Forgotten Realms: Birthright

When Darkness Calls: Part 6
What lurks below

Rhiannon, having split from the party to warn the caravan, decides she cannot leave her companions to their fate. As soon as she has met up with the merchants and delivered the news, she hastens back to the the capital as fast as her horse can take her. She pushes her mount farther than she might have otherwise, but speed is of the essence.
She makes her way into the city, and tracks her companions as best she can using a Locate Object spell to home in on Kyuubi’s mask. Although her target is out of range, she does discover fresh tracks in the thin layer of snow dusting the streets. She follows these north into the city.
On her way, she encounters the same demons her friends did. With a well placed Web spell, she neutralizes them and escapes.
She makes it to the grand plaza where the others had the fight with the mob, and here, her Locate spell picks up Kyuubi’s signature. She follows it to the well, and down, past the iron gate, into the cavern below.

To Rhiannon’s relief she finds her companions alive and well, contemplating their next move. They exchange warm greetings and survey their options.
Standing in the circle of illumination cast by the Light spell, the group spies a tunnel beyond the demonic script daubed on the wall. The natural cavern gives way into a man-made chamber by way of a broken wall. It seems as though whoever did this, was looking for an older, buried structure, and found it.
It appears to be a lost catacomb of some kind below the city.
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They enter to find a chamber with a blood stained altar positioned between two fierce looking statues of demonic figures. Large urns sit in the corners caked with dried blood on the inside. It appears they have discovered a sacrificial altar to a demon lord, most likely Eltab. Aside from these disturbing items, they find little else.
Behind the altar they see an open door leading further in, soft candle light glowing from a door ahead.

Beyond, they enter a short, dark corridor which opens up after several feet. They pass an room with a demonic circle on the floor surrounded by three candles and an equal amount of large bowls filled with fresh blood.. A flayed man lies spread eagle on his back in the middle of this great glyph. They realize to their horror that he is still alive, and moaning softly in agony. Upon closer examination, they deduce with spellcraft that it is some kind of summoning circle.
Kyuubi notices something is off about the man, and realizes it’s an illusion. She casts a Detect Magic. The spell appears to be of the school of Summoning. She cautions the others to avoid touching the figure, the circle, or anything in the room for that matter.

They move into the square chamber beyond to the west. There are three other closed doors here, one in the middle of each wall, except the east. In the distance to the south, Kyuubi hears a skittering sound echoing, and then fade away.
They decide to check the door to the north first. Frak checks for traps. Finds it is trapped and locked. He tries to disarm it, but is unable to.
They check the door to the west, and find it unlocked. Inside, they find a crude bed chamber for the cultists. Loose crates and blankets are arranged in a crude row. They find little evidence or items of interest here.

Finally, they check the door to the south. It opens up into a hallway five feet wide, with two doors halfway down on the eastern and western walls. They move down the corridor cautiously, and are able to discover the trap before falling in. Set in between the two doors, filling the width of the hallway. They trigger the pit on purpose, and it collapses into a chute that plunges down as far as the eye can see into the darkness.

They investigate the two rooms adjacent to the pit.
The room to the east opens easily, and seems to be some kind of kitchen or dining hall. A table and several chairs dominate the room. A stove with a pot of food upon it stands in the corner, and there is an adjacent room with stored food and supplies. These are basic and crude, but have been recently restocked.
Frak tests the stove and notes it is warm to the touch, indicating someone was here recently.
They take the long bench by the table and use it as a bridge to cross the pit into the other room.

The room to the west also opens without resistance into a large chamber with a small raised dais on the northern wall. A grotesque, horned statue of Eltab perched upon it.
Filling the floor of the room is a large demonic circular inscription, surrounded by candles. It seems to be some kind of summoning ritual, but it looks like it was interrupted. Candles are still lit around its circumference, illuminating the hallway and shedding some welcome light. They see little else that raises their concerns and move on.

They lift and change the angle of the bench to run north – south along the wall to make it easier to cross the dangerous pit.
They proceed south, entering what appears to be a poorly lit torture chamber – a single oil lamp glowing on the wall nearby. A large rack stands against the eastern wall. They immediately notice a man in robes lying on top, motionless.
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Frak moves to investigate., and the man bolts upright, stabbing at Frak’s chest with a dagger. Frak’s reflexes save him as he twists out of the way.
At that point the remaining 4 cultists fire their crossbows from hiding.
The PCs are hit with several bolts, and are initially taken aback, but rally within moments. Realizing their opponents were lurking in the shadows, they seek them out and end them quickly. The wretched cultists are no match for our valiant heroes, yet they seem resolved to inflict as much damage as they can. Perhaps they were only meant to slow them down?
Searching the bodies reveals them to be human, with ritual scarification adorning their foreheads. Some kind of demon emblem denoting their allegiance to Eltab.

Following the only exit in the south of the chamber, they find another room, again with a circle of power on the floor. A pool of blood-like fluid fills its entire area. It is clearly magical.
Rhiannon and Kyuubi put their heads together, and come to the conclusion that this is a portal of some kind, but it is not inter planar. The magic is apportative in nature, rather than some form of conjuration.
They also determine that the magic is only sufficient for a localized translocation.

Frak and Valeria volunteer to test out the portal, and following a brief discussion, step in. Kyuubi and Rhiannon suspecting something, rush back to the first chamber with the flayed man, thinking it might lead there. When they arrive however, Frak and Valeria are not there.

Meanwhile, Frak and Val arrive at the other end, in a vastly different dungeon. Looking more like a disused, vaulted cistern. Aside from the dripping sounds of water, they hear skittering noises echoing in the distance…..

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When Darkness Calls: Part 5
Helgabal

13th of Mirtul 1399 D.R.

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After riding north for several days, The PCs arrive at the former capital city of Damara – Helgabal.
Rhiannon has volunteered to return to the caravan to warn them to turn back.
They stand atop a crest overlooking the approach to the city, within sight of the southern gates, which now hang broken and open. The scene before them is one of devastation. Broken siege towers and other engines of war lie in ruins before sections of cracked and shattered walls. Bodies litter the ground around the base of the walls. Others burn in massive pyres lit days before, the black pillars of acrid smoke rising from several dozen such mounds in the fields in front of the city.
Clearly the victors have departed, and left a ruin in their wake. The tracks of an army can be seen even from this high vantage point leading off west around the city, and then north.

From their vantage point, they hear the sound of fierce battle coming from the forest to the west. The distant din of steel clashing against steel fills the air. The fighting seems contained, but as they watch, they see groups spilling into the fields beside the tree line. From what they can tell, the fighting looks desperate, and utterly without mercy. The idol’s influence is clear even from this distance.

They decide to ride for the main gate, and make it there unscathed.
Entering the city, they see the portcullis is open, and the streets appear deserted. They enter the gate house and drop the portcullis. After a brief discussion, they decide it is best to leave Bogol and his men there with the horses. They happily agree, and barricade the door as the PCs leave.
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Valeria, in the hopes of getting some bearings, casts a detect evil and determines the strongest source is coming from the north. Toward the middle of the city. They make haste, with the spell acting as a homing beacon, guiding them deeper toward the source of all this chaos and evil.

Proceeding north into the city, the streets are draped with late winter fog, hiding what lies ahead. The PCs proceed cautiously, flinching at sudden noises. A shutter banging in the wind. Dogs barking in the distance. Crows flying overhead. The gothic architecture only serves to accentuate this apprehension.
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With their senses peeled to their environment, they hear them before they see them – an undulating mass of small rotund and grotesque figures. They shamble down the street looking for any sign of life. The PCs manage to avoid them, however.
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Not long after, they spy a different group of horrid figures, these are larger, but no less repulsive. The gaggle of creatures has a scent of sulphur about them. The group manages to avoid these too, using stealth and magic.

Finally, they arrive at a large square. At first it looks empty, but then they spy a large mob of people, soldiers by the look of it. They see at least several dozen figures at the far end of the plaza, although the hanging fog makes it hard to get an exact count. Their eyes appear to be glowing blue, and they are milling around what looks like a well, or fountain of some kind.
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As they stand there observing the mob, their gaze intent upon this potential threat, they are attacked suddenly from behind by six of the larger demonic creatures.
They claw and bite at the PCs with unbridled fury and blood lust. The fierce combat is brief, but with each creature they slay, they expel a large poisonous cloud, which forces the PCs to fight for breath as they take damage. Finally, their enemies bested, they put as much distance between themselves and their bodies as they can. Kyuubi finishes two of them off (they were only knocked out) from a safe distance with her arrows, to avoid the inevitable poison clouds.
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They skirt around the western edge of the plaza, and approach the mob, but the mob, drawn by the sound of battle approaches them as well, too many to count.

Suddenly, without warning, there is a magical shock wave of dark energy that radiates out from the well. It washes over the entire city in a matter of seconds, a pulse of demonic compulsion from the Kor’Nar idol. Frak and Valeria are unable to resist its effects, and are immediately overcome by an overwhelming bloodlust. They feel every ounce of anger they have ever felt and more well up to the surface and take hold. The need to kill is suddenly paramount. All else is but an afterthought.

Kyuubi, seeing her companions so consumed, presses on to the well, invisible, determined to locate the idol.
Frak and Valeria, consumed with primal rage, lay into the mob of soldiers that is now pressing in upon them. Lurenna, seeing no alternative, attacks the mob as well, in the hopes of improving her companion’s chances of surviving an angry mob.
Valeria channels her rage toward the enemy. She kills five of the clearly inferior warriors with her combat dominance. Frak kills another two. Lurenna unleashes her first fireball ever, that detonates in the center of the mob, killing almost a dozen men in one volatile explosion of flame. The remaining mob turns on Valeria and Frak, severely injuring Frak with multiple attacks.
Frak attacks again, and Lurenna uses a Burning Hands spell to great effect. Valeria presses through the mob, somehow managing to avoid all their attacks on her, and runs to Kyuubi’s position by the well.
The mob attacks Frak again, bringing him close to death.

Kyuubi meanwhile has made it to the “well”, which turned out to be a spiral staircase heading down into the sewer system below the city. The stairs descend only 10 feet before ending at a landing with an iron gate. She can see into the darkness beyond, but cannot continue, so she bides her time, waiting for help to arrive.
Frak and Lurenna also start to head that way.

Frak, Lurenna, and Valeria make it to the well. Valeria manages to pour a Cure Serious Wounds potion down Frak’s throat. He heals almost up to full, but then Valeria fails to resist the second dark pulse that emanates from the idol. In a fit of newfound rage, she promptly stabs Frak in the gut, severely injuring him again.
Kyuubi, witnessing this bizarre exchange and resisting the effects herself, runs up and heals Frak with her magic.

Lurenna, realizing something, casts a Protection from Evil 10’ radius spell. It shields the PCs in a sphere of protective energy, that eliminates the influence of the idol. The rage welling up in them vanishes instantly.
The remaining mob charges the group, but as soon as they enter the circle, their rage is nullified, causing them to stop in their tracks.
Lurenna casts another Protection from evil spell on their leader, a corporal, and they leave, safe from the effects of the idol.

The PCs make their way down the stairs.
Frak tries to pick the lock, but fails. Lurenna uses a Knock scroll and the gate opens.

The see a set of stairs heading down some 60 feet before leveling out. There is also a 10’ wide hole in the wall of the stairs halfway down. Valeria cast detect evil and determines the evil is emanating from the hole.

They enter the hole to find a natural cavern system.
Val casts a light spell.
Frak looks for tracks and finds some belonging to a large humanoid and a large goat.
In the distance, on the far wall, they see words written in infernal, in blood. it says “All hail Eltab, ruler of Kor Nar”

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When Darkness Calls: Part 4
Fog of War

26th of Tarsakh 1399 D.R.

