Stolen Lands


After defeating the hydra, the party decided to head into Varnhold to investigate the seemingly abandoned town. As they approached the Kiravoy River, the party observed the first few outlying homes in the town proper. Aven and Darrick snuck into these homes to try to see if anyone was inside. Once they entered the homes they found that the occupants of the home appeared to have left in a hurry. There were partially eaten meals on the tables or meals in the process of being prepared. Furthermore, although the belongings of the residents appeared to have been rifled through, by and large they all appeared to still be there. Clothes were present, as was cookware, toys, even wagons were left behind.

Cautiously, the party approached the Kiravoy River which ran across the road leading into town. They observed that the bridge that once served to cross the river had been destroyed with only foundation posts remaining. The party scanned up and down the river and noticed a deeper pool just to the east of where the bridge once stood. Curious, Bernard shed his armor and swam down to the pool to investigate for he had spied a tunnel leading off of the pool. To his dismay though, when he reached the tunnel in the pool, he found that the tunnel  was inhabited by a chuul. The large, lobster-like creature was quick to snatch the paladin in its claws, trapping him underwater.

The rest of the party sprang into action when they observed the paladin to be in trouble. Cice flung spells at it while Bernard tried to hack the creature, and Joseph dove into the water to heal the paladin. Eventually, Thom was able to use his spells to appear next to the paladin and the cleric and grab both of them as he used his magic to bring all three back to the shore. From there the party observed the creature retreat into the tunnel out of sight.

The exploration of the town continued and party soon found the town's tannery where out back there were three centaur hides that had been hung up to cure. Past the tannery, they came to the town inn, the Waterhorse. Scratched hastily onto the door was a single word: "Nomen". A quick delve into their memories allowed the party to recall that there was a local tribe of centaurs that went by the name Nomen. Upon entering the inn, the party found a strange sight. A large spriggan was standing motionless with an aura of amber light around it. More curious though was the fact that the back of its skull appeared to have been caved in, yet it still stood. In its hand was book with a strange sigil on it. When Bernard attempted to read it, a magic ray darted out from the book and attempted to ensnare him, but fortunately for the paladin he was able to resist the magic. In the corner of the common room a table was littered with books that appeared to belong to the scholar Maestro Ervil Pendrod. These books all seemed to be histories of centaurs and Iobaria. Also on the table was a charcoal sketching of a large jade bracelet. Maestro Pendrod had made some notes about the bracelet, which is what had drawn him back to the town, and noted the unusual markings on the bracelet. He attributed the markings to the Nomen Centaur tribe.

The party then ventured to the upper floor of the inn where they discerned that only one of the guest rooms seemed to have been in use when the town was abandoned. This room appeared to belong the Maestro Pendrod and inside the party was able to fine more tomes. One of these tomes was written by someone named Carmyn e'Brothasa and chronicled Taldor's Third Army of Exploration into the north. Scanning through the book the party observed that one passage in particular had been transcribed by Pendrod, and it read:

And so it was, high upon the Torres and well above the Vale's Stairs, where rises from the high water a stony isle of dire report. Known as Vordakai's Island to those that do live thereabout, some legend of its name doth come down through the locals. For they speak of a guardian that doth destroy all who would set foot upon its accursed shores. They did name no fewer than a twelvecount of their hero-knights who had left their bones upon its rocky shores over the years after having tested their mettle against its dread warden, til none would any longer go there for fear of its hidden terrors. And the name of this terror was given unto this island.

In the margin of the tome, Pendrod speculated that this Vordakai might be some sort of Nomen Centaur god. The party searched their own collective memories but could not recall having ever come across that name in their studies. The party did recall; however, that Maegar Varn had previously mentioned having some trouble with a group of centaurs to the east of the town.

The party then moved onto the Church of Erastil which also appeared to have been ransacked. As she was examining the altar though, Cice was able to locate a hidden drawer that contained ten scrolls which held powerful spells upon them. Cice then wrote a note and placed it in the drawer, explaining that the party had taken the scrolls in case they were necessary and stating that they would gladly replace the same if the townspeople were located and the scrolls were no longer needed.

The rest of the town was much the same. Ransacked houses but most belonging still there. In none of them were there any people. The closest exception came from one small house where the party found a half starved cat hiding among the debris. Cice was able to speak to the cat using her magic and learned that the cat's "feeders" had left in the evening when a "new bird song" was heard. The cat was distracted by some fish at the time and so did not follow. Since that time though it had not seen its feeders.

With the rest of the town already explored, the party at last moved to the stockade and blockhouse where they had observed a spriggan cooking a side of beef earlier. When the party entered the stockade, the lone spriggan transformed into its large version as it shouted a warning. As the party began to move into the stockade, three more spriggans appeared, also large in size. Bernard rushed up toward the nearest spriggan with Baron Vlad Black by his side astride his giant cat. The cat immediately tore into one of the spriggans as Vlad moved onto the next and Bernard fought with a third. The spriggans, though fearsome in size, proved to be no trouble for the party and soon three were unconscious while the fourth was dead.

When the party moved to the door of the blockhouse, they found it to be barrred with a single spriggan on the other side. They attempted to negotiate with the spriggan to get it to come outside but it said that "a guy" would not allow him to. The spriggan did say though that the town was abandoned when they got there. At last the party was able to get one of the defeated spriggans to go into the blockhouse to negotiate with their leader. They soon were told that Cice and Joseph could go into the blockhouse to inspect it and talk to the chief. Cice found the chief, named Agai, and was able to talk to him. He again reiterated that the town was abandoned when they got there and that they had only been there a week. The party's previous inspections showed that the town appeared to have been abandoned for at least a month. After much back and forth, Cice and Joseph were allowed to search the blockhouse and the two sides eventually agreed to not disturb each other. The party promised to leave as they continued their search for the missing townspeople and they agreed not to bother the spriggans. With that, the party decided to rest for the night before heading out to the east to seek the Nomen Centaurs.

Fixing Squirrels, Finding Nuts, and Missing Friends

The party had finally managed to dispatch Rhoswen, though not without some heartache as their new arcanist had fallen victim to one of her spells and found himself turned into a squirrel. The party took the now unconscious Rhoswen and removed her belongings from her, then traveled back across the portal and into the Narlmarches and their homeland.

Upon returning to the material plane, the Joseph attempted to message various members of the Fey Council in an effort to determine how to ultimately deal with Rhoswen now that she was defeated. His first response came from Vinroot who responded with a somewhat drunken reply but was unable to complete his message to Joseph as he ran out of time. Next though, Joseph received a response from the unicorn Palombier. The unicorn informed the party that they had been gone for four months even though it seemed to have only been a few days in the minds of the party. He further told them that whatever they did, they should not bring Rhoswen back to the material plane.

