NEPA Known World

Welcome to your Adventure Log!
A blog for your campaign

Every campaign gets an Adventure Log, a blog for your adventures!

While the wiki is great for organizing your campaign world, it’s not the best way to chronicle your adventures. For that purpose, you need a blog!

The Adventure Log will allow you to chronologically order the happenings of your campaign. It serves as the record of what has passed. After each gaming session, come to the Adventure Log and write up what happened. In time, it will grow into a great story!

Best of all, each Adventure Log post is also a wiki page! You can link back and forth with your wiki, characters, and so forth as you wish.

One final tip: Before you jump in and try to write up the entire history for your campaign, take a deep breath. Rather than spending days writing and getting exhausted, I would suggest writing a quick “Story So Far” with only a summary. Then, get back to gaming! Grow your Adventure Log over time, rather than all at once.

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Preamble to Adventure
It is the year 998 AC

It has been almost a millenium since the crowning of the first Emperor of Thyatis and two millenia since the coming of the Alphatians. The wars of independence and expansion sparked by the crowning of the first Emperor of Thyatis are mostly in the past. Relative peace has come to the nations of the Known World. It has been 35 years since the last Thyatian-Alphatian war. It has been almost a decade since Baron Von Hendricks of the Black Eagle Barony within the Grand Duchy of Karameikos ended his raids to overtake The Five Shires.

But other, perhaps more insidous threats abound. The Iron Ring, once just a band of pirates from the Grand Duchy of Karameikos, has spread its bonds of slavery from the Five Shires to Alphatia. Barbarian hordes threaten the southern expansion of the Thyatian empire as well as the Northern Reaches (perhaps barbarians in their own right) and the Heldann Freeholds (where the nation is named for a legendary barbarian). From the far west, the black sailed ships of the Master silently sail into the eastern ports bringing gold and taking weapons but no one has ever met this Master nor do they know of what exactly he is the master. On the borders of civilized lands stand the humanoids who appear to be uniting under the banner of a wily and strong Orc, King Thar. And in the center of the continent there are the rumors that a long lost tribe of Elves lurks in the shadows, awaiting the time to reclaim the lands of the sun.

It is into this land the characters are born. Young ones seeking their fortunes. For some, the adventure is sought. To others, adventure has found them. . . .

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Preamble II
13 Thaumont 998 AC

Why does fate conspire to bring us together? Only the Immortals may know and even they may not. But fate has intervened again today and brought our adventurers together. They do not know each other but have, through varied paths, arrived at the town of Threshold and specifically to the Juggling Ogre Inn and Tavern. Before the day is done, they will face adversity together and be forged into a team.

The night is chilly and overcast. The spring rains threaten the lands but have not yet begun to fall. It is a good night to stay inside and enjoy some of Willington Stough’s hospitality. The ale flows freely and the plates are piled high with bread and mutton.

Stough is busy tonight. His customers are the merchants of Threshold and they are packed in to the dark and warm space. After all, his establishment is located on Market Street, closest to the majority of established shops and not far from the open air market. Any respectable merchant has to pass by the Juggling Ogre. A large statue of Asterius stands in the entrance way, beckoning them; protecting them.

Willington stops for a second to catch his breath after setting down a few tankards of Shireton mead. He smiles as Jael, the bard performing tonight, begins a new song. She tosses her long red hair from side to side as she sings, her fingers deftly playing on her lute. A Hin song no doubt as though she stands nearly six feet tall, she once lived among the Halflings and has an affinity for them.

However, the mood is heavier in the tavern than would be expected given Jael’s light song. The bar is not filled with laughter but filled with whispers and dread. There are strangers in the bar: adventurers. Recently, merchants have gone missing and this is a merchant’s bar. Baron Halaran’s men seem to have no clue where and when the forces of evil will attack next and no one seems safe; at least no merchant. Talk in the bar is of the latest merchant to be snatched. His family and business were untouched and no one knows why or how he disappeared. He was in bed one night and when his wife awakened the next day, he was gone. There has been no demand for ransom in any of the cases. The last man was the fourth merchant to disappear. Some suspect the Iron Ring but they have never been known to operate in Threshold.

The only other topic is of Clifton Caldwell, another local merchant but one who is thought to be a little off kilter (“crazy as a loon” says one merchant). Apparently he has not arrived yet though he frequents the tavern almost every night that he is in town. He just purchased a large manor outside of the protection of the town walls. He has complained that it is filled with foul beasts and has been trying to get an adventurous party to clear its contents. So far there have been no takers but quite a few people think his disturbance of the castle’s evils has led to the recent kidnappings.

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Session 1: September 30, 2009
13 Thaumont 998 AC

Cyllan took another sip of her plain warm water, sighed and looked around. She should have ordered wine but did not want her senses dulled. Wine made her feel sluggish in even small amounts. Cyllan shifted in her chair, slumping a little then paid attention to her heartbeat and breathing for a minute, practicing her mental exercises and getting in tune with the room. She was as still as a statute as she absorbed the sounds, smells and sights inside the Juggling Ogre Inn. Her heart rate slowed as she realized everything was as it had been since she had arrived. She had been in town a few days now, staying at the Church of Karameikos cathedral. She was a member of the Church of Thyatis but the two churches had a common background and regularly aided each others’ members, especially their clergy. The chambers for itinerant female clergy were far from extravagant but since she was a Mystic, it was absolutely posh compared to her normal lodging. She realized even more how much she had missed the swirl of people. She had never been truly comfortable at the monastery. It was all silence and solitude. This, was clearly not. She watched as Willington Stough, the bar’s owner, flitted from table to table, keeping each customer plied with ale or wine and trying to keep spirits up. He knew most by name and said something personal and encouraging each time he went to their tables. He even greeted her by name.

She noted how Jael, the bard playing tonight, flung her long red hair like a furious whip as she focused on her song. This was a pretty upbeat one but the Darokinian bard (come to think of it, most of the crowd seemed Darokinian) seemed to prefer Hin songs with quite the lilt. Unfortunately, most of the patrons were consumed in their own thoughts and concerns. Merchants like the ones in this very room were going missing and no one knew why.

Despite the worry evident on the faces and in the hushed conversations of the patrons, she could saw the chaos of life and relinquished a slight smile. Master Andronica, her monastery’s leader, would have scowled. She said Cyllan was too ruled by her emotions which would lead to a life of chaos. She said or preached, rather, that while the greatest monks must see and understand the world, they must remove themselves from it by holding back the emotions which clouded impartial observation and helped chaos overrule law and order. In her opinion, order was paramount and anything which fought against it was to be battled. It had been many hard and long years in the monastery.

She glanced around noting the faces which had become familiar to her over the last few days. She had wanted to have her first lone journey be to the Tower of Stars, a monastery in the mountains of Thyatis where the great sage Shalfey foretold the future. It was rumored that he had access to the Immortals’ Book of Life which contained the history of all living beings from the past to the future. She dreamt of being able to hear what her destiny held. Alas, her mission was to guide a wagon of items (she knew not what) to the Order of the Mountain Sun, six miles north of Threshold along the banks of Lake Windrush. Her voyage had been uneventful but at least it had been outside of the monastery. She had stayed with the monks there for a week or so but eventually decided to make the journey home on foot and stopped in Threshold over night. That one night had turned into five so far. She had no agenda or schedule. It was good to move amongst the people according to Master Andronica. Of course she was quick to add, “When the Mystic is ready and strong enough to deny the temptations of the outside world.” Since she had asked Cyllan to go, she must have been judged ready. Therefore, she could make the decision of where to go next and when she should be there. For now, it was to be here in Karameikos watching the people in this tavern.

She heard a voice, louder than the others. It was coming from a newcomer. He could be a merchant but she doubted it. He was a Ylari and undoubtedly a follower of al-Kalim (True Believers they called themselves and their church was that of “Eternal Truth”), given that he had a very prominent holy symbol around his neck. It showed a palm tree with a crescent moon above it but overlaid with a large scorpion. She had not seen one with the scorpion but she was not that familiar with al-Kalim’s church. The man wore the clothes of a desert nomad but slightly fancier than she had previously imagined. She had never really met a desert nomad so she only had stories to guide her. He had been walking around all night, from table to table. He seemed to be a storyteller or evangelist or both. She had hoped he would not approach her but he was getting closer. She looked around for assistance.

