Company of the Meatshield

Smoking pile of trolls...
Road to Dragonspear

Our mules pull us onward after our epic battle with the trolls. Between the mules’ hoof prints and the endless line of the sled tracks there is nothing but stillness. Relik rests and heals after his heroic confrontation with a two-headed troll. Everyone else is on guard. We move forward. Nine days to Dragonspear Castle. What possibly awaits us? We have had great battles, interpersonal conflicts, we have saved lives and helped those in distress, we have also won a whole lot of arm wrestles! The dangers have been growing; the weather worsens. In the back of our minds, we are aware that war is coming. Can the twelve of us make a difference? Will the dwarves unite behind their new king if we return the sceptre? Will we find the tools to weaken Kelthas’ armies? Will Vulture be waiting for us? Many questions to ponder on this endless road…

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The Road to Dragonspear Castle

The day was eventful, starting with Hamus’ duel with Bluesword and culminating in a fire in the castle.

Hamus’ has left Daggerford on a spiritual retreat promising to return in three days with a feast.

Dirk, severely burned, convalesces at the temple of Chauntea.

And as night descends you are all summoned to meet with Spearslayer for a meal and to discuss the day’s discoveries.

A small, makeshift office has been set aside near the castle’s kitchens to use as a study for the party. A table, big enough to seat all of you, has bowls of thin, watery brown broth, hunks of stale bread and cheese. In the center of the table lies a large 3 foot tome.

Sherlyn and Lady Bronwyn, brow furrowed in worry, stand in the room with Tranter, the captain of the castle guard. On the other side of the room stands Skyridge and Dalion looking solemn.

“Men, be seated and eat.” Sherlyn gestures to the table, in her hand a leather scroll case.

You barely take your seats before Sherlyn, all business as usual, begins.

“There’s been much that came to light today. Daggerford is in more dire trouble than ever we could have guessed. We have traitors and saboteurs in our midst, working for an enemy about whom we know little. Sir Llewellyn is nowhere to be found and we suspect that he is dead.” At this Lady Bronwyn looks away, wringing her hands.

Sherlyn continues “Other citizens too are missing, a member of the Builder’s Guild, who now we believe was one of the saboteurs. Some of you may have known him, Bolger Somerset from Waterdeep, or at least seen him in the past. If he turns up, which I doubt, we’ll have some stern questions to ask him.”

“We have also discovered that one of our most trusted friends was a traitor, Gwydion pen Dafwyd, trusted adviser. We also know that he was complicit in our Duke’s illness.” Lady Bronwyn casts a steely look at Mordo. “We need the duke well and we need him well soon. It has come to light that the enemy is fearful enough of the duke to want to keep him in his current state of distress.”

Question Period… this is the order of the questioning.
___________________

“Mordo, what have you discovered that might be of benefit to the Duke’s condition?”

“Calidore, tell us what happened in the library, to the best of your knowledge, given that Dirk cannot speak for himself at this small council.”

Mordo stands and speaks matter of factly about what he can offer. “I have come up with several spells that can be used to either attack the night hag, hide the duke, protect/dispel the spell, or to reveal the night hag:

Mordenkainen’s Faithful Hound – once summoned it will protect the duke and attack the night hag, Summon lesser planar ally (Janni) – Same tactic as the hound spell, protection from evil – self explanatory, leomunds tiny hut – will allow the duke a full nights rest, rope trick – same as tiny hut, detect invisibility – to reveal the hag, magic missile attacks once revealed, force based attacks can transcend from our material plane to the ethreal plane but not vice versa.
I do not have access to some of these spells. Is there any high level mage I can speak with? If not, I suggest a protection from evil spell and I could cast leomunds tiny hut to hide the duke while he sleeps. I will stay with him throughout the night casting detect invisibility. Futhermore, I am not familiar with Cleric chants/prayers begging for power from gods or whatever you want to call it nor do I want to be…but I believe they can also use:
Dispel evil, protection from evil, undetectable alignment (to hide the dukes alignment which is used to detect it prey), exorcism spell.”
Calidore reflects on Mordo’s plan for a moment before standing to respond.

“Captain Spearslayer. Tranter. Thank-you for putting together this council. Today’s events at the library show just how callous our enemy is.

Our investigation brought us to the library and upon entry we seen what appeared to be Sir Llewelyn. He requested my assistance and as I approached and read the parchement on the table, I triggered a spell. The spell trapped me in a magical force and I lost all concept of time and awareness. While trapped in the spell, Dirk and the brave militiamen engaged the spell caster.

The fighting continued and sadly many lives were lost from an incredibly high powered fireball that exploded within the library. Many of the militiamen were completly consumed by the fire. Dirk sustained incredible injuries but continued to fight. When I came to, Dirk was battling Gwydion eventhough the wizard was invisible. The smoke was becoming so severe; as Dirk stabbed Gwydion he succumbed to the smoke filling the library. Dirk lost consciousness, but Gwydion was slain. We evacuated. I know that Tranter had entered the room and I can surmise that it must have been quite confusing for a time to see Dirk fighting Sir Llewlyn. Our enemy is clever, sinister, and they are well connected.

Upon searching Gwydion, I learned of Kelthas’ plans. He has successfully freed his master. Watoomb is now among us and his power and reach is growing. I discovered that Kelthas is the mastermind behind the two hobgoblin armies, and war is coming to Daggerford. Many of his followers have worked to undermine Daggerford’s resilience. I also learned of thier subterfuge, and seeing the pain and the deaths Daggerford has suffered I hope they are all brought to justice.

There are enemies among us as Captain Spearslayer reports. Watoomb’s power is all corrupting, and Kelthas fears the Duke. We must help him and prepare Daggerford for war.