With this information in hand, the party quickly decided to send a few members back into the Fellnight Realm to seal the barrier while placing Rhoswen on the other side of the barrier. The group that went into the Fellnight Realm spent no more than half a day there sealing the barrier back up, but when they came back, their companions told them they had been gone for two weeks. At this point, the party wished to waste no more time and headed back to Raven's Bluff to check on the capitol and so that Vlad could finally spend some time with his bride. The party was relieved to find that the realm was still in good hands and that everything had continued to progress smoothly in their prolonged absence. It seemed as though Serani Black had taken well to the role of Baroness in her husband's absence, though she gladly gave the reins back to Vlad upon his return.

The party quickly began going about the business of governing, including appointing Kesten Garess to fill the role of General on the High Council, which was left vacant by the untimely demise of Kanon Phodder. General Garess was happy to fill the post and the kingdom resumed business as usual. Among the matters to attend to was the unfortunate transformation of the arcanist into a squirrel. It took a few tries, but Joseph was eventually able to reverse the effect and Thom was brought back to his normal self.

While the party was resting up in Raven's Bluff, Cice Tappo took the opportunity to walk around town, getting to know the people better. They seemed to be much relieved now that she was no longer a hobgoblin but had somehow become a gnome. Even with the recent trouble with Tenzekill, the townspeople preferred her as a gnome. As she was walking through town, Cice decided to put on a bit of a display for the townsfolk and brought out the magical chicked she had secured from Kanon's belongings when he perished. Squeezing the chicken and uttering the trigger "Wakka Wakka!" Cice felt a strange sensation spread through her. Her voice grew a bit deeper and as she looked down, she realized that the chicken had transformed her into a male! The crowd was quite impressed.

It was about this time that Vlad received a message from Karsten Lebeda stating that hey had lost contact with Varnhold. The message stated that several messages had been sent and even an envoy, but nothing, including the envoy, ever returned. He urged Vlad to look into the matter and see what he could discover about the sudden silence from Varnhold.

Vlad, who had developed a friendship with Maegar Varn quickly convened the High Council and the party agreed that they must set out at once to Varnhold. The party gathered their provisions, and purchased some new ones with their newfound wealth, and made haste for Varnhold. Fortunately they had previously located a shortcut to Varnhold when they had previously visited and they were able to cut some time off on their journey. During this time Cice continued to be amazed by the wonders created by her/his transformation.

As they were crossing through the mountains into the territory of Varnhold, the party observed a partially ruined tower. They also noticed that the area had grown incredibly silent. Aven Darkheart flew up to the tower to investigate and found that it was abandoned. From the tower though he did see that one could look upon much of the territory of Varnhold, including the village that comprised the capitol. He then flew down and decided to scout ahead for the party. In doing so, he located a cave. Aven then decided to investigate the large cave a bit further and Vlad sent his eagle to stand sentry at the mouth of the cave. Aven attempted to sneak into the cave to see what was in there but as he was making his way he heard a growling sound and looked around a large rock to see a five-headed hydra. The beast immediately lunged at Aven and attempted to eat him for lunch, but was unable to get its jaws on the shifty monk. Aven wasted no time in backtracking out of the cave and rejoining the party so they could formulate a plan.

The party decided first to have Cice go up to the tower so he could cast a magical eye spell on the town of Varnhold in an effort to investigate some more. While they wanted to dispatch the hydra they also wanted to make sure that they rescued Varn. Cice's spell showed him that the town appeared to be all but abandoned except for a the stockade which appeared to have a lone spriggan in the courtyard area. The spriggan appeared as though he was attempting to give the appearance of there being more spriggans there than was actually the case as there were helmets propped up on sticks along the palisade of the stockade. Cice was unable to see inside the main building inside the stockade though to determine if there were indeed any more spriggans there. Aside from that though Cice was unable to determine any other signs of life.

With this information in hand, the party decided they had time to fight the hydra and also believed that the hydra may have been responsible for the disappearance of Varn. The party returned to the cave and Aven and Bernard, the paladin rescued from the Fellnight Realm, crept into the cave while the rest of the party prepared themselves at the mouth. As Aven crept in, he once again attracted the attention of the hydra and it rushed out at him. Once again though the monk was able to avoid most of the blows and the rest of the party began to pepper the hydra as well. Cice began to hurl spells at the beast but appeared as though the wizard was distracted by his newest wand as the spells were not nearly as effective as normal. Bernard meanwhile, was anxious to prove his worth to the party and began to hammer the beast, raining powerful blow upon powerful blow onto the hydra. The fury of the paladin quickly proved too much for the beast to handle and it was soon slain. Although Bernard took a few hits from the hydra, the party remained largely unscathed and were left in good position to head to the village of Varnhold to try to uncover the mystery of the town.


It was a joyous occasion for the entire nation of Pohjola for Baron Vlad Black had at last chosen a bride and was being wed to Serani Orlovsky. Not only was the entire town of Raven's Bluff buzzing, but nearby nations were as well as the event drew attendees from Brevoy, Mivon, and Varnhold just to name a few. Everyone was excited for the nation was thriving and there had been relative peace and stability for many months.

As the ceremony was just getting started though, a low buzzing grew into a much louder buzz. Though this was not from the crowd, who had been hushed by the beauty of the young bride, but rather, was from a pair of giant bee swarms that flew through the crowd and wedding party. The happy event turned into a terrible scene as the guests screamed and ran cover. Many members of the High Council jumped into action in an effort to escort guests to safety or to fight off the bee swarms. The council members were able to defeat the swarms with their magic, and even Serani got involved as she used a wand to destroy many of the attacking bees.

The ordeal was not over though with the defeat of the swarms. For shortly after the last of the bees was killed, a wall of thorns grew around Baron Black and a trio of spriggans sprang from it to attack the baron and his bride. The spriggans proved to be only a minor nuisance however, but it was what occurred following their attack that truly terrified the wedding guests. For a booming voice carried over the ground and proclaimed that doom would fall upon the town and the voice identified itself as a scorned gnome named Tenzekill Braybittle but indicated that a Queen Rhoswen would have her vengeance. As the voice died out and the panicked screams of the guests quieted, a thick, unnatural mist came out of the woods and began to surround the guests and head for the walls of the town. The mist was so thick as to reduce visibility to a mere twenty feet. The guests again grew terrified but were eventually lead back to town by the members of the High Council.

Upon returning the Raven's Bluff the party decided to wait out the mist and let it dissipate before heading out to investigate. However, after a couple days the mist had not dissipated and if anything, it had grown thicker. Worse, the High Council received word that the mist was spreading throughout the kingdom and was not confined to just the capitol. Investigating the mist revealed that it was definitely magical in nature even though the mist itself was not magical. At last, the party determined that they had little choice but to head out into the mist to investigate it. Jhod Kavken did tell the party about a reclusive druid named Devarre Snowgaard who lived in the Narlmarches and might know more about the strange mist. With that information in hand, the party set out to find the druid.

As the party made camp that dirst night in the Narlmarches, they were interrupted by a dryad that stepped out of a tree trunk. The dryad collapsed to the ground, clearly weak and in distress. She was able to plead with the party to help her sisters and to give them directions of following a stream before she screamed in agony and died on the ground before the stunned party. The party followed the stream and soon came to a clearing where two figures were bound before a large fire while several spriggans danced about, taunting the bound figures.

