The Sowing of Death

Dramatis Personae: Bhára, Berrian, Gil, Saul, Tasklar
Source: “Feathergale Spire” (Princes of the Apocalypse)

Interlude
Iriandel could tell that Keth was struggling to come to terms with the idea that he was now a halfling, so the unicorn suggested to him that he go and spend some time with the halflings community in nearby Pebbleton. Keth, now calling himself Saul, reluctantly agreed, although before he left, he sought out Hroom and had another pint or two of his special brew, thus increasing his height ever so slightly above three feet!

In Pebbleton, Saul let only Mayor Roscoe in on his secret. To everyone else, he was just a halfling from other parts. Gil and Tasklar came to stay with him and help him adjust as best they could. Saul spent much of his time drinking, mulling over his anger and growing desire for revenge. He would make those snooty cultists pay!

After a few days, Tashek the talking owl came to visit. He informed the heroes that Iriandel wished for them to return to his grove, as he had some guests he wanted them to meet. Off they went back into the woods, where they were introduced to two rather androgynous high elves. One was wearing heavy armor and carried a rapier, while the other was dressed in the robes of a magic user. Iriandel introduced them as Berrian and Bhára of House Amastacia (or Starflower, in the Common tongue). Both of them came across as rather effete, and the more down-to-earth heroes had a hard time determining the elves’ respective genders.

Although Berrian was ostensibly on a quest to find his family’s long-lost ancestral moonblade, he was aware that he may never find it. In the meantime, he was in no hurry to go home and so would be happy to lend his sword arm to whatever endeavors Saul, Gil, and Tasklar had planned. And wherever Berrian went, his younger sister was sure to follow. Knowing what awaited them back at the cultists’ tower, the heroes were glad to have the extra help.

The Hunters and the Hunted
Tasklar, always keen to charge boldly into the fray, wanted to head straight to the spire. The group decided to swing back through Pebbleton first, though, and it was a good thing they did, for reports were coming in that a land shark was terrorizing the farms on the outskirts of town. Mayor Roscoe explained that land sharks, also known as bulettes, loved eating halflings.

The heroes needed no further motivation. Off they went in search of the beast. It didn’t take them long to find it. One farm with lots of disturbed earth and blood and before they knew it, the beast was burrowing up out of the ground and leaping at them! It soon had Saul in its jaws, and things looked dire for the cleric. Would he need to be reincarnated again already?! But no, his companions came to his rescue and slew the beast before it could make a proper meal of him.

A few days later, as the heroes were marching down the road towards Larchwood, they were set upon by a wyvern. As it made its first pass, it bit and stung Tasklar, who lost consciousness as the beast’s venom raced through his veins and collapsed on the ground. Seeing what they were up against — and seeing how useless her brother’s sword was since the wyvern never got close enough for him to use it — Bhára took charge of the fight, blasting the creature from afar with bolts of lightning and rays of frost.

The wyvern screamed in pain and made a strange cry, as if calling someone or something. Berrian roused Tasklar, flushing the poison out of his system, and then used his magic to protect himself against the beast’s venom. Just then, Gil came running back, having realized that the rest of the group weren’t still following him. He took aim at the wounded wyvern, only to see another wyvern flying in from the other direction.

While the group were able to chase off the first wyvern, the second swooped in and slew Berrian’s beloved horse. It then grabbed the corpse and made off with it before the heroes could slay the beast. Saddened by this tragic turn of events but determined not to get distracted, the heroes opted to let the wyverns go and continue on their way to Larchwood.

A Nasty Surprise
Upon their return to Larchwood, the heroes went up to their rooms to find out if Calla was around. They found nothing but some scales and some blood in her room, and if Kaylessa knew where the sorceress was, she wasn’t telling. She was able to recognize Keth in his new body, however. Perhaps she could sense the presence of his dragonmark, which had manifested on the back of his new hand, just like Sorrel’s had.

