Mists of Cariele

Chapter 15: Licking Wounds

As the dust settled from the battle, the town of Eventide burned their dead in a Haelynite funeral, barricaded their gates, and retreated to the catacombs to ride out the storm.

 

2 days later, as the storm finally passed, the town came out of the catacombs and began rebuilding their town.  The first few days were spent evaluating the carnage and devastion.  Harlan attempted to help Adasil in getting the Inn up and running, but was chased out of the kitchen and told to go lift something heavy, leading him to spend time with Vargen at the Blacksmith Shop smoking a pipe and watching the druids magically melt the snow around the shop.  Qadira tracked down Jem and Jewel, discovering an Elf residing in one of the unused shops as she observed Jewel’s methods and magical craftsmanship.  Strogar worked with the priests to clear out the snow from a hole in the roof, using his stonecutting skills to fashion a stone pew into a pillar and patch.  Orvo explored the perimeter of the clearing for undead, finding and returning with a fallen standard of the undead general.  Tiegan worked to help provide relief from the cold, frostbite, and lingering battle injuries.  Tristan gathered a posse and headed out on patrol, ensuring no undead were hiding in the snowbanks.

 

After the initial cleanup was completed, raw materials were gathered and major construction began.  Vargen gathered the remaining mithril and the cold iron weapons and forged them into pillars for the menhir stones, Tristan and Harlan went out to begin logging, and the rest helped around town.  The townsfolk took the opportunity to fully settle into the town as well.  Families and single individuals began working with each other and claiming spaces in the building for permanent living quarters. 

 

The druids finished work on the home they were slowly rebuilding, donating it to a group of widows and their orphaned children.  The town hall was refurbished, with Pavon, Wickham, Novra, and Harlan taking residence on the 2nd and 3rd floors.  The second level of the barracks was repurposed for dormitories, and the first floor was converted into a proper barracks and armory for the town’s reduced militia.  The 2nd and 3rd floors of the inn were converted for space for families and less militant-minded folks, with Orvo taking a room on the 3rd floor, Tristan a room on the second, and Adasil a converted room near the kitchen.  The church was restored, with the priests taking up residence in the rooms on the second level and Strogar claiming space in the attic/storage area.  Qadira and Tiegan moved to the Market, repairing and turning the shop stalls into personal rooms and potential market locations.  The druids and a large contingent of individuals preferring the faith of Erik moved into the catacombs and the nascent druid grove set up down there, sleeping in alcoves carved from stone near the grove’s rapidly maturing tree.

 

As the town rested after their endeavors behind mostly secured restored gates, Pavon invited the protagonists to join Novra and Wickham for dinner to discuss future plans.  At dinner, the banner of the general was brought forward, allowing the protagonists to examine it.  With their assistance, Novra managed to piece together what they knew: The banner was that of a vassal lord of the Gorgon’s Crown, it was centuries old based on design drifts, and that remnants of the lord’s personal crest were very similar to that of Malec Elvenspite.  There was disagreement on how to proceed, with some individuals preferring to spread word of Eventide’s victory over the Gorgon Crown’s invasion commander to cement Pavon’s legitimacy as Lord of the province, with others proposing framing Eisar Mossfall as declaring his allegiance to the Gorgon to shatter his support.

 

As they were discussing plans, Pavon informed them of another task:  Wickham’s men were digging a tunnel into Mossfall’s fort, and they were going to raid for supplies.  As Tristan mentioned the innocents in the fort, Pavon took a hard stance: poison the wells and greatly weaken Mossfall’s armies.  As Tristan’s noble views of how battles should be fared clashed with Harlan’s harshly pragmatic view of battles, the protagonists began arguing amongst themselves on dealing with Mossfall: recruiting followers, poisoning soldiers, stealing supplies, or framing them for the most heinous of treasons. Tristan stormed out, and everyone else began filtering back to their new homes to ponder the news.  Harlan stayed behind, and informed Pavon that when the time would come, that he would be Pavon’s man and poison the wells.  Pavon expressed appreciation at the pragmatic approach Harlan held, noting that the dwarf’s newfound faith made his actions less predictably mercenary.

 

Meanwhile, Tristan prayed in the church for guidance.  In the midst of his prayers, he looked up to see the area shrouded in flickering darkness.  Turning around to see if the door was open, he caught site of an armored cleric standing behind him.   As Tristan stared at him, pondering how to proceed, the individual spoke out loud: “My, my, this place has gone to shit, hasn’t it?”

 

To Be Continued….

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Chapter 14: War is a Terrible Thing

As the town came alive at the alarms being rung, perimeters were set up, structures barricaded, and the citizenry armed.  Olvin manned the south gate with 20 soldiers, Pavon the east gate with 30 soldiers, and Wickham the north gate with 20 soldiers.  Groups of boys too young to wield arms took up positions on the watchtower, armed with sling shots and crossbows.  The protagonists took their places in the city – Orvo at the south gate, Harlan and Tristan at the east gate, Strogar at the north gate, and Qadira went to the temple to find Pyrick and the priests. 

 

Shortly after, the undead surged forward.  The towers rained down destruction on the invading undead, thinning their ranks, but were unable to prevent the undead from battering the gates.  As the gates fell, one by one, the battle was joined.  The defenders of the Eventide held their ground for a few moments, but the press of the undead – weakened as they were – overcame the defenses.  All but 4 soldiers at the north gate were killed, 12 were slain at the south gate, and 13 more at the east gate.  As the bodies began to reanimate, Pyrick and the Haelynites made their presence known.

 

With Qadira’s assistance, the priests of Haelyn assisted Pyrick in performing what Qadira recognized as a realm magic spell.  Costing them dearly, Pyrick sent out a wave of positive energy emanating from the church, destroying a large portion of the undead and healing the town’s soldiers.  As the wave subsided, Pyrick collapsed in the church, leading Qadira to venture forth and find Pavon.

 

As the town regrouped, the protagonists noted an ominous site on the hill: a skeletal undead, flanked by a grotesque demon and an inhumanely beautiful creature, were staring at the town…and flying what appeared to be the banner of the Gorgon’s Crown.  As the undead creature began casting a spell, a large horde of demons began materializing east of town, and launched itself at the town.

