Bloodright : Rise of the Border Princes

Land of Mist & Mystery

The Rhyme of the Lost Hermit

“Two for the Dwarves, in their halls of gold;
Three for the Elves, mid their bowers and bows;
Five for the race of Man, for their fire and grace;
That all might know why, and all have a place…"

How Adventurers are regarded on Argoth

Adventurers. Wandering sellswords regarded as dangerous men to be handled carefully and duped (if possible) in assisting one’s own position, but always regarded as “Outlanders”, since they live outside society.

To the common folk, these “outlanders” mean trouble; bandits and brigands at best, rampaging monsters at worst. Treat them with distant politeness if they prove civil but too strong to defy or trick; gang up on them and remove them from the area as quickly as possible if they can be defeated or duped to leave. To local lords and other wealthy upper classes, they are to be respected as long as they obey the traditions and laws of the land. They are, however, to be regarded watchfully at all times, as troubles of any conceivable sort could erupt.

Bands of adventurers, however, form a different position in society. Treated more like a mercenary band, they are accepted by people if they can be associated to a specific banner or crest, upon which their reputation hangs. Excessive use of magicks or powerful artifacts that alter the status quo quickly bring even the local noble’s wrath down upon them. Exile is the least of concerns, as other adventurers are often hired to deal with perceived threats of this magnitude.

In all cases, the people of the Dominioons do not have a deep love for wandering sellswords or adventurers, and take a dim view of those who result to tense situations with threats, violence, magic and generally sneaky behaviour.

Sometimes, local lords hire adventurers to bolster their armies, or hunt down monsters in the wildlands. Pay can be low, offering room, board and 2cp per day for a “soldier”, or up to 5sp per day for a personal “bodyguard”. The more mercenary tasks, such as monster-hunting often is triple the standard fee (around 1 gp per day), with a promise to allow the adventurers keep any loot or booty that cannot be traced to its owners, that they happen upon. Some bands make a killing in salvaged weapons and armor being resold to markets or the lord himself at a discounted rate. Some powerful lords, however, might promise much but be slow in repayment, as they have the ability to wait.

The most common duty adventurers might find is as bandit-hunters. Great wealth lies in successful bandits lairs, and nobles are often willing to pay in land or titles for the removal of particularly difficult bandit “lords”. Sometimes, the line between bandit-lord and neighboring nobleman, however, can be a matter of discussion with the king…

Steadings

Much of Argoth, particularly its mountains and woodlands, are little visited by civilized folk. There is always, however, a claim on the land, and it would do adventurers well to consult with the local political powers before claiming or altering the landscape for whatever purposes. Mountain strongholds are particularly imperiled by giants, orcs, trolls and The Tauri, and are often already claimed or occupied by the elder peoples; elves and dwarves.

Nevertheless, vast tracts of wilderness are abundantly available for exploitation, and the strong of will and body can carve out realms for themselves. Eager adventurers are reminded that the foundation of a kingdom can take a lifetime or more, and is neither safe nor easy…

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All Aboard!
"Brightwater... a city ruled by the power of the coin. Merchants are the kings of the realm."

Like winds from the distant edges of the Border Kingdoms, they came. Each had an agenda, and each had a plan. Chance had led them together, and soon would forge them into a force of power and strength beyond even their understandings. It was not the beginning, but it was a beginning…"

14th of Shorn, 1048 TR : Brightwater – City of Coins, the Hearthstone Inn : Searching for work, with the winter drawing close and snows looming closer, the adventurers found themselves in a difficult position. “Loose” wandering adventurers, were considered lower than goblins; their unwillingness to join sides in the conflict raging across Land of the Two Princes, meant that they were powerful rogue elements in society. Their search for a means to support themselves, had led them to follow a handbill being circulated among the mercenary forces of the city, stating :

Now Hiring – Adventurers! Easy Work! Good Pay! Free Food! Visit the Hearthstone Inn for a feast and job opportunity!"

The group were all told to meet at a central table in the inn, a table heaped with food and their cups filled with ale and wine. Their host was nowhere to be seen. The group was a little uneasy, at first, but between Fangrik eating entire joints of roast with his javelin next to Kruck who ate handfuls of food, but just silently glowered at everyone. Ash Cogward took the downtime to spread out his tools on the table and start cleaning and greasing them. Turns-out, the fairy was the first to start talking.

Squirrel began making introductions, introducing her “mistress”, Lady Vathra banRainha and slowly the group began to introduce themselves. They had indeed all come in answer to the summons, and were looking for some answers as well. Only Kruck, silent during the exchanges, noticed the sneaky little goblin huddled in a corner by the stairs leading to the inn’s rooms. He leaned forward and in his first words of the day muttered “There’s a goblin watching us…”. Everyone went silent and glared at the goblin in the corner… it immediately shrieked and slipped up the stairs towards the rooms.

Most of the adventurers continued to talk among themselves, but Ash, ever the inquisitive one, gathered his tools back together, and making sure he was ready. shouldered his kit and “snuck” away after the goblin… clinking and rattling as he went. Drew the Avaricious slipped off to meet with a pair of local farmers, and quickly pretended to be interested in whatever they might be talking about. Lady Vathra, Squirrel, and Lord Taumus of House Daure all slipped away from the table, following the clanking sound of the gnome, Ash.

Ash found the corridor above the stables empty, with four doors leading off into common rooms for guests. He noticed one of the doors was “goblin-sized” open, and crept (clanked) up to it, peering in. He saw the usual four bunks of an Argothic inn, but with a chair in front of the single window, holding an armed mercenary guard, with the missing goblin cowering at his feet. This was their introduction to Captain Tallus.

He welcomed the “little one” to enter and join him… Ash took a quick look around the area of the partially opened door, and realized it was trapped, with a bucket falling on their heads if they entered freely. He nodded as Ash removed the trip-wire,a dn carefully pushed the door open further. His companions followed him in as well and Captain Tallus eyed them all with a discerning gaze. “You have passed the tests, and I would offer you employment…” he began.

“You are discerning and capable of leaving comfort for danger. You are smart enough to investigate the unusual, and you have wary enough to refuse to accept an open invitation. Adventurers, for certain.”

“I would offer you, on behalf of my employer Edensor the Merchant, work for a couple weeks. We will pay you one gold piece per day, pus room and board while underway, to act as scouts and auxiliary guards to a caravan my master is organizing. We suspect it will take at least a ten-day, weather permitting to travel from Brightwater, through the Bronze Hills and into the Trackless Heights, where we intend to spend the winter trading and preparing for a caravan to return home the following spring at Frandor’s Keep.”

“If you remain in the area the following spring, we might likely hire you for a return trip, it you feel so inclined. Any questions?”

The group asked for a few more exacting points, but they felt tehy understood the situation, and welcomed the opportunity. They were informed to meet at the south “Caravan” gate of the city in three days, early in the morning. They were also advised to acquire whatever winter gear and supplies they might need, as they were heading into the deep mountains to a fromtier outpost, possibly to be isolated for several months. The group was also told that they might invite their less observant friends along if they’d like… their choice. Dragging the sneaky goblin by the scruff and calling him “Grippa”, Tallus left the room.

Drew the Avaricious noticed the man leave dragging the goblin out the front door, while Kruck and Fangrik continued eating. The four adventurers that had headed into the passageway returned to the table, and after a quick discussion, told their companions about a job they were all offered. Drew had been busy talking to the locals and learned that the chief thing on their minds was the fact that the winter was looking to be turning into a “Wolf Winter”… cold, hard and when the humanoids of the region starve, often swarming into the civilized lands.

Squirrel slipped over to Drew, and plopping on his shoulder related that there was an offer of work for the group, if he wanted to come over and talk about it… Drew shooed her away with a swat of his hand, and then realizing the locals were a little concerned Drew was more than a local merchant, excused himself and rejoined the group. Relating all the information they knew, Drew also informed the group of the facts behind Edensor the Merchant, and how he always makes moves seemingly before opportunity strikes, making him a wealthy man. Whatever the reason he was heading to Frandor’s Keep, it was likely a smart and prosperous trade-related one. Drew tried to convince the two quiet, strong ones (Kruck and Fangrik) that they should ask for more money, at least 2 gps per day or more.

The group all agreed to meet together in three days, and join this caravan, several taking rooms in the inn, while Fangrik slipped away with an armful of roast fowl to the stables. Lady VAthra and Squirrel both nosed about for a couple hours trying to identify some of the facts about Edensor, eventually locating his manor and small estate in the “merchanty” part of Brightwater.

The group spent the next couple days acquiring supplies for the journey, notably cold weather gear and extra ammunition. Drew bought pack animals and extra supplies for trading. Fangrik and Kruck mostly just slept.

17th of Shorn, 1048 TR : The group all arrived to find a large caravan gathering for their journey south into The Beast Shards; Edensor was easy to spot, talking to Captain Tallus near a couple brightly-painted wooden wagons drawn by oxen. He had about a dozen guards on horses with crossbows, and each of his wagons was eaquipped with a driver and a guard next to him also with a crossbow. One wagon was declared to hold supplies for the journey (tents, torches, rations and other important gear), and a portion was being used as his personal quarters. Three others, holding barrels of ale, wine, preserved fruits and other important trade goods, like ironware and cured leather hides.Another five wagons were paying to accompany the caravan, one acting as a transport for several well-to-do people, including a couple officers from Frandor’s Keep. The other three were independent merchants hauling various personal goods. None had additional guards, though they had apprentices with crossbows.

While Drew argued (unsuccessfully) with Captain Tallus to get a wage increase, (being told to either accept it or leave), Kangrik gathered a heap of jerky (turkey!) from the supply wagon. It was quickly made aware that payment would be concluded upon arrival at The Keep, and not before, but the group had free access to basic supplies (oil for lanterns, torches and such) until then. Squirrel upon arrival, gave everyone a gift, a pretty flower, except to Drew, who got a rock. Lady Vathra was introduced to Edensor by Squirrel, and the merchant proclaimed “My dear! You’re positively infested with fairies!”. To which Squirrel admitted the reason was “I can read her mind!”. Edensor excused himself quickly and looked confused.

