Wedding Bells

Dramatis Personae: Calla, Gil, Keluak, Keth, and Tasklar
Source: “Wedding Bells” (Dungeon 89)

[DM Note: This was the first time all five of my players were at the table at the same time since the campaign started!]

Prologue: Kaylessa’s Gift
One fine autumn evening, the PCs all found themselves sitting around Kaylessa’s table, sharing a delicious meal she had prepared for them herself. Afterwards, Kaylessa explained that she had called them all together because she had a gift for them. She’d been keeping track of their exploits in the region and was quite impressed. They had more than proved themselves worthy of the name of “hero”, and she wanted to reward them for it.

Leading them into an adjoining room, Kaylessa had them gather around the large silver bowl they had found in Tamaich’s tomb. With a few words of magic, the half-elf conjured up a silvery fire inside the bowl. She then explained that by saying a vow and placing a hand in the flames, the PCs would receive a blessing from the Platinum Dragon. At this, the group glanced around the room, finally taking in the preponderance of draconic imagery within. “Kaylessa must have a thing for dragons,” they all concluded.

The vow was to swear to do good deeds, to cause no undue harm to the innocent, and to gladly oppose those who would commit evil acts or harm the innocent. If they were to ever break this vow, they would lose the blessing. Upon hearing this, Keth and Keluak were both a bit hesitant, given that they’d seemingly caused undue harm to that half-ogre priest who was now haunting them as a revenant, but Kaylessa assured them that wrongs committed in the past had no bearing on their commitment to the future. Both gladly placed their hands in the fire, as did Gil and Tasklar. As each of them spoke the words of the vow, the fire passed through their flesh and inscribed a silvery dragonmark on the backs of their hands.

Keluak received the Mark of the Storm, while Keth was given the Mark of Warding. Gil was given the Mark of Handling, while Tasklar received the Mark of Finding. The marks sparkled in the light for a few moments, then faded away. Kaylessa explained that they would only show themselves again when their gifts were activated.

Then came Calla’s turn. Nervously, she approached the flames. Boldly, she stuck her hand in … but before she could say the words of the vow, the fire turned an angry red and the roar of a dragon echoed around the room. Calla writhed in agony, unable to pull her hand away even as the fire burned through her flesh. When she was finally able to free her hand, she was horrified to find an evil-looking scar etched onto the back of her hand. Unlike the others’ marks, this one did not fade away. In fact, when she tried covering it up with her sleeve, it just burned the fabric away. It did not want to be hidden! At the same time, Calla felt a newfound source of power welling up within her – the power to twist and shape the flames, to burn all her problems away!

Kaylessa was distraught. This was not what was supposed to have happened! Something had gone terribly wrong! She asked everyone to leave so she could have time to think. As she ushered them out the door, she begged Calla for her forgiveness. Tears glistened in Kaylessa’s eyes. She had broken her own vows! How could she have been so stupid?

An Invitation
Some time later, the PCs received invitations to the wedding of Gil’s teenage sister, Ghenna. She was marrying a farmer’s boy, Avan, in the faraway town of Dockalong. Ghenna wanted Keth to officiate at the wedding, and she wanted Calla to be her maid of honor. She also wanted her cousin Tasklar to perform some music for the ceremony. There was no question of Gil attending, of course, and he was invited to bring his dwarf friend along too. The journey to Dockalong would take a fortnight, and there wasn’t much time – if they were lucky, they’d get there a day or two before the wedding – so the group gathered their things, found some gifts and some nice clothes, and set off.

Heading south, they skirted around the swamp in which they’d battled the corrupted lizardfolk and passed through a city or two. As they headed back out of the settled lands and into the wilderness again, they found themselves walking along a wooded trail in the hills. Suddenly they realized it had gone very quiet … but before they could react, they found themselves under attack as someone in the woods off to their right spoke a few words of magic.

