Kingdom of Isles

Din'dae's Journal 24
The Vault of Silence

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The walk up to the Vault of Silence was coincidentally a quiet one as all were still digesting the topics shared a short while ago. Curious how our lives have changed so much. It was not long ago that Khaine and I were merely trying to figure out what was next for us, what tavern to frequent, how to make a living… Now, now we are at the heart of plots both political and powerful. By warring factions and ancient evils known and unknown. We have been touch my mighty magics and seemingly become chosen by the gods themselves that I look back and think how small our lives once were. How simple. A part of me morns the loss of that time as I know there is no going back. At least not for me and wonder, not for the first time, for Khaine as well. We are both very different people now.

Skyyfang’s grip tighten on my shoulder as I too noticed movement ahead. I singled the others to hold as my bodyguard and I crept forward to get a better look. It seemed we were not the only ones with sharp eyes for as we approached serpentine speech could be heard and Aspari Warriors advanced from their hiding places to engage us. With my voice but not my words I swore at them in their wicked tongue and felt but rage and surprise when they replied back. It was clear these were not the barbaric Aspari we have encountered here. Their dress and speech was different and they had a look of a scouting party. We ended our dialogue as we drew weapons and met them head on. After exchanges of steal and spells we ended them as well.

They were indeed an advanced scouting party and seemed to show signs of having traveled far and of recent battles. Based on the journals we found, there might have been more of the them at one time. They were sent from their serpent city, again confirming the treat deep below, to capture Julivar and most likely try to find the portal room. Clearly that trek had dangers unknown and explains why the portal was so important to them. It is good that we have kept its location secret from everyone, including our allies. At least for now.
The entry area pacified we continued our way into the vault proper. The Vaults of Silence had been used as burial tombs for ages and the first room bore a sarcophagus of a fallen eleven hero. The place itself felt… wrong. There was an oppressiveness here that spoke of evil. Something very dark and dangerous inhabited this place and as always we proceeded with caution. Once in the first chamber Khaine looked at Ebonfang then called out warring. He pointed with his blade as he said there was undead in the sarcophagus. I had not known the Ebon Pool dipped blade could do that. It seems its powers are growing.

We surrounded the stone sarcophagus and readied to attack what sprang forth. With a little pushing I managed to get Moonshadow to shove the heavy stone lid off, revealing what lay within. As the stone slid aside a dark shade leaped to attack us. And it was not alone as other dark and twisted sprang forth to attack from the walls around us. Fortunately we had seen shades like these before and knew the treat they posed. Largely due to Grune’s channels and Khaine’s Moneva touched blade we were victorious will little damage to ourselves and able to send these twisted souls to their final rest.

Taking a moment to search this room we found a bit of history regarding this fallen hero, and a magical spiked chakram he wielded in life. The throwing weapon had Enmity scribed in elvish and instilled with magic that would making it a bane to monstrous humanoids such as the Aspari. Knowing what we faced I could not leave such a useful tool behind. I gave a prayer to this fallen hero and swore that Enmity would again serve The People and spill the blood of our most ancient enemy once more.
Moving deeper into the vault we encountered a level of traps of which I had not seen before. Both mechanical and magical in nature. While I have continued to hone my skills in this area there were still at the edge of my ability to detect and disable. Even then only with the aid of Skyyfang who I have been training in this art. My little bodyguard is becoming quite the little rogue as well.

Bypassing these traps we encountered new dangers on this level of the vault. First were physical undead whose bodies were stripped of skin exposing muscle and tendons. Their revolting stench aslo threatened to sicken and nauseate those close to them. They also could expel a batter of blood, bone bits and bile in a disgusting torent from their mouths. These revolting vampiric creatures certainly left us worse for wear and will certainly disrupt my dreams a for while. In the end they too were destroyed with significant effort, leaving only a pair of undead dire cats to guard a set of stairs going down.

With a wave of his hands and a few arcane words Almaran froze the undead cats in place as they pounced forward. This trick of his allowed Khaine, Moonshadow and I to easily destroy the bodies of these animated corpses. The battles now over we took the time to heal our hurts and take account of ourselves and this level. Only once we were certain the crystals we sought were not on this level did we delve deeper into this tomb of horrors, with Ari and Zort remain above to guard our exit.

Hoping the worst was behind us, but knowing that would not be the case, we headed down the stairs into the darkness below.

The lower level of the vault continued to live up to its name. The silence was such that I was completely aware of heartbeat and the sound of my breathing. So still was this place that I even could hear the others waiting in the room behind me. Grune most of all. The sense of wrongness was stronger here and had me on edge as I scouted further ahead. Again altering my eyes I moved in complete darkness unhindered. Soon the faint sounds of water dripping floated to my ears and a moment later to my eyes as I peered around a corner. The room I saw was large with an alter on the far wall and a 40’ pool of… thick… cooppery smelling liquid. Skyyfang began to tremble on my shoulder unsettled by this place. I could feel his discomfort through our link as well and I tried to send soothing thoughts to keep him calm.

A stir in the pool caught my attention. It was clear something was in there but when after a moment nothing revealed itself I returned to my companions and updated them. We prepared as best we could and moved forward. I lead the way keeping to the shadows this time with my allies a short distance behind me. When again I peered around the corner I could see the pool was moving and this time with the aid of the light approaching from Grune I could see the reddish hue to the brackish thick liquid. Instantly I know it was blood, and risen from it was another of the those skinless vampric creatures but this one had a the gleam of intelligence in its eyes and a smile of delight on its face. It did not seem to be aware of me, but was aware of my parties approach.

As my friends rounded the corner Khaine charged, as is his way, meeting the creature head on. Almaran began to cast and Grune realized we faced a the master vampire of thralls from above. It spoke and we battled with words as well as martial and mystical might. It moved with such speed that it closed on Grune and Almaran with ease. Khaine and I had to fall back to give our mystics room to cast and heal. After a few hits we started to get the better of it and it fell back and around a corner. Khaine went in pursuit and I with Moonshadow went the opposite way to cut it off. Or so I thought.

This chambers entrance was a T section hallway that lead to this same pool area. We had followed the right side passage originally and I now raced back and down the left. However for the second time today we were mistaken in thinking a creature was alone and we were surrounding it. Two more of its thralls were actually with it and sneaking up this hall. Had I not headed down this path they would have surprised Almaran and Grune, as well as cut off our escape.

These creatures presence had an immediate effect on the battle, turning it from a route by the Alliance to a desperate stand. In these close quarters their vile auras were stronger here and immediately both Moonshadow and Khaine become nearly helpless with nausea from them. Grune trying to help Khaine closed to cast a spell but also fell victim to the debilitating since of wrongness that emanated from them. Only Almaran and I, with heroic effort, were able fight off the effects of these unnatural auras.

Alamran kept his distance and began a summons while I, surrounded, tried to stay alive. Taking a defensive combat stance I focused more on keeping their attention and not getting hit. The former I did very very well, the later not as well as I liked. Still I was able to buy the time Almaran needed to summon positive energy beings from the planes and allow Khaine and Grune to fall back. The battle was a close thing with the outcome uncertain and possibly going to either side even in the last moments.

Fate continued to smile on us however as the summoned creatures slams took their toll on one of the thralls as I finished the other. And even as the master tried the get to Almaran, with numbers again in our favor and it already severely damaged by Khaine, the Alliance was able to put an end to this monster.

The battle… was over… and victory… ours!

