The longest winter

A time gain on the Plain
Heading South

The Party

Elden Spirefield (player missing, played as N.P.C.)
Frank Wyvernstooth (played by Steve)
Loraella Ironcore (played by Leanne)
Marellian Ironcore (played by Dave)
Rayne (played by Amanda)
Arissa Stowe (N.P.C.)

The party stand around in the cavern, wondering who has taken General Ironcore’s war desk, and what type of creature lies dead on the floor. Frank offers to give someone a boost up to see if they can climb the vertical tunnel. After a boost up they all realise the tunnel is too slick-sided for climbing. Marellian asks for quiet so he can scribe his spider climb scroll into his spellbook, explaining that if he manages to copy it first, he can cast the scroll on one of them, allowing them to traverse the climb easily. Frank fancies playing spider, so Marellian casts the spell on him. After a bit of wandering around on the ceiling to get used to the feeling, frank shoots up the tunnel. He arrives at the top to find himself inside a rather large and well built Igloo. It looks like several people were here for quite some time, but cleaned up after themselves, leaving nothing behind. Just for the hell of it, frank skitters around over the ceiling of the Igloo for a while, before a faint call from below reminds him that he’d better throw a rope down to help the others up.

After the rest of the party have been pulled up the rope (some easier than others), Frank shows them the tracks he found leading out into the snow of the Plain of Soot. There are several sets of rather large, three-toed creature tracks, that end in a place where snow has been swept away as if by large wings. Marellian declares that these creatures must be a species previously unknown to science, as nobody has any idea what sort of creature would make such tracks. Sadly, as none of the party has any means of flight, they are unable to follow where these creatures went, although Marellian does send his owl familiar off to see if it can find anything of note. While they wait for the owl to return, the party decide to rest in the Igloo and prepare themselves for a long trek southwards to where there should be an old ruined watchtower.

Marellian’s Owl returns with no sign of the creatures they were hoping for, but it does reveal that the Igloo is some ways south of where the paths out of the Sundered Valley come up. They estimate that by coming up this way they have shaved a day’s travel time off their journey. Fed, fortified and well rested, the party set out in a (nearly) southwards direction, following the clifftop of the Sundered Valley. The Plain of Soot itself seems to run off eastwards for a few hundred miles, so keeping the valley edge in sight would prevent them losing their bearings and wandering around aimlessly.

After some time walking, the party are ambushed by a pack of Abominable Snowmen, who were camouflaged in the snow. Marellian casts burning hands, burning the first Yeti, but it seems unafraid of the flames and continues to attack. Rayne calls upon her Abyssal heritage, and grows claws, with which she hits the second Yeti. Elden misses with his club, and yet again bemoans the loss of his greatsword, as the Yeti deals him a mighty blow in return. Frank and Loraella chip in, before a second burning hands spell from Marellian causes one of the Yetis to flee. Rayne uses her sorcerous powers to summon a Fire Beetle, and it’s bite burns a Yeti, causing it to flee as well. Elden attempts to hit, but even a touch of destiny provided by Arissa fails to help him enough, while Rayne hits a Yeti with her Abyssal claws again. The third Yeti runs, but one remains, taking hits from Frank and Loraella, before a second touch of destiny allows Elden to finally hit, and Rayne’s claws finish it off. Frank skins the Yeti corpse after Marellian and he discuss the magical properties of Yeti fur in protecting against cold. Arissa asks Frank if he will make her fur mittens and boots from the Yeti hide.

As they continue their trudge southwards, they keep an eye out in case of more attacks, but the Yetis seem to have been driven off by their defences earlier. Instead, their Sharp eyes spy a lone figure, mounted on an Elk, headed towards them from across the Plain. As it gets closer, Marellian hails it, bringing it to them. Marellian then notices that the Elk is in fact undead, and the rider upon it is sheathed in an icy armour. glowing red eyes stare at him , and a dusty voice says; “You are brave to cross the Plain of Soot, Mortals. foolish, but Brave.”
For some reason, this seems comical to Frank, but the others are wary of this strange figure. Marellian explains that they are on their way to see the ‘gnomies’, to which it nods it’s head. It explains;“Your quest meets with my queen’s favour. The Darkness within your town is not destroyed, but grows anew. As does that which you faced in the Dwarven stronghold. The children of the Corruptor must not be allowed to roam free, or else all my Queen has done to preserve this land will be for naught.”
The party are confused, having been brought up to believe that the Queen of the Ice was evil and wished to destroy all life. The knight of Ice shakes his head; “How quickly you mortals forget. Once there were four Godesses, each resposible for a season. The sun God sought to destroy the seasons, wishing to keep his reign constant throughout the year. He had fallen under the sway of the Corruptor, and was vanquishing other Gods in order to bring this to pass. My Queen did what she did to prevent him from destroying all the Gods. If she had not, you would all be under the heavy hand of a singular, mad God.”
The party ask how they can destroy the Corruptor’s children, but the Knight of Ice explains he cannot answer that question, for it would allow the Corruptor free reign in the mortal realms. What little he has given them is not enough to ‘break the rules’ regarding immortal intervention. He wishes them well, and vanishes in a flurry of snow and ice.

After a short discussion regarding what they have just heard, the Party head southwards again. It is not long before their sharp eyes make out a huge bulk moving slowly across the plain, leaving a wide trail of thick ice behind it. This monstrosity is a Glacier Toad, one of the Ice’s most enormous creations. Wisely, the party decide to try and creep away without attracting it’s attention, but Marellian is not very good at sneaking away, and it begins to head towards them. Frank shouts for them to run, as it’s ponderous bulk should be unable to keep up, so run they do. Luckily, Frank’s guess proves correct, and they outdistance it, arriving at the Shieldwall Hills safely. Elden is exhausted by the long run; possibly an effect of his energy drain from the wraith in the caverns the night before. Arissa supports him as they walk slowly south, looking around them for a place to rest.

Pretty shortly, Loraella and Rayne, scouting around, each find a hole in the side of hills. Frank and Marellian think the two holes are connected, so one goes to each hole. Frank bellows into one hole while Marellian listens at the other. Sadly, all Marellian can hear is a hissing sound, as he disturbs a Cryo-Hydra. Luckily, he is able to call for help before it emerges fully from it’s den, and Rayne grows her Abyssal claws once more as she steps in to help. Elden rushes in at the sign of battle, but is badly bitten by two of the Hydra’s heads. Marellian uses up his last Flaming hands spell on it, while Frank takes a raging leap, and gives it a good solid hit. Elden, bleeding heavily, manages one last swing of his club, and luckily kills the beast before it is able to hurt him further. Marellian gives him first aid, before the party enter the Hydra’s lair to see what treasures may be contained in it.

After assuring the rest of the party that the Hydra is a solitary beast, Frank and Marellian usher them all into the Hydra’s lair. There, amongst the regular items, they find a pitted Longsword, which they give to Elden. There are also a set of Bracelets and a ring. Marellian is able to determine that the bracelets are greater bracers of archery (which Loraella takes), but is unable to identify the ring, so he pockets it for later study.

With the Hydra’s lair explored, the party decide to look in the other hole. There, they are attacked by a couple of Derro. Marellian tries to talk to the Derro, but they are far to insane and haughty to talk to ‘abovesiders’, so he resorts to using his wand of magic missiles on them. Rayne summons a large black dog to attack, and the Derro are easily despatched. Before they can explore further, another pair of Derro charge at them, but they too are quickly cut down. Finally, they reach the lair of a Hag, who rakes Frank with her dirty nails, before Marellian uses his wand again. Sadly, this seems to be the end of his grandfather’s wand, as it starts to smoke and turns black. Luckily, Elden with his new sword, Frank and Rayne flank the hag, while Loraella uses her new bracers to feather it with arrows. The Hag soons succumbs to it’s wounds, leaving the party to hunt it’s chambers for more loot. Among the spoils are several magic items, which Marellian examines. He is able to determine that there is a set of studded leather armour +2 (which Frank takes), but is unsure regarding a magic cloak and staff. He tells the others he needs to cast an identify spell on the other items, but he has no spells left for the day. Luckily, the ruined watchtower is not too far ahead, and they decide that it would be a better place to rest than a cold cave.

When they get to the watchtower, they are pleased to see that one part of it remains in a fit state for habitation. Upon entering, they see that someone has been here recently; firewood has been stacked up, the place is clean, and there is a table and chair that have been dusted. In one corner is what appears to have been a sleeping pallet, but the bedclothes have been shredded by some angry creature. Also scattered around are several pieces of paper; these have also been shredded, and some are badly singed by fire. Picking up the pieces, and finding some that are still legible, the party are finaly able to read part of The Shredded Journal .

To be continued…

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Coming up empty
Beaten to the loot?

Party Members

Elden Spirefield (player missing, played as N.P.C.)
Frank Wyvernstooth (played by Steve)
Loraella Ironcore (played by Leanne)
Marellian Ironcore (played by Dave)
Rayne (played by Amanda)
Arissa Stowe (N.P.C.)

A discussion takes place in Arroyo concerning the return of the two young men. They seem to be unperturbed by their brush with death in a giants cookpot, and want to go with the party. Luckily, their mother is a stern woman, and forbids it.

Bad news for Elden, as he attempts to replace/repair his greatsword. The village smith is unable to repair the sword, and does not have the skill to make a new one. The party do ask Elden if he wishes to stay behind now that he only has a club for his weapon, but he is hopeful that he will find something on their journey.

Once more the party leave the village of Arroyo, determined this time to leave the Sundered Valley behind them. They again head north, and travel further than they had previously. Marellian sends his owl to search ahead, and it signals it has found something: In the sidewall of the valley there seems to be a very large ancient skull of some unknown creature. The party are very excited, hoping this is the first part of the riddle they heard (all except Frank, who seems more interested in whether the skull has any teeth).

Frank climbs up into the skull, revealing that there is indeed a cave opening inside the eye socket. The party assemble in the socket, and move further into the cave. Loraella and Rayne creep silently forwards, followed by Frank and Marellian, with Elden and Arissa at the rear. They notice that the floor of the cave is littered with bones, noticably lizardlike in features.

At the far end of the cave is a mass of webs, in which lurks a giant Tarantula. Upon seeing this big spider, Marellian is suddenly smitten with an urge to run away (he maintains that it was an urge to go check on his familiar when questioned about it later). Frank rushes in to attack, but is overcome by nausea due to its barbed hairs . Loraella and Rayne stand back and use their ranged weapons, while Elden attempts to push past them go engage in hand to hand. Arissa seems revolted by the thing, but instead of her usual scream, she goes into some sort of mystic trance. She mutters some unintelligable words, after which she faints. A glowing ball of light then bursts over the spider, stunning it for enough time for Frank to overcome his nausea and whack it. With Frank and Elden hitting it, and the two rogues firing bolts, it soon dies of multiple injuries. The party then wonder where Marellian has got to, and go back to find him. He seems to be whispering (he maintains to his familiar) “It’s not going to get me, it’s not going to get me.”

After clearing the webs away from the rear of the cave, the party descend down a small passageway into a series of natural looking caverns. Rayne and Loraella go forward once more, but are soon attacked by two Cloakers (one of which turns out to be a dancing image ). The Cloaker begins to moan, causing Rayne to become panicked, but Loraella seems unaffected and shoots at it. Frank and Elden run in, but Frank is also panicked by the moaning, and ends up causing damage to himself. Hearing the moaning, Marellian runs off down a side passage, but Arissa follows him, only to find him in a faint. He shakes him awake, and they return to help with a lucky shot from Marellian’s crossbow felling the creature.

a short while further into the caverns, Loraella hears a faint gibbering coming from up ahead. A strange amorphous shepe filled with eyes and mouths comes sliding along. It fires a stream of spittle at her, which misses and lands sizzling on the cavern floor. Luckily, the party seem unaffected by the wierd noises it makes, and soon make short work of it. Marellian remarks that these are indeed the halls of fear and dread, so the catacombs of mindless hate must be nearby (he also wonders how the servant got through all these monsters in the first place, but there is no answer that anyone can give him).

After a bit more exploring, the party are confronted by stalagtites that suddenly open out to reveal strange tentacled creatures. There are at least six of these that come flying down at them, but Frank and Elden cleave through most of them, while the rest fall to crossbow bolts. Marellian is sure these things have never been seen before (at least, he hasn’t read about them), so asks Frank if he will carry one in a sack for further study when they get back home. Frank is ok with this, providing Marellian supplies the sack.

