The War of Shadows

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The War of Shadows was a period in Elderain's history which details its attempted takeover by the Drow, in the autumn of 1503 DR. It formed the basis for the Shadows Over Elderain campaign, which took place over 18 sessions.

Session 1: Pilot

Our brave heroes arrived at the Whistleway Tavern in the early hours of the evening on the night they were supposed to meet their Dwarven contact from the Grey Remnant. It was a rainy evening, and they huddled around a table, offering only cursory introductions. Niriley and Viridia, both druids of elven descent, had been contacted by their respective Circles to be sent as envoys to Elderain. Thak and Elarus, a half-orc and a tiefling duelist, had received messages in mysterious circumstances, and were acting upon their contents.

With no Dwarf in sight, Thak went to the bar to order a drink, and met Barym, a fellow half-orc miner with a penchant for hard drink. He asked him if he had seen any Dwarves around, to which Barym replied that he typically smashed them if and when he saw them.

Niriley spoke to an upset-looking Dragonborn, who claimed his dragon mother had been tainted by some kind of evil and had tried to kill him, so he was fleeing Elderain.

Presently, their contact, Angor Frostwell, arrived. Thak attempted to introduce him to Barym, claiming he was his cousin, Doran. Since Barym had no knowledge of this, a very short brawl ensued, with Niriley blasting Barym in the face with acid, Viridia stabbing him with a spear, and Thak eventually knocking him unconscious with his quarterstaff. Niriley rather sheepishly healed the unconscious half-orc from the acid damage he had taken.

After paying a very disgruntled barkeep for their rooms, Thak dragged the unconscious Barym up to his room, where he proceeded to "Interrogate" him, which largely involved two not-very-smart half orcs trying to work out what each other wanted. After some persuading, Thak managed to not only win Barym over, but also recruit him to the party despite him having a heavily pregnant wife.

The next morning, they met Angor and struck out for the Ghostwood on the way to Lost Light. Within the dark, gloomy forest, they bypassed a still-burning campfire, and continued on until they found an old ruined abbey.

Within the abbey, they discovered an infestation of carnivorous fungi (to which Barym/Doran almost fell prey), as well as the remains of an old adventuring party. The group fought off shadows, with Niriley calling upon the power of the moon to destroy them, and Elarus acquiring a wizard's old spellbook. They proceeded on, triggering an undead-warding trap, and murdering some kind of gate guardian who wanted Thak to prove his worthiness.

Some kind of power within the abbey took offence at this, and resurrected the adventuring party. A zombie cleric, fighter and wizard attacked the party, but were swiftly dealt with. Thak stole the holy symbol of the cleric of Pelor.

The druids decided they had had enough of the abbey, and left to wait outside with Angor and Barym whilst Thak and Elarus took a VERY close look at the final room in the catacombs. There were two chests and a single urn which glowed with a faint purple arcane light. After much deliberation, they decided to grab the chests and hoof it out of there, yelling loudly. It is not known what happened to the urn.

Angor was slightly impatient at the diversion, but respected the desire for gold and treasure. The party continued onwards, with Viridia and Niriley saving a wolf from a hunter's trap and a mysterious disease. The wolf was promptly named Chowder and followed the party for a little while, before departing to rejoin his pack deep in the Ghostwood.

The party reached Lost Light in the late afternoon. Lost Light is a largish town built on the banks of the Norvane river, with a castle and a temple. They were challenged at the gate, and gave a set of fake names: Hrrk, Rrrrlllrrlrrllr, Sam, Marcus, Angor and Barymdoran.

They headed to the tavern, the Winking Boar, to rest, and there Thak and Elarus met another half-orc, by the name of Vordregar. He told them of a problem he had involving an owlbear spirit, and Thak was able to convince him that he is a renowned detective. He promised to look into the missing spirit in return for Vordregar's help.

Viridia and Niriley visited the shops of the town, purchasing several potions and antitoxins, whilst Thak and Elarus followed in their wake, forging sponsorship deals with "Dorna's Apocethary" and purchasing a pair of fancy swords from Rusean, the Dwarven blacksmith.

With plans in place to completely ignore Angor, their guide, the party turned in for the night at the Winking Boar, to rest and recuperate, so tomorrow they will be ready for anything.

Session 2: Protecting Ux

Sleeping in the tavern at Lost Light, the party all seemed to suffer strange dreams. Niriley dreamt of wolves howling in the night, a sound eerily reminiscent of her werewolf friends, although it sounded pained, helpless, like a wordless cry for aid.

Viridia dreamed of her home grove, although it was warped and distorted by some strange power. She felt the currents of the land around Lost Light, and it felt as though the land was cold, empty, devoid of life.

Elarus had a message in his dream from a voice he knows well. It told him of a priest in Cair Vanta, who is being hounded by the Nightseeker, an agent of Torm. His quest is to kill this Nightseeker before he can reach the priest.

Thak, meanwhile, had a horrifying dream about an apple pie... when he bit into it, it was actually made of pears. This caused him to wake, sweating, and the rest of his night was filled with equally terrifying dreams.

They were woken in the morning by the sound of bells ringing in the street and the smell of fire in their rooms. They quickly gathered their gear and dashed out of the tavern, seeing that the thatched roof was burning merrily above their heads.

A high elf, Astrelas Windlen, told his pyromancer to stop burning the tavern, and promptly fixed the roof; he then proceeded to question the guests, who had gathered in the street, about who might have been casting arcane magic during the night. Elarus' guilty conscience compelled him to cast Suggestion on Astrelas, who agreed it was more than likely that the perpetrator had ridden off in the direction of Whistleway Village.

As the elves rode off in hot pursuit of the "wizard", the party decided it would be a good idea to get out of town for a while. Angor left to meet up with a contact, but demanded that they return by dawn the next day.

They left with Vordregar to head up into the eastern hills in search of Ux the Owlbear, the guardian spirit of the land. Their first encounter was with a startled Elven noble, who introduced herself as Lady Mirielle (Niri, Viri and Miri... it's almost like characters right out of the Hobbit XD). She decided to accompany them, giving the excuse that she was awaiting an escort who hadn't come yet.

They quickly came across a rock troll who guarded the way; he was clearly friendly with Vordregar, but the old troll refused to let anyone else enter the foothills without first answering a riddle. The riddle given was:

This garden is a lonely place

where many came, and yet remain

the plants grow strong on fertile ground

watered by legacies of pain

and should I plow, my plow would break

on cast-off husks of iron grain

now buried where they fell like wheat.

What am I? Speak! Tell me my name.

Lady Mirielle proved her mind was sharp in quickly working out that the answer was "a battlefield". Indeed, the hardest part of this encounter was attempting to keep Thak's mouth shut, lest he use up all their three guesses, which was done by telling him that the answer was most likely "silence".

The party then approached the Grove, where the owlbear's sanctuary lay. They discovered a strange rune with an elven L inscribed on one hidden wall, and a trail leading off into the forest. Thak, poking the sigil, found himself staring into a pair of strange violet eyes, which looked rather surprised.

Elarus followed the trail and found another rune, which he activated to also look at the eyes. They surmised that the runes were likely something to do with whoever kidnapped Ux from his sanctuary. They left Vordregar with Baryn-Doran at the sanctuary, to try and repair the totem poles there.

Following the trail, the party discovered more of the strange runes, and came across a disturbing scene of beasts slaughtered by blades and arrows. Viridia worked out that the beasts were probably guardians of the forest, summoned to defend it, and they had been killed by whatever had disturbed Ux.

Further down the path, they came across a gorge which had previously had a rope tied across it. Lady Mirielle managed to clamber down into the gorge and ascend the other side, allowing Thak to throw a rope across to her, and they created a very makeshift bridge across the gorge. Thak was the first to try climbing across, and a series of very unfortunate events almost ended in him plummeting to certain injury (along with Niriley, who slipped on the cliffside), but the quick reflexes of Mirielle, Viridia, and Elarus managed to keep the situation under control. They all crossed safely, eventually.

However, they soon found themselves ambushed in a narrow gorge whilst Mirielle tried to disarm a tripwire trap that had been set up to drop rocks on their heads. Mysterious figures appeared at the top of the cliffs on either side with bows trained on the party. Mirielle took three arrows before the others leapt to her side. Thak threw himself up a cliff face and punched one of the bowmen unconscious, whilst two of them broke their own bows and (in a quite hilarious sequence of events) subsequently, their own necks, trying to leap across a gorge to engage the party in hand-to-hand combat. Viridia dragged one of the assailants down from the cliff using a thorny whip, where he was attacked and stabbed to death by Elarus and Mirielle - who had revealed herself to be rather more competent at practical things than the party had originally thought. Along with Niriley's super-powerful moonbeam spell, the assassins - revealed to be Drow - were quickly dealt with, and Thak dragged the unconscious one down the cliff for questioning.

He was stripped and tied to a tree, questioned rather forcefully by Mirielle, and forced to help the party find their way through the forest. In spite of this, or perhaps because of it, the party soon became lost, until Mirielle and Elarus climbed a tree to see some kind of plateau on a cliff to the north. They guided the party up to the path that approached it, finding that a group had been there extremely recently - in fact, they could still see the dark-robed figures ascending the winding path.

They arrived at the plateau at the same time, where the badly injured Ux lay on an outcropping and a desperate-looking Dryad defended the last remaining forest sanctuary along with a couple of forest children. The Drow were determined to finish off Ux, and charged. Their cleric went to fight the Dryad, whilst the warriors and their captain held off the party at a stream. A wizard stalked menacingly towards Ux.

One of the forest children fell to a vicious strike by a drow cleric, and Viridia was stabbed by a warrior as she tried to come to the aid of Mirielle. However, Niriley managed to bring her back from the brink of death by channeling healing energy into her wounds, and with an enraged Thak, they managed to survive, albeit with more than a few wounds. Elarus saved Ux's life at the very last second using his Suggestion, causing the wizard to believe that he should finish off the intruders before dealing with Ux.

The wizard managed to kill himself through a Wild magic surge; trying to cast a fireball at the Dryad, he turned himself to solid ice. The drow clerics were killed by the Dryad and Niriley's moonbeam, whilst the warriors were defeated in melee by Mirielle, Elarus, and Thak, who cleaved one clean in two with a critical hit whilst raging. The captain, close to death, tried to escape by leaping onto a totem pole, but he misjudged it, and caused the totem pole to topple off the cliff, with him still attached. What happened to him is still unknown.

The captive from the ambush at the gorge disappeared during the fight. It is assumed that he is running away through the forest wearing nothing but his undergarments.

Niriley healed Ux, who promptly went to the dead child, and placed him on the forest altar. Niriley and Viridia both participated in a druidic ritual, in which they channeled the power of the totems and the spirits to restore life to the forest child.

