Valendia

Back to the adventure!

A month has passed since the party rescued Tamera Ravengard from her family of assassins. The towering creature of Living Shadow that Lord Ravengard had become was visible from the street – and word of the group’s victory spread quickly (especially since Portia was involved).

The party had taken up residence in the Ravengard Estate, which had passed to Tamera upon her father’s death. Tamera had insisted on staying in her old room as she recovered from her scars; she barely smiled, and she spoke and ate little. Though the adventurers were idle, the rest of the world kept turning. Valendia’s Parliament made a decision regarding the matter of succession to the throne left vacant by King Arturos. They confirmed Arturos’s succession to be legitimate, putting the Albion family securely in the line. Thus, within a week of the party’s fight with Lord Ravengard, Lord Gideon Albion was crowned King of Valendia. As is customary, lords and knights (as well as the dwarven king) came forward to swear their fealty and friendship. Some lords, such as the Orrens, were conspicuously absent, and talk of rebellion was beginning to fill the taverns and guildhalls.

Donovan did his best to take care of Tamera and to explore the manor somewhat. He was unable to find Lord Ravengard’s sanctum, however; Tamera said it was hidden, and that while her siblings had managed to get to it, she could not. He did identify some of the items he had picked up, however: he took to wearing Lord Ravengard’s heavily enchanted black-feathered cloak.

Augustus, meanwhile, returned to the Temple of Lucia, where he was commended for his efforts and promoted to Lord Templar. In addition to giving him increased influence in the church, this put him in direct command of several younger Paladins named Ancelot, Bryce, Drystan, Esmond, and Leopold. Of course to his dismay, this increased the amount of paperwork required of him.

While Ari understood the trauma Tamera suffered, she also knew that the Red Dragon cult wasn’t going to rest. She made a habit of trying to rouse the others to adventure again.

As she was on her way to visit the Ravengard manor again, she suddenly encountered a halfling, who bumped into her, grabbing her gold. Ari did not notice this; luckily, as the halfling walked away with a small fortune, another halfling with messy red hair noticed and retrieved it. He handed it back to her, introducing himself as Cerin Rosenkin.

In gratitude, Ari decided to buy him a drink. Inside the Hearty Knave Tavern, however, they encountered Meric and a group of black-armored guards from the Order of the Black Phoenix, apparently offering free drinks to recruits. Ari reminded Meric that, as part-owner of the guild, Meric owed her some money. She attempted to publicly shame him, by claiming that he was behind on child support. She convinced at least one recruit, who walked out of line saying, “Your own child, man!” Ari then explained the situation to Cerin, who concocted his own plan for revenge.

Using his Hat of Disguise, he mimicked one of the guards (though a short one), and managed to get close enough to snag Meric’s coin purse. However, one of the guards spotted him and began to give chase. Cerin threw it to Ari, and the two managed to escape. At this point, Ari explained their larger goal of collecting the pieces of scroll before the Dragon Cult, and invited Cerin along for the adventure, believing his skills would be useful for the adventure.

Back at the manor, Donovan saw Tamera blankly staring into space in the front foyer. He approached her, and suggested that they start adventuring again, as she might need some distance from the place to recover, and that he missed her making jokes. Tamera smiled for the first time since her rescue, and agreed that it was time to set out.

The group thus got together and made some plans, though they were uncertain if Cassandra would be joining them, as they hadn’t heard from her in the past month. They gathered their gear and got ready to go. Augustus sent some of his Initiates to supplement the town guard in the University District, and the others to Silvertown to help in the recovery effort. In addition, at Tamera’s request, he asked the High Priest to provide some guard for the manor, since it was recently a locus of evil. The priest agreed, and noted that he’d ask for back-up from the Temple of Reidman.

With that, the party Teleported back to Three Falls.

Meanwhile, Cassandra had taken some time to recover from her encounter with Portia in the Temple of Reidman. Over the last month, she asked for advice from the Paladins and Priests about her sister. The message was simple: Don’t give up hope, she can be called back from her evil ways. To take her mind off of it, the high priest assigned her duties in the library and infirmary. After a month, as she was sorting scrolls, a cheerful young man with golden-blonde hair came to speak with her. She recognized him as Lucien Albion, the younger brother of the newly crowned king. He was one of the higher-ranked Paladins of Reidman in the temple, though he was no more than 16 years old, and he seemed to always be smiling.

“Ah, Cassandra, I was hoping to find you here. Listen, we just got a message I thought you’d like to hear about. The temple of Lucia is requesting some back-up to help protect the Ravengard manor. It seems that your friends are setting off again, and don’t want to leave it unprotected. Did you want to stop traveling with them? I’m sure there’s plenty of work to do here, if so, but…”

Cassandra got up from her scrolls. “Of course not. I had no idea they were leaving!”

Lucien continued smiling. “You may want to go and catch up to them, then. Happy travels!”

Cassandra gathered her things and began to Wind Walk to Three Falls…

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Return from hiatus, part 2

Donovan teleported back to Three Falls to inform the party of Tamera’s kidnapping. They resolved to try to rescue her before continuing. So they rested and teleported back to Valens, where the Ravengards called home and began to gather some more information.

They first decided to check up on the Order of the Phoenix Guildhall, to see if there was word of Portia. To their surprise, it was now guarded by people in black armor – including Meric, who was now wearing a holy symbol of Tiernach. Cassandra asked if Portia was around. Meric hedged a bit before replying that Portia was safe, but was out of the city on business. What kind of business, he couldn’t discuss. He did, however, offer to buy Donovan and Ari’s shares of the Order of the Black Phoenix. Donovan eagerly sold his for 10,000 pieces of gold, but Ari refused. Still, Meric claimed he would get them eventually. It appeared that the guild had been hijacked by the Church of Tiernach.

Donovan then encountered another person dressed in the garb of the Ravengard family, and interrogated him with an enchantment. He confirmed Tamera’s location at the manor, and received the disturbing news that she was in chains. He decided to try and play his enemies against each other, and sent the man to the Order of the Black Phoenix to demand tribute for the Ravengard family.

Augustus went to the Church of Lucia, and explained the situation to High Priest Dalton. After a day of waiting, the Priest told him that the Church could not help him without additional proof – however, since they trusted him, they would support any course of action he chose to take.

The group surveyed the Ravengard manor and began to plan. They finally came to the conclusion that stealth would be wasted here, and resolved to storm the manor. They busted down the front door, punched the man dressed as a butler, and fought past a golem and magic traps before entering the keep behind the manor. Here, they were met with opposition from the butler and other members of the household, who seemed incredibly skilled in combat. They were no match for the party, however. With some sword swings and some spells that damaged the structural integrity of the keep, they were dispatched.

They proceeded to the next floor of the keep, which appeared to contain a bunch of holding cells…and Tamera’s brother, Larkin, along with more members of his clan. Larkin offered to trade Tamera for the Eye of Sidhe. The party refused, and a battle ensued. Larkin was a nimble fighter, and engaged Augustus one-on-one, while his men focused on the rest. The battle did not start well for the party, as Larkin was able to disarm Augustus, while Donovan found that his Bolt Tunic did not function. They slowly climbed back on top – finally, Larkin received a grievous wound, and retreated in haste. They dispatched the rest, save for one, who offered to bargain his life for Tamera’s location. They released him after he told them. However, a moan from one of the cells revealed his lie – Tamera was inside, wrapped in blue glowing chains, and apparently injured. The chains did not come off easily.

