles. Zook tries, but his knowledge of the flute is limited. “That’s alright, try again—oh, and perhaps you should move away from your friends there.” After a couple attempts, Zook gets the tune right, and is instantly engulfed in a huge gout of fire that erupts from the flute. When the smoke clears, he is standing bewildered – but apparently unharmed. “Oh, blast,” says Quewellen, “still coming out the wrong end. Ah well!”

He hurries over to a table with a crystal ball and a small ring. Leilen steps forward, anticipating the need for a volunteer. He dons the ring and speaks a word at Quewellen’s request. The top of the ring cracks open, revealing a small eye. At the same time, vague shapes and colors appear in the crystal ball, moving as Leilen moves his hand, but failing to come into focus. “Wonderful – a near-sighted Ring of Clairvoyance” groans Jonetello, earning him a pleased smile from Quewellen. “Just so – very perceptive of you!”

Quewellen strides to another table and picks up a brown potion. “Now then, just one more volunteer…hm, no, not the gnome, yes, you will do, a half-elf should be just fine.” He places the potion in Elbryn’s outstretched hand. Elbryn uncorks the flask and takes a small sip. “No, no – drink it all down!” urges Quewellen, and Elbryn slowly complies. At first, nothing happens – and then the group has to restrain themselves as Elbryn slowly transmorphs into a six foot tall brown rabbit. “Now, as you may know, magic of this order cannot normally be encapsulated in potion form, but we have made some progress at doing so. Of course, there are still a few problems…” Elbryn looks bewildered, then jumps in alarm as he discovers his changed state. “Oh, don’t worry,” says Quewellen, “it wears off in a few hours. Oh, but don’t eat any carrots or lettuce before then! Anyway, so nice to meet you, but I’m afraid you’ll have to go now. Important experiment coming up!” Before leaving, several group members ask about the possibility of Quewellen’s people forging a magic item or two. Quewellen seems to think this is a grand idea.

Most of the group returns to the hall. Elbryn seeks his quarters to meditate for a bit. Jonetello plays several songs for a rapidly increasing audience, who seem eager to hear anything new regardless of subject matter. Zook, Mystarion, and Thorald pay a brief visit to Azimuth, master of the school of Illusion, in the swamp. (An unseen door in one of the large trees opens onto a stone staircase leading up to an arched chamber invisible from the path below.) Azimuth asks how they enjoy the swamp, and wonders if they have any requests for the future. After taking a couple suggestions (crystal city, Pelor’s palace) he says he will have something new before they can depart. Zook asks if he can learn illusion spells from the school. “Of course!” says Azimuth. “It would be a pleasure to have a gnome’s perspective…if you are here long enough, come back!”

Meanwhile, Magnimiliar sits high in the Tower of Divniation, doing his best to look like he understands the conversation whirling between four diviners. As best he can tell, they are concerned about a shift in the stars that began a few years back. Reddick seems to think it portends woe for the village and the lands around it, while two of the others are far less concerned. Maia says little – giving Magnimiliar exasperated glances instead. Finally, she declares that to her, the matter bears watching, but without a more clear understanding there is little they can do. Shortly thereafter, with no preamble, the meeting ends abruptly. Magnimiliar scrambles to his feet and follows Maia as she crosses one of the crystal bridges leading out of the tower and descends to the ground below. “Hey, Maia…would you like to come have a drink with me?” he asks? Maia thinks a moment, then smiles. “It sounds like a pleasant offer…but I don’t think so.” She turns and walks away.

Thorald and Mystarion spend a pleasant hour with Thorald’s parents, Donovan Stone and Elaina Skye. Elaina had foreseen Thorald’s recent death, and was overjoyed that it did not take. “That’s the only reason you’re allowed back in here,” she says, “they think your death threw off that thing, the Calkyrix.” She shakes a finger at him. “Don’t you go dying on me again, young man!” They share a few stories before Thorald and Mystarion return to the rest of the group.

Magnimiliar, upon meeting up with Thorald again, has a question for him. “So, what is this Calkyrix thing all about?” Thorald explains as best he can: tentacles of starry darkness, reaching hundreds of feet into the sky. Jonetello confirms this, recalling that they could see it from at least a quarter mile off when it appeared in the city of Merelin.

Mags, a shade paler than a few minutes before, looks around nervously. “And how did you stop this thing?” “I didn’t,” says Thorald. The first time, he explains, it was driven off by the combined force of Magehaven. The second time, he doesn’t really know what happened; when he came to, he had been transported to another plane of existence. “Something must have driven it off, I guess.”

“Well that’s great!” proclaims Magnimiliar. “Does anyone else have any deep, big secrets to reveal! Anything else hunting anyone?” Kalenthas looks a little sheepish. “Well, once when I was an acolyte I stole food from the kitchen…” Magnimiliar does not seem as concerned about this incident.

Some of the group turns in at this point. Magnimiliar, Jonetello, and a couple others return to the Artificer’s Lab. A bright light can be seen glowing behind the door, and muffled thumps or explosions sound from within. Someone knocks on the door, and the mouth appears.

“Welcome to the Artificer’s Lab! I am sorry to say that the lab is cl-- … --or rep--… --ood day!” A loud bang shakes the door, and a cloud of smoke puffs out beneath the door. “Perhaps we should come back later.” “Yeah, good idea.” They decide to call it a night.

[ November 05, 2001: Message edited by: Galfridus ]
 

Galfridus

First Post
Mordunfelsendum

Earlier, in Magehaven...

Magehaven, October 23, LE 653

With a rapid incantation, Loren Fireshower completes his binding spell. Standing in the middle of the arcane circle is a man-like figure with a long, spiky beard, clutching a glaive inscribed with dark runes. It raises a hand, halting at the edge of the circle.

"Ah, Mordunfelsendum," proclaims Loren, "I know your name. That should stop you from breaking my circle, don't you think? Now then, I wish to know some details about the flames you produce…"

Loren pauses as someone knocks on the door. "A moment," he says, drawing a curtain over the alcove. "Enter." An apprentice enters. "Ah, Eric, what is it?"

Eric bows nervously. "Sir…I wanted to know if I might visit Kavael next week, when I have finished my scribing. I know you're busy and all with Master Garret away, but it's been a long time and I'd really like to go. Plus," he adds, "I can make that drawing of the Felldenstone you were asking about. It's right there in the fields beyond the village - we used to play around it, before Master Lars told me what it was."

Loren listens politely, then shakes his head. "I'm afraid not, Eric-I need everyone here to keep things in order. I have some very important business to attend to!"

The conversation proceeds for several more minutes, but Eric cannot make any headway. At last Loren dismisses him, then turns to his writing desk. "Reports, reports…always so much to do! I wish Garret would come back." Behind him, beyond the curtain, Mordunfelsendum waits with infinite patience.

The next morning, Loren draws back the curtain. "Now then-"

Mordunfelsendum interrupts. "May I travel to the village of Kavael, home of the Felldenstone, and slay its inhabitants?"

Loren laughs. "I'm afraid not! I have questions for you to answer…then you can go."

"I will return and answer your questions after I slay the villagers. You have my word."

"No. Answer my questions and you can return -- to your home in the outer planes, mind you." Loren smiles. "Almost caught me, didn't you?" he mutters to himself. "You want to kill someone, why don't you just get out of that circle yourself and go do it? Then maybe you'll be in a mood to answer some questions."

"I might be some time."

Loren waves a hand absently. "Take all the time you need! If you can get out of that circle, go to the village and kill them all for all I care - just come back when you're done and answer my questions."

"Agreed."

With a puff of smoke, the devil vanishes from the circle. Coughing, Loren bats at the smoke, then stares worriedly into the circle. "Oh my."

Magehaven, October 26, LE 653

"Merp!"

Mystarion opens his eyes to find a huge draconic face staring at him-then awakens and realizes it's merely a tiny draconic head at extreme close range. The pseudo-dragon chirps once more and leaves a tiny scroll case before flitting out the window. Despite the early hour, Mystarion studies the case carefully before opening and reading it. Nothing explodes; inside is a message from Loren Fireshower, inviting them to meet him, discreetly, at one of the Halls of Evocation.

The group proceeds quietly to the hall, where they find Loren waiting in a shadowed corner. He says that the Council might change its mind concerning Prince Loxham; if the group undertakes a quest for him, he would do his utmost to see that they do. The mission? "Oh, just slaying a devil."

After some discussion, the group decides to accept. Loren emphasizes that they must keep this mission secret: "The Council doesn't need to know. Oh, don't worry-they know about the devil. Can't do that in secret."

The group spends the day preparing. Loren gives Mystarion access to his Evocation spellbook (every evocation spell of 4th level of below), and offers some advice on fighting the devil, known as a Barbazu: "They don't like acid; but then, they are resistant to most every spell, so you need to be careful. Non-magical weapons don't really hurt them, either."

