Session 11

The fight with the assassins continued. Roondar found himself surrounded by a trio of of rogues, but a resurgent Yunaan soon arrived on scene, vaulting over a wagon and setting to work with his flame-enchanted axe while Torash advanced towards the fight. On the western end of the battlefield, Luthiana brought down an attacker with a vicious bite to the neck. Her master, however, was soon felled by an arrow that seemed to materialize out of thin air, wounding him severely and knocking him unconscious. Meanwhile, a signal fire appeared in the watchtower overlooking the fort.

While Glithas franctically alerted Torash to Bjorin’s state, Roondar and Yunaan dispatched the trio and prepared for the next incoming squadron of assassins dashing in from the northeast. Torash was forced to drop his offensive enchantments and move with great haste through the battle while Glithas, Roondar, and Yunaan covered him with axe and a flaming sphere. Another rogue broke free of the entangling vines but Luthiana intercepted him to leave Torash free to revive Bjorin with a powerful healing spell.

Another arrow materialized and struck Yunaan in the back but the barbarian was undeterred, continuing to rapidly dispatch attackers while an exhausted Roondar withdrew. The attack was petering out, and the party began to try to track down their apparently invisible attacker, leaving Luthiana, Roondar, and Glithas to finish the last couple of assassins. They caught the sound of footsteps and Bjorin sealed off the northern escape with an Entangle spell, but Torash was unable to find anyone caught in it. The druid then found tracks where the arrows were coming from but was forced to wait until Luthiana, the party’s sole tracker, was free from combat before he could follow the trail.

By then, it was too late. Luthiana was able to follow the tracks with amazing accuracy northwards, stopping right before the entanglement and doubling back to the south, then out the fort’s main gate. The tracks then went around the rear of the fort and up a small incline to a copse of trees, where Luthaina stopped and snarled. A search of the area did not find the female rogue, but Bjorin did find talon-like marks in the dirt in a broad flattened patch of grass.

With the fight over, the party regrouped. Yunaan, Torash and Roondar hailed the military portion of the fort and found no one inside beyond the lieutenant and a handful of ill-equipped men. He was reluctant to talk, but a menacing Yunaan loosened his tongue, and he revealed that the Captain had left under the command of a newly arrived colonel, taking almost the entire garrison with him, mounted and ready for combat. The lieutenant had sat out the fight, having no men to send to help and focusing just on keeping the military assets safe. He was suspicious of why assassins were after the party; Roondar tried to explain it away as the consequences of being in King Siggard’s service but the lieutenant remained unconvinced. Bjorin went to inn Elsa’s Regret to investigate the green gas that had emanated from it, and found broken vials in several of the rooms. Glithas determined they were not magical; Bjorin theorized that they were alchemical.

Meanwhile, Glithas recovered some of the spent arrows and found their fletchings matched those that killed the Cadrian guardsman at the caravan. He showed them to the lieutenant, informing him that some sort of conspiracy was afoot. The lieutenant responded by sending a guardsman to the next fort with a message and deciding to relieve the captain of command if he returned. After a brief retreat to discuss their options, the party decided to stay and see if the lieutenant was successful despite the risks. Most of the Ravennans were leaving the fort, no longer trusting its safety, but the group decided to try to get the guards to shelter the remainder in the barracks. Roondar failed to convince the lieutenant, so once again Yunaan menaced him into compliance.

Not long after the refugees moved into the barracks, the captain arrived with the garrison and was angrily confronted by the lieutenant, who accused him of abandoning the post. The captain angrily refuted the accusations and when the lieutenant announced he was relieving the captain, a scuffle broke out between a handful of the two sides’ supporters. The lieutenant ultimately prevailed, the majority of the troops tiring of the captain’s erratic, glory-seeking behavior, and the captain was arrested and locked in his office. The party took advantage of the situation to quickly slip back into the civilian section of the town and commandeer a room at one of the now-empty inns. After a quick rest to replenish their power, they left.

They spent another week and half travelling, passing the Golden Citadel then swinging south into Ravenna and hugging the coast of the Bay of Batal. The country was largely empty since the bay is inhospitable to ships. They found a small town near the Dellian Swamp which was their destination, and boarded their mounts before continuing on into the thickly forested, water-soaked swamp. Bjorin acted as guide and leader, using his eagle form to lead the party through the trecherous terrain and around patches of quicksand.

As they prepared to make camp on a small island the first night, Bjorin spotted an approaching raft from above and alerted the group. While they attempted to hide, Torash foiled this attempt by accidentally positioning himself in such a way that his shield reflected light back towards the boat. Its occupant, a sole human male, steered towards them and landed on the island. He introduced himself as a potential guide, Melick, who had seen a group with a ‘wagonful of undead’ moving into the swamp a day before and figured the next group coming along must be the good guys here to stop them. He himself was an exile who needed cash to start a new life in Ravenna, and the party offered a way to get that cash by guiding them to the only thing in the swamp worth seeing; the sunken castle. The party talked him into taking them on his boat for 15 gold, plus 20 if he managed to get them to the castle before the other group, and they immediately embarked on the boat, but not before a tremor rippled through the area and Melick commented on how frequent they were becoming.

Now, the party finds themselves racing their adversaries to the location of the next crystal, floating through an inhospitable swamp at night and passengers on a boat piloted by a convenient stranger…

Session 10

The party moved southwards into Skell. Tensions in the small state were high. Though the undead were east in Orlana and, judging by reports, moving into Daymar’Duan, Lord Merios had sent most of his men to guard the passes in the Blue Hills to prevent incursions into his lands. Skellian villages were militarizing, building and repairing palisades and calling their burghers into militia service. Food prices were rising and most travellers were swinging westwards into Cadria to avoid Skell altogether. Sleet, rain and cold made the journey even more miserable.

The heroes progressed onwards until they reached, the Golden Passage, the most important trade route in Tantas. Gold, furs, and myrrh flowed out of Nyashightgaro while Ravennan metal wares, timber, and weapons flowed in. Cadria had militarized most of the Passage, a low-lying coastal plain just north of the Bay of Batal. It exacted tolls from resentful Ravennan merchants from a series of palisaded forts overlooking the road.

On the second day, near evening, the party came upon the burned-out remnants of a Ravennan caravan within sight of a Cadrian post. Upon further investigation the party discovered two dozen corpses, mostly Ravennans felled by lance and sword but also a single Cadrian killed by an arrow. The caravan appeared to have been carrying mostly cavalry-oriented weapons like shortbows, sabres, and spears. Since the fort was within sight, the party assumed that Cadria had attacked it, but it seemed to make little sense. They assumed that the death of the guardsmen had prompted it, but the black-fletched arrow in his chest did not seem a typical Ravennan weapon since that country usually favored crossbows.

The party approached the fort to investigate. It was more than just a military post as with most of the other posts in the Passage; it doubled as a commercial stop for Ravennans, housing two inns plus other travel-oriented businesses like a wheelwright, a cartwright, and a farrier. An internal palisade wall separated the military and civilian sections. It was packed with Ravennan caravans. On their way in, they passed a burial detail led by a young lieutenant; Roondar tried to question him, but received little response other than being told to speak to the Captain.

The Captain, it turned out, was just inside, in the middle of an argument with a richly dressed Ravennan merchant. The party was able to overhear the argument as they approached; the Ravennan accused Cadria of having slaughtered innocent traders carrying weapons to Nyashightgaro to trade to the Bataari tribesmen, to be used to fend of the Pit’s demi-humans. The Cadrian captain replied that the caravan was carrying weapons to El’Atol for illicit purposes and having started the fight by killing one of his own guardsmen. Roondar, the diplomat of the party, attempted to explain the reasons to doubt this theory to the captain. The captain, however, sneeringly replied that a Ravennan could use a bow like anyone else and it could have easily have been burned in the aftermath. Torash sensed that the captain may not be opposed to the idea of war between Cadria and Ravenna; after all, the nations have a long history of armed conflict over the Passage and Ravenna’s defensive pact with El’Atol had heightened tensions. The merchant stormed off to the Dancing Man tavern.

The party retired to the fort’s other inn, Elsa’s Regret. There, they worked the common room, trying to gather information. They found the Ravennan patrons reluctant to talk lest they ignite tensions; after all, they were de-facto prisoners in a Cadrian fort, and a spark could turn it into a massacre. They had, however, heard the gossip about the attack and doubted Cadria’s story. It seemed war may be on the horizon. Glithas approached the bartender and inquired about whether the town had a place to purchase arrows, thinking to track down the black-fetched arrow that had killed the Cadrian guardsmen. He learned the only fletcher was in the fort.

Glithas and Bjorin went to the fort to ask to buy arrows from the fletcher, and Glithas talked his way in. He found the fletcher with bags of feathers, some of them perhaps black, and casually bought several quivers full while asking the fletcher if they could be dyed black. The fletcher said they could and mentioned someone had bought some black arrows recently, but when Glithas tried to get more information about who had bought them the fletcher said he couldn’t remember.

