Flawed Creation

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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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 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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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 4: The Goblins of Hedra-Inktu

NOTE: The previous defender, a human battlemind named Abel, has been replaced with a female breelan warden by the name of Kesriel.

After leaving their goblin guide, Ras, the party continues eastward to the ruins known to the goblins as hedra-inktu (land’s breath). They arrive in the northwest corner of the ancient city, and begin a deliberate, systematic search. The buildings along the outskirts of the city are nearly completely obliterated, but the buildings further within the ancient civilization are in somewhat better shape. Ther are still a number of standing walls, or at least portions of walls, and a few of the buildings still possess an upper floor which haven’t collapsed with the passage of time. They find nothing of interest or value, however, as this section of the city seemed to have been picked over thoroughly by the goblins.

Each party member makes an appreciable contribution to the effort, whether it be navigating the ruins, avoiding encounters with goblin sentries, or clearing rubble to aid their search. Eventually, however, as they near the center of the ancient city, an area housing the goblin encampment, they draw the notice of a patrol, which sound an alarm before closing in. The members of the party take no offensive action, instead opting to parlay with the diminutive humanoids, and learning that the entirety of the ruins, and anything to be found in them, belongs to Skrignak. Other goblins soon arrive, and the party is encouraged, by word and spear, to march toward the center of the city, to the largest building in sight.

Numerous goblin children shadow the goblin captors as they lead the party to a hobgoblin, who briefly questions the party before ordering them placed in an improvised cell, the cellar of a building with a latticework of saplings secured over the stairwell. There they are told to surrender their armor and weapons, and they are reluctant to do so. Several goblin spellcasters descend the stairs and work their magics, leaving each character feeling a prickly sensation on their skin and a knowledge that if they move from their current locations, they will suffer physical damage. The cell’s only other inhabitant, a hin male, suggests that the characters might do well to comply. Eventually, they do surrender their weapons and armor.

They learn that the hin’s name is Pellin, and that hye was captures in an area of the ruins yet untouched by the goblins. An unfortunate collapse occured when he and his party were exploring an underground area, killing one of his companions and seriously wounding another, which happened to be his cousin. A large goblin patrol came to investigate the disturbance and came upon them when they were tending to the fallen. Apparently influenced by the gasses which emanate from the ground in places, their fighter foolishly rushed the goblins, and was killed in the subsequent battle. Another of his party, a male human, ran away, terrified. Pellin had been a captive for about a week, and had learned nothing of his cousin, who was also taken.

For three days, the characters were held in the cell. On the second, the hobgoblin came to the barred opening, accompanied by an agitated goblin which Pelling identified as a Hand of Maglubiyet, and an old, blind goblin shaman. Pellin spoke little goblin, but was able to infer that the Hand of Maglubiyet was advocating death for the prisoners, while the shaman mentioned his visions, in which an outsider would be key to Skrignak’s ultimate victory. Since it was unknown who the outsider might be, he suggested the release of all of the prisoners. Skrignak, the goblin commander, was away at the goblin enclave of Mah-Luk-Tor, and it seemed the decision fell to the hobgoblin, who must be his lieutenant.

The following morning, the lattice was pulled aside and the prisoners ordered to come up. Their possessions were on the ground, and the hobgoblin told them to gether their things and leave, much to the obvious displeasure of the Hand of Maglubiyet. The bard tried to strike deal which would allow them to search the untouched southern end of the ruins for the goblins, but that idea was rejected, the hobgoblin saying that the Nightling’s sweep of the ruins would continue upon Skrignak’s return. Asking about Pellin’s cousin, they learned that he had died of his injuries and that the corpse had been disposed by the goblins.

Parting ways with Pellin, the adventurers leave the city, heading the way they came, but circle around to the southern section in order to fulfill their duty to Irongate and search what area they could. Half a day was spent searching, with a great deal of effort required to clear the rubble. Unexpectedly, they came across a pair of ankheg who were excavating a new nest, and the party faced it’s toughest challenge to this point. After the battle, it was discovered that the female ankheg was gravid, and Elhara deduced that, given this, and the fact that it was springtime, the female was constructing a burrow in which to lay her eggs.
A search of the lair produced the corpse of a human male, mostly eaten and damaged by acid, whom they guessed was Pellin’s panicked comrade.