That evening, Mystarion visits the Tower of High Divination, to cast his Clairvoyance spell. "Start at the peak of the mountain…eastward lies a pass. When it divides, take the northern valley. Within the valley is a hill. Upon that hill is a cottage. Within the cottage is a table. Upon that table is a slate, and on that slate is the message I seek…" The Order of the Iris has two messages for him:

· Emil (Daragon, of the Order of the Lily) seeks you in Kinfeld.

· Kanavin Loxham has passed beyond our sight. If he is beyond your protection, send word.

Magnimiliar spends most of the day preparing a message for his new love, Maia. He turns to Marian Mistletoe, druid of Magehaven, for a bouquet of flowers. After a mere several hours of agonized contemplation, he composes a poem to include. That night, Jonetello performs the poem, making major on-the-fly revisions to produce a work of true and lasting beauty. An owl finds its way to Magnimiliar with a short message, written in a light, flowing script: "Persistence deserves reward. Send word when you return." It is signed by Maia. Magnimiliar can barely restrain himself.

That evening, the group is approached by the Council. Carl Whitebeard asks the group if they have anything to tell him. Wisely, the group does not seek to lie or evade the Council, and relates their conversation with Loren and the mission they have agreed to. "It is good that you tell me this," responds Carl. "The Council has agreed that this mission is a worthy one, and should you succeed, the Loxham prince will remain here under our protection until spring, at the least. One more thing: beware the words of this creature, as they have great power."

Heartened, the group decides to spend another day in preparation, permitting Mystarion to finish scribing Lesser Acid Orb. Kalenthas prepares a handful of Magic Weapons and Magic Circles against Evil. The next morning, they are escorted to a cave at the edge of town. Despite being high in the mountains and far from the fjord, the cave leads in a matter of minutes to the water's edge. There, they are joined by Quewellen, who produces a small box. "Now, this is a magical vessel which will take you where you need to go." He rapidly explains the commands for unfolding, commanding, and refolding the boat. "Ah, one more thing. While only the designated captain can command the rowers, it is important that no one say the word, 'Sink', while the boat is in the water. Well, I must go, good luck!" With that, Quewellen hurries off, oblivious to the questions hurled at him by the suddenly anxious adventurers.

With a little trepidation, they unfold the boat and get inside. A troop of illusory rowers appears on either side, rowing in time to the boat's motion. Magnimiliar looks around desperately, a certain dangerous work scratching and clawing at the tip of his mouth. Finally, Leilen takes pity on him: a Hold Person followed by rope and gag serve to protect Magnimiliar from his own impulses.

Late that night, the group arrives at the village of Lorskun, just south of their destination. They spend the night by the docks, then enter the village and start asking questions about any strange happenings. They discover two things: just a few days ago, a villager from Kavael bought up all the greataxes that could be found; and the day after, a boy arrived from Kavael with wild stories of fire and doom. "Of course," says a villager, "that boy Arn is always making up stories. Ghosts, raiders, wolves - it's always something. Where is he? He's at the healer's - came down with something just after he got here." They hurry to the healer's cottage, but they are too late: the boy passed away the night before. The healer is bewildered; the boy had chills, but like nothing she had ever seen before. "I hope it's not catching," she warns, "'cause no one in these parts has a remedy for it."

The adventurers hasten north out of the village along the path to Kavael, which perches on a plateau a half-days journey away. The journey is quiet; even the wildlife seems subdued. As they reach the plateau, a feeling of darkness and dread falls over them. They find the village apparently abandoned and silent. The exteriors of many buildings are spattered with blood; inside, all furnishings and belongings have been smashed and burned. After searching several buildings, the group decides to make its way toward the great hall, suspecting the Barbazu has taken up residence there.

As they approach, several spells are cast in preparation: Magic Weapon, Magic Circle Against Evil, Mage Armor, Shield. They open the door and ready themselves for the worst...

Inside, bright torches shine from both side walls, illuminating a pair of long tables crowded with half-eaten food. At the far end, an old, fat man leans over a bulky wooden desk, busily writing onto a large scroll. Behind him a woman stands perfectly still and silent. The man looks up as Zook enters. "Are you of this village?" he asks in a nasal, sinister voice.

"No," answers Zook.

"Then you may go," replies the man. Zook pauses a moment, shaking his head as he feels an enchantment alight on him for a moment, then shake free. The desk squeaks slightly as he writes a note. He turns to Jonetello, who has entered behind Zook. "Are you of this village?" he asks, and when Jonetello indicates in the negative, delivers the same response: "Then you may go." As with Zook, Jonetello feels a spell at work, but resists its lure. The man returns to his writing until Magnimiliar enters. "I am of this village!" he says when asked. "Your name?" asks the man. Magnimiliar exercises his skill at making up names. The old man carefully writes this down, evoking another creak from the desk. "You, then, shall not leave this village." He stands up; as he does so, the torches and food fade, leaving behind a dark, dusty, abandoned room. The desk shimmers...and becomes an old man, naked, with tiny blood-red letters covering his entire body. The man himself changes shape, becoming taller, with a long, spiky beard. He reaches for a glaive concealed on the table...and all hell breaks loose.

From outside the hall, Mystarion sends a lightning bolt arcing down the center of the hall. It bounces harmlessly off the now-revealed barbazu. Zook and Jonetello attack, and several others rush into the hall. The barbazu steps back, sounds a horn hung around his neck - and vanishes. Beside the long table, the old man falls to the ground, slain by Mystarion's lightning bolt.

Outside, Thorald, Mystarion, and Leilen hear a commotion from downhill toward the village. They turn to look, as wave after wave of skeletons emerge from a barn not 100 yards distant. The group takes up battle positions as the first wave approaches. Each of the skeletons - all one hundred of them -- wields a greataxe, and they are closing fast. Morale is not high. Mystarion attempts to entrap them in a Web, but they mostly move around it. Inside the hall, the woman remains motionless, unresponsive to questions beyond a shrug or a shake of her head.

As the first wave closes, the barbazu reappears - and is promptly charged by Elbryn. Kalenthas calls on the power of Pelor and completely disintegrates the first wave, easily overcoming the negative aura that permeates the village. The barbazu speaks to him: "The power of Pelor will no longer avail you here. Do not call upon it again!"

"We're in trouble guys!" says Kalenthas. "The power of Pelor will no longer avail us here!" Uh-oh.

Jonetello and Mystarion assure Kalenthas that Pelor is doing just fine. "Who are you going to believe-us or a devil?" Meanwhile, the barbazu Teleports to a rooftop where Leilen has taken up position. Leilen screams and flees (via wings, thanks to Alter Self), and the barbazu casually tosses a flame down onto the Web, clearing the line of assault for the next waves.

Kalenthas is exasperated. "I know this won't work, but fine." He holds forth his medallion and calls on Pelor, and is astonished as the next wave vanishes in holy light. "Wow! Must have been a coincidence or something. After all, the power of Pelor will no longer-"

"Don't listen to it!"

The group manages to convince Kalenthas to try one more time. Zook comes to his side, and the two of them are able to turn and destroy the entire skeletal army. As they do so, the barbazu vanishes, then reappears to fight with Elbryn, Jonetello, and Magnimiliar. It makes a vicious attack with its glaive, then its claws, grabbing Elbryn and raking him with its long, spiky beard. But before it can finish the job, it is run through, and vanishes in a flash of bright light. Its glaive falls to the ground.

The group is unprepared for the silence that falls over the hillside. Apart from weaponry, no sign remains of the battle that was just fought. Elbryn cries aloud as his wound continues to bleed, but Kalenthas quickly stops the flow of blood and heals him. The group heads inside to discuss their options, while Elbryn keeps watch outside. Jonetello heads south to fetch the horses, left on the outskirts of the village. Returning through the main square, he fails to see the shadowy figure lurking nearby...

"Flee this village now!"

The other adventurers hear Jonetello all the way from the great hall, and watch in bewilderment as he gallops toward the edge of the plateau. Jonetello rides to the edge of town - then reins in his horse, stops, and rides back. "I fled the village - now I'm coming back!" Meanwhile, others fetch the remaining horses, placing them in a paddock near the great hall.

Elbryn, keeping watch, is confronted by the barbazu: "I cannot be defeated; flee me!" He runs, scared, calling out "It's here!!!" Mystarion runs down the hill to investigate, and is told: "Kill the one with you who is from this village. If he dies, the rest of you shall go free." Mystarion comes back up the hill and nearly puts an arrow in Magnimiliar before shaking off the spell.