Tasklar and Keluak, leading the way, both found their limbs beginning to stiffen. Though the human was able to shake it off, the dwarf soon found himself paralyzed. At that moment, a naked female gnoll came charging out of the woods, swinging a huge flail at the dwarf. Hot on her heels was a quartet of slavering hyenas. Off to the left, another gnoll barked out a command before firing arrows at the PCs.

Unable to move, Keluak was quickly battered and bitten into unconsciousness. Tasklar quickly followed, as the hyenas and the gnoll berserker turned their attention to him. At that moment, a thundercloud developed suddenly overhead, and sizzling bolts of lightning began flashing down onto the road.

The ensuing battle was fierce, as the PCs fought for their very lives. Keth worked furiously to keep his comrades alive, while Gil and Calla took aim at their attackers from the rear, taking cover in the trees to avoid the deadly lightning bolts. Eventually they succeeded in slaying the berserker and all the hyenas, at which point Keth set off to find the gnoll spellcaster slinging magic at them from the cover of the woods. However, he didn’t get far before she caused a field of nasty, sharp thorns to spring up all around him, slicing him up no matter which way he turned. He gave up moving, but she inched closer and lashed him with a thorny whip, yanking him through the field of spikes until he succumbed to the pain and drifted into unconsciousness himself.

Seeing his friend go down, Gil pulled a Tarzan and used his grappling hook and rope to swing through the trees over the thorn patch to attack the gnoll spellcaster. He paused to pour a healing potion down Keth’s throat, and together they managed to kill the gnoll spellcaster before she could escape. The gnoll archer, however, did manage to leg it away through the trees.

Exhausted, the PCs searched the bodies, finding a few potions on the caster and a magical cat’s paw on a silver chain around the otherwise naked gnoll berserker’s neck. The paw, though badly preserved, turned out to be a good luck charm. The group decided Keluak needed it the most and gave it to him to wear. A few of the more observant PCs noticed that some of the gnolls’ items reeked of something worse than unwashed dog, though they couldn’t figure out what it was.

Dockalong
After spending the night in an old abandoned farmhouse by the side of the trail, the group pressed on towards Dockalong. They soon came to a lookout where they could see a broad river valley stretching away in front of them. On the near side of the river lay many fields and small hamlets, with the largest – clearly Dockalong itself – situated on the banks of the river. On the far side, however, lay unspoilt forest. Elf country, they were told. In fact, Dockalong was positioned in the elven borderlands – a region where non-elves were permitted to live so long as they paid taxes to their elven overlords.

As they trudged down the path towards town, they came across a pair of middle-aged halflings. The woman was fiercely berating the man, brandishing a switch at him. As the PCs approached, the halfling woman asked if any of them had seen her son – or his good-for-nothing girlfriend. When they replied that they hadn’t, she sighed and turned back towards town, tugging the man, who turned out to be her brother, along with her.

Shortly after this, they came across a human woman picking berries. When she spotted them, she dove into the bushes to hide, thinking the PCs might be bandits come to steal the fruits of her labors. But no, the PCs only wanted to inquire about the impending nuptials in Dockalong.

Moving on, they encountered an older halfling woman riding a donkey. She seemed quite pleased to see them and happily answered all their questions. She introduced herself as Jikk Hardwalk, a Blessed Daughter of the Sisterhood (that is, a priestess of the trinity of deities worshipped by many halflings) and the honorary town priest of Dockalong. She explained that she was just doing her rounds of the outlying farms and villages, but she would be happy to meet with them when she returned to town later.

A little further on, the group came to an old stone arch marking the entrance into Dockalong itself. A human woman sprang to attention, brandishing a halberd. She asked the PCs to identify themselves and then informed them that people were not allowed to bear arms into the town without Sheriff Savil’s permission. The PCs were happy to wait for permission, so the guard asked some of the curious children hanging about to go and fetch someone named Honesty.

