Sunday, April 19, 2015

A Dagger and a Key

The basin, which activated the switch that revealed the staircase, was completely cleaned of all dirt and dust, but had the remnants of a sticky red liquid that was mostly dried and caked on the inside of the bowl. “These are new.” Finfer said. The same evil deity symbols that were painted all around the room, were now painted all over the podium, as well. Even the wooden plank floor, once covered in debris and dirt, was now clean and covered with various non-religious symbols. Freija and Willow pushed the pedestal to reveal the staircase, and we went back downstairs, Finfer’s drift globe leading the way. Like the upper level, the room that contained the undead and skeletons was cleaned of all debris and dust, and all skeleton and undead bodies were removed. Perplexed, we continued through the door to the room that contained the mummy. All bodies, even the one of the mummy, were gone, and this room was spotless, as well. All sarcophagi were opened save one, but they were all empty. The pitons guarding the secret door Finfer had found were missing. “This is all very peculiar.” Temporalis said. Freija agreed. “I don’t like it. Why has everything been cleaned? Who cleaned it? Are they still here?” I looked at the secret door. “There is one way to find out.” I said.

Willow and I approached the secret door and paused outside, listening intently. “I do not hear anything on the other side of this wall.” I said. “Nor do I.” Willow agreed. Freija stepped up. “Finfer, would you mind opening it? I’ll go through first, with Willow behind me. Eloni, you, Temporalis, and Finfer can bring up the rear.” Finfer located the switch to activate the door, and it opened with a loud click. Cautiously, Freija started through the door, relying on her drow eyes to see in the dark without being noticed. Moments later, she returned, a look of determination on her dark features. “There are undead, maybe four of them, and a wight. And I believe they saw me.” As soon as she finished the sentence, an arrow whizzed just past her head, clanking off the wall behind us, confirming her belief. She immediately ducked and moved away as the undead began pouring into the room.

Finfer tossed his drift globe behind the undead, illuminating the longbow-wielding wight. It released another arrow aimed at Finfer, but he ducked and rolled away, loading a bolt into his crossbow as he did so, and shot an undead creature in the back of the neck, dropping it. The wight appeared in the doorway and released two arrows in quick succession, one hitting Freija in the arm, and the other hitting Willow in the leg. Temporalis thrust out a hand and tendrils of dark magic swirled from his fingertips, but hit the wall next to the wight. It cackled and moved toward me as I drew back on my bow, lodging an arrow in its shoulder. Undead swirled around Freija, Willow, and Finfer as Temporalis and I continued to battle the wight. It charged Temporalis and raked him across the chest with a claw, causing him to scream and drop to a knee. Freija started to move toward him but he held up a hand. “I’m fine! I’ll be fine!” He swirled his hands around in front of him and three duplicates of himself appeared. The wight attacked Temporalis again, but destroyed one of his duplicates instead of harming him. I planted an arrow in its back. Willow sliced a head off an undead. Temporalis thrust his hands out again, releasing a swirling wave of dark magic that caught the wight right in the neck, and it fell to the ground, writhing, then was still.. I planted an arrow in the ear of an undead creature, just as Freija finished hacking the remaining one to pieces.

“Is everyone ok?” Freija asked, panting from the effort. “I could use a bit of assistance, now that you mention it.” Temporalis responded. The rest of us sounded off that we were fine, or only had minor injuries that did not require much attention. We took a few moments to gather our belongings and catch our breath, then proceeded through the secret door, to see what else was waiting for us in next room. Surprisingly, the secret room was empty. There were no tables, or barrels, or anything, except for a door on the opposite side. Finfer inspected it for a moment. “I don’t see any traps. You could probably open it.” He stepped back behind Temporalis as Freija pushed on the door, leading the way into the next room.

A horde of undead was waiting for us on the other side of the door. Temporalis rushed past Freija, drawing the attention of a few undead away from the rest of the group. “Temporalis, what are you doing?” Freija cried out. “Just trust me!” he responded, his last two remaining mirror images flanking him. We took up positions just inside the door and started in on the remaining undead, in the hopes that not all of them would surround Temporalis. Temporalis produced a swirling ball of dark magic between his hands. Suddenly, he smacked his hands together then thrust them outward away from his body, sending the building magic out to engulf the undead surrounding him. They all melted to the floor. I stood there, mouth open, completely amazed at what had just happened. I had never seen anything like it before. Willow nudged me. “Eloni” she said. “We could use your help!” Her plea snapped me back to reality and I drew back on my bow, releasing arrows at the remaining few undead. Once we had eliminated them, I asked Temporalis, ”What was that?” He shrugged, nonchalantly. “Just a little spell I know. It’s very circumstantial. That was a good circumstance.”

The room led to a long hallway with no doors. I paused at the start of the hallway and crouched, placing my hands on the floor. “It’s empty” I stated. “There isn’t anything down there.” Still, we cautiously explored the hallway, Freija in the front, until we reached an intersection. Ahead, the hallway appeared to come to a point. To the left, there was a short hallway with three small alcoves on one side and a door at the end, and a small hallway leading to a single, round door to the right. “I recognize this.” Finfer said. “These hallways are shaped like the crime syndicate tattoo from that guy we captured in woods.” We went to the right, toward the round door, in the section of the hallway shaped like a keyhole.

Finfer checked to see if the door was trapped, and satisfied there were none, Freija went through the door. Once we all had crossed the threshold, the door slammed shut behind us and two large undead creatures came around the bend, larger than we had seen before. Freija tried the door - it was locked, and wouldn’t budge. Willow morphed into a bear and charged one, raking her claws across its torso. Temporalis place his fingertips to his temples and focused intently on the first undead creature. “Your work here is sub-par.” he said to it, and it responded by growling at him. From behind us, we hear Finfer call out “I can’t see in here, my globe is in the other room!” Four small purple candle fires appeared above our heads, illuminating our positions and revealing that this room was not so much a room, but a wide circular hallway winding around what appeared to be an interior room, much like a keyhole. I shot an arrow at the other undead as Temporalis said to it “My, aren’t you looking lovely tonight!” It screeched, running into the wall headfirst. Freija, confused by what Temporalis was doing, took the opportunity to behead it. The first one had followed the hallway around in the opposite direction and came up behind me, clawing my shoulder. I turned and stabbed it in the torso with a short sword just as Temporalis spun around, fingertips still to his temples, and said “Your skin looks so smooth and fresh!” The undead groaned and started toward Temporalis, but Willow was there and used her bear claws to bring the undead to the ground as Finfer planted a dagger in its temple. Freija came to assess my wounded shoulder as Finfer walked around the hallway, using the purple lights to help him see. “What was all that about, Temporalis?” Freija asked. “Undead don’t like compliments.” he said.

Before she could respond, Finfer called out “There’s a door over here, but I don’t see how to open it.” We followed Finfer to the door, which was located on the interior of the hallway, toward the keyhole, so to speak. Finfer and I looked all around but could not find a switch anywhere to activate the door. It contained no hinges or knobs or latches or anything - just a solid door. We heard a loud click coming from the direction of the door we entered, and found that it was unlocked and open. Freija led the way out of the round door and back out into the hallway, slowly, in case anything else decided to pop up. We passed the intersection where the dagger-shaped hallway intersected with the key-shaped hallway, and proceeded to the other door. After Finfer determined it was safe and unlocked, Freija opened it to reveal a small room with an indentation on the opposite side that looked like a square stone or block could fit. There was a horrid smell caused by a ghast in the corner. Freija immediately ran up to the ghast, sword in hand, and sliced at it, but she barely hit it. It immediately put an arm out to intercept her, and the moment it touched her, she was completely paralyzed. Temporalis and I ran in behind her, me shooting it with an arrow, but it was Temporalis’ magic that caused it to evaporate. Once the ghast was gone, Freija’s paralysis went away. Willow had morphed back into an elf to fit through the door, so she, Freija, and Finfer approached the indentation on the wall to take a closer look. “Nothing looks out of the ordinary” Willow said. Finfer tried to mess with it, using his thieves tools, but nothing happened. “Hey” he said, when he was on the floor inspecting the lower part of the indented area. “This looks like it could open. Like a door of some sort.” Temporalis looked around. “I don’t think it would be prudent to proceed at this point. I believe resting would be smart, and we explore further tomorrow.” We agreed almost unanimously, so Freija and Willow dragged a nearby bench to barricade the door. We wedged the door we came in, and settled in for our watch shifts and sleep.

Sunday, April 5, 2015


“A secret door?” Temperalus asked, as he and Willow lowered Freja to the floor. “Are you sure?” Finfer stared at him. “Yup.” Temperalus looked down at Freja, who was just starting to regaining consciousness. “We can’t explore it now, so I suggest we trap the wall by the door. That way, when we return, we will know if it’s been opened.” Finfer looked at Freja and looked at the door, and sighed. “I suppose.” I took some pitons from my pack and helped him set them up. Freja had woken, but was very dizzy and confused. “Who...where...what happened?” she asked softly, gripping Willow for stability. “The mummy attacked you.” Willow said. Temperalus leaned down to be eye-to-eye with her. “The mummy laid a curse on you. We must get it removed soon, or things will end very poorly for you.” Freja looked around and saw the remains of the mummy and skeletons. “Is anyone else hurt?” she asked. We all shook our heads. “Then we move forward.” Freja said. “There is no time to lose. Fill me in on what we’ve learned. Temperalus and Willow shared a look. “Freja,” Willow began. “We need to get you back to Mountain Hide.” Freja objected. “I’m fine. I feel fine. It’s all fine.” Temperalus said “Freja, you can’t even stand on your own. We can return when the curse is lifted. Mummy curses accelerate quickly. We need to go, now.” Freja looked at each of us. She saw the concern in Willow’s eyes and heard the determination in Temperalus’ voice. She heaved a sigh. “Alright. Let’s go.”

