The Broken Crown

Enna: the point of no return

When Arannis at the forgathering told Enna that her father was killed during the attack of Askor, a darkness enveloped her and stripped entirely her soul of any good left. She felt at the top of a steep cliff surrounded by void, emptiness all around. Alone, she felt so alone. She could not bear the comfort that Wrenn was trying to give her. She just pushed him aside. Even the mead she drunk so heavily that night did not overcome the feeling. It barely numbed her.

So when she heard that the Orc called Grarzuk was still alive and hunting rangers, nothing could hold her off to track him and to kill him. Grarzuk, Carric killer, alive! One thing will keep her going, picturing his severed head rolling to the ground. She will have no rest until it is done, even if it costs her life.

She will attend her father’s funeral in Neænarion standing or not, joining him then in the rite of passage. She closed her eyes and had a vision…

In pure Elven tradition, her funeral starts with a slow procession, over a bed of flowers of the season, in respectful silence. Her body is anointed with scented oils, and wrapped in a tapestry woven with images from her life. After the procession, her body is cremated on a funeral pyre of fragrant wood, and once cooled the ashes are placed in an urn that is then interred in the local memorial deep in the forest.

Once the funeral is over, friends and family gather to eat, drink and be merry, telling tales of the departed. This celebration will go on for several days. Her spirit finally freed and made one with the forest.

She opened her green cold eyes and there is one last thing to do.

“L’quelin Orco naa ba Orco as lala cas”

(“The best Orc is a dead Orc with no head”).

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Wrenn's Story: Murderhobos

Once the rest of the group had engaged the priests in conversation, Wrenn had slipped away, hoping that everyone would be kept busy while he investigated. Based on his journey last night, he knew that the temple was involved in something shady. He just needed some proof.

Wrenn had thought, perhaps naïvely, that by uncovering the dealings of The Ogre’s Rest he’d prove his skills to the criminal element in Ponterin. His curiosity had been piqued: his thirst for knowledge, especially secret knowledge, was driving him now.

The stealthy gnome had barely had chance to investigate the room – he’d seen ledgers on the desk and a safe – before he heard a commotion in the main temple. He’d popped his head out to see what was happening and was caught by surprise when he saw his friends attacking the priests.

Instinct and adrenaline took hold and before he knew it he’d fired several arrows into the fray. He’d not intended to kill anyone, just to ensure that none of his group were hurt. When he saw Enna behead the first priest, Wrenn lowered his bow, horrified.

“Shit shit shit”, Wrenn thought as he dashed back into the side room off of the main temple. He couldn’t watch any more. He could cope with killing monsters in the wilderness, especially in self-defence. This was something different entirely. This was murder.

Wrenn’s mind was racing, and he knew he didn’t have long before somebody outside the temple heard the fight. For his own peace of mind he had to find something incriminating. If the temple were part of something dark or treasonous then the party’s actions could be seen as justified.

He fumbled with the safe and managed to unlock it. Inside was some silverware but nothing more, at least nothing that sprang to his attention. He moved over to the ledgers, flipped one open and read as quickly as he could.

The ledger contained accounts for the Ogre’s Rest, and they definitely indicated that something illegal was going on – huge amounts of money were changing hands. Would it be enough? He certainly didn’t feel and better about what was happening in the next room.

The image of a human head toppling to the ground flashed across his mind again. The rage and hatred on Enna’s face was mixed with a perverse pleasure. Wrenn had thought he could learn to manage her better, to curb her murderous ways, but he’d been wrong. “She’s just too broken”, he thought.

He entertained a dark thought for the second time in a week – the first being when Enna was threatening to kill Jesh.

“She’s too dangerous. She has to go.”

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The Cleansing has begun!

Enna is pleased: 6 unfaithful priests killed.

What a bloodbath!

She was exulting to put things right. How dare they! Pulling a con on the party to lift a curse? Seriously? What is wrong with people?

About time to show people what is acceptable and what is not. In such trouble times, righteousness is key. They will learn that one way or another.

The cleansing has begun!

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The Reaper's Offering
from Salzar's Journal

I am starting to believe that I need Wrenn’s help to unlock further lore into the Black Onyx.

Today, we have sent six innocent souls to the Reaper, with two more likely following afterwards. If only I understood the secret of the Black Onyx. If only I could have brought the six back to a more useful position in their lives. Could the Reaper be punishing me for not destroying his cult of false worshippers, by hiding this information from my eyes?

Necromancers make it seem so easy, so why am I unable to grasp such simple concepts? I have studied the lode points of the soul, I have traced the pattern of lines in flesh, but still such a simple thing eludes me.

Further research is required. I do hope that Nerull appreciates the death of those priests in his name.

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Wrenn’s Story: Fortitude

The journey had not been easy by any stretch of the imagination, Wrenn felt a surge of relief as the town of Fortitude came in to view.

The badlands of Hazelmire had lived up to their reputation; more than once, Wrenn and his companion had been mistaken for easy targets by bandits on the road.