The Duke is our great ally, but Kelthas has another fear. The tome you see has clues to defeat him. There is also a library at Dragonspear castle, which may end Kelthas reign of terror and send Watoomb back into whatever hell he comes from. Whatever the course of action, we must move swiftly and in stealth. We do not know if the enemy is spying on us now, but we know that Vulture is likely traveling to Dragonspear castle.

Captian, I trust I have answered your question. If there are more questions from you or from your militiamen, I am happy to answer.

I have only two questions. Can we [I gesture towards Mordo and Skyridge] study the tome, and do you want us to go to Dragonspear Castle?"

Spearslayer is agreeable to both options. Oran then asks a question and Spearslayer turns to answer:
“Yes. Oran, we need to discover who these traitors and saboteurs are immediately. There have been new faces in town recently, especially a group of mercenaries from Waterdeep who came back into town with you just yesterday. Start there, find them and whoever else is stirring up trouble here. Also, find Llewellyn, even if he is dead… we need to know. No one else is as aware of these circumstances as you and your party, the last thing we need is someone fear mongering the populace. Anyone who is stirring up dissent needs to be detained. We don’t want the rest of the town discovering how dire the situation really is.”

“Here, read these. Straight from the horses mouth.” She tosses the leather scroll case on the table for you all to read. “Find these traitors and saboteurs… find them and bring them to me to punish.”


The parchments are missives from Kelthas to Gwydion… promises of gifts for service.

In no particular order:

“Gwydion, Magus Extraordinaire, Master of the Arcane, once my associate arrives in Daggerford, his ship was delayed after his business with that fool Peirgeron, he will acquire for you Delfin’s books, the ones about which we spoke when I last visited, in exchange for your continued support of my master. As noted during my last visit, the other tomes will be brought to me. My associate will contact you when his business is concluded. Bear in mind that you are not to discuss my master with my associate from Waterdeep. K”

“Gwydion, Magus Extraordinaire, Master of the Arcane, as you know the Duke’s been having a nocturnal visitor. The duke is a strong leader and it is in our best interests to keep him out of the oncoming war, rather than just deal with him like we did with Delfin, my master suggests making him infirm and a distraction. To that end, his nocturnal visits shall continue, causing him to linger between life and death until such time as his death meets my master’s needs. You must prevent knowledge about how to battle Aunty’s visitations from being discovered, distract Delfin and those foolish priests at all costs. The Eye will be yours if you can keep the duke at death’s door. K.”

“I am surrounded by incompetence! That fool you sent me with the virgin girl caused a catastrophe! He defiled her before the ceremony causing me great physical harm and has put my master’s plans in great jeopardy. Your services are not required at the moment. K.”

“Gwydion, Magus Extraordinaire, Master of the Arcane, I have to apologize for my last letter. I was overwrought at the prospect that freeing my master was thwarted by that fool. Your gift is much appreciated, the Eternus Libris will be very helpful for a spell I am working on. Now I simply need a sufficient subject. Speaking of subjects, I have procured the services of one of the lizard folk to secure another sacrifice for the ceremony. We have been delayed but not yet thwarted. My master is eager for release and all who supported him will be rewarded grandly. The army already musters at Illefarn, Laughing Hollow was no match for the size of the force, we have convinced two hobgoblin high-chiefs to oversee the others with the promise of the fertile lands between Secomber and Waterdeep. K.”

“Gwydion, Magus Extraordinaire, Master of the Arcane, SUCCESS! My master is free and his blessings flow through me. Soon my friend, soon we shall walk the ether like we walk the ground beneath our feet. True power awaits as my master regains his strength. Until then, keep the duke on death’s door and Daggerford in chaos. I was unhappy to hear that your associate in the Builder’s Guild has fled after doing such a fine job sewing chaos. On a better note, I have also perfected the spell about which I told you. We have a new associate, one that is unfailingly loyal to me and formidable to my enemies. I have called him Vulture and you shall see him soon enough. K.”

“Gwydion, Magus Extraordinaire, Master of the Arcane, the resources of the library of Dragonspear must be collected and sent to me at once. They may have information that can be used against us, though I believe that many of the tomes still sit hidden in Dragonspear. I will be sending my creation to Dragonspear to retrieve them once he has secured an artifact for me.”

“You must leave to Dragonspear Castle.”

