Tales from Elrond

Severius' Journal- "The Great Ulfe Falls"

While in the process of creating a makeshift rope bridge to replace the one that the orcs had cut to prevent us access to the rest of their compound an elf with such alluring beauty and regal standing that I have never seen before in another creature walked into our presence. Prior to leaving Cynidecia my contact with elven kind had until now been limit to the treacherous and diabolical drow and what elven kind I encountered in passing on my recent journeys. This elf introduced herself as Enna, a High elf (I was told by Aszh later about the different elven races) from the nearby elven community located in the High Forest. She had come in response to the call for aid from Lord Dellmon’s daughter, who was a Druid of the Emerald Enclave, and headed immediately to link up with our group when she was told of the plan to assassinate the Iceshield Orcs’ leader, the ogre called Great Ulfe. A wizard by trade, we happily accepted her assistance, as our party was somewhat deprived in that area of expertise with the departure of Lester.

With the rope bridge secured, we crossed the chasm and continued deeper into the stronghold realizing that the Orcs, and probably Great Ulfe himself, knew we were here and were preparing a defense. On the other side of the chasm barred double doors blocked our path, and with a prayer to Gorm asking for protection and strength, Dovak and I lead the charge into what was surely an ambush. Dovak’s armored shoulder and great strength smashed through doors and we were immediately assailed by a volley of javelins hurled by orcs behind the cover of crates, sacks and other assorted piles of goods. Luckily Gorm (and heavy armor) protected our advance and we quickly engaged the newest enemies in a manner so as not to impede our fellows behind us.
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This would be the start of a vicious battle that would test the limits of our abilities and faith. The group of orcs initially in the room were reinforced by more and soon the magical blessings that Gorm bestowed on me to aid the cause were depleted, as well as those of my companions; cantrips were the only magical abilities left to most of us and I had to rely on my Warhammer and ability to shield others with my heavy armor and shield as my main contribution. Great Ulfe soon came on the scene with a pair of massive fire wolves accompanying him. The brute was laughing and boosting how we would find death here and described the various household goods that he was going to create with our bones. Dovak engaged the massive ogre after finishing off one of the wolves but heavily wounded he was soon taken down by the Great Ulfe’s massive axe. It was quite a surprise to the ogre when Dovak rose to continue the fight after being healed by Biggle’s last spell. The Great Ulfe soon stood alone and those still standing of our party worked together to vanquish the brute. Gorm’s judgement had been delivered (I had no doubt that it would).

After attending to the wounded and taking a short rest, we decided to continue exploring the stronghold. We had yet to find any of these legendary dwarven blades that were rumored to still be present.

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Severius Journal- An Orc Army and an Ancient Dwarven Tale

With the company of our new companion Biggle we headed back on the road towards Summit Hall with the intention of joining up with Biggle’s friend, the elven paladin of Titania named Aszh. In a strange coincidence (I’m sure that was put into motion by Gorm) we found Aszh waiting on the roadside playing his flute. Apparently he got bored of sitting around waiting for the return of Biggle and decided to head to Womford hoping to catch up with this friend and see if he was successful in finding me and my companions. Aszh informed us that he was the member of an organization called the Emerald Enclave and he had been tasked with locating the Delegation because one of its number, was a member of the Emerald Enclave and had been entrusted with the transport of some rare magical seeds. Aszh was to locate the missing member and the seeds of possible. Thankful for more assistance to our cause, Aszh was welcomed into our ranks.

The day’s journey held more surprises as we repelled a goblin ambush and saved a man from his burning farm house. Thankful for what we did, the man explained that the rumors that we had been hearing of orcs raiding the countryside were indeed and he was victim of such a raid, his wife and two farmhands having been abducted while he was left for dead in his burning house. I was glad to hear that all (except maybe Allegro) were eager to help this poor soul and we made haste tracking the orcs deeper into the forest. Our efforts were rewarded when we caught up to them and their prisons and the results of a short battle found all the orcs dead and all the prisoners freed.

Generous for our help, the farmer explained that this was only one group of many Iceshield Orcs. Evidently, the tribe was on the warpath and seek to slay and pillage everything in the countryside. So far, the orcs had not been stopped and the remaining ranchers and farmers have flocked to the Dellmon Ranch to make a stand against the advancing orc horde with Lord Dellmon and assistance that he requested from the Emerald Enclave and other factions. The farmer begged for our help against the orcs, stating that capable warriors like us would be needed in the major battle to come. My heart was again filled with joy when my companions agreed to this noble quest to assist these people and I could feel the blessed approval of Gorm. This was indeed what I was destined to do- to bring Gorm’s fury to the wicked and his protection to the weak. Many on the outside would learn of Gorm’s power and what his faithful can do.

We journeyed to Dellmon Ranch and found siege preparations underway. People were busy at work preparing supplies and building a wooden palisade to link three buildings- one of which was an impressive manor house. It was to this manor house that we were escorted and inside we met Lord Dellmon and his family. A noble from the city of Waterdeep, Lord Dellmon decided years ago to leave the bustle and congestion of this great city (so I’m told) to establish a relaxing living in the country. Compassionate and intelligent, Lord Dellmon is looked at as the unofficial leader by the ranchers and farmers in these parts.

