Keepers of the Realm

Session 30: The Finest Cloaks and Armors In the Land

Within the darkness that surrounds the shattered rooms ahead a large rumble sounds. A shadow begins to advance towards the Keepers . I can barely see within the darkness ahead as our group runs in towards the monster. As I prepare my warhammer and move in an overwhelming sense of fear comes over me. I must leave here. Nothing matters anymore I must leave. I turn and begin to run away from the beast. Alatar follows close behind me. We come to our senses and realize that we must help our friends. As I approach the beast and the Keepers I notice that Rinn had also fled from the beast. I run towards the doors she had opened and see a hoard of undead attacking her. I unleash the power of Talos in a burst of lightning and they all fall to the floor. The beast behind is slain by Kline. Stone dwarven gods stand above tombs lain about the room. We barricade ourselves in the room and rest for the night.
 
I open my eyes and see the red haired woman lying across from me. What did I see in her? I think to myself. She's changed so much since we have first met. I almost had her in Dawnfoot. I was so sure she would join me but I guess that’s not what was meant to be. She has become soft since then like she has forgotten of her past. I can’t blame her, though, I have done the same. I get up to see Alatar is already up and ready to go. 
 
After everyone wakes and has a bit to eat we decide to continue our investigation of the city. Rinn scouts ahead to the next room. She reaches down to the lock on the door and opens it flawlessly. We wait in the darkness outside. I can’t see much farther than the next person in front of me. The waterfall rumbles faintly in the distance. Every so often what sounds like wailing comes from the distance throughout the city. Rinn appears in the doorway calling us inside. “It’s all clear there is nothing here except for that cloak over there.” She points to a cloak in the corner of the room. Alatar walks over the cloak to pick it up and try it on. He throws it over his shoulders and turns to us to show off his new fashion. The cloak wraps around him rises up above his head as a large mouth appears it bites down onto him. What do we do?! I think to myself as I quickly prepare for a battle. We begin to attack the monster, but not without a price. It seems like the cloak is using Alatar as a shield. The cloak continues to latch onto his head as he looks more haggard. I begin to attempt to heal him but the repeated attacks makes him fall. Kline reaches to Alatar healing him bringing him back up and then once again attacking. The monster transfers the damage once again dealing another fatal blow to the Elf. The cloak falls to the floor with Alatar in his grasp. I reach down to his body to see if he is alive. There is no pulse. “EVERYONE We must do this now.” I yell out. Rinn and Traelle surround us. I pull out the diamond from my bag and begin to pray. Rinn pulls out her feather and Traelle, her shield, praying to their gods for aid. I stand on his chest with arms towards the sky. Lightning begins to flow along my arms to my fingertips as I pray to Talos. I hesitate a moment. Is this not what he wanted? He has been longing for death to relieve himself of his sins. I can give that to him…. No not today. I slam down my hands towards his chest pushing the power of Talos into his heart. I step off his body to his side and we wait. And wait. And wait. Nothing. The gods did not answer us. Perhaps this is for the best. We hang our heads down at the loss of our ally. One of our family and crew. However, there is little time for us to grieve we must continue on.
We continue down the hallway deeper into the city. We come to a plaza with a dwarven image above a door. Scattered broken tables are strewn about the hall. Casks behind broken bars in the corners of the room. Seven men and dwarves stand at the ready. I unsheathe my warhammer and we slaughter the enemies. Realizing we have almost scouted the surrounding city we quickly continue on.
 
One last dark hallway comes to a door. Behind is darkness. A faint image of a worm head sticks out from a hole in the middle of the room. Kline asks for a torch and Traelle hands him one to light. He takes it and from afar throws it down the hole. It falls for what feels like forever. The light is no longer seen in the darkness and then. Thump the sound of wood hitting the floor comes back up the hole. Kline turns to us and says “We will send men back for this later. We must continue on.”
 
We leave the room and decide to head back to the pyramid since we have cleared the main area around the pyramid of remnants of the cult. We take a pass around the pyramid to scout. As we pass at the back entrance a shimmer of light catches Rinn’s eye within the moat surrounding us. She points this out and we decide to come back when we are not in such a dire situation. We decide to head into the front door. As we walk in we see a marble hall with pillars holding up a 10 ft ceiling. To our left and right are ascending marble staircases. At the center a large open pit catches our attention as howling seems to emanate from it. Seven men dressed in windward clothing meditate at the back of the room. They float 3ft above the ground and don’t seem to notice us. We enter the room casually and continue forwards to the men. Each spotting an opponent and approach. Kline calls me to him and just as he gets to his side Kline grabs the back of my armor and thrusts me through the air towards the windwards. Flying through the air I ready my hammer and bring it down upon one of the men. The others immediately unsheathe their weapons and begin to slaughter the men. Pools of blood and bodies fill the floor and the Keepers turn to quickly head to the upper parts of the pyramid with the queen in their sights. 
 
Arriving at the pinnacle of the stairs we turn towards the throne. Pillars with tapestry between line the way to the Throne. In the middle of the room the city is delicately etched into the floor. A tall Elven woman stands at the throne with wings sprawled out in display. Another stands near her hooded and praying. I look up to Kline and see his dumbfounded look. He begins to approach the woman and we follow. “I commend you for making it this far. If you leave now there will be no more bloodshed” says the queen. We question her of her intentions she answers “We seek to destroy the black earth cult.” Traelle says that she potentially is leaving information out about her intentions to stop them. Kline stands in awe seemingly not listening to the conversation. He unsheathes his sword and lunges forward toward the queen in an attempt to slice off her wing. His sword falls right through it as though it did not exist. “BLASPHEMY!” He yells as he realizes she is not what she seems. The queen holds up her hand and releases a bolt of lightning that arcs through the Keepers damaging us all. Blows are traded from one group to the other until we are worn down. Ten men rush from behind the tapestries surrounding us. I realize that something must be done. I reach for my necklace and hold it high. “A sea of damned, swell from the hells, breach unto this world. Cleanse with the power of Talos. Crash unto my enemies!“ The acolytes all fall to the floor lifeless and cleansed. The Queen looks down on us unhappy. She chants under her breath and a mist begins to fill the air. My lungs begin to burn and I keel over gasping for breath. My allies all fall around me and then… darkness.
 
Kline is the last one standing. He looks around and bows his head. He extends his wing it shimmers with radiant energy. Clasping Wolfbane he brings his sword up from the floor continuing past a normal stance he places the blade at the base of his wing. With a quick slice forward blood runs down the sword as he brings it back to a normal stance. His wing begins to slowly fall to the floor growing ever brighter with radiant energy until it fills the room. The light begins to fade out and the wing has vanished. 
 
Light shines through my eyelids awakening me. I feel mighty and restored. The rest of the Keepers awake restored to their full might ready to defend their realm. Rushing forwards they all unleash on the queen in one last attack. Kline attacks last delivering the final blow. 
 
A hand reaches down to me and I begin to fly towards the alcove where the spiral horn rests behind the throne. With no control of my own body I smash right into it shattering it from existence. Looking back at the battle a large genie appears behind everyone. He looks to a space within the room that is devoid of any enemies or allies. A raging air elemental appears revealing what has been attacking us throughout the battle. We turn, and with the aid of the genie, finish off the Queen’s right hand man and the elemental. The air elemental vanishes and the Queen’s right hand man falls to the floor. The room fills with blue and white. Clouds form all around us and the floor and walls vanish to an endless sky. We are no longer in the temple in which we had just been fighting in. The genie fades into existence before us and thanks us for helping him. He hands each of us a vial for each of us. After we receive his gift he fades once more. The vast expansive sky begins to darken. Walls and a floor forms around us as the clouds fade from our view. We are back. The throne room. I think to myself. I head up to where the Queen had fallen on the throne. I find some jewelry and a weapon. Quickly, I pocket the jewelry and begin to investigate the weapon I picked up. A Spear, the weapon of Talos. I can feel there is something special about it it holds power. He has graced me with this weapon. I am meant to have it. I descend from the throne and follow the Keepers out of the room as holding our heads high, victorious. 
 
Rinn reminds us of the shimmer she saw within the water and what the slaves had said in the room with the wheels. Setting up a relay of information from the moat to the room we eventually drop the water out of the moat to reveal the bottom of the moat. Bones and dead bodies are scattered on the water slogged floor as we descend to where we saw the shimmer. Gold and silver items are piled on the floor. We pick them up and head to the exit. 

Walking out of the temple Kline speaks with the men and tells them to head inside to acquire Alatar’s body to bring it back to the city and to station men at the dark room with the hole. The wind has picked up quite a bit since entering the Temple. I think as we walk towards the gryphons that await us as we exit. I hear a THUD and turn to see Kline carrying Rinn towards us. She must have passed out again. At least she doesn't do it at critical moments. Kline takes her to the gryphons and secures her for the trip. I stop for a moment as we are walking to leave and turn to look at the troops. There is one more thing I must do before we leave here. I walk up to the captain of the troops and say. “Oye Captain”. “Yes” he responds. “Quite a fight we had in there. You know what carried me through that?” I ask. “What?” he inquires. “This.” I point at the unicorn on my shoulder. “This armor here. It’s the best in the land.” “What brand is that?” The Capain asks. “Gilmores.” I respond.
 

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Session 29: Attack on the Air Temple

The Keepers step from the gryffins, and look around at the massive canyon walls that surround them. The group, along with Kline, walk to meet the Talondrossan Knights and the faction representatives. As they approach, the group sees the strewn bodies, clad in blue armor, before the Talondrossan Knights.  With a brief word with the Talondrossan Captain, the group moves forward to look down into the depths of a chasm. Stretching as far as the eye can see, a crude narrow staircase twists madly with hairpin turns, as if daring adventures to attempt its path. After miles of jagged steps, the staircase terminates at a flat outcropping that juts out over the chasm. The Keepers make the journey, taking care with each step to avoid a trip into the darkness below.

 

 

As the group reaches the door, Kline pulls an orb from his satchel, setting the orb in a recess. Kline's voice is all but inaudible, and the words he speaks sound strikingly similar to Dwarven. As the whispered chant continues, the orb and the door begin to glow with runes. Kline steps back, looking to the Keepers and back to the door. The stone door begins to creak open, causing a loud rumble and tremor beneath the adventurers feet. As the entryway opens, the group steps inside.

 

The Keepers peer across a ruined Dwarven city within a glittering cavern, statues littering the city in various states of ruin. A pyramid, surrounded by a moat, sits within the city's center. A rush of water can be heard, as one side of the moat spills over into the chasm below. An agonizing wail rings out, from the city, causing voices throughout the city to join in it's painful cry. Stepping stealthily, the group begins to scout the city, with Rinn leading them into the darkness. Kline stops Rinn, pulling her back to the group. He whispers of how far the group has come, how his faith is with the group, speaking for 10 minutes, to rally the group before entering the depths of the city.

 

Rinn unlocks the first barrier before the group, guiding her thieves tools smoothly and quickly through the doors lock.  Rinn peaks through the door and sees a well lit corridor, tracing back and forth into the city. Rinn moves forward, looking for enemies and anything out of place. Rinn notices arrow slits through the walls and finds the city entrance at the end of the corridor. As Rinn opens the door, arrows flit over her head and behind her. Unscathed, Rinn looks through the portal and sees that another corridor continues into the city with little to no light. Drak’Thal, Kline, and Alatar all move up to Rinn’s position, wary of pressure plates that may set off another flurry of arrows. Traelle, causing noise as she moves forward, is hit by arrows and pushes through the doorway, through her companions and away from the arrows. Alatar rolls through the doorway, avoiding the arrows, and glares at the paladin as he closes the door behind him.

 

The Keepers continue to move forward, with Rinn moving towards a door. A stone fountain and shrill music greets Rinn on the other side of the door, along with several feather clad figures with flutes sculpted from bones. The figures look to the open door before returning to their musical instruments. One of the figures calls for a stop, looks to the Keepers, and asks if anyone can play an instrument. Alatar produces and plays his lute, Drak’Thal sings his crews shanty, and Kline takes Rinn’s hand, twirling her into a dance. The man says, “We are the Windwards, in service to the Queen.” He hands the Keepers garb and human bone flutes to match the other figures in the room. The Keepers accept the unsolicited gifts and don the gear. The Windward leader tells the Keepers to go and play for the Queen, pushing the group back to the corridor and shutting the door behind them.  

 

Rinn leads the group back through the corridor. Rinn scouts the dimly corridor, finding doors lining the walls. As she signals the group from room to room, Rinn signals the Keepers to continue after her. Finally, Rinn opens the door to a room with two massive stone pillars with giant wheels attached to them. Two robed figures oversee five desperate looking humans, each of the five hunched over in their efforts to push the giant wheels. Whips crack as the Keepers enter the room. Rinn says, “we’re here to entertain the Queen, which way do we go?” Immediately on edge, one of the robed figures yells out, “You all wanna be initiates?! Now’s your chance!” The disheveled humans strike out at the Keepers, moving away from the cracking whips. As Alatar fells a commoner, Kline calls out to spare them. As the robed figures are killed, the Keepers question the commoners. Kline hands them large coins, instructing them to hold them up as the exit, and releases them commoners to safety.

 

The group continues exploring, with Rinn checking doors throughout the corridors. Rinn enters a room that is lined with aged decorations, and finds three bird headed creatures tormenting chained up prisoners. Drak’Thal, Rinn, and Kline take down the enemies as Alatar and Traelle are blocked from entering the room. Kline notices that Rinn suffered a grievous wound in the combat and touches her, relieving her of the injury. Drak’Thal interrogates the shackled prisoners, learning that they are captured citizens of Yartar. Rinn frees the Yartar citizens with her thieves tools and escort them back to a safe corridor.

 

The Keepers press on, venturing deeper into the underground city. After checking multiple doors, Rinn finds a corridor with a shallow pool of water. As the rogue leads the group through the water, she is spotted is spotted by a genie that busies himself with carving rock from the natural wall. Rinn and the Keepers move forward and greet the genie. The genie shares that he is forced into his labor by the “Queen,” who holds his horn in her possession, and that she may summon the genie should she come under attack. After speaking with the genie, the group continues through the pool.

 

The group steps to a landing from the pool and make their way through another corridor. The Keepers sneak forward, finding themselves in front of the central pyramid with the sound of water rushing from the moat into the chasm. Kline points to a Draconic figure resting atop the point of the pyramid. The group enters combat, striking out at the rider and his wyvern. The parties trade blows, with the Keepers destroying both the beast and its rider. As the group moves towards double doors that lead into the pyramid, Rinn leads the group through the corridors that surround the large central structure.

 

As the group moves along the corridor, Traelle gives away her position, alerting new bird headed creatures. The Keepers retaliate, destroying most of the creatures with multiple attacks. As the combat concludes, Kline gives a quizzical look at the group. Alatar uses his charm to heal Rinn as Drak’Thal searches for treasure. The plaza has a statue of a 30’ Dwarven creation god with an outstretched lantern giving light to the area. The Keepers make their way into a ruined room, possibly used as a jeweler shop in the past. As they search the area, the group startles the creature that called the ruins its home. The umberhulk stirs, drawing its legs beneath him and standing to look at the humanoid intruders.

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Session 28: Dancing at the Gems

As the sun begins to set over the city of Wyrmwood, the Keepers settle into the large pool within the Ivy Springs Bathhouse. Each have been scrubbed of whatever bits of the southern continent remained on their skin, leaving their armor in piles nearby. Rinn slips into the water from the edge, sinking into the warm water to relax. She notices the red cloud of the paladin’s hair beside her and smiles, commenting that perhaps a haircut might be in order. Alatar and Drakthal sit across the water from the two women, both appearing shades darker from all of their time in the sun at sea. Her own hair has lightened, a bit less purple runs through the pale strands. I’ll need to do something about that soon. Their time in the south had been a success in comparison to the northern continent, but it had exhausted them no less. What little relaxation they might find here in the city, in a bath or tavern, would have to do well enough to recharge them all before the next leg of their journey.