The party wasted no time in attacking the spriggans and once again the spriggans proved to be no match for the party. As the last of the spriggans was defeated, the party rushed to the two captives and found that one was a dryad named Fira, the eldest of the dryads in the grove, and the other figure was a unicorn named Palombier. Fira informed the party that she was the last of five sisters, as the spriggans had killed the trees of her sisters, thereby killing the dryads as well. Palombier told a similar tale of having been attacked and captured by a large number of spriggans and similarly thanked the party. He healed those who needed healing but told them that he still owed a life to debt to the party.

The party continued on the next day and things seemed to be going well until a massive tree shuddered then fell to the ground in front of the party. As the dust settled, an eye popped open on the tree and it began to talk, albeit with very slurred speech. The tree, which was clearly a treant, stumbled to its feet and began swinging wildly at the party members. It raged at them for destroying the forest. The party mostly attempted to stay out of the treant's way while engaging it in dialogue. In a moment of clarity, the treant realized that the party was not aligned with the spriggans that were attacking the forest and soon introduced itself to the party. Though its speech was still slurred, the treant, named Vinroot, was somewhat able to tell of what was happening in the forest and to direct the party to the druid Devarre. Before leaving, it did share its flagon with Aven Darkheart who soon became a bit weak willed but otherwise was ok.

The party was at last able to locate the ancient fey mound where it was rumored Devarre resided. Using some dust given to them by Fira, the party was able to penetrate the magic that hid the true nature of the fey mound, including three monoliths and the cabin of the druid Devarre. When they arrived the party did not locate anyone in the area and all appeared quiet. However, near the cabin the party located a pit that had a wolf trapped in the bottom of it. The party was able to rescue the wolf though it was clearly hungry and dehydrated. Upon approaching the cabin, the party eventually located a lone occupant, the druid Devarre. As they asked him about the happenings in the forest the druid seemed confused and offered little help. As the party pressed though he began to get angry and left the cabin whereupon he began casting Call Lightning Storm.

The party sprang to defend itself but tried to subdue the druid rather than kill him outright. The druid was powerful but seemed almost to be fighting himself at times. The party was soon able to subdue him and as they did, they observed a will-o-wisp fly out of the druid's body and race off into the distance. With the will o wisp gone, Devarre was soon himself again and was able to explain the nature of the fey mound to the party. He explained that the monoliths served as anchor points between the material plane, the first world, and the fellnight realm. The fellnight realm he explained was a prison realm created by the fey to house a powerful, but evil fey creature. At first, the party believed that this creature was Rhoswen but Devarre explained that the realm had actually been created for Nyrissa, but that other fey were later imprisoned there as well. He was then able to direct the party to the location of the source of the mist, where he hoped that the party could solve the problems befalling the forest.

When the party arrived at the waterfalls that they were directed to, the found that there was a small clearing in the mist around the pools that the waterfalls flowed into. From one of those pools however floated strange puffs of mist that then moved into the rest of the forest surrounding the pools. The party climbed up to the pools and began to investigate the upper most pool when they were attacked by a pair of water elementals. The fight against the elementals was difficult but ultimately the party once again prevailed. As the fight ended the party was able to locate mystical fey stones at the bottom of the pool but as they went to retrieve them, Tenzekil and at least forty spriggans revealed themselves from the brush around the pools.

The party was surrounded and knew that their only hope was to run. Fortunately for them just as they began to run, Palombier appeared with a host of other forest creatures and fey. Palombier urged to party to race to his location and he and the other unicorns with him could get the party to safety. The party raced to the unicorns and were able to be carried away to safety and to a large gathering of good aligned fey and forest creatures. The party soon learned that there were numerous factions present at this gathering and that the various factions could not agree on a course of action with regard to the invading army under Rhoswen's control. Eventually though the party was able to appeal to their sensibilities and convince the gathering that they needed to band together to fight the invading army. Ultimately each faction agreed but it was discovered that a group would need to travel into the Fellnight Realm to repair the barrier from the inside. A large army would be hard to conceal, but a small party should be able to get the job done and thus, it was decided that the party would travel into the fellnight realm to seal it from the inside.

Alright, who brought the dragon to the party?

The party returned to Raven's Bluff to bring the rescued villagers who were kidnapped home and to tend to their own wounds while mourning the loss of the newest comrade, Jegan. Kanon Phodder took some time to see his girlfriend, Lily Teskertin and make sure that she was okay after having almost been sacrificed by the necromancer to the strange, aberrant creatures he served. They also placed the necromancer in a jail cell until they could decide what to do with him.

After spending some time with his Lily, Kanon set about the town to try to gather rumors and learn what, if anything, was concerning the townsfolk. In particular, he wanted to learn if any other citizens had recently been kidnapped. While traveling around the village he did not hear of any new disappearances, but he did encounter a half-elf that was interested in starting up a magic item shop in town. Kanon took the half-elf, Thom, to Baron Vlad Black to introduce him and to try to encourage the Baron to accept Thom's request.

Upon being introduced to the High Council, Thom was evaluated and his request considered. Cice tried to determine how much he was worth while Kanon and Vlad suggested that he might need to go adventuring for a bit in order to afford the rent on the new shop. Kanon assured Thom that he would be able to make some money adventuring, and that if he didn't, the rest of the party at least would be able to acquire some magic items. Thom thought about it for a moment and then decided that adventuring might prove to be profitable after all, and so agreed to join the party on their adventures.

With that, the party decided to set out and once again explore more of the Stolen Lands, this time setting out to the Southwest to explore the Narlmarches. The recent presence of the trolls of Hargulka's Monstrous Kingdom seemed to have driven many of the denizens of the Narlmarches away, but the party did encounter a friendly faerie dragon who just wanted to make certain that their intentions were good. They chatted for a while and Kanon attempted to show off the majesty of his rubber chicken but this mostly just resulted in Cice becoming covered in glitter and feathers. The faerie dragon was not overly impressed but Kanon still seemed happy, especially once the chicken gave him a cigar.

As the party continued to explore, their sleep was interrupted one evening when a group of lizards raided their camp. Unfortunately for them, and poor Wilhelm Thornegaard, these were no ordinary lizards, but rather were shocker lizards that nearly killed the sleeping cleric. As the party rallied to fight off the lizards, Thom saw his opportunity to impress his new friends but unleashing a spell that quite literally unleashed his flesh in a myriad of shapes and directions, cutting through several of the lizards. Unfortunately it also cut through one of Vlad's favorite animal companions, killing the large cat that Vlad sometimes used as a combat mount. Vlad was not certain that this sacrifice was worth it, but Thom insisted that he had just saved the Baron's life.