Mystarion tries several times to speak to the woman, but she remains silent, only shaking her head or shrugging in response to questions. As best they can gather, she has been commanded to remain silent. She resists when they try to take her from the hall. At last, they decide to leave her where she is for the moment.

Leilen and Elbryn decide to seek out the village priest's cottage (having already observe the charred foundation that was the church). On their way there, they are confronted by the barbazu, who speaks to Leilen: "Give me your bow." Leilen resists the spells, but does decide to gift the creature with a couple of arrows. Once again, the creature vanishes. Unfortunately, they find nothing of interest in the priest's cottage and swiftly return to the great hall. Night is falling.

Elbryn decides to check on the horses, and receives a pair of fiery blasts as he does so. A figure appears nearby; but as Elbryn slices through it, it is proven to be an illusion. Soon after, evil laughter echoes across the village, coming from near the horses. Mystarion and several others identify it as illusory, but it is disquieting nevertheless. Night is falling...
 
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Galfridus

First Post
The Devil is in the Details

Hullashfjord, October 29, LE 653

As the laughter fades, Magnimiliar discovers a large chest underneath the table, near where the barbazu had been sitting. Inside is a wealth of treasure: mixed coin totaling at least 12,000 gp; numerous potions; a suit of full plate; and a dozen or more gems, some looking quite valuable. Magnimiliar drops it all into his Bag of Holding; a proper inventory can wait until later.

The group (with horses) waits nervously for night to pass. Jonetello, Zook, and Elbryn are standing guard; the others are resting as best they can, Magnimiliar curls up in a corner, then decides he needs more protection. He borrows Kalenthas' shield to use as an extra blanket.

Unfortunately, the barbazu has other ideas. A slow, deliberate scraping begins, as if someone were dragging something against the back wall of the great hall. A couple sleepers wake up, alarmed, but when nothing further happens they go back to sleep. A few minutes later, the scraping resumes - this time along the north wall. Worried that the spellcasters won't get enough sleep, most of them put wax in their ears to (hopefully) ensure that they won't wake up. The scraping is heard against the south wall - and then, for a while, there is silence. Elbryn thinks to look outside, but the door has been barred and no one really wants to unbar it quite yet. As all of the windows had been firmly boarded up prior to their arrival, the group can do little but wait, and hope. There comes a sound as if someone were on the roof, walking slowly to and fro. This, too, subsides after a minute or two.

After a couple peaceful hours, there is a sudden gasp from the back of the hall. The young woman sags to the floor. The group rushes to her side. She says her name is Kira Merafar. She tells, briefly, how the devil appeared and slew the entire village, sparing no one but herself. Why was she spared? She does not know, save that she was forced to act as the devil's servant. After a few minutes, she stands, walks to one of the horses, and begins rummaging through a saddlebag. Ignoring the party's questions, she finds a blanket and covers the charred body of the old man, her former chieftain. She turns to the party and asks to be given a weapon so that she might help defend her village. Elbryn hands her a silver dagger, but then Jontello gives her a long sword. She is clearly not trained in its use, but just as clearly has every intention of trying her best. The group returns to their watch.

At midnight, or thereabouts, there comes a deep tolling, as of a giant bell, from above the great hall. The group recalls no bell tower, and Kira assures them that no such bell exists within the village. The bell tolls thirteen times and then stops. A horrendous screaming commences, a woman's voice, coming from just outside the doors. Kira listens, shuddering, then offers that although at least one woman did escape, that does not sound like her voice. The screaming builds and then fades off into a pitiful moan, and then silence. It begins once more, the same voice, then dies off for good. Several people want to see what is outside, but they are talked out of it.

A half-hour, maybe more, passes. Suddenly, several people notice that the air is growing warm. On the north wall, wisps of smoke are rising, quickly spreading to the other walls and roof. The great hall is on fire! Quickly, as smoke begins to collect under the high roof, those on watch awaken the sleepers, then unbar the doors and look outside.

"If you drop your weapons and surrender to me, you may go free," speaks a sinister voice out of the darkness. Elbryn considers this an excellent Suggestion, lets go of his sword, and vanishes into the darkness. A humanoid figure can be seen by the light of the fire, a glaive clutched in its hands. The group attacks: as Jonetello runs forward, a few spells from the party strike the barbazu - but none penetrate its innate resistance to magic. Jonetello courageously takes the creature on single-handed, receiving several wounds which bleed freely. His fighting quickly turns defensive, and the barbazu has a difficult time penetrating his nimble swordplay.

Then a second barbazu appears at the entrance to the hall, next to Mystarion, Zook, Thorald, and Leilen. "Remember me?" it asks in a mocking tone, as it strikes at Zook. With two front-line fighters otherwise occupied, the remainder of the party has a hard time keeping this devil at bay. It lands a pair of deadly wounds on Zook, who is too busy fighting to attempt to heal them. It then turns on Thorald; but is Leilen whose skill turns the tide, placing arrow after arrow into the flank of the beast with magically-enhanced quickness. At last, the barbazu has had enough, and it charges Leilen, dealing him a serious wound and forcing him to retreat (along with Mystarion, who with few spells and no magic weapon, has little chance of affecting the creature). Kira retreats as well, sword ready in case the devil should decide it is her turn to perish.

Outside, Elbryn stops running. He has surrendered to the barbazu, he has gone free - can he now not return? After considering the matter for a moment, he decides his surrender has lasted long enough - and rushes back toward the fight.

"Kalenthas! I need help!" Jonetello cries, as the devil's glaive scores another hit, and the blood flows freely down Jonetello's side. Kalenthas rushes outside, moving as fast as he can toward the combat. "What happened to my shield?" he mutters as he closes on Jonetello. The devil, seeing the priest who decimated his undead army, snarls and seems to grow stronger in his fury. He strikes at Kalenthas, ignoring Jonetello, and lands two solid hits on the already weakened halfling. Blood flowing from the wounds, Kalenthas collapses even as Elbryn returns, rushing up to the devil opposite Jonetello and providing a greatly-needed flanking opportunity.

Inside, Magnimiliar loads his crossbow, knowing that its magic will not help against the enchantments that protect the barbazu's fiendish hide. He fires, and lands a telling blow straight into the devil's black heart. The barbazu falters for a moment, then retaliates, bringing his glaive down and all but killing Magnimiliar with one furious blow. Beside him, Zook falls to the ground, overcome by his wounds. Thorald's next strike opens a wound of black fire on the barbazu, and it vanishes in a cloud of smoke, leaving only its glaive behind. Mystarion is able to stabilize Magnimiliar, but finds that Zook has already died: seemingly, the headband he wore allowed him to fight even while at death's door. After making sure Magnimiliar is alive, Leilen runs for the door to assist with the battle outside.

"You have fought well," the barbazu intones, sneering at Jonetello. "I thank you for the 389 souls you have given me. Perhaps one or two more shall join them before long." Soon after he speaks those words, a pair of arrows from Leilen finish him off. He slumps to the ground, lifeless, his body left behind along with his weapon. The battle is over; but still the vicious wounds of the barbazu are taking their toll. Leilen runs to Kalenthas' side, but even as he binds one wound, Kalenthas issues a final sigh, and passes on. Elbryn acts swiftly to ensure that Jonetello does not suffer the same fate. That done, the group quickly moves their horses and belongings out of the burning building, then destroys the glaive that remains outside. By the time they remember the second glaive within, the fire has grown too intense to retrieve it. Thorald attempts to enter, but the smoke and flames are too much. The group decides to depart the village, and return later if need be to destroy the glaive and re-consecrate the village.

As the group descends from the plateau, Kira demands that they halt and return to her the spoils of the village. "I am chieftain now, and the treasure of the village belongs to me." The party is angered by this attitude: they save her life, two of their companions are dead, and all she cares about is money? They insist on receiving part of the spoils as reward for their deeds, but Kira is insistent.

"You are not from Velland," she states. "This is how such things are done in Velland." Finally, the group assents, and sullenly counts out her money, gems, and whatnot, placing it all in sacks. There is some sentiment to let her carry it all, but in the end they place it on their own steeds and continue south.

Hullashfjord, October 30, LE 653

The group reaches the village of Rocsun, just south of Kavael. Kira leads them to the great hall, where she demands entry to speak with the lord within. The guards laugh, until she tells the tale of Kavael, and the fate of its people. "Only by the might of these people was the devil slain, and they will tell the truth of what I say," she finishes. The party nods, and the guards decide to admit her. The party starts to leave, but Kira requests their presence inside.

