The Broken Crown

Episode 6

We left our adventurers exploring an abandoned mine and rejoin them just after a perilous fight with some zombies. After interrogating then killing a bizarre and frightening cultist, the party is now stood surveying the carnage of the battle.

The Rest of the Mine

After taking everything in the room that wasn’t nailed down (including a book full of stange symbols), the group of adventurers pressed on, cautiously navigating the corridors off of the room they fought in. They encountered several cave-ins, which would have been disappointing had Helge not found some gems in the rubble.

Eventually the group entered a wider room cut across the middle by a ravine. As they neared the edge they felt a tugging in their minds and a voice spoke to them, revealing some of their thoughts and secrets.

Most of the group leapt across the ravine without trouble, but Salzar hung back. He had been deep in thought and explained to everyone that he must travel to Askor to research the book that they found. After watching Salzar disappear into the darkness, the rest of the party moved on down a gravel slope through a much wider cavern.

Suddenly in the darkness a large green eye appeared, and the source of the earlier voice was revealed. The owner of the eye was a Nothic, pissed off to find intruders in its lair. Failing to come to a diplomatic resolution, the Nothic attacked.

Wrenn was the first target, he felt tendrils of corrupting rot creeping through his flesh as the Nothic targeted him with a rotting gaze. The gnome, a little panic-stricken, stumbled and fired an arrow at the Nothic which missed and clattered off into the cave behind. He regained his composure and quickly scrambled behind a nearby rock to hide.

Responding quickly, Enna shot her bow at their enemy and her arrow found its mark. Helge and Jason immediately began to run down the gravel slope towards the Nothic, throwing a dart and a javelin as they ran.

Confused by the missing gnome, the Nothic attempted a rotting gaze on Enna who managed to shrug it off. Wrenn popped out of cover to fire an arrow at the Nothic, this time hitting it, while Enna dropped her bow and started to run down the slope.

In unison Helge, Enna, and Jason slashed at the Nothic beating it bloody with their swords. Helge kicked the air in celebration – it looked really cool. In a last attempt at retaliation the Nothic swiped its claws at Enna and Jason, missing the dragonborn but gouging flesh from the elf’s arm.

Wrenn, seeing his chance to look awesome, ran down the gravel slope and slid between Enna and Jason, thrusting his rapier at their enemy. Unfortunately he completely misjudged his attack and his rapier glanced off. Wincing at his companion’s embarassment, Helge jabbed his sword straight through the Nothic’s eye, showering himself and Wrenn with blood and viscera.

With the Nothic defeated, the party noticed two chests that it had been guarding. The first contained some gold and an ornate longsword, which Wrenn and Jason started to examine. While their backs were turned Enna reached to open the second chest, upon touching it her hand became stuck fast.

Hearing Enna’s cry for help, the rest of the group rushed to her side. After debating what to do next, the party decide it’d be best to attack. While Enna tried to pull her hand away, Helge hit the chest with his flaming torch, Wrenn stabbed at it with his rapier, and Jason slashed at it with his longsword. Not wanting to miss out, Enna used her free hand to slash at the chest as well but missed – it’s difficult to fight when your hand is stuck to your target.

As Jason hit the chest once more, Helge unthinkingly punched it; his hand became stuck fast too. Suddenly the chest opened revealing a drooling maw with hundreds of teeth in countless rows. Snapping shut again, it took a large bite of Enna who passed out and fell backwards, unstuck at last.

Wrenn pulled Enna away from the fight and tried to stabilise her while Helge and Jason continued to attack the living chest. The monstrosity’s body morphed suddenly and an arm-like appendage clubbed Jason, becoming stuck to him as well. Determining that Enna should be OK, Wrenn jumped angrily back into the fray – he thrust his rapier into the chest’s mouth as it started to open and the monster screamed out, defeated and slowly melting into a pool of goo.

After dispatching the chest, the adventurers explored the rest of the mine. This passed uneventfully, aside from Jason getting temporarily stuck in a cave-in – luckily he had the strength to pull himself out. Finding nothing more of interest, everyone decided it would be a good idea to leave the mine and continue on their journey.

Wydcote

Leaving the mine, the party travelled south through the forest, following the ancient road that they saw earlier. As evening drew in, they reached the edge of the wood and were greeted by the sight of the Inner Reft in the distance. Mid-way between the Inner Reft and the forest stood a small village silhouetted against the sea, where the party decided to spend the night.

As the adventurers got closer to the village, they began to see signs that something was wrong – many of the buildings looked damaged and the roof of the largest had caved in. Wrenn and Enna decided to scout ahead and investigate.

Sneaking around the corner of the first building, Wrenn froze in place, gesturing to Enna. In the doorway of the largest building a huge Owlbear was sleeping. After managing to convince her that fighting it by themselves would be a bad idea, they returned to the rest of the group. Deciding that they needed to rest desperately and weren’t prepared for a fight , they skirted around the village and into the back of a different house.

After barricading the doors and windows the party managed to sleep, taking turns to watch and listen for movement outside. In the morning, the Owlbear was nowhere to be seen.

As everybody packed their things and prepared to move on, Jason asked the group whether they could bear witness to an oath he wished to make. He explained the story of his evil twin and his companions followed him to a nearby shrine that served the village. Here he took an oath of vengeance.

Journey to Ponterin

After a little arguing (and a vote) on what to do next, the group decided to journey back to Ponterin and report their progress to Lord Protector Xander.

Around midday, the party reached Anemst – a small village by the coast. The village consisted of only a boat-house, several small huts, and a small outside store where dried fish was hanging. Wrenn bought some delicious haddock and engaged the storekeep in conversation, asking about what happened at Wydcote. The storekeep explained that it’d been sacked by orcs from the forest to the North, and that there was never any news from Ponterin.

Leaving Anemst, the adventurers continued their journey south-west, eventually reaching the town of Imrelis in the early evening. Looking for somewhere to sleep, and lacking an inn, the group approached one of the larger houses and asked the occupants whether they could pay for beds for the night.

After Helge enquired about the night life, their hosts offered up mead and everyone settled down for a game of dice. Wrenn won, of course, and the party bedded down for the night.

In the morning, waving goodbye to their hosts, the group left Imrelis and continued on to Ponterin (Wrenn sneakily left some coin in the house as a thank you). Nothing much happened on the way, except Enna trying to push Wrenn in a frosty pool.

Ponterin

Entering through the gates of Ponterin, the party immediately noticed an increase in the number of guards around the place. Troops of soldiers marched past looking serious and the civilians in the street looked tense.

Reaching the large market square that marked the city center, the group noticed a halfling trader being accosted by several guards. Overhearing that the trader was late in his payments, and not liking to see another small person get accosted by humans, Wrenn ran over and pretended to know the halfling. He offered up money and the party narrowly avoided a fight.

The halfling introduced himself as Heffyd and offered up information in payment. He explained that the guard had been raised but that nothing much in the way of news had reached the general populace. He also gave the group some advice on where to sell their treasure.

Deciding not to waste more time, everyone decided to make their way to the palace to see Xander, the Lord Protector. After showing the royal seal to some guards, the party intruded on the end of a council meeting. Xander seemed pleased to see them and listened patiently as they told him of what they’d learned.

He ended by offering for the group to become agents of the crown, making their work official. Wrenn stipulated that he’d like to meet the king in person before doing so and the group agreed to take some time to discuss the proposition. Xander asked them to return later that day.

Attempting to sell the gems they found in a reputable jewellers, the party realised that they were being ripped off. On the advice of Heffyd they journeyed to the south-west quarter of the city which was more run down and shady than the rest of Ponterin. An urchin pick-pocketed Helge as they walked, and disappeared before anyone could react.

They entered The Ogre’s Rest, a dingy tavern along the main road. The impression everyone got was “this place is dodgy”, and it was difficult to prevent Enna from attacking a group of half-orcs. The barman, Content Not Found: hanalor, told the group that the best place to sell valuables would be Della’s Jewellers up the road a little way.

The party wandered up to the jewellers and Wrenn went in first, signalling slyly to Jason to prevent Enna from entering. His intuition was correct – Della was a half-orc and he didn’t need the orc-hating elf messing up the deal. Enna noticed the shadiness, and Wrenn spoke straight with her. Enna seemed to accept that selling the rubies was more important than her desire to intimidate a shop keeper.

Wrenn and the others entered the shop and mentioned to Della that Heffyd had sent them. Della seemed to warm to the group and she gave them a good price for all the gems, after a little haggling.

The group decided it was time to go and see Xander once again, who they met to one side of the throne room in the palace. He led them through a doorway, up a tall tower staircase, and through a hatch. In the room above they were met by an old man in a four-poster bed – who they quickly understood to be King Stendar.