We went back up the stairs to the temple’s entrance and out the door, Freja leaning on Temperalus and Willow for support, me out front leading the way, and Finfer bringing up the rear. We had not gone more than 200 yards when I was suddenly overcome with the wary sensation of being followed. I stopped and held up a hand to halt the rest of the party. Finfer began to ask why we had stopped when Willow quickly and quietly shushed him. I stood motionless, hand still raised, listening. I heard the distinct sound of limbs being broken by footsteps. I turned and looked at Willow. She nodded, having heard it, as well. Without a word, she motioned for Finfer to trade places with her. Quiet as a mouse, she knelt behind us, placing both palms on the ground, murmuring a soft incantation. She stood, took Freja back from Finfer, and softly said “I have cast a spell that allows us to pass without being tracked. However, we must move quickly. If they are using magic to track us, the spell will not work.” I nodded and took the lead once more.

Every 400 feet or so, I stopped to listen. After the third time I was confident that Willow’s spell had worked and that whomever had been following us had lost our trail. We continued on in the direction of Mountain Hide until it was beginning to turn dark, so we decided to find a place to camp for the night. Freja had regained some strength and was insistent on keeping watch, so her & I took the first watch. Our watch ended with no problems, so I woke Willow and Freja woke Finfer, to take the next watch. I laid where Willow had been sleeping and closed my eyes, dreaming of finding Woodsy and returning him safely to Mother, when I was urgently shaken awake by Willow. I sat up and she pointed to a distant section of the forest. My eyes were still adjusting to having been woken, when suddenly a dark ghostly form floated up behind Willow and enveloped her. She screamed, and crumpled to the ground. Before I could react rushed at me and tried to do the same to me, but I rolled away just enough so that it grazed my left shoulder instead. Searing pain coursed through my shoulder and I screamed, weakened by its touch. Finfer had woken Freja and Temperalus, and threw his drift globe out where our campfire had been. Light washed over the entire area, revealing two more ghostly figures among our group.

I grabbed my sword and swung, but the ghost-like body of the figure was unaffected, as if I had tried to attack air. Finfer shot an arrow at the figure, but like my sword, it passed right through and stuck in a tree. Nearby, Temperalus cast out a dark thread of magic that hit one square in the center. It let out an ear-piercing squeal, and evaporated. “They’re Shadows!” he yelled. “They feed on people. Non-magical items cannot hurt them.” The Shadow in front of me drifted up my leg. The same searing pain caused me to scream out again, weakening me even more. I caught a glimpse nearby of Freja huddled over Willow, and Willow sitting up. Temperalus shot magic from his fingertips and it disappeared. Freja called forth a column of bright, divine light, and the third Shadow disappeared, and all was again quiet. Willow rushed over to me. “Are you ok?” we both asked each other simultaneously. “I am fine.” Willow said. “Freja helped me.” Freja was right behind her. “I can help you, too.” I nodded, so Freja placed a hand on a leg and a hand on a shoulder, and I drifted off to sleep with the comforting feeling of the soft warmth of divine healing.

When I woke, I learned that Temperalus and Willow took the last watch, and no more issues arose. We made it back to the farms on the outskirts of Mountain Hide and found the townspeople clearing away the bodies and debris from the undead attacks. We went straight to the temple, and upon our arrival Minister Urum took one look at Freja and immediately backed away. Used to the reaction, Freja dropped her head and held out her hands in a peace offering. “She is unwell. What happened? Please, every detail.” Willow and I shared a look as Temperalus described the encounter and the curse. “Can you help her?” I asked. Minister Urum shook his head. “Unfortunately, no, I cannot. Not today, that is. I can pray to my deities tonight to see if they find me in favor and grant me the ability to remove curses, but that cannot happen until tomorrow at the earliest.” Freja looked downfallen. “I don’t know if I have that much time. I need to see Ali.” I stepped up. “Freja, you & Temperalus can remain here, and Willow & I will go get Ali for you.” Freja started to object, but Willow cut her off. “You are too weak, Freja. Rest here. We will be back soon, with Ali.” She conceded, so we left in the direction of Vance’s, Finfer with us.

We arrived at Vance’s, and explained to him what had happened and Freja’s condition. He immediately retrieved Ali, who accompanied us to the temple. As soon as we entered the temple, Freja jumped up and ran to Ali, tears streaming down her face. “I’m so sorry, Ali. I tried to get away, but I couldn’t.” Ali took her hand. “My child, do not fear. I came to help you.” He instructed Freja to lay down on a cot, and knelt beside her. He placed a hand on her forehead and the other hand on her stomach. He began chanting in the divine language of Ehlonna, and before long, a soft yellow light surrounded Freja. Suddenly, the light was abruptly pulled into her, and she screamed and arched her back against the pain of the light versus dark battle happening inside her core. Ali’s hands remained constant where they were, and his chanting increased in speed and volume. Just as quickly as it all began, it ended, and Freja lay on the cot panting, beads of sweat appearing on her brow. Ali stood and turned to Minister Urum. He looked completely drained of energy. “The curse is gone,” he said “but she will need its effects healed. Minister, would you be so kind? I need to rest.” Minister Urum nodded, stepped forward, placed his hands on her temples, and uttered the familiar healing words. Freja closed her eyes and let the healing warmth wash over her. After a few moments, Minister Urum finished and Freja opened her eyes and sat up slowly. “Thank you, Minister.” Minister Urum nodded, and sat down on a bench near her. “Curses are a difficult thing. I have only removed one in my life. They are draining, both physically and mentally. Ali will be fine, after rest.” Freja nodded. Temperalus approached, a gold piece in hand. “Minister, for your troubles.” Minister Urum graciously accepted, and left to check on Ali.

After a few moments, Minister Urum and Ali returned. “Tell me more of this temple you found.” Ali said. Temperalus and Freja filled them in with as much detail as they could recall. “We would like to return as soon as possible to see what the secret door hides” Temperalus said, “but we need supplies first.” Ali nodded. “Of course, whatever you need.” Finfer spoke up. “Do you know of anything around here that can help us fight undead?” Minister Urum thought for a moment. “I can give you holy water, but that’s about it.” he said, and provided us with two vials. We thanked him, visited the apothecary to purchase healing potions, then went to the tavern for a quick meal.

When our meal was done, we went back toward the abandoned temple in the woods, by way of the farms. Upon reaching the farms it had gotten late and all of the townsfolk had gone home for the evening, so we decided to set up camp near a barn. Temperalus and Freja offered to take the first watch, so Willow, Finfer, and I made our beds and drifted off to sleep. It felt as if I had just fallen asleep when I was woken by Freja, stating it was our watch. I sat up, yawned, and stretched, and noticed Willow being woken by Finfer for her watch. We put away our bed rolls and took our places for watch. The first couple of hours or so passed with no issues, but then I heard the faint sound of wood breaking coming from the barn. “Did you hear that?” I asked Willow. She cocked her head to one side and listened. More breaking and splintering, this time louder. “We should wake the others.” she said. We quietly woke the others and told them what we’d heard. I tried to sneak up to take a look between the wooden planks of the barns walls, but tripped in a divot in the ground and fell, crying out a bit as I hit the ground. The noise of my fall captured the attention of whatever was in the barn, and two undead creatures wandered out toward me. Fortunately, the rest of the group had formed a defensive line around the barn doors, so the two undead creatures were no problem. Everyone else advanced to meet up with me as I entered the barn to see what else might be hiding.

As soon as I stepped through the door I came face-to-face with a large, pale creature in tattered clothing, with yellow eyes, sharp teeth, and claws for hands. It was one of the most frightening things I had ever seen. Temperalus ran past me, yelling for me to move away. Happy to get as far away from this creature as I could, I ran along the inside wall of the barn and to the back corner. An undead creature came out from behind a haystack and started shuffling toward me. I glanced back at Temperalus and saw he had captured the creature’s attention and was trying to pull it away from the rest of the group. As soon as the creature’s back was turned, Finfer shot it with a crossbow bolt, but it seemed to have little effect, so he ran back toward a wall. Another undead appeared from the shadows by Freja, on the other side of the barn. I drew my sword and hacked to pieces the undead creature by me. Willow fired an arrow at the creature, but just like Finfer’s, it did little damage. She morphed into a lion and pounced on it, claws and teeth everywhere. Willow and the creature clawed and fought at each other, but the creature’s attacks couldn’t seem to penetrate Willow’s lion fur as easily as her teeth and claws tore into it. As she finished off that thing, Freja severed the head of the undead by her.

“What was that thing?” I asked. “It was terrifying.” Temperalus walked up and inspected it closely. “It is a wight. They are spawned of evil. They drain energy from you by touch, and if killed by a white in this manner, you then become one upon death.” I shuddered at the thought. “How do you know so much about things?” Willow asked. Temperalus gave her a distant, somewhat sad look. “I have read quite a bit over the course of my lifetime. When I hid myself away, my books were all I had.” Although his comment left more questions than answers, it was evident Temperalus was not going to continue, so nobody pressed him. We checked out the rest of the barn, and found nothing else remaining, so we went back to our camp outside and finished the night, with no further issues. At first light, we rose, packed up our camp, and went back to the temple. The temple was exactly as we had left it, except that all locks were reset, and all dust and dirt had been cleaned away, as if it had been revived somehow. It seemed that whatever had left it, had returned.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Cursed Darkness

Freja shook her head. “I don’t like this. We shouldn’t be here. This place is evil.” Temperalus was adamant. “We could learn valuable information here. We need to explore, gather information, and take back what we’ve learned to Mountain Hide.” As Freja and Temperalus continued to argue, Finfer and I busied ourselves with examining the brass bowl on a pedestal by the door, while Willow walked around the room, looking in between benches, on the floor, and at the symbols painted on the walls. “Look,” I said to Finfer. “There are marks here that indicate this has been moved before, and frequently.” Willow, not finding anything of interest, had come back to see if we had discovered anything, so the three of us gave a good push to the side of the pedestal. A loud click echoed through the room, followed by the sound of gushing air coming from the back of the room by the altar, distracting Temperalus and Freja from their disagreement. We looked at one another, wandered to the altar to investigate the sounds, and discovered a staircase had appeared under the podium. Freja, her curiosity overshadowing her previous concerns, said “Temperalus, think you can find something to bar the door? I’m convinced. We need to go down there.”

