Stolen Lands

Political . . . Entanglements

Having made their way down the Shadow Road, the part eventually arrived at the Shadow Court, or at least what they assumed was the Shadow Court. Upon their arrival it appeared as though the Court was empty. Every so often one of the members of the party would hear the soft sound of laughter or of music, but could never locate the source. Before them though stood a large palace with numerous doors, courtyards and even stables. All of which appeared empty at first glance. After a time though, single shadow fey rake approached the party and challenged them, taking offense at the party bearing weapons in the court. He offered a duel to Duke Vlad Black. When the Duke ultimately won the duel, the rake bowed his head and offered his hand in friendship.

The rake was a member of an organization known as the Ravens, young fey looking to climb the ranks of the Shadow Court. He explained to the party that the fey are able to essentially make themselves unseen and unheard by those they deem to be beneath their notice. He did offer though that with time, the party could improve their standing within the Shadow Court and thus, gain the attention of higher ranking members of the Court. The party took the opportunity to talk to a few fey and even engage in a few friendly duels, which also, for the most part, increased their standing in the Court. Not at full strength though, the party ultimately decided to head back home briefly to retrieve Cice Tappo and hopefully bring Wilhelm Thornegaard back from the dead.

When the party arrived back in Raven's Bluff they were able to locate a small amount of Wilhelm's body after he was killed in the jaws of the dragon. With that little bit of Wilhelm's body, Jhod Kavken was able to reincarnate him. The party took a moment to rest and then had Joseph Lagrange plane shift the party back to the Shadow Road. After succesfully arriving at the Shadow Road, the decision was made to leave Cici and Joseph behind on the road while Cici recovered from her wounds at the teeth of the dragon. This also enabled a bit of a safety net as Joseph could come to the court to plane shift the party out if need be.

Returning to the Court the party continued their endeavors of gaining favor with the assorted members of the Court. Sergeant York soon became frustrated at what he perceived the fey's inability to recognize orcs as a superior race and as such, struck up a friendship with some of the goblin servants in the kitchens of the Court. As the rest of the party continued to grow in influence though they were soon invited to a meeting with the Grey Ladies. During the course of the meeting, they informed the Duke that they had been watching him closely and were impressed. Ultimately they asked him if he would be willing to officially ally himself with their proverbial banner. When the Duke agreed, they gave him a bag of holding and a patch symbolizing his allegiance. The patch though also took something from his, stealing a bit of his vitality. "A small price for the honor of our allegiance." the ladies told him. They claimed he would be able to retrieve the lost vitality should he leave the Shadowfey realm.

That evening the party was resting in their chambers in the Court when they were attacked by shadow hounds capable of maintaining their invisibility and also of shifting from shadow to shadow. Also disturbing was their ability to seemingly steal the shadows of those they attacked. Although they were difficult to track, Thom Merrilon was able to glitterdust one of them and soon both hounds appeared to have been dispatched, or at least to have left the party alone. When they investigated the attack the next day, the party was unable to gather any leads as to who may have sent the hounds after them. Undeterred though, the party continued to try to work their way up the ranks of the Court.

Soon the party received an invitation to attend the Swan Festival, a feast where all the most important members of the court would be in attendance and where the party might be able to gather more information on the Court. Once again York found himself excluded as he was required to eat in a separate hall altogether while most of the party secured seats in the balcony. Duke Black though was invited to sit at the massive head table of the dining hall. The feast consisted of what the party was assured were the finest of delicacies, though which many members of the party had a hard time stomaching. As the feast progressed though, it turned into a series of performances by members of the Court. The last of which was a dance performed by Ulara, a courtesan of the Court. The Duke found her dance to be very enchanting and couldn't take his eyes off of here, especially after she gifted him with a kiss.

Soon after Ulara's dance concluded, Queen Sarastra took her leave and left her guests to enjoy the feast. It was not long after that when Akyishigal, a demon, appeared amid massive swarms of cockroaches, announcing his outrage at being excluded from the festivities. His roaches swarmed over the feast hall and sent all the guests running. The party ran from the hall as well and regrouped outside the feast hall. Everyone that is except for the Duke who had left out a different door and proceeded further into the upper court of the palace.

As the rest of the party awaited the Duke, he instead proceeded into the residential wing of the upper palace and found himself at the door to Ulara's personal residence, where she invited him inside. The Duke's failure to return to the party was especially disconcerting to York. Not because the orc was worried about the Duke, but rather because the Duke had the bag of holding into which his, Darrick's, and York's armor had been placed since they were not allowed to wear armor to the feast. Eventually the party retreated to their quarters in the hope that the Duke would join them there. When he didn't return during the night, Thom decided to scry on him the following morning, where he was able to observe that the Duke was having a very good time with beautiful courtesan.