A few minutes later, up road a hobgoblin bearing the seven-pointed star of the Andarian Septry on his breastplate! He introduced himself as Honesty, representative of Sheriff Savil. He asked the PCs’ names and business in town, challenging their answers and deliberately mispronouncing their names in response. He then asked each of them to hand over their most powerful weapon. Some of the PCs were rather cheeky, especially Keth, who claimed his most powerful weapon was his faith. At one point, it looked like the hobgoblin and half-orc might come to blows, but just then another person rode up – a middle-aged half-elven woman in a green cloak. She wore a wooden disk around her neck bearing a stylized tree-and-arrow emblem – the symbol of her office as representative of the eld lord Ulurishay, ruler of this part of the borderlands.

After having a quiet word with Honest, Sheriff Savil welcomed the PCs into Dockalong. As they passed through the archway, Honesty returned their weapons to them politely and respectfully. With that, the PCs made their way into town to find accommodations – and, in Gil and Tasklar’s cases, their relations!

A Series of Intriguing Events
With the wedding ceremony planned for the following afternoon, the PCs had a little over a day to relax and explore the town. Plenty of locals were interested in coming to see them too, although not always in the most appropriate ways. For instance, Calla received a nighttime visitor in the form of a small dwarf child who, upon being caught rifling through the sorceress’s personal things, tried to flee. Calla used her magic to shut the door in the child’s face and then jumped on her. The girl screeched and pleaded with Calla not to tell her parents. She’d only wanted to have a look at a real mage’s stuff! At that point, Keluak awoke and went to investigate. Upon being filled in, he was insistent that the girl be taken home to her parents, despite her fear of being sent “under the mountain”. Calla, however, took pity on the girl and promised not to tell if she promised not to sneak into anyone’s room ever again.

Earlier in the day, the group had been approached by a nervous townsman who asked if anyone in the group might be able to cure his wife of mindfire. Keth agreed to go and have a look. He openly prayed to Freya (since Dockalong appeared to be open to religions other than the Septry) and the half-elven woman was miraculously healed! The couple attempted to pay Keth, but he refused, instead asking them to pay it forward, perhaps by making a donation to someone of the Old Faith.

Meanwhile, a contingent of dwarves came to visit Keluak. They were keen for some news from “under the mountain”. Unfortunately for Keluak, he wasn’t as up to speed on news from the dwarf kingdoms as Tasklar the bard. Having been listening in, Tasklar came over and told some interesting tales – some true, some improvised. The dwarves appreciated the human’s efforts, but looked askance at Keluak. What kind of dwarf was he that he would allow a human to show him up in such a way? The Dockalong dwarves went away troubled, and Keluak tried to drown his embarrassment with more alcohol.

Gil met up with his family and was presented with the wooden leg of his old, now deceased, Uncle Hasken. Gil had once stolen the leg from his uncle, so he supposed that this had been the old man’s idea of a joke. His mother was insistent that he’d wanted Gil to have it.

On the morning of the wedding, the PCs were woken up by a disturbance in the street below. The missing halfling’s girlfriend had turned up, surprised to find he wasn’t in town. They’d arranged to meet in the usual trysting spot in the woods across the river, but he’d never shown up. The PCs went with the halflings to see Sheriff Savil, who arranged to have a patrol go into the woods to investigate. They took with them a standard that acted as a sort of “pass” so that any elven patrols who saw it would know not to attack. The PCs followed along. Halfway down the trail, Tasklar noticed signs of passage off to the west but chose to kept that info to himself until later. He wanted to see the trysting spot first.

The trysting spot, while idyllic, was devoid of any clues. The guards concluded that the elves must have got poor Noddy, the missing halfling, and headed back to town. The PCs hung around a little longer, and Tasklar revealed what he’d found. Calla was fearful of being ambushed by elves now that they were no longer under the protection of the guards’ banner, but they reached the side trail safely and followed it to a large tree, where Noddy’s footprints suddenly stopped. At the base of the tree were some foul bird droppings, which a few of the PCs recognized as bearing the same stench as the items they’d picked up from the gnolls. Tasklar climbed up into the tree and found more droppings on a large branch. Wracking his brains, he came to a sudden realization, thanks to his newfound investigative abilities: there was a harpy about!