Meanwhile, Roondar and the rest of the party went to the Dancing Man, where Roondar chatted up the Ravennan merchant with great success. There, he learned more about the delicate political situation. While Ravenna had signed a pact with El’Atol, the pact was defensive; it would not be activated if Ravenna attacked Cadria. In that sense, Cadria would be the winner if it baited Ravenna into attacking. The merchant, who turned out to be of House Vitor and the first cousin of one of Ravenna’s Princes, said he doubted Ravenna would declare war but he would bring a report of this to his cousin. Roondar also attempted to get more information out of the lieutenant leading the burial detail but found little more other than the lieutenant’s apparent displeasure at his captain.

The party resolved to try to break into the fort tomorrow when Glithas went to pick up his dyed arrows, and Torash retired for the night. Singing a Norhelmian tune to himself, he flung his armor into a corner, and his jaunty movements saved his life; as he made his throw, the dagger of an assailant landed a blow, glancing only as his shoulder moved out of the way. Torash whirled to find a red-masked man in the room and a fierce struggle ensued. Torash managed to get a hold of his warhammer and beat back his assailant, aided by the man’s short sword becoming stuck in a bed post on a wide swing. When the assassin ran, Torash gave chase, shouting for help.

As Torash had been fighting for his life, a stableboy delivered a letter in a blank envelope to Roondar, who opened it and read the note inside. Instantly, the letter detonated in a explosion, washing the room in flame. Glithas managed to flatten himself on the ground and escape harm, but Roondar and a distracted Bjorin and Yunaan were caught in the blast and flung like ragdogs along with the rest of the furniture. Screams of the other patrons were quickly extinguished and flame burst into the inn’s kitchen and anteroom. Torash, on the stairs at that moment, staggered against the wall.

With the inn now burning fiercely, Torash began to summon water to try to get into the common room, abandoning his chase. Glithas tried to help a wounded Ravennan out while Roondar carved a path with summoned cold to the kitchen, but Bjorin proved the greatest firefighter of the group by extinguishing all the flames in the inn with a single spell. While Yunaan, Torash, and Glithas gathered in the anteroom and healed the wounded Ravennan, Bjorin and Roondar went out through the kitchen sidedoor to find the fort in anarchy. Screaming people ran about while Ravennans either tried to flee or get their wagons together. Horses had broken open the doors of the Dancing Man’s stable and were galloping about the streets, trampling several. Green gas was billowing out of Elsa’s Regret and patrons staggered out, vomiting violently. Meanwhile, the Cadrians seemed curiously absent.

Bjorin and Luthiana focused on trying to get the horses under control with both druidic magic and canine herding skill, moving them back to the barn. Roondar, left near the kitchen, heard a noise and whirled about and found himself facing another assassin who demanded to know where the crystals were as he attacked the gnome, beginning a long duel of blades versus psionics. Yunaan, doing a poor job of watching the front of the inn, found himself with a dagger buried in his back yet a third assailant. Two arrows hit the ground near Bjorin’s feet. It was becoming obvious the party was under a concerted attack.

While Torash and Glithas, unaware of Yunaan’s plight, healed another Ravennan survivor, Yunaan tried to fend off his attacker with axe and shield. Bjorin was charged by a trio of assassins but summoned vines to entangle them to give himself breathing room. The room was short-lived as two more rogues plus a grey-clad, masked woman emerged, demanding to know where the crystals were before attacking. Bjorin summoned a fierce sleet storm in the middle of the fort to slow their approach.

Roondar had little luck with his opponent, chipping at his health until a poor swing by the assailant resulted in his dagger embedding itself in a wagon. The man instead reached into his belt and plucked out a vial, which he threw at the gnome. It shattered on impact, igniting as the liquid it contained made contact with air. Roondar ignored the fire, instead finishing off the wounded man a massive energy blast.

Yunaan felled his attacker as Glithas and Torash joined him, and Glithas added magical fire to the barbarian’s axe. They discovered something unsettling; whe the rogues died, they seemed to emit a white gas. Finally, they turned towards Bjorin, who had been holding off his six attackers with only Luthiana’s aid. Unfortunately, the sleet storm largely fizzled as the assassins seemed to force their way through it with relative ease. Those who were entangled resorted to throwing darts at the druid, chipping away at his health but doing less damage than they would have in close quarters. Bjorin fell back as Torash summoned a spiritual hammer to help and Yunaan charged forward. He tried to summon animal aid but the spell fizzled as he lost concentration. Instead, he summoned more vines to help lock down the fast-moving rogues and hold them down for Yunaan and Luthiana to engage.

A new group of assassins emerged from the east and Torash prepared for them by calling an aura of slashing blades around himself, but the rogues countered with a volley of fiery vials that exploded onto the cleric, as they ran on past towards Glithas who beat a hasty retreat. Torash countered with an aura of intense cold that sapped their strength and speed, freezing their skin while simultaneously helping Torash absorb the fire damage. The rogues, however, ran on past, rapidly encircling the next closest target: Roondar, just emerged from the side street where he had defeated his last opponent.

The fight continues, with Roondar surrounded and the swirling, chaotic darkness of the fort undoubtedly holding more surprises…

Session 9

Brynolf was three days away over the wild country of central Norhelm. When the party arrived at the druid settlement, they found a surprisingly unimpressive, humble settlement; two dozen cabins of various sizes in a valley in the shadow of Mount Owe, on the shore of clear lake. The area around the settlement was heavily damaged, showing signs of impact craters, uprooted trees, churned up ground and the remnants of entangling roots. In the distance, a half dozen funeral pyres burned.

The party was quickly shown in to Leontes’, the High Druid, lodge, a large but spartan log cabin. On their way in they passed a furious druid who Hendrik later identified as Roalde, apparently a leader of a group of druids who objected to Leontes’ close relations with King Siggard of Norhelm. Once inside, the party found Leontes’ home to be little more than fur-strewn meeting hall built around a central fire pit over which a pot of stew bubbled, with the High Druid himself with only a humble pallet on the floor. He greeted the group somewhat perfunctorily, a direct man more focused on results than diplomacy.

Gedda was brought into his presence by a pair of Ulvbroden and Leontes used a spell to temporarily revive him. The confused druid babbled at first until Leontes sharpened his attention and asked him what had happened. Gedda told the group that he had found the crystal after a rockslide had revealed its hiding place, and had decided to dispel its magic since he mistrusted its arcane nature. As he cast the spell however, the crystal ensnared him in a nightmare, and used him to corrupt the forest as well as Gedda’s loyal ursine companion, Bulweh. Beyond that, Gedda remembered little except for a druid being among those who had saved him, and he called for him urgently. When Bjorin knelt next to him, Gedda pressed a oaken medallion, carved with a radiant tree in his hand before passing out again and being carried from the room.

Ever practical, Leontes decided to break for supper before continuing but used the meal to think while his aide, Lavo, described the great power the High Druid had wielded in defending the camp; tornados, elementals, and walls of fire. When dinner was over, Leontes invited the group to make their formal introductions, but was interrupted by the arrival of King Siggard, whom the High Druid had requested aid from when the attacks on the settlement began. The King came with a hundred cavalrymen as well as an aide of his own, a dwarven priest of the All-Father named Brioch. He joined the companions inside Leontes’ lodge to hear the story.

They told the story from the beginning. When they reached the description of the attack at the inn, Siggard revealed that a boy had escaped the massacre and had hidden in the barn, escaping when the flames began to spread in the inn. Leontes asked to see the dagger and attempted to identify its magic, but much like Glithas before him experienced the curious sensation of two warring powers; one trying to reveal the magic, one to block him. Leontes did, however, determine that the magic was that of Bankat, goddess of disease.

The story continued, and when it ended, Leontes asked to try a spell on the crystal since it seemed that magic was safe as long as it was not cast on the item directly. He attempted to see its true form, but found that it had none. All he was able to discern was that it exists simultaneously on the Ethereal Plane. Brioch attempted to speak to the crystal as a stone, but had no result. Siggard’s own court mage, Amelie, was absent, chasing a doppelganger who had attempted to assassinate Siggard.

Regretfully, Leontes announced that there was little he could do to help, and Siggard agreed. He revealed to the party that Urdnar was stirring. After years of kidnapping Norhelmian tradesmen and craftsmen, he feared the next invasion would be the worst ever. If the demi-humans learned the arts of siege warfare, the humans’ greatest advantage, their fortifications, would be useless. Siggard and Leontes were unwilling to surrender manpower to aid the companions on their quest. The crystals certainly seemed dangerous, but their threat was ill-defined and vague as compared to Urdnar’s very real presence. Siggard did, however, offer the party horses as well as a stipend of gold, though he acknowledged their nomadic nature would make it difficult if not impossible to deliver.

The meeting adjourned. Yunaan, attempting to reconnect to his people’s horse-based culture, spent the rest of the day looking over Siggard’s heavy warhorses, talking to the cavalrymen and trying to grasp the new, foreign idea of lance-based mounted combat. Roondar meditated and attempted to sense psionics in the crystals, but found none. Glithas wandered the camp, using his magic to help the druids rebuild shattered cabins. Torash discussed his home with the King, learning that it was to become an important military hub as Siggard began construction of a new fortress there.

