Flawed Creation

Elhara's Journal I
Entries from Elhara's Journal

8th Day of Planting

May the Sun always shine upon you.

It is the eighth day of Planting. Tomorrow, I’m leaving for Irongate. But I guess I should start at the beginning. I mean, not, like, the beginning, but the beginning of this part of my life.

Six days ago, a prefect from Irongate and a priest of Erathis came down, here, to our little village of Sunmeadow. They announced that I was to come with them, and serve out a term of duty for Irongate. The next few days were kind of a blur; everyone was excited (it wasn’t often we got visitors from Irongate). My mother and father were worried for me, and I’m a little worried, myself.

I’ve never really been outside of Sunmeadow, except to some of the small villages nearby, and I’ve spent most of my time in the Temple of Pelor here. I like the Temple. Everyone expected that I would take over as high priestess someday. I’ll admit that the thought of staying here my whole life sounded a bit… well, I don’t know. Sometimes I wonder what Pelor’s Will is, but I guess it isn’t for me to stay here.

Anyway, the whole village has come together to give me money and things that I’ll need for my trip down to Irongate. I’ve tried to turn some of it away, but everyone keeps insisting, and I don’t want to be rude.

I’m writing this by candlelight; it’s late, but I can’t sleep. I mean, I have to make the week-long journey by myself. At least it will be easy, since all I have to do is follow the river.

9th Day of Planting

May the Sun always shine upon you.

I’m tired. I’ve been walking all day. It was sad to leave Sunmeadow behind, but they’ll be there when I get back. I wish I knew how long I was going to be gone, at least. I’ve heard that it’ll probably be a couple of years, though.

10th Day of Planting

May the Sun always shine upon you.

Still walking. I guess maybe I won’t update this every day. My father said I could use it to keep track of all my adventures, but I guess he probably didn’t mean that I needed to write all the time if there wasn’t anything going on.

15th Day of Planting

May the Sun always shine upon you.

I am pretty sure I can see Irongate in the distance, so I should be there tomorrow. I’m excited, and nervous. It looks awfully big. I hope the people are nice.

16th Day of Planting

May the Sun always shine upon you.

Well, here I am. I’m sitting here on my bunk at the Office of Billeting. I haven’t talked to many people yet. I met a guard at the city gate, and he told me how to get here. I told him I would pray for him, which seemed to surprise him. I’m not really sure why, though. I mean, why wouldn’t I? It’s my job.

Also, I almost ran into this very handsome Larellian. He opened the door for me here. Maybe I’ll see him again? I hope so. Anyway, so here I am. Apparently I’m very early, so I have time to explore the city.

I don’t know about that, really. The city is very big, much bigger than my village. It’s a little intimidating, and it smells terrible here. Honestly, I don’t know how anyone puts up with it. Everything is made of stone, or at least most things are. The Temple back home was made of stone, too, but that was an oddity, and here it’s quite normal.

Did I mention the smell?

Anyway, the nice officer that I checked in with- Lizette, I think- told me where the temples of the city could be found, so I believe I will go there. I will write more later tonight, when I get back.

17th Day of Planting

May the Sun always shine upon you, even if you’re a very silly bard.

I’m in the city’s main library now. I managed to find the Temple of Pelor here in the city. All the city’s temples are on Mount Exalt, and they are ordered by “importance”. So, the “less important” temples are at the bottom, and you walk up and up and up to get to the most important ones. It seems a little vulgar, and I’m not just saying that because Pelor wasn’t at the top. I mean, His temple was second from the top, so there is that, after all, but even still, it seems odd.

Anyway, the Temple staff was very nice, and I hope to go there for morning prayers while I am here in the city. They do things a little differently here, but I am interested to learn their rituals.

I came back for dinner after that and ran into the attractive man I mentioned in my last entry. He is definitely easy to look at, but he definitely knows it, and he’s more than a little obnoxious. He calls himself Talerion the Great, and apparently got the same summons that I did. I hope this doesn’t mean that I will be working with him for a long time.

There was another fellow, Abel, but he doesn’t talk much. He seems to mutter in his sleep, but all he usually says is, “Potato”.

Anyway, they managed to talk me into going to a tavern with them- A Wicked Grin- and so off we went.. Talerion put on a performance; he was actually pretty good, but by Pelor I will be damned to the Nine Hells before I tell him that. If his ego gets any bigger, I suspect he might float away, what with all the hot air.

I have been reading some very interesting books here about the city, but there isn’t much history. And, apparently, there isn’t much civilization beyond Irongate’s walls. The thought is… unnerving.

