Hethrack Ascendant

Blood and Sand

Mid Winter, Yule week, 2011 LC

The heroes deduce that the Royal Arena is somehow the source of the Hethrack cult activity in Endra.
They sneak into the arena sublevels and must fight their way through the monster pens as the arena monster handlers are cult members.
Along the way they meet and befriend a bugbear gladiator who joins them.
Secret passages lead to caverns under the arena where they find a temple of Hethrack.
A naga guarded part of the passage, but she hated the cult and was only there because of a gaeous. After subduing her, she gave the party clues to pass through to the temple propper.
In the cavern temple the cult was gathered for a ritual and preparing to unleash monsters on the crowd gathered in the arena for a Yule pagent.
The heroes battled and slew the temple guardian, a large hydra, and the cult cell leader, a gauth beholder kin and another deciple of Ghadra.
Responding to the disturbances in the arena, a platoon of Royal Guard and a senior agent of the Royal Investigators arrived in time to help with the mop up of the cultists.

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The Radiant Angel

Mid Winter – Yule season, 2011 LC

A clue in the Book of Hethrack leads the party to investigate one of the pleasure boats operating out of Endra harbor, the Radiant Angel.

The Cult of Hethrack had infiltrated the crew and were using the pleasure boat as cover to dump the remains of their victims in the lake.

While investigating, Dorn grew suspicious of a man among the passengers who seemed to be up to some covert business. When fighting broke out however the man joined his steel with the companions to battle the cultist crew members, including several suicidally murderous deck hands and a cleaver wielding cook.

The captain turned the ship’s golem rowers on the heroes and Nial nearly set the ship aflame with a fireball in the cargo hold/rowing deck.

Before they could corner the captain however, a passenger turned out to be a mutated werewolf cult member there to secretly keep an eye on the operation. He killed the captain to prevent his capture then fought the companions to the death.

After dispatching the cultists and putting out the fire in the hold, the heroes examined the remains they found for clues.

Bloody broken bones chewed on by creatures being secreted out into the lake meant that they couldn’t get them out through the city gates. Therefore the cult temple must be inside the city, somewhere where a large number of prisioners and monsters wouldn’t draw a lot of attention.

Somewhere like… the Grand Arena.

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Rooms Available. Inquire Within.

Mid Winter, 2011 LC

A series of disappearances leads the party to investigate a hostel that turns out to be a kidnapping operation for the cult of Hethrack.

See a video of play here (Warning. Mature language):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJmd3QopD5w

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Habius Corpus

Early Winter, 2011 LC

Gnash and Thistle are hired by Bellonna Portarro and Skelleth, representatives of the city Necromancers and Morticians Guild to retrieve the body of a dancer from a country village. The villagers and their matron; a stern and powerful priestess of Khemerin; have other ideas though.

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Meanwhile On the North Road

Late Autumn, 2011 LC

Gnash Grambler; a gnomish wanderer; and Salvia Divanorum " Thistle "; a young Moordrel warrior woman; are riding with a caravan through the Raven Woods from Drathariea bound towards Endra.

The caravan is attacked by kobold bandits who make off with the cash box and a few crates of valuable goods. The caravan master informs Gnash and Thistle that if they want to get paid for this expedition they’re going to have to track the bandits back to their lair and retrieve the valuables.

Eventually the pair find and raid the bandit lair, and retrieve the stolen goods. Most of the kobolds are slain in combat, but the leader; Chief Six Dog Slayer; and his shaman henchman escape.

The lair turns out to be a forgotten, multichambered burial mound of an ancient Ghalkick chief, Vorith Gray Wulf of the Wind Rider clan. After defeating a hunting grick and some very old and brittle skeletal guardians, the gnome and the woman take some ancient finery as prizes as well as a curious war trophy of the long dead chief. The trophy lain at the dead chief’s feet is a large stone head, broken off at the neck as if severed from a statue or totem. The head has a savage, stone age look to it, and depicts an otherwise human face with long fangs and a snaking tongue.

When they eventually reach Endra, Gnash and Thistle seek out the city’s center of higher learning to inquire about the ancient chief and the strange stone totem head. They learn that the Wind Rider clan were great “explorers” from Moordrell in the Age of Legends, and that they battled tribes of fearsome savages in the region known today as the Wylde Woods.