The Dryad, Ari, was extremely grateful for their aid, and gave Viridia a staff borne of the wood of her own body. She told them that she and Ux would help protect the forest; the Drow had been trying to kill them to remove their protection, so they could tunnel up through to the surface from the Underdark. The forest spirits are currently preventing them from doing so, and your help has clearly been invaluable to them. Ari offered you a ride back to Ux's sanctuary on the back of a pack of Gryphons. That is where you are now, currently flying through the air in close formation at sunset over the forest, as the totems begin to light up once again and the spirits return to the land.

Session 3: A Plague upon Elderain

The party began the session flying back from the cliffs where Ux was saved. They landed at Ux's old sanctuary, where Vordregar thanked you gratefully and they were reunited with Baryn. Upon returning to Lost Light, they found a rather angry Angor, who informed them that Elarus' antics had angered the Moontower mages and he was now a wanted man. He also told them that a messenger would be riding out from Lost Light towards Yarburg at dawn the next day, bringing news of Elarus' crimes and requesting a royal edict to use Divination magic to find him.

Everyone decided to lay a trap for the messenger, trekking down the road during the night and laying an ambush in preparation. Whilst preparations were ongoing, they encountered a merchant caravan, which contained a book merchant by the name of Carlo Anterton. He had come from Waterdeep, and his carriage contained a number of interesting books and scrolls, most of which were too expensive to be purchased. Thak tried to intimidate him into forgetting that he had seen them, as they suspected he might have recognised them from the wanted posters. However, Mirielle was able to convince him that it was in his best interests to keep them a secret, and they happily allowed him to go on his way.

At dawn, the messenger and his guard rode right into the ambush. Mirielle and Thak leapt out from nearby rocks to attack the riders, and a barrage of spells rained down from the tree line, causing the messenger to fall almost immediately, and the guard was stabbed viciously by Thak, killing both him and his horse. They looted the bodies, dressing Baryn up in the guard's armour, and captured the messenger's horse. Baryn, all of a sudden, became a lot more sure of himself, a lot more confident, and this experience boosted both his morale and that of the party. Baryn is now a level 2 fighter!

The party continued on down the road, where they found the remains of Carlo's carriage, along with a series of strange tracks. After looting the carriage, they followed the most human-looking ones, and found Carlo hiding out in a cave, protecting some of his most precious books. It didn't take much convincing for the party to agree to accompany him to Cair Vanta for a cut of the commission he was to be paid for bringing some rare books to Atramedes, the High Sorcerer of the Moontower.

They carried on down the road, with Carlo in tow, and an altercation ensued between Thak, Mirielle, and Angor. Some discussion was had, after which everybody began to trust each other a little more, and some motives were revealed. Satisfied, they continued on to Moonbeck, where Mirielle pretended to be a noble, with the others as her guards.

Crown Prince Vilgon was already at Moonbeck, investigating a suspected Lycanthropy plague. He involved the party in the investigation, requesting that you check out the suspected source of the plague at Duskdell, as well as finding Silver at the Klondike Mine. He also wants word brought to Lost Light. With a werewolf attack on the village whilst the party were there, he decided he cannot spare any men for these tasks, and he has significantly increased the defences of the village, which is his headquarters for now. He also gave Mirielle some information which may be of use in the future.

Deciding that the best chance lay in being able to fight the creatures, the party decided to head first to the Klondike Mine, with Viridia ambling along in bear form. They were informed by the Klondike Cousins that a group of Kobolds had tunnelled up from below and taken up residence in the mine. Sniffing at their patheticness, Thak stormed right ahead into the mine.

Despite a few tight spaces, and discovering poor Baryn's claustrophobia, the party found their way in and cleaned up the kobolds with little to no effort. Baryn was given the honour of dealing the final blow.

The silver was mined and carted back up to the surface, where Darius Klondike was able to forge it into Alchemical Silver weapons - a greatsword for Thak, a rapier for Elarus, and arrowheads for Mirielle and the druids. Off-screen, Angor requested a dagger, and Baryn took an alchemical silver pickaxe.

The party ended the session on the road back to Moonbeck, with the aim of completing one of the remaining two objectives. They hoped that the situation hadn't changed significantly since they left...

Session 4: Gnarlclaw

The player characters started out arriving back at the village of Moonbeck, where Prince Vilgon greeted them. They handed over the remaining silver ore, and agreed to investigate the nearby village of Duskdell for werewolf activity. Viridia and Barym were to remain in Moonbeck to help defend if a werewolf attack happened whilst they were gone.

Several members of the party felt exhausted and in need of a rest, so they headed to the tavern before going to Duskdell. This proved to not be a great idea. Thak and Angor drank themselves into a stupor through competition and sang Dwarven marching chants until they both passed out. Niri tried her first drink at the hands of Miri, and they both got extremely drunk. It fell to Elarus to try to clean up the ensuing mess.

At around 8 that night, extremely hungover and still somewhat drunk, the party (minus Viri and Barym) stumbled out into the wilderness to find out what lay in Duskdell. Despite getting rather lost, they eventually found the village, which appeared to have been ransacked.

In a wrecked home, they found Brother Jacob Astley, who was nursing an injured werewolf back to life. This was Janta Gnarlclaw, the former leader of the tribe that Niriley knew well. Niriley told the party about Gnarlclaw and his rivalry with No-Fang, and Gnarlclaw told them how No-Fang had returned, with a new tooth and a new name, Glitterfang, and he had challenged Gnarlclaw for leadership of the tribe. Through dark magic, Glitterfang had won, and now he led the tribe out into the wilds of Elderain to take over the human lands.

Gnarlclaw, being a wolf of honour, had protested against this, and during the battle at Duskdell, Glitterfang's followers had tried to murder him and leave him to die. It was only through Jacob's intervention that he had survived.

He also told the party that the werewolves planned to attack a large town nearby, likely Lost Light, soon. The party decided that this was a pressing matter, and they should deal with it as quickly as possible. They also raided Jacob's father's house, to find some interesting loot and a decent amount of gold.

They headed back to Moonbeck, where the Prince was rather angry at being awoken, but quickly realised the seriousness of the situation. Niri, Janta and Jacob remained outside the village, and I believe there was some attempt to convince the Prince that they had died, but he sort of missed it in the confusion. The mayor was also unhappy at being awoken, but eventually agreed that they should move the inhabitants of Moonbeck to Lost Light, where they would be able to escape via the river to Yarburg.

The trek was a long one, and all but Miri and Elarus shadowed the procession from a distance. Along the road, they met a few Dwarves who had been scouting the area. Two, Tavor and Imran, accompanied the group to Lost Light, potentially warding off any werewolves.

At Lost Light, the party mostly camped outside, whilst Miri and a disguised Elarus entered the town with the refugees. The prince met Astrelas Windlen, and they began to form plans for escorting the refugees to Yarburg.

Battle plans were also drawn, in case the Werewolves try to attack Lost Light. There was a great deal of confusion with the Prince thinking that the party had vanished and Miri promising to find a group of almost identical adventurers overnight. Before night fell, Miri and Elarus snuck out to the camp, where the rest of the party were gathered, weary from the long day but still awake enough to sit up and chat. Janta and Angor were at the camp. Baryn and Carlo were within Lost Light. Elarus was disguised as an elf, Moriel.

Session 5: The Battle for Lost Light

This session began just outside Lost Light. The party all had a restless night, awaiting the werewolf invasion. Niri received a vision from the spirits of the land, showing her the fate of the Drow captain who escaped you during the attack on Ux's forest. He seems to have been disciplined by his superiors, but escaped... or was set free?

Viri received a message from Vordregar, saying only "They are coming!". Meanwhile, Elarus received a "gift" from a mysterious messenger - a robe with a strange insignia on the back.

After consulting with the Prince, the party agreed to scout ahead upriver whilst the civilians were evacuated. Some of them saw the initial werewolf assault, during which Barym heroically saved a young mother and her child from a foundering ship.

The party found Glitterfang overseeing the construction of a crude riverblock to prevent the ships from escaping to Yarburg. Miri and Angor tried to sneak around the side, but this little adventure went rather badly. The party were discovered by a group of werewolves, and Miri was almost strangled to death when the rest of her party arrived just in time to get them out of trouble.

Meanwhile, Thak and Janta attacked Glitterfang's dryad friend. Thak had some (temporary) indecisiveness about who his friends were, but eventually decided that the dryad was Not Good and had to die.

A battle on the blockade ensued, with Janta engaging in a heroic duel against the stronger Glitterfang. Even with magical aid from Niri and Viri, Janta was able to do no more than scare off Glitterfang, who swam away downriver.

The party destroyed the blockade in time for the ships to pass through, and then briefly pursued Glitterfang downriver, coming across the smoking ruins of Lost Light. The town was burning, and several ships appeared to have been overturned or burned by the werewolves.

A new plan was formed: get Elderain to help replace Glitterfang with Janta as chief of the werewolves. The party headed to Yarburg to try to convince the Prince of the plan. His aide, Cpt. Olberdale, appeared to favour a rather more destructive plan of unleashing a flood-wave on the lowlands.

The Prince plans to consult with his father, King Arkhand III, the target of your quest. He was to depart on a ship at dawn the day after the next, so the party had roughly two days to spend around Yarburg.

Session 5.5: The Rogue

Little was accomplished in this session, but Niri and Miri teamed up to take on the Council of Yarburgh, whom they thought might be able to challenge the Prince's decision to open the floodgates and flood the lowlands.

With Niri practicing her (lacking) flirting skills on a guard, Miri was able to sneak into the mansion of the town clerk, where she found evidence of tax evasion. She blackmailed him into giving her details of other councilors' misdeeds, and quickly the council was swayed to see their point of view.

The council has agreed to send a group of soldiers out to bring Glitterfang to trial, after which he will be executed by Janta in single combat to bring the werewolves under his leadership again.

Session 6: Showdown in Yarburg

This session concluded the story line in Yarburg. Thak's adventures continued to meander their way through various shops in Yarburg, confusing poor old Norah and enriching the halfling in the Thieving Shop (TM). Elarus now has a certificate saying he is a witch hunter, certified by the Tower of the Moon.

That night, Elarus decided to finally cast out his patron, revealed to be Akh-Romar-Zimbhaal. Romar was not over-eager to let Elarus go, and instead attempted to murder him. The ensuing noise attracted the attention of Zhang, a travelling monk, and the rest of the party, who came rushing to Elarus' aid.

Together, they defeated the aspect of the demon, which was emerging from a tear in the planar fabric from the waist up (implying that his lower half was lingering somewhere else in the nine hells). Elarus' powers were stripped from him, except for a little residual arcane magic. Zhang was introduced as "Zhang.". Elarus was questioned rather pointedly about the massive demon torso that had emerged into his bedroom. Niri and Viri had the foresight to put out the fires that had been lit during the fight.

