Chosen by the Gods

Completing the Minotaur Temple

As we assembled to tackle what we assumed would be the final room (or at least challenge) of the dungeon, we were joined by a new recruit, Louis. We spent a couple of hours going over the rules and the way the game is played, giving Louis a chance to read some and get a sense of what he’d need to do in short term and in the long term. Then we got down to business.

Louis took over our human cleric Velos, as Todd took on dwarf fighter Berend along with his primary character elven invoker Lia. Steve played his primary halfing rogue Elden. We got ourselves in a marching order at first outside of the chess-board room (Berend, Velos, Lia, Elden), then entered the chess room on the bishop square and proceeded along the diagonals to avoid any unnecessary pain. Upon reaching the doors at the opposite end, we carefully rearranged ourselves to give Elden a chance to check for traps and see if he could listen in on what might be going on the other side of the doors. Elden found no traps, but he did hear some chanting from what sounded like humans. We agreed that he should try to open the door carefully to avoid being noticed.

Elden cautiously cracked the door open without being noticed and saw four human cultists chanting to a large statue of the demon lord Baphomet. Even Elden was a tad disturbed by the sight, and the whole party looked at each other with determination and a clear idea of what to do. Having caught all of the cultists off-guard, the team was able to strike first (in a surprise round).

Velos sent a divine blast at the nearest cultist, Elden threw a dagger for a sneak attack, Lia struck two of the cultists with lightning from her staff, and Berend charged the nearest cultist and marked him, leaving him already visibly hurt. As the cultists realized what was happening they began to close in on the group, three with halberds and one with a short sword. They engaged with Berend, marking him and forcing him to focus his attacks on the less injured cultists. Once the cultists had all come to the front, Velos moved up next to Berend to use melee attacks, and together they took out the first cultist. Once the second cultist went down, and Elden moved up so that a 3-person wide line was formed up. He faked a stumble, slipping a dagger into the cultist and pushing him 10 feet, allowing both Velos and Bered to take an attack of opportunity.

Suddenly, the cultist with the short sword changed form, appearing as a pale long-haired figure. Before anyone could act, he cut down the other cultist, dropped his sword, and offered surrender. At first he attempted to pretend that he had been under a spell, but the party clearly saw through the lie. He gave up the attempt and explained that he was just a mercenary working for Maloreth. His name was Jixin, and as was obvious he was a doppelganger. We know that doppelgangers are rarely trusted given their abilities to change form and work as infiltrators. Unfortunately Jixin had little knowledge of exactly what Maloreth had been up to, but he was able to explain the relationship between Maloreth and Travis. Apparently the two had been business partners of a sort, and there had been falling out. This could be a fruitful line of inquiry to follow.

Jixin offered to work for us should we pay him fairly, 50gp per day. The team looked very skeptical at that offer, with Elden being least interested in the deal. Velos and Berend would not consider putting to death an unarmed person without some form of trial, and the potential value of Jixin was clear. The cost was a sticking point, and so the idea of 5gp per day, plus an equal split of any earnings was raised. Elden clearly was against any plan that would cost him gold. Lia, being a more curious type and seeing an opportunity to explore the situation in a more roundabout way, decided to cover Elden’s portion of the 5gp per day as well as 50% of any losses he would take due to Jixin’s split. This was enough to say Elden, and the team decided to take Jixin on, for now.

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Destruction of the Skull

Confronting Traevus, destruction of the necromantic skull, and a new threat to the Nentir Vale.

After coming to an agreement with Jixin, the group (at present time ad hoc with no explicit plans to stay together for any particular period of time) returned to Fallcrest on foot. The first stop was the Moonsong Temple. Having shrines to Corellon, Avandra, and Melora, the Moonsong Temple was primarily dedicated to Sehanine (the four being known as “the Four Free Gods”). Being an invoker of Sehanine, Lia first introduced herself and her companions and then requested (with a payment of gold) that the temple care for the body of Barakas (carried by Berend with Velos’s assistance) and attempt to pass word of his passing to any next of kin.

Lia then asked High Priest Ressilme Starlight if she had any knowledge of a human skull infused with necromantic energies. Starlight had little advice to offer other than suggesting the group consult Grundulmar, dwarf priest of Pelor. The group made their way to the House of the Sun. This temple contained shrines to Kord and Bahamut, but was primarily associated with Pelor.