They wind their way down numerous inter-connecting passages, until they come across a group of skeletons. Marellian takes charge, brandishing his holy symbol and his holy light dismisses them all (healing party members in the process). Further on, they meet a Wight, which attacks Elden, draining him of energy and health. Marellian assesses him, but declares there is nothing he can do to heal the damage, which requires a restoration spell. Looking decidedly paler, Elden wonders if he’ll die, but Marellian assures him that the Wight did not do enough damage (and if it did, he’d come back as a Wight himself anyway..). Frank finds a ring on the Wight’s finger, which he asks Marellian to examine. Marellian studies it for a while, declaring that it is a ring of spell storing . Frank asks if he can use it, but Marellian replies it is only worth something to a spellcaster, so Frank gives it to him.

As the inter-locking passages come to an end, the party are confronted with a Wraith. Elden is unable to hit it, as he does not have a suitable weapon, but a combination of Marellian with his holy light and Frank with his magic axe prevent it from harming Elden further. The party are then assaulted by many Zombies, which revives Elden’s mood, as he can happily cleave through them. With these foes easily destroyed, they find themselves nearing the end of the caverns.

Their journey through the caverns ends with an unhappy discovery. The cavern in which the desk was once stored has been looted! There is a strange corpse on the ground; it is covered in wiry short hair, has large eyes, an apelike face, and both hands are missing. Studying it, Marellian realises the hands were cut off after death, due to the small ammount of blood. It looks like this creature died from a broken neck; and indeed, above it there is a vertical passage which seems to have been ‘melted’ through the rock. There are marks on the floor consistant with the dragging of an object to the passage. The party decide they will climb this vertical shaft, but the questions remain; who could have done this, and how did they know the desk was in this cavern?

To be continued….

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Arroyo Tales
A history lesson?

Party members:

Elden Spirefield (played by Matt)
Frank Wyvernstooth (played by Steve)
Loraella Ironcore (played by Leanne)
Marellian Ironcore (played by Dave)
Rayne (player missing; played as n.p.c.)
Arissa Stowe (n.p.c.)

Following the Mayor’s call, the villagers of Arroyo have gathered in the long hall to hear all about these strange visitors (the party) who he has been talking to. He begins by inviting Marellian to speak, and tell the villagers who they are and where they are from. Marellian is not the best public speaker, and waffles on for a bit without getting to the point the mayor requires, so he asks Loraella to simplify things. She merely says that what her brother said is true, confusing the villagers further. In the end, the mayor has to explain himself that these people are all from Flintharrow (cue intake of breath) and that among them are those with the names Ironcore and Spirefield….

After the indignation and shouting has died down, The mayor explains that apparently nobody realised that there were people left behind when the army pulled out, and that there should be no ill will towards these adventurers because of their family past. One young man in particular wants to talk to Elden; his family name is Halfspire, and they claim to be decended from the child of the mistress of captain Spirefield. The other party members do see some vague resemblance to Elden, but the young man is clearly all human…

Mother Henda, the eldest villager, says that now that’s all settled, she can go back to her work, but asks the party to come visit her when they have time, as she would like to talk to them without everyone fussing around them. Frank thinks gallantly about assisting her home, but she doesn’t wait for his help, vanishing before he can offer. One fairly large villager stops Frank to ask about half-orcs, preventing him from catching her exit.

An old timer approaches Marellian and Loraella, asking if they are truly decendants of general Ironcore. Marellian insists that the general was his grandfather, and the old man asks if they will talk with him in private, as he has something important to discuss. Frank tags along, suspicious of anything that takes party members off alone, but his fears are needless. The old man merely wishes to talk about a secret his family have kept down the generations. He tells Marellian and Loraella the Ironcore legacy.

By the time Marellian and Loraella return to the long hall, the excitement of their hosts has dwindled enough for them round up the other party members and leave quietly. They reassure the mayor that if Arroyo doesn’t want Flintharrow to become aware of it’s existance they will keep it a secret, and mention the alliance of free villages to him. He tells them it would be best to stay silent for now, and thanks them for their understanding. They then head over to Mother Henda’s house.

Mother Henda invites them in and they sit round her table. She spends some time quietly looking at them, and the party members begin to think she’s a little senile. Then she tells them not to believe everything that they have been told regarding Arroyo. After the was was ended, there were many who didn’t want to return to the hidebound way of life in the Townships. They managed to evade the roundup and made a life for themselves here. Over the years, in order to feel better about themselves, they concocted a tale of abandonment, and told it so much that they started to believe it themselves. However, as all these tales start with a grain of truth, there may have been some who were genuinely left behind through no fault of their own, and who joined up with the others after the village was started.

This tale of conflicting versions of the same origin story confuses the party, and while they are trying to make sense of it, Mother Henda makes them some tea. During their time sitting drinking tea, Mother Henda’s cat familiar jumps on Marellian’s lap. Mother Henda asks him where his familiar is, and he replies that he left it behind when they entered the Dwarf tunnels, as it was no place for an owl. Mother Henda wonders why he hasn’t called his familiar now that they have left the tunnels, as it’s presence would benefit Marellian greatly. Marellian admits he hadn’t thought about it.

While Marellian is petting her cat, Mother Henda goes off to an old chest, bringing back a scroll that she says might help him in his quest ahead. Reading the sigils on it, he discovers it is a scroll of Knock. He thanks her for the gift, but wonders how soon they can leave with the villagers all interested in them. Mother Henda says that it is easy to creep out of the village, as she has done so many times. It appears that she is friendly with the necromancer who they were warned to stay clear of. She tells them that he offered to marry her once, as she is as close to being dead as some of his undead. He prefers the company of the dead to that of the living, but is willing to talk to anyone who is pleasant to him. Frank tells her that they were told nobody had ever left the village, and she reveals that two young men are currently missing, having gone over the wall a couple of days ago. She asks the party if they will have a look out for the two lads, and send them home if they find them. They tell her that they will do so, and take their leave of her.

By the time they leave Mother Henda’s house, night has fallen, and they decide it would be a good time to see if it is easy to slip over the wall. As mother Henda said, it is very simple to do, and they all leave the village unseen. Elden muses that if monsters did want to attack, they could easily invade the village just by sneaking in, which is a saddening thought. Marellian calls his owl, and after being reunited, the party set off north once more.

A few hours later, having found little evidence of the traps supposed to be scattered around, they spot the ruins of a large settlement to the north west. They scout the ruins, but find that everything has been scavenged bare over the years. Frank finds tracks leading south that could belong to both zombies and skeletons, and they wonder if they should go visit the necromancer. A party discussion concludes with the idea that they should use these ruins to rest a while, as they left during the night without much rest.

In the morning, Frank finds yet more tracks, two sets of which belong to humans. Thinking of their promise to locate the missing village boys, they follow these tracks west. The tracks end with what appears to be an ambush by giant sized tracks, which lead off north west. Following the tracks leads the party to a large cavemouth, which they conclude must be the giant’s lair. Readying their weapons, they carefully enter.

A short way inside the cave, they come across two hill giants. Loraella sneak attacks one, while Frank chops at the other. Marellian casts a spell, turning the giant that his sister attacked into a friend, meaning Elden has to turn his attention to the one Frank attacked, and Rayne uses her Death mask to drain it of health.

Marellian tells the (now friendly) giant that they are here because his people took swome of their friends, and that they would rather get them back without having to kill giants. While the giant is digesting this conversation, Frank and Elden kill the other giant, while Loraella bemoans her lack of success with the crossbow. All the while, Arissa has been hiding behind a rocky wall, too afraid to help out even if she could. Elden jokes that maybe she could use her scream as some sort of sonic energy attack. Frank is about to laugh, when an angry giant appears around the corner in front of him, disturbed by the noises the party are making. Frank leaps onto the giant’s shoulders, hoping to overbalance the giant, but it grabs at him and tears him free, swinging him at Elden. It misses, and Frank lands on his feet like a tumbler.

Elden charges in and attacks the giant, wounding it. Enraged, it swings it’s club and sunders Elden’s greatsword. Dismayed, Elden falls back and Frank takes over the fight. Elden has to resort to using a club to hit with, and the two of them trade blows with the giant, while Loraella and Rayne both fail to find the target with their bows. The Giant retreat, and when the party follow, find that there are more giants down the passage. The friendly giant tells Marellian that the two humans are in the chamber behind the giants, waiting to go in the stockpot. Marellian asks him if the body of the dead giant would be an acceptable subsitute, and it pulls the body off. As the party disengage, the friendly giant takes the wounded giant off to talk. There are yells, and a smack of a club, and the friendly giant comes back out with the two boys. He tells Marellian that there are now two bodies to go in the pot. The party thank it, and leave quickly, before Marellian’s spell wears off.

With Frank quite badly wounded, and Elden mourning the loss of his greatsword, they decide it would be best to go back to Arroyo with the boys, to make sure they got home ok. Elden asks Marellian if he has a spell to repair his greatsword, but Marellian tells him it seems to be beyond repair. The boys tell Elden there is a smith in Arroyo that might be able to help him, which cheers him up a little. At mid-day they return to the wall, to the astonishment of the watchers who had no idea they had left….

To be continued…
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Away Ye go!
Season Two Begins at last!

The Party:

Elden Spirefield (player missing, played as N.P.C.)
Marellian Ironcore (played by Dave)
Loraella Ironcore (played by Leanne)
Frank Wyvernstooth (played by Steve)
Rayne (played by Amanda)
Arrissa Stowe (N.P.C.)

It has been just over a week now since the party was involved in the titanic battle to defeat the Rock-Terror, and there is still no sign of Daveak returning.
The Dwarves of the Gully are much more friendly and happy now that the evil has been banished, but the Elder offers a word of caution: The RockTerror has only lost it’s body, and the evil that animated that body will slowly regenerate itself until it is strong enough to reform. Hopefully by that time there may be found a way to banish it forever. Therefore they hope that the party is successful in their quest, for it is the same kind of evil that lurks yet in FlintHarrow.

They are unable to help the party in their search for Elves. They explain that Dwarves and Elves don’t usually have much in common, and stay away from each other. Gnomes, they explain, have always been more in touch with the Elves. The only Gnomes they know of live in a monastery to the south-east that used to trade with the Gully before the RockTerror destroyed all the passages that ran that way. The only way to get there now is to cross the Sundered Valley and find a trail out on the eastern cliff face, but the Dwarves tend not to travel much now, so are unsure what dangers the valley might hold. The party decide that they will brave whatever lurks in the valley, and the Elder provides them with an escort to the nearest valley entrance.

As they walk through the tunnels of the Gully, they see many abandoned tunnels, some flooded, others are partially or fully destroyed by cave-ins and rockfalls. The leader of their escort shakes his head, and explains that such is the damage caused by the RockTerror in their lands. The Dwarves of the escort are very alert and wary as they travel, and the leader explains that although the RockTerror has been vanquished, there are still many Bodak left roaming about in the tunnels. Sadly all these were once dwarves, some of whom may even be relatives of the escort, and finding them all will be a long and sad job.

All has been quiet along their journey, and they finally meet with a pair of Dwarves who are warriors of the fort guarding the valley entrance. The leader of the patrol dismisses his men, but he continues on with the party at their request to help them with leaving the fort. He is just explaining to the pair of Dwarves that the party were instrumental in defeating the RockTerror, when there is a crash, and a pair of Bodak explode through a boarded up tunnel in front of him. Frank and Elden battle one, while the Dwarf is aided by Rayne (after she puts on her mask). Loraella fires an arrow at the other Bodak, but the melee prevents her from firing more. The fight is over almost before it had begun, with the pair of Dwarves puffing as they run up, to be scolded by the Escort leader. Looking ashamed, they begin to repair the breach, while he takes the party onward to the fort.

As they leave the darkness of the tunnels behind, the three half-elves all take a deep breath; the first fresh air they’ve smelt in over a week. Thinking it a sigh or relief, the escort leader explains that the Bodak don’t like the sunlight, so will not be seen again. He ushers then through to the fort, where several herdsmen are watching over Dwarf cows. Tools and equipment seem scattered about haphazardly, and the patrol leader tells the party that they should take whatever they need to help them on their journey (to which Frank decides a cow might be nice..) and they all stock up on provisions.

The party are just about to set forth when the patrol leader offers them a few words of advice. He explains that the valley is littered with traps from the time of the war, and that the Dwarves have never managed to find all of them, so to be alert at all times. Once they manage to find a trail out of the valley, they should head south-east until they see some white crystal cliffs; the monastery is atop these cliffs. He wishes them good luck, and gives Marellian a flask of Dwarf ale, saying he’s heard the lad has taken a liking to it. Marellian thanks him, and the party set off. As they turn to leave, the Dwarves all give them a solemn salute, hands on breast, and bow deeply.