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The Crowning of a King

The hooves of dozens of war horses thundered ahead. Smoke and chaos filled the dirt road as the marauders charged out at the Elven host. Something was amiss. Elves circled and regrouped. There was no attack. The shadows that emerged out of the forest were but apparitions. The fog of war cleared. There was only one attacker on the field.
Sword and mace clanged against Vulture’s shield. The undead Falcon was fearless as arrows again stabbed deep into his armor. He only glared as Dalion charged at him and trampled him with his horse. Hamus doused him in oil. Oran launched another attack. Falcon was surrounded, but rather than surrender he called out to Mordo and demanded his master’s wand. A new attacker joined the battle hovering in the air with billowing black robes.
Dirk made his move and attacked Vulture with Flame-tongue. The sword bit deep and Vulture clenched his jaw before delivering his own attack. Dirk dropped to the ground and avoided the massive blow. It was now ten on one against Vulture. However, the black-robed attacker began to chant.
Standing atop the wagon, the Cleric of Lathander reflected on the Morninglord’s teaching of respecting art, liberty, nature, culture, and promoting the betterment of oneself. His focus was more on the betterment of himself. He masked his naked ambitions to learn the arcane arts behind these teachings and moved on Skyridge like a spider to a fly. Relik crossed the battlefield and called on his god for healing and caressed Skyridge’s hair though blackened and melted as he watched Calidore move off to engage a black robed wizard now attacking the group. Relik sitting next to the injured elf plotted to gain Skyridge’s favour.
The black robed wizard mercilessly unleashed a cone of bitter cold on the militiamen freezing their faces and numbing their senses. Vulture continued to attack the group. He seemed impervious to everything the companions threw at him. His body was riddled with Cecil’s arrows but still he fought. Now the wizard was just above Vulture. What evil would she unleash?
Calidore seizing his new found treasure. The first wand he ever held and he used it to kill the wizard before more evil could transpire. The crack of lightning shot out of the wand and hit the evil wizard in the chest and face. She screamed and plummeted to the ground charred and smoking. The threat was no more. Vulture recognized that the battle was at a draw. He took flight and escaped the battlefield. Victory, the militiamen celebrated!
The elves startled and confused by the dark magic and illusions reorganized. They decided to camp in place and allowed Skyridge to heal. He made a miraculous recovery and early the next morning they began to leave. Relik took no time to feast upon his prey injecting him with words of treachery and deceit turning the previous day’s victory into an issue of contempt. Skyridge now realizing his wand was missing was spurred to action. He stopped the entire caravan and immediately sought out the militiamen. Relik’s manipulations were succeeding.
By force, the militiamen were lined up in front of the wagon like common thieves and disrespected. The elves pretentious and condescending on a good day now glared at the group in loathing. Standing at attention while being openly reviled was embarrassing for the new heroes of Daggerford. Realizing the injustice, Calidore immediately stepped forward and assumed full responsibility. He promptly returned the wands and explained the necessity for taking them. He simply shrugged off the insults and stated that in the heat of battle and with Skyridge’s injuries there seemed no reason to rush them back to him. Calidore glared at Relik who was now chasing after Skyridge begging to be rewarded for his good deeds; he wanted to learn magic. Skyridge looked down on the cleric in disgust seeing through the web of manipulations and seethed “down boy.”
Relik walked away defeated. Calidore lost his wand of lightning. It started to snow.
Back in their wagon, the militiamen wondered what was going on. What happened to Falcon? Who were these new enemies? Why were they so desperate for the wand that they would attack one hundred riders? Just who is Kelthas? Calidore joined the group in the wagon and listened to the stories before walking back to Skyridge to make amends. Skyridge had learned from Dalion that the attacker was his brother…but he was undead and possibly possessed by some dark magic. Skyridge seemed to have aged overnight.
The caravan was moving much slower now. The sky was gloomy and overcast. The winds had picked up and the snow gave the impression that it was falling horizontally. The forest had cleared to open plains making the host more susceptible to the wind chill. In the distance, the silhouettes of people were seen shambling along. They looked weary and forlorn against the gray and white backdrop of the storm. Dalion greeted them; Elves from Laughing Hollow. They had escaped the clutches of Gurklune. They had been tortured, flogged and had their sword hands chopped off by dull blades. Relik and Hamus immediately began to assist the wounded. They were provided food, shelter and warm clothes. With haste, the column resumed their travel to Daggerford.
Again the caravan was interrupted. A group of humans on the road, brigands no doubt, asking to hitch a ride back to Daggerford after being caught unprepared in the storm. The militiamen spoke with them. Hedgewick the murderous halfling was brought up. Dirk shared details of the halfling. The mercenaries listened as they traveled on to Daggerford.
Out of the fog, Daggerford materialized. The past month between the earthquake, the poisoned water, and now the snow had truly devastated the town. As the host entered the city walls, it felt as though they were entering a crypt. It looked like the townsfolk had tried to rebuild, but the lack of fresh water stalled production. The cold would leave these building abandoned at least until spring. The host entered the castle lead by a fatigued and battle weary Skyridge. The militiamen separated themselves from the group and were greeted by Spearslayer. She demanded to know if the poison issue had been solved. When Oran told her the mission was successful she looked relieved. She surveyed the group and asked about Falcon. Oran advised he was dead. Her shoulders slumped. She thanked them again then told them to cleanup and prepare for their debrief. They had four hours.
Calidore had been to Daggerford the previous summer. Then a prosperous town, with busy streets, and music in the air with all the festivities, but now the town was crippled and desolate. He explored the main streets and the back streets looking for something. During this time he saw Mordo and Dirk walking quickly and with purpose. Calidore pulled up the collar of his jacket to shield his neck from the cold and followed them.
Across town, Flint led Oran, Hamus, and Cecil to Durvil’s forge. As wretched as Flint looked, he carried himself with pride. So close to completing his mission he wanted to run, but a dwarf doesn’t run. He marches, and marched he did. Oran slowed his pace and walked next to the dwarf breathing in the devastation of Daggerford with stoic silence. Cecil deftly moved along and whispered a prayer for the town. Crowning kings should be jubilant. This seemed like a funeral procession.