 

The Shadar-kai breaks the silence within the dimly-lit chamber, “Hey Drakthal can you touch the bottom?” They all watch as his blonde head disappears below the water and pops back up quickly. He shakes his head and goes to run his hand through the beard no longer occupying his face. Alatar gives a sympathetic look, “I miss the beard too. Maybe there is a potion of beard growth?” Traelle’s eyes follow the conversation as it volleys from one friend to another. Rinn looks to them expectantly, “Are we all going out tonight?” Something besides mead from the ship. The paladin rises in the water slightly, just enough to answer, “I’ll need someone to pay for my drinks…” Alatar looks over to the stack of his things and replies, “I still have a bit of money to cover you if you like.” They had all become lighter in coin than they were comfortable with after forfeiting a large sum into the Astral Plane. The conversation turns to the loss of the Bag of Holding, and the contents lost within it. The rogue speaks, “I feel like we didn’t leave as prepared as we had for our northern journey.” Each nods in agreement, a resupply of sorts was necessary, but the matter of carrying all their gear remained problematic. Drakthal returns the conversation to their plans for the evening, “The Whistling Pig, does anyone remember their specialty drink?” The elf shakes his head, “I don’t think we’ve ever ordered it.” Some time later with the agreement to meet up at their usual bar, Traelle leaves the water to see about her haircut and Rinn dresses to make way for the Keep.

The men leave the comfortable warmth of the bathhouse soon afterwards, winding their way through the Foreign Quarter. Alatar checks to see if Neinor is home, but finds no answer at the door. The two decide to spend some time with a drink at a local dive bar. Alatar asks after the house specialty, but finds it too pricey. The little man, once a dwarf, now a Halfling climbs beside his elven friend atop a stool to reach the counter. The elf laughs, “We want to make sure that we don’t end up in the gutter again.” Sticking to a simple ale, the two settle at a table and speak candidly. Drakthal brings up difficulties of the past, and the matter of the silence between them aboard the Keepers Oath. Alatar listens before giving his apology, “I’m sure this shit with Rinn brought up bad memories. And I’m sorry.” Though the issue is still sensitive, Drakthal pushes past the distrust among the Keepers, “It’s not my right to forgive you on Rinn’s behalf…what’s done is done.” They sip their ales and speak of their deaths, and the sacrifice that this mission might demand. The halfling’s face carries a serious expression, showing the time that he has spent in thought on the matter. “There’s a price to pay for every orb, one life per orb it seems. I hope that is not the case for what’s to come.” He pauses a moment, “I feel this is my last life…you don’t seem to care about your own life so much, why is that? Have you not forgiven yourself of the past?” The past follows each of the Keepers like something lurking amongst the trees, just out of reach but ever-present. Alatar looks into his ale, then back to Drakthal, “Not fully, no. but I long ago accepted death. I think sitting for three days reconciled me to death.” Once only foam remains in their glasses, they head out towards the Whistling Pig to meet up with the others. As they walk, talk of forgiveness and family continues. Drakthal stares ahead, seemingly regretting the loss of the family he once held dear and the crew that later filled that void. Alatar reassures him, “Well you have us now, and we would all do anything for you. You need not fear that I will ever speak of anything about you to anyone outside our group again. I trust you now. You’ve shown yourself to be a good friend, and someone committed to this cause.” Drakthal’s next words confuse the elf, “You seem to want to give your life so easily however, maybe you should rethink that and not be so selfish.” An awkwardness hangs in the air as he considers an answer. “Selfish in giving my life? You say that it would be selfish for me to give my life for yours?” They leave the subject as they approach the Whistling Pig, spotting Rinn and Kline standing outside. Traelle arrives shortly after the elf and Halfling with her hair a few inches shorter.

Kline addresses the group, “I was hoping we would head to a different location tonight, the Seven Gems, one of my favorites.” He leads them east through the Petal District a ways before entering at a sign marked with seven different colored gems. Inside the tavern, twice the size of the Whistling Pig, booths line the walls and tables are arranged in rows. Rinn slides in across from Kline, and Traelle beside her. As Drakthal hops up onto the bench next to Kline, Alatar takes the seat at the head with his back to the room. Drakthal’s change in stature becomes a joke once again as he comments on his youth, “I don’t know how old I am!” Kline chuckles, “Maybe they can cut you in half and count the rings.”

A barwench carries over an ale for each of them, and Kline offers a challenge, “Let’s have a little wager for fun, the last person to finish their drink has to order the special.” They waste no time in competing in such a game. Traelle and Drakthal are the first to set down their empty glasses in the middle of the table. Rinn watches Kline and Alatar over the edge of her glass before setting it down empty in front of her. Alatar finishes last. Perhaps the ale from earlier in the evening was to blame. Kline looks between Drakthal and Traelle for a second, “Traelle, I have a small confession to make. While you were at sea, I handed Rinn something that she didn’t use on you but I insisted that she should.” The Shadar-kai holds back the smile that tries to creep out, Oh alright then, here we go. He sets down a small vial on the table, “You know what this is?” Traelle looks closely at the potion, heart shaped bubbles drift beneath the surface. “This makes you fall in love with the first person you lay eyes on…seating you across from Drakthal was a good choice, making sure you would down your drink was the second good choice….good thing it’s all mind games and I decided not to use it.” Before the paladin can examine the vial much longer, he returns it back to his pocket, “Just know, that I was this close.” Rinn looks from the Halfling to Traelle, attempting to read their reactions. And you never would have suspected it.

Kline clears his throat, “Alatar, you ready for your drink?” The elf nods and pushes his empty mug into the rest in the middle of the table, “Bring it.” The same wench brings another round of ale for everyone but the elf. He receives a violently orange drink with streaks of bright red floating through the alcohol. This drink goes by the name “jailhouse wine” though it looks nothing like wine. Alatar downs it in one gulp, tasting a strong sugary flavor bordering fermentation. The others watch, waiting for something to happen but the elf only begins to look worried. No belief in flight or urge to peck us in the face? Must be different than the parrot drink.

Suddenly, he starts glancing franticly over his shoulder. Rinn sees his eyes widen as if something is wrong. Alatar half-turns to Traelle and speaks, “I think someone is trying to kill me…” Drakthal eyes him, “Who then? Are you alright?” The elf begins to scoot him chair backwards from the table, nervously looking from face to face of his friends. Kline can’t hold his laughter anymore, and the Halfling questions him, “Kline, what the fuck did you feed him?” Alatar stands, “You’re conspiring you bastards!” His eyes darts to Traelle, “Can’t you see it? They’re going to kill me!”

 

Rinn’s face appears curious, “And why do you think they would?” His panicked energy makes him twitchy as he looks around the table from Drakthal to a very amused Kline, “Well, I mean he’s a Talos worshiper, and this guy…your…he’s not even from around here!” Her retort comes as quickly as it would have in years past, “Not from around here?! What are you trying to say? Are you talking shit on people who aren’t from around here?” Alatar stills, “Of course I am, Rinn…” Drakthal looks to Kline, mischief in his eyes, “You wanna have some fun?” “Aye,” he replies. The Halfling smiles, “Show me your sword.”

 

Kline unsheathes an ornate ivory-handled dagger and sticks it into the table. Alatar straightens and back up a bit more, “You think that could take me down?” His eyes travel from the dagger to the men he doesn’t trust, and back again. Kline grins, “It’s not the weapon, it’s the person wielding it.” The redhead speaks for the first time after watching this comedy play out at the table, “Why don’t you have your sword? Can’t you just call it to you?” Kline replies to her inquiry, “I’ll be honest with you, it hasn’t been responding as often as I would like.” She nods in understanding as he looks off. Rinn nudges him with her foot under the table and gives him a look of reassurance. Out of the corner of her eye, she notices Alatar walking towards the corner of the room. Before she turns, he disappears. How long does it take for this madness to wear off?

A few minutes later, he returns to the table as Kline mentions that he has some important things to share with them all. Traelle pensively sets her mug back down on the table, “I don’t know if you’ve been told, but uh, our bag of holding is gone.” He nods, “Yes, I saw it happen. I spent a few evenings in Glassmoor when my Master Scroll disintegrated on my desk for no apparent reason. Decided to find out what the hell happened. Headed to Glassmoor and watched you place a bag of holding into a bag of holding…” Traelle makes a face, cringing at the memory.

 

The elf, feeling more like himself, glowers at Kline, “You should try one.” Of course, he had tried one, many years ago, and knew exactly the effect the drink would have over the senses. “I came here with Gadrin, imagine my reaction.” Rinn cracks a smile at Alatar as a picture of Kline jumping over the table towards the King plays out in her mind. And the patrons run screaming… The mention of Bronzehammer brings up a reward for their recent success, a new Bag of Holding. Kline smiles as he pulls out a satchel, “I’m not sure if Traelle should be the one holding this one,” before sliding it over to the redhead. She nods in gratitude and asks for her thanks to be passes along to the king. Another reward, however, comes from an unexpected source. Kline looks across the group at the table, “I spent some time at Glassmoor as I mentioned, looks like you’ve got some fine walls and watchtowers built. Taranath found several villagers able to do some extra work, and he decided to have something built. A fighting pit. It’s not much but hopefully the villagers can come around and watch it for show, participate.” Drakthal takes the opportunity to challenge the paladin for another fight on their return to the manor, just before the barwench brings dinner plates of turkey leg and vegetables over to the table. They thank the wench and order another round of drinks.

As they all eat, Kline goes into detail about the information that he and Adeline were able to dig up in the Lyceum while the Keepers were at sea and in the south. “We were able to uncover some things but we are still shaky on others. As far as we know, the threat of Elemental Evil surfaces in a different worlds of the multiverse, I suppose I should explain that a bit. There’s a series of worlds layered upon other worlds where our existence is within these other worlds, but at different frames of time and space…it seems that Elemental evil has chosen our world, and our time, and our space. In its current incarnation it rose here in Kieria. The presence of Elemental Evil in our world goes back thousands of years.”

He speaks of a long history of hidden ruins where a sect of drow and later, the dwarves of Besilmer seeking to venerate a terrible primordial evil from the depths. In the year 894DR, a band of adventurers named the Knights of the Silver Horn found the dwarven ruins of Tyar-Besil and began exploring them. Kline pauses, “I believe that this is the group that Ushien had mentioned to you all?” Traelle nods to him as they all listen intently. Strongholds were built over the access points in order for these knights to keep watch over the kingdoms, but as time passed trouble came for the Order. These places became known as the Haunted Keeps, abandoned to time and often occupied by monstrous creatures.

 

He continues on to detail the various cults that follow the Elemental Evil:

Cult of the Howling Hatred believe themselves to be more creative and clever than the others, disliking open battle. They choose deception, illusion, and infiltration over direct confrontation. “The wind after all doesn’t blow down a castle, but flows around and through it.”

Cult of the Crushing Wave worship the power of water, from the surging tides of the sea to the crushing strength of glaciers. Every living being is simply water waiting to be freed and returned to the sea or sky. Wave cultists are patient to erode their enemy’s defenses just as water chips away at a cliff side. They try to spend as much time as possible near bodies of water, whether to use pools to travel or simply to immerse themselves.

Each cult has a following or manipulation of animals that live among their elemental force. Beasts of the earth and water, creatures of magic and fire. At the mention of the Cult of the Crushing Wave, Drakthal inquires, “When we were leaving Riverguard Keep, I saw a genasi. I do not know much of them but I know I saw one there.” Kline looks to the Halfling, “Interesting. Those who think of other Planes at all consider them remote and distant realms, but Planar influences can be felt throughout the world itself. It sometimes manifests itself in beings that, through some sort of accident of birth carry the power of the Planes in their blood.”

 

He glances down to his hands before continuing, “The genasi are one such people. They are offspring of genies and mortals. The Elemental Planes are often inhospitable to those of the Material Plane. Crushing earth, searing flames, boundless skies, endless seas…makes visiting such places difficult. Genies do not face such troubles when venturing into the mortal world, they adapt well to the mingled elements of the Material Plane and they visit. Whether of their own volition or compelled by magic.” He tells of their ability to appear mortal, and the possibility to travel incognito leading to relationships with those on the Material Plane. “These children are the genasi. Individuals with ties to two worlds but belong in neither,” his eyes move to Rinn for a moment before returning to his own hands. She meets his eyes. Some genasi are born of two genasi parents, or even have older genasi relatives that have passed on powers that had laid dormant. “Occasionally, a genasi results from exposure to a surge of elemental power, through phenomena such as an eruption from the inner planes or a planar convergence of sorts.” Elemental energy saturates an area causing changes in offspring.

Drakthal stops him, “Does that mean Traelle’s kids could be special? Or ours for that matter?” The paladin, mid-sip, coughs into her mug of ale. The Halfling keeps talking, “We ripped a hole through the Planes…” Kline stops him, “No, I don’t think so. Besides, the Astral Plane has no affiliation with the Elemental Planes.” Drakthal nods, “I’m not so familiar with these Planes,” before bringing his ale back to his mouth. Kline explains that the genasi inherit something from each Plane, they resemble humans that have unusual skin colors; red, green, blue, grey. “They almost never have contact with their Elemental parents, jinni seldom have interest in their mortal offspring, seeing them as accidents if anything. Many feel nothing of their genasi children…Most are driven into exile for their unsettling appearance and strange magic, or they assume leadership over humanoids and weird cults in untamed lands…perhaps a lieutenant or general of whatever prophet is there.” Alatar and Traelle nod as they finish their drinks. Rinn holds her glass in both hands and watches their thoughtful expressions. Drakthal speaks, “Aye.”

 

The sound of a chair being pulled up to the table halts their questions of strange beings as Adeline sits down at the end of the table beside Alatar and Drakthal. Kline looks to her, “Glad you could make it.” The bar wench brings over a plate of food and an ale for the blonde. Adeline looks to the Halfling beside her, “Drakthal? You still bear the rune I left on your forehead but you look very different.” She smiles, “Bit younger, you look good.” Kline watches the two of them interact before going back to the subject at hand.

Cult of the Black Earth is a patient and defense-minded group that admires stoicism, endurance, and unyielding resolve. They choose their actions carefully but have no patience for social niceties. Their connection to the earth is held above all, “They see common courtesy as a way for the weak to put limits on the behavior of the strong, and they scorn empathy or friendship as weakness.” In battle, Black Earth cultists prefer to be brutal and attack directly. They create weapons from stone and iron found underground, sometimes donning robes and masks.

Kline looks across the table at each of the Keepers, “Do you remember the armor on the bodies you unearthed?” Alatar and Rinn nod, remembering the strange stone armor on the road to Feathergale many months ago. Drakthal nods, and Kline continues.

 

Cult of the Eternal Flame members worship the destructive power of fire in all forms. Similar to the Crushing Wave cultists, they seek destruction in order to purify the world—but it is destruction for destruction’s sake. They are typically reckless and violent, even putting themselves at risk. Members often have burn scars from their work in fire and forge, or the large fires that they build. Eternal Flame cultists favor opening volcanic fissures to channel lava and rock. Setting forest fires and other forms of spontaneous arsons are also common tactics among their group. “Most fire cultists believe that something important and beautiful should be set on fire every day, or else they’re just not doing their part.”

Adeline eats from her plate and listens as Kline finishes sharing the information on the cults with the Keepers. They were also able to examine the runes present on the orbs, discovering that they are keys to the temple doors. Unfortunately, the earthen orb carved from the chest of an archon did not have runes across its surface as the others. With the help of Fyndrick’s research in the north, she has been able to discover which runes must be carved into the orb’s surface. She thanks Drakthal for making a connection with him so that this would be possible, “There’s no way we would have been able to move further.” The Halfling inclines his head curiously, “How do these cults work together?” Kline replies, “That’s the thing, they don’t work together. Each has their own Elemental god they seek to unleash upon the world.”

 

Rinn asks, “And we don’t know what’s behind these doors?” Kline shakes his head, “No idea.” After Drakthal asks more about the temples, making mention of the giant tunnel beneath Sacred Stone Monastery. Rinn looks to the Halfling, “I don’t know how long we walked those tunnels,” she pauses and looks to Kline, “So we’ll be going back then?” He nods in return. The Air Temple is the closest, therefore the first to be taken. The Shadar-kai tips her glass towards Traelle, “The valley full of manticores and cliffs? It’s been a long time.” A force of knights from the kingdoms and trusted faction members have been sent ahead to watch the gates of the temple in anticipation of the Keepers arrival. The knights will also protect the nearby cities; the Knights of Minnarhia in Bargewright, Knights of Kelvular in Wolfepine, those of Wyrmwood will take Red Larch, and Talondrossan knights will head directly to the door to sweep the area. Kline gives Alatar a look as he adds, “Even the knights from Kelvular understand that the preservation of the Material Plane will only secure their own kingdom, they shun the idea of fleeing to the Feywild.” He tells them that they will travel on gryffins by air, “I will be joining you, and if things go well, Shava will be joining you at Riverguard and Adeline will join you at Sacred Stone…we do not know who will join you in the south yet.” Traelle inquires about his recovery, and receives a story of Kline’s sparring with Bronzehammer. She nods, “I’ve seen the king fight, and if you are able to keep step with him I’m glad you’ll be joining us.” He admits that though all of his powers have yet to return, he is capable for now.