 

Rallying the troops, Pavon, Olvin, and Wickham prepared to receive the charge at the east gate.  Harlan and Strogar and Qadira added their strength to the barricade, while Orvo vanished into the church and Tristan mysteriously ran to the western gate.  When Tristan arrived, his worst fears were realized: another horde, similar yet composed of different creatures, were charging towards the town from the west.  He leapt from the tower on the west wall, and made his way to the east gate to let them know they were being flanked.

 

As Tristan arrived, the protagonists and ragtag army were bracing for the horde’s impact when suddenly the approaching horde was attacked on both sides.  The horde of devils that Tristan saw began tearing into the demonic horde…and the dark winged angel Strogar made his bargain with soared overhead, raining down death and destruction towards the skeletal commander and his 2 demonic companions.  As the battle was joined by the Eventide soldiers, Strogar made his way to the town hall to find Novra for additional information on what they were facing.  Harlan, Qadira, and Tristan prepared to do battle, when they heard Strogar’s voice from the distance: watch out from behind, and use cold iron!

 

Harlan barely escaped a brutal slice from a tall, thin demonic creature, dripping with caustic ooze and wielding a vicious longspear.  The demon attacked the group, gaining the upperhand until Tristan called out to Haelyn and smited the demon, causing it to teleport away…into the path of Strogar preparing to exit the town hall.  The demon, preoccupied with looking at his surroundings, was attacked and wounded by an enraged Strogar, drawing the attention of Tristan and Harlan to the town hall.  As they joined Strogar in battling the demon, it disappeared from view.

 

As Strogar blindly ran out of the town hall to engage the nearest foe – demon or devil – Tristan headed up the stairs and Harlan made his way back to Qadira….only to find the demon wounding Qadira with his spear.  Harlan engaged the demon carefully, while Strogar madly charged in.  Taking a vicious hit, he used the last of his strength to crack into the demon with his axe, falling unconscious as he did.  Tristan, making his way to the 3rd floor, saw Harlan defending Qadira from the demon, and ran back down the steps. 

 

The demon took one swing at Qadira, dropping her unconscious, and warily engaged with Harlan.  Unbeknownst to Harlan, the demon spotted Novra in the 3rd floor of the town hall.  Recklessly pursuing his quarry, the demon took a hit from Harlan…but teleported up to the third floor to attack Novra.  Tristan, hearing the screams, headed back up the stairs yet again to engage the demon.

 

When he crested the steps, he saw the demon slashing into Novra, running into magical impediments.  He engaged the demon, wounding it as he paid him no heed.  As the demon slashing viciously into Novra, Tristan landed a mightly blow, dissipating the fiend’s corporeal form.  With the demon gone, Tristan attended to Novra while Harlan used the last of his healing potions to heal Strogar and Qadira

 

With the horde’s decimating themselves, both armies began dissipating – the greater fiends began teleporting from the battle on both sides, with the skeletal champion and his demonic retainers fleeing as well.  Strogar managed to catch site of the dark winged angel flying away from the town, south into the mountains.  When he looked around, it would appear most of the town missed her departure or didn’t care to notice.

 

As they rounded up their dead, they gathered them into a pyre outside of town.  They placed the body of Olvin, who died defending a group of the younglings from a scythe wielding demon, on top of the pyre and set it ablaze with a Haelynite funeral.  With the eye of the storm passing and the raging winds and snow coming, they retreated back into town, barricading the gates as best they could and settled back into the catacombs to wait out the storm, battered and weary but still standing.

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Chapter 13: The Pinnacle of Oblivion

With Tristan and Orvo nursing wounds and keeping an eye on the haunted hallways, Harlan, Qadira, and Strogar ascended to the top of the tower in search of the means to prevent teleportation.

As they approached the top, they found themselves in a large room, dark as night and quiet as a tomb.  As they explored, they found the shattered remains of 3 previous guardians – a Clay, Stone, and Glass Golem – and found more elves impaled on 30 foot tall pikes made of some sort of hardened wood.  As Harlan and Strogar debated the merits of pulling down the elves, Qadira barely caught the site of an assailant approaching their flank: a walking, rotting carcas composed of various body parts.

After a brief fight that saw Harlan and Qadira fall unconscious and Strogar falling into his old, rage-fueled habits, the 3 protagonists dosed the carrion golem with oil and lit it ablaze and proceeded to explore the remaining level.  They found 2 different bookshelves filled with books that no one could read, and 4 glowing orbs on pedastals encased in a magical protection field.  What caught their eye the most, however, was a magical field of darkness obscuring the central dais…and anything that went into the field did not come back out. 

As Strogar and Qadira explored the encased gems – with Harlan trying his best to punch his way through the protections – they ran across 2 creatures flittering about: 2 imps, alternating between being helpful yet vague, or dismissive yet humorous.  After trying – and failing – to glean information from them, Strogar latched on to one key detail that was provided: the wizard that summoned them was bargaining with another extra planar creature that was encased in the warding spells behind the veil, and she could help them…for a price.

As Strogar entered into a bargain with whatever creature was behind the veil, Orvo and Tristan burst in the room: the haunt reactivated, and the energy was spiraling up the tower.  With that information in hand, Strogar entered into a hasty bargain with the creature, agreeing to it's rather vague terms in order to obtain the anti-teleportation items.  

As the bargain was struck, the protections around the crystals weakened.  When Strogar and Harlan took the last of them from the pedestals, the veil around the dais and the ceiling lifted.  As the protagonists looked up, they saw a swirling mass of chaos and destruction above – Qadira ventured a guess they were looking into another plane – and a writhing mass of misshapen limbs and grotesque flesh surged forward…and immediately disappeared as a Teleportation Circle emerged. 