The PCs immediately started to plug up their ears, but Tasklar assured them that this wasn’t its roost. No, it appeared to have perched her just long enough to lure Noddy off the path and then snatch him up and carry him away. At this point, Calla was sure that ferocious elves would pop out from behind the trees at any moment, so the group headed back to town and made their report. Sheriff Savil took their information seriously and sent out some patrols to investigate the various old ruins from a past civilization scattered around the valley. She presumed it was possible that a harpy could have set up a nest in one of them.

The news spread around the town, and the PCs soon heard grumblings about how it must have been someone named Laggo who’d taken Noddy. The townsfolk seemed reluctant to talk about him, but Tasklar applied his charm and soon found out that Laggo was a satyr who’d been raised in town after being orphaned at birth. He’d seemed all right at first, but he’d grown up much faster than human children and got himself into enough trouble that Sheriff Savil had exiled him from town. Unfortunately, he still hung around the valley, occasionally causing trouble in the outlying villages and the like.

The Wedding
At this point, the PCs could do nothing more to help with the search for Noddy lest they miss Ghenna’s wedding. Calla went to consult with her friend (and inform her of Keth’s plans for various barbaric rituals, almost all of which Ghenna vetoed). The ceremony went smoothly, and soon the happy couple were greeting their friends and relations on the feasting field, where a number of games and activities had also been set up. The PCs bestowed their gifts upon the newlyweds, among them some of the jewelry they’d plundered from the ancient tombs and the magical mirror that always presented a flattering image to the viewer that Gil had taken from the evil lizard queen’s belongings beneath the ruined fane.

Keth and Tasklar soon found themselves competing to catch a greased pig (which Keth won), while Gil and Calla had a go at each other on a log with cushioned staves (which Calla won, although Gil insisted that he’d “let” her). Tasklar also got into a friendly musical competition with the local bard, an elf named Willon Evesimere. Afterwards, he struck up a conversation with the elf, learning a bit more about the town, its inhabitants, and its history.

Keth and Tasklar also went up against Honesty in a game of fisticuffs, though neither of them was able to beat the burly hobgoblin. He was impressed enough by the gesture to buy them each a round of drinks afterwards, though. Unbeknownst to their comrades, Gil and Calla had both bet against them and thus raked in a bit of extra money.

The Wedding Crasher
As the festivities began to wind down, Laggo the satyr showed up. Charming nearly everyone with his pan pipes, he proceeded to hand the bride and groom a well-made dagger he claimed to have found in the ruins outside of town. Keth, shaking off the satyr’s magic, recognized the harpy’s stink on the dagger and demanded that the satyr talk about the harpy. When Laggo balked and denied knowing anything about a harpy, Keth punched him. Some of the other townsfolk who’d resisted the magical tune cheered Keth on in an attempt to whip up a mob to drive the satyr away. Those who were still under the influence, however, tried to placate everyone, insisting that Laggo was a friend and should be treated as such!

Eventually the PCs were able to persuade Laggo to take them to the site where he’d found the dagger, but when they got there, he quickly and quietly slipped away into the woods, leaving them stranded … luckily, Keth’s survival skills were good enough to get them back to town, where they found everyone heading back home to bed.

In the morning, Keth was praying at the town’s non-denominational temple when he heard the faint strands of Laggo’s pipes coming from the woods to the north. Gathering up his companions (all except Keluak, who couldn’t be roused from slumber [his player had gone home early]), the group went to investigate.

Laggo revealed himself and apologized for his behavior the night before. He admitted to knowing a harpy named Arekla, whom he had thought was a friend. But he’d gone and confronted her and she had berated him as a fool, and he’d realized that she was completely right. He said he didn’t know for certain but thought that it was quite likely Arekla had Noddy hidden away in her tree, where she could torture him for days before he died. He offered to take the PCs to her lair but refused to fight with them, saying that even though he knew she was irredeemably evil now, he still couldn’t bring himself to hurt her.