They all briefly discuss preparations for their journey just a few days away. There are goods to purchase for safety as well as simple camping. Negotiations with Kringle in Westerhold must be taken care of before their departure also. Kline clears his throat and looks to the Halfling, “Drakthal, we need to have a chat. I have some concerns…we will talk, but not tonight.” Rinn watches them. It’s crossed each of our minds along the way… Whatever awkwardness hung in the air between them was quickly dissolved by a man in an apron calling their attention to a stage across the tavern room. “Everybody put your hands together for, Earth Wind & Shire!”

Music begins to fill the bar as a female Halfling, an orc, two elves, and a human take the stage. Kline leans into the table slightly, asking, “You all heard this band before?” Traelle shrugs and Drakthal shakes his head. Rinn listens as they play their first song, “They do sound familiar.” Kline replies, “Surprising, they travel all over. I was certain that you all would have heard them at some point.” Adeline stands from her seat and asks Drakthal to dance. He takes her hand, “Not my type of music but I’ll never turn down a dance with a pretty lady.” The others watch them enter the excited crowd gathering on the dancefloor. Kline glances over at Rinn and smiles, she nods. “A dance?” he asks Traelle. Rinn chuckles to herself, maybe I’ll get her drunk and teach her to dance… The rogue watches as he escorts the paladin to the dancefloor near the spinning Drakthal and Adeline. What an odd couple, though they look to be having a great time.

 

The band plays on into the night, all drinking and dancing together at the Seven Gems. Traelle settles back into the booth after her turn on the dancefloor, as Rinn joins Kline. Neinor arrives late and downs one of the ales from the table before pulling Alatar up for a dance.

The Halfling and the diviner slip out amid the festivities, only Traelle spots them as they disappear hand in hand. The evening winds down and everyone returns to the table, now with an empty seat or two. Kline gives the room a quick once over and asks, “Where’d the other two go?” The paladin takes the last sip of her drink and slides it to the center of the table, “I saw them leave together…” Rinn raises a brow at her and laughs. Kline takes the potion from his pocket, “I still have this.” And so, they go their separate ways for the night. Back to the Ivy District, the Keep, and to faction houses.

 

The next morning is one of errands and meetings for most; faction duties to attend to, arrangements to be made, and a trip to Gilmore’s to restock what was lost. Fortunately, Gilmore has been holding the Keepers’ profits from the Westerhold-Glassmoor trade while they were away, allowing them all to make their necessary purchases for their next venture out. A diamond, potion of healing, and more arrows. If only they were able to take advantage of the discount that Gilmore had granted them, they might have saved enough to buy more; the shop owner greets them happy as ever, but quickly becomes gloomy with dissatisfaction in the Keepers’ advertising efforts. “Let’s go ahead and put your discount on a temporary ban.” Before leaving the expansive store, Rinn asks after the items she received on the southern continent. Gilmore identifies the magic of her raven figurine and that of the amulet received from Chieftain Javor’s tomb, but unlike his past assessments, it costs a bit of gold. After their purchases are made, Drakthal heads to Kline’s private room in the Lyceum to discuss the concerns have come up. The rest of the Keepers attend to their respective shrines in the city and agree to meet up at the Whistling Pig later.

Once at the Lyceum, Drakthal finds the false door to Kline’s office and settles in for the discussion. They begin with talk of last night’s festivities, and the Halfling’s disappearance at the end of the night. “Good for you Drakthal. I can’t stress enough how important it is for you to make connections with people. How important it is for to really tie yourself down to the material world.” But it soon turns to the real concerns that Kline holds with Drakthal’s faith in Talos. “There was a reason I chose to accompany you all at the temple, it is not because of your inabilities, I believe you can all handle this on your own. It’s to make sure that you don’t fall to the other side.” Drakthal refutes these concerns with a tale of his past, and his drive for family, much similar to the discussion he had had with Alatar just a day before. “You know I worship this god because I wanted power. But do you know why I wanted this power? For my family. As time went on, there’s another reason. It was for my crew, my family then. And they are no longer part of me, they’re gone…but I have a new family. You know why I seek power now? To protect them from what’s happened in the past.” This seems to satisfy Kline’s worries for now, but the risks remain. Future missions will still require himself, Shava, Adelin, and another to keep watch and prevent any cultists from manipulating the captain’s intentions. Before leaving to meet up with the others, Drakthal asks Kline whether there is anything they should know about his own power as they journey to the Temple of the Howling Hatred. He shakes his head, noting the differing powers of each of his wings. Lacking one wing has greatly affected the magic that he might use. The Halfling gives a nod, “Well let’s hope it grows back, like my beard.”

 

Once all have joined their table at the Whistling Pig, Alatar and Rinn begin discussing the potential improvements that can be made to the lands around Glassmoor. The elf decides that it would be best to consult with Taranath before attending to the negotiations in Westerhold. The Keepers set out along the road through green pastures where more settlers appear to be making their homes. Some familiar faces, but many new dot the landscape. The recently finished towers and stonework surrounding the manor look to be of fine quality as well. Arriving at Glassmoor, they thank the elf for the construction of the fighting pit area and explain away Drakthal’s change in stature. Taranath learns that they will only stay for the next handful of days before setting out again, “I will be sure to make them the most pleasant days I can.”

When Alatar mentions visiting Kringle, Taranath recommends that they construct barracks next on account of having no defenses. Rinn nods, “we’ll see what is more attractive at the table.” The mention of Kringle brings the memory of their most recent round of negotiations to mind. Traelle being ejected from the office, and Rinn quickly backtracking for an adequate sum of gold. They discuss how much to request and who should be doing the asking this time. Amounts are thrown around, suggestions to push for more gold. In the end, Drakthal decides for the group, “Rinn should do it since she convinced him last time.”

 

With the sun still high, they all make their way along the road to Westerhold. Clouds drift overhead, more and more as they near the village. The temperature drops as they near the bustling streets outside of the governor’s office, and snow drifts through the air. Rinn looks up at the clouds and back to her companions, it wasn’t snowing anywhere else… Traelle shrugs. Inside, there is an air of warmth that was most certainly absent last time. Though Kringle appears very busy with the work covering his desk, the fireplace is lit and he seems to be in a fairly good mood. The Shadar-kai leads them into the office and opens the conversation hoping for smoother negotiations this time around. “With the improvements to the land, our fortifications, and the mining trade, hopefully that has been pleasing enough for us to get a bit more than previously arranged.” He asks how much they are asking, and she replies, “Ideally somewhere close to 3000 if you can accommodate…” She holds her breath as he continues, please please please. Somehow, perhaps the cheery mood that he was already in or the magic of the snow overhead, Governor Kringle’s offer surpasses the Keeper’s asking price. They shake hands in agreement, four thousand gold per month in exchange for building the barracks at Glassmoor.

They all leave the perfect snowy day in Westerhold and head back to Glassmoor as the sky darkens. Taranath welcomes them back and they share their success with him, confirming their plans to build the barracks. Kline sits by the hearth as they enter, as he had promised a tour to Rinn. They slip outside as the orange of the sunset falls over the lake nearby. Alatar and Drakthal retire to their rooms, and Traelle takes the hot bath she requested earlier in the day.

 

In the coming days before leaving, each of the Keepers take time to visit their shrines, and pick up the extra supplies needed for the battle in the temple. Arrows, pitons, tents, and more. On their fifth day, last in the city, a caravan of horses arrives to escort them to the Keep. There they depart Wyrmwood for the Desarin Valley on the backs of gryffins. Each night they make camp on outcroppings and the tops of cliffs to avoid any trouble on the ground below. They fly high over the trails they once trekked by foot and cart, passing over Wolfpine and beyond the Feathergale Spire. After five days of flight, the gryffins land a few hundred yards off from a group of soldiers wearing armor emblazoned with hawk emblems; the Knights of Talondrossa. There are others as well, sent as representatives of each faction to aid the Keepers in the fight ahead.

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Session 27: Assault on the Fire Cult

Smoke covers the world.  An ancient square tower, weakened through years of neglect, rises above.  Next to it lays the source of at least some of the smoke: a pyre far taller than any man or elk. Eyes peer from it center, staring at the corpses that lie before it.  Some are humans, others beasts or worse.   At the center lie four bodies: a blue-tinted elven archer, bow broken at his side, skull smashed and his silver hair mangled with blood. Next to him, a human woman, flesh burnt, sword still in hand, a shield etched with a hammer and scales lying at her side. Then, a halfling with the hair of a young prince, smiling even in death, and clutching a warhammer and shield almost too big for his hands. Beneath his pierced skin appear flashes of what came before, the coarse skin and grizzled beard of an elderly dwarf. Then, the last corpse. Blood soaked black leather covers the grey-skinned, purple-haired carcass of a stranger to this plane; though long dead from the sword buried in her flesh, her pupil-less eyes still stare blankly to the north, longing for what could not save them.  A creature steps out of the flames. Everything is fire. 

 

A young girl screams and rushes to her mother.  As her daughter begins to describe the final corpse, Fennor grips her axe and orders her daughter, “Tell Padraich to assemble The Elk.  We leave at dawn.”

 

 

Drak’Thal and Traelle trudge southward in the heat. Ahead, Rinn and Alatar wilt in the sun.  As they draw closer to their destination, the air grows thick with smoke and begins to fill their lungs. Soon, they can barely see more than a few feet in front of them.  They stop at the crest of a ridge and gaze at a large barren opening in front of them. The elf and dwarf suddenly each feel the tip of a blade on their backs. They turn ready to fight but find Krunak and Shava standing there with a warning: “Try to be more inconspicuous next time.”

 

After sending Shava back to the ship, the half-orc begins to describe what the two found during their scouting mission. ‘From what we can tell,” he informs the Keepers, “it looks like there is—was—a central tower with an outer protective wall to the far south.  The tower itself is under repair; there is scaffolding all around it. There are various camps and they seem to shift.  Can’t tell whether they are all enemies or not however I did see that there are some camps that have druids in them. I don’t think a druid would be part of the fire, especially with the destruction further south.  So I don’t know if they are planning a ruse here or what but I venture to say that not everyone her is your enemy. There are a number of bonfires that burn along the hillside. Be careful of them. They can be a little wild.” As we gaze out to the square tower, we see a huge fire and seven bonfires.  As the Keepers look around, Krunak hands Rinn a map and says,  "Well, that is what we were able to get out of this. Not everyone is your enemy. Needless to say don’t go in with swords ablazing. Conserve your energies for whatever is at the tower. Is there anything you need from me captain?

 

Alatar winks at Drak’Thal and mentions the events at the ranch. “Shava,” Drak’Thal beings, “sent us to the Nettlebees. It was a trap and the information came from her.  Keep an eye on her ask her about it maybe; it’s not that I don’t trust her. "

“Will do,” Krunak replies, “however I will just say Shava has bled for me more times than I have bled for her and she has definitely beld for Klnie more times than anyone else I know..   May your swords be swift.  “I don’t have a sword,” replies the dwarf. As Krunak turns and leaves, he gestures back at his captain. 

After a brief discussion with her fellow Keepers on how to proceed, Rinn walks towards the first camp. As she approaches the bonfire, she sees four shadows through the haze.  She continues until she sees a tent, four humans, and two giant elk chewing whatever they can find.  She moves closer still.  The humans seem not to notice but an elk, apparently smelling her, walks up to the Shadar-Kai and nuzzels her. Rinn pets it.  As she does so, the four robed humans raise their heads and look directly at the intruder. One asks in a strange voice, “Are you here to witness the rite?”  Puzzled, Rinn replies, “The rite?”   A male voice, obviously stoned, replies, “Yeah. The rite. Come on in man.” Addressing the man, Rinn asks,  “When is it? Should I get my friends?”   “Sure,” he replies. “Okay. I’ll be right back.” “That’s good man.” 

 

Rinn turns and walks back to her companions.  Unbeknownst to her, the elk she was petting follows.  While Rinn is informing the rest of the Keepers of the camp and the rite, the elk walks up to her before turning its head and looking forlornly at its new friend.  It then leads the entire party back to the camp. As they approach through the smoke, the strange man tells the Shadar-Kai, “Looks like that one likes you. That’s good.”  “Does it have a name?” she asks.  “I honestly don’t even remember its name?  A perplexed Rinn asks, “Wait! Did it tell you its name?”  “Yeah Steve or something.”  

 

“So what’s this rite you’re talking about?” Rinn asks.

“This dude, Elizar Dryflagon, he’s this druid right and he says that he knows this this rite of the wicker giant supposed to like restore nature’s balance in the troubled regions. That big fire over there, we’re thinking its supposed to stop it.  He is trying to convince some of us to join his order. We hope to get in but you know its limited.”

After a few moments of discussing the order, Drak’Thal address the man “You a druid?”

“Yeah.”

Increasingly reminded of some of the druids he knew in Kelvular, Alatar asks, “Where you from?”

“We’re from around here….You guys want some food and drink?”

“Got any ale?” Drak’Thal quickly pipes up.

“Fancy some Brandy?”

Drak’Thal nods and, after the druid hands him a bottle, takes a drink.   

After seeing her dwarf friend satiated, Rinn asks, “So what’s your name?”

 “I’m Varigo this is Mahoon, this right here is my goddess Iniri and this wild thing over here is Fariya whom Mahood has bonded—spiritually—they share bodies with others—the love man. Lots of love… So you guys here to join or what?”

At this question, Alatar replies  “Maybe. We’re here visiting the southern continent and…uhhhh.”

“Righteous,” Varigo interrupts.

“Yeah”

“Yeah” replies Varigo as he begins rhythmically petting the Elk.

“What is over there?” Drak’Thal asks.

“I think some other camps? I don’t know.”

“Got any friends here?”

 “Not personally but these three people here, “Varigo replies to the Dwarf while still righteously petting the Elk and drinking brandy. “Up ahead is the tower.” 

Apparently, growing impatient with the conversation, DRak’Thal asks, “Can you tell us anything more about this cult?”

“Dude,” Varigo intones, “I don’t think this is a cult.”

“Welll,” Drak’Thal stutters, “not the cult but the other people here.”

 

Before the Keepers leave, Drak’Thal asks them about his charm.  “There is some nature in here.,” Varigo replies.  “Are you a druid? Want me to check this out for you?”

The dwarf hands the druid the charm who investigates it. “Dude this does stuff to you when you die? I don’t know what but something.  Good stuff.” 

“What can be good when you die?” Drak’Thal asks. 

“I don’t know man  Just feels like it would be good to die.  I think maybe you become one with nature. I don’t know.”

 

After a few more minutes of conversation, Drak’Thal address Varigo, “Thanks for the brandy.”

“Yeah righteous brother.”

“Real quick before you go. Varigo says,  “if you see any of these sage bushes anywhere let us know.  It looks just like brush. We use it for medicinal purposes.” 

The Keepers quickly agree and as they turn to explore the rest of the camp, Alatar says “Praise Corellon” and the druid replies and praise be what’s her name.  Sehanine—yeah moon chick.  Talk to you later brother.” 

 

 

Rinn leaves the rest of the Keepers near the central path as she makes her way to the charted location of the second camp where she finds two druids named Aylbrith and Ingulf and a giant bear they trapped.  Less stoned and friendly than their fellow druids, they appear suspicious of Rinn so she returns to her fellow Keepers who decide to proceed to the next ring of camps before returning. 

 

At the third camp, Rinn asks Alatar if he can go with her. He agrees and the two of them decide eo enter the camp openly and pretend to be interested in the rite.  The plan immediately begins to fail.  The thief and ranger expected to find another set of druids but instead they found two rugged, hairy ass shirtless humans sitting around a fire.    “Hail, may Corellon Larathian and Sehanine Moonbow bless you,” Alatar yells.    One of the men, obviously annoyed quickly replies, “You one of those fucking druids?”  Alatar says yes but the conversation quickly declines as the men remain suspicious of their visitors. 