The sharp shout from a nearby alley caught both Fangrik’s and Ash’s attention, and both lured into the entrance to see four masked thugs beating a man half-to-death near a bend in the passage. They shouted and charged against them, followed by the rest of the troop, with Fangrik, Kruck and even Drew taking the lead to keep them engaged, while the rest spread across the alley’s entrance, laying down magic and psionic strikes. The man they had been beating, slowly crawled away from the fight, and within a short amount of time, the brigands were contained.

From the shadows above, a dark figure appeared, sniping down on the melee troopers with a woman’s hearty voice proclaiming “What have we here, my hearties?!?”. Fangrik tried to claw his way up the side of the building on the alley, but failed to get a grip on the wall. Even Ash summoned his little servant Clinkton next to the shadowy figure, and she responded by shifting into the shadows and disappearing. Magic fire sniped back and forth, with several mighty blows, and a devastating psionic blast to the last trooper, followed by a savage strike from Kruck who called out if he should be a prisoner. Ash shot the man squarely killing him before anyone could answer. The group picked through the corpses fnding nothing beyond their armor, clubs, raincloaks (which Ash and Taumus both took one), and a handful of silver and copper coins.

Taumus and Ash both approached the fallen man the group had been beating, and he revealed himself to be Melendus the Merchant, a merchant from the very caravan headed south. When asked why he was in the alley wiht these thugs, he stated… “I was looking to think about things, you know, before we head south into the montisn… some alone time, when they jumped me…”. It seemed a little odd, but he was freindly enough, calling the group “…true heroes…”, and offering to buy them all drinks at the next inn they visit. He introduced them to his “companions”, two pretty young maidens, Chantel (Blond) and Sacia (Brunette), and a married couple of personal guards on horses, Davidas and Ohtar. He was hauling ale and cheese to The Keep, intending to spend the winter there, trading.

No one seemed alarmed by the sharp fight in the alley, and the group returned to watch the final preparations of the caravan as it made its way out of the city…

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The Invasion of Yew
"The Borderland Trail... past the bandits, along the orc-haunted road and through the dragons... it's easy..."

17th of Shorn, 1048 TR, Late Morning : As the caravan took its sweet time organizing, Lord Taumus of House Daure revealed his map of the environs of Frandor’s Keep, that he’d acquired during the last couple days of waiting, and it was passed around. <<see>> Taumus then asked after Melendus the Merchant from Captain Tallus, learning that he always came to The Keep with new “companions” each year. “…he’s nefarious… friendly enough, but with an endless stream of new companions…”.

The group began walking through the caravan to familiarize themselves with the various merchants and guards. Consisting of eight wagons, and a dozen mounted guards, it was large, and represented the last expected caravan of the season. While Edensor the Merchant had three trade wagons, and a supply wagon for himself, a fifth wagon served to carry various paying passengers (including a pair of officers from The Keep, returning from an extended furlough), another pair of merchants with a wagon of goods each (mainly consumables such as oil and cloth), and Melendus’ own wagon of wine and cheese. They met with the passengers of the wagon, and struck up a conversation with the soldiers, Lady Vathra banRainha taking a particular interest in them “…are they… Hot? Mm-m-m-m-m… Purr-r-r-r-r…”.

Captain Tallus placed the group in the caravan rear with orders to keep an eye on anyone trying to follow the caravan, the adventurers left south along the Bronze Road. The adventurers saw “someone” leave south, though they soon left the trail and moved into the fields to the west, and the caravan was left alone. The day’s journey was almost without a break to make up time lost getting organized, and arrived at the village of Twix where a ferry would allow them to cross the Brightwater River to its sister-village of Overtwix. The crossing took much of the night, with two wagons on each crossing, but allowed everyone to rest and recover before the morning.

18th of Shorn, 1048 TR : Facing cloudy skies, the caravan started across the Fallen Hills, passing a few isolated homesteads and a single inn, before camping near The Watcher’s Wood and the first of the serious climbs into The Trackless Heights.

19th of Shorn, 1048 TR : Continuing up the Borderland Trail, the caravan met some steep climbs, but reached the village of Sabre River by dark, camping inside its walls at the central market. That night, the adventurers set their camp to one side of the wagons, and were approached by Melendus with a pair of ale kegs from the local tavern. He offered them in thanks for their saving him, and after some discussion as to whether or not to drink, they eventually broached them and began asking Melendus questions about their journey. He had, indeed been on this trip with Edensor before, and related various encounters with goblins, orcs and minotaurs. He had been on the road ten years ago, during the orc invasion, and had been under siege in Yew for the entire winter. He also related the greatest danger of the pass to The Keep, The Ravens, warning that they were among the most fearsome to merchants. Melendus was also asked about his companions, but he related that they were always “…quite pleased with their service…”.

20th of Shorn, 1048 TR : The group was given orders to travel on ahead of the caravan by 1/2 an hour, and warned they were approaching goblin territory. The adventurers moved on ahead, and as they approached the enclosing mountain pass, Ash Cogward and Kruck both noticed jabbering from a nearby woodland east of the trail. The group quickly engaged a group of goblin javelin-throwers and archers, while the casters stayed near the trail. Another group of goblin warriors dropped from the trees, and were met by Lady Vathra who surprisingly pulled a morningstar from her robes to brain a goblin near her, until another hidden goblin “Blackknife” slipped from a spot behind a rock and tried to stab Taumus, whose powers had shattered the main goblin line. The battle ended promptly, under the combined assault of the casters powers and Kruck and Fangrik’s blades. Although a handful escaped quickly to either side of the trail, the adventurers claimed the site, salvaging weapons and a few handfuls of coins. The group mounted goblin heads on some spears by the roadside, piled the corpses and waited for the caravan to catch-up.

The caravan finally arrived, and after explaining their encounter, were told to go ahead and secure the campsite for the evening. Travelling forward, they reached the height of the pass, and looking down into the valley beyond, set a camp near a small lake. The caravan arrived and they all camped.

21st of Shorn, 1048 TR : The adventurers awoke to find Fangrik fishing in the lake (unsuccessfully), and moved down the Borderland Trail to the village of Yew with no other events. The caravan placed itself in the stone-walled town market, while merchants and passengers went into the “Grey Griffon Inn” for a night’s stay. The adventurers also followed along, taking rooms and placing a huge order for food and ale at the main table, at Edensor’s expense. Kruck then camped under a wagon for the night (having taken his charge as a guard very seriously), and Fangrik moved into the stables with an armful of sausage.

Late in the evening, Kruck was prodded awake by one of Edensor’s guards, with an “…Orc! Orc! Awake! There’s something going on at the far wagon…” _Kruck told him to go awake “…the wolfman…” in the stables, and tightened his armor, grabbed his axe and moved off to investigate. He found a cluster of five small figures huddled against the far wagon, pointing towards the inn and whispering something. He charged forward, hacking into the closest, revealing the invaders to be a band of gnomes… He was soon joined by Fangrik, who charged into the fight with a battle howl. The pair quickly eliminated most of them, capturing the toughest one, while the caster among them took a pair of nearly mortal wounds, vanished and teleported away… Fangrik scented carefully on the wind, using his tracking abilities, and quickly found the gnome hiding in the stables, and gutted him in a quick single strike with his spear.

The adventurers and various residents from the inn poured into the street, as the village came awake around them. Fangrik took the survivor by his scruff and while he held him, Lady Vathra moved forward, and seductively kissed their prisoner with red-glowing embers for eyes. She began to interrogate him telepathically, with the party only able to hear his answers. He readily reveled he was of the Basalt Clan, a family of gnomes who were intent on claiming their “bloodright” and their “ancestral lands”. “…even now, my brothers and sisters are sweeping through this village, seeking to claim back what was rightfully ours…”. Sure enough a series of lights and explosions reverberated around town, and the group moved off to investigate the nearest. Fangrik smacked his prisoner around like a rag-doll, muttering “…pitiful gnome…”, before tossing the corpse aside and loping off after his battle companions. Lady Vathra sighed at the loss and moved off too.

The group quickly came upon a merchant’s house that had been broken into, and its family taken hostage by another group of gnomes. As the they approached the broken doors, a female gnome holding the lead merchant hostage cried “Come closer and the family dies!”. The group quickly bashed past the door guards, and moved into the large hall, blades and powers flashing. Quickly overwhelmed, two tried to escape out the side window, but neither made it, the toughest being captured by Kruck, who crushed the gnomes’ head with the cry “DO YOU SURRENDER!?!”, and an assistance by Lady Vathra’s psionic powers. The caster in this group, once again vanished and teleported away into the shadows, but this time, escaped into the night. The family in the hall were freed and hunkered quietly in one corner of the hall.

All around the village, the town militias and guards had rallied and cornered most of the invaders. Fangrik sniffed about, and found the section of wall where some thirty gnomes had obviously slipped over the walls, and then, as things grew suddenly quiet, the adventurers returned to the inn, and encountered Edensor talking animatedly with the town mayor and many members of the town council. The adventurers reported to Edensor what they had encountered. The gnomes quietly began to vanish, slipping away into the night, and avoiding all the village guards. The merchants were concerned about heading out with gnome bandits on the loose, and even the lord mayor was concerned. Edensor assured he would send “his” adventurers out to investigate the matter, and resolve the conflict in the morning. The mayor also assured the gathered notables that the local knight would be contacted, and he would probably wish to speak with the adventurers as well… The group broke-up and tried to settle back down for a good night’s rest…

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The Trouble with Gnomes
"The legends of the origins of Yew were deeper than anyone thought..."

Shorn 21st, 1048 TR : In the morning, the group gathered around the food-heaped table and discussed matters. No one seemed to know much about the gnomes, except for Squirrel, who mentioned the Basalt Clan were rumored to be from the Feywild, and not what you might call “locals”.

Word quickly spread through the town, that the knight was approaching. Everyone made their way out into the market, to watch Sir Turigarth Fomirian and his two hands of cavalry ride towards the inn. He and his troops dismounted, and to the gathered notables, he quickly announced:

“Due to the absence of other authority here, I shall relay the thoughts of our Lord on this matter. I have heard of brigands in the region for some time – perhaps they are these gnomish brigands, or perhaps not – I cannot say. But I have come to ensure that the ownership of these lands in question, are in the grasp of the Lord of Sabre River.”