After hearing about our rescue and capabilities, Lord Dellmon tells us that the Iceshield Orcs are planning a major offensive. The battle to kill or enslave the countryside remaining residents. At this. Dry moment a massive force of orcs is heading to the ranch, their leader, the Great Ulfe, is so confident that he is letting his lieutenants lead the force while he remains in his mountain fortress with only a small bodyguard. Lord Dellmon knows this because some Emerald Enclave scouts were able to follow some of the orcs back to their hidden mountain stronghold and learn the Great Ulfe’s plans. But that’s not all they learned…

Lord Dellmon produces the broken hilt of a sword and points out the smith’s mark. There is no doubt of the sword’s remarkable craftsmanship and Dovak and I are shocked to see that mark of the legendary Dwarven smith Durgeddin. Even I living deep underground away from the outside world have heard of Durgeddin and the Smith’s War. A great smith of renown, the legend says that Durgeddin fled his ancestral home after it became overrun by orcs and other forces of the underdark. He and his followers established a secret mountain stronghold called Khrundukar and from there he worked his craft creating and selling weapons and armor of exceptional craftsmanship.

Unfortunately for Durgeddin and his followers, orcs were finally able to locate his mountain stronghold and lengthy siege ensued that had Durgeddin and his force taking on many times their number. In the end, the orcs were able to finally breach the defense of Khrundukar and slaughter all within but not without a massive cost to their forces. They looted all they could find and left the Dwarven stronghold to legend. With the sword hit that Lord Dellmon showed us, it appears the story may be more than legend.

Lord Dellmon makes us an honorable offer. Go to the Great Ulfe’s stronghold. Slay the ogre orc leader and hopefully the lost of their chief will cause enough dissension and damaged morale in the orcs’ ranks that the ranchers and farmers have a chance. While in the stronghold Lord Dellmon says we can search for treasures of Durgeddin and he offers to buy any weapons and armor that appear to be Durgeddin’s work for a more than fair price. To potentially walk the halls of legend is an opportunity in itself. To also have the chance to slay an evil being and save the lives of many, surely there can be no answer but yes.

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Severius' Journal- Would Be Thieves and a Strange New Companion (Day 18 Fessuran 1630 DR)

Irreverent thieves! Disrespectful brigands! That’s what they were and their deaths in front of the townsfolk were a small demonstration of Gorm’s power. Word will spread on the surface that those who follow Gorm are protected by their God and he will give strength to his faithful to stand against any injustice, including base acts of robbery. To be accosted with the demand of surrendering mine and Dovak’s Masks of Gorm to thugs with no understanding of what the masks represent sent me immediately into a foul mood and was not how I expected to start the day after exiting the Bargewright Inn following our goodbyes to our dear friend Lester. Gorm stood with us as our outnumbered party took on the thieves and all but one found death as a reward for their efforts.

During the fighting, a strange half-orc bard allied himself to our cause, singing out inspiration to Dovak and casting magic at our foes. I am familiar with half-orcs, as we have a few of them amongst the population of Cyndicea, but none of the ones I have met were musically-talented or as charming as this flamboyant person named Biggle Greysong. Apparently Allegro is acquainted with this Biggle (which doesn’t surprise me in the least) and after introductions were made while my companions searched the corpses of the bandits for anything of value, Biggle went on to tell us that he has been seeking out our group to assist a friend who was tasked to join us in our search for the missing Mirabar Delegation. Biggle’s friend, a paladin named Aszh, has been tasked to find one of the missing delegation’s members and sought to join us after hearing of our efforts. The addition of Biggle and his paladin friend should assist in filling the loss of Lester as I fear our task will only get more dangerous and the more fighting strength we have available the better our odds of success.

After some additional supplies, our battered and bruised party made way to Womford. Despite my healing magicks being limited from the fight with the bandits, we entrusted the short stretch of road between Bargewright Inn and Womford to be well-traveled and relatively safe and decided to make the journey instead of being delayed another day. As predicated the journey was uneventful and we made our way across the huge Ironford Bridge and shortly after that, the town of Womford.
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To call Womford a town was generous indeed, I felt that village would be more appropriate. The ramshackle houses, limited commerce and sad state of the populace showed that Bargewright Inn was stunting any opportunity for place to become anymore than it is.

Agreeing with Dovak that the day’s exertions and the late hour called for rest, we settled for the evening at decripit establishment that called itself an inn only because it had warm fires and a large common room for people to sleep on the floor. Luckily, there was a stabling facility available as well and Dovak and I joined the horses to share some of Dovak’s ever-dwindling keg of ale while Allegro and Biggle sought out the local tavern and Takashi went to the docks to follow up on a lead about a Womford keelboat captain selling books that were known to have belonged to missing delegation member Bruldenthar.

I don’t know what came of Allegro and Biggle’s foray, but Takashi came back on the verge of death suffering from a stab to the leg and magick-inflicted wounds. After I called on Gorm to heal my friend, Takashi told us that he had been attack by one of the keelboat captains and his crew after he made inquiries about Bruldenthar’s books. With the captain and his crew sounding quite formidable, it was decided to confront to captain in the morning after our abilities had recovered and the rest of our party was back. Unfortunately, morning showed the keelboat and its crew had departed.

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Severius' Journal- The Bargewright Inn and the Departure of a Friend

The last two days on the Carin Road were fraught with danger. Not only did the strange unpredictable weather continue, but sporadic tremors of the earth began happening and of course there was the very real threat of being ambushed along the road. We faced two such ambushes- one from a band of orcs, a race I am familiar with as their kind are known to plague my city on occasions, and the other incident involved large fur-covered humanoids who my companions referred to as Bugbears. I did not understand the association of insects to their biological make-up but the bear part certainly seemed appropriate. Our prisoner, the pirate (a term that I am not fully understanding of yet, but was explained to me by my comrades as a profession similar to a bandit but who raids vast waterways instead of on the land but I am confused as this “pirate” was raiding us on a road in some grasslands so I do not think that matches their criteria of a pirate and think that bandit is more appropriate- the logic of these surface-dwellers will take some time to get used to) we took prisoner from the bandits lead by the water priest we vanquished the day prior was killed in the Orc ambush. He will now have to answer to Gorm for the misdeeds he did in life.