Wrenn still was, to an extent, easy pickings, despite Hilda’s efforts in teaching him how to use a blade. Hilda was not – her skill with a rapier would never cease to amaze Wrenn.

The gnome had always considered himself at a disadvantage when it came to combat, his small stature being a sign of weakness. Hilda, a halfling, had dispelled this myth completely. She used her height to her advantage: darting between legs, slashing at ankles and knees, and making the most of tall folks’ lack of practice with smaller targets.

“When we get there, let me do the talking”, cautioned Hilda, interrupting Wrenn’s thoughts.

“You’re the boss, Hil”, he replied.

They were on their way to meet a couple of Hilda’s old criminal contacts. Wrenn was quite new to this side of the law, but he found it increasingly exciting. Despite his studious nature, he was starting to enjoy the adrenaline rush of planning and executing a heist or burglary. It had helped support him on the road and, since meeting Hilda, he was getting much better at it.

“Fortitude is run down” was the first impression that Wrenn got when they entered the town. It had a seedy feel to it, he definitely didn’t like the way the residents were looking at him as they trudged down the main street. Clouds of dust were kicked up by passing horses and wagons, and there was no shortage of stray dogs fighting over scraps.

Hilda knew Fortitude well, and led them through a maze of alleyways towards the outskirts on the opposite side of town. Before turning a last corner, she spoke to Wrenn.

“OK last warning, let me lead and we should be fine. The guy who owns this place is a nasty piece of work”, she said. “You’re OK around half-orcs, right?”

“Why wouldn’t I be?”, asked Wrenn. “I’ve lived around them all my life”

"Well Murgarak is definitely more orc in his demeanour than human. Just warning you", Hilda replied.

Hilda lead Wrenn around the corner, in front of them stood a dilapidated building, each of its three stories more shabby and rickety than the last. Huge soot marks covered the bottom floor and the place looked like it hadn’t been cleaned for years. Over the much-repaired front door was a worn and barely-legible sign: The Black Cat Tavern.

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Enna's mission

After the killing of the Orogs, Enna was gaging at the stench of their blood. It became so overwhelming, she looked at the party around her and she knew she had to leave. She withdrew deep in the forest, she needs cleansing. A lot of thoughts came assaulting her, all the Orcs killing, the Orc baby and then the Orogs. How many more she is prepared to kill or even murder? Is her revenge fulfilled? After all, she has killed Thokk, surely it should be enough? Does she like who she becomes?
The forest calms her, soothes her, she feels it into her bones, her Elven roots giving her redemption of her murderous behavior. She feels at peace. Then she hears a deep voice calling her:

“Faele Searal”
(Good Morning)

Enna perplexed, looks around her: did someone just speak the language of the faeries? She did not hear someone talking Sylvan since the Elves Gathering she attended when a child.

She replied: “Faele Searal. Ma Geli?”
(Good Morning. Who are you?)

And then, the Treant reveals himself in his great majesty. Enna is in awe. And kneels before Him. Her Sylvan is so rusty, she switches to Elvish:

“Saesa omentien lle. Cormamin lindua ele Lle, Aran en Taure”
(Pleasure meeting you. My heart sings to see Thee, King of Forest)

The Treant is pleased to see her showing him such respect that he emits a small laugh, all the leaves trembling and the roots crackling. The Caretaker of Tarreld Forest asks her why she looks so troubled. Enna confides in him, seeking his deep wisdom. He tells her that all life is to be respected even when it destroys the forest. He invites her to climb a nearby tree to the top and shows her the destruction of the forest because of a large camp.

Enna saw the size of the deserted camp and understood the formidable army that it represents. Such destruction shakes her Elven roots very deeply and she sees the true face of evil. Enna becomes alarmed and thinks that she must tell her friends that she left behind.

And then, she understood, she will not kill or murder for revenge anymore but for a greater mission, saving her Elven heritage. And anything, anyone that will go against that, will die.

She bows to the Treant and takes her leave, tracking her friends. She climbs in a tall tree to gather her bearings and she saw some smoke in the woods. She decides to follow it. When she arrives at the camp, it is empty but she recognizes her friends’ tracks with others she does not understand: a Hobgoblin? A female Human? A male Human? What were they up to?

The tracks were going in the direction of the South East: leading to Ponterin. She runs fast towards the city, barely taking some rest. She knows that she will find them at the castle.

Now these guards…. They better stand down, she is not in the mood.

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Circular Paths and Missing Princessess
from Salzar's Journal

Three things of note.
The first is that the paths we’ve been taking lead back to one another. After meeting the Priest of the Unbroken Circle, I’ve decided it’s time to educate him. Today, I will pull him to one side and explain to him the nuances about Reaper Tharoth.
The second is that we were incorrect with our assumption of the princess being the princess. We were wrong. There’s not much we can do about that now, but I wonder how we can resolve this situation.
The third is that Wrenn has taken to reading the book I’ve lent him. He will soon learn the secrets of Nerull. I do not believe my short companion is much interested in the religion or worship of this lost deity, but I do believe that he has the same thirst for knowledge that drives me. I would be a terrible scholar if I did not share such things with him.