After briefly informing Traelle and Drak’Thal about the two men, Rinn and Alatar, venture to the next camp.  Again, they try to approach openly and again, it fails.  This time, they find four men, three dozing off and one awake leaning on a staff apparently bored.  They quietly approach the man on the staff and greet him.  The two quickly discover why the man seems so bored.  He has been there for ten days and is growing increasingly irritated with the situation.  He too, is suspicious of the Rinn and Alatar, especially after they tell him they are from Kieria and are also trying to get into the cult. Eventually, the man yells, “Why don’t you just leave?”  Rinn agrees but Alatar, trying to maintain the ruse, yells back at her, “No. We’re not leaving. Not after we have come all this way!”  Rinn, unconvincingly replies, “Fine, we’re not going to take your spot man.” At this, the man raises his sword as his three companions rise and draw their weapons.

Before the man in front of her has a chance to swing, Rinn pulls out her short sword and dagger and stabs him twice. Hearing the sounds of battle through the smoke, Drak’Thal and Traelle rush to their friends’ aid.  Drak’Thal creates a spiritual weapon behind the man; it swings its warhammer and find flesh.  Alatar pulls out his bow and quickly kills the first man.  Then he turns and fires another arrow at a second adversary.  Two of the remaining cultists graze Rinn and Alatar with their attacks while the third makes a strange hand signal.  Drak’Thal’s spiritual weapon swings at the man in front of it but misses and immediately disappears. Rinn, retaliates against the man who hit her and severely damages him.  Alatar pulls out his scimitar and shortsword and swings at the man in front of him before turning and firing an arrow into the haze near where he thinks an enemy stands. Miraculously, he hits him. 

As the original group of prospective cultists beings to whither, other creatures join the fray. Two werewolves that look suspiciously like the hairy men at the adjoining camp arrive first. One approaches Alatar and slashes at the elf with his claws; he misses. The other attacks Rinn and hits but she successfully dodges the attack thanks to an aura of protection emanating from the paladin. Traelle tries to attack the beast in front of her but only manages one hit with her two swings.  The man in the back casts a spell that unleashes a sleet of ice across the battlefield, extinguishing the fire.  As the bonfire goes out, two wargs, orcs, and bugbears arrive from a neighboring camp.  Drak’Thal immediately falls on the ice but is able to stand and cast a spell that quickly injures all the surrounding enemies. 

For a while, the new enemies and the sleet turn the tide of battle in favor of the camp’s residents.  While the wargs distract the Keepers, the orcs and bugbears, and one of the werewolves slice through Rinn, Drak’Thal, and Traelle.  Only Rinn’s dagger seems able to injure the wolf in front of her.  Alatar repeatedly swings at the wolf in front of him but though his blades find flesh, they do little harm to the creature.  His fangs dig deep into the elf’s flesh and the elf immediately feels sick.  Realizing his swords are doing minimal harm to the creature, the elf pulls out his bow and silver arrows. Even with the wolfman nearly on top of him, he launches an arrow into its flesh.  Finally, he feels blood drip from the creature and realizes how he will have to attack the creature in the future.

 

In the larger melee, Rinn, Traelle, and Drak’Thal battle the werewolf, wargs, orcs, bugbears, and the remaining robed figure who throws a dagger of ice at Rinn and Drak’Thal.  After several successive hits, Drak’Thal collapses.  Risking an attack from Traelle, an orc steps up and bludgeons the collapsed dwarf.  But as soon as the life escapes from the dwarf the talisman given to him by Javik begins to glow. Energy covers his body, transforming his flesh.  Soon where a dwarf once lay dying is a halfling with immaculate hair. He stands and immediately begins to cast spells that look familiar to the rest of the Keepers.

Rejuvenated by the new addition to the battle, the Keepers slaughter the remaining creatures one by one.  Alatar finally kills the werewolf in front of him,  and turns his bow on the robed figure and is able to help his friends with the remaining beasts. As the final creature falls, Alatar, Rinn, and Traelle turn to stare at the tiny figure nowin their midst.  Alatar raises his bow and aims at the strange man before noticing that the rune that once graced Drak’Thal, is now located on the considerably smaller forehead.  Drak’Thal quickly yells at his friends and they realize who it is as the halfling begins to explore his new body. 

After some debate, Alatar uses the charm gifted him by Javik to cure himself as the Keepers rest to recover from the battle.  As they rest, they discuss how to proceed. Remembering Krunak’s words to conserve their energy and what happened in Sacred Stone when they tarried too long, they agree to bypass the remainder of the camp and proceed directly to the tower where they may find the orb quickly and decapitate the snake of fire that encircles them. Alatar takes a sprig of spruce and the ashes of a burned leaf of mistletoe from his pack and mumbles an incantation.  Soon, a veil of shadows and silence radiates from his body and engulfs the Keepers.  Under the cover of smoke and darkness, they sneak into the heart of the camp. They pass a giant pyre and a pit of hellhounds and walk to the scaffolding near the back of the tower. They start to climb. 

As they approach the first landing, arrows rain down upon them. Rinn manages to dodge the one aimed at her while Drak’Thal and Traelle block a few with their shields but the damage is done; they are discovered. An alarm sounds and, almost instantaneously, the Keepers hear the roar of beasts and the ring of steel. 

They fight bravely but wave after wave of combatants from almost all the fires of the camp attack the Keepers. The druids and their massive bear, a host of giant bats, and more orcs and bugbears surround them until at least an enemy steps from the pyre: a fire elemental.  The Keepers spells are quickly used up; they are bloodied and damaged. As they are close to falling, they see Varigo Mahoon, Iniri, Fariya, Steve, and the nameless elk walk into the center of the former tower.  Steve, sensing that his new friend is in danger, immediately signals to the druids that something is wrong with the situation. The druids take his advice and join the fight against the fire cult.  Unfortunately, their healing and natural spells are not enough and soon the Keepers are surrounded once again. 

Alatar, collapses while trying to fight his way to Rinn and fulfill the oath he swore to her on the ship.   Drak’Thal delights in his newfound ability to dart around the battlefield beneath the fray but he too eventually falls.  As all seems lost, they hear the sound of the horns approach from the north. The Uthgardt, lead by Fennor, ride into the camp and slay every remaining enemy. Miraculously no one, not even the gravely wounded Traelle, dies.

As Krunak and Shava, who heard the battle from their camp, walk into the ruined tower, Fennor addresses the Keepers.  “You should have died today.  My daughter had a vision and saw it.”  She then truns to Rinn and tell the Shadar-Kai, “your friend now owes us a boon.”

 

In the day that follows, the Keepers search the tower and find the object that eluded them at Sacred Stone: an orb.  Entrusting it to Krunak, they walk to the ship where they are greeted by the crew.  After reintroducing Drak’Thal, they set sail for home.  Weeks after a brief stop at the pirate kingdom, the Keeper’s Oath sails into the Wyrmwood harbor. There, sitting on a horse all alone at the dock is Kline… 

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Session 26: A Bag within a Bag

The sun beats down on the ship and its crew as the ship travels farther south in the seas between Wyrmwood and the southern continent. A drow stands at the helm of the ship navigating. She calls to one of her men. “Oye, come take over for me. I have business to attend to.” She walks down from the helm into the war room to meet with Krunak. 

 

The Keepers enter the war room to meet with Shava and Krunak. “We have orders from Kline to scout before you all reach your destination to make sure we do not fail.” Krunak says before placing a piece of armor for each of us on the table. “This is more breathable armor and should help keep you cool in the heat of the continent. However, it is thinner than the leather you wear now and will not protect you as much.” Shava then speaks up and says “I have heard some rumors while in Bilgewater of a fire witch dwelling inside of an Uthgardt Barrow and terrorizing a group of individuals named the Nettlebys. The pirates had visited the ranch and had confirmed the scorched barrow with the symbol of the fire cult on the mound itself. The Nettlebys have prized livestock and helpful citizens like yourself should lend a hand.” Traelle speaks up and asks “How will we find this place?” Shava responds “When we reach port AlsoDoesntHaveAName we can ask the location of the ranch. Anything else captain?” Drak’Thal questions her. “Who did you hear this information from?” Shava responds, “Local tavern.” With a smile on her face as she looks back at the Captain. “So, you are a pirate?” Drak’thal questions the Drow. “Of sorts,” she responds. “Tell me of your past.” Drak’Thal says curiously. “I was born in the underdark…” she stares right at Alatar, “there is much prejudice in the main lands so I took to the sea. It is safer for my kind.” Drak’Thal sits for a moment in silence contemplating what to ask her. Shava has become infinitely more interesting to Drak’Thal. “Who did you sail under?” He asks her. “Myself,” she responds. He asks her why she is no longer a captain. “Kline commandeered my ship. A fate similar to yourself. Is that all captain?” “Sure,” The captain responds. Krunak, slightly uncomfortable, looks over to Shava nods and she heads out of the room.

 

Krunak continues the meeting, “Any questions about the mission or scouting party? It will be myself and Shava scouting.” Rinn asks “YOU'RE LEAVING US IN CHARGE OF THE BOAT?!” in a concerned voice as though she would never want to do such a thing. Krunak relieves her of her fears and says that the crew will take care of the ship, Shava and him will take care of the scouting, and the Keepers will take care of the Nettlebys. He proceeds to exit the room so that they Keepers may speak as a group.

 

Drak’thal turns to Alatar and says, “As you probably know, we had a meeting without you. I made it very clear to these two, that together we are a group, including you. If one of us does not forgive you then the rest of us do not forgive you.” Alatar thanks Drak’thal for this. The dwarf then asks all of them to share any information that they have been holding back that they may speak of. They all look across the table at each other waiting for someone to speak. Rinn speaks up, “Fucking werewolves…” She goes on to tell them of her dreams of the Uthgardt clan, Kline, and orc bandits. Rinn continues on about more dreams, an old lady, and her feather. Drak’thal asks if anyone else is holding anything back, and nobody speaks. They all leave agreeing to meet in the mess hall later for some fun.

 

Land crests the horizon over the sea as the Keepers Oath sails south. As the port nears, smoke and flame appear in the distance. Krunak meets with the Keepers and tells them that they have two tendays to complete their mission. “Deal with the Nettleby’s in one day’s time, and we will meet on the road to Scarlet Moon Hall.” He then looks to the dwarf, “Captain” before departing. The Keepers enter the port AlsoDoesntHaveAName and head to the tavern for an ale. Alatar and Traelle ask the barkeep about the location of the Nettleby’s home and if they have heard any news of the ranch. He replies, “The livestock have been branded and there are said to be fire witches.” The Keepers make haste for the ranch, taking the East road. Night falls over the southern continent and the Keepers sleep beside the road.

They continue on the road until they come to a sprawling ranch over rolling hills, cleared of trees. Praised livestock graze the pastures; ponies, cattle, sheep, and oxen. A house and barn stand near fields of oats and barley. The Keepers approach the home, knocking on the door. A young halfling answers, “Um hello?” Drak’thal leans down to the boy, “Go get yer parents!” Rinn interjects, “We’re here to help, please go get your parents.” The door shuts and a few minutes later a halfling woman, Jayne, answers and asks if we’re here to help. Traelle asks about the cultists and fire witches. Jayne tells them that thirty days ago the barrow went up in flames scorching the symbol at the top.  Her son, Watson, noticed branded cattle and that the barrow had been opened. Her father-in-law, Wiggan, spoke of fire witches of the past. She takes us out to the field to show them the brands on some of the livestock. The symbol of the fire cult, seared into a hide of the sheep, was unmistakable. A cranky old halfling, Wiggan, introduces himself, his son Bertrand, and his eldest grandson Watson. The Keepers are led to the barrow by Wiggan and his son. As they approach the barrow, it is noticeably chillier. The halflings refuse to continue further, leaving the Keepers to investigate.

Entering the barrow, motes of flame light the corridor and tall monoliths lead to a burial chamber. The Keepers explore the tomb, finding three altars of animals; tiger, elk, and bear. In the center stands an empty bier with scorched, scattered bones on the floor. The cold that was a relief from the outside heat becomes a deathly chill inside the chamber. Traelle looks severely exhausted by the temperature. Just as the Keepers let their guard down, the bones begin to swirl and form a skeleton. A miasma covers the skeleton creating a large spectral warrior. “I return from a warrior’s rest!” The warrior asks the group why they have come to his tomb, and they explain their intent to cleanse the desecrated barrow. As the Keepers mentions the Nettleby’s, he exclaims, “They are the desecrators!” Just as he utters those words, the sunlight from outside dims and the hall entrance collapses. Rushing to the entrance, a large earthen Elemental creature attacks them. Swords ring and arrows shatter against the creature’s rocky flesh. Little damage is done until Rinn can find a weak spot in its armor. Exploiting this multiple times, she weakens the Elemental. Drak’thal then raises his warhammer bringing the wrath of Talos down upon the creature, crushing it into rubble.

Upon exiting the barrow, twelve barbarians surround the Keepers in a semi-circle with two of them on horses. One dismounts, kneels to the warrior and says, “This one is the ancient, we have come to see you avenged.” The spectral warrior replies, “You’re in time for blood. The desecrators lie there,” as he points to the Nettleby house. He runs off towards the home and the Keepers follow. Rinn asks of the spirit warrior’s name, they tell her that he is Chieftain Javor. Traelle turns to one of the barbarians and pleads, “There is at least one innocent there.” The barbarian replies, “All will die…” Traelle sheepishly withdraws and continues running. Drak’thal asks of the barbarians. The leader of the tribe, Fennor, and her second, Padraich, explain that they are one of many Uthgardt clans. 

A storm begins to coalesce over the Nettleby ranch, thunder and lightning crash as the slaughter begins. The barbarians swarm the home, killing everyone they find. Javor walks forward, unsheathing an unseen spectral sword. With a single slash, he brings the house down. Walking into the rubble, he murmurs,“The basement” before smashing the floor open to reveal Wiggan and Bertrand. Javor asks them for their final words, and they reply, “Curse the Black Earth Cult!” His spectral sword cuts through the halflings, severing their souls from their bodies.

The Keepers search the basement and find papers from the Black Earth Cult and a locked chest. Javor looks over the group and says, “You, adventurers. You have fought valiantly. Restore my barrow, find the items they took, and restore it once more.” With these final words, his form vanishes and his bones fall to the floor. Traelle collects the bones to carry back to the tomb. Inside the chest, they find armor, weapons, animal figurines, and a bag. The Keepers return to the barrow to place the four animal figurines at their respective altars, reform the bones and armor at the bier, and pray that they have restored the tomb properly. A voice calls to them from the beir, “Halt.” The Keepers turn to see Javor at the bier, and he continues, “Are you familiar with the rewards of those long gone?” Small gems at the side of the bier displace themselves and float towards the Keepers. They appear to be charms for each of the adventurers. They thank him and leave.

Exiting the barrow, Traelle begins to stow the items from the chest into her bag. As she places the halfling bag into her own, it begins to violently shake. She yells, “RUN,” and throws her own bag away from them all.

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Session 25: Heroes Recovery

As the paladin and rogue make their way to Glassmoor, mounted on the winged axebeak, a shape forms ahead of them in the dark. A tall, misshapen figure rides toward them. As the figure continues on his path, Traelle rears the axebeak to a halt and squints into the darkness. Finally, the figure appears beneath the moonlight as he begins to pass the women. Alatar, panting along with the horse, carries the body of Drak'Thal across his shoulder. Even with the breeze, the smell of scorched flesh and hair wafts over the rogue and paladin. Alatar continues past the pair, riding hard to return to Wyrmwood. Traelle urges the the axebeak after her companions, and the mounted Keepers race for the city.

 

The Keepers ride and make their way back through North Gate. Driven by pure adrenaline, Alatar continues to carry the dwarf across his back and makes for the Keep.  Traelle breaks into a run, looking for someone to render aid to Drak'Thal.  She desperately tries to ask a guard she stumbles upon for help, and continues on.  Heading to the lyceum, Traelle looks for any sign of aid. Finding nothing but a closed door, she turns back and runs with Rinn and Alatar for the throne room. The trio finds only more guards. Rinn asks if anyone can help a mortally wounded friend, and shrugs are the only response. The Keepers, dwelling on the possibility of losing their friend, sit in the throne room and try to come up with any shred of hope.  As they sit, dread fills them…Suddenly, as if to answer the prayers of Rinn and Traelle, as well as the blood sacrifice of Alatar, the stone doors swing open. The guard captain and Adeline walk up to the Keepers.