He looked weak and old, and was racked by coughing fits, but he greeted the party and spoke bluntly – “so you would take my coin?”. He discussed the proposal that the group become agents of the crown, expressing that there was a dire need for somebody to deal with The Broken Crown.

The party then took the Kingsman’s Oath declaring loyalty to the crown in turn (except Enna). The king instructed his new agents to find the Broken Crown stronghold in the forest to the north, and deal with the immediate threat.

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Enna's Story

The early years (285NK-305NK)

From a very young age, Enna’s imagination was always transported to ancient times and worlds when listening to the old Elven Tales. The Elves Gathering in evenings were a true delight for her, when the Elders sang the stories. Her mind was overwhelmed by the true heroism of her ancestors, her eyes shining of all the lights of the starry sky.

The race duality that she carried in her, made her struggling during all her childhood, on how to behave and then feeling conflicted on which path to choose for her adult life as she loved both her parents, her mother Emeline, being Human, her father, Iankian, being an Elf.

She had to learn music and art among other things in the mornings, been commanded by her Human mother so her education prepared her for adult social duties. She complied to please her mother but she was not much interested in all this. In the afternoons, she had free quarters and she was outside with her friends where she relived these grand battles that she heard about. She loved to play the dragon slayer, to climb trees, to run around, to feel so energetic. Her best friends were also intrepid as she was and more than once, they all got in trouble: going to places in the city of Askor that were forbidden to them, the sewers in particular. She had an immediately engaging personality, radiating so much confidence that her friends would have followed her everywhere.

She learned how to fight, encouraged by her father who wanted the Elf side of her to be complete. Her father was pushing her to embrace her fears to not be inhibited by them but to drive her focus and sheer willpower. And she just applied that. She mastered the short-bow, but preferred the long bow and short swords. The practice was hard, often she had so many bruises on her arms and hands that she could barely lift anything.

When she becomes a teenager, her mother started looking for a potential suitor for her so she could get married in her early years of adulthood. Her search was among young men that would bring strong ties with their family , to grow their influence in the Outer Council of Askor. But Enna did not want any of this, she never cares much for the politics that her mother was so involved into.

When she received a marriage proposal from Balkas, an Elf she liked, him having a pretty face and nice manners and all that, she climbed her favorite tree to the top and thought hard about what to do. All of her friends were getting married, having children and something deep stirred in her. She could not do it, this was not the life she was after. She was longing for adventures and discovering places. She wanted to travel the world and meet people. The call was too strong to resist.

She declined getting married, packed a bag and left the city within hours. She said goodbye to her parents, her mother was utterly sad but Enna could see the pride in her father’s eyes. Here she was, on the road, having broken all the chains that pinned her down, leaving family and friends behind, looking forward to another life: a free and independent life.

Enna’s true calling (305K-317K)

The entertainer (305K-315K)

Enna was following the main road from Askor when a caravan heading in the same direction stopped. A jovial man greeted her and asked her if she wanted a lift. Enna recognized him as Komos Numena, the leader of entertainers that performed at a private party she attended two days ago. She and her father sang with them an Elvish ballad. What she did not know is Iankian, her father, paid Komos a large sum of gold for securing a position for her in his troupe, so she can explore the world safely and not by wandering alone. Iankian asked him to keep this arrangement secret and Komos agreed to it.

Enna accepted the offer of travelling with them, glad for some company to distract her from her own thoughts, at least to the next town. Komos introduced her to the troupe: Merric and Lidda Goodbarrel, both Halfling jugglers/jesters, Miri Buckman, Human singer/dancer and Thokk, Half-Orc fire-eater. They recognised her and greeted her warmly. Travelling in their company was pleasant, Enna was at ease, even smiling gently at the intense stare of Thokk.

Komos asked her where she was going. Enna did not have much of an answer except exploring the kingdoms and see where that would lead her into. Komos nodded while she spoke and then made the proposition of her joining them, having sung with her and listened to her playing the viol, she would be a good fit in their troupe and with the extra bonus of hopping from town to town, being paid, free accommodation and transport.

Enna could not believe her luck! It sounded like a very good start to her journey into the world. She was a bit overwhelmed by it but Komos and the others cheered her up with songs and jokes. And so, Enna became a full performer, at different venues all over the country, from inns to rich mansions, and not to forget the numerous village square markets.

They travelled everywhere, camping on the road. Enna loved it. She met so many different races and learnt their ways of life. A great variety of food too, some she discovered that do not always agree with her stomach. The life was good and peaceful. She grown very fond of each of them and they became an extended family. Merric and Lidda were very kind, Enna loved being their guinea pig for their new jests they were rehearsing. She practised her singing with Komos and Miri. And played the viol for the new dance Miri was practising. And the laughs they had, Komos always ready for a good joke had an extensive repertoire.

When camping, Thokk and her did their chores together, mainly getting the campfire started and hunting in the woods. They became good friends, having an understanding of what being a half-race means, not belonging truly to one race or another. They talked a lot about everything and liked very much their walk in the forests. Thokk was very fond of her, a lot more that he would admit to her. She, on the other end, was liking him a lot like a brother.

And years passed and Enna was full content or so she believed. It was late in the year of 314K and her world was made upside down when Komos introduced the troupe to a new comer, Carric Naïlo, Dark Elf storyteller/tumbler. When both Carric and Enna greeted each other, something strong was exchanged, stunning both of them. A deep bond between their souls and their hearts. They became one without any logical explanation. They both felt it very deeply. Merric and Lidda exchanged a wink, knowing when love struck, nothing much you can do about it. Miri and Komos laughed but Thokk was horrified.

Enna was now spending all her free time with Carric. They loved their walks together, Carric was caring, gentle and a very good storyteller. Enna loved listening to him and watching him, finding his lilac eyes, dark skin, white hair and good features so attractive. Such a contrast with her red hair and green eyes. They shared such an understanding than just looking at each other and they knew what the other meant. Everyone seeing them together could see how much love was radiating between them.

Thokk was in agony. He felt totally let down. Nothing he could do to get Enna’s attention anymore. He was losing appetite and sleep. Miri saw that something was wrong but Thokk rebuffed her when she asked what was going on. Thokk turned sour and bitter inside, loathing Carric deeply.

After one show they did in a town, he went to the shady area and got drunk in an establishment where thugs hang out. He could not bear the sight of Carric and Enna anymore. He spoke to Grarzuk, Orc, thief and assassin, on how he wanted to see Carric dead so life could go back as before. Grarzuk told him, for 50gp, he could do the job. Thokk told him where they will camp the next day when enroute to the next town, He gave him 50gp and drunkenly walked out, crashing asleep into a bush by the large square market. The next day, Thokk woke up, hangover, joined the rest of the troupe to pack for their journey. He saw Grarzuk lurking around and the full discussion came back to him. It made him smile widely, no remorse to have hired an assassin but a great joy to think that Carric will be dead soon.

They travelled all day and Komos guided their carriage to a clearing bordered by a stream and woods. The place was peaceful. They all got into the routine to prepare the camp. Enna and Carric went to hunt, Merric and Lidda gathered firewood, Komos and Miri unloaded the carriage and Thokk went to the stream to get some fresh water. He found Grarzuk who was hiding there. He whispered to him to come back later. He nodded and went back to the camp for supper, smiling at the thought of the future death of Carric.

After supper, Enna and Carric went for a stroll into the woods as usual. They both loved climbing trees and talked for hours on end. No skirmish nor attack ever happened in this part of the country so Komos decided there was no need to keep watch. They went to bed early except Thokk. He went back to the stream and found Grarzuk with 4 other Orcs. He then understood that they will attack the camp. He argued with Grarzuk who put a knife on his throat saying that either he dies now or he obeys him. The other Orcs pulled their blades and threatened him to cut him into pieces. Thokk has no escape and better to do as told.

Enna and Carric walked back late in the night to the camp and fell asleep by the campfire where everyone was already sound asleep. They did not notice Thokk was missing. The Orcs approached silently towards the camp, each having chosen one to kill. Grarzuk was on Carric, afterall he was paid to kill him. Thokk all nervous chose Lidda, cowardly thinking that if things go badly, she would not represent much of a threat. When all in position, the Orcs shouted a war cry. Enna instinctively rolled on the side, waking up instantly, avoiding to be pierced by a longsword. The others of the troupe did not stand a chance. Grarzuk beheaded Carric with his axe. Enna was in shock, could not move but made out that Thokk was part of the assailants. She screamed his name and he looked at her, snarled and threw his sword at her. It cut her through her shoulders and Grarzuk stabbed her in the back. She fell on the ground, looking at the headless body of Carric. Thokk kicked her in the head and all went black.