Night is falling as they reach the marker stones that signify the edge of Dwarf territories in the valley, but they decide to press on. Only Arissa does not have any kind of night vision so Elden stays close to guide her in the dark. It is not too long before the eagle eyed Loraella and Rayne find the first trap; a pressure pad that Marellian is able to disarm easily. Some time later they find a tripwire strung between two trees, and that is also disarmed. Other traps are also found, including one that is dismantled to gain a rod of shock

They continue on north-east until they come across a dead body. Nearby is a hole or cave of some kind. A search of the body reveals two short swords, and a backpack full of rocks. Frank muses that maybe these rocks are valuable, but they are loathe to lug a load of rocks around, so leave them be. Marellian is about to peek into the hole when Loraella (who had wandered off a short way to look at a tree) is attacked by three dire bats. Seeing her outnumbered, he rushes over to save her, but gets tangled up in his own feet, and falls flat on his face. While the others draw weapons and go to her aid, two more dire bats swoop down on them. One of the three attacking Loraella sees the prostrate form of Marellian, and swoops down on him. Marellian casts burning hands, and fries the bat, which falls nearby. A swift clout with his quarterstaff kills the bat, and Marellian slowly and carefully goes to help his sister, who has taken a wound from a dire bat bite.

Frank takes a mighty leap at one of the swooping bats, and lands sprawling atop it. The extra weight causes it to drop to the ground, where he proceeds to beat it to death. Elden is strangely unable to hit the other bat, and Frank and Rayne have to help him defeat it. Loraella and Marellian defeat the others, while Arissa stands around unable to see anything in the dark except the smouldering corpse made by Marellian. Frank decides the leathery wings of the dire bat would make a good cape, and so cuts them off. Marellian tries to heal Loraella’s wound, and makes a good job of bandaging it.

After the long day, and the tough fight, the party are quite tired, and decide to rest within the cave, which turns out to be the bat’s daytime roost. Marellian gains some bat guano for his spell components, while Frank fashions a rough cape out of the batwings.

The next day, the party set off well rested, and soon come across a group of men who are mining yellowish rock out of a hole in the ground. These men are not pleased to see strangers, and accuse them of being spies for the others. The party have no idea who these others might be, but are not in the mood to fight, and so continue on, leaving the men to their digging.

Marellian is in a playful mood, and with his sister watching out for traps, decides to have a bit of fun with her. Using his mage hand spell, he lifts a rock up in front of her and chases her around with it. At first she thinks she has set off a trap, but as she races past him, she sees the look of concentration on his face, and gives him a slap. His concentration breaks, as does the spell, and the rock drops. She scolds him, but only lightly, as she is glad to see this spirits have improved after a week cooped up under stone.

Later, the party spy some sort of ruined building, with two men searching around in the rubble. They seem friendly, and explain that they too were greeted in a less than friendly manner by the miners. One of them explains that they are scavengers, salvaging anything they can to sell to others. The party let them have the two short swords they found on the body earlier, and in exchange, Marellian is given a tatty looking piece of paper that the scavengers have been unable to read. He examines it, and discovers that it is a scroll of spider climb, which they tell him he can have with their compliments. They warn the party that if they continue onwards in the north east direction they were headed in they will come to the lair of a necromancer, and that it might be better for them to turn more eastwards for a time. Thanking them for the warning, the party do indeed turn eastwards, until they come to the east sidewall of the valley.

They follow the wall of the valley northwards for some time, until their sharp eyes spot movement ahead. Part of the valley wall is in fact a man-made structure, atop which can be seen several human faces peering down. The party hail these people, who seem amazed that they aren’t monsters. They roll down a rope ladder for the party to climb the wall, and welcome them to the village of Arroyo.

The party notice that all the men standing guard atop the wall look almost alike. They also don’t seem too bright, but are certainly enthusiastic. When asked how often the village gets attacked by monsters, they shrug and say that it’s never happened yet. They just got told to man the wall and watch out for monsters. A couple of them usher the party onwards to meet the guy in charge. He just happens to run the local tavern. As they walk through the tavern door all talk inside stops, and all the patrons stare at the strangers.

The guy serving behind the bar is the mayor of the village, Elias Fleebane. He is distrusting of strangers, and becomes even more so when he hears they are from FlintHarrow, and the names Ironcore and Spirefield are mentioned. It transpires that these villagers are decendants of the camp followers and invalids that supposedly got left behind to die when the army of General Ironcore pulled out of the valley. One of the drinkers tells that his grandfather was born several days after the army left, to a woman who was the lover of Captain Spirefield. All his family are named Halfspire. Things are starting to get rowdy, so the mayor tells the party that they must attend a village moot in the long hall to hear the grievances of the villagers, and make amends for their ancestor’s betrayal….

To Be Continued….
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Rock-terror
The season finale

The Party:

Daveak Swordhand (Played by Paul)
Elden Spirefield (Played by Matt)
Frank Wyvern’s Tooth (Played by Steve)
Loraella Ironcore (Played by Leanne)
Marellian Ironcore (Played by Dave)
Rayne (Played by Amanda)

final post of this season.

The party are brought refreshments while awaiting the return of the old Dwarf. The refreshments include some dark Dwarf ale, which Marellian mistakenly believes is merely water, and necks. He seems to develop a thirst for it, and takes another. Pretty soon, he is quite merry.

After what seems like ages, the old Dwarf returns, accompanied by an extremely aged Dwarf, who he explains is the keeper of the chronicles. The Keeper is knowledgeable in the histories, and tries to help the party figure out what they need to know. The first thing they wish to know is why the Flint-Harrow Ambassador was shaved and thrown out. The Dwarves all look embarassed. The old Dwarf explains that certain members of the Gully held Flint-Harrow responsible for their current woes:

The Dwarves, he explains, are usually led by a king, who is the conduit between the Dwarf god and his clerics. When the old king died, all the clerics lost their powers and could no longer cast spells. The next in line was a paladin, but he had gone on a quest to save Flint-Harrow from the machinations of the evil Frosterlings, and was lost in the avalaunche with the rest of the White Riders. The clerics resented Flint-Harrow, for in their eyes it was flint-Harrow’s fault that the Paladin was lost; after all, he was on a mission on behalf of their council wasn’t he? Therefore they conducted a trial, and found the Flint-Harrow ambassador guilty of the crimes of his council, and used the ancient rituals to strip all hair from his body, never to grow back, the most hideous punishment they could think of. The leader of the Clerics who were responsible for this act tried to set himself up as a regent, but his support slowly eroded, to the point where the council became too fractured to decide on any course of action.

Without the guidance of a king, the powers of their faith, and a fractured council, the Rockterror was able to attack the realm. An ancient, malevolent creature, it had been held at bay for centuries, but now it was able to strike deep inside the Dwarf stronghold. Year after year the Dwarves lost more ground, and men, to the creature, until they reached the point where they are now: Trapped inside the last fortress, and reduced to less than a hundred souls.

Marellian asks more about this Rockterror, telling the lorekeeper that Flint-Harrow was recently attacked by a similar type of enemy, that had corrupted an ancient temple and seemed to have changed insects into monstrous forms. The lorekeeper nods, and mentions that this is indeed similar, and both are the children of the Corruptor; an ancient evil determined to wipe out all types of civilisation and return the races to a state of anarchy. He tells the party that there is a human, called Zoastrian, who came to them years ago. He was very knowledgeable in ancient lore, and was trying to find a connection between these creatures and the fall of Winter. The party vaguely remember the name, but the lorekeeper then goes on to tell about the four gods of the seasons. He tells that there were once two gods, and two goddesses: Summer and autumn, spring and winter. The god of Summer was the Sun God, who usurped the power and portfolios of several other gods to make himself the prime god of the pantheon. His sister, Winter, was responsible for trapping him and thus causing the great winter, but of the god of Autumn and the goddess of Spring nothing was heard. The fact that this child of the corruptor was found in a temple of Spring (lady of the healing waters) could go some way to answering why she disappeared so suddenly.

Putting this information on the back burner, Frank and Daveak ask if there is anything the party can do to help the Dwarves, and restore some measure of friendship between their two peoples (By this time, Marellian seems to have been overcome by the potent Dwarf ale, and Rayne takes him aside to try and sober him up). The old Dwarf says that they would have to try and convince the one who threw out the ambassador, a Dwarf cleric called Goraldon. Although his sphere of influence has waned, he is still the most vocal in opposition to ‘the vile humans’.

After a short discussion, the Dwarves agree to lead the party down into the fortress, where no humans have been allowed for many decades. There they will be able to speak to the dwarf defenders, and see if the will of the people will allow them to help the Gully.

The party’s first impression of the ancient underground fortress is of emptyness. whole sections stand abandoned, and those building still inhabited seem half empty. The lorekeeper nods, and says that there has been so many killed. There seems to be a lack of children and older Dwarves, and those who peer out at the party seem fatigued. The party walk onwards through the fortress, and a small group of Dwarves tag along behind, curious as to why these strangers are here. This group gets larger the closer to the center of the fortress they get.

As they near the steps of the great temple to the Dwarf patron god, they are met by a group of clerics, led by Goraldon. He accuses the lorekeeper of treason, and there is a slanging match. However, due to another amazing bout of diplomacy by Frank, Goraldon finds that there are too many Dwarves clamouring for the party’s help for him to get his way. He backs down, and allows the party to stay.

The males in the party are shown to an abandoned tenement, while the females are taken to a more luxurious apartment. Daveak tells Dark fang to go with the girls, and protect them. Dark fang is not too happy about this, but obeys his master. Frank asks some of the Dwarf defenders about the creature, and they reluctantly reveal that it is made of stone, and mormal weapons seem incapable of doing much damage to it. It seems that the human, Zoastrian, discovered somewhere that obsidian was the key to damaging it, and so the Dwarves have several spears with obsidian blades which they throw at it, to limited sucess. Frank has an interesting idea, and goes to see the Dwarf mage-smith about inlaying the party’s weapons with obsidian, thereby giving them an advantage against the creature. The smiths are unsure if this will work, but oblige him.

During the fortress’ sleep cycle, the party are awoken by shouts of ‘Rockterror, Rockterror!’ They gather their weapons and venture out. Rayne and Loraella are held back by lady Arrissa, who is frightened and doesn’t want them to leave her. They get her to come with them by wondering if the building could withstand a strike from the creature, saying they wouldn’t want to be buried alive in here…

Entering the main street, they see a small group of Dwarves fighting against what looks like a giant serpent made of several rings of solid rock. Daveak fires an obsidian-tipped arrow at it, and it swings it’s unholy attention onto these new foes… crushing Dwarf defenders under it’s bulk as it surges towards them.

Elden rushes in, smashing the creature with a mighty blow, while Frank and Daveak both use their attacks to great effect. Unfortunately, the girls have a harder time; with lady Arrissa clinging at them to come away, and Darkfang trying to pull lady Arrissa away from them they are too distracted to get sucessful strikes at the creature. Marellian uses his magic, but all their attacks are not enough to stop yet more Dwarves from dying under it’s bulk, or from it’s snapping maw.

Another tremendous blow from Elden smashes the creature’s head segment apart, but to the party’s horror, the next body segment merely morphs into a head, and continues the attack. Elden takes several blows and is severely wounded, but manages to get around behind the head segment, and starts hacking at the middle body segment instead. The girls still seem ineffectual, and begin to bicker over whether they should ‘save’ lady Arrissa from Darkfang or not. Lady Arrissa is still screaming, telling them to help her before the wolf kills her, but Darkfang is merely trying to obey his master’s wish to keep her safe, trying to get her away from the danger in the street.

As Daveak keeps the head busy with arrows, Frank joins Elden, hewing at the stone body until it shatters. Marellian also wades in with some of his magic missiles. Eventually their blows tell, and the segment of body is smashed apart. With this, the Rockterror crumbles to dust, and the feeling of menace that had been eminating from it fades. Daveak turns his attention to the girls, unhappy that they had been discussing hurting his animal companion, and at their lack of help during the fight. A dwarf defender grabs his arm, saying; “Quickly, we must burn the dead bodies. Those killed by the creature have been slain by an ultimate evil, and may rise as…”
“Bodak! Bodak!” Comes a cry from a Dwarf atop one of the watchtowers.
“Damn, we’re too late. It is beginning.” Says the Dwarf defender.
As they look, the first Dwarf slain by the creature rises up and attacks the defenders trying to make a pyre. With a quick movement, it rips out one of the defender’s throat. Another corpse then rises and joins the fray.