Across the room she saw another newcomer. He was trying to watch everything without anyone know he was watching anyone. He was not quite the merchant type, more the adventurer type. He carried a bound sword and had leather armor under his cloak. “That must be uncomfortable,” she thought. She mused that perhaps he was a thief looking for wealthy merchant marks. Perhaps indeed. He was probably actually one of these spooked merchant’s bodyguards. He seemed to be a Traladaran and thus probably local. She did not know many Traladarans, just the ones she had encountered between Thyatis and here. They seemed to be good people and a bit on the dramatic side religiously. At least they had a healthy respect for the Immortals but their religion was wilder than she was accustomed. “I will keep my eye on that one,” she told herself.

Looking around again, she noted that there was one other new face. This one was clearly a merchant; he was well dressed. On the other hand, he seemed not to know anyone here nor did they know him. He seemed friendly enough with Stough but it was clear he did not yet know him either. Come to think of it, he had introduced himself to the barkeep tonight. She thought his name was Valmont. He could be a fellow Thyatian or perhaps a Darokinian. She wondered what he sold.

There was another non merchant here. She had seen him on a few other nights. His name was Alexei and he wore very shiny chainmail and a bound sword underneath a dark red cloak. Not quite as bold as the red cloaks of the Emperor’s legions but not hiding his presence either. He looked like he could be a soldier or at least a soldier for hire. Everyone seemed to know him and no one seemed to mind that he wore chainmail (she had observed that the local populace frowned on the wearing of metal armor when it was not on the back of a town, barony or ducal guard). He was respectful of Stough, Traladaran and kept mostly to himself except for polite greetings. On the first night she was here, he had been with a male Elf and a male Human. She had overheard him say only one thing that piqued her interest, “I cannot believe the Duke, good man though he seems, cannot see his cousin as the foul scoundrel he really is.” The people with him nodded and the Elf said, “Then we must find proof he will believe. It is simple.” She moved away then so as not to attract attention but she was interested in learning more. Political intrigue had potential for interesting times and interesting times could always benefit from a level headed, impartial advisor.

Anyway, she had not seen this Alexei with anyone else. Perhaps she should ask him about himself. She smiled slightly again.

“Aaaaaaaahhh!”

A woman’s scream pierced the warm wooden walls. Instantly, the Ylari man looked up from his captive audience and strode to the door. Quickly behind were the man in chainmail and one of the merchants, the one who no one seemed to know. Curious at what was happening, Cyllan left her table too. She noted that the quiet man was interested but did not stand. He nodded at her as she passed. Outside, the small crowd found a woman, crawling and bloody. She whimpered like a hurt puppy and came to a stop. Her raspy, out of breath voice called to the group. By now, Stough was in the doorway with the quiet man. Stough was craning his neck then nodding and saying something to the quiet man. Cyllan could not make out his words but he clearly knew the woman and looked to be explaining something to the quiet man.

The Ylari was praying over the woman, his hands resting lightly on the bloody gash on her forehead. She couldn’t be a True Believer but the two were joined as one. In the light of the street lanterns, she could tell the Ylari’s eyes were closed as were the woman’s. While she grimaced in pain, the Ylari looked serene. The wound healed over before Cyllan’s eyes; no scab, no scar. The woman gasped and her eyes no longer registered fear, just shock at being healed by one who was obviously a priest of the Eternal Truth, not known for their treatment of non-believers.

The woman stammered, “I am Seledina . . . Seledina Dainworth. Thank you and the Immortals. It is a miracle that I am healed. But you must help me.” She looked around at those gathered around her. “My husband was just taken. You must find him. It must be the same ones who have taken the others.” She was still kneeling before the odd company.

The Ylari spoke, “who took your husband? Where did they go?”

At the same time the merchant spoke, “from where were you attacked? Did you see who did it?”

The woman looked from one to the other. “My husband is Juster Dainworth. He is a merchant here in Threshold. We came from Darokin to start our life together. This town has been good to us. At least until now. We were celebrating our one year anniversary of establishing our shop and were on our way to the Juggling Ogre. Someone jumped from the shadows down that alley. They hit me then pushed me to the ground. They grabbed Juster and dragged him into the alley. Because we were attacked from behind, I did not see their faces. I don’t even know how many of them there were; one or ten.”

Cyllan thought that little prayer of the Ylari’s must have calmed the woman’s nerves. She seemed pretty together given the circumstances.

“I am Midian al-Yacoob and I pledge to find your husband,” said the Ylari. The others around him nodded their agreement. Alexei helped her to her feet then gently nudged her in Stough’s direction. The tavern keeper waved but stayed on the steps. A few patrons were peering into the street from the safety of the tavern. The quiet man was one of them but he began to walk towards the group now that it seemed they had a purpose. Stough smiled, said something Cyllan did not catch then slapped the quiet man on the shoulder, encouragingly.

The group headed towards the dark alley cautiously. Midian walked ahead of the rest but they noticed him unbinding his mace. Because he was slightly ahead, he noticed the man first. From the shadows came a shuffling, slightly stooped figure. He and Midian stopped at the same time, just out of combat range, and the figure bowed exaggeratedly.

Valmont came closer. He had lit a lantern and as he drew nearer, everyone could see the man who stood in front of them. The flickering lamplight and the shadows it made were not kind to the man. He was old and grizzled, a stooped and broken figure. His clothes were untidy and disheveled and it was clear from where the adventurers stood that he needed a bath. Valmont’s nose twitched involuntarily before he could regain his manners.

“Ullo, there. Skulking in the alleys is dangerous work, eh? I am no danger to you, don’t worry, sir. Did you come to the scream too? ‘Tis the work of the Iron Ring, I tell you. Saw something lurking here earlier and I skedaddled as quickly as I could.” The old man nervously laughed as he spoke. “The name is Skrtch.”

“If it is them that you seek, no one knows the Iron Ring better than me. I have paid dearly for that knowledge for sure but I would give you a hand. I gave them one already.” With this Skrtch held up his right arm revealing that it ended not in a hand but only a stump within a stitched up sleeve. He laughed.

The Ylari man took a step forward. “If you know something about this crime, speak up. Lives are at stake. Did you see who attacked the man and the woman?”

“No, as I said, I left as quickly as I could when I saw figures huddled in the alley. I knew they would be up to no good and anyone up to no good in the Merchant’s Quarter is probably related to the Iron Ring.” Skrtch squinted in the lantern light.

The desert warrior gave Skrtch a hard look. “Well, then what can you tell us. Do you know where the criminals went?”

“The answer, me thinks, lies at your feet,” Skrtch laughed.

The party looked down and noticed several sets of footprints and a distinct track of drag marks leading to a set of stairs. The stairs went down as if to a cellar.

“I think introductions are in order since we are about to risk our lives together,” said Cyllan. “I am Cyllan, a Mystic from the Church of Thyatis.” She bowed her head.

Introductions were quickly made. The soldier was indeed an ex-soldier for the Grand Duchy and was named Alexei. The quiet man was Azriei, a merchant want to be. Valmont was not a merchant but an itinerant scholar of sorts. He had come to Threshold to find quiet for study, research some local legends and receive backing from a merchant or two. The Ylari was Midian al-Yacoob, Priest of al-Kalim. He said he was here to share the dreams of the Immortals with those who have not received the word of al-Kalim.

The group carefully descended the stairs. They noticed little windows (much too small to enter) along the wall but they were too grimy and it was too dark inside to see anything. At the bottom of the stairs they found a stout wooden door. Midian tried to open it but found it was locked.

The group stopped to discuss how to proceed. Most were in favor of trying to find a quiet way in. They inspected the lock and the windows. Perhaps we can remove the hinges thought someone. Alas, the hinges were on the opposite side. There must be a quiet way thought someone else.

Midian was growing impatient. He thought of how far away whoever this criminal was could be by now. He shifted his weight from foot to foot; he looked at each person who uttered advice. Finally, he had had enough. He hefted his mace and with all his strength, banged the door and splintered the wood. The echo of splintering and the ring of metal on wood rang throughout the alley but the door was still mostly intact. The other party members stared at Midian in disbelief.

