Session 27: Wildweeper

After learning of the plight of the mayor’s daughter and receiving the constable’s mission, the trio took the advice of both men and went to get counsel from Irelevi Wildweeper. And so, they departed towards Wildweeper Villa upon hearing her hut lay in the surrounding foothills. Not long after leaving, they encountered her abode in the valley between a grouping of hills.

The hut of Irelevi Wildweeper sat in the shadows of the surrounding foothills. The small cottage had supports which bowed inward. The concave look of the place accentuated the fantastic look of the small building. The supports curved outward into the sky, casting light upon the surrounding area from a quartet of blazing lanterns. Tiny flecks of light darted around these fire holders. Lines of scarecrows radiated from the place, perhaps a fearful collection from the villagers to ward off the hermit. The thatched roof held solid against the gentle breeze whisking through the valley. Faint light emerged from the inside ever so slightly, and these illuminations would die off in intervals as though a candle lighting and dying.

As the adventurers drew closer to the building, they noted a design painted into the door frame. It depicted a series of archers firing into an unknown entity on the opposite panel. The arrows flew in high arcs, streaked by reds, blues, and yellows. Their monstrous foes seemed to have little in common with anything the young travelers had come to know, for their features were marred by a certain abstractness. One figure stood out among the rest. Wielding a bow, he laid siege back upon the archers with arrows of similar design. The door itself had a heavy look about it, and from within, the druid, hunter, and former soldier could make out the sounds of a stoking fire and bellows. A faint bubbling carried through the sound of the wind.

A fox looked from within a windowsill at the new arrivals, its eyes keen on newcomers. Indeed dark birds gathered above, and insects crawled about and paused, turning towards the Duke’s conscripts. The land itself had drawn eyes on the horse riders as they drew closer to the kin of Wildweeper. For the half drow, Avaniel, he had an odd feeling that he could only place as the same he would feel returning to the woods for a hunt. He was by himself at those times, with no worry of the reactions of the people of Ailead.

The hut door opened with no protest. Not the faintest screech of wood disrupted the keen ears of the wary visitors as they crept into the dim, oscillating light of the hut. A swinging lamp periodically flew behind a shade, light absent all about when this would occur save for the red glowing steel of a collection of cauldrons near a furnace. The interior of the hut was a mess of material. Scrolls, books, sketches, formulas written upon countless scrap littered every tabletop, bookshelf, desk, and chair.

“Yes, time is it? That lack of which a person can never truly accrue enough of. The moments we forever try to capture in an entity that will fade as swiftly as our bodies will. But your interest in time is not such an abstract, nor should it given what little sorrow you have overcome,” the announcement came from behind a miniature laboratory. A figure looked intent upon its activities of mixing and plunging items together in a mortar and pestle. Upon a conclusion to this, delicate hands would bring the vessel in front of a small, clear orb. Eyes, black as ink wells peered through the material and into the mortar, viewing results of labors.

The woman wore a thick, dark green cloak. Tribal markings were scattered on her face and body. Paint or tattoo, it was uncertain. A streak of dark green ran across her eyes from temple to temple. Small bone and leather fetishes adorn her neck. Light colored hair flowed from the covering hood, and it would blink in and out of existence as the overhead lantern swung about. A pair of armbands ran the span of her forearms. Runes stretched the course of these wraps, and on a slightly closer look, rings for manacle chains could be seen. Layers of black and brown leather cascaded down what could be seen of her legs. The keen eyes of the woman probed the wary minds of the adventurers.

“Well then, out with it travelers. Though I have foreseen your arrival here, I am all unknowing to your purpose at my abode.“

The rather forward address caught the trio off guard. The idea that they had been expected given the hermit nature of this woman was astonishing. The pair from Ailead would ask many questions of Irelevi about her family and the town of Mercaeus. Wildweeper Villa was the first structure on the land when it was settled long ago. From the woods near Moorhaven to the trees chosen by the Farseers, the Wildweepers had come. And family beyond that from the domain of the fey and maelstrom.

She commented that it had been an orphanage before in the time of her father’s father. Children would run about the gardens and halls. Carefree they were until the razing of the halls. She mentioned that with the fall of her family, a line would fall, the house fell to ruins, and a tradition would be cast aside from paranoia. Now, no children roamed the halls of the manor. All lie there in death.

As to the curse laid on the land by Roland Wildweeper, she would comment that sometimes the crimes of men are so great that a lingering power of justice stays behind to enact the will of the departed. Malevolent or divine, mundane or mystical, such things are not known of the origins of this phenomenon. If the outrage of the departed grows ever higher, it runs over its initial scope and boundaries eventually.

When asked if she would help the adventurers save the mayor’s daughter, Irelevi scoffed at the idea. Assisting the bigots who slew her house and ruined her home? The idea was as laughable as it was despicable. However, Avaniel made a plea to her for assistance saying, “We hold no ill will for you and would hope you harbor none for us. We intend to risk our lives to not only do what needs to be done for our goals but also to end a curse that strikes those who wrong you not. It would be a great help if in return we could also accomplish this one small task so that we may be granted the support we need in order to continue our journey when this is all done.”

Irelevi said she cared little for the mayor’s daughter, but the words struck her in a way she was unsure of. She claimed that while she was unnerved at the premise of trusting a kin of the drow, the smell of magic and a general, indescribable instinct drew her to trust Avaniel’s words. Upon some consideration, Irelevi made an offer. She would assist the adventurers if they would agree to put her family to rest. The group agreed to the proposition. Upon the pact being complete, Irelevi divined and told the men the following:

“A dire surge of anger, loneliness, and revenge stalks the homes of the guilty, and all are guilty in Mercaeus. A child without home or love, forced to wander about in the night for a child to name as friend. I have seen such things. Look to the guilty’s house for answers. Seek that which is hidden, that which he laid to rest with blade and torch. Only then might the daughter be freed of the sins of the father.”

With the conclusion of her visions, Avaniel and Jozan believed they had desciphered the cause of the mysterious illness plaguing the girl. Attic whisperers could create effects that were very similar to what was described. While slightly different than the norm, it was close enough to make them feel confident in their assessment. They thanked Irelevi, and asked if she had anything that might assist them in banishing the curse upon the land. In response, she produced three potions to bind their wounds, and two paper packets. She said that if the material inside these pouches was poured over a weapon, it would be able to strike at the formless nature of many undead.

Knowing that preparations would be key in whatever path they decided to take next, the men decided to purchase a few more items, such as holy water, from the potion brewer. After the transactions, they returned to their horses outside. With little delay, they departed back for the mayor’s house to confront their now revealed foe.

The mayor led them to the attic of the home. As the Duke’s men pulled down the stairwell to the attic, a rush of dry, dusty air coughed out from its bowels. The burst stung the eyes and elicited coughs that they quickly muzzled the best they could. The light from the hallway illuminated a cloud of dust mites twirling about in the air. Ascending the stairs, their eyes tried to focus on the surroundings. The usual fare it would seem. Piles of old equipment and tools littered the floor. Dried goods lie in barrels awaiting whatever disaster they were stockpiled for. Always, with each new step, a slight sob or whimper could be heard within the bowels of the dark room. It became all too unsettling to catch a shadow move here or there. The paranoia of this whole town was starting to take root in the hunter and druid, and they didn’t care for it.

The three slowly entered, and Jozan went ahead of the others. He called out to any creature that might be hidden. Suddenly, he was beset by a creature. This thing resembled a gray, emaciated child, with cobwebs, rags and dust for clothes, and a small, painted doll head sat on its shoulders. A ratty cloth hung about the dirty porcelain. The creature passed a hand over the face of the druid as it bit at him. The teeth sunk in, and Jozan tried to call out in pain for help. he was astonished, and horrified to note his voice would not issue forth. The creature called out the the others in his voice! It said Jozan was merely startled by a spider, and without the druid able to protest, the others believed it.

The creature continued to attack the druid, and a sense of dread crawled over the others. An aura pervaded from the creature which stole the courage of the body and mind. After a short struggle, Saluhul entered after Jozan. Noting the attack, he joined the fray, only to have his voice similarly taken. Avaniel came forward, and instilled his fury against the denizens of the undead upon his companions. The battle ended soon after. With the porcelain mask shattered, the creature fell into a pile of rags and trash, and all about was quiet. This included the voices of the High Archer, and the druid of Sinohi.