The Wylde Woods savages were a scourge of the region for centuries, and they raised many gruesome and monstrous stone effigies to forgotten, bloodthirsty gods that still stand today in the deep wilderness. These savage tribes were wiped out mysteriously ages ago and little is known of them.

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Year One
How our story began and how we got to where we are now.

Three Lanterns Inn

Late Winter in the year 2011 of the Lyiertian Calendar.

Our story begins with the chance encounter of our principle players in the Three Lanterns Inn, a roadside inn between Rilth and Kherrain on the eastern edge of the Old Gods Wood.
Graazt the hobgoblyn mercenary is currently between jobs and on his own, having parted ways with his clan and company for undisclosed reasons.
Matalina Twix is a promising young mage in the old traditions from a village near the Old Gods Wood. Having learned all the spells she could from her mentor, a local mage and wise woman, she has just set off to learn the ways of the world before someday returning home to become a village wise woman herself.
Niall is an Endran battle mage just released from his contract of service with the Endran military. Now on his own, he is eager to seek his own fortune.
Revis is a self proclaimed holy warrior of Hondour the Law Giver and believes himself to be the avatar of one of Hondour’s divine host. A bit of an unstable personality, Revis is never the less obviously touched by divine gifts. He has “cast himself into the wilds” in order to perform his God’s works.
Talos is a Rilthish assassin fleeing north after being double crossed and marked for death by his own guild. Friendless and with only the possessions he has on him, he must make his own way in the world until the day comes when he might return to Rilth and settle the matter.
Thorn of clan Iron Hammer, from the dwarven home of Bragen Dour in the distant north, had just finished his junior apprenticeship as a professional burglar and trap maker. Touched with a bit of the old wanderlust, he has set out to see the world and make his fortune.
Our players did not know each other at this point. They are eating dinner in the common room when the Inn is invaded by a desperate band of escaped criminals. This ragged collection of gallows bait were on their way to the capitol city of Kherrinar and the King’s justice when an accident broke open their prison wagon. They managed to slay their guards, gather some weapons, and make their way to the inn. These thieves and killers were attempting to rob the inn and its’ patrons at sword and crossbow point when our heroes stepped up.
Short work was made of the criminal scum and each one was dispatched. On the advise of the innkeeper the heros gathered up the slain guards weapons, and the slain criminals heads, and returned them to the local keep for a reward.
After that it was agreed that they would travel together, at least for a while, and they made their way north to Kherrinar.

The Trouble With Kobolds

Early spring, 2011 LC.

On the road to Kherrinar the players encounter locals who warn them of a nest of kobold bandits who have been raiding farms and waylaying travelers. The players manage to locate the kobold’s lair and after negotiating their way through traps and ambushes put paid to the bandits.

Emerald Hill Memorial Cemetery

Mid spring, 2011 LC.

The party makes contact with a man looking for adventurers to help him with a problem. He tells them of a villainous necromancer who is a thief and a murderer and offers them a reward for his head. It transpires that this man was once part of the contact’s order and that they would like him sorted out before he causes them undue troubles.
The heroes track the evil necromancer to his lair in the crypts under the Emerald Hill Memorial Cemetery. They fight their way through the necromancer’s undead creations, encounter ghosts of the Battle of Emerald Hill, and eventually slay the villain.
During the course of the adventure, Graazt is granted possession of the sword of Sir Velomnyn, a hero of the historic battle, by the ghost of Sir Velomnyn himself, with the single caveat that Grazzt must return the sword to Sir Velomnyn’s living heir should he ever discover whom that may be.

Fox Hunt

Mid spring, 2011 LC.