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Game 5: The Ruins of Hedra-Inktu

The corpse found in the ankheg lair was so badly mauled and damaged by acid that little was salvagable. The party members were able to recover two small metal vials, which turned out to be potions of healing, items which the unfortunate human had not had time to use. There was also a scabbard at his waist, though no accompanying weapon was to be found.

After spending the remainder of the afternoon and all of the following night recovering from their wounds, the party continued their exploration after Elhara’s morning prayers. They cleared several stairways leading underground, finding little of interest. They were beginning to get the impression that the ancient inhabitants of the city had not all perished in a sudden act of destruction, but rather had been able to effect an organized withdraw from whatever had claimed the city, taking with them nearly all of their possessions.

As they moved about the ruins, the party came across signs of a days-old struggle, and saw a longsword lying upon the ground, obviously the weapon of the ankheg’s latest meal. The bard examined the weapon, and found it to be magical, but his dabbling in the arcane arts left him ill prepared for further identification, so he asked the wizard, Vindurinn, for assistance. The learned eladrin examined the weapon at length, determining its unique properties. Since Talerion was the only party member who used a longsword in combat, he claimed it as his own.

One particular stair led to a large underground chamber which still had a few stone bookcases standing, though most had collapsed with the passage of time. The floor of this area was sloped, as if due a land shift of some magnitude, and groundwater had pooled and become stagnant over a large area. Stone repositories of various size were set upon the ground around the perimeter of the oddly shaped room. After attempting to move one which was surrounded by water, it was discovered that they were all affixed to the floor. Closer inspection showed that each side and the top were each individual pieces of worked stone, and that they fit nearly perfectly together. Regardless, they were still sealed with mortar, and a dagger was used to scrape this away and pry the lid from the container. The water had managed to permeate the container, and the paper it had once held was now utterly destroyed, causing the water inside the container to become cloudy as it was agitated.

The party made a circuit of the room, opening each repository in succession. None of those where the floor had been flooded bore anything useful, and even the majority of those where the floor was dry had allowed in air over time, reducing the contents of the containers to worthlessness. Four of the repositories, however, had manage to protect their contents from the ravages of time. In one was a set of magical cloth armor, stitched with runes of arcane power. Two of the others held silver amulets, which were easily identified by Vindurinn. The last container was somewhat larger, and held two tall stacks of papers. Although the ink was nearly completely faded, the wizard was able to tell from each of the top sheets that this was a written record or history of this place. The bard attempted to move one of the sheets, which crumbled to dust beneath his fingers, and no such attempts were made again. The lid was replaced, and a message sent to Argo Scumbler by means of the enspelled scrollcase concerning this matter.

Some time later, the group were in the process of clearing another stair opening when a number of beasts within were disturbed, A swarm of rats and two dire rats emerged from below and frantically began attacking the warden and the bard. Mere seconds later, several winged creatures with long proboscises flew out. Most retreated for the safety of the surrounding trees, but two turned in mid-flight and targeted the PCs, causing ongoing damage as they drained blood from their victims. The warden was in a bad position, partially down the stairs, her retreat cut off by the rats. Ill fortune struck the party, resulting in this battle being more difficult than it should have been, but in the end they prevailed. The rest of the day yielded nothing of interest.

The following day, they discovered another underground chamber of immense size, though still not as big as the building which served as Skrignak’s base. A large stone door initially blocked the way, but the stone facade on the surrounding wall had fallen away, revealing the stonework locking mechanism within, and the party was able to pass with relative ease. Six massive stone columns supported the vaulted ceiling overhead, though some stone had still crashed down over time. Another doorway rested in the far wall, over 200’ away, and the side walls contained horizontal openings which contained shapes made of mortar or terra cotta. A great many of thes had crumbled and fallen away, revealing the skeletons of soldiers within. After moving closer and not being able to identify the faded raiments, the party headed for the door on the far side.

The door was similar to the one the had recently come through, although the facade here was still intact. There was a per protruding from the wall and several slotted paths it could follow, so the characters had a good idea of how to open the door. The warden, the strongest member of the group, pulled upon the peg with all her might. It moved grudgingly, but as it did so, numerous cracking noises could be heard from the room behind them. They turned to see nearly twentl skeletons armed with rusted longsword emerging from their earthen cocoons, those that had not been compromised by the passing of the ages. Four skeletal archers appeared on the upper tiers of each side, and the characters fought for their survival against overwhelming numbers.