The party continued in their endeavors without the Duke while he continued to enjoy the company of Ulara. As the days progressed though, they became more concerned and eventually sought out the Lords of Light and their leader, Revich. They were hopeful that the Blind Seer could help them retrieve the Duke but he was unable, or unwilling, to do so. Eventually Thom decided it was worth a try to attempt to teleport into Ulara's chambers since he had previously observed them. Unfortunately for him, he soon learned that there was some sort of a protection on the chambers that prevented anyone from teleporting in. Eventually, the party decided to simply wait for his return after they were told by several fey that it was unlikely that any true harm would befall him. Finally, after nine exhausting days, Vlad returned to the party., albeit not before finding himself wandering the halls of the palace in the buff.

With the party reunited, they began to discuss their plans and how they might gain an audience with the Queen so that they could convince her to abandon her claim on the Greenbelt. That day though, York, who had been studiously attempting to kill every roach he saw, received an invitation to speak with Akyishigal at the bottom of a well. York consulted with Thom about the invitation and the arcanist informed him that it would be a good idea to meet with the demon lord. Darrick could not believe that Thom had encouraged the orc to meet with the demon and quickly hurried to catch up to York. They both descended to the bottom of the well where they were confronted by Akyishigal, the Demon Lord of Roaches.

Akyishigal informed York that the orc owed him a debt after he had killed so many of the demon's minions. York tried to tell the demon that he would simply stop killing his minions but that was not enough to appease to the Demon. At this point Darrick started to make preparations to leave the well in a hurry as Akyishigal demanded that York agree to serve him. York eventually agreed to serve the demon lord rather than flee or fight him. With that agreement, York received the symbol of Akyishigal and was allowed to leave.

The following day, Duke Black received an invitation from Prince Hander Svenk to meet with him. When the party arrived, the prince began to talk to the duke before seeing the symbol of Akyishigal on York's armor. When the prince observed the symbol, he fell into a rage and attacked the orc. The party was still hoping for a peaceful solution and attempted to talk the prince down. The prince's sister eventually put the orc into a deep slumber and along with Duke Black convinced the prince to stand down, stating that they need not fight.

With York sleeping soundly, the Prince agreed to talk. Vlad expressed his concerns that the party would not be able to amicably resolve the dispute over the Greenbelt and the Prince acknowledged that the ways of the Shadow Court did appear to differ from the ways of the party. However, he did hold out some hope that the party may be able to resolve their conflicts amicably. He informed the group that he and his sister were, in a sense, the source of the madness of the King. He expressed concern that his father was no longer himself but hoped that the party might be able to help him. He also warned that the Queen was trying to gather more power while admitting at the same time he himself was also attempting to do the same for his claims were far from a sure thing given his bastard heritage. He did warn the party that the Queen was the one who had invited Akyishigal to the Court but he does hope to eventually rid the court of the demon lord. At the conclusion of their talk, the prince did offer to share his wine with the party, an honor reserved for very few.

Political Machinations

The party stared, mouths agape, as Aven plucked his own eye out and shoved the gem that had been in the eye socket of Vordakai into its place. Aven blinked for a moment and then was once again able to focus. Although blood was rapidly drying on his cheek, he did not seem any worse off at a casual glance. The gem, now fully inserted into Aven's eye socket, glowed with a small flame in its center.

The group to a few minutes to recover from the fight and to heal up, while also helping to release Cice from her paralysis. They then thoroughly searched the area that Vordakai had made his base of operations and gathered up all the coins, weapons and other treasures they could carry. Of note were the dozens of soul jars, most of which were full, that were also located. The party carefully gathered these up and took them with them so that they could attempt to identify the trapped souls, and hopefully recover those who were missing.

As this was happening, Darrick was making his way toward Vordakai's island, having returned to the capitol a short while ago. As Darrick was on the shore of the island and inspecting the doorway into the ancient cyclopean structure, he heard the approach of a well armored orc on the opposite shore. This orc made no attempt to conceal himself and eventually sat down upon the shore as he looked around, seeming to search for something, or someone. Curious, Darrick eventually called out to the orc and discovered that the orc was looking for the leaders of Pohjola as he had been sent from the church of Gorum to ensure that the new nation was indeed building a military academy as they had promised a couple years prior. Darrick indicated that he knew the leaders and invited the orc, Sergeant York, to join him as he too was looking to catch up with them. Darrick and York made their way through the Cyclopean structure and eventually caught up to the rest of the party as they were preparing to leave.

From there, the party set out to reunite Xamanthe with her tribe. The trip to the Nomen tribe was mostly uneventful, though the party did notice that Aven's freedom of movement, that counteracted the paralysis effect of Vordakai's touch never seemed to wear off, even though Cice required additional castings before her curse was eventually broken. When Xamanthe was returned to her tribe, the centaurs were quite grateful, especially Aecora Silverfire who provided gifts to the party for their efforts in rescuing her daughter.

After spending some time catching up with the centaurs, the party decided to head to Restov in order to resupply and to perhaps inquire about Vlad's family. Along the way they decided to stop in Varnhold and test their theory that the soul jars in Vordakai's possession contained the souls of the people of Varnhold. Upon reaching the site of the town, the party noticed that the spriggans had begun to spread out a bit, but they still left the party alone. The party then tested the theory of the soul jars by breaking one of them. In a puff of smoke one of the missing townspeople appeared, confused and for the most part unaware of the events of the past several months. He was able to recount hearing some sort of a haunting melody in the air, but little else. The party then began to quickly break the rest of the jars and soon were able to retrieve most of the missing townsfolk (minus those that they had already discovered dead in Vordakai's lair).