The party was able to defeat the lizards though and the next morning Kanon followed their tracks back to a small cavern beneath the base of tree. Climbing in, he and Aven Darkheart found two dead humans but also discovered that they had not kill all of the lizards the night before for there were another half dozen in the cavern. Kanon was nearly killed by their electric blast, but then Aven and Thom were able to fight off the rest of them. Upon searching the bodies of the two humans, Aven was delighted to recover an Amulet of Mighty Fists.

After healing Aven back up, the party finished exploring much of the southwestern Narlmarches and then headed back to Raven's Bluff to attend to Council business. The High Council saw that things were going fairly well in the kingdom and they had a very profitable collection of taxes and tithes which helped to fund the continuing building of the Town Hall and the granary that they started. They were even able to drive off the slavers of the Onyx Alliance. Their high was short lived though as soon numerous citizens reported that there was a large dragon attacking the kingdom in the Kamelands. The party could not let this monster continue to wreak havoc on their kingdom and set out to ride at once. They followed the reports to an area of the plains near the Sootscale Caverns and were there attacked by the green dragon.

The initial blast of the dragon's breath was centered on Joseph Lagrange and Cice, but caught most of the party. From there though the party responded quickly and were able to quickly damage the dragon with arrows and spells. The dragon flew high in an attempt to gain distance on the party but ultimately Joseph brought it down with a Searing Light. Unfortunately though Thom had positioned himself directly beneath the dragon and though he tried to dive out of the way, the large dragon crashed to the earth on top of Thom. The massive weight of the falling dragon knocked Thom unconscious but fortunately did not kill him and he was soon brought back to full health.

Cice then used her wizardry to create a map out of the dragon's skin to its lair and the party was pleased to discover that although it was a young dragon, it had already amassed a decent sized treasure horde.


Hunting the Slavers

Upon learning that some citizens had been taken by slavers, the High Council set about investigating the incidents. It was soon learned that a dozen men and women had been taken from the town of Raven's Bluff. The men were all reported to be young, healthy and fairly strong while the women appeared to also be relatively young but also curvaceous and attractive. Kanon Phodder was concerned when he learned that the women taken were all young and attractive and immediately sought out Lily Teskertin to see if she was alright. Unfortunately for Kanon, he soon learned that she too had been taken by the slavers.

Kanon went with Vlad and the rest of the party to Lily's apartment and looked around to see if he could locate any clues as to what had happened, but there were no signs of a struggle in or around her apartment. Cice Tappo was able to put her ear to the ground so to speak and collect a series of rumors and information about the missing people and with the help of Darrick was able to learn that it was believed that the people responsible for the kidnappings were members of the Onyx Alliance. Checking their sources, the party was soon able to learn that the Onyx Alliance is a dark alliance of creatures from the Shadow Plane and is headquartered in the city of Shadow Absalom. It was also learned that fetchlings are often drawn to Golarion from the Shadow Plane in order to serve the Onyx Alliance.

This new bit of information caught the attention of the party as their newest member, Jegan was a fetchling and it was thought that he might know something about this Onyx Alliance. Jegan assured the party that he had nothing to do with the kidnappings and that he had come to Pohjola precisely because he hated slavery and wanted to get away from the Onyx Alliance.

The party next went about trying to learn where the kidnappers may have gone and Baron Vlad Black was able to track their scent to an abandoned warehouse. From there he could follow their trail out the gates of the city and to the river to the east of the city. The trail then followed the river upstream for about a mile before disappearing altogether. Checking the other side of the river showed that there was no new trail there either and it was surmised that they must have boarded a boat of some kind and taken to the river. Vlad then flew upriver to where the Shrike joined with the Thorn River. Upon arriving there, Vlad questioned the workers at the fork of the two rivers as to whether or not they had seen any boats coming through the area with wagons or large groups of people, but learned that they had not.

Vlad flew back toward the party which had started to march north along the Shrike and told them what he had learned. At that point, he and Cice began to use their magic to speak with the animals in the area to learn if they had seen anything that might fit the description of what they were looking for. Again, none of the animals, including the fish in the river, had observed anything like what Vlad and Cice were describing. This lead the party to believe that the slavers must have headed back south along the Shrike and entered the Tuskwater, but from there, they could have gone in three different directions. The party decided to camp for the evening and prepare new spells in the morning that might help them.

The following morning, Joseph Lagrange prepared a Sending to deliver to Lily in the hopes that she could tell the party where she was. Fortunately, she was still alive and was able to respond. Unfortunately, she stated that she couldn't see and did not know where she was. However she was able to describe having been on a boat then went for a short walk and was scratched by branches along the way. She said that she was then lowered down something and had heard screaming. Her description of where she had gone was enough for the party to soon realize that she must be at Candlemere for it matched perfectly what they had encountered when they investigated the island, and the tower therein, previously.

With this information in hand, Vlad, Jegan, and Aven Darkheart flew to Candlemere while the rest of the party began their trek there. Upon arriving at the tower, Vlad and Aven went down to the front door and investigated the area. They could tell that a number of humans had recently entered the tower though the total number was hard to determine since many of the footprints overlapped each other. Jegan meanwhile, flew to the top of the tower and entered the tower through an opening in the ruins.

Jegan continued down the tower and eventually located the opening in the floor that lead to the lower depths of the tower. Concerned for the safety of Lily, and wanting to prove to the party that he was not responsible, Jegan pressed on in the hopes of rescuing Lily. Jegan was also hoping that maybe Vlad and Aven would follow him down but they instead remained outside, waiting for Jegan to return. As Jegan pressed on, he found half a dozen prisoners in a room guarded by two humans. He tried to bluff his way past the humans but they ultimately did not fall for it. However, when they tried to attack, Jegan cast Sanctuary on himself, making them unable to attack him. He then pressed on, looking for the rest of the prisoners and trying to determine what was going on. He soon found the main chamber under the tower and saw a young woman strapped to an altar surrounded by six men, one of whom was chanting. Above them, he saw a giant portal in the ceiling.

Jegan knew that these men could not be up to any good and he decided at that moment to try to disrupt the ritual that they were preparing. He cast deeper darkness on the room and then moved to the altar in an attempt to free the woman strapped down there. He was able to free one leg before some of the men at the altar began to attack him. Realizing he was outnumbered, Jegan, attempted to flee and made it out to the hallway, but one of the men was able to cast Hold Person on him, paralyzing him. With that, another man was able to cut him down with a sickle.

When Vlad and Aven realized that Jegan was not going to be coming out, they flew back to the rest of the party and together they marched as quickly as they could to the island. The party was able to cross the short distance of the lake to the shore and then entered the tower, heading toward its depths. They quickly traced the same steps that Jegan had the previous day and found two guards standing watch over a half dozen prisoners. The party rushed the two men and quickly cut them down before heading to the main chamber.