Even still, the Light of Pelor shines on everything, and I am sure that, armed with my faith in the Sun God, I have nothing to fear.

[there is a break in the page here]

Well, I never. Talerion and Abel managed to convince me to join them in a small quest of theirs. It seems the former has gotten friendly with the owner of the inn we went to last night, and said owner’s bartender has gone missing. It sounds like he just ran off with another bard, a certain Miss Abigail Hart (I cannot imagine that is her real name- I mean really), but we discovered that is not the case!

When we went to investigate, we discovered Nordan’s body (that is the bartender’s name) in his home. It was quite alarming. We reported it to the city guard and I managed to convince them of our innocence. All things are possible when the Light of Pelor and the Light of Truth are on your side, of course.

We have met more companions, it seems. We came back to the Office, here, and discovered an human fellow- he’s a bit odd, this one- and then an Eladrin wizard (this one is even odder). They, too, received summonses, so here we all are. Talerion managed to talk them into joining our investigation (we all have time to kill, it seems), so we set off to the Seven Shields Inn. Our investigation wasn’t taking us very far, so we ended up going to Diamond Lil’s, a ghastly tavern in a terrible part of town.

Talerion seems intent on getting us dragged into some other business for Aromekis (he is the owner of A Wicked Grin), despite my protestations. On the other hand, it will involve (hopefully) finding out the source of some nefarious drugs coming into the city, so I suppose there is some merit to it.

There were quite a few… unfriendly… or perhaps too friendly, if you know what I mean… looks that I received at Diamond Lil’s. I am going to go to bed now, I think.

18th Day of Planting

May the Sun always shine upon you.

After very pleasant morning prayers at the Temple, our little group went on a walkabout of Irongate to get more acquainted with the city. The stench has not improved.

There was a disturbance at the main gate that we were witnesses to, and I could swear that we saw Abigail Hart and her brother escaping out of the city on horseback. We have no horses, and so did not have much choice but to let them go. Alas!

We attempted to dig up more information on the person bringing these terrible goods into the city- a certain Raddick Thorne, apparently- and we did, in fact, encounter him. We confronted him at Diamond Lil’s, but he was unwilling to parley, even with our silver-tongued bard (who has, rather presumptuously, fall into a leadership role within the group, though I suppose this is not such a bad thing, as he is not all bad, and I suspect this is a group that would not take kindly to active proselytizing, so I should be content with showing them Pelor’s radiance by quiet example).

We followed this nefarious fellow to one of his warehouses and, eventually, were attacked by him and his goons. We managed to prevail, though this was the first test of my abilities in combat. I must admit I was worried, but we prevailed admirably and dispatched these foes of the Light.

Well, most of them, at least. We questioned Raddick and got what we needed out of him, information that we conveyed back to Aromekis, who was most generous towards our group.
It has been altogether a Very Long Day, and so now I am off to bed.

20th of Day of Planting

May the Sun always shine upon you.

There was not much to report yesterday, but today!, today was the day of our meeting with the city officials to find out why we’d been summoned here.

It appears that Lord Ystan (he is the Lord of Irongate) has a three-part plan to expand the glory and civilization of Irongate. First, to form an army (we have seen first-hand evidence of this one, to be sure, in our travels around the city). Second, sending diplomats out to other cities to form coalitions (we met one of them in the Office of Billeting, no less). Third (and this is where we come in), he is dispatching groups beyond Irongate to seek out ruins and find treasures of ancient civilizations that can help restore Irongate to its former glory.

We are to be commissioned for two years in this endeavor, and they want us to map our journeys, as well. It’s all quite exciting, though the prospect of journeying beyond Irongate’s walls is a bit daunting.

No matter: I have Pelor to guide and protect me!

There was a Priestess Raina, of Erathis, and then a Priest Colin, of Ioun, and then, of course, a Brass Mask. Everyone in this city seems to like to ask, “Which one?” as it’s some sort of clever, hilarious joke, but I don’t see why it’s so funny. Like, we get it, already.

Anyway, Mr. Scumbler came by, too, and he’s Lord Ystan’s right-hand man! I never expected to be meeting such important people so quickly.

We weren’t quite sure where we should go (it seems no one else had even been to Irongate, either, so I am not alone in being a little out of my depth- though the other group that Irongate is dispatching appears to be locals from the city…), so we visited the Cartographer’s Guild, and then the marketplace (and met with a very accommodating fellow named Gorson at a lumberyard) to see if anyone had heard any rumors or legends about ruins that we could investigate.