The party try to fend of the two Bodak, as the Dwarves try to burn the bodies of their dead before they too rise as Bodak. The girls have more luck against these creatures, with Rayne managing to kill one. Marellian uses both his magic and his alchemy skills to get a good fire going, while Frank performs a great leap to take him up the side of a watchtower, where another Bodak grapples with a watchman. Frank then bull-rushes the Bodak over the side of the tower, and lands atop it, burying his axe into it’s body and killing it.

With the last Bodak killed, and the bodies burnt, The party gather round Marellian for healing; all except for Daveak and Dark fang, who slope away quietly, in disgust at the attidude of the party members towards them. Lady Arrissa sees him, and begs him not to leave her, but his heart is set, and he and Dark fang begin the long trek through abandoned tunnels to the surface, and the wilderness and solitude they crave.

The others, still unknowing of Daveaks leaving, are joined by the old lorekeeper. He tells them that they have struck a mighty blow against the Rockterror, smashing it’s body, but the spirit lives on, and will slowly rebuild itself until it is strong enough to create a new body, when it will return to strike again. Marellian asks if this is why the tentacled creature in the bath-house returned as a bloated queen wasp, and the lorekeeper agrees. It seems that both their homes are at risk. Only the Elves have the storied legends to tell how to defeat these creatures. Sadly, the Dwarves do not know where elves may be found, as they have been absent from the surface in decades, but they do know where the party can find Gnomes, and the Gnomes are certain to know where the Elves live. There are two groups of Gnomes that the lorekeeper knows of: one set live in a monestary past the eastern fringes of the furthest outpost of the Gully, the others live in the Vale of Stars, leagues away to the west. The party discuss which of these would be quicker to get to, and go to ask Daveak if he can find the way, only to find that he has gone…

End of Season

With thanks to my players: See you for season 2….

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The Trip to Geldan's Gully
Heading for the season finale....

The Party

Daveak Swordhand (Played by Paul)
Elden Spirefield (Played by Matt)
Frank Wyvern’s Tooth (Played by Steve)
Loraella Ironcore (Played by Leanne)
Marellian Ironcore (Played by Dave)
Rayne (Played by Amanda)

With the Return of the missing party members from their individual sojourns, it is finally time for the party to set off on the long jouney to visit the Dwarves of Geldan’s Gully. After consulting Rayne’s pilfered map, they decide it would be best to follow the route of the Dragonscar Trail, which comes closest to the entrance to the Cutter pass. Daveak seems sure that from the trail they will be able to see the twin standing stones that mark the entrance to the pass.

The weather is overcast, but Daveak and Frank both agree that it will be settled, with no problems to their travel. Everyone seems happy with the ammount of provisions they are carrying, and there is no last minute rush to top up their stores. As the outer gates to Flint-Harrow close behind them, they shoulder their packs and traipse off southwards, with no last looks back at their home…

The trail Daveak leads them along winds south-west, and soon brings them to the banks of the tributary of the Greater Meltwater River, where stands the ‘Old Thenn fishing shack’. This is the dwelling place of Daveak’s mentor, Wilton Deveraux. Wilton is pleased to see his old pupil, and invites the party inside to discuss matters. Daveak explains that the party is off to speak to the Dwarves of Geldan’s Gully, and Wilton expresses concern that they are on an impossible mission, as the Dwarves have not been friendly to Townsmen for these last fifteen years. Daveak asks him if he knows the reasons why, but he is as ignorant of the reasons as everyone else. All he can recall is that one day the Dwarves just arrested the Flint-Harrow ambassador, shaved him all over, and turfed out his entire retinue to return to the Township with shouts of; “Never come back, ye shallow Townsmen.” Since then, nobody has been back to the Gully, and no Dwarves have been seen in Flint-Harrow. He remarks that if the party can get to see the Dwarves, it might reopen the trade routes, and bring back some prosperity to Flint-Harrow.

Daveak asks Wilton if he would like to accompany the party on this quest, but he refuses, saying that his days of adventuring are over. Marellian asks him if it is true that he was once a member of the White Riders, and he grins, telling Marellian that he was involved in some of their adventures, but never a full member. He is reluctant to talk of those days, but the party manage to draw some of the story out of him. Daveak then asks him if he has ever heard of a man named Delevan Wakes. It is obvious from his startled reply that he has no idea who Daveak is talking about, so Daveak tells him about the story he heard regarding the Hermit and the stones. After thinking hard, he tells Daveak that this is more likely a StoneShadow Township tale, as the location described could be the area known as ‘The Scree’. He then warns the party to stay clear of StoneShadow, as they were the enemies of Flint-Harrow in the battle of the Sundered Valley.

Taking their leave of Wilton, the party cross the river and head south along the Dragonscar Trail. They walk along the bottom of the ridge, and remember that they previously had climbed the ridge to find the crevasse mentioned by Pawdle Wherrit in The Shadow Road. They do not see any sign of the strange Snowmen they fought on the ridgetop previously, and the journey passes without incident.

As the pass leads away from the Ridge, Daveak smells smoke, drifting to him on the wind from the east. Fearing banditry or maybe an Orc attack, the party head swiftly in that direction. As they get closer to the source of the smoke, Daveak remembers the last time he smelt this particular smell was when he met the charcoal burners. Eagerly, he leads the party onwards, until at last they reach a small campsite, where the charcoal burners are lounging around drinking while waiting for the wood to burn down to charcoal. They are delighted to see Daveak, and greet the rest of the party warmly too. Seats are soon drawn up around their campfire for party members to join them as they drink and talk.

For some strange reason, Marellian is worried about the drinking that is about to start. He tries his hardest to prevent the others from settling down around the campfire, and decides to cast charm person on Daveak to prevent him partaking in the moonshine offered him by the charcoal burners. His priggish attitude, coupled with a few unwise comments from other males around the fire annoys Rayne considerably, and she decides that she will steal an item from Marellian while his attention is set on trying to prevent the party staying at the campsite. She manages to remove the bone flute from his belongings, and hides it from him. Marellian’s cajoling of the others seems to work, as they all decide that it would be best to carry on with their journey, rather than rest with the Charcoal Burners. The Charcoal Burners are upset, but are nice enough fellows to respect their decision. They also give Daveak a bag of charcoal, telling him that they often trade it with the Dwarves. Daveak asks how they are able to trade after the Dwarves threw out the Flint-Harrow representatives, and one winks at him, and tells him they are free spirits, and not considered Townsmen, thus they are able to work around the ban the Dwarves placed on Township traders.

Somewhat reluctantly, Daveak accompanies the others away from the Charcoal Burner’s camp, but he has at least a waterskin full of moonshine to take with him. Marellian wonders how to get him to empty out his waterskin, but Daveak reveals he will offer the moonshine to the Dwarves as a gift, along with the charcoal. As they are talking, Loraella tells them that she has a feeling of being watched, which Elden confirms. Marellian is all for confronting the watchers and blasting them with magic, but Daveak urges restraint, telling him that the watchers may be benevolent, and not to rush into things until they know the details. Elden wonders if Daveak drank some of that moonshine, as he seems to be far more laid back that usual, but Daveak reminds them that they are in his favoured terrain, and there are many things out here that are curious about people without being aggressive.

As the afternoon draws on towards evening, the party finally spy the twin pillars that mark the entrance to the Cutter Pass. approaching them, they realise that one of the pillars is covered in a runic script used by Dwarves, while the other is made up of scenes relating to historic monents in the history of the Gulley. Marellian has knowledge of the Dwarven script through his study of old books, and reads through the script of the pillar. He deduces that this is a historical record of the Gully, from it’s founding by Geldan Axehaft, through to the death of it’s last king, some fifteen years ago. At his mention of fifteen years ago, the others are suddenly interested, as this corresponds with the envoy being thrown out of the Gulley…

With night drawing in, the party decide to make a camp in the entrance to the Cutter Pass. Daveak and Frank busy themselves making an igloo, at Elden’s suggestion. For reasons unknown to the others, Elden decides to create a snow-Dwarf instead of helping the others with the igloo. He seems quite pleased with his creation, and stands back to admire it. The others all mutter that the trip through the snow must have shrunk his brain.

Daveak decides to take the first watch, while the others all rest. He and Darkfang make a vigilant pairing, but the only thing that happens during their watch is an appearance by a curious she-wolf, who tempts the valiant Darkfang to stray from his master’s side. Daveak senses his wolf’s unease, and talks quietly to him, reassuring him of his worth to the party, and Darkfang stays on guard. With their watch over, Daveak decides to wake Rayne. He finds it difficult to wake her, so gathers a handful of snow and makes a snowball, which he throws at her. After glowering at him. Rayne gets up and takes watch.

During Rayne’s watch, a display of falling stars light up the night sky. Delighted by the display, Rayne wakes Loraella to watch it with her. The two girls are quite entranced by the display, until Loraella thinks that maybe there is a reason for the display, and tries to wake her brother to ask his opinion. Sadly, Marellian is a sound sleeper, and not even a handful of snow down the back of his neck wakes him. After a while, the meteor shower finishes, and the two girls sit up together until the end of Rayne’s watch. Rayne wakes Frank to take over, and the girls head back to bed.

A breeze gets up, and Frank realises that the next dy will bring a storm. Unfortunately, the breeze also masks the approach of the creatures who were watching the party during the day, and the first Frank knows of their approach is when a hairy arm reaches for him. He comes face to face with a Snow Troll, whose claws rake him. Frank cries out in alarm, and manages to wake Daveak and Elden. The Troll takes advantage of Frank’s lapse of concentration, and hits him again. Bleeding freely, Frank swipes back with his axe.

Daveak exits the igloo first, and sees the Troll attacking Frank. He steps back, trying to get a shot with his bow, but fails to see a second snow Troll coming around the other side of the igloo. It rakes Daveak with both claws, severly injuring him. Elden dashes out after Daveak, but his eyes are only on the first Troll. He manages to deal it a vicious blow, but to his and Frank’s dismay, the Troll’s wounds begin to heal. Meanwhile, Rayne and Loraella stay inside the Igloo, desperately trying to wake Marellian. Rayne puts on her death mask, and prepares herself to help Daveak. He is holding out against the Troll, with Darkfang trying to trip it up, but the Troll is too large for the wolf to trip. Rayne uses the power of her mask, and it’s necromantic magic sucks all life from it. The other Troll, despite hits from Frank and Elden, refuses to stay down. It’s regeneration prevents them from killing it.

Rubbing sleep from his eyes, Marellian exits the igloo, right into the path of the Troll as it rises yet again. Mouthing the words to his spell, Marellian casts burning hands, and incinerates the Troll instantly. Frank and Elden sigh with relief, but Marellian wonders what all the fuss was about. Daveak hushes them all, and in the distance they can hear the roaring of more Trolls in the distance. They seem to be getting closer. Gathering up all their equipment, the party break camp, and hurry into the Cutter Pass, hoping to gain some distance from the Trolls, and maybe reaching a place of safety. Daveak asks Marellian if he will heal them, but Marellian has recently discovered his flute is missing, and declares that until it is returned he will not be giving them aid. He is fed up with the constant bad manners and bullying that he is on the end of from the other party members, and reminds them they have already lost one party member due to their thievery, and if not careful they will soon lose another. He points out he has been peed on by the wolf, had money stolen (Loraella protests that was only because he gave away all her clothes), had been pushed down a hole and is now wondering if he should continue to adventure with them.

Rayne takes him to one side, and gives him the bone flute, telling him her reason for taking it. She tells him he should treat women with more respect, which confuses him as he didn’t realise he had said anything about women. Grudgingly, he uses his aura to heal the others, and they continue into the pass.

Daveak realises that the steep sides of the pass are topped with overhanging snow, and that the party may find themselves caught in a heavy snowfall at any minute. He advises caution, and silence. However, the wind has now got up, and they are in danger of being caught up in a snowstorm at any minute. They decide to run, hoping that the wind will prevent any large ammounts of snow falling on them.

As they race through the defile, they listen for sounds of pursuit, but the wind is whistling through the pass, making such noises near impossible to hear. What they do hear, however, is a woman’s scream, coming from somewhere up ahead. Slowing, to avoid running into a trap or battle, they reach the source of the noise; A young woman stands in the middle of the pass. She is dressed only in a flimsy silken dress, and wearing high heeled shoes. They realise that she is shivering, and crying. Daveak reaches her first, and warily asks her who she is, and what she is doing here.