“Step aside,” said Azriei. He stepped up to the door and swiftly produced several small tools from somewhere beneath his cloak. Quickly, with very deft hand movements, he worked. There was a satisfying “click” and he smiled. “All too easy” he said as he pushed the latch to open the door. It did not budge. “What the?” the rogue murmured. “There is a bar behind this door. Anyone willing to kick it in? It is not like they don’t know we are here.” Azriei looked at Midian with a sly smile.

“Stand back!” yelled Cyllan and Alexei in unison. They kicked the door together and it flew open with the boom of cracking wood.

After a second, the dust and splinters settled and it was quiet. The group peered in carefully while Midian strode forward. Valmont followed with the lantern. Skrtch kept close to the two of them. Midian stopped before entering and said a quick Aspiration to al-Kalim. He turned to his fellow party members, “just in case.” He then led the way in which was down several steps into darkness.

Scratching and skittering could be heard as several rats scattered. A large object jumped out towards Midian but he paid it no mind. Skrtch almost jumped into the cleric’s arms though. It was only a gray cat who scampered up the stairs and out the door. Valmont’s lantern light followed it up and out.

They were in a room filled with debris. Piles of junk were everywhere. The walls were lined with shelves on which more junk, mostly dusty bottles of old, rancid alcohol. Valmont busied himself with looking through these for something useful. Cyllan stood close to him doing the same. He must have found something as he slipped a small bottle into his pockets, saying only, “I will keep this on behalf of the group. It may prove useful later.” No one questioned it. Azriei was slowly circling the room apparently looking for something. He would move a few feet then look at the walls, floor and ceiling. Alexei moved with him, nodding from time to time though neither spoke.

Midian and Skrtch had found an alcove of sorts but had seen no doors except the one through which they had entered. They did see a rather large and conspicuous crate by itself near the back wall. Midian thought the tracks they had been following led to that crate so he pressed forward with Skrtch at his side.

“Wait! I haven’t checked that for traps!” yelled Azriei too late. Midian pushed the crate and heard a click. Beams from above mixed with crashing shelves fell on the cleric and Skrtch and they were pushed to the ground under the weight. The others rushed forward and picked them from the rubble. A few bumps and bruises but still alive. Midian distractedly brushed himself off then bowed his head to say a little prayer that he was still alive. “I will try to be more respectful of your skills in the future, Mister Azriei. That would have saved a good deal of pain.”

The group turned to where the crate had been. It was now badly damaged but more importantly, it had slid and where it had once been was a trapdoor in the floor. Midian had been right. Alexei and Cyllan opened it easily and discovered it lead straight down into darkness.

Valmont dropped his torch down the hole, hoping the whole long way that its sudden stop would not put it out. He got lucky. While it was full dark where they stood, they could see that the torch had stopped approximately forty feet down. Iron rungs were embedded into the wall, all the way down. No sound or movement could be discerned below.

“I’ll go down first. Watch out,” said Cyllan taking a few steps back. She took a few running steps forward the somersaulted into the hole. The others watched in amazement then quickstepped to the hole to see what happened. They saw her below, straddling the torch. She picked it up then beckoned them down. None took her route; all used the ladder.

After some time of walking in a roughly hewn tunnel but obviously worked by someone, they had arrived at a T in the path. Both ways were different from the previous tunnel, rougher hewn and narrower. It appeared that perhaps the tunnel had intersected a natural fissure and no one had bothered to widen it. It was also more packed dirt which made it next to impossible to know for certain which way the most recent travelers had gone. Slight tracks went both ways.

“We should go to the left,” announced Midian. The cleric bent down in the flickering lantern light trying to discern any distinguishing marks. It would have been better in the desert he thought. Plus not as dreary and cold but then again the desert was already full of True Believers. It was in these unenlightened lands that the Word must be spread.

“I think we should go right,” offered Skrtch. “I don’t know why but my gut tells me that right is right. Of course since left is left and not right it must be wrong so right is the only way to go. It would be different if there was straight of course since then you have to follow the straight and narrow which I wish I had before I lost my hand.” He sighed and scratched his stump.

Valmont and Midian looked at each other and shook their heads. “Alright then,” said Midian, “it is settled that we go left. Let us proceed.”

The group continued its march down this fissure in the earth. It was hard to tell how far or if they sloped further into the depths but they went on. Gradually the passage way widened until they were standing at the entrance of a wide cavern. The far side was still obscured from the reach of the lantern. They proceeded inwards, noting that thick cobwebs hung down out of the darkness. Ahead they could see a pile of what looked like barkless twigs or branches; some scattered but most gathered in a large pile. Beneath the sticks there was a twinkle, many twinkles like light playing off glass beads or shiny metal.

The group moved closer, Midian in the lead with Skrtch at his side. At the same time, the people in front stopped. The twigs were yellowish and orangish in the lamplight. They were different sizes but unmistakably there was a round one that did not fit the description of a twig. Azriei’s eyes grew larger. “Those are bones. Human bones,” he whispered. Cyllan looked at him, finally realizing what was there.

A sound like dry leaves being crunched in a child’s eager hands rippled quickly overhead then a black object the size of a sea turtle fell silently at Midian’s feet. His mace was already out and he jumped back five feet, ready to attack. Cyllan and Azriei were not as quick to react; they were still puzzled about the sudden sound and looking at the ceiling. Luckily, Midian, Alexei and Skrtch were standing between them and the black furry mass.

It stretched out eight long legs, rearing back on six, then leapt at the desert priest. Because he was ready, his step back caused the spider to fall short. Instead it received the lunging attacks of the priest and Alexei. Both missed but they smiled grimly at finally joined battle with an enemy. Skrtch would have helped but he was too busy moving quickly to the rear of the party.

Both the priest and the soldier attacked again. Both missed but their paired actions threw off the spider and it only bit empty air where Alexei had previously been. But now the other party members entered the fray, all three sending sling bullets towards the creature. The one from Cyllan struck, spinning the spider around as it hissed in pain.

It tried again to strike at the people closest to it (Alexei and Midian) but a sling stone from Valmont thunked into its side and a white gel started oozing from its insides. Midian swung his mace but the sudden movement caused by the success of Valmont’s sling bullet forced a miss. However, it moved the spider right onto the powerfully swung sword of Alexei which nearly chopped it in half and spun the creature onto its back. The long eight legs contracted, balled like a fist on top of the overturned arachnid and it was still.

Midian quickly access that the entire party was unhurt. He knew that had anyone been bitten, they would probably be working towards death and foaming at the mouth. Death by poison was not a pleasant way to die he had heard.

Valmont moved aside the pile of bones to see what had been sparkling. “I will keep these until we can divide them up,” he said while scooping a small glass vial and a number of copper and silver coins into his pouch. “Curious” he remarked as he picked up one bone and looked at it. He popped off a stopper from one end and slid out several sheets of finely made paper. He could not read the writing on it. Cyllan, who was peering over his shoulder since he was squatting, said, “Looks like priestly writing to me.”

Valmont held the papers out to Midian but he sniffed, “later.” The cleric resumed his search for any tracks. Valmont shrugged then placed the papers back into the bone scroll case then into his pouch. “Okay then,” he murmured and shook his head.

Azriei was examining the curtain at the far end of the chamber. It was clearly made by the spider and had four unmoving lumps large enough to be people stuck in it. The breeze he had noticed came from behind the webs. He used a dagger to uncover one of the lumps. The smell made him gag. He saw that indeed a person was entombed and that it (he could not readily determine if it was male or female) was not alive. It appeared that no useful treasure could be in that and if it was, he was not going to go after it. “Hey,” he called out. “There is a breeze coming from here. It must lead to the surface.”

Midian answered him, “hmm. But there are no recent tracks there so it cannot be the way to the kidnappers. It appears that Mister Skrtch was correct. We should have gone right.” Skrtch smiled at that remark and looked around. The stump itched. It always itched. It mostly itched when he was in over his head though. He gulped.

“Okay,” answered Azriei. “Maybe we should check on that ledge up there. Seems like the spider may have come from up there at some point.” He walked back towards Midian.