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Din'dae's Journal 23
Souls Time Matters

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The pre-dawn morning was crisp and invigorating. Despite what we faced I felt strong today. Invincible under this ever brightening sky that was surely a herald of hope and reminder that even the darkest nights end. Even the song of the dawn sparrow seemed like a trumpet, inspiring us to new heights with each note.

It was thus that we started our day, gathered in secret in that span of morning twilight. A heroes breeze upon us as we readied to depart. I breathed it in deeply with a smile on my face and I knew I was ready to slay any foul creature of this world or any other. Yes… its was a good day. Even the others sense it, as I see them smile at each other and exchange knowing looks too. Yes… this day has been blessed and great things will happen. Great things!

Hmmm why are my companions laughing? I think I missed a joke. Wait… was I musing out load?

Ahem… my companions…um… joy brought me out of my revere and indicated they were ready to leave. As planned Almaran teleported us to an area we had traversed before that was near the temple vault. Already this saved us hours of travel and provided no trace of our departure. Once we arrived in that part of the city we began our hike towards where our mapped indicated the vault should be. As we walked my companions inquired about my nights rest and while I initially responded in the positive their frequent commentary started to sour my mood.

It was then I heard a voice and felt myself repeat its words as I pointed with Windsplitter in the direction of a large Monolith. Khaine seemed concerned but all followed me as I lead them to the base of this mountainous pillar. It was natural stone over 60’ high and more than 80’ across. Atop it stat a structure of seamless stone with no windows or doors. In front of where I was drawn to was a plaque. In turn Aranion and Fel’Emil explained this was the tome of Vacara. A place of reverence and a moment should be spared to honor her. I agreed with them and shared that with my companions. Together we offered a moment of silence for her.

After the moment was given, I felt pleased and prepared to continue our journey when Khaine called a stop. He again looked concerned and I was not sure why until he spoke. Although the Seven had only recently revealed themselves to me they have been a part of me for some time and feel as an extension of myself. I shared that with the group and in hearing my words could understand their concern. I had just admitted to voices in my head, a fact that should give any true friend pause.

With all that has happened in a very short time frame this fact had slipped my mind to share. I took a few more moments explained Windsplitter is an Ancestral Weapon, containing the life shards of bonded wielders who have died while still joined. The Seven, as I call them are mere echos of what they were and note true spirits. Their goal is to provide wisdom, mentorship and guidance to those that come after. Khaine still seemed a bit doubtful, Almaran seemed intrigued and Grune… impressed. The dwarfs are no strangers to communing and honoring their ancestors and he had heard of such things. I assured Khaine that they only wanted to help and that even Aranion has come around to me associating with non elves. He thought Khaine was not a useless human and learned to appreciate that his soul tempered that of the orc hero ages ago. It lead to the first true peace between THE People and the hordes. It was a big complement if you knew Aranion as I did.

Khaine started to reply, stopped and then seemed to ask something else. He was curious what that dream we were in had to do with the ancient orc hero. I explained it was not a dream, that our souls time walked and we were actually in those bodies. Also a part of our personalities remained so that our acceptance of other races helped temper that of the host we were in. Our step back actually created this branch of time we now inhabit…

“What the hell are you talking about!?” was Khaine’s reply. Frustration clear on his face.

I explained I had personally come to this truth when The Seven revealed themselves to me and it was confirmed by Grae’core’s words. Also it is why I have a bond with Aranion and items he owned. I was him for a time. I paused and before I could speak more Almaran and Grune, who both seemed to understand, took up the narrative and tried to explain to Khaine. Almaran I noted was now the one who seemed impressed and quite excited about the subject matter.

After about 30mins, several dirt drawn illustration and Almaran confusing us all with talks about Newtonian’s law of physics, my head began to swim with the concepts. I could see my good friend had also reached his limits. There was glimmer of understanding in him yet it was still shadowed with disbelief. I knew Khaine would need to process this on his own, and I knew he would need to hit something very soon.

Fortunately… conflict was literally around the corner.

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Din'dae's Journal 22
Know Thy Enemy

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Having secured the portal stone of Honest Trade we made our way back to camp. The fight at the Merchants vault had nearly exhausted our daily stores and we were eager for some rest. As we arrived at the cliff looking down into the city we saw a group fleeting the merchant distract with enemies in pursuit. Upon further inspection we could see it was members of our faction at the waters edge with others we did not recognize rapidly boarding rafts and trying to push off. While most of us were too far to aid, I sent Skyyfang out so I could get a better look through his eyes, while Almaran summoned a huge water elemental to discourage the pursuers and aid our allies in the crossing. The mystic then took flight himself to help our allies while the rest of us made the long trek over land back to camp.

Once returned we were updated on the situation. Captain Dalon and the Golden Lions were attacked by the Red Orcs and Brotherhood. They were nearly decimated but with the help of our allies some were able to get away and make it to our camp. Taking them in was the right thing to do however Dalon’s orders were to capture Khaine and I for treason. A fact that was not lost on him or us. Still there was little threat of that matter at the moment and more pressing engagements soon presented themselves. The Nord King was to meet with the Boss this very eve as was the leader of the Brotherhood to meet with Osond and the elves. Both the Boss and Osond sent word that they wanted us to attend their meets. Deciding the Alliance needed attend both meets we decided to split up to have representation at each dinner. Almaran and I with the elves leaving Grune and Khaine with the Boss. Ari opted out to attend other matters.

The Meets were clearly politically fueled and while I cannot speak much for the Boss’s Meet, our introduction to Dusk, the leader of the Brotherhood, was… unsettling. Arrogant and cocky he maybe it was clear he was a dangerous man. There were powerful magics about him as well and although he only had two guards present, I knew there were others close by. We exchanged veiled threats making clear our dislike for one another as well as our respect for the threat each poses to our individual faction. That particular dance done, he then re-focused the conversation on Osond and offered an official truce and joint venture. He sought the aid of the elves and the Muse to assault the Government district and clear out the Aspari theat there once and for all. The elves would get to keep any artistic artifacts while the brothhood would keep anything else found.

Al and I exchange questioning looks at the offer as Osond stated he would take this request to the Muse for her ruling. Dinner proceeded with Dusk making comments to show off is knowledge of our camp. Some of it was a bit stale but not by much. It also felt like he was doing some fishing as well. Perhaps to verify bits he was not sure of. We gave him little to work with, making our distrust of him very clear and the conversation soon ground to a halt. It was then he made his leave as pleasant as one could be.

We conferred in one of the few walled structures in our camp with the others and I asked Cassandra to join us for added insight into Dusk who was aware of her defection. Grune and Khaine shared their thoughts on Ottin, King of the Nords the largest man they had ever seen. At nearly 9’ tall it was clear had the blood of giants in his veins. His size aside there seemed to be an real opportunity to turn him against the Red Orcs and Brotherhood. That truce seemed to be a tenuous one that we might be able to put a wedge in. He has invited us to a feast at his camp in 3 days.

Almaran and I then updated the others on our meet with Dusk and Osond and of the offer the leader of the Midnight Brotherhood made. We all agreed it was a cover for their true ambitions to find an artifact. A sacred sword that Cassandra mentioned some time ago she thought Dusk was after. We had also heard rumor of powerful blade in hidden in the city and Dusk must believe is hidden in that district. An assumption I initially shared.

