The longest winter

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….

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…

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….
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.

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…

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…

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…..

Murder in Harrow's Edge
A trip to the 'Free Villages' (part one)

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)

After receiving a note from Solien Terrie, Frank assembles the party at the Townsend Soup Kitchen.
He and the two girls tell the others that their spying on the Orcs went reasonably well, and they managed to find out that the Orc King has sent a diplomatic envoy to Flint-Harrow to discuss some kind of treaty. Marellian is met by one of the priests, who wonders why they haven’t seen him around the temple in the last week. Marellian replies that he was on a spiritual retreat (he had really been locked away in his uncle’s magic laboratory dissecting a clockwork creature). The Priest tells Marellian that he must try harder to embrace compassion, and then he wouldn’t need to keep being on retreat. Then finally he might manage to gain communion with their god, and be able to cast miracles (priest spells).

Daveak introduces his new Wolf animal companion to the party, who he has decided to call Dark Fang. The wolf promptly ‘marks his territory’ over Marellian’s robe. Marellian is suddenly glad that his new familliar is an owl, and not a cat…

As the Party is bickering, Solien Terrie enters the soup kitchen. She heads over to them, but seems distressed. Frank asks if she is all right, and she starts sobbing. When she has composed herself, she explains that the reason she asked the party to meet with her is because her brother, Tolen, is dead. She believes that he was murdered, as the ‘authorities’ in the village where he lived have refused to give her any information, other than he supposedly froze to death, and refused to let her see his corpse. She wishes to find out what has happened, and the party are the only people she knows who have any skill in investigating these things. They seem to justify this claim by bombarding her with questions regarding the facts of the case, but she is unable to give many answers, other than he had no enemies that she knew of. She tells them that she is due to take a shipment of goods to this village, called Harrow’s Edge, and would like them to come along. The general consensus is that the party would help solien, and Rayne even suggests that Tolen may in fact be alive and missing rather than dead, especially as Solien has not been allowed to see the body. This seems to cheer Solien slightly, and she tells them she will see them in three hours at her warehouse.

The party turn up at Solien’s to see a couple of carts pulled by Yaks. solien is the driver of the first cart, the second is driven by a bald man she calls Haggle. There is a seat next to each driver, and two seats facing backwards at the rear of each cart, so everybody can have a seat. Dark Fang runs alongside the cart. As they leave the Township, nobody checks to make sure they are not being followed, but then why should they?

The carts are driven north west, along the route used in years gone by to bring the coal back from the now abandoned mine. Solien seems lost in her own thoughts, and nobody attempts to make conversation. Eventually they come to a stone bridge that crosses the Meltwater river. Solien tells the party to keep an eye out for trouble, as this area is supposedly haunted by the ghosts of the dead miners. She then explains that due to this superstition, when she takes this route she is pretty sure nobody from the Township would follow her.

For some reason, the party decide that there must be a troll under the bridge, and Frank is sent out to look. Daveak explains that if there were a troll, Dark Fang would have smelled it’s foul scent and be growling, but Frank goes to look anyway. Solien drives on, possibly regretting warning a party of adventurers to look out for possible trouble, and Frank follows on foot.

Over the other side of the bridge, the trail forks, and Solien explains that the northern fork heads to the mine. Several members of the party get a feeling of being watched, and Daveak gets off the wagon to scout around. He finds tracks that he is sure were made by zombies, although they are quite old. Solien asks why the party are suddenly geared up for a fight, and they tell her they feel watched. She nods, and tells them that this area has that effect on some people, which is why it is considered to be haunted. Once again she drives off, and Daveak and Frank have to follow on foot. She takes the western fork, and the carts head out into the tundra.

Marellian is sitting up front, next to Solien, and sees her take out a small globe. She tells him that it is a ‘Homefinder compass’, and was a gift from someone called Zoastrian. She explains that all she has to do is place her hand atop the orb and think of her destination, and it will put forth a small ray of light in the direction you need to go. She demonstates, and a thin beam of light does indeed show a path. she hands it to Marellian and asks him to think of Harrow’s Edge. He does, but nothing happens. She explains that he is unable to get a trail because he has never been to Harrow’s Edge. The orb may only be used to find your way to places you have already been before.

Solien seems in a chatty mood, and tells Marellian that Zoastrian is a mage who was supposedly once a member of the Archivists guild, but was expelled some time ago (or so he told her when she asked). He often turns up in one or another of the free villages, but does not live in any of them. He seems to have some fixation about ancient races that disappeared long before Humanity arose, and it is probably this fixation that got him expelled from the guild, as he has no interest in the Lands of Summer like the others in the guild.

Daveak and Frank are alerted (maybe by Dark Fang, or possibly because they are in their element outdoors) to the fact that a hunting Frostdrake has spotted the carts, and is homing in on the Yaks. They warn the others, and the party prepare for battle. The Frostdrake is prevented from reaching the Yaks by Frank and Dark Fang, but Frank takes a couple of wounds from it’s claws. Elden charges it from the second cart, before Rayne uses her mask to drain the life from the Frostdrake, and the drake’s corpse is butchered for various parts by Daveak and Elden.

Skirting the northern outskirst of the Tundra, the carts come to a steaming river. Solien explains that this river is fed from a hot spring nearby, and freezes over downstream. The party are worried that the bridge is out, seeing only a small pile of wood and a fallen tree, but Solien explains that the tree is the marker for a hidden ford, and drives the cart across to show them. The cart appears to be held up on the water by some clear solid surface. On the other side of the river is a rocky outcrop from which a frozen waterfall is suspended. Solien drives the cart behind the icy tendrils, and through a cave into a natural canyon, in which sits Harrow’s Edge.