The hunter (316K)

“Lara mime óma. Atatúla ana i kal”
(Hear my voice. Come back to the light)

“Lara mime óma. Atatúla ana i kal. Lara mime óma. Atatúla ana i kal”

Enna was dreaming an Elf was speaking to her. She came back from the darkness, following the voice and opened her eyes. She saw the Elf sitting at the bedside, and looked around. She was in a wooden hut. The memories of the attack came back to her and she became agitated and shouted: “Carric! Melloneamin!” (Carric! My friends!)

“Ro naa qualin. Ilyë ron naa qualin” (He is dead. they are all dead) replied the Elf in a sad voice. Big tears rolled out of Enna’s eyes.

“Amin naa Naelar, Cala’quessir, Taur’ohtar. Mani naa essa en lle?”
(I am Naelar, High-Elf, Ranger. What is your name?)

“Amin naa Enna, Peredhel, Nyello”
(I am Enna, Half-Elf, Singer)

“Mae govannen Enna”
(Well met Enna)

“Mae govannen Naelar. Manke naa lye? Sut an nae amin sinome?”
(Well met Naelar. Where are we? How long I have been here?")

“Lle naa neldë enquië sinome. Lle anta est. lle nae naiharna. Lle anta comya alwa”
(You have been here 3 weeks. You need to rest. You were badly wounded. You need to gather strength)

“Amin fauka.”
(I am thirsty)

Naelar gave her some water to drink.

“Diola lle”
(Thank you)

And Enna fell back to sleep.

She woke up the next day, refreshed but feeling frail. Her wounds were healed leaving faint scars. Naelar was not around. She helped herself with some rabbit stew that was kept warm in the fireplace and a nice loaf of bread that was on the table. She was famished and wolfed it down quickly. She found her clothes folded on a chair, they were cleaned and mended. She dressed up and ventured outside. The hut was in a small clearing surrounded by tall trees. She looked around but there was no sign of activity, only the tree shadows and a slight breeze that touched her face. She took a deep breath and decided to climb the nearest tree. The climb was laborious, her muscles not having worked for some time now, she took her time, slowly, branch after branch, until she reached a spot that she could see further in the horizon and comfortable enough for her to rest. The sun was high, there are no houses in the horizon, only the forest as far as your eyes can see.

She meditated on the attack, the death of her friends and her soulmate Carric, the betrayal of Thokk. She now understood the deep hatred the Elf race has for Orcs: a race of brutal warriors who know little of mercy or kindness. She thought Thokk was different as Carric, a Drow, was from the usual characteristics of his race. How naive she has been. She remembered the face of each of them: Carric, Komos, Miri and Merric and Lidda. How much love and kindness they gave her. She wept a lot but she also felt enraged by the thought of Thokk and the other Orcs that slew them. She fixed in her memory all the details of her assailants she could remembered and decided that she will not have any rest until the murders of her friends were avenged. A new sense of purpose was flowing through her. Feelings of vengeance, punishment, deep hatred were filling her. Her green eyes were flashing with rage when she climbed down the tree.

It was sunset when she reached the ground. Naelar was coming back to the hut. He looked tired, his clothes muddy, 2 dead pheasants on his shoulders. He was pleased to see her awake and moving around. She thank him for taking care of her. Naelar smiled and asked her if she would help him preparing the 2 pheasants for roasting.

While working side by side, Naelar told her how he found her barely breathing and having lost a lot of blood, 2 days after the attack. He brought her to his hut to heal. He cast the spells “Lanta kaima” (Sleep) and “Tanka harwar” (Heal) so she could recover quickly without suffering. He went back to what was left of the camp several times to bury the dead bodies and to follow the tracks of the Orcs. Enna told him that she wanted to go back, to where her friends were buried and also, confided in him that she will avenge their deaths. Naelar looked at her and said: “Cuamin linduva yassen megrille” (My bow shall sing with your sword). Enna paused and with a fixed stared, she replied “L’quelin Orco naa ba Orco as lala cas” (“The best Orc is a dead Orc with no head”).

Naelar suggested that after the long period of convalescence, Enna would need to be in shape for the hunt. She agreed that to do some fight training would be a good idea but her weapons were at the camp. Naelar took out of a wooden chest a bundle which contained a longbow and 2 short swords. He picked them up from the ransacked camp, knowing that they were Elven weapons. The longbow has been broken and the short swords were thrown away by the stream. Naelar told her that he can repair the longbow. When Enna wrapped her fingers around the hilts of the short swords, she felt good, very good and picturing the Orcs, very bloodthirsty. He offered to develop her tracking skills as fighting will come handy when they found the Orcs but learning how to find them was coming first.

And she trained, hard and harder, day after day. Naelar was pushing her like her father did when she was younger, meaning not much respite. But she did not complain even when her body was aching so much that she could barely move without wincing, always focus on her revenge. She listened to the sounds in the forest, to recognise what they were. She smelled and tasted the air, to describe the scents all around her. She read an impression in the mud or a bend in a twig like words on a printed page. She covered her footprints, avoided snapping twigs, and concealed her own trail. She rendered herself nearly invisible by flattening her body in such a way that she could blend into dark areas, and remaining perfectly still while doing so. Naelar taught her how to move with a minimum of sound, almost as if she was walking on air. Naelar was impressed how fast she was progressing but he was in no hurry, wanted to make sure her desire for revenge was not momentary.

6 months passed and finally, Enna was ready: sharp-eyed and hardened by the training and more than ever hungry for revenge. But more than 7 months have passed since the attack and surely the trail was now cold. Naelar told her that first thing they will go to the upcoming forgathering, an informal get-togethers for Rangers. There, they will meet with Arannis Liadon and Mindartis Amakiir. Both of them long-time Rangers, covered large territories and they discovered the attacked camp as he did. They helped him to bring Enna back to the hut. They promised to each other to look out for the Orcs and to gather any information they could. They would know where the Orcs went.

Such foregatherings are secret and they had to follow strange symbols carved on trees or stones, intended as guideposts to lead them to the forgathering site. They arrived with their hands full with pheasants, rabbits and fruits. A large group of Rangers had already set up tents and makeshift tables. Quite a few kegs of Ale were nearby and a couple of boars were roasting in large campfires. Target practicing was under way and a few rangers were busying themselves in mock battles using swords and spears bound with thick layers of cloth. A lot of Rangers greeted Naelar and Enna was then introduced to her first foregathering. As a first-timer, she had been assigned to guard duty for the night. She did not care as long she could talk with Arannis and Mindartis. Naelar found them watching the target practice while sipping ales. After the three of them exchanged greetings and news from people they knew, Arannis and Mindartis acknowledged Enna and both were glad to see that she recovered well from the attack. Naelar asked them what information they had on the Orcs and information, they had plenty.

The Orcs attacked 3 camps in Arannis’ territory and one camp in Mindartis’. They moved fast from one place to another and took the North direction to the mountains. Reading their tracks told the Rangers that they were 6 of them. Mindartis proposed that the 4 of them go to the village nearby the mountains to check if they passed through and to pick up their trail. Arannis, Naelar and Enna agreed and decided to leave the foregathering the day after next.

They run all day and most part of the night for 9 days non stop before they reached the village after dark. They covered a large distance in no time. There they stopped by the local Inn and listened to the patrons’ discussions. A caravan has been attacked the day before at 2 days walk from the village. They looked at each other and the 4 of them left quietly the Inn and started to run towards the location of the camp. They reached it at dawn and for 2 hours they deciphered all the tracks they found. 6 attackers they were, which fit with the group they were after, one with an axe. They took a short break to eat some fruits and bread. They discussed their next moves and followed the tracks that were heading into the woods at the feet of the mountains.

They did not run but walked slowly and silently, examining the ground and the trees. Enna was applying all she learnt from Naelar. Arannis and Mindartis congratulated her and Naelar on the accomplishment and welcomed her as a true Ranger. Enna was very, very proud of herself. The trail was fresh enough for them to follow without much difficulty. At the end of the day, they found a campfire, cold from the day before and with enough tracks to know that the Orcs spent few hours there. The Orcs must have felt safe enough to move at a slow pace or were they waiting for someone? The Rangers kept pushing in the woods, listening to each sound, smelling the air.

It took them the full night and the entire following day but then all of them smelled it: campfire and something roasting. They came to an halt. Arannis went scouting while the others blended themselves in the undergrowth, silent and still. He came back a couple of hours later and confirmed that they were the ones that attacked Enna’s camp from her description, Thokk was there too. Enna’s eyes were reflecting pure hatred. Enna was ready to move into battle but the others told her that it was preferable to wait and watch their routine. They approached closer to the camp, silently and took such positions that no one could know that 4 Rangers were nearby.