As the last of the grotesque horde vanished, a beautifully dangerous creature was left behind.  Near 6 feet tall, she was heavily armed and armored, yet projected a sense of beauty and grace.  Looking over the party with her bruised and battle-scarred alabaster skin, she thanked the protagonist for allowing her to perform her mission…and earn her freedom.  Before she unfurled a set of large, black wings, and took off into the air, disappearing from site, she informed them of the case to transport the menhirs and negate their abilities, along with keeping the teleportation circle active for a moment longer.  

Gathering up the belongings, the protagonists stepped through the circle as the tower began to collapse from the weight of damned elven souls and the pull of the Abyss.  As they took stock of where they were, they eventually discovered they were an hour east of town…and in the middle of a terrible blizzard.

As they arrived at the town, battered and bruised and depleted, Orvo and Strogar scaled the walls with a creative use of a mace.  As they climbed, Strogar was attacked by the guard manning the tower, eventually knocking him to the ground but not before he drew blood against Orvo.  As they chipped away at the ice and opened the gate for Qadira, Tristan, and Harlan, the young militia member retreated to a safe distance up the tower, sheltered from the winds and violent dwarves.

As the protagonists entered the town and rebarred the gates, they went their separate ways.  Orvo made his way to a now deserted inn, adding a few logs and starting a small fire as he ate some of his remaining rations and settled in next to the fire.  Qadira met back up with Tieghan, explaining what they ran into and huddling in the catacombs.  Strogar attempted to meet with Pyrick, but was denied by his fellow acolytes and sunk into a corner to rest.  Tristan disappeared into the church after dropping off the menhirs and books with Novra.  Harlan went off to find Jem and Jewel, feeling both frostbitten and unwell after the battle with the carrion golem.  As he was brought into their room, he was given an herbal concoction and promptly fell asleep.

As morning came, the protagonists woke with the Dawn Bells, and began their morning preparation – prayers to the deities, communing with patrons, and memorizing formulae.  Harlan, meanwhile, awoke in a bedroll under covers…in the makeshift shower stall.  Finding his armor but not his weapons or other gear, he stomped out to confront Jem and Jewel, a bit concerned with the sudden stillness in weather but paying it no heed.  Finding them not in their store, his gaze fell onto the young milita member from the previous night.  

Confronting the militia member about his newly acquired mace, he attempted to intimidate the individual to giving him the mace.  He was refused, and a minor scuffle broke out.  Confident in his ability to out-wrestle the kid, Harlan found himself on the losing end of the grapple, pinned and on the ground.  Roaring in rage, he broke free of the grapple and began fighting in earnest, making no attempt to pull punches.  The militia member attempted to fight back, but was on the losing end of the exchange as Harlan struck him repeatedly.

As the brawl continued, a group of militia guards arrived to break it up, treating Harlan with suspicious gazes and somewhat forcibly directing him to talk to Pavon at the town hall.  As he arrived, he saw all his remaining gear spread out on the table – the bag of holding was emptied completely.  

As Pavon looked him over with a stern gaze, Harlan attempted to lie and state the weapons were found prior to arriving in town but utterly failed.  Pavon directed the weapons to be moved to the armory, allowing Harlan his pick of 2 of the weapons and the remaining gear as recompense for a job well done.  As Harlan was regathering his belongings, he made a shameful discovery – he apparently still had 4 potions of cure light wounds in his possession, but forgot about them! 

As Harlan walked out of the town hall, downing a potion, both Orvo and himself heard a disturbing sound of wood crackling and breaking.  As Harlan began heading towards one of the gates, Orvo heard the sound from a tower: the woods at the town edge were rapidly filling up with enemies.  The town was under siege!

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Chapter 12: the Wizard's Keep

The trek to the wizard's keep was relatively uneventful for the protagonists.  Strogar set them on a path through the mountains, resulting in some scrapes and bruises but shaving hours off their time.  With the unnatural storm looming, the extra time was well received.  While en route, Orvo noted (and pointed out) that the storm, while unnatural, looks to have been altered.  Based on geography, he concluded that the storm would now bypass Mossfall Hold entirely…and hit Eventide with a vengeance.

As they arrived at the entrance to the cliff, Orvo was struck at the sheer size and scope of the tower: cyclindrical, nearly 60 feet wide, and seemingly hundreds of feet tall from it's perch on top the mountain cliff.  It was pointed out that the structural should not, from an engineering perspective, be viable.  Tristan, having explored Anuire more than most, pointed out he has seen taller magical towers such as this, and while awe inspiring, was not as impressive as it could have been.  Strogar scuffed, and walked through the open stone gateway.

Harlan, after lighting a torch, followed both Strogar and Tristan into the caverns, noting irritatedly that neither of them had an issue with the dark.  Qadira came in shortly after, leaving just Orvo outside.  As Strogar abandoned caution and strode boldly into the cavern, the stone door slammed shut, with a burning sigil briefly illuminating the room.

The sigil inside the cavern dimmed quickly, but was enough for everyone to get a view of the cavern: a large room, with 4 stone pillars, 2 oversized staircases, a broken statue on top of a dais, and a fountain between the staircases.  As they looked around, they noted a change in the air: it became colder, unnatural winds whipped about, an odd cacophony of voices were heard, and their breath began to mist.  Shortly thereafter, the party was in disarray as apparations darted about, wounding a few of the party members.

Orvo, meanwhile, tried in vain to claim the tower or hack his way in.  Running out of ideas, he placed his hand on the still active sigil…and found himself pulled into the cavern, surprising his fellow adventurers and being surprised at their situation.

Qadira, after a few tense moments, realized they were in a Haunt, and their weapons were useless.  Instructing everyone that could to use positive energy to damage and temporarily depower the haunt, the protagonists expended a great deal of their healing energies disabling the haunt and healing back from the damage.  As the haunt was depowered, Orvo could hear in Elvish the chorus of voices speak as if far away a single phrase: Help us….

