Shades of Shadora

Hurn's Ferry

The next morning found the party approaching the Tepid River. The path lead to a shack and a ferry. The operator Hurn by name was not pleased by the presence of the Gargoyle and Goblin. Simon convinced the ferryman to carry the party across for a single Fang. Max and Itch flew across. Halfway across the stream the Party/Ferry was ambushed by a Water Naga, it demaned the horses as fee for crossing.

Simon began shouting about the bridge and the berries and refused to pay, he cast an ineffective
Sun Spear to disaude the Naga but it took offense. The Naga summoned a Undine but the party proved powerful enough to defeat it and its minion. Hurn, returned the piece of gold since he no longer had to fear the Naga and felt his busines would improve. The party was ill pleased that he hadn’t warned them of the threat.

The party took its leave of Hurn and continued on their way, the rain growing stronger. About
midday Simon and Walaac felt uncertain about the path. Sending Max to scout above the trees
identified two group of Kur. Max and Itch attacked the first with a poison grenade, Simon
and Lasher focused on the southern group while Walaac, Trish, and the others attacked the
northern group. Lashers arrows were the death of many Kur, Simon did well until the quick
stroke of a Kur Berserker nearly fell him, he retreated and healed himself. Returning to
the combat he killed all that Lashur had left for him. To the North Waalac did did particulary
well downing two Kur with his bow, quite an accomplishment for a Lir.

Once the battle site was secure the bodies were searched and once again the party found the
small wooden tokens that were showing the Kur our movements. Itch explained that the Kur Tribe
had declared some type of Blood Vengance against us and would attack and ambush us at every
chance. The Clan/Tribe will continue to attack until all in the party are dead. Simon
comments that a second way to end the vengance would be to destroy the entire Clan/Tribe. Itch
says that whatever the outcome the Kur clan will need to be confronted if the attacks are to
stop. Simon suggested using the tokens to try to track down the Kur and if possible killing
the spell weaver who created them. Blood vengence would count for little if the Kur could not
find us. The party will seek a Priest or Sorcerer to aid us in the next town or city.

The Sword Quest continues.

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Welcome Husband
That Simon sure does get around!

The weeks following the Thicket War find the Hero’s recovering. Cleaning up the mess of the Lazuri invasion was far simpler than fighting. Settlers move back to their farms and things become as normal as usual in the Thicket. Treasure is divided among the defenders and the Hero’s share is a princely 200 Golden Fangs. The Sorcerers depart for Emancia to walk the Conundrum a second time and become full mages. But all is not peaceful, for Simon’s sleep is disturbed by a dream. He see’s a steaming jungle, a horned volcano, and an ancient Fel Waymaster Swordsmith. He knows this is a divine call by Bander.

Lasher agree’s to accompany him without hesitation, no doubt there will be Lazuri to kill on the quest. Walaac and Trish agree after Simon gives a rousing speech on the benefits of the quest. A short time of clearing up loose ends find the Hero’s on the road to the Kingdom of Broad Shoulders. Compared to the Thicket the travel is quick, but rain dampens spirits. The group decides to stop at the camp of Terahay, people of the Fox. Trish told the group that they are a friendly people with curious customs. Simon’s and Trish’s tattoo’s would insure them of a warm bed and a full belly so they entered the camp.

No sooner are the travelers acknowledged than a very pregnant young woman runs forward and embraces Simon. To the group she says, “My betrothed you have returned!”, but in a whisper she tells Simon to play along lest it cost us both our lives. To the confusion of the party Simon assumes the role of suitor. Through the evening of the pre-wedding ceremony the truth emerges. The Terahay don’t allow marriage within their ranks, a mate must be an outsider. Shawna and Tito had fallen in love and would be stoned to death if the Tribe discovered the truth. Simon was a convent stand in. Once the situation was understood the party spirited the lovers out of the encampment and continued on their way.

The adventurers soon discovered that there were dangers in the world at least as deadly as those found in the Thicket. While passing through a ravine the party was nearly destroyed by a band of 12 Kur and 20 Varls. The faces of the Kur are scarred with freshly carved runic tattoos and they hurl vile curses at the party as they fight them – “Bala duun tan kama”

Fortunately two friends from Summerford were searching for the party and hoping to join. Max (the Gargoyle) and Itcharat (the Goblin) flew in and destroyed the Varl and healed Simon and Trish who
had been beaten unconscious. Together they finished off the Kur. Itcharat mentioned that he has seen similar tattoos among his kind. They are taken when a tribe goes to war against a sworn enemy. It is considered the highest honor to be selected. The curse they were shouting translates roughly into – “Death to the slayers of our kin for the glory of the blood oath.” A cursory search of the bodies, with a long stick for fear of disease, turns up 4 wooden talismans with crude images burned into them: a man, a woman, a tree, and a mouse. Max and Itch asked to join the party and were quickly accepted. The party moved out of the canyon and camped for the night. They were closing in on Hurn’s Ferry on Tepid River.

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Leaving the Thicket
The party makes plans to leave the thicket

2/5/7551 (The Season of Shadowscreep, on Riversday in the week of Blindness – 7551)

Over the next few days, life in the thicket begins to return to normal as the armies make ready to return home and the settlers return to their farms. Simon begins to experience strange dreams where he sees and ancient fel master and sword smith performing an amazingly difficult sword kata. When he turns to face Simon’s field of view he notices that he is blind. At the end of the kata, he presents his shining sword with an ebony handle. The view in the dream backs away and Simon sees that the master practices in a hidden temple deep within a volcano with a twin peak shaped like the horns of a bull. The volcano sits near the sea as the dream fades away.

Simon speaks of the dream to Prospero and he says that, “Destiny calls and you must answer!” The next day Prospero hands Simon a smooth stone. "Master Balardus gave this to me. He called it a Student’s Stone. Some masters use them to keep track of the whereabouts of their students. Keep it with you and when I finish my studies, it will lead me to you so that you need not walk your path alone. You’ve put up with my overactive curiosity, now it is time to repay the favor. "
The Yatahay and the Elves are the first to depart with promises to help the homesteaders mend their farms. Two Feathers stays behind to swap tales with Simon and Lasheur.