Luckily the tremors subsided and battered and bloodied, with little magical power remaining within Lester and I, we reached the small town of Bargewright Inn. The Inn was but one structure in the wall-enclosed town, but it was by far the most prominent and more closely resembled a small elegant fort with its two towers reaching into the sky than an inn. At this late hour there were few people in the streets- beggers, a few fellow travelers and street urchins and several unsavory get folk who took notice of Dovak and I with our gold masks of Gorm. We will have to watch ourselves, as I suspect that many will be lured by the monetary value of the masks and not the spiritual enlightenment and symbol of faith that it represents.
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After stabling the horses, we made our way to the Bargewright Inn to seek the best lodging accommodations and the finest food and drink available. Lester conducted the negotiations with the innkeeper, a fellow half-elf named Nalaskur Thaelond who seemed charming enough and a price was negotiated for the best room and board the establishment had to offer. The hot bath was a welcome repose after the long days on the road and sleep was found quickly in the silk sheets and comfortable blankets.

Saying Goodbye:
There was a sudden unexplained tension in the air when Lester joined his companions in the massive taproom of the Bargewright Inn where they were taking breakfast before heading out to the town of Womford.  Everyone looked up as the warlock approached and sat down, a haunted look on his face.

“About time you showed up.  We’s were about to leave ya here to move in with your half-elf friend” Dovak said motioning toward the Bargewright Inn’s proprietor, Nalaskur.  "You’s both been hanging out like buddies since we got here" Dovak continued in a light-hearted jest to crack his friend’s face into a smile.

It didn’t work.  Lester’s face continued to look preoccupied and conflicted.  "Nalaskur…he had a job offer for us.  Caravan guards for one he’s got leaving in the morning for Triboar.  I told him we weren’t interested."

“Ya got that right” Takashi said.  "I don’t think we have time to babysit a bunch of merchants.  Not to mention the last time we signed up for caravan duty.  We ended up getting lost in the desert and found our way back out one short" he said this as his gaze drifted subconsciously to Severius who’s pale face and unnaturally large eyes regarded him with a unreadable expression.  Takashi felt a pang of sorrow well up at the memory of his dwarven friend Gorin.

“There was more” Lester went on.  He placed his hand on the table, his hand displaying the ring his father had given him, the same type of ring that Takashi also possessed from his father- their father.  "Nalaskur recognized this ring.  Said that he’s seen it before."

“Where?” Takashi asked “When?”

“He told me that a man wearing one just like it passed through here two ten day ago.  He doesn’t know the man’s name or where he went, but there was a man with him named Regiden whose a merchant that lives in Amphail- it’s a few days walk south from Red Larch” Lester replied.

“We need to go there…see if we can find this Regiden” Takashi started.

“Yes, but not all of us” Lester said.  "The Delegation still needs to be located.  This is a matter of a personal nature and it would not be right to drag all of us to Amphail and lose the time we’ve already invested on the road to Summit Hall, we’d be going the opposite direction."

“Well you can’t go there alone,” Takashi replied.  "At least let me accompany you.  The roads are treacherous and rife with creatures- we’ve seen that obviously enough."

“No,” Lester countered.  "You must continue with our friends, at least to Summit Hall.  They’ll need your bow and I’ve worked out a deal with Nalaskur to accompany a group of some of his associates that are traveling to Amphail and beyond. Brother…" He said to Takashi “Let me go check this out while you get our friends to Summit Hall.  Maybe there will be word there on the delegation’s status.  Perhaps they have been found, then all of us can rendezvous back here and we can do this together.  Regardless of what I find in Amphail, I’ll return straight here and wait two ten day for your return so I can share what I found and we can plan what to do next.”

“You’ll return here?” Takashi asked for reassurance.  

“I will.  You have my word” Lester replied.

“You better” Takashi responded “Because I’ll come looking.”

“Like I said brother, you have my word” Lester said again.

Takashi sat back seemingly content.

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Severius' Journal- On the Cairn Road

We finally decided to leave Red Larch to continue our search for the Mirabar Delegation. Our clues to the fate and whereabouts are limited with only word of their passing through the town of Beliard to the the knightly order located at Summit Hall and the book that Allegro purchased from Valivoe that supposedly was bought from a keel boat captain in the town of Womford.

Womford was the closest of these destinations and we began our journey taking the Cairn Road that connected the two places. The road was well established and provided easy travel as we passed out laying farms and fellow travelers. A fierce rainstorm, of which I have never seen of such intensity till now (the surface world never ceases to amaze me- rain falling in torrents from the sky and naturally-occurring thunder and lightning) caused us to seek shelter in a farmstead off the road with a pleasant halfling family. Allegro put on one of his pupppet shows for entertainment and we providedthem with some coin for their hospitality. With the exception of the Lord of Lance Rock, the people of the Dessarin Valley have been good friendly folk concerned with only making a comfortable living, its hard to imagine that something foul lurks here that would have kidnapped or killed the members of the Delegation.
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Unfortunately the evil lurking in the Valley soon became all to real as my friends and I were ambushed by “Pirates” of all things. Unfamiliar with this concept of sea-faring raiders, which my friends has to later explain, these ruffians possessed accoutrements that seemed appropriate to pirates but their presence on land far from the ocean was perplexing. They were quite formidable and outnumbered us, and they were lead by a magic-user of some talent and two members that’s could shapeshift into watery serpents. Gorm was with us and we managed to slay all but their magic-user, who fled with magically enhanced speed. A rest was in order for we were badly in need to healing and recuperation.