Then, word came by way of Carlo Anderton that Glitterfang had been captured and was being dragged through the streets of the city. They followed the procession, accompanied by an infuriated crowd of refugees from Lost Light, to the market square, where Glitterfang was condemned to execution by single combat.

Niri went to find Janta, and together they went to the square. Janta faced off against Glitterfang. Despite Glitterfang's injuries and cowardice, he was vicious and fierce when backed into a corner, and he fought brutally against Janta. Janta's age began to show as he tired more quickly than Glitterfang. Niri tried to help by healing Janta, but he shouted her down, distracting him enough for Glitterfang to grab his hand and bite it off.

Janta, in return, grabbed Glitterfang's crystal tooth and tore it out of his mouth, then stabbed him in the heart with it. Both werewolves collapsed, but it became clear that Janta had won and Glitterfang was dead - and, indeed, No-Fang once more. He tore the tooth out of Glitterfang's chest, and as he was borne away by guards to the infirmary, he gave the glittering tooth to Niri.

The refugees of Lost Light were celebrating in the streets, but the party decided to head back to the tavern. On the way, an agent of Akh-Romar-Zimbhaal blocked their way, bringing a message to Elarus that he will never be free of the demon's influence, and there is nowhere he can hide or run to.

Perhaps wisely, the party indulged in a night of drinking.

The next morning, the party was contacted by someone named Lyra de Vassiel, the adopted daughter of a noble from Cair Vanta. She had been sent to find them for undisclosed reasons, and she had a ship with which to bring them to Cair Vanta.

Niri and Viri went to find Berym-Doran, who was trying to leave the city to go find his wife. They convinced him that his wife was safe with Vordregar and would be at the city soon. Berym agreed to stay, but refused to accompany them any further, wanting to see his wife again after his travels in lower Elderain. Meanwhile, Elarus purchased some armour, and Zhang meditated to commune with his ancestors regarding his path.

That evening, they boarded the Skinny Wizard with Carlo, Lyra, and Angor, and set sail across the lake under the flag of Captain Hans.

Halfway across the lake, they came across an unnatural fog, and were attacked by a wingless dragon that struck from within the lake. A wave of water swamped the deck, and Viridia electrocuted it with lightning, but Thak sidled up and smashed its face back into the water. The dragon had bitten off more than it could chew with the Skinny Wizard.

Session 7: Arrival in Vanta

This session saw Viridia, Elarus and Zhang take a back-seat. The party arrived in the harbour at Vanta. Cair Vanta, the district and stronghold for the highborn folk, lay on the lake nearby, accessible only by a long bridge under heavy guard. Unfortunately, the party quickly discovered that not only was access to the island limited to permit-holders only, but the permit office was closed for the duration of a tournament which was being held in the city. With Angor and Lyra being the only members of the party who held permits, the rest of them were stranded. Angor said he would do his best to secure you all permits from the inside, and Lyra went to assist him with that, leaving them with Carlo in Vanta.

Thak, naturally, was extremely excited by the prospect of a tournament, and wanted to head straight there, but Miri and Niri elected to check out the local establishments first to find somewhere to rent rooms. The first such tavern they encountered was the Grinning Gable, wherein Miri requested information regarding "Lady Mirielle" and threatened the bar owner, Tom Swindler. They were quickly removed from the premises, and elected instead to visit the Rusty Hook, a friendlier establishment on the harbourside. They found rooms there, and a bardic group known as the Dizzy Wenches were playing all night.

Before turning in, the party headed over to the tournament grounds to enquire about what events were on and how one might partake in such festivities. Five main events were being held: the Joust, the Melee, the Archery, the Fashion Contest, and the Drinking Competition. Each one would have daily bouts, and an overall contest between the winners of each day's bouts to decide the overall winner of the tourney. They investigated the Drinking competition, which was in full flow in the evening. Several teams of eight sat around large kegs, desperately vying to be the first team to empty their keg of ale. With a brawl in progress, and advanced inebriation tactics being employed, a Dwarven team eventually won, to the dismay of everyone else. The brawl intensified, and Thak joined in, battering a dwarf wielding a table leg. He smashed the dwarf through a table, and there was much rejoicing.

The party returned that evening to the Rusty Hook, and after a couple of hours of dancing to the Dizzy Wenches, turned in for the night. They went to the tourney grounds bright and early the next morning, where Thak signed up for the Melee, and Miri signed up for the fashion contest, despite her rather lacking attempts at make-up that morning.

The Melee was the first to begin, and Thak joined in the first bout, fighting against a dwarf, a spearman, and a fencer. The spearman got his spear stuck in the mud and was promptly defeated by the fencer. Thak and the dwarf squared up, and Thak was almost pushed out of the ring, but he managed to grab the dwarf and throw him out instead. Thak then fought the fencer, who managed to land a couple of lucky hits but was tackled to the ground and held there until he gave in.

Meanwhile, Miri participated in the first catwalk in front of a crowd and judges. Her dress and makeup were far from the best, but she wowed the crowd by cartwheeling and flipping down the stage. She saw Carlo in the front row of the crowd, his eyes almost popping out of his sockets. She was far from the strangest entrant, however; a Dwarf woman also entered, and was booed off stage since she was wearing armour and carrying heavy weaponry. This turned out to be Martha, one of the Dwarven drinking team... and one of Thak's opponents in his next bout. Somehow, Niri was roped into joining the Dwarven drinking team to replace Barry, the dwarf who was knocked out by Thak the night before.

Thak, this time, was up against a fierce group, consisting of Martha, a Monk, and a half-orc. The monk foolishly tried to flying-kick the half-orc over the ropes, but missed and fell himself out of the ring; Martha made the mistake of turning her back on the half-orc, and the half-orc made the mistake of taking advantage of this. Thak emerged from the carnage almost unscathed.

Miri participated in the second catwalk, this time choosing to march down the catwalk and flourish her rapier. Again her display was sufficiently unusual that she stood out from the crowd, and she was invited back to the final that afternoon.

At lunchtime, Niri had to be consoled by Viridia and Thak about the amount of meat (including turkey) on display. Meanwhile, Miri snuck into the nobles' dining area, meeting Lord Vuron and Sir Greenwood, and causing a major political scandal by inferring to Lord Vuron's wife that she may be pregnant with his child. She also got her first glimpse at the King of Elderain, King Arkhand III. He was guarded by six well-armed and armoured knights, chosen from the best fighters in the land. There was a rumour that the winner of the joust at this tournament would be joining his personal guard.

Thak then fought his third and final bout against a single opponent, Rurik, a human barbarian from the northern lands. Rurik bit into his own arms to send himself into a rage, and Thak raged in return, and the result was about as pretty as two ballistic missiles colliding. After a tumultuous and fierce exchange of blows, both competitors lost their weapons, and battered each other with fists. Thak took a blow that almost knocked him unconscious, but the light of Pelor shone upon him, and he rallied to smash Rurik in the face and win a shiny longsword.

Miri competed in the final round of the fashion contest, this being a dance. She chose an elf as her dancing partner, but her own acrobatics let her down; when she tried to do a lift she slipped and fell. Despite falling with grace and swiftly getting back to her feet, this cost her the competition. The judges may also have heard rumours about a certain Lord Vuron and his mysterious mistress...

After the tournament, Miri and Niri decided to head to the bathhouse to mix with the locals. There, in the alcove areas where crime lords often met and discussed shady business, they met Transil Vekkarien, a strange half-elf who was able to offer Miri some information she needed. However, in exchange for this information, Vekkarien wanted her to find and kill Thak Icebane.

They then met Coren Jarr, a smuggler-turned-mafia boss who was involved in almost every shady business transaction in Vanta. He told them that Vekkarien had arrived around three months ago, following a halfling named Horace Bimbleby. He was operating on his own, using money and influence to hire the finest guards around. He also knew that Vekkarien was paranoid in the extreme, and had rigged his house with traps and tricks, so getting to him will be a deadly challenge. He also offered them a way into the nobles' district without a permit, but they declined.

They then returned to the tourney for the drinking contest. The Dwarves' tactics involved taking shifts lying underneath the keg, drinking directly from the spout, and protecting their table from other rival teams. Niri was employed as a healer, looking after the Dwarves who were getting into fights with the half-orcs and humans nearby. Miri went around and annoyed the humans and half-orcs in the best way she possibly could, even knocking out one of the humans and physically stopping one of the half-orcs from drinking despite his best efforts. The Dwarves, predictably, won the competition again, and there was much rejoicing.

After the competition, everyone headed back to the Rusty Hook. Well, not quite everyone. Miri was nowhere to be found. She had gone off on her own little adventure. Rumours came later that night that a house nearby had burnt down, and there was a criminal on the loose on the streets of the city, but that couldn't have anything to do with her, could it? In any case, this session ended with Miri, inexplicably, lying wide awake underneath a parked carriage.

Session 8: The Tale of Thak Icebane

This session started out at breakfast, each of the party going about their business. Niri headed off to the baths, Zhang went to the hills to meditate, and Thak and Viri went to the tournament. Zhang's meditation was interrupted by a flock of ravens flying out of a nearby abandoned mill. He went to investigate, and found evidence of someone of noble birth hanging around recently. After meditating again, he caught a glimpse of a haggard face with a bushy moustache in the mill before it vanished.

Thak and Viridia, on the way to the tournament, came across a group of thugs who had ambushed and beaten up Angor. They charged to intercept them, defeating them without too much issue through the use of Viridia's vines and flame-blade, and Thak's new sword. Angor was rescued, and one of the unconscious thugs questioned. He claimed he was working with "The Scorpion" from the Thieves' Guild, one of the other thugs they had killed. Thak took the body and cut its head off in a move that would later prove to be very wise indeed, but at the time was mainly intended to scare the remaining thug. The captive also mentioned someone called "Glint" who had requested the ambush.

They took Angor to the temple of Waukeen and alerted Niri, who helped them heal him and fend off the "voluntary" donation-requesting priests of Waukeen. They then decided to investigate the thieves' guild, finding a hidden entrance to the sewers near the bath house. Niri revealed to Thak the information she and Miri had found from Transil Vekkarien about Horace Bimbleby. Thak, in turn, reluctantly revealed some of his past, telling them that he had been deep in with a Thieves guild previously in Daggerford. Horace had been his lifeline to get out of the nasty business, but Transil, the new leader of the thieves' guild, had tricked him into almost killing an innocent man, Sam Tarry. Thak spared Tarry's life, and took out his rage on the thieves' guild, before fleeing, and eventually joining up with the party in Elderain.