Up in the boys’ room, the heroes were surprised to find a small wooden crate waiting for them on the table. Tasklar went to open it and had a frightful premonition* in which he opened the box to find Sorrel’s head staring back at him. His friend’s mouth then opened and spewed forth a noxious yellow gas that rapidly filled the room and expanded out into the hall. His friends were all dying, gasping for air as the gas burned their lungs as well as their skin. But vision disappeared just as quickly as it had come, and he found himself staring at his hand, which he’d managed to stop only inches away from the crate’s lid. His dragonmark of finding flared up, enabling him to see a nearly invisible glyph inscribed on the crate. Had he opened it without noticing, it would’ve triggered some kind of spell effect. Instead, he and the others took the crate down to Kaylessa, who dispelled the glyph with little trouble.

Inside the heroes found Sorrel’s head, just as Tasklar had suspected, but this time nothing happened. Still, there was no denying what this meant. Their friend was dead. And they all knew who had killed him. (And who had tried to use his remains to kill them in a most underhanded manner!) Although the Starflower siblings did not know Sorrel personally, they were able to see the injustice of it and vowed to assist their new friends in seeking justice.

The heroes retired to their rooms for some much-needed rest. In the morning, Saul sought out Kaylessa and pumped her for information on the elemental princes. She informed him that there were good ones and bad ones. Yan-C-Bin was one of the bad ones, a mercurial demigod-like creature known as an archomental. Saul wanted to know if the half-elf had any magic she could lend them that would help in their fight, but she just shook her head. He wasn’t sure if that meant that she didn’t have anything, or that she didn’t have anything she was willing to part with. Troubled, he headed back to his friends and they got ready to head into the hills northeast of town.

Return to the Spire
As they headed into the hills, the heroes concocted a plan: Gil, as the only member of the party the knights would recognize, would use his magic to disguise himself as the elves’ herald, while Tasklar and Saul would pose as their servants. The elves would then seek entry to the spire as nobles searching for a lost relative.

As it happened, the plan worked swimmingly! Drelin, one of the knights with whom Saul had done a bit of drinking the last time he was here, was on guard duty. He welcomed the party into the entry hall but let them go no further. As Berrian prattled on about looking for a lost relative and wondering if the knights had seem him in the area, Tasklar gave in to his impatience. He couldn’t take it any longer! Out came the wand of magic missiles and three magical darts went arcing towards a very surprised Drelin!

The ruse was up. As Drelin shouted at the cult initiates lurking by the inner doors to raise the alarm, Gil had the foresight to slip behind the party and close the main gates. One of the initiates pulled a lever on the wall that released the giant steel-capped wooden eagle hanging from the ceiling. It swooped down into the hall, and had Gil not shut the doors, the party would’ve found themselves being swept out onto the drawbridge (or, worse yet, knocked into the canyon below).

Drelin died shortly thereafter, but the initiates managed to get away, shouting that intruders had breached the entry. The party opted not to chase after them immediately and instead took a more thorough approaching, sweeping each floor room by room. Gil found a cultist lurking in the kitchen, and Tasklar found some more in the solarium, along with the blue-skinned genasi monk, who gave them one hell of a fight before leaping out an open window and disappearing.

The heroes then headed upstairs, where they slew a cultist on the landing, then smashed through the barricaded doors to the great hall, where they were set upon by a number of initiates and knights waiting in ambush. Much magic was hurled into the chamber, and only two knights escaped with their lives, leaping out the windows and using their magic to float safely down to the stables level.

The heroes then had the idea of closing and barring the shutters on all the windows in the tower so the knights would have trouble flanking them. They took some time to close all the shutters on this hall, and as they were busy doing so, they heard someone raising the drawbridge on the floor below them. Once they were finished, they hurried down to the stables level, thinking they could close up the stable doors as well.

They weren’t terribly surprised to find the stables empty — the knights had all flown the coop, taking their vultures and hippogriffs with them — but they were dismayed to find that the stables could not easily be blocked up entirely. Abandoning that plan, they headed back up to the ground floor, where they were attacked by knights circling the tower on their flying mounts as they set about barricading all the windows.