The party set out the next morning. They crossed Norhelm and back into Belmara, where they began to hear strange rumors. The Termecian state of Orlana was said to be awash in the undead and begging for help; the monsters were even spreading into Daymar’duan. The Estates had been called in Estril, and High King Tiriol was trying to reform the Imperial Army that had not marched since his predecessor’s death. The outcome, however, was anything but certain. Only High King Felmaer had been able to unite Termecia, and then only briefly. The party thought of Emberven, but decided to avoid the town as Baron Tasriem’s men would most likely still be present. Instead, they cut westward into Merna’duan.

Here they encountered a fierce sleet storm one night with no place to shelter, when the crystals suddenly pulsed as though another fragment was nearby. Searching, Glithas spotted a gentle incline in a nearby cliff face, and crept up it to find a cave at the top. Roondar, with his lowlight vision was called to examine the darkened area and found the remains of a simple household inside. A table, a cauldron, a stool and blankets, but also scattered pages and a book as well as a gaping hole in one floor and walls that showed signs of fire and acid. The party went in to investigate while Luthiana stayed to shephard the horses.

Roondar thumbed through the book and found it was a journal, a pathetic chronicle of a hedge mage who earned his money as little more than a jester in the area. He catalogued each slight he received, his experiments in search of greater power, his frustrations with his stunted magic, his bullying at the hands of a blacksmith’s apprentice and his lust for a local cobbler’s daughter. In the final entry however, he spoke of how an errant experiment had opened a hole in his floor, which led into a tunnel filled with blue-white light. He seized the crystal he found there and was almost burned alive by magical power, but when he awoke his blocks were gone and he was a full-fledged wizard, intent on both power and revenge.

The party entered the crevice and found a flooded, but now empty chamber that had once held the crystal. Their investigations were cut off by the faint sound of Luthiana barking, and the party rushed back outside. There, they found an advancing squadron of undead; zombies, ghouls, a graveyard sludge, a pair of the bloody behemoths from the Norhelm inn, and a new variety; a huge skeleton covered with parchment like skin with two-foot long claws of bone.

Roondar cast an energy bolt to forestall them while the rest of the party stacked up near the cave entrance, trying to maintain their height advantage. The undead ignored Luthiana and the horses, instead choosing to close as fast as they could. Torash called upon Reimar to turn several of the zombies as well as the sludge while Glithas used a new power to bestow fire upon Yunaan’s axe. Bjorin cast a spell to harness lightning from the stormy sky, but found his efforts somewhat thwarted by the boneclaw’s unexpectedly spright reflexes.

While Roondar continued to use concussion blasts, mind thrusts, and energy bolts to stall the enemy, Bjorin caused additional mayhem by summoning a pair of dire badgers as the undead struggled to close the gap. Unfortunately, the undead made fairly short work of the unsupported animals. Glithas summoned a flaming sphere, but found the spell frustrated by the boneclaw’s quick reflexes and was forced to turn it on the blood-gorged giants. Torash bestowed additional resilience on Yunaan with a magical shield of Reimar’s power and Bjorin further forestalled the undead’s advance with an entangle spell.

Yunaan, anxious for combat, lept down off of the incline and skirted the entanglement to close with a giant, but when the boneclaw broke free of the vines he quickly found himself with more than he could handle and was forced to retreat after he found that the boneclaw’s talons could spontaneously extend outwards in a vicious ranged attack. Luck and skill both played to his favor as he sprinted back to the party, dodging all but one of the boneclaw’s five attacks as he retreated.

Back on the slope, the battle was already petering out. The ranged attacks of Glithas, Roondar, Torash, and Bjorin were wearing down the undead that seemed largely unable to break free of the entanglement, and a pair of powerful turnings by Torash decimated the lower ranks of the undead. One giant managed to close, but Yunaan delivered a vicious hit that sent it tumbling back the incline to collapse in a wet pile. Roondar immobilized the threatening boneclaw with summoned ectoplasm from the Astral plane and the battle became largely cleaning up the weak undead remaining. Bjorin summoned a dire wolf to help finish off the boneclaw, but the undead put up a last powerful fight, inflicting heavy damage on both Torash and the wolf before Yunaan put the finishing touches on the party’s victory.

With the battle over, the group took their time re-examining the cave. Glithas found the pages were discarded were low power spells, which he stored to later add to his spellbook. Otherwise, however, the cave was empty. The party settled down to ride out the storm.

As morning dawns, the group finds itself still facing a long, cold road to the swamps of Ravenna, where the next fragment awaits…

Session 8

One column remained, the central column. After resting to recover from the battle with the earth elementals, the party set off to end the battle with the mysterious forces in the valley. They advanced back into the mist-shrouded forest, once again enveloped in its fog and dancing lights. They had little idea of how much time had passed since they had entered; perpetual night left them with only vague guesses.

They paused when they reached a break in the tree line and spotted the source of the column; a trio of pedestals, each seeming to correspond with an element whose orb they had obtained, all arranged in a triangle. Beyond the pedestals towered a blackened oak tree whose roots spread out like fingers through the clearing, arraigned with razor-sharp thorns. The tree sat on a small mound into which a burrow had been dug to form a small house, from which emanated the now-familiar blue-white light through its smoke hole and around the single wooden door set into its side.

The party discussed their options and decided to send Glithas forward to investigate the burrow. The mage/thief crept forward, but as he advanced beyond the pedestals the oak seemed to sense his presence and its roots began to creak threateningly and advance. The mage hastily backed off. Bjorin also tried to advance but met a similar reaction. He tried to analyze the problem but could up with little solution; the arcane nature of the crystal made its motives, if any, inscrutable, but it seemed strange that it would manifest the orbs corresponding to the druidic poem. Regardless, the party decided to place the orbs on their pedestals, and Bjorin stepped forward.

As he placed each orb, it seemed to meld into its pedestal and bring it to life; flowers sprung on the column of wood; magma pulsed on that of earth; the ice pedestal turned into a fountain of burbling water. After each, Bjorin heard the line of the poem repeated in his mind. When he placed the final orb, a pillar of flame erupted from the ground and consumed him. Every part of his body was alive with pain and he screamed, the party outside able to see only his shadow inside the fire. The pain turned to anger and Bjorin understood; understood the rage of a forest that had been corrupted, its trees twisted, its animals tortured, its inhabitants made to serve a strange arcane master. The rage coursed through the druid and burned the shadow from his arm and his scream began to change into a roar. The party watched as the shadow in the flame began to change as a beastly roar echoed from it. When the flame stopped abruptly, Bjorin had been replaced by a huge, black bear whose fur still smoked.

Answering the challenge, the door of the mound flew open and from it emerged a wispy shadow in the shape of a main, the shadow seeming to form a beard, cloak, and staff. Behind it came the dire bear Bjorin had seen in his vision, so large that it ripped the doorframe out of the mound and caused a cave in an the entrance that rolled off its shoulders. The final battle had begun.

Roondar stood at range to channel his psionic power into bolts of ice and electricity, focusing on the shadowy form. However, the damage that it took was difficult to gauge as its body betrayed no sign. Roondar made perhaps his most important move when he reached into the Ethereal plane and summoned a sticky ectoplasm that he flung at the dire bear as it began its charge towards Bjorin, entangling it. For the duration of the battle, the bear would be unable to move to finish off foes wounded by its formidable claws and teeth.

Meanwhile, the rest of the party were temporarily stymied when the shadow summoned a sleet storm that blinded them and slowed their movement. Yunaan cleared it and attempted to sling an arrow, but found the ice-coated shaft flew poorly. Luthiana, outclassed by both enemies, fell back. Glithas staggered free and summoned a flaming sphere on the shadow but faced the same problem Roondar encountered; though it burned atop the shadow, did it damage him at all? Torash summoned a spiritual hammer to pummel the enemy but followed it up with a hasty forward charge toward him, forgetting about the threatening oak tree and becoming entangled in its roots for the duration of the battle.

The shadow answered Yunaan’s arrow with a pillar of flame from the heavens that fell upon the barbarian, burning him badly. Bjorin, still in bear form, traded harsh blows with the dire bear but found it was no ordinary bear. It seemed to be able to channel the power of the elemental pedestals, stomping its forepaws to assume one of its powers. He channeled fire and breathed flame onto Bjorin and Roondar, forcing the psionicist into withdraw further from the support of the party. He channeled earth and gained a flinty skin as Bjorin began to tear at it. Torash attempted to help by summoning a celestial bison, but the creature found its attacks largely thwarted by the bear’s enhanced armor.