Qadira pointed out that the haunt was merely disabled, but there should be some way to depower it permanently.  The rests of the protagonists examined the room briefly, but the dwarves began to climb the stairs, impatient at any further delays.  Tristan noted a disturbing site as he looked up: 6 elven bodies were hanging from the ceiling by a chained neck.  He shuddered as he proceeded to head up the stairs.  Qadira, fascinated by the fountain, discovered it was made of solid glass and smelled of peppermint.  Examining further, she was able to fill 2 vials with the remaining liquid from the pool before ascending the stairs.  Harlan, meanwhile, examined a series of bodies in the caverns.  While looting them for any valuables – and falling behind the party – he noticed a gruesome pattern: he was able  to identify 5 of the 7 bodies as having certain body parts removed.  Realizing he was falling behind, he made his way to the stairs to start his ascent.

As the dwarves reached the next level, Strogar noted that it appeared to be a library level.  Striding in to examine a shelf, he was caught by surprise as 6 skeletons animated, wearing tabards and tattered arms and armor.  

The party was split and disorganized, still climbing the stairs, and while ultimately victorious paid a steep price.  Strogar was rendered unconscious by the the undead that swarmed him, and Tristan, Orvo, and Qadira were injured in the battle.  After the battle was over, they examined they room, and began to bicker over loot.  

Tristan, spotting the first piece of oddities, called everyone over to identify the odd item: a severed hand with an inlaid silver ring.  After identifying it as magical but unable to determine what it was, Harlan surprised the party by taking it off and putting it on.  Tristan, not caring about the conversation, left to examine another shelf, finding of note a magical silver warhammer and a magical shield.  

Orvo quickly laid claim to the warhammer, with greed in his eyes, causing Tristan to scowl unhappily.  Tristan then found more magical tomes and items, but a magical bag of great interest.  As Tristan pulled out a magical cloak and Harlan a longsword, Orvo kept trying to take the bag for his own.  After finding a book, written in some unknown language but in ink mixed of silver and iron, Orvo identified the materials as alchemical silver and cold iron. 

As Harlan pulled another weapon from the bag, Orvo made his move to wrest the bag from Harlan's hand.  With Orvo pulling on the bag, Harlan reached out and struck a mighty blow on Orvo, sending him unconscious.  As Strogar stabilized Orvo, the party went back and examined their situation. 

Strogar, after tending to Orvo, took the warhammer and handed it to Tristan, while Tristan gave the cloak to Qadira.  Harlan kept pulling items out of the bag of holding until it was empty, finding it full of over 20 weapons.  Putting as much of the books and items in the bag as possible, they carried the rest of the books in regular sacks as they prepared to head up the spiral, discussing the ultimate fate of Orvo, and taking stock of their situation: still missing the reason for coming here, with a haunt that may activate at any time, a seemingly treacherous or at least greedy party member, and severely depleted in healing, they resolved to head up the spiral and complete their mission.

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Chapter 11: New Blood Arrives

As the university contingent awoke the next morning – Harlan with a start as he heard loud ringing bells – they explored the town that granted them shelter.

Harlan perused the blacksmith and apothecary stalls, while Tieghan and Qadira examined the church and made themselves at home in the inn. 

Tieghan and Qadira noticed a few oddities about the church: a wounded yet hulking and handsome man attended the morning service, an odd dwarf exited town and headed to the woods, and another odd dwarf with poor manners stripped down and donned armor in the middle of the church before the service began.  Harlan, meanwhile, cut a deal with the resident blacksmith, exchanging his own well-made sword and the promise of any booze he could find for a set of discarded banded mail armor, a longsword, and a well-made heavy mace.  He also explored the apothecary shop and the inn, finding it odd that they had no booze and nobody cared about money.

As the day went on, they found out more about the town, including the holy protections radiating from the church, the blessed well, and bits and pieces of the town's old history and how the group of refugees found it.  Adasil the Barmaid also let them know about the state of politics with the region being isolated: a zealous necromancer named Malec Elvenspite was waging war against the living and in particular the elven druids, the Elven druids were waging a war against all humans with accusations of despoiling nature, and the lord appointed by the capital, Eisar Mossfall, was not treating his supposed subjects very well. 

All the protagonists – Strogar the surly dwarf, Orvo the enigmatic dwarf, Tristan the foreign paladin, Harlan the mercenary, and the University researchers Tieghan and Qadira - met with Olvin, who took them to see the man they thought had the answers: Pavon.  As they moved to meet with Pavon, they all noticed an omnious site: a looming storm, crackling with thunder and lightning, was rolling in soon.  Tieghan and Qadira also noticed more unsettling news: the lightning bolts seem to be originating above the cave they exited.

Meeting with Pavon - a surprisingly down to earth man for a supposed lord – in Novra's small lab in the Town Halls third floor bore some news for the group.  He informed Strogar of Novra's research into the history of the region based on tomes stolen from Elvenspite Manor, concluding that Elvenspite's father discovered some ruins in the mountains that, either by the rocks or some artifact, was able to block teleportation magics in it's vicinity.  With Elvenspite luring Adom to his side, preventing surprise ambushes was of paramount importance to the town.  He dispatched Strogar and Orvo to head to the tower to obtain whatever it is was causing the effect, and to bring Tristan, Harlan, Qadira, and Tieghan with them.  Strogar was annoyed at more "babysitting",  and Harlan protested that they weren't signing up for anything, but Pavon informed Strogar it was an order and informed Harlan that if they didn't want to help the town, they didn't have to stay in the town and enjoy it's protection.  With everyone slightly unhappy, they left to prepare for departure.

Strogar headed to the church, where Tieghan and Tristan spotted him experimenting with conjuring healing magic.  Tristan also followed him to the barracks, where Strogar conjured a wave of healing magic to the surprise of the regulars, and then proceeded to head to bed in the church.

Tristan shook his head, wondering what Haelyn saw in the dwarf, and headed to meet with Gem and Jewel at the apothecary shop, informing them of his need for particular potions, explaining due to the situation of how he was born, positive energy was somewhat unfriendly to him.  Jewel, after glaring at him for a few minutes and doing an unwanted examination, expressed a degree of pity for Tristan, and agreed to make whatever potions they could spare – but it wouldn't be much.