The task complete, the heroes then ascended to the highest floor, where they set about shutting all the windows in the knights’ quarters. Every once in a while, someone took a pot shot at them from the top of the stairs. Not daring to head up onto the dreaded pinnacle, the heroes decided to shut themselves up in Lord Commander Merosska’s suite to catch their breath (with Gil standing guard via his bat familiar, which he’d posted in one of the other rooms). They also took the opportunity to ransack the man’s room, finding a potion and a few scrolls in the process, as well as written evidence that the Feathergale Society was mixed up with a larger cult devoted to Yan-C-Bin.

 

 

*I had arranged it so the crate carrying Sorrel’s head was booby-trapped with a glyph of warding with a cloudkill spell on it. But I had misread the spell description for cloudkill and thought it was supposed to expand in size by 10 feet per round rather than just move away by that amount, and I also mishandled who was doing what when and several PCs looked to be dead when they shouldn’t have been. I had given Tasklar inspiration for just bowling on up and opening the box without checking it for traps or anything, so when I realized my error, we decided that he could just use his inspiration to say that it had just been a horrible premonition of Tasklar’s as he’d gone to open the box. As I have expanded the uses of inspiration in my game to include some minor plot editing, I agreed and we rewound the clock back to just before he opened the crate. I then gave Tasklar a chance to spot the glyph, which he did, thanks to his dragonmark of finding (which gives him the benefit of eyes of minute seeing).

Into the Woods

Dramatis Personae: Calla, Keth, Sorrel (and Iriandel)
Source: “DDEX3-7 Herald of the Moon”, Princes of the Apocalypse

Prologue
It took Keluak some time to come to terms with his new identity. He spent much of that time hiding in a cave near the wood elf settlement the others were staying in. A half-orc, of all things! What a cruel twist of fate. Now he could never go home. He needed a new name. “Sorrel” would do. He needed to practice swinging his axe lower, since he was no longer so short. He hated how everyone tried not to laugh when they saw him. Those elves were doing it on purpose. Calla and Keth too. Everyone seemed to think his predicament was hilarious! Everyone except him. But he’d show them. He’d get them back somehow. Oh, how he would get them back!

Iriandel
A day or two later, Iriandel the unicorn gathered his friends together and told them that he was still working on reestablishing his connection with the forest. During his centuries of exile, the elves had dwindled in number and the heart of the forest had grown wild and dark. He wished to seek out an old friend of his, a treant name Brightleaf, who resided deep in the woods. The elves didn’t go that way anymore, tangled as it was with brambles and thorns. He feared the worst.

The PCs agreed to accompany the unicorn on the three-day journey into the Heartwood. The outer rim of the forest consisted mostly of widely-spaced pines, with a soft carpet of pine needles underfoot. They spent their first night on the edge of the Heartwood, a section of older forest with a greater variety of trees packed more closely together. The PCs all had unsettling dreams that night, and when Sorrel awoke, he felt a strange urge to eat dirt. Keth and Calla teased him a bit, much to Sorrel’s annoyance.

The Heartwood
The next day saw them penetrating the gloom of the Heartwood. Iriandel was dismayed to see that this section of the forest was indeed overgrown with brambles. After several hours of slogging their way through the thicket, they came across a small glade in the middle of which was a harrowing sight: a dead stag whose alabaster fur was matted with blood. The body of an elf lay crushed underneath. Before they could investigate any further, the ground rumbled as a mighty hill giant and its giant boar companion emerged into the clearing. The giant bellowed and raised its huge club threateningly.

Iriandel implored the PCs to take out the giant but leave the boar to him. The giant proved a formidable opponent, and Iriandel was forced to dash in and heal Sorrel several times with the magic of his horn. Outnumbered, the giant eventually fell to the ground, at which point Iriandel used his magic to calm the boar and send it trotting back into the forest. The giant had a sack. Inside, the PCs found a moldy wheel of cheese, a giant-sized waterskin (which Keth claimed for himself), and a box of turquoise animal figurines that looked quite valuable, although Keth accidentally broke one of them.