Grundulmar replied saying he had heard rumors of the skull that the group mentioned, but didn’t believe it existed. If it did, however, it would be very dangerous, especially in the wrong hands. He had heard rumors that the Iron Circle, mercenaries from the south, might wish to get a hold of such an object. The Iron Circle were mercenaries from the south, robbing people and causing great distress in Harkenwold. Grundulmar suggested that more answers might be found in Hammerfast. With this though he gave warning of the [[Raven’s Roost]], raiders on the trade road that might additionally be in league with the Iron Circle. Lia realized that she had passed their lair on the way to the Trade Road, and fortunately had enough sense to keep her distance. Raven’s Roost was led by 3 Shader-kai, which several of the group recognized as a type of Shadow being bent on destroying kingdoms and venerating the Raven Queen. Having gray skin, tatoos, and piercings, these people fight without concern for their own wellbeing and hail from a meritocratic society.

Over the course of the discussion with Grundulmar, it became clear that he didn’t really doubt the existence of the skull, not least because he kept asking to see it, assuming that the group was lying and did indeed have it. While he was correct, no one gave him the satisfaction of letting him know he was. While no one had any reason to explicitly distrust Grundelmar, his zealotry turned some in the group off and made all a bit wary.

From here the group decided it was time to confront Traevus and find out his side of the story. Elden took the lead as this would require a bit of a bluff to get Traevus talking without suspecting the group. Certainly enough of their story was true to make the whole thing work. The group bought several rounds of ales to loosen the man up, though this was hard work given Traevus’s great concern for the fact that the group had not (as far as he knew) retrieve the box. Traevus explained how Marsinda Goldspinner, High Master of Hammerfast and leader of the Trade Guild, had instructed him to deliver it to Fallcrest. Apparently Traevus felt he was highly trusted and that his knowledge of the trade road along with the secrecy of the mission should have prevented any interception. He surmised that there was likely a spy in Hammerfast working for whoever stole the box.

Traevus also recounted the story of his work with Maloreth. They had been loose business partners, but Traevus regularly delivered goods for Maloreth, usually not knowing what those goods were. However Traevus claimed that he did tell Maloreth that he had no interested in dealing with anything related to the dark arts. When Traevus did look into what he was transporting once, he saw that it was of dark magic, and that is when he told Maloreth that they no longer had a partnership. He had no idea that Maloreth had any particular powers or was involved in necromancy.

However Traevus had heard that Maloreth was working with the Mages of Saruun, based in Thunderspire Mountain. Moreover, he had found a new partner in Lord Vanick who was believed to be associated with the Iron Circle.

After yet more ale and a bit of a diplomatic push by Velos, Travis finally gave in and told the group that he had intended to deliver the skull to Grundelmar to be destroyed. Elden led a new negotiation to make more gold off the box should the group go back to face Maloreth again and retrieve the box. Travis eventually agreed to the deal and the group set off. Outside of the Blue Moon Alehouse, the group decided, with Jixin’s input that everything he’s heard fits what he knows, to go back to Travis and tell him what really happened.

Velos explained why the group had lied and taken such precautions, and Traevus was most relieved that the box and the skull had indeed been retrieved. The group went back to the House of the Sun and gave witness to Grundelmar’s destruction of the skull. Grundelmar mentioned that given the group’s service, they might consider talking with Farren Markelhay, Lord Warden of Fallcrest, about taking on some additional work and help the Nentir Vale.

The group went to the Nentir Inn with plans to see the Warden the next day. The evening went by without disturbance, though during breakfast they met Serim Seldazaar, a tiefling claiming to be the 3rd son of a southern noble looking to purchase an estate in Fallcrest. He seemed a bit off to the group and repeatedly told everyone not to trust the Markelhays.

Finally the group went to meet with the warden. They were told of the trouble of the Iron Circle in the towns of Harkenwold. This caused great concern for Lia who had friends and family in the region. Velos and Berend were always up for helping people in need, and Elden and Jixin were more than happy to agree to the mission given the gold promised for success. Warden Markalhay told the group that they should seek out Dar Gremath, a retired adventurer who was currently resisting the Iron Circle’s attacks into Harkenwold.

Thus, the group went out to sell off their various items and resupply. They would need to be prepared, though it was difficult to say what exactly they’d need to be prepare for…

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Taveling to Harkenwold

Hours before heading for Harkenwold, our intrepid adventurers encountered a very odd site; a ranger drow. This drow approached the party with hood drawn and with little to say other that he had spoken with Warden Markhalay and was directed to join the party in defense of Harkenwold. His name was Malagar, and though quiet he clearly showed his knowledge and capability in his demeanor, equipment, and scars.

The party made a deal with Traevus to travel on his wagon to Harkenwold on his way to Hammerfast. Less than two hours into the trek, the party was surprised by a drake that jumped into the wagon. It focussed its attack on Berend, who kept his wits and fought back as the others arranged tactically to target and drive it away, and finally kill it. The party quickly moved on so as to avoid any more encounters with those vicious and tough beasts.