The young girl introduces herself as ‘Lady Arissa Stowe’, and claims that she was dancing with the viscount Destarle at the Midsummer ball. She tells that the musicians struck up some tune that they had been reviving from an ancient tome, and there was a blinding flash of light from the stones under her feet. The next thing she knew, she was standing in this strange white stuff. She is very cold, and the party rummage through their gear to find her a winter blanket to keep her warm. Marellian tells the others that she may have been a victim of some rogue teleport spell, but he’d have to look into his books to see if there was a precedent. Arissa is confused by his words, asking what a teleport spell is. He replies it is magic, and she snorts in disbelief. It seems that the land she has come from, which she calls Dwale, does not have such a thing as magic any more, as there was a great crusade to rid the land of such nonsense generations ago. She furthermore does not believe in such things as Elves, Dwarves, Orcs and other ‘faerie tales’. When the others reveal that they are half-elves, a half-Orc and a Tiefling, she clings to Daveak, moaning. It is even worse when Marellian casts endure elements upon her, as she believes she will be ‘Tainted’ by magic. Marellian cancels the spell, telling her if she wants to freeze to death it’s up to her.

After a few more questions, they find out that she comes from the ‘Imperium year 3732’. They have no idea who or what the Imperium is, and Daveak wonders if maybe she is a time traveller from the years before the Great Winter began, some 1,502 years earlier if the archivists are to be believed. They decide to take her with them to the Gully, hoping to find some answer there. After much moaning, she reluctantly allows Frank to carry her. she would prefer to keep closer to Daveak, as he is the only human, but Frank’s stamina allows them to keep moving faster.

Ploughing onwards, they fight their way through the wind and snow, reaching ever closer to the end of the pass. Suddenly, there is a whooshing noise, accompanied by a blast of heat. Fearing attack, they scatter, and draw weapons, as a high pitched squealing comes from the vicinity of the heat.

Daveak is the first to reach the area affected by the heat. He sees a man in red and yellow robes, casting spells at an Ice Linnorm. As he watches, the mage casts acid arrow at the beast, which finally kills it. The mage then strides to the corpse, cuts something from it, and teleports away. The party wonder who this person was, and what he was doing, and Daveak remembers that the Flameguard wear red and yellow, and have a mage cadre. Frank and Daveak work out from the tracks that the mage was walking from the direction of the Gulley when the Linnorm attacked. They have a look at the corpse, but cannot find out what it was the mage took from the corpse, and decide to continue onwards, in case there are more Linnorms about.

They manage to reach the end of the pass without incident, and come at last to an icy slide, as the floor of the pass dips away. Marellian realises there is no way to avoid sliding should he try to descend carefully, so throws himself down the slide with abandon. The others shrug, and follow him down. Again, luck seems to be on their side, as none of them are hurt during their slide

At the bottom of the slide, Marellian comes to rest against a stone wall. Loking up, he sees a high tower, with flags fluttering in the wind. He recognises the standard of the Half-Axe clan, both from heraldric symbols in a book he had read and from the talisman the party were given by the Dwarf they rescued in Orc held lands. A gruff voice calls out to him; “Whadda ye fer?”, and he tries to reply, but the wind carries his words away. Motioning to Frank to come close and hold up the talisman of the Half-Axe gets results; a sally-port opens, and a Dwarf motions for them to enter. They are escorted inside the tower, where they meet with an elderly Dwarf.

The elderly Dwarf reveals that he is the uncle of Thurri, the Dwarf they fred from the Orc gibbet. He asks them why they have travelled to the Gulley, and Marellian clears his throat. He has prepared a speech, but his knowledge of the language comes only from books, so sounds a trifle strange to Dwarf speakers…

Gravelings,
Ironcore.
Flintharrow smell-nice, axe-foe, Octo-fiend runny danger! Smell-nice glittering cave plenty heart spirit. Fools gold puzzling.
Beard growth mouth cover? Pebbling passage of moon? Know pointy ears?

Trying not to laugh at the Half-elf’s strange vocal style, the elderly Dwarf raises his eyebrows. He congratulates Marellian on his knowledge of the ancient stone-tongue of the Dwarves, but prefers to speak to them in trade tongue. He tells them to take their ease, while he goes to speak with others who may know the answers to their questions, and that he will return soon.

To be continued….
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The trouble with tunnels...
A dungeon crawl.

The party:

Frank Wyvern’s Tooth (Played by Steve)
Loraella Ironcore (Played by Leanne)
Marellian Ironcore (Played by Dave)
Rayne (Played by Amanda)

With Daveak away on religious duties, and Elden doing a spot of soldiering, the four remaining characters postpone their trip to find the Dwarven stronghold. Instead, they are called upon by the old half-Orc priest who officiated at Frank’s wedding. He reveals that since the fateful day when Frank’s cousin and his new bride were ensorcelled by Bagrob, he has been communing with his gods to try and find a way to free them. His divinations have revealed to him the ingredients for a potion which may help. Sadly, these ingredients are very rare, and he does not know how long it will take. One thing he has discovered, however: one of the ingredients can be found in what remains of the abandoned mine; The gall-bladder of a creature known as a Grick.He asks the party if they will journey to the mine, and kill the Grick, so that they may obtain it’s gall-bladder. Frank, eager to help free his cousin, accepts immediately, and the others follow his lead.

The journey to the mine is easy and trouble free, and known to them previously when Solien Terrie took them to Harrow’s Edge. The old mine buildings are in a state of disrepair, and they decide to ignore them, and head straight into the mine. The two rogues go first, with Marellian and Frank behind, although Frank does wonder why he is not in the lead. In the end, He accompanies Loraella up front, and Rayne walks beside Marellian.

It is soon clear that much of the lower levels of the mine are underwater, but there are some rough-hewn tunnels leading off from the mine. At the entrance to these tunnels, the party stop and strain to listen. Faint noises of scurrying can be heard, and they assume there must be rats up ahead.

Confident of his abilities to slay rats, Frank strides ahead, and finds himself in a cavern filled with… Giant cockroaches! There are two entrances to this chamber, and while he and Loraella are busy at the first entrance, several cockroaches take the second, to be met by Marellian and Rayne, who were lagging behind slightly. Luckily, this prevents Frank and Loraella from being flanked by the creatures.

During the battle, Frank decides it would be fun to ride around on the back of one of these creatures. His fun is cut short by Rayne, who shoots out his steed from under him, causing him to fall off forwards and bloody his nose. Picking himself up, he and the others find mouldy food scattered around the chamber. A search reveals several coins in amongst the food.

a twisting maze of tunnels stretch forth from this first cavern, and Loraella once more takes the lead. She soon finds herself at the entrance to a second cavern, and is about to enter it, when she finds herself enveloped by sticky webbing. Two Ettercaps chitter at her as they close in to what they think is their captured prey. Luckily, Loraella is able to put her escapology skills to good use, and wriggles free, just as Frank wades into the fray. The Ettercaps are easily despatched, and Rayne finds a patch of webbing stuck to the cavern wall. In it are four rubies and a pearl. She shows the pearl to marellian, who tells her he will now be able to make a sixth ‘Party armband’ for her to wear. There is also an old scroll, which apears to be a clerical spell scroll of cure light wounds; which they decide Marellain should have, as he is nominally a cleric. Marellian isn’t sure why they think he should need it, but is too busy examining the webs the Ettercaps used on Loraella to start a discussion.

Leading south from this cavern are two twisting passages, one leading south, the other west. The party decide to head south, with The two rogues once more looking out for traps. This passage terminates at a large chamber, in which are seven Hobgoblins, who seem to be argueing. Frank jumps into the fray gleefully, his goblin-bane axe hungry for goblinoid blood. Rayne and Loraella fire missiles, and after the first round of combat the Hobgoblins realise they are overmatched, and flee. One goes down with an arrow in his back, while another falls to Franks axe, but one gets away. His bllodlust not yet sated, Frank gives chase, with the two rogues trying to keep up. Marellian sees another passage that appears to run in the same direction as the passage the fleeing Hobgoblin took, and thinks it might be a good idea to run down this passage in the hope that the two connect somehow, and thus catch the Hobgoblin unawares.

Frank dashes along the passages, chasing the fleeing Hobgoblin, but never able to catch up with it. He finally reaches a chamber in which are five Dire rats. They close on him, and he is bogged down in combat long enough for the two rogues to finally catch up. They slay the rats, and Frank realises that these rats have taken a bite out of the Hobgoblin as he fled past, as there is now a small trail of blood for him to follow. Meanwhile, Marellian finds that the passage he took is uctually a dead end. Cursing his bad luck, he retraces his steps back to the chamber where they encountered the Hobgoblins, to await the return of his fellow adventurers.

Tracking the trail of blood, Frank, Loraella and Rayne head north from the Dire rat chamber. The trail leads them down several more twisting passages, until they reach the end of the trail: In a small chamber lies the dead body of the last Hobgoblin. It appears to have been the victim of an attack by the chamber’s residents; A pair of violet fungi. They decide that it would not be a good idea to enter this chamber at the moment, and realise that Marellian has not yet caught up with them. They retrace their steps, hoping to find him, but realising there are several passages they ignored in their rush to chase the Hobgoblin.

Meanwhile, Marellian Takes some time to examine the Hobgoblins, and finds some gold coins, and a strange headband that he realises is magical. Putting it on, he gains greater insight, and is finally able to commune with his god. After some time, he decides that it would be best to return to the entrance of the mine to await his friends, in the hope that they would do the same if they became separated from the group. Once there, he seetles down and plays with the bit of webbing he took from the Ettercap lair.

Returning to the chamber where they met the Hobgoblins, Frank, Loraella and Rayne find that someone has checked the pockets of the corpses, and folded their arms over their chests. They come to the conclusion that Marellian must have backtracked to this chamber, but are unsure which way he went next, as his tracks cross too many times to easily track him. They decide that he must have gome back the way they entered these passages, and return to the entrance, calling his name as they go.

From his hiding place near the mine entrance, Marellian hears faint voices calling. To him they seem to be calling for ‘Illian’, and he seems to think that maybe there is a small boy lost in the passages (Sadly, his magical headband did not give him that much of a greater insight…). He walks back into the passages, where he meets the others coming to find him. He tells them they should be looking for this boy, and they berate him for his foolishness, as it was obviously them calling him he heard. He protests that his name is not illian, and his sister wonders if he maybe took a blow to the head during his wandering (which would explain the headband). Reunited once more, they head back to explore the rest of the passages.

Returning to the chamber with the violet fungi, they use their manoueverability to outwit the slow moving plants, and Marellian deals one a solid blow with his quarterstaff. Rayne finishes the last one off, and the party are able to search the final Hobgoblin’s corpse. It has 4GP in it’s belongings. They then go back and search the few passages they missed earlier in their rush to catch the Hobgoblin. These passages seem to keep meeting each other up, and Marellian gets very bored with the constant retracing of their steps. He wanders into a small chamber, and unluckily stops underneath a waiting Darkmantle, which drops on his head and begins to constrict. Frank, Loraella and Rayne are unsure how hard they can hit the creature without hurting Marellian, but in the end Marellian himself defeats the creature, with the finest blow he has ever struck. Sadly, in the fight, the Darkmantle ripped off his magic headband and devoured it, and his newfound wisdom has evaporated. Marellian uses his channel energy to heal himself, and Frank is also healed of the minor damage he picked up in various fights.

After much wandering through twisting passages, the party finally reach the thing they were sent on the quest for: In the last chamber they find the Grick. After all their trials so far, the fight with the Grick seems remarkably easy, and they are able to kill it without any further injuries to themselves. Frank asks Marellian if he has any idea where the gall bladder would be found, and Marellian replies he may have read it in a book of anatomy, but is unsure. In the end, Frank manages to retrieve the gall bladder without damaging it, and they wrap it up and take it back to the old Half-Orc priest. He is estatic, but reminds them that this is merely one ingredient in the potion that may help cure the afflicted pair.

Marellian goes back to the Compassionate church, to tell them of his short lived communion with the God. There is great rejoicing among the priests, who were beginning to think he would never get there. He is elevated to the next tier of Priesthood, and is no longer considered a novice.

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Death on black wings
A timely reminder that something evil still lurks..

The party

Daveak Swordhand (Played by Paul)
Elden Spirefield (Played by Matt)
Frank Wyvern’s Tooth (Played by Steve)
Loraella Ironcore (Played by Leanne)
Marellian Ironcore (Played by Dave)
Rayne (Played by Amanda)

As previously arranged, after several days apart on their own tasks, the party all meet up once more in the Townsend Soup Kitchen.