The PCs turned their attention back to the dead stag and elf. It looked like they had been crushed by a big rock, perhaps thrown by the giant. The elf had a magic potion and a delicate magic scroll inscribed on a leaf, which Calla spirited away before Keth could accidentally break it too. It turned out to be a charm to protect against plant monsters. At Iriandel’s urging, the PCs spent a bit of time building a temporary grave for the elf and his mount before pressing on.

The next morning, Calla woke up with an irresistible urge to eat the moldy cheesy, which she promptly confiscated from Keth, who was incapacitated by uncontrollable fits of laughter, screaming, and weeping. This time it was Sorrel’s turn to tease the others. Iriandel, however, was becoming more and more concerned with his companions’ behavior. Something was seriously wrong in his forest! The sooner he got to the bottom of it, the better!

Brightleaf
Eventually the companions came to a grove surrounded by a wall of thorns. In the middle of the grove stood a solitary elm. Iriandel teleported himself and the three PCs into the middle of the grove to avoid the thorns. The unicorn strode forward and called out to Brightleaf. The ancient treant began to stir. Over the course of the painfully slow conversation that ensued, it became glaringly obvious that Brightleaf was completely mad. And the source of that madness was most likely the four vine blights crawling around in his branches, corrupting the treant’s mind with mad whispers.

Brightleaf was adamant that there was nothing wrong with his forest. In fact, he proclaimed himself to be the god of the forest. And thanks to the machinations of the blights, he didn’t appear to recognize Iriandel as his old friend but rather regarded him as a rival come to usurp his position. With no time to lose, Calla whipped out her tree feather token and indicated for Iriandel to come forward with her as she called out to Brightleaf that the unicorn had come with a gift.

As she placed the token on the ground, a mighty oak sprang up in front of Brightleaf. This gesture may have worked, had Sorrel not decided to grab hold of one of the oak’s branches and ride it up as it soared to its full height of 60 feet. The sight of a heavily armed and armored half-orc grinning at him from only a few feet away was enough to get Brightleaf’s hackles up. He uttered some words of primeval magic and caused both the oak in front of him and another tree in his glade to animate. Ordering them to destroy the intruders, he then picked up a rock and hurled it at the unicorn, who was nearly crushed by the blow.

Sorrel tried to leap from the animated oak into Brightleaf’s branches, with the intention of attacking the vine blights, but all he succeeded in doing was falling out of the tree. At this point, the vine blights dropped out of Brightleaf’s branches and used their own magic to cover the ground around the treant with grasping vines. They then made to flee into the forest.

Fortunately, the PCs managed to keep the animated trees occupied so that Iriandel could rush in and break the enchantment on his friend. Although Brightleaf tried to avoid the touch of the unicorn’s horn, he was too slow and soon found his mind clearing. With Iriandel and Brightleaf’s permission, Calla gleefully turned the fleeing vine blights to ash.

At last Brightleaf remembered his old friend the unicorn. He apologized to the companions and thanked them for clearing his mind. He promised Iriandel that he would work hard to help restore the forest to its former glory. Brightleaf then invited everyone to stay the night in his grove. The PCs listened enthralled as the treant and the unicorn traded tales from the olden days, when the two shared their guardianship of the forest.

The Return
In the morning, Calla awoke feeling absolutely certain that she needed to get as far away from Brightleaf as she possibly could. Sorrel, as well, seemed to be suffering from a case of extreme paranoia, although it was unclear whether this was the forest’s doing or merely some lingering existential dread from his transformation. Nevertheless, the companions took their leave of Brightleaf and hurried back through the woods towards the elven settlement.

Though they managed to resist the effects of the disturbing dreams during the first night of the journey, on the second night it was all just too much for their mortal minds to take. Calla soon found that she could no longer take anything seriously. The more serious the situation, the funnier she found it to be. Meanwhile, Keth came to the conclusion that the only way for him to be able to stay sane was to be drunk all the time. Last but not least, Sorrel’s paranoia took root as he became convinced that everyone was judging him all the time. Clearly curing Brightleaf had not had an immediate effect on the state of the forest. Perhaps something else was the cause and Brightleaf merely another victim? Iriandel was troubled, but he said nothing to his friends.