As night closed in Traevus stopped the cart and the party made camp. A fire was made and allowed to burn low as two kept guard at any time (the party did not yet trust Malagar). In the middle of the night several goblins were spotted near the camp. Jixin attempted to close the distance in stealth as Malagar climbed a tree for a better shot, and the rest of the team moved in while firing attacks. Jixin got close enough, disguised himself as a goblin, and the goblins escaped. Jixin came back just minutes later explaining that the goblins were taking one of their normal routes and had gone back to their lair. The team realized it would have to move further down the road another hour or so before setting up camp again and getting some rest.

No more problems arose that night, and the following morning the party arrived to the outskirts of a small town. They came across a farm-stead (Ilyana’s House) in which they could hear some screaming and several men threatening to burn down a house. The party stealthily approached and saw that several men with emblems of an iron ring (clearly members of the Iron Circle, along with two wolves, were threatening a woman inside the house. The team surprised the marauders and took them apart piece by piece, leaving just one man alive.

Interrogation was not going particularly well, so the party left Malagar to try his methods. Those methods were extreme, more so than some of the party found appropriate, but even so they failed. The team returned and got just a few pieces of information out of the man, notably that the supposed leader of the Iron Circle was not the true leader. ‘[Lord Vannyk]’ thought Lia aloud. The man seamed surprised at the mention of that name, though said nothing more. Some in the party thought the man should die, while others (including Lia and Velos) argued that he certainly was a dead man if he went back to the Iron Circle under these conditions and thus could be let free. The man asked for death and pledged he would hunt them down. After a few minutes of debate, eventually the man made a number of crude insults. This turned out to be the straw that broke the camel’s back and Lia with no hesitation touched her staff to the man’s head and send a massive jolt of lightning into his skull, thus ending the discussion. Velos and Berend were taken aback, but later Lia was able to convince them that this was in fact the most humane option given the circumstances.

The party rested in the house of Ilyana (the farmer) and her children. She said that she would deal with the bodies, and that they should quickly go to the Druid’s Grove to see how they could help in the defense of Harkenwold. The team thus set off to meet the Druid.

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Down with the Mud-Hides

The party arrived at the Toadwallow Caverns to take care of the region’s bullywug problem and free up some local fighters defending against bullywug attacks. This particular tribe was called the Mud-Hides and they were led by Gloorpk. The adventurers cautiously entered the cavern, unbeknownst to two guards. However a strange scream emanating from a pool of water behind the group alerted the guards. The team make quick work for the two guards, but just as quickly two more bullwugs showed up. These creatures knocked Elden unconscious, but Velos got him back up and the team went to work on the new bullywug enemies. All seemed to be going well until suddenly three blood-sucking insects, sturges, rose from the pool and surrounded Malagar. Malagar quickly threw up his black shadows to avoid some serious damage, but the bloodsuckers didn’t go down without a fight. (700XP/6 = 116XP each)

Once the pests were put down, the team took a short rest to recoup, then proceeded to explore the rest of the cavern. Malagar and Elden led the way in the interests of scouting. They and Velos spotted the enemy soon enough to avoid an ambush. Out came 6 more bullywugs, two gray blobs emerged from a small pit, and Gloorpk was vaguely seen under a large dragon skull. After less than a minute, some heated exchanges, and a few harrowing moments for both Elden and Malagar, the blobs and bullywugs were dispatched.

Gloorpk remained in his protected space blasting out nasty acids and corrosive belches. When things were finally looking grim, he paused and sought a deal in which he would give up his treasure. Lia was none too happy with these nasty creatures, supposedly creations of the Primordials which she pledged to fight, however she did offer Gloorpk the option of leaving the Nentir Vale and never returning. Of course she knew he would not take the offer, so he fought to his last stinking breath. (740XP/6 = 123 each)

The group found 170gp in Gloorpk’s “hidden” treasure hoard, along with a sapphire worth approximately 80-125gp, a healing potion, a [level 3 magic item] and a [legel 4 magic item].

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Leaving Toadwallow Caverns

The party assumed it had finished off the bullywugs of Toadwallow Cavern and so were heading toward the exit. Before reaching the edge several members of the party heard noise outside that sounded like more of those frog-like beasts. One of the bullywugs below let out a loud croaking sound that the team realized was a signal, and that the bullywugs below were waiting for an response to let them know it was safe to enter. Jixin did his best impersonation of the croak in response, and apparently it was enough to fool them.

The team quickly spread out into formation, planning to surprise the incoming enemies as soon as they showed their faces. The simple plan was a success as 2 leapers jumped up and came face to face with Berend, Jixin, and Velos. Next came two giant frogs, one of which swallowed Velos, and the other swallowed Berend. One of the leapers wend down quickly, and both Bered and Velos were able to cut their way out of the stupid beasts without too much trouble. A bullywug champion entered the mix and dealt some damage, but the team resisted and took him down. The last leaper began to jump away, but being uncertain of its intent (other than to escape with its life), the team pursued. In about half a minute they caught up and destroyed the final bullywug. (750XP)

In the mix of the battle a small halfling child had been seen, restrained by the bullywug champion. He had run when the fighting began, but hadn’t gotten very far. The team found him and both Elden and Lia comforted him. The bullywugs didn’t have any particularly useful items, but they did have 15gp, 60sp, and a flawed emerald, along with some food which served in place of the daily rations.