Continuing on through the sewers based on Thak's almost eidetic memory, they came eventually to a bridge, where they pulled a lever which turned out to be a trap. They also discovered the true way across the bridge, setting off the guild's alarm but also finding their way in. They avoided the search party sent out to protect the guild, battered in a door, and somehow managed to convince the guards on the other side to let them in.

Inside, they met Zodra, a poison merchant, and found that the guild was ruled by four leaders: The Black Mamba, the Tiger, the Scorpion, and the Black Widow. Thak met the Black Widow, who gave him some information on Transil Vekkarien and his house, as well as what she knew about Glint, which was not much. However, she did agree to send a thief to scout out Vekkarien's house and report back. Zodra was able to tell Thak where Horace was staying.

They returned to the city, and Niri and Viri managed to stop a dogfight by convincing the dogs not to fight each other. The dogs, named Chad and Brad, warmed to the two druids, and now accompany them, to the annoyance of those betting on the fight.

They found Horace, who told Thak some more information about Vekkarien: he was ridiculed by the guild because he did not stand up to Thak, and cast out; he was then injured when he tried to take revenge, crippling him. Because of this, he stole a great deal of money from the guild and went after Thak for revenge, hiring guards and setting up traps wherever he was staying. He has recently captured Sam Tarry, who was travelling with Horace.

They decided that Vekkarien had to be dealt with, but not before going to pick up some reagents for Horace's potions. On the way, they met Miri, who had been lost since last night.

Miri had escaped Cair Vanta and immediately recognised by one of Lady Mirielle's servants, who took her to L.M.'s house. They told her that L.M. had gone missing previously, but they all believed that Miri was L.M.. Miri started investigating, and eventually rejoined the party.

They went to a herbalist's, met Hana, and shenanigans happened involving herbs of various kinds. After that, the party picked up Angor from the temple and brought him back to Horace's house, and recieved the information from the thief who had scouted out Vekkarien's house.

They rested for the night, and the next day went to get some permits for Cair Vanta. In Cair Vanta, they met Lyra and Lord Vassiel, who explained that this Glint was impossible to view using his divination magic. He also scryed Vekkarien and L.M., telling them that Vekkarien was with a chained up man and an old-looking half-orc. L.M. was tattered and hidden away somewhere dark. He did also offer to get them an audience with someone friendly in the Tower of the Moon, Harun.

The party then decided that they wanted to find Carlo and get him a permit. (WHY WHY WHY) Miri dragged him away from the tournament, and attemped to forge a permit, something which was much more successful once she purchased some gold ink from the black market.

Finally, a tiny bird flew into Horace's house and brought an urgent message to Viri from Vordregar: The Drow are coming, and he has hidden the refugees away in a pocket dimension. The message cut off worryingly early.

Time was now of the essence, and the party prepared to deal with Vekkarien, Glint, and this mysterious Lady Mirielle simultaneously, before turning their eyes towards their final goal - the King...

Session 9: Mirielle

Spurred into action by Vordregar's message that the Drow are marching, the party decided that it was time for action - not planning. Regardless, planning was done, and a plan was concocted in order to lure Transil Vekkarien out of his house. After Niri sent a message to Janta to warn him of the oncoming Drow, Thak was disguised as a dead version of himself, and Miri and Niri, having been previously contracted to kill him, carried him over to Vekkarien's house, with Zhang and Viri lurking behind, just out of sight.

Vekkarien's house was a death trap. The traps that the thief had marked on the map he gave you were just the tip of the iceberg. The grounds of the house were mined and covered in tripwires, the fountains ran with acid and were rigged to explode, pressure plates were hidden under the gravel, even the plants were sentient, slumbering and waiting to ensnare unsuspecting intruders. However, by presenting him with the body of his hated foe, the party were able to lure Vekkarien out to the front of the house, where he paid you for the body with a bag full of loot. However, he also revealed that his half-orc bodyguard was in fact Rogar Icebane, Thak's father. At this, Thak sprang from the cart and stabbed furiously at his father.

Vekkarien was sprung in the only trap he couldn't control. Miri stabbed him, but he vanished as the others ran in to help. It was a hard fought battle; Zhang kept Rogar on the ground whilst Miri and Viri dealt with another bodyguard. Vekkarien reappeared to stab Thak in the back. Niri was assaulted by dark visions, and Rogar was knocked unconscious, but was able to revive himself briefly, before being killed by Zhang in a burst of anger.

The other bodyguard was mortally wounded by Miri, before an illusion was dispelled and it was revealed to be an ensorcelled Sam Tarry. Viridia saved him from the brink of death whilst the others battled Vekkarien. Thak, badly wounded, dealt the final blow, stabbing him through the chest. With that, he laid the final remnant of his former life as an evil thief behind.

The party dragged a badly wounded Tarry back to Horace's house, where they were all given medicine and medicinal drinks/smoking implements. Tarry revealed that Vekkarien had decieved Thak's father into believing Thak had betrayed him and was responsible for the downfall of the Icebane Clan.

Miri, meanwhile, had snuck out to meet with Count Vladoc in Cair Vanta. There, they discussed several matters of great importance. He revealed that the King was carrying a jewel named the Star of Elderain, an important piece in some defensive machinery located in Gottsbruck Castle, which would be able to defeat the Drow (who have reached Yarburg, which is under siege). He also gave her some information on Glint, whom he believes to be Baron Von Markhausen, a close ally of the King's. Apparently, Von Markhausen might go to the royal ball, which would be happening the day after to celebrate the end of the tournament. He also told her where Lady Mirielle was being held - a mill outside the city - and by whom, namely, one of her former suitors, Lord Percy Groone.

Not-Miri headed there immediately. In the mill, she came across Lord Groone, who looked dishevelled and maddened, but angry. They fought, and she stabbed him in the eye, before he fled, extremely badly wounded. She found Lady Mirielle in a cage in the basement along with Eliza, a priestess of Waukeen. She took both of them back to Horace's house, and stayed with them through the night, ensuring they were fed and healed. Naturally, the party had a great number of questions, and she revealed herself to be Aura Glaive, an orphan who had been raised by the house of Glaive. Mirielle was the Lady of the House, and bore a striking resemblance to Aura; hence, Aura had acted as her stand-in on public occasions to confound would-be assassins. From then on, she was referred to as Aura.

The next day, they rose late, and went about their separate business to prepare for the ball. Thak visited the Thieves' Guild to speak to the Black Widow, who granted him membership. Aura, Niri and Viri went to meet Harun at the Moontower, and whilst he wasn't particularly useful, he did take them for a nice walk in the gardens. Thak then went to visit the palace, hoping to sneak in as a guard to avoid wearing something fancy to the ball; this was, unfortunately, unsuccessful.

So great was his consternation at this concerning prospect, however, that he sought out the second most powerful man in the city, the Arch-Deacon of the cathedral, and told him a complete lie about his father's dying wish to be for him to attend this ball but that he was allergic to cloth. The Arch Deacon, taking sympathy on Thak, agreed to speak to the palace and allow him to enter without wearing a suit.

Aura then went to purchase some fancy clothes, whilst Niri, Viri and Thak went to speak to Lord Vassiel to try and get invitations to the ball. They found his body in his study, surrounded by shards of glass from the broken window. His divination ball was smashed and several books ripped from the shelves. They had the unhappy task of breaking this news to Lyra, who was out gardening; she arranged for a burial in the rose garden around the back of the house, and then said that the party may stay at Lord Vassiel's house as she took ownership of it. She was to join them at the ball, aiming to get revenge on Glint, who was likely responsible for Lord Vassiel's murder.

With the ball this evening, everyone prepared as they know best. A sombre feeling settled across the party as they realised that this night might mean the end of their journey through Elderain, for good or for ill. Angor sharpened his knives and Lyra mourned her father as the sun set on Cair Vanta. One way or another, either they or the King would not survive to see another dawn.

Session 10: The Betrayal of Angor

The party began by making preparations to go to the Royal Ball. Lyra told them she could smuggle some weapons in via a servant in the castle kitchens, but only a small number of them. They entered the ball without much fuss, although Thak was accosted by Klaus, the clothier, and offered a silk doublet and trousers. Thak managed to convince Klaus that he was allergic to not only cloth, but also silk, velvet, ermine, and lace... and somehow managed to get a drink out of him, too.

The great hall was filled with all the nobles of Elderain. The King, the Arch-Deacon, the Archmage, and the Prince's betrothed were all sat at the high table, and the Star of Elderain shone from a scepter in the King's hand. Aura spotted Baron Von Markhausen, and sidled up to listen to him bragging about his "adventures" to a group of enraptured ladies. She and Niri followed him out onto a balcony, where they discovered his secret liason with Lady Vuron. They attempted to get him to confess to being Glint, but he didn't seem to know what they were talking about. Giving up, they went back inside, where they saw Carlo dancing happily with Lady Olivia.

Viri and Thak both approached the King in his throne to ask about separate things; Viri was chastised for not bringing a gift, and Thak was offered a job in the castle kitchens.

Eager to capitalise on his success, Thak and Niri headed off to the kitchens. Niri walked in by claiming to know Kyara, Lyra's contact in the kitchens, and obtained the basket of weapons with relative ease. Thak took a much more roundabout route - first he came across the War Room, where several generals were discussing the ongoing battle at Yarburg, and then he paid a visit to the lone guard at the top of a tower, bluffing that he had simply "got lost". He then went back down to the kitchen, claiming that he had been hired. The head waiter, Devin, took him to Alfonso, head of the household, who had no knowledge of this. He managed to convince Devin to give him a tour of the castle, but escaped whilst in the wine cellar, and paid the dungeons a visit. There, he interrogated an orc named Urgok Firebrand, a noble imprisoned for working against the King. He claimed he was an ally of Lord Vassiel's, and Thak agreed to release him.

Aura unsuccessfully tried to obtain more information about the ongoing battle, and was shut out of the war room by General Matthias. She then went exploring up the main tower which led to the King's quarters, and there she discovered a secret passageway from the tower to the King's room. On coming back down, she encountered Lady Vuron.

An epic battle ensued, with Lady Vuron and her staunch ally Gloria pitted against the resilient Aura. Aura received a slap to the face, and retaliated by knocking Lady Vuron out. Gloria called for the guard, and Aura was able to convince the guard of her high status and accused Gloria of being implicit in the attack. After looting Lady Vuron's unconscious body, Aura escaped back to the main ball.

With two objectives in mind, the party spotted the King leaving. They quickly followed; one of the King's knights took the Star of Elderain. Niri, Thak and Zhang (three wise(except one) men(except one)) followed the Star, whilst Aura, Viri, and Angor followed the King up to his room.

When the Knight with the star reached the dungeon, Thak charged him and, with Zhang and Niri's help, stunned him, and threw him in a dungeon cell. They stole the Star out of the Sceptre, which Niri hid in her dress. Together, they fled the scene.