Loraella and Daveak turn up to find Marellian serving soup to the down and outs, while being closely watched by a stern looking priestess. He tells them that he can’t come out to play today because ‘mother’ wants him to do his chores. The woman declares that he has been neglecting his duties of late, to which Loraella remarks that it’s about time he did some work, and they sit down at an empty table. The stern looking woman glares at them, while beating her spoon in her hand. From behind the counter, Marellian explains that there are no animals allowed in the soup kitchen, and Dark Fang will have to wait outside. Davek protests that Dark Fang is well trained, but forgets that previously his wolf had urinated over Marellian’s robe in the soup kitchen, and some poor unfortunate server had the task of cleaning up.

Rayne is next to arrive, and sneaks in through an open window rather than use the door. She sees Daveak protesting about his wolf having to stay outside, and decides to sit on another table, where she chats to several of the down and outs. They tell her that more people have gone missing recently, including several of the severs. Sister Mercy (the stern looking woman) is in a huff because she is having to work extra shifts, and is taking it out on everybody.

Elden is next to turn up, and walks straight into the bitter exchange of words between Sister Mercy and the two party members. Sister Mercy accuses the party of taking advantage of the kindness of the Compassionate church, especially as Elden has had healing from the mind-fire fever, as well as several party members benefiting from ‘Restoration’ spells. Rayne (who is flush from her recent visit to a fence) donates 30GP tot he welfare fund, which takes the wind out of sister Mercy’s sails a bit. She tells the party they can take Marellian with them, as long as they go and see what has happened to the missing servers. She sniffs that he has let the soup go cold anyway.

Glad to be free of the nasty woman, they all discuss what they have been up to. Loraella declares that her visit to the snowbolds was eye-opening, as they have shaved off all their fur in readiness for the warmer weather. Daveak asks what warmer weather, as it’s still near freezing, but Lorealla declares if he had thick fur maybe he’d think it warmer. They all laugh at this as they continue onwards, until they hear a scream coming from a side alley, and a young woman staggers out, collapsing in Daveak’s arms. she mutters; “Death on black wings…the terrible droning…” and faints. Daveak sees that her face is all swollen and mottled, as if stung by a multitude of insects. He attempts to heal her, but her injuries are too severe for him. He and Frank take the woman back to the nearby Compassionate church. Daveak commands Dark Fang to stay with the group while he is away, fearing more complaints from Sister Mercy.

With the Ranger and Barbarian away, it falls to Elden to follow the womans tracks back to where she was attacked. Luckily, his half-elf eyes see clearly, and he is able to lead the others to a building that Marellian remembers belongs to one of the church servers. Marellian sends his Owl familiar to look through the windows of the house, and it tells him that the place is empty. Elden is about to kick the door in, but Marellian stops him, saying there is no need, he has remotely viewed the interior.

Back at the Compassionate church, the young woman is attended to by a priest. He tells Daveak and Frank that the size of the sting is unnaturally large, and they are looking at some kind of giant insect. Frank donates 2GP to the church for her care, and they hurry back to the others. Frank is faster, and soon outpaces Daveak. He gets to the building the party are standing around, and tells them the news, as Daveak catches up. Dark Fang is happy to see his master back, and playfully nips Marellian, which annoys him no end. He is about to storm off back to the church, when he receives a sending from his familliar. Daveak decides it would be better to take Dark Fang and scout around the next few buildings until Marellian recovers his poise.

The Owl quickly swoops back to Marellian, telling him it has seem large dark shapes flying around a nearby building, and that these shapes are now closing in on the party. Marellian just has enough time to yell a warning to the others, before a large black wasp attacks them. Frank is stung, but his strong half-orc anti-bodies prevent the sting from swelling. Marellian swings about with his quarterstaff, while Loraella and Rayne use missile weapons at the Wasp. elden is frustrated at his lack of chances to hit the wasp, and decides to investigate the alleyaround the back of the building. He and Daveak are at either end of the same alley, and both realise there are giant wasps buzzing around this area. Three wasps attack Elden, while Daveak and Dark Fang are dive-bombed by four. Dark Fang is stung, and the sting makes the poor wolf feel quite ill. Luckily, Frank is soon along to help out Elden, leaving Marellian swinging his quarterstaff wildly at the first wasp. Rayne and Loraella fire off missiles at the wasps, but their shots are largely ineffective, while Elden, Frank and Daveak seem to have more luck swinging their melee weapons as they are dive-bombed. Marellian finally gets a solid hit on the first wasp, downing it, and he stamps on it’s twitching corpse to make sure it is dead.

Luckily, the party suffer no further injuries from the wasps, but Daveak realises his faithful companion is in a bad way. He attempts to heal his wolf, but finds it hard going. With helpful suggestions from Marellian regarding the best way to neutralise wasp stings he’d read in a book once, Daveak is finally able to draw the poison out. a weak-legged Dark Fang licks his hand in gratitude.

Elden is anxious to be off again, and opens the door to the building from which the wasps seemed to have come from. It is a warehouse belonging to the tanner’s guild, and there seems to be several porters and other staff working inside. The party are about to try and talk to these people, when they suddenly realise that their movements seem sluggish and random. a closer look reveals that these people have mottled black skin, and black eyes. They seem to be under some kind of mind control…

These ‘Blackened Zombies’ shuffle slowly towards the party, arms out to grab them. Marellian shouts to the others that they had best not kill these poor people, as they are townsfolk, and the council would not look kindly on the party killing them. With much muttering, the others stay their hands, only knocking out the poor unfortunates rather than killing them. Elden does have a rummage through the pockets of the unconcious townsfolk, much to Marellian’s disgust, but he doesn’t find anything of value. Daveak finds a set of stairs leading up, and manages to knock out the two Blackened Zombies he finds on the landing. He calls out to the others to come and see what he has found….

A vast wasp nest fills the space of the upper floor. It seems to be made of some black chitinous substance. Attempts are made to burn it, but it seems resistant to flame. After some discussion, it is decided that Loraella will stay downstairs to tend to the unconcious townsfolk, with Dark Fang guarding her. Frank is despatched back to the Compassionate Church to fetch a healer, being the fleetest of foot, while Daveak stands guard at the foot of the stairs. Elden, Marellain and Rayne decide to investigat the inside of the nest.

As the three adventurers venture inside the nest, they realis that it is a spiral, rising slightly as it twists around. a short way inside, they hear the buzzing of wings, but it is a constant, and does not come closer. They creep forwards, to see several drone wasps, their wings constantly in motion, fanning air around the nest. Marellian casts Colour Spray, stunning the drones, and the adventurers quickly despatch the stunned wasps. They continue slowly onwards, without letting the others know what they’ve found.

Outside, Daveak awaits the call that the others need his help, but hears nothing. He wonders how long he should wait before going in after them. He calls down to Loraella to see if the townsfolk have stirred, but she reassures him they are all still unconcious.

Frank reaches the Compassionate Church, and relates the party’s findings to the senior priest, who had been looking after the young woman they brought in earlier. The priest grabs his healer’s kit, and follows Frank back to the warehouse.

Further inside the wasp nest, the three adventurers find a chamber full of cells. In each cell is a dead body of a townsperson. With horror, they see a wasp larvae eat it’s way out of the chest of one of these bodies. Several larger larvae drop out of cells higher in the walls, and crawl hungrily towards them. Elden is soon smashing them to a pulp with his greatsword, while Rayne and Marellian each contribute to the battle in their own style.

For Daveak, waiting outside the nest, the sounds of battle within are deadened by the curving structure, and he cannot hear anything of note. He yells in to ask if the others have found anything, but his shout is unanswered. Cursing, he tells himself that when Frank gets back, they are going in after the others.

Frank finds the priest is unused to following such a fast pace, and has to keep stopping to let him catch up. After what to Frank seems ages, they finally make it to the warehouse, where Loraella is standing guard over the townsfolk. The priest examines them, and declares that they may possibly be under the control of a hive-mind, caused by the poison coursing in their system. He speculates that if the hive-mind were killed, the townsfolk would be freed of it’s influence. Frank bounds up the stairs to Daveak, and tells him what the priest has said. The two of them go in after the others. Loraella helps the priest to administer to the townsfolk.

As the last of the wasp larvae are killed, Marellian hears running feet coming up behind him. He turns to see Daveak and Frank, who admonish him for allowing Elden to venture further inside the nest without letting them know. Elden is impatient to kill things, and leads them all forwards once more. the nest turns rather sharply, and beyond this last turn is a chamber in which resides the large, bloated Queen.

Without a moments hesitation, Elden charges this immense monstrosity. Rayne fires off a bolt, but it clatters harmlessly off the Queen’s hide. Elden hits the Queen a solid blow, but receives a vicious wound in return. He strikes again, this time a critical hit, but the Queen still lives, and he is badly bitten. Frank attempts to damage the Queen with flasks of acid, but his aim is off, and it smashes against the wall of the chamber. The wall starts to disolve as the acid leaks into it. Frank’s second attempt is better, and the Queen is burned by the acid flask. Daveak is able to deliver a well placed arrow into a soft spot in the Queen’s hide; but it is Rayne who deals the death blow: Using the power of her death mask, she is able to suck the remaining life from the Queen.

Half carrying the badly wounded Elden, and covered in gore from the wasp larvae and Queen, they exit the wasp nest, watching as the acid Frank threw slowly melts its way through the walls of the nest. Making their way downstairs, and out of the building, they see the Priest and Loraella looking after bewildered townsfolk, who have just woke from a dark and terrible dream…

A few hours later, and the now recovered Elden joins the others as they are called before the council. Expecting the council’s gratitude, they are surprised to find the council holds them responsible for the outbreak: The council having realised that these creatures could only have come from the ancient bath house the party were supposed to have cleared out. One of the councillors asks them what they have not done as the council asked, and visited the Dwarves and Elves to see if they could shine any light on this ancient creature of corruption they talked of, the thing that took over the bath house (told in the post Dark Water ). It is obvious to the council that while the party might have destroyed the creature’s body, it’s corrupting influence is still much visible, and they are worried what it might be next…

The dejected party walk out of the council chamber, faces like thunder. Frank and Marellian start to discuss how they might journey to the Dwarf enclave of Geldan’s Gulley, and ask Daveak if he knows the route. Daveak replies that they will have to go without his help, as he has some religious rites that he needs to perform, and he stalks off into the night….

Marellian and Frank look at each other, and wonder how they are going to talk the Ranger into going with them. Marellian is about to say that Wandel would have shown them the way, if they hadn’t treated him so bad, but thinks better of it, and keeps his thoughts to himself…

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All's fair in love and war...
A rage of Orcs (part 2)

The Party

Daveak Swordhand (Played by Paul)
Elden Spirefield (Played by Matt)
Frank Wyvern’s Tooth (Played by Steve)
Loraella Ironcore (Played by Leanne)
Marellian Ironcore (Played by Dave)
Rayne (Played by Amanda)

(still no name, although Marellian has mooted ‘Doers of good’)

Having arrived back at Flint-Harrow, the party are waiting between the two sets of gates known as ‘the valves’. The outer gates have shut behind them, and they await the inner ones to open, when they notice that what used to be a shanty town of haphazard dwellings erected by down and outs and dispossesed has been torn down. In it’s place is now the foundation of a rather large building, with wooden scaffolding being put up around it. Before they can investigate further, the inner gates open, and a cart accompanied by four men comes through. The lead figure hails them as friends, and asks them how they have been. After a moment’s confusion, Marellian realises that this is Andiron, the head of the group of Peat cutters they helped all those weeks before. Andiron introduces them to his new apprentices, telling them that Wandel was out to see the peat cutters for himself after hearing the party mention a few times how they should go back and check the camp was still alright. Wandel suggested to Andiron that as he was still short of men he should hire some of the down and outs at the Townsend soup kitchen. These three had been picked out by Wandel as suitable for the job. There are a few furtive glances around, as the party realise that Wandel has sorted out something they had meant to do but forgotten, and Marellian mutters that he always thought Wandel was a sneaky sort.

(G.M.‘s note: information on Wandel’s activities since leaving the party supplied by Dave, who was playing Wandel at the time of his leaving)

After their embarrasment fades, the party decide to investigate the new building taking place. They walk up to the site foreman, and Daveak asks if he’d like some extra workers. The foreman asks if Daveak is a member of the construction guild, to which Daveak replies no. The foreman shakes his head, explaining that it is guild members on site only, and employing any non guild members would cause a strike. Marellian berates the foreman about the lack of safety apparatus and protective clothing, explaining that he is from the ‘Elf and safety’ (cue groans from all the players), while Frank decides to swing on a scaffold beam. The foreman asks the party to get Frank off the structure before he causes a collapse, and they lure Frank off with mention of beer. Meanwhile, Dark Fang decides to mark his territory on the side of the structure being erected, much to the disgust of the carpenters.