“I, vested with the authority of the Lord Rainford, am well-suited to take charge of this matter. It is known to me that your village founder was one Ver’Kusi, and I have seen the legal documentation in the HErald’s College that show this land was legally purchased by him. For lack of an heir, however, the lands resorted back to the Lord of Sabre River. All local citizens will remain on their designated lands, and working them, submit their legally bound obligations, including their taxes and moneys-in-kind. Foreigners in residence who will not submit to these terms will be given the grace period of three days to vacate their claims on the lands or face expulsion.

After a slight wave to the gathered notables, he entered the inn, and spying the large, food-covered table headed towards it. Fangrik swiftly took the largest chair at the table, and growled at the interloper, chasing him off to another table nearby. He then sat down, ordered ale and waited on food to be brought. The local town counselors gathered into a line, and awaited his pleasure.

Squirrel, however, took the chance to approach Edensor the Merchant, and offered to move to the head of the line and speak with the knight. She boldly confronted the knight, and in broad words gained his attention and deflected it to Edensor. Edensor sheepily offered the services of the adventurers to resolve this matter of the gnomes promptly, to which the knight responded, wiht a cloth covering his mouth;

“Very well, I seek this matter resolved quickly, and while I refuse to make concessions with MONSTERS <<odd>> you may attempt to resolve this matter in the best way possible, or let the gnomes submit their grievance to me in writing and the courts can resolve it.”

Taking their leave (and cheek-pouches filled with food), the group gathered their supplies and equipment, and spoke with Edensor outside the inn. He said, that;

“The council doesn’t care about the matter, really, they just want the bandits to go away. Take the matter into your own judgement on how to proceed…”

Following the recently discovered tracks leading about an hour north-east along the river, the adventurers found a temporary camp of tents, a pen of pack ponies and a couple guards. The group made their presence known (not intentionally so), and soon a large group of gnomes gathered to menace the adventurers. Among the leaders they spied a young female and male, and an elder one who seemed in charge. The female was familiar to them, as they had met her among the second group of gnomes in the village, the one who had threatened (but not actually hurt) some hostages.

The adventurers identified themselves as having been sent by the village to negotiate, and after the gnomes reminded they had a handful of hostages with them, the adventurers tried to get some released (something Fangrik was rather “doggedly” persistent about), they refused. They claimed one Ver’Kusi had stolen their belongings and taken their lands from them. During the conversation, it was apparent the gnomes had a different view of “time”, seeing Ver’Kusi as still living, even though it was probable that he was dead. The exact item in question turned-out to be a large bronze cog; The Gnomish Cog. If the adventurers bring them this “key”, the prisoners would be let go, and the gnomes would leave. They accepted, and headed back to the village.

Returning to the village, the adventurers began searching for answers, eventually finding-out that Ver’Kusi was the village founder many generations ago, and that he was died and interned in a “Fey Tomb” about an hour to the south, next to the mountains. They were warned that the site had some sort of fey protections… Reporting to Edensor regarding the situation, they then headed south across the plains.

After four-and-a-half miles of following the trail, the group found what appeared to be a maze painstakingly formed from a hedge of thick brambles. The hedge was brown, dead, and quite forboding. A path had been hacked (?) through it, winding off towards the forest and what they hoped was the Mausoleum of Ver’Kusi.

Following the ages-old tradition of “Left Hand Rule”, they quickly made their way through the maze, passing several stretches of white cobblestone, a carved wooden bench, and eventually were ambushed by giant rats. Although Kruck took ill with Filth Fever. Eventually they found an exit being watched by a pair of crows, and entered a small wooded glade at the foot of the mountains. In the center was a one-story stone building partially shrouded in darkness, a drab and unattractive, but solidly built with a black slate roof. Its single door was blacked oak and bound in cold iron.

The group noticed movement in the shadows above, and were not surprised when three large spiders leaped from the trees to engage them. The battle was over quickly, and after a short rest, they approached the entrance, finding the door and all the cracks chinked with black tar. Assuming it was meant to keep something in, they opened the inset lock carefully to reveal a dark tomb.

The first chamber was a small foyer with engravings of a hearth on either side. The room’s corners were filled with 2’-tall bronze urns etched with images of running deer. They appeared half-filled with sand or ash. The floor was tightly packed earth. Proceeding carefully through the chamber, the group identified the “Hearth” symbol as being one of the older images associated with Larani – The Celestial Paladin, as the founder of civilization.

The next chamber was larger, and featureless, with a dozen 3’-tall clay statues scattered about. Half were soldiers, the other half performing household chores. The group carefully moved the statues against the walls, so as not to damage them, noticing they were fair carved images of gnomes…

The last chamber was wide, and had three alcoves against the far wall. The two on the sides were carved with images of deer and dogs running together, each with three wooden coffers sitting side-by-side, none large enough to hold a grown man. The central one bore a large stone sarcophagus with a bronze lid. A humanoid image had been carved into the bronze, but either by design or lack of skill, it was both vague and unrecognizable.

Carefully moving around the coffin, the group found the lid pried open easily enough (except for Kruck who kept pulling…), pushing it away from the entrance. Inside, they found a slowly decaying human corpse. Carved into the sarcophagus above the head of the body, was the words “May the Gods forgive me”, in Common. Around the body was draped a gold-embroidered tunic (still intact), a set of carved wooden chess pieces and a matching board, and a bronze decanter. There was a set of silver bracers, broach and pin, and a collection of gemstones opposite. Lastly, the arms of the corpse were crossed over a scabbard holding a short sword.

Ash Cogward took no time in reaching-out and grasping the short sword. Immediately after, the dim lights went-out, leaving only Squirrel with a light, and everyone else blinded. A hideous howling erupted all around, and a sense of dread and impossible cold swept the chamber. Everyone beat a sudden retreat back through the hall towards the entrance.

Kruck was swarmed by a host of rotting zombie hunting dogs, taking severe damage before making the relative safety of the rest of the group near the exit. The gibbering shadow struck from the darkness, approaching Ash with dogged determination. Ash managed to get a glowrod active, that barely let him see the monster attack, as Lord Taumus of House Daure managed to get off a vast flash of burning fire that slew most of the zombie hounds. Very quickly, the group surrounded the shadowy wraith, and using all the powers at their disposal, dispatched the creature, with Taumus reducing its insubstantial abilities with her powers, and Fangrik giving the final killing blow.

Taking a short rest to heal themselves, the group returned inside the catacomb, and retrieved the gemstones, silver jewels and other items that seemed valuable. Ash identified the sword as being Brightflame, though there was nothing else known about it. Examining the tomb, the group found that there were three bronze cogs locked into place under the bronze lid, and using Squirrel’s ability to shrink things, dragged the door out of the tomb. The group then encamped near the entrance to the maze, keeping an eye on the creepy tomb’s entrance….

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Nevermore
"Quoth the Raven,... Nevermore..."

Shorn 22nd, 1048 TR : Following a good night’s rest in the opening gate to the fairy maze, everyone looked to Kruck. He seemed to have overcome the illness brought by the rats (Filth Fever) with his boundless orcish constitution. Ash Cogward ensured his new prize, Brightflame was secure, and the group packed and headed back out through the maze to the mountain plains.

Making their way quickly to the village of Yew, across the river, and thence east to the gnomish camp, they got the gnome’s attention and engaged in the prisoner exchange, presenting the large bronze sarcophagus lid to them. The lead (older) gnome conducted a ritual, determining the cog they sought was present, and he summoned both the prisoners and the two younger gnomes to him for a conference. The cluster of families and children were brought from the larger of the tents, and the younger gnome noble laid into the bronze lid with various tools (primarily his prybar!) before prying The Gnomish Cog loose. They abandoned the rest of the sarcophagus lid where it lay and began packing camp, intent on moving off to wherever their gateway to the Feywild may lie. Ash tried to pry the remaining two cogs loose, but failed. Fangrik started berating them , but the adventurers each took a couple prisoners and moved back towards the village. Squirrel shrunk the lid down once more, and the group returned to Yew.

Upon return to the village, they found the knight had left back to his manor, and the group scattered the prisoners back to their homes and businesses. Chief among them were a pair of carpenters, who thanked the adventurers profusely, despite their odd races. Returning to Edensor the Merchant, they reported their successes, and he soon gathered food and drink for the heroes. Within an hour, the town council approached them along with Edensor, and they presented a Toal to the group (accepted by Lady Vathra banRainha on behalf of the party). Edensor explained that the stick was marked by a lord’s personal crest, and each groove on the wooden dowel represented a day’s food and lodging acceptable by any inn in the realm by the holder. They were often given to groups who helped the local lords, and were often exchanged for extra food or supplies, allowing adventurers or others to leave a realm for more work. The group then bedded down in their usual places and rested.

Shorn 23rd, 1048 TR : The caravan headed out once more, the adventurers taking the lead, and reached the top of the southern pass to camp.

Shorn 24th, 1048 TR : Travelling back down into the valley leading east to Frandor’s Keep, the group reached Kar Darkan, the first of the way stations located along the Borderland Trail. Operated by Ealon and his infirm wife Orena and their two sons, the place proved to be a large traditional mountain hall with a small smithy attached and a field for holding mounts and wagon stock. The caravan happily broke-up, the wagons and stock secured, and the adventurers were granted a bench along one side of the open hall for themselves near a central fire hearth. The food ws good, simple roasts and stews washed-down with simple ale, but there was relatively plenty and the night passed warm and secure.

Shorn 25th, 1048 TR : Making good time along the Borderland Trail, the caravan reached the swift-flowing Paradise River and the central way station of Kar Mandri. Smaller than the first way station, this one had barely passable ale and stew, but was hosted by Dotan, his wife Liari and three local dancing girls dressed in Hepekerian garb of flowing silks and bronze trinkets. The station was well-populated by a handful of local trappers, and a table full of guards from The Keep. The officers in transit from Brightwater – City of Coins spoke with them about matters in the area, including word of bandits, before treating them to a round of ales and leaving them to themselves.