Back at the elven settlement, the PCs were paid a visit by Hroom*. The treant was overjoyed to hear the good news about Brightleaf. He also wanted his friends to try a special concoction he’d been brewing. They all agreed to have a taste and found it surprisingly invigorating and nourishing. In fact, it caused them all to grow taller! It had the most profound effect on Calla, who grew to be 6 feet tall, while Sorrel further increased his newfound height to a total of 6 feet 5 inches! Keth felt like something was missing, so he acquired some elven wine and mixed it into the brew. This caused him to shoot up to 6 feet 6 inches, at which point he decided all was right with the world, as he was once again taller than Keluak (now Sorrel). Hroom gave the PCs five vials of his brew to take home with them.

Pebbleton
On the way home to Larchwood, the PCs stopped in Pebbleton. Keth offered one vial of Hroom’s brew to the mayor, who quite liked the taste and wanted to know where he could get more. This was exactly what Keth had hoped, as he was aiming to improve the relationship between the people of Pebbleton and the creatures of the neighboring forest. The PCs then retired to the common hall, where Keth struck up a rousing drinking song while Calla challenged Sorrel to a drinking contest and won, much to the warrior’s chagrin!

Before leaving Pebbleton, the PCs decided to have a bit of a wander around in the countryside. While exploring, they came across a pair of hill giants sitting outside a cave, playing some sort of game using different colored rocks. One of them appeared to be getting rather frustrated. Sorrel’s blind and unreasoning hatred of his enemies and Keth’s obsession with winning glory in battle drove the two half-orcs to charge in amongst the boulders, while Calla watched with amusement from a safe distance.

The PCs were brought to an abrupt halt, however, when the frustrated giant pointed at them and declared that he wanted to play the game with them instead of the other giant. As the battlelust cleared from Keth’s eyes, he sat down on the other side of the game board and listened as the giant explained the rules. They were to play best two out of three and bet 100 sp each time. Keth won twice in a row. The giant looked like he was going to explode but he managed to hold his temper and declared that he would play the other half-orc now. He insisted that Sorrel bet his magic axe, and in return, he pulled a large amethyst out of his sack and placed it next to the axe. Sorrel proceeded to also win twice in a row, which was too much for the giant. He grabbed at the axe, but Sorrel was too quick, so he went for his club instead.

Chuckling to herself at the unsurprising result, Calla decided to launch a fireball into the midst of the boulders. But she was laughing too hard and let her companions get caught in the blast. One of the giants moved away and started hurling rocks, while the other played whack-a-mole with his club. It was a hard battle, but the PCs were ultimately victorious and the two giants ultimately dead. A thorough search of their sacks and reeking cave lair produced lots of coins (including some rare gold and platinum pieces!) and that beautiful amethyst.

The PCs decided to spend the night in the giants’ cave, where Calla challenged Keth to a drinking contest. She won again, much to the cleric’s chagrin. In the morning, they headed back to Pebbleton to do some more drinking in anticipation of the journey back to Larchwood.

 

*If you recall, Hroom sprang from a magic bean that the PCs planted in the middle of Larchwood’s market square. Keth later took him to see Iriandel, thinking the two creatures might become friends. Hroom has been hanging out in Iriandel’s neck of the woods ever since.

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 …

Iriandel, Part I

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

Pebbleton
While out on a long patrol through the countryside, the PCs got caught in an autumn rainstorm and sought shelter in a fortified village called Pebbleton. The majority of the residents were halflings, but there were enough tall folk around to allow for buildings and furnishings that could accommodate them.

The guards at the village gates insisted on searching the PCs’ belongings, explaining that orcs were always a danger this year (looking pointedly at Keth while they said so). They then directed the PCs to Mayor Roscoe Thorngage’s house. The mayor greeted them warmly and invited them to share his meal and dry out in front of his fire.