The party set out to the river to find the Reedfoot Clan and return the boy. They found Willet Reedfoot, leader of the clan, who thanked them hardily and promised whatever assistance they could provide in the future (150XP). The group then continued on their way to Tor’s Hold to give the news that the bullywug problem had been dealt with.

Upon arriving at Tor’s Hold with the news of the destruction of the Mud Hide Clan, the people treated the heros to a nice dinner and a man provided his barn for them to sleep in. It was not as nice as an inn, but the barn was sufficiently comfortable. The people of Tor’s Hold were ready to now send their fighters to join the resistance. The next day the party would return to Albridge ready to plan their next step in taking down the Iron Circle.

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From Tor's Hold to Albridge

The party left Tor’s Hold in the morning, traveling South along the road to the river then East towards Albridge. On the way they noticed a horse, cart, and soldiers off in the distance, fortunately before they were noticed themselves. The soldiers, actually brigands, were of the Iron Circle, and were led by a dark adept. Each of our heros found a hiding spot behind bushes and trees, waiting for the right moment to strike. In the lead was a clockwork hound with red eyes. Such constructs are immensely loyal and protective of their masters. That was the team’s first target. With the element of surprise, Berend rushed the construct while others attacked from a concealment, Eldan with daggers, Malagar with his bow, and Velos with his divine magic. Lia slowed the creature in order to prevent it from easily joining its crew and master.

With the element of surprise used up, the party continued to have the upper hand, nearly destroying the construct. The brigands walking beside the cart hopped on to avoid getting split up and to gain the cover of the cart sides. Jixin used the opportunity to run after the cart using the guise of the tortured brigand from Ilyana’s farmstead. He easily fooled the brigands and hopped on the cart. Lia, realizing that with the cart the brigands could get away and pass word of the party and the resistance, attacked to attempt to keep the horse and several Iron Circle members from getting away using her Glyphs of Imprisonment. Unfortunately the horse was none too bright and at the first bit of pain bolted forward.

The horse nearly ran down Berend, but the stalwart dwarf was able to stand his ground. The assault continued, though this time Lia used her Grasping Shards to slow down the horse and prevent escape. The brigands shot crossbows from a position of relative safety, but a steady barrage and ranged magical attacks wore the Iron Circle brigands down. Jixin took his opportunity to strike while the enemies’ backs were turned, though he was shoved off the cart thereafter.

The horse was finally struck down and the brigands knew there was nowhere to go. They stayed on the cart and continued their defensive attacks, but it was only a matter of time before each would fall. When all were slain (700XP), the team found a locked chest, they key being on the Dark Adept (leader of these brigands). Inside was 240gp, a healing potion, and a Gem of Colloquy infused with the Draconic language (lvl 2 magic item). The team agreed that Velos would make the best use of this item. The dark adept also had a magic +1 dagger which Eldan took.

Having a bit more time to observe the landscape, Lia noticed a series of stones near where the battle took place. Her knowledge of religion and history led her to realize that these stones had been placed many years ago in religious ceremony. They were infused with power such that anyone inside the circle would be empowered in battle. She filed this thought away for future use, as she knew there was a fair chance the party would come across such a site again.

Malagar took a number of bolts, while the team also took the adept’s red cloak and the brigands’ gray cloaks for potential future infiltration. They broke down the cart and found some Reedfoots at the river nearby. The Reedfoots took the bodies to dispose, along with the wood, the weapons, and armor to provide to the resistance. Then, after a short rest, the party continued along the road to Albridge.

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The rain-slicked road to Albridge

As the party continued their walk back to Albridge the skies grew very cloudy and rain began to fall. It was quite light for a while, but enough to muddy the path as they went. The air grew foggy and it became difficult to see as the group approached what appeared to be an abandoned farmstead. Albridge was only a couple hours away, but with the weather and night coming, it would be worth considering whether to stop here for the night. Before a discussion could even be started though, the group heard a woman’s voice yell out, “That’s them, get them!”

Jixin slipped in the mud while trying to get to one of the houses. Velos successfully navigated the terrain, but found the door locked. Berend made his way to the house on the other side of the road, but found it locked as well. Meanwhile arrows flew at the party from out of the mists. It appeared that their attackers were using trees as cover. Then a large drake mounted by an Iron Circle brigand appeared charging out of the fog at Berend. Lia and Velos aided Berend in support as Eldan and Jixin engaged more directly as blasts of fire hit various members of the fire from an attacker barely in view behind a tree in the distance. Some rabbles came from around the back of one of the houses and down a slope, though Jixin, Malagar, and Lia made short work of them.