Walac and his cousin Malloc spend their days exploring the fringes of the thicket and pulling Grimclaw’s tail. Walac invites Malloc to stay on and adventure but he says that he needs to get back to the Burrow. He will tell Walac’s family that he is well and send his best.

The nein Ironhoof legion makes ready to depart and Haven, Balardus and Yarela make ready to accompany them with Prospero and Lasheur in tow. The militia have rounded up a small hoard of captured gear and treasure from the Lazuri force and their camp. Haven have convinced the nein to haul it back to Veluvia where it will fetch a good price. Haven knows that you are heading out on the road and has calculated your share at 200 gold fangs which he doles out to each of you. They also present Walac with a suberb rapier. Walac counts out 50 of the precious coins and give them to Malloc to deliver to his family as Simon and Lasheur head to their temples to tithe 20 coins of their own.

Simon, Lasheur, Trish and Walac bid their farewells to friends old and new and the caravan makes its way out of the city gates. Haven hangs back and hands Simon 3 golden rune covered cylinders about the size of his index finger. “These are Salar’s Favors. They are very rare and precious so guard them well. You may use them to gain favor with anyone familiar with merchants or trade. Use them wisely on your quest. I still think you are crazy to follow a vision that was probably inspired by bad beef. You and Lasheur could make a fortune as caravan guards. If you change your mind, you can ask about me at Salar’s temple in Thenga Velu. They always know where to find me. Be well Simon and safe travels.”

Two Feathers departs shortly after and the party finds themselves settling down for an ale in the common room of the local adventurer’s guild. Simon produces a map of the region which Haven, Two Feathers and he have been pouring over these last few days.

The Route

“Summerford has generously supplied us with fine riding horses and a pack mule for our service so we won’t be walking, but the road is a long one. Our path takes us spunward across the Stonerim mountains to the port city or Ard on the Sea of Steam. Once we cross over the Stonerims we will be beyond the borders of Velu and in the kingdom of Broad Shoulders. Broad Shoulders is an old frontier kingdom settled by the Velu in centuries past. As it sits in a realm of contest it is a kingdom of fire and stone. The Lazuri began their black invasion some 20 years ago with an attack on Broad Shoulders and the kingdom has not been free of them since. Lasheur and a I spent a year in the service of king Henri the Wide fighting the lazuri and learning to hate them. It was there that Lashuer’s unit destroyed Igmar’s men the first time, earning him his undying enmity. We will be crossing through at least one active front in that war.”

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Thicket Campaign Finale

After the defeat of the disease master, the party headed back to Summerford to let Capt Robart know that they had completed the mission. Upon arrival at the town, they noticed that preparations were still underway for the expected siege. “We are fortunate to have you on our side,” said Capt Robart after learning of the death of the Kur shaman. “You should go see Father Kyle and have him and the other priests ensure that you won’t have any ill effects from your encounter with that evil mongrel,” he continued, eyeing the new shock of white in Trish’s mane. “I’ll see to it that the defenses are the best they can be once the attack comes, but I’ll need you to be as fit as possible when it happens. We’re mostly farmers and settlers here, so professional troops such as you are going to be key to our survival!” Leaving Robart to continue his preparations, the party went to the temple quarter and received a clean bill of health.

As Father Kyle and his priests were completing their inspections, the sound of voices raised in conflict arose in the streets outside. Trish looked out the door to see a crowd forming around a man standing on a box and shouting, “… I tell you it ain’t right nor proper for them to be staying in our town. Weren’t we just attacked this morning on the temple palisade by his ilk? Zeb there lost his hand at the wrist. How is he gonna plow his fields next fire season? His kind are killing us honest hard working folks and I think it’s time we send them a message – loud and clear! So let’s do this! Are you with me?!” The crowd murmured in agreement as the angry man recounted losses to the goblins during the fighting, making point after point, blaming it on the goblin in town. “It’s that damned Itcharat!! We need to make him pay!!!” With this, the angry man started through the crowd that had formed, “Follow me!” he cried. Arming themselves with whatever came to hand, the crowd began to follow, in full bay, like a pack of hounds after a fox. Simon stated, “I know who they are talking about, we need to warn him…” The friends followed Simon as he took them through back ways of the town to where Itcharat ran an inn. As they made the turn into the alley that ended in the door to the inn, they could see the crowd coming slowly from the other direction, although they were still far enough away they couldn’t hear them…yet. Simon pushed open the door to the inn, seeing the scaly, green countenance of the bartender cleaning glasses behind the counter look up at him in alarm from the force of the door opening. There was a flutter from the side of the bar as Max, Itcharat’s gargoyle bodyguard stood and opened his wings quickly to make himself appear bigger to whatever threat was coming through the door.

“Itcharat, there’s an angry mob coming. They feel like you have something to do with the goblins we fought against this morning!” Simon blurted out. Itcharat looked at Simon, and blinked his eyes in surprise. “Must be some sort of mistake.” he said in his gruff voice, “Been here for years, never had any trouble at all! Let me see fer myself”. He put the glass down as he and Max made their way to the door. Prospero directed Grimclaw to watch the back door to the inn. The big panther slunk stealthily over and set up where he could pounce on the first person stupid enough to come in that way. Simon, Prospero, and Trish stepped into the dark alleyway with Itcharat and Max in time to see the beginnings of the crowd come around the corner into the entrance of the street. Itcharat watched in amazement as the alley filled with a seemingly endless sea of bodies carrying torches and makeshift weapons. Prospero moved to one side of the alley and Trish took the other, moving forward in an attempt to get between the crowd and the hapless goblin innkeeper. Not sure what to do, and loathe to get in the way, Walac stood inside the doorway, “No sense in going out there where I might get stepped on,” he thought. Simon strode fearlessly into the middle of the alleyway. Trish growled, “Goblin, you might want to get inside, I don’t think you being out here is helping!” Itcharat moved away from the door, saying in a loud (and he hoped friendly) tone of voice, “Hey, there’s gotta be some misunderstanding…” Suddenly, there was a loud twanging sound and Simon grunted as he was struck in the side by a crossbow bolt. The bolt merely grazed him, and he couldn’t tell where it came from, because his attention had been focused on the crowd in front of him.