With the dancing girls hard at work (Fangrik – "They move well… What? Me not speciest!…“), Edensor reported rumors of bandits along the road having struck several local steadings recently. It was believed they were ”/campaigns/bloodright-rise-of-the-border-princes/characters/the-ravens" class=“wiki-content-link”>The Ravens! Amid the wonders of cheap Wax Berry Wine, they talked with Edensor, and offered to investigate the matter. Rumor placed the latest steading raided being about two miles north, and the group agreed to search the place for clues. He said with threat of snows coming in from the eastern The Trackless Heights, he could afford to give them a day, since it would rest the stock for the final two day journey ahead of them, and the climb to The Keep itself. Everyone bedded-down in tehir assigned area near a fire, and rested well.

Shorn 26th, 1048 TR : Travelling early the two miles north to the farm, they found the stock barn a smoking ruin, and the main hall looted. From the tracks, the raid had occurred two-to-three days ago, and four people had been taken away, with the bandits making no attempt to cover their tracks. Following the tracks for several hours, the group encountered the “Nest”.

The “Nest” proved to be cleared section of woodland, fenced off by a low wooden palisade. Within the ence stood a group of treehouses built around 10’ above the ground. There was a camp, surrounded by hay bales, various domestic tools and goods barrels. Another fenced area to one side held a grazing collection of stock; an oxen, a horse, two ponies and a small herd of goats. A wagon sat within this area as well. Movement of numerous (about a half-dozen) individuals stirred in the camp and another dozen or so within the collection of treehouses.

The group spent a good hour discussing possible tactics, eventually noticing a group of children under watch appear and play “bandits”, wielding wooden swords and wearing helmets and bucklers. Vathra encouraged the group (namely Fangrik_) to sneak into the back area and steal someone (_Vathra – “Get me one, just one… Okay, even a child or one of the women…”). Heading into the back portion near the camp and a collection of tents, Fangrik waited about an hour before a woman entered the tent he was hiding in, and was quickly subdued, tied and gagged, and then dragged back over the rear wall (not very stealthily), and brought back to the adventurers.

Vathra then took the woman, and examining her, assumed her identity, changed into her clothing and awoke her. Interrogating the young woman, she discovered her to be Birgitte, one of the warrior-consorts of the leader, Hanari. Although frightened, the adventurers learned that Hanari and the Ravens were salvers, having sold the farmers captrued recently to dark figures who led the commoners off east towards The Keep. Everyone suspected it might be The Iron Ring, not especially surprising, but the entire group resolved they couldn’t let these bandits survive.

The group discussed ways to infiltrate the complex, but finally decided to use a “captured” Vathra as their pigeon, having Kruck lead the way to the front entrance. They put a bag over Vathra’s head, and subdued Birgitte, while Fangrik snuck back to his hiding spot as a sneaky reserve once combat was resolved. Their target was Hanari himself; everyone else was superfluous.

Kruck led Ash, Taumus and a “bagged” Vathra straight through the outer gate towards the opening to the treehouse complex. A group of half-a-dozen bandits in the camp were attracted t the group, but Kruck brushed them off, reaching the opening to the treehouses before finally being stopped. He explained he had a prisoner for sale, and needed to speak to Hanari. When that didn’t seem very successful, he commented Hanari’s brother, Francoise had sent him (BLuff Check = 20!). One of the bandits headed out to go talk to Hanari. A tough-looking bandit asked whether or not the woman was secure, to which Kruck commented (Me thinks she wizard, I found this cool orb!") To which the bandit started to vigorously “search” Vathra to ensure she was bound tightly. Vathra sent a telepathic message out (“You IDIOT! I have knivs!”), and Content Not Found: Taumus lost his cool, dropping a powerful Spirit Rend around the group, which slew almost a dozen bandits outright. The jig was up!

A horrible brawl ensued around the gateway, with the adventurers taking charge of the situation. Vathra tried to run into the chamber, dropping the bag from her head and screaming she was Birgitte… but failed to alert the bandit in her way, who struck out in fear. She slid into the armoury beyond, and “cowered” in the corner. Fangrik, upon hearing the brawl erupt, tried to scramble inot the treehouse nearst him, but failed due to the slippery moss covering all the walls. Halfway up the wall of one hut, he heard a giggle, and turned to see a cluster of children staring at him. They asked what he was up to, and when it appeared he was “…climin’…”, they suggested he slip up the walkway nearby that hung down fairly low… which allowed him to scramble into the house beyond. With a wave to the children, he headed inside.

The adventurers managed to press and fight deeper into the armoury, while Vathra/Birgitte managed to “escape” safely into a bedchamber beyond. Fangrik slipped to the right, into a shrine chamber of some sort, and then left that room to run smack into the bandit sent to “Fetch Hanari”, cutting him down brutally. He crossed the chamber strewn with carpets and toys on the floor, and five beds (the kid’s room!), and entered the bed chamber beyond in time to help hold the door and meet Kruck. Behind him a mage of some sort, another couple bandits and Hanari himself appeared, flinging arrows and thunderbolts at the intruders. Back at the entrance, a hunter/ranger appeared and fired several arrows at Ash and Taumus, before they sought cover.

The fight was swift and brutal, bloodying various members, but eventually sore down the group, forcing the ranger by the entrance to retreat, while the other managed to open a hidden trap door in the child’s rom (under the rugs), and allowed Hanari to drop to the ground. He was followed by one archer (while the mage screamed for Hanari to flee), while the first slipped away to the south and into the forest. The remaining bandits struggles, with two surrendering (one another nameless warrior-consort of Hanari), and Hanari and one of the archers trying to flee off to the east. While Hanari managed to escape, his follower fought on for a bit, (Kruck – “…I’m gonna KRUCK YOU!”)covering his retreat before being subdued and tied-up. The adventurers had managed to destroy the local “Nest”, though Hanari and one other bandit had escaped.

Gathering the captured warrior-consorts, the five children and the surviving archer bandit together, the group began a systematic looting of the complex. In the “officer” quarters, they found two locked trunks, which proved trapped (Vathra learned that the hard way…), and a hoard of copper, silver, electrum, gold and gems. The armoury proved a wealth of simple weapons and armor, and the campsite and pantry (off the child’s room) were stocked with a large amount of food and cloth. The group gathered the ponies, horse and oxen (attaching the wagon to it through a harness found in its bed), and loaded them with treasure and various foodstuffs, though they seemed ready to sell them to Edensor when they returned.

The most interesting and puzzling thing found, was in the “shrine” that Fangrik had initially encountered. A spartan room with banners of crimson, forest green and bright orange on the walls, there was a large wooden box with a wooden carved statue of a faceless man bearing the crooked staff of a shepherd… the very image of The Forgotten God. To either side of the statue were another pair; one a black-stained ceramic statue of a raven, and the other of a cat. On the floor before the alter lay a large sack. The sack proved to be a 30lbs bag of salt… worth its weight in gold, but often used in religious ceremonies as a symbol of purity. The meaning behind these practices were an enigma…

The site seemingly secured and knowing time was running short, the group decided to begin interrogating their prisoners and finding-out who and what they were…

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A is for Altars
"You are playing with powers beyond your ken..."

Shorn 26th, 1048 TR, Early Evening : Having gathered supplies and the children enxt to the animals, the adventurers began preparations to leave and/or interrogate their prisoners. Kruck began readying the ox-cart and ponies, finding saddles for all five in the wagon. He also tried to talk to the kids, but they glowered and seemed very afraid of him. Squirrel tried as well, but they didn’t seem very friendly. Lord Taumus of House Daure started gathering “Raven” tattoos by carving the marked flesh from their bodies, and placing it in one of his preserving jars. Lady Vathra banRainha gathered Ash Cogward and Fangrik in the shrine chamber, and proceeded to explain her plan to “scare” the information from them.

Vathra shape-changed into a spiky demon (dubbed Lady Thorn by Fangrik), and then dragged Birgitte onto the wooden altar of The Forgotten God, made sure her binding was secure, and pulled out her dagger. Ash and Fangrik took the blindfolds off all four prisoners, and then watched as Vathra plunged the dagger into Birgitte’s chest in a coup-de-grac, slaying her instantly.

Amid the screams f the prisoners, and the shocked silence of Ash and Fangrik, the corpse and altar it rested on gave off a pulsing-purple glow accompanied by a slow-creeping chill. Fangrik backed off, and Ash stared in horror as Vathra, non-plussed, began rooting around in Birgitee’s chest cavity for something… When the chill and glow started to pool, however, and immediately formed into a dark shadowy wratih-like form, Vathra realized the danger in her situation, it struck her, and she retreated. So did Ash and Fangrik. The prisoners screamed on.

Vathra retreated into the bridge leading to the leader’s chamber, and watched as her companions retreated out the other door, disappearing from sight. The Wraith moved to the bound and helpless other female bandit, and promptly slew her. Recognizing the danger, Vathra started to cut the bonds of the bandit archer closest to her. Ash and Fangrik readied their defenses, preparing to defend the entrance to the children’s chamber. Out in the clearing, Kruck and Squirrel, both moved quickly towards the treehouses, and Taumus stopping her tasks, moved quickly to join Ash and Fangrik in the next room.

The dead female bandit glowed briefly in a purplish glow and another wraith rose from her corpse, joining wiht its maker and both moved to attack the nearest people; the bandit archer (just freed) and bandit leader still bound, slaying both and feeding from them. Vathra recognizing her danger, shape-changed back to her “true-self”, and proceeded to clumsily fly around the chamber’s outside, perching on the bridge between the child’s room and the outer barracks, behind her companions.

Two new wraiths rose from the corpses of the bandits, and the four creatures wafted through the treehouse walls to attack the adventurers in the next room. One moved to attack Squirrel, recently arrived through the hatch in the floor, two attacked Fangrik, and another attacked Ash. Kruck soon arrived, passing Vathra, telling her she was on fire… Their cold, weakening touch and insubstantial nature gave them an advantage, though Taumus was able to mitigate that somewhat using his skills in undead fighting that disrupted their defenses and made them vulnerable to attacks. Ash also protected his two companions, Kruck and Fangrik with defenses against necrotic attacks, granting them great protection for the fight, though his healing was limited after this.