By the time the drake and his rider finally went down, Jixin had fallen and the team was looking ragged. They got Jixin up, traded healing potions, and set up their approach for the ranged attackers. Another blast of fire hit, almost disrupting the plan, but the team reacted quickly. Malagar and Lia approached from the left, Eldan and Jixin took the right, and Velos and Berend went up the middle, all sure after that last blast to keep enough distance between each other. There were two brigands with cross-bows left, and one of those dark adepts (she had been providing the fireworks apparently). Eldan forced one of the brigands out of cover and Berend cut him down. Malagar and Lia were dogged and took out the brigand on the left. The dark adept struck down Eldan as Berend and Jixin made their approach. She drew her blade and caused some pain, but she was the only one left and it was only seconds until she drew her last breath (794XP, 132XP each).

The attackers had no money or special items, however the team did take their cloaks in the interests of potential future infiltration. Though tired, they dragged the bodies behind one of the houses. Eldan was able to pick the lock of one of the houses, though Bered was forced to break down the door of the other. A watch was set, and the group collapsed around the house. They would recover their strength and finally reach Albridge the next day. Still, the thought that now the Iron Circle might know who they were and be on the lookout was a disquieting thought and would put a serious wrinkle in the group’s future plans. On the other hand, this was indication that the Iron Circle was worried; the group was having an impact.

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Bar Brawlin' in Albridge

The crew awoke the morning after the battle with the Iron Circle ambush squad including the large drake to a cool wet farm. The fog was gone though and the light made clear the bountiful garden just outside the house they’d slept in. Everyone took part in picking the various vegetables, fruits, and herbs (including cabbage, lettue, rosemary, bell peppers, apples, pears, plums, and even a few berries) which made for a substantially better meal than their standard trail rations. Still they all were looking forward to something a bit more substantial in Albridge.

Little more than an hour later, around 10am, they arrived in the mid-sized town. They headed straight to the stables owned by Dar Gremath. A worker led them to a stable where Dar was shoeing a horse. By now it was quite clear the man was good at running a tight ship of a rebellion, and he used the legitimate cover of his stables to his advantage. When Eldan mentioned the Iron Circle crews they’d taken out, Dar was not the least surprised. He had already heard of our team’s exploits and close calls, though how exactly he would not say. Even so, he was pleased with their progress. Lia asked what more could be done and whether it might be wise to contact her people to ask for their support. Dar agreed that contacting the Woodsinger Elves would be wise. Other than that, though, he only suggested that the team perhaps start a fight with the local Iron Circle squad and see if running them out of town might lead to the Iron Circle’s supposed leader, Nezeem Redthorn, to show himself publicly. This led Berend to ask about whether they should be trying to do anything about the rumored real leader, Lord Vannyk. This took Dar by surprise. As soon as the others provided the little they knew of Vannyk, Dar quickly sent two of his men out to seek more information.

The meetup concluded, the team walked through the streets to the local inn’s tavern where they knew they’d find the Iron Circle thugs. They sent Jixin in disguised first, though with all the rowdiness he was unable to get any of the thugs to talk about anything of importance. Lia and Velos entered next. One of the brigands demanded they leave their weapons at the door. Velos conceded, but Lia faked a limp and suggested that she needed her staff as a walking stick. A few minutes later Berend and Eldan came in. They also were made to lay down their weapons, though of course Eldan kept many more hidden daggers. Malagar stood ready by the door.

Berend had some words with Velos to make it seem as if they would start a fight with each other. The Iron Circle thugs were already more than ready to brawl and were just waiting for that one straw to light on fire, as it were. As soon as the fight broke out, Malagar found that he was not alone as he was sucker punched by a cut throat. Inside the rest of the team made short work of the rabble, though the brigands put up much more of a fight. One of those brigands went outside to take down Malagar almost right away. Lia stuck to providing distracting assistance to the others, feeling no need to get her hands dirty. Velos and Berend worked the other Brigand until he finally got out between the two of them. Once he was the only enemy left standing, the others rushed out to assist Malagar, who was being hounded now by the cut throat and brigand, plus an additional cut throat. He was getting hurt, but was laying his own smack-down on the cut throat who’d sucker punched him.

Velos heard the others call out that Malagar could use a little help (though Malagar didn’t bother to say anything himself, he’d already gotten a few good cuts and bruises), so he left the other brigand to Berend. Berend was having a grand time messing with that brigand, who eventually went to get behind the bar and then used the barmaid as a shield. She escaped his grip, and when he tried to escape out the back, Berend charged him and landed a massive dwarf/superman punch to knock him right out, dropping slack to the floor. Outside punches continued to fly. Lia, having had enough of this, began to whack the thugs with her staff.