The skeleton warriors seemed to be destroyed easily enough, their bones dry and brittle, and the adventurers began to take heart. The archers fired their bows, and their bone arrows did minimal damage when they hit. When they missed and shattered upon the stone, however, a new warrior would spawn there, creating a replenishing army for the party to fight. Things appeared dismal at first, with the party’s original plan proving too dangerous. A few shouted comments brought about another strategy, and the tide began slowly to turn. The warden and cleric climbed the stairs to one of the upper tiers, pressuring the archers themselves. After a grueling encounter, the characters emerged victorious, though battered and worn down, their resources nearly depleted.

NOTE: Beginning next game, the bard will be replaced by a ranger, and another player will be joining. The ending to this encounter will be altered to accomodate this, so the next entry in the Adventure Log will begin with the revised conclusion to this combat before continuing on.

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Game 6: The party reborn

NOTE: This session marks the introduction of two new characters. Lucan, the breelan ranger, replaces Talerion, whose player expressed a desire to change characters. The hin rogue, Kyden, is being run by a new player who fills the slot vacated by the player who ran the sorcerer, Bradleton. The ending to the previous game has been changed somewhat.

The tide had begun to shift in the combat against the skeletal warriors, and it seemed as if the characters would triumph. However, the initial confusion caused Talerion and Bradleton to become separated from their companions, if only by a distance of thirty feet. Still, it was enough to allow the undead swordsmen to surround them. Bradleton was the first to fall, struck down by several particularly effective swings of the rusted weapons. Now facing their combined foes alone, Talerion was overwhelmed, and he, too, was felled.

After the battle, and realizing that nothing could be done for their fellows, Kesriel, Elhara, and Vindurinn once more focused on the unopened stone door. Kesriel was able to move the stone peg, responsible for unsealing the door, along its slotted path, and the combined efforts of the three survivor was required to push the door open. Inside, they found a circular column inscribed with the strange writing they had seen earlier, as well as four more mortar encased corpses, though the level of detail given to these was greater than those of the skeletal warriors. One of the casings had broken open when ceramic ceiling tile had fallen upon it, revealing the corpse, who held in its crossed arms a battle axe. This weapon was determined to be enchanted, and Kesriel claimed it as her own.

With this subterrainian level explored, the trio returned to the surface, but not before respectfully interring their fallen comrades and Elhara’s prayers. It was nearing nightfall, and the surviving party members prepared to camp, as Vindurinn sent a report of the events to Scumbler back in Irongate. The following morning, there was a message in the scroll tube to return to Irongate promptly, and to wait at the Billeting Office until summoned by Scumbler. It took nearly a week for the return journey, and then a wait of another few days before their presence was required.

During that time, two other individuals arrived at the Billeting Office, a breelan named Lucan, and a hin named Kyden. The party recognized these persons as being from the other adventuring company sent out at the same time as they, the city’s residents who had boarded the hin water vessel for a trip down the Kendrichee River.

Soon after the newcomers arrival, Scumbler called a meeting in which he informed all that, since both parties had suffered significant losses, they would now form one group. It was learned that the other party’s leader, a confident young man born to privelage and power, had led his group to intercept a moving goblin caravan in search of items or information. These caravans, while willing to deal with virtually anyone when they have stopped, are known to be fiercely protective while in transit. The party’s leader, assured that an exception would be made on his behalf, soon found his group confronting the hobgoblin soldiers who trailed the caravan, and only the hin and breelan managed to escape with their lives.

After receiving an updated letter of service signed by Jendis Sloan, the newly reformed party heads north to see Armand and procure suitable mounts, four riding horses and a pony for the hin. They purchase supplies and leave Irongate once more, riding south on the road which runs beside the Kendrichee River. They were also accompanied by their pack mule, whom the adventurers had affectionately named “Thunderhoof”.

They rode for six days before sighting some unusual seeming activity in the fields north of Byrnehold. A plowman had harnessed his three draft horses to a large ring recently uncovered in the field, and was attempting to pull free what was believed to be a circular door set into the buried stone. It was believed that the community of Byrnehold was erected above subterrainian ruins of a previous age, and that this doorway may lead to a similar find. The thick rope broke with the strain, and the doorway was examined and a new plan suggested. An acidic compound was applied to the corroded metal ring surrounding the disc, and more horses and rope were used on the second try. With great effort, the doorway broke open with such violence that the pulley and heavy log tripod were destroyed.