Sailing north aboard the Silver Zephyr, from The Great Dale and the town of Uthmere, the PCs travel to Impiltur. Their destination, the city of Ilmwatch, is a fortress town on the frontier land close to the border with Damara. Beyond the town lies a wild and lawless expanse stretching northwest until the dominion of Damara provides some measure of order once more. These days, however, that order is gone. Replaced by civil war and death.
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Ilmwatch serves as a strategic outpost that oversees all northern trade along the Merchant’s Run, and thus fulfills a vital role in Impiltur’s economy. With the war raging to the north, it has also become a destination for refugees. The kingdom has also increased its military presence in light of these events.
It is in this atmosphere that the group arrives. Docking in the main harbour overlooking the city. To their surprise, where they expected to find chaos and disorder, they discover a town dominated by a beautiful series of waterfall, atop which sit a series of majestic fortresses. Settlements dot the landscape around the base of the falls, with winding pathways leading up to the elevated escarpment.

The Zephyr is tethered and secured at one of the many docks jutting out into the bay, and soon enough the captain is barking orders at his men to unload their cargo. The party walks onto the dock an inquires with some locals for a nicer place to stay the night, as darkness has already settled across the land.

The locals refer them to a well appointed, clean inn called ‘The Gilded Ram’ overlooking the bay and it’s many lights, with gorgeous views of the waterfalls. Their gentle rushing an ever-present sound even indoors.
They book rooms under the alias ’Karf" and then proceed to get some food in the main taproom and dining room downstairs.
They dine on fine fare and quench their thirst with good wine, all the while discussing their plans. They need to get to Helgabal, the capital of Damara, but how?
Pretty soon Frak strikes up a conversation with patrons at another table, who introduce themselves are Yarin and Bogol.
It becomes clear that they are traders, with a large cargo of supplies bound for Damara, to aid in the war effort, specifically, to the efforts of the southern alliance of duchies and baronies. They inform the party that the land is now divided into two main factions. Those controlling the source of Bloodstone, and those controlling the trade routes out. Their faction, the southern one, are the latter.

The PCs petition them to aid them in their efforts at least part of the way, as caravan guards. The merchants agree to pay them a modest sum for their help too. The agreement benefits both parties. The PCs get an escort and guide into unfamiliar territory, and the merchants more muscle.

The following morning, the PCs get their belongings together and meet Yarin and Bogol at the docks, where they are busy unloading their wares onto carts, which are then being ferried up the escarpment to the waiting caravan of large wagons above. Each wagon is large and built to carry large weights, with sturdy axles. Each is being pulled by a team of four heavy draft horses. In total there are a dozen such wagons.
It takes the better part of the morning to complete the loading process, but soon they are under way. Moving away from the river that feeds the waterfalls and the city, they soon lose sight of all signs of civilization, and find themselves in thickly forested lanes heading into the wilds.
The road north is mercifully flat for the first several days, however it does begin to snow on the second day and does not let up for a few more. The late spring snowfall blankets the land in a cloak of silence.
Apart from a brief sighting of a wolf pack, the caravan is spared any attacks, and makes good time, despite the snowfall. The land becomes more barren as they press north, and slowly the road starts to progress gradually uphill, ever so gently. The caravan leader mentions it’s a sign they have entered Damara.

Given the potential dangers associated with travelling into a war zone, the PCs suggest to the caravan leaders that they scout ahead to ensure the safety of the supplies. They agree that Bogol and two of his men will join the party to scout, while Yarin and the others remain with the caravan. That barring further dangers, they will meet in the capital of Helgabal in a few days.
They calculate that they can make it there, check if it is overrun or still open for a market, and go back to report to the caravan by the time the merchants make it half way up the road.

They continue to travel north into Damara for several days. Pressing on up the The Herald’s Road, then the ’Merchant’s Run’ road. Passing the towns of Cairnpur, Maracrath, Guidobar, Mulltown and Lenchford. These small villages and hamlets offer little in the way of distractions, save that they give them shelter from the elements, and a warm meal in their bellies.
They get as far as half way between Lenchford and Trailsend. When they camp for the night up against the edge of a thick copse of trees.
Snow covers the land as far as the eyes can see. The night is clear and the wind still, lending a peaceful quiet to the camp. They take turns on guard duty as the chill of the night settles in earnest around the camp.

The tranquility is short lived, however. During Frak’s turn at guard duty, he spies a strange, ethereal form drifting towards the camp across the open field. Soon another joins it out of the far tree line. The dark shapes fly with sudden alarming speed toward him and it is all he can do to blurt out a cry of alarm, rousing his companions.
They rally to form a defensive line before the creatures hit them, but only just. Frak, standing in the front is attacked by the first of the shades. This close he can see their baleful features. He sees a skeletal rictus pierced by pale blue orbs. Thick claws made of tenebrous tendrils that reach for him hungrily. The creature swipes it’s claws at him, piercing his defenses. He feels an unearthly chill shiver across his body as the creature draws forth his life force. Frak stumbles to one side in pain and anguish.
The others swing their weapons at the creatures, without much success. They circle like wolves around the living, with alarming alacrity.
Frak manages to compose himself enough to unleash a Color Spray spell upon the creatures. The bright display clearly affects them adversely, but it is hard to say exactly how badly they are hurt, but he manages to stun them just long enough.
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It is at this point that Rhiannon steps forth, brandishing her holy symbol. She utters sacred words of power directly at the undead creatures, as brilliant blue-white light radiates from her outstretched hand. The creatures scream unearthly wails of terror, and flee from her holy light. The fight is over quickly, much to everyone’s relief.
They take stock of the damage, and realize that Frak has been drained by the creatures. Rhiannon surmises that his injuries will heal with time.
The party has a hard time falling back asleep that night.

They travel on the next day, and the one after that. It is not long before they reach the outskirts of the town of Praka.
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There, they are greeted by a horrific scene. The aftermath of a massive battle lies strewn, broken and scattered as far as their eyes can see. Bodies lie dead in their thousands. Banners, polearms and other weapons jutt out from the blood-drenched soil, lending the whole scene a jagged and shattered look. Smoke rises in the distance in several places. The sky is thick with crows and ravens.
They spy knights in armour, foot soldiers, horses, and archers, all dead. Valeria, with the aid of Bogol and his men, recognize the heraldry on the banners and tabards before them. They see the emblems of House Ostel, House Polten, and those of their foes, House Carmathan and Brandiar.
The remains of the soldiers show that they tore at each other with a savagery, and desperate rage that defies normal battle damage. They all fought to the death, to that last man. None survive on the field before them. Perhaps there were survivors, but they did not remain even long enough to salvage anything. Around the field, in the distance, they see simple folk picking through the corpses, looking for anything of value to sustain their meager existences.

As they stand there, they all begin to hear the distant sounds of battle echoing in their ears and minds. With a jolt, they are suddenly assaulted by a series of visions of the battle, and the dark voices that fueled it. They can feel the far reach of the demonic corruption filtering through every blade of grass around them. It is as though the land itself is corrupted. The idol is here. It is feeding. It is not yet sated.

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With the last vision echoing in their minds, they hear the demon’s deep growling voice intoning the phrase “Bow before Kor Nar”

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When Darkness Calls: Part 3
Markets and Mariners

Following the confrontation with the Succubus, the PCs agree that time is of the essence.
There are other Kor’Nar relics still out there, that continue to exert their dark influence on the innocent. Of those, two relics have surfaced through rumour and divine insight. The Idol of War in Damara, and the Idol of Gluttony in The Great Dale.

The PCs take a few days to acquire some much needed spells, and seek out what information they can on their foe, and the land of Damara. Kyuubi also combs the city of Suzail for a suit of Zakharan silk armour, a type of armour known for its flexibility and comfort that allows the wearer to cast arcane spells. Her efforts avail her little, and she is informed by several armourers that such fine armour can only be found in either Zakhara, or along its many trade routes. One such route terminates in the city of Telflamm, Thesk, where the Golden Way meets the Sea of Fallen Stars, and many exotic goods flow into this part of the world. Frustrated, Kyuubi returns to her companions.

The PCs meet with Baskor Tranth in secret, and agree to keep their mission under wraps. He informs them that the Crown Prince has been briefed on the events in the palace, the Succubus, and his sister’s death. Distraught, the Prince has delayed his coronation, in the hopes this matter will be resolved before such ceremonies take place. He also informs them that he has seen to it that all of the Royal court has been screened, including the leadership of the Purple Dragons and War Wizards, to ensure the safety of the crown.

Plans are made to set off to Damara, to begin the search there. Baskor informs them that the teleportation amulets are no longer functioning, as a direct result of the idols being housed in the College. It appears their ban on apportative magic has extended to all items fabricated within the College, thus preventing them from making use of them to travel swiftly to the Cold Lands. He does, however, assure them he can transport them himself using his own spells. This does of course mean they will be without a quick method of travel home.

Further planning leads them to alter their route to Damara, by teleporting to Telflamm in Thesk, and from there securing passage upon a ship to the Impilturian port of Ilmwatch, by way of Uthmere in The Great Dale. This will allow Kyuubi to search for a suit of Zakharan silk, and give them an opportunity to question the locals in Uthmere directly about any rumours coming out of the highlands of the Dale, and fel ruins like Val Murthag, and others.

Baskor Tranth agrees to take them to Telflamm. With Rhiannon ill in bed, the PCs ask if Lurrena would be willing to join them on their quest, and she agrees. Baskor assures them he can help Rhiannon rejoin her companions as soon as she recovers from the lurgy.
Soon, they are packed and ready to depart. Baskor casts his teleportation spell, and once again, the world is folded in upon itself, reducing to a single point, then unfolding rapidly. It deposits them upon the shore of fine sand, lined with palm trees. They stand mere yards from the city of Telflamm, gazing in wonder at the tall, crimson lacquered walls, bloated columns, and dizzying battlements. At the foot of the walls, a hive of figures busy themselves in a bustling, broad harbour, where ships of every design lie anchored.
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Telflamm sits at a junction of the Sea of Fallen Stars and the western terminus of the Golden Way, the road that connects to the far reaches of Kara Tur and Zakhara. The city is a melting pot of culture and commerce from all over the continent.

The PCs make their way to the nearest gates, and join stream of colourful caravans and people slowly making their way into the city. Although there are guards by the gates, they seem quite happy to let everybody in and out, and seem more interested in simply keeping the flow of traffic going. The amount of people here is quite surprising to the group, as their senses drink in the new wonders around them. Once inside the gates, the throng filters into the maze of streets beyond, allowing the PCs to take in the local culture.
The market stalls lining the streets hang with a myriad of exotic goods, hawkers shout at the crowd, plying their wares. The scents and aromas of roasting meats, curries and spices fill the air, mingling with the stink of draft animals. They see people selling carpets, clothing, fabrics, food, smoking devices, weapons, armour, exotic birds, and all manner of trinkets, and gaudy baubles. It seems as though the entire city is one expansive market.
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The city’s open door policy seems to create a natural peace, although a hectic one. Crime seems to be quite rare.
Kyuubi sets about trying to find a vendor of Zakharan silks. She approaches an armourer dressed in colourful attire. He introduces himself as Khafful. Although he only speaks broken common, he informs her that he does not have such armours, but knows of a man that does. A colleague of his named Ibrahim. He directs her to a courtyard market a few streets away. They find the market with relative ease, and emerge into the white, decorated courtyard, where several merchants have set up shop. Several of them seem to be negotiating with customers in the center of the open space where a fountain gently flows.
Ibrahim’s stall is located in one of the arcades surrounding the square. He welcomes Kyuubi and the others, and shows her his wares. Fine Zakharan silks made in all white fabric. They negotiate the price and she agrees to buy two suits. He offers her a small box as a gift with the purchase. Frak becomes immediately suspicious, and inspects it for traps. He finds none. It turns out to be a repair kit for the silk armour.
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To continue their journey, they go to the docks to book passage on a ship travelling to Impiltur. They meet a tiefling captain by the name of Horgast Sprüng, an Impilturian native in command of a coastal trading vessel named “The Silver Zephyr”. They agree to a price of one crate of Bloodstone from Damara, to be provided upon their return to Ilmwatch, and 22 gold to get them there.