The carts are stopped by a local constable, who explains to the party that any weapon bigger than a dagger is to be surrendered tot he armoury, where they will be issued with a token for redemption on their departure. Swords may be worn ceremonally, provided that they are tied into their scabbards with wire to prevent their being drawn (which will be done in the armoury). Frank is not happy at giving up his great axe, but hands it over while glaring at the minion. He uses his intimidating prowess to bully the constable into getting his superior, Sergeant Bickler.

Bickler seems made of sterner stuff, and attempts to stonewall the party when they begin asking questions about Tolen’s death. Unhappy with his answers, they decide to head off to where the village’s dead are interred. Before they go, Solien tells them that she will not be going with them, as she has some tasks to do, and shows them where her house is. She asks that if they find anything, they come and tell her. She also reveals that she has arranged accomadation for them at ‘The Grizzled Veteran’, which is considered one of the better Inns in the village.

At the caves of the dead, Marellian and Rayne begin questioning a priestly official, who refuses to let them in to look at the dead in his care. He does admit that Tolen’s body is within (which puts paid to Rayne’s theory) and tells them that the body was frozen solid when found. Further questioning reveals that there have been several bodies found like this, and when the party try persuading him that this looks suspicious, he finally lets them see the body (although he doesn’t allow the wolf in with all the bones…)and leads them to it. The body has thawed, leaving Tolen unmarked by any wound.

Leaving the (mostly unhelpful) priest behind, the party decide to look around the section of the village which is described as ‘the bad section’. There they talk to a street sweeper who tells them he found a body in a similar state to that of Tolen. He desribes seeing a woman leaning over the corpse, but who ran off when he yelled, and vanished in a dead-end alley. They have been given the name of a woman called Agli, who was a witness to the most recent killing, and the street sweeper gives them directions to her abode.

Agli is a fortune teller, and tells them that Tolen was one of her clients before he died. She told him he would meet a mysterious woman, and it seems he did. Agli also tells her story of meeting the killer. She and her man friend Mocko were out walking, when a woman appeared from out of nowhere. Agli swears that she wasn’t human, as you could sort of see through her: She was terrible to behold, with wild hair, and thin as a corpse. Agli also remembers that she was wearing a gold locket. Agli admits she ran from the woman, and thought Mocko was behind her, but he had been caught.

Leaving Agli behind, the party move on to a shopkeeper called Fabindar, who found Tolen’s body. Fabindar seems proud of the celebrity he has become, and his story becomes more elaborate, informing the party of supposed places where other bodies were found, until they realise he is telling tall tales. They do get a truthful description of the woman though; Raggedy looking, with long hair and a torn dress.

Realising that they have ended up close to Solien’s house, they decide that they should inform her of the bad news. Daveak volunteers to tell her what they have found out, while the others head to the Grizzled Veteran to discuss their plans. As expected, Solien is devastated once more by the confirmation of her brother’s death after Rayne had built her hopes up he might still be alive. Daveak beats a hasty retreat to rejoin his fellows at the Grizzled Veteran.

At the Grizzled Veteran, the party talk to Marto and Filena. While discussing what they had found about the killer, several pieces jog the innkeepers’ memories. They remember serving a young woman with a golden necklace, and tell the party what they remember about her. It is a sad tale about a newly married girl who loses everything over the space of a year, and slowly slides into depression and drink. The Girl’s name was Azrea, and the necklace was a gift from her mother, who died shortly after the wedding. It was the only thing she had left and would not part with. Marto tells the party that the girl has not been seen in over a week.

As they are digesting this news, a street urchin delivers them a message: Written on a scrap of paper are the words; ‘I know who the killer is. Afraid for my life. Meet me at midnight in the old warehouse’. They sense that this message is a trap, but decide to go anyway.

Rayne and Loraella try to scout out the village armoury to find a way to get to the party’s confiscated weaponry, but find it hard to get in. Marellian solves this problem by casting charm person on a guard, and sending him in to get all the weapons for the party. So armed, they make their way to the old warehouse.

Inside the warehouse, a scruffy looking man is waiting, but he seems uneasy. As he spots the party, he backs away stuttering. Eventually his will breaks, and he blurts out; “I’m sorry, they made me do it!” and runs out of a side entrance.

From out of the shadows step a gang of ruffians. The leader tells the party that they are fed up with strangers poking their noses into other people’s business, especially as the bad area is ‘their turf’. The party attempt to find a non violent means to placate these thugs, but one of them, a sorcerer, fires an electrical ray from his fingers, and the fight begins.

This is the first time the party have faced magic during combat, and they are frustrated in their efforts to get to the two enemy spellcasters by the rest of the thugs. Eventually, their superior fighting skills win through, and one of the enemy spellcasters, a female wizard, flees. The sorcerer is killed, and the remaining thugs surrender. They tell the thugs that they will let them live if they give over all the treasure they have stolen from their victims, but the leader tells them that all the treasure goes to ‘Bickler’. Frank curses that he knew the slimy sergeant was a crook, and the party kill the thugs.

However, as the fight with the thugs was going on, a ghostly presence appeared behind Marellian. Turning, he is confronted with a wild looking woman in a torn dress. She tells him; “I’m so cold!” His first thought is to cast burning hands, thinking that would warm her up, but he thinks better of it, and his compassionate training allows him to instead offer her his robe to wear, telling her this would keep her warm. This simple act of kindness puts the restless haunt to her rest, and she fades away, leaving Marellian’s robe to fall to the floor, inside of which is a golden locket.