Adeline swiftly walks to sit at Drak'Thal's head. Traelle talks a position at the dwarf's feet. With her shield propped beneath the dwarf's feet, she casts holy water upon him, lights some incense at her knees, and sits back to pray. Rinn sits on Drak'Thal's right, grasping his charred arm in one hand a feather in the other. Alatar sits to Drak'Thal's lefts and continues to draw blood with his prayer to Talos. Adelin removes a dagger from her side and begins to carve a rune into the dwarf's forehead. As she traces the sharp blade, she whispers under her breath. As the words continue, and an odd energy flows from the blade into the circular rune on Drak'Thal's head. Nothing happens, and the Keepers join hands. In another room, a steady heartbeat drums, thumping louder and louder. As the dwarf lies cold, still, and lifeless on the ground, a sudden gasp of air escapes a man's lips, and he rises from the bed…

 

As Adeline utters the last words of her incantation, the energy flows through and around the markings, causing the rune to glow.  A shockwave courses through the dwarf's body, electricity racing through his being. The group backs off, with Adeline cupping Drak'Thal's head. The dwarf blinks, looking up at the blonde woman as she wipes a tear of blood from his eye. "An angel," he softly calls." Some may say," she replies, removing her hands from his head. Wearily, she walks to the guard captain and nearly collapses in his arms. As Drak'Thal struggles to his hands and knees, Traelle moves to his right and pours her energy into him, attempting to heal the damage done to his body.

"I'm back," Drak'Thal says as he grins.

"What happened?" Rinn asks at the half standing dwarf.

"Ran into some furious puppies, fire breathing ones, i'm not sure what happened…" Drak'Thal's voice trails off as he starts to rise to his feet.

 

Alatar pulls out his journal, and begins to furiously write. Alatar describes the attack by the fire breathing "puppies," detailing how the elf and dwarf left for Glassmoor after waiting for Rin and Traelle. Alatar's notes tell the others of how Drak'Thal succumbed to his wounds during the fight and that Alatar was able to kill one beast and drive the other two away. He continues, writing that he gathered Drak'Thal and galloped off for Wyrmwood.

 

As Rinn and Traelle read the elf's writing, Traelle looks at Drak'Thal and says, "You are lucky that he was able to bring you back to us, and lucky we were able to find someone to help us. Why did you not wait for us? The dwarf gives her a quizzical look and says, "Didn’t think it was necessary, travelled this road many times alone.” The Keepers agree to travel back to Glassmoor as a group, especially at night, from now on.

 

Without making eye contact with each other, Rinn hands the journal back to Alatar. “It’s getting late,” Traelle says, “perhaps we should stay within the city.” Rinn speaks up, “Stay within a faction house, perhaps?” “Don’t worry,” Drak’Thal says, “won’t go anywhere alone, I’m pretty tired.”  Alatar scratches into his journal, “where do you want to go?” and shows it to Drak’Thal. “We can stay on the ship for the night.” Grinning, Drak’Thal looks up at Traelle and says, “You know, it’s been a traumatic ordeal, maybe, i don’t really want to sleep alone, maybe you can stand guard at my door.” He pauses for a moment and continues, “If you get cold outside, you can come in. Perhaps we can pray together.” Traelle scowls at him and replies, “Perhaps you just need some rest. We’ll get you back to the ship.”

 

Rinn asks the Keepers to wait before she makes for Kline’s room. She notices a bright flash of light beneath the door, and she hears a crash of the window breaking. Rinn storms through the door and finds Kline sitting up in the bed, a wing spread with radiant energy spreading to the tip. Her eyes move to the other shoulder, and she sees blood pouring from where his other wing should be. Dark energy drips from the wound as Kline pants heavily. Rinn gathers a blanket and tries to stop the bleeding, but the cloth only becomes saturated from the contact.

Kline folds his wing in, turns his head and says, “I’ll be fine.” Rinn replies, “It looks really bad,” and he nods. As Kline moves Rinn to face him, he rests his head against hers, sitting in silence. Rinn says, “You’ve been asleep for a long time. Do you remember anything?” He shakes his head and asks, “Did I bring back the orb?” Rinn answers, “Bronzehammer has it, he’s holding it.” Kline weakly mutters, “Good.” Rinn continues, “The others are here.” Kline repeats himself, almost a whisper, “Good.” As he face contorts with concern, Rinn says,  “I should probably get someone to stop the bleeding…” Kline shakes his head, and Rinn remains seated.

 

As the others stand and wait for the rogue, Drak’Thal speaks up, “Does anyone have an ale around her, my head is killing me.” Alatar pulls out a bottle of brandy and writes in his journal “this is all I have.” The pair both take a hearty pull from the brandy, expecting the burn of the alcohol recovered from the monastery. Alatar winces from the fresh brand on his tongue, however, both Drak’Thal and Alatar can taste that the brandy has fermented into a delicious beverage. As Drak’Thal takes another pull from the bottle, Alatar can already feel the effects of the powerful drink. The dwarf grins and drinks from the bottle a third time. As he pulls the bottle from his lips, the dwarf says, “Iz some good shit.”  

Kline reaches up to Rinn, kisses her gently on the temple, and whispers into her ear. Rinn slowly stands and says, “I will be right back, I’m going to let the others know.” Rinn walks through the corridors until she returns to the Keepers. As she approaches the group, she says, “You guys go ahead to the ship, there’s a…someone just woke up.” Traelle, turning from the cheery pair, says, “I may need some help, they’re a little drunk.” Rinn smiles uncomfortably and says, “Uh…i’m sure you’ll make it just fine.” Traelle sighs, gives a light push to the backs of Alatar and Drak’Thal and says, “Alright you two, let’s go.”

 

The trio begin to head for the harbor, with both Alatar and Drak’Thal wombling down the steps of the keep. As they move, Traelle steadies the two with a hand on her drunk friends. Drak’Thal asks, “Got any more of that shit?” Alatar passes the bottle, and Drak’Thal takes another swig. The dwarf gives a violent cough, and steadies himself with a hand on his knee. He passes the bottle back to Alatar. Seeing that Drak’Thal all but finished the bottle, he brings the bottle to his lips and tilts it back for the final sip.

 

Despite the alcohol taking full affect of him, the dwarf rights himself. “Traelle,” Drak’Thal slurring his words, “c’mere.” The paladin raises an eyebrow as she looks to the dwarf, “‘Meer’? What is ‘meer’?” The dwarf responds with a fixated eye on Traelle. Magic builds within the dwarf as he opens his mouth to speak, “Kiss.”

As Alatar stands in the alley, swaying from the brandy, his eyes go wide as Traelle steps forward. Tilting her head to the left, she presses her lips to the bearded cleric. They stare at each other for a brief moment. Drak’Thal closes his eye and wraps his arms around Traelle, pulling her closer. As they embrace, Traelle slowly traces her tongue across Drak’Thal’s lips, before pulling back with her eyes still fixed on the dwarf.

 

With the sight before him, or perhaps the brandy within him, Alatar suddenly bends at the waist and vomits. Traelle’s eyes flutter for a moment, the face of Drak’Thal still only inches from hers. As the spell begins to wear off, she realizes what has happened. Her cheeks fill with color, a deep red spreading rapidly across her face. Traelle moves her hands from Drak’Thal’s back, bringing them to the top of his shoulders. She slides her right foot back and shoves the dwarf. The dwarf stumbles backward, falling to his back. With great effort, the dwarf slowly returns to his feet. As he moves, Traelle turns to the bent over elf and says, “you can get him to the ship, if you want.” As the paladin storms off for her faction's headquarters, she hears Alatar exclaim, “Vhat vhe FVUK!”  

 

The dwarf, now standing, grins at the elf. “Always wanted a kiss from her,” he says. “She did it, finally.” The drunken pair begin to walk together, stumbling as they move, colliding with the walls and each other. After making it only a short distance away from the still warm vomit, the brandy pulls both Drak’Thal and Alatar to drunken sleep. As they collapse to the cold alleyway, the pair huddle together for warmth. Drak’Thal leans against the elf, his back pressing into the Alatar’s chest.  Alatar’s arm lazily reaches across the dwarf’s shoulder, resting his hand atop the long flowing beard of his friend.

As Rinn returns to Kline’s room, she sees that the bleeding has stopped from his shoulder blade. Rinn asks, “Are you okay?” Kline smiles at her return, “I will be.” Rinn closes the door behind her and walks to Kline, “I think the others are heading for the ship.” Kline asks, “How are they?” She sits at the bed and replies, “Some things have happened…but everyone is alive, now.” Kline arches brow, and Rinn continues, “Drak’Thal was dead about an hour ago.” Surprised, Kline asks, “Who brought him back?” Rinn says, “Adeline. She must be exhausted now. She held that portal open for a long time.” Kline and Rinn speak of the Glassmoor, and of the visions that the windows had showed the Keepers. Rinn recounts the events of the past forty days to Kline, including his return from the portal, Gilmore’s assistance, the Bargewright caravan, and Thoruun’s disappearance. With a squeeze of her hand, Kline pulls Rinn to bed.

 

The Keepers wake in the morning, with Alatar and Drak’Thal rising with throbbing headaches. The pair struggle to remember the previous night and decide to make their way for the keep.

 

Rinn wakes to find Kline already up, and she sets out to find her companions and a pair of crutches. As Rinn makes her way through the courtyard, she finds Traelle walking alone and brooding. Confused at the paladin’s mood and the fact that she is alone, Rinn and Traelle begin to walk for an infirmary. The pair talk as they walk, speaking of Kline and his recovery. As the start for the Coins, they find an infirmary, and Rinn purchases the crutches. They leave, and make their way back to the keep. As they reach the courtyard, Drak’Thal’s voice calls from behind them, “Traelle!  Rinn!” Traelle stops, turns, and walks to Drak’Thal. As she approaches him, Traelle returns the gifted lightning bolt necklace to the dwarf by throwing it at his chest. Picking it up, Drak’Thal speaks, “Thanks, about last night…” But the paladin cuts him off, “We have deliver something to Kline,” and she strides away with Rinn. As the walk away, Traelle tells Rinn of the spell that Drak’Thal used.

At their own pace, the group makes it back to the keep and all head to Kline’s room. Kline is sitting at the bed, still trying to move his shoulders properly. With Rinn’s help and the crutches, Kline is able to stand and dress himself in a robe. He slowly moves back to the bed and sits as Alatar and Drak’Thal enter the room. The dwarf and Kline speak of plans for the southern continent before the Wolf asks about the missing monk. Drak’Thal hands Kline the letter that Thoruun left behind. Traelle speaks of the new relationship with Kris Kringle and the negotiations, as well as the upgrades to the Glassmoor property. As the group continues to speak, Kline learns of the Zhentarin convoy and the asks Rinn if she wants Alatar to continue as a Keeper. Rinn agrees that he is necessary and says that Alatar will have a long path to regain the trust of the group.

 

Kline asks of other news and Traelle speaks of the repeated bandit attacks on the road to Bargewright. Traelle speaks of the visions within the windows, damage done by the bandits, and of the battle with the bandits and their leader. Kline asks of the paladin’s intentions as the battle raged and takes notes as she speaks. Traelle continues and tells him about the return to Summit Hall and their trip to the catacombs. Drak’Thal interrupts Traelle, saying, “In the north, we met a man…” Traelle glares at the dwarf and she says, “I would like to tell him.” Drak’Thal relents, saying, “Traelle will tell you more.” With a bit of a chuckle, Kline says, “A lover’s quarrel.” At his words, Traelle spits to the floor. Kline produces a rag and tosses it to the paladin. After she bends to clean the floor, Traelle stands and tells Kline of Renwick on the northern continent, the trip to the catacombs, Jarill the Dragoon, and the disastrous fumble of the lich’s phylactery. Kline puts his hand to his face, unable to hid his shock and disbelief. Kline tells the group that they will depart once Krunak has finished preparations. Before dismissing them, he also tells the group to renegotiate with Kringle, before the Keepers sail for the southern continent.

The Keepers return to Glassmoor Keep together and busy themselves with their own tasks. As the days quickly pass, the group takes efforts to prepare to be gone for an extended period. Drak’Thal prospects the newly excavated mines and the gnomes and dwarves that mill about within them. Traelle watches the destruction of Summit Hall through the magical windows of Glassmoor. Drak’Thal, after attempting to apologize to Traelle, destroys his wooden chamberpot within his room. During a morning meeting, Kline heals Alatar’s tongue, the brand still clearly marked upon his flesh. Drak’Thal drops in at Gilmore’s and heads off to speak with Krunak regarding the status of the ship. Finally, the Keepers make for Kringle’s office for negotiations. After Traelle is ejected from the meeting, the group relays their planned expeditures with Taranath, and return to Wyrmwood to spend one last night within the city. With their preparations complete, the Keepers board the Keepers Oath and take one last look as the city of Wymwood fades from their view.

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Session 24: Betrayals & Brands
"Perhaps he awoke from death changed"

After the second attack on the merchant party headed towards Bargewright, smoke still rises from the burned out wagon and merchants whisper to each other over their loss. The Keepers assist the guards with burying the dead and moving the injured. Alatar approaches Commander Haelor, asking to speak privately. They walk over to the other side of the road away from any curious ears. The elf places a finger on his Harpers pin, “I assume you’ve seen this, by all rights I should not even be here. But over the past fifteen days, I have come to respect you all…when the caravan was attacked, I saw your bravery and fighting, perhaps the Zhentarim are not as evil as I had been led to believe.” He pauses and shifts his weight to look the commander in the eyes, “I have reason to believe that this caravan might come under attack.” Haelor inquires about who and how the elf might know these things. Without hesitation, he replies, “Do not ask me to divulge my sources, I am already betraying them enough.” Haelor nods in understanding, “Perhaps you would be able to talk them down.” The two conclude their conversation with words of a shared goal, that the caravan arrive safely at Bargewright. Security around the wagons will be increased for the handful of days that remain, men will go without sleep in favor of vigilance.

 

Across the camp, the paladin prays to the Maimed God for safety. The dwarf questions her faith in the dead insisting that death changes people. Traelle raises an eyebrow, challenging him, “Death changes the living, not the dead.” Their exchange is brief, but Drakthal does not seem to understand the paladin’s point of view. Alatar returns to their side and asks about the leader of the bandits. Traelle’s face darkens, “That man was there that day in my village, the man on horseback.” The elf nods, “I am sorry we were not able to slay him.” “It is something that she must do…” mumbles Drakthal. A silence falls over them before the dwarf boasts about the size of his tent and Traelle scoffs and returns to her own tent. He remarks to Alatar, “I’m tired of her righteous bullshit.” The elf smiles and pats him on the back as they retire to their own tents. The rest of the evening is quiet for all but the owls in the distance and the wind rustling the trees.

 

Morning light wakes the camp to continue on, and the travelers pack up. A lone tent remains up nearby where the monk had slept. Drakthal goes in to wake her and finds the bedroll empty, only a note sitting atop the blanket. He unfolds the parchment and takes it to the others to read it aloud:

 

Dear Friends, Keepers of the Realm,
It is with a heavy heart that I must take my leave. There is not much time for me to explain, but I promise you that matters that I must attend to are not to be taken lightly. I believe the seriousness of this matter will have detrimental effects on our realm and our mission if not attended to as soon as possible. The Grandmaster has called me back to the monastery to perform my sacred duty as part of the Order of the Rose. I must go, take care of one another.
Til we meet again,
Thorun

The dwarf remains suspicious of the letter and dismisses the monk’s disappearance, “She did not seem to like me much anyways.” Traelle interjects, “Perhaps this carries weight, and they could use her elsewhere.” She looks down at her arm, attempting to flex the injured muscle. Drakthal asks if she’s tried any spells on the wound, she shakes her head. The caravan begins moving forward and they follow. The hours pass slowly with a thick air of paranoia. Alatar sits in a wagon, gloomily writing a letter. Later that evening when all the wagons are parked and the tents are once again raised, Alatar speaks with Traelle about his worries near the campfire. “Rinn has put me in a completely awful position, where I will betray her or betray my faction…and I’m trying to play both sides.” The dwarf sits down beside him, “You know, you could have said noth’n.” Alatar shakes his head, “No, I couldn’t. Because they would know, they would find out.” His eyes reflect the flames as he looks into the campfire, “It would have been worse if they found out and I had said nothing after we so epicly failed at Sacred Stone.” The guilt of their failure in the north still  lingers over the Keepers even after weeks passing. Rinn is the only one who has managed to speak to Kline since that day in the throne room, and because of this, it remains a sharp moment in their minds. They go to bed that night under the stars, so close to Bargewright, so close to finishing their mission.