Soon enough it was over. The team tied up all of the Iron Circle crew, took their money (giving a reasonable bit of it to the barmaid for the trouble), and took a short rest to recover and prepare for the interrogation.

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Meet the Woodsinger Elves

After the bar brawl in Albridge, the team tied up the Iron Circle thugs and decided to do a little interrogation. With some assistance from the others, Lia was able to get one of the cut throats to talk, but it quickly became clear that the man had no really useful information. Apparently though the regulars of the Iron Circle were at least aware of the rumors of a leader above Redthorn. After the interrogation, the team left the thugs tied up south of the river along the road for passer-bys to see.

Before leaving town, the team updated Dar Gremath on the brawl and asked if he had any suggestion for their route to the Harden Forest to request the aid of the Woodsinger Clan. Dar told them that he had just gotten word that Marl had been destroyed just recently. That would be a safer and quicker route since the Iron Circle had moved on, and it would allow the team to drop off some much needed supplies to the survivors.

The team made quick progress on the road and found the decimation of the former town of Marl. A few minutes walk led them to the house of Kurmin, a survivor who was housing other survivors in cramped conditions. Kurwin said that the Iron Circle had come from the northeast and had left to the northwest a week ago, but had no other information of immediate value. The team left the supplies, and with nothing more to be done to help, continued on their way to the forest.

Just a few hours later, before dusk had set, they reached the forest edge. Lia looked around to see where the elves she knew would be waiting were. A voice called out from the trees telling the party to halt and identify themselves. Lia, speaking in elvish, answered for the group and told the hidden elf that they had come with aid and to speak with the leader of the nearby Woodsinger camp. She made clear her trust of the group, but said nothing to suggest that she trusted them with the secrets of the Woodsingers.

An elf finally appeared out the trees and identified himself as Eafwin. He did challenge Lia as he did not recognize her. Lia said she was of the Elm Band, led by Tyndwoor, which seemed to mollify Eafwin for the most part. Apparently Lia had come upon the Oaksong Band, which was good since, Arielle, the leader of the Woodsinger elves, spent most of her time with the Oaksong Band.

Eafwin agreed to bring Lia and her companions into the woods, though only once the others had been blindfolded, and Malagar stripped of his weapons and bound. At this numerous elves appeared out of the trees. Malagar did not look pleased, but neither did he argue. Lia put her hand out and promised him she would take good care of his bow and give it back to him as soon as possible. He accepted her offer and handed his bow and arrows over.

Half an hour later the elves and their “guests” arrived at a clearing. Lia made this out to be a temporary camp. The party’s blindfolds were removed and they were met by another elf who introduced himself as Israfin. Lia had not ever been formally introduced to Israfin before, but she recognized him at least as one of Arielle’s lieutenants. He made the party explain themselves again for added security. Once he was satisfied he turned and an older female elf with green and golden waves of hair stepped into the clearing.

This was Arielle, leader of the Woodsinger Clan. She was pleased to see Lia, though skeptical of any help that might come from strangers, and even more reticent to lend her people to aid those of Harkenwold as Lia and the others requested. She agreed that the Iron Circle may be a danger to the land, but that this was by no means certain yet, and she doubted those of Harkenwold would aid the elves if their positions were reversed. Certainly they had done little to combat the goblins, not that the elves would have wanted such help anyway, Lia thought to herself. Velos and Eldan both argued that any help provided by the elves would gain them honor and a debt of the people of Harkenwold. And all of the party made clear they were willing to aid in the fight against the goblins that Lia had spoke of on more than one occasion.

Arielle finally offered a deal. A new threat had arrived only recently in the woods. The lich Yisarn, an undead wizard, had set up a base of operations in Dal Nstaer, and old Eladrin village. The lich was allied with the Daggerburg goblins. Should the team successfully defeat this new threat, Arielle would have the Woodsinger Clan assist in driving out the Iron Circle from the land. It was agreed.

Malagar’s bindings were finally removed and the team settled in for the evening, discussing the day’s events and going over the details of the next day. They had been giving a vial of dragon’s blood which would enable them to activate the magic of the stones of Dal Nistaer to reach the underground fortress. Arielle did not part with it lightly, as dragon’s blood is quite expensive, but she believed the team would do what they promised, particularly with Lia to lead them.