The Harpy’s Lair
Laggo explained that Arekla laired in a hollowed-out old tree in a clearing in the woods to the north. As the group neared the harpy’s tree, he told them to plug up their ears so they wouldn’t be taken in by her song. The tree was about 40 feet high and had a hole in the side about 15 feet up. The ground around the tree was bare for about 30 feet all around. A large number of crows perched in the tree’s dead branches.

The PCs soon found out that the crows were allied with Arekla, as they swarmed to the attack pretty much as soon as the PCs approached. They also discovered that Arekla’s lair had a number of magical defences, included strong winds, clouds of stinking fumes, and patches of mud that would suck them down and then trap them as it hardened.

Eventually Arekla herself appeared, and while the PCs were mostly immune to her magic thanks to the wax in their ears, they still found themselves hard pressed to make any headway against the evil harpy and her magic. The swarms of crows proved to be particularly vicious. Tasklar was nearly pecked to death by them.

At one point, Arekla emerged from her lair – in the process revealing herself to be of fiendish blood, with a tough hide and leathery wings instead of feathered ones – and magically polymorphed Calla into a tiny field mouse. Though Calla attempted to hide in the forest underbrush, Arekla soon found her and snatched her up in her claws. She then flew high up into the air and waited … but there was to be no negotiating with Calla’s comrades, none of whom could hear the harpy’s demands, so eventually Arekla grew bored and let go of Calla the mouse.

Calla’s life flashed before her eyes, and she saw it ending abruptly as she slammed into the ground, but suddenly something else arrested her movement – Gil’s bat familiar had caught her up in its own claws!

Wounded and frustrated, Arekla made for her tree with the intention of grabbing her satchel of treasure and fleeing the scene. That was her last mistake, for as she flew into range of Gil’s magic, he placed her in a magical slumber. She plummeted out of the sky and landed with a sickening crunch. As Arekla breathed her last, Calla was released from the harpy’s magic and found herself back in her own body again.

Eventually freeing themselves of the mud, the other PCs brushed themselves off and then proceeded to climb into the tree to see if they could find Noddy. Braving the foul, diseased air inside the tree, they not only emerged with the sickly halfling but also the harpy’s treasure! Keth administered to Noddy, healing his wounds and curing him of his ailments, and the group then escorted him back to Dockalong, where they were hailed as heroes!

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Iriandel, Part II

Dramatis Personae: Calla, Keluak, Keth (and Elia)
Source: “Iriandel” (Dungeon 83)

Tamaich’s Tomb
After ensuring it was safe to enter the ancient feasting hall, the PCs began a thorough search of the room. They discovered that the now headless statues sitting on the stools covered more pit-graves – those of Tamaich’s elite bodyguard, most likely. Keth also uncovered a cache of magic potions in clay jugs marked in Orcish in a cavity under Tamaich’s throne.

The party then proceeded to pry open the door at the end of the hall behind the throne. This opened into a circular chamber with a large stone in the middle of the floor. A passageway at the other end of the room was bricked up with stones – the other side of the wall they’d found at the end of the outer ring passage filled with the warriors’ pit-graves. The top of the stone in the room was carved into the likeness of a female orc’s leering face. Calla cast detect magic as a ritual and picked up a faint aura from the stone. Wondering what it might be, Keth and Keluak decided to lift up the stone to see what was under it.

Moving the heavy stone out of the way, the group discovered a shaft descending into darkness. Just then, the face on the stone called out “Tamaich!” A rush of air blew up the shaft, followed by several ghostly warriors who flew around the room for a few moments before vanishing into the ether. The group dropped a length of rope and climbed down into a conical chamber with a single passage leading off to the west.