Temperalus found some candelabras to bar the door, and we started down the stairs. It was pitch black. Being elves, Willow and I could see fairly decently in the dark. Being drow and a warlock, Freja and Temperalus could see quite well. Finfer, however, could not see anything. Temperalus crept down the stairs as quietly as he could, and returned a moment later with a report. “More benches like these, a table at the far end, several undead creatures. I don’t believe they spotted me, but they will be aware that the altar is open. We need a plan.” he said. Finfer thought for a moment. “I could throw my drift globe down there, for light for us, and hopefully to distract the undead so we can remove them.” he offered. Temperalus told Finfer how many stairs he needed to descend and where to throw before he lit the orb, so Finfer crept down as instructed and threw his orb, lighting it at the last possible moment. As soon as we saw the brilliant light coming up the staircase, we ran downstairs with our weapons at the ready, and came face-to-face with a large group of undead, some with the flesh still rotting, others mere skeletons.

Finfer was mid-attack when I reached the bottom of the stairs, with a bleeding gash on his arm. Freja, directly in front of me, turned, waved a hand, whispered a blessing, and a soft light enveloped Temperalus, Willow, and I. I ran to the left, drew my short sword, and took the head off of a skeleton. Finfer darted for the nearby benches, running between the creatures, using his small stature to his advantage, but still managed to get cut on his shoulder. It was pure chaos; dark bolts of Temperalus’ magic, arrows from Willow and I, and bolts from Finfer’s crossbow flew in all directions, hitting and missing the undead creatures. Massive swings from Freja’s sword sent bones and bits of flesh flying. A few undead dropped, but there were so many of them to battle in a small space. The undead, wielding swords and clubs, were attacking with no rhyme nor reason, simply going after the closest one of us near them, using their numbers to their advantage. Three of the creatures spotted Finfer amongst the benches, and moved in for the attack. One of them hit him fairly hard, and it was clear he was struggling to keep conscious, while trying to defend himself. Temperalus, seeing the trouble Finfer was having, rushed over to assist. “I assume you want these creatures off you?” he asked. “If it’s not too much trouble.” Finfer replied weakly. Temperalus took the attention away long enough for Finfer to run over between me and Freja. No sooner than Finfer arrived, Willow morphed into a giant spider and bit two undead directly in front of her, severing their heads. Finfer and I took out a few others, Freja sliced one in half, and Temperalus dispatched the last of the three by the benches.

Once the chaos of the battle subsided, we took a moment to catch our breath and take a look around. There was a table at the far end of the room, with a handful of benches facing it, and a door behind it. As we looked around, Freja moved among us, assessing our wounds and healing as needed. I wandered around through the benches, but found nothing. Willow and Temperalus inspected the table, which turned out to be an altar. Covering the altar was a large tapestry that contained a phrase in a strange language, that appeared to have been written in blood. “I recognize this language.” Temperalus said. “This looks to be a prayer to Vecna. I recommend not touching anything, unless it is unavoidable.” We agreed, and proceeded through the door behind the altar, Finfer’s drift globe leading the way and casting an eerie glow into the room. It was a smaller room that contained several sarcophagi and a couple more skeletal undead. The lid on a sarcophagus was off and leaning to one side. “I don’t like this.” Freja whispered. Temperalus and I quickly removed the skeletons as another creature slowly sat up from the open sarcophagus. Covered in bandages and oozing a foul-smelling liquid, it climbed out of the sarcophagus and slowly started making its way toward us.

“I believe that would be a mummy.” Temperalus said, very matter-of-factly. “What is a mummy?” I asked. “Something very bad.” Freja said. “We need to leave. Now.” She was very insistent. Willow, still as a spider, ran past us and past the mummy, to put it between us. It tried to grab her as she went by, but it moved too slowly and she was too quick. Finfer and I split and moved to either side, boxing it in. Both of us shot. Our attacks seemed to do little damage. The mummy approached Freja and let out a low, rumbling growl. Freja dropped her sword and started shaking violently, but then was completely still, staring straight ahead with unblinking eyes. “What was THAT?!” I cried. “Kill it before it does it again.” Finfer said. Temperalus, Finfer, and I all unleashed multiple attacks simultaneously, and the mummy finally dropped to the ground.

Willow shifted back into an elf and rushed to Freja. “How is she?” I asked. “She is paralyzed. It is as if she is... scared.” Willow said. “I do not understand it.” Temperalus had been looking around, but came up behind us. “She’s cursed.” he said. “This is a problem.” Finfer had been looking around the remaining sarcophagi and the walls of the room. “The rest of these are all still sealed.” he called out. “That is good” Willow said, “I don’t want to fight another one of those.” Temperalus started pacing. “This is a problem.” he repeated. “We need to get her back to town. She will start to come around soon, but she will need to see a priest, or she will die.” Before Willow or I could respond, Finfer appeared. “I found a secret door.”

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Temple

We walked back to Mountain Home, quiet and somber, reflecting on what we had just witnessed. Since it was rather late, we went back to the Wagon Wheel and called it a night. The next morning Willow and I woke and went downstairs for breakfast, where Freja and Temperalus were already seated. Not long after we sat, Finfer joined us. After eating in silence for a bit, I asked “So where do we start? The Montrose family still needs to know about Jacob.” Willow agreed. Freja said “We could probably start there.” Marlon happened to walk by right then, so Freja caught his attention and asked him how to get to the Montrose place. He directed us, so we finished our meal and left. The Montrose house was huge and ornate, well cared, with pillars across the front, and a very elaborate door knocker. We knocked; no answer. We knocked a couple more times, but no response. “Obviously nobody is here,” Freja said, “So I am going back to the temple to check on Ali. Maybe they’ve heard something.” Temperalus and Finfer go with her, and Willow and I opt to go back to the tavern.

At the tavern, we try to talk to Marlon more, but, like before, he was less than helpful. “Do you know our brother, Woodsy, at least?” Willow asked. “Sure, I know Woodsy. Good guy. I don’t know where he is, though. Last I heard he went with a shipment somewhere, but I don’t know where. That’s Trading Company business, not Wagon Wheel business.” Since we were not having any luck with the bartender, we took our drinks to a table against the wall and listened to the random conversations around the bar. From those conversations, we learned a bit of the town’s history: Greenbriar, the town on the other side of the Copperstone Mountains, is where most of the elves live. The dwarves settled here because of the mining in the Copperstone Mountains, and the town of Mountain Hide developed later after the dwarves expressed interest in a partnership with the elves for protection in exchange for weaponry. A few elves came over the mountains to settle, and from there the town was born and grew.

Before long, Freja and Temperalus arrived at the tavern, with Finfer not long behind them. They were unable to learn anything new about Jacob, so we decided to go back to the farms. As we walked over to the farms, Willow and I filled them in on what we learned about the background of the town, just as idle conversation to help pass the time. As we approached the farms, though, we noticed that, while the bodies of the undead we had killed were still there, the bodies that were missing arms were gone, and the ground that previously looked disturbed was smooth. “Where do you suppose the bodies went? And how did they get there?” Freja asked. Willow looked around. “I do not see any tracks or marks, so they were not dragged away.” I had wandered over to the edge of the forest, looking around, when I spotted tracks heading into the woods. “Willow,” I called out. “I found tracks over here.” The others joined me, and we followed the tracks into a particularly dense part of the forest. The sound of animals running filled the air, and through the trees, running straight for us, were a group of boars.

“Willow...” I said, drawing my bow. “Boars.” Even though it had been several years since a boar killed our father, simply seeing the animals caused Willow to start trembling with rage. I released an arrow and connected with the leg of one of the smaller boars, as it reached Temperalus and attempted to bite him. Willow quickly cast a spell on him to enhance his abilities, then drew out her short bow and shot the other smaller one, nearly killing it. Cursing, she ran through the trees and drew back again, hitting it in the back, breaking its spine. The bigger of the boars charged Temperalus, knocking him down and trampling him, leaving him crumpled on the ground and in massive pain. Finfer put a crossbow bolt in the side of the big boar, causing it to scream out, blood running from the wound. Freja ran to Temperalus and healed him with divine magic, enough for him to be able to cast a spell on himself that created three Temperalus duplicates that surrounded him. The smaller boar gored one duplicate, and it vanished. Willow drew back her bow and planted an arrow between the smaller boar’s eyes, just as I released an arrow and pierced the big boar in the neck, both falling to the ground, dead.

Freja and Finfer assessed the boars. “Hey,” Finfer called out, “these boars smell like undead.” Temperalus, who was sitting with his back against a tree for support, said “Cut one open. If the meat is fine, we can eat well tonight.” Willow, still full of rage, said “The gods themselves could not force me to touch that vile thing.” She stalked off to a nearby tree and sat at the base of it, her back to us all. Everyone looked to me for answers, and I said “A boar took our father’s life and left our family crippled. Enjoy your meal; I will have none of it.” I went to retrieve Willow, and we slipped into the forest to forage.