“No time for that,” said Midian. “The longer we tarry, the farther away those bandits get. Al-Kalim says that ‘gifts are best in the morning as the troubles of the day ruin surprise.’ Let us continue our quest. We have promised to find Juster Dainworth.”

Valmont shrugged and stood. “Who are we to argue with al-Kalim?” Skrtch gulped again; this time loud enough for Alexei to hear. He looked at the old man then quickly turned away. The adventurers resumed their marching order and headed back towards the T in their path.

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Session 2: The tunnels of Threshold
Quick Summary

The party heads back to the T where they meet an Elf who gives his name as Ruben. He followed them after the events at the Juggling Ogre. Working their way down the unexplored cavern, Azriei finds torches and everyone grabs some. They reach a widened cavern where they are attacked by piercers. Cyllan makes contact first and Ruben finishes it off. Another drops from the ceiling and Azriei dispatches it. Six more fall from the ceiling and they begin crawling on the floor. Then the giant mushrooms nearby are found to be Shriekers. The sound is almost deafening. Valmont is bitten in the ankle by two crawling piercers and goes down. Skrch hurries to stabilize him. Midian too succumbs to piercer bites. Afraid the screeching of the shriekers will summon wandering monsters, Ruben and Azriei begin hacking at the mushrooms. Seeing their swords do little damage, they instead cover them in oil and burn them.

The battle over, they quickly use their available healing methods and continue on. The fissure like cavern continues for some time and the party’s footsteps cast odd echoes. Eventually they reach an apparent cave-in but spot a small hole near the ceiling. Helping each other scramble up the wall and through the hole, they find themselves in a small room holding two ancient sarcophagi. A secret door is found in the side of one and they scamper through.

Crawling through a tunnel, they eventually dump into a great tunnel of quarried stone. It appears to be an ancient sewer system, with walkways and a still flowing canal running through it. The sounds of falling water can be heard but the echo makes it difficult to tell from which direction the sound comes. The carvings on the walls are unfamiliar to everyone except Midian who states that it appears to be similar to the written language of his people. The party heads what they believe is north. Eventually, the canal opens into an enormous cavern. Tunnels lead away in all four directions. In the middle of the cavern is a large stepped pyramid, completely surrounded by water. There is no apparent way to get across.

The party stops here to rest and contemplate how to get to the pyramid. Ruben decides to head for the surface and get more help. Both the Mage and the Mystic fall asleep . . .

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Session 3: The Dream
Summary (not that quick though)

They were surrounded by mists. Not exactly dark but perhaps a very thick fog just at dawn. It was just three of the group, Alexei, Cyllan and Valmont. Where the others were, they did not know. In fact, where they were, they did not know. It was all fog except for the area immediately around them. It was warm and enveloping like a comfortable blanket and not as disconcerting as it should be. Odd.

The source of light was indeterminable, seeming to come from all around and now, there was a chill wind rising but Valmont’s torch did not flicker. A figure emerged from the mist. It was a tall woman with dark brown hair and faintly green skin. Her features had a slightly Elvish cast. She has no weapons they can see but an aura of power overlaid with gentleness emanates from her. As she smiles, the light that surrounded her expanded to surround the party and they discovered they could move freely within it. Upon closer examination, the being seemed slightly transparent. She spoke, her voice strong and comforting:

“The valley of Haven was a peaceful land. Its crops were abundant, its citizens prosperous. Elves, Dwarves, Halflings and Humans lived together in harmony. The river was sweet and pure; the weather was pleasant and warm.

“One reason Haven was so peaceful was due to my presence. I am Thendara, and I am known to the people of the valley as the Protector. I am an Immortal and patron of the valley. For years without number I have warded off evil and helped the crops to grow and the valley of Haven to prosper. Hear now the tale of Haven:

“The ruler of Haven was the fair Princess Argenta. She lived in a palace made of white shining marble which when the Sun set glowed like silver. Princess Argenta was beloved by all her people. She was just, fair and friendly to all.

“One day, the dwarves of Haven found a ruby the size of an apple while digging in a new mine. As a token of their devotion, they gave the ruby to Princess Argenta. The Dwarves named the ruby “My Lady’s Heart”. The princess was so pleased with the gift that she invited all the valley to attend a celebration to see the wondrous gem. The Dwarves were to be the guests of honor. It was to be a grand day of feasting and fun.

“The day before the celebration a strange visitor arrived. He flew into the valley riding a white dragon. The rider was dressed all in black. He had pale skin, long blond hair, and a short blond beard. Since Haven was noted for its hospitality, the princess invited the stranger to stay at the palace. She also granted his request to escort her to the celebration.

“At midnight, disaster struck. Dark clouds hid the moon and a freezing wind blew through the valley. The crops withered in the fields. Cattle grew sick. The valley began to die. I could do nothing.

“From the palace came an explosion and parts of the walls came tumbling down. When the dust cleared a ruby glow surrounded the entire palace.

“Haven now lies in chaos. Raiding bands of Orcs, goblins, and hobgoblins terrorize the countryside. The disaster happened so suddenly that the people are confused and helpless. Without their leaders, who are trapped in the palace, they have no courage to fight back. The situation has become desperate.

“Haven is in dire trouble. I do not know what caused the disaster but I do know that the reason can he found somewhere in the palace. Allies of the evil that has attacked Haven have challenged me and I am under siege. I cannot help Haven, but you can. The princess needs you; the people of Haven need you. You are Haven’s only hope. Find the source of the evil that has overtaken Haven and destroy it. If you will go, I will open the way into of the palace for you. I will also give you all the help I can, but my power is limited. The future of Haven is in your hands.”

“Please decide quickly, my time here is nearly ended. Already evil forces have detected my sending. Will you come now?”

The party agreed to help and proceeded down an eerily quiet path through the light forest. Approximately a half-mile from the palace, they saw that part of the structure’s left side had been destroyed. Stone blocks and rubble covered the mountain side. Almost all of the castle and many parts of the surrounding land glowed a soft red. All plant life, except some strange-looking thorn bushes with white roses had died where the ruby glow radiated.

As they traveled closer to the palace, a trail untouched by the ruby glow appeared. The trail led directly to the entrance of the palace. The main entryway into the palace was the only part of the palace that did not glow red. The massive, barred portcullis that usually blocked the entrance was raised. If there were any doubts about the seriousness of the red barrier, they were soon resolved. A rat, scared out of hiding by the passing adventurers, scampered into the red. When it touched it, it stopped then convulsed as if struck by lightning. Within seconds it was dead. They noticed the remains of other small unfortunate creatures inside this red zone. Alexei gulped and looked around at his companions. They all knew the danger and continue through the open gates.

Tipped off to the dangerous nature of their mission, they looked for traps before entering. Their vigilance paid off as they found a tiny trip wire across their path and stepped over it.

They passed beneath the raised portcullis and entered the palace proper. The gate yard was a large open area surrounded by 20-foot tall rock walls, running 30 feet from east to west and 40 long. There were doors to the east and west, 20 feet from the entryway. Both doors were made of wood and reinforced with iron bars. There were two smaller portcullises in the south wall, 10 feet wide and 20 feet high. One was set in the westernmost ten feet of the south wall, the other in the easternmost ten feet of the south wall. There was 10 feet of solid stone wall between the two portcullises.

As soon as the last person entered the palace, the portcullis crashed down behind the party, removing any chance of escape by that means. The ruby glow now covered the path to the palace and the portcullis but did not extend into the palace itself. They found themselves joined by two Elves, a brother and sister, whose names they did not catch. They too seemed to have been brought here by the Protector. Neither the portcullis through which they came nor the smaller ones in the south wall could be moved.

The group first went to the east. A slight scratching sound was heard from within. They quickly opened the unlocked door and found a 20 foot by 20 foot room. A lever, in the down position, was set in the center of the south wall. A 3-foot long gray rat with reddish eyes leapt from the shadows and attacked but was quickly dispatched without injury to the group. They turned to examining the lever and found that the up position was marked with an “A.” Cyllan lifted the lever but nothing happened.

They next went to the west. It was again a 20 foot by 20 foot room with a large wooden lever in the southern wall. But this time, tougher guards stood in the way: a pair of human skeletons. Long iron chains dangled from their wrists and they carried curved swords. Alexei and Cyllan rushed them and the undead were soon vanquished. No treasure was found so they examined the levers. It was similar to the first lever but a “B” marked the up position. Valmont lifted the lever.