The Orcs and Thokk looked nervous, something was afoot. They stopped moving as they heard a group approaching the camp. 3 Goblins and 3 Orcs accompanying a Dragonborn entered the camp. The Dragonborn looked evil. The Orc with the axe (Grarzuk) acknowledged the Dragonborn and both of them went to discuss something apart from the others who gathered around the campfire to eat. The Dragonborn talked at length putting both hands on the shoulders of Grarzuk as he was convincing him of something. The Rangers could not hear the exchange. After the Orc nodded, agreeing with the Dragonborn, they joined the others to eat. They all took their quarters for the night, being watched by the 4 immobile Rangers.

In the morning, the Dragonborn and his followers left. Grarzuk gave orders to leave camp in the opposite direction. The Rangers left their positions and continue to follow their trail. They did that for a week. Their route was getting deeper into the forest. Enna had trouble to keep in check her hatred but Naelar, Arannis and Mindartis calmed her and asked her to be patient. They needed to find the right opportunity to strike. And it came just to that.

The weather was turning into winter and they felt they did not have the equipment for it. Arannis summoned an eagle and left the others to gather what they would need. The eagle will help Arannis to keep in touch with the rest of the group. Enna heard about the bonding with animal companions in the Elven Tales but it was the first time she witnessed it. She was in awe of Arannis. The Orcs reached an old watermill, mostly in ruins and camped there. The next day, Grarzuk gave orders to the others to consolidate the place. They were going to stay there for some time. Mindartis sent the eagle to Arannis so he will know where they are and the Rangers still blending with the surroundings waited. The Orcs were taking their time to repair the place. This told the Rangers that they will not expect more to come and that they had a false sense of security.

When Arannis came back, they were all happy to have warm clothes to wrap themselves into as the temperatures being so close to the mountains dropped down quickly at night. Naelar explained to Arannis what happened since he left and the routine the Orcs kept. He also made him understand that they might not be able to contain Enna for too long. She was indeed getting desperate to strike. They waited for another 2 days so Arannis get acquainted with the surroundings and the movement of the Orcs. There was one moment of the day that would be a good opportunity to kill 4 of them when they get into the forest to either hunt, gather firewood or cut branches to repair the place. They are separated from each other and not in view of the watermill. Grarzuk and Thokk were staying in the ruins, Grarzuk keeping Thokk in sight, not trusting him to stay put.

The Rangers silently moved out from their hidings and each of them picked up one Orc to kill. All happened very quickly. Naelar climbed a tree and rapidly shot 3 arrows, one in the heart, one in the throat and one in the eye so quickly that the Orc dropped dead without making a sound. Naelar was grinning, quite satisfied with himself. Mindartis walked so silently that the Orc did not hear him coming from behind. He cut his throat in a swift movement and left as he came. Arannis who was in a tree, in one movement, dropped on top of the Orc, planted his long sword in his skull and rolled on the ground. The Orc died instantly. Arannis spat on him and put a feet on his body to take back his sword. Enna was hiding in a bush when the Orc passed by, her short swords ready. Her hands were steady, she did not hesitate, she becomes a whirlwind of steel and beheaded him. The Orc’s head rolled on the ground, eyes wide opened, his body slumped into the ground. Enna looked at him with cold, hardened eyes. The 4 Rangers regrouped, nodded at each other to indicate that the 4 Orcs were dead and decided to go for the 2 remaining in the watermill. Enna told them that Thokk was hers, she was not asking.

Arannis sent the eagle to check where Grarzuk and Thokk were. The eagle came back and told that they were both on the other side of the watermill. The 4 rangers crawled towards the ruins and advanced slowly to the left corner. All of a sudden, Grarzuk appeared and saw Naelar in front of him. He drew and swung his axe before Naelar could hit him with his sword. Arannis and Mindartis shot arrows killing Grarzuk but not quick enough as Naelar fell dead on the ground. Enna broke into a run to where Thokk was standing, bewildered by the commotion. When he saw Enna coming his way, his eyes opened in terror and started to run away. She drew her long bow and shot him in the legs and in the back. He tripped on the ground, still alive. Enna stood above him as Thokk was begging for his life and forgiveness, telling her that the Orcs forced him to attack the camp. Enna drew her short swords and took a long hatred look at him, her green eyes were intense.

Nae saian luume’. Amin feuya ten’ lle
(It has been too long. You disgust me)

and she cut his head off. She stayed there, thinking of Carric and her friends. Her revenge was complete. She was exulting.

Then she remembered Naelar falling and ran back to him. Arannis and Mindartis were by his side, weeping. Enna joined them and sadness enveloped her. They buried him in the forest, among trees that he cherished so much. Enna stood by his grave silently for a while and then gave him her farewell:

Cormamin niuve tenna’ ta elea lle au’. Quel kaima mellonamin.
(My heart shall weep until it sees thee again. Sleep well my friend)

She decided to go back to the wooden hut of Naelar and travelled back for a while with Arannis and Mindartis. They said their goodbyes at the village by the mountains, Arannis and Mindartis leaving together and Enna staying behind to rest before the long journey.

The Orc Killer (317K)

Enna made a promise on Naelar’s grave that she will have no respite until she destroys the Orc species. From now on, one single, all-consuming goal motivates Enna to the exclusion of all else. For Naelar, Carric, Komos, Miri, Merric and Lidda she will put her deadly focus on the grim task of protecting the borderlands. She has found her true calling.

Enna left the village after a good night and day of rest. She felt so alive and happy to hit the road. She much prefers wandering than staying put. It started to get dark when she first smelled a campsite nearby. She approached it carefully and after observing it, she walked straight to it. Two half-Orcs were eating by the campfire. They greeted her amicably and invited her to share their food. Enna smiled, paused, closed her eyes briefly and she felt entranced by the idea. In a flash, she drew her short swords and killed them savagely on the spot. She looked at them, satisfied with herself, took a deep breath and resumed her walking.

Because after all, “L’quelin Orco naa ba Orco as lala cas” (“The best Orc is a dead Orc with no head”).

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When Enna refuses to take a royal oath...

“Fools!”

That was the first thought that came to her mind when she exited the Royal chamber after she refused to take the King’s allegiance.

“They are fools to not think how deep runs the oath they took. In a place where obviously some magic floats around. And for what? money! How greedy they can be, selling themselves like that! Don’t they see that keeping a free soul is more important than money, in these dark times when Orcs are unleashed.”

The only thought of Orcs killing around with such impunity makes her twitching her 2 short-swords on her back.

“Breathe, I have to keep a cool head. How the Little One called me again? ah yes, a psychopath! Too bad I missed pushing him in that water earlier, a bath would have done him good! If only he knew…[Remembering] dead, they are now all dead.”

She climbs a tree and sits down on the higher branch, deep in thought.

“I cannot let them down. Been through so much together. But this! I will need to keep an eye on them now, more than ever. I do not trust much this King and his men. It is not they cannot fight, no, they are good fighters but money is their weakness. What a band of misfits, we all are! Them the money, me the Orcs and Salzar power.

Ah yes, Salzar! cannot believe this guy leaving us in the mines, buggering off as he did. He proved himself ok in a fight and been useful more than once but I cannot say I trust him. Too full of himself and driven by pure ambition it seems. He always challenges us to the core, wonder what exactly he has in mind and what power he is after. I guess he will stick around with us as long as we serve some obscure purpose for him. Twisted mind he has.

Unlike Jason. Jason! The dragonborn! I kind of like him, a big brother watching out for me. Hahaha, clumsy too, but one you can trust. It is black and white with him, you always know where he stands but his appetite of money is no good. And his business with his evil twin and Orcs, dark stuff, got to help him there. And if there are Orcs to kill, I am always ready for a fight.

As Helge, surprisingly, what a fighter! the monk that was so full of booze when we met him…. Diving first in the battle as he has no will to live long. He changed a lot in the past few weeks. Still loving the booze though but getting more confident and taking initiatives. The fists of his are proven quite something in battles and I respect him more and more. He can talk wisely too…between drinks. Talking about wisdom, the Little One, Wrenn!

He proves himself a lot useful but I cannot believe all these virtues he exhibits are true. So cheesy! He is a con man that is not to be forgotten. His love of money and books are too strong and what the creature said? Ah yes, selling his body for a coin, hahaha, half a coin would be more fitting! but what can I say? I am a sucker for a pretty face, the dark green eyes of his…. starting to be fond of him…. a lot… Oh take a grip of yourself! Brush away these feelings! And focus! They are all in danger that they do not even foresee!"

Enna climbs down the tree, waiting for the rest of the group to exit the castle and taking it from here. " After all, more Orcs will cross our pass. “L’quelin Orco naa ba Orco as lala cas” (“The best Orc is a dead Orc with no head”)

Comfort words that makes Enna feel better already!