On the road back to Kherrinar, after leaving Emerald Hill, the party is waylaid by Kelleg and his orc bandit friends. Before violence can ensue they are interrupted by the sudden arrival on horseback of the legendary Fox. She chastises Kelleg then offers the heroes and bandits alike a hand full of jewels to throw off her pursuers. They all accept and moments later Baron Vennet De Trallen and his knights arrive in pursuit of Fox. The group’s attempt to throw the Baron off the trail only succeeds in slowing him up a bit, but he informs them that any help in capturing Fox will be richly rewarded while anyone aiding her will earn the personal enmity of the Baron himself and likely the King’s justice as well.
(The players debate briefly about helping the Baron and gaining the reward money when Jason (Thorn) comments, “We’re just getting started in our adventuring careers here, and I don’t want to get a reputation for being the one who narked on Robin Hood.” That settles the debate quite nicely.)
Shortly after arriving back in Kherrinar the party is accosted by Tamern De Trallen, the Baron’s son. He accuses the party of being bounty hunters in service of his father and warns them to stay away from his lady or else face his steel.
The party is able to calm Sir Tamern and assure him they are not in the Baron’s employ. They learn that Fox and Sir Tamern had a brief affair and that because of this Sir Tamern broke off his betrothal to the daughter of another lord on the eve of their wedding. The bride-to-be’s family and Sir Tamern’s father the Baron were furious and everyone blamed Fox whom, to be honest, did steel some of the wedding presents.
At this point Sir Tamern implores the party to aid him in his quest to find Fox himself so that he may profess his undying love and devotion to her. The party agrees, if not for love then at least to try and sort this mess out.
After wandering the streets looking for clues to Fox’s whereabouts, they players spot one of the pieces of jewelry Kelleg got from Fox on the road. Kelleg and Fox obviously knew each other somehow, so the party tracks him to a brothel where they corner him for questioning.
Kelleg knows of an exclusive, members only, underground club that Fox sometimes appears in when she is in Kherrinar. He’s not a member, but he knows someone who is. A Thieves Guild member named Thelbin Moneth.
Thelben agrees to get a couple of the players into the club in return for a favor. His partners in a recent heist have double crossed him and if he can’t sort the situation out quickly he will lose face in the guild. The double crossers are holed up in a safe house with the prize from the heist, a Lyiertian bust of Emperor Kardanis V.
The party raids the safe house, slays the double crossing thieves, and returns the bust to Thelbin. Thelbin then gets some of the players into the club as his guests.
They don’t find Fox in the club, but they do meet Sarath Kaavras, a sometime associate of her’s. After some convincing, Sarath agrees to arrange a sort of meeting with Fox. He tells the players to be in a certain ally at a certain time that night and to be ready for a fight.
After they arrive in the ally and set up for an ambush, Fox appears by dropping into the ally from a rooftop. She’s a bit surprised to see the people from the road the other day, but agrees to a proper meeting with them later if they help her out now.
Some people are chasing Fox. She tells the party to let the first one, a mage, pass, but to stop the warriors following him from pursuing her any farther. Then she sprints off down the ally. A moment later a mage on a flying carpet appears over the ally. An arrow from Fox somewhere in the distance gets his attention and he takes off after her. Moments after that the sound of hoof beats announces the arrival of a group of hill tribe warriors following after the mage.
After a brief but tense fight the party manages to dispatch the hill men and they then return to their rooms at a local inn.
The next day a knock on the door to their room turns out to be Fox. The party explains the trouble with the Baron and his lovestruck son to her. Fox is a bit surprised by the news. She had not figured that Sir Tamern would abandon his betrothed and take off after her, and that this would cause his father the Baron to pursue her with such vehemence. As it transpires she is currently in the middle of an entirely different situation and trying to unravel a plot against the kingdom by some very powerful conspirators.
Fox declines the players offer to aid her directly in the conspiracy plot, but asks them to watch over Sir Tamern and run interference with the Baron for her as a personal favor until she can sort things out.
A few days later, after some running around and misdirection, and it is the wedding day of young King Gellen Lormar and his bride Lady Amella. Kherrinar is in festival mode with thronging crowds of spectators and well wishers and the players are right in the middle of it. They are following Sir Tamern who has gone to confront his father who is attending the royal procession.
After the wedding the carriage carrying the newly wed royal couple is at the center of a parade when all Hell breaks loose.
A powerful archmage, his apprentices, henchmen, and their allies, hill tribe rebels and a dragon, attack the royal procession. The mages use carefully prepared spells to disable the royal wizard and clerics while the hill men ambush the royal guard. Then the dragon swoops in for the kill.
Just as all seems lost, Fox and her companions (Sarath and his allies) appear and counter attack the conspirators. They cast carefully prepared counter spells to break the hold over the royal wizard and clerics, freeing them to fight the dragon and bolster the royal guard. Then the battle is joined in earnest.
Amid the roar and chaos of battle, with panicked crowds stampeding in all directions, weapons clashing, and destructive magics and dragon fire bursting all around, the players see Sir Tamern sprinting to be at Fox’s side and running right into a knot of bloodthirsty rebels. Mindful of their promise to keep him safe our heroes rush to Sir Tamern’s aid and find themselves in the thick of the fighting.
At the battle’s conclusion, Fox and her companions slew the archmage and his henchmen, the players saved Sir Tamern, the royal guard broke the rebels, and the royal wizard chased off the dragon. The king and queen survived and battle was won.
Afterwards the king officially pardoned Fox of all past crimes in Kherrain and named her and her companions Heroes of the Realm and Defenders of the Crown. Though how long this will last for someone like Fox, no one can say. Baron de Trallen was furious at having been denied his vengeance on Fox, but the king would have none of it and commanded him to leave her be. Fox had a quiet conversation with Sir Tamern and gently persuaded him that they were not meant to be and that perhaps he should meet his betrothed, a beautiful, spirited, and wealthy young noble woman. Also she suggested that the passionate and forthright Sir Tamern would make a much better Baron than his father someday.
For their part in all this, the players were awarded gifts from the king for their participation in the battle, and a debt of gratitude from Fox for their help with the troublesome nobles.