After more thought and wise words from Grune, we came to the conclusion that assumption is incorrect and such an artifact would most likely be hidden in the Temple district where it could be guarded by the priesthood. With that in mind we knew where we needed to head next. As a caution I also shared Dusk’s apparent knowledge of our comings and goings. It was clear he as eyes on us so we needed to take extra effort in hiding our departures and perhaps our arrivals as well. It was an easy agreement for all and Almaran said he would prepare teleports for our excursions from now on.

Business concluded we started to disband when Cassandra asked me to wait a moment then stepped aside to have a brief word with Almaran. The mystic looked perplexed for a moment and then agreed to her ask and used the Eye to look at her. He then nodded, which was all she waited for to then push him out the door and lock it from the inside. With a surprising shyful smile and sincere eyes she then approached me and said…

“I wanted you to know that it is truly I when I say that Dusk terrifies me and causes me to be fearful of what tomorrow will bring. That you have shown me a kindness and respect I have not often known. That I ask you to hold me tonight so that I would be close to you”

Locking her gaze I took her into my arms and… well… we forgot about the troubles of the world until dawn.

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Din'dae's Journal 21
A Merchant Web

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The last few days have been a surprising blur of events. First my companions briefed me on the Troubles at Home and of rescuing my uncle from the Grey Wolves. Also defeating and driving off the Aspari called Sissandra, exposing her plot to control the city of Akadimar. Also, even more disturbing, is that Almaran explained there was a new player in the mix. A very secret society called The Order of the Black Rose. They have been quietly hunting and killing witches for years with reasons unknown. A fact that he believed Thauth wanted him to know. What this all means and how this plays with the larger threat was still unclear. What was clear, however, was that this time of relative peace in Bantu Aspar was ending and the following days would again be full of peril.

The Alliance, whole once more, renewed our search for the crystals starting with the vault in the merchant district. The mysterious wanderer Ari’adne and her celestial companion Zort again accompanied us. An odd pair to be sure, with the Archon seeming to be the driving force behind Ari helping us as she does not appear to be a… um… people person. Still, her skill was needed as we tackled the merchant district vault and the foul creatures that lay inside.

The vault entrance was massive. A gaping yet slightly overgrown wound in the side of the mountain. It was nearly 50’ wide and 40’ high. As the norm I bade my companions to wait outside the entrance as armed with protective spells and taking mundane precautions against the midnight spores I entered this dark place. The tunnel was huge, still spanning 30’x30’ at is most narrow. The vegetation inside also was covered in ever increasing webbing. The combination made it difficult to see the walls themselves. As I made another turn, moving deeper into the cavern the light level dropped and I had to alter my perception to see in the dark. As I waited for my eyes to attune I heard a large shuffling sound. When I opened them I saw what seemed to be a 60’ length of the web covered cave wall detach itself and move in my direction.

I recognized what it was and abandoned stealth to quickly alert my companions of the dire beast that approached. Exiting the cave I shouted warning as I pulled my bow and mounted Moonshadow, immediately giving the cave mouth a wide birth. My enthusiasm to give space was catching and the others also were also giving ground as they heard something enormous approach. Like primordial creature of legend the colossal dire crocodile emerged from the cavern. It’s body was completely covered in webs with hundreds of black spots that moved around. It took a moment to see they were coin sized spiders. Its gate and movements were also odd and not a match to a natural creature, and perhaps muffled by the webbing by it was eerily quiet for its size.

Without a dire bat to set it against it was up to us to defeat this guardian of the vault. We launched a few flights of arrows at it but with its thick hide they had limited effect. Although the others had also back away the creature closed some of that distance and then… breathed a cone of spiders on Grune, Khaine and Almaran. The three where then distracted as they swatted at hundreds of spiders crawling all over their bodies. See my companions in trouble I rushed forward to grab the creatures attention. Ari hesitated a moment as she saw much of my blows get defected on the vermin infested creatures scales and see those same spiders swarm up my blade every time I hit their host.

Still our distraction worked… too well perhaps as the creature jerked its head at an unnatural angle to take several snaps at me and finally capturing my arm in its massive jaws. I had only one moment to realize the horror and was powerless as I watched hundreds of spiders spewed from its mouth, eye sockets and underneath scales to swarm up my arm covering and biting as they had my companions.

For what felt like an eternity I could hear was my race heart in my ears, and the chitter of the vermin on me. It took all my will power not to open my mouth as the spiders crawled over me as I desperately swatted away what I could. All the while waiting for the death roll of the croc that I knew would come. Tearing my arm from my body. It braced, then shuddered, then stopped moving. I heard words but the vermin were too distracting to pay attention to them, so it was a few more seconds of that torture before enough off of me for me to again take in my surroundings.

The creature was dead, or rather defeated as after some examination it was clear it died a long time ago. Its body animated by the thousands of spiders that inhabited its body. I had never heard of such things but Almaran had. He believed we were entering the material plane lair have an planar spider know as a corpse spinner. Also that there may be more defenders like this inside. A disappointing prospect to be sure.

With the sounds of battle stealth was no longer a priority so we entered together. We had only gotten slightly further in since my first scouting when we were attacked by vermin infested boggarts. These next round of guards not nearly was tough as the colossal croc, and while still a threat the close quarters worked well for Khaine and Ari who met out devastating attacks. And thus these guardians were defeated in short order. Searching the alcoves these guards appeared from rewarded us with the power stones we sought, yet deeper still we traveled until we met the master of this domain. Illgahari, the corpse spinner.

The intelligent creature spoke to us with arrogance and dismissal. It had killed countless souls over the centuries and felt we would be no different. In truth there was some concern of what we faced based on the thralls it created, but the world was at stake and we would not be thwarted. It was able teleport before and after an attack making retaliation difficult as it return to ceiling or wall high and out of reach. It could pick us off if we did not do something. It also used its webbing to great effect hampering our movement. I fact we made ensured to compensate for but aid those trapped as soon as possible.

It was Grune who turned the tied with a timely casting. Adding air to our steps we were able to walk and run across open space as if it were solid ground. This allowed is to close the distance on the foul creature no matter where it went. With heroic efforts we assaulted the creature and with a critical strike Khaine slashed through monsters abdomen causing a planar stone pop out and into his hand.

This battle was won, our goal achieved but the day was far from over…

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Din'dae's Journal 20
Then and Now

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Then…

…time seemed to pass slowly for me after my companions left on their away mission. While I knew they are more than capable it still bothered me I could not be there to watch their backs in Akadimar. A place Khaine and I once called home. Curiously, I do not consider it home anymore and wonder if Khaine still does?


For nearly a week I lost myself in routine and focused on the tasks before me. I made my normal security checks with those in the camp. Wandered around to familiarize myself more with this district, and with the elves therein. I petitioned the Muse through Osond many times but she remained in seclusion after drinking the waters of the Argental Font. I understand this is a tough time but we need to know where the lady’s head and heart are at. A storm is coming and she will be needed fore long. Also I feel it’s time the elves knew she was not a god so that they can have a chance at becoming more than they are. I feel particularly driven to help them reclaim their heritage. Their birthright.