Session 26: The Secret of Mercaeus

As the adventurers from the Steelsnout awoke on the road to Mercaeus They spotted an inn on the horizon. Closing in on the tiny travelers’ lodge, it was clear that the Blue Phantom was as quiet and eerie as the name implied. Saluhul Zephyrpaw, Jozan, and Avaniel Cerelion continued on the path past the scarecrow tended, empty fields on the hut. As Jozan passed the cottage, he was beset by two monsterous giants.

The misshapen things whirled about large clubs overhead, yelling a warcry as they set upon the druid. Jozan knew the beasts to be ogres, and he knew what this meant: these beasts would stop for no goodly race. Talei took to the air to fight off the beasts, and both Zephyrpaw and Cerelion let loose barrages of arrows. The great clubs smashed down upon the shield arm of Jozan, sending the shuddering percussion through his arm. As ferocious as the onslaught had been, the arrows proved the mightier, and in time the beasts fell.

Looking inside the Blue Phantom, it was clear the inhabitants had left in short order. Items were scattered about, and food rotted on tables. With no signs of battle or blood, it seemed the owners had escaped any brutality. Searching around a bit, the travelers picked up what they could salvage from the building and thugs and returned to the road.

The trio entered the small village of Mercaeus from the north. Even upon entrance, there was a certain weariness to the town, a foreboding gloom that stretched the main streets. The streets were not absent of life though, and people crossed the road here and there toting their bags. The vast majority of buildings in the town were small cottages for the townsfolk to rest after the toil of the fields was over. The town was too far removed from the sea to make its living off the azure waves, and no river split the surrounding lands. All these people received from Fonoros was towed up from the bowels of the earth beneath them. Scarecrows littered even the common areas of the town. The raggedly clothed guards blew about on the whims of the breeze, and their sheer numbers made the champions of Faldrin question if these objects truly populated this town.

The townsfolk regarded the Duke’s new recruits little when they walked the streets. Whether they were too concerned with their matters at hand, uncaring to their presence or oblivious to it, the men could not tell. Avaniel and Jozan anticipated the first step to placating the Duke lie in speaking with either the mayor or constable. From their vantage point in town, they could see two previously hidden landmarks.

To the west, along the flat ground of the dry plains, one could make out the form of Fort Mercaeus. Two tall towers sat in front of a sliver of wall against the horizon. The Duke had mentioned this place as of particular note when he was made aware of the undead in the area. Neither man had visited this area previously, but both could almost feel an aura of dread crawling out towards the small village from the place.

To the southwest, the druid and hunter noted a large villa overlooking the town on the sloping foothills. Fog lay in the tiny valleys of the mounds. The large home was clearly gated heavily, and there was a certain stillness to land around it that was curious. Despite the brisk wind blowing over the surrounding areas of Mercaeus, no motion was present on that hill, and a collection of scarecrows sat as silent sentinels to the peaked structure.

Jozan flagged down one of the citizens to ask about where the mayor and constable could be found. The gruff, sullen man provided information about where the mayor’s home was, where the constable office was, and said that either man might be found in the town hall if they were about. Upon asking about the scarecrows, the man replied, “The scarecrows about this town are intended to ward off evil spirits roaming from abroad, and many have taken up bizarre ritual music and dance in the night to the same end.”

Asking more about the fort, the man expressed that it was built some one hundred years ago to protect the inland cities near the ports of Northlight and Wellcliff. Eighty years ago, it was said a curse was laid upon the place, and it fell to treason during the war not soon after. The place has been a gathering area for ghosts and the spirits of the dead soldiers since. A few times it had been attacked to be recovered for use, and each time, all that comes from the fort are bodies hauled out by mysterious pallbearers. The men would drag about carts of dead men to pile outside, then fade away into the fort once again.

Of the villa on the hill, the man spat. He cautioned the travelers to stay far away from the place. No good could come from travel there, and there was a reason a dense line of scarecrows lined the road to the place. He remained silent on any details of the place however, and both men had the feeling that this villa had a similar demoralizing effect on the citizens of Mercaeus as the drake had on the farmers of Faldrin. Until another time, Wildweeper Villa would remain a mystery. The man was on his way, and in parting words, cautioned the newcomers to be wary at night for Ol’ Headless.

The group went to meet the mayor. The nondescript man invited the adventurers into his home to talk. He mentioned not having known what the constable would ask of the men, but he understood their situation to a small degree. He was under the impression there was no ill dealings that lead to the arrival of the Duke’s servants which relieved the pair somewhat.

When asked of Ol’ Headless, the mayor said, “After the fort fell to a curse some eighty years ago, Mercaeus continued to be a waypoint through the central plains and hills east of Molagona. The people here oft speak of haunted areas near the fort and old villa. Over the years, the folk of the town have become a superstitious bunch. For every person claiming to have witnessed the macabre visage of some abominable minion of the darkness, you will find another quick to discredit it. That is, until they too become rambling and paranoid. The Ol’ Headless you speak of is a tale of a headless corpse who roams the land at night seeking its lost head.”

The mayor would continue with his proposition, "I am not overly certain how to express this. The town has been haunted for many a year, ever since the fall of Wildweeper Villa it would seem. We sent word for so long to so many religious centers. Duke Durigo was the first to show much care. Please, I’m not sure what the constable will ask of you, but I want you to cleanse this house. Often the times have been of late that my daughter and son have spoken of voices about the house. They say they have played with something. At first I thought it the whimsey of children.

Not a week ago, my daughter has fallen into some sort of living death. She sleeps in her room for all the days and nights. We’ve tried what we can muster in this small town to no avail. Please, save my daughter, and I will give you petition for what you need."

After the request was made, the group asked to see the child. Finding her in a state of death-like sleep, observations and theories began. A faint aura of magic was present on the girl, but not so much as to imply the presence of a magic incantation. Avaniel realized this effect could be similar to the life stealing properties of some undead, but he was uncertain as to what type of creature would elicit this response.

Upon Saluhul asking if anyone might be able to tell them more, the mayor commented that if they required counsel, to seek out Irelevi Wildweeper. The woman lived in an old hut on the outskirts of town. She might have knowledge of the ailment of the mayor’s daughter. He cautioned them that she was quite caustic towards those of Mercaeus given what had happened to her family. After learning this, the men went to see the constable about his task.

The constable office lie near the heart of the town. It was a rather small building, but it was to be expected from such a small town. Opening the doors to the brick hut, the trio saw a few deputies casting lots upon a table in the middle of a half dozen empty cells. A man with a stern brow and sterner burnsides marched towards them saying, “You are the adventurers from Northlight then? Well I’ll not waste your time more than need be, as I have heard your time might be short. I want you to investigate Fort Mercaeus and Wildweeper Villa. There has been heavy ghost sightings in the area, and some have began to become brazen of late. Some of the outlying farms report livestock deaths and disappearances. I would normally account these to wild animals if my deputies had not seen the monsters attacking themselves.”

The constable looked to the weary men about the table. It was a mix of disgust and helplessness in his eyes. The same look had been seen on the patrolling deputies. The constable sighed deeply before continuing, "The fort is open, we’ve had no success barricading it off sufficiently, the ghosts merely tear it down. As to the villa, I have the keys to the two primary gates. I keep that infernal place holed up at all times. Gives people some piece of mind I suppose, and maybe it lets the souls at rest there find some peace while keeping those that haunt the grounds contained. Ask the mayor what he would have you do, and get rid of the ghosts at the fort and villa. I don’t care much for what it takes; make sure they will not return. I’ll have Irelevi divine the grounds afterwards to check if the problem has been resolved. This is an eighty year curse gentlemen, and you haven’t much time. I wish you luck.“

The curtness of the encounter was not lost of the men. The constable appeared to have little faith in the ability of the newcomers to solve such an issue. Feeling the information they had gathered prior to meeting the constable, they briefly asked about Irelevi. It seemed she had a slight acquaintance with the constable. He was new to the town, and while she bore great hatred for the townsfolk, she held no ill will towards him. This was encouraging to the adventurers. With any luck, Irelevi might view them in the same fashion

Session 25: A Plea to the High Archer

With preparations finished for the road, Avaniel Cerelion and Jozan left for Noongloom Wood. It was their hope to contact Saluhul Zephyrpaw once again, and hopefully they could get him to come with them to Mercaeus. With Kaspar unwilling to follow the group to Mercaeus, the pair felt themselves shorthanded for what very well could be the dangerous path ahead.