Though the levels went deeper, the party resolved to get out while they could, and went back up the stairs. However, the rest of the Ravengards were waiting for them on the first floor: A short, lithe woman who shared Tamera’s big brown eyes twirled a wickedly curved short sword that was dripping with a dark green substance. Beside her stood Larkin – apparently freshly healed from the last battle, and ready for some revenge punches. Behind them stood an imposing man in a black cloak with a feathery collar and shoulders. He carried a staff in one hand – tall and golden, with an eye emblem at the top – and a blade of light in the other hand.

The man smiled, and said, “Allow me to introduce myself. I am Lord Erasmus Ravengard. This is my oldest daughter, Juliana, and you’ve already met my son Larkin. Now…if you would be so kind, please return the Eye of Sidhe. I’ve been watching you – you have had a net positive effect on the realm thus far. I would be loath to end it by being forced to pry the Eye from your cold fingers.”

The party refused. Lord Ravengard continued his appeal.

“I don’t think you understand. We need the Eye for the protection of the realm. I believe a great calamity will soon befall the kingdom. Perhaps I can avert it by using the Eye. The situation was well under control, but this woman, Lady Portia Aribitrium, threatens to unravel all of our careful planning. She is under the protection of the Dread God Tiernach – only the Eye, in the proper hands, can pierce his veil. As for the Knight herself…the Lady has power, but desires more, and will plunge the continent into Chaos to get it. And the realm will bleed. Please, surrender the Eye, and we can work together to stop her.”

The party refused again, to Juliana’s apparent delight. “I’ve gotten good at killing Paladins.” At this point, the group remembered Tamera voicing her belief that her sister had killed King Arturos. Tamera was set down, and the battle began. Though the party was battered and nearly out of spells, they fought bravely. Cassandra’s Flame Strikes put another few holes in the roof, Juliana was soundly smitten by Augustus, and Larkin was wounded enough to attempt retreat again. Lord Ravengard himself casted mostly defensive spells, until he fireballed the party, apparently not caring that his children were caught in the blast.

Finally, he was able to catch most of the party in a cage of pure force, when he decided to resume negotiations. Donovan elected to teleport himself and Augustus out of it instead, and the fight resumed. Lord Ravengard unleashed a frightening spell at this turn of events – with a burst of magic, most of the party’s magical equipment was disenchanted, leaving them at a fraction of their strength. It did manage to free the rest of the party from imprisonment, and against all odds, the party managed to land a killing blow.

At this point, Lord Ravengard clutched at his wounds, black blood seeping between his fingers. As it hit the ground, it seemed to turn to smoke. Soon, his entire body dissipated into a black swirling mist, which grew larger and larger. The skies darkened to nearly black as the figure took a humanoid form, and gripped a shadowy staff resembling the one dropped at his feet. Augustus’s sword began to glow, similar to when he fought the zombie God, and the party dove right back in for round 2. However, they were low on resources, and the ethereal creature proved hard to damage. The party began to fall.

When it started to seem hopeless, an unlikely savior appeared – Portia and Meric burst through the door. Meric began to heal the damaged party, and Portia, dressed in black form-fitting armor and carrying her sword two-handed as her old Scythe floated around her, joined Augustus in attacking the monstrosity Lord Ravengard had become. With this extra support, the monster was defeated in short order, leaving no body.

Ari asked Meric what he was doing here.

“A member of his clan arrived at my door and threatened us. The Order of the Black Pheonix doesn’t take such threats graciously.” Meric replied. He turned to Donovan. “Oh, stop looking so pleased with yourself Donovan, I knew that was your work. He was obviously enchanted. We killed him anyway, of course, and then used the attack as an excuse to retaliate against Ravengard. One of our scouts saw the roof of the keep burst open, so we decided to take advantage of the confusion. Apparently Ravengard couldn’t see everything coming. Anyway, we did save your lives, so you could be a little grateful.”

Cassandra was shocked to see her sister, and asked her where she’s been, and if the stories about her serving Tiernach were true. Portia confirmed them, and said she’d be doing work for the Order of the Black Phoenix. “I’ve been doing work all over – soon we’ll be bigger than those Emerald Gauntlet assholes.”

Cassandra flipped. “But Tiernach is evil! How could you do this?”
Portia shrugged. “Look, you’re always telling me that serving reidman made you part of something bigger than yourself, well, now I have that, too. I think you’re just jealous that it doesn’t make you special anymore.”

Cassandra stood with her mouth agape as Portia walked away. “Anyway, it’s been nice seeing ya, sis, but I’ve got a lot of work to do. Man, this place would make a great base.”

The party sustained many physical, mental and emotional wounds, and it was clear they’d need some downtime before they were ready to get back on the trail.

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Return from hiatus, part 1

((Time may have eroded my memory of some of these events, so please clarify/correct with a comment if I missed something.))

Portia had disappeared after claiming an evil artifact. Her cohort Meric left immediately from the temple to find her. Meanwhile, the party accompanied the crushed Wilhelm Orren back to his family estate, where the Orren family attempted to buy/coerce their support. The party decided to stay out of that.

At the same time, a cleric of Reidman named Cassandra walked into the devastated city of Merridell, where she began asking about a missing person…her sister, Portia Aribitrium. She received some bewildering responses – her little sister was a hero and a wizard, who single-handedly took down the Githyanki ship with her powers. By chance, she ran into a man named Meric – who said he had traveled with her, and yes, the stories had a degree of truth. Unfortunately, she had recently disappeared. He was going to look for her.

The next person she met had some helpful information – a dark-haired, tan man with a very large sword told her she was traveling with an evil man named Donovan, a wanted criminal. They had passed through town recently, and should be on the way back soon. He planned to meet them on the road to bring him to justice. Cassandra agreed to help.

The rest of the party was on the way back to Merridell in preparation for their meeting with Lucilia when they were ambushed – Donovan recognized the leader as Zacuren, his friendly assassin. He had brought with him a small assortment of archers and armored guards, as well as a Cleric of Reidman, apparently tricked into helping him. As the battle went on, an angry Cassandra attacked and demanded to know where her sister was. As the party explained the situation and tried to discredit Zacuren, Cassandra’s assessment of the situation changed. She decided to switch sides. Unfortunately, it came too late – Donovan was winged by an arrow, and died on the battlefield. At this point, Zacuren moved forward to claim his body, but was blocked by Cassandra. Cursing, Zacuren teleported away. Once Zacuren was gone, the other men surrendered.

Back in Merridell, Cassandra raised both Donovan and one of the archers from the other side who was slain…and continued to demand an explanation. They party helped the best they could, describing Portia’s downward spiral since King Arturos’ death and her oath to Elbert Payne, concluding with her claim to the Sword of Tiernach and disappearance. They had resolved to find her, but had more pressing concerns – such as the cult of Falazuriax. Cassandra agreed to join them – perhaps to fight both evils.

They spent some more time in Merridell, until it was time to meet Lucilia Delgado.

Lucilia and the Scales of Lotanakos revealed that they had discovered what the cult of Falazuriax was up to – they were trying to collect pieces of a scroll containing a spell that could cover the world in flames. Presumably, this would not be a good thing. They resolved to collect the pieces of the scroll before the red dragon cult could. These would not be easy to find – while they searched other places, the party was assigned to seek out a man named Redric the Orange, who lives near the village of Three Falls.

They celebrated for the rest of the night with the Scales, who were mostly a group of bards. Drunkenness and good times were had. A red-haired member tried her best to seduce Augustus, to no avail. One of Ari’s friends, a muscular man with a very deep voice named Sarastro, got very drunk and gave Ari a gift – the Partita Vero, a magic scimitar with an ice enchantment.