The following morning, well-rested and most of our wounds healed by the blessing of Gorm, we continued our journey and late in the day Gorm blessed us by revealing to us the pirates’ camp hidden in the woods off the road. A scouting action revealed more pirates and the magic-user that escaped us earlier and with the element of surprised we attacked the camp after Allegro charmed one of their sentries. Remembering the power of the magic-user in our previous engagement, he was our main target and he died from a combined effort in the opening attack. The battle with the remaining pirate forces was still difficult but without their leader’s magic we were able to defeat them without much injury.

With our charmed prisoner we continued our journey…

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The Lord of Lance Rock

The Old Crone’s Theater: Act Two
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The air was buzzing with excitement within the warm glow of Womford’s quaint little tavern, Jodi’s Place. Laughter and applause rang out openly as Biggle the bard took a few bows and boldly strode to the bar. Lifting a mug of ale high, he bellowed out to the crowd before him.

Biggle: Let this be a warning, to all who hate fun—there is plenty of ale, and more music to come!

As he drained the tankard, cheers and laughter erupted from the crowd. A patron at the bar turned to the half-orc and shouted over the noise.

Patron: It’s going to be hard to top that mighty performance!

Suddenly, silence fell upon the tavern as a bellow of smoke began pouring through the floorboards and the lights began to dim. Onlookers struggled in their seats trying to catch a glimpse of what was happening, as a flock of children weaved through the table legs and chairs to grab a seat on the floor front-and-center.

Rising from the smoke like a zombie,Allegro slowly came into view. His hands outstretched toward his audience, thin wires dangled forth like marionette strings, disappearing into the smoke at his feet. Slowly, a large dark form began to rise from the smoke. As it by magic, a giant pointed rock slowly grew before Allegro until it completely obscured the halfling from view. As the paper-mache rock grinded to a halt, the onlookers began to mutter amongst themselves. From behind the small grey curtain set within the rock’s face, a black-clad puppet appeared.

Narrator: Ladies and Gentlemen, I hope you’re all well, for this is the Old Crone’s Theater, and I’ve a story to tell! It was penned by a demon, and delivered from hell, so sit on your bottoms and rest for a spell! This is the story of The Lord of Lance Rock—A necromantic fiend, with a zombified flock! So fill up your flagons and pick up your forks, for this tale has no happy endings, and best of all, no singing orcs!

A small murmur of laughter rang across the crowd as the narrator retreated behind the curtain, and another appeared on stage. The new puppet wore a dark purple and frilly costume with a humorously drawn white mask. While the appearance was meant to be foreboding, some of the children couldn’t keep from laughing.

The Lord of Lance Rock: Silence! [to the children] I am the Lord of Lance Rock—the most powerful necromancer in all of Elrond and beyond! Those simpletons in Red Larch think they are so great, throwing wonderful parties and never inviting me! Well I’ll show them, I’ll show them all! I’m going to amass a great army of the undead and march right up to their little town! Then, I’m going to burn their homes down… And kick dirt in their faces… And throw my own parties while not inviting them! Yeah, we’ll see how they like it! The best thing is, there is nothing those weaklings can do about it! Do you know why? [to the crowd]

A small amount of muttering spread throughout the crowd, but it was one of the children up front who raised his voice.

Child: Why?

The Lord of Lance Rock: Because I cannot be beaten by anyone! I am all powerful, and if my ears aren’t deceiving me, you’ll see what I mean right now! For I hear a group of would-be heroes come to stop me! Well the jokes on them, for my caves are littered with the bones of similar so-called ‘heroes’ who thought they could best me! Perhaps if this new group shows any promise, I’ll add their corpses to my army of the dead! Muah ha ha!

The laughter echoed throughout the tavern as the puppet retreated behind the curtain. After a few seconds, two more puppets emerged from the other side of the stage.

Severus: By Gorm’s holy light, this is lovely—a nice dark cave! Finally, we can get out of that blistering sunshine and rest for a while.

Dovak: Aye, ‘tis nice to be surrounded by stone again… Although, I could do without all the monsters tryin’a kill us.

Severus: Nonsense! With Gorm’s might at our side, none of these monsters stand a hope of a chance! Why, I know of the perfect prayer to boost our moral and ready us for the battle ahead! We shall call upon Gorm’s blessing to cleanse this foul cavern of the undead it holds!

A puppet Lester emerges from behind the curtain as a new voice rings out.

Lester: Yes, yes yes… Gorm this and Gorm that! Well can Gorm clean this place up a little, my robes are a mess! This place is filthy, and I’m pretty sure I have a spider web tangled up in the crack of my butt!

The play paused as laughter burst forth from the group of children. The puppet Lester turned and stared with his painted black eyes at the culprits until they grew silent. With an audible sneer, Lester turned back to the group.

Severus: Halt your complaining, oh dark-and-brooding! This place reminds me of home, and I wouldn’t ask Gorm to change a thing. [breathing deeply] Yes, it feels good to be back in my own element.