Harlan spent time with Adasil, helping her make stew for the dinner and getting some more information about the town, and realizing how low the food stores were becoming.  He also saw Tristan ask Adasil to use a particular wand of magic on him, causing his wounds to heal…and Adasil taking a few liberties with the somewhat trusting Tristan.  He then gathered his armor, his mace, and his copper longsword from Vargen, and headed to sleep in the church, only to explore the catacombs with Tieghan and Qadira before turning in to sleep, noting the recurring holy symbols of Halyen, Cuiraecan, and an unknown deity about the crypts, and the results from the druids growing food in the catacombs.

Orvo spent the rest of the time helping the druids build the shelter back up, working at the blacksmith shop turning copper coins into nails and shoring up the defenses.  Realizing that the storm, if as bad as feared, would cause severe damage to the town, Orvo informed Pavon before sleeping that the town may need to evacuate to the catacombs, a development Pavon already anticipated but did not have time to prepare for.  He slept at the inn, in his now customary room with a few other healers that were tending the wounded from Elvenspite's assassination attempt.

Tieghan and Qadira spent the evening in the church, setting up an alchemical lab in the church to prepare their reagents and exploring the catacombs with Harlan.  They soon turned to bed in preparation for tomorrow's adventure.

As the sun rose – and Harlan startled awake yet again – the group prepared for departure.  Strogar spent an hour in meditation before donning his gear and heading for the north gate.  Harlan gathered his gear, got supplies from Adasil he was supposed to share, and made sure Tieghan and Qadira were ready. Tristan picked up a potion from Jewel and prepared for his journey, and Orvo examined the coming storm, growing more uneasy with the storm the more he examined it. 

After everyone took care of their morning ritual needs, Strogar led them out the north gate and headed east to the mysterious tower in the distance, grumbling about the party he was saddled with and hearing grumbles from the rest about the surly dwarf blazing the trail.  

It was going to be a long few days indeed….

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Interlude: The Lost Researchers

As the mists fell upon Mountainsedge and the undead rose, a group of researchers from the University of Cairlinien spent months underground, blissfully unaware of the dangers surrounding them.

Adjunct Professor Tieghan, her eccentric star pupil Qadira, and the assigned guardian Harlan were investigating an unearthed tomb dating back from the Roele dynasty era, looking for anything of significance to justify the delay suffered by the mining guild on behalf of Department Head Meela. 

12 months into a 6 month foray, the researchers' luck began to sour.  Professor Meela and her assistants Amelia and Jaromir departed 2 months prior on a supply run, and hadn't returned.  Harlan was ready to head out and leave – and collect his back pay – when Tieghan and Qadira discovered a sealed door with an old, antiquated sigil of Haelyn on the door.

Against Harlan's advice, Qadira opened the door.  With a blast of energy – oddly harmless – washing over them, the sigil shattered and the door open.  Eager to see what treasures lay buried, the group saw a gruesome sight: chained to what appeared to be a throne, a skeletal figure began to awaken, unleashing a horde of undead rising from the bones littering the floor.

As they fled in fear, their escape was complicated by a lack of light – Harlan dropped the light source – and the perils of quickly navigating sharp and small stone passages were readily apparent.  Finding themselves at a cliff with a 20 foot climb via a slick rope, Tieghan and Qadira clumsily tried to climb the rope while Harlan held off the undead.  

After a series of difficulties, Qadira managed to climb the rope, but looked down to see Harlan and Tieghan giving ground to the horde.  As Tieghan climbed the rope, Harlan was on the verge of being overwhelmed as his longsword was ineffective.  Tieghan and Qadira began raining down alchemical fire, immolating the undead and partially burying the tunnel. It bought Harlan time to shed his cumbersome chain mail armor and climb the rope, dragging it up behind them.

With the undead seemingly in pursuit, they raided the encampment in the cave for whatever supplies they could find readily available and left the cave system, coming out to see the desolation of the landscape: impenetrable fog, roaming undead, and deserted villages.

Following the sight of smoke in the distant horizon, they made their way to the sole outpost they could find to beg for shelter.  The outpost was unknown to them, but as a small group warily admitted them inside the city walls, they quickly learned the town's name: Eventide.

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Chapter 10: Betrayals at Every Corner

After the assault from Lord Elvenspite’s forces were repelled, the protagonists licked their wounds. 

 

Rand spent the better part of an entire day convalescing from his injuries, with what appeared to be near-constant fever dreams.  Orvo spent his time with the healers tending to the poisoned townfolk, and Strogar recuperated in the Haelynite temple, eventually interjecting in the intense but relatively friendly discussion between the druids and the priests.  His comments led him into the catacombs, where he saw the reason of the close working relationship between the 2 groups: the druids had moved into the catacombs and were transforming it into cavern farmland.  Drawing on his upbringing, he noticed the racks of fungus and other root based plants – pitifully small, according to dwarven standards – that where planted in the nooks, crevices, and open floorspace of the catacombs.  He noted that the druids were busy…and wondered if Haelyn was ok with the remains of his faithful being used as fertilizer.  With Pyrick noting his prayers led him to believe Haelyn was supportive and understanding, Strogar noted his approval of the farms…and the construction of the unfinished catacombs looking more like fallback bastions.

 

As midnight came the following night, after visiting the blacksmith to inquire on his armor only to find it smelted, Strogar made his way to the church from the inn to sleep after a long day when he noticed something disturbing: Rand was sneaking – poorly, in his estimation – out of the southern gate into the woods.  Suspicious of Rand’s actions given his previous behavior and rough recovery, he grabbed his axe and tracked Rand.  His tracking led him to a cave about 2 miles south of town, and what he saw did not surprise him at all.

 

After being dazzled by a trap – probably set by Rand – he stumbled into a cave reeking of death.  Through fuzzy eyes, he saw Rand disappear into a magically dark room with a tall, raven haired yet pale beauty of a woman with a toothy smile and dark red liquid dripping from her lips.  As he stumbled towards them with his axe out, he heard the now-familiar sounds of a teleport spell being cast, albeit in a different linguistic style and inflection than Elvenspite’s harsh, biting tones.