After a short distance, the passage opened into a larger chamber filled with a strange mist. In the center of the chamber was a tall stone pillar carved into the likeness of multiple skeletal snakes, each one facing a different passageway. Keluak went ahead to scout the chamber. As he drew towards the end of the passage, he spotted a tall bas-relief of a mighty half-orcish warrior on the southwestern wall of the room. Just to the left of that was a passage heading south. Beyond the pillar, he could see another passage that headed west for a short way before veering to the north. Another passage stretched away to the north of the pillar as well.

The group decided to try the southern passage first, and Keth and Keluak decided to rope each other together just in case. As the group approached within ten feet of the bas-relief, however, they heard the sound of heavy boots coming down the western passage. The mighty warrior depicted in the bas relief approached and started silently casting a spell at them! Keth called out to Tamaich that they meant him no harm, but Keth rushed forward and took a swipe with his new magic handaxe. The axe went straight through the half-orc, revealing him to be just an illusion that soon vanished into thin air!

But the danger was real, for they soon heard the anguished cries of something no longer living echoing down the passageway, and three hideous creatures that might once have been Tamaich’s wives came rushing to the attack. Keth and Keluak stopped them in the passageway so that Elia and Calla could safely attack them from behind. The wights had trouble getting past the warriors’ defenses and soon all three of them lay dead on the floor, finally at rest.

Shaking their heads, the PCs turned back to the southern passage. They could see another stone block door at the far end. Keluak led the way and soon found himself falling into a deep pit that lay hidden just in front of the door. Tied to Keluak with rope, Keth was unable to arrest his own slide into the pit. They both soon found themselves breathing in yellow mold spores, but the green flame from Keth’s magic handaxe soon burned the stuff away. The ladies watched in amusement as the two boys struggled to get back out of the pit and then spent quite a bit of time debating how to reach the door on the other side.

Eventually they decided not to bother and went to check out the other passages. The one heading north soon ended in a cave-in, and Keluak the dwarf was able to determine that there wasn’t anything beyond it. It looked like a passage that had been abandoned. So they headed west. Soon they came across the wives’ chamber. Calla again cast detect magic, this time picking up a small aura coming from within the wights’ “bedding” on some stone biers. It turned out to be a small pearl, which she pocketed for later. The PCs found some other treasure in amongst the wights’ trash, including a matching silver comb and hand mirror set, which they gave to Calla. There was also a large, heavy bowl that looked to be quite valuable.

Before proceeding down the passage heading south from this chamber, the PCs opted to take all the loot they wanted and move it up to the benches in the feast hall above. They then came back down and headed into what turned out to be Tamaich’s final resting place. His skeleton lay, still in its fatally-pierced breastplate, on a stone bier, his longsword resting on the floor at its base. Behind the bier stood four rusty braziers.

Suspecting that Tamaich’s corpse would rise to attack them, Calla used her mage hand to pull the sword away toward her. As soon as she’d done so, the skeleton did indeed rise up, but instead of standing to attack, it just sat there for a moment before it began to vibrate more and more violently. The PCs winced as the skeleton fell apart harmlessly. Calla got the distinct impression that something had gone awry, but before she could figure out what, the undead spirit of Tamaich appeared and attacked Keluak, attempting to drain the very life out of the dwarf!

The wraith might very well have succeeded, too, if Calla hadn’t had the foresight to get Keluak to activate the daylight spell on his driftglobe. Tamaich’s spirit hated the light, and that was enough for the PCs to press the attack. The wraith was soon put to rest.

Keth immediately set about taking a look at his distant ancestor’s sword. The blade was fashioned from black iron and was carved with vile runes. The leather grip seemed to be fashioned out of the hide of fiends. Yikes! Nevertheless, Keth was determined not to throw it away immediately.