The shadow drew back to summon corrupted nature’s allies, and three dire badgers joined the fight on his side and the situation began to deteriorate further. Roondar burned a pair of them with cold, but was knocked to near-death when one of them turned on him. Torash found his health rapidly depleting under their frenzied attacks, but was unable to move to help himself or Bjorin who found himself unable to stand alone against the bear with only the bison’s limited help. Once Roondar fell, Luthiana joined the fight against the badgers to hold them off. Yunaan attempted to charge the bear but was unable to land a blow, and when the bear turned on him after Bjorin was forced to withdraw, Yunaan was forced to follow suit. The bison, left alone, was soon destroyed. Luckily, Roondar’s ectoplasmic prison prevented the bear from being able to follow up on its success and struggling in place to free itself. The shadow rushed forward, but its intentions remained unknown after the spell it attempted to cast fizzled under the pressure of Yunaan’s and the bison’s presence.

Bjorin was near death once he withdrew but gambled on an attempt to summon aid of his own after shifting back to human form. The battle hung on a knife’s edge. Roondar was already down, Yunaan’s health was already low and Torash and Bjorin were near death. A series of events saved them: Torash landed a heavy blow with his blood-enchanted warhammer on a dire badger, and Yunaan followed up on the success with a killing stroke. Glithas engaged in a masterful combination, destroying the second badger with a flaming sphere while simultaneously smiting the third badger in close combat. A second spell of the shadow’s fizzled, and when it attempted to infect Yunaan with some sort of magical disease, the barbarian’s formidable fortitude resisted it. However, Torash was felled by a strike from the shadow’s staff and lay in critical condition.

Bjorin’s summon was successful, and three pure dire badgers of his own came to his aid. The trio surrounded the dire bear and began tearing at him while Bjorin healed himself and Roondar, whom had been dragged to the druid’s side by Glithas. Yunaan began having great success landing heavy axe blows on the shadow, his rage fuelled by Torash’s bloody form lying only a few feet away. The dire bear, surrounded, overwhelmed, savaged by Bjorin’s attacks and bleeding from the onslaught of the bison and badgers, finally fell and the shadow found itself quickly enveloped by the party. When Yunaan landed a final blow, it simply faded away.

The party was forced to heal its fallen before it could go any further, but finally was able to stagger into the mound. It found what looked like the aftermath of an explosion; furniture and blankets were pushed up against the walls from a central point, where a pulsing crystal lay in the fire pit. Nearby lay a wizened, malnourished man, on the verge of starvation. Bjorin boosted his constitution with a pair of curative spells, but Torash realized the man would need long-term care to revive him from his near-death state. Roondar warily approached the crystal and attempted to pick it up through his backpack but found, as Bjorin did in Termecia, its reach extended through cloth.

This time, Roondar did not see the flash of pictures, but instead a mish-mash of voices from which he could pick out only fragments, speaking of ‘the way forward’, ‘unmatched purity’, ‘danger’ and an ominous cry of ’..cannot hold it!’ before the screams overwhelmed his senses. When they faded, he was flying over Tantas, arcing southwards over Termecia and El’Atol, crossing into Ravenna and skirting its eastern coast to the swampy mouth of the river Renose where it fed into the Bay of Batal. There, he saw a ruined, half-sunken castle and knew the next crystal lay there. The vision faded with the mournful whisper from before: Forgive us, we did not know.

When Roondar’s vision ended, the party discussed their options and decided to rest for some time in the forest, but their plan was up-ended by the arrival of a quartet of druids, flying through the now-breaking clouds in hawk form. The quartet were Ulvbroden, lead by their second-in-command, Hendrik. After the heroes explained the situation, a perturbed Hendrik identified the starving man as Gedda, the druid of the valley, and confessed that the situation was unlike anything he had heard of. He told the party to come to Brynolf to consult Leontes, the head druid of the Bjergrad and the party agreed, eager to find some answers or sense of direction to this cursed quest they had apparently inherited.

They left the valley, looking back on it from the slope of a nearby mountain, and found the illusion that had made it appear idyllic to their eyes when they first looked upon it had faded. The valley was now apparent for what it was; a haunted place, its trees still twisted and blackened, its wildlife still corrupted. The mist was rising and the night breaking but it would take years of druidic care to rehabilitate the land.

Turning their backs to the valley, the group set off towards Brynolf with Hendrik and the Ulvbroden, the unconscious Gedda being drawn on a horse litter. Brynolf is three days away, and the heroes can only hope that Leontes can offer some direction to their mysterious quest before it destroys them…

Session 7

In the aftermath of the battle against the forest creatures, the party had little choice but to rest and try to regain their broken spell power and health. Luckily, the night held no surprises beyond a poor night’s sleep surrounded by fog, lights, brambles and creeping animals.

2 columns remained. The party set out towards the far eastern column. They found themselves in an increasingly sparse forest, surrounded by dark shapes that loomed out of the fog. The shapes were boulders; wrought into bizarre shapes by unknown hands, some seemed like faces with misshapen features, others were twisted into contorted, unnatural contours. As the heroes moved farther eastwards, the boulders became more and more prevalent until they form almost a maze to hamper the party’s progress. The trees disappeared entirely, the area dominated by stones, boulders, and gravel.

After 20 minutes of hiking, the heroes found themselves at the site of the column of light, shining from inside a 20-foot wide crater. Previous experience had given them a good idea of what to expect; the claiming of the orb would undoubtedly be followed by an attack of some sort. The heroes took precautions; Glithas summoned his Mage Armor, Roondar is Inertial Armor, and Bjorin his Barkskin. Torash cast Enlarge and Blade of Blood upon himself. The group approached the edge, with Roondar and Glithas hanging back to provide fire support. Bjorin tied a rope to himself and Torash, then climbed down into the crater. At the bottom, sitting on the gravelly ground was an orb of smooth, polished grey granite. Upon hefting it, Bjorin was visited by another vision; a shadowy form stood before a black bear which knelt to him. The form pressed a glowing crystal between its eyes and the bear roared in pain while it seared into its flesh. The animal began to grow, its teeth and claws to lengthen. Its eyes opened, now glowing bluish-white. The now-vicious corruption seemed to look directly at Bjorin and roar, baring teeth like daggers, when Bjorin snapped out of it. In the meantime, the shadowy corruption along his arm had grown to swallow his entire left arm and shoulder.

No monsters appeared as they had feared and Bjorin began climbing back out of the crater. As soon as he reached the top and began to right himself, however, the attack struck; earthen hands reached from the ground, seizing Yunaan’s ankles. The barbarian found himself dangling from the grip of an earth elemental, all dirt and sharp stone and glowing crystals. The creature flung him by his feet into one of the nearby boulders, but the lucky barbarian largely landed against his shield, absorbing much of the impact. Torash was less lucky, as a second elemental emerged from the side of a nearby boulder and struck, punching the cleric in the back of the head and cutting his skin with its hand while delivering massive trauma. The battle began, overshadowed by a rumbling sound from the southwest.

The heroes soon found, however, that the elementals could disappear and reappear into the stone. While they tried to retaliate, more elementals emerged, punching at Glithas and Roondar and rushing Bjorin. The fates seemed to be unkind to the party. Roondar unleashed an energy blast of cold but the elementals seemed barely affected. Torash attempted to connect with his warhammer to deal his enhanced damage, but seemed unable to land a proper blow. Glithas summoned a Flaming Sphere, but his target managed to sink back into the ground to dodge. Yunaan fared better, dodging an attack from a newly-emerged elemental while still lying against the boulder, then retaliating with a deep two-handed axe blow. Roondar followed up with a blast of fire, scorching Yunaan’s target as well as the elemental that Luthiana was successfully fending off farther to the north.

When an elemental retaliated against Roondar however, he found himself in trouble, and Yunaan answered by charging across the battlefield to deliver a strong blow to the attacking creature. Back to back, gnome and barbarian fought with psionics and axe to destroy one monster and severely wound another.

By this time however, the situation farther north was deteriorating. Glithas’ fire was having little effect and Torash seemed unable to land a blow. Bjorin found himself slowed by his shadowy infestation and was forced to fall back and summon a pair of dire badgers for aid. The fierce animals answered and flanked an elemental, but found themselves soon facing empty air as the the creature escaped underground, re-emerging to attack Torash. Yunaan, believing Roondar secure, executed a second charge to the north to take Torash’s attacker from behind and succeeded in wounding it, but at cost to himself as he left himself open to attack from an elemental stationed along the path that delivering a crushing smash. The situation became further complicated as the party realized the elementals had ranged attacks; they planted one fist into the ground and drew material from the earth, using it to project their other fist outwards.

A third elemental fell and for a time, it seemed as though the battle would end more swiftly than anticipated. Luthiana in particular displayed an unerring battle sense, her every attack connecting. The heroes had forgotten, however, the rumbling sound from the southwest. A 12-foot tall elemental erupted from the ground southwest of Torash, spraying earth in every direction that Bjorin and Torash managed to dodge. It immediately struck at the cleric, but he managed to lift his shield in time and dig his feet into the ground, absorbing the hit. By now, much of the party was wounded, but Torash found himself unable to fall back to heal or be healed as he was boxed in by elementals. Yunaan finally cleared one of the three remaining smaller elementals leaving one in the north that Glithas wore down with a series of magic missiles after a wounded Luthiana was forced to withdraw.