It was not long before the party recognized the problem that the return of the Varnholders would create with respect to the spriggans whom the party had given the fortress. Vlad decided to play the role of intermediary. After some hours of negotiations, the spriggans and the Varnholders, now lead by Maegar Varn's daughter Holly were able to reach an agreement. One side of the river would be given to the spriggans while the Varnholders would regain the other side, along with the fortress they had built there.  In return for everything he had done for her people, Holly then pledge fealty to Baron Black, though the decision was made to allow Varnhold to operate on its own for the time being. Holly also indicated that she would personally reach out to the centaurs and offer up whatever recompense they required for the sins of her father.

Just as everything appeared as though it was going to work out well, a guard atop the fortress spied the approach of horsemen in the distance. It was then revealed that the horsemen were riding under the personal banner of the Surtova family, indicating that a member of the family was in their presence. At this news, Holly became pale and very nervous. When questioned, she disclosed that shortly before Varnhold vanished, her father had reached out to the regent, Noleski Surtova for aid in his struggles with the centaurs. As part of the agreement, Surtova agreed to send aid, but also demanded that Holly be wed to his cousin, Nicolai Surtova. This marriage would have the effect of granting the Surtovas a foothold in the Stolen Lands and would also jeopardize any fealty that Varnhold may have to Pohjola.

The party suggested to Holly that she simply refuse, but she pointed out that unfortunately, the Stolen Lands technically lay within the boundaries of the River Kingdoms and that one of the tenets of the River Kingdoms was that "Oathbreakers die." Even though it was not her oath, but her father's, that oath was passed unto her upon his death. The party quickly thought through their options, and their knowledge of the River Kingdoms, and soon stumbled upon one of the other tenets "You have what you hold". After some discussion, they soon came to the conclusion that "You have what you hold" would supecede "Oathbreakers die." Sergeant York immediately offered to marry Holly, a thought that troubled her more than a marriage to a Surtova. Fortunately for her, Darrick eventually agreed to wed her and preparations were hastily made.

When Nicolai arrived, he proclaimed he was there to "claim his prize" and was told that Holly had just been wed to Darrick. Nicolai protested but agreed to at least wait through the celebration feast before doing anything rash. As the feast was prepared the party tried to probe into Nicolai's motivations. Upon speaking with the captain of Nicolai's guard, Padraig Penningten, Vlad learned that it was unusual that Nicolai would be interested in marrying . . . a woman, but he chalked it up to never knowing what goes through the heads of the nobles. Padraig also let it be known that he really was a captain of Noleski Surtova's guard but that the King/Regent had tasked him with ensuring that Nicolai arrived safely in Varnhold. Vlad then disguised himself as a humble townsperson and tried to get a member of Nicolai's guard to spar with him, but none of them would loan him a sword to do so. They informed him that they would be happy to spar with him if he were to find a weapon, but that their training was that they never give up their weapon, even for a friendly sparring contest.

As the feast progressed, everyone seemed to have a good time and eventually even Nicolai admitted that he was impressed by the political maneuvering done on behalf of Holly. He suggested that he strongly believed that Darrick and Holly's marriage was nothing more than one of convenience, but conceded that his own marriage would have been the same. He then produced a bottle of wine that he stated he had intended to drink on his wedding night and instead gifted it to the newlyweds.

The following day Nicolai prepared to return to Brevoy but did take time to converse with Vlad and the rest of the party. He indicated to Vlad that he did not know all the details behind the arrest of Vlad's family, but indicated that he would try to learn more and would pass along any information he gained to Vlad. Before they left though, Sergeant York inquired of Nicolai's guards if any of them would be willing to partake in a friendly sparring match. Eventually, Padraig agreed to and both sides agreed that no deadly blows would be delivered and that attacks would be made with the flat of the blades only. Although York got a few blows in on Padraig, he was soon defeated in the friendly duel by the veteran soldier.

What Lies Beneath
Farewell old friend

After stopping the cultists who were attempting to summon an unknown horror beneath Candlemere, the party returned their focus to locating the missing citizens of Varnhold. They traveled back to the island that lay just beyond the Valley of the Dead that had long been warded by the Nomen centaurs. Arriving at the island, the party was able to locate a door on the island and sent Aven in to investigate the immediate interior.

He soon located some broken pottery as well as a few bits of jewelry that appeared to have been stored in the pottery. The pottery was clearly very old. Looking around Aven also observed a number of runes on the walls of the corridor which were latered determined to be some sort of a magical ward, though the magic had already been dispersed from the ward.