A grinding noise could be heard outside; metal against metal. But then the three non-Elves began to shake. Not too violently but noticeably. The Elves looked puzzled and the original adventurers were unable to control it. They fell to the ground and they could hear muffled voices as if coming through water.

“Wake up! We must move.” Midian and Azriei were shaking awake Alexei, Cyllan and Valmont. Midian pointed to two Elves (not even remotely like the brother and sister from Haven). “We have also gained new companions. They passed Ruben who is continuing toward the surface to alert the town guard to what we have found.”

Valmont, Cyllan and Alexei looked at each other. They knew they had shared the same vision and it had been much more than a dream. They knew the fate of some world lay in their hands and that they must return or all would be lost.

DM’s note: Most of the text of this re-cap comes directly from the boxed text within B3 Palace of the Silver Princess by Tom Moldvay and Jean Wells © 1981.

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Session 4: The Showdown

Looking at the pyramid from across the water, they noted that a dock protruded from one side, at the base of a wide staircase. At the top of the stairs were two massive bronze doors, flanked by a statue. The statues were identical: the body of a reclining lion with the head of a man wearing an ornamental headdress. Between each lion’s paws rested a large stone bowl. The bronze doors had been defaced, scrawled over with Thyatian words in red paint: “Stay Away! Trouble Inside!” Who could resist such a warning?

The underground pyramid

Not having an easy way to cross the dark water, the group decided to test it. They used various methods (dropping in a copper piece, sticking in a 10’ pole, lowering a sling stone tied to rope and eventually even having one of the new Elves, Leif, touch it). They concluded that the water was not too deep nor dangerous but were still undecided if something may lurk in its depths. During their research they heard a far off door close. Unfortunately, with the echoes they were not able to determine which way to proceed. Instead of heading across to the pyramid, the group now decided to find the source of the closing door.

They crossed the canal on a little wooden bridge and headed what they thought might be east. Cyllan and Azriei scouted ahead of the main group and soon heard the sounds of evening: bullfrogs and crickets. The canal is in worse condition here with mud caking the floor and walls and branches and leaves scattered about. Some flooding had also taken place but the pair moved quietly forward.

They soon saw that the passage opened into a marshy area not too far from town. They heard several gruff voices, at least one Human female and several Human males. They moved to hide behind the tall rushes and drooping foliage that concealed the tunnel opening from those outside. They saw a man and a woman talking and two other men loading and unloading a small skiff. Near the skiff are two Human males, blindfolded, bound and gagged.

“I wish those guys would hurry up and get the boat ready” said the woman. “I would prefer to get out of this town as quickly as possible. Specularum might be dirty but at least it is never boring.”

“Yes, Elanna. I don’t mind helping start this operation but it seems to me that having the hostages still in town is a mighty risk. I am glad that Rocko finally convinced Marius to move them.” The man had his thumbs in his belt and was standing jauntily. He stood up straight and looked over at the two men loading and unloading. “Come on, let’s move you Hounds! We don’t have all night.”

The two men grunted and kept the same pace in loading and unloading. Cyllan and Azriei snuck back to the party to strategize.

“We should rush them and quickly overcome them” says Midian. He was eager to punish the evil doers with his mace and free the hostages.

“I suggest we try something a bit more . . . measured,” suggests Cyllan. “I think we can make them believe we are slavers too and pump them for information.” Others nodded agreement.

“Okay then. Azriei and Cyllan will talk to them. Valmont, Teagan and Leif will go with them but stop in the bushes, prepared to use their bows and slings. Alexei, Skrtch and I will bring up the rear, ready to charge them if something goes wrong.” Midian was impatient when he knew he was near the end of a hunt. He was ready to finish this once and for all. “May al-Kalim guide our weapons and confuse our enemy.”

The group moved forward and got in position. Azriei stopped Cyllan and told her he wanted to try something. He made a strange sound which he meant to mimic a bird cry in the swamp but it came out garbled. The woman and man froze and looked in their direction. Not knowing what else to do, Azriei and Cyllan stepped forward out of the rushes bringing confusion to the man and the woman slavers. The man drew his sword and the woman took a step back.

“Hey! What is taking you so long?” challenged Azriei. He walked right up to the woman, stopping just two feet from her.

“Um. . . . These Thresholders are a bit slow. Wait, who are you?” she asked.

“The boss sent us to check on your progress.” Azriei sounded very convincing.

“What boss?” responded the man, his sword still in his hand but pointed toward the ground. He raised it and pointed it at Azriei who stepped back from the woman. The young Traladaran smiled. “The big boss, who do you think?”

Quietly, Leif laid down his bow and begin to chant. Valmont and Teagan recognized a spell forming but neither knew what it would be. Leif stood up and left the cover of the bushes. As he did, the female slaver looked at him and smiled. Done with his spell, Leif called her name, “Elanna. It has been too long since we have seen each other. Tell me what is going on.” He walked towards the group.

The man looked puzzled. “What in the name of Loki is going on? Elanna. Do you know these people?”

“I feel like I do, especially the handsome Elf. He’s my friend. Always has been.”

Leif was next to her now and took her hand in his. “I am glad you are well. However, why are you here?” he asked.

The male slaver turned to Elanna. “You’re acting weird. Almost like you are under his . . .” he leapt between Elanna and Leif, waving his sword, “SPELL!!!”

Luckily, Azriei grabbed the man’s arm and spun him around. He lost his footing and stumbled into the marsh. Azriei’s timely pull saved Leif but also the man as an arrow from Teagan’s bow whizzed through the space that had just been occupied by the man’s head.

Valmont stood and began chanting. He saw the other slavers realize what was going on and drop their loading and unloading. They pulled out short swords and charged. But, Valmont’s spell was already unleashed. With a last word that sounded like someone hushing a baby, there was a flash of light around his hands then the three male slavers all fell where they had once stood. Asleep.

“Nice work,” said Alexei.

“Thanks,” said Valmont.

“Merchant my foot! More like evil Glantrian sorcerer. Al-Kalim protect me,” grumbled Midian. His mace had not been needed. They tied up the three men and searched them (a variety of gold and copper Karameikan coins) while Leif questioned Elanna. She was a low level member of the Iron Ring. She was mostly a thief and muscle but had agreed to come from Specularum to Threshold to help establish the operation in the town. She agreed to lead the adventurers back to the room where the bosses were gathered and gave them a quick overview of who might be there: Marius, whose face she had never seen (he always wore a black mask); Rocko, a heavily scarred and muscled Thyatian and Falana, a Thyatian mage with a very big mean streak.

Midian and Cyllan untied the two hostages. While they were missing merchants from town, neither was Juster Dainworth. This made Midian furious. He knew his mission was not yet accomplished.

The two adventurers tried to quiet the two merchants’ cries of gratitude and relief while the party thought of what to do next. It was clear that they could not take the merchants back into the canal but they would need to go and quickly to save Juster. In the end, they decided that Skrtch and Alexei should escort the merchants back to town (there was a clear path leading up the hill that topped the obscured canal opening). Alexei would summon the town guard and they would come back through the canal. Surely, Ruben had summoned the guard and would be coming via the entrance in the alley near the Juggling Ogre.

While the party said their goodbyes to Alexei and Skrtch, Azriei swiftly and silently slit the throats of the three captured Iron Ring members and slid their bodies into the marsh. No one seemed to notice and the party moved back into the canal.


The party followed Elanna back to the crossroads where the pyramid stood then around it and to the north. The passageway continued to a cave-in but Elanna stopped short and began searching along the western wall. “It is here, somewhere. Oh. Here it is.” She found a loose stone and tugged it outwards. There was a muffled grinding then a door appeared. “Through here,” she motioned.

They journeyed down a smoothly worked hallway of stone. Torches in wall sconces lit the way and also let them know that someone had been here recently. Eventually, they reached a solid wooden door which Elanna opened without a second thought. “They will be upstairs.” The room was apparently someone’s basement. Many boxes, crates and barrels filled the room, neatly stacked as high as the ceiling. On the opposite side of the room was a set of stairs and a banistered landing. A door was on the wall at the landing and was framed by lit torches.