Bjorin, Torash, Glithas and Yunaan clustered in the middle of the battlefield to dispense and receive healing after the large elemental showed its power by dealing Torash a heavy blow. At this point, Roondar stepped up to help turn the tide, sacrificing some of his own health to convert it to psionic power and unleashing a huge bar of fire. It crashed into the large elemental, shaving off almost half of its health and carrying on to severely damage the last of the remaining smaller ones. He paid the price however as the vengeful elemental turned on him, projecting its right fist and knocking him into unconsciousness.

The opening, however, gave the rest of group time to reform. Glithas chipped away at the final small elemental while Yunaan stepped into melee range after a disastrous attack by Torash left his bloody weapon dropped onto the ground. Bjorin began to summon a dire wolf for help; the last badger had disappeared after having dispatched a small elemental. Yunaan, however, proved this unnecessary; stepping forward, he dealt a catastrophic blow to the large elemental, carving out a portion of its midsection and causing much of the rest of its now-unsupported bulk to collapse out onto the ground in a shower of rock and dust. When the wolf appeared, it found little to do beyond put the final touch on the victory while Bjorin gave the final small elemental a last strike to down it.

Once again, the party found itself victorious but drained, having teetered on the precipice of defeat. After reviving Roondar and expending their remaining spell power on healing, they faced an almost certain need to once again rest inside the haunted forest, before moving on to face what lay at the final column of light. Their only hint was a mantra Bjorin had remembered that all druids learn during their training, that seemed to correspond to the orbs’ elements…

My resolve is as firm as the stone,
My soul as pure as the water shone,
My patience is as endless as the oak’s,
Until the fires of my rage are stoked.

Session 6

The party progressed southwards through the forest, following the stream deeper into the valley. It gradually carved a deeper trough into the landscape and became wider and deeper, while simultaneously the air became colder; plunging to freezing temperatures. After a 20 minute trek, the group came upon a pool that the stream stemmed from, fed by a six-foot waterfall that tumbled into it from another stream higher up a brief incline. In the center of the pool shone a bright underwater light from which the column of light came from. However, the party decided they were too drained to investigate immediately. Instead, they used the terrain of the waterfall’s cliff to provide shelter for a cold and fitful night’s rest overlooking the mysterious glow.

Recovered, they pondered their options at the pool’s edge, testing its depth and temperature, probing it for magic and finding apparently little but an ordinary, if oddly cold, body of water. Finally, Bjorin decided to cut to the chase; using druidic magic to fortify himself against the elements, he stripped down and plunged into the waist-high pool. The source of the light, he found, was a perfectly round, smooth, orb of ice that he was able to easily lift out of the water. As soon as he did however, six points of water around him rose to form humanoid shapes. Fonts of water were where their legs should be, and their torsos seemed to be made of jagged, crystalline ice. Their heads were as visored helmets, but water continually leaked out from between the slits. Bjorin was surrounded.

Roondar, thinking quickly, used his psionic powers to rip Bjorin out of the water, causing him to lend ungently on the slope while the rest of the party assumed positions on the southeastern bank of the pool. Four of the icy knights charged in, while two others demonstrated other abilities; one projected an ice lance from his oversized fist, firing it towards the shore, while another disappeared back into the water without a trace. Torash summoned a whirlwind of blades around himself as the creatures closed in, while Glithas summoned a ball of flame and discovered the knights melted well. Bjorin, naked and weaponless, summoned a flaming blade, while Roondar caused a concussive blast of force to ripple through two of the attackers closing in on Luthiana.

A fierce melee ensued. Torash, after bathing his blade in holy blood, found himself at a loss to connect with his warhammer, but found his whirlwind of blades made good progress at chipping away at the monster’s icy armor and his own defensive skills to be top notch. Yunaan did heavy damage, lodging his axe into the head of one of the knights. Glithas’ flaming sphere melted one of the knights well before he fled back into the pool, but both he and Roondar found themselves on the receiving end of the potent ice lances fired by the monsters from the pool’s center. Roondar was unable to concentrate well and expended large amounts of psychic power, but unfortunately to little effect.

Luckily, the combined melee powers of Yunaan, Luthiana, Bjorin, and Torash, along with Glithas’ sphere were able to inflict casualties on the ice knights sufficient to cause the monsters to fall back into the pool, where they began to fire their icy projectiles in earnest. The party’s ranged skills were weakened by their expenditure of power and so Bjorin stepped in to summon a pair of crocodiles beneath the creatures. The crocodiles proved surprisingly effective; they quickly crushed the armor of one enemy and dragged it into the pool.

With their numbers dwindling, the knights made one last desperate attempt to recover the orb that now was in Roondar’s possession. Roondar found himself being charged by an enemy that delivering a crushing blow, knocking him back against a tree and unconscious. When the last of the icy knights moved to help his companion, the crocodiles interceded and dragged it to its death, and the party was able to destroy the final monster and revive Roondar.

After healing their wounds, the party set off to the next column of light, trekking away from the stream and deeper into the woods. The trees grew close and dark, the fog heavier, and twinkling blue-white lights seemed to surround them. Animal noises echoed through the forest and the nerves of the party began to wear thin. The lights pressed closer, and each party member began to hear unpleasant sounds from their past: Glithas the sound of fire and collapsing timber, Roondar the sound of Mae’s screams and Marcus’ sobs, Torash the death rattle of his sparring partner, and Yunaan the sound of his grandfather bitterly declaring him khun. Bjorin heard a frantic whisper inside his head: “Oh Andel, forgive me, I only sought to protect my lands and now it has me…now it has me and it won’t let me go…release me from this nightmare! RELEASE ME FROM THIS NIGHTMARE!” The final part Bjorin himself voices as well, and when he returned, shaken, to reality, he found a black shadow encompassing the fingers of his left hand.

With no answers and little else to do, the group soldiered on. This time they found an orb of oak inside the hollow of a tree surrounded by thorny bushes. Roondar tried to use his psionics to pull it free but it seemed stuck fast. Glithas masterfully crept in to retrieve it, but had no better luck. Finally, believing that perhaps Bjorin was the only one who could, the party sent him in. Sure enough, the druid picked it up easily, but was struck with a vision. A shadowy figure infected the forest and its animals with shards of crystal, driving its denizens mad. When Bjorin emerged from the vision, the shadow had crept up his left arm to his elbow. As he staggered back, Bjorin and Yunaan both noticed the foliage on the forest floor begin to move and then explode into three shapes; two large, humanoid plants with thick intertwined vines for arms, and an immense third monster with twin, thorny tenacles and a huge mouth of sharpened wooden stakes.

The creatures lumbered forward, giving the party time to deploy and for Bjorin to place a ward of protection against plants on Yunaan. Yunaan surged forward to engage the largest creature and found himself locked against a fierce opponent who quickly depleted his ward. Bjorin joined him in melee, after summoning a flaming sphere as it became evident that the creature would not go down easily. Glithas also summoned a flaming sphere to burn the creature into submission. The creature’s wounds seemed to close on their own, however, blunting the assault. The slow approach of the other two creatures gave the party time to focus their abilities on the largest, hitting with weapon, psionic fire, spiritual weapons and magic before the approach of the humanoid plants forced them to turn their attention to the flanks.

The huge creature dealt Yunaan a savage bite, crushing his protective ward and lifting the barbarian in his jaws. Yunaan was able to do little but rake his shield against the monster’s mouth before it swallowed him, and Yunaan found himself in the monster’s muddy, dark, acidic stomach. Bjorin summoned reinforcements to aid him; a trio of enraged dire badgers. Two quickly set upon the monster, while a third aided Luthiana in holding the western flank against one of its smaller companions. The badgers tore through the body of the huge creature, felling it onto its side, where its death groan released a haggard and enraged barbarian who wasted no time in rejoining the fight on the eastern flank. By this time, Torash, who had been holding the east, had been worn down by his opponent. It nearly delivered a death blow when it wrapped its vines around his neck and lifted him above the ground, but the cleric managed to break free, barely alive.

Bjorin braved a dangerous approach through the center of the fight, dodging attacks from both monsters to heal Torash. Meanwhile, Glithas and Roondar, their powers expended, were reduced to bow attacks from the rear of the party. Bjorin also found his magic nearing its end. Luckily, the dire badgers proved incredibly aggressive and damaging. They inflicted sufficient damage on the western monster to bring it down, despite suffering the loss of one of their number, then joined Torash and Yunaan in the east. However, it was not soon enough to save the pair. Yunaan fell unconscious from a blow from one of the creature’s tough vine arms, and Torash followed after inflicting a hammer blow infused with holy blood. The fight seemed to balance on the knife’s end before additional damage from the badgers, Bjorin, Glithas, and Roondar brought down the final creature.