Kira speaks boldly to the Harulf Hulash, the chieftain of the village, telling her story in greater detail, then naming herself chieftain of the Merefar clan. Before Harulf can argue, she continues: "And as chieftain, I would reward those who fought, and died, to slay the devil." She counts out 6,000 gold pieces and presents them to the party, along with the full plate (which is magical, she says), three gems, and the potions. She then produces a treasure which she had concealed from the barbazu, the village's greatest possession: a Headband of Intellect, and gives it to the party as well. "As for the rest of my clan's treasure: I have no more clan, so I must find a new one. This gold and these gems will be my dowry, for the man worthy of my hand." Harulf laughs, and promises her a brave and worthy husband. The party warns the lord of the glaive left in the burning great hall and takes their leave. They return to Magehaven as swiftly as the magic boat will carry them. Once there, after exchanging swift greetings with the guard, they ask for divination to discern if Zook and Kalenthas wish to return to the living. They are taken to the Tower of High Divination, where Maia Azure awaits. Magnimiliar, reunited with his new love, smiles and sighs as he takes his seat in the divining chamber, trying his best to think pure thoughts.

Maia casts Contact Other Plane, seeking the mind of Garl Glittergold. Her question is simple: Does Zook Mirnig desire to return to life?

* * *

Zook, meanwhile, is in Garl's prankster school, serving as volunteer/victim for lesson after lesson. A shining, golden gnome approaches, and everyone falls silent. \

"Saywhatifyouwanttostayhere," the figure mutters.

"What?"

"Saywhatifyouwanttostayhere."

"What?"

Garl sighs. "You are almost hopeless! If the choice were yours: to stay here, or to return to the living, which would you choose?"

Zook needs little time to decide. "I would wish to stay here, lord."

Garl nods. "Very well." He smiles. "But first, you must take this pebble from my hand..."

* * *

Maia sighs, and ends the spell. "Your friend Zook would not choose to return," she says.

After a moment of respectful silence, she begins casting again. This time, she seeks the Wisdom of Pelor. Thorald, the only party member who knows Celestial, hears her questions...

"Is Magnimiliar Ivellios a good man?" She pauses a moment, then nods before asking her next question.

"Does Kalenthas Thistleberry wish to return to life?"

A minute passes, then another. Maia's brow furrows, and she thinks a moment before asking her next question. "If a spell to return him from the dead were cast, would he refuse it?" After a moment, she speaks again: "Is he still unsure what he would do?" She sighs and ends the spell. "Your friend Kalenthas is torn, it would seem," she says.

"Sounds like Kalenthas," says Jonetello, and several of the party nod in agreement.

The group turns in for the night. Magnimiliar offers to escort Maia to her house, and is astonished when she says yes. With a dumbfounded look on his face, he heads off with her.

Magehaven, October 31, LE 653

The party spends a day resting, cleaning up, and restocking. Leilen Identifies the magic items found in Kavael:

· +1 Full Plate
· Potions of Speak with Animals, Detect Undead, and Spider Climb
· Headband of Intellect +2

Mystarion pounces on the Headband. Elbryn tries on the plate, but is not trained in the proper wearing of such heavy armor. The potions are distributed, as is the gold (including proceeds from the sale of the three gems, together worth around 3,000 gp).

Several people speak with Quewellen about producing new magic items, and many orders are placed. Leilen, Magnimiliar, Elbryn, and Jonetello all decide to take advantage of the "research discount": in exchange for a decrease in item cost, Quewellen will produce items using newer, experimental methods of magic item creation. Such items usually possess special qualities above and beyond those of most magic items. Items requested are:

· Slippers of Spider Climb (Leilen, paid for)
· Boots of Silence (Magnimiliar; +5 to Move Silently)
· Ring of Sustenance (Jonetello, part of trade)
· +1 Leather (Leilen, part of trade)
· Potions of Bull's Strength (Elbryn, paid for)
· +1 Rapier (Jonetello, part of trade)

Items traded to Quewellen include the +1 Plate and Jonetello's Horseshoes of Disguise. In addition, Thorald spends some time gathering materials to construct a psionic Amulet of Health - finding just the right crystal takes some time. Jonetello begins composing a dirge for Zook, and plays some gnomish songs in the evening to an enthusiastic audience. Mystarion hits the books again, copying more spells from Magehaven's stock.

That evening, a tired, battered young man approaches Magehaven. Stymied by its defenses, he makes camp nearby, and is quickly captured by the Hunters. When questioned (and his Thoughts Detected), he claims to be Ravenfield, apprentice to a powerful sorcerer by the name of Baronton Mginoff. The two of them had been ambushed by a black elf and his wolf companions; Ravenfield survived, finding his master gone but a book left behind. The book contains directions to Magehaven and a message written in a language unknown to him. He agrees to give up the book to the village, and to remain within the village until this matter can be explored more fully. He is led to an empty cottage where he plummets into sleep, safe at last after weeks of flight.

Magehaven, November 1, LE 653

Early that morning, Thorald is awakened by insistent knocking on his door. Selphyra is there, with exciting news: another stranger has come to the village? Would he like to see? What about his friends? Thorald awakens the others, and together they make their way to Ravenfield's cottage, and hear his story. As they listen, a messenger arrives from the council: they would like to speak with Ravenfield, and the party is invited as well to observe.

The council tells the party about Ravenfield's book. They do not know the name Baronton Mginoff, and do not know how he, or anyone, came into possession of such detailed directions to their village. The rest of the book is written in Sylvan, and contains a detailed description of a high mountain peak where a valuable book is hidden. The description is so detailed, says Carl Whitebeard, head of the council, that teleportation should be possible. He turns to a middle-aged woman dressed in the robes of a master. "Laura of the Mist has volunteered to retrieve the book, this afternoon," he says.

"Would you be willing to take anyone with you?" asks Leilen. Laura starts to shake her head, but Carl prods her gently. "Yes, yes, of course - but only five hundred and twenty-five pounds worth," she says reluctantly. "Ravenfield can go, of course - the rest of you decide and meet me here at noon. Don't be late!" She departs, clearly a little miffed.

The party informs the council that they might wish to stay a few weeks, but were not sure if Thorald would be permitted to stay. "The council has decided that Thorald may remain so long as the omens do not change their course," Carl says. "If they remain clear, he may stay the winter, if need be. We will provide you with transport to one of the towns of Velland, when the time comes to leave."

The group spends some time deciding who should go, and finally settles on Thorald and Leilen. At noon, they meet in the central square, where Laura is waiting with several apprentices. Everyone receives an Endure Elements for each element, as well as Mage Armor, before Laura announces she is ready to begin. "Stay close to me - if there is trouble and I have to Teleport away, I won't wait for you to come back!" She raises her hands, incants: and in a flash, the foursome appear atop a snow-covered, windswept peak.

Several boulders lay strewn about them. As the group looks around, one of the boulders sprouts eyes, and then lifts a head. A draconic form shakes free of the snow and regards the humans. Its scales are a deep grey, its eyes black. It speaks in a deep voice that carries easily over the wind:

"What has leaves which turn but do not fall?"
"What has a spine but no bones?"
"What ends but can always begin again?"

"I can probably blast it if need be," mutters Laura, "but I am no good at riddles." She readies a spell, but Thorald raises a hand.

"I think I know this one," he whispers, "...a book!" The group agrees and pronounces the answer. Meanwhile, Leilen is recalling an ancient tale, about a grey dragon and a seer named Albreth the Prophet, who is said to have predicted (among other things) the fall of the Tataiafar Empire, the founding of Rellenor, and the rise of Sygwerdan...

"Very good," the dragon says, and then speaks another riddle:

"White headed yet bald am I.
I wear a white wreath made with neither leaf nor branch.
I have roots but no leaves, sides but no bottom.
My tears run freely through spring, but dry by autumn."

This one causes a little more thought, but before long Ravenfield speaks the answer: "A mountain."

"You have spoken well," says the dragon, and a book emerges from the snow and drifts toward them. "Now you may go," it declares, setting its head down and turning away from the group. Laura takes the book and casts...and the group is back in Magehaven, not five minutes after they left.

Laura sets the book down, then along with her assistants cast a series of divination spells. "No magic or evil," she declares, and leafs open the book. "It's all Abyssal to me," she says. Leilen takes a quick look, and manages to decipher some of the text; apparently, the language is similar to the ancient Elvish tongue used in the time of the Empire. From what he can see, the book contains a series of cryptic quatrains, speaking of fire, towers falling, and great battles and diseases. The meaning is clearly subtle enough to escape the use of a simple Comprehend Languages spell; the material must be translated by hand. Leilen goes with Laura to the "Hedge Wizard's" quarter, where a group of learned wizards begin the translation. Before long, it is clear to Leilen that these are the Prophecies of Albreth, a work quoted in countless tales and accounts of ancient times, but thought lost since the fall of the Tataiafar Empire. Soon afterward, one of the wizards gasps, making some conclusion...and asks Leilen to leave. "We wish to keep this within Magehaven for the moment," he says, "but we will let you know if we need you."