Meanwhile, Aura, Viri and Angor reached the King's bedchambers by way of the secret passageway Aura had discovered earlier. They found that it led into his wardrobe, and, wasting no time, Aura leapt out of the wardrobe and plunged her poisoned blade up to the hilt into his neck. The King never stood a chance. (Natural 20, dealt more than triple his health in a single attack). Not one to miss out on loot, she gave the room a once-over, finding a large amount of gold and a very shiny amulet.

At this point, Angor revealed himself to be a magically-concealed Drow. He thanked Aura for killing the King, but the party were no longer useful to his - and Count Vladoc's - plans. Realisation dawned that they had just killed an innocent man and had been used by the Count - under the guise of the Grey Remnant - all along. Angor stabbed Aura before she could react, dealing a savage wound. Viri, enraged, turned into a bear and mauled Angor, as Aura called for the guards outside, claiming there was a Drow assassin. Angor cast Darkness and fled, and Aura and Viri did the same, passing back into the secret passageway, where they caught their breath and healed themselves.

They waited for the footsteps of the alarmed guards to die down, before running out and down the tower. They encountered a guard coming up, but Viri froze him in place with Entangle, and they continued on, jumping over him. They fled out onto a balcony and leapt down from the castle, to where Lyra was waiting with a carriage and the rest of the party.

Aware that they had done something terrible, they went directly to Lord Vassiel's house to collect their gear, then went straight to Horace's house. There, an even worse sight awaited them: Horace lay dying on the front step, and Lady Mirielle was gone. In her room, Aura found only her old amulet, which was engraved with the sigil of the house of Glaive. Thak and Niri managed to save Horace, putting him into a coma to preserve him on the brink of death. Sam Tarry returned from an errand to find the terrifying sight, and they bundled him, and Horace, into Lyra's carriage and fled the city.

Aura had left to investigate Lady Mirielle's house, but found the house ransacked and the servants dead. She ran to the mill, the only place she could think of to look for her, but there was nothing there. On returning to the city, she almost walked directly past the party, but Zhang stood in her way and gave her a hug - which turned into a fireman's lift as he carried her onto the carriage and away from Cair Vanta.

As the party drove away from the city, Lyra said she could feel something arcane happening, some kind of upwelling of power. Looking back, the city appeared to be glowing red, and Zhang's heightened senses could hear distant screams carrying across the hills. They decided on a destination: Gottsbruck, a town further along Elderain valley. There, they hoped to find some semblance of peace...

Session 11: The Return of Old Friends

This session began with the party’s arrival into Gottsbruck, a magical canal-town with an arcane presence. Lyra, who had driven the party there, first took the party to see Rigby, a dwarven contact of hers. He took them all into his dwarven mansion, and there they filled him in on the events of the last night in Cair Vanta. (They were careful, however, to not let on that they were responsible for the King’s death.) Niri showed him the Star of Elderain that they had managed to steal, to which he responded by telling the party that it had been forged by an elf long ago, in order to bring light to the whole of Elderain in times of darkness. He said that it may not be able to wipe out the Drow entirely, but if the Star was placed in its position above Gottsbruck palace, their progress would certainly be hindered. Then, the party brought his attention to the comatose Horace Bimbleby, asking him how he might be helped – Rigby said their best bet was to take him to the Temple District. So, after Niri gave Aura a much-needed pep talk, they set off to deliver Horace to the Temple District, and the Star of Elderain to Gottsbruck Palace.

The party found a Temple of Pelor and, knowing that Pelor is in part a god of healing, took Horace inside. Horace was brought to the care unit of the temple, where the party was told that there is a chance that they could help him survive – but that it would not be easy. If they were to be able to wake him, they would need ingredients that are very difficult to obtain, such as Holy Water from the northern mountain passes. It was agreed that Horace’s life was worth this, so the party decided that they would plan on going north to retrieve this water.

Their next step was to visit Gottsbruck Palace, to hopefully put the Star of Elderain into action. On the way over, Niri was greeted by her guardian spirit, Naru, who brought news from lower Elderain. She revealed that Yarburg was under attack by the Drow, but that Janta had managed to escape, sneaking through northern mountain passes to reach the valley and gather all the werewolves together. The last images that Naru showed Niri were of Janta finding Jacob Astley, in a burnt-down house in Lost Light, presumably to aid him and show his gratitude. Niri fainted in relief, finally knowing that her friend was likely safe.

In the palace, they were greeted by the Captain of the Guard, Orion, to whom they gave the information that they had given Rigby. Orion seemed concerned by the real seriousness of the situation, but unfortunately told the party that the Star of Elderain would not be able to be used yet, as the device at the top of the palace that it should be placed in had been taken away for renovations. (By none other than Count Fuckface himself. Jackass.) They received special permission to deliver this information to Gottsbruck’s ruler personally – or, rather intimidated this permission out of poor Orion – and left the Star of Elderain with him, having decided to go north and get this device back from Count Fuckface themselves.

After this, Zhang decided to take a walk out of the city and into the nearby mountains, and Thak followed him. Zhang did not seem bothered by this, and instead told Thak his story. Zhang had come from a faraway land, in which the secrets of the people were stored on people’s bodies in tattoos, so they could never be stolen and used for evil. A great threat had befallen Zhang’s own city, and to preserve his people he had the entire city stored in tattoos on his back – it had been taking all of his willpower to maintain them within himself, and this was the reason that the party had not been able to see Zhang as he truly is. It was revealed that he had walked out into the mountains, because he believed that it would be a good place to free his people and let them settle anew. However, as he attempted this he discovered that he still was not strong enough to free them into the material world, so they remained as tattoos. An exhausted Zhang and Thak returned to Gottsbruck.

Meanwhile, Niri, Aura, and Vidi went shopping in the town center. Niri and Vidi bought some potions, of Greater Healing and Mage Armor respectively; Aura splashed out a bit and got some fancy armor with roses on it. When Thak returned, he joined them in shopping and bought a new weapon, having taken a sword of his to Rigby to be re-forged. The whole party bought some mounts for their trek up north: these were dire wolves for Niri and Aura (named Janta and Rogue), a mountain lion for Vidi (named Charlemagne), and horses for Zhang and Thak (named Herbivore and Dobby).

The party decided that their first step would then be to fetch the holy water for Horace, as it was closer by than Count Fuckface would be. They concocted a plan so that they wouldn’t have to return to Gottsbruck in between quests: they would enlist the help of a local homeless man, Logan Bush, to take the holy water back to the Temple of Pelor for them. Awestruck at the sight of all the gold that he would earn, he agreed, and he set off with them on a donkey named Ollie.

The party set off north, encountering rocky terrain that appeared devoid of life. As they were crossing a narrow path overhanging a chasm, they noticed the awakening of some kind of rock giant, and soon realized that it was heading right for them. They knew that they had to move quickly, if they were to escape with their lives. Vidi managed to pass it first – but not before it unleashed an avalanche on her, dealing hefty damage. Niri, Zhang, Aura and Logan then followed her in turn, escaping largely unscathed – but Thak and Dobby were hit by a huge rock, injuring Thak and squashing Dobby. After this harrowing encounter, they moved forward more steadily.

The party then came to a valley, where they saw what appeared to be trees and greenery in the distance, past a large mountain. They had two options: either go around the mountain, which would take many hours, or scale the mountain, which would require specialized equipment which the party didn’t have. They settled on neither, as Niri and Vidi the Master Problem-Solvers turned into giant birds and simply flew towards the trees and greenery. They came upon a warm area of the mountain pass, that had a faint glow emanating from the water – however, when Niri tried to take some of the water, she was stopped by a mysterious voice telling her that the water was not hers to take as she pleased. She attempted to reason with the voice – which revealed itself to be that of a Fey – in saying that they were taking the water to save a friend’s life. The Fey agreed to let her take the water, on the condition that Niri bring to her the teardrops of the moon within the month. The druids took the water, Niri contemplating the fact that she had just made a contract with a Fey the whole way back.

The Bird Squad returned to the party, and Viri helped Logan back to Gottsbruck with the holy water safely, which made the party ask themselves why they’d hired poor Logan at all. Niri and Viri then revealed to the party what they’d seen when they’d scouted the area up north – that is, nothing but barren, frozen wasteland for miles. The party contemplated this, realizing that getting to Count Fuckface would be no simple task, especially given that they didn’t even have any directions to where he would be. As they were talking about it, Viri began to feel as if she was being watched – perhaps magically? Definitely magically, she discovered, as three familiar faces stepped through a portal to them: Elarus, Astrelas Windlen, and Curuin, who was Viri’s father and a man who had helped Zhang in a time of great need. There was a touching reunion between Curuin, Viri and Zhang, and the rest of the party was given the chance to catch up with each other and let each other know what had been missed.

Session 12: Curuin's Secret

The party started this session by returning to Gottsbruck, via a portal which Astrelas Windlen had conjured for them. Astrelas – who had been traveling with Elaurs and Curuin – appeared very sick, almost on the verge of death, due to some magical ailment. After Niri healed him a little, they found that Astrelas had been afflicted with the Spell Plague, which had spread through lower Elderain since they left Cair Vanta.

Then, once the party had checked that Horace Bimbleby was being looked after and was on his way to recovery, the party headed back to Rigby’s house. There, they met a newcomer – a blonde, Halfling bard called Tala Littlefoot, who had arrived from a tavern up north bringing ill news. A distressed Rigby informed the party of what Tala had told him: an army, commanded by a man on a black dragon, had stormed through the tavern that she was in the night before, leaving no signs of life. On hearing this, Curuin informed them all that this was not an army of Drow – rather, this was an army that he knew, called the Forsaken Legion. This was an evil army of humans, who had somehow found a way to prevent themselves from ageing, and used this power to continue to destroy everything in their path. Elarus, remembering the interaction he witnessed between a Drow priestess and a human called Duke Attoir, concluded that the Drow were likely in cahoots with the Forsaken Legion. Tala then let them know that they were likely to attack Dalenor next; Lyra recognized this as her home village, and suggested that they plan to head in that direction next, in the hopes of stopping them. Lyra further informed the party that she had just returned from investigating Cair Vanta, and that she had found no signs of life there – presumably, everybody there had contracted the Spell Plague, like Astrelas. (This was likely the fault of Atramedes, in the Tower of the Moon, considering that that was apparently the only building left standing.) Thoroughly delighted to have two additional crises to take care of, on top of everything else that the party needed to make right, they set off for the north – but not before buying a dire wolf for Elarus, a new horse for Thak, and having Niri get to know all the party’s mounts a little better. (In short, Dobby 2 thinks Thak needs a bath, Rogue is basically Ed from The Lion King, and The Shadow is kind of a dick.)