Prospero called mentally to Grimclaw, thinking the odds on their surviving this encounter had just gone down drastically, with the beginnings of actual hostilities. Satisfied that the big cat would soon be in a position to fight, he began the ritual that would give them just a little space. Prospero completed his casting, and with a sudden earthy smell, a large wall of thorns appeared across the alley between the group and the crowd. The crowd didn’t slow its advance, continuing forward with single minded determination like a bunch of zombies. Having heard the crossbow, Walac decided to take to the rooftops and try to use his superior night vision to the party’s advantage. He scrambled to the nearest rooftop and started scanning the crowd to try and determine who might have tried to harm his friend. As Simon channeled divine energies to heal his wound, Prospero grunted as his armor deflected the force of another bolt. Max moved swiftly to the barrier to try and act as an intimidating agent against the crowd, who seemed to take as little notice of him as they had of the barrier that had appeared without warning in front of them. Simon caught movement out of the corner of his eye to his right, and realized the crossbow bolts weren’t coming from the crowd at all! They were being fired by an unknown agent of evil on the rooftops! He pointed in the direction of the assassin and yelled, “Look out!! Goblin sniper on the rooftops!” Prospero began to glow as he cast a spell on himself to enhance his armor; that last bolt had been just a little too close for comfort!

Thanks to Simon, Grimclaw saw the assassin as well, as he took another hasty shot at Prospero, missing him. Grimclaw leapt to the rooftops as Trish moved to the barrier shouting to the crowd to halt its advance, but without effect. Simon concentrated his energies, and soon a mirror image of himself popped into being quietly behind the assassin. He then removed a smoke grenade from his equipment, quickly activating and throwing it into the middle of the crowd. The crowd, almost as if it were coming out of a trance, began to react to the smoke in its midst, yelling and moving about. Another crossbow bolt bounced off Prospero’s armor, where he had been covering behind Max’s outstretched wings. Walac spotted the assassin’s movement during this attack; he was across the alley from him. The nimble Lir ran across his rooftop, leaping to the top of a crate next to the building and from it to the cobblestone floor of the alleyway. Stringing his bow, Walac took a hastily aimed shot, but missed the assassin.

Finally tired of the crowd’s hijinks, Max beat his wings, and took a flying leap over the barrier of thorns, dropping himself in the middle of the crowd, where he began to pummel the crowd with his wings and open hands. Meanwhile, Itcharat finally thought better of standing outside in sight of the crowd and went inside to get away from the fray. As Grimclaw ran across the rooftops, the assassin caught the movement out of the corner of his eye and brought his crossbow up catching the panther in the flank. Simon saw this happen through vision that was starting to blur, and though dizzy, he switched places with his mirror image, putting him immediately behind his assailant. From his vantage point on the roof, he saw the crowd starting to disperse, as if the smoke grenade had finally brought them to their senses. Simon quickly focused his energies on being able to bypass the assassin’s armor, and attacked. The assassin swiftly dodged Simon’s attacks, simultaneously drawing a short sword with blinding speed. Seeing the dark figure distracted, Grimclaw attacked with a feral spring, but the assassin dodges again, with uncanny speed. Suddenly, an arrow sprouts from the cloak of the assassin! Walac hit him from the street below, but the arrow can’t get past his armor. As Simon and Grimclaw trade blows with the agent of evil, Trish called to Prospero to drop the barrier, as the crowd is rapidly dispersing. With a brief sound of implosion, the barrier is no more, and Trish rushes to the building where the fight is taking place. Walac continued to fire arrows into the fray, causing the figure to take on the appearance of a frenzied hedgehog, but without doing any real damage. Trish climbs to the roof, and joins the fray. Prospero sighs, then pools his occult energy, sending three bolts of energy streaking across the dark alley at the assassin. The first bolt passes harmlessly over the figures head, causing him to turn slightly as the second bolt strikes him squarely in the chest, and the third bolt hits him squarely in the face, dropping him to the roof, dead. Panting, Simon searches the dead body, finding a sword dripping with a dark colored ichor, a crossbow, a stoppered flask with the same ichor on the outside as is on the sword, and six throwing knives. Additionally, he found a note that read: “Garret, use whatever means necessary, but the wizard, Prospero, and his bodyguard MUST be killed. If possible, kill the martial artist as well. I’m not worried about the barbarian woman and the mouse, but if you can kill them, there will be a bonus for you. However, do not fail me, or I will ensure you will regret it for several lifetimes. Lord Igmar”

Simon suddenly drops to one knee, and realizes that in addition to his blurry vision, and a sense of vertigo, his tongue is swelling. The quick healing spell he did earlier must not have worked. “I need help to get to the temple”, he said, as he carefully stood. Trish took his weight and helped him down from the roof, leaving Garret’s body to be taken care of by the town militia, who, with an impeccable sense of timing, were just arriving on the scene. Minutes later, Father Kyle completed the last of the spells to cleanse Simon and Grimclaw’s wounds. He then moved to look at the stoppered flask . “You’re a lucky man.” He said, shaking his head, “A few more minutes, and you’d have been a dead man instead of a lucky one. This is concentrated scorpion venom oil. It’s typically used by Malamorph assassins. Even if they can’t kill you outright, this stuff will usually do the trick for them. Very difficult to cure.” He turned towards Simon, “I wouldn’t suggest you use this, and frankly, it would lessen my opinion of you if you did. I’ll trade you this healing potion for the last of this poison, so I can study it’s properties.” Simon looked at him wearily and said, “It’s all yours. I don’t want anything to do with it.”

With all of the most recent enemies dealt with, the party headed back to the Citadel to rest. As they approach the courtyard, they notice a large force of cavalry milling about there. “Simon! Prospero!” came a voice from behind the party. “It’s good to see you boys again.” Simon and the rest of the party turn to see the smiling face of the rotund merchant Haven Vendor. “Look what those griffin eggs bought you, my lads! The Ironhoof Centaur Legion of the Nein!” He shook his head, “The kings could not be swayed to send the Veluvian Cohort, but recommended and negotiated these brave lads, and at a greatly reduced price, I might add.” He began to move towards a knot of centaurs in the middle of the courtyard, and gestured for the others to follow, “They were on a far off patrol and I had to push them hard to get them here in time. They are a bit tired, but more than able.” He gestured towards a huge Nein who was stepping away from the herd, “Here, let me introduce you.” The Nein carried a spear that was easily 10 feet long and was wearing shining chain mail about his human parts and leather barding about his hindquarters. On his back, was a bow that no man could string, and a quiver of long arrows that rival the length of the javelins that Windtorn hurls.