It seems that there are ruins in the Ironwood, the forest near the city. Or, at least, that’s what everyone kept telling us. We went to Mount Exalt, to talk to the priests there, but they all said the same thing: Ironwood might have ruins, and Byrnehold definitely has them underneath the city. We’ve decided to explore the former option.

We went by A Wicked Grin again, and there we met a fellow- a dwarf- named Beltos the Bare. He confirmed the rumors about ruins in the forest, and Aromekis prevailed upon him to take us to the end of the forest so that we could find them.

Tomorrow, we set out to do so!

21st of Planting

Anu belore dela’na!

(That means “The Sun guides us” in Elven, if you didn’t know.)

Today, we set out from Irongate. It is the first time I have been this far south, of course. I am glad to be leaving the smell of the city behind, though less glad to be leaving its walls. I pray to Pelor for my protection, and for the group’s, of course.

This Beltos the Bare fellow is nice enough, and Talerion has managed to pry a lot of information out of him regarding the ruins we are heading to. It seems they are now inhabited by goblins (not good, it seems!), and they call them “Hedra-inktu”, which means, “Land’s Breadth”. They call it a “place of nightmares”, apparently.

So, you know, that ought to go well.

Beltos rides a bear, by the way. Beltos the Bare, riding a bear! It’s perverse.

Anyway, it appears that the goblin tribes have been loosely united by Skrignak, a former protégé of Beltos’, and his Nightlings. This is obviously bad news, but there it is. Apparently, however, he has lately gone to Mak-Luk Tor, far in the West, and so perhaps now is a good time for us to strike out and explore the ruins.

22nd Day of Planting

May the Sun always shine upon you.

More venturing south, towards the ruins. We are following along the river. Am getting to know my companions better. They are not so bad. Even Talerion can be nice- well, you know, when he isn’t too busy swaggering. I swear, he could swagger when he sits down. “The Great”! Hmph!

23rd Day of Planting

Anu belore dela’na.

Today, we saw an enormous boar. It was huge!

24th Day of Planting

May the Sun always shine upon you.

We have arrived at the Ironwood. Beltos is leaving us, now, his debt to Aromekis now paid in full, it seems. We tried to persuade him to come with us, but he declined. Ah well, what can you do? I hope he fares well.

Tomorrow we head into the forest. Beltos says the ruins are about two days to the east.

25th Day of Planting

Anu belore dela’na.

Today, we were attacked by spiders. I have never seen such monsters before, they were huge! Is this what adventurers do for fun? I was horrified by what we encountered (one of them bit me! By Pelor, it was the most disgusting thing that has ever happened to me in my life, and I once helped birth a calf.

We stayed strong and true to each other and managed to pull through. The divine art of healing that Pelor has willed to me has helped to keep our party and alive and intact, and for that I am very grateful to our merciful Sun God.

We have setup camp, now, as we were all exhausted by trying to fend those horrible creatures off, but tomorrow we resume our trek east.

26th Day of Planting

May the Sun always shine upon you.

Today, we encountered a group of goblins. We attacked them. Or, rather, Bradleton did. I protested. I mean, they hadn’t attacked us yet, and here we were, encroaching into their territory. They did, unfortunately, seem inclined to combat, and did not care to negotiate with us, which is, I suspect, what provoked Bradleton.

Anyway, we slaughtered them, though managed to capture one of them, named Res. He has agreed to take us to the border of Nightling territory in exchange for his life, but he refuses to go any farther. That is, in fact, what we have just returned from. We have setup camp here (after letting Res go) and are waiting for another dawn to rejuvenate our powers and our strength, and then we shall set out farther into the forest to find Hedra-inktu.

The stench of the city has faded, but, away from the river, it has been replaced by another… this one from Abel…

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Game 3: Beyond Irongate

Having discussed their desire to gather more information on ruins they could search, specifically in the Ironwood, the party first ventures to the Hall of Information located among many governmental buildings near the Keep of Lord Ystan. They question a clerk about their area of interest, and she tells them that a young priest was in not long before researching the same matter. She directs them to what little information is to be had, and the adventurers take note of anything which might be helpful.

Next, they ascend the slopes of Mount Exalt to the Temple of Pelor, where Elhara asks a brother in faith if they were in possession of any such knowledge. She is told that the faith primarily concerns itself with civilized areas, where it can do the most good, and that she may have better luck further down the Mount, at the Temple of Avandra. The group visits there next, where they receive no new information, but are told the same tales and rumors they had heard from other sources.