That evening, the funeral for Zook Mirnig is held. Zook's body, dressed simply with the medallion of Garl Glittergold on his breast, lies on a simple bier surrounded by logs and kindling. An area in front of the bier is lit by poles glowing with magical light. Azimuth, Master of the illusionist's school, stands ready to conduct the service. The group gathers, along with others from the village. "As Zook sought instruction in the mastery of illusion - a very gnomish undertaking - it seems fit that I complete the rites of his passage from this world." He speaks for a few moments concerning the bravery and courage of the gnomish paladin, then asks that his companions come forward and speak of him. Jonetello stands, and begins the dirge which he has composed telling of the bravery, courage, and trickiness of his companion. A moment of silence follows his lament.

"Now, would three of Zook's closest companions please stand," Azimuth requests. Thorald, Jonetello, and Elbryn stand. "In keeping with gnomish tradition, Zook's companions will perform an interpretive dance expressing their respect for their friend, and their grief at his passing." The three exchange glances for a moment, then manage a fitting, if somewhat awkward, performance. Jonetello plays up Zook's trickster side, tripping the others as they dance. When they are done, Azimuth gestures, dimming the light, as two torchbearers approach the bier. They set the logs alight, and watch in silence as Zook's mortal shell begins to burn.

Then the entire bier erupts in a cacophony of light and noise, shooting fireworks high into the sky with a whistle and a series of BANGs! The funeral party is stunned for a moment, and just as they are gathering their wits, Zook sits up on the bier. "Fooled you!" he cried, and laughs for a few final moments - before Azimuth dismisses the illusion with a gesture and a smile. "So let it end, how Zook wished it to be," he says, and the group disperses, as the flames complete their job.

The next morning, the council summons Ravenfield and the party, to inform them that the book has been mostly translated. It is, or claims to be, the prophecies of Albreth, thought lost. The council is not ready to release the translation until more work can be done, but within the book itself, the author commanded that one passage be made available to all within the "haven of mages". Carl provides two written copies of that passage:

Prophecy of Midnight

At midnight many things move
Leaves on high branches fall
The moon falls from the tower
Whispered words across ghostly worlds

The darkness fell long ago
On knights of greatness and power
Shall they rise again?
Shall midnight be the next or final hour?

The barge drifts on the lake
Carries the symbol and tool
Damned by many, read by few
Its evil soon begins anew

In Dhrahellend the dead walk at midnight
Westward on waters edge
Death and decay are their companions
Yet the living walk there as well

In Mordallend the moon fell long ago
Creatures of green crawl from its light
Countless footsteps echo in the hills
Dragons have many colors

The stars give signs, even at midnight
Pages turn as souls are lost
In dark waters coral dies
Is it death or a third life?

In Nardhellend midnight comes
Methods of darkness too many to count
Laughter and tears, laughter once more
Dragons shall fall, armies shall pause

Shadows fall longest at midnight
In the starlight their darkness is seen
Who stands master over them?
In Nardhellend he shall seek.

In Tataya the rocks mourn
Greatness past and long forgotten
Stones await a dream
Stones shall answer them

In Tataya midnight passes
Countless graves give lament
Who shall hear them?
The mourning begins anew

Dhrahellend's harbors glisten
In midnight's glow, harbor still
Evil, injustice, deceit, torment
Stones did not craft it all
Who shall return and shall fall?

At midnight many things move
Flowers freeze atop the high mountain
Weeks, years, centuries, fortnights
Do not these have midnights as well?

- Albreth the Prophet


Several of the party identify place names from the stanzas:

Mordallend: A province of the fallen Tataiafar Empire, spanning all the human and demi-human kingdoms: Rellenor, Kinfeld, Velland, Thelden, Madrazzar, and much wild land around them. (See http://home.earthlink.net/~speares/mordallend )
Drahellend: A sub-region of Mordallend, covering the area around Lake Drelmist.
Nardhellend: A sub-regio of Mordallend, covering the mountains and fjords in and around Velland.
Tataya: The province of the fallen Tataiafar Empire which contained the Imperial capital. Adjacent to Mordallend, to the northeast, through several rings of high mountains.

The group spends much of the day discussing the passage and what it might mean.

Jonetello grows restless. Walking the village, he decides to inquire about the possibility of sparring with some of the Hunters who protect the village, and is quickly directed to Sara Greenbriar. Sara eagerly accepts the invitation. In fact, she says, the village often has such tournaments, where the participants are protected by a special spell so that they will not suffer permanent harm. The spell also allows spells to be cast, so wizards can participate. She offers to gather a team of seven or eight, and agrees with Jonetello that the match will be held in five days time.
 
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Galfridus

First Post
A Tourney!

Magehaven, November 1, LE 653

Several days of study and preparation pass. Leilen continues research into the nature of the prophecies. Although the wizards of Magehaven decline his offers to assist with the rest of the text that he helped return, he nevertheless makes some headway with the Prophecy of Midnight. Mystarion continues his scribing, copying spell after spell into his book. Ravenfield spends most of his time in the armory, creating a glaive for use in the tournament. Magnimiliar spends most of his time with Maia; while romance is not exactly in the air, something akin to friendship does seem to be blooming. The others enjoy the quiet and peace, while preparing for the tournament in a few days time.

The tourney is to take place within the Enchanter's Quarter. A spell unique to the village, Aura of Harmlessness, is used to protect the participants and the village itself. The villagers are the defending team: they have a shield which must remain on the tournament field for the duration for them to win. The party is attacking: they must enter the quarter and retrieve the shield. The tournament rules are as follows:

Magehaven tournament rules

  1. Obey the judges and master judges at all times.
  2. All persons and creatures must retain the Aura of Harmlessness at all times. If the aura drops, that person must exit immediately.
  3. Cancelling the aura on another person is grounds for disqualification.
  4. Intentionally bypassing the protection of the aura (including causing the destruction of equipment) is grounds for disqualification.
  5. Leaving the tournament area is not allowed, save for ethereal, shadow, or astral journeys not more than three seconds in individual duration. (This permits the Blink and Dimension Door spells, but not Ethereal Jaunt.) Forcing another person to leave the tournament area is not allowed. Unless otherwise specified, the interior of buildings, towers, etc. within the tournament area are not considered part of the tournament area.
    a. "Closed" extra-dimensional regions (such as Bags of Holding, Magnificent Mansions, etc.) may be created and/or entered.
  6. Familiars, companions, and other allies are permitted so long as they are brought to service via a long-term spell. (Charm, Dominate, etc., do not apply.)
    a. Restrictions on the number of recipients may constrain the number of permitted non-familiar allies per team. The master judges will rule on any such arrangements prior to the tournament.
  7. Equipment from defeated and/or unconscious opponents may not be taken or used.
  8. Spells of less than 25 hours duration may not be in effect prior to the start of the tournament.
  9. Potions, wands, scrolls, alchemists' fire, and other non-reusable items may not be used. Spells with expensive material components are allowed at the discretion of the master judges.
  10. Impersonating a judge or master judge, falsifying decrees or statements so as to make them seem official where they are not (for example, a Ventriloquism of a master judge declaring the tournament ended), or unofficial where they are official, are grounds for disqualification.
  11. Spells, effects, or stratagems which promote an extended stalemate may be altered, dispelled, or cancelled at the discretion of the master judges.
  12. Prohibited spells/effects:
  • Spells which violate any of the rules of the tournament or decrees of the judges or master judges.
  • Spells which cause extended continuing damage: Evard's Black Tentacles, etc. (Short-term damage spells such as Melf's Acid Arrow are allowed.)
  • Spells which cause Constitution damage: Poison, etc.
  • Spells which cause immunity to damage dealt under the Aura of Harmlessness, or which summon creatures immune to such damage.
  • Spells which cause significant damage that is not protected by the Aura: Levitating an unwilling recipient high in the air and then canceling the spell, etc. (Persons who Levitate themselves are presumed to accept the risks involved.) This includes damage to equipment and the tournament field.

The party has ample time to speak to Thorald about the village team (as best he can remember them; it's been several years since he was here). They are:

Sara Greenbriar. A outgoing young human who is second in command of the village's Hunters (non-spellcasters who protect the village). A ranger, Sara fights with two short swords, and is reputed to be an accomplished tactician and leader.

Maximilian D'Aury. An outcast of Rellenor, Maximilian is notorious for his skill with the longbow, and at firing from concealed positions. He is in his mid thirties and tends to spend his time with other Hunters.

Algar Link. A young human, boisterous and friendly. Thorald doesn't recall much about him, but had heard that he uses a spiked chain when fighting.

Pearl. A short, plain woman in her mid forties, Pearl is an accomplished illusionist. She is very quiet except when someone gets her talking about illusions; then, she is hard to shut up. She is known for a near-obsessive dedication to creating illusions that cannot be pierced, and tends to become upset when fooled by illusions cast by others.