When we returned, they had finished their meals and were ready to continue down our original path. Nobody said anything about the fight with the boars or the reactions from my sister and I, and we followed the tracks for a few more hours, mostly in silence, save minor conversations about which direction the tracks were taking us. When it became too dark to see much of anything, we made camp and took our usual watch shifts. I climbed a nearby tree and tied myself in its branches, with Willow at the base of my tree.

I was woken by the sound of Finfer’s urgent whispers, trying to rouse Willow. In my half-asleep state, could make out “Willow” and “wolves” and Freja coming from the other side of camp to see what was going on. As I was trying to process what was going on, Willow let out a blood-curdling scream. I quickly untied myself and looked down to see a large wolf clamped down on her leg. Freja immediately conjured a spell that cast a sort of fiery substance at the wolf, causing it to be a bit disoriented. It released WIllow, who quickly scooted as far away from the wolf as she could. A dire wolf jumped out of the shrubbery and over Finfer, knocking him down, razor-sharp teeth grazing his arm. Finfer jumped up and backed up, shooting his crossbow. He missed the dire wolf but managed to hit the one that had bit Willow, with a lucky shot that killed it. A third wolf appeared behind Finfer, bit him on the neck, and Finfer fell to the ground, unconscious and bleeding. Temperalus launched magic at the third wolf at the same time Willow released an arrow, both finding their marks and killing it. All that remained was the dire wolf, who was pacing back and forth, blocking us from a dying Finfer. Freja rushed forward and took a mighty swing, but the dire wolf easily shifted away, turned, and bit her arm, throwing her to the ground. Temperalus placed his fingers to his temples and started whispering strange incantations. Suddenly the dire wolf started yelping and turned and ran in the opposite direction. I jumped down from my spot in the tree, followed it, and killed it.

When I returned, Freja was tending to Finfer, doing her best to heal him enough to where he could drink a healing potion and rest. I helped Temperalus move the bodies of the dead wolves deep in to the forest, while Willow worked on tending to her own wounds. Freja and Temperalus offered to keep watch so that Finfer and Willow could rest more, so Willow and I climbed two trees clustered together, with Finfer sleeping at the base. After a few more hours of rest, we were woken by Temperalus to take our shift, and the remainder of the night passed with no further issues.

The next morning, once everyone had woken and eaten, we packed up our camp and picked up the trail once more. The tracks led us to a small clearing in the trees, which contained an old temple that was overrun by forest. About 200 yards away from the church, the tracks stopped abruptly, and there were signs of burrowing in the ground, much like we saw at the farms outside of Mountain Hide. “What do you suppose that is?” Willow asked. “It looks deserted.” I replied. Freja cast her hands out in front of her and closed her eyes, opening them a moment later and shaking her head. “I sense nothing,” she said. “No undead, no evil, just... nothing.” I closed my eyes and listened to my surroundings. “Willow,” I said. “There are no birds.” She was quiet a moment, listening hard. “I hear nothing. No movement, no noises, nothing. Do you suppose it has to do with this place?” I looked around us and considered for a moment. “Well,” I said, taking a step forward, “We could always go take a look. I could sneak up there.” Willow put a hand on my arm and said “Not alone, you’re not.” Finfer stepped up next to Willow. “I’ll go with her.” he offered. “We’ll be alright.”

Slowly and quietly, we made our way to the building. He motioned he was going to the right, so I went left. I saw nothing except a deserted building, overrun by vines and cobwebs. We met back up with the rest of the group and reported what little we saw. “How about we go try the door?” Willow said. “It is worth a try.” As the five of us cautiously approached the door, Finfer and Willow looked around to see if they could spot any traps or anything surrounding it that might prohibit one from getting too close. Once they were satisfied all was well, Freja gripped the handle and gave a good, solid pull. The door did not budge. She tried again; nothing happened. “Are you sure it’s not locked or anything, Finfer?” She asked. Finfer looked again. “I’m certain. There are no switches or levers or anything. There isn’t even a keyhole on the door. Maybe it’s just stuck.” Willow stepped up and said “How about we try together? If we can combine our strength, maybe it will be enough to unstick the door.” Freja and Willow each positioned themselves to get a solid grip on the door handle and gave a strong pull. The door creaked open a few feet and a swarm of bats flew out, startling us, and flew away. Moments later, the ground bulged up in front of us and several giant beetles broke through next to Freja and started crawling up her body. She shrieked and started trying to stab and step on them. Once we had disposed of the beetles and all was again quiet, we pulled the door open the rest of the way and entered the deserted compound.

The inside of the building was very temple-like, with high, arched ceiling, rows of dilapidated and broken pews, and a thick layer of dust all over everything. Near the entrance stood a large brass bowl on a pedestal with a rust line on the inside, as if it had contained water at some point. Near the back of the building was a large, wooden altar. There appeared to be no stairs and no other doors, aside from the one we used to enter. The room was covered with symbols painted all around the interior; depictions bats, partial skulls, and mouths with a split tongues, among others, all over the interior of this temple. I was fascinated by this, as I had never seen anything like it before. “What do they all mean?” I asked, completely in awe. The paintings were haphazard, as if there were no rhyme nor reason to their placement. Temperalus said “These are the symbols of evil gods and deities. The half-skull, I recognize that. It is the symbol of Vecna, the god of evil secrets and undead. The one there that looks like bear’s teeth about to bite? That is Beltar, the goddess of malice. I’m afraid I don’t know several of these others, other than that they are evil.” Freja suddenly shivered, as if winter’s wind passed through her. “This is a bad place. I do not like this, one bit. We need to leave.” Temperalus said “Look here. This symbol, it isn’t a deity. I have seen it somewhere before.” Willow went to his side to see where he was pointing, and immediately recognized it. “The man we captured in the cabin. He had this tattooed on his arm.” She paused for a moment, and looked around the room. “This place is is shaped like a skull.” she said. Temperalus, looking around, said “You’re correct. I believe we need to learn this building’s secrets.”

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Farmlands and an Oath

“Ok, so if we are going to the farmlands, and not meeting Dakus, he should know.” Finfer said. “It’s after first light; they’ve likely already left. I highly doubt they waited for us.” Temporalis nodded. “I don’t want to risk one of us going to catch up to tell him.” Willow thought for a moment. “I have an idea,” she said, and left the tavern, with the rest of us following after her. She went to a patch of grass near the tavern, sat on her knees, and began chanting in a low, sing-songy voice. Not long after, a raven landed on the ground in front of her. Willow called out over her shoulder. “What would you like to tell Dakus?” Temporalis stared for a moment, then said “We regret to inform you that we will be unable to assist in your efforts to clear the towers, as the farmlands have become more vital to our cause. May the gods be with you.” The raven bobbed its head and squawked. Willow said “Describe him.” Temporalis said “Half elf, male, tall, fit, shaved head, red cloak, leader of an army.” The raven bobbed its head, squawked again, and took flight. Willow said “He will deliver our message.” She rose. Temporalis said “Well, all that’s left is for us to head to the farmlands.”

The farmlands were located to the south of Mountain Hide, across a stream. It did not take us long to reach by foot. When we reached the outskirts of the farms, we could easily see the destruction and remains of what once appeared to be beautiful lands. The ground contained huge, crumbling pits that looked as if beings had crawled out of them. Cautiously, we proceeded, with sharp ears and eyes. Before long, we could see a farmhouse in the distance, with bodies littering the ground all around. Suddenly Temporalis pointed and said “Look!” We all looked up to see bodies rambling toward us, with no rhyme nor reason for their movements, Jerky steps, arms outreached, some dragging a leg or missing an arm. Finfer called out “What are they?!” He notched a crossbow bolt and fired, but missed. Willow and Temporalis managed to hit a couple others, but they did not seem fazed by the impact or damaged hardly at all. One reached me and tried to grab me, but I moved away and stabbed it with my short sword, but there was no effect.

“Freija!” I called out. “What are these things?” Freija held out a hand and a brilliant, bright light shot from her fingertips, disintegrating a creature in front of her. “Undead!” she cried. “How do we kill them? I asked. Hard hits, many of them! Most effectively to the head!” After hearing this, I ran back behind Freija and start firing arrows, as did Willow and Finfer. I managed to shoot one in the forehead, and Finfer took the head off another with a crossbow bolt. Freija took care of the rest with more of her brilliant, bright, divine light. “Are they all gone? Is anyone hurt?” Answers of “No” and “I’m fine” echoed through our group. Temporalis gestured toward the farmhouse. “We should check that place out.” he said. “Yes,” Freija said, “But this barn is closer.” She approached the barn slowly and cracked the door a bit. “There is something in here, some sort of spirit. Should we try to talk to it?” Freija whispered. “No,” Temporalis said. “We should kill it, before it kill us.”

Freija yanked the door open and ran in, toward the spirit, and sliced her sword. Her sword passed right through the spirit, not appearing to do any damage. I was right behind her and shot an arrow at the spirit; again, nothing. Out of nowhere, another spirit appeared directly behind me and grabbed my arm. I felt a horrible burning sensation starting where it touched me and shooting up my shoulder. Finfer appeared in the barn doorway and shot the one on me with a crossbow bolt, causing it to let go of me, but still doing very little to no damage. Nearby, Temporalis had just released dark magic on the first spirit, causing the it to drift back a bit, disorienting it. Seeing the results of his attack, Temporalis said “Bring them all to me, and move out of the way!” Gladly taking his advice, I ran out of the barn, straight to Willow, who was ready and waiting to heal my arm where the spirit had grabbed me. Finfer and Freija moved over next to Temporalis, the spirits following. Once Willow healed my arm, I moved up to the doorway near Finfer and started firing arrows at the spirits. Willow moved up to join us and tried to poison one, but as it turns out, they were immune to poison, so her effort was in vain. Temporalis’ dark magic hurt them enough for our weapons to have an effect, and before long they both released a loud screeching noise and evaporated.