Once at the main chamber Kanon burst through the doors and saw Lily on the altar with a half dozen men around her. On the ceiling a portal appeared to be opening and giant tentacles were starting to exit the portal. As Kanon stepped in, a zombie that looked a lot like Jegan attacked him, but Kanon wen straight for the altar to try to rescue Lily. The rest of the party started to follow in behind Kanon but the human leading the ritual stepped over toward Kanon and paralyzed him before returning to the head of the altar to continue his chanting. One of the men around the altar then knocked Kanon unconscious as the rest of the party began to attack. The leader of the ritual proved to be a necromancer and was succesful in draining the energy from a couple of the party members, but ultimately the necromancer and his followers proved to be no match for the party and soon they were all either dead or dying.

The party kept the necromancer alive so that they could interrogate him later and they also liberated his spellbook and other treasures from him before binding him. Kanon was revived and Lily was saved . . . and very grateful of Kanon's efforts to rescue her. Unfortunately there was nothing that could be done to save Jegan as his zombie form was also cut down.

Taming Monsters and Enslaving Humans
Or, how one nation threw the party of the year!

Having successfully tracked the monstrous owlbear back to its lair, the party prepared to fight it and end the threat to their capitol once and for all. Kanon had hoped to use his new, magical chicken to lure the owlbear out but only succeeded in creating a large patch of mud outside of the lair of the beast. On a second attempt Kanon did manage to create a keg of ale in the mouth of the cave in which the owlbear had made its home and Kanon was quick to secure this new treasure. Other attempts were made by the party to lure the owlbear out into the open but they were ultimately unsuccessful and the decision was soon made that they would have to go into the lair rather than risk letting the owlbear roam free.

The party cautiously entered the lair of the beast and found a huge central chamber off which branched three separate tunnels. The group turned to the tunnel to their right and proceeded into a smaller chamber filled with vines and other vegetation. As they started to explore the chamber, the group was attacked by a tendriculous. The evil plant quickly lashed out and grabbed a member of the party while the others attempted to fight back. Although the party had run into a rough patch with a tendriculous over a year earlier, this time they found that the creature was not so tough and despite its powerful attacks it proved to be little match for the party.

Having defeated the tendriculous the party began to debate their next course of action. Kanon, decided to go forth and explore the narrow tunnel that lead away from the tendriculous' hiding spot and soon learned that this was an unfortunate decision for he fell into a forty foot deep hole. Although the fall was not a big deal for Kanon, the acidic slime that covered the bottom of the pit was. The slime quickly began to eat into Kanon's flesh. Kanon attempted to scrape some of the slime off of himself with a spare katana he had, and while it was successful in removing the slime from his flesh it also ate into the katana, destroying it. Fortunately for Kanon, the rest of the party was soon there to assist and they were able to drop a rope down to him and haul him away while at the same time using spells to destroy the slime in the pit.

Kanon was weary from his encounter with the slime and decided to back out of the cave and have a drink from his new favorite keg. After some further discussions, the group agreed to once again enter into the cave and seek out the owlbear that had rampaged through Raven's Bluff. Reentering the initial chamber, the party this time took the tunnel to the left and found a small chamber filled with spiders and their webs. The spiders though were small and did not attack the party as they investigated. During their search of the area they did find the remains of an unfortunate adventurer who had obviously met his demise in the cavern.

From there the party decided to go through the central tunnel leading away from the main chamber. That tunnel lead to another massive chamber. This chamber showed the signs of being the primary nesting area of the owlbear and also was home to the remains of a single human that appeared to have been killed in the last week. From the nest of the owlbear the party could see another tunnel leading up and to their left and at the top of that tunnel was an enormous owlbear, larger than any they had ever heard of before, that appeared to be mourning over the carcass of a smaller owlbear. As the party was examining the nesting area of the creature though the massive owlbear heard them, lifted its beaked head and let out a screech of rage. It rose and charged at the party, determined to tear them limb from limb.

The jaws and claws of the owlbear were sharp and strong and it took the chance to grab the party members that it struck. Its eyes were filled with rage as it lashed out at the party, seemingly oblivous to the numerous wounds the party members inflicted upon it. At one point, Cice was able to inflict a large amount of damage on the beast with one of her spells and the creature responded by slapping her with an awesome blow into the wall of the cavern. However, despite the ferocity of the creature, it was quickly whittled down by the party with blow after blow until it finally fell unconscious from the combined efforts of the party.

Vlad then went to inspect the carcass of the smaller owlbear that the creature had been mourning and in doing so located several deceased owlbear cubs as well as one malnourished, but living, cub. The carcass over which the creature was mourning was that of an adult owlbear, albeit one of normal size and appeared to be the mate of the giant owlbear. Vlad took the opportunity to feed the cub and to befriend it. Between the food and his own training, Vlad was soon able to make the cub friendly and it appeared to happily follow Vlad around. In addition to the owlbear carcasses there were also several human corpses around the dead owlbears. These all appeared to be bandits or adventurers and appeared to have been killed by an owlbear within the last week.

Jegan and Joseph then searched the nesting area of the owlbear and located numerous items. Of particular note, on the body of the human near the nest they found a magical ring that had a lock of beautiful green hair woven into it. After resting for the night outside the cave, the party reentered the cave in an effort to try to learn what had previously happened in the cave and why the owlbear had attacked Raven's Bluff. Joseph used speak with dead to talk to the man in the owlbear's nest and learned that he and his men had come to the cave to tame the giant owlbear. It was learned from the one of the leader's men that while they had initially been successful, they were interrupted when the mate of the giant owlbear returned and attacked them. They fought off the mate but had no choice but to slay her and with that, the giant owlbear turned on them and killed them all.

Cice was also able to determine that the ring was a ring of bestial friendship allowing it to be used on magical beasts the same way that a ring of animal friendship could be used on animals. Numerous attempts were made by the party to revive the giant owlbear and communicate with it, but all proved unsuccessful and eventually the party decided to kill it outright as they were just being cruel to it by healing it then knocking it back unconscious.

With the giant beast dead, the party collected proof of their deed and returned to the capitol to show the people that the threat was at an end. The people were overjoyed at the news and this, timed with the one year anniversary of the founding of the new nation lead to a grand festival. Dignitaries from all around came out to the festival and the people were thoroughly happy. Anybody who was asked would say that the festival, while somewhat costly, was a huge success and pride in the nation had never been higher.

The High Council was riding the effects of the hugely popular festival as they convened for their monthly meetings and attended to the business of the nation. Perhaps most pressing was the issue of the Treasurer post. With the death of Torm Lebeda the post was currently vacant and had rendered the nation unable to collect its monthly taxes from the people. There was much discussion as to who should take over the post and eventually, the decision was made to offer the position to an old friend, Oleg Leveton. Oleg was his usual surly self, but he agreed to take the position anyway, conceding that while he was unsure about the new nation and its leaders when they first arrived at his humble trading post, he couldn't deny that they had caused his operation to be quite successful.

The party was feeling quite happy until Nina Kitalla came to them with dire news. It seems that some vile individuals had taken the opportunity of the Founding Day Festival to sneak into town and kidnap numerous citizens and sell, or at least attempt to sell, them into slavery. The party immediately attempted to find the source of these evil deeds but were not able to do so. This news put a very sour aftertaste to the otherwise joyous events of the previous week.