Barantikelldessen. A strange creature of unknown origin, Baran is half-human and half-ram; similar to a centaur in appearance, but much smaller. Baran is a generalist wizard. He rarely, if ever, speaks of his family or past, but is happy to discuss matters of the village with others.

Marie Mistletoe. The village's only druid, Marie is a human from Kinfeld who spends most of her time in the nearby fields and valleys. Marie is a skilled herbalist and brewer of potions, and is held in high esteem by the villagers. Her age is not known for certain, but she looks to be in her fifties.

Frederick Ulfen. Another young human about whom Thorald knows little. Frederick wears heavy armor (a rarity in Magehaven) and has apparently learned the craft of soldiery quickly.

Selphyra Caldyrin. A half-elf sorcerer of the Abjuration school, Selphyra is Thorald's closest friend in the village. She is bubbly and friendly, but probably not the best tactician in the world.

The head of the Hunters, Alden Massen, and the acting head of the Evoker school, Loren Fireshower, will serve as master judges.

Magehaven, November 7, LE 653

By the day of the tournament, all of the items that were being crafted for the party are ready. Magnimiliar receives a pair of Boots of Active Silence, which make the wearer harder to hear by creating "negating sounds" which counter the sounds made while moving. Leilen gets Leather Armor of Holes: the armor appears soft, with many folds and creases, and no more protective than unenhanced leather. However, weapon blows have a way of "disappearing" into the creases, protecting the user somewhat from their damage. In addition, the wearer can place a single small item into the armor with a command word ("Leomund"); saying the command word again will cause the item to pop out. Elbryn gets two potions of Rabbit Strength, with no further explanation. Jonetello receives his Ring of Sustenance. Quewellen explains that this ring uses mental as well as physical means to prevent the user from craving food or drink, but claims that no side effects have been discovered, as yet. Jonetello's Ring of Sweet Protection is returned unchanged; Quewellen explains he has not had time to give it a proper examination. He did, however, have a chance to Analyze the box they had taken from the mimic's lair. The box, when commanded, grows into a small wooden cottage similar to Leomund's Secure Shelter, with slight changes (doors and windows not Arcane Locked, for example). The cottage lasts 12 hours and is usable once per day.

The tournament begins with the party outside the tournament field, and the defenders inside, gathered near the shield that they must defend. The battlefield is mostly open, but at the far end the Hall of Enchantment blocks of most of its width, leaving only two narrow entrances to the yard where the shield is placed. The defenders are not allowed to move the shield at any point, so the party knows that is where they must head. They divide into three strike teams: Alpha, composed of Elbryn, Thorald, and Kanavin; Beta, with Jonetello, Mystarion, and Ravenfield; and Zeta, with Magnimiliar and Leilen as reserve. The master judges verify that everyone is familiar with the rules, and demonstrate the three horn blasts everyone should be listening for: victory for attackers, victory for defenders, and "all halt", sounded only in case of emergency or a serious rules violation. Azimuth raises an illusionary wall across the entrance to the Enchanter's Quarter: when the horn sounds, the attackers have only seconds to cross it and enter the tournament. Most of Magehaven watches from atop the village walls, outside the quarter, and (for a brave few) from within houses in the quarter itself. Maia waves to Magnimiliar from the wall, wishing him luck. And then, with a high, clear note, the contest begins.

The attackers move quickly. Alpha group moves left, taking cover behind a cottage. Beta group moves right, likewise taking cover. Zeta group moves forward to a series of pillars, casting defensive spells as they advance.

The defenders are soon spotted. From the right, Baran gallops forward, moving fast even for a four-hoofed creature. He scans the field, and smiles as an arrow from Elbryn glances off his magical protections. From the left, Marie advances, a large brown bear at her side. She waits as Beta group advances, obviously looking for the right time to cast a certain spell. Unfortunately for her, Thorald beats her to the punch, emerging from behind the cottage to manifest Control Body. The crowd oohs as mystic lines of force attach themselves to Marie's limbs, impelling her to run toward Thorald and his two backup fighters. The bear follows, remaining close at Marie's side.

Seeing this, Baran runs across the field, heading toward Marie's position. Mystarion has been busy casting, and finally Summons a celestial hawk which he sends after Baran. It, too, has trouble with Baran's defenses, and fails to score a hit. As he advances, Elbryn and Kanavin take swings at Marie. Jonetello crosses the field to take shots as well. However, it is Baran who finally takes care of the situation: with a shouted apology to Marie, he drops a Fireball in the midst of the crowd. Marie falls, but several of the attackers are damaged as well. The bear hesitates a moment, but the command to protect his mistress remains, even after she has fallen. With a snarl, the bear mauls Elbryn with both claws and a bite, dealing wounds that, but for the protective spell, would have taken large chunks out of Elbyrn. Acting together, the attackers manage to drop the bear before it can do any more damage.

Leilen has been completing Zeta group's preparations: a pair of Invisibility spells. The two split up, Magnimiliar advancing up the road on the right, Leilen using his new Slippers of Spider Climb to run along the wall on the left. Magnimiliar moves swiftly to the corner of the large hall, but Sara Greenbriar is nearby, and hears his footfalls. "Invisible target, front corner!" she calls. Magnimiliar moves away quickly, fearful of an area spell. He remains safe, for the moment, as Sara decides to retreat around the corner into the back yard.

Mystarion spots this retreat, and spots a second figure, heavily armored, at that same corner. He shoots a Fireball the length of the field; its impact catches Sara and the other person, and maybe some more around the corner. He steps out from behind the corner to advance, and is nearly pegged by a shot from Maximilian, who becomes visible behind the cottage up the road. Mystarion heads for cover, after tossing a Lightning Bolt across the field into Baran. Maximilian falls back as well, retreating to the back yard a few moments behind Sara.

Suddenly, the battle takes a serious turn. Pearl appears unexpectedly in the middle of the battlefield, and begins casting a lengthy spell. In short order, she is charged by Jonetello, Ravenfield, Jonetello, and Kanavin, who all begin hacking away at the diminutive spellcaster. She winces several times, but manages to cast her spell, summoning a celestial ape. "Attack the elf," she commands in Celestial; unfortunately, Mystarion is hidden from the beast's sight. It stands still, scanning the battlefield. Pearl begins casting again, but this time the assault from Jonetello, Ravenfield, and Kanavin is too much, and she loses the spell. The attackers are starting to get concerned, however - they have done over 50 points of damage and she is still standing! Next round, she casts defensively, then turns Invisible. The attackers strike at her, but only Kanavin manages to land a blow. Still, she remains standing.

Magnimiliar is close by Pearl, but decides to focus forward rather than back. He uses his Crossbow of Ventriloquism to send a muffled "Oof!" sound into a corner across the road. Sure enough, he soon hears Sara: "Attacker, south yard!" and a large wolf bounds across the road, sniffing and searching the area.

On the left side, Thorald, Elbryn and his wolf are advancing. Thorald moves slowly, waiting for Pearl to cast a spell he can attempt to Negate. After missing her Summon spell, he advances up the center, running Up the Wall and onto the roof of the main hall. Baran decides now is as good a time as any to fall back. He disappears around the corner, the hawk close on his heels (hooves, that is). A loud squawk and a few loose feathers drift back from the yard, and the hawk is no more. After a few moments, Baran rounds the corner again, only to cast Obscuring Mist. Elbryn and Leilen (still moving along the wall) slow, but continue their advance.

Suddenly, the invisible Pearl grows silent. A visible, Flying Pearl appears above the main hall, casting a spell. Jonetello sees Count Blaumere, the nobleman who caused the execution of his lord, charge from around the corner. As Jonetello gapes in (not quite enough) disbelief, the Count runs Jonetello through with a jagged greatsword. Jonetello falls to the ground, unconscious. The others see nothing but Jonetello's collapse. Ravenfield screams as Pearl casts again; and Kanavin collapses in similar manner. Pearl then flies behind the great hall, leaving a stunned and decimated attacking team.

But the battle is not yet over. After sending another distracting arrow, Magnimilar makes his away around the corner and toward the back yard where their target is waiting. Sara, Frederick, Algar, and Selphyra are all waiting in the yard - but no one appears to see him. Pearl is drifting overhead, but seems not to notice him either. He dashes forward to the shield, and startles as he hears a pair of invisible footsteps approaching from the other side: Leilen, advancing in tandem. Leilen slowly lifts the shield up: and the defending team takes their cue.