“Master Ironhoof,” began the merchant, “This is Simon and Prospero, the heroes of this realm. I have not met their new companions, perhaps you could introduce us, Prospero.” Prospero turns to his companions and states simply, “This is Trish Saturnima, a warrior of the Ahay nation, and Walac Nimrice, a Lir…um… burglar.” At the mention of Walac’s name, Ironhoof’s saddlebag pops open, revealing a dapper Lir’s head. “Cousin!!” the Lir leaped out of the saddlebag, bowling Walac over. “It’s me, your cousin, Malac!!” he chittered excitedly, “I could not let the honor of our Burrow rest solely on your shoulders. We will fight together, side by side, just as we did when our fathers schooled us as pinkskins!!”

Windtorn stepped up to greet Ironhoof. “Well met, old friend. It is good to see an old friend from the home country. This is quite a company you’ve raised.” The centaur looked him squarely in the eye, “Aye Windtorn, but I have not come empty handed to greet you, my old friend.” Ironhoof extended his hand towards Windtorn, with a pendant resting in his palm, “I have brought you this amulet from the elves of Stormwood.” At the mention of his folly, Windtorn’s face went pale, but he remained silent. Ironhoof regarded his friend with a look of pleasure. “Haven has delivered the Sharpsword as you promised them and in return, they have forgiven your sins. Your penance is over. You are a man of valor once more.” He stepped gently forward and placed the amulet around Windtorn’s neck, “It is time to unseal the soldered sword.” The years appear to slide from Windtorn’s face and he stood up ramrod straight. With a mighty heave, he broke the seal on his sword and it came free from the scabbard with a flash in the torchlight. Prospero and Simon watch as their masters, Yarela Flamedreamer and Master Abu-Balardus approach the group from the shadows. “Well met apprentice,” says Yarela. “We have brought five masters from Emancia. One for each element, to help drive off the Lazuri.” A large black crow flaps down from the battlements and settles on Master Abu-Balardus’ shoulder. Windtorn brandishes his newly freed sword and yells, “Let Lord Igmar come! He will find only men of valor awaiting him, and will soon find that they are more than able to defend themselves!!!” The assembled throng cheers.

The next morning dawns to see Capt Robart and Windtorn readying the town’s defenses. The sound of drums begins to throb out of the thicket surrounding the town. Blaring horns join the heartbeat of the drums as trees begin to snap and fall from the large, unseen creatures moving through the brush. Reasonably well rested, the party groups up on the battlements to see what they can of the movements in the thicket and to prepare as best as they can for the coming battle. “Why haven’t they come?” muses Windtorn, as he peers out towards the thicket as if trying to penetrate the cover by force of will alone. “What are they waiting for?” A sudden cry goes up from the watch to their right. “My lords, there is smoke rising from the thicket!” More columns of smoke begin to rise from the thicket, Capt Robart wonders aloud “What devilry has Igmar got in store for us this time.” As the sun slowly creeps across the sky, the columns of smoke begin to meld together to become one, forming a thick, black, greasy curtain that is easily the length of the town. In horror, the defenders watch the wall of smoke starts moving closer to the town. The enemy air forces are easily visible above the smoke, with wyverns, worms and harpies darting this way and that, pointing and laughing at the defenders. Suddenly, with the motion of a school of fish darting away from a hunting seal, the air forces scatter. One wyvern and it’s rider, slower than the others, disappeared into the maw of a massive dragon, whose mighty jaws snapped them up, biting through skin, sinew and bone, flinging the pieces to the ground with a mighty roar. A great cheer goes up from the defenders as the dragon streaks across the sky and comes to a hovering stop. Ormarayu says in a booming voice, “My friends, I have come to help you in your time of need, as you helped me. The vile Lazuri and their ilk must not have the thicket as their own. However, their plan is cunning and we must react now. When the vines of the thicket are burned, they produce a deadly poison. It is a cloud of black death that approaches you!” He motioned his head towards the approaching cloud, “Send every sylph and strong wind the Air Temple priests and your wizards can muster to push back the smoke. I will lead whatever fliers we have to guard them.” As the priests and wizards scrambled to comply, Prospero muttered aloud, “Well, that makes sense of all of the attacks on the Air Temple. Without the sylphs and weather control, the town would have fallen without a fight.” Windtorn calls to Stormwing, and jumps into his saddle as he flies by. The avians Chance and Fate rise with him to flank Ormarayu and they head towards the smoke. Sylphmaster Galen stands in the courtyard surrounded by his initiates and laity calling on Vorthod and Kilwin to send their elementals to his aid. A dozen sylphs begin to form and move towards the black curtain. “Disperse the smoke”, cries Galen as they fly off. Not to be outdone, the Wizards of Emancia send an army of gnomes, sylphs, and undines leaping from their staves and wands to lend their assistance. As the last of the elementals leave, a crashing noise from the thicket heralds the arrival on the field of Igmar’s army. The battle for Summerford has begun.