Curuin led the party northwards, as he was an experienced ranger and could get them to where they needed to be quickly. Viridia took this time to speak to her father – partly because she missed him and wanted to catch up, and partly because Niri and Aura did not find him trustworthy and wanted Viridia to make sure that he was who he said he was. Curuin sufficiently proved to his daughter that he really was her father – unfortunately, though, she could not get him to tell her what had happened on the day she thought he died. All that he could do was ask her to be his voice to the rest of the party, and count on him for now. At some point later, the party reached the old tavern that Tala had told them about. The party found it completely burned down, with dead bodies scattered everywhere. (Oddly, there were no magic users among the bodies.) The only sign of life that they found was a severely burnt tiefling called Jenna, who had prayed to Pelor to get through the night. After briefly bonding with Thak over their mutual love of Pelor, the party healed her and sent her to Gottsbruck, where she would likely find further help. She thanked them profusely, and headed on her way. All that remained for the party to do was to create a funeral pyre for the bodies, and ward off the ravens above who had come looking for a meal. Once this was done, Curuin determined that the army responsible for this had headed north – and so, north they headed.

On the way, they encountered the last remnants of the Icebane Clan, Thak's former tribe. They had been decimated in a battle with their nearby human neighbours, and now only nine remained, led by Dalenka, a wise woman. Thak challenged her to a duel for the tribe's leadership, beating her champion soundly, but also weakening himself. In return, he gained the services of two brave half-orc warriors, who followed the party thereafter. He also converted the clan to be followers of Pelor - with more than a little magical trickery from Tala and Elarus.

Continuing on, they came to Dalenor village, to find the battle all but over. The vanguard of the Forsaken Legion stalked the town, dragging villagers from their homes and killing them. The party rode in through the smashed gate, catching the Legion by surprise and slaughtering them. A Legion wizard launched a fireball at the group, but most were able to jump out of the way of it, shortly before Viridia turned into a giant eagle and dragged the wizard from the top of the tower, killing him.

The party questioned their lone captive, Maru Bovar. Under a magical influence, he explained that Count Vladoc was drawing the armies of the Drow, the Forsaken Legion, and the undead created by the Spellplague to Ashbury. There they would gather, under the watchful eye of Duke Attoir, Atramedes, and Vladoc himself, and prepare to march on the last remaining stronghold in Elderain: Gottsbruck.

As they talked, a trap was sprung: Duke Attoir's dragon, Tharos, leapt into the sky and landed with a BOOM in the centre of the village, breathing a jet of acid across half of the party. The rest sprang into action, throwing sword, spell and arrow at the dragon's thick hide, to little effect. Astrelas and one of Thak's orcs used the Legion's catapults, launching boulders at the beast, which struck it with a great deal of force. Thak tried to clamber onto the creature, and Viridia harried it with her eagle's talons. Elarus' newfound wild magic backfired several times, granting him a beard of feathers, an aura of invisibility, and a strange sobreity that persisted for many weeks thereafter.

As the battle progressed, Viridia was badly wounded, and Astrelas was killed manning one of the catapults. Thisk, one of Thak's orcs, was burned alive by the acid spewed from the dragon's maw. The dragon flew into the air and rolled to throw Thak from his back, causing the half-orc to splash down into the river below. Aura and Lyra became the new gun-armed division of the party, shooting at the dragon with their pistols.

Seeing his daughter badly wounded, Curuin revealed his true form: that of a bronze dragon, known to Zhang as Xhu Luin. He dragged the black dragon down to the ground. Thak clambered into a catapult to try to get back on the dragon's back, but the catapult misfired and threw him into a wall.

With the dragon badly injured, Elarus continued to launch a barrage of spells at the beast, grounding it. Feeling its energy failing, it beat its wings to try to escape, but Thak swung his new Urgrosh into its underbelly, dealing it a fatal blow. It spiralled into a crashing ruin in the fields outside the village, leaving most of the party alive - but injured.

The party convinced the villagers from Dalenor to return with them (and the Icebane tribe - now renamed the Dragonsbanes) to Gottsbruck. There, they discovered Prince Vilgon, who has retreated from Yarburg, along with his newfound allies from the Dwarfhold, and Vilgon is preparing for war against Count Vladoc. He set the party a new task: to destroy Atramedes, the powerful sorcerer, to allow his armies to pass the Great Glacier and make their way to Ashbury, where they would finally meet Count Vladoc in battle once and for all.

Session 13: Zhang's New Master

Zhang:

Zhang was introduced to Lien Ming, an old man living on the streets who would become his new master. Lien Ming had much to teach Zhang, and he taught him through three trials throughout the session, and they ate together upon completing each one. In the first, he was asked to move every single grain of rice from one bowl to another, using only chopsticks. Through this task, Lien Ming showed Zhang how each grain of rice was an individual that mattered – this was analogous to how every single person in a war has their own importance. The second task involved Zhang living as a beggar for a day, and aiming to obtain a meal for the night. (This proved to be somewhat of a trick, as Lien Ming already had rice for them to eat that night.) Zhang showed his generosity as he offered much of his earnings to other beggars that he came across – and when a young boy attempted to steal his things, he invited the boy to dinner with him and Lien Ming. This pleased his master, as the very lesson that he was teaching was one of humility, generosity and empathy. In the third and final task, Lien Ming asked Zhang to come to know one of his enemies, and find a trait in common between them: he was to go to the dungeons of Gottsbruck Castle, find Maru Bovar of the Forsaken Legion, and offer him food, clothing, and compassion. Zhang learned that Maru once had a family, much beloved to him, and that he had only joined the Forsaken Legion in the hopes of protecting them; however, they have since died, and he had been cursed with an eternal life of doing unspeakable deeds with his army. After Zhang shared his story, the two found a point of common interest: the way to achieve peace for them both is to finish Count Vladoc once and for all. On returning to Lien Ming with his final mission complete, Zhang was rewarded with a new weapon: the Golden Blade of Xhu Luin.

Viridia:

When Viridia was not getting up to shenanigans around Gottsbruck with the rest of her party, she spent her time there with her father. The first evening, she went to visit him in the castle gardens, and found him still hungry after dinner, and ruining the too-small courtyard that had been provided for him to sleep in. (Being a human, while not as cool, seemed a lot more practical then.) The next day, Curuin and Viridia went hunting together, so that Curuin could find more food and teach Viridia how to navigate her new half-dragon form. Finding her new form natural, Viridia successfully flew with her father and caught a deer for the rest of her party to eat – she cooked one of its legs to take back for her whole party, and left her father the rest of the deer. Watching her and her father fly through the skies gave the people of Gottsbruck more hope than they had known since the events of the past weeks.

Aura:

Aura started the session traveling through Gottsbruck with Viridia and Niriley, meeting Lien Ming and finding that he may have had a vision about Lady Mirielle. She could not get any more information out of him than this, however, and had no choice but to follow the druids to the town library – here, she found some books which talked about her family, and found that her father had disappeared into the Fey wilds ten years prior and hadn’t been seen since. Clearly shaken by this, she did what any sensible person would do and went to drown her sorrows at one of the local pubs. This resulted in her getting into a petty altercation with some dwarves (one of which turned out to be Rigby, trying to mess with Aura), and an ill-fated attempt at fetching some moon rocks for Niriley (which just meant climbing the clock tower, pulling on the hands until the tower was beyond any hope of being accurate, and eventually being flown down by a mildly exasperated Viridia). Thankfully she was returned to Rigby’s house safely, and she managed to sleep through the whole shenanigans with Romar’s agent. The next day went a little more smoothly for her: she had heard about a fancy ball that was happening the day prior, and she spent her efforts attempting to secure escorts for herself and the druids this day. Her success in this took place at Elarus’s fencing tournament, at which she met an elf who had been a prolific fencer in his day; he was quite happy to escort Aura to the ball. Later, she met with Niriley and Viridia, and found them both escorts with relative ease: for Niriley, she found a shopkeeper elf named Rofar (who also sold her the dress that she would wear that evening), and for Viridia, she found a young squire named Alethir, who had been attending to a merchant. It is likely that she spent the rest of the day preparing for the ball in various ways.

Niriley:

Once she had met with Lien Ming and introduced him to Zhang (with the help of Naru), Niriley made her way to the library with Aura and Viridia, to find Sam Tarry. He had been researching as she had asked him to, and he found the following: the Star of Elderain was the most powerful known moon rock in the area, and it had been found hundreds of years ago to fight off a similar Drow invasion. It hadn’t been needed in centuries, however, since the portal to the Underdark was shut when that battle was finished. Various solutions to Niriley’s predicament was discussed: a piece of the Star could be chipped off and given to the Fey, but this chip might be less powerful than needed, and it would be complicated because the Star is a sphere; Niriley could ask for the Star from the Prince once their battle with the Underdark concluded, provided that this was within the month, although Niriley found it unlikely that the Prince would allow this; there was finally the option that Niriley could abandon this contract, as Sam suggested that the likely punishment would be to form a new contract. Once all of this information had been taken in, Niriley approached Sam with another issue: she was embarrassed that she could not read like everybody else (except Thak), and she wanted Sam to teach her how. She now knows the letters, and could potentially read text, although slowly and effortfully. The next day, Niriley snuck off into the nearby forest, for some time alone with Naru and the local forest spirits. She spoke with them about everything that had been happening, and they had one important message for her: the Fey would never give her an impossible task, and if her heart was good she would be able to find a way to fulfill her terms. She also found a silver pendant which, while pretty neat, didn’t seem to be particularly magical. She put it on anyway, and then went to find her party back at Gottsbruck and prepare for the ball that evening.