Lester: Your element is a dark cave full of monsters and littered with mold, bones, and dung piles?

Severus: Well, the bones may take some getting used to, I suppose…

Takashi: It’s the dark that’s bothering me…

The ranger came into view behind Lester, and an audible growl could be heard from behind the curtain.

Takashi: What was that sound?

The group turned right as three zombie puppets came in from the other side of the stage. Each puppet wore a painted costume of an animal, with a large jingling bell attached to their heads.

Dovak: It’s a lion!

Severus: No, a tiger!

Takashi: And a bear!

Lester: Oh my!

Some of the adults laughed as the sounds of scraped plates and clinking tankards subsided. It was clear that the entire tavern was beginning to get into the story unfolding before their eyes.

Severus: Whatever they may be, Gorm shall smite the wicked and cleanse this land of these foes! Attack!

Severus and Dovak’s puppets ran toward the zombies as two painted arrows, held up by strings, lowered from above the stage and traveled from Takashi’s bow into the fray. Sounds of sword clanking and bones breaking could be heard magically emanating from every corner of the tavern. Lester spun around, and a small spurt of flame shot from his wand onto the stage curtain, singing it slightly.

Takashi: You’re supposed to fire your spells into the fray, dear brother!

Lester: But then I might harm someone!

Takashi: [muttering] I don’t think we have to worry about that…

With a final thrust, Severus sent the last zombie crashing through the curtain, and the sounds of battle stopped.

Severus: I believe we got them all, but I must wonder where they came from. We have arrived at a dead end, with no door or passageway in sight. Surely this is not all that the caverns beneath Lance Rock has to offer us!

Dovak: There is likely some secret passage hidden behind the rock walls. Now… Where did that halfling get to?

As Dovak spoke, the ears and head of puppet Allegro slowly emerged from the top of the stage looking down. As the children spied the figure, they began to point in amazement.

Dovak: Where oh where did that little rogue get to? Allegro? Allegro? Here boy!

Dovak paced back and forth along the stage with Allegro mimicking him from above. As the Dwarf continued to call out to him, Allegro slowly snailed his way down the side of the stage and stood behind Dovak’s back.

Dovak: I can’t find him. Do you see him anywhere, kids? [to the crowd]

All of the children pointed and shouted. Dovak turned quickly, but Allegro side-stepped and remained hidden behind him. This continued for a few more seconds before Allegro tapped the Dwarf on the shoulder and Dovak turned in fright.

Dovak: Oh, there you are! Now look around and see if you can find a door or something.

The rogue walked to the end of the stage and stopped. A quiet and ethereal voice rang out across the tavern.

Allegro: I’ve found a lever.

Dovak: Let me see… That’s not a lever, you great baffoon!

Allegro: Yes it is…

Dovak: No it isn’t! I’m a Dwarf, and we know stone! I’m telling you, that’s no lever!

Allegro sat quietly as a small wooden lever raised from beneath the stage. Silently, the rogue’s puppet pressed up against the mechanism, flipping the switch. A slow rumbling could be heard from the stage as a small panel opened in the rock formation. It was silent for a few moments before Dovak spoke.

Dovak: See, it was a switch—not a lever…

The Lord of Lance Rock: Silence you fools!

The group stepped back as the Lord of Lance Rock jumped onto the stage.

The Lord of Lance Rock: I commend you for your efforts but I’m afraid they are futile! This is where you die, heroes! Don’t worry though, you’ll soon be reunited with those Red Larch villagers you love so much—in the afterlife!

Suddenly, four zombie puppets fell onto the stage. Without warning, they attacked the group of adventurers and once again the tavern was filled with the sounds of battle. Gasps and cries of shock rang throughout the audience as the zombie puppets were flung, one-by-one, onto the tavern floor. As each hit the wood with a thud, it evaporated into a small puff of smoke. Eventually, the noise died down and the Lord of Lance Rock was left alone with the group of heroes.

The Lord of Lance Rock: So you are more capable than I thought, you will all make decent soldiers in my army after all!

Dovak: Your army? Laddie, I think we’ve gone and destroyed what’s left of your army. All that’s left for us ta do is finish you off and return for our reward.

The Lord of Lance Rock: Finish me off? Ha ha ha—don’t make me laugh! I am more powerful than your tiny mind could ever comprehend! Prepare yourself, for I have the knowledge of the world’s most powerful spells of death and decay!

The Lord of Lance Rock began to mutter and the group collectively took a step back. With a blinding flash of light, three painted bolts of magic flew across the stage and slammed harmlessly into Dovak with a small plinking noise.

Dovak: … Is that it?

The Lord of Lance Rock: Hardly, you fool! There is no hope against my magic missiles! Prepare to taste another volley!

Three more missiles flew into Dovak with harmless plinks. Many of the audience members let out bursts of laughter as Dovak began to make his way across the stage. A continuous stream of missiles began to erupt from the Lord of Lance Rock as his voice grew panicked.

The Lord of Lance Rock: My… My missiles, why are they having no effect? How can you still be alive?

Dovak: [Raising his battle axe] Because… We’re the heroes of this story!

With a sickening thud, Dovak’s axe collided with the Lord of Lance Rock and the necromancer puppet split in two. Cries of pain echoed from behind the curtain as the puppet slowly began to wither and decay until it fell apart into dust. The audience cheered and clapped with glee as the dust blew across the floor.

Dovak: And so ends the dreaded Lord of Lance Rock! All that’s left is to remove the curse he’s placed on the town.