Flint knocked the door. He was greeted with shock. He heard mutterings of his ugliness as he met his mentor. They greeted, shared ale, and Durvil asked the question everyone in the room wanted to know. “What happened to your face?” Flint deflected questions and got to the point at hand. The shared the harrowing story of Ilefarn. He spoke of throne rooms and gold, treasures, and unspeakable dangers. The Dwarves, a dozen or more, gathered around Flint as he spoke. He spoke loudly, with pride, and with an edge known only to those who have fought battles and suffered horrible wounds. From his bag he removed a crown. He spoke of Korin. He spoke of loss and suffering, and finally Flint spoke of kings.
The crown rested on Durvil’s head, and his subjects bowed deeply. He was a king of a stolen land whose access was denied by weather and orcish armies, but a king nonetheless. He thanked the militiamen whose rusted armor stood out amidst the fine dwarven wares. Flint’s ugly pock-marked face with the gaping eye socket looked even more disgusting in the armor that looked like it had sat in a swamp for the last decade. Durvil awarded Flint and companions for their efforts and promised to restore their armor if it was possible. Oran looked sadly at the rusted war hammer.
Nearby, Relik was counting his gems and having them appraised. He was happy to discover their high value but was angered as there were no buyers in the earthquake ravaged town. Jewels were nice, but food was preferred for the winter. He then made his way to the Temple of Lathander to make a large donation. The clerics were incredibly thankful and sang him praises. He was informed that Lathander had high hopes for the elven cleric and his rise in the church was preordained. Relik greeted many and worked to heal and assist with those injured by recent events. He also attended to the injured elves from Laughing Hollow.
Mordo stood at the base of Delfin’s tower, which was partially destroyed, but the damage was not caused by the earthquake. A mage battle had taken place in the tower. The wall of the third floor was blown apart. Mordo cast a spell—spiderclimb—and began to climb the wall. Dirk followed going from handhold to handhold scaling the wall without a rope. Calidore had watched this from the road, and followed going to the front door as the Mordo and Dirk entered the blasted hole in the tower. The three adventures examined the tower. It was empty. Completely empty. They searched for secret rooms, for chests, for anything of value, anything that would provide answers. Mordo found a single book and pocketed it. Dirk found a cat. It was Delfin’s cat, but not a familiar, just a cat. Dirk recalled that Relik could speak with animals and they took the feline with them. Mordo would study the book afterwards. Calidore returned to the barracks to prepare for the banquet.
The militiamen by now had all returned to the barracks. Flint was estatic and was toasting to Clanggadin with Hamus. He was toasting to just about anything. Dirk called for Relik and presented the cat that purred and wanted to be held. Relik prayed to speak to the animal and was successful. They had a bizarre discussion that sounded like a cat meowing to everyone else. Oran stifled a laugh. Relik relayed the information to the group. Delfin was attacked by a strange man with cat ears and black fur who pounced on Delfin like a cat. Dirk felt very strongly that it was his own mentor Nightshade. But what did that mean? Why would Nightshade kill Delfin? The cat was released and chased after something. The militiamen had little for answers.
At the banquet, Spearslayer called on Oran to provide a synopsis of the mission to Ilifarn. Oran provided all the details. They were told of the horrors facing Daggerford after a quick nod of thanks. The Duke was then brought forward. A strong warrior only one month previous he was now a shell of a man. He was bedridden and cried out in a way that gave Mordo the chills. It was a possession. The Duke was possessed by a hag. Mordo surveyed the situation.
Spearslayer then called on Calidore. He delivered his missives and before the audience gave his own account of the bravery of the Daggerford militiamen from their battle outside Castle Agwain and the battle against the monster that was Vulture. His story was captivating and created a sense of pride for all the soldiers of Daggerford. Skyridge spoke next and offered condolences for the losses the town suffered and promised to bring help in the spring to rebuild.
Hamus stepped forward and demanded to know why the clerics of this town did nothing to help the Duke. A cleric named Bluesword stepped forward to berate Hamus. A yelling match broke out. Mordo entered the fray explaining the demon possession and their own experiences with the hag, the portal and the origins of the posion. Gwydion the house wizard seemed a little taken aback by the knowledge of the young wizard. Mordo went on at length explaining the hag possession and the impacts. The majority of the room could not comprehend Mordo’s explanation. It was then that Calidore noticed a bead of sweat dripping off Gwydion’s brow. Calildore wanted to sneak away, but how?
Bluesword dismissed Mordo. “He’s a wizard nothing more. The clerics of Tempus are the answer for this community.” Hamus defended Clanggadin. Bluesword’s nostrils flared and he challenged Hamus to a duel. They continued to yell and carryon loudly. Calidore snuck away to see if he could find Gwydion’s house. Soon the yells of righteous indignation fell out of Calidore’s range of hearing. He inquired on the location of Gwydion’s house and was directed by one of the serving girls.
Back in the great hall, Mordo was once again trying to explain himself as the cleric’s outburst subsided. This time it was Gwydion who spoke up against the young wizard. He denounced Mordo and advised the hall that as the Court Wizard he would research the Duke’s condition and work with the clerics to find a cure. At this point, Mordo became angry. He was tired of these fools, and he called out Gwydion and accused him of having nefarious motives. The Court Wizard was outraged and stormed off. The clerics began shouting again. Meanwhile the Duke moaned softly and cried out for help.
Calidore wandered the halls heading towards Gwydion’s when the wizard himself pushed past him and stormed off down the hall. Calidore began to follow. Clearly the wizard was flustered and paranoid. He took one look back and began to scream at Calidore. The Court Wizard made it to his room and slammed the door behind him. Calidore approached and asked if everything was alright. He offered to talk, but was told where to go. Instead, Calidore began to stakeout the room periodically listening at the door.
Spearslayer twisted her hair in her hand and noticed a lot more grey as the militiamen were finally led out of the Hall. Lady Bronwyn approached Mordo and asked for his help. He said he would help her. She requested that they meet in the morning and discuss the situation with Gwydion. Mordo reminded her of what just happened to which she responded that Gwydion will help her. He agreed and left to his old mentor’s wretched tower to study his new book.