Just then, four riders approached from the direction of Byrnehold. Three were obviously members of the Black Legion, Byrnehold’s military, so named for their black horsetail plumed helmets, and the fourth was soon discovered to be Lord Ambrose Byrne himself. The Lord expressed interest in the occurances, and stated that it was the purview of the Black Legion to secure any ruins. The plowman responded by saying that he was searching for new land to till, and that this area was beyond what was widely accepted to be the area claimed by Byrnehold. His Lordship cooly countered this argument, and it seemed as if the plowman was about to captulate to the Lord’s wishes.

Before this could happen, Elhara commented that, if this were truly the case, then any discoveries would be free of the Lord’s contention. Lord Byrne, who was said to be firm but fair, acceded to this argument, and asked to be informed of developements. He and his contingent then rode off.

It took little effort for the party to convince the simple townsfolk to allow them to explore the underground area, and they were soon lowered by rope into the darkness. The initial exploration revealed little, just what appeared to be an ancient prison of sorts, with only remnants of the old iron bars, so badly were they corroded.

A portcullis had come down further into the complex, somehow becoming cocked in its track, so that a narrow gap was created at one end under which one might slither. Kyden, the hin rogue, immediately volunteered, being the smallest and slightest of the group. Unfortunately, he became snagged on the corroded grate, and while the disturbance was minimal, it was enough to dislodge some of the stonework overhead and cause it to crash down. Most party members manage to dodge the hazard, but Kesriel was wounded enough that the cleric, Elhara, tended to her injuries.

Continuing under, the hin scouted ahead for a short distance, and saw that the complex continued on. The others shouted for the farmers to throw down a servicable piece of the shattered tripod, and with this they broke the rivets and pried further open the corner of the portcullis. After all had passed through, they continued as a group to a point where three seperate staircases lead downward, each terminating in a large cell. Slow moving water was dribbling down one of the stairs, and some great shifting of the earth had split the staircase and opened a crevasse on the far side of the cell, whose door was partially open.
The water at the bottom of the stairs was roughly 6’ deep, and when the characters approached, two rubbery tentacles came through the gate, which a portion of the creature’s body could be seen above the water beyond.

The two breelan, Kesriel and Lucan, waded into the water to engage the creature, while Elhara, Vindurinn, and Kyden remained further up the stairs and attacked with spells or ranged weapons. The creature, tough as it was, was finished in short order, and the group crossed the foul, inky water to the narrow crevasse beyond. The water trickled through the opening, causing the stone of the naturally formed opening to become slick, and there were also scraps of rotting meat to be found near the edge.

The group traversed the increasingly steep crevasse, ultimately lowering themselves into an enotmous cavern on the far side. An exploration of this area revealed the crumbling ruins of an ancient keep, which the party investigated. On the first floor, they found a stairwell leading up, which was choked with debris. They found a wooden ladder on the far side of the keep leading to the upper floor and ascended, mapping out the upper level of the old keep. They found the top of the same staircase they had viewed from below, though it was clear of any obstructions. This oddity caused some concern, and Kyden stealthily descended the stairs to look around. The layout was identical to what he had seen earlier, but as he neared the edge of the ruins, he spied several light sources, of varying sizes, out in the cavern, and numerous figures moving around them. He returned to the group to report his findings, and they all then descended the stairs to venture nearer the fires.

With utmost caution, they moved to a distance where they could better make out the figures through the smoky haze. They noticed humans, gray-skinned dwarves with spiky hair, and elves with black skin in what appeared to be some sort of marketplace, complete with tables of goods, as well as pens containing both animals and humanoids. They recognized the dwarves to be duergar, members of the dwarven race who hailed from the shadowfell, and who were known to engage in human trafficking. All were clueless about the dark skinned elves, but the sight of the duergar was enough to causes the party to withdraw and have a look about the far side of the cavern. They found a wide tunnel leading further into the bowels of the earth, one which hadn’t existed in the cavern before the descended the stairs of the keep.

Vindurinn surmised that they had crossed into the parallel plane of the shadowfell, and the group made the difficult journey back the way the had come, back to their native plane. Two of the farmers had remained topside, and used the draft horses to raise the characters. After much deliberation, it was decided that this potential threat was too great not to inform the government of Byrnehold, and the soldier who had remained behind was sent for the commander of the Black Legion.

A short time later, Adrian Byrne arrived with a dozen men on horseback, and listened to the adventurers story. He immediately took charge of the situation, ordering his men to seal the opening. As it was now night, and the party had nothing else to accomplish here, they headed into Byrnehold in search of lodging.