First Encounter with the Cult of Hethrack

Late summer, 2011 LC.

After spending the summer in Kherrinar, the party decides to travel east. Wishing to avoid the main roads around Rilth, they instead make their way through the countryside of Kherrain looking for the path to Treth Rasathk.
Along the way they encounter villagers burning a farmhouse. When questioned the frightened villagers tell them that the family here was brutally slaughtered in the night and that hideous tokens and blood painted symbols of monstrous faces were found at the scene. Fearing demonic activity the locals put the place to the torch.
The players learn that this was not the only incident recently. Locals and travelers alike have been attacked and gruesomely slain by monsters and/or mad men in growing numbers of late.
The players decide to investigate and eventually trail some of these mysterious attackers back to their lair in a ruined keep well off the beaten path.
They discover a group of crazed men breeding monsters such as cockatrices, fire beetles, and displacer beasts. Their leader was a feral man who transformed into a murderous owlbear before attacking.
In the heart of the lair the players found a bloody pit and a gruesome effigy made of the bones, claws, horns, and teeth of dozens of creatures all bound together to resemble a monstrous face, the face of Hethrack the God Monster, Lord of Fang and Claw.

Entering Treth Rasathk

Early autumn, 2011 LC.

At the eastern edge of the Kherrainen farm country, where fields give way to woods and the stony foothills of the Blade Mountains, a simple country road bears a sign:
BE WARY
HERE ENDS THE LANDS OF KHERRAIN
BEYOND IS GOBLYN COUNTRY
Of course, these being civilized goblyns, it’s not so much their lives travelers here need be wary of as it is their coin purses.
Over the next few days the party negotiates their way through a gauntlet of goblyn hucksters and shake down artists until they arrive at the goblyn city of Treth Rasathk. Here the meet Sally, a young goblyn girl who works as a Candle Jack, a sort of guide in the goblyn city.

Second Encounter with the Cult of Hethrack

Early autumn, 2011 LC.

The party meets a goblyn mercenary down on his luck and shunned by the locals, who never the less has a good lead on a big bounty. Unable to take down the target on his own, the party agrees to help him in return for a split of the bounty.
When they reach the target’s hideout in a mountain cave they must fight their way past several crazed followers and a wyvern before reaching the target, an ogre with strange magical powers to command and heal his pet wyvern.
After dispatching the ogre and his wyvern (again) they discover a journal where in the ogre dictated his visions to his followers. The journal is very cryptic and difficult to comprehend being the dreamy visions of a mad man as dictated to another mad man, but it is obvious that the ogre and his followers were another cell of the Cult of Hethrack.
Notable is the journal’s mention of the likely cult leader, Ghadra, and his disciples who were sent to roam the lands in preparation for Hethrack’s return.

House Skull Cruncha’

Early autumn, 2011 LC.