They resolved to leave the next day. While Donovan possessed a teleport spell, he could not teleport to a place he had not seen. Luckily, Cassandra had a spell that allowed them to travel speedily on the wind, reducing their travel time. Unfortunately, she could only enchant four people this way. Tamera, the bard that had been traveling with them, volunteered to stay behind at the Inn. Then Donovan could teleport back the next day to retrieve her, since he would have seen the town of Three Falls by then.

This went according to plan for the most part: the party quickly passed rolling hills, open plains, and vast forests before arriving at Three Falls. Donovan teleported back to retrieve Tamera while the rest of the party got an Inn. Once back at Merridell, however, Donovan discovered that Tamera was not at the Inn. She was gone.

Donovan began to gather information. The innkeeper said she had received a letter, and left looking troubled. He had no idea where she went after that, though. With no other course of action, Donovan began to walk around town, asking people. He walked for several hours without success, though he did pick up a discarded rod from a frustrated wizard. Finally, as he walked through the red light district of Merridell, he saw a man dressed in a white vest and loose-fitting pants – garb worn by Alton Barrera when he attempted to reclaim the Eye of Sidhe from Tamera.

Donovan began to form an idea of what happened. He disabled the man with his spells, and interrogated him in the street. He got the information he needed – Tamera had been captured by her family of assassins.

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Divine inspiration or delusion?

Don’t have time for a long write-up – here’s the abridged version.

The party got to Merridell, a bustling trade city. While there, Portia began gathering some information about public opinion regarding the Orren family (mostly neutral, though some acknowledged the vital role they play in protecting them from Orcs). While visiting the soldiers, looking for recruits for the newly formed Order of the Black Pheonix, the air rippled, and a ship suddenly emerged from an apparent breach in the space-time continuum. The ship was accompanied by strange extraplanar beings (later found out to be Githyanki) riding red dragons. The ship lowered ropes and shock troops, consisting of both warriors and arcane casters. They began attacking the city – the dragons set buildings afire while the Githyanki caused as much destruction as possible.

An epic battle began. Portia rallied the scattered and confused militia and fought them off, before climbing on the ship to take the fight to them. The rest of the party dispatched some Githyanki that had appeared in town. Donovan cast a Hold Monster spell on a dragon, causing it to plummet. After dispatching the dragons and ground troops, Donovan channeled a powerful spell that blew a hole in the ship. The ship also plummeted to the ground, taking out a city block in the process.

After the fight, Ari, thinking that the Red Dragon Cult might be involved, sent a message to Lucilia Delgado describing the situation. Lucilia replied that she would meet her in Merridell within a week.

The party afterwards went to seek out the Orren family in their castle to the North of Merridell. On the way, they met a green-robed Wizard, who introduced himself as Edmund Orren. He was on the search for his younger brother, Wilhelm, who had recently become involved in the cult of Rika, and believed himself to be on a holy quest. The party agreed to help him, and after searching into the night, they found him; he had been ambushed and robbed by thieves. After killing one of the thieves and sending the other to turn himself in, Wilhelm described his vision, in which the goddess Rika had appeared to him and told him to reclaim the fabled Sword of Tiernach, the blade she wielded during her time on the Material plane, and sealed away before ascending to her celestial realm.

Seeing that his brother would not be persuaded to abandon his quest, Edmund instead begged the party to protect his brother, and began his journey back to the castle.

The party followed Wilhelm, who seemed to stumble blindly through the dense forest. Just as they were beginning to doubt his vision, they came across some moss-covered ruins.

The floor of the dark temple was covered in spider webs. Some were big enough to menace the party somewhat, though the party dispatched them in short order. However, a spider as large as a dragon awaited them in the antechamber. Though the melee fighters fell victim to the strength-draining venom, the party eventually overcame the monstrous creature.

They continued on and reached a door that required a combination puzzle. Augustus finally found the correct answer (hymn), and they reached a teleportation circle.

On the other side, a group of devils guarded the final door. Augustus smote their leader, an ice devil, and killed him in one shot. The battle was hard-fought. Erinyes archers sniped them as the stronger bearded devils advanced their melee attacks. They finally banished the devils, and left the final chained door open.

Portia claimed the sword, and unwrapped it from its chains. She then disappeared.

Portia found herself standing in a large black void. A huge humanoid figure dressed in black armor towered over her atop a large throne.

“This sword was meant for my daughter. If you are to become its wielder, you must become my daughter. Do you understand?”

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Some Catching Up, Part 2

Having just slain a God, the party was camped outside the goldmine of the now re-deceased Sarrieth Dreadbane, licking their wounds and contemplating their next move. Tamera offered the Eye to Donovan, and further explained its powers as a powerful scrying device, said to actually be made of the Eye of the Goddess Sidhe. There was debate over who it should go to – Tamera wanted no part of it, and Donovan did not want to be tempted by its power. Ari decided to carry it, as she couldn’t use its power.

Meric offered to explain the political situation in Valendia, as it could directly affect their next actions. He explained it thusly:

There is disagreement amongst the noble families regarding the succession to the throne. When King Albert Lothar, the former king, was on his deathbed, all of his possible heirs had died of disease or in battle. The Knightblade family were close cousins, and Arturos had built up a reputation for heroism amongst the people from the days of his adventuring career. The King chose him as his heir, much to the disgust of the Orren family. Since Arturos left no heir, the line of succession would normally fall to the oldest male of the Albion family, who are most closely related to him. However, the Orren family has disputed whether King Albert’s deathbed proclamation was legal – the decision was never formally approved by Parliament. So their position is that Arturos was never King to begin with. Further, there’s no statute of limitations regarding challenges to succession – therefore, the matter must be put to Parliament. To further complicate things, another young man has stepped forward claiming to possess documentation that proves him to be Arturos’ legitimate heir – Artemis Knightblade, formerly Artemis Locke.

Portia’s honor required that she follow one of them. However, she was beginning to have different ideas since her experience with Elbert – perhaps the knighthood was dead. Perhaps none of these nobles deserved the crown – perhaps she should be the ruler of Valendia. She then decided – she would follow her own path, as Meric was doing, and try to win the crown for herself.

After some rest, the party returned to the city. Tamera decided to lay low again, and stayed outside the city gates. She also stated that she had some errands to run.

Meanwhile, Donovan and Augustus went to Dryxie’s Spells and Scrolls to sell some loot from the temple – notably, the magic weapons they obtained from the dead God. After their business was done, Dryxie told them to keep an eye out for a dirty half-elf who had been stealing her potions – she didn’t want him dead, just beat up. Donovan spotted the guy after leaving the shop – he offered to sell some potions to him in an alley. Hoping to teach him a lesson, Donovan cast a Shocking Grasp on the guy – and was surprised when his low-level spell killed the thief.

Portia first checked up on Elbert, and discovered that he’d been released from custody. She located him in the Emerald Gauntlet Guildhall, and asked how his trial went. He recounted the tale of his trial – how the priests had spoken with the corpse he had been accused of murdering, and found that she had never seen her attacker. They thus had only circumstantial evidence, and could not convict him. Portia congratulated him, and offered him a place in her future army if he desired it; he heartily agreed.

She then decided to check out the property that they now possessed the deed to. It turned out to be a run-down two-story building in the Guildhall District. The windows were broken and boarded up, there was no door, and several vagrants were using the place as a hotel/bathroom. Portia chased them out and surveyed the place, deeming it worthy to become her new base of operations – she’d start her own Guild, just like the Emerald Gauntlets.

When she met with Donovan that night, he reminded her that the deed technically belonged to the whole party, and so they were entitled to a portion of the proceeds from her guild. Portia decided to allow this, on the condition that Donovan put some money into rebuilding the lot. Portia then worked to name her guild, and decided to call it The Order of the Black Phoenix. Donovan contacted the Craftsman’s Guild with Portia’s specifications, and paid the appropriate fees. They told him the renovations would be done in a week.