 

Dismissing Rand’s treachery as both predictable and dismissable, Strogar examined the cave.  He found 5 individuals shackled to the wall.  4 of them were dead, with a closer examination showing all of them were dead from blood loss and 2 had been dead for quite a while.  Oddly enough, they had a wet feel to them, like they were dripping water.  The 4th individual – a large, hulking brute – was still alive and squirming.  Busting his shackles, Strogar made to take the individual back to town…but they had other plans.

 

As the individual became aware of his situation, he actively resisted Strogar, yanking the chain from his hands and removing his blindfold and gag.  Strogar took the opportunity to try to subdue the brute, but ended up on the wrong end of a fistfight as the brute, with a confused look on his face, delivered a haymaker and knocked Strogar unconscious.

 

When he came too, he saw the brute had freed his hands from manacles and was checking on the dead bodies.  Pulling himself up, he staggered out the cave, ignoring the pleading questions in an odd dialect coming from the cave.  Pulling himself to shelter, he hunkered down as he tried to shake off the cobwebs from the fist fight.

 

Meanwhile, Tristan stood in the cave, wondering about loud what his odd dwarven rescuer – assumably a priest of Haelyn, based on his clerical vestments – was doing out in the snow as he tried to free his feet from the shackles.  Eventually using strength to break them – after hitting his foot with his Morningstar, resulting in some precious potions being consumed – he gathered the gear from the individuals in the cave, dressed himself as best he could, and made a pyre in outside the caves, giving the individuals a crusader’s funeral to prevent rising as an undead. 

 

Strogar, observing the giant making a fire, used the smoke and smell as cover as he made his way back to town.  Arriving in town, he instructed the guards to be on the lookout for a small giant as he met with Pavon.  Stumbling into the town hall – and hitting a few things that were moved to new places – he informed Pavon of Rand’s treachery and escape, along with news that some giant may be coming to the town.  As Pavon was giving out directions to his soldiers, there were sounds at the gate.

 

Rushing to the gate, they found it slightly open… and were staring at an exceptionally large man, 3 inches taller than Pavon or Wickham, armored in some variation of platemail with a large amount of discarded weapons and armor at his feet.  The individual introduced himself as Tristan, a holy warrior of Haelyn hailing from the City of Anuire.  With a brief exchange, Pyrick and Wickham gave their blessing on allowing him entry – provided he was guarded.  Pavon assigned two guards – an older human and a teenage human – to guard the man throughout town.  Closing the gates behind them, Tristan was led to the inn for food and sleep.  Adasil, immediately angry at being awoken hours early, changed her tone almost immediately upon meeting Tristan, with the tall, strapping, and exceptionally handsome man with good manners apologized for waking her and politely asked for some food. 

 

The rest of the evening passed uneventfully, as every took a few hours of rest between the dawn.  Strogar was awoken by the typical bells being rung, but immediately rolled over and went back to bed.  Tristan, on the other hand, sprung alert and looked around for the source of the sound, much to Adasil and the sleepy townsfolk’s amusement.  Tristan spent the better part of the morning exploring town and soaking in the feeling of the town.  Finding the people to be somewhat on edge, always on the look out for an attack, he nevertheless found them friendly enough when engaging in simple conversation with them.  Finding them forthright and surprisingly devout worshippers of Haelyn, he eventually made his way to the temple.  After briefly meeting Pyrick, he noticed the dwarf, asleep on a stone pew.  Conjuring healing energy, he healed the dwarf from the rigours of a previous battle – and got grappled by a startled and now awake dwarf.

 

Strogar, waking up to see the brute towering over him, grilled him on what he was doing, but quieted down when he realized the priests were looking at the two of them – him in particular – with unamused looks.  As the brute went off to pray, Strogar listened intently…only to find the brute was saying the same stuff that Pyrick usually did.  Dismissing it as at least superficially on the level, Strogar left to meet with Pavon.  To his chagrin, the brute followed him…and his guards were walking behind him, barely at the ready and paying him no special attention.  As they both met with Pavon, Strogar observed the guards for the brute’s lack of discipline…and one was missing.  Leaving to find the teenage boy, he discovered him leaving the barracks, with an unkempt uniform and an equally unkempt human female scurrying out behind him.  Chastising him for his lack of discipline while acknowledging the boy’s assertion that he couldn’t stop the brute even if he wanted to, Strogar made his way back to the blacksmith to inquire on his armor.

 

Vargen, running on little sleep, was asleep at the anvil, with piles of random gear strewn about.  As Strogar started digging through the pile, Tristan approached Vargen with the spare metal gear he was carrying.  As he inquired with him about removing the shackles, Vargen left to go to the inn, muttering something about needing sleep and useless apprentices.  Tristan then saw the dwarf’s legs, sticking out from a pile of armor and heavy maces.  Startling the dwarf, he inquired as to what the dwarf was doing.  As Strogar emerged from the pile, with a Morningstar and suit of scale mail – dwarf sized – he glared at Tristan, informing him that the blacksmith owed him a set of armor.  As he changed into the armor, and put back on his ill-fitting clerical vestments, an apprentice blacksmith emerged.  Freeing Tristan from his shackles, he inquired if they knew where to find more precious metal to resmelt and forge into weapons and armor.

 

Tristan informed Pavon of the existence of the shackles in the cave, and he was sent out with Strogar to acquire the metal and cover there somewhat poorly covered tracks back into town.  Strogar stomped away in silence, relishing in the large brute having to jog after him in his heavy armor, while Tristan made ignored smalltalk.  After acquiring the chain and making their way back to town, the undead Strogar was mentioning to Tristan, a self-avowed undead hunter, made an unwelcome appear.  Appearing in an ambush, 4 skeletons and one flaming monstrosity converged on them.  Tristan was knocked unconscious by the unusually well coordinated attack, but managed to take out the flaming skeleton in one swing and damaging another.  Strogar felled 2 more skeletons before being knocked unconscious. 