The party continued through the room towards the stairs. As Elanna got to the center of the room, she turned to make sure Leif was still right behind her. She saw that the entire party was not yet inside, Teagan and Azriei were pulling up the rear. But she gasped as she saw Falana slamming the door in Teagan’s face and casting a spell.

“What are you doing, Falana? These are my friends,” yelled Elanna.

Falana did not stop to talk but dove away from the door behind several crates. As that happened, chaos descended upon the room. A loud alarm sounded from where Elanna was standing and she looked down, puzzled. It was clearly an Alarm spell, thought Valmont. The door on the landing opened and Elanna saw Brenna step out and fire an arrow at Leif. It stuck in his shoulder and he stumbled back. Marius, wearing his black mask stepped out behind her and was chanting. He held aloft a holy symbol (which both she and Cyllan recognized as the symbol of the Church of Thyatis – Elanna had never seen him with that before tonight). Meanwhile, there was a loud bark and Rocko and his scruffy war dog, Mongrel, leapt from behind the boxes and charged the party. Rocko was a short, stocky man of Thyatian descent. His face was crisscrossed with scars, he was missing most of his teeth and he looked like he had had a very hard life filled with drinking cheap alcohol. However, he moved like a well trained soldier and his eyes glared with deathly intent.

Leif had his bow out which he thought was lucky. He recovered from the shock of the arrow in his shoulder and sent one back towards Elanna. Instead, he hit Marius whose spell was lost. Before he could celebrate, Rocko was on him, swinging his sword but missing.

Cyllan planted her staff and pole vaulted the dog, confusing it. She lifted then snapped the staff down on its back and it yelped, turning towards her and snarling. Valmont attempted to drive his dagger into the swirling dog but missed.

Locked out of the room and unable to overcome the Hold Portal spell upon it, Teagan and Azriei began hacking at the wooden door, sending splinters flying.

Inside the room, Marius pulled out the arrow then stepped back through the door. “Finish them,” he grunted to Brenna. Cyllan focused, trying to memorize that voice. She was shocked that a member of her Church was in league with the Iron Ring. But her concentration was disturbed as the dog sunk its teeth into her thigh. She struggled to keep standing but the lunging weight of the dog was too much and she fell backwards.

Leif had dropped his bow and unsheathed his sword. He and Rocko were now locked in a vicious sword battle, neither able to gain advantage. They circled each other, clashing their blades and sending sparks flying. Elanna screamed, “Stop fighting! These are my friends!” No one seemed to pay her any mind.

Midian ran towards the stairs, intent on stopping the woman with the bow. She had other plans for him. An arrow from Brenna’s bow sunk deep into Midian’s chest. He stopped his run, grunted and took a step forward, mace held high. He mumbled something in his native tongue then crumpled, lying still in a growing pool of blood.

Valmont turned, trying to figure out where the mage Falana was. His question was answered when she stepped out from behind some crates. But instead of one of her, there were four mirror images. She grinned grimly at the young Glantrian and stepped towards him, dagger drawn. She was a haute looking woman, thin with a large nose and of average height. Her billowing and stylish robes could mark her for a Thyatian merchant or merchant’s wife but the gleam in her eye told Valmont that she was a murderous witch. The Glantrian turned and saw that Leif and Azriei were making progress on the door but he hoped it would be quick enough. He was out of spells and was not sure how well he would fare against four adversarial witches.

Cyllan managed to kick the dog in the snout and scramble to her feet, barely avoiding one of Brenna’s arrows. She turned to face Leif and Rocko and yelled at Elanna, “help Leif or Rocko will kill him.”

Elanna still looked confused, turning her head from Rocko to Leif. “This can’t be happening. Everyone, put down your weapons!” Again, no one listened to her protestations.

Valmont and Falana stabbed at each other but neither was well trained in knife fighting. However, Valmont got in a lucky blow and immediately, one of the images of Falana disappeared in a wisp of gray smoke. But then she stabbed him in the gut, three images closing together to drive a single point into his belly. He stumbled back and saw the blood stain spreading on his robes. “That’s going to be a big pain to get out, isn’t it,” he gasped as he crumpled to the floor.

Out of the corner of her eye, Cyllan saw Valmont fall but she knew she had to focus on Rocko. She also saw the dog leaping at her and she swung her staff, catching the beast in mid-air and sending it sprawling across the floor. What she did not see was the man, all in black, step from behind a crate and swing the flat of his sword onto her uncovered head. It rang dully and she saw and explosion of flashes before stumbling forward and slipping into unconsciousness.

“Surrender and you can yet live!” screamed Falana at the Elf fighting Rocko. Leif quickly looked around and saw that his comrades had all fallen except Teagan and Azriei who were still hacking away at the door.

“Promise not to kill us and save those who are bleeding out?” He paused and held his sword defensively but not threateningly towards Rocko.

“Yes, but you must also convince those on the other side to surrender too.” The three images of Falana approached the Elf.

“Okay.” Leif dropped his sword and bent to one knee. Just as that happened, the door shattered into a thousand splinters and Teagan came barreling in, shouting an Elven war cry. She stopped short when she saw Leif on one knee and shook her head. Leif looked up at her and nodded. He said in Elven, softly, “It’s the only way. Put down your weapon.” She shook her head and hefted her sword glaring at the three images of Falana. But then she realized it was hopeless. Valmont, Cyllan and Midian all lay dead or dying and the group was outnumbered. She dropped her sword and knelt.

Seeing all this, Azriei did the one thing he could think of at this moment. He ran. He ran at full stride away from the room, back down the hallway; his only thought was of escape. Surely the town guard would be close at hand. He passed through the door and down the canal. He rounded the pyramid and continued then looked back. When he did, he came to a sudden stop. It felt like he had run into a brick wall. But then the wall grabbed him and he yelled. It was not a wall but a man in the town guards’ livery. Azriei stopped struggling, breathing a sigh of relief. “I am glad you are finally here,” he said. But then he noticed it was more than one man. It was three: two dressed as town guards and one clearly not. All hope drained from him as he realized the town guards were in league with the slavers. They wrestled him then bound him and took him back to the room with the others. The last thing he heard before being knocked unconscious was that they were destined to be shipped down river and sold as slaves. . . .

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Session 5: Escape?

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Session 6/7: Stallanford and the King’s Festival

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Session 8: Hail to the Chief

The party peered around the corner at the iron gate. No movement, no sound. The smell of burnt oil still hung in the air and they could just make out the spot on the floor where Valmont had been burned. Shadows from the party’s torches flickered and made the gate seem like clenched teeth.

“They have to be out of oil. I am going to break down that portcullis and use it to kill those Orcs.” This from Leif to no one in particular. The Elf looked around at his companions, squinting because the torches did odd things to his night vision.

The Mystic shrugged. “I am with you. Let’s go.”

Valmont stifled an argument. He knew they had to get through the gate to find the Orc chief and to rescue Stallanford’s kidnapped cleric. However, he still felt the sting of his burns despite Roderick’s healing magic. He looked over at the priest who just shook his head then looked down. Azriei, beside him shuffled his feet and closed his eyes, leaning on the wall as if about to catnap.

“Couldn’t Azriei manipulate the lock? He’s proven he has that skill, previously” said Teagan. She looked at the “merchant.”

He didn’t open his eyes nor stop leaning on the wall but did speak, “yes, I can but I do not fancy setting my leather armor on fire. I bellieve we should go the other way to explore the other passageway. But if Leif wishes to get a bath of hot oil, I will wait here to put him out.”

Teagan rolled her eyes. She didn’t quite trust the handsome human.

“That settles it,” said Leif. “Let’s go Cyllan. You too Zyass and Leif.”

Zyass unhooked his bow and handed his torch to Roderick. He followed the Elf and Mystic as quietly as he could. He stood behind them as they positioned their hands on the metal bars. He sensed Leif at his side and as if on queue, they both notched arrows and aimed for the closed first door beyond the gate. There was still no movement from beyond the gate. Leif nodded to Cyllan and they both pulled. A few seconds passed and sweat started beading on their foreheads. They tried not to grunt under the strain. Slowly, the metal bars began to pull wider apart. Then, with an almost silent “ugh” from the pair adventurers, the iron bent quickly and the gap was wide enough to permit passage. Leif rubbed his arms and Cyllan shrugged her shoulders then stepped through. The others quickly and quietly followed.