Upon nearing the hidden path towards the Zephyrpaw home, the pair became both predator and prey. A hulking owlbear began charging towards the mounted adventurers who had disturbed its meal. The horses began to panic, and both Jozan and Avaniel quickly dismounted to engage the beast and avoid danger with the creatures. Jozan sent in Talei to attack the creature, and was horrified when the ursine smacked his companion to the ground, holding him to the earth. Avaniel let loose arrows which flew into the woods, hampered by the heavy foliage that foiled his marksmanship the first time in these woods. The horses began to run from the creature, and Avaniel turned fast enough to only prevent one from fleeing.

The burly animal began to rip at Talei with more ferocity as the bird found escape difficult. Even escaping the creatures grasp only lead to another heavy paw imprisoning the fragile avian. Jozan, his hand guided by a force he had not quite known, called to Issindrius to empower his axe blade and darted through the undergrowth and low hanging branches towards his divinely appointed servant. Fury would not drive this blade as it did in the drake’s cavern but another force entirely. The druid beset his axe upon the beast with this force at hand, making the owlbear’s head a cloven form. Blood and yellow fluid surged from the wound, and cracked bone fell about the covered floor. Avaniel let loose an arrow that landed true, and the beast was felled.

After the pair had chased down the terrified horses, they made their way to Zephyrpaw’s home. Inside, Saluhul was fixing the damage caused by the goblins not a few days before. His wife, Herana, and neighbor, Denega Deepwallow, sat discussing matters until the pair’s arrival. Jozan tried to implore the former high archer to their cause, but the attempt proved in vain. The archer had more pressing matters to address with winter being a stringent deadline to stock the storehouses and repair the home. Down trodden, the pair asked for advice with the handling of the situation. Zephyrpaw had little information regarding Mercaeus; he had only a small roaming territory from his home. Denega was able to advise the men that some undead were fabled in myths and tales to be unhurt by nonmagical weapons.

The revelation did not sit well with Avaniel. He had an idea though. Producing coins, he offered to pay for carpenters from nearby Faldrin to assist with the fixing of furnishings while Saluhul travelled with them. Jozan had already offered a horse to the elf earlier to appease him. The archer was still troubled by the need to continue hunting, but Herana was there to bolster the adventurer’s call. She would hunt in his stead while she awaited his return. Saluhul finally agreed, and the now three made their way back to Northlight.

After a quick purchase of combat trained horses, the three men rode off the southern road towards Mercaeus. After over a dozen miles, they set camp for the night and awaited the challenges of a new day. If Kaspar could be trusted to hold the Steelsnout to its word, the druid, hunter, and former soldier would have five more days to settle the affairs at Mercaeus and ride on to Wellcliff.

Session 24: A Close Call with the Duke of Faro

The theater thus concluded, Duke Florant Asparago Durigo demanded further explanation from Avaniel Cerelion and Jozan. Kaspar, Alexander, Akiko Nivaye, Augustin Gonzalo, Parlow Menfu and Count Harlan Wells sat with great interest in what would be said to account for the forged document. Thinking to placate the noble somewhat, Jozan began to feverishly apologize. He told the Duke he had not known that the document was a forgery given by another person. He implored the Duke to let them show their merit to the exemption by performing a task for the Duke.

The Duke seemed reluctant to take the minor lie, but after some support from Kaspar and Augustin speaking to their valid claim to the other writs, the Duke thought on what task would be appropriate. He decided the pair should travel to Mercaeus to investigate claims of undead rising in the area around the town and near Fort Mercaeus. The pair quickly agreed; a chance at adventure and life was preferable to the gallows. The Count would send his herald to inform Captain Jacob of the arrangement, and the Herald would acquire the previous exemption from the group. He told them Mercaeus was some forty miles outside of Northlight, and roughly another forty would take the group to Wellcliff when the job had been done. He asked that the group present documents from both the mayor and constable of Mercaeus to his Herald in Wellcliff that attested to the issue resolution. With the issue resolved, the Duke, Alexander, and Augustin left. Avaniel once again expressed his regret to Akiko over her missing son, and she departed soon after with Parlow.

Jozan began to ask the Count questions about the rumors surrounding him. Upon being asked if he was a spy, Wells indicated his frail form. Jozan claimed a master spy could be capable of such deception. The Count laughed, stating that the King’s field agents were quite a different cut of cloth physically from himself. Still suspicious, Jozan dropped the subject when Avaniel asked why the Count had not come to Faldrin’s aid before. Harlan said that he had yet to dispatch an investigation unit to the village, and he was unwilling to dispatch troops on unconfirmed claims. He slyly admitted to being quite busy with the preparations for the Festival of Fools party as well.

The group presented their gifts, and the lot departed from the booth. Jozan and Avaniel asked Kaspar if he would come with them to Mercaeus, but the courier said he was unwilling to delibrately put himself in danger. He offered to make sure the boat picked up the pair at Wellcliff after their duties had been fulfilled. After bidding their farewells, the pair departed by the magical carriage back to the Steelsnout.

After being reprimmanded by the Captain, the group gave their documents to the Herald, and the pair thus packed for the journey. Early in the morning, before the Steelsnout departed, Kaspar awoke the pair to see them off the dock. Walking away, a final prank lay waiting on the docks. The pair fell through a set of illusory planks and fell into the water below. After swimming out to much laughter from the townsfolk, the group made preparations for their departure to Mercaeus.

Session 23: The Masquerade

The adventurers were whisked away to the Count’s manor in Northlight. The mansion of the Count of Northlight laid on a large estate in the northwestern section of the noble quarter. The well cobbled roads carried Avaniel, Jozan, and Kaspar’s carriage past the relatively crowded buildings of the normal aristocracy into a more open area. The estate was surrounded about its tall, hedged and gated perimeter by various social structures. It was as if a blot of vegetation had bloomed from the very stone of the town. The estate seemed so expansive as to allow only the tops of the high peaked roofs and an auxiliary tower to appear over the generously blossoming rose hedges. The deep green of the plants made vision into the compound from outside the gate impossible to the casual observer.

The carriage pulled to the exterior guardhouse and presented papers to verify passage. The well armed guards inspected them and nodded. They gave signal to the gatehouse to open the plot of land for entrance, and the ivory, green, red, and pink transport pulled through. The interior of the complex was a staggering field of green grass. Bushes and trees sat nicely trimmed and shaped into various creatures and objects. Ahead on the main road, the three spied a fountain of glowing, pale stone. Statues of classical muses, poets, and philosophers adorned the centerpiece of the sprawling, spouting monument. The carriage was to follow a gleaming, white road lined by elegantly posed statues which bisected into a circular path to the front of the manor, around the fountain. The approach gave full view to the mansion of the Count.

The building was rectangle of design, with both shallow, triangular overhangs and tall, sharply acute rooftops. The bright red walls of the building were littered with three neat rows of windows lined in white. The floors of the building were noted by streaks of forest green that encircled the structure’s perimeter. Accents of pink scattered about the architecture, and a variety of small tapestries hung over the topmost windows. The designs on these were all related to art and writing: quill and paper, easel and brush, and horn and note among others. The first floor itself seemed considerably larger given the height of the glass panes, and the companions figured the majority of the festivities might be found there.

As the carriage pulled to rest, partygoers began spilling out into the vast outdoor areas, pursuing each other in revelry. A few sat upon the lip of the fountain discussing matters. The guests all wore bright, tight fitting clothes, many with rather odd color schemes that seemed nonetheless appropriate for this gathering.

The dress wearing heroes ascended the steps to the front of the manor. A quartet of guards stood at the ready, and as they moved towards the door, one of them moved to push the portal open. Entering the tall, intricately carved doors at the front of the manor, the drake slayers beheld a tall, vaulted room. A semicircle stairway brought two paths up to a second, wider stairwell that lead to the second floor of the mansion. The floors were of deeply contrasted marble. Above, a collection of tiny glass sculptures hung suspended above the main hall. The angelic figures projected light from hands, eyes, or weapon, though the light source was not entirely evident. An enormous central chandelier was shaped into sprawling rose bush. Various luminous gems composed both leaves and flowers of the creation, and silvery material traced the path of branches in the thicket. Large archways led off the the right and left to separate rooms. To the left, a dining area; to the right was a hall filled with portraits in view.