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The Aarnekensian Kingsman’s Oath

I, name
Do take this oath
To the Kingdom of Aarnekas
To its King and his House
To obey him and his agents
Until the day I die
The Gods so help me.

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Wrenn's Story: A Gnome Of Many Gnames

On the first day of the month of Fallow, the town of Benklur celebrates the transition from Winter to Spring. Every year the gnome population decorate their tree-top houses with flowers and spring leaves, in a festival that both welcomes the spring and banishes the last of the winter rain.

This particular year, two of the townspeople weren’t joining in the festivities: Eldon and Gael were otherwise-occupied. The morning of the fourth of Fallow, a heavily pregnant Gael had been in labour for three days – their first (and as it would turn out, only) child was proving to be difficult to manage from the outset.

When he was eventually born later that day, they named their boy Wrenn, after the bird – he was small even by gnome standards.

Eldon

An eighteen year old Wrenn stood solemnly by his mother’s side, comforting her as they stood at the base of their tree. Friends and family were gathered around them, but Wrenn barely noticed the company; he was focused on the small deep grave that had been dug between the roots of their home.

His father, Eldon, had died suddenly. A misplaced foot and a bad fall was all it took, and Wrenn was now struggling with an increased sense of his own mortality as well as the loss of a loved one.

As was tradition in Benklur, his father’s body was lowered into the grave standing up. Members of each family were buried like this, their body feeding the tree that housed them when they were living.

Gnomes take many names over their years, and Wrenn had thus far abstained from the practice. Often their second name will be comical, designed to make people laugh. Wrenn had waited later than most of his peers, and now knew what his second name would be – the name of his father. He became Wrenn Eldon.

Uptree

Throughout his twenties, Wrenn became more and more solitary. Rarely taking part in community events (unheard of from a young gnome) and showing no interest in courting or even taking up carpentry – the occupation of both his parents.

Instead, Wrenn preferred to read, closeting himself away and absorbing tome after tome – the aquisition of knowledge became an addiction for him, particularly history and the study of magic.

In Gnome culture this behaviour is considered abnormal, especially when combined with Wrenn’s lack of enthusiasm for festivals and celebrations. It didn’t take long for other villagers to start referring to Wrenn as “Uptree”. Widely considered an insult, “Uptree” hints at isolationism and lack of community spirit.

In a characteristic act of defiance, Wrenn began to wear the name as a badge of honour, and became Wrenn Eldon Uptree.

Frogbother

It was in his early thirties that Wrenn left his home village and travelled to the city of Engrel in search of work. He’d tired of village life and exhausted the small number of books that he could get his hands on.

It wasn’t long before he interviewed at the city library and was taken on as a researcher. This was a dream come true for Wrenn, now surrounded by more books than he could ever read in his lifetime. It was also in the Engrel City Library that Wrenn began to realise he could be a social creature; now that he was part of a group of like-minded individuals his gnomish sense of humour started to develop. Pranks became a favourite pass-time.

One of the older librarians, Mellik, was a frequent target for pranking among the younger staff. Wrenn had been regaled with stories of previous escapades, and was keen to join in. One such story involved a simple prank – filling Mellik’s desk drawer with frogspawn, it had delighted the young researchers to see him fuming and desperately scooping out handfulls of slime.

Wrenn took this prank further, re-filling the desk and then hiding himself away to watch with his co-consiprators. When Mellik cried out, hands full of frogspawn, Wrenn began phase two: using his gnomish ability to create illusions, he made a large frog appear on a pile of books near the confused librarian. As soon as Mellik rushed over to catch the frog, it disappeared. Wrenn repeated this over and over again, the hidden group of researchers stifling laughter as Mellik sped back and forth across his office.

Continued use of illusory frogs over the years, mostly as an in-joke, earned Wrenn a fond nickname among his peers. He became Wrenn Eldon Uptree Frogbother.

Prickleback

Engrel city library was in financial trouble. Earlier in Wrenn’s fourty first year, a fire had destroyed one of the library’s wings and massively depleted the store of books. There was now less of a need for desk-based researchers and Wrenn’s role took a sideways step into field research.

Wrenn took surprisingly quickly to his new life on the road, and the procurement of rare manuscripts led him down some dubious paths. He found less-than-lawful ways to approach his job, and found that his natural morality could be somewhat suppressed when he focused on the task at hand. Helping his library became a “greater good” in his mind, which he decided gave him license to commit small wrongs along the way.

In his mid-forties, Wrenn fell in with a group of criminals in Fortitude, who had become known for their elaborate heists. He used his ill-gotten gains and new criminal contacts to purchase and steal dozens of rare books and scrolls for his library. His codename during this time was Prickleback, owing to his keeping a pet hedgehog.

After he left the group (on good terms) he decided to adopt his codename, becoming Wrenn Eldon Uptree Frogbother Prickleback.

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Helge's Story

Breakthrough

For the eighth morning running, Helge is awoken by the calls of the seagulls as they break their fast in the shallows of the archipelagos of Igægi.

Wincing in the bright sunlight, he props himself up from his position of rest, face-down on the desk covered in notes and scribbles.

He wipes some drool from his cheek and then, more frantically, from the note at the top of the pile on his desk. Blearily he reads in smudged ink what he must have written to himself just before he fell asleep in the early hours of the morning.

This is it

What must be done

Many months ago now, Helge had made a discovery that was, to his mind, one of the greatest contributions to herbal medicine in the past 2 decades at least! Since then he had spent every waking hour trying to find a way to have his discovery published by a worthy institution.

He’d written letters and repeat letters to herbological, medical and scientific colleges in all of the 9 kingdoms of Odreïn and, much to his surprise and exasperation, heard absolutely nothing in return. Perhaps they thought it was a hoax? It sometimes struck he himself that it was too exciting to be true.

He was beginning to lose hope of anyone taking him seriously, and harden himself to the possibility that if his discovery was ever going to be shared with the greater world (and truly it must be shared!), he was going to have to set off to make a name for himself and find his own monetary means of publishing his work.

On the 199th day (Helge was counting) the ferry once again arrived with not a word of response. Before he could change his mind, Helge paid the ferryman nearly all of his savings to charter a journey to the Inner Rift.

Adventure time

The journey had been horrendous. Helge didn’t think he had it in him weather such a prolonged fit of vomiting. He staggers onto dry land, weeping with relief and exhaustion. The ferryman, concealing a smirk, points him in the direction of the village of Bridgefoot, the nearest chance of food and comfortable rest. His few remaining coins jingling in his pocket, he trudges wearily along the road…

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Episode 5.1
Jason's Thoughts

As we approach the camp, Zephyr/Duke Relis suddenly jumps to his feet looking to defend himself. I see clearly now that this is a man who that has seen battle, as he lowers his weapon in recognition of who we are, beckoning us forward. We reach the camp with no other complications, and are pleasantly surprised to find our comrade Sti’vun; who rejoins us after a brief side quest.

I listen with half an ear as the group talk to the Duke. He allows us to camp with him upon hearing that we’ll lead him to the carriage he was after – in return we get a tidy profit for a couple of hours work. The Heroes of Woodcrest aren’t complete mercenaries – we just sometimes need a little motivation.

He proceeds to tell us how the “Broken Crown” group – that ambushed them this night – have started attacking various areas in the last 6 months, and how they have no real information about them or their structure – as they seem to attack from the shadows. He continues on about how the thugs we met in the tavern were meant to be his makeshift army – as if he used his real army from the kingdom, then the Broken Crown would be alerted that he was on to them. Personally I feel the reasoning is pretty dodgy, and looking at the faces around me it’s clear that some of the group feel the same. He segues on from this to say that he could use some help, but at this point I’m drifting off so I conveniently miss the rest.

He proceeds to bitch/complain a bit longer (the positivity is absolutely emanating from him) before we all call it a night and take a long rest, with a number of us taking watch when needed. There’s a horrible stench in these woods during the night, or at least that what Enna and Sti’vun say in the morning. I decide to believe them as it’s the first thing they’ve agreed to this whole trip! Am I the only one here that’s amazed? They elaborate a bit and say the smell was like rotting flesh, which is just what I want to hear first thing in the morning as I’m eating breakfast. Can’t blame them for bringing it up though, as it’s better to know about potential zombies/undead then a surprise attack later on.

We march the hours needed and approach the carriage, which is STILL burning since we last left it – definitely an illusion – surely the resident racist should have seen that by now, what kind of mage is he anyway? As we get within a few hundred feet of the carriage, Enna charges back to give us the good news; we have some guests – a pack of wolves surrounding the overturned carriage.