Expenses are eating away at the party’s funds so they are on the look out for work when Sally mentions “The Test”. It seems that from time to time in Treth Rasathk, certain factions in need of adventurous help will sponsor a sort of trial. If you can find the trial area and make it through successfully, you can then petition the anonymous sponsor for the job.
Sally leads the party to the door of The Test and the players successfully pass through several traps as well as destroying the undead guardians animated from the bodies of “previous contestants”. In the last room, in a master locked and trapped chest, they find a medallion with the symbol of fanged jaws crushing a skull. Sally tells them that this is the symbol of House Skull Cruncha’, a merchant company of orcs and goblyns.
When the party gets to House Skull Cruncha’s compound and present them with the medallion, they are met by the orc Boss Grumbar, his son Gragak, and his goblyn partner Kavrath.
House Skull Cruncha’ wants some documents stolen from House Zauveryith, a rival drow merchant house.
The party breaks into the drow’s compound via a sewer tunnel Sally’s kobold friends found for them. The drow bosses are away at a meeting that day leaving only a hand full of guards and a junior priestess to overcome. A riddle hidden in scroll work on a chart table in the master merchant’s quarters asks, “How do you discover whom is really in charge?” Pressing the word buttons, “follow… the… money” reveals the secret door to a safe room and the documents.
The party take the stolen documents to Kavrath at a trading house where House Skull Cruncha’, House Zauveryith, and a third unknown party are meeting inside.
Later, after receiving their payment, it is agreed that it may be time for the party to leave Treth Rasathk. The point is driven home when the players are ambushed by assassins trailing Talos.
Grumbar and Kavrath arrange to smuggle the party out of the city then have a pack of dire wolf “friends” lead them cross country to the edge of the elven wood which they can then follow to the Elden River.

The Trolls and the Trees

Mid autumn, 2011 LC.

The party have been skirting the edge of the forest of Sylvalurril for a few days, headed south east, when a stealthy figure tries to charm Talos one night. Talos resists the enchantment and forces the figure to reveal itself. Spring Dawn Light is a young dryad unused to dealing with people. She begs the party’s help. A pack of ravening trolls have set up residence in her father’s glade. Her father is the venerable ent known as Gray Root. He has been asleep in his garden for at least a decade and she is afraid the trolls will tear him to pieces before he can rouse if they discover he is not merely another tree.
Gray Root’s glade is in a cleft surrounded on three sides by natural walls of sheer stone.
The party sets up a diversion by leading the troll pack on a wild goose chase through the woods while they slip into the glade. They quickly dispatch the few trolls there and Spring Dawn Light sets to work rousing her father while the party throws up a hasty barricade at the glade entrance to slow up the trolls who return shortly.
The trolls smash through the barricade and attack just as Gray Root begins to shake off his torpor. The players are hard pressed at first, but once the venerable ent finally gets up to speed he becomes a tower of fury and destroys and scatters the rest of the troll pack.

Elmyrith

Mid autumn, 2011 LC.

Following the edge of the elven wood to where it meets the Elden River brings the party to the small elven trading outpost of Elmyrith. Here they interact with the locals a bit. Some get their first taste of elven culture while others attempt to get the measure of some visiting Halkainen military types with some “friendly” sparring.
Eventually they make contact with Ellem Nalavin and secure passage with his flotilla of merchant boats headed up river.

The Tower of Theldras

Mid autumn, 2011 LC.

One of the major land marks along the Elden River is the ruins of the Tower of Theldras. Raised by the elves in the Elder Ages, the tower was mostly destroyed in the Elven Kinslayer Wars and has been largely abandoned in the thousands of years since.
While approaching the tower our party intercepts a boat floating down river with its’ crew slain by arrows and sword. They decide to investigate and convince Master Nalavin to loan them one of his smaller boats and some volunteers to row it swiftly and deliver them to the river shore near the tower. There they discover another larger and finely appointed boat half sunken and concealed in brambles also bearing evidence of combat. The trail of the unknown attackers and their captives leads to the Tower of Theldras.
Along the way, Talos puts his skills to use and manages to ambush and make quick work of an enemy patrol. The foe are humanoid, but not of any race the heroes recognize. They are gaunt, with parchment like skin, fringed ears, and bearing weapons and armour of strange design. Unbeknownst to the party, these raiders are githyanki arrived in their world through the thin dimensional veil between the tower and other alien realms.
As the party make their way through the Tower of Theldras they encounter phantasms that give them glimpses into the tower’s history. At one point they they even find themselves fully immersed in the fateful battle when the sinister elven rebels overwhelmed the defenders.
Our heroes fight their way through a pack of yeth hounds and ultimately confront the githyanki paladin leader who accedes defeat after a vicious battle and retreats from this plain with her surviving minions.
In a locked room nearby the heroes find and liberate the githyanki’s captives. Among a handful of boatmen and servants are Lady Telatria Velomnyn a young noble woman of Rilth and her goblyn governess/bodyguard Skanath. They were headed for Endra and the royal courts there when the githyanki captured them to interrogate them for information on this world. The noble woman is impressed with her rescuers and gives them each a valuable gemstone as reward before proposing that the PCs take the place of her slain guards on the journey to Endra.