He tells them that they will be leaving in two days, so the PCs take the time to sample local delicacies, take in the sights, and gather as much information about their destination as they can.
Frak finds a weapon master, to help him learn the secrets of fighting with two weapons. Valeria speaks to local caravan masters to gain some insights into the Great Dale.
Kyuubi uses her time to look into purchasing property to further her family’s needs.

At night they stay at a local inn and are offered a spicy drink (called Khaff) by the proprietor. His half-orc step son Tim’ka brings it to them. It has a worm in it.

Finally the time arrives to set sail. Captain Sprung follows the coastline north for the better part of a day, and as evening approaches they spy the lights of a town ahead. It is the port city of Uthmere, a relatively small settlement in the Great Dale, but also it’s only trading hub along the coast.
The PCs ask to take a moment to inquire about the Dale in the city. They find some food and visit the Hall of Brilliant Justice, the temple of Tyr the Even Handed.
Inside they meet an elderly priest by the name of Blostin Marsk.
After some brief introductions, he shares his knowledge and concerns with them. He tells them of rumours of sinister deaths in the city of Bezentil, where all involved were either forcibly fed to death or were already overweight.
When informed about the Kor’Nar Relics, he is visibly shaken and offers to help however he can. They promise to meet again upon their return to Uthmere.
For now, the PCs return to the Silver Zephyr and resume their journey north towards Ilmwatch. The dark shores of Impiltur loom beyond the horizon, and an idol beckons.

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When Darkness Calls: Part 2
The Trap

18th of Tarsakh 1399 D.R.

Princess Filfaeril Obarskyr is dead.
The implications of this discovery weigh heavily on the PCs and the leadership of the War Wizards.
How long exactly had she been dead exactly? Estimates range from two to three years at least.

It becomes clear to the PCs that the impostor had unchecked access to the court, it’s resources, and the ear of the rest of the royal family.
How many Royal decisions has she managed to influence? Someone in that position with an intent to do harm surely must have done a lot of damage beyond the obvious.

With a direct connection to the The Kor’Nar Relics, Caladin of Cyric, and Duke Aris, it stands to reason that she was instrumental in the death of Queen Tanalasta (which would explain why the assassins knew so much about her protections, and had access to such dark magics), the abduction of Prince Azoun, and the coup of the long lost Prince Foril (and presumably the prince’s untimely end when his usefulness had run out).
Additionally, with all that being true, what is her motivation? It is clear she is seeking to assemble the Nar atifacts, but to what end? One possible option that is voiced, is that she intends to liberate the Demon Lord Eltab from the void of Nil Space. With the information uncovered by Rhiannon, there is a strong case to be made for that hypothesis. Eltab is, after all, still tethered to Toril by the strong binding ritual that summoned him all those millennia ago. Rumours of Demon Cysts in the Cold Lands of Faerun still abound, and talk of demon cults in the Great Dale, and war in Damara only strengthen these.

The group have an emergency meeting with the only three others to bear witness to this revelation – Baskor Tranth, Theldryn Wyvernspur, and Lurrena Ashwood.
They agree to keep this fact a secret until they decide what course of action to take to unmask the impostor.
Many possible options are discussed, what type of creature it might be, or what kind of sorcery might be involved. It is agreed that whomever or whatever the living Princess is, she needs to be stopped. They also debate seeking out the remaining Kor’Nar Relics, but it is ultimately agreed the Princess is the priority.

With so much as stake the PCs and the War Wizards hatch a plan.

They decide to set a trap for the impostor. They wait for the Princess to go out for a ride with her escort, and prepare to ambush her upon her return the palace, in a lavish sitting room adjacent to the stables and mudroom.
They scour the library of the College to find a spell called “Proof from Teleportation” that will allow them to prevent the impostor from making a rapid magical exit. They thus prepare the room with the spell and themselves with all manner of enchanments and abjurations. Baskor Tranth joins them.
Valeria casts a Divination spell to give her insight before the trap is sprung. The answer she receives is “Where is Theldryn Wyvernspur now”. This revelation prompts Baskor to cast a quick divination spell of his own, and he quickly realizes that Theldryn is about to warn the impostor of their plans. He bids the party good luck and God’s speed, and vanishes in a burst of apportative magic, presumably to intercept Theldryn.
Hiding in the corners of the room in various ways, some magical, some not, the PCs wait in tense silence for the Impostor to return.

Soon they hear the telltale hoof beats of their quarry and her entourage returning from the forest.
The Princess’ escort of Purple Dragons veers away and ride to assume they duties elsewhere, as she and her handmaiden make their way into the mudroom to rid themselves of their riding boots, cloaks, hats and gloves. The concealed PCs hear her giggling with her handmaid, making small talk and sounding otherwise unremarkable. Where it not for the fact that they had seen the corpse of the Princess mere hours before, the thought of attacking her would have seemed anathema. The PCs steel themselves, checking in with each other one last time.

The impostor and her handmaiden waltz into the sitting room with a relaxed confidence as befits a princess, making her way to the table with refreshments. She asks her maid to prepare a drink for her as she heads toward the couch.
The PCs spring the trap, using the element of surprise.
Using a summoned unseen servant, Kyuubi slams an outside shutter shut, blocking one of the windows and darkening the room. She then intones the words to a Lock spell to secure the door and seal the princess in the room.
Frak lunges forward and attempts to stab the impostor with his new rapier. It hits home, skewering her in the back, much to his satisfaction. First blood is spilled. The impostor howls in pain and anger, only to be attacked by Valeria with her two blades. Only Valeria’s magical Elven blade slashes her flesh, forcing her back. Rhiannon, invisible, uses her unseen servant to close the remaining shutter outside, plunging the room into darkness but for the light from the fireplace, and casts a Detect Magic spell. With it she realizes there is a haze of enchantment hanging like a cloud over the handmaid’s head, leading her to conclude the servant is charmed.

The trap sprung, the impostor spins around in desperation in the center of the room. It is clear she is being assaulted from all sides. Kyuubi fires her arrows at the impostor, hits, but they fail to injure her. They simply phase through her as if she was not there. It dawns on Kyuubi that she is impervious to her arrows. The impostor lunges for Valeria and grabs her head with both hands. She plants a firm kiss on her lips. Valeria begins to feel the draining power of the kiss almost immediately, and focuses her will to wrench free from the embrace. She breaks the bond just in time, and is unhurt by the attack, but knows she faces a dangerous foe indeed.
Valeria tries a different approach, and uses her first attack to trip the impostor. She may have many defenses, but she’s more vulnerable when off her feet. The tactic works, and the princess falls to the ground, taken off guard. Valeria follows up her attack with a powerful thrust which pins her to the wooden floor. The impostor hisses at her in pain and anger.
Frak uses the opportunity to his advantage and stabs her with his blades. His attacks do damage, but are not devastating enough to kill her.
The impostor cries out to her handmaid to help her, who produces a small glowing crimson gem from her pocket, intones a quick command word, and a titanic ball of flame engulfs the entire chamber. The shutters are blown open as the windows shatter outward, once again flooding the room with daylight.
The servant is obliterated in the explosion, and everyone in the room ducks for cover, attempting to avoid the flames. Frak’s nimble reflexes save his life as he manages to throw himself out of harm’s way. The others are not so lucky however. Both Kyuubi and Valeria are badly hurt, but Rhiannon is blasted against the wall, unable to react in time. Her body outlined in bright flames, blackens and crisps in the conflagration, and falls to the ground seemingly lifeless, though still invisible. The furniture and drapes are set ablaze by the blast, complicating matters further.

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The PCs are reeling from the blast trying to get their bearings. The impostor, who is immune to the flames, focuses her will and attempts to cast a Teleportation spell. Much to her horror, the spell fails to activate in the specially prepared chamber. Her features betray her growing desperation.
Valeria urges Frak to hold on to the blade pinning the impostor to the ground, as she goes to find Rhiannon to help her. Frak does so, causing her more injury. He follows it up with another stab of his rapier for good measure. Kyuubi attempts to avoid the flames that rage all around her, to also help her injured friends. The heat and smoke continue to damage the PCs.

The Impostor tries one last ditch attempt to escape, once again focusing her will. She becomes Ethereal and vanishes from sight. Frak, still holding Valeria’s blade, realizes first that she is gone.
As Valeria reaches Rhiannon’s limp, smoldering body, she falls to her knees at her side. Rhiannon’s body becomes visible, and for a drawn out moment Valeria assumes the worst, but then she senses a glimmer of life. She pours healing magic into her body, and Rhiannon coughs and opens her eyes.

The PCs hear the screams and commotion coming from the courtyard outside. Purple dragons, servants and others all working together to pour water into the room through the windows to douse the flames. The soldiers burst into the chamber and help the PCs to safety.

The group is given water and blankets, and escorted clear of the activity in the expansive courtyard. It is then that Baskor Tranth returns with a rather embarrassed looking Theldryn Wyvernspur. He greets the PCs, and explains that he intercepted Theldryn before he was able to warn the Impostor. He also mentions removing the enchantment she had cast upon him. He was clearly charmed into doing ill.
Rhiannon realizes, with her knowledge of Cosmology, that they have just fought a Succubus. A Tanar’ri of considerable power, known for their ability to beguile and manipulate mortals, and their ability to assume the appearance and identity of anyone they wish.

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When Darkness Calls: Part 1
Relics and Revelations

Following their return to civilization, our heroes try to take stock of all they have discovered during their time in Holborn, Ard’Marie, and Gromgar.
With the aid of the College of War Wizards, the clearly dangerous Nar idol is contained in as safe a barrier as they can devise. In addition to this, they submerge it in a vat of holy water, donated from the church of Torm, and inform them of their new acquisition. Together they begin trying to find a way to neutralize, if not destroy, it.

Three months of downtime pass – The PC’s each embark on their own personal journeys:

In a meeting held at the College soon after their return, with Baskor Tranth, Theldryn Wyvernspur, Lurrena Ashwood, and our heroes, the immediate problems surrounding the idol are discussed. Baskor explains what they have been able to uncover.
As soon as the idol was contained within the barriers and holy water, it activated in some manner, awakening some form of sentience within. This sentience is actively countering any attempts to teleport it. All such magics have failed. The holy water in which it is submerged is slowly boiling away, and a constant supply is needed to top it up. Exposing any part of it to the air would expose the college to dangerous evil forces. The corrupting influence of the idol is currently contained, but time is a factor.
Furthermore, all magics that have thus far been aimed at the idol to destroy it, have failed. Even a disintegrate spell has had no effect. Baskor fears Wish magic may be required, but no one at the college is powerful enough to wield such magics.
The consensus is that all who know of the idol will do everything within their power to find out all they can on the subject. In the hope of neutralizing the threat.

Valeria, Frak and Rhiannon travel together to Elventree in the Moonsea Region using the teleportation amulets of the War Wizards, to seek out the priests of Corellon Larethian. They are greeted by a junior priest – a Feywarden by the name of Feldaryl. He listens to Rhiannon’s tale, and arranges a meeting with High Feywarden Anthalar Veranar – the high priest. She returns their holy mace to him, much to his surprise and gratitude. He vows to offer whatever aid he can to Rhiannon for her gesture.

They spend some time reflecting on their journey, and Rhiannon shows her friends some of her favourite locations in the town. By a waterfall, they share a personal moment.

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Valeria is rocked by a sudden vision of a spectral maiden that reaches out to her, pleading for help. She stands in darkness, on what appears to be a polished wooden floor. At the edge of the darkness, Valeria can just make out the walls of a ballroom. Clearly shaken by her experience, they decide to investigate further when the proper resources are available.

Leaving Rhiannon to meet with her church elders in Elventree, Valeria and Frak continue their journey to the lands outside of Baldur’s Gate. There, they find the cathedral of the Red Knight, the seat of her church on Faerun: Citadel of Strategic Militancy.
Frak accompanies Valeria inside, but when the conversation turns to religious matters, he excuses himself to visit Baldur’s Gate itself.

Valeria is granted an audience with High Lady Kaitlin Tindall Bloodhawk, the highest emissary of the Red Knight on Toril. It is said she personally became the vessel for her deity’s avatar during the Time of Troubles. Valeria does her best to keep her composure as she addresses her superior.