Moving on, and inside the inner gates, they find themselves outside the former premises of Kindle Burdick, who was last seen awaiting trial for selling weapons to the Snowbolds. It is now a bakery, and the party overhear a customer declaring that it makes the best cheese scones he has ever tasted. They are unsure whether their part in the downfall of the rogue trader is a good thing or not, as none of them are bothered about the rule of law in the land, but they do not feel guilty enough to make sure his family have been well cared for since his arrest.

Further along, they find that what was once an old warehouse next to the compassionate church compound is now full of small children. Looking inside they can see a grey haired old matron attempting to teach the trade alphabet to a class of unruly pupils. Daveak decides they should enter, to see what is going on, but she is disgusted at him for bringing a smelly wolf inside the school. Marellian asks what is going on, and she explains that due to a large donation from a rich patron, the compassionate church have been able to start a school for orphans and foundlings. Marellian asks who this kind donor is, and is told the name Bennet Vail. The party move on, complaining that they have only been gone a few days, yet it seems a lot has changed in this short time. They are about to probe further into this Bennet Vail, when Frank’s uncle finds them. He seems flustered, and berates Frank for forgetting that today is the day of Vatay’s wedding, of which he is the Groom’s second. (yes, sometimes Half-Orc weddings do seem more like a duel)

The party offer their apologies for Frank’s forgetfulness, telling his uncle that Frank was needed for a special job. He calms down, and decides that they should also accompany Frank to the wedding, and perform special tasks during the service. THey follow along as he briskly makes his way to the small church dedicated to the twin goddesses of Blind Fury and Cold Rage, the religion of the Half-Orc clans.

At the church, they are met by an old Half-Orc priest, who issues them duties to perform during the ceremony: Frank is the wreath-bearer, and has to hold the pair of wreaths to hang around the couple to celebrate thier union. Marellian, as a visiting priest, is to help officiate the ceremony (especially as the church of compassion has links to the Wyvern’stooth clan). Loraella and Rayne are to climb up into the ‘murder holes’ above the entrance, and throw confetti known as ‘paper warriors’ (to signify the battles won by the bride’s clan, and therefore her honours and suitability to the match). Daveak, as a skilled archer, has to shoot a flaming arrow into the upraised hand of the statue as soon as the drumming stops, thereby sealing the church against magical interferance and starting the ceremony. Elden has to pull on the iron chain to raise the statue’s hand for Daveak to fire at.

As the church fills up, the drumming begins. The beating of the drums becomes so loud that it is nearly impossible to concentrate on anything, and Daveak, Rayne and Marellian are shaken by the noise. Frank’s Orc blood sings in his ears to the tribal drumming, and he is inspired by the sound. Loraella and Elden merely wonder what all the fuss is about.

The drums stop suddenly, and a shaken Daveak manages to nock an arrow and fire as Elden tugs on the chain to lift the arm. Daveak’s aim is true, and the flame lights. At a hidden signal, the bride enters, and Loraella and Rayne manage to throw their confetti warriors directly at her, no mean feat with the gusting wind blowing through the open doorway.

The ceremony has been going on for a few minutes, when the priest asks the ritual question if there is anyone who has good reason why the two stood before him should not be joined in wedlock. To the horror of both families, a deep voice replies; “Aye”

A very large and well muscled Orc- part of the Orc ambassodor’s party who were invited by the Greatfist clan- steps forward. He declares that the bride has too good a lineage to be married to such a weak and palsied youth, and he claims her as a bride for the Graveller, king of the Orc tribes. The law requires that this challenge be met in single combat, and as this Orc has set himself up as a champion, so the Wyvern’s-tooth may elect to use a champoin instead. To the relief of the slight and studious Vatay, his father asks Frank to take up the mantle of champion. The large Orc laughs, as Frank is only a callow youth of 15 in his eyes…

The combat begins, and Frank gets in a couple of solid blows to his opponent’s face. As he goes in for a third, he sees that the cut lip he gave the Orc is healing itself. This unsettles Frank slightly, fearing magic at play, but he quickly notices that the Orc has a tusked underbite and long nose common to those of Troll blood. Frank decides to grapple his larger foe into submission, as the longer the fight goes on, the more his opponent will heal. After a couple of rounds of heaving each other around, Frank receives a solid blow, which breaks his hold. He decides to fight dirty, and delivers a swift blow of his own to a tender part of the Orc’s anatomy. While his opponent is winded, Frank bull-rushes him down the church, to where poor Dark Fang is lying quietly keeping out of the way of all the people. The Orc trips over the wolf, who promptly bites him. There are whispers regarding the wolf’s involvement in the fight, but as a wild animal Dark Fang cannot be held responsible for attacking someone who barrels into him. As the Wolf bites him again, and Frank delivers a stinging blow, Marellian evens up the score by healing Frank with his holy aura. Seeing the fight going against him, the Orc admits defeat, and flees from the church in disgrace.

With the unpleasant inturruptions over with, the priest continues with the ceremony, and a beaming Frank crowns his cousin and his new bride with the wreaths. As Vatay leads his bride away, her family begin the ritual whereby they attempt to prevent her being taken from them (a bygone of days when brides were stolen away by force). A big free for all begins, with FRank and his family trying to get the married couple out of the church, and the bride’s family trying to stop them. Marellian decides that such things are beneath him, and remains where he is, but Daveak, Elden, Loraella and Rayne gleefully join in. Elden takes on the bride’s father, and knocks him out with a mighty punch, while Rayne decides that rather than fighting, she would use her skills to see what the Orc ambassador is carrying…

From his vantage point by the church altar, Marellian sees a rather determined Half-Orc warrior woman heading for Frank. He vaguely remembers that unmarried women who are over a certain age and proven in battle may claim a warrior who they defeat in this ritual combat as husband. He yells a warning, but in the noise of the battle, only Daveak and Elden, who are closer, hear him. They suddenly realise that several of their nearest opponents are women, and they too could end up as husband to some Half-Orc female.

Unaware of Marellian’s warning, Frank tries to stop several opponents from reaching his cousin. From out of the corner of his eye he sees a woman approaching, but he is too busy fighting to pay her much attention. Marellian looks on in horror as she delivers a well placed, stinging blow to Frank’s temple, and Frank goes down…

Daveak and Elden fight with urgency as they come up against female warriors. Daveak bull rushes one, and she flies backwards and is knocked out against a wall. Elden takes a solid blow, but stays on his feet, and both are relieved as Vatay and his bride make it out of the church, and the melee finishes with beaming smiles all round.

The warrior woman picks up Frank’s limp form and carries him to the old Half-Orc priest. She explains that she defeated this warrior in battle, and claims him as her husband. The priest heals Frank, and he wakes to find himself betrothed to this Maula Great-fist. Marellian tries to prevent the marriage from taking place immediately, but to his amazement, Frank readily agrees to the wedding, and his uncle, as clan head, allows it. Frank and Maula are wed to smiles from both sides (luckily, as she was the one who initiated the wedding, there is no battle to steal Frank back). Everyone is invited back to the Wyvern’s-tooth clan compound.

The wedding feast is a lavish affair; loud and boisterous as only Half-orcs can be. Frank is delighted by his new bride, who spends much of the meal hand-feeding him food she has picked out for him. So dedicated is she, that her efforts prevent one of the Orc ambassador’s aides from trying to poison Frank in retaliation for his defeat of the king’s champion. Marellian is enjoying his meal, when a young Half-Orc boy pulls on his sleeve and asks if he’s a wizard. The boy then asks if he can be Marellian’s apprentice. Marellian asks why he wants to be a wizard, to which the boy replies that his brother beats him up, and if he was a wizard, he’d turn his brother into a rat, and put him in with his father’s hounds to see them tear him apart. Marellian replies that he is a cleric as well as a wizard, and he would teach the boy not to harm any other. This puts the lad off, but Marellian tells him the next time his brother picks on him, to knee him between the legs.

As the feast progresses, Rayne becomes the object of desire for an elderly Half-Orc. luckily for her, this does not last long, as he falls asleep from the heavy meal. Daveak attempts to listen in to the ambassador’s conversation while Rayne is squirming under the old man’s attention, and hears that the Orc king sent an embassy to the township after his new city site was attacked by ‘an enemy army’, and his allies were nowhere to be found afterwards. He fears that these allies have turned on him, and seeks to build bridges with the other races to cement his rule on the Orcs. Daveak hides a wry grin, as he realises this ‘enemy army’ is in fact the party members. The mising allies would seem to be the followers of the strange bloated Orcish female they met in the cave, who blew apart when they struck her down.

After the meal has ben cleared away, Vatay and his new bride, Viola begin the present opening. They are about half way through the presents (and getting close to the one from Frank) when Viola takes the lid off a box and there is a sudden flash of light. She stands transfixed, and Vatay asks her what is wrong. He looks into the box, and is also transfixed.

After a couple of jeers from people thinking the pair are having a joke, everyone realises there is something wrong. Marellian hurries up to the box, and closes the lid, but the pair still stand stiffly by. Looking at their blank gazes, Marellian begins to suspect magic influence. Casting detect magic seems to do him no good, so he asks the nearest guest to open the box and look inside, telling them his magic will protect them. They open it and look in, telling Marellian there seems to be a skull within. He and Frank look in the box, and there is indeed a skull inside, but a misshapen one, with black gems in the eye sockets. Marellian doesn’t know what this thing is, but it seems to be a powerful magic. Daveak tries to identify the type of creature that the skull is from, but has never seen the like before.

The old Half-Orc priest who officiated at the wedding is a guest at the feast, and he attempts to commune with the spirits of the two transfixed souls. He lays his hands on their brows, and goes into a trance for a few minutes. When he comes round, he tells that the souls of these two are trapped in a strange black prison, and are screaming in agony. They keep babbling one word over and over: Bagrob.

The party recognise that name, but before they reveal theit knowledge, the Orc ambassodor speaks up. He reveals that this Bagrob is in fact a demoness, and mother of the race known as Grey Faced Orcs. Indeed, they worship her as their Mother Goddess. She came to the Graveller king and offered her tribes of Grey faced Orcs to aid him in his conquest of the land, but a few weeks back, she and her Orcs disappeared. The Graveller believes she has turned against him, and is going to overthrow him. At his words, Frank asks him where his gift is, and he points out a sturdy belt studded with gems. The ambassador tries to persuade some of the guests that this might have been her attempt to undermine his embassy to the people of the Townships, but nobody is listening, they are too intent on what is happening at the open box.

A runner is sent to the township’s Archivists guild, in the hopes that their extensive knowledge might help. A guildsman comes fairly quickly, and he spends time studying the skull. He believes that the skull is in fact demonic, and the gems have trapped the souls of the two Half-Orcs. He cautions the party against destroying the gems, revealing that this may in fact kill the trapped souls. He is sorry he cannot help further, but the magic involved in creating such a thing is beyond his skill to dismiss. Marellian thinks of the only person he knows who is a powerful magic user his uncle and mentor, Covenas and goes off to fetch him. While he is gone, the guildsman explains that the bodies of the two Half-Orcs are in stasis, and will not age or wither while the souls are trapped. He suggests leaving them in a room out of the way until the Archists guild find a way to free them

Marellian returns with Covenas, who studies the skull intently. He casts a couple of spells at the skull, and they are warped by the protective magic around it. One of these spells cast bounces back on the guests, and they all start to dance uncontrollably. In the end, Covenas admits defeat, and tells Marellian he will have to find another way to free the souls. The Archivist tells Marellian that his guild will use considerable resources into solving this mystery, and He goes off with Covenas to discuss their findings. The wedding guests offer their condolences to the parents of the bride and groom and leave silently. Frank’s Uncle tells the party he knows they will do all they can to free his son and his new bride, and arranges for the bodies to be kept somewhere safe.