Typically, the wolves decide pretty quickly that they don’t want us anywhere near their new spot – making a bee-line for us. They prove a f***ing handful as they are absolutely rapid, having the advantage every time they strike. We finally slay 6 wolves a little battered and bruised, with notable highlights coming from Wrenn, who pulled a critical hit out of his arse to get the first wolf (admittedly very impressive – bonus brownie points), and a smooth team combo when I burned a couple of wolves and Enna finished both of them off in one movement with her trademark short swords. Of course my defence was obviously a highlight – but it’s not good for team dynamic to constantly focus on the star of the team, so I just smile and compliment everyone on their skills. I’m so nice.

Relis conveniently uses some bullshit excuse about wanting to see how capable we are instead of helping us – an action I do not approve, and make a mental note of. However, he quickly makes amends when he confirms that “It’s so obvious it’s an illusion” when talking about the carriage fire – called it! Salzar falters and just about convinces Relis that he knew it was an illusion the whole time, though Relis is more interested in asking the big question of why. Why would someone create a distraction like this? Something they seemingly wanted us to find? We leave him to it as we ponder our next move.

It is at this point we summarise our options as:
1) We head back to Ponterin and speak to Zander reporting our progress so far.
2) Send a raven to Zander reporting our current progress, then we travel to Southmire – where Relis wants us to join him and aid him directly in the fight against the Broken Crown.
3) Send a raven to Zander, then make for the surrounding forest to investigate the undead in the region. This may potentially lead us to a Broken Crown base.

Personally I like option 2, but the majority like option 3 better – which is fine by me. To attract the ravens quicker we skin the wolves – which lands me a nice wolf pelt – and wait for a short while. The ravens don’t take long once they smell blood, and 3 perch by the wolves. Wrenn – using his abilities – talks to one and convinces it to send a message to Zander for us. With that done we head into the woods.

As we walk, it doesn’t take long to see pieces of rotting flesh (accompanied by a foul smell) dotted about on low hanging branches. Wrenn cleverly uses these to triangulate where the overriding stench may be coming from, and a 30 minute walk north leads us to an abandoned mine. The stench is so foul here that we KNOW we’ve found something big. Reluctantly, we make a few quick preparations then head inside the mine.

It’s immediately pitch black as we stroll through the mine, which is fine for most with their night vision – but not me! I’m about to get a lantern out, but some of the group get there quicker. Comically, Salzar tries to light Wrenn’s lantern with a click of his fingers, but fails – bringing great amusement to the party. Is this his roundabout way of helping the team bond? I shake my head still amused.

As we walk, the path splits. A mineshaft stretches down to the left, whilst on our current path there are two doors; one that seemingly leads to a storeroom, and another that may lead to something bigger at the end of the hallway. Helge, Sti’vun, and Enna want to check out the potential storeroom, whereas Salzar, Wrenn, and I want to see what hangs out down the left mineshaft. At an impasse, Wrenn brings out a coin and we decide to flip it. One rigged coin toss later, and we start making our way down the left mineshaft.

As we walk down the mineshaft, we see ruts in the ground – insinuating mine tracks – and a faint light in the distance, which would probably take 10 minutes to reach. A couple of minutes down the shaft, the light starts to refract weirdly. A bit freaked out, we all get startled as we see the cause of this – a 10ft cube with a skull in it. WTF? How the does something about 10ft wide appear out of nowhere? I immediately use my divine sense but get nothing – very surprising, considering we were expecting undead and this certainly fits the bill (for me at least). Enna does a quick arcana check and senses a magical creature. Sti’vun even throws a rock at the thing but it just disintegrates upon touching the cube!

[Shit is going down]

Panicking, everyone gets behind me as we get some semblance of a formation going. We throw a barrage of ranged attacks at the thing, dealing more damage to it than we have any other previous creature. Frustratingly, it seems like it can just soak whatever we throw at it forever. We’re at the point where some of us improvising our weapons – as Sti’vun lobs a flaming torch at the cube – but it soaks it up and comes ever closer to us, literally getting-all-up-in-my-grill. I can see clearly now that the cube is made up of gelatinous matter – and getting stuck in there is not something I want to think about. Having no intentions of bolting back down the mineshaft, I roar in defiance and unleash a newly learned skill – Divine Smite.

I crash my longsword straight down the middle of the gelatinous cube, expecting the worst…………but to my – and the party’s – surprise, the creature is incredibly sliced clean in half(!) slowly seeping into the earth. We’re all elated to come through that unscathed, drawing big sighs of relief, and decide to finish our walk to end of the mineshaft – after Salzar collects a sample of the gelatinous cube.

We continue the walk uneventfully and reach the end – into daylight. There is an ancient road that continues on from here, but nothing else. We take some notes, then head back though the mineshaft.

We turn left at the end of the mineshaft, and check out the door closest to us. Surprise – it’s a storeroom, though what’s actually revealing in the lack of meaningful supplies in here. It’s completely devoid of anything that living people can take – furthering my suspicions about the potential undead here.

We finally walk all the way down the main mineshaft, and find a room that contains an Acolyte and 5 Zombies (!) Our suspicions about the undead are now fully realised. Without hesitation the group goes straight for the jugular, and Sti’vun gives us a great advantage from the start as he deals with the Acolyte – incapacitating him – allowing us to question him later.

The group then methodically goes about killing the zombies – or should I say Salzar does. Here we are, hacking these zombies for fun, but they just….kept….getting….up. It was so ridiculous that at one point a zombie got back up from dying 4 TIMES IN A ROW before Salzar finally put it down. While all of us had terrible luck at dealing finishing blows, Salzar seemed to have stored up all his luck from the year, using it right now. The smug racist was going 3 for 3, but didn’t get the chance to kill the 4th and 5th Zombies as Enna finally stepped up to the plate and used her short swords to finish the last 2 zombies simultaneously. Pray to the lords above, I don’t think any of us would have lived in peace had he killed all 5.

We proceed to look for loot/investigate the room, with Wrenn and Salzar finding a piece of paper on a second mage – this one already dead – in the corner. The piece of paper contains a message, but the language is unknown to all of us. We also see that there is an altar on one side of the room, covered with blood – this is not pleasant.

We crowd around the knocked-out mage and wake him up. As he wakes, he takes some moments to gather the situation, before introducing himself as “Reamus”. He immediately converses with Salzar informally, referring to him as a “brother”, with most of the interrogation happening between the two. After a while, Salzar unties Reamus from his bonds; something I’m certainly not in approval of, but can understand. The Acolyte wasn’t giving us any useful answers, so we needed to try a different approach. This however, leads to nothing new for us, as Reamus keeps repeating “he must rise” to bat off any questions he doesn’t want to answer. By this point I’ve grown tired of his babbling and am about to say something, but Wrenn gets there first, slitting Reamus’ throat in an instant. He’s obviously had enough of that prattle.

I don’t get time to think on this though, as our mage brings out a pink vellum parchment inconspicuously given to him by Reamus. On further inspection I see that looks like…….yes, that is indeed human skin. Disgusted, I see that there are more of the currently indecipherable messages written upon it – which Wrenn and Salzar found earlier. Clearly deciphering these are important….

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Episode 5
from Salzar's Journal

My companions decided to approach Rellis’ camp with torches lit. When we were close enough, he reacted fast and readied his weapon despite appearing half asleep. The orc from our earlier travels was here, playing his dulcimer.

After listening to him drone on for quite the monologue, I deciphered that he has been building an army of thugs from the town. This quickly turned out to be unimportant, however, as the orcs had crushed that army with relative ease.
We had agreed to help the Duke find the carriage so we kept true to our word. Nightfall was eventful with the smell of rotting flesh and the sound of a scream. I was not amused.

When we woke in the morning, Rellis admitted surprise about the sword that I had. The plot thickened considerably as we headed towards the billowing smoke of the carriage and he indicated that it was, in fact, an illusion – just as I had previously assumed.
At this point, wolves attacked us. They assaulted us from the remains of the carriage and at first looked like they might best us… but a little encouragement from me allowed my companions to eventually fight properly. I believe Enna is quite like one of those goblin sharks that likes hunting already-bleeding prey as she made certain to kill most of the wolves while my other companions fought a little more defensively.
Rellis told us that he believed the carriage was a trap, set up by someone who wanted the blame firmly on Asker for the kidnapping. He then wisely suggested to us that we should report back to the Lord Protector and give a status update.

Wrenn managed to wrangle a raven, sending off a letter I wrote to the Lord Protector. We intended to head back, but first made passage towards the pine forest where the undead were said to roam.

It’s about here that I decided the orcs must have a mage. A powerful mage, strong enough to make illusions (like the smoke) last forever. They also might be raising the dead to fight for them.

We came across an old road leading North-South. I recognised that a fishing village was to the South, perhaps a day ride. To the north we discovered an abandoned mine, not Dwarven in design. The stench was terrible. I suspected zombies.