Returning to the Billeting Office, they find that three sheets of paper have been left for them. The first is a letter recognizing that they are in service to the city of Irongate, signed by Jendis Sloan, High Priest of Erathis and chief advisor to Lord Ystan. The second is a letter for an individual named Armand, who runs a stable just north of the city, directing him to supply horses and tack for the group. Lastly, there is a hand drawn map of the Cradle region and the ruins to be found there. This was obviously the result of the visit by the young priest to the Hall of Information.

The group travels to A Wicked Grin, thinking that Arameekos might be able to provide information on the reported ruins in the Ironwood. When they arrive, they see the proprietor, as well as his employees and guests, gathered in the common area, as members of the Iron Guard conduct a search of his establishment. As the tiefling ushers them back outside, the young adventurers inform him of their desire, and he tells them to return later that evening to speak with a friend of his who might prove more knowledgable.

They stop by the planker’s, located by the river, to speak with some of the local tree fellers, and while they are unsuccessful in their attempt to learn of any ruins, they find out that the woodmen stick to the nothern area of the forest bacause of a heavy goblin presence to the south.

They leave the city through the north gate and head eastward, locating the stables with little difficulty. They speak with Armand and show him the letter, and he willingly supplies them with riding horses suited to their level of experience, which is only marginal at best, nonexistent at worst.

Returning to A Wicked Grin later that evening, they are introduced to a dwarven man called Beltos the Bear, who they imagine earned that name due to the fact that he was unusually hirsute. He tells them that there are indeed ruins within the Ironwood, and that they can be found by traveling south until the forest rejoins the Kendrichee River, then turning east and travelling for about two days. Arameekos suggests that the dwarf guide the youths the point where they should turn east, and Beltos glowers at the tiefling. He asks Arameekos if that would settle their debt, and the tiefling agrees that it would. The dwarf downs another shot of whiskey and tells Arameekos to burn in the fires of Hell. He then makes plans to meet the adventurers the following morning to head out.

The following morning after Elhara’s prayers, the PCs once again go to the stables run by Arman. They intend to pick up their horses, but when Arman hears that they intend to take them deep into the Ironwood, he advises them that taking horses into a forest is impractical. They hold off on collecting their horses, instead purchasing a mule to carry provisions. They then meet up with Beltos and the city’s southern gate. When they reach the intersection with the road that runs at the foot of the Northern Rim, Beltos produces a small onyx figurine carved into the shape of a bear and throws it to the ground, where it transforms into an actual, living bear. The dwarf then climbs upon the back of the beast and it serves as his mount for the journey south.

During the trip, which lasts several days, the party engages the dwarf in conversation, and learn a number of things which are interesting, if not useful. The ruins within the Ironwood are called hedra-inktu by the goblins, which means “land’s breath”. Usually, these ruins are shunned by goblins, who believe them to be a place of nightmares, but a powerful goblin named Skrignak has begun to organize many of the goblin clans, and has taken this location as his base. They find out that Skrignak used to be a vassal of Beltos a number of years ago. Seeing that the goblin possessed an intellect and ability beyond others of his kind, the dwarf trained him in the use of weapons, specifically, the ability to dual wield. When asked why he would do this, Beltos remarked that Skrignak and his Nightlings were meant to act as a buffer, a balance of sorts against a new community located at the southern tip of the Ironwood who venerate a dragon.

The dwarf also informed the group that Skrignak and the majority of his forces were not currently at the ruins, but rather attending a large goblin gathering at Mah-Luk-Tor. However, it was certain that the ruins were not abandoned, as the goblin leader certainly would have left behind a contingent to deal with any threat.

Parting ways with Beltos, the PCs enter the Ironwood and begin their trek to the ruins. They travel for the better part of a day when their movement attracts the attention of giant spiders. In addition to a great number of young which swarmed about them, there were also two adults which inflicted serious wounds with their fangs, as well as ongoing damage from their poison. Ultimately, the adventurers emerged victorious and continued walking until sundown. The evening in the forest passed uneventfully, with the PCs opting not to light a fire so as not to attract the attention of any goblins which might be about.

The following morning, after Elhara’s prayers and a meal of trail rations, the party resumed travel, encountering a group of eight goblins soon after. Each of the two groups spotted the other from a distance, and the bard called out to the green-skinned humanoids. The goblins dispersed and advanced toward the party, their intentions unclear. Again the bard voiced the party’s peaceful intentions, this time lending magic to his words, but in mid-sentence, he had a change of heart and attacked one of the forest dwellers with his arcane arts. The goblin shrieked upon being struck, asking why the bard claimed to be a friend but then attack. Combat was immediately joined, and one of the goblins stuck several javelins into Bradleton, requiring Elhara to heal the sorcerer.