Four giant dinosaurs were the vanguard of Igmar’s army, felling trees and opening the way for the other creatures coming out of the darkness. The enemy began to array itself on the field as the larger units made way for the smaller. Here Lazuri infantry, cavalry and wyvern riders arrayed themselves into battle lines, and there zombies shuffled after their zombie lords, with fresh grave dirt falling from their rusty dilapidated armor. Goblins capered and gibbered under the harsh command of their hobgoblin commanders as skeletal archers took up positions just within bowshot of the ramparts. Huge manticores stamped, roared and shook their poisonous manes while ogres, varl, kur, minotaurs and elementals shambled out shouting, yelping and shaking their weapons. Finally, as if coming to review the troops, Lord Igmar rode out from the thicket on an enormous lizard. The gates of the town were opened, and the Army of Summerford rode forth into battle. As they moved towards the enemy, the enemy rushed in, and soon the battle was joined. Frantic bodies locked in combat as the centaurs made their way to the enemy first by virtue of their speed. Zombie heads broke open like ripe pumpkins hit with a hammer, and some of the centaurs were felled by vicious flights of arrows buzzing around them like angry bees. Finally joining the fray, the foot soldiers were engaging the varl and kur, and swarming on the larger beasts like maddened ants. Grimclaw pounced on a kur warrior, ripping his throat out without effort, and moved further into the battle. Simon found himself face to face with a kur warrior, slicing him across the chest, and sinking his fighting claw into his neck, dropping him to the ground. As the kur fell to the ground unconscious, Simon looked to his right in time to see a grizzled old combat veteran take an arrow in the throat. The unit behind him ground to a halt, unsure what to do, Simon yelled, “Follow me, younglings”, and plunged ahead into the thick of the battle. Following him, the unit tore into a group of goblins slicing them to ribbons. Prospero concentrated on the kur warrior in front of him, willing a bolt to come forth and incinerate him, but just as he was about to release the power, he was jostled by a centaur rushing forward to spear a manticore. The resulting loss of concentration caused the power to explode in front of him, dazing him momentarily, giving the kur an opening to crush his arm with a mace blow. As Trish cast a disruption spell at the swirling vortex of air in front of her, she was badly slashed in the side by a kur that was then pushed past her in the crush of bodies.

Both sides were taking heavy losses, but the defenders were holding up better than could be expected under the circumstances. Walac slashed at a yipping varl, but the varl ducked under his slash with a thrust of his own that penetrated Walac’s armor, slicing painfully along his ribs. Grimclaw jumped on the back of a demon which roared in anger, and disappeared. Simon lept forward and planted his fighting claw deep in the tiny head of a Stegosaurus, felling it with one blow. It fell to its side and thrashed in its death agony, like a snake without a head, crushing an entire unit of small varl underneath. As Trish tried to staunch the flow of blood from underneath her armor, a medic came up, did a quick incantation which healed the injury as well as could be expected for the battlefield. As a Lazuri Red Sash wyvern rider passed by, Grimclaw leaped into the air like a cat catching a bird and dragged the rider from his seat to be crushed in the skirmish. As Simon surveyed the area, he saw a Lazuri Red Sash wyvern rider swooping toward Capt Robart. Simon took a running jump up and slashed at the rider cutting him across the throat, but the wyvern snapped its jaws shut on his leg, injuring him. Simon dropped panting to the ground as the wyvern flew off, riderless.

With the smoke finally dissipated, the defender’s air support arrived to help with the battle. As one of the Silver Sash Rune Priests turned to cast a spell at Ormarayu, Grimclaw slapped out with his great paw, breaking the priest’s neck. With a great roar, Ormarayu snapped the priest into the air and bit him in half. Seeing this, Igmar turned his lizard around and began to retreat into the thicket, leaving his army to fend for itself. A great cheer arose from the town battlements as his troops began to break off and follow him. The party regrouped on the field, and with Capt Robart and Windtorn began to reorganize the remaining militia, as the Nein, Elves and Yatahay began to pursue the enemy through the thicket. As the sun sets, Ironhoof and a company of his centaurs gallop into the courtyard of the Citadel, coming to a stop in front of Capt Robart and Windtorn. Ironhoof opens a bag and the heads of Beast Master Thang, Kazat the Holy and Tarmoor the Bloodmage fall out and roll to Capt Robart’s feet. “The Lazuri have left the thicket”, states Ironhoof, with the simplicity of his people. “Igmar also fell, but as he did, he cried out to his god and Lazur saw fit to spirit him away. His companions were not so fortunate.”

Over the next few weeks, things returned to normal for the town of Summerford. Burials were made, the bodies of enemies were disposed of in less favorable ways, and the survivor’s happiness was tempered with the sadness of fallen allies. A great feast was held to honor all of those who defended the town from the evil of the Lazuri. The Elves, Nein, and Yatahay all made their departures in the days and weeks since the feast, as they had lands of their own to look after. Prospero took his leave of the party as well, since he was being given the chance to walk the conundrum, which is a great honor for his society and a necessary thing for him to accomplish if he was to continue his sorcerous studies. Capt Robart looked down the road after the retreating forms of the mages. “What about the rest of you?” he said. Simon looked at the remaining members of the party and said, “I have an idea…”

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Battle Against the Disease Master

Following the battle for the Air Temple, Trish decided rest was the best way to prepare for the battles she knew would follow. Shortly after noon, she heard a frantic knocking on her door. Opening it, she found her Lir companion, Walac outside. “Trish, come quick, there’s something strange afoot in the marketplace!” She grabbed her equipment with practiced ease, buckling her sword belts as she followed her scampering friend. Approaching the market, she noticed that the area, normally bustling during this time of the day with the calls of vendors and sounds of people haggling for the best deals. “This is odd”, mused Trish aloud, “This looks more like a funeral than a market. I wonder why…” “Perhaps I can shed some light on that”. Startled, Trish spun to face Jarvus, the healer who had spent so many hours patching the party up during their adventures thus far. Prospero and Simon were nearby, their faces grim. Even the great panther, Grimclaw, seemed out of sorts, tail twitching to show his agitiation. “My friends,” began Jarvus, “I have grave news. It appears that a Drith disease master has loosed a foul sickness upon the city. My master, Father Kyle Bonesetter, wishes me to bring you to conference with him immediately.” As the party followed Jarvus from the marketplace, he refused to answer any further questions from the party, merely stating, “My master will reveal all to you in proper time…”

As the party moves closer to the temple complex, it becomes apparent that disease is rife within the community, as more and more makeshift pallets and sick beds become evident. People have naturally migrated towards the temple for healing, but it is obvious that the facilities they have are unequal to the task at hand. Jarvus appears to be headed to a cluster of tents set up on the temple grounds that is acting as a triage area. The smell of decay gets stronger as Trish realizes that many of the people who are here were among the first infected, and therefore the worst afflicted. Many will never see another sunrise.