In the middle of the semicircle, below the landing, a group of six people posed in motionless poses, covered in a white paint. They easily could be mistaken as statues, if not for the changing of their poses every few moments and the rippling of straining muscles holding the isometric poses. A number of the partygoers laughed as others joined in a game of the performers art. Others stood about the area enjoying the playing musicians and singers.

Rushing down the stairs from the landing, Herald Chris approached the newcomers and, after blowing a comically buzzing horn, announced their arrival. “Esteemed guests of Count Wells I present to the the recent heroes of Faldrin, and champions during the recent raids upon Ailead’s hospitality, noble, and republic districts: Jozan of the Grove of Lamatus, Avaniel Cerellion of Ailead, and Kaspar Ottokar of Woristrom.” Chris waited for a small contingent of applause to sound before once again blowing the odd horn, which drew assorted odd laughter as the guests mimicked woman and men.

“But tonight is a time naught of gloom but entertainment and merriment.” The announcement came from an individual upon the top of the staircase. A mask of a jester adorned the man’s face, and his clothes colored a mix of greens and ivory. About the attire, slight ringing could be heard as rose shaped bells rang lightly in the perfumed air. The man trekked down the steps to the first landing, a cape of myriad colors following closely to him. He continued his speech in rhyme.

“By name this night we find a detriment.
And so I ask the adventures of the new
Whose names have now surely paid them due.
To take upon monikers most befit
of the clothes in which they sit.
What say you, champions of Ailead,
How shall we address thee when we feed?”

Noting the man’s taste for clever wordplay, the three men thought for a moment before Jozan answered first, “Why, the name shall I hold is Lady Tanda Merryweather.”

Picking up on the trend as well, Kaspar tried to add a melodic ring to accompanying his companion’s name. “Only if I many be Lady Priscilla of the Feather.”

The poorly costumed Avaniel completed the exchange with his response of, "You may address me as Vanya, Alexandra.

“And so the names of maidens fair.
Shall be known to witness here and there.
Enjoy extravagent encounters at ease.
And to my guests,
your stories shall surely please.
A toast then,” the masked man said as he raised his glass towards the art above.
“To the new friends.
May heroism never end
The tyrant’s will twist and bend
And the powers always send
Those with power to tend.”

The gathered people raised glasses and toasted away, continuing their previous activities soon after. The herald remarked to the trio that the man was Count Harlan Wells. She claimed he wanted to participate more fully in the festivities himself, but his servants convinced him it would be somewhat necessary for guests to be able to tell the host apart.

The adventurers left their gifts with the herald to give to the count. They asked about the festivities of the night, and they were told an art exhibition and a theatrical performance were planned for later in the night. When asked where they could Augustin Gonzalo, the herald was more secretive.

“Truly, one of the delights of the masquerade is the mystique and mystery. Little fun would be had if one did not have to hunt their friends at such a gathering,” Herald Chris jested.

The three looked about the guests, and Jozan and Avaniel both caught sight of the old veteran and his student from Ailead, Alexander Scipio. The military men introduced themselves as Alexandra and Altresca, and they were currently speaking with Gregor Baranzar, or Draforga for this gathering. The merchant and architect said he expected his “zoo” to be near completion within a year.

The druid and hunter asked of Ailead, and Augustin told them the situation had become tense. Continued fighting with the unknown aquatic foes near Ailead had led the Republic of Ailead to seek aid from the west. A military envoy from Port Casmin was expected within the month to help quash the uprising with force or diplomatic measures, though many doubted bloodshed was avoidable. Patrols had increased underneath the city, in the sewer system. Bands of dark folk were still routinely showing up during these incursions.

Jozan mentioned the dark folk attack on the Steelsnout, and both Alexander and Augustin seemed confused that the creatures would have access to such seafaring ships. To their knowledge, the creatures had limited shipbuilding skills. Jozan continued to tell them of the explosives they found on the vessel as well, but he stopped short of mentioning the sinking of the ship and the emergence of the Barbaroi. Alexander in particular seemed distraught with these developments. Avaniel and Jozan asked if either of the men could decipher a message they had gotten earlier from the creatures, but neither man knew the tongue of the creatures.

Baranzar asked about the adventurer’s story about the drake of Faldrin. After briefly speaking about it, Jozan mentioned the creature seemed supernaturally powerful. Kaspar commented on the possiblity of a silver weakness in the creature. Augustin and Baranzar were intrigued at the notion of an immortal beast. Avaniel commented he had wished they could have captured the beast for Baranzar, but the old dwarf seemed less inclined to accept the creature. He claimed to have gotten the idea after a particularly dangerous run in with a large green bear. After praying for his life from Dom, he claimed to have had a vision. He viewed a hawk from on high which descended to the ground and demanded he cease his butchery of animals. Baranzar agreed, and the bear departed. He was loathe to stop his passion of the hunt, but an idea came to the dwarf. He wished others to see the wonders of the world, and thus conscripted trappers to bring rare creatures to him for citizens to view.

Moving to a different subject, Avaniel asked Augustin if he knew any information about the peace summit to be held in Urima. Augustin figured it would probably include Czar Kainus al’Raohtuck Kadacov, King Nerod Eldenberry, a representative from the war capital in Sinohi, and perhaps a pair of individuals from the Urima High Council. He also hinted at the strong possibility of the summit turning volatile given the numerous alliance treaties and hotheadedness of the leaders.

The men all excused themselves, and Kaspar wandered off to handle his own amusement. Jozan was prepared to do the same until he heard someone mention the name Bu-Jinwen from the art gallery. Jozan could scarce believe his ears, and hurriedly dragged Avaniel with him to investigate. Avaniel heard mention of the name as well, and point out a group of six that were talking to the person. As the went to investigate, the pair spied the Count placing a piece of paper behind a picture of a white flower meadow. Avaniel moved to investigate the note, but he was spotted by a guard and told not to disturb the painting. Both men were puzzled by the painting, and Jozan was only able to tell the flowers were either quite unique or the figment of the artist’s imagination.

Moving back to the group of six, the men spotted “Bu-jinwen” clad in a form fitting samue. The long coat crossed over at the front and was sashed with an obi. A brilliant cascade of blue lotus patterns were placed sporadically about the garment. The person wore a curved blade and pen at the hip. To its opposing side was a small, ceramic ball which rang lightly when the subject turns.

A mask covered the lower half of the face and featured a grimacing, caricaturesque mouth with a long, thin mustache. The eyes of the guest were keen, and pointed ears showed the elven heritage of the guest. Long hair is wrapped around the forehead and coiled about itself to produce a headband of the silken black stuff. Despite the mask, it was clear this was not the Bu-jinwen the pair knew.

The pair walked in on a discussion. Iberum was still in the midst of an undead outbreak. The appearance of the creatures was becoming a regularity as of late, yet none of the fiends had attacked the populace. The curiosity further compounded on the thoughts of officials when attacks by paladins and clerics was met with non-aggression. Some residents claimed the same dead continued to rise, but no evidence or precedent of this had been seen.

The men began a subtle bombardment of questions upon the person, a woman. She responded that she was from Sinohi, and here as a guest of the Count. She told the men she had a son of the name Bu-jinwen, and was somewhat confused and interested when Jozan mentioned they had travelled with someone of that name. They agreed to speak at a later time, and Jozan and Avaniel began to leave as the woman asked for tales of Moorhaven Manor.

The men turned just in time to see a person headed towards the meadow painting. The woman seemed out of place, as though she didn’t fully understand the masquerade theme. The prominent cheekbones lead the eyes to hair she had cut messy and short, but a structured messy. A prominent hairpin was shaped as a curved, silver dagger.

The skirt she wore was quite feminine, tiered, dark blue, and silver threaded. The blouse, however, was a type of yellowing bone white. A thin scarf of light blue wrapped about the neck of the girl. It was as if she took the theme to mean “messy as a man” or unkempt as a woman.

The men watched the women take the note from its concealed location. A guard moved to inform her of the “no touching” policy, but the women threw her arms up and began to back away. The guard conceded the point, and the girl walked away followed by Avaniel and Jozan. She paused for a time to watch the living statues at work. Jozan and Avaniel overheard other guests suggesting the Count was a former spy of King Nerod, and he was involved in the assassination of many political rivals and foreign military leaders. They gossiped that Wells was granted his nobility and the family name of the previous Count of Northlight by the king for his service. The former count died under mysterious circumstances, and many still wonder if Harlan Wells is truly his son. All records of the Count were reported lost in a fire which damaged much of the estate and an adjoining records building near the old estate. The old estate has since been turned into a mausoleum that some of the guests assumed had many hidden secrets.