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Game 7: Deceptive Appearances

While staying at the Byrnehold Inn awaiting their audience with Coomander Byrne of the Black Legion, the adventurers are approached by an older man whose bearing is proud and upright. He introduces himself as Berrin Hastings, the carner of Byrnehold, and he asks if the adventurers were the ones who explored the ruins found to the north. When they answer in the affirmative, he tells them that he has a matter he would like their assistance with, one that he cannot take to the Black Legion. Soon to meet with Commander Byrne, the party informs him that they are pressed for time at the moment, and ask if they could speak later that evening. He agrees, and the group leave to meet with Byrnehold’s marshall.

The meeting is uneventful, with the party filling in the Commander on the details of their excursion in the ruins, and their theories to its significance.

They return to the inn and once again meet with Berrin. He explains the sensitive nature with which he is concerned. He was appointed an assistant three years ago, one who was to become his eventual successor, a young human named Theros. For over two years, he was capable and conscientios in his duties to manage the community’s grain stores and assess amounts to be collected. He took a wife and built a home, recognizing the promise of his new career.

About four months ago, however, Hastings noticed a change in his behavior, the young man becoming secretive and irritable. Believing it may be due to marital troubles, Hastings said nothing. The assistant’s performance of his duties suffered greatly.

Recently, upon taking inventory, Hastings noticed that nearly a ton of grain was missing, and he was afraid that Theros might have had something to do with it. He was reluctant to take his suspicions to the Black Legion, for even an allegation of this type could ruin a man, even if he were innocent. If he were guilty, it could mean banishment or worse.

The PCs agreed to look into the matter, asking for a fee of 500 gold, at which the carner balked, saying that he was a simple public servant and that such an amount would leave him destitute. The party suggested that 300 gold would suffice, and to this the silver-haired gentleman agreed.

Kyden began tailing the assistant between his home and work, careful to remain out of sight, and at one time followed the human as he left work at lunchtime and strolled to a particular house near the grain silo, in which he seemed to take an unusual interest.

After Theros had returned home for the evening, his wife left and walked to the apothecary, from where she did not immediately exit. Elhara and Vindurinn went to the same apothecary the next day, and managed to coax a story from the owner, a human woman named Treva. She said that her husband had disappeared several months ago, and that an unknown man said that he would eventually be returned to her, if Treva allowed the use of her shop to certain individuals. She then said that Theros’ wife, Ginna, and a farmer named Old Webb occasionally entered her shop, spent a few minutes in the rear, then left by the back door. After inventory of her merchandise, she was certain that nothing ever had been taken.

With this new information, Kyden now had three individuals to follow; Theros, Ginna, and Old Webb. He followed Webb out to his fields, and then back to town when the man made an unusual mid-day trek with a small parcel. He saw the farmer duck into a narrow alleyway and transform into Ginna, unfurling his bundle and donning a skirt and shawl.

Armed with this information, they took it to Commander Byrne, who immediately ordered that Theros, Ginna, Webb, and Treva be detained. After a few days, Berrin Hastings returned to find the characters and provide them with an update. The body of Old Webb was found buried in his barn, covered in limestone, and a narrow shaft had been dug which led to the catacombs beneath Byrnehold, and subsequently to the grain stores. One of the dopplegangers had been killed in combat, but the other had escaped, and poor Treva was indeed telling the truth of what had occured to her and her husband.

The events coincided with the arrival of the goblin trading caravan some months ago, and only such a large group could be responsible for the theft of the grain.

Hastings was still concerned, though, for no trace of Theros or Ginna was found, and Treva’s husband was still missing. Hastings had heard that the goblins often used whatever means necessary, including slavery, to move their caravans along, and he believed that the missing townfolk might be found there. However, since it had been two month since the goblins departed, they were no sufficiently far from Byrnehold that it was doubtful if a rescue effort would be launched.

Hastings believed the goblins next stop to be south of the Ruins of Adarr in the Great Plains, and that is where the PCs said they would go, intent on freeing Byrnehold’s citizens.