Jarvus brings the party to a halt, and says a quick blessing over them. Trish feels an odd sensation of warmth steal over her as he finishes. “That should prevent you from any ill effects from being this close to the infected. Please, enter.” Jarvus says sadly as he pulls the tent flap open for the group to enter. Trish is aghast at the effect that the disease has had on these people, and in such a short time. Here, a man is writhing in pain as priests hold him down while they try to remove a black fungus that is growing on his body. There, a woman is keening while holding a baby that will never grow to run and play to her breast as she gently rocks. She turns to her left and finds her vision is blocked by a huge bear of a man who seems too large even for this enormous tent. He extends a hand, “Well met heroes, I am Kyle Bonesetter. I regret that we meet under such circumstances, but I fear we are on a verge of a crisis that must be averted if we are going to have a chance of winning this fight.” He moves gracefully to an area that has been set aside for the priests to work in between patients. “It appears that harpies flew high over the city under the cover of darkness last night and dropped a series of disease potions about the marketplace. The malady spread remarkably fast and is not currently contained. I would not trouble you with this information if it ended there.” He shook his head sadly, “However, I believe that the disease masters in Igmar’s employ are planning something much bigger…an all out plague.” He then explained how the followers of the mad god Drith can create a plague in a population that has already been prepped by an infection such as the one that had been caused by the harpy spread sickness. Trish’s mind wandered as she looked across the tent at the representative sample of the people who had been infected by this crazed plan. “Are there no depths that the Lazuri will not stoop to?” she wondered to herself.

A short time later, all of the preparations had been made for their departure. Trish marveled as she rode with the party, following a feather that had been blessed by the temple priests. It would lead them unerringly to the creature responsible for the town’s suffering. “And I will help make them pay”, she thought to herself grimly. She wished briefly that Jarvus would be accompanying them, but he needed to help Father Kyle with trying to contain the sickness within the town, or it could grow much worse than it already was. Windtorn would have been a boon companion as well, but he had his hands full assisting Capt Robart with the plans for the defense of the town. As the shadows from the trees lengthened with the death of the day, the feather began to falter, finally coming silently to rest on the forest floor. The party dismounted and began to head warily towards the direction the feather was pointing in. Trish couldn’t help but feel out of place as she followed the Yatahay, Two Feathers, as he flitted silently between the trees, scarcely making any more noise than Grimclaw, who was in his feline element…Stalking prey.

As they moved forward, Trish began to hear yelping speech, like a pack of wild dogs trying to converse in the common tongue of the land. The trees began to thin out into a clearing, and in the dying light, she could make out the flames of campfires and movement ahead. Prospero motioned for the party to gather together. “The enemy we have been searching for is in the clearing ahead,” he stated quietly. Grimclaw and Two Feathers cannot tell how many there are, but there are certainly more than a score of the creatures. Mostly Kurs and Varls”. Trish suppressed a shudder. Kur were slightly larger than a man, and something like a cross between a hyena and a man, taking all of the nasty qualities of both. The varl were even worse in some ways; smaller than Walac, hard to hit, and never acting in packs less than four. Tactics were discussed in hushed but urgent tones, and finally it was decided that Prospero would attempt to create a distraction at the entrance to the clearing, while the rest of the party attacked from the flank. A better plan couldn’t be decided on at short notice, and with the small size of their party. Each member of the party took a swig from the potion provided by Father Kyle. It was designed to help prevent them from contracting any disease thrown at them by the cult disease master; or so they hoped.

Prospero moved quietly off to the left, while Trish and the others moved towards the top portion of the clearing. Trish self consciously waited until last, watching the grace with which the others moved quietly through the brush. She got her first glimpse of the clearing as she followed Simon, trying to be as quiet as possible. There were lines in the ground forming the shape of a star, with an altar at each point. She recognized humanoid bodies lying lifeless on the top of each in a puddle of blood. A large central altar was in the center of the star, with a Kur, larger and more mangy looking than the others speaking to the assembled crowd. He was flanked by two slightly smaller Kurs on either side, their lips flecked with foam, and their eyes shining with the madness of a berserker. Trish looked ahead of her, and realized that she was falling behind. As she started to move again, she stepped full on a hidden branch, which snapped with a pop the echoed through the clearing like the crack of a lightning strike. She heard the collective intake of breath from the assembled crowd, as glowing dog eyes penetrated the growing gloom to look her way. “Well, looks like the sneaking around is done with now”, as she drew her swords and stood fully to prepare for the oncoming horde of dog men.

Sounding like a pack of hounds after a fox, the Kur began running towards the forest, with two of the ones closer to the edge reaching her. As the engagement began, she saw a flash from her left as Prospero summoned his “allies” who were to provide their diversion. Without further time to watch, Trish began weaving a shield of steel in an effort to catch one of the Kur off guard. The one on her right made a feint, and as she lunged forward, she felt the sting of a blade under her breastplate on the left and immediately after felt the jaws of the Kur on that side clamp down forcefully on her leg. In the middle of the clearing the Kur disease master called on his foul god to send assistance, and with a soul shriveling howl, four spirits appeared at his side where recently his personal guard had stood. “Your command, maasster?” hissed one of the evil creatures. “Intruders”, he said through clenched teeth. “Kill them. Nothing must stop our plans!!” The spirits slid across the clearing, each going to a different skirmish. Trish heard Simon coming from her right side to assist, as more and more of the Kurs and Varls came from the clearing. The Varls were yipping and barking violently, making it hard to concentrate on the attack at hand. She grimaced as she heard an explosion from the north. Two Feathers was making good use of the last of the Dwarven grenades he had been given by Prospero earlier. Suddenly, a feeling of dread came upon her, as she spun and saw a transparent figure slide through the brush. It reached out and its skeletal hand touched her. She froze and gasped as it sucked the life force right out of her. It felt strangely cold, which by contrast made the blood running from her abdomen and leg feel like molten metal. She screamed, and could feel as the spirit tried to pull everything that made her Trish out of her body so that it could take up residence there. It gibbered in her ear about all of the atrocities it would commit while inhabiting her body. She slashed at the spirit with her swords, but they simply passed through it like the wind through grass. One of her slashes took down a Varl that had strayed too close, but that was small comfort. More explosions rocked the area as Two Feathers depleted his stock of grenades. There was a rumbling sound, followed by the earth jolting as she cut down a few more Varl, moving away from the spirit, and staying just out of reach of its clutching hands. Moments later, she heard Prospero’s voice booming out across the clearing. “I’ve killed your leader, you will be next unless you leave now!!” She glanced towards the sound and saw Prospero holding the head of the disease master and walking towards the hole in the earth where the central altar used to be. Seeing their master dead, the surviving Kur and Varl took off at a full lope away from the clearing and the party. The spirits began to become more insubstantial as they drifted away.