The party delved deeper into the tunnel and soon located a room wherein resided two dread zombie cyclopes. Although the zombies had the potential to be very deadly, they proved to be little more than an annoyance to the party. Continuing on, an underground lake of sorts was located where it appeared as though a river had breached the surface of the underground tunnel. As they begin to investigate this pond, and discovered a set of stairs leading down, the party was approached by an elasmasaurus which seemed to have no difficulty swimming through the water. Rather than try to fight their way past the dinosaur, Baron Black instead interacted with it, attempting to calm the creature. Vlad used a series of gestures, soothing sounds and some food in order to calm it, and while he could not fully tame the massive beast, he was able to convince it to swim away and leave the party alone.

After the beast swam away, the party learned that the stairs lead to an underwater tunnel. Although there was no air in the tunnel, a reconnaissance mission enabled them to learn that the tunnel itself was not very long and that the party could easily swim to where the water receded and air could be found. Together the party swam through the tunnel and encountered a large, open room that contained lots of ancient pottery, but also two soul eaters. The party attacked the soul eaters as they continued to search for the lost villagers of Varnhold, and while they were ultimately victorious, it came at a high cost as Thom suffered numerous mental attacks and was clearly not quite himself afterward.

After dispatching the soul eaters the party ventured further into the underground ruins and came to another large chamber, this one filled with numerous statues of cyclopes. Upon an initial glance, the room appeared to be a dead end, though Aven did notice a number of disc shaped grooves in the ceiling of the chamber. As he searched further, Aven soon discovered a secret door on the far end of the chamber. As he was preparing to open the secret door, Aven noticed that it was trapped. Taking a moment, Aven was able to disarm the trap and then open the door. He stole a quick peak through the door and saw another stairway that lead up and curved to the left. Aven returned to the chamber and suggested that someone should scout ahead. Thom, who had yet to recover from the fight with the soul eaters and thought it was a great idea and turned himself into an earth elemental and proceeded to scout the tunnels ahead.

The party waited for him in the chamber to return and inform them of what he saw. And waited. And waited. After several minutes had passed, they feared for the safety of their friend and went off to look for him. They followed the stairs and the tunnel they opened up to and soon found a set of double doors. They went through the doors and found a room with two other sets of doors leading out of it, as well as three altars. The altars appeared to be dedicated to the god Charon and two of them contained oil lamps and bowls.

Bernard went over to the altars with the lamps and lit the oil lamps before looking at the door between two of the altars. Looking at the door he could not detect anything amiss and so he reached for the handle to open the door. As he touched the handle of the door, a trap, that he failed to notice, was set off and an explosion ripped through the room, dealing both physical and mental damage to everyone in the room. Bruised and battered by the trap, the party backed out and went back to the chamber at the base of the stairs, leaving hints for Thom as to where they had gone to rest. Thom never returned that night.

After resting up, the party regrouped and went back out in search of Thom. They returned to the room with the altars and this time were able to detect the trap on the door. After disabling the trap, the party went forward and were soon encountered by a demon that appeared out of thin air. This demon had the head of an octopus, the claws of a lobster and the legs of a man. The claws were razor sharp and very strong but the party was able to defeat the demon. It was then that they were able to see a small cell beyond the demon in which the centaur Xamanthe was chained up. The party removed the chains from Xamanthe but found that she was very injured and also completely paralyzed. It took some time, but Joseph was able to cure her paralysis and the centaur agreed to join the party in their exploration of the ruins.

As the party continued to explore they eventually located a large pool of acid with a door on the far side. As they began to look for a way across, they were attacked by an undead mage flying overhead. This mage bore the robes that had been worn by Cephal Lorentus, the magister of Varnhold, and was the first sign they had come across of any of the missing villagers. Aven flew up to confront the corrupted mage and with a little help from the party was able to kill him without much trouble. Unfortunately, as the mage began to fall Aven tried to catch him but missed. As Cephal plunged beneath the surface of the acid, Aven dove down to try to reach him, not realizing how strong the pool of acid was. By the time Bernard was able to use his own healing abilities to retrieve Aven, the monk was dead. The party took Aven's body, and retreated so that they could rest for the night and so that Joseph could resurrect Aven shortly after midnight.

With Aven returned from the dead, the party was mostly whole again, though Thom had still not been found, either alive or dead. The group continued to venture deeper into the ruins and soon found a large, grisly banquet hall. The hall was dominated by a massive dining table, capable of seating dozens of people. Unfortunately, although the seats were mostly full, the occupants of those seats were former citizens of Varnhold, including Maegar Varn who was seated at the head of the table. All of the Varnholders at the table though were dead, their skulls torn open and their brains removed. Also in the room were four dread zombies.

As the party fought the zombies a fifth creature joined, a spectre. From what the party could tell, the spectre appeared to take the form of a former Varnholder named Willas Gundersen who had previously told a tale of finding an ancient bracelet along the shore of a river. Familiar by now with fighting the undead creatures, the party had very little trouble dispatching these creatures and were soon moving further into the ruins. After a little further travel they came to a room with a large pool of water in it. As the party approached the pool a massive water elemental emerged and attacked them. The party's combined effort were enough to momentarily dispatch it as it splashed to puddles all around them. A moment later though it reformed into an even larger elemental. This elemental was very powerful but stood little chance against the combined might of the party.