They discuss issues surrounding the Nar idols, and the disappearance of Nexus.

Lady Bloodhawk informs Valeria that she sent an emissary to the church of Tempus and is awaiting a reply concerning the questions she had about her father.
She suggests focusing on the weaknesses the search for Nexus has thus far not explored. Perhaps a way can be found to locate them. After all, the Gods may not see where they are, but that does not mean all are blind.
She recalls the tales told of them traveling via the Infinite Staircase, an inter-planar realm that grounds anywhere creativity can be found. Creativity can take many forms. It is said to be guarded by the Minions of the Goddess Selune. Perhaps her church would be a good place to start the search.

She also tells Valeria, that her communion with the Red Knight has revealed one of the idols the PC’s seek – The Nar artifact known as the Idol of War has been discovered in Damara. It is spreading its corruption. It is believed that the idol is fueled by fallen souls dying in a war that has plagued that region. A war she believes it caused by its very presence.
The Red Knight revealed that the souls of her believers are not returning to her fold. She urges Valeria to hurry in her efforts, as she believes they are late in discovering the truth of this scheme. The pieces on the board have been moving for a longer time than she has anticipated. It remains to be seen what the endgame is. They must focus their efforts on discovering the state of the other idols, where they are, and whether they are already on the board. Lady Bloodhawk explains that she too, will be focusing her efforts in this matter.

While at the Citadel, Valeria is haunted by the spectral figure several more times. Each visit is the same. She pleads for Valeria’s help. Valeria manages to discern other figures in the shadows around her, but cannot see them in enough detail to deduce who they are. The experience leaves her shaken.

Meanwhile, Frak arrives in Baldur’s Gate, and immediately takes steps to make contact with the right people in the wrong part of town to commission a special weapon. He meets a disreputable dwarf in a tavern called the “Blushing Mermaid” by the name of “Larry-One-Ear” who puts him contact with a young and extremely talented weapon smith called Hartman. Hartman agrees to make Frak his masterwork collapsible blowgun for a hefty sum, and Larry receives his finder’s commission. Hartman tells Frak it will take him two months to complete the project.

Upon returning to Cormyr, Frak also visits an old acquaintance in the Duchy of Aris. From him he learns some interesting rumours concerning the Duke’s fate and whereabouts. It appears he was spotted in Selgaunt in the company of a baleful looking priest. All of the Duke’s holdings were seized by the crown, and his men arrested. He was forced to flee in a hurry.
Once back in Suzail, Frak extends his investigation to find out what he can from more illicit sources. He learns that the priest accompanying the Duke has been spotted in Selgaunt. He is also able to uncover his name: Strifeleader Caladin – a priest of the Cyric. They apparently carry precious cargo with them which they are guarding with extreme caution. They are accompanied by an entourage of men. Rumour has it they are seeking passage upon a ship sailing under a Damaran flag called the “Deathless”, leaving Selgaunt in a few days. It is apparently bound for the port of Ilmwatch in Impiltur.
He also investigates the fate of Prince Foril Obarskyr, who was poisoned in his cell. He learns some interesting details surrounding his death.

Kyuubi spends her time following different pursuits. She spends her time doing spell research at the College of War Wizards, and at Nexus House with her sister. Following the trail of specific spells, she returns home to Wa, using the teleportation amulet. During her visit, her mother brings up rumours she has been hearing from traders traveling from Wa to the Sea of Fallen Stars by way of Thesk on the Golden Way. It is an ancient trade route, and a common source of news from the West. The tale she heard was of dark forces brewing around the Great Dale. Specifically from the Fortress of Val-Murthag. It used to be the center of the demonic cult that ruled the dark Empire of Narfell in it’s final days. The fortress is nothing but a ruin now, or so she thought. If these rumours are true, they could point to something related to an idol.

She follows that up with a visit to Selgaunt in Sembia. There she tracks down more spells, and gains some insights into Sembian culture.
During her time there, however, she cannot shake the feeling she is being watched. On her last night in Selgaunt, she is ambushed by a group of six assailants dressed in black. They bear no identifying markings, but use magic against her. It is clear they are trying to subdue her, not kill her. It was only through her considerable abilities that she managed to evade their pursuit. Her few injuries were easily healed. She teleports out of there, but not before hearing a few choice bits of information. She hears them speaking to each other in infernal, and refer to her as “Their spy whore”. They remark “How did she find us, how could she know?”. She also catches the phrase “Caladin wants her alive” Before she gets out.

Rhiannon spends her time in the College of War Wizards after her return to Cormyr. In return for religious services for the wizards there, she is granted unprecedented access to their library of spells, and ancient historical tomes. She is able to learn new magics, and uncover a great deal of knowledge on The Kor’Nar Relics, the Demon Lord Eltab, and the ancient Empire of Narfell. She shares this information with the party when they meet again.

14th of Tarsakh 1399 DR

Spring has arrived.

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The PCs have regrouped back in Suzail. After three months apart, they have a lot of information to share. In the “Laughing Lass”, their favourite hangout, they share a few drinks and all the details of their findings.
They debate at length about the merits of pursuing the idols, and their concerns about this being above their heads. For now, it is decided instead to focus on the more straightforward task of finding the Duke of Aris. Both Frak and Kyuubi have heard rumours that point to the Duke being in Selgaunt.

They discuss the option of intercepting the Duke’s group in Selgaunt itself, but Frak raises objections. He suggests instead to wait until the Deathless is underway and to either intercept the group in the Port of Ilmwatch, or to ambush them at sea.

After more debate, the PCs agree to this plan, and present it the College of War Wizards. Baskor Tranth agrees it might be possible if they get help from the Cormyrian Royal Navy.
They conclude that to catch up to the Deathless, it would be easier to teleport the PCs to a ship that is already in the vicinity. Using magic, the wizards divine the location of several navy vessels. They conclude that the “Azure Crown” is closest to their quarry. They contact the ship’s captain, a tall man named Captain Tarath and explain the plan to him. He agrees to divert his ship to apprehend the traitor to the crown and his allies.

The PCs prepare themselves for the assault. Rhiannon is unable to join them due to church matters, but Lurenna offers to join them in her place, having fought along side them before.

Baskor and Theldryn activate a teleportation device on the floor of the College library, and the PCs are transported in an instant to the Azure Crown.
Captain Tarath greets them heartily, and shows them below decks, as the spring winds buffet the deck. Valeria chooses to remain top side. Captain Tarath explains it will take about 12 hours to catch up to the Deathless, which at that point is not even visible on the horizon.
The PCs busy themselves with preparations, and steel themselves for the eventual naval battle. Captain Tarath shows off the ship’s armaments and complement of marines. The Azure Crown is truly a majestic vessel.

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Soon the Deathless’ sails are spotted on the horizon. The captain barks orders to the crew and the ‘Crown picks up speed, catching favourable winds. The order is given to attack. Loosing giant bolts from the ballista on the prow of the ship, the assault begins in earnest. The Deathless returns the favour with it’s own calapults, but its attacks land short. The Azure Crown’s range advantage helps to boost crew morale, as they ‘soften’ the Deathless before boarding.

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The ships trade heavy siege engine attacks, both suffering damage and casualties as they draw closer and closer. Once within missile fire range, the sky between the ships is filled with arrows, bolts and grenades.
Kyuubi scales the main mast to get a good vantage point in one of the crow’s nests. Casting protective spells on herself, and taking out snipers on the enemy ship. Valeria joins in with her bow as well. Frak sneaks along the shadows of the sides to the stern of the ship, and readies himself to leap across to the other vessel.
Lurenna unleashes her spells at the enemy.

Soon, a trio of figures can be seen standing on the aftcastle of the Deathless. Duke Aris, Caladin and an unknown cowled figure in wizardly robes. The wizard fires an Acid Arrow at Captain Tarath, injuring him.
The moment the two ships are running parallel, the boarding hooks are loosed, and the crews of the two vessels are locked in a tight and claustrophobic melee. The marines scream a war cry and board the Deathless, swinging across, running along gang planks and some just leaping.

Valeria joins them at the bow of the ship, hacking her way into the enemy’s flank. Kyuubi takes out more snipers.
Frak leaps across trying to gain the advantage of surprise on Caladin. Now partially trapped, he is vulnerable, Frak casts a Sand Slumber on him, and renders Caladin unconscious!
The Duke lunges towards Frak like a dervish, brandishing his rapier. He runs him through, almost killing him. It’s all Frak can do to maintain his footing.
Lurenna casts a web on the aftcastle deck, trapping the three men in its sticky strands. The Duke is only partially trapped, the others are not so fortunate.

Valeria fights her way through the masses, carving a way towards Frak, in an attempt to save her friend. Lurenna blasts the Duke with a lighting bolt, making him stagger back.
Kyuubi hits the duke with more arrows, weakening him further, but the man keeps on his feet. Meanwhile, Frak downs a healing potion, saving himself from a grim fate.
Valeria notices that the enemy captain has been slain in the melee, keeps charging forward, and finally arrives at the aftcasle. Lurenna hits the Duke with a second Lightning Bolt.
Valeria attacks Caladin. Her attack deals him some damage, but not as much as she had hoped. Frak attempts to finish off Caladin with a stab to the throat, but his strike is foiled by Caladin’s own skin. He appears to have some form of demonic hide. Kyuubi kills the wizard with well aimed arrows, all the while enduring withering return fire from the enemy. Her spells keep her out of harm’s way, however.

Caladin wakes after the attack ends the slumber spell. He rolls onto his feet, quickly surveys the scene before him, seems to make a decision, and casts a rapid spell from behind his shield. A smoking black portal opens up behind him, and he throws himself backwards through it, and vanishes from sight.
Finally, Lurenna’s last Magic Missile spell ends the Duke’s life. He coughs up a gout of blood, and expires on the aftcastle deck.

Taking stock of the battle, it becomes clear that the Cormyrian naval forces are in control. The battle is won.
The PCs meet with Captain Tarath, who is busy coordinating the surrender of the enemy forces, and the confiscation of their vessel and its contents. He shows them to the hold where several precious items are stowed, and to the private chambers of the Duke, Caladin and the wizard, where several personal items are added to the haul. The ship itself and its contents are confiscated by the Royal Navy.
The precious cargo, Lurenna and the PCs teleport back to the College of War Wizards, and take a moment to recover.

The PCs gather with Baskor Tranth, Theldryn and Lurenna to open the precious items recovered from the Deathless. The wards are carefully removed by the wizards, and carefully checked to ensure they pose no danger.
The first chest they open is covered in demonic script, glyphs and charms. Within they find the Idol of Dominance, the one recovered from the shrine of Mystra in Suzail.
The second they open causes those gathered to gasp in shock. Within they find the mummified and desiccated remains of Princess Filfaeril Obarskyr. Although her features are withered, her clothes, and other telltale markers are unmistakable. It dawns on them that she must have been dead for several years to be mummified to this extent. All this time, the Princess has been alive and well, attending royal functions, having close access to the royal family, the court, and Cormyr’s most senior officials.
Valeria realizes with a start that she is the maiden from her visions. She is the one who pleaded for her aid.
A sudden chill fills the room……

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The Quiet Lands: Part 4
Gromgar

12th of Hammer 1399 D.R.

The demon is dead. Its gargantuan form lies still in the waters of the sheltered glade, black ichor spilling from its many wounds.
The party finally has a moment to breathe and take stock of the surrounding landscape.
As they stand there glancing about, Frak catches something glinting in the corner of his eye. He spots a reflection on metal in the fetid waters where the innards of the demon have spilled forth. He reaches down and retrieves a half digested hand with a beautiful ring on it. It shines silver and blue, and is clearly of Elven design. Frak pockets the ring.
They wade to the demon’s small island at the center of the pool, where they discover a grim scene. Several cocooned Elven corpses lie piled on top of each other, propped against the many boulders. Some hang upside down, suspended from the dead trees above. The bones of the fallen litter the ground, the last remnants of the demon’s feasting. Searching among the dead, Frak discovers a rich cache of stolen Elven treasures the demon had collected. Coins, objects of art, weapons, scrolls, and other items of great value. The PCs collect it all for future appraisal.