Greetings from Torsh Goth

Mid Autumn, 2011 LC

Just before entering into the Shadow Swamp the flotilla spots an encampment on the southern shore of the river. Figuring they should ask of news of the infamous swamp the PCs elect to go ashore and investigate. As they draw near they spot a standard in the center of the camp. The standard depicts a black gate made to resemble a sharp toothed mouth flanked by towers on a red background. The royal standard of Torsh Goth!
The party considers turning back when some of the now visible orc soldiers hail to them and invite the PCs to entreat with them. Wary but intrigued, the companions agree to accept the orc’s hospitality and sit down to supper with them for a bit of a chin wag.
The heroes learn that these fifty or so orcs lead by an orcish knight and a sage of Grimdakka are on a mission to gather intelligence on the region for their young kingdom. They are under strict orders not to raid and plunder while on this mission (unless “provoked” of course, they’re still orcs after all), so gladly sit with their guests for an exchange of information.
The two sides share stories of their travels and adventures as well as anecdotes about their homelands and peoples. The orcs of Torsh Goth are very proud of their kingdom and take the opportunity to boast of their advancing civilization and their new found “sophistication”.
When asked of the Shadow Swamp the orcs tell the companions that they only scouted the outer edges of it and found it to be a dismal and foreboding place. They did not explore more deeply because their sage said that he only saw visions of death and despair without even an opportunity for glory for their expedition when he meditated on the Shadow Swamp.

The Shadow Swamp and Shadowguard Keep

Mid autumn, 2011 LC.

While attempting to make haste through the Shadow Swamp on their journey up the Elden River, the shifting course of the river through this treacherous region brings the flotilla within sight of a massive, dead, and evilly twisted tree on a dim, gray, fog shrouded day.
The ghostly forms of a dozen tormented looking elven women appear, bound by phantom chains to the tree and begin an unearthly wail. This choir of banshees strikes unnatural fear into the flotilla and heralds the approach of undead shadows who march out of the fog, across the surface of the water, to attack the flotilla on all sides.
Some men are lost to the heart stopping wails of the banshee choir and the life draining touch of the shadows, but the heroes manage to rally the crews and fight off the shadows just long enough for the flotilla to make its’ escape.
Once through the swamp, they stop at Shadowguard Keep. The keep is an outpost of the kingdom of Caldain, built to keep watch over the border of the swamp and to act as way station for travelers on the Elden River.
The PCs report the shift in the river’s course and the danger of the Banshees’ Tree to Captain Tevaran of the River Watch. Later that day while recuperating from their ordeal they are confronted by Brother Kembith the keep’s veteran army cleric who insists that they accompany him and a platoon of soldiers into the Shadow Swamp to put an end to this deadly danger. The heroes agree but manage to convince the gun-ho cleric to wait until they’ve had an opportunity to gather some intelligence before returning to the Banshees’ Tree.
Tevaran tells them of Dalarin, a local elven ranger and suggests he may know something about banshees, being an elf himself. The companions find Dalarin at one of his camp sites at some nearby ancient standing stones and ask his help. He agrees and tells the PCs that he will meet them the next night in Shadowguard Keep with some companions of his own.
The next night Dalarin introduces the party to Veyallara, an elven priestess and scholar, and her companion and defender Ferandelath, an elven warrior.
Veyallara informs the group that the Banshees’ Tree is a sinister remnant of the Elven Kinslayer Wars much like the Tower Of Theldrass, though of a different aspect. The tree is in fact one of four “Elder Trees” that were a sort of shrine for the elves during the Elder Ages. The rebels destroyed and desecrated the shrine during the war eventually leading to the region turning into the haunted Shadow Swamp. Over the millenniums various attempts to cleanse the site were made, but none were successful. The site is hard to find, seeming to change location sometimes in the ever shifting swamps, or even disappear for years at a time. Also the undead there are a persistent haunt. They had been reported destroyed several times, only to re-manifest again later. Veyallara is convinced by her own research however, that she now knows the correct rituals to put a final end to the Banshees’ Tree haunt if the companions and the soldiers of Shadowguard Keep are willing to help her.
Together, the PCs, the three elves, Captain Tevaran, Brother Kembith, and a dozen volunteers from the Keep mount an expedition to the Glade of the Elder Trees.
In the haunted glade the party finds itself in a desperate defensive battle as they must protect Veyallara while she completes the ritual to re-consecrate the ancient shrine. They battle waves of undead shadows and a terrifying greater banshee who in life was one of the priestesses of the shrine who betrayed her fellow priestesses (now the banshee choir) and was then betrayed herself by the rebels.
Finally the ritual is completed, the greater banshee is destroyed for the last time, and the curse is lifted. The banshee choir’s chains melt away and the released spirits of the elven priestesses now sing a song of gratitude for their rescuers and praise to the gods as they fade from the mortal world at last.
For their part in the quest the elves name the companions “elf friends” and gift them with two suits of elven mail, an enchanted shield, and other treasures.