Once the spirits were gone and we were confident they were not coming back, we took a look around the barn. It was nothing out of the ordinary: an old, weather-worn barn filled with hay, farming tools, bridles, feed, water bins, all the normal things one would find in a barn on a farm. As we exited the barn, Willow said “Oh, I meant to show you all something.” She took us to one of the bodies on the ground and pointed. “His left arm is missing, from below the elbow. As is hers, hers, and his.” She said, pointing at various bodies on the ground. “They are all the same; all missing their left arm.” Before anyone could comment, Freija said “Did you hear that?” We all stood and listened, but none of us could hear much of anything. “What do you hear?” I asked. “Some sort of sound, a ruckus, coming from the south, near that house.” Finfer said “I could sneak up and take a look.” The others nodded. I said “I’ll go with you.” As we approached the house, we encountered the most horrible stench that permeated the air and seemed to soak into our skin and clothing. Finfer quietly located a large stone and placed it under the window, so he could peer in. I peered in the other side. We saw a destroyed house, a couple of bodies and body parts lying around, and an undead creature hunched over, eating something. As it moved, I unfortunately noticed that it was eating the remains of a small child.

Finfer and I moved quietly to the door. The horrid stench became stronger the closer to the door we went. Ever so slightly, Finfer opened the door to peer in, only to find an undead creature sitting there, staring at the door. As soon as it spotted us, it growled, getting the attention of the one in the other room. Finfer yelled out “Come up here, quick!” to the rest of group and opened the door a little wider to take a shot. I backed up a bit and fired an arrow at the undead behind the door, lodging it in his shoulder. Freija came up and asked “What’s going on?” I replied “Undead!” Freija ran past me and up to the door next to Finfer, getting there just in time to use her shield to prevent the undead trying to grab Finfer. She called down a column of bright divine light, disintegrating the undead creature. By now the other from the room was in sight so Willow, having come up with Freija and Temporalis, fired an arrow at it, lodging it in its chest. Finfer ran inside the house and shot the undead creature with his crossbow as he ran by. I ran in behind him, and was raked across the shoulder by the undead’s claws as I ran by. I turned and shot as well, but I missed.

I noticed the male body on the ground next to me, while missing his left arm, actually was alive, and I yelled out in Elvish “Sina er naa kuila!” (This one is alive!) Temporalis responded, also in Elvish, “Sana malia en' sina er yeste'!” (Take care of the undead one first!) and cast dark magic at it. Freija ran to me and healed me where I was scratched. When she was done, she glanced down at the body that was still alive and screamed. “ALI!!” and fell to the ground. “Freija!” I said. “We have to kill this one first!” She didn’t hear me, as she was so overcome by grief at having found her friend and mentor maimed and near death. I stood up, took aim, and shot it in the eye socket, causing it to crumple.

Temporalis entered the house and looked around, Finfer with him. Willow rushed in and stabilized Ali, while I did my best to console a frantic Freija. Not long after Willow started, Ali woke up, and with Willow’s help, was able to sit up. Dizzy and disoriented, Ali sat there a bit drinking out of Willow’s water skin while she continued to work her healing magic on him. He looked at Willow, then me, then a tearful Freija. ”Freija?” he asked, puzzled. “What are you doing here?” Freija found her voice “I came to find you.” she said, in a barely audible whisper. “I heard you were here, and you hadn’t come back, and I had to make sure you weren’t.. that you were ok.” Ali took her hand and nodded. He looked around. “Where’s Jacob?” he asked. Startled by the question, I said “Jacob? Jacob Montrose?” Ali nodded. “He is back in Mountain Hide, is he not?” Ali shook his head. “No, he was here, with me.” Temporalis and Finfer checked the remaining bodies in the house, and confirmed none of them were Jacob. Temporalis asked “Do you know why the arms of all these people are missing?” Ali said “No.” He put his arms down to get up, and toppled to the left. Startled, he lifted his left arm, only to discover that it, too, was missing from below the elbow.

Ali, shaking, told us his story. “Vance sent me here, to find out what was going on. Jacob was insistent on coming along, saying something to the effect of having witnessed great feats of heroism and wanted to do his part to help people, too. I didn’t like it, but he was so eager that I couldn’t say no. We came up on this field, and saw the bodies, heard screaming, and came straight for the house. We tried, but couldn’t save the family. I--they--whoever did this, they must have taken my arm while I was unconscious.” Freija stood and helped him up, letting him lean on her. “We need to get you back, Ali. You need to rest.” Temporalis came up to the other side of Ali and helped carry his weight. “Did you visit any other farms?” he asked, as we made our way back to the fields. As we went, Willow, Finfer, and I checked all other bodies for survivors, and to see if any were Jacob. None were, but each was missing its left arm. “Yes,” Ali said. “All farms to the east are destroyed, like this one. I don’t know why the arms are being taken.” Temporalis thought for a moment. “The sign of Vecna is a hand with an eye in it. All left hands are missing. We may have a cult on our hands.”

Changing the conversation topic, Temporalis asked Ali “How well do you know the High Reave, and how much do you trust him?” Ali seemed surprised by the question, but did not hesitate in his answer. “Vance changed after the war. He lost more than just his eye. There is no man in this world that I trust more.” Freija quickly spoke up. “If Ali trusts him, I trust him.” Willow asked “My sister and I are looking for our brother, who works for the trading company. His name is Woodsy. Do you know him?” Ali thought for a moment. “No, I’m afraid I don’t.” He turned to Freija. “It’s interesting to learn you have friends who know what it’s like to lose family.” Freija smiled. “It’s nice to have friends.”

By this point, we were just outside of Mountain Hide. Ali said “Vance needs to know what is happening here. I need to see him right away” Freija said “I will go with you, but Jacob’s parents also need to know their son is missing.” Finfer said “Jacob’s parents also might be willing pay a reward to those who find him.” Temporalis thought for a moment, and said “I don’t think we should visit the Montrose’s, just yet. Ali is correct, the High Reave needs to know what’s going on.” As we made our way into town, we noticed the townsfolk acting strange. But, then again, we were walking through town, smelling like rotting corpses, with a man who was missing but is now returned, and is missing an arm. As we passed by people, they ran and hid, or ran toward the High Reave’s office, calling out to him. Freija mentions “Ali, we probably should take to you to see Minister Urum. The High Reave is aware we are back, or will be shortly. The townsfolk will let him know we are here.” Ali agreed, so we escorted him to the temple.

The temple was a larger building, with stone pillars out front, but otherwise little to no decoration. Inside, there were no holy symbols carved into walls, or ceilings, or on display anywhere. Rows of benches led to a podium, with water basins on either side of the podium. From a door behind the podium, Minister Urum emerged, saw us with Ali, and called back for more help. He ran up to us and Freija quickly filled him in on the events that led up to us finding Ali. Mid-story, Vance arrived and asked what happened, so Freija recounted the story again. While Freija is talking to Vance, Finfer said he needed to see Obman, so he left. Freija wanted to stay at the temple with Ali, and Temporalis headed to the militia house to see about sending a note to Dakus about recent Mountain Hide news. Willow and I decided to head to the tavern to speak to the bartender and eavesdrop on patrons, to get a feel for the mood around town.

The tavern was empty, save the bartender. Willow and I went in and took a seat at the bar. “What’ll it be, ladies?” the bartender asked. “Ale.” We both responded. As he poured our drinks, Willow asked “What has been going on lately?” The bartender looked at her and said “You tell me.” I said “Nobody has seen Jacob in a while. Have you heard anything from the townsfolk? Rumors, gossip, speculation as to where he might have gone?” The bartender said “Jacob leaves all the time. Often times for months on end. If people are worried about him nobody has said anything about it.” After a bit of a pause, Willow said “It’s quiet in here.” The bartender said “Yup. Gets that way sometimes. Can I get you anything else?” We shook our heads, and finished our drinks in silence, mildly frustrated that we were unable to learn anything and annoyed with the bartender for his standoffish attitude.

We paid for our drinks and left, and saw Vance, Ali, Freija, and Temporalis walking down the road. We caught up with them. Freija was in the midst of telling them about the prisoner we questioned in the cabin, and how they believe the southern region of Evershard Isle has been taken over by Vecna, and how they feel it is their sacred duty to Pelor to rid the world of Vecna and his followers. “All the bodies we found were missing their left arms, right at the elbow, like Ali.” Freija said. “Do you think anyone in Mountain Hide’s leadership could be involved in any of this?” she asked. Vance thought for a moment. “Not in Mountain Hide. I know our leaders very well. I trust any of them with my life, and have on more than one occasion. Also, this business with Jacob missing throws another wrench into the machine.” Ali nodded his agreement.

Freija then asked “What’s the story behind the dwarves? What’s their part of Mountain Hide?” Vance said “The dwarves pretty much keep to themselves. They are the solid rock upon which Mountain Hide was built. Our relationship with the dwarves is symbiotic - they provide us metals and weapons, and we provide them protection. I am not originally from Mountain Hide; I am from Northlake.” Ali said “Vance came here after the Jotun wars, to get away. He was very well received, and was voted in unanimously by the people of Mountain Hide to be the High Reave.” Finfer asked “So, what do we do now?” Vance said “I want the undead issue solved. I would like to send you south, to figure out where they are coming from.” Temporalis and Ali both agreed. “If Ali says we go south, then I vote we go south.” Freija declared. “I think we should find Jacob.” I said. Ali said “Before anything else, though, I need to see you, Freija, about a personal matter.” Vance bowed to us, and departed back to his home.