Combined, the group were able to slowly whittle away at the wraiths, facing some danger in the long battle, but eventually their combined efforts and planned defenses kept the undead at bay, until the final two were bloodied, one slain and the last fled through a wall and into the trees to the north. The group took stock of their exhausted status, but all eyes turned to Vathra and her cold-blooded murder…

Squirrel tried vainly to convince Fangrik to not attack her (Squirrel – “She’s my pet, and I’m still training her!”), and Vathra sprouted her smoky wings and flew off to the trees to the north, perching there and staying away. Taumus, Fangrik and Kruck ran out into the clearing, chasing her (Taumus – “She’s heading for the CHILDREN!”). Kruck, Fangrik, Vathra and Squirrel got into a grand philosophical discussion about what had happened with Vathra, resulting in Fangrik labeling her Black Vathra, and her revealing her “true form” to the group… very similar to a Tiefling, only human-toned skin with black, smoky and insubstantial wings and a head of sharp iron horns. Seductive, but deadly.

Taumus, meanwhile, heard the horrors of the origin of the wraiths from Ash, and the two headed back into the shrine chamber, and began trying to remove the taint of evil that had arisen there. Eventually, they dragged the corpses out into the child’s chamber, tossed the three statues out the door (finding the wooden altar/box to be filled with treasure, which they unlocked and quietly split), scattered holy water from one of Taumus’ vials around the altar and chamber, and eventually used the tapestries to start a fire, which quickly spread in the dry autumn air.

Gathering the supplies and accumulated loot into the wagon, getting the children on their ponies, and everyone suspiciously watching each other, the group made their way back to Kar Mandri as darkness fell. Fangrik sniffed-out a short-cut to save some time, and the group returned late in the evening to the way station. Kruck stayed to take care fo the animals, while the group bundeled the children inside the hall, looking for their employer, Edensor the Merchant. Inside were the usual collection of guards from Frandor’s Keep, the passengers and merchants from the caravan, and a group of adventurers in the corner, The Black Banners.

The group reported in to Edensor, to which he seemed horrified that there seemed to be a tie between The Ravens and The Iron Ring. He thanked them for their efforts, but claimed that “Rikar’s Raven Juniors” were not his concern; the adventurers now had five orphans on their hands. Squirrel tried to speak with the children again, but they glowered at him, and Ash mtried to engage them with his little familiar, Clinkton, but they just poked it with a stick. Seems slaughtering their parents, stealing their toys and setting fire to their home was more than enough to make them hate the party… Ash set about cleaning his tools and gun, eve though his party kidded him about it. Fangrik found out about the collection of tattooed skin Taumus had taken from the corpses, and smashed it into the fire. He crawled into a corner by himself and whimpered himself to sleep, his ears low…

In the middle of the night, Ash awoke to find a strange blue-glowing thing floating above him; The Whisp. Vathra and Squirrel both peered across at the creature, having awoken by its low, soft humming. The Whisp reached out a tendril of blue light, in an attempt to touch the blade Brightflame held in Ash’ arms, but he drew the blade and took a swipe at it. The creature disappeared in a soft hum of sound, like a window closing on a breeze, and made everyone even more on edge… if that was possible. N o one knew much about what it might be, but it was Fey, and seemed tied to the sword… The group fell back to sleep once more.

Shorn 27th, 1048 TR : The cold was everywhere leading to caravan to have a slow start. The snows could be seen on the upper peaks of the mountains around them; winter had finally arrived. Squirrel started accosting the leader, Helm, and he eventually drew the wrath of Knu, who tossed a dagger at him. Captain Tallus approached the adventurers, explaining that The Balck Banners were coming with the caravan for the next day and a bit, but they ere going to ride in the back and otherwise keep to themselves. The adventurers took the lead, riding in relative silence, with their string of children behind them.

After a cold, slow day, they arrived at the last way station of Kar Vestul. Smaller than the previous one, they met the way station keepers, Ol’ Jaes Mason and his wife Mildreg. They provided cheap, but good food, stews mostly from local game and thick slabs of rye bread and ale. They treated the soldiers in the caravan with great respect. Fangrik approached the watcher, and sought if he could do with a child labourer… (Fangrik – “Do you need children? To clean and muck stables?”). Vathra tried to mind-read/talk to the seeming leader of The Black Banners, but Helm Gravesend seemed to take being poked in the mind as an insult… Ash and Squirrel again tried to engage the children, but they seemed grumpy and not very accepting of their new foster parents yet… At least this time they didn’t try to poke Clinkton too much. The group rested in peace in their assigned space.

Shorn 28th, 1048 TR : Frost was on everything in the o morning, and the caravan got another lat start, but made good time across the trail. Ice could be seen floating past in the Paradise River to the south. Squirrel spent much of the day harrying about for dried flowers and leaves, quietly stuffing Helm’s helmet back with grasses and flowers; his companions seemed to notice, but said nothing. By mid-day, the group reached a magnificent stone bridge crossing the river to the south, while the trade road continued off to the north into The Trackless Heights towards Westwind – The Emerald Realm. The Black Banners left the caravan here, travelling north towards the pass, with nary a farewell or wave. The caravan crossed the bridge and headed on east.

The final few miles were anxious, and the sight of The Keep ahead seemed welcoming. A narrow trail traveled serpentine up the mountainside, with the roar of the waterfalls below The Keep thundering in their ears. Above the three mighty falls, stood the mist-enshrouded expanse of The Keep, a fortress-town built on a sheer rocky spire in the midst of the river. A narrow drawbridge reached across to the southern side of the river, allowing access, and beckoning visitors to enter. Towers dot the walls of the fortress, with the crimson and white of The Lynx Legion visible against the dark grey of the stonework even from the distance of about a mile. The group had reached The Keep, and the end of their journey, at last…

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Little Keep on the Borderlands
"The Keep... it was everything we expected, and more..."

Shorn 28th, 1048; Evening : Staring at the massive bulk of Frandor’s Keep, the caravan slowly wound its way up the narrow track leading to the castle entrance. Everyone noticed the scattered debris of previous caravans along the cliffs; broken crates and wagon wheels, oxen bones and other debris. After a careful ascent, they approached The Keep’s entrance, noticing a gaggle of individuals scattered about in front. Some displayed various wares on blankets, others approached the caravan, tugging on sleeves to get attention and offering to exchange their services for coin.

The group learned the motley gaggle was known as “The Gauntlet”, and while most people avoided them like the plague, Content Not Found: krusk began offering silver to them if they’d line-up and make way for the caravan. Squirrel commenced "Squirreling"_. The caravan eventually began moving past the_Gauntlet, and made their way into the Keep at last. Crossing through the Outer Bailey_, a rocky island dominated by a massive round tower of black stone (_Storm Tower), they passed over Three Leaps Bridge.

The Lower Bailey beyond was well-guarded, and not without conflict. As the group approached, they were grilled by a venomous guard, who spoke gruffly to both Krusk and Fangrik, questioning everything about them, but they were eventually let through without much more difficulty. Within, they found a pillory with a whipped man manacled to it, who moaned and could barely talk, having been there for some time, apparently… They had to surrender and register their “large” weapons (spears, great axe, longbows, maces and such) and await a license (at a cost of 1 sp for each member of the group), and the group stowed their wagon in the former stables, now a warehouse, where they were given a key to its lock, and a bronze medallion, shaped like a songbird of some sort. Krusk took both. Drew the Avaricious took the group’s horses and ponies and oxen back out to the Palisade, arranging stabling for a ten-day, and selling the oxen and captrued riding horse from the bandit’s camp.

Passing through the outer gate, they noticed a young woman behind a table with coins and weighing apparatus, and a notice board listing various topics. Drew introduced himself, finding the woman was Nepra, a jeweller’s apprentice, who exchanged coins for travellers headed to any local destination; Westwind – The Emerald Realm, Cygnus – The Swan Kingdom, or Brightwater – City of Coins. The flirting commenced. The group took note of various offers and opportunities to make some money during their stay, chuckling over some and staring in abject horror at others. For a few silvers, Nepra detailed where to find the individuals, as well as the local shrines. She also explained about the missing The Golden Lynx from the gate above.

Entering the Middle Bailey, the group scattered to conduct some business. Among them, was the curio shop owned by Dasas, where he had everything including sleds hanging from the roof, and “…Crazy, Low Prices…”. Retiring to The Prancing Pegasus Inn, the group were paid-out for their work in the caravan by Captain Tallus. They arranged for a stay of a ten-day, and met the innkeeper, a stoically handsome dwarf named Darg Turikan. Drew managed to meet with a mercenary, Firg, who sold himself for 1 gp a day plus supplies and equipment from the group’s gathered supplies in the wagon, though he initially asked for 10 gp per day. He knew the nearby area well enough, and would prove to be a benefit in searching the area for whatever the group might seek; Drew saw him as his first recruit for his future merc company…

Lastly, Healer Balan appeared at Lord Taumus of House Daure request. He proved a saint, and was both respected and beloved by everyone at The Keep. He and Taumus spoke about the orphans, and as a result of the talk, Taumus interviewed all five, and decided that two of them; Gyda and Nefera seemed the type Taumus might take on himself as servants. The others would be apprenticed off to local tradesmen.

Shorn 29th, 1048 TR : The group visited Belipar, a local artist, in response to his notice on the public board. Belipar proved to be a waking trope, with all the expected appearances and twitches. He was looking for someone to discover a shipment of lead that had gone missing, which he needed to complete a commission for Lady Lucretia Rainford, since it would be impossible to get more in the time remaining for its completion. He offered 50 gps and further offered to paint the group’s portrait once the snows set in, as a means to make their glory known throughout the valleys… He then modified Taumus’ map, detailing much of the terrain to the east, near the travel road to Cygnus, where the caravan was supposed to have come from.

The group then started to divide-up their gathered loot, and Lady Vathra banRainha took her leave, wishing everyone well and stating she might head across the passes in Spring, and see everyone then… Some shopping commenced, and supplies were gathered to prepare for the search for the caravan.