We took the mineshaft down while the others argued about lanterns, and then we had an argument about which way to go. Wrenn and myself wanted to go left (always left in a maze, of course), but the others wanted to investigate in random directions. Fortunately we decided on a coin toss, and Wrenn cheated, allowing us to go left.

The path went on for quite some time but we then came across a large ooze-like creature. The tactical Dragonborn managed to slay it with holy fire and I collected a sample of the ooze.

We took various paths, but then we discovered five zombies and a cultist! The cultist was knocked unconscious by a well-placed blow by the orc and then I quickly (and single-handedly) dispatched the zombies.
There was an altar in the room with a pentacrux and a symbol of Nerull. Atop sat a black onyx with another symbol in. We found several notes and had an interesting (but brief) conversation with the acolyte, named Remus. He was a ‘follower of the faith’ and had culled an initiate to create the zombies. He kept stating “he must rise”, clearly referring to Nerull.

Unfortunately, Wrenn slit his throat before the acolyte could tell me how to read the language… but I shall spend some time trying to decipher this now.

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Episode 4
from Salzar's Journal


After finding the royal carriage, sans Princess, we headed towards the town of Askren. I recall from my light reading that the town is predominantly human, so it’s probably okay.
The dragonborn has a feeling that the sword we acquired from the wreckage is a red herring, and combined with the magical smoke that was forming over the carriage, I would agree – it’s almost like someone wanted us to find the wreckage.

The day is cold as we approach the end of autumn, and I find I’m growing to hate the seasons as we travel cross-country to get back to the road to Askren. We see some orcs up in the distance, though, so a fight shall be had!

We engaged in combat with three orcs. Once again, I find my team’s tactics excessively lacking. Enna and Wrenn took to hailing the orcs with arrows, but Helge and the dragonborn were intent on charging. Today we discovered that the dragonborn is completely unable to hit anything with his sword, and Wrenn is more than happy to castrate orcs that wound his allies. I’m glad to be on the gnome’s side.
The dragonborn finally realised that he can’t hit anything, so utilised his breath weapon while Helge bravely scampered away from the orcs.
With a mighty blow, the dragonborn managed to kill the final orc – severing it in two.
We discovered that one of the orcs indulged in the superstitious belief in that removing an eye makes it more powerful. I proved to the group that it’s simply not the case by removing one of the weaker orc’s eyes.

When we finally got to town, we headed straight for the pub. While the town is predominantly human, there are also no women which leads me to wonder what has gone on. The dragonborn fell into the river, and much laughter was had, but otherwise the travel was uneventful. On arriving to the pub, I purchased everyone a drink and we discovered some interesting facts:

  • Kerensa, the barmaid, tells us of undead rising from the graves in the forest. This happened once, a long time ago, and the villagers went out with wooden stakes to put the undead to rest. Recently, there has been some stirring in the forest, but doing this would be paid in gratitude… and I’m unsure the Mercenary Heroes of Woodcrest would be interested in that.
  • A man with a red cowl, apparently a mage, wants help to find the royal coach. He offers 20 gold upfront, and 50 gold for each of us. Highly suspicious. He won’t give us his name, but offers the nickname Zephyr. We’ve agreed to help tomorrow morning, and will meet them at the pub at 8am sharp.
  • Renfrew, a mercenary gangster, wants us to pick on a farm girl named Abrielle. She owes him 50 gold ‘protection money’, so it’s an extortion racket. This pays 10 gold, plus 10% of what she sends back. We’ve agreed to investigate her, but I think we will kill him on our return. After all, we’re above aiding a protection racket, but we’re not above murder.
  • When we come back here, I will personally fireball this town. It’s full of lowlifes and miscreants. No humans, in my opinion, live here.

We headed off to see Abrielle. She seems nice, if scared, and has only amassed 20 gold – 30 under what she owes Renfrew. We’ve agreed to help her and put our own money forward to Renfrew to buy her some time. We’re preparing to leave now to return to the town, hopefully arriving back before 8pm.

We arrived back to the town to find it ransacked. Orcs, goblins, and kobolds have attacked the place, set fire to the lumber mill, and stuffed corpses down the well. Wrenn bravely looted the tavern and found 15 gold, but I suspect he’s hobbited away some more. No matter, he likely spends money a lot less carefully than a human would.
We found Renfrew’s body. The bastard didn’t even have enough coin on him to pay us for our job. We also found the body of the man who leered at Enna – and she was happy to kick him while he was down.

Four orcs ambushed us when we were searching for survivors. Again, our party displayed terrible tactics when Enna was surrounded and wounded, knocked unconscious by the brutes. Fortunately, the dragonborn was able to bathe the stinky runts in fire again.
After I killed one of the orcs, the party seemed to become more inspired and managed to get their game faces on. Wrenn slew another and Helge ripped the heart out of one with his sword. Very graphic.

Wounded, we sought a place to recover. We found a broken-in house, without dead bodies, and the dragonborn proceeded to prove that he has a good blacksmithing eye by fixing the door. We rested, I communed with Maltraxru (with words that are better left unwritten), and we then headed off south down the river with a rowboat.

Three hours later, and we’ve discovered a camp that we plan on approaching.

We moored the boat, headed to the road, and approached the camp. Zephyr and his gang of thugs seem to be out there, having successfully escaped the butchering of the town.

Wrenn has informed me that Zephyr is none other than Duke Rellis!

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Episode 3
A summons from Lord Protector Xander

After the events of episodes 1 and 2, our party has been resting up in Woodcrest and spending most of their time in the village pub. They’re already getting used to being referred to as heroes by the townsfolk and have spent a couple of weeks making the most of the free accommodation.

A Summons

One morning Anya, the gruff town guard, knocks on the door to the party’s room. She announces that a raven has arrived carrying a message addressed to “The Saviours of Woodcrest”. Jason reads the letter to the group, it is from Lord Protector Xander who wishes to meet with the party about a job – word of their exploits has travelled. The party know that Lord Protector Xander is standing in for the king, who is sick.

Rather than walking the two and a half days to Ponterin, the party opts to wait for the next caravan to pass through Woodcrest. When it arrives, the townspeople are overjoyed – it’s been almost a month since the last supplies came through and they’re living on scraps. Jason approaches the caravan leader, Charlie Farnsworth, to secure passage. After a few awkward minutes of caravan compliments, Salzar butts in and offers to protect the caravan.

The party members board the wagons and set off down the valley out of Woodcrest. Four hours in, the Reft Sea is visible on the horizon and the travellers skirt along the coast and spend a quiet night camping in a woodland glade. The second day of travel is bumpy but uneventful until the party finally reach the small village of Bridgefoot.

Bridgefoot

The village of Bridgefoot is overshadowed by an enormous natural stone arch which spans the Reft Sea inlet into the Inner Reft. Ponterin sits atop the arch and is only an hour or so away.

While the caravan pauses to trade timbers and resin for fish, the party decide to take a short break and explore the town. While Jason and Enna head for the bar, Wrenn and Salzar make a bee-line for the temple in search of something to read.

Entering the temple, it’s clear that it’s not very frequently used, and is devoid of other people. It takes no time for the pair of scholars to locate an extensive book collection and both Salzar and Wrenn “rent” some books.

Meanwhile, in the bar, there’s a hushed silence as Jason and Enna enter – village folk aren’t used to seeing a Dragonborn. They’re not threatened, but the obvious interest is a bit discomforting.

Before they can get to the bar, a human monk approaches Jason and introduces himself as Helge Rusk. The enthusiastic Helge wastes no time and asks if he can join the adventuring party. Jason tells Helge that he’ll need to prove himself and points to a Half Orc sitting in the corner. “Fight him”, Jason says.

The barman, who’s clearly been listening, shouts “No fighting!” and puts paid to the initiation ceremony. Still hoping to join, Helge regales Enna with the story of how he discovered a medicinal herb; it’s incredibly boring but, as a ranger, Enna’s interest is piqued.

At this point, Wrenn and Salzar enter the bar and wander over to the rest of the party. Realising he’s got yet more people to impress, Helge blurts “I can do a backflip for you!”. Without waiting he does a sweet backflip across the pub; Jason thinks it’s pretty cool. Enna, ever the show-off, performs an even better backflip.

Over in the corner of the bar, the Half Orc monk that was pointed at earlier has been watching the group. Sti’vun approaches the barman, who is holding his head in his hands, and orders a round of drinks for “The Heroes of Woodcrest”.

After carrying the drinks over, Sti’vun initates a conversation with the party. Salzar, not the most racially tolerant of the group, tastes his wine and then throws it over Sti’vun. The barman kicks Salzar out and warns the rest that there’ll be no trouble.