The party make their way back to their rooms at the Grizzled Veteran, where they make plans for dealing with the corrupt sergeant.

To be continued…..

The Shadow Road
(Paths of the Dead 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)

Daveak, Elden, Frank, Loraella and Rayne turn up at the council chamber after a council page has finally caught up with them to remind them of the councils call. There they find a sheepish looking Marellian wilting under the steady glare of Warchief Amstar. She is not happy that his stray ‘pet’ has caused so much havok in the township. With her is Councillor Kinkaid, but he lets her do all the talking.

Warchief Amstar starts out by asking if any of the party members know of a man named Pawdle Wherrit. After receiving blank looks, she explains that she is responsible for the security of the Township, and this Wherrit has been telling a tall tale that might concern security. Wherrit claims to have found a mysterious road that lead him underground from the Cracked Hills all the way to nearby the gate of the Township. If this tale is true, Amstar is concerned that enemies might use it to gain a sneak attack on the Township before they were spotted. She asks the party to investigate, and bring her their findings. She offers them a reward of 500gp each.

The Party ask where they might find this Wherrit, and are told that he was a member of the prospectors guild, so they might find answers there. While answering their queries, Councillor Kinkaid reveals that he has spoken with the Ranger, Wandel Windrider, who told him that the party were not trustworthy, and that Wandel was setting up his own adventuring party who would be available for work. Loraella tries to pin the blame on Elden, but the party are not convinced. She tries explaining it was meant as a joke, but Daveak reveals that he had told Wandel he would see him alright, and this ruse of hers has cost both Daveak and the Party honour.

The Party make their way to the Prospectors Guild, where they try to find out more about Pawdle Wherrit. They are told that the guild considers him to be at best insane, at worst a coward who tells tall tales to avoid the fact that he has lost his nerve and came back without any finds. Wherrit has been expelled from the guild, and may be found drowning his sorrows at a cheap tavern called the Copper Scuttle. They ask what he looks like, and are given the description that he is bald, with a white beard and has large ears. Thanking their informant, they leave for the Copper Scuttle.

At the Copper Scuttle, they have a look around. Daveak believes he sees a man who closely resembles the description they were given, and makes his way over to find out if he is right. Frank heads for one of the serving girls, leaving it up to Daveak to find out the heart of the matter. Rayne sits quietly and listens in on a conversation between a few of the tavern Patrons, while the three half-elves are momentarily stunned by the sights and smells of the place.

Daveak asks the drunkard he has singled out for his name, and his guess is correct: The man reveals himself to be Pawdle Wherrit. Pawdle asks Daveak to buy him a drink, and in return he will tell his tale. Daveak attempts to bargain with Pawdle, telling him he’ll buy him a drink after he’s told his tale, but Pawdle refuses to talk unless he has a drink in front of him. While he is getting a dark ale for Pawdle the others watch sit nearby and await the tale.

Slurring his words, Pawdle tells his story. He claims that he was out prospecting near to ‘Dragonscar Ridge’, an area of the Cracked Hills which is quite distinctive. One day he was wandering around when the ground opened up beneath his feet, and he thinks he fell around 100’ down a crevasse, although he blacked out so is unsure.
When he regained conciousness, he found himself lying on a cobbled surface, in what seemed to be a tunnel, lit by a faint glow. He assumed that he’d fallen into some Dwarven working, either left behind before the Great Winter, or a product of Geldan’s Gulley. After wrapping a makeshift bandage around his wounded head, he set off in the direction where the light seemed brighter. The tunnel seemed straight and level, and he was sure that he could see brighter light ahead of him. but then, the whispers started. They came out of the gloomy spaces at each side of the tunnel, where he could not see. They sounded malicious, and in some dark tongue, which scared him quite a bit. He began to walk faster, but the whispers got louder, and he was sure he could hear footsteps following him, so he began to run.
After some time of running (how long he is unsure, as he was suffering from concussion)he came to the light at the end of the tunnel, and he was amazed to see the outline of Flint-Harrow ahead of him. Staggering out of the tunnel, his stamina spent, he fell into fresh snow. when he got up again, and turned around to see what the exit of the tunnel looked like, all he could see was an unmarked hill, with no sign of a tunnel mouth, or his footprints.

Pawdle then tells Daveak that when he told his tale in town, he was considered to have been delirious from his head wound, or driven mad by his isolation. worse still, his standing in the guild is gone, as they considered him unfit for the job, and his wife left him. all he has left is to sit here in the tavern and drink away his troubles.

Daveak informs Pawdle that word of his tale reached the ear of the Council, and they have sent the party to look into his story. Pawdle asks Daveak that if they are going off to investigate where he fell in, could Daveak find Pawdles hunting knife, as it was his fathers, and means a lot to him. Daveak agrees, and Pawdle seems a lot happier.

As they leave the tavern, they discuss where they are going. Daveak reveals that he knows the area and it should only take about a day to get there. Marellian stops them before they decide to leave, telling them that he remembers reading about similar experiences by poeple who were near death. They speak of seeing a road stretching before them, and Marellian wonders if this man merely saw such a road while delirious. They listen to this, and decide to speak with a priest of the temple of Death to gain more information.

Marellian seems agitated as they approach the temple of Death, and has to be cajolled into going forwards as their speaker. At their knock, a priest of Death answers, asking if they require his services for an funeral? Marellian explains that they have come seeking answers regarding a road that those close to death find themselve on. The priest seems to know what Marellian is getting at, and invites them in. Marellian is hesitant to step over the threshold, but the priest tells him that, contrary to popular belief, the god of Death is not evil, and does not actively seek the death of people. Indeed, he is patient, and knows that all things will die in time. Reassured, Marellian joins the others, as the priest leads them to a meeting room.