The streets were quiet and dark on his approach. He looked forward to the peace and quiet to read. Once Mordo was settled he began to read. The book was fascinating and provided a wealth of knowledge on the best means to fight demons and it provided some interesting information on possessions. Near the end of the book, Delfin had begun his own investigation. He identified Gwydion as a follower of Watomb.
Hamas and Flint decided they needed to train before tomorrow’s duel and hit the local bar to drink. It was a noisy night in the bar and the ale was flowing. Everyone loved the militiamen’s gold. Down the road, Dirk visited another bar a shady bar with a bad reputation perhaps to investigate some of the rumors concerning his old mentor Nightshade. He met Hardcheese and greeted him by calling him a thief. Hardcheese took exception to this and kicked him out of the bar. Dirk stood blinking in the back-alley. That hadn’t gone to plan.
Meanwhile, Calidore was listening for sounds behind Gwydion’s locked door. He heard the Court Wizard speak. He was asking for guidance from the Dread Lord. Was he speaking to Kelthas or another of Watomb’s minions? Calidore wanted to break in. He ran back to the barracks to find Dirk leaving arteryx to spy.
The drinking continued at the local bar with Hamus providing his newfound followers of Clanggadin a play-by-play of how he would beat Bluesword. It was then that Bluesword walked into the bar. He saw Hamus’ spectacle and approached; he struck him clean in the nose breaking it. They began to argue. Hamus challenged Bluesword to a drinking contest. And drink they did. Bets were waged and shots of Dwarf Spirits and ale were drunk. Their eyes were crossed and they swayed to and fro but still they drank. Finally, Bluesword collapsed vomiting on the ground before passing out. Hamus stood upon his chair to celebrate shouting something incoherently. Cecil and Flint helped carry him home.
Calidore found Dirk and they headed back to the Castle. Arcertyx was watching the room through Gwydion’s window, though nothing could be seen. They made it to the door and Dirk noted that it was heavily trapped. Calidore used a detect magic spell and determined it was magically trapped and locked as well. He had no other spell to impact the door at the moment. They continued to listen. Arcteryx watched. There was nothing. Calidore sat by the door waiting. Hours passed. He studied his spellbook waiting for something to happen. Dirk had long since left to find drink and his fellow militiamen. Weary and agitated Calidore returned to the barracks.
The next morning Mordo met Lady Bronwyn. They had breakfast and discussed the issues facing the duke. He told her about Delfin and the investigation. He advised that Gwydion was at the very least an accomplice to the events surrounding the Duke. She refused to believe him and took him to Gwydion to prove it.
Calidore woke up early as well; he returned to Gwydion’s room. Mordo and Lady Bronwyn beat him there and were knocking on the door. There was no answer. Again they tried. Nothing. Calidore watched from down the hall. Mordo and Bronwyn left. They seemed confused and Bronwyn seemed especially hurt. Calidore was getting angry he walked to the magically sealed door and used an enlarge spell to shrink the door. He kicked it down. Gwydion’s small cell like room was empty. Completely empty. Not a shred of paper in the room. Not even a handkerchief. Calidore searched every corner of the room; he left no stone unturned—nothing. He swore and left to find Spearslayer.
The militiamen started to wake up; heads pounding from the night before. Hamus prepared to face-off against Bluesword. The event was held outside as the sun was shining. A ring was etched out in the snow and dirt. They would fight: no armor, no weapons. A classic fist fight. Hamus figured he had a chance. He was less drunk than Bluesword and he had Flint in his corner to coach him on. It seemed like the whole town turned up to watch the fight. Clearly these were desperate times.
Cecil used the opportunity to explore the outer walls of Daggerford. He looked out to plains and circled around on the roof tops to watch the fight but more importantly to watch the audience. He was looking for anything suspicious, but nothing seemed to standout. Dirk and Relik also watched the fight standing close to Flint and Hamus. It was about to start and Bluesword had arrived. He did not look hungover. Bets were made. The fight would be starting soon.
Lady Bronwyn was devastated by Gwydion’s betrayal and demanded Spearslayer to conduct a full investigation into the matter. The Captain delegated the task to a militiaman named Junkor.
Calidore managed to find Spearslayer and inquired why Gwydion’s room was so small; if he had an additional study, and where did he complete his regular work as the Court Wizard? He also asked if he had a laboratory? Spearslayer said the room was all he had. Calidore was not convinced and asked to explore the dungeons. Spearslayer said no. They argued and finally Spearslayer acquiesced and told Calidore to find Junkor who is heading the investigation. He asked where he was and Spearslayer advised he was watching the fight. Calidore looked at Spearslayer incredulously. An investigation was just initiated by Lady Bronwyn herself and the chief investigator was already derelict of his duties and Captain Spearslayer seemed perfectly content with this. Calidore stormed off to find Junkor.
The fight was now underway and the two clerics gave a rousing speech in dedication to their gods before turning to face each other. Hamus struck first: a glancing blow to Bluesword’s cheekbone. Bluesword pummeled Hamus with body blows and a massive uppercut. Hamus was winded but fought back. They wrestled and punched, circled, and tried to force each other to submit. The crowd cheered wildly. It was a great fight. Flint was coaching from the sidelines. Hamus let loose a wild left hook breaking Bluesword’s nose. The dwarf laughed and shouted that it was payback. Bluesword tackled the dwarf.
The crowd continued to cheer some for blood, others for their cleric of choice, while others just cheered to forget their suffering. Through the crowd and the noise, Calidore found Junkor and told him he was to give him access to the dungeon. Junkor waved him away; he was watching the fight. Calidore got his attention and reiterated that he was to help. Junkor pushed him away again. The third time Calidore used more force and Junkor finally agreed to help. They started to make their way back to the castle, but Junkor was stalling to watch the fight.
Bluesword’s punches were raining down on Hamus, but he pushed away and landed a good kick to Bluesword’s jaw. Now both clerics were back on their feet bloodied and bruised. Circling they caught their breath. The crowd cheered loudly. Someone was about to lose.
Flint and all the dwarves of Daggerford were cheering loudly. The clerics charged at each other fists flying, but Bluesword had the longer reach. His punch connected square to Hamus’ chin knocking his jaw shut and his head snapped back. The dwarven cleric’s momentum faltered and he stumbled backwards; his knees turned to jelly. A chipped tooth flew through the air. Hamus fell to the ground. He was knocked out cold. The crowd erupted in cheers as Hamus was carried out of the ring to convalesce back at the barracks. Bluesword began to preach. Victory was for Tempus this day.