While traveling into the plains in pursuit of the goblin trading caravan, the characters encounter an enormous patch of field grass, nearly indistinguishable from the surrounding grasses, which dulled the senses so much so that those affected entered a mindless stupor. Certain creatures are known to lair within such fields, waiting to attack hapless prey, and the kruthiks which dwelled here soon swarmed the party. One by one, the PCs snapped out of the stupor and were able to intelligently enter combat, but Kesriel, the breelan warden, Seemed particularly affected by the grassy hazard, and she was incredibly slow to react, sustaining a fair amount of damage before doing so. Ultimately, the party killed all of the kruthiks but one, which burrowed into the earth to escape before Vindurinn’s magics affected the creature and put it to sleep.

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Game 8: Into the Plains

Just over a week since their encounter with the kruthiks lairing within a field of wandergrass, the party Sees a group of individuals approaching from the southwest, a ragtag band of mixed genders and races. There are 12 in all, but only three are mounted, the rest traveling on foot. A human on horseback calls out how surprising it is to come acroos others in the expanse of the Great Plains. The two groups stop and talk, and the players learn that this band is headed for Irongate, having heard that they are looking to employ men and women for a force of arms. The PCs confirm this, stating their own Irongate roots, and the human presses them for any information they can provide.

The PCs are told in turn that this group has recently come from the community of Mulhk, though few of them hail from their originally. They had been crossing the plains for about two months, as evidenced by their scant provisions on their pack horses, and haven’t seen much but endless seas of grass.

The mounted human extends a hand to Kyden in parting, and tries to pull the hin from his pony in an unanticipated move. Kyden manages to slip his hand free and maintain his balance, and combat was joined between the two groups. Several of the members of the attacking force fell easily, but combat with others was more difficult, and all the while four archers fired arrows into the fray. An enemy wizard focused his attacks on Elhara and Vindurinn, the rear line combatants, and was soon felled for his efforts. The two humans who had been mounted also eventually fell, but a nossul warrior proved exceedingly tough, inflicting a bad wound upon the ranger, Lucan, and dropping Kesriel with a particularly brutal attack. Kyden approached the nossul from behind and, with combat advantage, killed the warrior with his attack. Two of the archers tried to mount the horses and flee, but all were killed by the party. The PCs searched the bodies and found a surprising amount of gold and gems, leading them to believe that these individuals made coin by whatever means necessary.

After another three weeks of travel, they encountered a group of seven creatures with the bodies of horses and the upper torsos of men. There were four adults and three juveniles, and all but the youngest carried either saddlebags or parcels secured to their backs. Three of the centaurs broke off and rode toward the PCs, declaring their peaceful intentions if the same were granted. The centaurs, it seemed, were also headed to the goblin trading caravan, not only to trade but for the games which had recently become an annual tradition. The two parties joined up and traveled together for over a day before sighting the motionless caravan.

The caravan was stopped and tables had been set up by the goblins, as well as by the few non-goblins who traveled in their company. Several members of the party wound their way among the tables, looking at the wares displayed upon them. There was quite a wide selection of goods, from weapons to ceramic teasets, and it was a matter of speculation how the goblins came by these goods. Among the eclectic collection, Kyden and Lucan saw a holy symbol of Erathis, which had been worn by the cleric of their original, ill-fated group, as well as items belonging to other members. It was all Lucan could do to master his anger.

That first night, the group camped in close proximity to the centaurs they had traveled with. The hin rogue used the cover of darkness to attempt to look under the skirt of the largest vehicle, where it was said that any prisoners would be found. He successfully used his small stature and the high grass to get next to the immense wagon, and indeed did see nearly two dozen captives chained to the frame of the vehicle, and being watched by four hobgoblin guards. With this information, he attempted to leave the area, but was spotted by a hobgoblin patrolling the vicinity. With relative ease, Kyden managed to elude the guard and make his way back to camp, where he informed the others of what he had seen.

Several options were floated for freeing the slaves, with Lucan bent on freeing them all, not just those they had come for. It was pointed out that such a large-scale endeavor was beyond the group’s capability, and that such an act would have to wait. Ultimately, it was decided that Elhara, being the most diplomatic, should speak to the goblin trading boss to purchase the Byrnehold citizens back from the caravan.

The following day, the priestess approached the trading boss, and attempted to bring up the purchase of items not currently on display. The goblin spread his arms in an all-encompassing gesture and said “All is for sale!” Elhara delicately suggested the desire to purchase individuals, and the trade boss grabbed the nearest goblin and asked, “How much you pay?” It was then that Elhara admitted that she knew of the prisoners beneath the wagon, and her desire to purchase several of them. The goblin nodded, and headed toward the skirt of the vehicle, rapping his staff against the frame to alert the hobgoblins of his arrival. He pulled the cloth aside and admitted the priestess, who winced in revulsion at the stench.