Takashi: I think that might have something to do with it.

A small glowing orb on a pedestal came into view, and Allegro approached it slowly. With the audience looking on in anticipation, the small orb slowly raised from the stand. It hovered in the air for a split second before crashing onto the stage accompanied by the sound of breaking glass.

Severus: And with that, the curse placed on the town of Red Larch should be broken! We shall leave this place victorious and deliver the good news to the towns folk.

Dovak: Aye, and get our reward as well!

With a cheer, the group exited the stage as the narrator returned.

Narrator: And with that, we close tonight’s play. The evil necromancer has been defeated, and the town of Red Larch freed from the plague befalling it. It seems not even an army of the dead could stop this group of adventures roaming the land seeking justice, peace, and the safety of all. Goodnight ladies and gentlemen, and I hope you enjoyed the show!

As the lights grew bright once more, cheers and applause echoed across the tavern. The children and adults alike clapped wildly as the entire rocky stage sank back into the thin fog spreading across the wooden floor. In its wake stood Allegro, the halfling bowing humbly as coins landed at his feet. Back at the bar, Biggle also offered applause as he stared at his companion in amazement.

Patron: Oh boy, I stand corrected— that show’s gunna be hard to top! He’s one hell’ova performer!

Biggle: Yes, he’s a great story teller with decent comedic timing, but his script needs some work—there was not enough rhyming!

Patron: You know, you’re one weird orc…

Biggle: Oh your words cut me deep, my inebriated friend, your slanderous jabs pain me to no end!

The patron slowly turned away from Biggles in awkward silence as he raised his flagon of ale to his lips. In the middle of the tavern, Allegro bent low to scoop up the small mound of coins lying at his feet when from the audience, a gruff male voice rang out in alarm.

Audience Member 1: Oy, me coin purse ‘as gone missing!

Audience Member 2: Mine too!

Female Audience Member: And my necklace… It’s gone!

Drunk: Oy… An’ someon’s done stoled all da beer from me cup…

The drunk weaved on his feet as he brandished his empty flagon in the air. A large belch transitioned into a fit of hiccups causing the man to blink in realization.

Drunk: Oh… Right! ‘evermind…

As the drunk collapsed into his seat, all eyes turned toward Allegro. The halfling stood bent over, coins falling from his palm as he looked up nervously with a bashful grin on his face. Raising his arms up, the rogue shrugged and feigned a small chuckle. Without warning, he threw something against the tavern floor, and large cloud of smoke enveloped his form. With the audience coughing and choking, the smog slowly began to fade as the Lord of Lance Rock’s voice boomed throughout the tavern once again.

The Lord of Lance Rock: Did you think I was vanquished, well that’s just not my style! I will return soon, just you all wait a while! So bar all your doors and secure all your locks, or you might be the next victim of the Lord of Lance Rock! Ha ha ha…

As the ghostly laughter faded into the distance, the smoke cleared revealing nothing but a small burnt piece of purple cloth fluttering down onto the floor.

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Severius' Journal- The Vaka's Curse

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The ocean. Never before had I imagined such a great expanse of water existed. The Great Lake in my subterranean city home is a puddle compared to what I see before me now- miles and miles of water stretching as far as the eye could see. My companions tell me that you could sail for months and still have many more miles of sailing if you wish. Surely they jest.

Despite the wonder of this “ocean” there is one aspect of it I could do without- sea sickness. My companions tell me that this condition is caused by the movement of the water and I spent the first two days of our journey on the sailing vessel called the Vaka (which is bigger than any of the boats that navigate my homeland’s Great Lake, and I’m told by my companions that there exists ships larger than the Vaka- truly amazing) leaning over the deck railing vomiting the contents of my stomach and was quickly reduced to painful dry-heaving. I was very tempted to use Gorm’s power cure my ailments but I needed to conserve my power for the ocean, which I am told is hazardous and unpredictable.

By the end of our trip we would find that it was not the ocean that would bring us peril, but the ship itself. A few days on board the Vaka, signs of something strange going peeked the interest of me and my party. An alcoholic captain who charged less than normal prices for passage, an uneasy crew and a strange seemingly supernatural sickness that started effecting me and my companions (even causing my friend Takashi to age several years overnight) lead to a tense passage and a clandestine search for information by the more stealthy members of our party. The source of the supernatural sickness would be discovered by a chance sighting of a creature made of shadow that stealing our life force while we slept. While this shadow managed to escape destruction at the time, a subsequent conference with captain confirmed our suspicions when he hesitantly divulged that his ship was cursed.

With the captain’s permission, and as his crew looked on, my companions and I scoured the entire ship using Gorm’s power to detect the location of this foul undead creature. Gorm led us to the ship’s wooden figurehead- a life-sized carved image of a rather normal-looking man looking forward to the horizon. There was no doubt that evil energy was emanating from this figure and a stick into the wood using a magical dagger unleashed a creature made of pure shadow. This humanoid shadow attacked us as we sought to destroy its refuge- the figurehead, which was further complicated because it appeared that it could only be harmed by magick and magickal weapons. Those fighting the shadow could only cause enough damage to temporarily destroy the creature and send it back to its refuge to reconstitute itself and renew its attack.

Eventually we were successful in our efforts and the hacked and burnt remains of the shadow’s refuge fell into the ocean. There was an immediate sense of Peace on the ship and it appears that the undead creature was finally destroyed. Captain Siegel and the crew of the Vaka were ever grateful and we were told we would never pay for future passage on the Vaka.