After the deaths of most of the goblins, the remainder broke and fled the field of battle. The PCs were able to capture a goblin named Ras, who, in broken common, informed them that they were not part of the Nightling clan, and that the area claimed by Skrignak was still further to the east. The party attempted to strike a bargain with the frightened humanoid; if he led them to the ruins, they would allow him to leave afterward. The goblin shook his head vehemently, refusing to enter the territory of the Nightlings. The deal was then modified, so that Ras had only to lead the party to the edge of the Nightling lands, to which the goblin agreed. They traveled until the late afternoon, at which time Ras informed them that they had reached the unseen border, and true to their word, the PCs released the goblin, who scampered away in the direction they had come.

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Game 2: Tasked

Returning to the Billeting Office, Abel, Elhara, and Talerion encountered two recent arrivals who had claimed bunks in the sleeping quarters. They were both spellcasters, but could not have been more different in demeanor. The first was an eladrin who was quiet and reserved, and who obviously had formal education and training in his background. He introduced himself as Vindurinn, but said little more without further promting. The other individual was a human by the name of Bradleton, and he was at once boastful and seemingly the center of the events which transpired around him. To Elhora and Abel, the similarities between this newcomer and the bard were astounding.

After introductions were made and a polite (or impolite, in Bradleton’s case) conversation, Talerion asked the pair if they would care to accompany them to an establishment called the Seven Shields Inn. They learned from Lisette, the daytime duty-watch, that the inn’s most recent location was in the upper-mid quarter of the city, and that the establishment occasionally moved because of the owner’s tendency to be delinquent with the rent.

Along the way, Talerion explained that their trip to this establishment was to hopefully locate Abigail Hart, and her possible connection with the murder of the bartender of A Wicked Grin. They arrived in the early afternoon, and did not see anyone matching Miss Hart’s description among the few patrons. Shayna, the woman who was tending bar, indicated that she had seen neither Miss Hart nor her brother since the previous morning. The bard next questioned one of the servers, who told him that, although she had not recently seen Abigail, she did notice her brother, Lucas, when he had returned yesterday and seemed to collect both of their possessions from their rooms. Talerion once more spoke with Shayna, who, he had learned from the server, was the owner’s daughter, and asked if it would be possible to look into their rooms. Shayna, who had previously been unaware of their hurried departure, agreed, believing that the party were friends who were concerned. The rooms looked as if someone had hurriedly, though thoroughly, cleared out.

Later that evening, the group made their way to Diamond Lil’s, a dirty, stench filled tavern at the edge of the slums where Irongate’s poorer residents gathered to drink, and a known haunt of Rattick Thorne. Upon entering, several lewd suggestions were made to the comely priestess of Pelor, but an aggressive stance by the sorcerer quelled those comments. Talerion made his way to the bar and asked the barkeep if he knew of Rattick Thorne, and the burly man replied that he had not seen him that evening. The bard inferred that he might have need of thorne’s ability to get goods into the city undetected, but the barman claimed ignorance of any such activities. Even when offered a gold coin, then two, he proved to be no more helpful. The party purchased a pitcher of ale and found themselves some seats to wait. Talerion questioned several patrons about Thorne, but no one seemed willing to talk. Finally, with the assistance of a silver coin, Talerion found one man who was willing to describe Thorne, but no more.

At the same time, they searched the room for sign of a red-haired woman, thinking that Abigail Hart and Rattick Thorne might somehow be in collusion. There were three women with red hair in the tavern, but all were rather plain in appearnace, not possessing the striking beauty which they had heard attributed to Miss Hart. In fact, two of the redheaded women were obviously prostitutes, attempting to interest patrons in their wares. The sorcerer, Bradleton, was intrigued, and went to talk to one of the ladies of the evening. Sensing an interest, the woman immediately turned her full attention to the sorcerer, who bought her a drink. After some time, it seemed as if no business transaction was likely to occur, and the woman became curt and a bit resentful. Noticing this change, Bradleton quickly assuaged the prostitute’s concerns, and they left the tavern for a room in a local flophouse. The sorcerer returned a bit later, and the party left once it seemed that Thorne was not going to show.