Bjorin used the last of his power to revive Torash and the party did their best to recover their lost vitality. Now, standing over the bodies of the embodiments of corrupted nature, with Bjorin increasingly consumed by shadow, the party finds itself drained of power and with two columns left to investigate…

Session 5

Travelling north from Emberven, the party crossed the border into Norhelm after three days, passing through a lightly defended garrison of royal troops. With the Norhelmian winter approaching, they found themselves often sheltering in the royal inns sponsored by King Siggard to ease travel in the sparsely populated country, usually no more than an inn, a stable, and a collection of houses for the staff. Any chance to escape from the cold northwestern wind was welcome as they trekked deeper into the mountainous, heavily forested nation.

On the fourth night, the party approached another of the royal inns as the sun began to sink beneath the horizon. Roondar went off to the stable to take care of Falmouth while the rest of the group entered the common room, which was deserted except for a large blond man in furs and another man apparently sleeping on one of the tables. Not longer after entering however, Bjorin, Yunaan, Glithas and Torash began to hear a hypnotic whispering and babbling in their minds, numbing their senses. Meanwhile in the stables, Roondar found no stablehand to take care of Falmouth. When he investigated the cubby nearby where the stablehands often drink while waiting for patrons, he discovered only the dead, blood-drained body of the worker. Quickly, Roondar crept out of the stable.

Bjorin fell victim to the hypnotic whispering while the rest of the group shook it off. The blond man suddenly rose and picked up his table, flinging it at Yunaan, who managed to dodge it as it crashed into another table and splintered into pieces. From the second floor, a pair of black amorphous smoky shapes drifted down. As Yunaan discovered when one touched him, mere contact with them deadened the senses of their victims. While Yunaan moved forward to engage the blond man and the loyal Luthiana awakened Bjorin from his stupor, the kitchen door blew open to reveal a pair of blood-swollen, seven-foot tall monstrosities and a horde of zombies behind them. Clearly, the party had walked into something.

Yunaan and the blond warrior engaged in combat after the man pulled a greatsword from his side and said a word that caused lightning to trace the length of the blade, but Yunaan quickly found himself on the defensive after a blow from the warrior severed his axe haft. Glithas distracted his attacker with a flaming sphere, causing the furs on his back to ignite. Meanwhile, Torash suffered the wisdom drain of the wispy shapes before raising the symbol of Reimar to turn the undead, but to little effect; only a handful of zombies were destroyed. Luthiana, Bjorin, and Torash soon found themselves engaged with the undead.

Roondar, hearing the battle, rushed into the kitchen entrance, thinking to annihilate the undead there. But in a harsh turn of fate, he found himself surrounded by a trio of zombies which landed heavy blows on the psionicist and left him dying in a pool of blood. In the common room, things appeared to be going poorly for the party; the undead were hitting hard, as was the mysterious blond man. A second turning attempt by Torash proved more successful, eliminating more of the zombies and the smoky shapes while Bjorin stepped back to summon an animal companion and Luthiana held the attackers at bay. A desperate Yunaan tried to seize a weapon from one of the zombies, but the creature struck back at him and ended his attempt. The wounded blond man turned on Glithas, but the wizard sent a magic missile into his chest that knocked him off balance. Yunaan seized the opportunity, charging in and colliding with the warrior, crushing him through the bannister of the stairway and knocking him flat. When the man regained his feet, he apparently decided to leave the work to the undead; his furs had ignited the hay-strewn floor, and with the undead apparently crushing their opponents, he beat a retreat up the stairs. The party, too consumed by the battle, did not pursue.

With the help of the magically summoned dire wolf, a fearsome animal as large as a horse, the tide began to turn. Glithas tossed Yunaan a mace, but the barbarian scrounged a scimitar from a fallen zombie after noticing that the huge, blood-filled undead seemed to suffer more from slashing weapons. A wounded Luthiana, drained by holding back the undead until the wolf arrived, retired while Torash, Yunaan, the wolf, and Glithas focused on the central group. Bjorin skirted the common room wall to get into the kitchen to help Roondar, suffering a heavy blow from one of the monsters in the process and arriving mere seconds before Roondar’s death to deliver healing. Overhead, the party heard a whoosing sound and a bird’s cry, followed shortly by another whoosing sound.

Bjorin and Roondar arrived back in the common room as the remaining undead rapidly weakened. Roondar delivered a bolt of electricity and a bolt of fire to them, blowing a hole in the inn’s wall and setting a portion of it on fire respectively. Torash sought to contain the flames with a cantrip of water summoning while Bjorin rushed upstairs to see if the blond man remained and the heroes mopped up. In the aftermath, they found the man had escaped out a window, leaving only an area of flattened grass to mark his escape and a dropped, green-glowing dagger. Roondar and Glithas found the zombies were almost certainly the inn staff; they had the same spiral pattern on their heads as those in Emberven, but the glow had not yet ignited. Roondar also found an impression in the hay of the stable that Bjorin identified as child-sized, but neither Luthiana nor Falmouth were able to pick up a scent.

Deciding it would be best not to be present when anyone else arrived, enemy or civilian, the party moved out into the wilderness to camp. The next morning, Glithas attempted to identify the dagger but with puzzling results; he experienced the sensation of a power blocking his attempt and creating a magical feedback, then being sheltered from it. The party had no answers, and continued northwards into the wilderness, leaving the road to enter the mountains.

Winter had already come to the area and it took four days of travel with Bjorin as guide to navigate the snowy passes and uncertain, rocky terrain before the group ascended the foot of the mountain to look out over the valley that appeared exactly as it did in the vision; heavily forested, sheltered between twin granite mountains. A stream ran through the western half; the eastern half turned into gravel and rock. Observing the valley, Bjorin noticed a wolf navigating the slope upwards slowly and noted its curious behavior; apparently leaving any local food source or pack grounds. When he approached it to speak to it with his druidic powers, it noticed him and transformed into a man who collapsed on the rocky slope. Bjorin’s approach turned into an urgent run, and he collapsed next to his fellow druid to lay hands upon him. He recognized him; Josep, one of the Ulvbroden from Brynolf.

When revived and questioned, Josep explained that Brynolf had been attacked by a massive, crystal-encrusted earth elemental that had killed six trainees and a senior druid before being put down. Leontes consulted the earth and ascertained the direction of its origin, sending Josep to scout while he attempted to summon help from other druids and King Siggard. Josep, stopping to consult other earth-dwelling creatures such as groundhogs and badgers, had traced it to this valley in the domain of the druid Gedda. He entered the valley but found himself surrounded by a dark fog that thwarted any attempt to fly back out. He was forced to take wolf form to walk out but was beset by dancing lights and crazed animals and plants, finally being cornered and attacked by dire wolverines that mauled him before he escaped.

Upon learning the party meant to enter the valley, Josep wished them well but explained he had to return to report; he had seen the organized tracks of predatory animals headed eastwards and feared Brynolf would suffer additional attacks. As the party trekked northwards to enter the valley via the river, Josep took raven form and left.

The party spent the night on the northern slope before entering the valley. Fog and darkness enclosed them, both unnatural in their appearance. Bluish white lights danced in the air and crystals were embedded in tree trunks and the frightened animals that fled at their approach. In Bjorin’s pack, the crystal they already possessed began to vibrate and then emit a pulse that caused the fog itself to ripple. It was answered by a second pulse, and a quartet of pillars of light began to glow around the valley. Perplexed, the heroes set out towards the nearest one, but soon stopped as Roondar spotted a dire wolverine lurking in a tree above. His attempts to hail it were ignored and it pounced; the party soon found itself surrounded by crystal-encrusted, twelve foot long wolverines growling insanely.

A battle ensued. Torash used his magic to grow to twelve feet tall, but found himself beset upon and wounded, forced to withdraw the heal. Yunaan found his foe a match for him, and Bjorin realized his dire wolf companion would be needed. Roondar held off the southern approach by sending a bolt of lightning towards the aggressors, then summoning ectoplasm from the Astral plane to entrap one of the charging animals, knocking it out of the fight. Glithas summoned his flaming sphere but found it difficult to remain safely out of melee range as the insane animals feared no attack. Falmouth joined the fight but was outmatched and quickly reduced to unconsciousness. In the end, the appearance of the dire wolf and a well-aimed bolt of ice by Roondar turned the tide, decimating the central trio of wolverines and leaving the rest of the party to clean up, smarting from the ferocity of the animals’ claws and teeth and drained of spellpower.

Now, the party finds itself battered barely an hour into their trek, surrounded by darkness and fog with only a quartet of mysterious pillars of light to guide them to salvation or death…

Session 4

The heroes raced through the streets of Emberven, the wind whipping in their faces and rain lashing down through the buildings. As they approached the northern gate, a single wooden tower looking over a narrow, lashed-together wooden door, they heard a scream and saw a boy try to escape from the top of the tower before being grabbed by a rotting, purple hand and dragged back into the shadows. Several other bodies already lay at the bottom of the tower.