Pearl begins, targeting the shield as the center of a Glitterdust. Both scouts are made visible, and Leilen is blinded as well. Pearl continues with a volley of four Magic Missiles, but these dissipate against Magnimiliar's Shield. Algar, Frederick and Sara charge back and deal telling blows against the pair. Selphyra sends two of her own Magic Missiles into Magnimiliar, from behind. Both are still standing; but then from above, an arrow appears out of nowhere and strikes Leilen in the neck, knocking him out. He falls to the ground, dropping the shield. Magnimiliar swiftly gathers the shield into his Bag of Holding, as Elbryn rounds the corner. From the rooftop above, Thorald pummels the melee with a Mind Blast, catching several attackers as well as defenders, but his mind and spirit are not one, and the blast affects no one. Mystarion moves forward quickly, hearing the cacophony and sensing the battle is at its peak.

A second series of attacks from the defenders, including another invisible arrow from above, manage to take care of Magnimiliar and Elbryn. Baran appears, and shoots a crossbow bolt at Mystarion, but misses. Only Ravenfield (still advancing), Thorald, and Mystarion still stand for the defenders. Mystarion reaches the edge of the yard, and sends a Fireball into the melee, hoping to take care of Baran at least, but no one falls. Thorald, however, is more successful with a second Mind Blast: Sara, Frederick, and Maximilian are all stunned into inaction. Pearl is not affected, and responds with a Choke for Thorald. Thorald shudders as invisible, spectral hands begin to choke the life out of him: too vividly he recalls the last, fatal, time he was the target of this spell. Selphyra apologizes sincerely as she Magic Missiles Thorald. Baran, also low on spells, tries to Daze Mystarion, to no avail.

The defenders are distracted. Thorald sees his chance. He dashes down the wall and picks up the Bag of Holding, shield still inside. He takes a shot from the invisible archer, but is still standing - barely. He runs back up the wall, victory literally in his grasp. Before anyone can follow, Mystarion uses his last big spell: Web. Soon, Pearl and Selphyra are helpless. The invisible archer drops the rope out of his Rope Trick hiding place, but cannot step out without becoming entangled. By the time he can light a torch and clear the webbing away, Thorald has crossed the line. The horn sounds victory for the attackers; and Thorald collapses, the Choke spell succeeding moments too late. The party has won.

[ December 09, 2001: Message edited by: Galfridus ]
 

Galfridus

First Post
Exeunt Magehaven

Magehaven, November 7, LE 653

Congratulations and celebrations abound after the tourney, but Thorald notices many wary glances. For the remainder of his time there, the strength of his ability - and it's clear uniqueness from any kind of magic practiced in the village -- stands between him and the villagers - save for Selphyra, who is sad that he must depart. Even his parents seem relieved that he will be leaving.

That departure is delayed for nearly two months, as Mystarion learns spell after spell, carefully scribing each into his tomes. The wizards of Magehaven seem happy to provide the elf with whatever spells he seeks - Fireball, Fly - so long as they are "common" spells. They do insist on taking payment for the scribing supplies he uses, but their prices are quite fair, even generous. Needless to say, Mystarion is rather pleased.

Jonetello gives numerous well-attended performances, finishing each song to deafening applause. Several weeks into his stay, the grateful villagers present the minstrel with a gift: the Lute of Whispers, an instrument which plays magically sweet and beautiful notes, and allows the performer to murmur messages which will be unheard by all save the intended recipient.

In between performances, however, Jonetello begins to be disturbed by a series of strange dreams and waking visions. Many of these share common elements: stars moving against darkness; flickers of silent lightning against the crumbling walls of an impossibly tall, forboding castle; a gray, serene fog that settles over the world, dulling all sound; a field of dead grass crumbling in a hot wind. None of the wizards will discuss his condition. At last, Thorald recognizes what is happening: Jonetello is manifesting powers of the mind, of the same kind as Thorald's. Hypothesizing that Thorald's powers might have brought Jonetello's to the surface, they begin to experiment. Before long, Jonetello has learned to accelerate his movement, to create an invisible armor around himself, and to see in the dark.

Leilen continues his attempts to study the book of Albreth, but is turned down time and again. Eventually, one of the wizards informs him that all research has ceased. The village council fears that delving too deep into the prophecies could involve Magehaven, or could bring more visitors from the outside. Until they can divine the reason for the book's discovery (for clearly there is a purpose at work), the book will be safeguarded but kept from all eyes.

Eventually, the group begins to plan their departure. After several discussions, the consensus is to travel to the county of Loxham in Rellenor, in order to fight the necromancer as well as continue research into the Order of Ardinor. The village council offers to Teleport the party (and horses) to a remote location in Loxham. Kanavin, who will be remaining in Magehaven, thanks the party for their help in finding him sanctuary. He gives Jonetello several thousand gold pieces, to be delivered to those fighting to restore the Loxhams to power. "I will not remain in hiding forever," he says. "If you find evidence of my father's innocence, or anything else of note, send word and I will come."

Loxham, January 5, LE 654

The party arrives via Teleport in southwest Loxham, in foot-deep snow on the slopes of the Green Hills. After bidding farewell to the wizards who brought them, they spend several days slogging through the snow to reach the county capital of Leston. The guards at the town gate seem more concerned with staying out of the bitter wind than with getting names or destinations, and the party quickly seeks out the warmth and comfort of a tavern.

Jonetello quickly discovers that much has happened since he was last in Loxham - in fact, he learns that Loxham no longer exists. At midwinter court just a few weeks ago, King Camonix renamed the county Wassan, formally removing the Loxham title and heritage. Alexander Stonecroft, minstrel and former companion of the Count, has been named Archbaron of Wassan, lower in rank than (and answering to) Count Blaumere, but high enough to be considered a ruling noble. However, military matters concerning the necromancer Malefice and Loxham insurgents are under the jurisdiction of a Knight Commander of Wassan, answering directly to Count Blaumere. Pierre de Blaumere, the Count's cousin, was sworn into this position a few short weeks ago, and already there is grumbling about the dictates of Blaumere being enforced on the people of Wassan. Unsurprisingly, the Archbaron's best efforts to ease life for the people of Wassan have been foiled by the Blaumeres, who insist on increased taxation to pay for "protection" against Malefice and the Loxham rebels. People are happy that Alexander is in charge, but unhappy that he still answers to a Blaumere.

The party also hears of a strange merchant who has taken up residence in Leston; a man with a strange color-name, "Pink" or something similar. According to tales told by many taverngoers, this man appeared suddenly in early winter, claiming to be a trader from eastern Rellenor. However, his manner, clothing, and speech were not at all Rellenorian, and he seemed to know little of Rellenor (though he claimed to know quite a bit). He has been actively pursuing trade arrangements for the spring; everyone's best guess is that he is a merchant from some distant land.

Jonetello visits a tavern and plays his masterpiece song using his new lute: a subtle parody of the oppression in Loxham, telling of a Count "Bloodmoor" who abandons his people out of sheer cowardice. The song is well received, although Jonetello is not sure if his intended message was conveyed. He leaves hastily, hoping that he will not be remembered (forgetting, apparently, the rarity of magical instruments). He seeks out members of the Loxham resistance, but no one at any of the meeting places responds to his signals. He hears that the resistance raided a Blaumere supply camp recently, and reasons that everyone has gone to ground.

There are also plenty of stories to hear about Malefice. After the keep at Littlewater was cleansed (by Kalenthas and his companions), a small garrison of Blaumeres occupied the keep, but were driven out several days later by the ghost of Terdessen Loxham. A few weeks after that, southern Moonvale was plagued by a new type of undead creature: tall, robed figures bearing scythes who assaulted village after village, harvesting the souls of innocent villagers before vanishing into the night. They defeated a force of Blaumere soldiers sent after them and continued to ravage the countryside for another two months, when suddenly they disappeared. This only encouraged the Knight Commander, Pierre de Blaumere, to keep his forces south of the river, although the Archbaron has been tireless in his efforts to move northward and free northern Wassan.

The party decides to continue their research of Malefice and the Order of Ardinor. The best place for this, they decide, is the Order of the Iris in eastern Rellenor. They pay a hefty toll to a Blaumere vessel and take an icy passage across Drelmist Lake to the city of Merelin, arriving three days later. From there, a snowy path winds past Mount Etienne to the Fortress of the Iris, where the group is welcomed and congratulated for their efforts in saving Kanavin Loxham.

Fortress of the Iris - January 12, LE 654

Thorald spends several days researching Ardinor, finding nothing; until one day, a scrap of paper falls from the pages of a tome. On it, Thorald reads the account of a traveler who journeyed to the fortress of the Order of Ardinor, keeping detailed notes on his route. Some of the landmarks are ancient, but the route clearly began on the ancient East-West road that runs through Sygwerdan's lands today. The traveler spent many days moving eastward, toward the capital of the fallen Tataiafar Empire, before turning north into high mountains and the Valley of the Crescent. The journey is clearly a lengthy one, and the lands it leads to are today wild and perilous. Even Sygwerdan, it is said, does not venture there.