The party then approached a final door and carefully opened it. As they opened it they were greeted by the sight of their lost party member, Thom, hanging by his wrists at the far end of a throne room, his body stripped bare. Of more immediate concern was the large figure with a massive axe that stood in the center of the room. As Bernard and Vlad stepped in, the creature charged at Bernard with a vicious snarl and brought the axe down hard. The blade cut through the paladin's armor as if it were little more than cloth. Bernard's torso was torn open from his right shoulder to his left hip as the paladin fell limply to the ground, blood and entrails spilling out. Shocked by the sight of their friend falling in a heap, the party had little time to mourn as just then another figure, and undead cyclops appeared from where it had been hiding invisible and cast a spell at Cice.

Shaken from their shock, the party moved to retaliate. Vlad and Aven squared off with the armored figure, a graveknight, while the rest of the party focused on the undead spellcaster. The graveknight was soon slain and the party turned its full attention to Vordakai, the cyclopean lich. Aven moved in to hammer blows at the creature, but soon found that he himself was paralyzed by Vordakai's touch. Joseph was able to remove that paralysis though and Vlad, after finding his initial attacks ineffective then invoked the power of Erastil and began to smite the lich. As Vlad rained blows down upon the lich, Aven used his newfound freedom of movement to pepper the cyclops with punches. At last, Aven was able to grab the lich's head and his fists erupted in flame, burning the flesh off the skull of the lich and dropping the body to the ground.

The party was quick to free their friend Thom and found him similarly paralyzed, as was Cice by the fight with Vordakai. They also began to search the room and found a shelf filled with dozens of soul jars, as well an alcove filled with treasure. Also of note though was the gem that occupied the lone eye socket of Vordakai. The gem radiated an overwhelming aura of conjuration and divination magic as it pulsed with a red flame in its center. As the party was looking at it, Aven reached down to grab it so he could examine it more closely. As he grabbed the gem, he felt its warmth and his eyes flashed briefly before he reached up and plucked his own eye out of its socket before slamming the gem into the now empty socket, a stream of blood flowing down his cheek, but seeming to clot almost instantly.

Top of the World!
Or at least the Stolen Lands

After defeating the ice mephits, the party debated whether to climb higher up Talon Peak or to descend back down to the watch tower and prepare to head toward the Whispering Grotto. In the end, the party's curiosity won out and they decided that they would climb higher and hopefully find a spot to rest soon. As they continued their climb they at last came to another plateau after about two hours of more climbing.

Aven once again took it upon himself to sneak into the cave that offered the only shelter on the plateau to determine if it was safe. When he snuck in he was able to discern what appeared to be four yetis inhabiting the cave, one of which was unusually large. He could also make out the forms of what appeared to be two human sized bodies on the floor of the cave, apparent victims of the yetis. Aven snuck back out and relayed this information to the rest of the party as they arrived on the plateau.

The party was debating how best to approach the yetis, who appeared to be unaware of the party's presence, when Bernard decided he had heard enough and tossed a bag of food into the cave. Bernard's offering was answered with an angry roar from inside the cave. With an exasperated glance at the paladin, Aven and Vlad headed to the sides of the cave entrance in hopes of attacking the yetis as they exited. However, the creatures only came out far enough to be able to swipe at the party members on the edges of the cave entrance. Bernard attempted to use his special paladin powers on one of the yetis but found that the creature was not evil and thus did not suffer extra ill effects. At the same time, Vlad confirmed that another of the yetis was also not evil. The beasts continued to attack the party; however. Eventually they moved so as to allow the other two yetis to join in the fray, even as one of the first yetis fell to the party's blows. Although the yetis had powerful claws, they were ultimately no match for the party, and they were soon all dead. The last two fell particularly quick when it was discovered that they were, indeed evil.

The party searched the cave and found a pile of gems and coins as well as two dead humans. Finding no other signs of danger the party camped in the cave for the night to secure as much warmth as possible for the weather had grown particularly cold and stormy.

The following morning, Joseph was able to use his divine magic to speak with one of the dead humans and learned that he was indeed a guard from the town of Varnhold, though he had been stationed at the watch tower. Unfortunately, the guard did not know what had happened to the town and further, was not even sure what had happened to him as he never did get a good look at his killers. The party surmised it was the yeti's but was disappointed to learn that he did not know more about the vanished villagers.

Refreshed, the party continued their climb to the top of Talon Peak. It took many hours, but they did eventually reach the peak of the mountain, where they discovered an ancient, crumbling observatory. The telescope in the observatory was long since broken and in the center of the tower where the telescope would have once stood, was now a giant bird nest with four immense eggs, each the size of a human. As the party was exploring the tower and attempting to make sense of the strange markings on the door of the observatory, they were greeted by a loud screech as a gigantic roc alighted on the top of the tower. Aven was getting ready to battle the gargantuan bird when the creature spoke to each of the party members telepathically, and in each of the languages they knew. The bird offered a friendly greeting to the party and appeared to know them by name.