Meanwhile, Portia began scouting for recruits. After stealing several workers from the Emerald Gauntlet hall, she spread the word that she would be paying for booze at the Hearty Knave Inn for all interested prospective members of this new Guild.

The next morning, Portia resolved to visit the rival noble families (whom she now viewed as her competition) and assess their strengths and weaknesses. The party followed, though they wondered what she was up to – her talk of overthrowing the kingdom was starting to get to Augustus. From Meric, she learned that the Albion family ruled over a large chunk of Valendia from Bluemarsh to Westerport; however, they kept an estate right in town. The Orren family, meanwhile, lived a short distance north of Merridell, which was near the border with Syrraco. Portia chose to investigate the Orren family first, for reasons only she understood.

The party set forth on the path to Merridell. Though they were briefly interrupted by Bulettes, they continued on their path.

Note from the DM:
Finally got around to writing these summaries, but there’s such a huge gap between sessions that my memory has grown fuzzy. If you spot any error or if I’ve left something out, please let me know in the comments.

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Some Catching Up

The party took care of some business in town, but Portia never made it to Elbert’s trial. At a bar, she met a former Cleric of Odon who had worked as a guard for the courts of Celia. His name was Meric Bowman. As Portia shared a drink with him, he shared his desire to fight for his own cause, and not for the cause of any deity. She offered to let him serve her, and introduced herself as the Second Liberator of Silvertown. Meric agreed to accompany her on her journey, as he could provide valuable healing and knowledge of the law and politics.

Tamera Ravengard enlisted the party’s help to fight their way out of the city after she was attacked. After fighting off two separate groups of assassins, Donovan used a recently purchased Teleportation scroll to escape to the Goldmine of Sarrieth Dreadbane, at Tamera’s request. Once there, she revealed that her family was descended from a long line of assassins in service to a mysterious deity – the Goddess known as Sidhe. Her family, the Ravengards, as well as several others, trained their children from a young age to be assassins. Using a powerful artifact known as the Eye of Sidhe, the family would spy upon members of the nobility and decide their fate. If the noble failed to measure up to their exacting standards, the family would send their “Sin Spectres” to dispose of them. The Eye allowed them to carry out the assassination flawlessly and efficiently, leaving no witnesses.

Tamera worked as an assassin for her family for most of her life, but questioned the morality of these actions. When she left, she took the powerful Eye of Sidhe with her, and hid it in some ruins deep within the Goldmine. It was there she was imprisoned by the hobgoblins, until the party broke her out. She instructed Donovan to teleport them there, as she no longer felt the Eye was safe in the mine.

Inside the goldmine, another party was already on the verge of discovering the ruins. A black-bearded man in heavy armor, wearing the holy symbol of Macrathe blocked their entry, claiming that he possessed the rights to the Goldmine. His associates included a half-orc with an axe, a freckled half-elf, and a quiet bald archer. The cleric offered to sell them the right to explore there. The party declined his exorbitant price and combat began. As it became clear the cleric and his associates were no match for the party, he began to lower his price. However, the tenets of his religion prevented him from giving it away for free, even if it eventually cost his life. Once his allies were defeated, the archer surrendered, and asked if he could take his wife (the half-elf) and leave. The party graciously agreed.

Upon looting the body of the cleric, they found a bag of holding. Inside was a large amount of gold and a deed to a property in the guildhall district of Valens.

Tamera instructed the party move the throne, belonging to the chief of the hobgoblins, aside. Beneath it were some dusty, narrow stairs, which the party followed deep into the ground, into darkness. They eventually came to a point where the walls seemed less rocky and more sculpted. Here, they found a large stone door. Two people were needed to turn the levers to open it. It moved, and the party found themselves in a dark hallway.

Tamera quickly moved to a spot next to the wall, where she picked up a small leather bag. However, she was shocked to find it empty! The Eye was gone. Tamera had a small breakdown, and the party resolved to press onward. They arrived at a point where their magic briefly stopped working – a point where the magical fabric that enveloped the world was damaged and frayed. They lit a torch and continued on. They came to a fork, and then to a door. A giant stone golem guarded the passage. While their weapons were ineffective, Ari and Augustus took some rope and tripped the golem, which crashed to the ground. Due to its stiff body, the golem was unable to stand.

The party came to another large door. Upon opening and stepping through it, their weapons regained their glow, and Donovan again felt his arcane power at his fingertips. They found themselves in a gigantic open room, with a stone path that floated hundreds of feet above the ground. The entire cavern was aglow – magical energy gathered around the outline of a gigantic many-armed skeleton in the floor below. The party followed the path to another large iron door.

On the other side, standing upon a raised platforms, was a 12 foot tall monstrous skeleton. It was vaguely humanoid in shape, but had seven arms, each holding a different weapon. In one of its clawed hands, it held the Eye of Sidhe. He grinned at the stunned party.

“I thank you for your offering, human! With this divine item, I can return to the realm of the living!”

“What are you?” Portia demanded.

“A God whose time had passed…until now.”

“What is your name?” She demanded of him

She received only a battle cry in reply.

Meanwhile, by Augustus’ side, the golden sword known as Queen’s Guard began to glow. Astounded, he pulled it from its sheathe – its powers had previously been undecipherable. Now a feminine voice said evenly, “You who would fight against the darkness, YOU ARE WORTHY!”. The sword glowed with a golden light, illuminating the entire room.

The creature grimaced at the brightness, but sneered. “How adorable, you’ve brought me another tool of the Gods. I shall use these to become more powerful than ever!”

An epic battle ensued. Augustus charged headlong into the fray, dodging the worst of the creature’s flurry of attacks, and knocking the creature back with the force of his mighty smite. Donovan pelted the undead deity with spells, but was discouraged by its spell resistance. Ari and Portia moved to flank. Augustus was nearly put out of commission by the skeleton’s counterattack, but a healing spell from Meric sent him back into the fray. The battle raged for a short time longer before the Augustus layed another mighty smite on the beast, ending the fight.

The skeletal figure collapsed on the ground and began to melt, losing cohesion. It dropped its weapons and the Eye, which rolled to the wall, and grabbed at his throat.

“Now will you tell us your name?” Portia said, watching as the god died.

“I…I don’t remember…” the God said somberly, and fell into pieces.

“Good riddance to such evil.” Augustus said, and sheathed the Queen’s Guard, whose glow had dimmed but hadn’t disappeared.

Each of the deity’s weapons carried a bonus. Tamera collected the Eye of Sidhe – a large sphere that resembled a great yellow eye – and put it back in the bag, shuddering at its touch. “Who knew this thing had such great power – to resurrect a God.”

The party walked back in silence – the vast cavern was now dimmed, and contained only the beast’s ancient bones. At the exit to the cavern, they were stopped by an invisible wall – shortly thereafter, a man with a pointy black goatee and a blue robe appeared in front of them. He was the same man who had taken the magical book back in Silvertown. He cleared his throat and held out his hand, “The Eye, please. You mortals can’t be trusted with something so powerful.” After some debate, Donovan agreed to relinquish it in return for a favor at a later date. The man’s eyes twinkled. “Interesting…I accept.” However, after grasping the eye, there was a great eruption of electricity, and the man gasped in pain and dropped the eye to the ground. “That’s odd. Alright, you can keep it for now. I must do more research…” With that, the man disappeared.

They camped outside the goldmine, and contemplated what their next move should be.