They now stood before two wooden doors. Zyass noticed that a faint knocking sound came from the other side of the first door. Not on the door but from inside whatever room lay beyond the door. He whispered his findings to the group and they quickly conferred. They would open the second door first since nothing had poked its head out of that one. Azriei examined the lock and it was locked. He looked to Cyllan to see if he should pick it but she waved him away. She nodded to Leif and they reared back to kick it down.

The Mystic was a bit quicker and more nimble so her foot alone slammed into the wood, sending it back free from it hinges. There was a loud crack like a tree snapping then a loud “oomph” as the door knocked aside a humanoid form behind it. Cyllan tumbled into the room, allowing her kick to carry her, doing a forward roll and coming up with her staff in attack position. A dark, furry shape leapt at her and without a thought she swung and knocked it into the wall. It looked to be the largest ferret possible. Not cute and cuddlly but instead as large as a Border Collie but sleek, snarling and frothing at the mouth. She also noticed that an Orc was crawling from underneath the pieces of the shattered door. She moved to engage the snarling ferret.

Leif yelled out, “Take him alive!” as he, Teagan and Roderick swarmed in behind the Mystic. Leif drew his sword and smacked the scrambling Orc on the shoulder, narrowly missing the beast’s head. The creature howled in pain and rolled away from the Elf. Unfortunately for him, Teagan was standing nearby. She had dropped her bow and had drawn her sword. She grimly swung it trying to hit the Orc with the flat of her blade. Her blow caught her opponent in the back and he flattened on the floor, the breath expelled from his lungs in a low, “humph!” She looked back at Leif and said, “Are you sure?” Meanwhile Roderick stepped forward with his war hammer raised. He brought it down right on top of the Orc’s head and knocked him unconscious.

Cyllan leapt at the ferret and jabbed her staff. The ferret jumped at her and the force of their collision was like muffled thunder. The wooden staff drove into the animal and knocked its life out. It crumpled on the floor in a ball of fur as Cyllan landed lightly on her feet, her staff again ready to strike but no opponents remained.

Now that they looked around, they noticed this was a dirty, disheveled room which smelled of Orc and ferret. There were two large iron cages along the south wall, with straw and feeding bowls inside them. Close by was a bed of dirty furs and straw and above this there was a whip on a shelf hammered into the wall. A small table was covered in dirty cracked plates and similar mess.

There were some muffled thumps and scraping from the room next door but no one came to help the unconscious Orc. Roderick cut another length from his rope and used it to tie up their captive. He left him bundled while the party huddled outside the other door. It was locked but Azriei quickly picked it. He stood back to let Cyllan open the door.

The stench of oil permeated this room and it was quickly apparent why. Though the floor was covered in straw, the first five or ten feet inside of the door was soaked in lantern oil. The rest of the room was in shambles. Chairs were strewn about and a very large table was overturned in the far corner. On the south wall was an ornate shield with a pair of pole arms crossed above it like a scene from a lord’s castle but above it was a grisly reminder of the Orcs who ruled here: a wooden plaque with a stuffed dwarf’s head trophy upon it. Scattered about were a couple of small boxes on a side-table and a collection of weapons. But most pressing were the three Orc guards hiding behind the large overturned table. One held a torch and a flask of oil with a rag stuffed into it.

One of the Orcs spoke in Common, “Step into the room so we may parlay. Otherwise, we will be forced to burn you.”

The next minutes were tense as the two groups exchanged insults and demands. Meanwhile one of the Orcs had maneuvered himself near the door. Neither side agreed to surrender and neither seemed to want to really start the fight. The Orcs did put down their Molotov cocktail during the negotiations and the entire party entered the room. Then as if on cue, the Orc near the door ran.

The lead Orc put one hand on the edge of the table and vaulted it, landing lightly on his feet. He drew his sword and advanced on Valmont, ignoring all others. With a flourish, he slashed at the mage who attempted to block with his dagger. One poke to the stomach and Valmont gasped in pain, He had been run almost through. Turning pale he stumbled back but remained pierced by the sword. The Orc lifted his leg and kicked the wizard off his weapon. He saw two of the adventurers (Teagan and Zyass) run out the door. He was not sure if it was in fear or to chase the Orc who had run. He hoped the Orc would be able to reach the Chief in time and without running into Zuggot, the lieutenant who was such a coward and pain in their backsides.

The rest of the party was battling the other Orc so the lead Orc turned towards Leif. “Come and taste cold steel” the Orc said in Elven. Leif moved forward and swung a mighty blow; one that would have shattered the arm of any normal creature who blocked it. But the Orc stepped into it, catching the weight by bending his legs. He powered out of a crouch and drove back the Elf. All the while he was grinning.

Leif was stunned. Never before had he met such an Orc. Not only was his Elvish impeccable, he was clearly well trained in the use of a sword. Much more so than any Orc had a right to be. He too grinned and leapt to meet the Orc’s blade.

Again and again, they clashed, sparks flying from the steel and the ringing becoming almost deafening. The Orc’s allies had fallen but Leif waved off his own. They stood by, in awe of the fight that played out before them. Neither Leif nor the Orc could gain advantage. They were evenly matched. Even when one connected and drew blood, they other also did. Both Elf and Orc, locked in fatal battle, were grinning and laughing maniacally. They taunted each other in Common, Elven and Orc; a mish mash of language that made them laugh all the more. Sweat and blood mixed with the straw and made the floor slick and ultimately that finished the fight. Leif lunged and the Orc swung to counter but his foot slipped. Instead, his body blocked the sword and it slipped into a gap in the side of his armor. Both warriors were stunned and their eyes locked. The Orc dropped his sword. He grabbed the Elf’s sword and pulled himself close to Leif. He put his mouth to the Elf’s ear and whispered in Elven, “Well done.” Then he closed his eyes and fell back dead. Leif knelt beside the lifeless body and gave praise for such a mighty opponent.

In silence the party searched the room. The priest quickly healed the mage with magic and helped to his feet. By that time, Teagan and Zyass had returned. They told the rest of the party what they had found: there was no sign of the runaway Orc though they had found a door. On the other side of the door had been voices, speaking in Orc. At least one was not Orc and had a much deeper voice. Apparently it was waiting for a meeting with the Chief but the Orc was stalling for some reason. Teagan mocked its repeated attempts at flattery and forestalling. Zyass imitated the deep, resonant voice of the other one constantly demanding to “see the Chief, now!” Despite the grim circumstances, it was good to share a brief moment of humor. The group reformed their marching order and snuck towards the door. Inside, the two creatures were still having a loud discussion. Those with bows stood ready to let arrows fly while Cyllan kicked down the door and tumbled out of the way.

Immediately, the party saw that this room differed from the others they had seen – it was large and fairly clean, with wolf-fur bedding at the far end, a table of cleaned and polished weapons, a small chest, and even a large earthenware bowl with an urn of water by it. Sitting at the table was a large, furry orange creature, a look of amusement on his face. Also, a thin Orc in leather armor was standing in the center of the room. The Orc looked surprised. As he reached for his sword, an arrow from Zyass’ bow pierced his chest. The Orc staggered back then dropped to one knee, his hands on the floor. He appeared not be able to get his breath then collapsed and was still.

The large creature stood to his full height, hands up, the smile still on his face. If he were not almost eight feet tall and covered in clean, dark orange fur, he would have looked like a goblin. He had the same pointed teeth and pointed ears. He was wearing black enameled leather armor and looked almost noble. He spoke in Common, “Greetings, adventurers. I believe you are looking for the Orc chief. I imagine if your meeting goes well, mine will be of little consequence. I had better be leaving.”

“Wait!” said Valmont. “Who are you and what are you?”

The creature smiled. “I am but a diplomat with no more reason to wait here. As for my name, well, some things must remain secret.”

“He likely works for the Iron Ring,” said Teagan . The creature looked at him and grimaced.