Leaving in the early afternoon, the group retrieved their mounts, Taumus bringing his new servants, and Drew having his guide assist Fangrik as they travelled. The weather was turning very cold, and by nightfall, the wind was swirling snow across the ground.

Shorn 30th, 1048 TR : The group awoke with frost covering everything. The two children, Gyda and Nefera were heavily bundled and stayed close to their ponies and the fire. Taumus got them moving and helping prepare the morning feast of porridge and bark tea. Starting late, they travelled further east, and after about an hour came upon the horrible scene of the fallen caravan.

The bodies of many gaurds and merchants were strewn across the clearing, obviously slain by bowfire from the woods on both the north and south sides of the trail. One wagon remained, and all the horses were slain, as well. The wreckage of the caravan’s goods were strewn everywhere. The odd smell of algae could be detected everywhere across the trail. Careful searching revealed a set of cart tracks heading off into the south woods, about three days old, along with several horses and about a dozen small, scaly clawed feet. Kobolds! Off in that direction lay a rocky outcropping, and the group headed off into the frosted brush.

After about an hour of hacking through the woods, they came to edge of a large flat stony swath of land, where the tracks ended at the battered cart, now stripped of its belongings. The tracks led across the stones, so Taumus left his servants and Drew his guard t watch over them and the group’s mounts, while they headed across the stony area. Within a few minutes, the cry of a wolf-pack broke across the clearing, and soon enough the group was surrounded by a pack of vicious wolves, led by a massive black beast the size of a large pony. The fight was quick, wiht the smaller wolves knocking over individuals and the large one moving smartly back and forth, displaying its great cunning. After grieviously wounding several, and slaying one, the pack broke and scattered into the nearby woods. Fangrik gathered the hide of the fallen one, and the group continued across the clearing into the heavy woods on the other side.

In the thick woods, they found the rotting corpses of the horses, seemingly attacked, but not eaten by the wolves. The smell of algae was very strong around the corpses, and Ash Cogward identified the algae smell as being a warning of some sort of fungus was rooting in the corpses… a toxic one. The group burned the horse bodies, using lamp oil and torches, and moved on into the forest.

They promptly found themselves in an old orchard, of a type which none of them could identify. They gathered a sack of the old, dessicated apples, and followed the path to a large pond with a small steading on an island in its center. A thin wisp of smoke escaped from the chimney, and it was apparent a smartly tended orchard of these same apples lay behind it, along with a collection of small outbuildings and sheds. They were unable to get anyone’s attention, and with no visible way across the lake, they followed the shore leading to the rocky outcropping.

At the base of the rocky promontory, they found a sandy beach surrounding a dark-looking cave. As they approached, they noticed the same small clawed footprints and heard the distintive barks and yips of Draconic. Entering the cave, they quickly found a central cavern, wiht piles of caravan goods and crates scattered about, and a dozen kobolds dancing, cavorting and generally carrying on. The utterly obnoxious odor of urine could be smelt everywhere. In the center of the room lay a pile of silvery crystals (the LEAD!), and a pile of dirty jars next to it. Ash found a trap near the entrance, disabled it, and the group charged in to attack.

After the initial surprise, the group proceeded to mow down the kobolds, though the appearance of one from the shadows wielding paired short swords was a surprising development. Overall, however, the kobolds took a beating, and eventually tried to escape, but the group worked together to defeat them, allowing none to escape. Taumus and Drew gathered the smelly lead crystals, tossing them into the urine-soaked jars, and then tossing those into a barrel packed with hay to protect them. Collecting a pewter service set (for ten!), some burgundy seed in a sack, a a few luxury items (like a small-sized silk dress and a candlestick). They then looted the kobolds of their loose coins and javelins, and left them to rot in the cave.

Travelling back to the lake, Fangrik swam across, and approached the cabin, trying to get the inhabitants attention. Eventually, he coaxed the door open to reveal an older lady bering a crossbow. After convincing her the “wolf” meant no harm, Widow Parikin opened the door, and let Fangrik take a rowbot from a shed in back to retrieve his companions. They packed themselves into her cabin, festooned with drying herbs, and were offered bark tea and slices of her own Norish Apple pie. Fangrik slipped out to chop wood (just like ol’ Joe would do when he visited widows).

The group engaged in a long discussion about the Norish Apples, and why she lived alone, and the death of the local kobold tribe that had been annoying her. She told about how her husband had learned the secret to Norish Apples, and how to raise them and prepare them into all sorts of things, though she only baked them into pies and cakes. She also told of how her grand-daughter braved the wilds to bring her a basket of supplies once and a while. Lastly, the group learned about her great-grandfather, Ver’Kusi, and how he once had a balde of some sort that he kept… Soon thereafter, teh group excused themselves, and making it back across the lake (followed by Fangrik, who returned the rowboat and swam back across the lake.

Travelling back through the orchard and across the rocky field, they met with their companions and mounts, and camped for the night.

Uktar 1st, 1048 TR : The morning dawned misty and cold, with hoarfrost on everything. The group broke camp early, and headed back to the caravan wreckage, with the cart (now loaded with the barrel) in tow. They found The Black Banners, where the two groups kinda stared and glowered at each other, before the group headed back up the trail to The Keep, hurrying to get there before the door’s and gates closed for the night. Leaving their mounts in The Palisade, they made their way back across Three Leaps Bridge and into the Middle Bailey. They had their licences, so were able to keep their weapons, and they packed the cart and its contents in their warehouse stall. They visited Belipar, returning the stinky barrel and its contents to him and getting their 50 gps reward. He promised to work on their painting once he’d finished his commission for the Lady Rainford. Lastly, they turned the wolfskin over to Dolm the fur trader for a pittance of 2 gps.

That night, the group feasted on deer stew and cheese (so warm and savory!), and discussed their options. Drew bemoaned the fact they hadn’t brought the kobold heads back with them for the bounty, and they made inquiries about the Widow Parikin’s grand-daughter, to which they learned “…Oh! You mean one of Lanar’s Girld… he’s very protective of them…”. When no one seemed to understand what the dwarven innkeeper was referring to, he mentioned she worked in The Broken Hilt Tavern, where “Lanar keeps, you know… bedwarmers for a price…”.

While everyone suddenly realized what he meant, and looked a little uncomfortable, Drew chugged his ale and ate his meal quickly, and rose to leave, stating “…sorry, I need to see a amn about a whore… I mean HORSE…”, and left for the Tavern. He passed around a few coppers and silvers among the mostly ragged crowd, learning a few common rumors, and retired to a night of bliss with a pretty bedwarmer named Thelka, who charged him an exhorbitant 6 gps for the night. Which he nonetheless paid… He did learn that waerewolves appeared to attacking the livestock in The Palisade, however… The rest retired to their own chambers and slept peacefully in warmth and peace, their bellies full.

Uktar 2nd, 1048 TR : The group roused early, and headed to The Palisade to investigate the rumors. Speaking wiht Tarkin, the old master of the stables and The Palisade, they learned that something, werewolves everyone believed, were indeed attacking the livestock. Since Lord Sandus Rainford own cavalry were stabled in the barn, only the merchant’s and other visitors, including the group’s own mounts, were at risk. Examining the wounds, they found a strange, oddly-shaped wound on several mounts, and Malkin related that they were usually just wounded, though the other night, they had found on horse slain from a fever it had caught from the wound it had taken. In exchange for solving the mystery and ending it, the group (with Drew as spokesman), managed to convince him to give them free stabling for the winter.

The group then headed back to The Keep, dodging The Gauntlet, and while some grabbed the hand-cart and emptied it of goods, the others headed to the Hepekerian Dasas’ curio shop, and acquired a large wooden cage (that would fit on the cart), and several fishing nets, intending to capture several of the creatures for resale to Jiric, the “exotics” trader. After a good early meal at the inn, the group headed back to The Palisade, and iwth the cage on the cart nearby, and several nets at hand, they staked-out Kruck’s horse, and hid among the herd for the night.

After several hours of waiting, they noticed the herd go silent, along with all the nearby woodland creatures. Scattered along the edges of the stockade, several shadowy forms rose up. Small, but bent and spindly, like ghouls, the creatures seemed to hiss and snicker back and forth between each other. After a few quiet minutes, the group slipped back behind the stockade and scattered into the dark… apparently the trap had been noticed. The group gathered and with Fangrik’s skilled nose, sniffed-out their trail, and followed it about a mile east along the mountain.

The thicket they approached was cloaked in shadow and brambles, with a handful of bones and other debris lying among the roots of the thickets. Approaching something appearing to be a heavy thicket and lair, the group noisily pushed their way among the roots, before a sudden movement all around the thicket erupted. The Leech Men were awakened, most scattering nimbly out of the thicket and into the dark, though a couple charged and attacked the nearest targets. The battle was brief, with several members taking brutal damage from the Leech Men’s lamprey attacks, and a couple even felt the poisons of the Leeches blood disease course through their veins, but they managed to subdue a pair, tie them up and toss them in the cage. Securing their cargoes, the group pushed back along the frozen trail to reach The Keep, even though the gates would likely be drawn shut…

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Stumbling towards fame
"Our first forays around the Keep brought local fame..."

Uktar 2nd, 1048 TR, Late Evening : Dragging the handcart/cage through the bitter snowy evening for a mile, the group managed to return to the Palisade, gaining access and parking the cart in a far corner under guard, while they tried to get some sleep in the stables.

Uktar 3rd, 1048 TR : Awakening to a cold snowy day once more, the group waited a few hours, and then sent Fangrik and Drew the Avaricious to meet with Jirik, the “exotics” merchant in the Middle Bailey. Eventually they found him in The Broken Hilt, and convinced him to come out to the Palidsade for a look at what they’d captured. He accompanied them and agreed to pay them for the two creatures in exchange for 12gp. He said he was also looking for orcs, gnolls, goblins and (in particular) a matched pair of kobolds. Kruck was very leery about the whole exchange, but Drew convinced him (lied) they were not sentient creatures. The exchange was made back in the Keep, and the group made plans to return and take-out the remaining members of The Leech Men, using fire.