On hearing the tale of Pawdle Wherrit and his road, the priest agrees with Marellian. He tells that such a road is known as the ‘Shadow Road’, and is the journey that all souls must take at the end of their lives. Sometimes, those who are near dead, but not yet ready, are able to travel the other way and return to the living.

Daveak tells the priest that the Council are concerned that such a road could be used by an enemy force, and could anyone use it? The priest replies that if this were the Shadow Road, then only those near death or dead would be able to use it, but that there are writings that tell of a plane of thought that is brought into existance through Needs and Desires. The Ancients used this plane to move themselves across continents and enabled them to perform impossible tasks. It might be that Pawdle Wherrit has managed to access this plane and was able to ‘Think’ himself a way home. If so, he would be the first human to manage this. The priest offers to send one of his brethren to see Pawdle Wherrit. He suggests that if nothing else, it might ease his troubled mind and show him a way to get back to his old life. Thanking him for his time and his offer, the Party leave, and prepare themselves for the journey to the Dragonscar Ridge.

It takes them the better part of six hours to get to the Cracked Hills, and they soon find themselves at the bottom of a vertical face of rock. Daveak explains that they are on the bottom side of Dragonscar Ridge, and must climb this rockface to get onto the ridge proper. By now they have all heard the legend that the ridge was made by two fighting dragons sliding along it’s length and creating the rockface by crashing along it, but those with geography knowledge know it merely to be a geological faultline.

Frank, Rayne, Loraella and Elden easily climb the rockface and stand on the top of the ridge, but Marellian and Daveak are unable to make it: Daveak due to his cumbersome armour, Marellian just because of his lack of climbing ability. After a long discussion which frustrates Frank, Marellian gives his rope to Daveak, who ties one end to an arrow and shoots it up to the others. Daveak is then able to climb up, but Marellian needs to be helped as he goes. Finally they are all standing on the top of the ridge.

As they head southwards, everyone except Marellian sees an odd sight: It appears to be snowing in an area some 6’ wide. The sky around them is overcast, but there seems to be no sign of snow anywhere but this small area. Marellian doesn’t see what the others are talking about, and moves closer to the snowstorm for a better look. The others look on in horror as a form is revealed inside the snowstorm: A rotting corpse, its flesh falling off it to reveal bones in some places. Frost and ice cling to its hair, and its eye sockets glow with blue-white light. It claws at Marellian, and he feels its icy touch leach vitality from him. Reeling from its attack, he casts burning hands, and it screeches in pain at the hated fire. The others join in the attack, and the Frost-Wight falls to a blow from Elden and his faithful greatsword. Marellian reveals that he has heard of such twisted creatures, created from a person who dies from the intense cold magic sent down from the Ice Queen. He says a small prayer over the corpse, and the Party move on.

Suddenly, the ground beneath Daveak gives way, and he falls into a crevasse. Luckily he is only slightly bruised from the fall, and is able to move. The others ask if he is alright and he replies he is, to which they ask if he sees a road. He doesn’t see a road, and he has only fallen a slight way, so they decide this is not the crevasse Pawdle fell into. Daveak is able to climb out, and they continue onwards, but this time more wary of the ground.

As the ridge climbs slightly, they come across a most unusual sight. Someone seems to have made several snowmen and set them in a ragged line facing the north. Marellian wonders if these are the mythical Wandering Snowmen, and decides to take a closer look. The others warn him to come away, but he is curious and wanders closer. Nothing happens, but while Marellian is the focus of the Party’s attention, Rayne finds herself pushed from behind, and falls into a crevasse. Loraella and Daveak both seem to be smirking, but Frank takes his ire out on the nearest Snowman. As he hits it, the snow sloughs away to reveal a metallic ball-like creature, which attacks him. all the other snowmen also shed their snowy cover, and reveal themselves to be some kind of Clockwork Horror.

The Party finds it hard to do much damage to these metal balls, but Marellian uses his expertise in taking things apart, and manages to slightly disable one, slowing it down. He tries again, and receives a small electric shock, but the creature seems to have stopped working. Flushed with his success, he moves onto another of the creatures, which Frank and Rayne had been battering. He opens up a small panel and pulls at some machinery, and this one seems to lose control of its direction of travel, and floats off aimlessly. Seeing this, Loraella also begins to disable the things, and the remaining creatures whizz off, leaving their disabled collegues behind. Marellian decides he would like to examine one in his lab back in town, and it rolls it into a sack for a stronger party member to carry for him.

Daveak manages to find some footprints, and follows them to a small camp. However, the camp looks abandoned, with tools lying about in the snow and the tent open to the elements. Daveak looks in the tent, and finds a bottle of strong liquer. He holds it aloft in triumph, before stowing it in his gear. Back outside, Frank finds the gaping hole of an opened crevasse, and decides to see if this is the one Pawdle fell down. He finds it an icy slide of about 100’, and lands at the bottom unharmed. Yelling up to the others, he tells them he thinks he’s found the right crevasse. Daveak asks him if there is a road down there, but he seems to be in a cave. The others decide to all slide down to see. Rayne is last down, after trying to find a safer way down.

The bottom of the crevasse is rocky, and stretches off around a corner. Daveak sees a trail of blood, and the party follow it. As they round the corner, they see that the blood trail ends at a frozen corpse: The corpse of Pawdle Wherrit. Daveak searshes the body, and finds the hunting knife he was asked to return to the Pawdle that they spoke to in the tavern, but they all wonder if the Pawdle in the tavern is real or some kind of Doppleganger.