The woman was on the move again, this time to the dining area. She joined in on a conversation between Augustin, Alexander, and Chetris Agallis. The out of costume man was an apparent aide to the Farseer of Urima. The unnamed woman praised the young Scipio as the first in line for conscription if a war should break out. The young man had already wrote a pair of essays being studied at the Palcanod, Escagaea, and Castagion military academies. Alexander spoke of his visits to the establishments were he was often poised new solutions to old battles he knew nothing about. Augustin mentioned the solutions were period specific, and were often as good or better than the original plans of attack. Chetris mentioned he had caught ear that this has earned Alexander both admiration from the new guard of military leaders and scorn from the traditionalist old guard.

The embarrassed young man frantically looked about for a break in the praise he was receiving. Seeing Jozan and Avaniel, he moved to them and talked to the pair, cutting them off momentarily from following the girl as she went off towards a smoking room. When the pair caught up, she was missing. Jozan rushed off down the halls of the mansion to find traces of her, and a short search of a pair of side rooms from Avaniel garnered no information. The hunter then returned to the main hall. There, he observed the Count placing another message in the hand of one of the living statue performers. When Wells left, Avaniel went and pocketed the document.

Meanwhile, Jozan ran down the halls of the manor in chase of the young woman from before. He rounded the corner leading back to the art gallery and tried some doors, which were locked. As he continued down the hall, a door opened ahead. From within, a guard escorted a collection of men towing artist instruments to the gallery. The guard went to Jozan and reminded him that the count wanted his guests to stay at the mansion front until their presence at the theater was requested later in the night. Jozan conceded the point and went with the artists. In the gallery, the artists began sculpting. Jozan overheard rumors of a certain guest. Parlow Menfu was rumored to be involved in many research projects regarding the origins of different intelligent species. The guests circulated that he had been seen at the orphanages in Orsini, Basoy, and Saint Sophia. The combination of the two rumors had put people in the manor at ill ease, but they were assured by the matrons and patrons of the childcare facilities that his studies were minor. The benefits to the community were major monetarily.

Seeing a familiar face, Jozan wandered over to a man that looked ill equipped for this party. He was a large man in both height and weight, and what was visible of his face was the stern, utterly taciturn expression of Anatoly Olnarov. He wore a brown and black silk burqa. Though lovely in its own way, the dress suited neither the mass of the Peroshi, nor the clothing style of Northlight. If this seems to bother the man, it was unseen through the translucent veil. Jozan quickly spoke with him about Sosimo Primo Santos. The Peroshi said he had not heard from the man, as his business with him was unneeded given the exemption he was able to acquire for his shipping concerns.

Jozan watched as a tall man with long, curled blonde hair acted as a model for the artists. The man, Duke Florant Asparago Durigo, wore a billowing skirt and half sleeve blouse of light pink hue. A small, brimmed fedora encircled by a red ribbon upon the noble’s head, and a red mask covered his face. The mask was accentuated by a pursed pair of white lips and small, dangling earrings bored through the ears of the piece. Jozan could not have guessed the impact of this person’s appearance at the count’s manor. He left to the main hall and met with Avaniel. There, the two looked at the letter before and were shocked by the contents.

I dare say you might be quick to the dash.
To spy on your host and think him an ass.
To feel I am blind to your prying and poking.
You must think I am quite a joke king.
But fear not you, supposed heroes of late.
If you have questions of me, ask at the theater quite late.

Somewhat humiliated, the pair resigned themselves to the dining hall. After sharing the note with a soon laughing Kaspar, the pair awaited the start of the theater activities. Kaspar revealled little new information, other than the supposed fencing expertise of the herald, whose name was Kirstiana normally. They did not have to wait long. After a time of eating and light discussion, the trio’s attention was brought to the main hall. There, the herald began listing off seating arrangements for the guests. The three drake slayers found themselves in seemingly good company since they were assigned to a private box with the Count himself.

The men were escorted up into the private booth, and beheld the private theater Count Wells had built is his manor for his actors. The booth was home to The Count and his herald, the Duke Durigo, Akiko Nivaye, and Parlow Menfu. After some short banter, the Count and Parlow began to play some sort of strategy board game while the play continued. Menfu seemed to have a keen interest in the adventurers, and Jozan soon discovered that he knew of Jericho to some extent. His line of studies had lead him to cross paths with Jozan’s former mentor. Parlow also seemed to have had a run in with “another Cerellion” at one point, but talk shifted towards Parlow’s background.

He mentioned he was an orphan out of Pa Goi in Sinohi. Early in his life, he stowed away on a ship to Urima, and his interpersonal talents led him to work as a diplomatic aide there. He spent much of his time as a negotiator with Daramis, and was later naturalized to Daramis in his adult life after meeting his late wife, Julia, who died 2 years later. The group reflected on how far they had come as well. A person need not have a noble birth, or even family, to be a person of great influence on Fonoros. During the conversation, Jozan noted the Count pocketing a message he had picked up from one of the game pieces on the board.

The play continued, a simple story about the shades of gray in wartime. As the play’s singers began to reach the heights of a particular piece, Harlan Wells poised a frightening question to the Duke of Faro. The jester masked man asked the Duke where he had met the adventurer’s from Ailead before. A rush of nervousness washed over Jozan and Avaniel as they recalled the forged document Roger had made for them to break through the trade embargo. The Duke, as expected, answered he had never seen the men before. In a desperate attempt, Avaniel haphazardly tried to change the subject, only to be rebutted with some anger by Florant. Avaniel admitted to never having known what the Duke looked like. He thought he could make it seem as though the man they received the writ from was mistaken for the Duke. The phrasing used made the Duke only more suspicious though. The Count waved the issue off for the moment, suggesting those gathered enjoy the play and each other’s company for now. The sound of boots could be heard climbing the stairs to the both. The Count’s guards no doubt.

In a more somber discussion, the companions told Akiko that they had been travelling with her son. They told her he disappeared during their travels, and they had yet to see him since. The Count realized and explained the impact of the curse near Easthaven Island. All who used magic near the island vanished, not to be seen again. While worry was visible on Nivaye’s face, she seemed somewhat less concerned. Her son had left once before mysteriously; she could only hope for his return again. The Count questioned why the adventurers travelled near Easthaven to begin with, drawing more fearful feelings in Avaniel, Kaspar, and Jozan. As a few moments passed with no answer from Jozan and Avaniel, Ottokar blurtted out that they had merely been checking the condition of the pirate ports so they could report back to Primo Santos. He mentioned the recent pirate attacks on the noble vessels to bolster the lie, and the Count seemed caught off guard by the explanation and mannerisms of the courier. The matter was dropped, and the play continued.

At the play’s completion, the guests applauded. The booth praised the Count’s patronage of the arts, and settled in to talk once more about the mysterious writ of Duke Florant Asparago Durigo. Jozan and Avaniel once more struggled to find words, and the anger of the Duke continued to heighten. Augustin and Alexander seemed to want to help the travelers, but they saw no way to do so without incriminating themselves in the matter of the forgery. All eyes lay on the pair, and the duo was certain the arrival of the Count’s guards would be swift if their answer was not sufficient.

Session 22: The Mansion of Count Wells

Avaniel Cerelion, Jozan, and Kaspar Ottokar returned to Northlight following their excursion into the goblin den with Saluhul Zephyrpaw. The men went about the business of selling their loot to vendors in the indoor market, and they sold back their ponies to the stables. Returning to the Steelsnout, Jozan informed Captain Jacob of the mass of new recruits that would be arriving soon to bolster their lacking crew. The captain seemed pleased with the performance, and he mentioned another influx of recruits, most likely those conscripted by Kaspar.

The captain mentioned a herald of Count Wells had come to search for the adventurers. The trio were somewhat confused by the sudden interest, and the captain assured them the herald would come later to speak with them. The group rested for a bit as the night was fully underway. Aldrazan sent word to the group that the herald had returned, and all three went to address the herald.

The herald was a peculiar man flanked by a pair of guards. The man wore a form fitting suit patterned in black and white. The courtier’s outfit alternated the contrasting colors at seemingly every fold, creating both a playful and sophisticated look. It was the mask of the man that garnered the trio’s focus though. The charcoal colored mask was smooth and shined like a porcelain pot. The design was that of a bald man with a stern, furrowed brow and long, curled mustache. The mask was highlighted in deeper blacks of ebony that showed the detail of the face.