After the meal, the mayor told them a story about a remarkable horse he’d come across in the woods nearby a year before. He then explained that a half-elf bard had recently come to town with an even more remarkable tale concerning the horse. He offered to take the PCs to meet her at the village’s common hall, a large, roomy area carved out of a low hill in the center of town. First, though, he took them to meet the horse, whom he’d named Treetrot: a fine, grey-maned stallion who fairly jumped with excitement upon seeing the PCs enter his stable.

There they found the bard, a “comely” half-elven woman with red hair, attempting to play her flute with accompaniment from two halfling drummers. The drummers were a bit bored, however, and ended up going off on a convoluted drum solo, so the bard sighed and wandered over to the PCs almost as soon as she’d spotted them. She introduced herself as Ruallin, and Mayor Thorngage asked her to repeat her tale to the PCs.

Ruallin launched into a lengthy legend concerning tribes of human barbarians and wild elves, as well as star-crossed lovers. A unicorn named Iriandel – the guardian of the elves’ forest – was also mixed up in the story. The legend stated that the chieftain of the barbarians, a man named Turiew, had fallen in love with an elf named Deleflin, who was the friend (and frequent rider) of the unicorn. Their love was forbidden, so they met in secret. Some time later, another barbarian tribe – said to have the blood of orcs and ogres running hot in their veins – came to the area to take the land away from the locals. The chief of the newcomers, Tamaich, challenged Turiew to a duel. Deleflin, against the wishes of her people, sought to aid her lover. She called upon the fickle elven gods for aid, and they granted her the power to turn Iriandel’s horn into a magic spear and Iriandel himself into a fearless stallion. But with the condition that if the horse and spear remained separated for more than three days, they would remain so for another three centuries.

Sure enough, while Turiew was able to kill Tamaich with the spear, he too succumbed to the half-orc’s poisoned blade. Tamaich’s people overwhelmed Turiew’s, and the spear was buried with Tamaich in a great barrow built over the tribe’s winter camp. Deleflin, overcome with grief, “went away to the place where elves are immortal”, and with Iriandel the unicorn gone, the forest and the elves that inhabited it dwindled away.

Ruallin was adamant that the halfling mayor’s horse, Treetrot, was the body of Iriandel. She urged the PCs to seek out the spear so that Iriandel could be restored to his true form and become the guardian of the forest once again. The PCs felt like it was Fate that had brought them here, so they readily agreed to help.

Keth decided he’d like to play a bit of music with Ruallin, so the two got up on stage and Keth accompanied the half-elf on his lute. The halfling drummers were impressed by the half-orc’s skills and got to chatting with him afterwards. One of them explained that he’d once found a strange glyph on an old oak tree in the woods to the southeast of town while out searching for inspiration. He warned the half-orc that it seemed like it didn’t want to be found deliberately … and sure enough, when the PCs went to look, it took them six hours just to find the old oak, even though it turned out to be less than 5 miles out of town.

Unsure of how to find the glyph on the tree, Elia decided she’d try talking to it. Everyone thought she’d gone mad until the tree seemingly replied. The voice had come from above, and when the PCs looked up, they discovered that it wasn’t the tree talking but an owl! It introduced itself as Tashek, and asked them what they were doing looking for Iriandel’s mark. This prompted the PCs to relate the story Ruallin had told them. Listening intently, Tashek expressed disappointment at having been left out of the tale before filling in the gaps. As it so happened, he had been a good friend of Iriandel’s and so had been around on that fateful day when the unicorn had become cursed to wander the woods as a mere horse for three centuries. He was pleased to hear that the time was now right for Iriandel’s restoration and offered to help the PCs. They asked him if he knew the way to Tamaich’s tomb, and Tashek said he could lead them straight to it!

The Brown Grounds
Unfortunately, this meant crossing a vast peat bog known as the Brown Grounds. The going was slow, but thanks to Tashek’s keen eyes, they were able to effectively surprise both a band of orc thieves and a band of ogrillons led by a half-ogre cleric of Grolantor. Although the priest tried to parlay with the PCs, Keth and Keluak were too overcome with bloodlust and struck him down while he was on his knees. This made Calla really mad and she shot a fire bolt at Keth’s head which luckily missed him.