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Nerull's Newest Subjects
from Salzar's Journal

While I’ve been enjoying looking at teleportation circles, I’ve found myself unable to continue. Carlton – Jason’s twin brother – has decided that he wants to arrest Jason. Well, I suppose I’ve found the first of Nerull’s newest subjects.
I suppose it won’t be too difficult to get Carlton’s trust – my disdain for Jason should make it easy. And once that trust is earned, I’m certain he will make perfect for my first goal for the cult.

He is also accompanied by three others – an elf mage named Caelynn, a dwarf footpad named Einkil, and a halfling scout named Bree. I do hope I won’t have to kill all of them to rescue Jason.

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Helge lost in the woods

Panicking. Need to find my party. It feels like years ago that I was skipping merrily through the woods filling my fucking boots with samples. I can’t believe I got out of those woods alive.

Camping alone is awful too – never again. Reached the point where I’d have been grateful to share a meal even with the psychotic warlock.

Can’t wait to categorise those samples though. In retrospect, it was fascinating to meet the great shepherd. Leering at me in reproach, the gnarled mask of ancient bark that comprised its face suspended only inches above my own. I could hear its mouth creaking as it formed words, and its voice was so profoundly deep that it was felt in the chest rather than heard. Its cool breath filled my nostrils with a rich dose of that earthy, decomposing scent that rises from the forest floor. And there I stood like a naughty child, paralysed with fear and awe.

I’m lost. Only now does it occur to me how rarely I contribute to the party’s navigation efforts. The trees seem to close in on me at all sides. In a fit of desperation that teeters on insanity, I even call out to the forest guardian to please grant me one last act of mercy and guide me out! Maddeningly (but predictably) this does me no good. I must stick to my heading. Keep walking.

There! Over the trees! Smoke! Civilisation! Perhaps someone will have seen my friends. They’re certainly difficult to miss, what with their unlikely formation, and their inevitable trail of orcish corpses. I still feel disturbed by the appearance of the infant after the brutal dispatching of its family. Worst of all is that I, sickeningly, played a part!

I’ve learnt to appreciate, however, that in a world steeped in loneliness and danger, the value of travelling companions lies beyond their notions of morality.

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Episode 11 and 12 recap

After dispatching several Orogs and some goblins, the party notice that Enna has disappeared, possibly to further sate her bloodlust. The remaining party members start to investigate the siegeworks. They find a strange siege weapon which they determine is used to throw fire at enemies, as well as a map in the tower which outlines the plans of the Broken Crown.

Before they can explore further, they hear the sound of boots in the distance. They take up position around the courtyard and wait.

Three hobgoblins enter the courtyard and our heroes surprise them and kill off two of them. They take the third prisoner and, uncharacteristically, don’t murder him once they’re done interrogating. He introduces himself as Kurtok, and the party appeal to his ambitious nature; he agrees to help them.

The party make their way beneath the siegeworks and start to explore. They find a furnace room, a well stocked pantry, and lots of sleeping chambers. Towards the end of a long corridor, they spot two sleeping guards blocking the way. Wrenn attempts to kill them silently but misses one who cries out. The rest of the party rush in and murder the second guard.

In the room past the guards, they find a girl chained to the wall who is confused, possibly concussed. They determine that she is Princess Ellesia, who they were tasked with finding. Seren comforts her and the party communicate their success with Xander via a stone of sending.

Almost immediately after this, they hear footsteps in the corridor nearby, and narrowly miss killing Helge who has managed to track down the rest of the group.

While they wait, they explore the siegeworks further and discover a secret door which requires a Royal Talisman to open. Immediately beyond the door is an animated suit of armour guarding the way. The party prepare to fight, but some quick thinking on Helge’s part saves them the bother – he shows the armour his Talisman and commands it to stand aside, which it does obediently.

In the next room, our heroes are attacked by strange dust creatures which they spend a few minutes destroying. This part of the keep seems to have been abandoned for centuries, possibly since the Age of Great Empire.

They make their way through another chamber and out into an enormous cave, with huge stone pillars rising up into the darkness. There are altars at either end.

On the closest altar, they find a second map which they assume to be the real plans of the Broken Crown. They pore over it briefly, then they notice some loot off to one side of the cave. After procuring several magic items from the cases there, they head towards the other altar.

On the way there they pass what looks like a teleportation circle in the middle of the floor, Salzar is particularly interested in how it works. Before they can investigate further, they are attacked by a spectator.

After a fierce battle, they defeat the monster just in time to hear movement in the rooms they entered through. Barely having enough time to hide, they sneak behind some pillars with varying levels of success.

To Jason’s surprise and horror his brother, Carlton, walks down the stairs and into the room. Salzar and Jason share heated words with Carlton and his party (though Salzar was fantastically diplomatic), while the rest of the heroes manage to stay concealed.

Carlton tells Jason that he’s under arrest, and must accompany him to Askor.

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