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Intimidatin' Manner

With her prisoner in tow, Portia began the long trudge back to Valens, Valendia’s capital city. The party followed her warily, fearing pursuit from Lissa Drakreth, their former comrade. Several days out of Northcourt, however, and no pursuit was evident. Portia finally responded to Elbert’s complaining, and outfitted him with a sword and shield. He still had no armor, but resolved to make do.

Elbert also expressed relief that they were heading to Valens, rather than the court-martial he was awaiting in Northcourt.

After a few days of traveling, the party came to a large stone bridge over a river. Donovan first inspected the bottom of the bridge, and found a spot where sharp rocks had trapped several corpses from the current. They were full of arrows, and had been stripped and thrown off the bridge. Portia decided to continue trudging across the bridge while the other party members investigated. She got nearly halfway across the bridge when the terrain began to shimmer and change, and a large group of bandits, apparently led by two elves, appeared where there had been only stone. With nearly ten longbows trained on them, the bandits demanded they surrender everything valuable they owned – money, weapons, and armor.

Ari noted that one of the elves wore twin scimitars, same as she did. She challenged him to a duel – if she won, the group could pass unhindered, and if she lost, they’d surrender their items. The duel began, and it became clear that while Ari had the agility advantage, the elven bandit was stronger. Rather than let Ari die, the party jumped in to aid her. Augustus helped Ari take down the scimitar fighter, while Elbert and Portia began to work on the Archers. Early in the battle, the other elf, a sorceress, attempted to hamper the party with spells. However, Donovan turned her into a rabbit, rendering her harmless.

After a tough battle, the party claimed victory. Ari looted the scimitars from the deceased elf, Portia claimed the elf’s armor for Elbert and the bunny for herself. In addition, a chest was found near the pile of crates where the archers took cover. Donovan opened it up, revealing quite a bit of gold and silver, and some magic items. One of them was particularly eye-catching – a sword with a white blade and golden runes etched into it. It was recognized as the legendary weapon, Queensguard, but nobody knew where the sword had come from. All they know is that the powers change depending on the wielder. When handled by Portia or Augustus, the sword began to glow. Not knowing its powers, and lacking longsword specialists, the party decided not to use it.

The rest of the trip passed somewhat uneventfully. As they reached the Outer City of Valens, Tamera began to grow visibly uncomfortable, and finally elected to stay in one of the Inns outside the wall. Donovan asked her if she’d be safe there, to which she replied that she didn’t know. He agreed to meet up with her at the King’s Road Inn once his business in town was finished.

Portia directed herself and her prisoner to the Temple of Celia in the Garrison District of the Inner City. She turned in Elbert, and requested an immediate trial. The clerics of the temple refused, saying that three days was required for all those concerned to reach the city. Portia attempted to protest, but Augustus quickly pointed out that three days was quick for the court system. Portia reminded Elbert that if he was guilty, she’d carry out his execution herself. They carried him off in manacles.

Portia then attempted to enter the castle, but, after much argument, was stopped by the guards. She was able to find out the names of the three possible heirs to Arturos’ throne, however.

The Albion family are close cousins of the Knightblades, and consist of many honorable knights.

The Orren family are more closely related to the king before Arturos, Albert Lothar and his line.

Yet another family, the Locke family, claims to have the one legitimate heir – the secret son of Arturos Knightblade.

What lies ahead for our heroes? Find out next time, on D&D!

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Gravity's Revenge

The party met up with a dwarven caravan, which was transporting dwarven wares from the city of Gilnorra to Northcourt. One of the dwarfs asked them to describe the person they were looking for, at which point Lissa pulled out some parchment and read off the physical description: Tall, middle-aged human. Dirty blond hair with a shaggy beard, thin face, green eyes. The dwarf said that he had sold an axe to a man fitting that description two days before, and that the man had said he’d be heading away from Gilnorra. The dwarf concluded he must be going across the Diamond Lake. He then gave the party directions and drew them a rough map. Portia thanked him for his support and flipped him a gold piece. He also warned them that the temperature would drop soon.

The party continued until they had to make camp. That night, the temperature dropped to well below freezing. However, the well-equipped party was able to withstand the cold until morning. After praying for spells, Lissa was able to cast Endure Elements on the whole party, making their trip through the mountains much more comfortable. They arrived at the place where the path took a sharp turn to the East, and went off the path entirely, climbing down the mountainside so that they were standing on a frozen river with mountains on two sides. Although most of the party made it down without incident, Lissa fell and cracked the ice slightly upon landing, damaging her pride. They carefully walked down the ice-covered river, with Ari nimbly leading the way.

Though the visibility was poor due to the snow and misty wind, Portia suddenly spotted a giant blue humanoid on top of the mountain, as it picked up a rock and hurled it at her. She shouted a warning to the other party members, who attempted to fight it with ranged weapons and spells while navigating the slippery ice. Portia kept tripping when she tried to move, but hurled insults at the giant, no doubt damaging its self-esteem. Augustus tripped, but crawled to the edge of the river and began to scale the cliff, planning to take the fight to beast. Another rock from the beast missed Ari, but broke the ice around her, causing her to fall in. Fortunately, her Endure Elements spell kept her from experiencing the worst of the freezing water. Once out of the water, Ari, along with Lissa and Tamera, attempted to pepper the thing with hits from ranged weapons, but did little damage.

Donovan, on the other hand, bombarded the giant with fire spells from a distance. He kept the giant from retaliating with rocks through his Enchantment spells, each time forcing the giant to throw it at something else. Eventually, the giant took too many fireballs to the face and retreated. The party decided to climb up the cliff as Augustus had done, to avoid the mobility problem they experienced while trying to fight on the ice. Eventually, they reached the mouth of the river (and edge of the cliff), where it opened up to a large, ice-covered lake. They climbed down and began to cross the lake, keeping an eye out for anything that might look like a camp. Once again, Portia spotted it first – an elevated cave in the side of the mountain, the inside glowing with torchlight. After Portia pointed it out to the other members, Augustus took out the supplies he acquired in Northcourt and began to climb up. Portia led the way, and found a guard just inside, sleeping peacefully with his back against the wall. She waited for the rest of the party to arrive, and they discussed what to do with him in hushed whispers. Finally, they decided Augustus should hold him while they woke him up and interrogated him.

Augustus slapped him awake and covered his mouth with his metal-gloved hand. “I’m gonna take my hand away, and you’re not gonna scream, you’re gonna quietly answer our questions. Nod if you understand.” The man nodded emphatically, but when Augustus removed his hand, he immediately yelled “CAPTAIN!” before being punched. Portia thought they should throw him off the edge, since they were done, but the others objected somewhat. Instead, Ari tied him up and Augustus held him in front as they walked down the cavern.

At the end of the cave, a bearded man sat on a rock, as several soldiers knelt with bows trained on them party as they arrived. The man scowled as they approached, saying, “McKinley, you got yourself caught? You half-witted clot!”

“Sorry, sir! It won’t happen again!”

“Captain Elbert Payne, I presume?” Portia asked.

The man surveyed the party, and concluded they must be after him for the bounty. “Will it matter to ye at all that I’m innocent?”

Donovan shrugged. “Well, it’s not really our responsibility to determine whether you’re guilty or innocent. That’s for the courts to decide. Regardless, the order is to bring you in so that your guilt can be determined.”

Lissa turned to Donovan and said, “Have you considered a career in law?”

Portia said, “So, not really, but we’ll listen to your story anyway.”

“Good,” Payne said. “Now, release my man and we can have a nice, civilized discussion.”

The party reluctantly yielded to this request, and McKinley was swiftly untied by the others.

“So, you say you’re innocent, then.” Portia began.