New Toys and New Problems

The party retreated from Hargulka's lair just in time to see Joseph and Cice coming up to the cliffside of the lair, with a new friend in tow: JeGan, who claimed to have access to mysterious powers. There was a debate among the party members as to whether or not to go right back into Hargulka's lair and finish him off then and there, or to wait until the next day to do so. Ultimately it was agreed that the preferred course of action was to wait until the following morning, at which time Aven would head back to Raven's Bluff to make sure that Hargulka had not sent an army that way.

The following morning the party prepared to reenter Hargulka's lair and prior to venturing forth, Joseph consulted his Harrow deck but was a bit dismayed when Desna appeared not to tell him much. As the party journeyed into the lair they were relieved to see that it did not appear as though reinforcements had arrived from anywhere. They were soon able to find the remains of Vlad's cat and bear, though much of the bear appeared to have been eaten during the night. As the party began to creep toward the room where they believed Hargulka to be hiding out, they were met by his powerful gun upon peaking around the corner. Kanon Phodder lived up to his name by taking a blast directly in the chest, and the ensuing inferno caught most of the rest of the party squarely.

In response, Vlad charged at Hargulka, hoping to keep him from using the gun further. Cice attempted to catch the giant troll in a fireball but strangely, it did not appear to have much, if any, effect on him. After launching a couple of arrows at the troll, Kanon then charged in to join Vlad, only to be hit by a fearsome blow from the troll's magical morningstar. Moments later, the troll smacked Kanon again and the kingdom's general fell down and did not get back up. JeGan positioned himself to try to help the general out, but claimed that his spell failed and that therefore, Kanon must be dead.

While Vlad dueled with Hargulka, Joseph and JeGan took turns healing the baron. Cice then switched tactics and tried to distract the troll with a series of jokes; however, the first two attempts fell completely flat. Hargulka and Vlad continued to trade blows while Cice then switched to using magical missiles, slowly whittling the troll down. Finally she was able to tell a joke that had the troll laughing on the ground momentarily, but it was all the time that Vlad needed to finally take the troll out once and for all.

After the fight, Kanon started to come around as Joseph healed the party en masse. This lead to much confusion on the part of JeGan who insisted that Kanon had to have been dead for his spell not to have worked. Regardless, the party was happy to have Kanon back. Vlad was a bit disappointed to learn that Hargulka's gun was simply too big for him to wield himself normally, but he did collect it as well as the three remaining shells that Hargulka had on him. There was some discussion about possibly mounting the gun on the city walls or just outside the city to be used as a powerful deterrent to any invading armies as well. The party also located a secret door leading off of Hargulka's throne room and on the other side they found a room with another door as well as a dozen slaves chained to the wall. Joseph quickly freed the now former slaves and they expressed gratitude toward their saviors and pledged to join the Kingdom. The party then debated how they could get all of the various treasures and supplies they had located back to Raven's Bluff in one trip, and ultimately concluded that it could not be done. Instead they fixed up the broken wagon in Hargulka's throne room and loaded it up as best they could and decided to get that back to the capitol and then return immediately for the rest before anyone else could claim it.

As they began their trek back to the capitol, Vlad sent a message to Jhod Kavken asking him to prepare a caravan of wagons to send back to the lair and load up the rest of the supplies. The following morning, he received a message back from Jhod and Aven telling him to get back to the capitol immediately. The party, fearing that Hargulka had sent an army to attack Raven's Bluff, hustled as much as they could and was able to cut a day off the journey so as to return to the capitol on the evening of the third day. As they arrived, they saw that the town was in chaos. An entire side of the wall had been destroyed as had two entire city blocks. Smoke and dust hung over the town and the people of the city appeared to be shell shocked. Slowly, the party was able to get reports of a terrible monster, half bear, half owl that had ravaged the city, but it was much larger than any owlbear they had ever heard of. Eventually it left the city, leaving a fifteen foot wide trail of carnage in its wake.

The party believed that they had little choice but to head out and immediately try to end the threat of the owlbear. Fortunately its trail was easy to follow and while most of the party went after the monster, Aven and Darrick were sent to Hargulka's lair to collect the rest of the supplies. It took a couple of days, but the party was able to catch up to the monster and track it to its lair. Outside, Kanon continued to test out his new magical item, the Rubber Chicken of Wonder, with . . . interesting results, including ending up wearing a clown wig and nose with his face painted as a clown. Ultimately though Joseph snuck in to get a lay of the land and to see what was inside. He found several chambers inside the cave complex and ultimately located the monstrous owlbear as well. It appeared to be mourning over the carcass of another adult owlbear and the carcasses of several owlbear cubs. There did; however, also appear to be one cub still living. Joseph snuck back out and informed the party of what he had found and the decision was made to go in and destroy the monstrous owlbear, though Kanon appeared to desire to try to save the cub.

If This Coach is Rockin' . . .

As the party left the area surrounding Hargulka's lair, they soon heard a rumbling coming from the trail up ahead. The party all took cover in the woods while they waited to see what was creating the noise. As they waited, the rumbling grew a bit louder and soon they observed a sizeable coach being pulled by a pair of shadowy horses and no apparent coachman. They called out to the coach and it pulled to a stop as a large male popped his head out from a turret in the top of the coach.

The male called out to the party, who were still hidden and indicated that he was looking for the town of Raven's Bluff, even though he was headed in the opposite direction. The male, later identified as Greggor Ardoc imdicated that he wished to seek out Baron Vlad Black and offer his aid. It was at this time that Kanon Phodder yelled back that the Baron was with the party and Greggor immediately offered his assistance, as well as offering to serve the Baron in a more . . . personal role. He described himself as a mage that had used a scroll of teleportation to get to Raven's Bluff but something went awry with the spell and he landed in the middle of the woods and had been lost ever since. He also believed he could help with the trolls for he had a good friend that is a troll.

With the introductions made, the party, with their newest member, headed back to the capitol so they could restock in preparation for the assault on Hargulka's lair. They were in town for about a week and while there they not only equipped themselves with new wares, they also heard a rumor of a wandering hill giant to the south in the Kamelands. Before heading for Hargulka, the party decided to instead seek out the giant first. Unfortunately both Cice and Joseph had matters of state to attend to and were as such, unable to go with the party. When they located the giant, they found that he appeared to be quite depressed and also stressed out over coming down to the last of his alcohol. The giant introduced himself as Munguk and stated he was sad because he had been kicked out by Hargulka for being too dumb. The party attempted to recruit him to their cause be he indicated that he didn't want to hurt anyone and was sad that everyone always wanted him to fight. Ultimately the party decided to let him be, but before they left, they asked to see what he had and learned that he had a "pretty necklace" and a "lucky stick", both of which were magical, though he seemed not to know that. The party was able to convince him to trade the necklace, which was a Necklace of Fireballs with a single charge left, but he was unwilling to part with his lucky stick, which was determined to be a wand of Hideous Laughter.