Elarus:

Elarus spent much of his first evening in the library, after unfortunately failing to convince Thak that he could not simply teach him how to have fun reading without actually teaching him how to read. Later that night, though, things took a turn for the worse: while the party was sleeping in Rigby’s house, a hooded stranger broke into Elarus, Thak and Zhang’s room, and attempted to kill them all. However, this stranger woke almost the whole party up (bar Aura), and he fled out the window and down the canals. The party gave chase – highlights included Elarus casting Enlarge Person on the stranger and making him almost sink his own gondola, and Viridia (in shark form) biting off the stranger’s tail, not knowing they even had one. Once the stranger was cornered in an alley, which seemed to be a sanctuary full of graffiti of Romar, they managed to uncover his identity: he was a Yuan-ti pureblood, who had been sent to find Elarus and warn him that Romar was still after him. Even if the party killed him – which they did – Romar would only send more agents to find Elarus. The party responded to this threat with decapitation. The next day, Elarus took part in a fencing tournament which had been advertised the day before. His opponent was a well-known fencer named Rafael de Varmont – he had allegedly held his title for a long time before Elarus challenged him. It soon became clear how, as he used various forms of magical trickery to get ahead in the match, such as magically reducing Elarus’s dexterity, and suggesting to the referee that Elarus hadn’t drawn blood when he indeed had. Despite all this, Elarus won the fencing match, and a fancy rapier along with it – but as Rafael left, he ominously mentioned Romar’s name to Elarus, implying that Elarus’s situation may be known to him…

Thak:

Thak began the session by going shopping in town, during which he only bought drugs and drug-related paraphernalia. He was able to use his new purchases later in the evening, down by the docks near Rigby’s house; he spent this time watching unicorns, ogres and (I believe) one cat frolicking near the docks with him. It was all very magical and everything, though it came to an abrupt end when the Yuan-ti attempted to break in and kill Elarus. That fight ended with Thak being the one to decapitate it – this nearly happened inside Rigby’s house, however with some convincing it ended up happening outside. Thak found out about the ball the next day, from various party members: concluding that he would not like to attend with them in a similar way, he managed to land himself and the rest of the Dragonsbanes a gig as the security guards to the party. Thak used his excellent negotiation skills to partition the pay between himself and the security contractors. He also spent time trying to convert the Dragonsbanes to the ways of Pelor, by taking them to a local temple and asking for one of the clerics to teach them what he knew about the god. The Dragonsbanes seem to be going along with this now, having accepted Pelor as their new god and possibly getting Thak in way over his head with this whole pretending to worship Pelor thing…

Session 14: Gottsbruck's Sinister Nobility

The party was once again in Gottsbruck, this time preparing for a party at the mansion of Lady Frances of Deionn. Thak had managed to recruit himself as a security advisor and doorman, and four of the half-orcs from his tribe were with him. The ladies recruited unsuspecting rich men to act as their suitors for the night, whilst Elarus grudgingly paid Thak the entrance fee. He attempted to cast a warding spell on himself, just in case; as he did so, he felt a surge of wild magic, and found himself turning, unwillingly, into Elara - a fate which would have been permanent, had Niri not later cast dispel magic on him. Zhang watched over the party from a nearby rooftop. Several old friends were also present at the party, including Carlo and Lady Olivia, as well as Martha, the dwarf who took part in the drinking contest in Cair Vanta.

The party progressed smoothly; not much occurred, except the arrival (and swift departure) of a woman known as Lady Alinara, the head of the merchants' guild. However, late into the night, they heard a scream, and went upstairs to find Martha dead. They traced the footsteps of the supposed killer, and found a secret passage into an underground lair which seemed to span throughout the city. Passageways led up to the homes of various nobles.

Deep in the lair, the party found a shrine to Romar, and a huge iron gate. Several druids from Viri's circle were held captive there, and the party released them, before venturing in through the gate.

It was discovered that this gate was in fact a gateway to the realm of Romar within Bhaaldor, the land of Bhaal within the seven hells. It was a landscape of searing heat, with the agonised cries of Bhaal echoing across the plains, as you could see the massive demon being tortured for eternity at the centre of his realm. Romar's castle lay nearby.

Realising that they had none of their gear, the party decided not to venture any further this time. Instead, they headed back through the portal to the lair beneath Gottsbruck, and they decided to try and find out more about the nobles who had had contact with Romar. Their first port of call was Lady Alinara's mansion, in the forest outside Gottsbruck.

They fought the guards outside the mansion whilst Thak and Aura searched the rooms. Inside, they found ledgers detailing purchases from the merchants' guild, but little else of interest. However, Thak did discover a secret entrance, which also led down into the lair beneath Gottsbruck.

As they passed through the tunnels, Aura investigated a noble's house, and within found an obsidian crow's skull, which, when she touched it, drove her momentarily mad and caused her to murder the noble in his wife in their sleep. Terrified, she returned to the party as the madness wore off.

They returned to Lady Frances' house, and there they found a grisly scene - most of the nobles were gone, but several bodies lay in the courtyard, including those of Thak's half-orcs. One, Drum, was still alive, and when asked about what happened, he said that many of the nobles had turned on the guests and killed them in some kind of ritual. Anyone who wasn't in on the plan was butchered. However, Carlo and Lady Olivia were not amongst the guests on the floor.

The party then gathered their gear from Rigby's house, and were joined by Lyra. It was agreed that whatever the nobles were up to, they had to be stopped - and it seemed as though Romar was the source of all this evil. So then they stood on the threshold of Romar's gate, preparing to enter the seven hells and confront the demon that has plagued Elarus for all these years...

Session 15: The Valiant Barym-Doran

The party started off outside the portal to hell, as they had encountered in the session before. Aura and Niri took the time to have a short rest, while the other party members went into town to buy some potions which had healing and fire resistance effects. Once this was done, the party spoke to the Druids they had found earlier, and they told Viridia some troubling news – her mother had been taken into the portal, presumably by Romar. The party decided they had no choice but to step through the portal and confront Romar head-on.

They once again made their way through the hellish realm, eventually arriving at a castle. They were greeted outside by a friendly imp named Ipsit, who gave them brief instructions on how to conduct themselves before his master – Romar. They were taken through to a large room, where they found Romar in his human form, having laid out an elaborate feast to welcome the party (which Thak pretty much immediately took advantage of). Everyone in the party, except for Elarus and Aura (and Zhang, supposedly), bowed before Romar as instructed – probably more out of a sense of self-preservation than genuine respect. Aura instead challenged Romar over the numerous times his agents had been sent after Elarus, and Elarus told Romar that he no longer needed him as he had a new source of strength – the Power of Friendship™. In response, Romar claimed that he had not sent any agents after Elarus, and that he was not interested in killing any mortal beings. This demon clearly sat on a throne of lies, and later justified all the deaths that he was responsible for as “sacrifices” – which were supposedly needed to help Romar gain power, which was his true goal. He revealed that he had been working to obtain people’s devotion – primarily among the nobility of Gottsbruck – and that he intended to use this to rise to godhood, so that he could challenge and overpower his father, Bhaal. He then moved on to try to obtain the devotion of the party – he offered them anything their hearts desired, even to personally kill Count Vladoc, if the party would only offer their souls/eternal devotion/whatever to him. Seeing that the party wasn’t too keen on doing this, Romar gave them a further incentive for them to pledge themselves to him: he opened a window to reveal Viridia’s mother, Sylvara, tied up and suspended over a pit of fire. He further revealed that he had claimed her power for himself in some way, and was in control of her. Angered by everything that had happened thus far, Aura charged at Romar – and combat began.

As Aura stabbed Romar’s human form, the body transformed into Romar’s true form, which was 12 feet tall and pretty scary-looking. Romar proved to be a powerful foe, and his attacks were harsh, nearly resulting in the deaths of Thak, Aura and Zhang (they survived, though, so all is well – although Aura did become drunk after making use of her healing wine). While the rest of the party fought Romar, Viridia went outside to rescue her mother – this very nearly failed, but she did manage to bring her to safety. However, as Sylvara was still under Romar’s control, she began unwillingly casting spells against the party. Elarus, however, was prepared to deal with all of this: alongside casting a spell which made Thak enormous and even more terrifying than normal, his Wild Surge ability was activated during one of his attacks. As a result, a stream of white light entered the room, and from it sprung forth the valiant forms of Barym-Doran and Jenny (who had been turned into a unicorn). The beloved half-orc helped the party to eventually defeat Romar, leaving the party overjoyed (and Thak somewhat aroused). After looting what Romar’s corpse had left behind, the party found a scimitar, and amulet, a set of human-sized leather armor, and 1,500 gold (in the form of platinum pieces). Thak also took Romar’s Flaming Greatsword. The castle soon began to crumble, and the party left for Gottsbruck with Barym-Doran, Jenny, Sylvara and Ipsit in tow. (This means that Aura now had an imp following her around.)

When the party arrived back at Rigby’s, they decided that they had a lot of catching up to do with Barym-Doran. He told the party of everything that had happened to him since they parted: he went down into Lost Light Valley in search of his wife, but when he found her and the rest of the refugees, they were already being attacked by drowves. Vordregar attempted to save them all by transporting them to another plane, but was killed in the process. As this happened, Barym-Doran was transported to the Feywild, through which he travelled with Jenny for some time. He apparently met some dryads and elves there who fanned him with leaves and fed him peeled grapes – which is exactly the treatment he deserves. He was then sent on a quest by these Fey to find a magical shield, which he successfully completed – and, along the way, Jenny drank from a magical pool which turned him into a unicorn. He was also attacked by treants at some point, and when he was close to death, he was visited by none other than Pelor; he told him that his journey was not yet done, and through his grace, Barym-Doran was saved and given the powers of a (level 6) Paladin. He was also given a sweet Pelor medal, which greatly impressed Thak. Unfortunately, though, Barym-Doran has so far been unsuccessful in finding his wife and people. After telling them this, he started to ask the party about how they’d been – including “Angor”, which created somewhat of an uncomfortable situation. (He also mentioned to Niri that he had seen her werewolf friends headed towards the mountains, and not their home of the woods, which was surprising for her.) The rest of the night was spent with the druids amusing Barym-Doran by turning into various creatures – including a badger, a fish (almost), and himself – before the party all decided that they needed to get some rest before their next adventure…

Session 16: The Schemes of Atramedes

This session, the party started out by revealing to Viridia's mother that her husband, Curuin, was not in fact dead, and was in fact a dragon, and was in fact sleeping in the palace grounds in the very city they were in. A touching reunion ensued, during which Sylvara revealed that Romar was interested in the Feywild for some reason.

Curuin and the Prince then gave the party their latest task: to enter the Feywild, and investigate Atramedes' tower. Scouts reported that it may be partially transitioned into the Feywild to protect it from physical attacks, but it could be approached from the Feywild itself. The Prince also paid the party each 1000 gold for dealing with Romar.

With Berym-Doran and Lyra in tow, the party headed into the Feywild by way of a Feygate located in the druidic circle known well to Viridia. Within, they met a dryad named Elunara, who took them to meet the Queen of Autumn (the queens of the other seasons were sleepy). Niriley made an offering to the Queen of Winter.

The Queen of Autumn showed the party the Crystal Spire, a reflection of Atramedes' tower in the Feywild. It had been launching crystals into the forest to corrupt it, and she tasked them with dealing with one near the Court of Seasons so they would have a better idea of what they were up against.

The party found a huge piece of crystal embedded in the ground, and poison was leaking into the creatures nearby. When Aura touched the crystal, afflicted creatures were alerted, and the party were attacked. Berym-Doran was knocked unconscious by a Pixie, and Elarus was charmed by the dryad, subsequently reducing Thak in size and burning him and Viridia.