The person approached and addressed them directly by name, introducing himself as Herald Chris Abaun, servant of Count Harlan Wells. Jozan asked how the Count knew of them, which brought about a rather rough, mechanical, labored laughter from the herald. In a struggling deep voice that would continue throughout the affair, the herald explained that the Count had been made aware of your deeds via messenger from Faldrin. He had also heard of some of their exploits in Ailead apparently. The Count requested their presence at a masquerade ball he had been hosting every night since the Festival of Fools began. He wished to see the heroes of recent memory be rewarded for their efforts with some much needed celebration. The herald was sure the guests would be delighted to have Jozan and Avaniel regale them with tales of their adventures.

Jozan seemed confused about what a masquerade was. Chris Abaun explained it as a costumed party with a particular theme. This year, it was themed as a reversal of the sexes. Men and women would dress as opposites for the events. This was somewhat off putting to Avaniel, but he and Jozan become keenly interested when they discovered a variety of dignitaries, including Augustin Gonzalo, would be in attendance. Avaniel asked how they might reach the Count’s manor, and the herald worked out arrangements for them to be picked up at dusk the following day near the port district square by the Count’s private carriage.

Avaniel and Kaspar returned to their quarters to rest, and Jozan went to the captain to inform him of their plans. The captain granted the druid an extra day to handle his affairs with the count. Jozan thanked him and said he would speak on his behalf if he could. The captain seemed agreeable to the concept, if a bit skeptical. Jozan turned to leave, but the captain stopped him. He asked the druid if he could find some navigational stars that appeared to be missing. Jozan could indeed see the constellations the captain mentioned , but he could curiously not find the missing points of light either. Slight chills went through his spine as he settled in for the night as well.

The next day, the companions made their way to various places to prepare for the masquerade later. A midnight blue, sleeveless dress was bought by Jozan. A Lavender silk dress with teal accents would costume Avaniel, and Kaspar would adorn a wine colored, billowing dress. After purchasing masks, make up, and bathing, Kaspar suggested buying presents for the Count. Learning he was a fan of the arts, the group went to a dealer to find gifts. Jozan bought “Passing of an Age”, a painting of an aging dragon resting (or perhaps deceased) in his cavern. Avaniel bought “The Triumph of Perias”, a painting of a hero of children’s myth. Kaspar settled for something a bit different, as he picked up a music box, “The Muse of the Sea”. The pieces were left at the art dealer to hold until they were needed.

Returning to the Steelsnout, the group finished their costumes. Avaniel had great difficulty organizing his outfit, and he needed extra help to seem even remotely passable. The group donned jewelry, and Jozan decided to wear the emerald pendant retrieved from the drake’s cave outside Faldrin. Afterwards, the group traveled to the port square, where a carriage soon shot through a seemingly uninterested crowd unhindered.

The ivory, green and pink coach was drawn by a team of six black stallions. It seemed to stop far more abruptly than its speed would suggest, and the coach driver came down to greet the costumed adventurers. Confirming their identities, he allowed Avaniel and Kaspar to enter. Jozan seemed uneasy about the driver as he was covered head to toe in garments. Gloves covered the man’s hands, and a thick scarf and tall hat covered his head. Jozan asked the man to show himself, but the driver thus declined. He stated he was ordered by the Count to not reveal himself. Jozan asked if he had worked for Harlan Wells long. The driver responded that he had only just started his work for the count, and he would most likely not work for him again. Jozan seemed very wary about the curious driver, and he asked him once again to reveal himself.

“My coverings are a courtesy of the Count,” the driver said. “He felt it would be better if I remained as presentable as I am now. He does this only out of respect for your comfort, and I am bound by duty to not disobey his order.”

Jozan wearily boarded the carriage, and the transport moved. Looking outside the cabin window, The group noted the carriage moving at an astounding speed. Dreadlocks, costumes, and faces of the populace blurred by as the raced by seemingly unconcerned citizens, all of whom parted as through instinct. Jozan called out to the driver to stop at the art dealer to pick up their gifts.

At the dealer, the trio recovered their purchases and went outside. The driver offered to place them on the luggage rack, and the group approved. As the driver moved up to the head of the coach, Jozan attempted to sense magic about the man when his back was turned. He noted a magic all about the coach as though its very nature was not of this world.

“Forgive me, madame,” the driver spoke, startling the druid. “I had already informed you my identity was concealed by order of Count Harlan Wells. He had made this decision in order to put you at ease with my assignment to this post, and it is quite rude to question your host, let alone an aristocrat, regarding his methods. I have been as forthcoming as I can be. My lord only asks for your trust.”

Jozan stopped his investigation and apologized, stating he was only cautious given the challenges of the past few weeks. The driver politely acknowledged the sentiment, but stated that it was probably more appropriate to give the apology to the Count at a later time. The trio reentered the carriage, and once again it raced off toward the Count of Northlight’s manor as the dusk faded into night.

Session 21: Lair of the Goblinoids

Avaniel, Jozan, Kaspar, Saluhul Zephyrpaw, and Talei worked their way down the secret path to the goblinoid hideout. The terrain became rough to travel in, but Jozan managed to draw upon his experience trekking the forests of Sinohi to keep his normal pace in the overgrown forest.

A guard patrol hidden on the path to the cave was spotted by the party and carefully ambushed. The dense forest proved to hinder the attempts of both Saluhul and Avaniel as they fired into the thicket at the evil creatures. Though the struggle was brief, it was quite loud, and jozan moved quickly to the cave mouth to check the conditions inside.

Rushing ahead proved immediately dangerous. A hulking bugbear joined with a pair of hobgoblins and their goblin minions to surround the young druid. The crushing blows of the bugbear rattled the bones of Jozan through his armor as he called for help. The bowmen of the group continued to struggle with the cover of the overgrown branches of the treeline. Kaspar rushed in after a desperate escape from Jozan, and the pair worked desperately to stem the aggression from the diabolical humanoids. Noting the heavy armor of the bugbear and his hobgoblin companions, Saluhul closed in with sword and shield after the goblins had be dealt with. Blood continued to flow from Jozan’s wounds, and Kaspar received some superficial damage as well. A crushing blow from Jozan’s axe, some arrows and sword strikes from Saluhul and Avaniel, and some rather ineffective attacks from Kaspar were able to finally crush the opposition faced by the four.

Entering the cave, both Denega Deepwallow and Herana Zephyrpaw sat bound in the corner of the lightly lit cave. After their release and some slight pleasantries, the trio of adventurers began to loot the remaining surroundings. Jozan offered some recompense to Saluhul for the damage to his home and for his help. Saluhul accepted, but only on the condition he be given what he would truly need. After finishing their acquisition of spoils, the group returned to the Zephyrpaw home, and Denega left to find the children at their “secret hiding place.”

At the Zephyrpaw home, the adventurers answered some questions regarding their involvement in Faldrin and their ambitions to go to Urima. Jozan asked Saluhul to make the way safe and clear for the new recruits to the Steelsnout from the small farming community, and the archer agreed. Asking of Zephyrpaw’s background, the archer revealed he originally had been part of the military force tasked with guarding the observatory of Austraris. He then explained his shield’s markings. The dual arrow representing his rank, High Archer, and the star showed his role in a war with the mountain goblins and orcs of the area. He talked of his connection to Urima and his desire to live out a new life away from battle.

With the new revelations, Jozan and Avaniel asked of the path they would take from Thiminoor to Desov. They learned they would travel through the brutal Cairnlands, but that the path would be much easier going when they had left the desolate place behind. When asked where the group could find out information on magic and anomalies, Saluhul mentioned the both Desov and Austraris were excellent places to find men of intellect and wisdom. He told them of a sect of mystical artists at the Austraris observatory who “paint the night sky and all the stars therein”. He told the trio that a journey there would be difficult, but much information could be garnered there on events of the past, present, and future.

When asked of Iberum, Saluhul was unable to give a clear course to their goal. He thought for a moment, and he decided it would probably be a smaller town near the middle of the continent. The trio of adventurers then continued on the path back to Northlight. Tomorrow, they would leave Northlight and continue on the Wellcliff, if fate was on their side. For now, the day was still young, and Northlight was not far off.