The following morning, Elhara awoke before dawn, and, as was customary, went to the Temple of Pelor on Mount Exalt for morning prayers. The others remained in their bunks, only to be awakened by cursing and banging. Hufri, the veteran soldier, had returned, and was in a particularly foul mood. When questioned, he stated that the delegation which he was supposed to accompany had delayed their departure. Talerion made some remark of platitude, and the grizzled vet made it known, in no uncertain terms, that he did not care for the young bard, and that he wished to be left alone.

Pursuing the leads concerning Abigail Hart further, they learned that she had somewhat expensive tastes, even if not having the coin to purchase those luxuries. The group began canvassing the higher end shops near the south gate, along the city’s main thoroughfare, when three children began banging metal pans and dishes together, creating quite a ruckus. Several hoses in the area started, forcing their riders or handlers to struggle to control them. One horse, which was pulling a small cart with two individuals upon it, spooked and barreled through the gate, leaving the city behind. The driver of the cart was a man whose only identifying feature from behind was brown hair pulled into a ponytail. The passenger had a scarlet cowl raised against the drizzle and a gray blanket across the shoulders.

Elhara immediately realized that this was a perfect distraction, if one were desired, and Vindurinn saw that the driver of the runaway cart, rather than holding back on the reins to halt the animal, was giving the horse full rein, allowing it to move as fast as it could. Talerion approached one of the gate guards, all of whom were attempting to quiet the children, if this was a common occurance. He explained that it was common for children to be near the gate. The were known as ‘hoofers’, and picked a horse’s feet for a copper piece. But the racket, he said, was a new development. The bard then questioned one of the children, who admitted that a man had paid them to cause the commotion. After discussing their observations, the party wondered if the two persons on the cart might be the Hart siblings. Unable to identify the passenger, and not having a description of Lucas Hart, the party made their way back to the [[Seven Shields Inn}}, where they spoke with the owner. He confirmed that Lucas Hart did, indeed, wear his hair back in a ponytail.

The group traveled to A Wicked Grin, and informed Arameekos that it appeared the pair had departed the city. The tiefling told the group that he was sufficiently satisfied with their investigation, and considered the matter closed. In appreciation, he extended an invitation for them to dine at his establishment for the remainder of their time in Irongate. He was certain, he said, that they would find the food better than what they were served at billeting. With no further enticing needed, they agreed.

Later that evening, the party ventured into the light rain once more and returned to [[Diamond Lil’s}. Upon entering, they saw a man matching Rattick Thorne’s description engaged in conversation with the barkeep Talerion had spoken to previously. A chain armored nossul stood close by. The group moved a short distance away and begin discussing, in whispered voices, what to do next. As they were talking, Thorne drained the last of his tankerd and moved to leave, the nossul close behind. The bard quickly stepped in front of Thorne, and asked if he could have a moment of his time. Thorne said that he had places to go. Talerion then mentioned the same business interest he spoke of with the barman, and Thorne wanted to know where he had gotten his information. After trying to avoid an answer, Talerion mentioned the name Abigail Hart. Thorne indicated that he had never heard of this person, and moved past the bard, and out into the night. Both the bard and sorcerer made to follow, but at a word from Thorne, the imposing nossul stopped in the doorway, effectively blocking it. The sorcerer attempted to squeeze by, but the noosul placed a large hand on the spellcaster’s throat, his message clear.

The group returned to the bar, the nossul waiting a moment longer before following Thorne. Talerion asked who the large individual was with the protruding lower canines, and the bartender claimed not to have seen anyone matching that description. The bard then pointed out that he had been standing there with Thorne, and the barman claimed not to have seen Thorne all evening. When a sarcastic comment was made that he never seemed to see much, the barman responded that it was good for business.

The party left, and were able to find the large footprints of the nossul still visible in the mud. A quick discussion ensued, and it was decided to follow. The followed the tracks through the warehouse district, and soon saw Thorne and his companion walking together. The group stayed back, following the various turns of the pair, until they disappeared into one particular warehouse. The group walked around the perimiter of the building, noticing several other doors before returning to their original location. They bagan discussing their options, but then a door slammed on the far side of the building. They went around to find the street deserted, and Vindurinn stooped and looked for tracks by the door. “Ever get the feeling you were being followed?” came a voice from the darkness. “The question is, why are you following me?” Not being able to see anyone, Talerion again mentions his desire to do business, but again is hesitant to give the names of any references, until he again mentions Abigail Hart. “As I told you before, I know no such person,” Thorne responds. Thorne and a hin armed with a sling emerge from the shadows, and combat is joined. Everyone moves into position, and, though this is their first time fighting together, the party is surprisingly effective.