Caldain and the Ruins of Castle Baleran

Mid autumn, 2011 LC.

The party reaches the city of Caldain where they decide to stay for a little while and bid farewell to the merchant flotilla and Lady Velomnyn who continue on to Endra. While in town they take up residence at the Clockwork Inn, a local marvel in addition to the famous Steps of Ghelmond.
The Clockwork Inn is run by Gnevlis and Gnellanna Silverspark, representatives of the Gnomish Guild of Engineering. It is an inn that is also a clock tower featuring many clockwork animations.
While going about their business of shopping, training, and making contacts, Thorn, Matalina, and Nial decide to explore the nearby ruins of the Baleran castle. Local legend has it that several decades ago the “Mad Balerans” as they are now known, began killing each other off in increasingly depraved acts of murderous paranoia. The last two family members disappeared in the fire that gutted their small country estate.
After slaying a dire boar nesting in the ground floor ruins, the group finds a hidden sub-basement built as a sort of secret lair/panic rooms by the last head of the family. Here they defeat a pair of small clay golem guardians, a zombi bugbear, and a nest of venomous giant centipedes before negotiating their way past a heavily trapped corridor by virtue of a clue scratched onto a cell wall by one of the less fortunate family members. In the lair’s inner sanctum they find the skeletal remains of the last two Balerans who died with their blades thrust into one another.
One of the blades turns out to be a powerful magic dagger named Kinslayer. As soon as it is lifted from the dead Balerans the two skeletons animate, along with half a dozen more that were hidden under the floor, and attack the companions. Our heroes manage to cut down the undead Balerans, then toss their shattered bones into the pit and secure it with many heavy objects, just in case.

Trouble at School

Late autumn, 2011 LC.

While doing some research at the local mage’s school, Nial and Matalina encounter a trio of students in a panic. They manage to convince the young mages to tell them what is going on by offering to help them if they can.
The students tell the PCs that they were experimenting with some enchantment magics in the enchanting laboratory when one of the spells they were using went horribly wrong and an imp from the lower realms appeared. They tried to fight the imp, but the creature is crafty and they are not adventuring type mages. When the imp managed to summon a few of his fellows the students were forced to flee the lab. They managed to activate the wards on the room, sealing the imps inside, but now have no way to deal with them.
Thorn and Talos are sent for at the inn and soon join Nial and Matalina with their adventuring kit. The four enter the lab and fight a touch and go battle with the imps who dart about the room full of fragile and expensive objects at high speed, shifting in and out of invisibility and various animal forms to attack. The heroes soon realize that the imps have piled a collection of minor magic items on the alter table and are performing a ritual of some kind. Unfortunately the PCs slay one of the imps on the alter and its’ death releases enough magical energy to complete the spell and summon a bearded devil.
The bearded devil however barely has a chance to swing its’ halberd at the heroes before it is dispatched with combined effort and extreme prejudice. The last of the imps are sorted soon afterwards.
The students have no coin to reward the heroes of course, but thank them profusely and promise to repay them in favor whenever and however they can.

The “Blood River Killers”

Late autumn, 2011 LC.