 

Rinn is at the castle on this night, wandering the halls out of boredom. Her footsteps make little sound across the stone floors though she has no worries about being stopped by any guards. A faint whisper causes her to stop and look back. The torchlights illuminate the halls well enough to show anyone who could be following her. There is no one there. Before she can take a step, the gruff voice of Drakthal fills her mind.


“Alatar has betrayed you. The Harpers know of the mission. Alatar then betrayed his own faction by telling the leader. More information when we arrive.”


Rinn thinks for a moment before replying, "Betrayal at this point in our mission will do nothing but harm us all. I trusted him as a close friend, I will need to pray about what to do.” She turns on her heel and heads back to Kline’s room. Inside, he still sleeps. This will only make things worse for us all. Faction troubles and in-fighting. She perches on his desk and pulls her legs up to cross them. There is nothing to do but pray now. She knows she is lying to herself about this, as her hand itches for her dagger. It’s easy to be solitary, it is foolish to burn all your bridges.

 

The next day on the road to Bargewright, there is another attack on the wagons. This time it is by men mounted on large birds much like those of Feathergale Spire. Only one merchant is killed, but it is enough to satisfy the riders as they abandon the caravan. It takes a few more hours before Bargewright comes into view. As the shape of the shanty-walled city rises down the road, Commander Haelor calls the caravan to a halt and goes forward to investigate something. The Keepers remain with the wagons and travelers for a few minutes before Haelor returns with a scroll and hands it to Alatar along with a handful of Harpers pins. His eyes run over the page….

 

 

The commander calls to his men to continue on to Bargewright, and the wagons lurch forward once more. Three bloody bodies hang from the bough of a tree with arrows sticking out through the sides of their heads. The corpses swing gently from side to side, lifeless eyes staring out at the Keepers as they pass. Alatar hands the letter over to show Traelle and Drakthal. The elf’s actions have already had repercussions, and there is promise of more. The dwarf appears contemplative, while the paladin keeps her expression stoic. When the caravan easily moves through the gate, the commander thanks them for their time and asks them to inform Rinn that she will not be getting the promotion within the Zhentarim.

Inside the city, the familiar muddy streets seem unchanged. The tower where Inglor was struck down is now locked, the Swords still patrol the streets with Chalaska as their lead. The only noticeable difference is Nalaskar’s inn, which now has a tavern room. Traelle stops by the jail to say hello to Chalaska before joining her companions at the bar. They sip at their ale and discuss where to go next. After finishing a second round of ale, the three request rooms for the night. Behind the desk of the inn, Nalaskar stands beside the ledger. His eyes fall on the dwarf as he asks for payment up-front this time. Before Traelle goes to her room, she tells the others, “We are but a short walk from Summit Hall. I wish to return there.” She gives the two men a stern look, “There are no paladins to make you feel uneasy this time, and I feel like there is something there for me.” Drakthal is uninterested in Summit Hall, noting that there is nothing there for him. Alatar rolls his eyes at the dwarf’s protests, and encourages him to go too. Their exchange is awkward but ends with nods of agreement to set out for the fallen keep at first light.

 

Earlier that afternoon, Rinn walked through the busy streets towards the Shrine of the Raven Queen. Her mind still turning over the betrayal of a friend. The voice of Drakthal drifts to her ear once again.


“Three Harper's dead when we arrived at Bargewright. The King's doing. A product of Alatar’s betrayal. Speak with the king. More information as we go.”

 

The Shadar-kai pulls her cloak hood closer to cover the smirk spreading across her face. She feels some satisfaction in this news, but it is still not enough. After all of the time spent together, she questions why she ever trusted the others at all. Hardship after hardship, games and ale at the table. I have never wronged any of them. Any lies I told were for their peace of mind or privacy of another. Every Zhentarim knows the power of secrets. Rinn pauses before approaching the altar at the shrine, and replies to the pirate.


"I will speak with him about it. I hope you are all finding yourselves safe besides this. Know that Kline returned alive. Our merchant friend brought him back to consciousness. There is much to discuss upon your return."

 

She kneels to pray, deciding to stay longer than usual. My Lady, there has been more trouble at every turn. How do I maintain faith in my companions? We have made it this far, there is no turning back. Once Rinn concludes her time at the shrine, she heads out to Glassmoor to deal with the trade money that is due to arrive from Westerhold. Taranath and the others keeping the manor in order need to be paid, and the what is left over needs to be hidden somewhere. When she arrives, Taranath divides up the funds and leaves the remaining gold for the rogue. That is too much to carry around the city…. She looks around the house for a clever place to hide it for now. As she glances through Alatar’s door, she spots the piano. She runs her hand along the keys at the right end, causing the hammers to move on the interior of the instrument. Good enough for now. She pours eight hundred gold into the frame of the piano and shuts the lid. We’re going to need that vault sooner than later. For a moment, she considers running her sword along the length of the piano before changing her mind. Too pretty a thing to ruin.

 

Rinn stays the night in her room on the third floor, but wakes early to return to the city. On her way back to the castle, she stops by Gilmore’s shop briefly. The shopkeeper asks how Kline is doing, apologizing, “I’m sorry I could do nothing for the wing.” Rinn keeps her reply short, “He’s still sleeping. And again, thank you for what you could do.” She promises that they will speak again when the rest of the Keepers return to Wyrmwood, hoping that he will be included in future aid.

Three tendays journey away, the others continue to the ruins of Summit Hall on horseback and celestial steed. It takes four days to reach the bridge that leads to the spot where the red flags of the Knights of Samuelar once stood. Seeing the keep reduced to a hill of rubble weighs heavy on the paladin as the group comes to a stop. Traelle dismounts and begins looking around, “We need to find some entry to the catacombs beneath the ruins…” Dust and fallen walls, stones lay in disarray. They find a hatch that leads down to a door, likely below the room Ushien Stormbanner would have occupied when the walls still stood. Opening the door leads into darkness, Traelle leads Drakthal and Alatar inside. The drift globe hovers above the elf’s hand, lighting their way along the endless rows of skeletal remains. It smells of death, musty from years of only occasional entry to add another body to the tomb. Winding through the corridors, the Keepers come to a door engraved with the name, Samuelar Cardoon.

 

Some time is spent staring at the door, perhaps in weariness or nerves for lacking their rogue. Alatar backs away from the door as Traelle attempts to unlock it. Drakthal believes that forcing it down will not work out well, “I don’t want to die today.” Alatar hands the Harpers pins to Drakthal to fashion into a lockpick. The sounds of one of the pins snapping off in the door reverberates in the hallway, just before the door creaks open.

Inside sits an ornate sarcophagus at the end of the room, marked by a symbol with antlers. Boxes are arranged around the room without design. Traelle opens the sarcophagus, expecting to find more than dust inside. The lid slides open and sprays the room with an acidic mist. They all cover their mouths trying not to breathe the mist, but there is no way to avoid it in such a small space. After some coughing, and frustrated mutterings, they continue to explore the room. Traelle walks forward and examines one of the boxes, lifting the lid to see what it might hold. A clattering noise bursts behind them as a gate falls to the floor, blocking the only visible exit in the room. The paladin looks down into the box, empty. Drakthal feels for a lever within the sarcophagus, and the stone pulls back across the floor revealing another room below.

Down a set of stairs, another sarcophagus stands, plain and unadorned. Inside lay the body of Samuelar himself, only bones remaining. A book and Renwick’s phylactery sit beside the skeleton of Summit Hall’s founder. Traelle excitedly grabs for the glowing talisman, bringing it out too quickly. It falls to the floor, shattering. A shriek echoes down the corridor as the light fades from the item. A wide-eyed Drakthal looks to Alatar and then Traelle, “Is he dead?” The paladin covers her face in shame and lets out a huff. She resigns herself to begin searching for a way out of the tomb.

Each of them examine the gate, sensing a magic within its iron. It is unaffected by pushing, pulling, fire and force arrows. The walls give no signs of weakness, and the dirt beneath their feet is too hard packed to dig through. As Alatar and Drakthal continue trying to break down the gate, Traelle reads the tome from the plain sarcophagus. The pages are filled with the history of the Order, druids, and their connections to the Feywild. The darkness of the catacombs blurs the passage of time, and the Keepers soon find themselves exhausted.

 

It has been four days since Rinn has heard from Drakthal, and she has begun to wonder what is taking them so long to send another message. Perhaps he would let me know when they are on their way back, or at least if they were in trouble. Once again, she sits at the Raven Queen shrine to ponder Alatar’s betrayal. The King did not seem decided on further punishment. Would he really kill the elf? Kline’s  threat at the Keepers first meeting comes to her mind, ‘an arrow through your skull.’ Rinn opens her eyes and rises to leave. That was before he knew any of us….yet isn’t that what makes this hurt more? We each have our differences but we were a team, almost a family. This cuts deeper because it is so close to the heart. She returns to the castle, ascending the stairs towards Kline’s room again. When she reaches the door, she stops and places her hand on the wood. This isn’t going to be my decision. I won’t be the one giving his punishment, but I will be there to see it. Quietly, she opens the door and peeks inside before stepping in. Everything is still in the same place and ‘the man in the bed’ as the King called him, is unmoved. Rinn takes off her weapons and armor, as if removing the weight of them would lighten a burden. She plops herself onto the side of the bed and curls against Kline, “What more to tell you when you wake?…more bad news.” Later that night she is awoken by the pirate’s voice once more,


“We have made it to Summit Hall. Traelle destroyed the phylactery and now we are trapped within the catacombs. Please send aid.”

 

Rinn opens her eyes and sighs, “Send aid….send aid? Do they forget how far away they are?” She rubs her face in frustration before replying,"You all should stop by the shrine of luck on your journey back. I will ask for aid but I don't know if you can survive long enough."

 

She resolves to go ask for some kind of help in the morning. I could really use good news at some point. She goes back to sleep, praying that her companions can get themselves out of the catacombs.
Beneath the ruins of Summit Hall, the walls feel as though they are creeping in on the Keepers trapped by the gate. Time passes at an unknown pace, and there seems to be no escape. Alatar has become twitchy and continues searching for a way out, while Traelle and Drakthal page through the druid tome. The dwarf is able to conjure food and water for them every evening to sustain them all as they slowly lose hope. The elf shares his tales of the Underdark, stories of fire and terror. They guess that it must be day four or five, but cannot be sure. Dice are rolled, prayers are said, and time continues to pass.

The clinking of chain mail and footsteps wake the Keepers. Traelle approaches the gate as a tall figure moves forward. His face remains in shadow as he speaks, “Grave robbers?” The paladin admits that they have disturbed the grave, but only in hopes of learning more about her oath. The man asks if Traelle knew his mother before Summit Hall fell, and she nods. “Ushien Stormbanner, yes she invited us to stay but…” Her regret is visible as she tells him of the need for the Keepers to leave Summit Hall so quickly, to continue after the missing delegation. He looks to the boxes and the open stairway to the lower tomb before asking about the phylactery. Traelle's expression appears grim as she tells the son of Stormbanner that the item has broken. He places a hand on the gate and lets out a pained sigh, “My great great grandfather….”

The tension in the catacombs is alleviated as the man speaks an incantation to raise the gate, “You are very lucky that I came down here when I noticed the hatch was open. There is a miasma that flows through every ten days to protect the dead from vermin and robbers. Tomorrow would have been the tenth day of the cycle.” The three Keepers follow the man out and into the bright daylight. Filling their lungs with fresh air for the first time in days, feeling greatly relieved to be alive. They tell him that they must journey back to Wyrmwood if there is nothing left here within Summit Hall’s chambers. Traelle turns to ask the man for his name, and he replies, “When you return to Wyrmwood, tell the King you met Jarill the Dragoon.” A platinum dragon rises up beside them and he steps over to mount the beast. His face remains serious, he nods and rises into the sky to fly away. The three Keepers watch Jarill disappear into the clouds, Traelle looking a little flushed. Drakthal looks over for his warhorse and grabs its reins. Alatar nods to the dwarf, “Let Rinn know that we’ve made it out and are headed back to Wyrmwood.” A few minutes later, Drakthal receives a short reply from the Shadar-kai,"Hurry back, we have much to discuss. Glad to hear that some of you aren't dead."

 

As Traelle, Drakthal, and Alatar make their way back to the city, Rinn is at Glassmoor dealing with an incident on the road. A disheveled-looking human arrives at the door, “I g’t robbed long the way—but there’s still quite a bit ‘er.” Taranath takes the gold inside and divides it into different stacks across the dining table. Rinn watches as he clinks the coins together, “We need two thousand gold aside to finance the roads…that should improve the presence of bandits, right? What’s left after you and your workers have been paid?” The elf finishes his count and hands her a sack of two hundred gold. Feeling insecure about her placement of the existing eight hundred gold in Alatar’s room, Rinn dashes up the stairs to be sure that it is still undisturbed. Same as before…perhaps I’ll keep this bag on me for now. Her thoughts are interrupted by Drakthal’s voice once more, informing her that they have reached the edge of the city and to meet at the castle.

 

She makes her way into the city, passing the busy marketplaces and taverns of early evening. What do I say? Welcome back… Her pace quickens as she thinks it over, finally arriving at the throne room where the King looks over a handful of documents. He looks up over his papers as she removes her hood. “They’ve made it back to the city. We are to meet here.” Bronzehammer glances to his guards on either side of the room, then down to Rinn, “Stay here.” She complies without a word as they wait for the others to arrive.


[Day 252]
-——————————-


It’s been at least an hour and I’m growing more impatient for their return. This trip should not have taken so much time. Damned catacombs are bad luck. I hear the door creak open and glance over my shoulder to see each of their faces. Traelle looks somewhat defeated, likely because of whatever occurred at Summit Hall. The pirate looks satisfied as ever, eye-patch scuffed and beard hanging over his belly. The elf… I turn away. But wait, where is Thorun? What happened while I stayed behind?

The King notices Thorun’s absence as well, “You’re missing one. One of you kill her?” Traelle is quick to answer no, she had been summoned away by the Grandmaster of Flowers. I remember the old man’s stern face, the way he looked at Thorun like an insect. For her to be recalled now must be serious. My mind returns to the present, the tone in Bronzehammer’s voice says something is coming. Will he kill Alatar? He never gave me a real answer when we spoke days before. I stay on the far side of the room, standing closest to Traelle.

 

The King points to Alatar, “Do you all wish to have him continue with you? Do you know what he did?” The paladin nods, and Drakthal interjects, “He betrayed us. Came to his senses and betrayed his own faction.” I can feel the King’s eyes traveling across each of us, and I don’t want to speak. This is not a situation I expected to be in. The paladin agrees with the pirate, “He has saved my skin more than once in battle, I trust him.” It is true, he has been reliable in battle. There were many nights of darts, dice, and ale. Of the others, he was my closest friend. I carried his letters of secrets he wished to burn away. I prayed to bring him back from death….and I warned him that to be reborn was a gift not to be wasted. Did he awake from his death changed?

Bronzehammer looks me in the eyes, “And you? You suffered the most?” I do not even hear myself as I speak, “Perhaps I will cut his tongue out lest he do it again.” I can’t look back at them now. The King tilts his head, “Funny you should say that.” I watch him rise from the throne and walk over to one of the braziers to pick up a rod. This is his punishment. Two guards hold Alatar’s arm back as the King moves forward, “Stick out your tongue.” He complies and the room echoes with his screams. I should feel more satisfied, but I don’t. These are the screams of someone I cared for, my friend. In this moment I resolve to push it away and be cold. Perhaps he will try to explain himself, perhaps death changed him…..

 

The others look pained at the branding, and I wonder how they can still hold such trust for the elf. I am glad that I had not told him more. Traelle tries to go to support him as he falls forward on the floor before guards bar her way. Bronzehammer speaks again, “There is no magic that will remove that. I’m going to tell you one last time. If you divulge any information that puts these Keepers in any harm again, if I find out that you talk about this mission…send a letter, anything. I will kill you myself and it will be agonizing.” His eyes darken as he continues, “Worse than this, worse than any pain you’ve ever felt, worse than anything a Drow could ever do to you. You understand?” The elf makes a muffled noise and nods. The King looks over us, “These three don’t have the final say anyways, the man in the bed does.” I remember that they don’t know how long Kline has been asleep, only that he returned alive. My mind swims with mixed emotions, not knowing what he will say when he wakes. Have we not already disappointed him enough? Traelle says something to the King about a dragoon, but I do not pay enough attention to see his reaction. The guards show us out into the hall moments later.