Thorald also spends some time looking into the history of Malefice. According to accounts scribed by the Order of Iris, undead creatures acting with organization and planning began to trouble northern Loxham in the year 647; however, these attacks did not grow significant until 648, when a far northern patrol was slain by zombies. In May of 649, less than a year after Count Loxham's execution, whole villages were slain and/or captured by undead and Nashar (night goblins) in the name of the necromancer Malefice; this is the first known mention of this necromancer's name. From this time onward, the forces of Malefice conducted a persistent campaign clearly designed to capture territory from Loxham, a strategy which has for the most part succeeded. Malefice occupied several castles, including the keep at Littlewater formerly occupied by Terdessen Loxham (who was slain along with his wife Anne by Malefice), using these as staging points for his assaults. The troops of Count Blaumere made several attacks, but have been unable to sustain any victories.

Merelin, January 15 LE 654

Meanwhile, Jonetello and Leilen travel back to Merelin. Jonetello, in disguise, performs his song a cappela in several different locations, drawing a large audience each time. He even overhears several groups of people discussing the song's meaning and implications. He also hears stories about a familiar-looking bard in Leston with a magic lute who played a similar song a few days ago... He also hears more tales about the strange merchant in Leston. This "Pink" is the cause for some concern; the locals are worried that he might be buying out some valuable contracts in the months before the first spring caravans begin to roll.

Leilen takes the Prophecies of Midnight to the church of Pelor, hoping to receive some further insight into their meaning. The high priest is rather doubtful at first...

"New prophecies from Albreth? Of course they are, lad. Let's see...well, you wrote them well, I must say. Ink's dry, too."

Leilen persists, however, and a few truth spells later, the priest is convinced. He delivers the following divination:

"Soul, Spirit, Mind, Power: these prophecies speak of many things."

Clearly troubled by Pelor's seeming acceptance of these prophecies as the real thing, the priest asks for and receives permission to copy the verses for further contemplation.

The party decides they have learned all they can, and return via another icy journey to Leston.

Leston, January 20 LE 254

Jonetello meets with Ben, a member of the River (a network of farmers and craftsmen supporting the Loxham resistance). Jonetello gives him the gold sent by Kanavin and, more importantly, word that Kanavin is safe and planning his return. The man is overjoyed, and thankful for the funds. With Alexander Stonecroft now in charge, many people have been quitting the fight, feeling that the new Archbaron will do a better job battling the Blaumeres than they ever could.

The party decides to assault the necromancer, or at least to see what he is up to. A few days later, they leave for Littlewater, hoping to see what has become of the keep there. The journey takes several days.

Littlewater, February 3, LE 654

After spending the night in the abandoned village of Littlewater, the party travels along the snow-covered road leading to Littlewater keep. They see no signs of passage since the last snowstorm, either on the road or in the fields that line the road to either side. After a couple hours of travel, they top the ridge that stands between village and keep, giving them their first view of the fortress of Littlewater. The drawbridge is up and there are no immediate signs of activity. As they approach, a narrow column of smoke can be seen rising from the northwest tower (behind and to the left of the main gatehouse, which faces south); otherwise, the keep lies silent, shrouded in snow. The party sends Elbyn, Invisible, to scout. He circles the keep slowly, hearing a sound of metal against stone from the northwest tower, and some strange growling noises from the courtyard. The moat is dry, but thick brambles make direct approach difficult without being seen. Nevertheless, he considers approaching the postern door set into the northwest tower, but decides against it. As he passes the southeast tower, an alarm bell rings out - Elbryn looks back at the footprints he is leaving in the snow and decides it is time to return to the party. After a few minutes of discussion, they decide on a rapid assault.

Thorald, also Invisible, approaches and pushes through the brambly moat. Swiftly, he climbs the wall near the gatehouse to lower the drawbridge and let the party enter. Before he can gain entry, however, the nearby tower door slams open and a troll rushes onto the wall, sniffing its way steadily toward him. Thorald climbs the gatehouse and descends the outer wall, abandoning any hope of opening the drawbridge. From outside, the others launch a barrage of spells and missile attacks against the troll, but merely seem to annoy it (although Ravenfield's Wand of Tasha's Hideous Laughter keeps it occupied for a while - you haven't seen hideous laughter until you've seen an amused troll). Elbryn climbs the wall, but is surprised by a second troll which climbs the ladder inside the tower and approaches, trapping him on the wall between the tower and gatehouse, one troll on each side. He jumps, and is clawed as he leaps, to avoid being trapped, landing in a heap at the base of the outer wall.
 

Galfridus

First Post
A Big Fight

Littlewater, February 3, LE 654

After Elbryn's rapid withdrawal, the party spends a little time firing missiles and taunting the trolls, but neither seem to have much effect. "Come fight in troll towers!" is the most common response, and suggestions that the trolls are "chicken" for not coming out to fight merely confuses the trolls. "Bring chickens, taste good with human flesh!" Rather than press the attack, the party rides back to Littlewater village to regroup, setting up camp inside the old inn (of all the buildings of the abandoned village, the one most easily fortified). Much planning ensues.

That evening, Leilen and Jonetello are rather surprised to notice that the fire is starting to grow. As they watch, the flames climb higher and higher, rising into the chimney - then suddenly, they diminish to normal. Leilen knows of flame control spells which cause such an effect, but they require line of sight, and all the windows are closed. Thorald runs to the roof and peers down into the chimney, but sees nothing other than a faceful of smoke. The group remains on alert for an hour or so, but the night remains silent.

Littlewater, February 4, LE 654

The party returns to Littlewater keep the next day. They approach without stealth, although they keep close together and keep Magnimiliar and Leilen near the back, hiding their presence from any observers in the castle. They can see that the drawbridge is down, but decide not to accept the invitation and to proceed with their original plan. When they get to within a few hundred yards, Magnimiliar and Leilen go Invisible and approach. Leilen uses his Slippers of Spider Climb to scale the southwest tower wall. Magnimiliar pulls out his Scroll of Spider Climb to do the same, but as he can't read it (it's invisible), he drinks a potion instead and follows. Atop the tower, they see a figure or two standing atop the central tower of the keep - but no other sign of action. Each affixes a grappling hook to the wall and lowers a rope. They then split up, climbing along the outer wall toward the northeast tower.

At the same time, the rest of the party approaches the ropes hanging from the southwest tower and begin climbing. Elbryn and Jonetello are the first to make it to the top, followed shortly thereafter by Ravenfield and Thorald. Alarm bells begin to ring, and a Slow spell wafts down from one of the two figures on the central tower. Everyone saves except for Thorald. Across the keep, Magnimiliar and Leilen begin yelling for reinforcements and creating a general ruckus. Each then heads toward a separate tower to cause further distractions.

Then the second figure steps forward, and things get serious. A thin man dressed in dark robes, he gestures menacingly toward the party. "Who invades my tower? I am Malefice! Flee or I shall slay you and bind your souls to my service!" Thorald attempts to manifest Control Body, but the necromancer will have none of it. He replies with a Blindness spell, but Thorald makes his save as well. In the courtyard below, two trolls can be seen, one heading for the southwest tower, the other toward the northeast tower. Moments later, claws rend apart the trap door, and scaly green hands reach upward. Elbryn, Jonetello, and Ravenfield are ready, however, and begin hacking away. Mystarion reaches the tower top and tries a Magic Missile against the spellcaster in the center tower, but the missiles bounce off harmlessly. "Shield," curses Mystarion.

Elbryn lands several telling blows against the troll. Jonetello makes several attacks as well, but the troll's position on the ladder (between him and Elbryn, but below them as well) prevents him from striking the troll's weakest spots. The troll claws Elbryn time and again, nearly rending him in two. Ravenfield joins in, slowly, fighting as best he can. Mystarion lets loose a Fireball, exploding it just behind Malefice and his wizard (neatly bypassing the wizard's Shield). The wizard is badly burned and falls to the ground. Malefice stands motionless as the fire bursts around him...and emerges unscathed. He steps back out of sight. Soon thereafter, the troll succumbs to the many blades, falling to the tower floor three stories below. Jonetello nimbly slides down the ladder after it, intending to finish it off. Above, Thorald stands ready, waiting to Control Body the first spellcaster to show himself. He does not have long to wait.

"Let them have it," snarls Malefice. The wizard steps forward, a Fireball on his fingertips...but then Thorald hits him with Control Body. Jerkily, the wizard climbs onto the parapet and hurls himself to the ground, where he lies motionless. The party cheers, until Malefice steps forward and gestures. Huge swirls of black, unholy flames gather above the party...
 

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