 

Expecting to be dead, he woke up to the warm, pulsing sensation of magical healing flowing over him.  He glared up to see the Elf he fought 2 nights earlier standing above him, with a magical ball of flame in his left hand and the diminishing glowing light of a healing spell in his right.  The Elf dismissed the fire, and helped Strogar to his feet.  Explaining to Strogar he didn’t like to owe anyone, he came to his end when he noticed they were not faring well in combat.  Asking for, and receiving in return, Strogar’s silence on his whereabouts, the Elf created a handful of goodberries for Strogar and his unconscious friend.  As Strogar tended to Tristan, the Elf disappeared into the woods.  Noting the elf was nowhere near the main elven druid encampment miles to the north and east of Eventide compared to being south of Eventide, Strogar dragged Tristan back to camp, depositing him with the clerics and informing them that for an undead hunter, he sucked.

 

Tristan spent the better part of a 3 days being taken care of by the priest, with Strogar spending more of his time in the temple talking to Pyrick.  As Tristan finally regained consciousness, he woke to the feeling of magic being used to heal his wounds….with Adasil standing above him, the pack with his former companions gear strewn about and her holding a wand in his hand.  As he took stock of his surroundings, he found them the only ones awake in the temple…and Adasil informing him that they need to have a little talk.

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Game 9: Never Trust a Bard

As the protagonists recuperated at the Eventide with their new Druid allies in tow, they felt an ill omen – a spurned Elvenspite is a dangerous foe, and with having both Gem and Jewel Greenleaf in town the odds of an attack grew greatly.

As night fell, the protagonists settled in for the evening.  Orvo fell asleep in the tavern, while Rand was plagued with dreams of ill tidings and Strogar could smell the war in the air and was unable to sleep…the clerical vestments he was wearing were not of great help in that matter.  

Rand posted a watch with a new recruit, a man by the name of Fred, for a while but saw no threats in the night.  Climbing down, he got a bowl of soup for a late dinner and paced restlessly.  Eventually, he made his way to the latrine, crossing paths with Strogar as he headed outside the gates with a similar need. Just as Rand began to disrobe and Strogar got to the gate, they noticed something amiss.

Strogar spotted tracks in the snow leading in from a partially opened gate, which he knew should not be open.  Tracking the prints back to the town hall, he found the back door barred.  Charging threw the front door, he bellowed in rage and began fighting 2 elven druids…and realized he couldn't hear a single sound.  At this time, he remembered a critical detail: he was unarmed and unarmored!

Rand noticed that Fred was not in the tower, and he immediately went to investigate.  Finding Fred bleeding out from 2 arrows, he popped up to alert the guards…and was shot with 2 arrows.  As he screamed for help, no sound was able to be heard.

Rand spotted his assailants – 2 figures perched on the roof of the inn in sniping positions.  As he tried to make his way to the inn, he was able to stabilize the watchtower guard and arm himself with a bow.  As he dodged arrows – and was struck by a few – he got a clean look at the assailants: 2 Elven Rangers.  Taking an arrow from his body, he delivered a critical shot to one assailant, but fell unconscious as 2 more arrows struck him.

As Rand was engaging with the snipers, Orvo found himself startled awake by the sound of utter silence.  Looking around, he spotted a robed individual making his way through the crowd of completely asleep civilians…on a direct line to a dazed and unresponsive Pavon. Suspecting foul magics, he rushed to engage the individual.  As he approached, he was struck by a gruesome site: the individual revealed himself to be a skeletal figure with a wicked curved dagger…who was using it to slit the throats of those he passed by.  

Quickly deducing it was a poisoned blade, Orvo engaged the assailant as best he could, but was unable to slow him for very long.  Orvo switched tactics and snapped Pavon out of his daze as the individual was lining up a coup de grace.  Engaging the foe, they managed to wound him and push him into a corner.  The individual gave out a sick and sinister laugh as he withdrew a scroll and teleported out.  Pavon instructed Orvo to care for the wounded as he rushed outside.

Strogar, meanwhile, killed one of the elves and was locked in combat with another.  As he rattled the elf, the druid cast an Obscuring Mist.  As the mist fell, Strogar noticed an oddity about the elf: after he was struck by Strogar, he seemed to be dazed and disorientated and slightly panicked.  As the mist filled the town hall, Strogar stalked about the room looking for the Elf.  On a whim, he started talking out loud and making conversation, asking the Elf how his day had been.  The elf responded that he had no idea where he was or why he was fighting Strogar.  With a little more prompting – and a decreased level of hostilities – the Elf informed Strogar that he was part of a patrol from the Elven Druids, but they were ambushed by far craftier undead than they expected.  Deducing from the descriptions that the patrol was near Elvenspite's territory, Strogar made the realization that the Elves were magically controlled.  Promising no imminent threat to the Elf, Strogar made a beeline to the basement of the Town Hall with a strong suspicioun of what was happening.

As he approached the basement, his fears were realized: Adom was in the basement, directing undead labors to continue digging the tunnel into the catacombs for the prized remains Elvenspite was wanting.  Engaging the undead with just an improvised weapon, he managed to destroy 2 of them, but was pinned down by the other 2 skeletals.  He was wounded and wearing, but got help from an unexpected source: the Elven Druid joined the fight against the undead.

Handing Strogar a quarterstaff and using magic to tend his wounds, the 2 of them destroyed the final undead.  With the tunnel incomplete, Adom bid Strogar a found farewell and used a scroll to magically disappear – Strogar was able to pick up on Elvenspite's unique teleport spell verbal components and deduced he teleported back to Elvenspite Manor.

As the battle subsided, the Elf Druid warily disengaged and vanished into the night as Strogar extended their truce, realizing the Elf was an unwitting pawn.  Rand was brought to his feet by Pavon, with the peppermint taste of healing potions still on his tongue.  Looking around for the 2 elven rangers, he found them missing in action, with their tools of escape just outside the walls.

As the pockets of utter silence began to dissipate, the town groggily stumbled about, taking stock of their situation and how close they came to dying.  The protagonists and Pavon came to the same conclusion:  their detente with Elvenspite was at it's end, and he made a bold first move that barely failed.