While the PCs busy themselves with collecting these treasures, they notice the demon’s form start to evaporate. Fragments of its form flake off and drift down like snow, eventually leaving nothing but the dark waters and the ichor it had already spilled. Rhiannon realizes this is probably the result of a demon dying on the Prime Material Plane. Its earthly form evaporates, returning its essence to the Abyss to reform.

Following some discussion, the party decides to get a lay of the land. They see the many holes in the surrounding hillsides into which the monstrous insects fled. There is also a larger cave along the northern edge of the glade with clear tracks of the vast demon moving in and out of it. Frak takes it upon himself to scout the tunnel to see where it leads. He stays in communication with the others using the War Wizard amulet. He then hides the amulet among the rocks inside, roughly thirty feet in, so they can teleport back to that location when they are ready.

Wounded from battle, weary, and depleted of magics, the party decide a break is in order. With Lurrena’s help, they use the amulet to teleport everybody to the Sanctum of the War Wizards in Suzail.
Lurrena provides the party with accommodations to regain their strength. They rest, bathe, eat a warm meal, heal their wounds and relearn their spells.

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13th of Hammer 1399 D.R.

The following morning, with breakfast behind them, Lurrena returns with permission from her superiors to offer the arcane casters of the party the option of bolstering their spells with three spell levels worth of scrolls. She also supplies the entire party with additional healing potions to bolster their supply.
Thus fortified and restocked, the group return to the cave in Ard’Marie using the teleportation amulet.
The spell deposits them in the cold, dank tunnel. No immediate danger presents itself, so they press on north and down.
The tunnel leads steeply down several hundred yards, and emerges into a broader, well lit cavern with a cave mouth on the northern wall. It reveals a vista of the forest beyond, snow blanketing the land. A chill wind blows in, and the distant sound of waterfalls can be heard echoing through the trees. The tunnel turns east and further down. They follow the tunnel a few dozen yards until it opens up into a small cavern. A soft blue green glow illuminates the room from below. A phosphorescent pool dominates the chamber guarded by a lone infested hound.
Rhiannon casts a Detect Evil spell and notices two invisible Abyss Ants, which surge forward to attack.
In the fight, Kyuubi kills the hound with a well aimed shot to the parasite. It perishes instantly as the parasite dies. Frak and Valeria close to melee and make short work of the remaining ants, but not before Frak is hit by an acid attack.

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With the path clear, they cast several divinations to determine the nature of the pool. It is pretty clear it is a portal, just which kind has the PCs concerned.
Eventually, they brave the portal’s waters, and emerge, one by one, on the other side. They wade out of the waters, and take stock of their surroundings. Behind them a cliff rises steeply into the cloud cover above, forming the western wall of the canyon they now find themselves in. To the north, they see a large cavern entrance, with clear tracks of the demon leading in. The canyon itself splits into three paths, one leading north, one east, and one south. Due east they also spy a narrow trail leading up to the top of the eastern canyon ledge. They ignore the cavern, and proceed up the narrow trail to get a better vantage point. Kyuubi uses her local knowledge, and determines that they have not traveled far. In fact she recognizes the mountains around her as the Thunder Peaks, which lie due east of Ard’Marie. Only some fifty miles away. They see a stronghold some two miles away. Kyuubi concludes it must be Gromgar, a known Orcish fortress.

From this high vantage point, they can see what awaits them.
Chill sets into their bones as they gaze across the broken wintry landscape to the orc stronghold.
A frigid wind wails through the canyons around them, whipping up the powdered snow.
Beyond the maze of canyons and jagged rocks, they spy a twisted dead forest, parts of which have been logged bare, leaving a broad tangle of pines and gnarled tree limbs pleading to the heavens.
In the distance, they hear the hoarse croaking of crows in their hundreds, and they catch a glimpse of them here and there as they fly in and out of the fog which hangs over the fortress.
Smoke from fires and torches mingle with the mist to obscure the view further.

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Of the fortress’ inhabitants there is no sign. They spot no sentries marching along the walls, nor guards in the towers. They hear no sounds of their gruff voices carrying over the forest.
Once again, they feel that unsettling sensation of quiet dread pass over them, as if the land itself were crying out, now bloated with fetid evil.

Somewhere in that stronghold, lies their quarry, and somehow, they must find a way inside….

The PCs decide to press on, and travel almost a mile through the winding narrow canyons, with Frak scouting ahead. They encounter no resistance in the snowy canyon, but do spot a few innocuous rodents and small mammals, and continue to see and hear crows circling overhead.
Eventually, the canyons widen to rough hills, and boulder fields even out to flatter terrain. Here the dense copses of the dead forest begin.

As they move forward into the forest, it once again becomes evident just how silent the world around them is. The snow muffles their footfalls, the crows seem distant once again. Apart from the wind which rattles the dead branches, the only sound they hear is their own breathing and footfalls. That is, until they hear something else. The heavy muffled footfalls of something heavy. It moves with purpose through the canopy, its own form almost blending in with the trees themselves. The tree-like creature is roughly nine feet tall, towering over them, with a baleful visage. At first it does not notice their group. Then, as the PCs think it might ignore them, it turns and charges toward them with surprising alacrity.

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Rhiannon immediately casts a Web spell on the corrupted treant, trapping it in a stand of trees. Kyuubi follows this up with two fire arrows, igniting the webs in a vast conflagration, injuring the creature. It lets out an unearthly shriek, but does not perish. Far from it, its rotten bark seems to protect it from the worst of the flames.
With the webbing now burnt away, the treant surges forward once again, this time with renewed rage. It swings wildly at Valeria with its great clawed limbs, but she ducks under its attacks.
Rhiannon throws a pair of shuriken at the creature’s belt to try and sever the rope holding up what appear to be witch trinkets and charms but is not so successful in the attempt.
Valeria takes a moment to analyze her opponent, looking for any weaknesses she could exploit. Frak attempts to backstab it, but it has no vital organs, so his attack injures it, but isn’t as effective as he had hoped.
Valeria identifies its head as its weakest point, and focuses her attacks there. With a devastating pair of sword blows, she decapitates the creature. It drops, crashing loudly to the ground.
The party watches as in seconds, the corrupted treant’s form rots to pulp in moments except for its head. Frak notices a strange knotted black object in its head. He decides to take it with him (carefully).

Valeria kneels down in the snow, and prays to her god to offer her guidance. She uses her Clairvoyance ability to scout out the best path to take to the fortress. Her spell grants her a glimpse of heavy defenses in and around the front gate of Gromgar. Sentries, siege weaponry and thick walls, all make a frontal assault pure folly.
They decide to avoid approaching the fortress from the front, opting instead to skirt around through the forest to a spot along the fortress wall that is not so well guarded.
They find a small clearing with odd charms and trinkets hanging from branches. There are several crows. The PCs discern that the crows are watching them. Rhiannon casts a Scatterspray on the clearing, killing one and injuring the others. They avoid the effect and keep moving.

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Pressing on, the party skirts through the dense forest, keeping their movements as stealthy as their equipment will allow.
After a few hundred yards, they find yet another disturbing scene laid out before them. Ahead in a small clearing, several bodies hang impaled on tall spikes. It is clear they were executed. A trail of seemingly fresh blood leads roughly from their position to the clearing. Although it is hard to determine how long they have been dead, as the winter cold could have preserved them. A glyph is painted in blood on a nearby rock. They determine it’s a witch’s glyph of offering to a dark god or demon lord.
Several PCs cast Detect magic. It highlights the tell-tale glimmer of magic on one of the bodies, the glyph and the crow’s heads. They conclude that the crows have divination magics about them, and are thus probably spies for the witch. They cannot make out any details about the bodies or what type of magic is on them.
After a brief discussion, they agree to let Frak investigate the clearing and the bodies. He approaches with utmost caution, and soon discovers the bodies are elves, wearing the garb of Ard’Marian elves.

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He discovers the source of the magical emanation. Hanging from the belt of one of the bodies, is a ornately crafted Elven magical mace. He attempts to retrieve the weapon, but accidentally triggers one of the witch’s traps. He hears a cork unstopper, releasing a swarm of small bloated ticks with unearthly appetites. They bite Frak repeatedly, dealing little actual damage, but covering his hand in hundreds of tiny welts.
Lurrena springs into action, darting across the clearing to Frak’s side. She offers him a Potion of Neutralize Poison, which soothes his rapidly swelling hand.

The PCs take the mace, the least they can do for their trouble, and move on. They skirt along the forest a little further, and they press toward Gromgar, making it to the edge of the forest. Here, trees have long since been logged by the orcs, leaving a wide swathe of open ground around the base of the stronghold, giving the defenders a clear field of fire.
They make ready to cross the open ground to the base of the fortress wall, but realize that they must cross a frozen river to do so.
They use an ingenious solution to cross the open space undetected. They cloak their approach in illusions, making sure to keep as quiet as possible, using Frak to guide them.
To their own surprise, they make it across unseen, and breathe a quick sigh of relief. Frak hypothesizes that there may be caves or secret entrances in the base of the mesa, perhaps allowing them ingress into the fortress, but even with the help of the keen-eyed elves in the party, they are unable to find any.

Moving north and east, they hug the base of the cliffs to the back of the fortress. They find a suitable location to attempt an ascent. Once again using their resources cleverly, they use a combination of Spider Climb and Levitate spells to make their way up the steep cliff face to the palisade above. The plan goes off without a hitch.
Once at the top of the first cliff, they flatten themselves against the palisade wall. Frak clambers up to spy over the top of the wall, and sees a sprawl of Orcish tents in dense fog. Visibility is fairly limited so he doesn’t see much in the way of orcs.
They decide to keep ascending. With the spider climb spell running out soon , the capitalize on their magic while they still have it.
They reach the highest point they can go on the mesa and press up against an ancient stone wall there. Frak once again peers over and sees the remnants of a ruined temple blanketed in heaving fog. A tiled pool with detailed inlaid mosaic and beyond it, an ancient, but ornate looking building with fluted architecture. He notices the pool is full of dark water, littered with rotting vegetation and other debris.
Looking for a way to enter unseen, the party moves to the eastern side of the pool behind the shrine. The outer wall of the ornate building before them, they
Frak touches the shrine wall, trying to steady himself, and feels a horrid pain wrench into his arm. He is injured by the corruption that permeates the temple, leaving a blackened burn on the palm of his hand. Attempts to heal the wound fail, and it becomes apparent that his wound is something much more sinister. Rhiannon suspects it may a curse or corruption.
As they carefully make their way around the building into the temple proper, they hear a crone’s broken voice in their minds.

“Ah, welcome, my soft little pretties!
You have done so well to come this far….
So many pretty lights and swift little blades you have, yes?
So many pointy flying needles, yes?
Perhaps I underestimated your abilities. We shall see, yes?”

They see two orc sentries, their backs to them, guarding what appears to be a stone bridge to another part of the fortress, then they hear the voice again.

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“I have been watching you, watching and waiting. Indeed I have, yes.
You have toiled to so very hard. You must be tired…..
Unfortunately, I cannot let you finish your pathetic little quest
Great things are coming, yes? Yes, they are!”

Huddled by the side of the ancient building, the party try to get a sense of what, and how many, they are facing. The sound of the crone still echoing in their minds, they see nothing but the two sentries ahead of them.
They also take a moment to get a sense of the origins of this ancient place. It appears to the more knowledgeable amongst them, that the temple itself is Netherese in origin. Possibly an old site of worship. The colonnade, pool, and walls look to be of a later period. They estimate several hundred years separate the two architectural styles. Both, however, now lie in ruins. The only thing fully intact is the shrine itself.