The next day the party woke up to find one of its members missing. Jixin was nowhere to be found. Malagar tracked him for a short bit until his foot prints disappeared. Clearly he had taken some elven clothes and disguised himself. Where had he gone though? Had he betrayed them? There was no time to think on this for too long, as time was of the essence. The team made their way to Dal Nistaer in two hours, arriving at 10am. There they caught 3 goblins unawares on an abandoned wagon. Likely they had scared off the owner who had taken the horse and left the wagon. Right by the wagon were the stones that would teleport the team. However in the trees around the stones were some large spiders. The team rapidly dispatched the goblins, and made their way into the circle of stones. They were not quick enough to do so and activate the spell before the spiders had made their way into the circle and attacked. Malagar had hoped they would stay away so he would not have to fight them. They were creatures of Loth, who he worshipped. He took heart that it at least appeared that the others agreed not to harm the spiders unless they attacked, but his hopes were quickly dashed. The spiders were frightening and gave the group more of a battle than they’d anticipated by this point, but nonetheless the team was able to dispatch them with minimal damage. Lia poured the dragon blood on the pedestal, runes appeared on the stones around them, and then Lia spoke the words “Dol Nistaer” and they all found themselves underground.

Seeing several goblins the team wasted no time. Though they heard a voice from a loft at the top of the stairs, they could also see the drakes held in cages right by them which would be quite dangerous should they be released. The team reacted quickly and dispatched three of the 5 goblins in just seconds. A goblin emissary, the owner of the voice, came down the steps himself as he heard the death cries of his minions, and was met by Berend who struck him and blocked his path. The emissary tried to retreat, but Berend hounded him and was aided by Eldan. The other goblins were felled and it took little time to knock out the emissary as well.

Upon interrogation the emissary told the adventurers that his name was Snilvor, and he had come to trade some maps to Yisarn for gold and silver. These maps were of elven crypts which Yisarn, who he expected was next door, wished to exploit in some way. Lia asked where Snilvor had gotten the maps, but he said no more, spitting at her. Knowing that they’d extracted all they could from him, she struck him down. The team saw that the loft had glowing runes. Lia recognized the runes as symbols which would exact necrotic damage. The team used their weapons to reach the scrolls on the table and drag them to the stairs. They found the scrolls Snilvor had spoken of as well as an old tome written by an Eladrin wizard full of his arcane experiments. Lia would have to look over these later, though ultimately they would be worth more sold to the right person.

The team took a few minutes to recover from the fighting and prepare to face Yisarn and whatever magics and security he had with him. Hopefully it would be as easy as the other battles had gone, but none of the team expected that to be so.

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Defeating Yissarn & Albridge Battle Prep

Battling Yissarn

After a short rest following the defeat and interrogation of Snilvor in Dal Nystere, the team got ready to go in after Yissarn the undead wizard. Two sets of steel double doors were the only clear entrances to the next room. The group found no evidence of traps and picked the door further from the caged drakes to make their entrance. They also used one of the tables to make it more difficult for anyone to come from the other room through the door nearest the drakes. Given the team’s past experiences, they knew it would be wise to prevent the creatures’ release.

Given all the noise the group had been making, they decided to wait quietly for several minutes so that whoever was in the other room would not know when to expect an attack. Finally, the doors were thrown open and two animated skeletons were seen in the room, along with what appeared to be a dragon skeleton, fortunately not currently undead. One of the skeleton wore tattered robes and its hands were sparking with electricity. Eldan entered the room and immediately found himself falling into a 10ft high spike trap that rook up all the room in front of the door. There would be no easy way into this room. Suddenly a large glimmer spider dropped from the ceiling beyond the pit and shot webbing at those in the doorway, blinding and restraining Berend and making difficult terrain for the others who were just out of the blast area. Just as quickly it faded into the background from whence it came. Yissarn shot blasts of icicles and of lightning as our heroes fought back with their own ranged attacks and Eldan climbed out of the pit, fortunately with only minor wounds. However the spider appeared again directly above the team and bit Eldan, wounding him seriously with poison. Malagar reacted quickly casting darkfire to prevent the spider from becoming invisible again. He then shot an arrow deeply into the beast, causing serious damage, but just as soon as the blood began to trickle out the spider disappeared. It could not have become invisible as far as Malagar was concerned, it must have teleported. All the while Yissarn hissed hateful words aimed particularly at Lia. Clearly the lich had a great distaste for elves.

Berend grew frustrated with the ranged battle and so went to the other door, clearing the table out of the way. As the others came over to the other door Berend thought to use the opportunity to climb down into the pit and up the other side. He threw down his bedroll as cushioning, but just as he was about to climb, Eldan grunted in frustration as he failed to pick the lock. Berend returned to the others as he, Eldan, and Velos attempted to bust the door open. After a couple of failed attempts, they took the table and used it as a battering ram. Successful, the group looked to see from their new vantage point. Yissarn was ready though, and his attack pull Velos into yet another spike trap. The spider struck again, webbing the area, and two skeletons took up positions on either side of the trap, blocking the path of anyone wishing to jump diagonally into the room. Velos was seriously injured and Eldan dropped unconscious from his wounds. Berend fought a skeleton around the corner as Malagar, blinded, sought to provide first aid to Eldan. Lia, having waited at the other door in case anyone appeared trying to strike the team from behind, came to join where the fight was happening. Things weren’t looking good as both Lia and Berend took their own major damage, but finally the spider was felled by one of Lia’s lightning bolts after she found cover. The skeletons both fell soon after as Velos cast attacks safely from inside the trap, and then Yissarn was finally struck down by an arrow from Malagar (975XP).