As the party questioned the bird it became clear that the creature was beyond ancient. It also was soon revealed that while the roc was familiar with the Nomen centaurs, it did not know what had happened to Varnhold. The existence of Varnhold was barely even a blip on the timeline of the Roc and it had never even noticed the town. It did however offer to the party that if they were able to pass the test of air, they could have one of its eggs which the Nomen in turn could use in a ritual that might provide further information to the party about what had happened to the villagers.

The party readily agreed to the test and one by one they were taken onto the back of the bird as it flew up high in the atmosphere and then raced along the mountain and through the air. The bird would make sharp, banking turns, rapid swoops along the peaks, full verticle loops in the air and even fold in its wings and dive at breath taking speeds down the side of the mountain. Most of the party had trouble remaining on the bird, and Cice and Bernard might have suffered particularly devastating injuries when they fell off the bird were it not for the paladin's magical boots. However both Aven and Vlad performed well enough to pass the test and the Black Roc gifted the party with one of her eggs.

The party then descended down the mountain with Aven flying softly down while carrying the immense, and heavy egg. When the party was about a third of the way down the mountain, a rift violently opened in the air near the cliff face and two huge air elementals burst forth from the rift. Joseph, thinking quick, used his magic to teleport himself and Cice to a nearby plateau while Aven flew down to the same plateau. The elementals soon followed the party down to the plateau where Cice used her magic to confuse them into fighting each other. By the time the elementals were done fighting each other and had regained their senses, they were both nearly dead and the party was able to dispatch them with ease. Thankfully for the party, they were then able to descend the rest of the way down the mountain without any trouble.

When the party returned to the Nomen they were informed that the Black Roc is a creature that transcends time and that its eggs are able to catch glimpses of events that had transpired in places they've been as well as to observe glimpses of events that were yet to be. The centaurs readily agreed to perform the ritual for the party, but before they did, the party decided to take the egg through the town of Varnhold in the hope of being able to catch a glimpse of what had befallen the town.

After taking the egg to the town, the party returned to the centaurs and several of the elders brought the party and the egg into a large, round hut with a small opening in the top. As the ritual began a thick, aromatic smoke began to fill the hut and soon images began to flash in the smoke. At first elves could be seen constructing an elaborate observatory on the top of a tall mountain peak. Later though the elves had disappeared and it appeared as though cyclopes had taken up residence in the observatory. These astronomers appeared to be focusing on the Dark Tapestry. Later the party could see that the cyclopes were all gone or dead and the tower was abandoned. The images then flickered and soon a tiny village appeared and humans could be seen fighting with centaurs. The village then grew before the party's eyes until at last, the images showed an evening when all at once, everyone in the town simply walked out of their homes and headed south out of the town as a haunting melody played on the air. This was not the end though for the final images to be shown were those of the same village of varnhold and another large scale battle, only this time it appeared as though most of the combatants, on both sides, were human.

After the ritual, Aecora pulled the party aside and told them that while she still did not know for certain what had befallen the vanished town, she suspected what may have occurred. She informed the party that it had long been the sacred duty of the Nomen tribe to guard against an ancient evil that was said to reside to the south in an area known as the Valley of the Dead. She knew the name of the evil was Vordakai, but the tales of the nature of the evil had long since vanished from the memories of her tribe. It was this sacred duty though that kept the Nomen in the plains of the Nomen Heights despite centuries of attacks from humans striving to drive the centaurs out of the area. She believed that Vordakai was a cyclops but also stated that the ancient cyclopean empire that used to control the region was not known to be evil. She regretted that she could not tell the party more, but she did indicate that there was one other who might know something of what had occurred, a silver dragon to the south by the name of Amvarean.

Going Up?

Having successfully proven their worth to the Nomen centaurs during the Kankeratta Run, the party was finally welcomed into the Nomen camp. Even the loudest opponents to their presence prior to the run accepted that the party had more than shown their mettle during the Run and agreed that the party could, at least, stay. So long as their intentions remained noble of course. Aecora Silverfire was even more welcoming than the rest of the tribe though for the party had taken time to ensure that Xamanthe was safe after she was trapped by a collapsing ceiling. To show her gratitude, Aecora gifted the party with a wand that would mend their wounds.

Aecora then proceeded to tell the party much of the history of the relations between the Nomen centaurs and humankind over the centuries. She described a long, bloody history where, as she told it, the humans constantly attempted to displace, or worse, kill, the centaurs despite the fact that the centaurs had been roaming the plains of the Nomen Heights long before any human ever set foot there. Sadly, she described the attitude of Maegar Varn as being little different from that of the previous humans they had encountered. When they sent a welcoming party to greet the new group of humans that attempted to establish an outpost in the area, that welcoming party was immediately attacked. This, she stated, was why her tribe had given the party such a chilly reception.