Traelle is visibly shaken by Alatar’s punishment and mumbles something about going to pray at her shrine, so I follow. Perhaps we can talk on the way there, or not. Drakthal wanders off to the docks for the Keepers’ Oath as we depart for the Shrine of Tyr. The sky is dark now, as I wait for her outside. When she is done I inform her of the courier robbery, and the hiding place of our leftover gold. I implore her about our need for a vault. Our conversation quiets, then she brings up what I expected. “The Zhentarim will not be giving you a promotion…” I nod, this is no surprise. The questions spill out of me as I push the disaster of a caravan away. What of Thorun? How did you all escape the catacombs of Summit Hall? Was there anything there? How in the hell did you accidentally kill the lich? Anything to stop thinking about the branding, the screams.

 

Drakthal rejoins us and I tell them about Kline’s return through the portal, the rock creature, and Gilmore’s assistance. Alatar follows behind us but I do not acknowledge him. The day has been long and I try to keep my voice steady, “He has been asleep the entire time you have been gone…whatever he encountered, ripped one of his wings off.” The words leave my mouth like a knife, “So the good news is that everyone is alive, and the bad news is Alatar’s a fucking traitor.” I can feel his eyes on my back as we walk. Traelle tries to calm me by bringing up how reliable the ranger has been, how he has protected us time and again. I remember the too-tight armor in the north and almost smile. The redhead continues to place her faith in Alatar’s actions rather than his words. She must not understand how words can change things. I don’t want to discuss it any further on this night, “I expect more from my friends. I thought we were close.” Drakthal asks if I will kill the elf, and I think back to my apologies to the Raven Queen for raising him. “It is better to remind him what he has done…” I can’t believe that they are dismissing his actions so easily. I won’t kill him. I will let his actions eat him from the inside for now.

 

Traelle speaks again, “All beings are entitled to the redemption of the light, I am sure that Alatar will continue to lend us his aid.” I wonder how many times she will say this. He’s going to have to prove himself over and over again to earn back my trust.” That is all I can give. We all separate to our faction houses to check in, or in my case, apologize for the indiscretion. We agreed to meet at Eastgate before leaving the city for the manor. There is enough time to stop by to pray again. I ask the Raven Queen if she wishes the elf dead. My dagger glows a purple hue, an unclear answer from what I know of her. I leave to meet everyone at Eastgate, finding only Traelle. She curses their time in the catacombs blurring her memory. We make our way towards Northgate to leave for Glassmoor. There is no sign of Drakthal or the elf as we mount the paladin’s celestial axebeak and ride forward. Not thirty minutes pass before Alatar comes into view riding with a smoking body slung across the back of Drakthal’s warhorse. It takes me a second to realize that the body is Drakthal, and he looks badly burned. More worries in a sea of trouble, we turn and follow the elf back into the city in hopes of anything going our way.
 

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Session 23: Separate Paths

The frustration on Rinn’s face is obvious as she tells us about the mission to Bargewright while pondering Kline's fate in the Elemental Plane. Not knowing how to proceed, she vents her frustration by throwing her dagger at the wall behind Drak’Thal’s head.  

 

Frustration and uncertainty grip me as well, though for a very different reason.  Bargewright.  My mind immediately shifts to a vision of Inglor, Drak’Thal and I on the tower, my arrow aimed at the cleric’s uncovered eye. Much has changed since that day. Drak’Thal and I have reached an understanding and even a friendship of sorts. We will be fine. Perhaps it would be pleasant as well to see Chilaska and the cobbler again, assuming he still lives.  But do I really wish to return to that shit stain of a town and help the faction that leads it?  Assisting the black network would surely raise questions about my commitment to the Harpers’ cause, especially after the failure to rescue Bruldenthar from Sacred Stone; I must at least inform my superiors of the mission.  But it is Rinn who has asked for my assistance, not her faction. Among all the Keepers, I am perhaps closest to her. She has helped raise me from the dead. She knows more of  the darkness of my past than any save Eärwen, and Aegnor who dragged my nearly lifeless corpse to the surface after the disaster in the Lowerdark. I owe her more than my life.  Betraying her confidence would put both of our lives at risk and, if she ever discovered the truth, ruin the friendship we have built. Do I risk that to help the faction that has given me both a purpose and another chance at love? 

 

While internally conflicted, I calmly tell everyone, “There is little for us to do here. If we must start early in the morning, perhaps we should head to Wyrmwood today and spend the night at our faction houses.”  Upon hearing this, Traelle seems extremely confused and then angry for inexplicable reasons.  I suspect that this might be a lingering effect of some psychic damage inflicted upon her over the previous tenday.  Perhaps she needs healing beyond what Tyr and Talos can provide. Drak’Thal, however, is more enthusiastic about the suggestion. Sensing the possibility for some fun in the fighting pits, he seconds my suggestion. The rest of the Keepers, including a calmer Traelle, very quickly agree.  We finish breakfast and head to Wyrmwood via the Southern Road with Drak’Thal on his warhorse and Traelle riding a conjured giant bat which continually tries to bite the cleric’s steed along the way.  Using techniques taught to us by Þórunn, Rinn and I easily keep pace with the animals and the swift-footed monk and we soon arrive in the city and agree to visit Gilmore’s shop.  

The five of us enter the shop and see Gilmore helping another group of customers. He spies us immediately and, with a smile and lustful look at Drak’Thal, pushes past the other shoppers and says “Friends, friends come on in.”  He turns first to the object of his obsession and asks, “Come to get that drink?”  Noticeably uncomfortable, our cleric responds, “Not yet. We have plans.”  But, after Drak’Thal admits he had no desire to purchase goods, Gilmore signals his assistant Shelley to help the rest of us and convinces the dwarf to accompany him for their long-anticipated drink.  

In the shop, Rinn asks Shelley for a small diamond to help her focus her spellcasting.  The assistant finds her one before turning to Þórunn and complementing the unicorn on her new robes. While Þórunn does not need to purchase anything, she does introduce herself.  Shelley then turns to me. Concerned about our upcoming trip to the druid meeting at the Fire Cult stronghold of Scarlet Moon Hall, I ask if the shop carries any unique arrows, especially those tipped with silver. Shelley informs me of two new types of arrows, one that relies on lightening and the other that accelerates as it flies to its target before striking with an even greater force that what I applied and knocking the target back.  The lightening arrows tempt me. How would Drak’Thal respond to seeing a servant of Corellon wielding the power of the tempest?  I settle for a set of silver-tipped and force arrows and immediately hand them to Traelle to place in the bag of holding. The purchase almost completely wipes out my gold but it will be worth it once we arrive on the southern continent. After my transaction is complete, I ask Þórunn if she would like to accompany me to the Ivy District so that she might find her elf companions from the Ceremony of Lateu'quor She readily agrees, and the four of us head to the Ivy District after informing Shelley where Drak’Thal might find us. 

  

[Gilmore leads Drak’Thal to The Whistling Pig.  Immediately recognized by the bartender, Gilmore orders drinks and then leads the dwarf to a balcony that overlooks the Coins where the two have a long and intimate conversation. Gilmore appears to know of Drak’Thal’s past and that our group and Kline are involved in some conspiracy against the growing darkness in the land.  Kline, Gilmore says, is a friend he would like to make so that he might be able to profit from the looming danger and chaos.  Trusting the merchant due to his sincerity (and probably relieved that the merchant understands his love of Traelle), Drak’Thal agrees to introduce the two.  Gilmore then asks the cleric for a story.  This time, Drak’Thal tells the truth and ends with the phrase  “and that’s how I ended up with the ship.” Thrilled with the account and sincerity, Gilmore returns to the shop with Drak’Thal where Shelley informs them that the rest of the Keepers have gone to the Ivy District.] 

Rinn, Traelle, Þórunn, and I enter the Ivy District.  Immediately, I smile at the site of the natural beauty in the architecture of my people. We proceed directly to the tavern where Kline, my parents, and I had earlier met to discuss arrangements for the feast.  I announce to my companions that I will be briefly heading to the temple of the Seldarine.  I climb its steps and marvel once again at its beauty in comparison to the rest of the city.  I walk to the main altar to Corellon in the center of the spire, kneel, grasp my Fellowship of the Forgotten Flower pin, and begin to pray for the safety of Kline.  I do not expect much for the Seldarine are not known to assist in the affairs of mortals—especially those of non-Elves—but am pleasantly surprised when I raise my head and see that the flowers on the trees surrounding the altar have blossomed into a glorious vision of azure and silver, the colors of Corellon.  Comforted by the vision, I head back to the tavern where I find Rinn and Traelle drinking. 

 

Þórunn has disappeared—gone, I assume, to indulge her elf-fetish in the house of Galynna and Haren, the couple who brought her so much joy after the earlier feast. From the rumors that have circulated about those two, I can only imagine the decadence and depravity at work but I hope it makes her as happy as it did the last time.  In the last tenday, she has seemed to have found some peace and friendship among the Keepers. She even joined Rinn and I in the common room while we read.  She has led a difficult life and deserves whatever joy she can now find. 

Traelle, Rinn, and I make our way to the main entrance to the Ivy District so that we might find Drak’Thal.  After a few minutes, we see a bouncing and jovial dwarf who seems more than somewhat inebriated. We greet him and he tells me that we can find a fighting pit in the Puddles district near the docks.  After he assures me that he is sober enough to fight,  we begin the long walk.  A few minutes into the journey, I pull Rinn aside and ask her for more information about the mission to Bargewright.  Apparently, we will be escorting a trade caravan that does not necessarily contain stolen goods.  However, an unknown group of bandits keeps disrupting the caravans near the town of Yar Tar. Our task is to protect this shipment and ensure its safe arrival. She then warns me, “I know you aren’t fond of thieves and people in my faction but if you trust me, I hope you won’t make trouble for me.” I cryptically reply, “It isn’t your faction that I’m concerned about.”  Our conversation soon shifts to my visit to the temple. I tell her that I prayed for the safety of Kline and that the Seldarine surprisingly seemed to respond.  Hearing the name Kline, Drak’Thal informs us that Gilmore would like to meet the Wolf when he returns.  We agree with Drak’Thal’s assessment of Gilmore’s character and agree to set up a meeting. Sometime later, Rinn and Drak’Thal start to talk and Traelle asks me a question about my faith. She is surprised that I would venture into a temple but I remind her that I was raised by priests and that though I may not be vocal about my faith like others—I quickly glance at Drak’Thal—I still worship my creators.   

 

After some time, we finally arrive in the Puddles.  Not much has changed since I lived on rats in the district’s alleys.  We walk up to the Two Shepherds tavern and enter.  Inside we find a boisterous and joyful dwarf named McGregor.  McGregor’s sense of humor has all the subtlety I have come to expect of dwarves. His laughter is loud and brutish and he delights in the most ribald of puns.  He tells us the price of admission to the pits: a joke.  Drak’Thal, surprisingly has little to offer and I, unsurprisingly, remain silent.  We wait quietly for what seems like an eternity until finally Traelle speaks up.  “Did you hear about the rogue that masturbated with Mage Hand?” she asks.  “They called it 'The Familiar'." I and, I assume, Drak’Thal and Rinn stare at Paladin after this unexpected moment of levity. McGregor immediately lets out his loudest laugh yet.  Drak’Thal tells another joke but McGregor dismisses it immediately and I quickly forget it.  The price of admission paid by a Paladin’s masturbation joke, we are given the password to enter the pits: another joke. The three of us venture down into the pits while Rinn makes her way to balcony overlooking the arena.  When we arrive at the gate, I tell the guard the password: “Cheap circumcision is a total rip off.” He responds with a curt, “I’ve never stopped rubbing it in my face.” I smile and he opens the gate and we get our first glimpse into the arena. Inside we see a halfling beating the shit out of a goliath with his bare hands. We are next.   

We enter the arena. I see Rinn sitting in the stands above us.  A gigantic Frost Giant appears and summons a Nightmare which quickly moves to distract me.  Severely damaged by the steed’s hooves, and unable to safely withdraw or fire an arrow, I pull out my new scimitar and trusty shortsword.  With my first swing, I sanctify the new blade in the nightmare’s celestial flesh before immediately plunging my shortsword into the gash.  The steed and I continue our dance for some time while the giant concentrates on hitting Drak’Thal and Traelle with boulders it seems to conjure out of nothing. As soon as I vanquish the Nightmare, I turn to face the giant, raise my bow, and shoot a fire arrow. He retaliates by throwing a boulder at me and then drops another boulder on Traelle’s head before splitting it with its axe.  Drak’Thal’s magic harms the creature the most but eventually my arrows knock the creature to one knee.  With its last breath, the giant swings his axe as if in a whirlwind that knocks all three of us unconscious. Yet, even as he swings, Drak’Thal’s spell apparently knocks him unconscious as well; it is a draw. We exchange respectful glances with the Giant and climb out the pit where we are greeted by Rinn.  McGregor hands us each 25 gold and offers us free drinks at the bar which we happily accept.

While Drak’Thal returns to the ship for whatever purpose [destroying random artifacts in service to Talos], Rinn, Traelle, and I return to our faction houses. As I walk to the Harpers’ house, I contemplate what I will tell it about my upcoming mission.  I make a decision.  When I arrive, I greet the clerk and convey to him all that I know about our upcoming mission. I have, for the first time, betrayed Rinn’s confidence.  

 

In the morning the Keepers (including a much more limber looking Þórunn) assemble at Eastgate with a caravan of five wagons led by a mysterious man named Haeler. After speaking with the Zhentarim representative, Rinn takes Þórunn aside and tells her something before coming to me.  Feeling guilty about my betrayal the previous night, I am unable to really face her. She starts to talk but I understand little.  I manage to gather that she is not going with us. This will make everything more difficult.  Unable to process the information, I mumble something and let her move onto  Traelle and Drak’Thal.  Soon, the caravan departs down the High Road with Haeler at its head and I slightly behind.

 

For the first eleven days, little happens as we walk and ride.  The most interesting development each day is seeing which type of creature Traelle manages to conjure up to ride on for the day.  The rest of us have had the pleasure of watching her attempt to ride a camel, bat, goat, axebeak, owl, lizard, at least one actual horse, and perhaps her favorite, a giant boa constrictor. At night, Drak’Thal casts a spell to feed the camp which earns him the gratitude of Haeler.  On our 11th night on the road, we are suddenly attacked while everyone but Þórunn sleeps. The rest of us immediately awaken to discover that Arrows fly into the circle of wagons and hit one of the wagons which is quickly engulfed in flames.    at least one wagon has caught on fire due to the arrows launched by our unseen adversary.  Soon, the volley of arrows halts and Haeler and the Keepers put out the fire.  Haeler approaches the charred wagon and finds a burned corpse. He and Þórunn bury the body. 

We travel for two additional days.  On the first, Traelle rides a crocodile but the following day all the rest of us see is her attempt to conjure up her daily steed and then some muttering to herself about water.  We continue down the Triboar Trail until we come to the village of Wolfpine. We see the same statue of six adventurers that we encountered on our first trip south almost 200 days ago and then set up camp near the center of the town.  Drak’Thal, Traelle, and I drink and have a few moments of fun discussing the Paladin’s early joke but otherwise our visit to the hamlet is uneventful. 

 

The next morning, we start again with Traelle once more riding on owl.  Six additional days pass without incident but on our 20th night on the road, we are awoken again when flaming arrows engulf the wagons.  This time, however, the volley doesn’t stop and sixteen Terami bandits plus a mysterious man on horseback line up and prepare to attack the caravan. Together the four Keepers,  Haeler, and eight thugs defend the camp.  While I and the thugs shoot the bandits from a distance, Haeler, Drak’Thal, Þórunn, and Traelle, still on her trusty giant snake, charge.  Traelle, it is clear, seems to recognize these bandits and is drawn to their leader. One by one, the camp’s defenders slay the bandits while Traelle, Drak’Thal, and I concentrate our attacks on the leader who had ridden to the front lines to confront our Paladin.  Soon though, the coward realizes that our might is too strong and flees into the woods. He has escaped but his sixteen followers lie dead in front of us.  As I lower my bow, my thoughts turn northward to Rinn. 