Lord Taumus of House Daure and Ash Cogward, however, were still stricken with Filth Fever, and made plans to hunt down a cure when they had a chance.

Returning to the brambles, they systematically started burning the brambles using Taumus Flaming Hands, and after a few minutes, the remaining Leechmen gathered and clicked back and forth in some sort of conversation. They suddenly massed and attacked the group, half of them moving to flank and attack the fire-using casters. The group proved ruthless and slaughtered most, while a pair managed to flee off through the brambles and out into the cold, snowy wilds. Drew started taking heads off the fallen creatures for their bounty, while Taumus began burning off the remaining brambles. The rest scoured the ashes for any treasure, finding a lone shield near one nest, that proved to be a Light Shield of Protection.

Once more, battered and bloody, the group returned to the castle and spread out looking for supplies. Drew sold the heads to the bounty master for 1 sp each. Taumus gathered holy water and healing herbs for his Filth Fever from Healer Balan, further getting a promise to have him visit them for healing after he’d dealt with feeding the lepers…. Kruck, Fangrik and Squirrel returned to the Palisade, reporting they had cleared out the nest of Leechmen, and Master Tarkin granted them their reward of free care and fodder for their horses and other mounts for the entire Winter. Everyone returned back to the Prancing Pegasus for baths, meals and general rest. Kruck started nosing around about the status of The Ravens, but they were proving to be an elusive contact. Everyone finally slept in clean, warm beds.

4th of Uktar, 1048 TR : Healer Balan met with the sick member sof the group, and healed them with his herbs and teas. It was expensive, but worth it, besides all his money was going to a good cause. Kruck re-purchased access to their warehouse slot for a ten-day. The group also resupplied.

Gathering their supplies, the group took their cage-handcart, and took a trip up the trail past Quarrytown (having a good look at the place for the first time). They reached a cross pathway, and got a little lost, but eventually Fangrik took the map away from Drew and the group headed up over the pass south of Frandor’s Keep towards Vesper Tower. When they got there, they discovered it to be a 30’-tall stone tower built up against an outcropping and coated with frost, having no visible entrance. No door, no windows or crossbow slits, and no access to the top. The place was silent as a grave, and no light was visible, anywhere.

Fangrik scaled quickly to the top, and discovered a goblin with a short bow. The goblin squeaked and shot at Fangrik, resulting ina vicious running bash that knocked the goblin over the edge, where he fell in front of the group. It was a quick death. Along one side of the tower was a winch with a thick rope attached, a large bronze bowl filled with wood (a signal flame, meant to be seen by The Keep or a nearby tower), and a single hatch leading down. Fangrik slipped through the hatch, and dropped into the hollow interior, landing at the bottom of the ladder between a pair of sleeping goblins and a pile of trash in the far corner. Slaying one with complete surprise, eh slew the other before it could react. Fangrik dragged the corpses one by one up the ladder, dropping them next to the first corpse, then released the catch on the winch and helped everyone up onto the top of the watch tower.

The group tidied the place a bit, finding a pair of corpses in the corner that had been nibbled on, and wearing torn surcoats from The Lynx Legion, taking them as proof of the death of the guards. The group poured oil on the corpses, burning them, and eventually cleared the place enough to lay down their bedrolls and camp in the relatively chill tower, but at least away from the winds.

5th of Uktar, 1048 TR : The morning dawned bitterly cold. Cleaning the tower better, and tossing the trash out over the sheer southern cliffs, they made the place relatively livable. Leaving the handcart-cage at the tower’s base, they headed east up the trail, finding a large mountain lake and small pine woods. They found recent tracks of both goblins and wolves, before reaching the remains of Wolf Tower at teh trail’s end.

Perched on a tall stone outcropping that actually could see over the mountain ridge to the north, it proved to be heavy stone bound in iron bands and sheathed on the exterior with bronze. Slick and impossibly encrusted with frost, Fangrik had difficulty climbing, but eventually reached the top to find the entire interior gutted and burnt-out. Rigging a pair of ropes over the 40’-high walls, they managed to get everyone inside, where they searched through the rubble. They also tried to see if there was some magic involved in its construction, but there didn’t seem to be. Apparently once having several floors, the interior timberwork was charred but could be used for firewood. Buried deep in the rubble, was a tall bronze statue… The Golden Lynx!?! The group bedded down for the night, at least away from the wind.

6th of Uktar, 1048 TR : Using very skill at theri disposal, the group wrestled the Golden Lynx out of the rubble, and dragged it outside, over the walls. Dragging the statue down off the ridge, they headed back to Vesper Tower, where they wrestled it back over the walls and perched it on the roof. Rest.

In the middle of the night, squeeking was heard on the roof, and Fangrik slipped out to be attacked by a pair of large Dire Stirges! The nesting pair were tough, but one was slain, and the other buzzed away into the night. Fangrik prepared the large stirge corpse for slow roasting in their fire’s ashes, and in the morning everyone feasted on remarkably good “Roast Blood Stirge”.

7th of Uktar, 1048 TR : Another bitterly cold morning greeted the group. Loading the Lynx on their cart, the group made quick time down the mountain trail to The Keep. The stowed the Lynx in their warehouse slot, and informed the local guards that they had information regarding Vesper Tower. Returning to their rooms in the Prancing Pegasus Inn, they sat around a hot meal and discussed their options. Group (or “Pack” ) names were discussed, including Squirrel’s Mixed Nuts, but they seemed set upon chartering themselves as The Mystery Company. Fangrik gets a nickname of “Scrappy”.

Eventually Taumus and Squirrel went in search of the “magic shop”, and found on the second level above the bounty office, Madame Raadama’s shop filled with trinkets, a crystal ball and various magickal totems and charms. With Squirrel distracted by various trinkets, the Madame proved to be an old hag of a woman who dropped innuendo that she had Materia and other magicakl rituals for sale, but that she required… services…. in return. Taumus balked at becoming her lover, and they excused themselves, with Squirrel one totem richer to ward off vampires (a sprig of garlic on a threaded leather thong).

The Captain-of-the-Guard on night duty appeared and the group informed him of the loss of Vesper Tower and its guards to gblins, presenting proof in the form of their surcoats. They also told of investigating the ruins of Wolf Tower and finding the Golden Lynx. They would recieve reward gold for both notices and arrangements were made to return the Lynx on the morrow. The group rested in warm, cozy beds for the night.

8th of Uktar, 1048 TR : The group went looking for long-term housing, and investigated the apartments, but found them drafty and vermin-infested, as well as rather small. Krusk schmoozed in The Broken Hilt and heard rumors of spirits in the river, but the group dismissed them. Examining Taumus’ map, they noticed the Monastery (on the north side of the river), as well
as the mysterious mine symbol to the south. Snce they had found both a rusty pick and a shovel in the general area near Vesper Tower, they felt the mine might be a good place to examine, and they could use the tower as a base camp to search and rest between missions. So agreed, they spent the day gathering supplies (oil, firewood, extra blankets and as much jerky and other “cold-weather” rations) as they could find for a fifteen-day stay in the mountains. They decided to let their rooms go in the inn for the time being, but arranged to have the warehouse available for the time they were away. Everyone prepared themselves with a night of warm food and drinks.

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The Mines of the Goblin King
"Goblins be tricksy folk..."

8th of Uktar : Supplies are gathered by the group for their stay at the tower, consisting of extra blankets, firewood, lamp oil and fifteen days worth of food.

9th of Uktar : The group travelled up the old trail towards the tower, snow flying everywhere, on the edge of a storm. Having left their horses behind, they dragged the handcart with the cage through the drifting snow. Halfway up the trail, they encountered a Griffon, which stared at them, before flying away.

Reaching the abandoned Vesper Tower, the group gathered all their supplies together, and set-up their temporary home. Fangrik headed out into the area near the lake below Vesper Tower, finding many tracks of both goblins and wolves. The group camped happily and told stories late into the night.

10th of Uktar : The group returned to the lake, and tracked the goblins and wolves north along the lake edge into an evergreen copse, where they found a bedraggled cabin in the woods. Closing on the thicket, they heard a wolf whine from within, and cautiously approached. Once within sight, three wolves gang-attacked the group from the thicket’s depths, and very quickly were joined by a pair of large dire wolves, that tore into the group’s casters from the flanks. The fight was fierce, but over quickly.

In the cabin, the group found a momma wolf and six cubs. While Fangrik and Kruck skinned the wolves, the group searched through the wreckage in the cabin. They found some scattered coins and a pair of orcish mangs, but also six small wolf cubs. Dragging everything back to Vesper Tower, the group left them under the care of Drew the Avaricious and Lord Taumus of House Daures two servants, before returning to the cabin and searching for the goblin’s lair.

Entering, they found a strangely well-built mine shaft, that led to an octagonal chamber with a corridor leading off. Carefully crossing the chamber, they found numerous pit traps, and were ambushed by five goblins using javelins and hand crossbows. Pushing down the other corridor, while the rest of the group slowly followed over the pits, Kruck and Fangrik slew one and pushed the others into retreat.

The fight went bad, when Fangrik followed after a pair of fleeing archers down a dead-end corridor, to discover he’d been led into another trap… a giant rolling boulder that closely followed along as he fled the ambush of another pair of archers hidden behind it. The boulder slipped back along the corridor, and fell into a pit trap where Ash Cogward was struggling to get across, crushing him and knocking him unconscious. Quickly healing him, the group retreated from the ambush corridor, and managed to get away, with the sound of a gong being struck further down the right corridor, and the hasty approach of many other goblins.

Returning to the tower beaten and bruised, the group came upon a young elf, who identified himself as Aaron Fisher who was examining Vesper Tower. After a quick interrogation, the group invited him to help them attack the goblin tribe they seemed to have uncovered, and he accepted. The group rested and had a small feast, and after binding their wounds, returned to the mine entrance. Carefully sneaking down the corridor, and avoiding the trapped pits, they found a large group of goblin warriors engaged under the direction of a goblin shaman, in raising the boulder out of the pit using ropes and wood for leverage, a few inches at a time. The group attacked without mercy or warning, and a fierce battle once more erupted around the open pit trap and boulder. Taumus dropped a particularly powerful zone of flames that kept the goblins from rallying in the corridor beyond the pit, and broke up their defenses enough that the group was successful in forcing them to retreat to the right, with a couple fleeing down another corridor straight ahead and beyond into the dark.