The were many captives of many races, but Elhara recognized two faces that the dopplegangers had duplicated back in Byrnehold. She approached them and asked which of the others was the apothecary, husband to Treva. They pointed out the individual, and Elhara told the goblin trade boss that she wished to purchase these three. Negotiations followed and a price was settled upon. As the prisoners were being released, pleas of desperation and anquish came from the other captives, who implored the priestess to free them as well. Their cries were heartbreaking, yet she could only purchase the freedom of four others. With the seven newly freed individuals, she left the area beneath the large wagon, the cries of those left behind following her.

Elhara attempted to nurse her charges back to some semblance of health, while a few of the other party members participated in the games held by the numerous centaur tribes who had gathered. Soon, they purchased a wagon and made the journey back to Byrnehold, where the missing were greeted by their fellow citizens and the party was recognized as heroes. The following day, a public ceremony was held, with Lord Byrne expressing the gratitude of the entire community and honoring the PCs. The funds used to buy the slaves were reimbursed, and as a boon, Lord Byrne gave the party the name of a sage, Keltos, who resided in Bale’s Retreat, as well as a letter of introduction. Keltos was knowledgable in the field of ancient civilizations and ruins, and could perhaps be of assistance in the PC’s original mission.

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Game 9: Back on Track

Provided with the name of a sage and a letter of introduction, the adventurers depart Byrnehold on horseback, traveling the road which parallels the Taralandar River. On the way to their ultimate destination of Bale’s Retreat, they stop at the walled community of Nulray to rest and reprovision. Nulray is open to travellers, but like many other places, they record the names and places of origins of those who pass within her walls. The character all freely give their names, and then their origins as either Irongate or a protectorate of that great city.

They enter Nulray and take rooms at the one only respectable inn, and while they are there, they meet an elderly gentleman named Roderick the Sage. They engage the individual in conversation and find him to be amiable, though somewhat scatterbrained and rambling. It is learned that a splinter community broke off from Nulray in the past year or so, after the new town rulers took power, and have erected a fledgling community on the fringe of the Plainsedge Woods, about two days to the west. He mentions that his former aide is one who had moved and that his research is now taking much longer, since she was more familiar with some of the more exotic languages than he. The older man excuses himself and ambles out of the establishment.

Shortly thereafter, the door opens again and in walk a pair of individuals from the rain. The first is a tall, lean human male, who pulls back the hood of his cloak to reveal aquiline features and long blond hair, which he frequently combs his fingers through. The second is a large, muscular orc, whose carriage suggests the ability to snap into violence at any time.
The orc strides directly to the table where the party is sitting and takes immediate notice of the two female members, showing particular interest in the Kesriel, the breelan warden. He makes a comment which is not understood by any of the party, and his human companion chuckles.

The human softly introduces himself as William, known to many as William the Vain, and the orc he identifies as Ruhk. He states that the party are obviously the recent arrivals who hail from Irongate, and mentions that the town leaders wish an audience. When the party asks when, he tells them that now would be an opportune time. Wanting to clean up from their travels before meeting with any officials, the women leave to freshen up first, and when they return, the men follow suit. When the leave the in, the party is led by William the Vain and tailed by the imposing orc.

They cross the footbridge high above the river to the west side of the river, the area recognized as the slums, and through a series of narrow roads which end in a cul-de-sac. A tavern dominates the muddy cobblestone courtyard, and it is into this that the group is led. The atmosphere is rauckus, and the party seats themselves at a table while William goes to fetch the village leaders, leaving Ruhk to look after their guests. After a few moments, the door to a back room opens and William returns, accompanied by two others. The first is a large tiefling woman uses a gnarled walking stick to aide in moving her considerable bulk. The second is a wild-eyed, hunchbacked dwarf, wearing a holy symbol about his neck which identifies him as a follower of Asmodeus.

They approach, and the tiefling lowers herself into a chair while the others stand a short distance away. In a harsh, raspy voice, she introduces herself as Mother Zubota, and the other recent arrival as Broken Korvis. The dwarf’s appearance and introduction prompts a comment from Elhara, the usually demure priestess of Pelor, who makes some remark about serving an evil god. Korvis bristles, replying in a wheezing, high pitched voice that regarless of his god, his faith is no less valid thatn hers.