“Eloni, Willow, Temporalis, would you join us?” Ali asked, and led us into the Hidden Forest. Once we were out of sight of the town, Ali turned to Willow. “Willow, would you be able to locate a sacred tree or druidic location?” Willow agreed, and disappeared. A few moments later, she reappeared and asked us to follow her. She led us to a giant willow tree with leaf-covered limbs that hung down over the base of the tree. When she parted the branches, we entered into a lush, green canopy of leaves, intertwined limbs and twinkling fireflies. The area was glowing with sacred, divine magic that enveloped us in warmth. Ali indicated that Willow, Temporalis, and I should stand near the wall, and asked Freija to kneel in the center of the canopy. He pulled his longsword from its sheath and laid it on the ground in front of Freija. “Freija. Where an ordinary Paladin protects the destitute, Ehlonna’s Chosen protects the living. Where an ordinary Paladin seeks out enemies of his faith, Ehlonna’s Chosen seeks out that which perverts life.

“For centuries, Ehlonna has chosen champions for her cause: those willing to protect life and harmony of the natural world, those willing to restore and preserve this harmony without resorting to violence, but finally those who, when facing the threat of unnatural creations that seek to twist or destroy life, will not hesitate to strike them down. Those champions are called Ehlonna’s Chosen. In the service of Ehlonna, her champions must abide by the following code of conduct.” Ali paused. “Freija. Do you swear to always respect life and preserve harmony?” Freija nodded. “Do you swear to let your acts be guided by honor and conscience?” Freija nodded. “Do you swear to be without mercy to those who would destroy, twist, and pervert life?” Freija nodded. The fireflies began flying in a slow circle around the tree’s canopy.

“Repeat after me: I vow to Kindle the Light, through acts of mercy, kindness, and forgiveness. I vow to kindle the light of hope in the world, beating back despair. I swear to Shelter the Light, by standing against the wickedness that would swallow the good, beauty, love, and laughter in the world. Where life flourishes, I will stand against the forces that would render it barren. I promise to Preserve My Own Light, for if the light dies in my own heart, I cannot preserve it in the world. From this day forward, I will Be the Light. I will be a glorious beacon for all who live in despair.” Eagerly and tearfully, Freija repeated the words of the oath. With each segment she repeated, the fireflies flew a bit faster and grew brighter, their lights pulsing, as if we were witnessing the heartbeat of Ehlonna herself.

Ali picked up the sword and held it out in front of him, parallel with the ground. “Rise, Freija Galiakiir, In the name of Ehlonna, I declare you Ehlonna’s Chosen.” Suddenly, every firefly in the canopy of the trees shone bright, and floated toward Ali and Freija, spinning faster and faster as they spun a web of light around them. The longsword in Ali’s hand floated, and the web of light was sucked into the blade. There was a brilliant flash. Once our eyes regained focus, we saw the longsword, still floating mid-air, its blade shining bright silver with green beveled accents, its handle a unicorn horn, and thorns for its hilt. Ali took the sword and presented it to Freija. “Take this, my child, the Longsword of Ehlonna. Go forth, Paladin, and remember your vows.”

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The High Reave

Using the same watch shifts as before, we stayed in the camp all night with no issues. The next morning, we packed up and started the trip back to Mountain Hide. It was mid-afternoon when we arrived at the city gates. The guards seemed a bit surprised to see us, but happy nonetheless. “Hello!” one said. “You look like you could use some rest!” Temporalis said “We made some interesting discoveries, and would like to find Obman as soon as possible. Would you mind letting us through? Time is of the essence.” The guard motioned to open the gates. “Go right on in!” Once in the city, we headed to the Wagon Wheel, but Obman was nowhere to be found. Temporalis spoke to the bartender. “Has Obman been here today?” The bartender nodded. “Yup, he stopped by for breakfast, as usual.” Temporalis asked “Do you know where we might find him?” The bartender replied “Ain’t my day to watch him, but you might check with the High Reave’s office. I hear he’s been spending quite some time there lately.” Willow walked up next to Temporalis. “Who is the High Reave, and where might we find his office?” The bartender looked at Willow as if she had feet on her head. “The High Reave? Vance? Largest building at the top of the hill.” Temporalis said “Thank you for your time.” He turned to us. “Well,” Temporalis said. “Up the hill we go.”

As we walked up the hill, Temporalis asked “How much do we want to divulge? I mean, you heard what that kid said, about there being evil here. Do we really want to trust Obman with this information?” Finfer said “I say we tell him about the note, maybe the towers, but that’s about it. No Pelor, no Vecna... at least, not yet.” Temporalis agreed. “Indeed. Let’s see where their loyalties lie before we hand them everything.” Upon reaching the High Reave’s house, we were met by impeccably dressed guards with polished weapons. “Halt. What business have you here?” Temporalis spoke up. “We are here to see Obman. We have news regarding his caravan attacks.” The guards eyed us, then looked at one another. “Follow me.” As we reached the building, the door flew open and Obman rushed out, grabbed each of our hands in turn, and shook them enthusiastically. “Welcome, welcome! Please, come in! Would you like a drink, something to eat perhaps? Do you bring news?” As we settled in, Temporalis began recounting the story of the goblins, orcs, the cabin, the prisoner, and the tents. Temporalis showed him the note about the towers. “We believe these mean the towers to the west of Medietas. Freija spotted them on our journey here.” Obman nodded his agreement. “Those towers are manned by Mountain Hide and Windy Coast. They are there for protective purposes, and to offer a safe resting place for travelers. If they are captured, then that does not bode well for Medietas, and ultimately, Mountain Hide. Commander Dakus will need to see this at once.” Temporalis asked “Have you, by chance, had any issues with those to the north of Mountain Hide?” Obman considered the question for a moment. “No... no, I don’t think we’ve had any issues recently. In fact, I’d say it’s been--”

“It has been about 150 years since we have had issues with anyone to the north.” A deep, powerful voice interrupted Obman. We turned and saw a human man, middle-aged, with a leather patch over his left eye, and a scarred face, at the top of the stairs. It was obvious this man had seen his fair share of battle. “All,” Obman said, as he descended the stairs. “This is Vance Dolas, High Reave of Mountain Hide, and decorated war hero.” Vance strode over to Obman and took the note. “You said something of a prisoner, before.” he said. Temporalis nodded. “So where is he?” Temporalis cleared his throat. “Excuse me?” he asked. “Your prisoner,” Vance stated, matter-of-factly. “Where is he?” Temporalis looked to each of us. “Well,” he said. “We let him go.” Vance turned his gaze to Temporalis. “I see.” he said. “You capture a prisoner, kill his compadres, and bring me a note. No prisoner to question; in fact, you let him go. How are we to believe what you say is true?” Obman rushed up. “I can vouch for them, High Reave. You have my word as a businessman and friend. They are honest people.” Vance eyed us carefully. “That remains to be seen.”

The High Reave turned his attention back to the note. “I am afraid I do not know the name Durgash.” Temporalis spoke up. “The name sounds orcish.” he said. Vance agreed. “We need to get this to Dakus at once. This information regarding the towers needs to be verified.” He turned to an aide nearby, spoke quietly, and the aide scurried off. “Now,” Vance said, turning back to us, “What are you going to do about our undead problem?” Finfer said “I’m sorry, the what?” Vance looked at him with piercing eyes. “There are undead rising from the ground and attacking our farms. Our volunteer has not returned. I need you to assist.” Freija, who had been sitting in the corner, listening, said “Tell me more about this undead problem, and your volunteer.” Vance said, “Like I said earlier, there are undead rising from the ground near our farms. It is prohibiting our ability to grow food. Ali went down to assist, but he has not returned.”

Freija stood suddenly, nearly causing a table to fall. “Ali?” she asked, frantic. “Ali Ryuunoske?” Vance seemed confused. “Yes... how do you know Ali?” She rushed to the door. “I must go. I must find Ali. I must help him.” Temporalis ran to block her. “Freija, if you go there, you will die.” Freija turned, tears in her eyes. “It doesn’t matter. I have to try. Ali is my priority now.” She left. Obman called out to her, but she was gone. Vance looked as dumbfounded as the rest of us. “Wait here,” Temporalis said, and ran out. We heard muffled yelling from the road outside, and a few minutes later Temporalis came in with Freija right behind him, visibly upset. “Now,” Temporalis said. “We need a plan.”

Vance spoke up. “Your friend is correct. Rushing off like that will get us nowhere, fast. We have two matters at hand. The first is the towers and the threat of orcs and goblins. I am very confident in Dakus’ abilities in this matter, as that is his job and he does his job well. The other is the undead issue in the farms. Ali went to assist, and has not returned. He usually checks in by now. It is obvious to me that you want to go there, and I am not saying you cannot, but you have to be smart about this, or it could very well be you we are going after.” Freija nodded. The aide from before appeared in the doorway, with Dakus immediately following. Dakus saluted. “You sent for me, sir?” Vance handed him the note. “We have received word of issues at the towers. You are to investigate and eradicate the threat.” Dakus saluted again. “At once, sir.”

Temporalis caught the Commander before he left. “Commander, a word, please.” Dakus paused. Temporalis continued. “You are aware of our group’s capabilities, and I have a great need to go west. I propose we travel with you, and assist you.” Freija stepped up. “Now, wait just a moment. I have no intention of going to the towers. My priorities lie with Ali. It is imperative that I find him.” Obman speaks up. “I’m with you, Temporalis. Those towers could hold to the key to my caravan attacks. I think you should go.” Dakus simply said “No.”