The group rallied, and followed the retreating goblin shaman (particularly annoying little bastard), and heard a loud roar from further down, followed by the appearance of a massive cave bear << They’ve got a CAVE BEAR!?!>>. The bear tore into their front ranks, and managed to drop Fangrik before it was bloodied enough that it too retreated back and away from the group. The adventurers rallied once more, and pulled back down the corridor and pit traps, but not before taking the goblin’s ropes from the boulder. Returning to the Vesper Tower, they set up guards, and settled in for a good night’s extended rest.

11th of Uktar : After another long rest, the group returned to the cabin, and began a search in the snow for another exit to the mines, since, they believed, no self-respecting goblin would not have a second exit to their lair. Fangrik spent hours combing the cliff walls on the northern face of the mountain around the mines, but found nothing, while the other adventurers turned the cabin upside down looking for anything else.

The group then returned to the mine, passing the pit traps and reaching the corridor beyond where another brawl erupted. At one point, Fangrik followed after two archers, but failed to stop them from once more activating the boulder trap (though he got them both), but this time the group was ready, and it harmlessly fell into the open pit beyond. Many goblins were slaughtered, and eventually the bear was released once more and fought them until it tried to retreat and was slaughtered mercilessly at a junction beyond the ambush corridor. Fangrik followed after a pair, and wound-up swimming through a filthy goblin sewer pit, contracting Filth Fever.

At the first dead-end they found the cave bear’s lair and where it was kept chained-up, with a barrack next to it holding the hated alarm gong. Carefully proceeding into the complex, they were again attacked by an avalanche trap, and found several small rooms used as barracks, and a narrow passage that led to a couple locked and sturdy goblin-sized doors. Behind one they found a narrow little cell holding a dwarf!

The dwarf, identified as Bargrum, seemed uninterested in believing either Kruck or Fangrik, and seemed to distrust the word of a gnome who associated with monsters… The dwarf informed them that “The Master” wouldn’t really appreciate his leaving, and that the adventurers would likely be his feast if they continued, so he declined their assistance, and sealed himself back in his cell and bid them good day. Slipping down the narrow corridor beyond they came into a large barracks chamber with a horde of goblins gathered, and started another brawl.

Obviously the shaman’s personal chambers, the fight was touch and go for a while, and the adventurers nearly retreated, but Fangrik and Kruck, supported by Ash and his healing, and Taumus and his spells, they slaughtered many (including a lot of “hunter” goblins who fell quite easily. The shaman’s blinding attacks were particularly troublesome, but for the final time, the shaman was cornered and slain. Searching the lair, they found a few coins and scavenged all the weapons and other goods they could, including various wild foods found among the “hunter” goblin’s sacks. In one corner, the hearth (which was impassable), they could hear goblin “yammering”, which they felt hinted at another band somewhere else in the complex.

The group began following the deeper corridors, finding them narrowing and winding, looking more like goblin diggings. At one point they found a small group of goblins deep in the mines using crude stone picks to pull silver nuggets from the walls, and slew them quickly. In one corridor, they found a well-built stone wall with a slot in it at goblin height. Ash used his magic weapon, Brightflame to activate it and open the secret door beyond, to reveal a large chamber with a dozen breeding goblins and the great king of the goblins…

A tough-looking goblin warrior, he proved very talkative, and while he was very diplomatic (for a goblin), he was still a goblin. It proved he was willing to talk, and the group managed to piece together that the goblin king answered to someone called “The Master”, likely the orc referred to by Bargrim earlier. They agreed to let the goblin king and his breeders live after he explained the Master lived deeper in the mines. << This deal getting worse all the time! Why you not go already?!? >> The group agreed this was where the “yammerigng” had come from, and consulting their maps,decided there was little else to investigate, especially considering how wounded and tired they were. Taking their leave of the king and their collected loot, they subdued the dwarf from his cell and dragged him bound with their loot back to Vesper Tower. They rested and set guards.

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12th of Uktar : The group gave Drew the responsibility to sort and assess the gathered loot, and he promised to sell it all once they all returned to Frandor’s Keep. Fangrik went under the care of Taumus and Ash, and was cured of his Filth Fever.

Returning to the mine complex, the group began searching down the other sewer-blocked corridor, and beyond found a series of scything blade traps. The group successfully passed that, and explored the mines deeper delvings, finding narrow, twisting earthen tunnels that only a goblin would enjoy following. They were lost for a short while, but eventually mapped how they all connected together.

Leaving that behind, the group returned to confront the goblin king, and found he had taken his breeders, his hidden hoard of loot, and som supplies from his personal stash and fled the complex overnight. Fangrik was beside himself in angr over having been apparently played by a goblin. << We were bluffed by the goblin king?!? F!@# IT! >.

The group returned to Vesper Tower, and took a long rest, counting their collected loot and contemplating the value of a hidden silver mine.

13th of Uktar : The group loaded their supplies onto the handcart, and began the hard trip through the snow down the mountain trail to The Keep. Along the way, the group got into a philosophical discussion regarding ambush points along the trail, and eventually Taumus stated, “…well, historically speaking, this was a great place for some orcs to be hiding in the shadowy trees…”

A group of orcs leapt out of the shadowy trees and attacked, while one spent some time smacking his head into a tree and building a berserk frenzy. The fight was tough. Very tough… But eventually all five orcs were slain, and the group rallied to search their belongings. Along with a bevy of handaxes, they found a human arm in the big one’s pack, branded with a raven symbol… the mark of The Ravens. Why they would be carrying that around was odd, but the adventurers left the corpses and continued on down the trail, reaching The Keep before nightfall and the gate’s closure. Taking rooms at the Prancing Pegasus Inn, the group stored their loot in the warehouse and planned for a couple days rest before making their next moves…

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Monastery of Magos
"Pray for your souls..."

14th of Uktar, 1048 TR : Taking several days rest, the group was rewarded with several sacks of coins by Drew the Avaricious, who hawked the various goods the group had collected during their search of the Mines of the Goblin King. They spend the day talking, resting and drinking.

15th of Uktar : The group decided to head into Quarrytown, looking for clues and exploring this community they have not yet visited. They get “dressed-down”, wearing various “common” garb.

They discover a small community of various shops and homes built against the walls of the old quarry, including a leather worker’s, a smith’s and even a scrivner’s. The Scribe Fekur is rather friendly, and relates some information about the locals. Th Bakery proves to be rather bad quality, but popular, and the same with the smithy. There is an open-air tavern under a snow-covered tent, where the patrons nurse their watery ales and stay close to the central fire. After several hours spent trying to stay warm, musicians arrive and by nightfall the entire village has arrived to celebrate. Soon, with the ale flowing, the group hears a number of rumors and the local courtesans appear, making their way through the crowd.

Kruck takes an interest in them, and eventually parts company with the group for a “discussion” between two of the ladies back in their tent, located high along the quarry’s edge. Meanwhile the group learns a little about Rikar the Raven, that he is likely more than a simple bandit-chief. Rumors hint he might be a former soldier, since his organization and ambushes are particularly well-planned and executed. They also hear the rumor that Rikar is likely a pseudo-name… The group spends the night curled in the tavern tent along with many other patrons, and makes their way back to The Keep in the morning when the gates open. So does Kruck.

16th of Uktar : The group discusses options, and decided to act on rumors of undead to be located at The Monastery of Magos. They gathered supplies and prepared for another expedition. They were unable to find Holy Water among the shrines in The Keep. Examining their map, they decided to spend some days at Spirit of the Wood Inn, using it as a base camp to build a raft and get across the Paradise River, and visit the Monastery.

17th of Uktar : The group travelled back along the eastern trade road to Cygnus – The Swan Kingdom, and visited the Spirit of the Wood Inn. They searched the place quickly, and concentrated on clearing the area around the hearth and the blue flame. Ash Cogward, intrigued by the flames, placed Brightflame into the blue fire… activating as a fire elemental. During the resulting scuffle, Kruck brutally shoved it back into the hearth, making it dissipate. Unmoved, Ash once more placed his sword into the fire, turning it back into a flame elemental. The second skirmish went bad. Flames burst out everywhere, though the inn did not catch fire… Eventually, the group were able to defeat it, whereupon it broke into five separate blue The Whisps, which flew back to the hearth, and re-ignited the blue flame.

Clearing a spot nearby, they camped for the night to rest. During the night, The Whisp visited Ash once again, trying to touch his sword, but he once more, pulled away and it slipped away.

18th – 20th of Uktar : Spending several days, the group engages in a Skill Challenge (Athletics, Perception and Thievery), and assembles a timber raft, capable of hauling the group and their horses across Paradise River.

21st of Uktar : The group launched their raft, the “SS Salamander”, and managed to get everything across the river, heading directly to The Monastery. Slogging through the woodlands, they eventually found the tree-covered hill hiding the The Monastery of Magos, and are confronted by a massive cave bear, which Squirrel managed to talk to and convince it to leave.

The group clustered around the massive front door, and quickly resorted to bashing it in, viewing the wondrous mosaics beyond in the main entry hall. A rapid seris of assaults resulted in the slaughter of a pair of goblin hunting groups, a few leader-types and a group of “breeders” clutching their kits, before confronting the main group of goblin warriors and their shaman leader in the feasting hall beneath the main tower. A few handfuls of copper coins, a cache of silver nuggets, and a lost collection of rituals from a moldy book pi were all that the adventurers recovered. Fangrik slipped up the bell-tower, and found a sealed portal leading to the top room. It was revealed to hold a young woman prisoner of the goblins, Lady Alimira of Blackhill. Convincing her of the group’s sincerity in her well-being, they brought her out of the tower, and made a camp in the main hall beneath the mosaics.

22nd of Uktar : The group broke camp and bundled Alimira aboard their pack horse for the journey back to The Keep. The trip back across the Paradise River was harrowing, but otherwise uneventful , and they convened back at the Prancing Pegasus Inn to rest and discuss options and ideas.

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