Injured and weary, the team put the table down in the pit over the spikes to create safe passage. They took a rest, healing and raising Eldan to consciousness and health. The group found a key in Yissarn’s robes, as well as a coffer on the bookshelves containing an Eladrin-carved platinum ring, 120 gold, and 3 agates. Resting against the shelves was some interesting plate armor worn by what appeared to be a dwarf skeleton yet to be raised. It fit Berend rather well, and he sensed magic in it which would give him the ability to more readily resist dazing and stunning effects (Supporting plate armor).

Allying with the Woodsinger Elves

Lia took Yissarn’s skull and robe along with the Snilvor’s scrolls and book back to the Woodsinger camp. They were again met by Israfin who led them to Arielle. She was pleased with the defeat of both Snilvor and Yissarn, as well as the intelligence the team had brought concerning their plans (150XP), and agreed to make alliance. However, she had urgent news that the Iron Circle was making preparations to strike at the resistance in Albridge. She agreed to send 50 elves in two days, the expected time when the Iron Circle would be attacking. Moreover, she warned the group, focussing particularly on Lia, that greater powers were at work and that they must be cautious. She told them that Maloreth was still alive and had somehow tricked them both with regards to his death and the destruction of the skull.

Battle preparation in Albridge

As the group had made good time that day, and as matters were quite urgent, they got on the road around 3pm. As they had nearly arrived in the dark just before 10pm, a rider appeared. The rider slowed the horse as she recognized the party, so distinct with a halfling, elf, dwarf, human, and drow. She told them of the urgency of the situation, as Dar Gremath had received news of the Iron Circle gathering its strength to strike at Albridge and the group’s skills were in great need. So they sped up and reached Albridge as Dar met with some of the other rebellion leaders. He filled the group in on the situation and took at least some satisfaction in hearing of the elves’ offer of support. After some discussions as to what would be needed in terms of preparation, the team went to sleep to recover from the long day and to wake up early to start battle preparations.

The group woke up ready to work. Eldan had a particular spring in his step. He had gained some particularly perspective from recent events, including his near death, and was ready to face anything. He started off training some of the front line troops and those who would use some psychological warfare, intimidating the enemy. Malagar used his knowledge of nature to create barriers in the woods and in the town to make the enemy take certain paths into the city and to increase the odds of them showing up where the rebellion wanted them. Berend ran a crash course in battlefield medicine while Lia discussed historical accounts of Iron Circle tactics with the generals. Velos took note of some of the troubles keeping the rebellion leaders from operating smoothly. He used his diplomatic skills to convince them of the benefit of a particular hierarchy operating under Dar Gremath.

Eldan followed up on his psychological warfare approach in consultation with Lia and Malagar to set up decoys and subterfuges based on his knowledge of how to bluff an opponent. This worked in conjunction with Malagar’s efforts to use his knowledge of nature to set various pit, spike, snare, and other traps. All seemed to be going well, though the soldiers were somewhat restless. While some had seen battle, many had not. At lunch time, when most of the army was in the same area, Lia used her religious knowledge to lead invokations to the gods for assistance. This gave confidence to the soldiers, and Lia hoped Sehanine and the other gods were indeed listening to her prayers. Velos followed up on the improved morale, using his diplomatic way to convince certain troops to take some of the grunt jobs and bait runs to lure the enemy down certain paths.

It was mid-afternoon by this time, and mostly things were going well. Eldan saw that some of the Reedfoot halflings would be making tactical movements and could use some pointers in terms of moving more stealthily. Meanwhile Malagar, again making use of the knowledge of nature, realized that it would likely rain during the battle. He thus modified some of the battle plans and unit locations to take advantage of the knowledge. Lia tapped her knowledge of historical battles in the region to figure out how best to use the terrain, however she met with resistance on some points from the generals this time and she realized after some time that perhaps the recent discussions had only made the battle plans poorer. Meanwhile Eldan attempted to intimidate some of the slackers to get them working harder. This demoralized the slackers rather than motivating them, and that discontent affected some of the other soliders. Velos attempted to fix some of the squabbles that were now arising after a long day of preparations, but he was far less successful this time.

The rebellion had made progress this day, but the failures near the end partially undid some of the earlier efforts. The heroes were determined to make up for this when the battle finally came (625XP).

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