They dealt with the creatures - Niri opting to heal them of their affliction instead of killing them - and then the crystal exploded. Elarus took a nasty spike to the chest which came within 3 points of immediately killing him. Within was a crystal-golem, which Niri tried to heal. It tried to resist, but the druidic magic was too strong. Its torso was ripped apart, and within they found the body of a man from the Forsaken legion, sacrificed to protect and sustain the corrupting crystal. An interrogation of sorts, involving a polymorph into Atramedes, went about as well as expected, so Thak killed the man, releasing the crystal's hold on the landscape.

The party knew what they were up against, so they marched onwards towards the spire. On the way, they encountered a sentient sword containing the soul of a wizard named Ulfon, who had not been thorough in writing up his Fey contract. The rapier was claimed by Aura.

A little later, the party encountered a group of elves bearing the sigil of the House of Glaive. They were beset by wraiths, which the party destroyed. Their leader introduced himself as Imilvarien, captain of the guard of the House of Glaive. He took them to Anduin Glaive, Aura's adoptive father, at his awesome floating sky castle.

Their reunion was touching as he treated Aura as though she were his real daughter, and the whole house celebrated her return. It was agreed that the Glaives would aid the party in their battle against Atramedes, and feasting and healing was to be had. Thak requisitioned a crown forged from a sword, some crystals, some mithril, and his symbol of Pelor.

It was also revealed that Rienna, Aura's adoptive mother, was seriously ill with grief. Aura tried to revive her, but she was deep in a grief-induced slumber.

During the night, Niri had a vision from some captured spirits in Vladoc's inner sanctum. They revealed a meeting between the Count, the queen of the drow (a Drider named Mozana), Duke Attoir, and Azdiim Zo'Lorriq. Azdiim expressed doubts, but they were quickly quelled by the Count and Mozana. The count revealed his assembled armies, and a "secret weapon", which sat in a cage and growled menacingly before the dream faded...

Session 17: The Tower of Atramedes

During this session, the party stormed Atramedes' tower in the Feywild. With the aid of the house of Glaive, they attacked the tower, entering through a balcony on one of the upper floors. They disarmed and avoided a series of traps, but were quickly thrown into a series of illusiory dreams, during which they were unable to tell what was real and what was not.

The first dreamscape took place in a hellish land. The party needed to lower a bridge to cross a river of boiling blood, but in doing so, they would have to plunge three beloved characters - Janta, Gloria, and Lord Vassiel - into the blood. Despite much deliberation amongst the rest of the party, Aura eventually decided that the innocents must be an illusion, as Vassiel was dead. She recklessly pulled the lever, earning the ire of Niri, but the party crossed safely.

The next dream took place in a strange tavern, called the Tavern at the End of the World. Angor showed up outside the door, and was attacked by Aura, whilst shadowy figures attacked the rest of the party. Aura killed Angor, and Niri took from the dwarf's body (which did not change back into a drow), a small locket, inside which was a picture of Angor with his dwarven wife and child.

The third dream was in a forest. A sentient tree asked the player characters why they were worthy of passing through, and they all had to give an answer. Viri said that she was worthy because she protected and healed the party. Zhang said he was worthy because he has been carrying the weight of his people upon his back to protect them from harm. Thak said he was worthy because he was StrongTM and because he had cast out the last vestiges of hatred left within him when he killed Transil. Niri said she was worthy because she was willing to help even those opposed to her, as demonstrated in the crystal glade. And Aura said she didn't think she was worthy, but the tree pointed out that her dedication to her family and her friends was a wonderful virtue to have.

In the last dream, they encountered Count Vladoc amidst a sea of shambling dead. Zhang went to speak to him, and asked him a few questions in a relatively amicable conversation, reminiscent of the conversations gentlemen would have on the field of battle prior to a duel. Vladoc allowed Zhang to press on and attack Atramedes, since Vladoc no longer had any use for him.

Emerging from the dreamscape, the party found some loot, but Thak threw a belt of frost giant strength off the tower because he didn't trust it.

The party then fought a Beholder (named Stinky) and Atramedes on an illusory landscape which changed every round. Despite suffering death rays, petrification rays, and sleep rays (Berym-Doran was asleep for about a minute), Viridia managed to defeat the Beholder with a fiery spell, scorching it to death and causing it to implode. Lyra then killed Atramedes, shooting him in the head in retribution for the death of her father.

With Atramedes dead, the party found a small orb, and the tower began to crumble, fading back into the prime material plane. Everyone escaped the tower, and the glacier vanished, allowing the Prince's army to march up the valley towards Ashbury.

The house of Glaive also appeared in the prime material, and upon consulting with Anduin Glaive, the party headed into the orb (a pocket dimension), where you found Gloria and her newly-born child (she and Berym-Doran had a touching reunion). Berym-Doran chose to name the child Thak Jr., and Thak offered to make Thak Jr. the heir to the throne of the Dragonsbane Clan. (There must always be a Thak in Winterfell)

As a grand finale, Zhang saw Lien Ming overlooking their victory. He approached his old master, and together they went up into the hills, the party following behind. In a mountain valley, surrounded by white peaks and on the shores of a blue lake at sunset, Zhang chose to finally release the spirits trapped within him. He poured the golden energy from his back into the forest and valley around him, and houses and temples began to take shape.

Within seconds, the House of a Thousand Whispers was once more a part of the world, and its people ran to greet Zhang, thanking him and praising him. His former master, Master Flying Eagle, greeted Zhang as a master, and told him that he was to be the village's leader. Zhang roused them with a speech to bolster their resolve, and pledged that they would join the fight for Elderain.

The fight for Elderain was almost over. The final battle was about to begin...

Session 18: Finale

The party were woken in the middle of the night by the new archmage, Lady Isobel Glen, who transported them to the Prince's camp, and there they discovered that the Forsaken Legion had come upon the camp in the middle of the night - but Janta and the werewolves stalked out of the night, having killed the forsaken legion and beheaded its leader.

The party helped the Prince prepare for the coming battle by chatting with Hubert Dubedout, who suggested that the party infiltrate the castle through a labyrinth known as the Dead Windings. After that, the party spent the day each in their own way - saying their goodbyes, smoking strange things and hotboxing tents...

The party, along with a new ally, the werewolf Ethan Bloodmaw, set out across the valley to the Dead Windings, avoiding Drow scouts and wolves along the way. When they reached the entrance, an avalanche revealed the full entrance to the labyrinth. A column of undead began marching out, and towards the prince's forces. They snuck way in, avoiding the marching undead, in search of the secret passage to Ashbury Castle.

The party came across several strange tombs, including the tomb of the trickster, where they found a strange mirror-trick, and the tomb of the gatekeeper. They had to overcome several puzzles to reach the tomb of King Arkhand III, where they cleverly prevented a horde of skeletons from rising and opened the secret way into Ashbury.

Upon reaching Ashbury castle, the party discovered Percy Groone in a cell below the castle. In a fit of rage, Aura destroyed the lock on the cell door. As she left, Groone begged Thak to kill him; Thak granted him a quick death. They then went upstairs, and the final battle for Ashbury began.

A battalion of Drow confronted the party in the courtyard, whom they defeated with clever use of druidic magic. Vladoc then appeared, and taunted the party, saying that his machine was nearly ready. He sent Angor to delay them, and turned on his heel, heading deeper into the castle.

The party charged at a reluctant Angor, who fought briefly before escaping with an invisibility potion. Meanwhile, several of them headed on up through the castle, with Viridia and Aura flying up to the top of the tower to rescue a captured Mirielle. There, they were set upon by Drow assassins, who almost killed Aura. She would have fallen off the side of the tower, if not for the timely arrival of Zhang, who saved her and planted her on her feet, then distracted the assassins for long enough for Aura and Mirielle to escape.

Meanwhile, Angor reappeared, attacking Thak, who turned and grabbed him. He, with the help of Berym-Doran, dragged him out onto the balcony. Then he tore the amulet from this throat, turning him back into a drow, and threw him off, right onto a spire upon one of the lower roofs.

The rest of the party made for the observatory, as well as a nearby side tower, where a drow lich commanded the undead using his command rod. Viridia and Zhang attacked the Lich whilst Ethan and Lyra headed to the observatory; they were soon attacked by a vicious undead Glitterfang. Ethan and Glitterfang wrestled on the bridge whilst Lyra confronted Count Vladoc - who now sported wings and two whirling chains. She was knocked unconscious almost immediately.

At this point, Niri ran in and threw the spirit orb from the huge telescope-machine, replacing it with the star of elderain. Unfortunately, it didn't seem to be properly aligned...

Zhang killed the lich with the help of Viridia, and they, plus the rest of the party, converged on Vladoc, whilst Viridia flew to fix the machine. Vladoc almost managed to push Thak off the bridge, but Berym-Doran rode in on Jenny, grabbing Thak's hand and skewering Vladoc through the heart. Vladoc retaliated, knocking Ethan and Berym-Doran unconscious and severely wounding most of the party.

In the heat of battle, Vladoc's chains cut through Thak's chest, and stabbed him deep in the heart, killing him instantly. Zhang, in a rage, ran up the wall towards Vladoc and drove the Blade of Xu Luin through his belly and out through his mouth. Viridia managed to realign the mirrors, casting daylight all throughout the Kingdom, whilst Vladoc screamed and burned into dust. As the dust settled, Thak's fallen crown began to glow with Pelor's light... and miraculously, opened his eyes, despite the mortal wound.

With the light streaming from the castle, the drow were routed. Most of the beloved NPCs survived, with the exception of Janta - who was quickly reincaranted by Niri into his human form. Thak was offered lands and a title, but he chose to refuse them, instead venturing off into the wilderness with his Dragonsbane tribe - Jenna, Horace, Berym-Doran and Sam Tarry joining him, to become a force of Pelor. Zhang became master of the House of the Golden Dragon, and was forever known as the Burdened; his blade was hung above the entrance to the temple, until the day comes when it must be wielded again.

Viridia was appointed archdruid of the circle of autumn, and she oversaw the regrowth of the forests of Elderain, rebuilding the druids to what they once were. Niri was bitten by the werewolves and became their leader, with Ethan and Janta at her side; the Glimmerwood was granted the royal protection of Elderain. Aura was knighted by the Prince, and forgiven for killing his father. Elarus eventually confessed to her; she asked him to confess again in a year, if he still loved her as Aura. Elarus did so, and spent the rest of his life seeking a way of prolonging his own life so that he could live an elven lifespan. Naturally, this will lead him into dubious deals with demons and devils... but Aura never left Mirielle's side again.

Mirielle married the Prince of Elderain, and they eventually had children, naming one Aura and one Arkhand.

So ends the tale of the War of Shadows. And yet, the main party - Thak, Niri, Viri, Aura, Zhang, and Elarus - was still to meet again, in a different time and place...