Loraella gives Frank her potion of Spiderclimb, and he climbs the icy slide with the rope wound around his waist. He asks the others to tie the body onto the rope, and he hauls it to the surface. One by one he pulls the others up, until they are all back at the camp. It is late in the day, but they head back to town, Frank carrying the body of Pawdle Wherrit, Daveak the sack with the clockwork horror.

Their first stop back at town is the Temple of Death. There they speak with the same priest, and show him the body of Pawdle Wherrit. He does not seem surprised, telling them that in extreme cases this type of reincarnation has been known to happen. The God of Death has given Pawdle Wherrit another chance, and he should take it.

Returning to the Copper Scuttle, they find Pawdle at his usual table. Daveak returns him his knife, to which Pawdle takes off his shoe and gives Daveak the small gem hidden in the sole. Frank moans that they should have checked the body, as it maybe had the same gem onit, but nobody takes him seriously. Daveak tells Pawdle they found no road, and that he must have been transported through the goodness of the God of Death. Pawdle replies that a priest of the God of Death spoke to him earlier and said something similar. Daveak suggests that instead of moping here about his old life, he should take this opportunity of a second chance and make it count. His words seem to animate Pawdle, who decides to try and win back his wife and old job.

The Party then return to report to the Council. They explain that there was no road, just the visions granted to those near death of the way to the ‘other side’. Warchief Amstar is glad to hear of this, but also chides the Party for their recent adventures in Orc held lands. It seems the Orc king has sent an embassy to Flint-Harrow to try and negotiate a treaty, and that the embassy have complained about the Party’s behaviour and the massacre of Orc workers. Daveak and Marellian storm out, telling the Warchief that Orcs are not to be trusted. The others remain, and demand their payment, which she grudgingly gives them. Seeing relationships with the Council have soured, they take their leave.

Later that night, they meet up to discuss their plans. Frank, Loraella and Rayne decide that they should find out exactly what the Orcs are up to with this talk of treaties, and make plans to spy on the Orcs. Daveak tells the Party that he wishes to leave town for a while, and will look in the wilds for Orc movements, while searching for an animal companion to help him in his questing. Marellian asks Elden if he would help drag the clockwork horror to his lab, where he will attempt to discern the nature of these strange things. Elden says he has nothing better to do, and picks up the sack. They all agree to meet up in seven days to discuss what they have found.

Marellian and Elden take the sack with the Clockwork Horror to an old mentor of Marellian’s called Covenas. In his lab the two mages dissect the creature, while Elden sits by idly. As they get deep inside the creature’s torso, Marellian makes a grisly discovery: The center of this being houses a living brain. Covenas isn’t sure what creature it comes from, but from his old library he has drawings of various humanoid brains, and this seems to closely resemble that of a Gnome…
While the two work, elden is drawn to an old book, titled ‘The paths of the Dead’. He flicks through it until he comes to a fragment of verse from before the Great Winter. It reads:

“I walked upon the Shadow Road, my feet they drew me on,
but when I looked behind me, the Shadow Road was gone.
And so I seek it skill, but the road I never find,
for a part of me is looking for the me I left behind.
Beware when you walk on the Shadow Road, my friend,
for the you who enters on it won’t come out the other end…”

Chasing a Whisper
A killer Kitten in Flint-Harrow

The Party:

Daveak Swordhand (Played by Paul)
Elden Spirefield (Played by Matt)
Frank Wyvern’s Tooth (Played by Steve)
Loraella Ironcore (Played by Leanne)
Wandel Windrider (Usually N.P.C., but played by Dave at his request)

A summons from the Council arrives for the party members. The Council are interested in their trip into the Orc lands, and would like their explanation of what is going on. Strangely, Marellian is nowhere to be found, until Wandel suggests looking at the Townsend Soup Kitchen and Compassionate Church complex.

Turning up at the Soup Kitchen, Frank heads for the serving girl and asks her what the soup of the day is, while Loraella confronts a server and demands to know where her brother is. The Server rather abruptly tells her Marellian is on retreat, and walks off to serve a down and out. Put out by his manner, she sits at a table and waits for him to serve her. When he gets to her table, He tells her that he knows she is not destitute, and so she should not expect a free meal. She repeats her question, and this time he elaborates. It seems Marellian was wracked with guilt over his lack of compassion towards the Orcs and Goblins, and he is on a spiritual retreat to become a better person. Loraella shakes her head at his foolishness, but before she can complain further, the party hear screams coming from nearby.

Daveak, Wandel and Elden are first on the scene. They see a young woman running away from an alley, where an old man lies covered in blood. Two priests are running towards the old man, so they stop the woman instead. She tells them she was walking with her father and young daughter when a glowing creature pounced on them. It mauled her father, and picked up her young daughter, carrying her away in its mouth. She is too upset to continue, so Daveak talks to the priests. Just as he gets to them, Loraella and Frank meet up with them.

The Priests are curing the old man, but they tell Daveak that the creature is the Hellcat kitten that Marellian brought back with him. They wanted to banish it, but he had some foolish notion that it would make an experiment of nurture verses nature. It seems nature won. The creature has begun to attack people. The senior priest asks Daveak to find the beast, and either kill it or return with it so that they can banish it to its home plane. The party decide that it would be best to undertake this task, as one of their own was responsible for the beast being in town.