Frak gestures to the others to wait, and he moves forward to scout out the terrain. Poor visibility isn’t helping matters for our heroes.
As he moves further forward, he feels a sudden tug in his gut, and suddenly his surroundings have completely changed. He is caught in the severely desecrated area of the temple. The ground itself seems to bring out his deepest fears. He starts to hallucinate that he is back in the mines of his childhood. Furthermore, he sees himself as a child, naked but for a loincloth, manacled and afraid. He tries to flee his predicament and look for an overseer, running up an incline as he does so. The hallucination causes him to run off the side of the cliff, and he starts to fall to his death. Just then the effect washes off him. He has just enough time and presence of mind to rip out a scroll of Feather Fall, and bark out the incantation. It saves his life in the nick of time.
Lurrena runs to the side of the cliff to try and save Frak, and is relieved to see she only needs to Levitate him.

Meanwhile, Kyuubi has her bow drawn, and her sights on the two orc sentries. As she watches, one of them disappears into the fog.
Grishka cackles through the fog now from a different direction, taunting her uninvited guests telepathically.

“You think you’re so strong, but you’re not!
You are weak, yes? Weak and afraid.
Your fear will be your undoing, yes?”

Hearing Frak’s run over the rubble, and subsequent fall, the orc sentries turn and charge the PCs, but their heavy armour prevents them from reaching our heroes before they level their attacks against them.
Kyuubi looses two arrows and hits the first orc, injuring it. Valeria looses her arrows and also hits.
Rhiannon fires out a spray of Magic Missiles, but the orcs keep coming, seemingly undeterred by all the damage.

The crone emerges suddenly out of the fog points a bony digit at Valeria. A thin black ray strikes her, but Valeria resists the magic’s effects. She immediately tries to meld back into the fog for cover.

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The orcs reach the group in a violent rage, but Valeria is ready for them. With well placed blades she parries their wicked hatchets.
Kyuubi once again looses a volley of arrows at the retreating crone, missing one but fairly sure she hit with the other, unsure of its effect.
The crone emerges out of the fog again, and repeats her dark incantation with the black ray. It hits Valeria again, this time having the desired effect. It saps Valeria’s strength to the point where she can barely lift her weapons. The crone vanishes into the fog again.
Frak finally makes it back to the top of the cliff. Shaken, but in one piece. He thanks Lurrena and starts to skulk back to the group.
Valeria, still in melee with the two orcs, presses her attack in her weakened state. Only one of her attacks lands with any effect unfortunately.
Rhiannon steps forward and casts a Web on the orcs. Their armour prevents them from avoiding the brunt of the spell, and are thus pinned down by the thick strands.
Before Frak can rejoin the group, the crone emerges once again, and unleashes a bright bead of fire from her hand. It engulfs the entire party, except for Frak and Lurrena, in flames. They throw themselves flat and try to avoid the worst of the inferno, but despite this are still badly burned, their clothes and equipment catching fire. Rhiannon’s Web spell also goes up in flames, killing the trapped orcs instantly.
As if to make matters worse, the crone closes her eyes briefly to telepathically call for aid.
When the fireball clears, Kyuubi and Valeria find themselves caught in hallucinations, having their worst fears laid bare.

Kyuubi finds herself in a wide open space, surrounded by blinding white fog. Silhouettes of familiar people from her past emerge from the mists and point at her face. Her masks are gone. Her clothes are gone. She is laid bare for all to see, to scrutinize, to mock. Defenseless, she curls up into a fetal position and weeps.
Valeria is similarly trapped in a waking nightmare. The same white mists envelop her, but she appears as a child. Alone, afraid, lost. The image of her father, Kerem, comes into view, but he is walking away from her. He abandons her, ignoring her tearful pleas for him to turn and look at her, to come back. He vanishes into a dense crowd and is lost from view. She too collapses, weeping.

The crone’s voice reaches into their minds to taunt them once again:

“I can see you.
I hear your heartbeats.
They pound like war drums in your chest, yes?
I shall feast on them before this day ENDS!”

The others see the two warriors paralyzed with fear, but it is thankfully short lived.
Valeria emerges from fear and casts Withdraw, using the God given time to cast divinations, and discover the crone’s weaknesses.
Lurrena steps forth and casts a Dispel Magic on the enfeeblement effect weakening Valeria.
Rhiannon heals Valeria, and produces the Holy Elven mace, handing it to Valeria. A holy aura immediately surrounds the party, negating the corrupting effects of the shrine.
They advance on the crone together, who emerges from the fog to cast again. This time her form is Blurred. Before she has time to finish her incantation, Kyuubi casts an Elemental Burst on the broken stairs beneath her feet. She is thrown violently into the pool by the explosive force of the spell, her own spell disrupted.

Frak uses the momentary distraction to position himself behind the ruined columns for a back stab.
Lurrena casts an Enlarge spell on Valeria. The spell reaches out and swells her stature to almost 8 feet in height. Her weapons grow accordingly.
Valeria capitalizes on her new-found size, and swings hard against the temple doors with the mace, smashing them into the building with a thunderous clatter of metal and a flash of bright white holy light.

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A sound like a clatter of falling boulder alerts the party to the massive form of a rock-skinned humanoid, likely a troll of some kind, clambering to the top of the cliff, growling its defiance at the intruders. A strange glowing green gem embedded in its forehead. It seems about to attack, when Rhiannon casts a Web spell at it and the bridge supports. The creature is trapped despite its brute strength. It howls impotently at its prison, tearing at it with huge fists.

The waters of the pool bubble and froth with increasing intensity. Then they see her, her bloated form mutated and corrupted into something akin to the demon they fought in the glade. Her jaw hangs wide and roars at the party, reveling in her glorious new form. She claws her way out on her slithering, scaly hide, stuffed with all the abyssal parasites that once filled the pool. Then, with ferocious speed, she throws herself at Valeria. She rakes with her claws and bites hard, but only one claw hits Valeria. It is however, enough to almost gut her. Valeria staggers back, bleeding heavily.

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Frak emerges from the shadows behind the demonic crone, leaps forward, leading with his kukri, and plunges it up to the hilt in her back. It injures her but isn’t the devastating blow he had hoped for. He rolls off of her and prepares for another attempt.
Kyuubi heals herself using her song.
The bloated hag throws her jaws unnaturally wide, and belches forth baleful hell fire on the party. They all try and avoid the worst of the flames, ducking behind whatever cover they can find. Most are fortunate, Lurrena, however, is not. She is caught in the full force of the fire, and ignites like a pillar of flame. She collapses from her severe burns, seemingly dead.

Rhiannon runs forward and pour holy curing magics into Lurrena’s crisped body. Thankfully, her life is spared. Rhiannon is able to revive her from the brink.
Frak stabs Grishka a second time, once again dealing damage, but not enough to slay her.
Valeria takes aim for the crone’s head and swings the holy mace with all her might. It connects with a satisfying crunch, virtually crushing her skull. Only the crone’s bony horned forehead saves her from the force of the blow.
The crone attempts to cast one final spell – a Stone Skin to save herself – but Kyuubi’s arrow is faster. Her aim is true, and the missile buries itself to the fletchings in her eye socket..
Grishka the Hag dies. As she does, the troll’s forehead gem shatters, and the bellowing ogres and orcs charging up the bridge to save their master, die as her hold over the parasites ends. The parasites perish as well, their connection to the Abyss severed.
The troll wrenches itself free of the webs, roars at the party once, and jumps down the cliff. It flees the fortress, a living rock slide rumbling away from battle.

Winter winds blow snow over the temple grounds, as the party take stock of the damage. Most of the group have sustained injuries, so those with healing magic set about mending wounds, and helping each other recover. Gromgar is eerily quiet now.
Our heroes gather around the body of the hag, and the shattered entrance of the shrine. Inside, they see a grim ossuary lining the entire floor of the structure. It radiates purest corruption.

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They cast divinations to determine the best way to enter the shrine, convinced the Demon Binding idol of Narfell lies within. Despite the doors being destroyed, some kind of magical force barrier prevents them from entering, and they know touching the structure is extremely dangerous as well.
Detect magic reveals the shrine is magically trapped. The witch’s demonic glyphs daubed on the walls in blood, radiating Abjuration and Evocation magic.
Kyuubi, searching for any clues, notices an amulet around Grishka’s neck, and removes it. She hands the charm necklace to Frak, who gingerly presses it against the force barrier. The barrier allows him to pass through.
Frak suggests he goes in to scout, hoping the idol is in easy reach within.
Unfortunately, his hopes are dashed when he peers down the shaft in the center of the chamber. It drops down several feet, and into darkness. He casts a Light spell with the amulet and climbs down the bone-lined shaft.
Descending carefully, he discovers a trap set into the bones below him, and artfully disarms it. He drops down to a short hallway with the same architecture as the shrine above. The hallway opens out onto a ledge overlooking an ancient inner sanctum of some kind. The far wall opens to the outside air, letting daylight in. In the large chamber below, he sees a tall, carved, stone edifice, with several hollowed out sconces into which are set crude wooden statuettes. At the top of this edifice, in a small hollow, he spies the Nar idol.
All the walls are covered in murals, depicting all manner of crude infernal pictograms, including what appears to be a depiction of the events surrounding Eltab’s banishment. The shrine simply radiates palpable evil and corruption. There is even a strange black vapour that seems to drip from the idols, talismans and glyphs on the walls.

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Frak communicates his findings to the party using the necklace. They come up with a plan to get everyone past the barrier above. They teleport everyone into chamber below using the amulet, allowing the others to take in the scene.
Frak continues to investigate the path to the idol. He discovers a scything blade trap on the stairs, leading up to the idol, and disarms it.
Reaching the top of the edifice, he lays eyes on the idol for the first time. It is truly grotesque to behold. Carved from dark grey stone, it drips with the same black vapours, a manifestation of the corruption it radiates. This is the source. This is what it was all about.

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Having learnt his lesson many times over, Frak takes no chances. He carefully inspects the plinth upon which the idol rests. He spots the edges of a magical glyph, just visible. His Detect Magic reveals Evocation and Conjuration magic feed the trap. He also realizes there is nothing he can do to disarm it.
The party debate what to do next. Frak suddenly suggests using the teleportation amulet to get everyone and the idol out in one fell swoop. What ever magical trap is triggered will do so in empty air.
Before they escape, however, they leave behind the War Wizard’s necklace, to allow them to monitor the aftermath of the trap.
They execute their plan. Making sure they are all together, they teleport away from Gromgar.

The world folds in upon itself and disgorges them into the safety of the Sanctum of War Wizards. A sense of relief washes over the group, when they realize the idol is with them, and they succeeded in avoiding the trap’s effects. The plan worked. Several wizards in the sanctum look up from their studies and give them quizzical looks. One looks at them with irritation, motioning for silence. Another group, pauses their conversation briefly to look up, and then resume their conversation as if nothing out of the ordinary happened.

Discussions quickly turn to what to do with the idol. It sits upon the table radiating malice and corruption. The party is joined by a figure who introduces himself as Theldryn Wyvernspur, a senior mage at the College. He recommends that they quickly take steps to shield the idol. Leaving it exposed like this, would allow it to corrupt whatever space it occupied within short order.
They conclude that the best course of action would be to bring it to a temple of Torm, and there to immerse it in a vat of holy water. The priests would likely have a better idea what further steps could be taken to protect the outside world from the idol’s corruptive influence.

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The Quiet Lands: Part 3
Coils of Darkness

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11th of Hammer, 1399 D.R.

The settlement of Ard’Marie trembles with the rush of its many waterfalls. Fine mist fills the air of the gorge below the bridge the PCs are standing on. As they recover from the rush of battle, they get their bearings once again. The infested elves have fled, leaving the PCs to wonder if more ambushes await them.
Rhiannon uses a Detect Evil spell to divine the direction from which the highest concentration of malice seems to be coming from. Her spell reveals that it lies to the west of their position.

The last light of the day filters through the tree canopy above, and the group realizes they are running low on spells. The PCs debate the next course of action, discussing the options that lay before them. The suggestion is raised that it might be wise to rest and renew their efforts the following day.
Lurrena, who has just helped the wounded with potions, suggests they to make a strategic retreat from the town. Although some of the dwellings are defensible, they wouldn’t get much rest if they were attacked.