“Of course I’m innocent, ye dog-hearted flap-dragons!” The Captain snapped.

“What’d you call me?” Portia said, stepping forward.

“Wait, wait, wait, my apologies, m’lady, just military talk, I meant no offense. These ill-bred worms don’t understand any other language.” He motioned to his troops. “Anyway, of course I’m innocent.” He began to recount the tale:

“I was with my men, fighting off Orcs in the low country. We were camped there with the rest of the Valendian Army, including an assortment of oh-so-precious Silver Robes. Not that we needed them, my men were swimming in Orc blood! Anyway, so commands are comin’ a bit slow, and the Orcs try a charge. Huge numbers, more than we thought there were in the hills, all headed at our flank. And the mages were there a-castin’ and a-chantin’ and being generally useless, so I broke rank and shouted at my soldiers to follow. Oh, it was glorious. We really clobbered ‘em. But the mages couldn’t hold ‘em off, by themselves, on account of bein’ useless, so apparently two of their dainties bit it. Not that my group went without losses.

“So, once the Orcs are routed, I get back to this twig woman who’s cryin’ over her lost men, sayin’ it’s my fault and it’s gonna be my head for breaking formation. I mean, sure, it’s unfortunate, but I don’t think I was really at fault. I tell her so, and she goes off on me, and says that I’m an ignorant low-life waste of flesh or somesuch, and that she’s reporting to Captain Sharsek that night. So I figured I’d give her time to cool down and talk to her that evening. So I get to her tent late that night and what I see is a damned horror show – the twig’s been killed, but not just killed – clothes ripped off, gashes all over the place, terrible look glued to her face. Blood everywhere. A damned nightmare. And worst of all, it’s my knife stickin’ out of the poor cunny’s heart. And I don’t even have a minute to figure out what happened before some guards show up and try to haul me away. At this point, I’m thinkin’ – there’s not a court alive would fine me innocent. Plenty of witnesses saw us exchange heated words, I was caught at the scene of the crime with my dagger in her heart and her blood on my hands, and so I gently put the guards down and escaped. But not before I explained the situation to my unit, who vowed they’d follow me to the grave. For a bunch of pox-marked joltheads, they’re damn loyal. Smart, too. Out-foxed the country’s finest enforcers of law and order on our criminal journey.”

So according to the fine country of Valendia, I’m a murderer, a rapist, a deserter, and now an outlaw. But hey, who needs civilization anyway? I figure we can live off the wilderness here. A might cold in the winter. And all manner of beasties and giants live in this parts, there’ll never be a shortage of battles – a blessing for fightin’ men like my crew. Still, we’ve lost most of ‘em – 1 killed during our escape, 3 caught by the guards in various towns, 3 died to the Frost Giants we encountered a few days ago, 2 died of the cold…So, then, ya elf-skinned maggots, whaddya think of my sorrowful tale?”

Augustus sensed that something wasn’t quite right about the story, but that the man seemed sincere.

“If you’re innocent, I’m sure the courts will find you as such.” Portia said.

“No, didn’t ye listen, lass?” The captain said. “The evidence is stacked too high against me.”

“So what? I’ll be on your side, and hey, the King of Valendia owes me a favor. If you come with us, I promise no harm will come to you.”

The man was silent. “On your honor?” he asked finally.

“On my honor. It’s all I have left.” Portia said emphatically.

“Alright, I’ll go with you, then. We can set out first thing tomorrow.”

The parties decided to rest for the night in the cave, sharing rations and stories. During this time, Tamera told Donovan that she couldn’t believe they were doing this. His story was clearly bullshit, according to her. Donovan shrugged and told her that at least they avoided a fight and got him to come back, which would still get them paid.

They set out the next morning and trudged back across the lake. They came to the mouth of the river, and climbed up the cliff to avoid walking on the ice. They didn’t walk far before they saw a familiar face – the Frost Giant that had run off the first time, still scorched, but now with company. The scorched one stood across the frozen ravine from them and hurled rocks. Donovan was pleased that he’d get to send more fire at this one. Elbert and his soldiers got into battle formation, and the entire party was able to gain the benefit of Elbert’s commander spirit – his inspiring words and orders helped them to defeat the Frost Giants in short fashion.

Augustus, empowered by the commander and his holy might, unleashed a charging smite attack with his Heavy Mace, and Ari quickly finished the thing off. Augustus smote another one, and Elbert’s soldiers finished it off, but not before one of them fell to its Greataxe. Donovan finished scorching the other Frost Giant, and it fell into the ravine, breaking through the ice and sinking like a stone. They then continued on the way to Northcourt over the next three days. They rejected Elbert’s proposal for a forced march.

They arrived at Northcourt without incident. Once there, however, they noticed that the city was unusually bustling. Many people were gathered in the Village Circle, where a crier stood on top of the statue foundation and proclaimed, “Hear ye, hear ye, the lord of our fair land, our good King Arturos Knightblade, the last of his line, is dead! Assassinated in his throne room at the Royal Palace! Attempts to revive him by the High Clerics of reidman have failed. Dark days lie ahead for our kingdom!”

Upon hearing this, Captain Payne began to have second thoughts about his agreement to be taken in. He told Portia as much, and she said she didn’t blame him, as her favor with the king was now worthless.

“So, I’ll just be retreatin’ to my mountain stronghold, come and get me when you can prove my innocence.”

At this point, Lissa stepped forward, absolutely livid. “Are you actually thinking of letting him go?!”

Portia said, “I swore on my honor that no harm would come to him, and now there’s no way to guarantee that, so yes, I’m letting him go.”

“I’m not letting that happen,” Lissa said, pulling out her Halberd. Several of the party members drew weapons, and a tense moment of silence passed. Donovan broke it by casting a spell, unleashing an invisible assault of magic on the minds of Captain Payne and his men. The spell knocked out all four of his remaining soldiers, but Captain Payne resisted. Augustus attempted to bash him non-lethally, but the Captain nimbly dodged. Captain Payne responded by tripping Augustus and attacking Lissa. Portia charged at Donovan with her Scythe, to prevent him from further magical assault, yelling at Elbert to make a break for it. Her scythe cut deeply into the Wizard. Tamera, who had been shouting at the party to stop their fighting, then snapped and stabbed at Portia with her rapier, which she enhanced magically with her own blood. Donovan responded by shooting magical charging unicorns at Portia, pushing her back quite a bit. Lissa broke Elbert’s axe with her Halberd and attacked him. Augustus got up from the ground and smashed Elbert once, nonlethally, with his heavy mace. Now unarmed, Elbert decided to make a break for it. Ari continued to assault Portia, and she was eventually put down. Augustus then charged at Elbert, finally knocking him out.

The tense battle over, Lissa manacled Elbert. She turned to Donovan, still shaking with anger. “The only reason I’m not arresting Portia as well is because of our past adventures together. She may just be misguided here. I sure hope so, because she’s accomplished so much good before this that I’d hate to see her end up in prison.” By this point, some members of the town guard had arrived, and Lissa directed them to move the unconscious soldiers to the prison.

Ari, Donovan, and Augustus moved Portia to the inn, where they took away her weapons and armor, bandaged her wounds, and put her in a bed. Augustus healed her just enough to keep from waking her up. Tamera got very, very drunk.

Portia awoke the next morning, attempted to piece together what happened. She sat up, suddenly resolved, and began to look for her armor, tearing apart first her room and then Ari’s room to find it. All the while, Ari and Augustus tried to get her to calm down, but she would not be pacified. She trudged straight to the City Hall, with the party members following a short distance behind, partly to keep her from doing any more harm, and partly from curiosity. Portia walked past the guards with barely a word and managed to meet with the mayor, a Dwarven man named Brid Belack.