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Game 8: Dire Plans for Destiny

As they recuperated from the ambush, Strogar gave Lord Elvenspite the letter from Pavon with his counter offer.  After a few moments, Elvenspite let out a low chuckle and penned a response.  Sending Strogar, Orvo, and Rand back to Eventide as his emissaries, he teleported back to his manor with Wickham and his entourage in tow…along with a grief-stricken Jem Greenleaf.

Back in Eventide, Pavon received Elvenspite's letter and everyone retired for the evening in anticipation for Elvenspite's midnight deadline.  

As noon came around the next day, Strogar stalked around the town looking and lurking, finding Adom to be utterly missing.  Rand helped the loggers acquire mass quantities of wood, and Orvo worked the forge.  After lunch was served, they were summoned to a meeting in the church with Pavon, Norvo, Pyrick, and Olvin.

The contents of Elvenspite's response was read – consisting  of threats, demands of utter capitulation, and eventual undeath slavery – and the Eventide was preparing a response.  Pavon demanded the protagonists make a decision to support the Eventide or Elvenspite, as after midnight they would be in a state of war.  Strogar pointed out the lack of preparation and poor timing of the declaration given the Eventide's state, which prompted Pavon to state they had no choice at this point.  Pyrick mentioned the cursed rings that Strogar and Rand were wearing and offered to take care of it if the protagonists chose to stay.

The protagonists met with each other to determine which faction to side with: the more goodly-aligned but weaker Eventide, or the more powerful but exceptionally morally questionable Malec Elvenspite.  After an hour of deliberation, Rand and Orvo cast their lot with the Eventide while Strogar left to join with Malec.

Pyrick made good on his promise, and Orvo and Rand witnessed a site they had never seen: an up close view of what Rand determined was priestly Realm Magic as Pyrick revealed a long-held secret: he was a scion of the bloodline of Andurias.  As Pyrick called upon Haelyn and the power in his blood, a large quantity of gold and material components were consumed as a massive burst radiated from the Church, shattering the cursed ring on Rand and flooding the area with holy, positive energy.

Strogar, meanwhile, headed back to Elvenspite Manor…and felt the aftershocks of the spell from Eventide.  When he arrived, Malec decided to bestow upon Strogar his most precious gift: eternal undeath.  As Strogar struggled, learning he was to be turned into a mindless undead thrall, he noticed Jem was being held down by another undead and the mysterious Iron Maiden was lowered to the ground.  As Strogar was rendered unconscious and the Create Undead spell was about to be cast, Wickham and his crew broke into the room.

Armed with spells rendering them invisible to the undead, Wickham and his soldiers rescued Jem, the Iron Maiden prisoner, and Strogar while quickly fleeing from Elvenspite Manor.  Before the Hide from Undead spell wore off, Wickham noticed Elvenspite's cursed ring start affect Strogar and removed his finger most violently with a handaxe.  Another of Wickham's soldiers used scrolls to cast mount spells, with the prisoners and Wickham's crew heading South and West back to Eventide while Wickham and Strogar braved elements and frigid waters to reach the human Druid grove.  

Shortly after midnight, Orvo and Rand were approached by Pavon and ordered to head to the human druid enclave to recruit any druids they could, as they knew Malec would target the human druid enclave to conscript allies.  They left for the 4 day hike, with their meager supplies and goodberries to tide them over.

The protagonists all met up at the human druid grove to find it under assault by forces loyal to the Elvish Druids.  After a pitched battle, the elven druid forces were defeated and 6 of the 12 human druids were rescued.  Looting the weapons from the fallen before the grove erupted into flames, the party made their way back to Eventide ahead of Malec's forces, hoping to avoid the undead and Elvish forces.

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Game 7: Best Available Options

After being rescued by Lord Malec Elvenspite, Strogar and Rand were teleported to a revised and reformed Elvenspite Manor whilst Orvo marched back with an escort of undead soldiers.

At the manor, Rand and Strogar engaged with Malec and his priestly advisor Derak of Seasedge and had a nice meal from an ever-filling banquet table and flagons of Dwarven ale.  After the meal, they proceeded to head to sleep.  Orvo marched until the early morning hours before succumbing to exhaustion, and being awoken at Elvenspite Manor being attended by a priest.

Delivering their news to Lord Elvenspite - a sealed letter from Pavon, and word of the human druids battling the elven contingent – they spent a day walking amongst a renovated Elvenspite Manor.  Strogar tried and failed to investigate the Iron Maiden in the dungeon room, Orvo explored the house, and Rand explored the grounds and the solarium.  They met up and shared what they found: the undead were organized and showing signs of tactics, the grounds around the manor house resembling spring conditions, and the house was heavily enchanted.  Both Rand and Strogar also came to a separate conclusion: the bearer of Elvenspite's signet rings were able to bypass the traps in the house and wards on the doors.

Armed with a letter to give to Pavon and another letter to give to Jem Greenleaf, Malec teleported them to the edge of the town, near the river, and set a meeting in 2 days at midnight.

The protagonists set about their duties in town to mixed effect.  After meeting with Pavon and learning some of Malec's terms – fealty to him and desecration of the Haelynite Catacombs – they disbursed to the city.  Orvo met with Wickham and informed him of Lord Elvenspite's existence and the state of his men, with Wickham asking probing questions about Malec's intentions and worth as a Lord.  Rand delivered the letter to Jem, causing her to experience intense grief and cause Sigur to threaten to kill him.  Strogar began working with Adom on tunnelling from the town hall to the Catacombs to sneak out bodies without the Haelynites knowing.  At the appointed hour, they gathered Pavon's response and left to meet with Malec.

Upon meeting with Malec and exchanging Pavon's response, they were ambushed by a party of Elven and Halfling druids led by Sigur.  The tide was in the favor of the Elven contingent until the arrival of Wickham and his soldiers, who sided with the protagonists and Elvenspite.  Sigur fell in combat and was immolated by the halfing druids before they transformed into ravens and fled, and 3 of the 4 elven druids were slain.  

As the party regrouped, introductions were made with Wickham and his men swearing allegience to Lord Elvenspite in his quest to rid the land of the Elven menace, and a pyre was made for the Elven Druids at Wickham and Orvo's request.

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