Four other figures come from the far side of the building, but it takes several round for them to arrive. During this time, Abel deflects Thornes attacks, effectively eliminating any threat he might pose, followed by an icy attack which deposits Thorne upon his back. The hin, however, is accurate with his sling, and several in the party received damage because of this. The bard and battlemind are effective combatants, and the spellcasters and cleric all make noticable contributions. The party quickly gains the upper hand, when the nossul bursts from the warehouse, screaming with rage. He levels the sorcerer with a powerful blow, sending Bradleton sprawling in the mud. The sorcerer regains his feet at about the same time a bested Thorne tries to run away. Abel moves to aid the sorcerer, while Elhora utilizes her dilettante ability to blast Thorne in the back with a searing ray of light. The hin escapes into the darkness, and the nossul finally collpses in a heap.

The party stow the corpses inside the harehouse and drag the unconscious Thorne, whom Elhara was careful not to slay, to a flophouse in the slums. They revive him and press him for information, but he is unwilling to give the names of those who distribute his goods within the city. In exchange for his life, however, he is willing to give the name of the person who has managed to bring the goods into the city, in caravans which are not searched by the guards. This person is a human female by the name of Druna. Thorne tells the characters that, though someone higher in the guard ranks must surely know what is occuring and arranging for the wagon trains not to be searched, the average guard at the gate is oblivious. For a third time, he denies familiarity with the Hart siblings. The group leave Thorne in the flophouse and immediately go to see Arameekos with the news.

The tiefling notices the party enter his inn, somewhat the worse for wear, and motions them back outside, where he joins them. They tell him of their findings, and he again extends his thanks, saying, “Thank you for not being so crass as to bring up payment. However, allow me to offer you a purse of…”. He trails off, searching the characters’ faces and waiting for them to suggest an amount. After a brief discussion, the affix a price of 50 gold coins for their services. Arameekos momentarily goes back inside and returns with the payment. “I appreciate someone who knows the value of their services,” he says, “but perhaps you undervalue yourselves.” This leaves the group with the realization that he would have paid more if asked. The characters return to the Billeting Office to rest.

The following day, they are summoned for their awaited meeting, and are addressed by a priestess of Erathis and a priest of Ioun. There is also a prefect in the room, but the figure is not introduced and remains a silent observer. The group discover that Lord Ystan is launching a three-prong approach to reclaiming the glory of ages past. First, he is forming an army to clear the area known as The Cradle, before the move outward to claim the rest of the land. Second, he is dipatching several delegations to secure treaties with other communities and to possibly utilize whatever artifacts they may have. Third, he is sending small groups, such as the adventurers and one other, out into the world to search for artifacts of the previous age which might help in his sanctioned cause.

A man named Argo Scumbler enters the room, slapping rain from his broad-brimmed hat and in need of a shave. He explains that he performs a number of services for Lord Ystan, and will be the party’s liason while they are on their mission. He presents each group with a scrollcase which allows for magical written communication over great distances. Each character is given 50 gp for additional equipment, and any other reasonable requests will be considered. Talerion asks for horses, and is told that these will be provided. The second group had managed to secure passage with the hin watermen south along the Kendrichee River. The party prepares to outfit themselves for their duty.

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Game 1: From humble beginnings...

The five characters, each hailing from a different village in the Windy Vale, the protectorate of the city of Irongate, were summoned within the community walls with their neighbors by the tolling of a large bell which sounds only in times of great import. A burly priest militant of Erathis and a prefect from Irongate have arrived, and survey those gathered, sometimes speaking to each other, but not with those in the crowd.

The cleric then converses with the commander of the guard contingent, who in turn, accompanied by the village representative, approaches the character and congratulates him/her on being selected to serve the greater glory of Irongate by the will of Lord Ystan. The character is then told to present himself/herself at the Office of Billeting no later than a fortnight hence.

Each character travels southward through the Windy Vale, paralleling the Kendrichee River, which is swollen and flowing rapidly with the runoff from the snowy peaks of the Northern Rim. The journey on foot takes several days.

Upon reaching the northern wall of Irongate, which rests in a bottleneck in the Northern Rim, they see many buildings, apparently of recent construction, and it seems as if an army is being fielded. Asking about, the most likely explanation they hear is that Lord Ystan seeks an impressive display to gain the support of other communities around the Cradle before striking out further to reclaim the glory of ages past. They also learn that this desire to spread the influence of civilization is most likely the result of the counsel of Jendis Sloan, chief advisor to Lord Ystan and High Priest of Erathis.