The decision to retreat is made. Heading north and east, they make their way out of Ard’Marie, and into the woods beyond, taking care to hide their tracks. After a few miles walking, they discover a sheltered, but abandoned bear den. The group bed down for the night and relearn their spells.

The following morning, they wake to find fresh snow has fallen, obscuring their tracks, but making it harder to disguise fresh ones. They discuss their options, and decide to head due south to skirt around the town, and then to head west to find the source of the evil they had divined before. After a hot cup of tea and some dried rations, they begin their march, keeping weapons ready, and their senses peeled to the sounds of the forest. It is eerily quiet. Not a sound of wildlife can be heard, but for the soft creaking and rustling of branches in the wind and the distant sounds of waterfalls.

As they pass the town on their right, the elves in the party detect the distinct sound of an animal running, and panting. They quickly conclude it’s a wolf or large canine of some kind. Then they spot it. Sprinting through the trees ahead from right to left. It moves so fast only Kyuubi has a chance to loose an arrow before it is upon them, barreling into their left flank. Kyuubi’s arrow hits its mark. Then battle is joined as it bites Kyuubi with a horrendous maw, dealing her a viscous wound on her leg. A second beast rushes them from the right attacking the Sergeant, wounding him too. The creatures are truly horrible to behold. They appear to be large wolves, infested with engorged abyssal parasites. These parasites appear to be larger that the others they had encountered.

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The battle is fierce, but short. The PCs and Purple Dragons unleash their loaded weapons and spells upon them. It becomes clear that their bites are also venomous, and more magics are used to heal wounds and slow the toxins.
Frak attempts to harvest the venom glands of the parasite, but fails to do so.

The party presses on, determined to reach their goal. The source of this malice. Valeria urges Frak to scout ahead to avoid ambushes in future, and he does so,

South of the town the turn right and head west, along the rising landscape. They reach the river that flows into town, and cross it. Moving up the hill towards an elevated plateau where more waterfalls can be heard. They spy a series of older buildings that lead up the hill. Ancient stairs, archways and a vaulted tunnel passing through a wall of natural rock. A lone elf is spotted heading towards the town, away from their position. They wait for him to pass.
Frak scouts the tunnel and determines it’s clear. They pass through, and emerge the other side looking out over a pair of majestic waterfalls, spanned by crumbling stone bridges.
Valeria recognizes the architecture as ancient elven. Clearly these structures date back to ancient Cormanthor.

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As they cross the span, they once again hear the footfalls of the infested wolves. They are attacked from either side. Two from the front, two from the rear, the wolves somehow managed to slink around behind the party without being noticed. The battle is joined. The two in the rear face off against Frak, Valeria, Rhiannon and Kyuubi, The front two face the Purple Dragons and Lurrena.
The battle is fierce and brutal. The beasts seem driven by a ferocity that can only be explained by the demonic parasite, fighting to the death. Thankfully, the group all survive the encounter. After healing a few injuries, they move forward.

As they progress through the darkening forest, they spy the entrance into a small sheltered vale, where the elves would have congregated to commune with their gods. The lush foliage and beautiful landscape is veiled in low hanging mists, and the sounds are muffled by the proximity to the waterfalls.
The trees in the vale form a dense canopy that allows only a little light to illuminate the ground below but shafts of sunlight do filter in illuminating patches of ground. Large boulders the size of small houses lie strewn about the place, blocking the line of site to the middle of the vale.
The party asks Frak to scout out the vale to get a clearer picture of what they are walking into. The malicious emanations all seem to center here, so Frak proceeds with extreme caution.
As Frak climbs the nearest boulder to get a clear view, he sees it.

In the middle of the vale lies a small lake, more of a large pond, with an even smaller island in its center. Upon this patch of ground he sees a creature easily thirty feet long, with the grotesque body of a giant centipede, and the muscular torso of a humanoid demon. Its head is insectile and bestial, with mandibles, carapace and many beady eyes. It’s torso sprouts a multitude of limbs all ending with viscous looking barbs. It moves fluidly and with purpose as it hangs a webbed humanoid from a low hanging tree branch, where it joins a macabre larder of cocooned bodies. Upon the ground, skeletal remains lie strewn and discarded. The smell of rot and sulfur rises from the lake, where other dark shapes can be seen slithering beneath the still surface.
In the surrounding landscape, he spies several large holes, presumably made by burrowing creatures.

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Frak returns stealthily to the group, and reports what he has discovered with some trepidation. After some silent discussion, they decide to set up an ambush.
Setting up the Purple Dragons on the boulder, and the PCs flanking it, they manage to catch the demon off guard with a brutal surprise assault of missile fire and spells.
This attack injures the demon quite badly, but their sense of achievement it short lived as the demon surges into action.

The creature moves with remarkable speed and fluidity. It turns to face them and webs the entire group with a powerful spell. The PCs manage to avoid the worst of it, but the webs cover the entire boulder, immobilizing the Purple Dragons completely. As this happens it cries out in its demonic tongue summoning forth its allies from the burrows around it. Five horrid looking giant ants and two giant centipedes crawl out and surge towards the party with lethal intent.

Valeria attacks the demon head on, taunting it to focus on her.
With the demon’s attention on Valeria, the others attack it with spells, arrows and blades.
The ants pass Rhiannon and Lurrena, but Rhiannon protects herself and Lurrena from evil. The ants charge past them, and attack the soldiers trapped on the boulder instead.
Kyuubi fires arrows from cover, but is also attacked by the ants.

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Frak tries to use a touch spell, and Lurrena attempts to cast a ray at it, but the demon’s abyssal nature protects it from their magics.
Rhiannon rushes in to cast a Protection from Evil on Kyuubi. Saving her from the ants. As a result, the soldiers become their only targets, and their fate is sealed.
Valeria, trading blows with the demon, is hit by flurry of brutal attacks from the demon and almost dies, but is saved by a well timed healing potion.
She dives under the water to cut the demon where she hopes it is most vulnerable, the belly. She sinks her blade into its flesh, and it almost crushes her in its agonized throes.
Frak having been distracted fighting centipedes. sees an opening, and backstabs the demon. This is the blow that finally kills it, destroying its earthly form.
Valeria manages to roll out from under it, as it crashes to the ground, oozing black ichor into the fetid waters.

The remaining ants and centipedes, having witnessed the destruction of their master, and having whatever hold on them it had dissolve, flee into the surrounding burrows. Vanishing from sight.

The PCs survey the damage of the battle, and take stock of the fallen. All the Purple Dragons are dead. Their corpses are almost mutilated beyond recognition. The ants acidic attacks having dissolved whole pieces of armour and flesh alike. Valeria and Kyuubi are still injured, though still standing.

There is much to still explore, not least of which is the demon’s lair.

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The Quiet Lands: Part 2
The Horror of Hullack

10th of Hammer, 1399 D.R.

The wind howls through the trees, carrying with it thick drifts of snow. The frigid air has coated the land in frost and ice.
If not for the ruin of Holborn nearby, the scene would be quite beautiful. All of the trees are white, and aside from the wind, not a sound stirs through the forest.

In Gregor’s sheltered dell, however, there is no sign of winter’s icy grip. The cave is even warm, dry and quite comfortable. It is only by virtue of Gregor’s magics that the dell remains hidden and protected. The land around the cave is yet green, and soft autumn leaves fill every corner, where the wind has collected them. It is an odd contrast, one that distracts from the horrors beyond.
Holborn, but half a mile from the dell, hangs heavy with the shadow of death. Its putrid stench held at bay by the cold.
Using the War Wizard’s necklace, the PCs sent out a distress call that was received by Theldryn Wyvernspur. He has promised to send further aid, although it remains unclear what form that help will take.

Gregor provides the PCs with a warm breakfast of oat porridge sweetened with local honey, and a salty vegetable broth to warm the bones.
As he stokes the fire with a poker, he regales them with tales of the old days, when this forest was untouched. They begin to wonder just how old he is.
The PC’s chat amongst themselves about the best course of action given what they have just witnessed. Knowing that help is on the way bolsters their resolve somewhat, though.

Meanwhile in Suzail, Rhiannon is approached by a War Wizard and her Purple Dragon retinue. She introduces herself as Lurrena Ashwood, and informs Rhiannon of the distress call sent out by her friends in the field. She briefs Rhiannon on the basics of the mission, explaining that she has the means to teleport Rhiannon, herself and her squad to their location. Rhiannon grabs a few choice belongings and rejoins the waiting group. Lurrena produces a magical amulet, whispers a silent command word and the world swirls around them, folds in upon itself, and with a rush of air, deposits them on the edge of a forested dell, where the snow does not linger.

The others hear the teleport spell and rush outside, some ready to fight if need be. They are relieved to see Rhiannon and familiar uniforms standing there, trying to find their bearings in cold, but sunny winter morning.
Rhiannon introduces Lurenna and her friends to each other. The squad of soldiers do the same.
The PCs and Lurenna decide to talk inside Gregor’s home, leaving the soldiers to wait outside. The PCs describe the horrors they have witnessed in Holborn, and the discoveries they have made – the infested elf and the abyssal parasite fill much of the conversation.

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Rhiannon also briefs the others on what happened to her while they were in Holborn. Following their return to Suzail with the Prince, and the various ceremonies that followed, she had taken the time to do what she had been tasked to do by her church – to open a shrine to Mystra in Suzail. She had originally found the intended location locked. A priest of Mystra named Pylea had gone ahead to prepare the building, but was not there. Instead she had found it sealed. Upon returning to Suzail, it was still locked, with a spell no less.
Rhiannon decided to magically open it. Once inside, she discovered the interior looked like it had been abandoned in a hurry. Much was in disarray, although not ransacked. She discovered a secret compartment behind the altar beneath a loose flagstone. As she was about to investigate, there was a knock at the door. The visitors did not look friendly. An odd looking tall man with pale features, black eyes, white hair, and dark armour stood before her, accompanied by two brutish looking men in dark leather. On his armour was carved the holy symbol of Cyric.
The man claimed rudely that the building was in fact his, and produced deeds to back up his claim, but Rhiannon saw through the lie. She wisely decided to avoid a confrontation.
Later that evening, the men returned, and broke in to the chapel, and stole something. Rhiannon hired an urchin who spied on them on her behalf. The urchin revealed that he had an artistic streak, and offered her a sketch of what they had stolen. It appeared to be some kind of idol. Rhiannon, being very knowledgeable on the subject of magical history and arcanology, knew instantly what it was. It looked a lot like a demonic idol from the fallen empire of Narfell.

Following Rhiannon’s briefing, the party decides to head south to the elven settlement of Ard’Marie, as that seems to be the logical place to investigate further.
They bid their farewells to Gregor, who declines their invitation to join them, and begin their journey on foot. It’s not that far south, only about a day and a half march.
The first day sees them crossing the icy Immerflow river, heading into Hullack forest, and camp for the night on a slight rise among the trees to have a good view of the surrounding land. The Purple Dragons take over the guard duties, and set up the camp. To their surprise, they wake up the following morning rested and without incident.

On the second day, they continue their journey south, picking their way through the forest cautiously. The land begins to rise ahead of them. becoming ever steeper and boulder strewn. The trees also grow denser here. It isn’t long before they are facing a choice. The land ahead rises steeply up, but is also split by a natural fissure a few tens of feet across at the base. The fissure has a level floor, and seems to wind out of sight after a while. The group decide to avoid the lower path, and instead climb up and over the hill.
It doesn’t take long for them to realize they made the correct choice. In the darkness of the chasm below they spy webbing criss-crossing the walls, and dark shapes moving about.

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As the group crests the hill, they all see the tell tale signs of civilization ahead. About a mile from their position, they see archways and the beginnings of a path. Beyond that, elven structures and tree dwellings. The trees also thin slightly here, causing the forest floor to be dusted with snow.
With their destination in sight the group proceeds with renewed vigor in their step. Then it happens. The leaves in front of the group explode upward and a spike trap whips up, impaling one of the soldiers. He dies on the spot. Alarms are raised, when just a moment later, a horrid humanoid chitinous creature bursts out of the hole and savages another soldier. He too is felled.
The PCs, Lurrena, and the remaining soldier rally, and fight back. A second creature ambushes the flank, and a savage melee ensues.
Frak is poisoned, but manages to resist the worst of the effects. Together, the group makes short work of the creatures, with no more casualties.
They leave the bodies of their fallen soldiers behind, and Valeria leads the group in a short prayer to honour them. Lurrena leaves a wizard mark on a tree to help her locate the bodies at a later time, so they can receive a proper burial.