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The Mount of Forgiveness seems like a strange name, the Mount of Death would be more proper

There was a brilliant flash of golden radiant light from Severius’ mask-helm of Gorm. Some of ghouls took a step back and momentarily shielded their faces with their arms while others fled the area deeper into the burial catacombs. As Severius used Gorm’s holy power to turn the undead, the rest of the party renewed their attacks against the remaining ghouls, Dovak’s mighty battle ax strokes hacking a toll in their numbers, Lester unleashing the foul corrupt energies of his magicks and Allegro darting in and out to stab with precision strikes on vulnerable areas.

Haroushin’s sources were correct, the catacombs underneath the Mount of Forgiveness were teeming with undead and it would likely require a prolonged effort of hardy warriors backed by holy magicks to ultimately cleanse the place. Fortunately, Severius and his companions were only interested in interring their dead companion, Joreal, in a proper place of honor with a small and respectful ceremony to honor his passing. After cleansing this area, the group intended to do just that and they would report to Haroushin when they returned and the undead they found, and suspected were in the deeper levels of the Mount.

Despite the foulness of the place, Severius found the dark subterranean catacombs to be the closest thing to home over past few days. Severius was still trying to get used to the open air desert with the bright blistering sun during the day and the cold moonlit evenings. The sights and sounds of the outside world were strange, confusion, amazing and terrible- sometimes all at the same time. It was sad to say that an undead infested subterranean crypt felt like home but at least Severius felt like he was in his element again and at peak performance, with Gorm to guide him, victory would surely be theirs.
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Severius' Journal- Death at Sakina Falls

Lady Ayyam was most generous in her offer, even though we were honor bound to fulfill her request she still provided our group six-hundred gold pieces to outfit our party with needed supplies. We made good use of the coin, some of us purchasing additional equipment and better armor. I chose to spend money on exceptional food and lodging for my companions and I as I wished to see some of the wonders of the outside whole- I was not disappointed.
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After a well-needed rest and a hearty breakfast, we set off the following morning. The trip was by foot and the blazing sun was most discomforting to me and my companions. Those of us who were heavily-armored found our manner of dress unsuited to the rising temperatures and it was only due to our close proximity to the Zalim River, which we were following its course to locate Sakina Falls, that we were able to keep ourselves hydrated and bear the heat. Fortunately, as Lady Ayyam had stated, we found the lands safe for travelers, and occasionally observed armed patrols of the city’s army.

When the main trial shifted away from the river when it continued into a mountainous region, Takashi (who I learned was a ranger that specialized in mountain locales) took over leading across the treacherous terrain. He was indeed skilled and was able to find various goat trails and other animal pathways that made traversing the difficult terrain easier. We finally came upon a narrow path that followed along the southern cliff of the steep canyon that held the flowing river 200 feet below. Takashi pointed out recent tracks of humanoids and several pack animals. This trail eventually dead-ended up to Sakina Falls with no entrance to be found. A survey of the area showed evidence that the river and waterfall occasionally shifts to the right near the waterfall location, but there was no evidence of what causes this shift to happen.

When further searching of the area was fruitless, it was decided to observed the falls from a hiding spot (which Takashi selected) and wait for at least two days to see if anyone ventured into the area. Food and water was no worry as we had a fresh source of water readily available and Taksahi’s skills in this terrain found us more than adequate food. I used this time to talk with my new companions and hear stories from their lives, of places they had been, things they done and seen, any knowledge that I could gain of this new world. Their experiences were varied, as were their skillsets and I was both happy and sad when I realized all that waited for me to experience and all that my people had forgotten and or missed out on.

Our patience paid off on the second day as we were amazed to observe the waterfall shift to the left revealing a passageway into the mountain. From this passageway, a caravan of armed men and heavily laden donkeys, led by a stern-looking dwarf proceeded down the trail in single file ever careful on the narrow cliff side path. The last person in the caravan turned to the waterfall and we could tell that he said something but the roaring waters made it too loud to hear and the waterfall shifted back into its original place.

We quickly devised a plan on the belief that there must be a phrase that triggers the movement of the waterfall, and after quickly stripping off Takashi’s armor, he and Jorael stealthily make their way down to the mountain path and ambush the rear-most caravan guard. The plan goes perfectly with Takashi and Joreal subduing the man and dragging him out of sight and hurl some rocks down to the river below to make it look like he fell off the cliff. The dwarf leader comes over to inspect and satisfied with what he sees, he orders the caravan forward. We wait till the caravan is out of sight before questioning our captive.

I receive the task of convincing our new friend to cooperate. Apparently my stories about interrogating Zargon cultists and other rival faction members has impressed my new companions and they see my expertise this area. I start with the basic of motivations- greed. Thinking that this is just hired labor, I explain to him that we do not want to hurt the man, but we need access to the area behind the waterfall. His cooperation will be rewarded not only by sparing his life, but he would be monetarily compensated as well. The man hastily agrees and tells us that the waterfall is controlled to move with a magical code phrase, “Sakina, stand aside.”

Thanking him, we bind and gag him, leaving him in the shade, telling him he will be released should his information prove true. Joreal the takes the man’s clothing, and with the use of his disguise kit, makes himself resemble the guard as much as possible. His plan to scout ahead of our group in this guise is a good one. With Joreal in the lead, we make our way to the waterfall where Joreal shouts out the phrase to the falling waters. As we observed before, the waterfall shifts to the left exposing a corridor that has been cut into the mountain. Staying several meters behind Joreal, Dovak and I lead the rest of the party inside.