The bard, Talerion, is first to arrive in the city, confident in his abilities and anxious to make his presence known. He arrives at the Billeting Office and proclaims his arrival to the guard on duty, a young woman by the name of Lisette. Though she clearly would not have any reason to have heard of this young man, she feigns knowedge when the bard acts as if she should have. It is obvious that she finds the bard charming.

The second to arrive is Elhara, a young priestess of Pelor, who politely checks in at the Billeting Office. She then makes her way to Mount Exalt, into which temples dedicated to each of the gods are set. She stays for afternoon services, noticing how much more ritualized services seem to be here than in her rustic village.

Next to arrive in Irongate is the battlemind, Abel, whose first order of business after checking in at the Billeting Office is to sleep, snoring loudly, after spending several nights huddled within a bedroll.

The bard, who had, in the meantime, managed to convince the owner of an inn called A Wicked Grin to allow him to perform later that evening, returns and introduces himself to the now awake battlemind. There is also a third individual present in the billeting barracks, a grizzled veteran name Hufri. The soldier is taciturn and unpleasant, obviously displeased with his upcoming assignment of escorting ambassadors. He does not know to where, and, in fact, the destination seems to matter little to him.

The priestess returns from the temple and meets both the bard and the battlemind, discovering that they have all recently been told to report here. With four days until their scheduled meeting, their time is pretty much their own.

The trio goes to A Wicked Grin several hours after sundown, where the bard climbs the small stage and delivers a talented performance on his lyre. He passes the hat and earns some respectable coin. He then begins working the room, hoping to find information on local occurances, buying pitchers of ale to loosen tongues. And of course, he drinks with all of his new friends. He then, somewhat unsteadily, climbs the stage once more, but the effect of the drink is evident in both his playing and his voice.

They return to billeting for the evening, deciding to return to the tavern on the morrow when it should be less hectic. The bard had learned that the proprietor, a tiefling named Arameekos, would be the best one to ask about opportunites which might provide some coin.

Before dawn, the priestess rises and returns to Mount Exalt, specifically to the Temple of Pelor, to attend morning services. There are only a few devout worshippers at this early hour, and she convinces an acolyte to allow her to speak with one of the priests. She explains to her brother in faith that she is soon to enter into the service of Irongate, though she knows not in what capacity. The priest assures her that it is the policy of the temple to attend to the needs of the clergy, and that aid will be offered if needed.

The priestess returns to the Billeting Office to find her two companions now awake, though suffering from the previous night’s excesses. They break their fast and venture to A Wicked Grin about noon. Unlike the evening before, when he had been working frantically to keep pace with the drink orders, Arameekos was now cool and collected, deliberate in both word and movement. He explains that his bartender, Nordan, has seemed to have disappeared with the latest performer, a young woman by the name of Abigail Hart. He would like the trio to go to Nordan’s house on Seven Lanterns Row and tell the man that if he does not show for work this evening, he will no longer have a job. Arameekos also tells the party that they may hear rumors that he is involved with illegal and illicit goods which make their way into the city. He does not confirm or deny these rumors, but he does know of another individual, a human by the name of Rattick Thorne, who is somehow getting herbalistic extracts into Irongate. As a concerned citizen, Arameekos would like the group to discover how this is being done and return to him with that information.

The young adventurers make their way to Seven Lanterns Row, a short, narrow street lined on either side by modest homes. There are a number of children playing in the street, and the bard rewards one urchin with a silver coin who tells him which house is Nordan’s. They go to the front door and knock, receiving no reply. They knock again, louder, with the same result. A hurried conversation takes place between the three, where the battlemind considers using his shield to bash the door in. The priestess then tries the handle, which she finds to be unlocked. She opens the door to reveal a body lying upon the floor in a pool of congealed blood. She moves to the side of the figure and finds that he is indeed dead, and probably has been for at least a day. A search of the house turns up a plate with dried blood and encrusted hair along the edge.

The three leave the house, and the bard and the priestess fetch a guardsman and tell him of their actions and their find. After being convinced of their innocence, the guard records contact information and tells them that this matter will be investigated. They then return to the inn and tell the news to Arameekos, who seems more concerned with finding another bartender than the death of his employee.

The party once more returns to the Billeting Office, where they meet three figures whom they had not seen before. The first is a quiet, demure man named Gravir, who informs them that he is a scribe who will be accompanying the diplomatic envoy to the city of Beacon, which is set to leave the following day. With this news, and knowing that their own meeting isn’t for another three days yet, the party concludes that they have not been selected to be emissaries, as had been speculated.

The other two individuals are roughly the same age as themselves and have also been selected from villages in the Windy Vale.

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