This is where we continue next time.

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The Battle for Castle Agwain

From the moment the militiamen crested the final hill to overlook Castle Agwain, the signs were ominous. Orcs were everywhere. Their fallen comrade still weighing on their collective minds filled them with bloodlust as they descended upon the Orc Horde’s supply lines and slavers. The battle was harsh and again the militiamen suffered a casualty. Flint engaged the first orc and killed him easily enough, but before he could attack again he heard a whistle in the air and his world went dark.
From behind the battle, Relic was praying, he seen the javelin take flight and strike the Dwarven fighter in the face. He heard a metallic scrape before watching Flint Ironcock sink to his knees. Relic ran over. Praying harder now he called on his deity to provide healing, and he watched as the dying dwarf stabilized. A black and bloody void looked up from the socket that was Flint’s left eye.
The militiamen and their elven allies fought hard and killed a dozen or more orcs before taking control of the caravan. Among the caravan they located a cart of elven slaves and liberated them, while taking a prisoner of their own. Relic watched over the prisoner and prepared himself to do what a cleric of Lathander would never do…interrogate and torture a captive. Mordo, nearby was caressing the Wand of Watoomb, and seemed to consider the greater meaning of what Relic was considering and slit the throat of the captured orc.
The Militiamen continued forward and once again entered into battle with the orc horde surrounding Castle Agwain. Oran couldn’t keep his footing and fell at the beginning of the battle. With Flint comatose and Oran’s maladroit attack the battle seemed more difficult than it should have been. From the distance, a clarion pierced the air and seemed to uplift the militiamen’s spirits. The battle turned and the orcs fled. Crashing sounds were heard in the distance. George, the owl familiar, reported to Mordo that the orcs were being attacked by a large host.
The Orc horde was crushed by mid-day. A phalanx of Elven warriors easily killed or chased off the remnants of the enemy force. The militiamen’s elven allies at once recognized these elves and half-elves as The High Wood Rangers. Introductions were made. The leaders were Commander Dalion and Skyridge the Wizard. With them a human from Secomber named Calidore. Skyridge had a prisoner of his own; a wounded orc and Relic and Cecil requested to partake in any forthcoming interrogation. Hamus only rolled his eyes.
Oran’s legs seemed stronger now and carried Flint into the castle. The Host was welcomed in the streets as they moved to the Baron’s castle. Calidore had first audience with the Baron and provide complete situational awareness since leaving Secomber and delivered the missives as directed by Edward Selarn. The good Baron called for a feast to celebrate the victory of the day and to lift his people’s spirits.
Skyridge, Cecil, and Relic made their way into the dungeons of Castle Agwain to interrogate the orc. Skyridge took the lead with Cecil in the ugliness of the affair. The torture was painful; the orcs hands were perforated with dagger strikes. Relic demanded answers. It would appear many were given. They had the name of the enemy: Gokor Gurlune the Hobgoblin General of the Southern Dark Army. Relic and Cecil learned more information through their repugnant actions.
Meanwhile, with the banquet just starting, the militiamen mingled with the townsfolk and with the human from Secomber. The conversations were light and entertaining. Hamus demanded that things get a move on and predicted at least 45 minutes would pass before anything happened. He was right. During this time Mordo and Calidore discussed spells but reached an impasse on the idea of sharing. Oran apparently made a perverse joke to Rhyme who was singing for the banquet. Dirk and Calidore had a lengthy conversation and seemed to have much in common. Dirk mentioned his new long sword and felt overcome by the story of how he received it. In this moment, he gave his short Sword of Quickness to Calidore. Flint, still bedridden in the hospital wing, moaned then took a sip of water and fell back into a deep sleep.
Dinner was served and Cecil, Relic, and Skyridge joined the festivities after their torture session. The Baron made a great speech and thanked his new friends from The High Wood. The Militia men were seated near the back of the banquet hall with a great view of Rhyme and the entertainment off to their left. Calidore was seated next to Skyridge at the head table.
A stranger entered the room. The clandestine figure that paradoxically attracted the attention of the guards and the militiamen entered and surveyed the room. Dirk recognized the man immediately. It was Durvel Nightshade his mentor. Straightaway they began to communicate using the thieves cant. Hedgewick was identified as a murderer—the same halfling who was playing music with Rhyme (with exception of that one minute where he disappeared off stage). There was a cash reward. 10,000 gold pieces to capture Hedgewick alive. 5,000 gold pieces dead. Without a second thought Dirk told his militiamen.
Mordo seized the opportunity and in the crowded banquet hall he began to cast a spell. Calidore noticed first and found the activity strange. Skyridge also noticed and recognized the spell. Mordo cast a charm spell on the halfling who was completely immune to the spell’s effects. Hedgwick still playing on stage stopped and glared at Mordo. As the music stopped, Skyridge called out Mordo demanding an explanation. The good Baron was also angered by the lack of respect shown by the guests at his banquet. Hamus was visibly annoyed and walked off muttering something about going back to his room.
It appeared that the militiamen were about to be arrested. Oran suddenly began to wretch. A sharp burning pain erupted in his side and he collapsed. Relic ran to his side and announced that he may have been poisoned. The Baron was close to a rage and told both Oran and Relic to get out and see their comrade Flint and possibly referred to them as filthy drunkards. His rage turned back to Mordo and he demanded an explanation. Mordo’s execution seemed imminent.
Dirk intervened and introduced Durvel to the hall. Durvel gave a look of shock and then rage for being betrayed by his own apprentice. Dirk explained that Hedwick was wanted for murder of a noble man in Waterdeep. Hedwick vehemently denied the allegations. The Baron fuming decided to hold Hedgwick for questioning and ended the feast. The town’s folk looked at the militiamen in disgust. Durvel vanished into the shadows at his earliest opportunity.
Oran still clutching his side suffered a bout of diarrhea like nothing he ever experienced before. He concluded it must have been Hedgwick thinking that Oran was hitting on Rhyme. He spent the night next to Flint. Flint in turn wished he lost his nose rather than his eye. The militiamen all retired to their rooms. Calidore also retired to study his spellbook.
The next day Skyridge and Dalion decided they would reinforce Castle Agwain with half their forces. With the remaining 100 riders they left the Castle to ride to Daggerford. The time was an estimated seven days. The wounded dwarf and Oran were put into a wagon to convalesce. The rest of the militiamen opted to ride in the wagon and enjoy having an escort for a change. The 100 riders were roughly divided with half riding upfront and half to the rear with the short supply line in the middle. Command rode at the head of the supply and behind the vanguard. Command consisted of Skyridge, Commander Dalion, Kelson Darktreader, and Calidore.
It was late afternoon on day one that the host entered a heavily forested area. Both Arcteryx and George, the magic users’ familiars, were aware of enemy forces moving through the woods. Even though the woods seemed fairly dense the enemy moved with speed. Ahead it would seem the host had fully engaged the enemy. The rear was flanked and the militiamen and command were attacked from both sides. With virtually no warning the 100 riders were ambushed.
The militiamen were attacked from their wagon. Arrows and javelins flew through the air. The wagons provided minimal concealment and arrows glanced off Oran’s plate mail. To the right side of the host’s column an ogre-mage thundered out of the woods, a devastating attack lined up. About 20 orcs and hobgoblins charged at the wagon, and something more sinister was entering into the battle.
Cecil the Elven Warrior stood up among the chaos to see the massive ogre-mage approach. Drawing a magical arrow from his quiver, he took aim and fired at the Ogre-mage just as it was about to cast a spell. The arrow fired straight and with devastating impact. It slammed into the ogre’s mouth and exited out the back of its head. The monster was dead and fell backwards like a tree crashing down in the woods. The shock of the charging orcs was obvious. Relic used this time to enthrall the advancing horde. Preaching, he held seven or eight from advancing further. Flint ready to fight jumped out of the wagon and attacked an advancing hobgoblin bludgeoning it to death. Oran dispatched two more with ease. Magic missiles fired from Mordo’s fingertips. The battle was going well. Out of the woods, a new challenge emerged. Falcon returned.
He demanded to know the location of his master’s wand. It was clear things had change with Falcon aside from the fact he was no longer stone. His skull looked fractured and he appeared undead, but stronger than anything the militiamen have encountered to date. Mordo attacked, but his spells did nothing. Cecil fired an arrow and it glanced harmlessly off Falcon’s armor.
From Command, Calidore killed an orc trying to flank Mordo, and then cast a wall of fog to nullify the orc archers flanking the militiamen. From horseback he attacked again with his bow. Oran, Cecil, Hamus, and Flint smashed their way through the orcs to engage their old comrade. Something was seriously wrong, and it seemed like their attacks could barely faze the undead warrior.
Command was overwhelmed from a direct attack as a fireball exploded down on them. Dalion and Kelson advanced. Skyridge, viciously burned by fire, fell off his horse dying. Calidore was only slightly injured; he tended to Skyridge and moved him back away from the battle. He picked up the wands that had fallen from Skyridge’s belt. A magical wall of stone or ice materialized ahead cutting the militiamen off from the vanguard. Calidore identified a black-robed figure on the battlefield before moving Skyridge next to the body of the slain ogre-mage.
One hundred feet away, Falcon attacked Hamus and wounded him badly. Relic was on the wagon holding the orcs enthralled. Dirk was hiding in the shadows and launched an attack against an orc whose head was decapitated with one stroke of the flaming sword. Oran engaged Falcon in an epic battle with neither one landing a blow. Cecil’s arrows took out orc after orc. Falcon stabbed at Oran, now wounded felt the warmth of his own blood. Hamus launched another admirable attack that pushed Falcon back. Virtually uninjured, Falcon demanded the wand from Mordo.
A shriek penetrated the air. Was that the sound of a dragon?
Mordo disappeared.