Upon meeting him, Portia knelt and said that for the good of the nation, he must release the criminal Elbert Payne into her custody, and hers alone. The dwarf was taken aback by her claim, and of course refused. However, after much persuasion, the dwarf drew up a document. He attempted to ascertain who her allegiance was to now that the King was dead, but Portia, not wanting any complications, dismissed him.

She then presented this document to the city jail, where the guards, in stunned disbelief, released Elbert Payne into her custody. Payne, equally surprised, was roughly escorted right through the town gates. Augustus shouted at Portia, “Where are you going with him?”

Portia did not turn around but said, “I’m going to Valens. You can come if you want.” She then scowled at Payne and said, “You better be innocent after all of this, or I’ll kill you myself.”

The party, still puzzled at where this was going, followed behind.

In order to defend her honor, Portia has bent laws and attacked members of her own party. In addition, King Arturos Knightblade has fallen, leaving a vacuum of power that three mysterious possible heirs now seek to fill. What will become of Portia and Elbert Payne? How will Lissa react when she finds that Portia has absconded with the prisoner? Find out next time, on D&D: Valendia II! cue cheesy theme music

((Note: Only really good role-playing lets your characters fight without players getting angry. Way to stick to your guns, all of you. Genuinely good session. Let’s just see where it leads…))

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Ari the Magical Headless Elf

The party stepped out of the burning, corpse-filled remains of the Emerald Gauntlet Guildhall only to find more cultists gathered outside. Three of the cultists wore red robes, and another red scaly humanoid (a half-dragon) wore light armor and wielded a fiery Greataxe. Another wore heavy armor with a dragon’s head design etched into it over his red robes. He called forth a ferocious red-scaled Manticore, which perched on the roof and peppered the party with spikes. Ari engaged the three minions, a whirling dance of death. Donovan immediately bound the dragon with magic, and Augustus finished off the helpless creature. The armored one wreathed himself in flames and began bashing with his sickle. Donovan fired a scorching ray at the Manticore before finding that it was immune to fire. The battle was going in the party’s favor when the Manticore decided to engage them directly, jumping to the ground and breathing fire over most of the party. Tamera coated her sword in blood and stabbed the thing, but it quickly put her out of commission.

Dispatching the rest of the enemies, Portia and Augustus moved in to kill it. They succeeded, but not before it landed a killing blow on Ari, knocking her head clean off with a well-placed claw attack. A silence descended on the flaming battlefield after that. It was soon broken as a dark-skinned human woman in red and black robes appeared and, surveying the destruction, mistook the party as cultists. She drew her staff and prepared to fight. In response to this, Augustus and Donovan reached for their holy symbols. They eventually convinced her that they were not her enemy, and the woman introduced herself as Susannah, a sorceress battling the advances of this very cult on behalf of a powerful Brass Dragon. Donovan revealed what he had gleaned from the chanting of the cultists – the chant was a verbal component of a spell that would cover the world in flames. However, to cast the spell, immense magical power – and Circle Magic – would be required. In addition, they showed Susannah their fallen comrade.

“Wait,” she said, “I recognize that elf…hold on.” She then took the body and it’s severed head and disappeared. While she was gone, the party picked over the equipment of the fallen cultists.

Ari awoke to find a gigantic dragon head in her face, which immediately exclaimed, “Oop!” and everything went black again.

Susannah and Ari re-appeared about 15 minutes later. Susannah told Ari that she was a valuable member who they couldn’t afford to lose, so the dragon provided a resurrection in exchange for the money she had on her. “Of course, we can’t do that too often. Our resources are stretched pretty thin as it is. Be more careful, okay?” After telling her this, Susannah said that, as a reward for defeating the cultists and giving them a clue to their plan, she’d teleport them anywhere they wanted to go. Naturally, Portia decided to pursue their other bounty, and requested a transport to Northcourt to hunt down the fugitive Elbert Payne.

Susannah dropped them off at the mountain village of Northcourt. Once there, they immediately sought refuge to rest and regain spells for the night. They decided on the nicer of two inns, The Wandering Swordsman Inn and Tavern. Once they walked inside, they came across an old friend – Lissa Drakreth, who they had parted ways with in Valens. Lissa revealed that she, too, had come to search for Elbert Payne on behalf of the Church of Celia, enforcers of Valendian Law. Portia pressed her for information, withholding information about her task for the Emerald Gauntlet.

Lissa told her that Elbert Payne had been accused of the murder (and possible rape) of a member of the Silver Robes, a group of arcane casters in the Valendian army. He apparently murdered the Wizard and fled the battlefield with his group of soldiers. She apparently tracked them to Northcourt, where they had fled into the mountains. Lissa had been unable to pursue them further, as she was alone and a trek into the mountains would be dangerous. She then asked if they would like to accompany her. Portia agreed, and the party rested in preparation for the trip. They agreed to meet at the central monument.

The next morning, the party gathered supplies, while Portia waited impatiently at the monument, where an old man sat, telling tales about the statue to any who passed by.

The statue was a realistic depiction of a man named Torc Wolfbane, a mighty warrior who holds a sword in a defensive position in front of him. The plaque reads: Ser Torc Wolfbane – Hero of Northcourt. Protected the city from an army of raging Frost Giants, insuring our eternal solidarity with the Dwarven Kingdoms.

“Fantastic work, isn’t it? So life-like – the artist got the proportions perfect, that’s hard to do. And the HAIR – just look! Fine work, fine work. He was a real hero, Ser Wolfbane. History won’t ever forget his name, and this statue does him justice. I met the artist once, you know. Yeah, odd fellow – slim, wore goggles all the time. He came by about 15 years ago and said he had to do some maintenance on the statue – wear and tear and erosion and such. He took it down and came back a few days later with the newly redone one. Remarkable work. Amazing that this one hasn’t eroded much, too.”

After the man rambled on for awhile, the party arrived. The man escorted them to the entrance to the mountain range, warning them to beware of Frost Giants and telling them that the quickest way to Gilnorra, the Dwarven city, is also the most dangerous, as it passes by several Giant settlements. Augustus wondered if this old man was a deity in mortal form.

With that, the party ventured into the mountains. They followed the roads, camped for the night and heard wolf howls. After crossing a rickety bridge, they came across a Dwarven caravan. Portia took it upon herself to warn them of the fugitive on the loose.

“Be careful, there’s a criminal hiding in these mountains.” “Oh, aye? Wha kin’ a criminal?” “A rapist.”

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Dragonfire and Brimstone
Meet the new tank, same as the old tank.

The party spent three days in Syrraco, recuperating from their injuries. On the 4th day of this recovery period, King Arturos’ court Librarian, Alazlam, appeared before them. He came bearing rewards for the party’s service in taking down Silas Dreadbane. For Ari, Boots of Striding and Springing, increasing her speed and jumping ability. For Donovan, a Bolt Tunic, which allowed him to instantly teleport up to 60 feet, leaving a trail of lightning to his new destination. For Portia, one of the highest honors of the Valendian Military – a Medal of Valor, which gives her a +1 bonus to the DC of her Knight’s Challenge abilities. It came with a letter of thanks from Arturos. Alazlam also alerted the party to the political difficulties now faced by the aging Paladin – no King had so blatantly disregarded a ruling of Parliament since its formation. The nobles are now in an uproar.

Alazlam was unable to stay, however, as he was required back in Valens to manage the political fallout. In addition, he told the party that he had been called in as a special investigator in a rash of enchantment crimes. He turned down the party’s offers to help on this count, as the group’s presence in Valens may be detrimental to his attempts to remedy the political situation. With that, he took his leave.