Aecora again thanked the party and then allowed them to mingle amongst the rest of the centaurs. One centaur, the tribal tattooist, approached the party and asked them to be on the lookout for manticore quills, for they could be used to make particularly excellent tattoos. As they mingled, the party was also informed of several sites considered to be sacred to the tribe. One was the Nomen burial grounds where, unfortunately, a group of manticores had recently taken up residence. Another was the grave site of a long dead linnorm which the Nomen said they often visited to leave offerings for in the hopes of appeasing the spirit of the linnorm so that it would not return and rampage across the Nomen Heights. A third was a peak atop the Tors of Levenies known as Talon Peak where a great spirit of Air resided. Finally, there was the Whispering Grotto on the Western side of the Tors.

The party decided that they did indeed wish to visit these sites in the hopes of learning more about the centaurs as well as hoping to further gain the respect of the tribe. They first set out north to the burial grounds where the party was attacked by three manticores. Although manticores had proved to be quite troublesome to the party in the past, this time the party did not have many problems with the creatures and they were sood dispatched. The party gathered up numerous quills to bring back to the tattoist and he was quite pleased with their efforts, gifting a magical circlet to the party which Vlad found to be very interesting.

The party then decided to travel south to the linnorm grave so they could see it and pay their respects as well. When they approached, the ribs of the creature still stuck up in the air like long, deadly fingers and the party could see numerous urns, jars, pots and baskets that had been left at the site. There were numerous tracks as well, most appearing to be horse hooves. The party had hoped to then travel to the Whispering Grotto but soon discovered that by continuing on the direct path, they would have to climb up and over the Tors of Levenies. At this point, they decided to travel back to the north and to the Varnhold Pass to make their trip easier.

After spending the night in Varnhold, the party set out the next day and went through the pass and headed back south toward the Grotto. As they traveled south though, Aven found an old tower part way up the mountain, a tower that from the top of it, likely had a view through a gap in the peaks of the Tors to the eastern side. The party decided to check out the tower and found that the front door to the tower was unlocked. When they entered they found numerous weapon racks that were largely still full with recent weapons, but nary a sound in the tower. The party continued to explore until finally, on the top floor, they found a single door that appeared to be stuck shut. Aven went around outside the tower and through a window into the room where he observed a single emaciated, and dead, human. Aven also saw that a large dresser had been slid across the door to bar entry from the outside.

Aven let the others in and they were soon able to determine that the human had died of starvation. Clutched in his hand was a journal of sorts. Thom took the time to read the journal and discovered that it was a daily log of the captain of a group of soldiers that appeared to be from Varnhold. The journal left clues of a terrible tragedy born on the howling winds and speaking of bright eyes that could be seen in the night. It described a terrible fate for the rest of the soldiers stationed there and ultimately the captain had barricaded himself in the room stating he couldn't leave. They wouldn't let him leave. Also telling was mention of a signal fire, presumably from Varnhold, that should have been lit nightly but evidently had stopped being lit not long before the troubles befell the inhabitants of the tower.

At this point the party decided to explore the area around the tower for they recognized that it was part way up on Talon Peak. They began to climb and soon found the going to be very difficult but for the magical rope of climbing the party possessed. Even with the rope though it took hours before they could reach the next plateau where a sizeable cave was located. The party began to explore the cave, only to discover that it was the den of giant dire bear. An angry one at that. The bear was ferocious and was able to claw terrible wounds into the bodies of the party, but with the party fighting together, and thereby distracting its attention enough, it was finally able to be slain. Bernard wondered if the bear was somehow responsible for the disappearance of the village of Varnhold, but it didn't make sense since it couldn't have taken the entire village without a trace.

After resting to recover from their battle, the party continued to climb higher, certain that a greater mystery awaited, and an answer, at the very least, as to what had befallen the tower. After climbing for another hour or so, the party was ambushed by a group of ice mephits. The mephits had some advantage since many party members were still climbing, but others were able to fly and thus, engage the mephits on even footing so to speak. The mephits, while annoying, were not particularly dangerous however. After several of them had been slain, the last one left in fight shape surrendered. The party asked it if it knew of any powerful creatures on the mountain and it did describe a group of creatures that it said were very dangerous. It could not give a great description of the creatures though for it said that they moved fast and were powerful and thus, the mephit and its brethren always kept their distance. The party then healed an unconscious mephit and informed both mephits that they could leave so long as they did not trouble the party further. Before departing though, the mephit asked if the party had any of the extremely valuable eggs that could be found on the mountain and seemed disappointed when the party indicated that they had not encountered said eggs.  With that, the mephits departed and the party decided to rest and consider whether to continue climbing to the top of Talon Peak, or to back track and head instead to the Whispering Grotto.

Running Wild

The party left Varnhold and headed east, searching for the Nomen centaurs that were said to reside somewhere in the Dunsward to the east. The party began by exploring the plains to the east and soon there efforts were rewarded as they were encountered by two centaur scouts. The scouts tried to turn the party away initially, but when the party insisted, the scouts eventually allowed the party to go to the Nomen village, provided they hand over all weapons.