The PCs took all the monsters’ loot for themselves – including the half-ogre’s cleric’s magical chain shirt, which appeared to be made out of an ultra-rare substance known as glassteel and which conferred resistance to force damage to its bonded wearer – and pressed on towards the Poven Hills, at the feet of which the owl assured them they would find the barbarian chieftain’s massive barrow.

As they drew closer, they discovered that the land was haunted. At one point, Keth glanced into a still pool and saw a number of mounted riders with lifeless eyes reflected in it. They all bore the mark of a blue horse leaping over a cloud on their wooden shields. As they raised their right arms in a salute, he saw to his horror that their hands had all been cut off. No one else had seen this vision, and when Keth asked Tashek if he recognized the symbol, the owl confirmed that it was the mark of the Iorai tribe – the people of Turiew, who had been slaughtered – man, woman, and child – by the Sya-Negan, Tamaich’s orc-blooded people. Upon hearing that name, a little shudder ran down Keth’s spine, for the Sya-Negan were the ancestors of his own people.

That night, while settling down around a campfire they’d built in a hollow, the PCs were roused from their sleep by sounds of fighting, although no one could see anything – not even the dwarf or the half-orc. Suddenly, their fire turned red and flared up, rising two meters into the air, and ghostly men and horses went running all around them, re-enacting a battle that had been fought here more than three hundred years before. This was too much for both Elia and Keluak, who turned and fled into the night, where they were set upon by a giant bat hunting in the darkness. Keth and Calla came to their aid and dragged them back to the campfire, where they were able to get some rest once the ghostly warriors had faded away.

The next day, Tashek guided them the foothills – an area the local orcs and ogres referred to as the Knuckles – to where Tamaich’s tomb lay: a massive mound over a 100 yards across, ringed by ancient standing stones. After a bit of searching, the PCs found the entrance, mostly buried. It took them a good few hours of work to unearth the stone slab blocking the entrance, and just as they were about finished, Tashek warned them that two ogres were heading their way.

Finding some adequate hiding places, the PCs were able to ambush the ogres, taking one down before it could react. The other, taken aback by the PCs’ ferocity, turned tail and fled. They decided to let it go, while they looted its dead companion’s sack instead. Along with some objets d’art and some coins, they found a vial containing a rose-hued, effervescent liquid in it. Keth dipped his finger in it and had a taste. Glancing over at Keluak as he did so, Keth suddenly found himself regarding the gruff dwarf more favorably. He decided he’d go over and help clean the mud off the dwarf’s armor. Both Calla and Keluak were taken aback by the half-orc’s strange behavior and wanted to know what was in the potion he’d just tasted. They surmised they’d come across a love potion of sorts and decided to keep it for later use.

Tamaich’s Tomb
Turning their attention back to the tomb entrance, Keth and Keluak managed to work together to move the massive stone slab enough that they could all slip past. The smell of damp earth emanated from the darkness beyond. Immediately inside, they found a circular tunnel running north and south – the remains of the outer edge of the old barbarian camp. They decided to head south first, with Calla’s dancing lights leading the way.

After a few moments, they came to an intersection which Keluak surmised was at the southern-most point of the circular mound. A ramp consisting of several large stone slabs led up into the darkness, while the outer circular passage continued on its curve, although from this point on, there were small stone slabs evenly spaced along the passage’s floor. Keth recognized them as traditional “pit-graves” in which the tribe’s elite warriors would be housed. Carved into each grave’s slab was a Dethek rune monogram indicating the name of the warrior interred within.

The PCs decided to head up the ramp. After 60-odd feet, they came to another intersection, with a tunnel heading west and a short passage leading into a circular room to the northeast. They chose to investigate the room first, in which a huge jumble of humanoid and animal skeletons were piled up against the far wall. They caught the gleam of something shiny reflecting the light of Calla’s dancing lights inside a hedgehog’s skull.