With Salzar gone, Jason offers the two monks an unpaid internship with the party. Enna, who deeply hates Orcs, doesn’t want to take on a Half Orc but will on the condition that she can kill him with her bare hands if he causes trouble. Enna’s comments (and the fact he’s still dripping with wine) is enough for Sti’vun and he walks away.

It takes a diplomatic Wrenn to convince Sti’vun to give the group another chance. He explains that not everyone in the party is as horribly racist and that he’s always being called a Halfling (he’s a Gnome). Sti’vun decides to give them a chance, but isn’t going to take much shit.

Everyone finishes their drinks and heads back towards the caravan. Helge is very excited to be part of an adventuring party, and Sti’vun starts to play his dulcimer as the horses and wagons pull away.

Ponterin

After two more hours of travel, the party reaches the western gate of Ponterin. The caravan heads to the stables just outside the gate and Salzar speaks to Charlie about payment. In typical Salzar style, he tries to get payment for the two monks that were picked up on the way, but the caravan leader has been in this business for too long – he doesn’t budge.

The party leaves the caravan and heads to the gate, where the guards wave them through. The city of Ponterin is cobbled and the buildings are rickety; the floors of many of the buildings look like they were added on later as the city grew and space became more scarce. Children play in the streets and merchants go about their business.

Not knowing a lot about Lord Protector Xander, the group decide to question some locals on the way to the palace. As they pass through the busy market square, Enna approaches a beautiful elf woman who’s selling makeup. After asking what the deal with Xander is, the woman replies “He’s a fair arbiter of the king’s laws, seems reasonable”.

Salzar suggests talking to multiple sources, clearly distrusting elven judgement. Sti’vun suggests approaching some of the children but then thinks better of it. Salzar suggests that Wrenn might speak to some children, being on their level. Wrenn gives Salzar the finger.

Annoyed, Wrenn looks around for a criminal element. He spots a dogfight down an alleyway off of the market but chickens out and doesn’t want to get involved. He mentions this to Jason but he’s like “Nah”.

The party decides that they’re wasting time and to just head to the palace, there are banners hanging from the walls with the coat of arms: a crown. Approaching the gatehouse and presenting their letter from Xander, the portcullis is raised and our adventurers enter the royal palace.

The Palace

A second row of guards past the gatehouse open heavy doors and allow the party into the great hall, at the end of which sits the Lord Protector. His hair and beard are grey, but he’s still wearing tough leather armour; he greets the adventurers and invites them to sit with him.

After some introductions, Jason brings up the letter that the group received. After a caveat that the following information should never leave this room, Xander reveals that the Crown Princess is missing. She was part of a delegation to Askor, but her carriage never reached the city. The same people responsible for the attacks on Woodcrest have kidnapped her. Enna asks why he trusts the party, and Xander replies that the competence that was shown at Woodcrest was commendable.

Enna asks if the pricess had a boyfriend, or if there was a ransom note; the answer to both is “no”. Xander provides more detail: the princess was kidnapped three weeks ago, and with the king being sick this is a disaster for the monarchy. He mentions that they’ve had no luck using magic to locate the princess, which could mean that she’s a great distance away.

After a nod from Jason, Wrenn hands over the letter that they found in the goblin stronghold back in Woodcrest. The Lord Protector is troubled, by the image of a broken crown and supposes that somebody wants to break apart the monarchy.

Salzar insults Xander by saying that he has no knowledge of the arcane, but as they meet eyes Salzar goes uncharacteristically quiet. This doesn’t escape the attention of the rest of the group.

Finally talking business, Jason asks what kind of reward could be expected. Xander explains that there will be a royal reward, and that everybody would be richly compensated. Sti’vun asks if there will be an advance, and manages to persuade the Lord Protector to part with 50 gold pieces.

Enna makes Wrenn the butt of another short joke by asking if Xander can provide 5 horses and a pony for the party, but the stables are overstretched.

Adventure Time!

The party leave the palace and the city of Ponterin via the east gate, after stopping off at an apothecary to buy some healing supplies. They make quick time, travelling across coastal moorland until they reach the town of Erinport. Deciding that their mission is too important to stop, the group push on northward.

A couple more hours of travel and the light begins to fade, the sun dipping below the Frostback Mountains. The travellers make camp just off the road and settle down for the night, with Wrenn and Sti’vun taking first watch. The night is quiet until during the second watch, where Jason and Enna spot a gnoll and swarms of rats heading towards the camp. There’s just enough time to wake everyone and get into formation before they are set upon.

Finally We Get To Kill Something

Helge immediately throws one of his darts into the darkness but misses entirely, Wrenn then draws his bow and fires an arrow into the thick hide of the gnoll. Salzar hexes the gnoll and casts lightning into the darkness but it hits nothing as far as he can tell.

While running towards the party the gnoll launches its spear at Enna, lodging it deftly in her shoulder. The rats surrounding the gnoll swarm past it and Jason breathes fire over them as they approach. This thins the swarm slightly but the rest quickly reach the front line of the party.

Enraged by the spear through her shoulder, Enna draws her swords and skewers several rats as they swarm around the group. Sti’vun follows suit and slices at the rats with his sword as they try to climb up him; leaping forwards he crushes more with his forearm. Helge joins his fellow monk, stabbing at rats as they pass and then enthusiastically stamping on any that he missed.

Wrenn, still at the back, fires another arrow at the gnoll but misjudges the shot and misses. Jason also flounders, slashing at rats with his longsword, hitting nothing but dirt.

Salzar casts lightning again at the gnoll, this time hitting it. The gnoll’s face blisters under the heat and it roars horribly in pain. It runs forwards, almost blind with rage, and bites Jason. Luckily Jason’s armour saves him from being gored by the gnoll’s dagger-like teeth, though he’s still covered in gnoll slobber.

The rats surrounding also bite him but can’t penetrate his armour either. Sti’vun is not so lucky: in his monk robes, the rats easily climb up his legs gnawing and chewing.

Enna, noticing that the gnoll is now close, takes revenge for the spear. She dashes forwards and thrusts both of her swords into the gnoll’s sides, tearing away flesh. The gnoll is seriously wounded but still just standing. Sti’vun and Helge run to aid Enna in taking down the gnoll. Sti’vun slashes at the gnoll with his sword which bounces off the thick hide, but lands a punch squarely on its hyena-like maw. Helge, spotting an opening, plunges his sword into the gnoll’s throat; as it collapses to the floor, Helge’s victory dance crushes more rats underfoot.

Wrenn, suddenly having an idea, drops his bow and crawls across the ground to speak with the rats and see if he can convince them to leave. Sadly realising that the rats are beyond reasoning, he skewers several with his daggers.

In the heat of battle, the party then go apeshit at the rats. Salzar barbecues some with lightning; Enna stabs at the ground around her, building up rat-kebabs on her dual swords; Sti’vun squishes rats left right and center with his bare fists; Helge stabs the rats closest to him, then spin-kicks several more into the distance; Wrenn crawls around on the floor between his comrades’ feet, picking off rats with his daggers.

With only two more rats left, Jason raises his longsword impressively, lining up his shot. Just before he can bring his sword down, Salzar casts lightning one final time and fries them all.

Adrenaline pumping, the party settle back down. They spend the rest of the night peacefully.

Progress?

The party wakes up bright and early the next morning feeling surprisingly rested. They head back onto the north road and after 2 and a half hours they reach a bridge over a narrow river. An hour after that the group reaches the edge of a forest, a couple more hours later they’re walking alongside a larger river.

Enna and Helge, who are scouting ahead, see the shape of a carriage far in the distance and off of the path. They can see that it’s sitting low, perhaps missing its wheels, and there’s no horse in sight. Enna sees what looks like a thin trail of smoke drifting up from the same area.

Gathering together the party, they slowly make their way towards the carriage, suspiciously searching for traps. The carriage is very ornately decorated with gold and silver leaf; Enna notices the royal crest on the side of it and the party assumes that it’s the one that the princess was travelling in.

One of the doors of the carriage is hanging off, and it’s clearly been ripped open by something large; Jason peers inside but there’s nothing there.

Finally thinking he’s out of range of Xander’s influence, Salzar reveals that the Lord Protector is psychic and spoke to him while the party was discussing the missing. This could mean that he’s not telling them everything.

The party remember that from afar they saw smoke around the caravan, but can no longer see it. This confuses them, and Salzar wanders back to check if the smoke is still there when viewed from afar – it is. Wrenn determines that if it were an illusion then it would require a very powerful magic user to cast it.

Jason decides that he wants to move the carriage to see if there’s anything underneath. Together, the group heave the broken vehicle aside and beneath it find a very old and ornate sword. After a little examination Wrenn says that the sword is Ancient Odreïan style, and you might associate it with Askor, but there’s nothing magical about it.

Jason takes the sword, stowing it safely in his pack.

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