Later, after the party regrouped, Trish found out that Prospero had thought to use the Staff of Earthquakes once he set his allies on the Kur to the south, and had caused the altar to fall in. He then killed the disease master when he escaped the devastation created when the altar was destroyed. Trish said, “I wish you had thought about that to begin with!” with a sardonic laugh. “Me too,” stated Prospero as he held up a mirror for Trish, “Then, maybe this wouldn’t have happened.” Trish stared in amazement at the shock of white hair that now nestled deep within her own flaming red locks.

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Air Temple Revisited

You awaken with a start just before dawn the next morning to the sound of alarm bells ringing in the streets outside your tents. Robart’s aide thrusts his head into your tent as you are pulling on your armor.

“The enemy has crept close to the Air temple under cover of darkness and is attempting to take the walls. The new palisade is slowing down the assault, but the militia is stretched thin! Robart asks that you make haste to the street of miracles while he shifts resources.”

You race out the gate towards the temple area and are met by a familiar sight. Two Feathers steps from shadows and trots easily alongside you, “Well met Simon! It appears yon militiamen were caught napping. 50 of our braves have come to the aid of Summerford. Come, let us join the fray, some of my brothers are already deep in the mix!”

The militia and Yatahay are manning the walls and fighting back a horde of goblins that are scaling the walls. The party quickly arrays itself in front of the temple altar to keep it safe. Suddenly a half dozen giant spiders scale the walls an begin to wreak havoc on the defenders inside. As Trish and Grimclaw charge to attack a nearby spider a section of the wooden palisade explodes as a band of enraged minotaurs crashes through leaving dozens of broken bodies in their wake.

One of the temple statuary pillars was weakened by flying debris and it came crashing down upon one of the spiders attacking Trish. She jumped away just in time, but found herself in the midst of the minotaur attack, the target of two of the hulking brutes. Simon cried out to his god an was blessed with unnatural quickness as he sped between the foe. However, the titans had another surprise for him. Whenever he struck with his sword or claw, he was blasted by a flickering black balefire aura that seemed to be hovering about his opponents.
While this stunned him for a few moments, he still had no problem vanquishing his foes.

Air Temple

As the party mopped up the remaining minotaurs a loud disturbance was heard outside the walls of the palisade as a cheer went up from the combined forces of the militia and the yatahay braves. A waves of arrows began falling among the goblin attackers and they immediately broke ranks and fled for the thicket. Fifty elven archers, led by warlord Dun Tallthorn, pursued them and inflicted heavy losses until the enemy fled back across the river.

In the aftermath of the battle, Tallthorn sought our Simon and Lasheur and introduced himself. “I am Dun Tallthorn and the gardener Anadan Mosswalker sends his regards. I have brought 50 elven warriors from Woodfort to lend their aid to our friends at Summerford.”

The party moved back into the fortress as carpenters and laborers to begin repairs on the palisade. Simon excused himself and stopped at the Bandar shrine to pray for the aid of his god in the comming struggle.

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Battle at the Summerford Bridge
An enemy patrol blocks the heroes return to Summerford.

You travel for a long day via well known paths from the Deep to the Farm. The homesteads are all quiet now and no smoke rises from their hearths, a sure sign that the settlers have heeded the warning and fled to Summerford or beyond. You decide to push on through the Farm in an attempt to make Summerford shortly after nightfall.

You approach the Temple Bridge when the horses pull up to a stop and become nervous. In the dim twilight you can barely make out 4 sets of red glowing eyes barring your way.

Th warg riding goblins leap to the attack but 1 dashes back into the thicket. As the party makes short work of the first wave, 4 minotaurs burst from the brush and charge at party. They are accompanied by another 10 warg riding goblins.

While their numbers are impressive, their skills are no match for the party and the Minotaurs fall under a hail of stone spears conjured by Prospero and the way to the bridge is clear.

Summerford bridge

After the fight you cross the bridge and journey through the outlying farms on their way to the Street of Miracles. The new wooden palisade around the temple is complete and manned by the Summerford militia – mostly farmers and homesteaders armed with weapons that are at best unfamiliar to them. There is no way these brave souls can stand up to the forces that the Lazuri have assembled and kept hidden in the thicket.

You report in to Robart who is relieved to see you. He is amazed at your tale and the recon data that you gathered. His face goes pale when you report the numbers and types of the troops arrayed against him. “By the black breath of Artol this is much worse than I feared! The Yatahay are here and the elves are on their way, but even with their help, it will be a slaughter. Perhaps it is best to evacuate lest we all find ourselves in goblin slave coffle shuffling off to Nyandra. I’ll not make such a decision in haste however. I’ll have quarters provided for you close to mine. I may have need of your council before this night is out.”

Windtorn stays behind to confer with Robart as an aide shows you to your quarters. The mood in the camp is grim, but determined. You retire to your cots, and fall asleep immediately.

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Into the Vale of Spiders
What is the nature of the lazuri force that passed through the vale

Date: 1/17/7551, Season of Winds Rise, Growth’s Week, Winds Day

You climb up out of Grey’s Canyon and make your way towards the vale of spiders. The Vale is nestled in a lowlands canyon that was carved out by a long dead river. You approach the canyon from above. One of the scouts volunteers to stay with the horses while you scout the Vale.

You creep up to the edge of the vale peer down on what looks like a massacre. The scout casts Farsee and scans the canyon floor. ‘It looks like Igmar’s army is on the move. We are too late to spy on them directly. However, the battle sites of the dead spiders probably hold clues as to the makeup of the force. If you can get me close to the bodies and give me time to study, we may yet accomplish our mission.’

Vale of Spiders

Prospero and Jarvus stood watch on the canyon rim ready to rain stones down on any attackers. As the rest of the party climbed down into the canyon using the ropes pillaged from the dead wyrms.

The remaining spiders ambushed the party a few times dropping from trees and emerging from hidden tunnels as the scouts assessed the battle scenes but Simon, Walac, Windtorn and Trish made short work of them.