Session 20: The Long Road to Northlight

Avaniel, Jozan, Kaspar, and Talei continued to explore the final sections of the Molagona cavern after divided up the drake’s horde. After some difficulty getting the heavily armored Avaniel through the deep pond’s waterfall, the group went ashore to acquire their gear before investigating a pair of eerie lights on the pond edge.

When they approached closer, the group encountered a small party of fey, brownies. The fey appeared to be overjoyed that the drake was no more. With the beast out of the way, they were once again free to cause their carefree mischief and chores for the people around Faldrin. They seemed particularly impressed that the trio had bested the famed creature despite not having access to a magical milk the brownies had brought. The liquid was said to protect against an initial attack of the drakes acidic breath. Jozan then asked the fey some questions regarding the cave and the Pit of Yearning the creature inside had mentioned. The small creatures were at a loss, but they mentioned that King Brightcedar might know more. The brownies said the party could not reach their king the way other fey of Molagona could, but if the party desired, they could go to the outlying areas of Wellcliff. In a grove of purple blossomed trees, they would find entrance if they could pass a series of tests.

Leaving the fey behind, the group informed the watchful sentries outside the cave of the drake’s demise, hoisting the creatures head up high. Trumpeting horns of celebration carried the message to Faldrin. The guardtowers along the road continued the message as they packed up their equipment to return to Faldrin at long last. The town seemed timid during the gathering outside The Oaken Shield until the skull was presented to them. A boisterous cheer erupted over the populace. The trio then went about expressing the peril of the Steelsnout to the farmers, asking for their aid as the trio had aided them. Confident in the response of the citizenry, but being informed it might take a few days for people to set their affairs in order, the adventure’s and townsfolk celebrated. The skull was turned over to the innkeeper of The Oaken Shield to be mounted upon the wall along with the collection of battered shields.

The group awoke the next morning and began the trek back to Northlight. Along the path, not far from the edge of the forest containing Faldrin, the group spotted an archer over the corpse of a dead goblin. The man told the adventurers that he was returning from a week long hunt. He noticed goblins about and was worried for the safety of his family and neighbor in the woods. After deciding the path to Northlight would not be safe for the new recruits from Faldrin with goblins raiding the roads, the trio decided to help the archer. He introduced himself as Saluhul Zephyrpaw. The man wore extremely potent gear for a simple hunter, but the group decided it was not important to investigate at this moment. The archer seemed skeptical of trusting a half-drow, but he seemed far more concerned about the goblinoid presence near his home than a single drow traveler. Avaniel’s image did not improve as a disgusted Zephyrpaw heard the ranger’s proposition at making the hunt a competition.

Coming up to the Zephyrpaw home, the group was uneasy about the damaged state of the front door. Jozan and Saluhul entered ahead of the group. Jozan slipped slightly as he entered, stomping loudly. He was gretted on an opposing wall by the roar of a grizzly bear, who promptly chased the pair out of the small home, crashing through the door frame in pursuit. Despite difficulty for Avaniel in his spellcasting, the group managed to finish off the animal with volleys of arrows and swipes of blades. Entering the home again, it was clear that the home had been attacked. From the blade wounds on one of the creatures, it was a clear a fight had taken place. Saluhul speculated that his children had escaped through an open window in their bedroom and the lack of struggle signs.

Progressing to the small hut of Denega Deepwallow, the group heard the sounds of invaders inside. Zephyrpaw crashed in on the goblins still looting the small dwelling. The short skirmish was made easy with the advantage of surprise, and it was determined the elderly halfling woman had probably been captured as well. Fortunately, it appeared her grandchildren had escaped as well. The group the tied up a pair of the goblins, healing one to consciousness. Avaniel boldly suggested executing the knocked out goblin in front of his companion if they would not talk. The idea seemed to bother Jozan slightly. Saluhul questioned the goblin of his wife’s whereabouts. With the goblin unresponsive, he thought it necessary to acquire information before it was too late, cutting the ear from the bound creature. This prompted a fast confession.

After discovering the location of the enemy’s lair, Saluhul brought the creature outside with Jozan, stripped him of weapons, and cast him into the forest to let nature decide the fate of the bloody creature. Meanwhile, Avaniel executed the other goblin and looted the others. With a goal in mind, the group journeyed back to the road, then off a secret path mentioned by the goblin.

Session 19: The Lair of the Covenant

Jozan, Kaspar, and Avaniel continued to creep into the innards of the forest drake’s cavern. The dark confines combined with the low rumble of the falls through the stone to create an atmosphere of uncertainty around every corner. Avaniel was sent ahead to scout with his sharp vision as the three silently made their way through the cave. Rounding a corner, the group encountered an out of place wall.

Coming up to it carefully, Jozan looked upon its surface to discover it was not the same stone as the cave. The discolored rock bore runes at irregular intervals upon sparse, flat sections of the stone. Was this formerly a wall? Who made it? For what purpose were the runes created? Looking at the symbols more carefully and reaching out to them, Jozan received an odd sensation of displacement, dizziness, and general spatial confusion. The runes themselves belonged to no realm of magic either Avaniel or Jozan could distinguish. It was not as though they could not decipher the origin of magics using their fair grasp of magic, but these symbols held a power that was all too foreign to them. Foreign like the Mouth of Chaos.

After some experimentation, Jozan deemed the characters safe to touch. As he did, he was bombarded with noise of voices. He concentrated to grasp what he could of a particular conversation, hearing these words from a disembodied voice while echoing them to his companions.

“This is a mercy. Every creature has a need to die. Everything must be able to be destroyed. The greatest of cities should be brought under heel by the majesty of creation, and none should have divinity but those which are gods, not even us.”

The words were uncertain in context to the druid and his companions. The sensation and experience was definitely similar to that which Jozan had in the Mouth of Chaos. An unsettling notion crept in the group when they considered the madness that had overcome the Mouth of Chaos Cult. The group climbed up the wall, ascended higher up a steep incline and over another of the same, rune covered barrier before finding an exit high above the ground level of the grove. Jozan called to Talei, and the bird quickly joined the would be heroes into the cave.

The group continued on, the fall’s rumble fading into a low hum, then disappearing entirely as the adventurers continued. The lack of noise, of any stimulus unnerved the group, and Avaniel finally took a moment to break the monotony by posing a question. If the runes on the wall were similar to those of the Mouth of Chaos, could there be a leyline to the nightmare realm in this cave? Had they already activated one by casting magic near the wall? The group dismissed the notion for now. The cavern and exterior of the cave certainly had not seemed different at least.

The group came to another decline marked by a wall of the same material as those earlier in the cave. This one had with it a peculiar being. The thing towered only a scant bit shorter than the wall itself. The creature was a shimmering cloud of vaguely humanoid form. Its four arms seemed to move as it chanted, manipulating a symbol upon the wall. The creature paid little mind to the travelers until Jozan attempted to pass it. The creature’s interest materialized on the druid at that moment, and it would stare at him, then the wall, and back again a great many times.

Kaspar seemed to descend the cliff with no such attention, but the creature was equally attentive to Avaniel. At this time, the creature began to question the pair. It asked where something known as the Pit of Yearning was. When pressed for an explanation as to why the being cared for their presence, the creature stated that something clung to the druid and ranger. It said that any who looked for the darkness of men would see it on them.

“You do not belong here,” the creature said, but then it added oddly “But you do.”

The group had the aura of this Pit of Yearning all about them it seemed, and the creature demanded answers about it. Jozan asked the being after some consideration what the place was he spoke of. From the cryptic responses of the creature, Jozan thought the runes marked places that held back this place from Fonoros. The creature said they held the Pit of Yearning from Monad, and that the realm itself was without Monad. Jozan knew not what this Monad was, but he imagined the Pit of Yearning might be where Yogir was imprisoned.

“Yogir is at harmony with Monad,” the storm bodied creature said. “He will be let go from the Pit of Yearning!” the creature demanded. “Not all is in balance with Monad.”

“But what is Monad?” pleaded an exasperated Jozan.

“Monad is… Monad,” was the creature’s only reply.

Thinking to get a better grasp of the situation, perhaps gain favor with the creature for information, Jozan exposed his back to allow the creature to read the message to be sent to Iberum. It was a list apparently, a list for those on some type of trial. The accusation leveled against them, being without Monad.


Upon the short exchange, the creature’s swirling body stopped. The coloration of the storm-like clouds making its form changed to a deep, flaring red and black as ink. The creature began to move once again, and in a new, raspy, otherworldly voice, recited a familiar verse.