The party spread out and moved forward cautiously as a second ghoul appeared at the tower top. The ravenous undead descended, inflicting minor damage on Yunaan before they were quickly dispatched. Glithas took to the top of the tower with his bow as two more ghouls climbed over the wall and rushed forward, while another appeared from behind a house to the south. A fierce melee battle ensued. Bjorin attempted a charge, but lost his footing in the muddy ground and fell. One of the ghouls fell upon him and mauled him before he was able to recover, pushing the monster off and dealing a heavy blow with his enchanted shillelagh. Torash found himself receiving a charge of his own, and when the ghoul’s teeth sunk into him, he found his limbs locked and tumbled to the ground, but Roondar distracted the ghoul with an arrow to the side. The party fended off the attacks until Torash regained his feet, destroying seven ghouls; Bjorin, Torash, and Yunaan engaging in hand-to-hand fighting while Glithas and Roondar provided ranged support.

After Glithas fired a light-enchanted arrow into the darkness outside the gate to make sure no more ghouls were coming, the battle ended. The party took some time to note the same green glow the other undead had, and that it was emanating from a spiral pattern etched into the back of the undead’s heads, but they were unable to identify its source or lore beyond an assertion by Glithas that it was certainly magical in nature. Bjorin went to the main gate to notify Ilmar and organize peasant patrols within the town to make sure the buildings were clear, while Glithas and Torash went to the tavern. There, Torash reported his findings to Emmel while Glithas observed. The priest of Mariel observed that it might be wise to notify the temple of Mordyn in Estril, where the Hands of Mordyn, the ultimate undead slayers, had a small detachment. Afterwards, the party rested up for their descent into the masoleum.

When dawn broke the next day, Ilmar and Marion beseeched the party to find and end the source of the attacks. While Ilmar began organizing townsfolk to build pyres to burn the bodies from last night, the party set off to the graveyard. They found it empty but obviously disturbed, with most of the graves having been dug up and piles of mud lying everywhere. With no other structure to investigate, they entered the masoleum’s anteroom, with Glithas deftly observing and notifying the party to steer clear of a booby-trapped floor tile. He scouted downstairs, finding a large, crypt-lined room, strewn with rubble and broken stone, with a green swirl of light and gas rotating in the center, filled with bones. On the far wall lay a metal door with no handle, but a circular socket. He notified the rest of the party who followed.

Glithas had just found a suspicious-looking crypt on the left wall when the swirl emitted a pulse of blinding light and streams of bones emerged, forming into skeletons who set upon the party. Torash called upon Reimar and vaporized them in short order, but no sooner had the last one been destroyed then the swirl flashed again and another 5 skeletons formed. Glithas, blinded, enlisted Roondar’s and Yunaan’s aid to push on the odd crypt, thinking it would deactivate the light. Instead, they found it released a revolving door, while Torash, Bjorin, and Luthiana fended off the skeletons. The door led into a small shrine to Reimar, inlaid with his seal and with a banner with his holy symbol, a red plated fist, knuckles facing, on a black background. Two biers were set up; one was empty, while on the other lay the incorrupt body of a cleric of Reimar, still holding his hammer and prayer book. Surrounding him were a pair of ghouls and a skeleton, dressed in tattered robes in Reimar’s colors and with some sort of pendant around his neck. They spotted Glithas and moved in to attack.

The situation became difficult. Bjorin and Glithas both summoned flaming spheres to combat this new skeletal threat after the party quickly dispatched the ghouls. The skeleton displayed dark cleric powers however, laying hands on Yunaan and opening wounds. Meanwhile, the light continued to pulse and Bjorin and Luthiana in particular found themselves pressed while the rest of the party focused on the skeleton. Torash attempted to turn him but failed, and from then on the skeleton targeted him while Roondar made several attempts to strip the skeleton on its pendant, believing that would end his unnatural life. Instead, he only succeeded in angering the entity; when a wounded Torash withdrew from the front line to heal himself, the vengeful skeleton turned on Roondar and dealt a pair of mace blows to him that left him in a pool of blood, hovering on death’s door. Bjorin acted quickly; he broke away from the skeletons he was engaged with, suffering a pair of heavy blows in the process but healed the fallen psionicist, reviving him but in a severely weakened state.

Meanwhile, the skeleton healed itself with its dark energies and proceeded to inflict additional damage on Yunaan. However, the party’s onslaught finally wore him down and he finally fell to a beam of positive energy from Glithas’ palm that reacted violently with his connection to the Negative Material Plane, incinerating him. The other skeletons continued to press close and the cloud itself was firing bolts of negative energy, striking Luthiana, Torash, and Bjorin. Needing to inflict maximum damage, Bjorin cast a spell to turn himself into a small, radiant sun, burning the nearby undead with purifying light. Several skeletons fell to its power, and the party broke a cordon around the badly wounded Luthiana.

With the fourth wave of skeletons destroyed, the cloud’s power was undone and it quickly dissipated, leaving the party free to explore the shrine. There, Glithas and Roondar found twin books on stands; one that appeared to be an autobiography of sorts, describing the life of cleric of Reimar near 300 AB who fought in the Battle of Skalvor. The second book was an ancient holy book of Reimar, containing information about rituals, temples, rites, and prayers. As soon as Torash entered the shrine however, the eyes of the incorrupt corpse opened, still milky white in death. The cleric rose from his bier and approached Torash, ignoring his attempts to contact him. Instead, the revanant handed his warhammer to the young priest, warning him that a storm was coming and that Reimar would require instruments to do his will. Success would be rewarded with a place of Reimar’s side; failure would doom him to the pits of Mordyn. Torash accepted the hammer and the revanant returned to his resting place, folding his hands over his book and closing his eyes once more.

Roondar investigated the pendant left behind by the skeleton and realized it was a gnomish multi-key, designed to open a gnomish lock mechanism that was nigh-impossible to pick and that it fit the metal door. He used it to open the door and, after a search revealed no traps, went inside. Unfortunately, the search was found to be faulty; a trio of spears shot from the wall which Roondar was not fast enough to avoid, puncturing his body. Glithas tore down the trap to free him, but the gnome was well enough to continue. Finding themselves in a short hall, the party opened the final door and viewed a gruesome scene. The main chamber had been converted into some sort of experimental lab with body parts in the middle of the floor and two half-finished monstrosities dangling from a chain. A table, chair, and bookcase, recently made but empty were along one wall. Several zombies shuffled around the pile, one of which was wearing a tabard and carrying a grevious gash in his chest, identifying him as the murdered captain of the guard. The zombies attacked.

Even in their depleted state, the party found little challenge in them. The former captain of the guard managed to land a pair of heavy hits on Yunaan, and another zombie inflicted damage on Torash. Bjorin transformed his hands into bear claws and savagely mauled two of the undead, while Glithas burned the former captain with a flaming sphere, and Torash and Yunaan fought with hammer and axe. Torash summoned a spiritual hammer to aid the party, striking at the zombies from behind. Roondar, low on psionic power and with no weapon other than a piercing spear that would have little effect, found himself largely sidelined after dealing some minor damage to the captain.

Once the party dispatched them, a brief flicker of intelligence came back to the captain momentarily, who gasped out a warning to the heroes to ‘beware the man in the mask’. Unsure what to make of this, the heroes searched the room but found the instigator of the crisis gone. Bjorin, searching the room with eagle eyes, found a single ring of protection underneath the rubble of an effigy in an alcove.

The heroes returned to Emberven, and while the townspeople were joyous, the party found themselves having to move fast; a boy returned riding Emmel’s mule, reporting that Baron Tasriem was finally on his way. Marion and Ilmar agreed it was best that the party not be present when the baron showed up to realize that he was too late to gain any glory, but just in time to help with reconstruction, fearing his misdirection frustration might catch their saviors. Instead, Marion presented the party with several days of food as well as 50 gold pieces each and promise of future hospitality.

So, the party resumed their trek northwards, pulled to the mountains of Norhelm by the strange crystal vision and now haunted by the mysterious warning of a slain guardsman….

Session 3

The party set out northwards towards Norhelm, wending their way through Skell and Daymar’Duan and taking passage aboard a keelboat to cross the Illeil to the state of Petra, after plying Yunaan with sufficient alcohol to suppress his fear of deep water. After making landfall in the town of Moset, they journeyed through Petra and into the grassy state of Belmara, just south of Norhelm.

Two days in, they notice the smell of burning wood and spot smoke on the horizon, over a rolling hill. They come upon a damaged, palisade-enclosed town, finding its gate torn down and replaced by a pair of carts manned by frightened townsfolk. At first the folk are suspicious, but upon spotting Torash’s holy symbol they usher them inside quickly. Several buildings have been burnt down, and the village green has been transformed into a hospital/armory/kitchen.

They met Marion, the mayor of the town of Emberven, along with her advisor, Ilmar. The pair explained that the undead had attacked their town last night; a mass of skeletons and zombies that quickly overwhelmed the sleepy, solitary guard on the gate and set about slaughtering the inhabitants. The citizens sought refuge in the tavern in the town center, where a passing crippled cleric of Mariel, Emmel, used his turning ability to scare off the sieging forces. The next day, the villagers sent a messenger to their lord, Baron Tasriem, on the town’s sole surviving mount, Emmel’s mule. However, they do not expect any such aid to arrive today and it was only a couple of hours before nightfall. They beseeched the party to stay and help drive off the attack that was certain to come tonight.