With that out of the way, the party headed back to Hargulka's hideout. They once again searched the area and it appeared as though some trolls had been through the region recently but it seemed as though they went back into the hideout. The party carefully made their way up the hill to entrance to the old fortress and managed to avoid detection on their way up. Once at the entrance, Aven was able to hear two trolls on the inside arguing with each other. Together he and Vlad barge into the fortress and took up position. The trolls stopped their arguing to attack the intruders but proved to be little match for the party. Although the party did take a couple of hard knocks, they were still able to dispatch the trolls with relative ease. From there, the party headed up to the top of the watch tower and located a lone troll on watch. He too fell swiftly to the combined might of the party. Although the first two fights seemed to be fairly successful, Greggor was feeling a bit down for he had tried multiple times to knock the trolls over with his spells and though he was indeed able to damage them pretty good, he could not figure out how to trip them up with his magic missiles.

The party then headed deeper into the old fortress and found what was once a main hall. The large room had a massive table in the center on which lay the headless body of a halfling, pieces of which were being fed by a troll to a large, trollhound beside him. The troll and his hound immediately attacked the party coming down the stairs, but once again the party proved to be too much for the denizens of the lair. As the party continued to explore they came across a room with two more trollhounds chained to a wall. One of those hounds managed to break free from the chain and charged at Aven and Vlad, taking a bite out of Vlad in the process. Vlad then responded by offering the hound some meat and trying to soothe the beast. This tactic proved to be quite successful and soon the hound and Vlad were on very friendly terms. Vlad took the hound back to the entrance and tied him up there for safe keeping before rejoining the party and heading deeper into the lair.

From there the party found a large store a supplies that could go a long way to supporting the kingdom, albeit a store of supplies large enough that they would need several wagons to haul it all away. At the back of this store room though was an entrance to a network of caves leading deeper into the hill in which the fortress was built. As the party followed in they came across a section of cavern that had a circle drawn in blood in the middle of it and a large pile of skulls laying about. As Aven approached to take a closer look he was suddenly attacked by Nagrundi who had been invisible until the attack. Aven took a mighty blow from the troll's large sword and with that, combat was joined. As the party began raining blows and arrows down on Nagrundi, the troll responded by casting a lightning bolt into the a line of party members. The powerful bolt knocked Aven unconscious and badly wounded a couple others. Greggor the fired his own spell at the mage, a fireball, which dealt a good deal of damage to the troll but which also caught Vlad's cat in its area of effect, killing the cat. At last though the party was able to kill Nagrundi and revive Aven.

The party was starting to notice their resources were low, but decided to press further forward. Aven scouted ahead thanks to an invisibility spell from Greggor and found a large, two headed troll up ahead. Aven took up position behind the troll and waited for the rest of the party to join him before engaging in battle. Greggor rushed forward, and was eager to prove his worth to his new liege. He was so eager in fact that he went into a Bloodsurge as he cast a powerful spell at the two headed troll, hoping to take him out quickly. The spell worked and dealt a large chunk of damage to the troll, and knocked him down; however, it took an even bigger toll on Greggor, knocking him unconscious from the over exertion as he body was wracked by the blood surge. The two headed behemoth was incensed at the human that had dared to hurl a spell at him and barely noticed Aven behind him. He charged forward to stand over the prone form of Greggor, and even though the party started to pour everything they could into him, a few seconds later he brought his greatsword down onto the unconscious mage. With most of the damage already done from the blood surge, Greggor's life force was extinguished by the might blow. It was not long after that though that the troll was also slain. Before he died though he called out to Hargulka for help.

The party then heard a loud stomping sound headed their way and took up positions to defend themselves, but they were not ready for what they found. Hargulka emerged from around a corner carrying a large gun of some sort on his shoulder. He pointed the gun at Vlad's bear and fired. When the shell hit the bear, it exploded in a massive fireball that killed the bear and badly damaged the rest of the party. A few more blows were rained down on Hargulka while Aven tried to hide and while Hargulka spent several seconds reloading the massive weapon. Seeing that the troll was reloading, Vlad and Kanon fled the caverns, hoping that Hargulka would not follow. Aven continued to hide since he was already somewhat behind Hargulka and he watched as Hargulka shouted at the humans for violating the treaty. Eventually Hargulka returned to where he had come from and Aven was able to search the body of the two headed troll, finding some magical trinkets before grabbing the corpse of Greggor and dragging it out behind him. The party then left the lair and regrouped outside while they debated whether or not Greggor would want to be resurrected.

Dangerous Curves Ahead

After the party chased off the quickling that had harassed them, they took a moment to catch their breath and then began to investigate the rest of the abandoned keep. As the party began to search the next tower of the keep, Darrick backed out of the keep to search for any sign of the quickling and to watch the party's back as they continued to investigate. In the next tower the party was able to find an urn that contained numerous gems and coins, which they eagerly collected.

The party then crossed the courtyard and began to examine the third tower, which they found to have been mostly sealed off due to the roof of the tower having collapsed some time ago. They did spend about a half hour scouring through the rubble of the tower and much to the delight of Kanon they did locate an elegant statuette of an elven goddess, the very kind of artifact that a barmaid in Raven's Bluff was looking for. Kanon was very excited and hopes to be able to give it to the barmaid, Lily, when he returns to the city.

The party then went to the fourth, and final, outer tower of the keep and found it to be covered in vines. The door was barred from the inside but that did not prevent the party from opening it with the combined efforts of Vlad and George, the eidolon of Torm. Upon forcing the door open the party found that the inside was similarly covered with vines and vegetation, and as they stepped inside, Vlad was attacked by a grimstalker and an assassin vine. The vine was able to briefly grab onto Vlad but the Baron was soon able to free himself. The grimstalker quickly decided it was best to flee and attempted to climb out the top of the tower but Aven had no trouble keeping up with him given that he can fly and the grimstalker was soon felled by an arrow from Kanon; however, when it did fall it managed to land on Vlad and Torm, injuring them slightly.

After the brief fight, the party searched the tower and located a chest which contained the belongings of the grimstalker. Cice then cut off a piece of the grimstalker's skin and used it to make a pair of treasure maps, detailing the location of treasure that the creature knew about. The first map lead to the chest in the grimstalker's tower, but the second one lead many miles to the southwest. At this point the party decided to head to the central tower of the keep, finding the base of the tower in the center of the courtyard to be made of beautiful stone with walls decorated in motifs of idyllic elven activities. Shortly after the party entered the central tower and began to climb the stairs, the entire area began to fill with a poisonous mist. This mist had a particularly powerful effect on Cice, George, and Joseph as it attaced their minds, making them increasingly less wise. Joseph was hit hard enough that he became unable to cast his divine spells.

As they reached the top of the stairs, George burst through the door there in order to escape the mist. On the other side of the door the party found what appeared to be a sitting room that was decorated with what had once been rather elegant furniture. Unfortunately the passing centuries had not been kind to the furniture and it had largely rotted away. On the far side of the room was a set of double doors. When George and Aven opened the doors there was a solitary figure on the other side in what appeared to have once been a bedroom. This figure appeared to be a beautiful woman who then began to dance in front of the party.