Jhereg.png The bulk of my day was working with Skyyfang, my new companion. I have to say this little guy has the heart of a much large beast and perhaps the blood of one too as I am beginning to see traits not normal for his species. After a tense moment, he and Moonshadow also became fast friends. My Warcat seemed to be Skyyfang’s favorite cushion. Despite his small size he has quickly gone from my cub to my protector. At least in his mind. He is always on duty wary of any that approach me hissing at them if they get too close. Admittedly this amuses me much. Nik did not find it funny at all when Skyyfang flew at his face. The bard approached me while I was deep in meditation and his yells and swearing brought me out. While I down played it to Nick and apologized. I was very pleased with my new bodyguard and the scene still causes a smile to appear on my face.


elfasn2.jpg Interestingly Cassandra seemed to run into me often especially when I was training Skyyfang, who took to her quickly. We would walk the grounds together for a while or sit and look out upon the lake. We’d talk about the Hook some, as well as battles and foes but mostly… interesting… I can’t seem to recall specifics, only that I enjoyed the conversation. And her laugh, her real laugh not the manic one. Its quite musical really.

I must admit the days my companions were away had been the most peaceful in Bantu Aspar for quite some time. I prayed to the Slicing Wind and others of the Host that their mission went as smoothly as the watch here in my city.

Now…

… as the wise know peace is not lasting, and it had been a week since my companions left. A fact that no routine could keep my concern from eating at me. Still that was not the menace that plagued us. A sense of evil had fallen in the district and patrols, human and elf alike had begun to disappear leaving behind signs of battle and blood.

I was investigating one of these sites with Cassandra at the Square of the Elven Hero Jacra when she pointed at misty shades surrounding us before she fell spell bound and asleep. I readied Windsplitter expecting trouble when I noticed 7 ethereal tendrils coming off of the weapon. The ghostly tendrils ran across the ground and connected to the 7 elven apparitions before me.

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Former wielders of Windsplitter, The Seven , as I have dub them, have been part of what I have sensed in the blade but as yet could identify. They introduced themselves and I was proud to meet Aranion who I am twiced bounded to as well as Fel’Emil whose line I share. They had accepted me and wished to offer aid in the battles to come as they sensed a nexus approaching. A moment that would determine the fate of the sentient races. A moment they believed I and the Alliance would play a crucial part in. As they retreated back into Windsplitter, I was so stunned by their reveal and their vows to help that I did not notice the mood in the square had changed until I heard his voice. A chill hit me as I knew something wicked had arrived.

I turned to face the owner of the cruel and malevolent voice and saw a form both demonic yet oddly familiar. It had been aware of The Seven and listened to part of the conversation. Showing me its disdain for Aranion and house Vinchalla once the spirits had vanished. At mention of the first wielder of Windsplitter whose life I had walked, I recognized the creature. Grae’Core.

Red_orc_brute.jpg In ages past he was an Ogre in service to an Orc hero. An Orc hero whose life Khaine had walked. What was currently before me was no mere Orge however, powers of the lower planes had taken hold of it causing Grae’Core to look more demon than anything born of this our world. It spoke of the past and of its captivity, and what it planned to do to the elves. I could not let it pass, could not let it remain free. So with a deep hatred from somewhere deep inside me I launch at the creature meaning to end its threat.

Grae’Core was a powerful being, and his demonic aura was such of a profound wrongness that I have not the words to describe it. Only that It sickened me to even be near it. Also its thick hide was like stone and diminished Windsplitters bite while the swings the foul creature landed sank deeply into me. It took all Moonshadow and I had to stay toe to toe with creature and while I knew I was close to defeating him, he was closer to defeating me. Again the gods were kind to their chosen instruments as movement in the sky caught my eye and my hope renewed. With a grim smile I then worked to keep Grae’Core’s attention solely focused on me. I taunted and insulted and danced away until he realized I was stalling. What he had neglected to see until that moment was the approach of my companions. Of The Alliance!!

With rage in its heart it set to attack before my friends could aid but again I dodged. Then the light of Ospalar warmed my soul and healed my wounds as Grune neared me. Then Almaran summoned divine creatures to attack this demon, last but not least Khaine joined the fray charging the demon who blocked his blow but was now clearly on the defensive.

Invigorated by more healing from Grune I rejoined the fight flanking the beast as it exchanged words and blows with Khaine . It knew its time was up but fought ferociously. After a series of attacks from all, it was Khaine’s blade found an opening and sank deep into the creatures torso as if made the demon were made of soft clay. Stunned, Grae’Core looked shocked at how easy the blade was planted into his chest, but shock turned to surprise and horror is it seemed to recognize the sword. Coughing up brackish blood he uttered three final words before dying. The Oath Blade…

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GM Journal - Troubles at Home p4
DRAFT - Troubles at Home p4

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DRAFT

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GM Journal - Troubles at Home p3
Honor thy Blade

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The wall swings open and two strangers enter Winston’s secret work shop. Almeran does not lookup from the work table he has been at all day but Grune, who had been pacing, approaches the two new comers asking what they have learned. After a few moments their appearance changes as the spells disguising Khaine and Ingrid fades.

It has only been two days since the attempted ambush at the warehouse, and the city watch has been very active looking for them. While they could leave at anytime via Almeran’s magic, the warlock was determined to complete his work. Winston’s hidden workshop provided a perfect place for them to lie low and address the mystics needs. Only Grune had been truly stuck with nothing to do but wait as, using powerful scrolls of Seeming, Ingrid and Khaine had gone out into the city to investigate several locations from the intel they retrieved.

Their efforts confirmed that several warehouse’s have had additional off the books materials flowing through them. Individually it would not be enough to take notice, but collectively it was enough and of the type to support and resupply a large armed force. It also further pointed to the Grey estates as being one of the destination for the overages.

Ingrid_Red_Wolf_Agent.jpg Ingrid updated Grune quickly but her eyes never left Khaine who appeared concerned or conflicted. When Grune inquired what was the matter, it was again Ingrid who spoke saying word was spreading that Solomon Gru had returned and was planning to address the Blade Schools members tomorrow. Ingrid seemed to be repeating herself to Khaine saying he should stay away that this could only be a trap. She had to leave to leave to attend other matters and would return the following night and would help ferret out the truth when she return. Khaine simply stated he was aware of the potential risks and the importance of their current mission. Ingrid, not completely satisfied with his answer, departed.

It was mid evening when Almeran stepped away from his work and the three spoke of the last few days and of the even at the school tomorrow. After some discussion they decided that they would use the Scrolls of Seeming to infiltrate the school event as orcs. If Gru was back Khaine needed to speak with about his sword and the larger threat to the world. If it was clear it was a trap then they would simply leave. Grune, not thrilled about looking like an orc was the most excited getting out of the 10×15 stone box he had been stuck in. Fresh air and a stretch of his legs would do him good.

Their approach to the school was uneventful. Khaine had prepped them on where to meet inside and looking like orcs they entered the grounds with other students also there for the assembly. Heading through some back areas they made their way to into center of the compound and exited upon the mezzanine overlooking the “Heart of the School”. The training arena where students were taught and tested.

Orcmaster.jpg A number of orcs were there already and there seemed to be some mixed emotions. As the heroes got closer railing they saw why. Sitting upon the Masters Chair was Rugar, master of the brute spear, and standing just behind him was a red robed mage. Flanking the two and at several doorways and sets of stairs were orcs wearing the Grey Wolf armbands.

Khaine was about to indicate he and his companions leave when he noticed on the arena a figure was tied to the Blade Tree. Barely conscious, it was a severely battered and bruised Solomon Gru. Also dozens of cuts lined his face, arms and body from the leaves of the Blade Tree. He froze, again conflicted, as he knew this was clearly a trap but he could not justify leaving his master like this. Even a healthy warrior could be cut to death if he stayed too long under the branches of the Blade Tree. And it appeared that Gru was far from healthy.