And here’s where our adventurers start the next session on March 21st.

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The Journey to Castle Agwain

As the last of you cautiously crests the rise overlooking the farmlands surrounding Castle Agwain, itself about 2kms away yet quite visible, the first snowflakes of fall start to descend. The march to this bluff has been solemn and tense. Tense because of the constant concern of encountering an enemy patrol; every hoot raised by George causes anxious eyes to turn towards Mordo… good or bad ahead? Solemn, because of your fallen comrade; Falcon. His sacrifice to close the portal polluting and corrupting the great river, weighs heavily on all of your minds. Flint’s quick thinking saved Falcon from death, but at what cost? Immortalized in stone is no immortality at all. And the frightening sound of that inky black form that spewed out of the portal has been haunting you whenever you close your eyes… some of you more than others. Surely, your new weapons and armour, acquired under Illefarn will serve to be great tools against the coalescing dark army but what of this wand Mordo carries, it surely must have some great power if it was preventing the portal from closing?

And even though your numbers have been bolstered by a small guard of beleagured Elves heading for the Elfwood, Ardeep to those who know the elven tongue, you still feel woefully vulnerable to the tribes of goblinoids scouring these hills. Evidence of their reach is displayed all around Castle Agwain. Even the most near-sighted of you can easily see the movements of patrols around the castle as well as the water-supply wagons, manned by slaves, carrying fresh, clean water to the undeserving dark hordes now holed up at Illefarn and Laughing Hollow – now named Weeping Hollow by your accompanying Elves. Hide huts about 30-40 feet in radius dot the area around the castle; the besiegers constantly patrolling from post to post. The farm houses, for as far as the eye can see, have been put to the torch and you all silently hope that the owners either made it inside the castle walls or died quickly.

It doesn’t take long before you start to second guess yourselves and each other: Go back to Illefarn to rescue your selfless friend? Fulfill your duty to Daggerford and notify your commanders that the mission has been accomplished but the scale of the army is much more vast than previously imagined? Or render aid and support to the besieged in Castle Agwain? Some of you, perhaps in jest, have even suggested continuing on to The City of Splendours, and abandoning Daggerford to it’s own devices now that the cause of the Delymber’s pollution has been resolved.