Inside is anything but what we expected. With a magically lit interior, we find elaborately decorated walls and floors with mosaics depicting crashing waves and white alabaster columns holding up a vaulted ceiling. The well-stocked underground chambers and halls make up an underground complex that is dedicated to wine-making. I was initially perplexed about why such efforts had been done to conceal a mundane task, but then I remembered snippets of information that I had learned in my brief time walking that streets of Muluk, about the great prophet they called the Loregiver, and his influence in enacting laws prohibiting alcohol in the kingdom.

Joreal’s disguise was more than helpful as he was able to bypass guards and venture into areas accosted, as well as surprise the enemy when what they initially thought was an ally stabbed them in the back. For the most part the complex was deserted with only a few guards remaining, the bulk of the forces most likely departing with the caravan, and we searched the rooms for Yodfah’s ledger. In one of these rooms, secured in a large cage, we found a badly beaten man who identified himself as Rashad and a Paladin of Osiris who was captured by the guards while trying to infiltrate the complex to find proof of illicit deeds.

I had heard of the god Osiris who is said to have power over life and death and seeks justice in the world. My gut feeling (which I think Gorm influences) tells me that Rashad is an honorable man. He pledges to assist us and tells us that he seeks justice on Hanzala, a wizard in the complex that has been torturing him daily. I heal some of Rashad’s wounds and help him scrounge up serviceable armor and weapons from the guards we have dispatch.

We would find Hanzala, and eventually the ledger as well (which was secured in a locked vault filled with chests containing copper and silver coins), and the battle with the wizard would cost us dearly. During a battle with four guards in the massive chamber containing the stockpiles of grapes and large vat for stomping and fermenting wine, Hanzala entered the fray with magical blasts of frigid cold and fire that severely injured me and my comrades. I went in and out of consciousness throughout the battle as Lester used his magic to revive me, only to have me fall later from the wizard’s magicks. It went on like this for what seemed like an eternity as myself and my companions fell and were revived, only to fall again, each time getting weaker and weaker. It was a deadly battle of attrition as our spell pools were expended and our crippled bodies fought on. In the end we killed the wizard though Joreal laid dead as well.

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Severius' Journal- Rebirth

I have never been dead before and I don’t want to die again. The magick required to bring one from the dead is taxing on both the one conducting the ritual and the one being brought back and I can see why one would not want to repeat that experience. The pain wasn’t a physical one, though that surely comes when the soul returns to the body. No, this was a spiritual one and perhaps mental as well. I don’t know if the common tongue has the proper words to explain it, but the best way I can describe it, which does the concept no justice at all, is that a part of you “dies.”

And I was wholly content with riding the ether until something spirited away my soul, a power of good, evil, or other, depending on my value to the gods and blind luck, but I knew that I had vowed to serve a purpose to Gorm- a purpose that no other of my order had wanted to do for quite some time, and so my soul answered the call to return when the Grandmaster called me back. I needed to return to fufill my oath, for the sake of Gorm…for the sake of the Brotherhood…for the sake of my people…

When my soul returned, I was glad to see that all of my comrades had also answered the call. My discussions with them afterward allowed me to learn that Takashi was the only one that was able to escape from the despicable Zargon priest Darius. Oh how we had underestimated our foe. With the vengeful spirit of Darius’ twin-brother, a powerful priest of Usimagaras named Demetrius, on our side, we were sure that victory was ours. We fought a desperate battle, but luck and the evil cleric’s power decimated our assault and we only owe our continued existence to an outsider. A patron of Darius’ casino who travels to Cynidicea on occasion to trade. A person who we now owe a favor.

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Adeen Hajah was his name. A merchant traveler hailing from the great city of Muluk. He is employed by a patron who is looking for daring outsiders to accomplish a task. Adeen says that my group is such a group, and since we owe him for his successful negotiation of our remains from Darius, and subsequent resurrection, it seems we honorably have no choice. I say my goodbyes to the Brotherhood and prepare to be the first Cynidicean in recent times to leave the city.

Adeen proves that he possess some magical power of note as he reads from a scroll that takes us from the dark confines of the great pyramid of Cynidicea to the bright and sunny open gardens of his patron. I see the sun for the first time in my life and it is dazzling brilliant and hurts my eyes. I realize that this is a historical moment for none of my people have basked in the sun for hundreds, or perhaps thousands of years. The wife of a wealthy merchant, Lady Ayyam hears of our exploits, both our successes and failures, and still decides to utilize our talents. She explains that her husband was swindled by a shrewd businessman named Yodfah. Yodfah is a wealthy merchant in the land of Zakhara with many connections to the power elite of the kingdom. After the deception to her husband, one of Ayyam’s servants infiltrated Yodfah’s harem and was able to secure knowledge of various “off-the-books” businesses that Yodfah is engaged in. Knowledge of these businesses, and the taxes that he has failed to pay on their profits would be of much interest to the Caliph and be detrimental to Yodfah’s current extravagant lifestyle.

Fortunately for Ayyam, Yodfah keeps a ledger on these secret businesses, but it is secure in a secret location on the outskirts of the city at Sakina Falls. This is where Lady Ayyam wishes us to pay off our debt. An honorable mission of securing a ledger that will prove the dishonest business dealings of Yodfah to the Caliph. Once we secure the ledger and bring it back to Ayyam. she will arrange our immediate transportation out of Zakhara back to lands known by my companions. It sounds like a generous offer with no reason not to accept.

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