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WIth only a mile to go to the outskirts of Ard’Marie, the group wastes no more time. They arrive at the first archways leading into the city, noting an inscription on one of them in elven saying “Here we reside in peace”.
They notice a lone figure standing in the clearing of the path ahead, a solitary sentinel, quiet and unmoving. They see from his stance and silhouette that he is an elf, and suspect he is infested. Rhiannon casts a spell and confirms this. Kyuubi draws her bow and fires an arrow directly at him. It strikes him in the shoulder, but does not fell him. The elf does not move or react in any way. She fires a second arrow, and this time pierces his throat. He drops like a sack of flesh, dead.
The elf’s behavior has them puzzled, and wary of what lies ahead within the settlement.

They decide to proceed. The path leads up and over a rise, and they hear the distinct sound of waterfalls. When they crest it, they see the darkened splendor of Ard’Marie, it’s many tree dwellings, and interlocking bridges, platforms and walkways. They see several forest streams coming together and falling into a chasm that flows away from them, filling the air with a fine mist. Beyond this, they see no signs of life. Yes, there are lights dimly illuminating the dwellings, but they seem to be magical in nature, almost natural. They also notice that winter’s grip has not touched the town. There is no snow, and much like Gregor’s dell, the temperature seems to rise considerably as they proceed further in.

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Inspecting the first hollowed tree they find a withered husk of an elven man, seated at a table, a glass of wine in his hand, stiff with rigor. His mouth hangs open as if in a final scream. The PCs conclude that this place has been affected by the same fate that befell Holborn
They continue their investigation out the far side of the chamber, exiting onto a wooden platform leading onto another bridge that crosses one of the streams.
Suddenly they are ambushed. Arrows rain down upon their party from above. in the opening volley, each of them are hit by multiple shafts. Five of the soldiers fall to the floor, seemingly dead. The others are badly hurt. Lurenna responds by casting a Wall of Fog, obscuring the party from their attackers. The fight that follows is brutal. They PCs use healing magics to patch the worst of their injuries, and rush up the stairs of the first chamber to ascend to the level of their assailants. Battle is joined a the top of the stairs. Valeria fights valiantly, killing several opponents, but is cut down, only to be saved by Lurrena. Kyuubi kills several with well placed arrows. Frak uses his stealth to great effect and stabs one in the back. Rhiannon uses her healing magics to aid her companions. The remaining soldiers manage to return fire with using their fallen companion’s loaded crossbows.

After several elves are slain, the remaining ones flee from the battle. Six elves lie dead, each with a parasite on their necks. To their relief, Lurrena and the remaining men discover that 4 of the soldiers aren’t dead, but unconscious. Healing magic restores them to fighting form.

Now to see where the path ahead leads……

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The Quiet Lands: Part 1
The Doom of Holborn

28th of Nightal 1398 D.R.

Snow falls over the city. The streets are blanketed in white, muffling the usual bustle and activity. A cold snap has deposited a thick layer of snow on every exposed surface.
Two weeks have passed since the PCs returned from the Wyvernwatch, and eight days since the winter solstice. The days are officially getting longer, and there is a feeling of hope returning to the realm. Cormyr’s crown prince has been safely returned home.
In the days following Azoun’s return, Prince Foril, who was implicated in the abduction of the prince, was caught trying to flee the city under the cover of darkness, in disguise. He has been charged with high treason and awaits trial for his crimes. Those of his men who aided in his crime were also apprehended, the rest have been ordered to return to their lands.
Duke Aris, it’s been reported, has fled the country, and is currently at large. Having had no heirs, his duchy and Castle Aris have been returned to the crown, and the Purple Dragons have been garrisoned there to keep them safe until the Prince is able to decide its fate. His men have all been arrested and questioned.
It seems that for now a semblance of order has been restored following the tumultuous events of the past month.
A coronation has not been scheduled, but it is assumed one will be soon. Azoun is to be King once again.

A few days after their return to Suzail, In a small private ceremony, Prince Azoun V inducted the PCs into The Order of the Dragon, the highest order awarded to civilians for services to the crown, and rewarded them handsomely with other gifts.
A few days after the ceremony, they are invited to Baskor Tranth’s office, where he explains that he was impressed by the way the PCs handled their mission. He hopes to enlist their help for future missions.
He tells the PCs that thanks to the various other pressing concerns facing the kingdom, such as the pursuit of Duke Aris and others, his resources are stretched thin. He hopes to enlist their help for a mission in the north east of Cormyr.

He tells them that a great portion of Cormyr’s logging happens on the northern edge of Hullack forest. There is a logging town called Holborn up there that normally sends regular supplies of lumber to Marsember and Suzail, usually once a week. A few weeks before, the lumber shipments stopped without warning.
Baskor tells them that he had already sent a troupe of scouts to find some answers, but they had not reported in. After a few days he sent a squad of Purple Dragons, but they too did not report back. Finally he sent a War Wizard. He tells them he hasn’t been heard from either.
He wants to send the PCs to investigate the situation, and find him some answers, before he resorts to more drastic means. He provides them with a map of the area.

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The PCs agree to help, and spend a final night in Suzail, drinking in their favourite Tavern, the Laughing Lass, and booking passage on a ship to travel to the Wyvernwater. The following day, they board their shallow river vessel and head north, their new horses on board. They leave Rhiannon behind, as she is taking care of a loved one, but Baskor provides them with a means to send her to them when she is ready – a necklace that allows two way telepathic contact

After several days on board, they make landfall in the town of Sunset Hill, a trading outpost on the northern shore of the Wyvernwater. From there they manage to take on jobs as caravan guards with a man called Steve. He and his small retinue are heading to Sembia through the Thunder Pass, but are happy for the extra protection. On the way, the PCs ask Steve about Hullack forest and the logging industry up here. He says the forest is home to elves and other creatures (he jokingly mentions hordes of yetis), but that he knows little beyond that. He does ask his companion Roger to explain more about it, and he turns out to be a font of knowledge on the local politics. He talks about how many of elves were alive before humans settled here, or the kingdom of Cormyr was even founded. Hullack forest was once part of the greater forest kingdom of Cormanthor, but that after the fall of Myth Drannor, that kingdom had fallen too. The humans settled and laid claim to much of the southern forests. Today the elves of Hullack are at odds with the human loggers, but not hostile. An agreement allows the Cormyrians to log the northern edge of Hullack, but the southern bulk of the forest is considered Elven territory. The Elfmound, an elven burial ground near the northern edge also remains off limits.

The PCs part ways with the caravan just south of Holborn. It is bitterly cold, but not covered with snow. There is a low unnatural fog hanging low over the lands to the north, even though there is a strong wind blowing. They carefully make their way north, travelling along the road to the village. It’s only about a mile or two away from the main road.
What they find chills them to the core. They see the village’s outer buildings, completely silent. There are no signs of life. Several corpses of Purple Dragon soldiers hang from nooses suspended from hastily erected scaffolds. Their flesh looks desiccated and drawn, with barely any wounds. There are some corpses sprawled on the ground, with arrows protruding from their bodies. A quick investigation reveals that these arrows are both elven and orcish in origin.

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Valeria prays to the Red Knight and casts a Detect Evil. Her spell reveals that the fog is a lingering evil. The whole village is radiating this malice, but whatever caused it is no longer here. She does however detect one source of evil on the northern edge of the village, unmoving, and out of sight.

They investigate the outer buildings, before entering the main body of the village. The discover a family dead at their dinner table, similarly desiccated. The frozen food in the bowls before them looks fresh. Frak uses magic to detect poison but finds none. They hear the distant sounds of a horse harness clinking. By now the PCs are starting to get nervous.

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The second house reveals a similar scene. A dead man, once fat and bulky, lies face down on his floor, a gaping slash on his back and desiccated beyond recognition.

Everywhere they look, they see death. They decide to press on into the village itself. They discover a central square, where dogs squabble over chunks of desiccated flesh. The bodies of the scouting party can be seen hanging from a large tree on the far bank of the river. Next to the tree they see what appears to be an elf on horseback, a silent sentinel in the dying light of the day. As darkness begins to fall, Kyuubi fires two arrows at this figure (one coated in poison by Frak). Her aim is true, and both arrows strike home, but the elf seems unperturbed by the damage or the poison, and makes a small bow before turning his horse north and riding out of sight.

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Suddenly, as they are walking down the street, there is a rumbling sound from the building next to them and the door explodes in splinters outward. A massive nine foot long, bloated arthropod ambushes the PCs. The creature lashes out with multiple tentacles and attempts to overpower Valeria. Its attacks don’t have the desired effect, however and combat is joined. The carrion crawler coils around and prepares to attack again. Kyuubi buries two arrows in its flank, injuring it severely. Frak tries to touch it with a spell, but fails. Valeria also casts a spell to find a weakness, but it has no effect. The crawler lashes out at Kyuubi with all its tentacles and paralyses her. Frak tries again to touch it with a spell, but misses again. Valeria forgoes magic and opts for a frontal assault, which succeeds. Her blade slices the crawler’s head open like an overripe melon, spilling rotten meat and innards. The stench causes all of them to retch instantly. After the brief fight, Frak uses a potion to neutralize the crawler’s venom coursing through Kyuubi’s body. She recovers from the paralysis and composes herself.

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They decide to find shelter in the village chapel, and discover that it is barred from the inside. Valeria uses her sword and brute strength to lift the bar off its supports. Inside they discover the village’s last stand. The bulk of the population has huddled here in prayer seeking shelter, but to no avail. Easily a hundred men, women and children lie dead clustered around the altar to Torm, desiccated.

As hey exit the building, they are suddenly face to face with the elf Kyuubi shot earlier. It stands before them, impassive, eyes glowing with yellow malice. They see the elf’s horse behind him, eyes similarly aglow. They also notice a strange insectoid creature clamped onto the back of the horse’s neck, half buried under its skin.
Kyuubi shoots two arrows at the creature. The first arrow misses, but the second one hits. The creature dies, and as it does so, the horse collapses like a bag of meat – dead. The elf attacks Valeria after she interposes herself to defend Kyuubi, almost gutting her in the process. Frak attacks the parasite he assumes is on the elf’s neck too, and finds his mark. His Kukri cuts the creature, but doesn’t kill it. Kyuubi circles around, and shoots an arrow at the parasite, and skewers it and the elf’s neck, killing both. They bag the corpse of the parasite for later investigation.

At this point the PCs have had enough. They decide it is time to leave and report back to Tranth. They run back to where their horses are tethered only to find that they too have perished from the mysterious energies that permeate this place.

They decide to make their escape over water, and try to salvage a small boat from one of the jetis. They reach the western edge of the village, when they see a small flock of ravens in the trees beyond the small frozen river. One of them flies across the water and lands next to them. The raven transforms into a man before their eyes. An old man with weathered skin, wearing layers of leathers, cloth and fur, supporting himself on a gnarled staff. He invites them to follow him, that he can offer them shelter, saying the village won’t be safe.

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The PCs follow the druid to his home in a sheltered dell where the temperature rises considerably to more comfortable levels. His home is a hollowed out cave under the roots of old growth trees. Once inside he offers them wine, tea and a warm fire. He tells them his name is Gregor.
They discuss the horrors they have just witnessed, especially the parasite. He tells them the village was attacked by a mix of elves and orcs, all infested, and that they carried a strange stone with them. He thinks the stone killed the villagers, desiccating them, and leaving behind the lingering fog.
Upon examining the parasite with his own magics, he confirms the suspicions he had. The creature is abyssal.

The PCs use the necklace provided to them to contact Tranth. They reach Theldryn Wyvernspur, a subordinate of Baskor Tranth’s, and relay all that has happened.

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