Daveak, Wandel and Frank all look for signs of the Hellcat, and Daveak soon finds its trail. He tracks it to a shadowy alley, where it is startled by the party and drops the young girl. Elden is assigned to return the girl to the Temple, while the others stalk the Hellcat. Frank and Loraella follow it onto the rooftops, while Daveak and Wandel keep track of it from the ground. The Hellcat leaps from roof to roof, followed swiftly by Frank and Loraella, until Loraella misses the next roof, and clings to the overhang to save herself from a nasty fall. Climbing down, she sees Frank leap and miss the next roof, but he manages to land safely with only his pride hurt. THe Hellcat leaps again, but doesn’t reach the next roof, instead smashing through an upstairs window of a merchant’s house. Wandel and Daveak reach the house, and Wandel takes up a position guarding the rear of the house just as Loraella and Frank reach the front door. As they ready themselves to enter the house, Elden runs up, having left the girl in the care of the priests. He joins Frank and Loraella as they go inside, while Daveak keeps an eye on the side of the house.

On first glance, the inside of the house appears to have been ransacked, but the merchant is there moving stuff about, and it is merely his accustomed mess. He is startled to hear that the Hellcat has smashed into his dwelling, and lets them go upstairs, telling them that his porter is asleep after a busy night. They creep upstairs, wary of ambush, but the hallway above them seems empty. Elden hears noise from behind a door, and opens it to reveal three thieves trying to open some crates. The lead thief tells the others to flee, while he whips out his rapier and attempts to hold off Elden. Loraella is busy peering round another door, but Frank sees Elden and his attackers.

As the first thief jumps out of the open window, Frank runs into the room. He leaps out through the window behind her, and they both land in the alley behind the house. She runs from him, but Frank is quicker, and tackles her. She manages to stab him with her dagger, to which Frank head-butts her. He doesn’t know his own strength, as his blow kills her.

Elden fends off the two thieves, but one of them is quicker, and wounds him. He manages to kill the other, but takes another hit. Meanwhile, Loraella discovers an open skylight, through which the Hellcat has escaped. She returns to the hallway at the same time that the porter opens his door. Seeing her, and hearing the noise from the strongroom, he deduces that she is one of a group of thieves that are robbing his master. He starts yelling for the watch. Loraella, not managing to persuade him otherwise, decides to escape the same way as Frank; through the open window. She yells at Elden to follow, and he is torn between wanting to finish off his foe and leaving. In the end he follows Loraella, leaving the remaining thief to face the watch.

Wandel hears a noise behind him, and turns to see the Hellcat jumping across a roof. Wondering how he missed seeing it leave the house, he yells out to the others while firing at it. He misses, but Daveak is able to hit it from further away, which seems to offend Wandel. Daveak explains that he concentrated on archery while Wandel took up the sword, and this explanation is accepted. Frank quickly searches the body of the female thief, and they all run after the Hellcat again. The chase remains on ground level, and the Hellcat jumps down, realising they can spot it easier when it is on the rooftops. It slinks away around a corner, and they lose it for a while, but the tracking skills of the two rangers and Frank means it does not escape them for long. Daveak finds a broken sewer grate, through which the Hellcat has passed. The party follow the Hellcat into the sewer system.

They find themselves on a ledge about two feet above the sewer. Splashing noises can be heard as the Hellcat makes its escape. Something pushes at Elden from behind, and he finds himself in the sewer, making quite a splash. Loraella and Daveak look around innocently. Elden glares, but decides as he is now in front, he will take up the chase, and wades through the foul water in the direction of the Hellcat. The others follow from the (cleaner) ledge.

They are passing an intersection when a swarm of rats stream out at them. Loraella is at the rear, and she pushes Daveak forwards into the sewer in her excitement. They manage to make light work of the rat swarm, and continue on. Elden finds a doorway in the side of the sewer wall, and they peer through to see the Hellcat in a passageway. It flees, and they give chase again.

This passage seems to be some secret thieves’ Hideout. There is a manhole to the street, but it is closed and the Hellcat has no means of escape. Instead it turns on Elden, seriously damaging him. Loraella opens a door to reveal a ragged man. He is upset that she has disturbed him, and tells her this is his home, and to go find her own. Not wanting to anger him further, she closes the door and joins the fight.

Elden fights for his life, and deals the Hellcat serious wounds in return. Frank joins him as they slug it out with the Hellcat, and it falls to another of Elden’s uncannily lethal blows. There is a discussion concerning skinning the Hellcat, and Wandel moans that he deserves the skin as they have still not paid him for his services. While this discussion is going on, Frank decides to open another door. Behind it is a small room, in which is a slim, pretty young girl. Frank attempts to make small talk with her, assuming her to be harmless. He soon realises his mistake, as she produces a stiletto dagger from out of nowhere and stabs him with it. Shocked, Frank swings his axe in defence, and kills her. He suddenly begins to shake all over as the poison on her blade begins to take effect. As his legs give way, he searches her, revealing a vial of greenish fluid.

Daveak and Loraella suddenly realise Frank has not returned, and look into the room. They see Frank as he slumps to the ground, and Daveak rushes forwards to help. Daveak is able to use his healer’s kit to stop the poison affecting Frank further, and Frank is able to get back on his feet. Loraella spots a chest as Daveak is helping Frank out of the room. She opens it to reveal a heap of gold coins, and begins stuffing them into her sack. Realising she would be unable to take them all, she calls in the others, and they share out the coins she couldn’t manage to take. Wandel is elated to finally get payment , and settles with Daveak that they will split the money from the Hellcat’s skin 60/40 in Daveak’s favour.