[Rather than heading to the Lyceum, Rinn returns to Glassmoor Manor where she informs a slightly confused Taranath that we spent last night in Wyrmwood.  Several days pass until Rinn is awoken by Taranath pounding on her door to tell her that something has happened in the city that demands her attention. Rinn rides straight to the Lyceum and enters the room with the portal. Inside she finds Adelin still kneeling in concentration to maintain the portal which is now pulsating.  King Bronzehammer approaches the rogue and as he speaks, Kline runs through the portal and collapses on the floor.  As he falls, he drops what looks like one of the orbs used by the elemental cults; it rolls to the back of the room. Immediately behind him, an Earth Elemental leaps through the portal and prepares to attack the fallen Wolf.  Adelin collapses as the portal closes.  Rinn immediately runs to it and stabs it with her dagger to protect Kline.  King Bronzehammer rushes to the collapsed Adelin and stabilizes her before turning to face the elemental. Kline stands and immediately attacks the elemental which promptly attacks him back and pulls him back by his one surviving wing.  The melee continues for some time but eventually Rinn, Bronzehammer, and the severely wounded Kline slay the creature.  As it falls, so too does Kline….]

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Session 22: Glassmoor

Taranath is invaluable. The Bladeseeker always seems to know what’s best for the Keepers. This has been no different. He has given us a home. A place to lay our heads, revitalize our spirits, make some coin, and most importantly – Glassmoor, as we have come to call it, is a place to call our own. We are now and forever linked to one another. This journey has been arduous and it has been fraught with evils that I have never known, but all that matters is that we’re here and that we’re together.

 

Taranath the Invaluable has called a meeting of the Keepers to discuss Glassmoor, it’s upkeep, what it can provide, and what can be done with it for gold and posterity. Boredom has already begun to set in for some of the Keepers who are unaccustomed to preoccupations beyond that of war and strife, and perhaps the socio-economic affairs of Glassmoor seem trivial to some in this time of uncertainty regarding the future of the realm, of our mission, of our lives…but nonetheless, it is important because it was important to Kline and because we must do more than survive, we must live.  

 

Glassmoor is already grand, but much of it can be expanded and developed and Taranath runs through his suggestions with the Keepers – stressing the importance of none over another, leaving us a number of decisions to make.

 

Our land is fertile and it can be improved – we can expand and create larger fields, they can be used for grazing and crops, we can invest in a mining operation, and we can modernize the infrastructure [2500g/improvement (5 max); yield an additional 500g/month; current income/value: 1000g/month].

 

We can offer protection to all, ourselves and those who come to settle on our land.

 

Fortifications – perhaps a stone wall or a watch tower, so we will never be surprised by our foes [5000g]. A vault – for our treasures and our gold, which we can upgrade with additional traps and locks [5000g/improvement; options: 1 deadly trap, 2 dangerous traps; 3 obstacle traps].

 

Barracks – we could use the fighters to patrol our lands, roads, etc. [5000g].

 

The garden, though beautiful already, can be built upon with a gazebo, fountains, benches, and more flowers [3000g with the potential to make 2HP if we spend a month at Glassmoor].

 

We can obtain servants and/or specialized servants to maintain the upkeep of Glassmoor and add a new level of comfort at the manor [200g/month or 3000g (build them homes) for basic staff; 450g/month or 9000g for specialized staff; 1000g/month or 20000g for very specific specializations (masseuse, dancers, etc.) – as yields 1 inspiration die (3 max)].

 

Roads – for the improvement of travel time and trade [2000g; yield an additional 100g/month for trade; cuts commute in half].

 

Upgrade Glassmoor’s furnishings – softer beds, washrooms, etc. [upgrade tiers: 4000g, yields 5HP for the duration of next journey; 10000g, yields 10HP; 15000g, yields 15HP – if we spend a month at Glassmoor].

 

Build a shrine [10000g; yields 1 extra prepared spell for paladins, rangers, druids, and clerics].

 

The basement – four options for improvement: (1) laboratory [5000g; yields 1 quality common potion per week]; (2) hospital [2500g; yields 1 auto success for death saving rolls]; (3) training course [1500g; yields speed increase by 5 after a few hours a month]; (4) library [10000g; yields knowledge, duh…and 1 additional prepared spell].

 

After Taranath runs down his list of suggested improvements the Keepers spend a great deal of time discussing, but decide to table the matter until after our negotiations with Westerhold. Drak’Thal stresses the importance of purchasing another diamond, in which we all recognize is a must considering our most recent journey…

 

The Keepers depart for Westerhold shortly after, with Thorunn teaching Rinn and Alatar techniques (recently learned from the Emerald Enclave) to improve their walking speed. Drak’thal follows on his warhorse and Traelle conjures a one-hump camel to ride; they keep pace with those on foot for the 2 hour journey. It was uneventful save for the two occasions in which the camel spit on Drak’Thal.

 

The village of Westerhold is small, but its proximity to Wyrmwood allows for sufficient trade. Governor Kris Kringle, a portly man lacking in jolliness, had a keen mind and a knack for negotiations. Traelle, nudged along by Thorunn, began our negotiations by asking for an investment. Governor Kringle was unconvinced to assist the Keepers by the lack of tangible evidence that they could deliver on their promises for trade. However, with the help of Rinn, Traelle is able to secure future financing on her word that the Keepers will improve the roads in no more than 4 months time.

With the Governor’s financing of an additional 1000g the following month the Keepers agree to start improvements on the land, soon to be followed by the road. Glassmoor will start with expansions into mining first thing.

 

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Days pass and the Keepers keep (muah ha ha) themselves occupied in their own ways – Thorunn going into the city looking for odd jobs, Traelle visiting the fields and exploring the land further – until they are summoned by the King. He has news about Kline and now the Keepers are privy to why they haven’t heard from the wolf. Kline, with the assistance of Adelin – who is not a monk – has opened a portal into another plane, an elemental plane, to retrieve the heart of an Archon in which the orbs originate. The King shows us Adelin within a massive runic circle and barrier which is impenetrable. It’s been three days. Three days and we haven’t known. Three days Kline has been in the elemental plane. Three days and Adelin has had no sustenance. Three days and how much longer until we see the return of the Bladeseeker?

The Keepers depart knowing there is nothing to be done…the magik is too powerful and they must put faith in Kline as he has put in them. They return to Glassmoor after a fruitless look at Adelin’s quarters upon the ship. Using the abilities of the specialized glass windows Rinn asks to see Adelin open the portal and there’s a number of images that flash across the window pane – Kline and Adelin meeting on the ship, Kline showing Adelin the city, their examination of the orbs and Adelin casting spells, Adelin’s ritual, and Kline stepping into the portal. The Keepers are silent. Perhaps in shock not having expected to be shown so much or perhaps because they realize that their failures have prompted Kline to take on this dangerous task alone. Drak’Thal approaches the window and placing his palm to the glass says, “Show me Kline now.” Nothing happens. More silence. After a long pause each member of the Keepers retreats to find their own solace.

In the night, some members of the Keepers look into their past – Traelle watches as her village comes under attack; Rinn watches as her village is searched, her home is entered, an orb is found, and her sister is murdered; in the morning, Drak’Thal shows Traelle his wife and his child, a distant memory, and more recently the burning of a piece of cloth…

 

On the seventh day at Glassmoor breakfast is interrupted by someone looking for the wolf. But Kline isn’t here. Alas, they were looking for Rinn. There’s trouble at Bargewright Inn and the Zhentarim need her assistance. There is a supply issue between Bargewright and Yartar and a new caravan is headed to Bargewright that needs protection. With that the man throws a smoke-bomb and disappeared – an astonishing feat considering behind him lay an open field.   

 

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Session 21: Light Blue Pains

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Drak’Thal sits on his new bed looking out the windows towards the crescent moon. The mountains and valley outline are barely visible through the time-delayed windows. It has only been three days since we have been back from the city and I am already bored. He walks over to the window and slowly opens it to bleed some light into the room. The sun is high in the sky and the emerald fields below are spotted with shepherds and their sheep. The ‘southern’ road winds through them towards the north out of the valley towards the city. Drak’Thal takes in the view for a moment. Reminds me of my old home. Open fields within the hills of the western continent. My wife… My child… He reaches into his shirt and pulls out his symbol of Talos. He takes a moment to reflect on himself for the first time since the moment they were taken from him. What have I become since then. I have not ever stopped to think of it. Always moving forwards; never looking back. I am not the same person I used to be. The company of the Keepers has made him soft. Drak’Thal has always been running since that point. Doing anything to gain the power to get the revenge his clan deserved. Where has this gotten me though? I have gotten stronger but am seemingly farther away from revenge than ever. Does it even matter anymore? My goals have changed. My family has changed. Last time I was close, it was all taken from me. My ship… my crew… It is my fault they are all gone. Do I dare risk the same outcome with my companions now? Is it worth their lives to get revenge? I used to think so, but now I am not sure. Drak’Thal thinks for a moment then turns around and opens his pack. He pulls out a piece of cloth and unfolds it. He walks over to a lit candle and begins to burn it. Threads of smoldering cloth slowly fall to the floor until nothing is left. They are my life now. They are my family. I dare not take on any more burden of death. 

Drak’Thal walks back over to the window and closes it. He places his hand on the blue glass and once again says “show me my wife and daughter once more.” 

 

 

An open field forms within the window. Green grass and flowers fill the scene under a cloudless sunny day. A dwarf child runs through the field attempting to catch the butterflies that flutter about. Drak’Thal and a dwarf woman stand near watching the child scamper through the flowers. The scene begins to shift and darken. A small interior of a home forms with a lit fireplace at the center. Drak’Thal dressed in common clothes reads a book to his daughter. The scene shifts once more. The window shifts color and warps into a scene of a dwarf standing in full armor at the edge of a town. A dwarf woman standing before him with a child at her side. Behind him an army ready for battle begins to depart from the town. Drak’Thal says, “This land is ours. I will be back just like all the times before. We will be victorious just as before. We are warriors and always will be.” The woman looks into his eyes and nods. He then kneels down as the child runs forward to give him a hug. He stands and turns to follow the army.

That was the last time I saw them. A small tear falls down his face. The pane darkens and a crescent moon fades into view once again. Drak’Thal collapses to the floor in front of the glass with his head drooped in shame as the room once again becomes dark. He places his hand on the glass and says, “Show me the death of Alatar.”

The window dimms to a pitch black. A flicker of light illuminates the Keepers as they battle two gargoyles in the snowstorm. Alatar sweeps across the battlefield behind the gargoyles as he releases his arrows. The gargoyle turns towards him, snaps off his horn, and throws it at Alatar grazing him in the head. Blood begins to pour down his face  Rinn pulls out her dagger and slices the gargoyle from mid belly all the way up to neck splitting it. Þórunn’s flurry of fists crushes the other gargoyle at the same moment. The gargoyle bodies fall into the snow. The pane begins to brighten until it is filled with a bright white. The Keepers are barely seen through the snowfall trudging through the wilderness. A few days after the fight with the gargoyles, Alatar trails behind the group a good distance hunched over. He catches his foot and falls forward. Traelle turns to check on him and runs back to pick him up. She slings his arm over her shoulders and helps him continue on. 

 

Those six days trudging through the snow must have been torture for Alatar. He was dying right in front of us and there was nothing that we could do, nothing that I could do to save him. He even asked me if I would kill him should he wish. He did want to do one thing before he died however. Shoot another arrow. 

The scene whitens again. A stag stands tall in the middle of a field as Alatar trains his bow on the creature. Drak’Thal and the others watch from a short distance at the ready. He pulls an arrow from his quiver and draws the bow back, releasing it. Before the arrow can hit the target he draws another and releases it once more. The two hit in quick succession into the stag one in the chest and one directly through his neck. 

 

Even though he was in so much pain and on his last breaths he was still able to dispatch two arrows as though he was in peak condition. He is a great warrior. I look forward to fighting with him in the pits in Wyrmwood. That may have been the best stag I have ever eaten. 

A fire licks the air within the cave that appears. The cloud cover above slowly brightens and become visible in the early morning. Dawn closes in quickly. Rinn and Drak’Thal sit next to Alatar who is laying on a bed inside the cave. “Take me outside,” Alatar says, “I wish to be under the moonlight when I pass.” The two drag him outside to sit beneath the clouds drifting above. The snow has subsided since the day prior. Traelle and Þórunn soon join the rest with the elf. The horizon begins to glow with light, and an eerie silence overcomes the group. Alatar has stopped breathing. He is gone.

 

Drak’Thal looks to the group and says, “It is time. I am going to need your help.” He kneels down, placing a diamond on Alatar’s chest and begins to pray. Extending his arms upward to the sky, lightning surges across his forearms to his fingertips. Traelle quickly positions herself at Alatar’s head and begins to pray. A radiant glow begins to shine from his hands. Rinn reluctantly moves to light candles around his body. She then pulls out a feather and begins meditates. Drak’Thal slams his hands to Alatar’s chest. Lightning, necrotic and radiant power flows along him and into the diamond that lay on his chest forcing it to shatter. And then… nothing. The Keepers stand and look at one another. Alatar’s lifeless face centers on the window. Moments pass with no change until…The powers that were within the diamond pulsate from his chest up his face and into his eyes. As his eyes open, he sharply breathes in for the first time in his new life . 

 

 

The crescent moon fades as the pane dims. I have attained a curious power. If I can not protect them from death, at least I am able to bring them back. 

 

Drak’Thal straightens up and ponders for a moment. Our mission. It has overshadowed my own quest. This is more important than any of the Keepers personal quests. The realm is in danger and we are the ones chosen by Kline to save it. Why us? Why me? Could he foresee our potential? A guardian of this world must have chosen us for a reason. We can’t fail him. But… We had failed on the northern continent. We can’t let that happen again. Every blunder we make could cost us the world. Perhaps the mirror can show me where the orb has been taken to. Drak’Thal steps forward and places his hand on the glass. “Show me the orb of the Sacred Stone Monastery.” He waits for a moment. The outline of the mountains and the crescent moon stay within Drak’Thals sight. I guess this will not show me everything. Maybe I can get an indication on where Kline has gone. Placing his hand on the glass once again. “Show me the return of the Keepers from the north and journey to the keep.” The pane shifts once again.

A harbor appears under cloudy skies where the Keepers Oath sails into the docks. Drak’Thal, Alatar, Þórunn, Traelle, and Rinn all depart from the ship and head to the keep. The scene shifts to the throne room where Kline paces back and forth with scrolls in his hand. The large intricate double doors of the throne room slowly open and the Keepers walk in. Drak’Thal steps forward and begins to report to Kline on the north. Traelle interjects and more concisely explains the situation. “You mean to say eighty-five days and…” He stops speaking for a moment. With an emotionless stare, he unsheathes his sword and with a single thrust embeds it within the dwarven marble below his feet. The sword stands tall and begins to glow radiantly. The energy flows down the sword and into the cracks within the marble. The radiant glow turns a dark black and flows from the cracks back up the sword. He then releases it and storms out the room slamming the doors behind him. A few moments pass and the door behind the throne opens. The King steps into the room and sees the sword driven into the floor. “Why is the Wolf’s sword in my floor? Has he placed too much faith in you all?” Traelle attempts to respond, “No…” The King continues, “Are you aware of what he has been doing these past eighty days? The Wolf works hard for you all. Rest and tomorrow morning meet me in the keep I want to take a ride with you all.” The Keepers then leave the throne room and split up to take care of business of their return.

I have learned nothing from this. No indication of where he has gone. No indication of direction or how we will proceed. 

 

A courtyard shows in the pane. Flowers of all types and grass outline the center area. Vines scale the walls of the courtyard in all directions. The King stands next to five horses, a donkey, and a warhorse dressed in full armor proudly showing the Order of the Gauntlet’s emblem. The Keepers enter and mount the steeds. The group departs from the northern gate and rides north east through Westerhold. The King pauses for a moment after departing from the city, “How are you all fairing with one another?” He looks at each one of the Keepers expectantly for a response. They all nod or respond with a stating that the group is doing well. 

 

He was so interested in our well-being as a group. For us to be able to overcome this, we must work together not only as companions but as friends, as family. 

The King continues on, “Do you know how much he [Kline] does for you? He chose you for a reason. Your factions did not choose you like you were lead to believe. He chose you because of your abilities. Because of your past. You fled from something. This is why he chose you. To make up for your pasts. To prove yourselves to one another and to yourself.” He continues on as the pane shifts again. 

 

All of us were running from something. He (Kline) knew that we could work well together because of this. He knows of our pasts somehow. 

A view of an open field. Emerald green fields contrast sharply with the dark line of the forest to the north. A manor house of simple form lies in the center of the view. The distant forest seems to explode from the tip of the manors tower. Light blue panes of glass line the manor walls. A group can be seen walking along the road that leads up to the manor. After a moment it fades once again. The crescent moon and outlines of the mountains fade into view for the last time. 

 

Our home.

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