It was an impatient Rugar that stood and settled the crowd. Addressing them he stated that Gru had dishonored himself by betraying the kingdom and allowing himself to be captured and put in this state. That he was disappointed that he would not be able to defeat him by combat as he will meet kingdom justice soon, but would take over this school none the less. If anyone had objection to this, they may challenge him now or keep their piece. Murmurs for and against Rugar’s words floated in the air and the Grey Wolves readied themselves for possible anarchy. It was in this moment that Khaine stepped forward and leapt to the grounds below and accepted the challenge. None seemed to recognize this orc, nor the black blade he carried. Rugar acknowledged at least one of Gru’s students had the orcish stones to face him, and that he would honor this brave warrior by making his defeat quick and asked him his name.

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Khaine_3.jpgKhaine looked at his master and then back up at Rugar and said. “I am Khaine, and the only defeat today will be yours!” With that Khaine willed the spells on him to end, not only ending the illusion, but the disfigurement effect as well. He stood in the in the Heart of the School as himself to the shook of all around him. Including his companions.

The Grey Wolves stared to move in on him until a bark from Rugar stopped them in their tracks. His impatience scowl now replaced with a hint of smile he declares that none shall interfere with this challenge. He then leaped down and after another verbal exchange between the two combatants they agreed that should Khaine fall his blade would be forfeit, but should he prevail that none shall touch him nor his master. The terms agreed upon they circled and then clashed.

Sylouette.jpg Grune and Almeran were still up on the mezzanine and trying to make their way to the stairs without drawing attention. They however noticed that while all the students’ eyes were on the battle below, the Grey Wolves and the Whisper Mage were scanning the crowd intently. Almeran tried to cast Charm spell on one of the students but was notices by the red mage who pointed him out. From her hiding spot below Sylhouette stepped out and fired a shot at the disguised warlock, taking the arrow shaft in the chest. The disguised Grune stepped up to heal him which got a crossbow bolt fired at him. The nearby orc student didn’t like that his “comrades” where being attack unprovoked and set to defending them.

Seeing Sylhouette, Almeran was worried their might be more hidden dangers. He played up the “wounded orc” routine and used the eye to see if there were any other threats. All threats seemed as they were but bound to the Blade Tree was not an orc, but an elf with silver hair. Before he could get the words out could see another arrow speeding his way. A smile on Sylhouette’s face as she appeared ready to say something. In a moment inspiration Almeran refrains from using his gloves and lets the arrow connect. Pain erupts in his shoulder has he cries out. Sylhouette’s smile fades and is replaced by a slightly confused look as she quickly goes back to scanning the crowd whisper “that’s not him, where’s the witch!?”

The gamble worked, she was expecting him to catch the arrow and confirm his identity. Taking the second hit only further infuriated the other orc students who were now either trying to leave or get to the Grey Wolves. During this distraction Grune healed Almeran and overheard him “whisper” to Khaine letting him know that wasn’t Gru under the tree it was Din’dae’s uncle, Silvermane.

In the arena Khaine was pressed hard, Rugar was much faster and agile than he expected. He darted in out making well placed attacks before sliding away from Khaine’s counters. When Khaine was able to take Rugar off his feet, the spear master when just tuck and roll away, spring back to his feet before Khaine could follow-up. Khaine had dealt some respectful blows to the spear master which only seemed to delight him as Rugar hungered for true contest of skills.

However, respect aside, Khaine also knew that Rugar was getting the better of him. He doubted he get take another hit from the spear master, and felt he would need one lucky stroke or two to best Rugar. The pair had separated again, circling and sizing each other up when a ray of energy assaulted Khaine sapping a bit of his strength. Both he and Rugar looked to see that the whisper mage had cast the spell and was preparing to cast another. With a roar of anger Rugar pulled and through a javelin at the red mage, hitting him in the leg. The spear master yells at the mage to stay out of his fight and then looks to Sylhouette and tells her to control her pets lest he end them.

While that exchange was happening Khaine heard Almeran’s words whispered in his ears. He told the young blade master what he saw and that all was not as it appeared. Khaine nodded and as Rugar turned back to face him he decided to take a gamble himself. Rugar, for all his posturing appeared to be acting honorably. He even inquired if Khaine was able to proceed after that mages dishonorable attack. This behavior was very different from that of the Grey Wolves and his conviction about Gru was such he doubted the spear master know that was not him.

Ignoring the pain he was in he stood up straighter and attempted to appeal to this orcs honor. He told him that was not Gru, but an elf of the watch. That he was being deceived. He paused for a moment but believe this was merely a ploy to avoid defeat he attacked with Khaine defending. Again Khaine stated what he knew and said “you know you don’t trust that elf, and I bet she served up this plan to you.” That stopped in his tracks. Khaine had hit a nerve and pressed on calling out how “that elf” and the baroness were playing him and many others for fools.

Rugar’s spear tip lowered a bit as he considered. Trying to think through Khaines words and other events the young blade master could only guess at. Almaran, seeing the spear master pause, dispelled the illusion that surround Silvermane. Shocked orcs student fully rebelled then at being deceived and Sylhouette shouted in rage “It IS You!!” and sent arrows flying at the mystic. The first one he caught with a smile and the second missing with a bit a “traveling”. Rugar, seeing truth of the captive disengages from the fight saying to Khaine “their dual is not over, but this fight is not his”. He then leaves the arena floor.

With the students now attacking the guards and his charade now over, Almaran cast a spell and temporarily ruins the mind of the Whisper Mage. Sylhouette had consumed a potion of invisibility and was trying to stalk closer to the warlock. Unfortunately for her he was still under the effects of the All Seeing Eye. As she attempted to close the distance he looked right at her and with anger and irony in his heart cast a spell and robbed her of sight. Surprised she lost her footing and fell to the arena floor. While Grune made his way to Khaine for healing, Almaran continued to unleash his magical might on the elven archer.

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Black tentacles sprang into being grabbing her and a few others nearby. At that orcs stopped rioting and starting fleeing the area. Sylhouette continued to wail as still blinded the tentacles slowly began to crush her. Her wailing of anger hit a crescendo of pain when the warlock called forth a searing column of light to strike her as she grappled ineffectually against the magical tentacles. As the light fade silence reigned and the heroes realized they had won.

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GM Journal - Troubles at Home p2
Players and Plots

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After a few moments of Almaran explaining what he experienced, and Grune clearly seeing the physical effects on his mystic companion, Almaran convinces them to sneak out despite curfew and the late hour. He’s driven to validate if this was a portent of something to come a vision of an actual event.

Through various means the three make their way Low Town and find the herblist shop. They are surprised to see the watch already there, and three bodies being pulled out and placed into a wagon. One of the bodies was very small and the sheet covering it was bloodstained. Almaran unable to let this drop the team carefully investigate more over the next few hours.

What they learned was that a pair of Grey Band Loyalist had caught movement going into the back gate of the herbalist’s garden. One stayed and watch the shop while the other went to report the unusual activity. It was not long when Grey Wolves and a few more watch appeared. They broke down the door expecting to fine insurgences and found the dead bodies instead. The two adults were desiccated with black roses on them, while the young girl seemed to be have been attacked by an animal. Further validating it was not a dream, but with no other course of action it was just after dawn when the three return to the inn, again by various means.