The party agreed to help, and as night fell they assumed positions near the main gate along with most of the able-bodied townsfolk, armed with clubs and staves and organized into small groups around scattered militiamen. The rest of the town took refuge in the tavern, along with Emmel and a handful of boys. Meanwhile, a skeleton guard was placed on the town’s small rear gate.

Roondar rode out to keep an eye out for the undead, taking a position on a hill overlooking the town cemetary that they suspected was the source of the problem. Clouds rolled in, and rain sooned followed, churning the road into mud. The only light came from bonfires scattered throughout the town. After an hour of waiting, Roondar spotted a green glow coming from the graveyard and quickly returned to town. No sooner had he arrived to report the undead’s approach than a boy in one of the towers overlooking the gate confirmed it, and the party assumed positions; Bjorin up in the northern tower, the rest of the group taking point at the carts. As the undead approached and fear gripped the peasantry, the party soon showed their power.

Bjorin placed an entanglement spell into the center of the first wave of skeletons and zombies, stopping them cold while Torash cast Enlarge upon himself and stepped over the carts, raising his holy symbol and calling upon Reimar to incinerate the undead. The first two ranks died in holy fire. Meanwhile, Yunaan began to smell burning wood and acid from his position at the carts, and soon found that what he thought was a puddle at his feet was in fact a ooze of some sort. The ooze unleashed necromantic magic upon him, but Yunaan resisted and fought back, and Glithas joined him. Roondar identified the beast as a graveyard sludge, a necromantic by-product of negative energy and acid.

While Torash and Bjorin focused on the skeletons and zombies approaching by summoning a flaming sphere, manipulating Entangle and calling upon Reimar for additional power, Roondar, Yunaan and Glithas found themselves dueling the sludge with axe, magic missile, flaming sphere and psionic power. Torash found himself increasing pressed by the undead and began to withdraw, while Yunaan fell prey to the sludge’s fear powers and temporarily fled the battle. The villagers attempted to aid them, but found themselves no match for the acidic beast.

When Yunaan returned to the battle, he engaged the zombies and skeletons but soon found himself surrounded by them while Torash was locked in a fighting retreat, withdrawing while using his superior reach to fell his pursuers. Bjorin sent his flaming sphere tumbling through the undead ranks, while Glithas poured spellpower into the sludge and Roondar attacked it with his short sword. Roondar suffered a serious acid burn and required healing from Torash. Finally, after Glithas and Roondar had substantially weakened it, Bjorin dispatched the sludge by casting a Shelleigh spell and charging and crushing the monster with his magical club.

From there, the party found the situation quickly came under control. Yunaan was able to fight his way out of the encirclement, inflicting heavy casualties on the weak undead while Luthiana joined the fray, and skeletons and zombies alike fell to hammer, axe, shield, tooth, and club.

No sooner had the front gate been cleared, however, then a youth came running full speed from inside the town, and managed to gasp out a report that the rear gate had been attacked by foul, bluish undead creatures that Roondar was able to identify as ghouls.

Now, exhausted and drained, the party races towards the rear gate, hoping to stop the secondary attack before the undead are loose within the town…

Session 2

The party settled down to an uneasy reset in the ruined gatehouse, taking turns on watch. Hours past, with Bjorin handing off to Yunaan, Yunaan to Roondar, and Roondar to Torash. As the end of Torash’s shift approach, distant shouting began to be heard in the cavern, far away and indistinct. Torash awakened the rejuvenated party members and Glithas went on ahead to scout the way. He returned minutes later after having heard the sounds of battle and a loud peal of thunder.

The party progressed towards the city center and the sound of the battle, through the dead and deserted city. Roondar was able to ascertain that the city was human from its architecture, but not much else. They came upon the remains of a public square, filled with weeds living off of the meager sunlight that came in through the fissures overhead. In the center, a statue of a knight stood atop a dried-up fountain, and slumped against the statue was a huge tentacled creature, dead. Two of its tentacles had been severed and its eye gouged out. Also in the square were the bodies of two men, one slumped over a stone bench, the other leaning against the base of the fountain. A quick search revealed the men to apparently be mercenaries, or some form of muscle.

Increasingly perplexed, the group continued on to the city center where the domed building they had seen from the cave mouth lay. They found it bracketed by statues of men in robes and ringed by shattered windows, its walls carved with mysterious linear symbols that Roondar and Torash identified as pre-Sundering. From inside was coming a soft white light. Glithas scouted the building once more, seeing its inside strewn with bizarre growths of growing crystal that seemed to have emerged from its stone floor; in the center of the room was a tunnel, ringed with the crystals, one of which had a fresh blood smear on it.

The party reluctantly entered and progressed down the tunnel after Bjorin confirmed the magical nature of the phenomena. The tunnel was hot and claustrophobic, its walls lined with the pulsing crystals and leaking small streams of water to form dual channels. Gradually, its ceiling parted and the walls became shorter, as the water became thicker and more opaque. The tunnel levelled into a chamber with a viscous, opaque pool of the white ooze that the channels flowed into, surrounded by a low crystal wall. Beyond it, a bridge ran into the cliff face.

After some debate regarding how to approach the pool, Roondar picked up a stone and tossed it in. The stone sunk from view, but the ripples on the pool gave way to the rising humanoid forms of two figures, their anatomical features gone except for hollowed out areas where their eyes and mouths should be. The golems charged the party. Bjorin stepped forward and sunmmoned the power of nature to blast the pair with sand, stunning them and stopping the charge cold. The rest of the party attacked while Torash called upon Reimar’s might to enlarge himself to almost 12’ tall. The seemingly formidable golems found themselves surrounded; Yunaan pressing in from the rear, the massive Torash holding the front, and Bjorin and Glithas stabbing from the side while Roondar ineffectually fired from farther down the tunnel. The golems curiously began leaking blood as blows were struck, indicating there were not perhaps entirely composed of the mysterious ooze.

While the golems landed serious blows on Torash and Yunaan, they were soon brought down, with the monstrous Torash landing the crushing blows on both of them. As they fell, the ooze began to slough off, revealing a human and a half-elf beneath; already dead before the fight began, and apparently animated by the power of the ooze. Bjorin attempted to discern the properties of the ooze by detecting magic but received uneven results; Yunaan and Bjorin coated their weapons with it to no effect.

The group progressed across the bridge and down into a fresh tunnel. Upon hearing voices, the party sent Glithas to scout, who found a bowl-shaped room spread out beneath a 10-foot drop from his position, where a quartet of armed men faced a bleeding, darker man. In the center, a pedestal of upthrust stone held a brightly shining crystal. Glithas summoned the rest of the party, who arrived in time to hear the men bickering, addressing the man in the center as Aldman and claiming the cavern had become too dangerous for no reward. As Aldman reached for the crystal, Glithas’ intellectual curiousity overwhelmed his common sense and he stood, suddenly and asked ‘What’s that?’.

The surprised mercenaries rushed to form a cordon around the drop-off while Aldman tried to seize the crystal, but was repelled. A brief skirmish erupted, with the mercenaries rapidly losing taste for battle after Aldman teleported out and abandoned them. Their poor position was not improved by the party raining down projectiles on them, and when Yunaan unleashed an intimidating roar and Roondar appealed to their common sense, they soon surrendered.

The party learned Aldman had hired them to explore the cave, claiming there was treasure, and paying them each 50 gold, with another 50 promised afterwards. They had encountered the first tentacled creature during their descent but Aldman had managed to dispatch it, his fireball causing the explosion that first lured the party down. After camping, they were ambushed by the monster the party had found at the fountain, losing two men and with Aldman receiving a serious wound. The ooze pool had jumped at them as they passed and claimed two more. The party decided to relieve them of their gold and weapons except for daggers and turn them loose.

Meanwhile, a curious Glithas approached the crystal and examined it, but, unable to glean much from a visual inspection, touched it. He saw a vision, a blur of images; a city of gold and marble, a worried middle-aged man, a vast chamber filled with red-robed people listening to a young man, screams and darkness. He flew out of his body, over Termecia and into Norhelm, seeing a glade in the mountains west of Klaring that he knew he could now point to right on a map. Finally, the clearest part of the vision; a voice, whispering Forgive us. We did not know.

The party, its attention drawn by Glithas being thrown to the ground, turned its attention to him as the mercenaries fled. The crystal dimmed, but when Bjorin tried to maneuver it into a backpack, he found himself subject to the same vision. After explaining what had happened, Torash and Roondar also subjected themselves to it, while Glithas insisted on finding a map. Unfortunately, Glithas also became aware that his sense of magic had dimmed, and began to panic; the party was forced to withdraw.

Now, with only a vision and a sense of dread to guide them, the heroes have sent out to the mountains of Norhelm to find what lies in its snowy peaks…


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