Despite feeling very drained and in need of a good rest, the group decided to continue down the passage leading out of Tamaich’s tomb to the south. It soon curved back to the east and led them to the other side of the stone door with the pit trap in front of it. Here they found Tamiach’s treasury! Amidst a great deal of loot, Calla found some ancient magic “scrolls” written on clay tablets. They also found the magic spear fashioned from Iriandel’s horn, partially hidden in a corner under an old cloth. They might not have ever spotted it had the light from Keluak’s driftglobe not reflected off its silvery tip. The weapon resembled the spiraling horn of a unicorn exactly, except that it was a full six feet long. It radiated strong magic. This was a powerful artifact indeed!

The PCs took the spear, along with the other loot, up to the feasting hall. They then resolved to head out of the tomb and get some rest just outside the entrance. Keth and Keluak went out first and soon discovered that they were not alone …

The Quarry
Six orcs emerged from their hiding places with arrows pointed at the two PCs. They had a bedraggled half-orc with bound wrists. When he began to speak up, one of the orcs struck him to the ground. Keth bristled but did nothing. One of the orcs came forward and informed them that their leader, the great Yventhu, wished to speak with them. Not wanting to start a fight then and there, Keth and Keluak agreed to go along with the orcs, leaving Elia and Calla behind in the tomb.

The orcs confiscated the PCs’ weapons and marched them off to the east. Not knowing where they’d gone, Calla and Elia stayed put until Tashek the owl returned a few hours later. He told them he’d seen their companions heading east, so they found the donkey, which Tashek had led to safety when he saw the orcs coming, and packed up all the treasure, then headed after the others.

The orcs marched Keth and Keluak hard, not giving them a chance to rest, until they came to an old, overgrown quarry with a cave entrance up near the top. They could see several other orcs patrolling the quarry and standing guard outside the entrance. They were led up to a platform in front of the entrance, where an aged half-ogre greeted them. He wanted to know who they were and what they thought they were doing invading his territory and stealing from tombs and the like. He also demanded they compensate him for all the deaths of his minions at his hands. The discussion eventually came to the spear, which Yventhu claimed to have in his possession already. The PCs knew he was lying but didn’t say anything.

In the end, Yventhu decided to take them captive and sell them as slaves. He stuck them in cages alongside the other half-orc, who later introduced himself as Wuhlap. He was an orphan (like Keth) who’d been compelled to act as the orc patrol’s guide to Tamaich’s tomb, since he’d been there once before. In the night, Keth was able to get a good rest, but Keluak was kept awake by the orcs, who kept prodding him through the bars of the cage with their spears and trying to set his beard on fire with torches.

Meanwhile, Calla and Elia spent the night out in the peat bog and arrived at the quarry the next morning. Deciding against a frontal assault, the ladies opted instead to scout around for a rear entrance. Sure enough, they found one hidden behind some scrubby bushes up in the hills. Elia snuck down the passage and found herself only a canvas wall away from the orcs’ cave. Peering around this wall, she spotted Yventhu heading around a corner to speak with his captives. She snuck after him and spotted Keth and Keluak in the cages. Reporting back to Calla, the two devised a plan: Calla would head around to the side of the quarry and use her magic to set it on fire, thus creating a distraction. While the orcs and the half-ogre were thus occupied, Elia would sneak back into the cave and free the boys.

The plan worked like a charm! They were even able to rescue Wuhlap. The party headed deeper into the hills, not stopping to rest until they found a nice, clean cave in which to spend the night. Come daytime, Tashek the owl informed them that the orcs weren’t following them. Instead, they were sending out emissaries and gathering the tribes for a war party! That could mean only one thing: they intended to sack Pebbleton!

Hunted
The PCs immediately decided to make for Pebbleton to warn the townsfolk. As they journeyed back across the peat bog, both Keth and Keluak began to have strange nightmares in which something was always following them and no matter how they tried to get away, it was always there on the horizon … Then, as they were getting close to the edge of the Brown Grounds, they spotted something drawing closer … and closer … and then it was on Keluak before he could say “zombie”!