Gnevlis is in quite a state one morning. River pirates waylaid a shipment containing crates of precision machine parts he needs for the Clockwork Inn. The pirates are a large gang who call themselves the Blood River Killers. They consist of human bandits, clan-less orcs, and a squad of hobgoblyn mercenaries. Their leader, Garm Red Fist is a notorious human bandit leader, and he and his lieutenants; an orc cleric and a hobgoblyn battle mage; all have a healthy bounty on their heads.
Talos finds a lead on the Killer’s hideout through his underworld contact and the party comes up with a bold plan for an assault on the pirates.
The PCs cash in their favor from the student enchanters by having them cause a distraction. The students pilot a river boat to trick the pirates into revealing their hidden cove, then the PCs ambush the pirates before they can get out onto the river.
The heroes slash and burn their way through the human and orc pirates in the cove, but a longboat bearing the hobgoblyn mercenaries had launched from another cove in pursuit of the students. The hobgoblyns abandon their pursuit however, and turn back to investigate when they see the smoke rising from where Nial burned one of the pirate boats with a Rain of Fire spell. The PCs decide to follow a trail to a hidden cave overlooking the river while the hobgoblyns are coming about down river. In the cave they find and slay Red Fist and the orc cleric and their henchmen, and recover the stolen parts in three large crates.
When they exit the cave they encounter the hobgoblyns. The heroes hold the high ground in a defensible position at the top of a narrow trail, but there are twenty well armed and professional hobgoblyn soldiers lead by a veteran battle mage facing them.
Stand off.
After an exchange of bluffs and threats, eventually the party manages to convince the hobgoblyns to let them leave with the clockwork parts, Red Fist’s and the cleric’s heads, and a few other valuables as loot, while the hobgoblyns take everything else of value in the camp as their own since the rest of the pirates are all now slain or run off.

The Noble Rats

Late autumn, 2011 LC.

Fresh from their victory over the now defunct Blood River Killers, the party are approached by a man named Weyrin Graymantle. Graymantle commends them on their success over the pirates and in the Shadow Swamps and asks them if they would be willing to help him and his friends who are in a dire situation. After some negotiation, Graymantle drops his illusion of a white haired gentleman and reveals himself to be of the race of Noble Rats.
Graymantle’s community is a noble rat colony hidden in a forgotten chamber near the underground machinery of the Steps of Ghelmond. A large viper vine moved in there and took over the chamber. Several noble rats were killed and none of the others could get near the viper vine without being overcome by its’ mind controlling pollen. Also none of Graymantle’s illusion spells worked on what was essentially a mindless plant monster.
The heroes gladly agree to help these fairy tale people come to life and are lead to the hidden colony where they slay the monstrous viper vine in the middle of the noble rat’s miniature village.

Beastly Children

Late autumn, 2011 LC.

Some excited gate guards get Talos’ attention one night. He notices them yelling and firing arrows at a lone bugbear skulking around outside the city.
The party investigates the next morning and encounter the matronly bugbear Hrakna, her sister Kekek, and their two little female bugbears.
Hrakna tells the party that the four of them were out gathering when strangers (adventurers) raided their lair, killed the band’s warriors, looted their valuables, and took her only son. She is surprisingly nonplussed by the raid and the death of her warriors, but without a male to patron their family the four female bugbears will be clan-less and open to abuse by the other bugbear clans of the hill country. She tracked the strangers to the city where she has been unable to enter. Her little band only has a few meager provisions so will be forced to return to their dubious fates soon.
The players eventually discover the warehouse base of a slaver troop who the other adventuring party sold the young bugbear to.
Slavery of “goodly races” (humans, elves, dwarves, etc) is illegal in most nations of Ershad, but monstrous races such as orcs, ogres, bugbears and such are hardly considered people by most of the “civilized” folk (goblyns just managed to dodge the “monstrous” label by ingratiating themselves into the “goodly” civilizations). Some of these slaves end up as servants, but many are destined to become gladiators where they will eventually die in one of the continent’s many arenas or fighting pits.
Since the slavers are legal (despicable but legal) the players decide to put on some false identities and purchase the little bugbear from them. They then return him to Hrakna and earn her gratitude.
Later that night Talos takes it upon himself to dispatch the master slaver and retrieve the coin spent on their purchase. In doing so he encounters the legendary Solution who just happened to be in town, heard about Talos, and wanted to meet him.
After a pleasant exchange, Solution informs Talos; as a matter of professional curtsey; that the infamous assassins and spree killers Ben, Ten, and Rai were hired after Talos and company dispatched the last assassins in Treth Resathk, and the trio is now tracking them.

A Bull Market

Early Winter, 2011 LC.

The Rat Emperor

Early winter, 2011 LC.

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