Grabbing a late breakfast, it is near midday when Ingrid puts in an appearance and speaks covertly with the three. She arranged some black market trades for a few of the items they needed to sell as well as connected Alamaran with Winston so that he had a safe house for working on his ring. Grune and Khaine, then made their way to the Temple of Ospalar, as they had told the gate guards, and sell less attention getting trade items along the way.

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Enroute to the temple district Grune and Khaine failed to notice they had picked up a tail but did see they had gotten the attention a pair of Loyalist and a Grey Wolf. Like the gate guards, they were eyeing Grune and the gear he carried. The three city watch approached, clearly trying to provoke Grune and all but ignoring completely ignoring Khaine. It would seem the magic that had disfigured him was enough dissuaded much scrutiny. Grune, showing a great deal of patience and diplomatic tack, constantly countered the guards attempt to provoke to the point THEY were getting frustrated.

Silvermane.jpgIt seemed they were about to escalate their attempt when an elven Lt. of the watch appeared suddenly indicating that he was asked to retrieve a cleric from Dwarfwatch for the Temple. Grune said he was that dwarf, and allowed the elf to lead him and his “servant” away, much to the chagrin of the Loyalist whose eyes greedily lingered on Grune’s gear.

They walked a short distance away with Grune not sure what to expect from this guard. Khaine was keeping his head low but recognized the elf as Din’dae’s uncle, E’lour’ahn Silvermane, and a bit of a foster uncle to him as well. After a safe distance away Silvermane turned to Khaine with a rue smile and commented about his looks, and then asked about his nephew. Khaine was a bit surprised that the elf could tell but Silvermane explained that while Khaines features were modified, his gate and mannerisms were mostly the same. He also noted that after following them for a mile he saw that he was dropping in and out of character. In those moments “out” he could not help but see the boy he knew so well.

He gave him some tips on how better to disguise his demeanor as they continued their talk in a small tavern. It was also there he shared details of the current state of affairs, much he was very impressed the two already knew. Khaine also assured Silvermane that his nephew was fine but not in the city. He would pass word to him if he liked. They talked for a bit longer before depparting with Silvermane asking the master dwarf to keep both his boys safe. He then embrace Khaine, telling him not to do anything too stupid or dangerous. They both smiled as they parted ways, knowing it was a jest given the way things currently were.

White_Lotus_Insignia.pngThe following day, in the warehouse district, Almaran is leaving with Winston from the arcanist secret workshop. Mentally exhausted the last two days have been a bit of a blur with much to consider. While Ingrid is a servant of the crown, Winston works with her more as a free lancer with other primary interest that Ingrid supports in trade for his aid. An interest that Almaran and Winston now share. Uncovering the truth behind the Order of the Black Rose and why they are hunting and killing witches and warlocks.

The_Barroness_Gray.jpgThe away team had been laying low since yesterday while the mystic crafted his ring. While on the way back to the Silver Talon after complete his day two effort, he and Winston see the streets are full and a large escort is passing by. It is the Baroness and her entourage. She had ten hard faced Grey Wolves and two of the Whisper Mages. Also closest to her was an exotic looking raven haired elven archer, and two broad shouldered helmeted soldiers with short swords on their backs. The Baroness herself was a beauty. Charismatic and smiling she waved at the people as she passed. The general feel from the crowd indicated she was highly regarded.

Feeling that the Aspari were playing a part in these troubles at home, Almaran could not help but use the Eye despite his exhaustion to “look” at the Baroness and those close to her. In so doing he confirmed the groups fears. The magic of the eye pierced the illusions around the Barroness and her two broad shouldered guards revealing them to Almaran for what they were. Like Celia, the Baroness was indeed Aspari and both magically and mundanely disguised. Also, and more surprising, was that her two personal guards were actually planar creatures called Astral Stalkers. They wore armor and a pair of short swords on their backs, but by the clawed hands and look of their dark skin Almaran could now see, he was sure that gear was mostly for show. They gaze of a Whisper Mage looking right at him caught his attention and he and Winston quickly lost themselves in the crowd. Almaran needed to back and tell the others.

That night the heroes talked but were unsure how best to move forward with this news. While the situation was bad it was merely one battlefront and they needed to get back to Bantu Asparr if they were to win the war. As they debated, Ingrid arrived asking for a favor. Since the coup, and the arrival of Sylouette the Red Wolves had been working in cells to protect their network from completely collapsing. One of the cell leaders missed their check in, and has not been seen. She needed to heroes to retrieve some intel he had stored in a secret compartment in a basement of a nearby warehouse. Their was a festival the next day so businesses in the area would be closed early. The heroes agreed and made their plans.

It was dusk when the heroes began their stake-out of the building, waiting for all the workers to leave. The sound of music voices floating faintly in the air has the spring festival picked up revelers int he distance. Once deemed quiet enough Almaran turned into a rat and entered the building, while Khaine took to the roof tops showing incredible prowess and skill, leaping across a 15’ gap to land steathfully on roof of the target building. He paused a few heartbeats before descending through a skylight. He realized that it was completely dark in there on he could not see the bottom. Also that if there was anyone in here, he was plainly visible hanging there. With no indicator from Almaran and no better choice, he descended into into darkness.

Khaine slowly made his way through the darkness, briefly startled by a rat crawling up his leg. He nearly swapped it till re recalled that was the form Almaran had taken. He waited watch the creature and barely made out it gesturing to move forward. Hoping this was indeed Almaran on his should he made his to covered metal floor hatch leading to the basement. There they waited a bit longer for Grune and after what seemed an eternity the dwarf used the key Ingrid had provided and entered one of the doors. He found his way to the others and with no signs of trouble or trap, the three descended below ground.

Once below ground the cellar was only 20′×20′ and seemed to be storage for mundane supplies needed to repair equipment in the warehouse. Ropes, pulleys, oil and sawdust were among the most obvious supplies. Not wanting to waste more time than they needed to the quickly found the hidden cache of intel and quickly perused it. So of it was in code, but with Almarans knack for understanding languages they were able to see the pattern. Apparently there was a larger amount have materials and supplies flowing through the city with much being routed to Gray Manor. For further proof however they needed the ledge from the office above as well as from from 4 other locations in the city. Khaine looked at the summary and saw that if they could get this proof, it could mean there were still large companies of armed forces pocked throughout the island. These supplies would help them lay low until needed and with help from the Baroness on the inside…. Khaine let the thought go unfinished as the three moved to claim that ledger and get out of here.

Sylouette.jpg When the topped the cellar stairs they were not alone. Sylouette, the female elven archer and one of the leaders of the Grey Wolves was waiting for them. She wanted the intel they retrieved and for them to come quietly. Khaine said no to both request which got him a deadly aimed arrow in the chest as she called out her hidden companions. The sound of wooden crate lids hitting the floor began to echo in the building as the fight ensued.

Grey Wolves began pouring out of crates packed with herbs and spiced oils as Sylouette feinted attacks to fire misleading shots into Khaine and Almaran. Almaran quickly cast his 30’ tall Blind Barrier spell to try control the slightly confined battle while Grune healed and dealt with a human Grey Wolf who was trying to run him through.

The Blind Barrier had mixed effects with some resisting and others not as the bravely jumped through it, but did at least provide some time as assailants paused with indecision of what to do first. Khaine met the Orc Grey Wolves blade to blade, revealing himself in the process. Almaran turned into a spider to both better avoid Sylouette arrows as well as annoy her. Both attempts were fairly successful but things started to turn when a Whisper Mage entered the fray. Almaran new this mages could communicate over long distances so the likelyhood of more guards arriving just increased.