As they are returning to the Compasionate Church complex, Loraella decides on a bit of devilry. She pick-pockets Wandel of 100GP, wanting to plant it on Elden before Wandel realises it. Unfortunately, Elden wanders off to check on the young girl that he brought back, and she is unable to plant it on him. Wandel realises that one of the party members has pick-pocketed him, and severs his ties with the party, telling them that sword brothers must be able to trust one another. Daveak berates Loraella, but she is adamant that it was Elden who took the money. Daveak offers Wandel 100Gp from his share of the money, but Wandel will not be placated, and stalks off, vowing to set up his own adventuring band instead…

…As a Council page turns up to ask them why they have yet to report to the council as ordered.

The Valley of the Wyverns
(be vewwwy, vewwy quiet, we're hunting Wyverns...)

The Party:

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

continuing from ‘Following the Orc Map’

Bagrob’s Cave is a hive of activity, as the Party prepare to brave the next leg of the map. Everyone is interested in the boxes that lie scattered around the cave after the battle the day before. Loraella opens a box to find part of some strange plant, that is identified as a ‘Musk Creeper’. She asks Marellian if it would be of any use in his magical or alchemical workings, but he is unsure. Daveak opens a box to reveal a painting. Looking at it closer, he sees that is of Flameguard Keep, and there are three figures in the foreground; a Dwarf, an Ignoi warrior, and a small female in the robes of the church of Wisdom. The scrawl in the bottom corner reads ‘Heading out to scout the pass’, and is signed ‘Tufty’. This causes confusion, as it would have been painted the day the white riders were swept to their doom by an avalanche, so how could it have turned up here…

Marellian opens a box and peeks inside. He comes face to face with a kitten. It has had all it’s fur shaved off, and has a napkin tied round it’s middle. It meewls faintly at him, and he picks it up. It is shivering, and tries to crawl inside his robe, so he puts it inside his backpack to keep warm. Frank doesn’t think Marellian is showing much compassion for being a priest, and asks him what he’s going to call his new pet. Marellian says he’ll think it over. While waiting for Marellian to think up a name, Frank decides to open the next box; which contains a clockwork toy. As the youngest party member, he has to put up with the others ribbing him about finding a toy, but bears it well. Rayne picks a box, and hears the chink of coins inside. Smiling, she rips it open , but the coins are made of Tin, and are quite worthless. Elden takes the next box, which is full of giant apples, the size of melons. He’s not sure if they are edible or not, but takes them anyway. Frank opens the final box to reveal the skeleton of an angel, complete with wings.

Veiwing all their new finds, Loraella asks Marellian if any of it is magical. He detects an aura covering everything, including the kitten. The only thing that comes to mind is that everything has passed through the outer planes to get here, and some trace of the journey still clings to them. Marellian then realises that the kitten must have been hungry, as it has eaten all the trail rations in his backpack. Frank remarks that he can smell a bad odour coming from the backpack, and that Marellian had better not have had his spellbooks in there…

Leaving the cave behind, they pass under the shadow of the Wyvernhorn peak, and start on the second part of the trail. Daveak sees an arctic hare, and manages to bring it down. He offers the kitten a leg, and to his amasement, it swallows the leg whole. It then claws for the rest of the carcass, which it gulps down. The others exchange worried glances, but Marellian is uncaring. He tells Loraella that he had a dream during the night, in which his slain bat told him he could undertake a ritual to summon another familiar to join his cause. He also decides to call the kitten ‘Whisper’.

Across the valley, the party spot a lone Orc, looking up at the sky. Frank and Daveak attempt to sneak up on him, and when they get closer realise that the Orc is surrounded by Goblins carrying nets. The Orc seems to be bait for a Wyvern, whereby the Goblins will attempt to capture it. Marellian calls out to Frank, asking what he’s seen, and alerts the Orc to their presence. Frank quickly points to the sky behind the Orc, saying; “Look up there!” And both he and Daveak snigger at the look on the Orc’s face when it thinks the Wyvern is approaching from behind it. Luckily, neither the party nor the Orc and Goblins are in the mood for a fight, and the Orc wyvernhunter moves off. The party continue northwards along the trail.

As they reach the northern end of the valley, Daveak spots several large bones sticking up out of the snow and ice. While investigating these bones further, Marellian declares that they are the bones of a long extinct creature known as ‘Horses’. He claims to have read about them in a book once. Apparently these Horses were a staple food of Wyverns, before dying out due to a lack of grazing pasture. The others listen politely to his lecture, while the kitten (which seems to have grown larger) chews on a bone. Frank spots the entrance to the cave marked on his map, and they move on.

Inside the cave, Wandel once more takes on the duties of ‘Torchbearer’, while Daveak and Loraella take the lead. They take a fork to the right, but Rayne decides she would prefer the left hand fork, and sneaks off quickly. As she nears a side passage, a sound like a woman’s scream alerts the party, and they come running. Rayne enters a cavern off to the side of the passage, where she is nearly deafened by the loud shrieking of strange mushrooms. Marellian makes a joke about there not being ‘mushroom’ in here, which seems to set the creatures into an attack. Frank rummages around in his backpack, and finds one of the flasks of oil Marellian made for him. He throws it at one of the mushrooms, and acid sprays most of the colony. Elden dives in to attack, but is struck by a stinging blow from a flailing appendige, and suddenly feels weakened. Luckily the acid eats through all the mushrooms, and Daveak looks at Eldens wounds quickly. He realises that Elden has been poisoned, but he does not have an antidote. Elden appears to shrug it off, but it is obvious he is not as vigorous as before.