The Dancing Lady's movements proved to be quite mesmerizing to the party as Torm, Kanon, Vlad, and even Cice were awestruck and stood there in a daze watching the beautiful dance. Only Joseph and Aven were unaffected by the beautiful dance but they soon found themselves entangled in a mass of vines. The vines were no problem for Joseph in his fox form, but his inability to cast spells limited his options. The Dancing Lady soon moved up to Aven and began to claw at him while she danced. Aven was able to break free of the vines and tried to fight back, but it seemed as though she mostly shrugged off his punches.

Her dance then featured a rhythmic, gymnastic tumble as she rolled by George and then circled around to Torm. She grabbed onto Torm and began to dance with him as she held him tight. Aven continued to try to fight her, but she still seemed to mostly shrug off his blows. As she held Torm tight, she then leaned in and her teeth clamped down on his neck as she began to feast on his blood. Joseph and Aven tried to break her off of Torm but she was unmoving. At one point she offered to let the rest of the party leave if they allowed her to feast on Torm. Aven was unwilling until he saw Torm fall limp and lifeless in her arms as she killed the summoner. Aven finally agreed to leave with the rest of the party if they could take Torm's corpse with them. To this the Dancing Lady agreed but told them not to come back.

When the Dancing Lady returned to her bedroom she stopped dancing and allowed the rest of the party to leave, which they quickly did. On their way out, one of the party members was able to recognize her as a baobhan sith and they soon decided that they did not wish to return anytime soon, though Kanon was hoping to come back quickly and kill her. Down a member, the party dashed from the area of the keep and camped for a couple of days several miles away. During this time they were able to mourn Torm and heal the damage to the minds of Joseph and Cice. The party discussed their options and decided to follow the second treasure map on the grimstalker skin, especially since it appeared to head in the same general direction as Hargulka's stronghold.

A day later the party was attacked by a forest drake, though it proved to be of little challenge to the group. They dispatched it with ease and then followed its tracks, and a map that Cice created from its hide, to its lair where they did find a few trinkets and weapons, as well as the corpse of an elven scout. From there the party continued to follow the previous map which lead pretty much due west. After a couple of days the party came to a narrow path that lead to, and then up, a tall cliff face. Vlad sent his eagle out to scout the area up ahead and he could soon see that at the top of the cliff there was a watch tower disguised as a natural rock outcropping. This tower and the building around it appeared to be of dwarven make but more importantly, Vlad, through his eagle, could see that there was a troll inside the tower looking out. Vlad's eyes lit up as he realized that they had located Hargulka's stronghold. The party discussed their options and decided that even though they had only been gone about a week, it was best to head back to Raven's Bluff so that they could properly bury Torm as well as reprovision and gather the supplies they would need to take on a troll stronghold.

A Hunting We Will Go

After running into difficulties during their last foray into the wilderness, the party decided that it was time to head to Restov to purchase some new equipment, sell some of their more valuable treasure, and try to heal up Darrick and Cice, both of whom had to be reincarnated during their last adventure in the wilderness. The journey to Restov was largely uneventful; however, Vlad had another vision of the green haired woman he had first seen upon donning the Stag Lord's helmet. She told him that there were numerous forces at play, many of whom were moving against him. In particular though, she warned him of Hargulka, saying that he is building an army and that the lands which he now claims will not support his army for long. As such, it was only a matter of time before Hargulka moved north.

When Vlad relayed this information to the rest of the party, Aven and Content Not Found: kanon explained to Vlad that this was exactly what they had been trying to tell him. The party agreed that at the very least they needed to investigate Hargulka and his army more closely. While in Restov, Kanon started to look for some extra work in an effort to earn a bit more coin. As he was doing so he came across a notice for a potential job and met with the potential employer. This man, Masa Andryt, informed Aven that he was looking for somebody who could provide him with inside information on Pohjola. He further indicated that he would pay well if the information was sufficiently valuable.

Kanon became excited and quickly gathered the rest of the party in an effort  to convince them to tell Masa what they were doing as part of the ruling council. The rest of the party did not share Kanon's enthusiasm for this idea but did agree to meet with Masa. Masa informed them that he was a simple purveyor of information and as such, information on Pohjola was surely something he was interested in. While the party did not provide him with said information, they did agree to purchase information on Hargulka's kingdom from him. Part of this deal also included an agreement between Masa and Darrick that Darrick would sell his alchemical wares to Masa at a discount for the next year. Masa then told the party that Hargulka was building an army that was having trouble sustaining itself. He further told them that Hargulka had two trained army units at the moment and that he was hoping to train more.

With this information in hand, the party decided to stock up on alchemical fire and to then go and investigate Hargulka themselves. With their new purchases in hand, the party returned to Raven's Bluff. There they agreed to build a wall around the city as well as to start building roads to the south in an effort to establish a trade route with Mivon. Grigori continued his rantings while the party was in town, but they decided not to do anything about it at this moment. With the affairs of the nation in order, the party once again set out, this time with a mission to investigate Hargulka and his army.

The next day they came across the ruins of a long abandoned elven fortress. The front gate had long since rotted away and the towers were crumbling. Even the outer wall had a couple of sections that had crumbled away despite the obviously fine elven craftsmanship. As they entered through the old front gate of the keep, the heavy portcullis came crashing down atop of Torm's eidolon George. The heavy portcullis caused substantial injury to George but did not manage to kill him. The party was able to lift the portcullis up and heal George.

As they continued to explore, they investigate one of the towers and were attacked by four angry rat swarms. The party was able to inflict a little bit of damage, but it wasn't until Cice lobbed a fireball at them that the swarms were largely destroyed. As they were fighting the swarms though, another creature began to attack the party. First to be hit was Torm who appeared to have been stabbed in the back and began to bleed while also experiencing the effects of a poison. The party turned around but could not locate Torm's attacker. As the party began to search in earnest, four will o wisps seemed to appear in the courtyard. The party began to attack them but seemed to be having little effect. Eventually Aven was able to study the wisps a bit more closely and realized that in actuality, they were nothing more than a dancing lights spell.

Joseph then thought he heard something nearby and went to investigate as well. As the party started to get spread out, Darrick was then hit by the creature and the party was finally able to identify their tormentor as a quickling. They continued to have trouble locating the creature but soon Joseph was able to hit it with a powerful spell and Torm cast glitterdust on it, allowing the rest of the party to see it. Cice then began to pummel it with magic missiles and it tried to flee. Aven was able to grapple the creature and asked it to surrender, but before the quickling could, Cice hit it with more magic missiles. The creature escaped Aven's grasp and then fled from the tower. Cice was able to get another hit on it with magic missiles, but it soon was out of range. The fight over, the party decided to take a moment to catch their breath before continuing on with their exploration of the keep.