Khaine was taking big hits but Grune kept him up and as such Ebonfang was meeting out devastating damage and dropping opponents. Almaran moved back to his companions and warned them that they needed to leave as they would surely have company soon. Feeling they were on the clock, they dispatch the remaining Grey Wolves while Sylouette got away. They quickly claimed the ledger and fled the build. The sound of watch whistles could soon be heard in the distance as they ran off into the night.

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GM Journal - Troubles at Home p1.5
The Dark Traveler

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It is after curfew, as a hooded figure scrambles from ally to ally trying not to be seen by the city watch and the diligent Grey Wolves, several times considering if leaving their companions sleep at the inn was wise. The note had said to come with all haste and alone, so the traveler knew this meet had to be kept secret regardless how trusted the companions were. At least for now.

dark-side-street.jpgUnfortunately not as versed in the arts of stealth the mystic used magics to aid them, as well as relying on HER guidance to get safely to the meet. Though there were a few close calls, the cloaked figure arrived at their destination. A local herbalist shop on the border of Low Town and the harbor district. The shop was closed at this hour but the contact, the shops proprietor Jasper, lived in the flat above. The building had a small backyard with a 8’ stone wall surrounding it. A rare amount of space in this part of town. This was ideal for Jasper as the herbalist grew much of what he needed for his shop her. Cloaked figure seeming familiar with the layout entered through the back gate and moved through the garden. A dim candle light could be seen flickering inside the flat above but all else was eerily dark and quiet. Almost muffled in a way. Something was not right.

Arriving at the back door the Mystic was further concerned to find it slightly ajar. With a reassuring pat on their component poach they entered cautiously into the shop. Immediately low sobbing could be heard, as if from a little girl, from the upstairs flat. Thoughts of the shop owners niece Gayle came to mind and the mystic called out to announce themselves. The young girl above called in return that her uncle was not moving and looked wrong. Throwing caution to the wind the cloaked traveler moved up the stairs to fined a deathly sight. Jasper, who had called this meet, lay on the ground like many others who practiced the Arts. Body still and desiccated he lay dead on the floor with a black rose, still moist with dew as if freshly cut, lying on his chest. Gayle was only 8 years old and was sobbing over Jasper’s body in shook, nudging the deceased trying to rouse him.

Truly alarmed the Mystic calls to Galye and tells her they need to leave NOW, but before the child could answer a woman’s voice is heard from the balcony.

“Leaving is not an option as the trap is sprung and you are in it little mouse!”.
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barghest.jpgWith that two Barghast entered the flat from the balcony door, and a woman in a hood and veil floats down from the sky behind them. It also feels as if the shadows solidified into some mystic barrier. Dampening sound and possibly escape.

The Mystic instantly raised a defensive wall of ice cutting them off, and attempted to teleport away with the child but was being blocked by some unseen force. The barghast, being planar creatures, were able to teleport past the wall as well as their mistress. Cornered the Mystic dug deep preparing for what truly would be the fight for their life.

First Meeting of the Travelers

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  • Spells of flame, and hexes flew, charming effects and sleeping too, thus Black Rose and Mystic battle ensued, the life of two souls depending.
  • Well conceived was this dangerous trap, and so hard pressed the Mystic was strapped, but fortune smiled as it hap, for this Mystic began to Travel.
  • A monster stopped and Black Rose fell, through Travelers moves did Mystic prevail, but Travel too did the Shadowed Veil. Alarming was this encounter
  • Minions defeated the shade appeared surprised by Mystics knack, yet the Mystic could not withstand the full might of this Dark Travelers attack.
  • So from victors hand was survival snatched, by shadowed form that grabbed and grasp. To the scraps of life Almaran did clasp, but the darkness came regardless.
  • Though he felt life fading and pain was real, as life ended a clue revealed. For it was not his soul this shade did steal, but an agent of the Louts.
  • Alamaran wakes with a start, sweat on his brow, fast beating heart, drained and clear he used his art, he knows he was in battle.
  • Yet as he recovers still in his room, with these images in his head and a feeling of doom, the effects still with him, mind and body swoon. He calls out and confides in his comrades
  • Though tragic was this violent scheme, and the pain for Almaran was mostly dream, important to learn, it would seem, of this mysterious Dark Traveler.
  • This sight of chance, though sorrow wrought, was to reveal a dire enemy of Tauth. The cost was high, but hope not for naught, as HER chosen is now aware.

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GM Journal - Troubles at Home p1
Troubles at Home p1

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After wishing the Argental Font to be beautifully integrated into the Artist District the heroes worriedly await the arrival of The Radiant Muse. While wording the wish as best they could the Muses nature is still fairly fickle and unpredictable.

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The wait seemed longer than it was but soon the now familiar figure of the winged matriarch of these elves could be seen flying with intent. Red faced and clearly angry she first lands near the exposed glass pyramid that represented the roof of the newly created Sun Temple of Ospalar.
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The elves nearby instantly drop to their knees as their “goddess” walks the perimeter of the structure, her hand gliding lightly along the glass surface. By the time she arrived back where she started her mood had changed. Anger replaced by a mild curiosity as she then turns to the “Outlanders” and purposefully approaches.

By the time she stood before the party Osond had arrived (at a run) catching up to his mistress. A look of concern on his face. The heroes were respectful with Din’dae and Grune leading the conversation and explaining briefly the effort of finding this lost temple and wishing it to a place where its beauty could truly be appreciated. Even Khaine and Almaran joined in adding tale of the wonderful mystic fountain in the chamber below and Khaine gesturing to the new entrance in a large stone pillar that led below ground. A brief pause, and it felt as if all held their breathe waiting her response.

“Show Me!” she commanded and immediately without insult Khaine and Almaran turned and led her down the stairs with Grune, Osond and Din’dae trailing behind her. All relieved that their plan was working so far.

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The after walking down the stone steps and through the restored hallway the are greeted by tranquil sounds of the fountain as they reach the temple itself.
ArgentalFount.pngAll were captured by the splendor of temple. Although they were nearly 50’ below ground, at this time of day sunlight filled the chamber with a prism effect from the glass pyramid to paint the walls in spots of color. The Muse moved in wonderment at the beauty, turning about slowly as she entered and eventually making her way to the fountain which seemed to have a rainbow hanging above it. Khaine was the first to speak saying that the Alliance thought it fitting that she be the first to drink from the waters here, to christen and bless this site of beauty. Before she could reply Din’dae produced a golden bejeweled goblet, filled it with the waters of the Argental Font, and on bended knee offered it to the Muse. Again there was a long pause, as she seemed to take a half step back from this pressure to drink. Osond seeing the moment in jeopardy offered to test the waters for her if she was concerned.

This was the push that she needed as she snapped at him for presuming she was concerned. See declared the honor SHOULD be hers and took the goblet and drank it down. At first she seemed pleased with herself and about to say something when her demeanor changed. She seemed stunned for a moment but recovered and turned away from the party. After a few deep breathes she turned back group, the edge of madness was gone from her eyes and tone of voice as she spoke. A single tear ran down her cheek as she spoke. She had a more regal barring and her words were measured but you could still hear a touch of sadness in them.