Hail the four lords
Evil fleshed true.
None innocent.
Stage settled,
Millions for night,
Hundreds for moon.
When all is gone,
A new king be crowned.

The companions backed away, unnerved by the display. As suddenly as it had occurred, the creature’s form stopped once again and resumed its previous hues. The creature had an aura of discomfort, fear perhaps, as it regained its senses.

“Plagued, against Monad now!” The creature shrieked in horror. “Can not seal the realm now.” The creature began to flare with light, and the companions ran away to avoid what seemed a certain catastrophe. The creature’s light faded, and none was left in its wake. The companions cleared their minds for now of this chance encounter, and they refocused on the task of slaying the drake.

The group used Talei to scout a good portion of the surrounding areas, discovering more rune walls and a huge wall leading to a natural over passing bridge. Climbing up and surveying the platform, it seemed badly cracked and dangerous to cross. After climbing up the other side, the group continued deeper into Molagona. After rounding a bend, Avaniel signaled back that another large wall obstructed the group’s path in a large, open chamber. Coming closer, Avaniel was ambushed by a ball of smoldering acid that dispersed into the air around him.

The sting of the acid cloud was the first of many worries with the attack, as the cloud left behind made sight through the caustic mist difficult. Jozan ran past to search for any weakness of the dragon, calling upon his magic to increase his strength. Kaspar followed the druid, and the two pressed up against the wall awaiting their next move. The drake swooped into the cloud and began an onslaught on the half drow.

Avaniel continued to give up ground to the creature, getting bit relentlessly on his way back. Jozan sent Talei in multiple times to attack the drake, but the bird found it hard to find the creature about the hazy air. Kaspar vanished from sight suddenly as Jozan scaled the wall to look at the remainder of the den. He was greeted by the sight of a great deal of silver and other coins. The creature’s latest meals lie rotting about the floor. Jozan saw no clear magic sword or enchanted scroll to battle the beast after scattering the pile of coins, but his mind went racing for answers when he saw what seemed to be dry, flaking, green skin cast over the silver coins.

Avaniel continued to struggle with the drake, and Kaspar appeared to strike a vicious attack on the long neck of the beast as it pursued, vanishing soon after again.Avaniel went into full retreat to escape the creature, getting bit along the way. Jozan jumped from the upper platform to help with the battle at hand, and Kaspar again plunged his weapon into the creature. The acidic cloud faded, and the dragonkin bit at Kaspar, who deftly dodged and vanished again. Avaniel, now far removed from the fiend’s dagger toothed maw, began to fire arrows at the creature as it stormed to attack Jozan.

The druid called upon the primal fury within to battle the creature, taking some cursory bites before landing a devastating blow with his flaming great axe while Talei ripped at the wings of the horror with his talons. Kaspar again appeared to slash at the reptilian monster, but the forest drake was ready to deflect his blow this time. Avaniel let fly a pair of arrows that laid low the monster for Jozan to decapitate soon after. After some consideration, and looting, the group concluded that the dragon might have had some sort of allergy to silver. The group’s attacks had much weaker results when fighting the beast, save Kaspar’s silver blade. The monster of Molagona slain, the group prepared for the journey back to Faldrin.

Session 18: The Monster of Molagona

After their gory run in with the invasion of cockroaches, Avaniel and Jozan realized they would require rest before anything else went wrong in Northlight. Before that, the group tried to garner an audience with representatives from the Urima Embassy of Northlight. Seeing no initial value in what the duo had to say, and with no proof of citizenship to Urima, the group was denied access. Returning to the Steelsnout to rest proved something of a chore without Kaspar guiding the pair. After some wandering, they managed to return to the docks after a confrontation with an angry boat captain at the harbormaster’s shack. After resting, the group was told by Aldrazan that any assistance they could give in the recruitment drive would be helpful.

After a brief run in with another group of pranksters attempting to throw the pair off the docks, the pair returned to the markets to scavenge some crew. Aldrazan had mentioned the Steelsnout had probably garnered all the support from the docks that it could, and this could be a valid place to check for more recruits. The group wandered into The Flying Mug for information and to seek sailors.

Upon entering, Jozan was once again berated for his loose sleeves. Having been fed up with the holiday in general, Avaniel decided to use some magic to tighten Jozan’s clothes for the time. The patrons seemed uneasy about this, and the eye patch wearing bartender asked that such antics be kept to the confines of the Urima Embassy. As they ate, the group heard rumors of undead sightings near Iberum, and whispers of an ancient curse being dug up by dwarves in a mountain fortress near the Vacric-Ryin border. Jozan attempted to be clever in his pitch to the patrons, but his comments sounded more insulting than inspiring.

Moving on to The King and Rose, the group was able to glean some interesting information. The barkeep there spoke of perhaps recruiting with some of the outlying villages near the Molagona Mountains. Rumor had been spread the the people of Faldrin had requested aid from the count regarding a monster living near their town. She then suggested perhaps talking with some of the more religious sects of the village. Perhaps some could be swayed.

Going into the Sinoan shrine to Farmourn and Dom proved interesting to the pair but fruitless. Emerging from the building, the pair noticed Kaspar making a case to the gathering people to join the Steelsnout in its journey. Using language conjuring up images of a wild, untamed journey that the town’s matron god, Issindrius, would favor, he spoke of the duty of the people to learn of the world about them and their place in it. Afterwards, the group noted a change in gear for the courier. Jozan tried a feeble apology, but he fumbled over his words. Kaspar, thoroughly unimpressed by the display, remarked that he had requested transfer and was denied. He wanted to get to Thiminoor and be done with this errand.

After talking it over, the group decided that perhaps Faldrin could garner the crew they needed. After discovering where to go, the group accosted both elves and halflings in an attempt to learn more about this monster plaguing the town. After a few tries, two things were fairly clear: this beast had been bothering the populace of Faldrin for quite some time, and it was such a terrifying creature that many hesitated to even speak of it. The group considered talking to the count directly, but they had heard that he would be holed up in his manor during the festivities of the Festival of Fools, and the guest list to his parties there was quite exclusive.

The group came to the realization that no information could be gathered at the coastal town, and resigned themselves to buy ponies for the journey to Faldrin. As they entered the village, they noted the forlorn look on the elven faces of the populace. Having been mistaken as a festival goer earlier in the day, Avaniel was fairly certain his heritage would not cause issue for now. The buildings, trees, and fields of Falldrin were marked by spots of discoloration and deformation, as though the material had been burned or melted. The group walked into The Oaken Shield inn to secure information and rooms. Stepping inside, the group was instantly drawn to the circle of melted shields about the walls of the establishment.

While there, they gathered enough information about the creature to guess it might be a forest drake, a creature known for its caustic breath and taste for elves. Something was odd, though. According to the inhabitants, the drake had slaughtered a man for every shield on the walls of the inn, many of whom seemed much stronger, and in greater numbers, than the their trio from the Steelsnout. The townsfolk had resigned to creating guard towers equipped with great horns to send a message across the miles near the beast’s lair to warn of its arrival in town.

Paying for their rooms, the group was stopped before resting by a purple and black robed figure, who told them to sit with him a while. The man told the adventurers not to squander their lives on the monster of Molagona, that they had important work in Iberum to deal with. Knowing this to be a follower of Yogir, Jozan asked what he knew of the creature. The man scrawled out drawings showing them the location of a waterfall that drew its waters from Molagona itself. There, they would find the entrance to a cave where the beast resided. The person warned the beast was invincible in any place save this cavern, and that perhaps the group could find allies to help them battle the dragon among the forest.

The group set out the next day, spanning miles and passing the warning towers. Coming to the section of forest the man of Yogir had mentioned, the group noted the discoloration of the leaves on some of the trees. A thick spray of mist impaired vision of the pool of water near the bottom of the falls, and this fog would lightly carry out over the whole of the area. Sneaking about, the travelers found and briefly spoke to some of the watch posted from Faldrin. Their talks were cut short when one of their number blew their horn, and the monster of Molagona descended upon the sentries. The drake ripped two of the elven scouts to pieces. Carrying the corpses in its talons, the flying beast flew away towards the mountains, letting forth a deafening roar as it went. After some investigation, Jozan and Kaspar managed to find an opening that they surmised would lead into the mountain. Avanial caught the group in time to see them plunge into the cool water. The trio continued to swim down and then in the cavern. They emerged a short time later, ready to discover what weaknesses they could of the drake, and try to defeat it.


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