Mother Zubota rolls a cigar and produces a flame from her red-hued fingers to light it, before coming to the reason for her summons. Bluntly, she says that a diplomatic envoy from Irongate came to Nulray several months ago, speaking sweetly of the benefits of allying with Irongate. She tells the party that she wasn’t interested iny any such arrangement, and that the diplomats left here with her foot planted in their backsides. Now, there is the arrival of another group hailing from Irongate, and she finds such coincidences disturbing. She mentions her desire for the characters to prove that they are not spies by paticipating in a simple ritual to be performed by Broken Korvis. No one in the group finds this agreeable, and they refuse, at which time Mother asks thenm to confine their activities to the inn itself, and not step outside except to leave the town. This was obviously more than a request, and the players agree.

They accompany William and Ruhk back to the inn, after which the orc soon departs. William, however, takes a seat by the door, where he remains until the party leaves the following morning. On their way out of the community, Kyden strikes up a conversation with William, who himself had always been soft-spoken and had never shown any hostility. Despite the conditions of their stay, William says that there was never animosity, and that Ruhk had indicated a willingness to become more familiar with Kesriel. Kyden, excercising discretion, decides not to share this information with his breelan companion.

On the road once more, the group make their way north to Bale’s Retreat, a city nearly as large as Irongate, which also sits in the Northern Rim and is protected by a stone wall. They pass an inn and several shops which lie outside the walls and proceed to the gate, where they learn that horses are not allowed into the city. They return to the large inn, an establishment with the somewhat whimsical name of {The Outside Inn]], run by a woman named Rosalind. They take rooms and board their horses before returnin, by foot, to the gate. They learn that Bale’s Retreat is a closed city, and that travellers are not allowed inside unless on official business and vouched for by the concerned party. They inform the guard of their desire to meet with Keltos, and will return in a few hours after a runner has been dispatched and returned with word.

Again, they go back to the inn to relax for a few hours before returning to the city gate, where they learn that Keltos has agreed to meet them at the gate at six bells that evening.
Eventually, they meet Keltos, a stocky, well-dressed dwarf who admits them into the city and invites the characters to his favorite alehouse. They accept, and find the chosen establishment to be higher end, offering ale and wine to the more affluent and well-learned. Over drinks, they tell Keltos of their interest in ruins, and that they had heard that he was a person knowledgable in such things. He admits that it isn’t his primary field of study, more of an interesting hobby. Ragardless, he promises to provide them with what information he can.

The following day, the characters go to the Eternal Order of the Quill, the organization to which Keltos belongs, to meet with him. They find that both he and his colleagues are preparing to attend a dedication service, to which Keltos invites the characters. It is at this time that he explains the history behind the city of Bale’s Retreat. Elhara is somewhat mortified to learn of this arrangement.

After the ceremony, Keltos presents the party with a map of several ruins, and explains to Vindurinn, whom he recognizes as an intellectual, that the Eternal Order of the Quill, an organization dedicated to preserving records, offers opportunities to become honorary members. All that is needed is to make a somewhat arbitray sounding “contribution of note” in the form of some lore or artifact which the Order finds useful. In return, membership allows greater and easier access to rituals, spells, and other such services.

Keltos tells the characters that they rode past the nearest ruins when they came from Nulray on the way here. There are the ruins of an ancient, if small, temple west of the Taralandar in the Plainsedge Wood. The party thanks the dwarf and retraces their route in search of the old temple. The discover a relatively new community surrounded by a wooden pallisade fence, which they assume to be the splinter community which had left Nulray. There was no one to be seen in the watchtower, and the gates were closed and their was no response to their hails. Kyden scaled the wall for a look, and saw signs of an epic struggle but no dodies. Dried blood coated the ground and had splashed upon the walls of the small dwellings. The hin lowered himself to the inside, followed by Lucan, and together they opened the gates for the others.

A further search revealed more evidence of violence, and they found an old, weathered ruin in the rear of the community, worn nearly to the ground by time and the elements. A stairways leading underground had been revealed when the stones clogging it seemed to have either been removed or cast aside. With caution, the adventurers descended into the darkness. A cacophany of wailing, sighing, and screaming came to their ears, though seeming without source or direction. At the bottom of the stairs, several dozen corpses had been piled, all with their hands removed as if by some sharp blade. The party made their way further along, to encounter several undead creatures accompanied by a carnage demon. Battle was joined, and while the heroes suffered appreciable damage, they were able to best their adversaries.

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