She first looked to Osond and said “you have served me better than I have desired for the fear I’ve caused you all to live under. I may never be able to repay that loyalty but I will endeavor to”. Then she looked at the Alliance and thanked them for clearing her mind of the madness with the waters of the Argental Font. Some of her memories were returning, including the loss of her sisters and her bouts of mad violence. While the pain is greatly dulled thanks to the waters magic, she would still need some time to process in peace. She would speak to them once she was ready. With that she glided out of the temple and departed for her aerie. Osond, bowing deeply to the Alliance before following behind her.

Breathing easier that the plan worked and the Muse was cured of her madness, the alliance considered their recent hard earned victories and planned their next steps. The Argental Font was reclaimed and a threatening faction defeated. Although there was a dangerous portent from Almaran of time running out, the Alliance decided they needed to take a few days to best prepare for what lay ahead of them. Aided by Almaran’s magic they would teleport to Acadimar for supplies and intelligence. Grune and Almaran would run point on this away trip with Khaine accompanying them as bodyguard and support. Din’dae opted to stay and watch over their gains in the Bantu Aspar to help ensure things will be stable upon the away teams return. Din’dae was concerned of other Aspari’s making a move or even the Midnight Brotherhood and Red Orcs.

A course agreed, they debriefed with the Boss, getting some valuable if dated intel. Also a name of a contact called Ingrid, and a sealed message for her. They pack some trade goods, and got a good nights. First light the following day they gathered. Din’dae wished his companions safe travels and warned his closes friend Khaine not to do anything too stupid and to keep his head on swivel. And on his shoulders as he and Din’dae were still wanted for treason by the Kingdom. To help hide is identity, Khaine stowed is Weldlander Armor and Ebon Fang. He traveled in simple leathers with his bow and kukri. Grune then cast a curse on him to disfigure his facial features. Din’dae made a few jokes but admitted Khaine no longer looked how many would expect him to. Satisfied they were ready the three gathered close and Almaran worked his arts.

Ancient_stones.jpgIn moments the three were somewhere else. Almaran had taken them to a place he had camped over a month ago just outside of Acadimar. A set of ancient standing stones he was oddly drawn to but never figured out why. They were in the foothills and out of the way so did make a perfect entry point for their return to civilization. The small group hiked down to the road from Dwarfwatch to the city and locked in their plans for entry and cover stories. A few hours outside the city they could see thick black smoke. Grune and Khaine knew that this far out there was nothing but homesteads and lone cottages. Grune wanted to investigate, but Khaine was insisting they needed to stay on mission. Almaran was the deciding vote and the three moved off the road along a trail that led towards the smoke.

War_Trolls.jpgThey heard screams and crying as they approached with caution. Through the treeline they could see a pair of War Trolls, terrorizing a family of four. The home was on fire with one troll holding up the body of very bloody man in on hand and resting on his great sword with the other. The other troll was verbally tormenting and toying with a mother wielding a dagger trying to protect her two children. Both trolls were laughing and enjoying the sport with one mentioning in the tongue of giants that “they were right, picken’s are great here”. Having seen enough, the heroes sprang into action. Khaine had never faced trolls before but the tails he heard never mentioned they wore armor and wielded arms. Grune and Almaran had heard these and warned that they are military and often used as personal guards or elite soldiers to evil leaders.

The trolls met incoming heroes quickly, one of them unceremoniously releasing his hold on the father who drop like a ragdoll to the ground, clearly dead. The war trolls true to their name fought with some cunning and battle awareness, trying to use their reach to go advantage. They also quickly recognized Grune and Almaran as casters and moved to circumvent Khaine to attack his companions first. Khaine was able to keep one from advancing while Grune and Almaran wer forced to deal with the other. While the heroes did bleed in the battle, through power of arm and spell and moving to a new now, they were able to defeat and destroy two creatures. They secured the area and after a brief talk with the mother escorted her and her children to a neighboring farm before continuing on their journey.

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Although delayed they arrived at the city gates at sunset. Almaran had taken Khaine’s magical items and shape changed into a bat. Then flew into the city to meet up with the others at the Silver Talon Inn. Grune and Khaine moved up the line with Khaine playing the role of servant to the dwarven cleric.
Tatooed_Mages.jpg As they neared the gates Grune noticed a mounted man in red robes. Upon further study it seemed this individual was casting detect magic and scanning those entering the city. Khaine was glad he had opted for Almaran to take his gear as and orc sgt named Kah-gul with a grey wolf armband proceeded to give Grune a hard time about his gear. Grune conveyed that he was Cleric of Ospalar from Dwarfwatch and was on a pilgrimage to her temple here in Akadimar. This got them grudgingly through the gates with most focus on the gruff cleric and little attention to his big deformed servant.

Once in the city, Khaine could not help be feel a bit nostalgic and at least a little pleased. The last time he was here the city had suffered a surprise attack and was licking its wounds. That was a few months ago now and most signs of damage had been repaired. The city was well on its way to seeming normal and busy. Save for the very obvious guard presence who would randomly stop people on the street, especially of those people were well armed.

Silver_Talon.jpgMoving with purpose and with Khaine’s knowledge of the city they make it to the Silver Talon and join Almaran at a table. The place is clean and frequented by the lower middle class. Mostly merchants and warehouse workers mangers and owners. Once there Khaine asks for a particular beer, the innkeeper seems surprised but says they are out of stock to which Khaine gives the appropriate counter phrase. The innkeeper then heads in the back for quite some time while other food and drinks are brought out. When he returns he returns to serving patrons at the bar only.

Ingrid_Red_Wolf_Agent.jpgAfter an hour a plain faced but athletic looking barmaid comes from the kitchen, drops down some drinks at a separate table, then approaches the heroes telling them their room is ready and leads them upstairs. Once in the room with door closed she deftly draws a blade and has it to Khaine’s throat before the others can react. She demands to know how they learn the pass phrase. Khaine waves off Grune and Almaran saying this treating is to be expect, with hands out to his side he gives his name and a quick recant of the The Bosses words and that he has a message for her. She looks into his eyes to get s sense of motives and to determine if he was bluffing. Seemingly satisfied that he is who he is she steps back with her blades disappearing back into her clothing. She then says “all clear” and a mage named Winston appears in the corner of the room.

For the next few minutes they gave official introductions and compared notes. Mostly Ingrid brought them up to speed on recent events in the city as that was the current focus. She stated while trade has picked up martial law is still in effect and the Knight Marshall’s private guard are increasing in number. Rumors are floating in about monsters in the countryside but nothing is really seems to be done about it. Also that members of her organization are specifically being hunted. The Grey Wolves seem specifically focused on counter intelligence activities. There are two leaders to this group, and elven woman known as Sylhouette. The other leader is Rugar Tooth-Slayer, the Master of Spears. They’ve had to work in smaller cells to protect themselves which has greatly hampered the level and speed of intel gathering.

The heroes state their mission and needs here, and that their planned stay will need to be brief as they are preparing to face a significant threat in the lost city. She understands and shares the message from the Boss included directive to help the heroes any way she can, but to not jeopardize her cover. Winston will provide a safe place for Almaran to work, and she will handle acquiring and selling through her contacts. This should limit exposure. She strongly encourages Grune and Khaine to make their trek to the temples as they said to the gate guard. The Marshal’s men have proven to be quite thorough and will surely send someone to follow-up.

With that she and Winston depart, the mage turning invisible before she opens the door. She laughs shouting “you’ll need more coin than that boys” and slams the door behind her. She can heard laughing and complaining to herself as she walks down the hall.

With that the heroes ponder in silence, wondering just what they have come home to.

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