Except it wasn’t really a zombie. For one thing, it was clearly intelligent. It appeared to be the reanimated remains of the half-ogre they’d slain in the peat bog several days before. And it wanted revenge! Keluak went on the defensive and was able to withstand its deadly attacks long enough for the others to destroy it. They cut off its head and then decided to burn both the head and the body just to be sure. They were able to rest easy that night. But on the following night, the dreams returned …

Pebbleton
Back in Pebbleton, Keluak headed straight for the common hall and ordered a drink. And then another. And another. Calla was amazed and couldn’t stop watching the dwarf attempt to make up for all the dry years in one go. Meanwhile, the others sought out Ruallin and the mayor and presented them with the spear. They managed to drag Calla away and she was just as amazed to see Treetrot the horse transform back into the beautiful and majestic unicorn, Iriandel!

But this was not the happy ending the PCs had hoped for. Keth quickly warned Mayor Thorngage of the coming orc warband and offered his assistance in defending the town. Iriandel said he would be heading back to his woods but would come to the PCs’ aid if called. Tashek hung around, trading stories with Ruallin the bard.

Some days later, the PCs were woken up by the thud of boulders being chucked over the town’s wall. They rushed to the parapet to see orcs and ogres spread out around the town. To the north, just out of arrow range, stood Yventhu the half-ogre, alongside a massive horned and blue-skinned ogre that was currently attempting to dig out a massive boulder, with the help of some orcs.

Without delay, the PCs rushed out onto the battlefield. Some orcs ran up to engage them and were mercilessly cut down. Another group of orcs and an ogre tried to intercept the PCs before they could get to the leaders but they too were slaughtered. Around that time, Iriandel appeared alongside Calla and encouraged her to climb onto his back. His horn and his hooves proved deadly in the fight, and his healing magic was welcomed by the PCs.

Eventually, the PCs crossed the field to where Yventhu and the massive ogre stood. The latter creature was clearly fiendish in nature. It lowered its head and charged at Keluak, bowling the dwarf over. It then smashed him to a pulp with its tree trunk club, but before it could finish the job, Iriandel came to the rescue and the ogre had another fight on his hands.

Despite Yventhu’s best efforts – attempting to alternately protect the ogre and himself with sanctuary, conjuring up a spiritual club to harass the PCs with, and summoning up his fiendish spirit guardians – he was quickly defeated. The fiendish ogre soon followed, although he nearly ended Iriandel’s life beforehand. The unicorn was forced to withdraw. With the fall of their champion and leader, the rest of the orcish warband quickly dispersed and the town was saved.

In the aftermath of the battle, the PCs were hailed as Pebbleton’s heroes and treated to much wining and dining. Iriandel pledged his friendship for life and told them they’d always be welcome in his neck of the woods. He also offered to do one thing for them to repay his debt. Keth asked if he’d restore Tasklar’s eye, and the unicorn agreed. The PCs then gathered up their loot and headed home to Larchwood.

Postlude
Back in Larchwood, Keth and Keluak were able to rest more easily again. They no longer suffered the nightmares, though they still had the sense that the creature was out there, waiting for them … so they decided to spend some time asking around. Keth prayed to Freya but got no real help from her, so he opted to hunt out someone who worshipped one of the old gods of the dead. He soon discovered that Baroness Wynne of Cromm’s Hold was a devotee of the Raven Queen. He headed off to speak with her.

Meanwhile, Keluak went to speak with the Andarian Septry’s priests in Larchwood. They told him that the gospel of the Stranger spoke of vengeful spirits coming back to haunt those who had caused them to suffer a “cruel and undeserving fate”. They suggested he seek out a larger temple or a knowledgeable sage to learn more.

Ten days later, the two PCs had all the info they needed: they were being hunted by a revenant, a vengeful undead creature that was very hard to stop. Unless it succeeded in killing them both, or failed to kill them both within one year, there was no real way to get rid of it. Each time they killed its body, its soul would just fly around until it found another suitable corpse and then come after them again. The two resolved never to go anywhere alone again …