The authority and finality in Dakus’ response caused everyone to quiet down. Temporalis paused for a moment. “Care to elaborate on that?” Dakus looked at him. “No, you are not coming with me.” Temporalis said “You’ve seen our capabilities. We can be a great asset to you.” Dakus sighed. “What I see, is a ragtag group of people who had a few minor skirmishes and got lucky. Most of you have nearly died multiple times in these little fights. My men are seasoned, hardened by battle. This is their life. This is what they do. Orcs and goblins are no issue. You would just be in the way. So, no.” Freija started talking about her need to go find Ali, while Temporalis and Dakus continued their argument about the towers. Vance cleared his throat. “Halfling” he said in a loud, commanding voice, causing everyone else to fall silent. “What do you think?” Finfer looked around at all the eyes on him. “We were hired to ensure the safety of the caravans. We haven’t done that yet. We need to finish what we started.” Freija said “I am going nowhere until I see Ali.” Dakus said “I don’t care what you do or where you go, but you are not coming with me.” The arguments started up again, so Willow & I looked at one another, and walked out.

As soon as we exited the house, we stood there in the quiet. The raised, muffled voices continued inside. Willow looked at me. “Tavern?” she asked. “Tavern.” I said, and we made our way down the hill, quiet, lost in our own thoughts. A few minutes later, we heard footsteps behind us. I turned and saw Freija approaching. “I am sorry about that,” she said. “I just never thought I would see Ali again, and now I find out he is here, and possibly in trouble, and I feel I must do everything I can to help.” Willow asked “Who is Ali?” Freija, in quiet voice, said “My mentor.” and left it at that. We continued our walk to the tavern in silence. We reached the tavern, ordered dinner, and found a table in a corner. Just as we were about to eat, Temporalis showed up. “We need to talk,” he said, looking around, “But not here.” Freija offered her room, so we gathered our food and drinks and went upstairs.

Temporalis looked each of us in the eye. “Please, hear me out, before you say anything.” he said. We all nodded. “You know I want to go to the towers. But Dakus will not have us along. I would like to propose a plan.” Before he went further, I said “Finfer be here, too, should he not?” Temporalis said “He had an errand to run. He will be along shortly. He & I have already spoken of this.” I nodded, so he continued. “I propose that we offer to be Dakus’ scouts. We can scout ahead and report back what we see. That way we can still see what’s out there, and see if it is worth going after. Then, if not, we can come back and investigate the farmlands.” Freija considered this. “I have been doing some thinking, as well. I feel I owe you an explanation. Ali is who made me what I am, today. Ali brought me out of the Underdark and showed me the path of Ehlonna. Ali guided me in my spiritual journey. He is a devout paladin of Ehlonna. He was Schevalyeh for Lord Lagin, of Northlake, but had a vision sent to him by Ehlonna, so he abandoned his role as Schevalyeh and began his spiritual journey. On that journey, he found me, and he saved me. I owe him my life. However, I am not strong enough to do this alone. I am still learning who I am, and what I am capable of. I now know that if I were to rush in to save him, it would be an insult of his teachings. So I will go with you.” Temporalis looked at Willow & I. Willow said “My concern is Woodsy. He is why I am here. He is not here, but will be back. Until then, I will help where needed.” I echoed her sentiment. “Good,” Temporalis said. “It is decided. We will go see Dakus immediately.”

As we left the tavern, we ran into Finfer. “Did you convince them?” he asked Temporalis. “Yes, sort of. They more or less came to the same conclusions, themselves.” Temporalis replied. “We are on our way to the militia house now.” Finfer fell in with us, and we all walked silently, lost in our own thoughts. As we approached the militia house, it was bustling with activity. Temporalis spotted Dakus, and called him over. He explained our offer, and Dakus sighed. “Fine. But you report to me. You do as I tell you, when I tell you, unconditionally. I have the same requirements for all of my men. Understood?” We looked at one another, and nodded our agreement. “We leave at first light. You are expected to be here, ready to depart, at that time.” Temporalis agreed, so we went back to the tavern to get sleep.

I woke, and woke Willow. We dressed and went downstairs for breakfast, to find Temporalis and Freija already up. Temporalis was immersed in sketching something in his notebook. As we approached, he held up his drawing, which portrayed a torn skull being held up by a hand with an eye in the palm. Finfer came up behind us. “I recognize that,” he said. “Well, part of it, at least. Isn’t the hand similar to Vecna’s symbol?” Temporalis nodded. “I had a dream last night,” he said. “But my dreams are much more than dreams. They are visions. They are communication from other realms. This is what I saw in my dream. This is a sign. We must go south, to the farmlands. The end times are near.”

Sunday, February 15, 2015


Temporalis had taken quite a bit of damage during the battle. He managed to make his way to a table, upended it, and laid down behind it, doing his best to stay conscious. Freija found him and worked at healing his wounds enough to get him back on his feet. With all dead but one, and the one unconscious, we took the opportunity to look around the room a bit. The place was rather cleaned out, with just a bit of money left and an item in a satchel that Finfer recognized as a drift globe. He took it back to the barracks to inspect. I gave Freija some hempen rope from my backpack, and she tied our prisoner to one of the barrack beds. Not long after, he started to wake up, confused as to where he was and why he was tied up. Temporalis approached him and stood there for a moment, not saying anything. Eventually, he said “So, talk.” The prisoner glared at Temporalis and said “I have nothing to say to you.” Temporalis said “I’ll give you two silver if you talk.” The man laughed. “Two silver? Really?” Temporalis backed up a bit, waited a moment, then promptly walked up to the man, pulled a knife, and cut off the index finger on his left hand. The man screamed, blood running down his hand and dripping on the wooden floor. “WHAT THE HELL?! WHY DID YOU DO THAT? ARE YOU INSANE?” he yelled “Crazy half elf bastard!” Before Temporalis could respond, Freija grabs his arm. “May I speak with you for a moment?” Without waiting for Temporalis to respond, she drug him by his arm to the nearby tables and plopped him down. “Was that really necessary?” she asked, arms folded, staring him down. “Do you think that maybe, just maybe, you could have given another one of us a chance to talk to him before you started removing body parts?” Temporalis shrugged. “It seemed like the appropriate thing to do. He wouldn’t take a bribe, so I thought maybe pain would help loosen his tongue.” Freija just shook her head and stalked away, muttering something about being intolerant of such blatant disregard for others.

She approached the prisoner, slowly. “Look,” the man said, before Freija could say or do anything, trying to scoot as far from her as he could, being tied up. “I know I’m not getting out of here alive, so I’m not telling you lot a bloody thing.” Freija held her hands up, palms open, and said “We just want to ask you some questions.” The man stared at her, incredulous. “Then ASK. All you’ve done so far is CUT OFF MY BLOODY FINGER. Nobody has asked a single question!” Temporalis, who had walked up behind Freija, said “We just want to know your name.” Finfer, back in the corner, tinkering with the drift globe, chuckled softly and shook his head. Freija, glaring at Temporalis, asked “What’s with the barracks?” The man stared defiantly at her, mouth closed. It was obvious he wasn’t going to talk to her. Freija eyed him. “Do you know what I am?” she asked. “Yes,” he said. “Your kind are what I’m hunting.” Confused, Willow spoke up. “What does that mean? Are you responsible for all the killing and robbing that has happened?” The man held his head high. “I am a direct descendant of Pelor. I am here, because it is my sacred duty to rid the world of Vecna’s evil.” he said, glaring at Freija. Temporalis let out a low whistle. “Well,” he said. “I certainly wasn’t expecting that.”

“I have heard of Pelor,” I said, “but who is Vecna?” Temporalis said “In short, Vecna is the god of evil secrets. His symbol depicts a hand with an eye in its palm.” Freija turned to the prisoner. “So, are we to understand that you believe Pelor approves of you murdering people?” The man answered “Of course, if those people go against Pelor, they deserve to die.” Temporalis suddenly groaned and said “Oh, my. Oh no. I believe there has been a large misunderstanding. I’ll be honest, I feel absolutely terrible about cutting off your finger.” He turned to Willow. “Do you think you could help me reattach it?” Willow rolled her eyes and sighed. “I will see what I can do.” While working on his maimed hand, Willow asked the prisoner “Were all your companions here descendants or otherwise in alignment with Pelor, as well?” The man didn’t respond. Temporalis said “If you cooperate with us, you will leave here alive, you have my word.” The man looked at him. “And I’m just supposed to take the word of a mad man who cuts fingers off people just because he feels like it?” Willow glared at Temporalis and said “I promise, he will not hurt you again.” The man looked at Willow, Freija, and Temporalis, and said “Fine. You want to know what’s in those tents? Your death, that’s what. Guards, dogs, officers, you name it. It’s there. Go on, check it out. You won’t come out.”

“You are lying.” I said. “You do not know what is in there.” He shrugged. “Maybe I am. But the evil in this land will be eradicated, Vecna will see to that.” he said. I asked “So what about the people in the caravans? Were you and your men behind those attacks, as well?” The man said “Those caravans were attacked because Pelor dictated it.” A brief silence followed, as we each considered the information we have learned. Temporalis said “My name is Temporalis. Have you ever heard that name before?” The prisoner said “Once. In a song. A long time ago. What does this have to do with anything?” Temporalis shrugged. Finfer, from the corner, piped up. “Who’s in charge around here? Who runs the camp?” The prisoner said “Immetis.” I asked “Where might we find this Immetis?” The prisoner indicated with his head “Up in the main tent, with his guards.” Freija said “Thank you, you’ve been most helpful.” and tightened his ropes against the bunk. Suddenly, the man started squirming and screaming. “HELP!” he yelled. “I’M BOUND IN HERE! THERE ARE FIVE OF THEM! ONE IS A BLOODY LUNATIC!” Freija quickly tore some fabric off her tunic, stuffed it in his mouth, and knocked him out again.