The party are left alone to discuss what they will do while they await some news from the Archivists guild. Elden declares he is going to look for someone to make him new weapons and armour sufficient to their task to bring down a demoness. Marellian intends making armbands for the party from some of the stuff they brought back from Harrow’s Edge, while Rayne winks, and opens up a pouch she stole from the Orc ambassador. She has things she needs to sell, and needs a fence. Loraella decides that she will visit the Snowbolds to see if the Orcs have truly given up their plans of conquest, and spy on the Orcs while she’s there, and Daveak decides he should go see the peat cutters, as the party had been putting it off so long that Wandel shamed them by making sure everything was alright in the camp. They look around for Frank, but he has already left with his new bride. They all vow to meet up in the Townsend soup kitchen in ten days time…

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The Thieves in the Temple
A trip to the 'Free Villages' (part 2)

The Party

(one of these days they’ll come up with a snazzy name for themselves: Until then, they’re just known as ‘the party’)

Daveak Swordhand (Played by Paul)
Elden Spirefield (Played by Matt)
Frank Wyvern’s Tooth (Played by Steve)
Loraella Ironcore (Played by Leanne)
Marellian Ironcore (Played by Dave)
Rayne (Player absent: played as N.P.C.)

After the fight in the old warehouse, the party decide to head back to the armoury and confront sergeant Bickler, who they now believe to be the mastermind behind the Graveyard Gang. On the way to the armoury, they stop off at Solien’s house, where they inform her that they have found the people behind her brother’s murder (Daveak is lugging the corpse of the leader around). She is a little shocked by their savage ways, but thanks them, and tells them that the priest has been round to let her know she may now view the body of her brother. It seems that there have been instances of newly dead bodies vanishing from the caves of the dead, and they were merely ensuring that his corpse was safe before letting her visit. The party are intrigued by this statement, but decide that it can wait until after they have had a confrontation with Bickler.

At the armoury, they accuse Bickler of being crooked, in front of some of his militiamen. Bickler tries to bluff his way out, claiming they are crooks who have managed to coerce one of his men into retrieving their weapons (Frank’s axe for example, should still be in the armoury), but finally realises his militia will not arrest the party. He then confesses to have taken bribes to look the other way, and allow the Graveyard Gang free rein in the bad section of the village. He tries to sanction his actions by revealing that when he tried to resist the gang, they threatened his family, especially his three young daughters. This fails to find any pity in the group, who tell him he should stand down. He then tells them that if he were to stand down it would make no difference; his successor would find himself in exactly the same position. This is when the party reveal that they have killed the majority of the gang, and Bickler realises that he is free from their grip at last. He aggrees to stand down, and join holy orders in the prieshood of death, providing the party help his militia in one last act: The Graveyard Gang were connected to the Temple of Luck, which Bickler has long suspected to be a den of thieves and scoundrels. If the party are willing, they should enter the Temple of Luck, flush out the thieves, and the militia would be able to round the fleeing thieves up as they fled the temple. The party are very interested in this task, and accept, provided they have all their impounded weapons returned to them first.

Frank is all for storming the temple immediately, but wiser heads prevail, and the party return to the Grizzled Veteran, where Marellian rests, ready to relearn his spells. Daveak and his wolf guard the rest of the party as they rest and prepare themselves. Finally, as night falls, they set off for the Temple of Luck.

A wooden walkway and steps leads up to the Temple of Luck. At the top of the steps are two burly bouncers. Seeing the party, they are slightly hostile, insisting that strangers to the village are not usually allowed inside the temple. When one sees the party’s weapons, he asks how they managed to get them past the militia, to which Marellian replies that they bribed Bickler, who they had been told was an easy mark. This casual attitude and a spattering of thief terminology is enough to convince the bouncers that the party may be visiting thieves’ guildsmen, and they let them inside.

Loud music and raised voices assault the party’s hearing as they step through the door. Within is a large area set up as part tavern, part gaming hall. Several punters are playing at a large table inset with a strange rotating wheel, while various games of chance are being played at other tables. Marellian is drawn to the wheel, and asks how the game is played. Someone makes space for him, and he is soon drawn into the game. Daveak and Frank head straight to the bar, while Rayne slopes off on her own (responding to a whispered request from Marellian to hunt for any sign of offices). Elden and Loraella sit themselves at an empty table, and keep an eye on Marellian.

While placing his money down, Marellian deliberately upsets the pile of coins belonging to the player next to him, giving Rayne a diversion so that she can employ her stealthy talents. Soothing the other player down, Marellian begins to play the game while Rayne sneaks off down a flight of stairs. Loraella and Elden suddenly realise Rayne is missing, but do not see her go.

Daveak calls over the serving girl, and tells her that he is here to go get Zecharias. She informs him that Zecharias doesn’t work in the temple, but he and his gang will probably be in shortly. She then leaves him to ponder his next move, and asks Frank what he wants. Frank leers at her, and she dismisses him as ‘another one of those types’.

Loraella, and then Elden, are approached by a young, pasty faced girl. She asks them; “Fancy a dip? drop in a coin, pull out a token. See what luck has in store for you.” Loraella declines, but Elden drops a coin in her empty pouch, which then seems to fill. He pulls out a token, with a Blue Wolf inscribed on it. When he asks the girl what it means, she replies in a deeper, almost otherworldly voice; “Blood and pain lie in wait for you and your kin. Yet blood shall also redeem you.”
Elden is puzzled and slightly alarmed by this, and asks her for another try, but she informs him he only gets one dip, and moves off.

Rayne returns just as Marellian manages to win on the wheel of fortune. She whispers to him that she has found some locked doors downstairs. He cashes in, and the rest of the party join him and Rayne as they traipse down the stairs.

In the basement area, there are several tables full of diners, being serenaded by a performer. Elden finds his gaze drawn to a fighting pit in the far end of the room, surrounded by benches. It is presently empty, but looks like it gets a lot of use.

Daveak and Loraella have a look at a door in the corner by the performer. They ask him what is behind the locked door, and he informs them that it is a private room where high stakes games are played by invite only. Seeing Elden heading over to the fighting pit, Daveak follows. Elden looks around, and wanders through a doorway into a ‘backstage’ area, where a fighter is limbering up, while a skeleton stands motionless until called to fight in the pit. A master of ceremonies prevents Elden from getting further, wishing to know why he is wandering about. Elden makes some queries regarding entering as a fighter in the pit, but is put off by the fact that it is daggers only, when he has no dagger. Daveak offers to loan him the use of his Kukri, but Elden thinks better of it, and they turn around and return to the dining area.

Marellian and Rayne had been studying a set of locked door at the other side of the dining area while Elden and Daveak were wandering about, and after finding it protected by a flame trap, they both work to overcome the problem. As Daveak and Elden reach them, loraella asks Rayne if she could have a go, but the lock finally opens. Beyond the doorway is a short corridor, with a similar set of doors at the far end. The two rogues fail to notice any traps, which doesn’t bode well for poor Marellian, who blunders into one, taking an arrow in the shoulder. Checking the far door, they realise that it too is trapped, this time with an electrical charge. As the rest of the party move out of the range of the trap, Marellian considers using his animate rope spell to open the door from afar. Rayne attempts to pick the lock, and manages to do it without setting the trap off, spoiling Marellians plan.

They are quickly confronted by an irate cleric, who demands to know what they are doing in the master’s private rooms. Marellian tries to bluff him, but it seems obvious they are not going to pass him without a fight. Frank bull-rushes into Elden and the cleric, pushing them back away from the door so the others can get through. Marellian squeezes around the cleric, and finds himself in a large room dominated by some demonic statue. His eyes seem drawn towards the rather captivating eyes of a man who, until Marellian’s entry, had been discussing business terms with a Gaulth beholder. Marellian’s will is not strong enough to break away from the man’s gaze, and he finds himself dominated, and told to protect his new master from the intruding party. He turns to unleash his magic against his former comrades…

Elden takes on the cleric, while Daveak and Loraella loose arrows against the imposing man, who they now guess to be some sort of vampire from his actions. Frank decides to take on the Gaulth, but first he has to help Elden, who finds the cleric harder to fell than he had originally thought. Daveak’s wolf, Dark Fang, manages to trip Marellian, preventing him from casting, but the battle turns as they hear the imposing man utter; “Creatures of the night, come to my service!” summoning a pack of six wolves into the room. Dark Fang is suddenly confronted with a full enemy pack, and flees, leaving Marellian to gain his feet and cast colour spray. Luckily, his magic is weak, and the members of the party shrug off it’s affect.

Having finally killed the cleric, Elden and Frank take on new foes. Frank rushes in against the Gaulth, while Elden charges the pack of wolves. Daveak and Loraella continue to fire at the imposing man, while Dark Fang returns to his harrying of the dominated Marellian. Rayne looks for any usable items on the fallen cleric, but in the end puts on her mask, figuring it will do the most harm to the vampire. Indeed, seeing the party slowly advancing, the vampire starts to climb up the far wall, out of the reach of melee weapons. Dark Fang bites Marellian hard, but the pain is still not enough to shake the vampire’s grip on his mind, although he does retreat under the table to be closer to his master. At that moment, Rayne uses the power of her mask, causing the vampire to take gaseous form and flee. Frank kills the Gaulth, while Elden cleaves through the wolf pack, and Marellian uses his aura of positive energy to heal himself, and inadvertantly heals the wounded party members at the same time. Frank then punches Marellian, and brings him to his senses.

Marellian suddenly feels like he has woken from a dream, and finds himself covered in blood (most of it his). He asks the others what happened, and they tell him he tried to kill them. Marellian thinks to himself that surely if he had tried to kill them, they would all be dead, but doesn’t say it out loud.

There is a room to the south, which seems to be the office. Here the party find several chests, as well as two safes. One of the safes seems to be full of soil, and it is mooted that this must be soil from the vampire’s coffin. They decide to take it with them, and they will later throw it in the river to diminish his power. Marellian looks through the various papers on the desk, and finds a spellbook among papers writen over 100 years ago in the Elven language, detailing trade transactions. He scoops up all the papers to read at his leisure later. Loraella manages to open the lock on one of the chests, to reveal a lot of silk clothes, in various styles (some long out of fashion). Elden attempts to break open the next chest, but manages to smash it open and breaks nearly all of the fine glass bottles inside it, spilling red liquid everywhere. Only four bottles remain intact, and they seem to be full of wine.

Having looted the office, the party return to the main dining area, where they realise that the pit fight has started. The clientelle are all seated on the benches overlooking the pit, and the noise of the pit fight has masked their own fight in the back room. Marellian sees a fighter and a skeleton in the pit, and saunters over. He uses his holy aura of healing to destroy the skeleton and heal the fighter, causing various punters to complain that they had bets placed on the skeleton. Marellian quickly slipa away, while the master of ceremonies attempts to placate the crowd.

Loraella sees her chance: with all the people milling around the fighting pit, there are no eyes on the locked door that they asked about earlier. she manages to unlock the door, revealing a room where four men sit around a table drinking and playing cards. One of them gets up, and demands to know what the party are doing entering this private area, upon which Elden decides to act simple, and Daveak tries to pretend Elden is an idiot savant who goes where he will. The disgruntled man calls to the master of ceremonies, who unlocks an adjacent door and ushers them through into the area ‘backstage’ that they had visited before. He asks Elden if he has changed his mind about fighting in the pit, as he is now missing a combatant, but Elden continues to act stupid, and wanders off down a corridor leading north.

Meanwhile, back in the main area, a fire seems to have started on one of the benches, involving a pile of papers (that were formerly in the back office) Marellian tries to look all innocent, and directs people’s attention to the fact there is a fire. One of the patrons throws his drink over it to try and put it out, but forgets he is drinking spirits, and the flames spread. Before long there is a stampede to get to safety outside, and the master of ceremonies allows them to use the backstage area stairs as a fire escape. The party are dragged along by the crowd, but Elden and Daveak, who had gone up the backstage corridor first, find themselves in a staging area where a necromancer is putting the finishing touches to his next combatants, two zombie warriors. Hearing the shouts of fire, Daveak warns the necromancer, but he seems in his own little world, so they leave him and head up the stairs.

The stairs lead up into a storeroom in the rear of the kitchen area. Daveak and Elden head the opposite way to the fleeing customers, and find an office in which sits a rather stern looking man. They tell him the place in on fire, and he growls at them, before snatching up his stuff and leaving. The smell of smoke drifts up the stairs, and everyone evacuates the building – straight into the waiting forces of the militia.

Bickler congratulates the party on an interesting method of clearing the Temple of Luck, as flames spread through the structure. The innocent ‘marks’ and customers are separated from the thieves, who the militia take off to jail. As a work gang is put into use to put out the flames, Solien turns up, and she tells the party that maybe it would be best if they all set off back to Flint-Harrow. The militia wave them off, hoping with the party gone things will quieten down in Harrow’s Edge.

Daveak expresses a hope that when they get back to Flint-Harrow, they will all be allowed to join Frank in celebrating his cousin’s wedding…..

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