“No, not for that nasty outfit. I work for other parties interested in the fate of the northern lands.” The creature was now gathering items from the wolf-fur bedding and packing the chest. Cyllan was eyeing the items as he stuffed them in the chest.

“How much for one of those furs?” said the Mystic. The creature tilted his head towards her, smiling. “How much are you willing to spend?” They negotiated lightheartedly and when they were done, Cyllan was the proud new owner of a beautiful wolf fur rug. It was mostly black with streaks of tan and gray.

The creature hefted the chest onto one shoulder. “Good luck in your . . .uh . . . negotiations with the chief.” With that he quickly but silently left the room.

“I think he was a Bugbear,” declared Zyass. Roderick agreed. Cyllan shrugged. She had not wished to fight it so she was a bit relieved. Azriei turned his attention to the remaining contents of the room, searching for treasure.

After their search, the group moved back the way they came. Zyass stopped. “Hey. Anyone notice that?” He was pointing at a very faint set of parallel vertical cracks in the wall near the corner. He prodded it with his sword and it became apparent it was a concealed door. Beyond it, a torch lit passageway continued.

The party moved quickly but quietly ahead. As Leif rounded the first bend of the passage, he and an Orc nearly collided. Both leaped back and the Orc slightly stumbled. The party saw that dripping blood coated the Orc’s sword and fresh spatters of crimson covered his clothes! Without giving it a second thought, Leif stepped forward again and swung his sword at the Orc’s neck. With a sound like a butcher making chops, the Orc’s head was cleanly lopped from his shoulders, a look of surprise still on its face. Leif, turned to the rest of the party and said, “Let’s keep moving.” He was unfazed by his kill. The party was too stunned to argue.

The group followed the hallway (and small drops of blood on the floor) down the passageway. As they gathered around a door where the drops led, Zyass shouted out, “Whoa!” He stepped back and a fraction of a second later, a pit appeared where he had been walking. Valmont, who was behind him, grabbed his cloak and pulled him back from the edge. The group peered down and saw a ten foot deep pit. Surely, that would have been disastrous for Zyass if he had fallen. Everyone avoided it and huddled around the door. Azriei found it locked but picked this one too. Cyllan opened it cautiously.

Continuing further down the passageway, they eventually reached a door at the end of the north passage. It was made of stout, dark wood and had a forbidding symbol etched in blood on it. Leif and Teagan looked at each other and smiled grimly. Turning to the group, they both mouthed the words, “great chieftain” and the party understood. Clearly, this was the area for which the party was looking. Everyone stood back except Cyllan who kicked in the door.

The large room was dominated by a heavy wooden throne that stood on a raised area at the eastern end of the room. The party saw doors on the north and south sides at the far end and a heavy black wall hanging covered part of the north wall, with Orcish runes and symbols smeared in blood on it.

Orc chambera

By the throne stood a huge, battle-scarred Orc, wielding a heavy axe. By his right side, behind a heavy table, was a smaller Orc, waving his hands and muttering something. Between the party and the smaller Orc were large Orc guards (Shordun’s lieutenants) blocking the way to their leader. They were armed with swords and with their chief, they were prepared to do their best to bludgeon and slash the invaders to death!


The Orc chieftain was huge. Muscles rippled under his chainmail, straining the links, as he hefted his battle axe. It was stained with the blood of his victims and both the chief and the axe seemed to grin wildly, no, maniacally, as he stepped down the dais. “A few more victims to feed my blade,” he thought.

Orc with axe

His lieutenants walked casually towards the door, confident in their strength. They had good reason to be brave. The raid last night had been successful; this group could only be a ragtag lot from the town and the four of them were proven warriors. Besides, they were the vanguard for the chief himself and Crulxux, his shaman. Right now, Shordun, out of the corner of his eye, caught the glow around Crulxux which meant he had cast his Shield spell. The magic casting Orc was an odd fellow and he slightly unnerved most of the Orcs. But he was useful. Shordun knew the next spell would be that never missing Magic Missile.

The battle was evolving and was slightly surprising, thought Shordun. That human priest was brave to step up and be surrounded by Shordun’s lieutenants. However, as he prayed, it looked to Shordun that he was asking for last rites. He hoped it was the case. From his limited experience with human priests, he could tell it was no spell. But then, things took a turn for the worse. The cleric and the four Orc lieutenants dropped dead to the floor and the other humans moved into the room. There were two Elves among them too. He could smell their earthy almost tree-like smell from across the wide room. He would kill them first if he could.

The human female was fast. She ran across the room headed for Crulxux. The chief thought about dealing with her but knew he had to make it to and take down their spell casters first and that included the Elves. They had obviously taken out the lieutenants with some kind of magic. They appeared to be asleep along with that human priest. He hesitated then saw that another Human (he had the same smell as the Elves) was also moving to intercept the shaman.

Crulxux was preparing to cast another spell. The female was waving a staff at him but he did not seem fazed. He instead took a step back. Then an arrow appeared in the shaman’s shoulder and he staggered. The spell went awry, only resulting in a pop, some smoke and the smell of cinders. The arrow had come from that human male.

“Good shot, Zyass” he heard the woman say. The Orc leader grunted and turned to find a male Elf brandishing a sword beside him. From the way he held the sword, Shordun could tell he was trained beyond the normal Elf scout or soldier. This would be fun. His skull would make a nice mug for ale if prepped correctly. Shordun smiled at the thought.

The Elf did not look pleased at the smile. He bashed with his sword but Shordun was able to slash it away. . “Cyllan! Look out, he is casting another spell!” A female Elf was also in the room. She had a bow in one hand and looked to be angling for a shot at Crulxux. The Shield spell would block that. Shordun turned again to the male Elf.

He should have paid better attention for it would be the last time he would see the shaman alive. The female Elf, dropped the bow and clapped her hands above her head. A glowing green arrow of light raced from them to the shaman. As it struck him, his golden glow flickered and the green bolt struck him in the forehead, sparks coming from the little round hole now present right above his left eye.

The woman named Cyllan was good. She feinted and lunged with her staff. She was strong and quick but the chief was stronger. He batted away her strikes and forced her to one knee. Breathing hard, she raised her staff with both hands, arms shaking but up to defend. However, Shordun believed she was not yielding, it was but a ploy. After all she had not yet been wounded and her eyes spoke no submission. So instead of holding back he reared back with his axe, drooping it behind his back and standing on tiptoe then, with all the force he could muster, he brought it down upon her. Only the shattering staff saved her from being cleaved in two. She spun from the force then lay silently bleeding.

From somewhere, that Human priest was back up and fighting. In fact, he was standing in front of Shordun, brandishing a war hammer. Shordun blocked a swing from the priest with an upward swing. The cleric’s front was exposed so the Chief jabbed his axe into the Human’s abdomen. “Ooph!” Shordun followed with a roundabout swing that connected the flat of the axe with the chin of the Human. Blood flew from the priest’s mouth and he crumbled into the floor, unmoving.

Shordun turned to the one called Zyass. “Now, you ‘elf-human’ shall die.’. He hefted his axe and the Forestor’s sword leapt to meet it. The Orc was growing weary. He left his right armpit exposed a second too long after a swing and Zyass stabbed him. He howled in pain and rolled away from the blade, using his momentum to swing the heavy axe. The haft caught the human on the flank and knocked the wind out his lungs. He stumbled and Shordun hit him in the face with an elbow. “See, you shall die now.” But Zyass was still in the fight and could tell the Orc had been wounded. He smiled and feinted with his sword then punched the Orc with his other hand. The surprised Orc grinned but should not have. Zyass slashed his cheek with his sword. Shordun roared and began a flurry of blows. The brute was too much for Zyass and he fell, unconscious. But as he was about to turn away from his last victim, he felt a burning sensation in his throat. It was like a bee sting in front and back and inside it was sore and hot. He gasped to gain his breath and he heard a wheezing sound from his neck. He dropped the axe and reached up. His hands stuck on something sharp and when he looked at them, they were covered in blood. He tried to speak but just gurgled. He looked around and saw the female Elf standing aiming an empty bow at him from perhaps twenty feet away. He understood. He took a step forward and tried to curse but his knees buckled. He fell on his face and his last thoughts were of the faraway Broken Lands he would never see again.

The room was silent.

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