Opinions have been fractious and you all know that this is a cross-roads, will your party band together, stronger for all that you have experienced together, or break apart under the weight of your own egos?

As you stroke your injuries, injuries that some of you will carry for life, you ponder the consequences of your actions; past, present and, indeed, future.

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Falcon's Death

“You will avenge our lands, our people, you will avenge us.” Echos overtop an image of green liquid and stone.

Light seeps in through puss-filled eyelids. It’s painful, but finally they flutter open and closed spasmodically. Blinking the man groans involuntarily as his body becomes fully aware of the pain he is in. “Ahhhh… you are awake… that is good.” The voice, like air escaping a crypt.

As his eyes open he sees a tall balding man with wisps of long grey-white hair cascading over his black robes. To your side looms a massive, nightmarish figure, literally a figure that has haunted his dreams… Ungarth Hrungne.

Air escaped the crypt again as the old man asks “Do you know who I am and whom I serve? More importantly… have you seen my wand?”
“Where am I?” Falcon questions wearily. An image of stone once again enters his mind.

“That is not an answer to my question. Ungarth, be so kind as to encourage my guest to be more forth coming.”

The looming Ogre-Mage grins at Kelthas, “I am a little peckish. Perhaps some finger food.”

Now, as Falcon struggles, he realizes he is naked and chained to a wall in a vitruvian pose a couple of feet off the ground. Ungarth takes Falcon’s weak right hand in his massive paw, an odd time to notice this but his fingers are adorned with some uniquely beautiful rings. Without breaking eye contact, Ungrath bites off, chews and swallows your index and middle fingers. Archer, no more.
Falcon holds a scream and spits violently at Ungarth. “Your wand Kelthas? I know where it is”

Kelthas slithers up to the beaten ranger. “Be so kind as to tell me… you see… time is of the essence and though I could rip the details from your little mind, I have already done much today and it is well past time for me to sleep. So be a good Elfling, and tell me where my wand is so I might have my acquaintances run and pick it up for me. – Make me wait until tomorrow and I shall be less… gentle."

Perhaps it is only wishful thinking or desperation, but Falcon tries to communicate with Elder Skyridge as he often did in the High Wood. In what can only be a futile effort Falcon tries to send images of his thoughts: freeing the wand and closing the portal, the poison and near death. He wills his thoughts to his father; images of Kelthas and Ungarth, and his allies. In his mind he screams: “Father. Great evil has awakened in Ilefarn. Find my militiamen. Tell them of my death. They will avenge me and stop this evil.”

Falcon blinks away the poison still affecting his vision and glares at Kelthas. “If it is your doom you seek look for it back at Daggerford. My fellow militiamen will destroy you!” Falcon tries to break the chains and kicks as hard as he can into the air. He demands to fight the Ogre-mage.
Ungarth seems angry that Falcon spit on him, but aside from glower at him and wipe the spit from his face he is unmoved.

Kelthas’ response is quiet as a dusty crypt again, “Hush… don’t cry elfling.” Only then does Falcon realize that tears are pouring out of your eyes and down the tip of your running nose. The pain and the shock begin to overwhelm him.

“I believe you… that my wand is in Daggerford that is. But please, don’t say such things to Ungarth, I trust the two of you will become fast friends tomorrow, for I require more from you in undeath than in life… you see, I’ve been developing a special devotion to honour my dread lord. And you will have the privilege of aiding me. Before I let you rest… what is your name?”

“My name is Falcon.”
“A good name… a strong name but not your real name I am sure… no mind, I think, tomorrow, I shall have to give you a new name.”

“What do you intend to do?” Falcon asks holding to the remnants of courage.
“I intend to be off to my bed, for I must be well rested for tomorrow. And you have a big day ahead of you. Like all well-trained Falcons, a hood should pacify you. Ungarth… the sack.”

Ungarth crams a foul smelling and tasting rag into your mouth and is about to place a rough burlap sack over your head, then pauses, a flicker of recognition on his face. He scowls, throws the sack over your head and the world goes dark as he ties and knots a rope around the sack and your neck. It’s so tight you feel like you could pass out at any moment, and that’s when he starts beating you about the head with his fists.
Falcon once again awakens to a searing, agonizing pain that seems to burn every fibre of his being. It seems to last an eternity and, as the fire abates, he find yourself looking down upon his limp and lifeless body, in his mutilated right hand the vague outline of a great sword, like a blue after-image, dissipates. Though scared and brutalized, it is obviously that Falcon is on the ground. His body lies in a thaumaturgic circle, runes glow around the circle at various points, emitting faint green tendrils of lazy smoke. Before the circle stands Kelthas the Dread, arms up-raised, violently chanting and gesticulating.

Even though he appears to be yelling, Falcon hears nothing. He slowly starts to drift away from Kelthas and even his body. From the periphery, Falcon notices that Ungarth is there as well, carefully pouring blood around the outline of the circle. It’s then that he sees the marks on his own body where his blood was drained and decanted into the jug that Ungarth is now using.

As the circle is completed with your own blood, an inky, blackness of amorphous form shrieks from Falcon’s body and claws at his floating essence. Though no noise escapes Kelthas’ mouth, this screeching, horrible blackness fills Falcon with dread and loathing, and the searing pain returns as it latches on to his essence, dragging him back into the husk that was once Falcon’s body.
*
The pain is gone, replaced by a cold numbness. When Falcon’s eyes open he sees Kelthas before him with a faint green glow surrounding him. Ungarth is grinning maliciously. Kelthas tells Falcon to rise, and though even in this state he wants to resist, the blackness within him forces his body to comply with Kelthas’ command. Falcon feels a strength in his body and sinews that he’s never known… He feels like he has been been carved from the same cold stones from which mausoleum doors are made.

“Ahhh…. that’s better. Much less willful now. I shall call you… Vulture.”

[Falcon is no longer a playable character].

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