Once the prisoner was again unconscious and securely tied, we made our way to the cabin doors. Finfer, closest to the door, abruptly slid over out of sight and motioned we do the same. “What is it?” I asked, crouched down next to Temporalis. Freija, being up by the door with Finfer, peered out the door. “Wargs,” she reported. “Four of them. They seem to be... eating something. I don’t think they’ve seen us. What do you want to do?” Freija turned to us, whispering. “I don’t really want to face four of them.” I nodded my agreement. “I think it would be best to wait and see what they do. They may move on.” The others agreed, so we waited and watched. After a bit, one stopped eating and caught a scent in the air. It moved toward the cabin, watching for movement. Freija and Finfer plastered themselves against the walls just inside the door, seeming to hold their breath. A short distance away from the cabin doors, it called out in goblin. “A muul o'kaan ac daagaan. A shac taach o.” (I know you’re in there. I can smell you.) “O tuuch dach duun ghaan.” (You should talk to me.) Willow translated what was said. Surprised, we looked at one another. “See what you can find out.” Freija suggested to Willow. Willow moved closer to the window near her. In goblin, she replied “Shuulkaan duun daan dekuul. Al'duukaan.” (Come to the window. Alone.) The warg responded “An o den.” (As you wish.)

The warg left its companions and meandered to the window. “Dar an adhar okuuc.” (That is far enough.) Willow said. “We’re not here for you” the warg said. “We’re not interested in you.” Willow translates to us as the warg speaks. “Then why are you here?” Willow asked. “We were given as gifts to new masters, but we didn’t like them. They are not like our old masters, the orcs.” the warg said. “Why?” Willow asked. “They are cowards. They do not fight, but instead they hide and make others fight for them.” the warg replied. “What did you do?” Willow asked. “We killed them and ate them.” Willow was silent for a moment. “If you are not here for us, would you let us pass freely?” The warg replied “It depends on where you are going. If you are going the same direction as us, I cannot make any promises.” Willow said “We are going to the tents.” The warg replied “We are not. But, if you come out now, we will kill you. If you let us pass, you will be safe.” Willow agreed to the temporary truce, and we waited until the wargs finished their meal. After they wandered off into the woods, Freija poked her head out and looked around. “Is it clear?” Temporalis asked. “It looks like it.” Freija said. “Let’s go.”

Freija hoisted the unconscious prisoner over her shoulders and carried him with us. She bound him to a nearby tree while we assessed the tent. Temporalis said “We should call them out, like the warg called us.” Freija agreed. She stood near the tent opening, Willow to the left, Temporalis off to the right, and Finfer and I hid behind tree stumps, each of us with weapons at the ready. Freija yelled out “We know you’re in there. In the name of Ehlonna, we come in peace!” A few moments later, a human came charging violently out of the tent, wielding a heavy mace. Freija held up a closed fist, whispered a spell, and opened her fist. The human promptly dropped his weapon, dumbfounded by what had just happened. Finfer took that opportunity to shoot him in the arm with a crossbow bolt, which knocked him out of the spell. He picked up his mace and swung at Freija’s head, but she managed to duck in time. His companion in the tent, an elf, heard the commotion and ran out, firing arrows as he ran. One arrow at whizzed by Freija, leaving a gash in her arm. I took aim and fired a shot at the human, lodging an arrow deep in his bicep, while Temporalis cast magic that struck his other arm. Freija put away her sword, placed both hands on the human’s chest, and shoved him back into the tent, following after him. The human emerged from the tent and ran straight for Willow just as the elf attempted to shoot her with an arrow. The arrow narrowly missed, so the elf, frustrated at his poor aim, ran up to her instead. Now, flanked by both enemies, Willow raised her arms high in the air, palms up, and threw them down, releasing a shock wave with a sound like thunder, violently pushing both the human and the elf away from her. I took the opportunity to shoot the human in the head, killing him. Temporalis cast dark magic at the elf, but missed, so he pulled his dagger and ran for him. Before Temporalis could reach the elf, though, Finfer appeared from behind the corner of the tent and the elf dropped to the ground, a crossbow bolt sticking out of the back of his neck.

All was quiet, with the exception of a dog barking in the distance. Concerned by the sound of Willow’s shock wave and what it might have attracted, Temporalis said “We should search, but search fast. We need to get moving.” Agreeing, Willow searched the elf but found nothing. Finfer searched the human, found nothing, but noticed a tattoo on the underside of his right bicep that resembled a dagger crossed over a key. In the tent, Freija and I found clothes, food, drink, farming tools, glass bottles, and miscellaneous files, nothing out of the ordinary. As we pulled the bodies into the tent and closed the flap, Finfer asked Temporalis “What do you make of the tattoo?” Temporalis inspected it. “I’m unsure.” He said, making a sketch of it. “It looks like a crime syndicate, but I’m unsure of which one.”

We made our way to the big tent. The sound of the dog barking grew louder the closer we got to the tent. As with before, Freija called out “We come in peace! In the name of Ehlonna, we come in peace!” Suddenly, we hear a woman screaming in fear coming from inside the tent. Freija and Temporalis immediately ran up to the tent, and Temporalis held the tent flap open while Freija, shield up, made her way in. We hear the thud of something bouncing off her shield, and she turned and yelled over her shoulder “This woman needs help!”

I ran up and entered the tent. As soon as I did so, the dog rushed at me and snapped, barely missing my calf. Temporalis dropped the tent flap and ran in right behind me, getting nipped by the snarling dog on his leg on his way in. Finfer entered the tent and tried to shoot the dog, but the dog was running and lunging so Finfer’s arrow stuck in the ground. Willow joined us inside the tent, tried to shoot the man, and missed, hitting the wall behind him instead. Freija approached the woman. “Stay behind me! I will protect you!” Not hearing anything, the woman continued to scream and made a break for the tent door, but was blocked by the dog, so she was cowering in the corner, instead, whimpering. Freija turned to the man and tried to knock him over with her shield, but the man was ready for the hit, blocked it, and punched her across the head so hard it knocked her unconscious. Willow rushed to her side to offer healing assistance, but the man was right there and kicked Freija in the head, making Willow’s efforts futile. Meanwhile, Finfer popped up from behind a chair to shoot the man the same time I released an arrow at him. Both arrows hit, one in the arm and one in the shoulder, but the dog managed to clamp down on my calf and tripped me up, knocking me down. Enraged at being shot, the man turned toward Finfer. As I was struggling against the dog, Temporalis cast a spell on the man, whispering in his head, disorienting him, and shoving him out of the tent. The woman, still naked and trembling in the corner, took the opportunity to run out of the tent, and ran into the forest, still screaming. Finfer shot the dog with an arrow, killing it.

Willow ran out of the tent after the man, and shot him in the shoulder with an arrow. In a rage, he turned, ran to Willow, and knocked her in the head with a gloved fist. She crumpled to the ground, barely conscious, blood leaking out of her nose. “WILLOW!’ I screamed, shoving the dog’s body off me. I got to my feet and ran toward Willow with Finfer right on my heels. The man heard my scream and turned. As I approached, I pulled out my short sword and swung, but he stepped aside in time and parried the attack. Finfer ran to the side of the tent for cover and took a shot, but in his struggle with me the man managed to turn just in time and the arrow missed. I managed to sliced him in the thigh with my short sword, but he responded by swinging at me with his mace, hitting me in the temple, and knocking me unconscious.

When I awoke, I was in massive pain. My head was pounding and my body ached with every move I made. As warm magic trickled through me, the pain lessened and I was able to slowly sit up. “What happened?” I inquired, looking around to see the man that had caused so much trouble on the ground, dead. “Who killed him?” I heard Willow’s voice. “I did” I looked up at her. “But you were... I saw you on the ground.” Willow turned to Freija. “She saved me.” Freija nodded to Willow. Temporalis said “We also found a chest full of money, a few healing potions, a note, and a scroll. The note looks like it is written in goblin.” He handed it to Willow, who translated it to us: We’ve taken the towers as instructed. No survivors, no prisoners, as usual. Send our rider back with word that the road to Mountain Hide is secured, then Phase 2 can begin. -Durgash.

“Who is Durgash, and what is he talking about?” Finfer asked. Freija thought for a moment. “I recall seeing towers, near Medietas. Could those be the towers in this note?” Willow said “Maybe our friend has knowledge.” Freija and I went to the prisoner, who was awake, but still bound, gagged, and tied to a tree. Having just witnessed the the battle moments before, he had a look of fear in his eyes, as if we would strike him down, next. Freija removed the gag, but kept him bound and tied. “We just want to talk.” she said softly. “You killed him.” the man whimpered. “You killed Immetis.” Freija pointed to the man on the ground. “Was that your leader, Immetis?” The man nodded. “What is your name, and why are you here?” I asked. With his leader dead, the man seemed to have lost his will to fight anymore. “My name is Lorand.” he said. “I am from the Kingdom of Nirand. I came to Evershard Isle to join the revolution of Pelor. They promised money and food.” Freija looked at him. “We will not harm you. We will let you go--if you make a promise.” Lorand nodded, earnestly. “Go home, Lorand. Go back to Nirand. Go back to your family. But you know what we are capable of doing, so know that if we cross paths again, we will not hesitate to kill you.” Tears in his eyes, he agreed. I gave him money for passage on a ship, untied him, and he ran, disappearing into the forest.

We returned to Temporalis, Finfer, and Willow, who had been sorting through what they found, filled them in on what we learned from Lorand, and asked if they found anything. “The scroll is a Firebolt spell” Willow said. “Unfortunately, I cannot use it.” Temporalis analyzed it. “Neither can I, which is unfortunate, because it looks to be rather powerful. Oh well, it should be worth some money, at least.” He looked around. “It’s getting late. What do you all say we head back to our campsite and rest up, then head back to Mountain Hide in the morning?” We all agreed, and made our way back to the clearing.