The party continued to receive a chilly reception from the centaurs who indicated that they did not like humans and that humans had, for centuries, driven the tribe from their lands. When the centaurs were told that the party was simply attempting to gather information about the disappearance of their friends in Varnhold the centaurs continued to be unfriendly, stating that Varnhold was anything but a friend of the centaurs. After much back and forth, Baron Black at last was able to gain a concession from Aecora Silverfire, the chieftian of the Nomen tribe. That was, that if the party could return the sacred bow Skybolt to the tribe that it might go a long way to mending the relationship between the centaurs and humans, though the bow had been stolen by the people of Varnhold shortly after they settled in the region.

The party camped for the night in the Nomen village and then left early the next morning to return to Varhold in hopes of locating the bow. The party decided to approach the village from the south this time and start a search in that area. While searching through the houses in the southern part of the village, Aven Darkheart located a home where it appeared some celebration had been taking place at the time of the town's disappearance, for there were presents in the home that had yet to be opened. Aven went over to the presents to open them in the hopes of finding something useful. Instead, he was attacked by the presents, which turned out to be a mimic. Although Aven found himself in a sticky situation, and others in the party likewise had some issues, all in all the mimic proved to be relatively simple to dispatch.

After the fight, Joseph Lagrange took the time to consult with his goddess to see if the bow was in fact in the town at all so as not to waste time searching if it weren't. He learned that the bow was in fact in the town and was actually located in the stronghold that was occupied by the Culchek tribe of spriggans. The party then proceeded to the stronghold in the hopes of figuring out how to get the bow out while causing the least amount of fuss. Aven and Darrick were in favor of using stealth to infiltrate the stronghold and simply steal the bow, believing that they could do so without alerting anyone inside to their presence. However, while they were discussing their plan, Bernard, the paladin, came up with a simpler idea. He offered instead to buy the bow from the spriggans. Bernard asked the spriggan on guard at the gate to ask Agai if the spriggan chief would be willing to part with the bow, and was rewarded by learning that the chief was happy to sell the bow to the party if they would then leave. Bernard readily agreed, much to the chagrin of Darrick and Aven.

Before leaving Varnhold altogether though, the party decided to dispatch the chuul that had almost killed Bernard previously. The party laid out a plan, sending the stoutest fighters and the best swimmers after the chuul, while also giving those who were fighting the ability to breathe water. Now that the party knew what they were going to be up against, they had no trouble fighting the chuul and it was killed without much struggle. As the party inspected the tunnel in which the chuul had made its lair, they noticed that it opened into a wide underground cavern and then had another small tunnel leading off of it. Vlad eventually swam down that tunnel and discovered that it opened out at the bottom of a well inside the stronghold. Vlad made a note of that in case he should ever need it in the future.

With Skybolt in hand, the party returned once again to the Nomen tribe and presented the bow to Aecora. The chieftian was quite pleased at the return of the relic. The return of the bow also impressed many of the other centaurs, including Aecora's daughter, Xamanthe. However a sizeable faction of the tribe, comprised primarily of younger centaurs, and lead by the warrior Danide still opposed the party's presence, saying that the two leggeds had performed their errand and that they could now go. Cice Tappo continued to negotiate with the centaurs and eventually Danide declared that they were simply at a disagreement, but that the tribe had a means for resolving disagreements, the Kankerrata Run.

The Kankerrata run is a sacred test among the centaurs and one that requires strength, wit, and endurance. The party agreed that they would participate though the tribal leaders said there would be no shame in not participating for no two legged had ever attempted it previously. The next morning the party was taken to an area of the Dunsward known as the Blood Furrows and told the rules of the Run. The Blood Furrows were a large swath of the Dunsward that was inhabited by a sacred spirit of the earth known as Kankerrata. The goal of the Run is to traverse the length of the Blood Furrows while touching several sacred stones and avoiding the jaws of the sacred spirit of the Earth. Participants must navigate numerous obstacles and can attempt to slow down other contestants, but it is sacrilege to kill Kankerrata, though damaging the spirit is allowed in self defense, so long as it is not killed.

Every member of the party chose to participate, though several soon found that completing the course would be difficult at best. Bernard, Thom Merrilon, and Cice soon had to withdraw as they faced insurmountable obstacles in their path. As the rest of the party progressed through the course, they eventually encountered the great spirit as Kankerrata burrowed out of the ground and took vicious bites out of Aven and Joseph, rendering the poor cleric unconscious in one chomp. Fortunately, Aven was able to revive Joseph and they could continue on through the course. As they approached the end, Darrick and Danide hit the open plains and could see the finish line, but Kankerrata once again burst forth from the ground and attacked. This time though, it attacked Danide and Darrick was able to sprint ahead to the finish, crossing the line first. Vlad was the next to complete the course as Danide continued to fend off Kankerrata. Joseph then crossed ahead of the centaur as she finally was able to withdraw from her combat and finish. Finally, Aven also crossed the line, succesfully completing the Run. The party drew additional praise when earlier in the run Joseph had taken the time to help Xamanthe who had been pinned under a collapsing stone ceiling in one of the caverns.

After the Run, even the most ardent opponents of the party's presence in the centaur village were willing to accept their presence there, even if they did not yet fully trust the party.


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.