The tunnel forks again, and Loraella, Daveak, Wandel and Frank take the right hand fork; while Marellian, Elden and Rayne go left. Loraella creeps along stealthily, and doesn’t spook the colony of bats roosting in the cavern ahead. Daveak and Frank are not so lucky, and the Bat Swarm swoops them, blooding Daveak before Wandel waves his torch at them and Frank swats them. Daveak uses his healing kit to staunch the bleeding wound, and Loraella scolds them both for being so noisy. Apart from Bat guano there is nothing of use in this cavern, but it takes them a while to sort out Daveaks wound. Meanwhile Rayne sneaks through the tunnels until she reaches a large cavern. There she sees a large pile of bones, and smells something foul. In this cavern is the Ettin that Daveak had been warned about. She manages to hide from it while she studies her foe. Marellian and Elden follow her path, and are not at all stealthy. The Ettin sees Marellian and smacks his lips: Food!

Marellian thinks about charming the Ettin, but as it looms closer he realises that it is simply too big to be affected by his spell. Rayne sneaks around behind it, while Elden attempts to shield Marellian from its Morningstar. The Ettin switches its attacks to Elden, and deals him a couple of hefty blows. Rayne fires her crossbow from behind, but Ettin hide is so tough that it doesn’t even notice her bolt. Marellian, sensing that his defender is severely wounded, moves backwards until only Elden is in range, and uses the power of positive energy channeled through his holy symbol to heal Elden. This is enough to keep Elden alive, as the Ettin hits him again. Elden deals the Ettin a vicious blow, and Rayne manages to hit it again with her crossbow. Marellian again heals Elden, and this is just enough to stave off death. Elden again deals the Ettin a hefty blow, and the creature finally falls. The other party members arrive just as Elden deals it the death blow, and He stands bloodied but victorious over the greatest foe he has fought to date.

While Daveak and Frank help bandage Elden, and Marellian channels yet more energy to heal the wounded, Rayne sorts through the pile of rubbish the Ettin had collected from the bodies of the slain. She finds a wooden mask that looks like it would have belonged to a shaman of some kind. Without really thinking, she asks Marellian if it is magical, only to notice Loraella’s covetous gaze at it as he examines the Mask and tells her it is. She thinks twice about putting it in her backpack, and wears it instead.

Heading back down the tunnels, the party take the last remaining passage, and ahead of them they spot a figure examining the cave walls. As they get closer, the figure is revealed as an Elf. Loraella greets him in Elven, and is tiold he is Finrothin Branathol, of the house of the Shaken willow. She is concerned for his safety, telling him they have fought strange creatures in these tunnels, but he is dismissive of it, telling her the Orcs have been most genial hosts. He explains that he has only recently begun his work of deciphering the cave drawings, as the map he was supposed to have received never got to him. Loraella glances guiltily at Frank.

Meanwhile, Elden is boasting to Marellian that he saved Marellian’s life, and had completed a vow of honour passed down through three generations to repay the debt his family owed the Ironcores. Marellian does not wish this to be continually brought up, so charms Elden and gets him to never bring it up again, as they are all friends looking after each other aren’t they?

The Elf is intregued by Loraella talking in Elven, to which she replies she is half-elven. He dismisses this , telling her it is as a drop of rain falling in a stagnant pool. She misunderstands his sarcasm, thinking he is praising her heritage. Daveak however, understands only too well the Elf’s mocking tone, and distrusts him (as he does most things Fey). He looks around to see a way of colapsing the ceiling of the cave to bury the Elf. Loraella continues speaking, asking what the Elf is studying the cave drawings for. He replies that a mysterious benefactor contacted him, wishing him to conduct a survey of these cave paintings to try and understand the earliest histories of the Orc race in this area. This cave is sacred to the Orcs, as it contains the shrine of one of the race’s first heroes who became a god. Marellian declares that Orcs are evil and must be destroyed, to which the Elf replies that he has seen his own race destroyed by one of nature’s furies, and wanting to destroy another race seems like a peety squabble. He tells the party that to him, who has lived near a thousand years, they all seem like restless children. Loraella asks him who his benefactor is, and he gives her the name ‘Tujo’. Someone asks if the Elf would be able to identify the items they found in Bagrob’s Cave, and he is willing to do so. He tells them that all the items come from the Planes, including the Kitten, which he calls a Bezikira, or Hellcat. He warns that should the kitten grow to adulthood, it would become a ravenous killer, it’s favoured prey being humans. Marellian is dismissive of this, telling everyone that his nurturing would overcome it’s vicious nature.

They wish the Elf well in his work, and take the passage that takes them back outside. It is early evening, and darkness is creeping in. Rayne is happiest in this light, and proceeds ahead of the rest. She fails to notice the Wyvern swooping on her position. The others do, and cry out, while Daveak fires an arrow at it. The Wyvern grasps Rayne in a clawed foot, but she uses her escapology to wriggle free before it takes her too high. Elden rushes to her aid, and it turns and swoops on him next. His greatsword thrusts into the beast as it passes, and Daveak, Marellian, Loraella and Rayne all hit with missile weapons. Wandel bemoans his luck as all his shots miss. Frank, fittingly, is the one to deliver the death blow, leaping onti it’s back as it swoops past, then burying his axe into it’s neck. He jumps clear as it falls dead, and then claims his Wyvern teeth. Daveak takes some scales to fashion into armour at some later date, while the stinger is hacked off for Marellian to use in some alchemical way.

Congratulating each other, they head back down the trail, and back to human held lands. There they find Hibbing Thorne waiting for them. He is glad to see they have succeeded in stopping the Ettin, and gives Daveak his prize: An Efficient Quiver. He tells the party that should they ever need his services, they should call on him. They wave him goodbye as they head home to Flint-Harrow.


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