Over their days of downtime, Tamera was unusually quiet – she didn’t play any music, and she told no jokes. After Portia’s (failed) attempt to make her feel better, Tamera asked Donovan if he would go for a walk with her. She commented that she couldn’t get death out of her mind lately, and shared with Donovan her forays into dark comedy.

Tamera’s Joke of the Day: Knock Knock. <who’s> The town-guard. <the> Your wife is dead.

While walking, they were confronted by three armed men in leather armor. They addressed Tamera by name, and invited her to step into an alley. Donovan accompanied her into the alley, where a man dressed in white noble’s clothing was waiting. He immediately asked Tamera where she had hidden “it”. She stared him down and said, “Hidden what?”, to which the man responded by punching her with considerable force, staggering Tamera. Donovan responded to this attack with a nonlethal attack spell, effectively magically punching the man in white. Tamera told Donovan not to hurt him, but the man in white was not so kind – he commanded his men to kill the Wizard.

Augustus, a wandering Paladin recently released from military duty, observed the men escorting Donovan and Tamera into the alley, and leaned against a building outside of the alley to keep watch. Once he heard the command to kill, he sprung into action to save the damsel in distress. The men in leather armor took out daggers and began to attack Donovan. Donovan responded by teleporting up to the roof using his new tunic. He used his high ground to rain down spells on the foes. Tamera caused one of the men to fall over laughing with a hideous laughter spell. Augustus, meanwhile, clubbed the crap out of them. The man in white returned to nonlethally attacking Tamera, with a pair of skillful kicks. Donovan ended the battle with another nonlethal spell, knocking them out.

Augustus introduced himself, and Tamera and Donovan offered him a membership in their group. Augustus, having nothing better to do and seeing this as a way to spread the word of Lucia, agreed. He would just have to be cleared with the boss.

Portia, now in possession of Silas Dreadbane’s Scythe and spiky armor, decided that it was time to recruit. She headed to the Emerald Gauntlet to see if she could pick up a new Garek. She went through many different potential recruits, including an elven wizard (“Nope, don’t need more magic.” Also, baggage) and a dwarf (“No scottish accent? Are you sure you’re a dwarf?”). After some time doing this, Donovan and Tamera, with their new potential recruit in tow, arrived at the guildhouse. After much convincing, Portia allowed Augustus to join.

Tamera then stated that they should probably get out of town for awhile, and explained at least a small part of her situation. “That guy we knocked out has connection to noble families.” At this point, Augustus remembered the symbol the man in white wore, and identified him as having some connection to the Barerra family, and said as much. To this, Tamera nodded. “The Barerra family’s youngest son, Alton.” When questioned about why they were after her, Tamera said, “I took something from them, something very valuable. And they want it back. But it’s hidden, you see, and I’m the only one who knows where it is.” Augustus, taken aback, asked her why she didn’t return it. “Believe me,” she said, “If you knew what it was, you wouldn’t want me to return it.”

Still, the group needed income, so they decided to take some jobs for the Emerald Gauntlet. They were given a choice between two jobs. The first job involved investigating a branch of the Emerald Gauntlet in Syrraco that they had lost contact with. The second job was to find Elbert Payne, an ex-soldier and murderer, who was last spotted in Northcourt, a city in Northern Valendia. Portia, seeking to prove her herself, accepted both jobs, eliciting a sigh from Fran, the receptionist.

They decided to first head for Syrraco, using the teleportation circles between the Guildhalls. Thus, they arrived in Audentia. Once there, they bought two battle-trained horses and a wagon (after much debate). Then, the party got rooms at the Gemini Inn, save for Augustus, who received free room and board at the Temple of Lucia. Taking no time for sight-seeing, the group set out bright and early. After a day of travel along the forested country side of Southern Syrraco, they camped for the night. Before long, they heard a hideous wail, that sounded as if its source was in serious pain. Portia quickly woke up the group and they headed towards the sound.

Donovan sent his bat to scout the area, and he came back reporting that there were 12 of them. Donovan walked forward, Mage Handing his glowing dagger out in front of him. They stepped into a clearing, where a group of Orcs were gathered. Augustus shouted at them to surrender and drop their weapons, to which they replied with the only common words they knew, which were various curses. A battle ensued. Tamera hasted the party, Donovan blasted the Orcs to various Hells with his fire magic, Ari became a spinning, blurry incarnation of death, Portia split an orc in half with her newfound Scythe, and Augustus smote them with his holy mace. The Orcs were quickly dispatched and everyone got back to sleep.

The next day passed uneventfully. On the third day, however, they came upon some bodies on pikes on the side of the road. That’s when it began to rain. Tamera became sick at the sight, and became sick again at Portia’s speculation that they were still alive when they were put on the pikes. In the distance, they could see a group of buildings. Without delay, they headed there. Once in the middle of the small town, they found more bodies on pikes, arranged around a center fountain. Most of the buildings were smeared with what appeared to be dried blood. One building was easily identified as the Emerald Gauntlet guildhall. This building, they entered first.

Portia smashed open the door and entered. Inside, amongst a pile of bodies, was a woman who was chanting over a body. She stopped briefly, when questioned, but simply returned to her chanting. Through his knowledge of magic, Donovan recognized the words she was chanting as a big fire spell. Augustus cracked her with his mace, before attempting to restrain her. Attempts to question her failed, and all she said was, “You must not interfere here, or you will be reduced to a pile of ash.” With that, Augustus ended the woman’s life. A heated argument between Augustus and Portia ensued about this action. Portia thought it was dishonorable to strike her down that way, while Augustus pointed out that she was evil and would only try to kill them if they let her live. Both concluded that they didn’t like the other very much at all.

After this debate, they continued their mission and surveyed an adjacent room. They opened it up to a bunk area, where four more red-robes stood around a pile of burning bodies. Three were human, with shaved heads, but one was covered in red scales and had reptilian eyes. They were also chanting. A battle-ready Portia cried, “Who are you?”

The red-scaled being hissed and said, “We are the servants of the Dragon-God, and you will be incinerated!” Ari instantly recognized what they were – servants of the Red Dragon demigod, Falazuriax, a little-known Material Plane-dwelling deity. The cultists attacked by hurling balls of flame at the party. The red-scaled being, meanwhile, began to chant. Augustus charged forward and struck down one of the cultists in a single blow, while the others advanced to dispatch the cultists, who wore heavy armor under their red robes. Donovan, recognizing that the red-scaled monster was charging a channel pyroburst spell, countered it with his own prepared burst. The monster responded to this by spewing forth a burst of fire from his mouth, severely burning everyone in the area, including two of his cult members, who succumbed to the flames with a look of joy in their eyes.

The last of the cultists was dispatched, and the red-scaled thing was knocked out. Ari tied him up, and Augustus revived him with a cure spell for questioning. They spoke in draconic, and the being spoke of the destruction they were seeking to wreak upon the area. When asked for what purpose they do this, the being replied that destruction was its own purpose. Donovan, realizing that they were not going to get very far with this, put the creature down for good with a Shocking Grasp spell. He then told the group that they’d get more information about what happened from looking around than from questioning this creature.

The Adventurers have gained a new party member. Though he has philosophical differences with the self-proclaimed party leader, he has shown himself to be a valuable asset to the team. Tamera’s “turbulent youth” appears to be catching up with her, and Ari has uncovered an attack by the dragon cult she has sworn to fight off. What is the cult’s purpose in this small village? Will Augustus and Portia ever come to an understanding? What will become of King Arturos?

It is clear that many questions remain to be answered in the world of Valendia.

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