The last battle site was guarded by a Spiderlin, a horrible, chaotic merger of giant spider and hobgoblin. The battle was fierce and Simon fell to the poison of his minions and was carried off by a giant spider. Windtorn cried out for Vorthod to and Simon was restored to the fight by divine intervention. Once the Spiderlin was put down, the scouts finished their assessment and the party fled the vale.

The scouts assessed the attackers as follows:

  1. 100 Goblins, 20 Hob-Goblins
  2. 100 Kur, 50 Varl, 20 Harpy
  3. 10 Ogres, 20 Minotaurs, 15 Manticores
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    Etar the Collector
    What mysteries await in Etar's Magnificent Menagerie?

    The party advanced into Grey’s canyon leading their horses over the more treacherous parts of the descent. The canyon floor was a thick mess of briars and brambles, but the game trail held true. In the center of the canyon, they came across a wide clearing with the ruins of a pool of some sort. Yet another lost journeyman site.

    The air was very stil and heavy with anticipation as the party cautiously made their way across the clearing. Prospero moved toward the pool for a closer look despite the urgent whispers of Jarvus to stay together.

    Midway across the clearing, the trap was sprung as the four statues that flanked the pool drew their great swords together in one synchronized, lightning-fast motion and held them aloft. The swords flashed with energy for a moment and a huge wall formed around the clearing, boxing the party in. The statues started to chant and weave arcane symbols in the air. Simon, Trishand Windtorndrew their swords and advanced on the arcane statuary.

    As they approached, what looked like a giant soap bubble emerged from the pool and began to drift lazily toward Trish. The bubble contained some sort of shadowy, ghost-like cat the size of a panther that sprang from the bubble to attack Trish with strange tentacles that crackled with eldritch wizardry. One of the tentacles struck Trish and white fire filled her brain as she stumbled back stunned. Walac moaned, “Cats! Why did it have to be cats?”

    More bubbles formed and floated across the confined battlefield as the party slowly pounded the statues to rubble. Prospero found himself enveloped by a newly formed bubble and was suddenly in close combat with one of the shadowy ghost cats. The silver sword Kindred made short work of the beast, but could not pierce the elastic skin of the bubble. A strange, sweet perfume filled the interior of the bubble and Prospero felt his mind fogging and filling with sleep.

    The party continued to hammer down the statues as more of the “collecting” bubbles issued forth from the pool. Prospero, still trapped in the bubble, was submerged within the pool which was really a water filled shaft that led deep within the earth. As the last bit of sunlight gleamed off the top of the bubble, Prospero spotted an imperfection in the surface and drove Kindred through it. As the bubble collapsed, the escaping air carried Prospero back to the top of the pool. He rolled over the lip of the fountain to safety just as a new bubble emerged from the pool.

    The party finished off the statues and the bubbles stopped forming. They soon dispatched the remaining bubbles and shadow cats at which point the enchanted wall also dissipated. Prospero noticed some 7th century Journeyman script on the pool that read, “The Magnificent Menagerie of Etar the Collector” and wondered what else might be down there. He had soon fashioned a rope around his waist, cast a breathing spell upon himself and gathered a large rock to serve as a diving weight. Trisha and Simon shook their heads but took up the rope, knowing that nothing short of bludgeoning him into unconsciousness would deter Prospero’s curiosity.

    Prospero drifted down through the pool until he entered into an air filled chamber with a single corridor leading from it. The end of the corridor was lost ot him in the dim lighting of this ancient, subterranean structure, but his did notice that the sides of the corridor contained deep alcoves. Upon investigating he found that one alcove contained a perfectly preserved specimen of a great winged stag. A second alcove contained a black warhorse with flaming red hooves and a saddle of solid obsidian. Before he could journey deeper into the strange place, he spotted a soap bubble advancing on him from down the corridor.

    Prospero fled back to the entry chamber, knotted the rope about his waist and hastily gave 2 tugs on the rope. Simon and Trish pull him up through the water filled shaft into the light of day. prospero immeidately noticed that the statues guardign the pool were halfway reformed. The party unanimously agreed that it was time to go, but not before prospero had the scout Marben craft him a crude map of this location so that he could find it some day in the future…

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    Feeding the Wyrms
    The party stumbles on a Lazuri supply train

    While pushing their way through a narrow game trail in the thicket the party heard shrieks of terror from large animals dying a horrible death. As they moved to investigate, a huge herd of elk exploded across their path and disappeared into the thicket. The group barely had time to dismount and hide behind a tree, keeping themselves and their horses out of harms way.

    Once again the party decided that their burglar Walac, should investigate along with Grimclaw. They crept to the edge of a clearing and spied 6 giant wyrms feasting on newly caught elk. Accompanying them was the lazuri Thang, Lord Igmar’s master of beasts. Grimclaw relayed the news to Prospero and the party joined them at the thicket’s edge. Simon noticed that the wyrms were loaded down with supplies, presumably for Igmar’s army.

    The party readied their best attacks and Prospero led the assault with a rain of stones that left Thang and his mount crippled. A hail of arrows followed and the wyrms spun to face their advancing attackers.

    The battle was fierce, but the party had the advantage and soon four of the wyrms had fallen. Thang and two of his wyrms escaped, with just a fraction of their supplies. Windtorn mused that the fallen wyrms would severely limit Igmar’s air support in the coming battle.

    The party restocked their stores from the captured supplies and then burned whatever they couldn’t use. Igmar would not profit from their charity.

    The party continued on into the deeps of the thicket throughout the rest of the day. As the afternoon was drawing to a close, the scouts Marben and Parian were arguing as they made their way back to the group. They approached Simon and Trish to resolve the dispute. It seems that Grey’s Canyon was approaching and the dispute was whether to travel two days deeper in to reach the rope bridge that spanned the canyon, or to use a newly formed game trail to traverse the canyon in just a half day. To their knowledge, no one had ever explored Grey’s Canyon.

    After some deliberation, the party decided to travel the game trail. They set up camp on the canyon’s edge while the scouts followed the trail for the last hour of sunlight. They returned at dusk stating that the horses should have no trouble traveling the trail. The night passed quietly and they began their cautious descent of Grey’s Canyon…

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