Fearful of traps, which Keth knew to be common in these old barrows, the PCs waited in the passageway while Calla used mage hand to retrieve the item from the skull. As the spectral hand closed around the item – which turned out to be a necklace of human finger bones set with precious gems – the skull glowed orange and the earthen ceiling melted and collapsed in a wave of mud. The PCs breathed a sigh of relief that none of them had been in the room, but then four stone statues that had been carved from the smooth stone wall of the room came to life, striding through the mud as if it wasn’t there. Since the PCs were huddled in the passageway, one even walked through the wall and appeared in the tunnel behind them!

The creatures’ fists were hard, as were their stony hides, but eventually the PCs won out and the creatures crumbled into pebbles. A further search of the room revealed a pendant bearing the horse and cloud symbol of the Iorai hidden in another skull.

Down the western passage, they came to another circular room containing a seven-foot-tall statue of an ogrillon, its visage menacing in the shadows cast by their lights. As they stepped into the room, the shadows seemed to come to life and attacked, draining the PCs’ strength away. Keluak took a gamble and activated his driftglobe‘s daylight spell, which fortunately sent the shadows cowering against the far wall. After two minutes, they all faded away and the PCs’ lost strength returned. It had all been an illusion!

Keth went up to the statue and swung his mace, Dragonthumper, at it. Much to his surprise, the statue melted and out oozed a horrendous monster covered in eyes and gibbering mouths! The horrible thing drove the PCs mad and blinded them on several occasions with globs of spit that flashed as they struck the ground. Keth suffered numerous bites as he tried to squash the thing with his magic mace. Against the combined might of the four heroes, the gibbering monstrosity stood no chance, and it too was soon nothing but goo. But by that point, the PCs decided they’d had enough, so they retraced their steps to the entrance for some fresh air and good night’s sleep. In the night, they heard wolves howling and retreated into the tomb to avoid them.

The next morning, they headed back in and continued on from where they’d left off, eventually coming to what appeared to be a trophy room, complete with rusty old weapons taken from the Iorai warriors. Keth noticed, almost too late, that there were a number of right hand gauntlets in the room … and sure enough, the hands were not only still in them, but they were also waiting for the living. A dozen crawling claws came rushing at the PCs, conjuring up bad memories of the necromancer’s cave near Lance Rock (see “Trouble in Larchwood, Part I”).

The foul undead hands proved to be little more than pests, however, and they were soon all dealt with. Keth vowed to take the Iorai’s things and give them a proper burial somewhere to put their souls at ease. Calla decided to take the time to cast detect magic as a ritual and, much to her delight, found some magical auras radiating from in and behind a rotten old chest. Inside the chest were two magic potions. Behind the chest was a handaxe made from stone with lots of precious stones embedded in its handgrip. Keluak took it for his own and soon discovered that he could will it to light up with green flames! A quick taste of the potions led Keth to believe they were some kind of strength-enhancing brew.

From here, the tunnel turned southeast and led into what was once the Sya-Negan’s feasting hall. Two long stone tables flanked a low, rectangular firepit. Seated on benches at the tables were clay statues of headless warriors. On the shoulders of these statues were actual half-orc skulls – with something in their eye sockets that was gleaming red with the reflected light from the driftglobe and Calla’s dancing lights. At the statues’ sides lay some rusty old longswords. At the far end of the room, the PCs could just make out another passage continuing east beyond a throne.

The PCs were immediately suspicious of a trap. They decided to backtrack all the way to the southernmost point of the tomb and continue on up the eastern side, where the Sya-Negan warriors’ pit-graves were. About halfway along to the eastern side, they came across a pit-grave with no marking on it. Elia knelt down for a closer look and discovered that the ground around it was unstable. Fortunately, there was room for them all to leap across that space. Unfortunately, at the eastern point, they discovered a passage heading west to a dead-end, where someone had walled up the passage with stones. Rather than try and take down the wall, they breathed a sigh and headed back to the western side of the feasting hall.

Concerned that the statues in the hall would animate as soon as they entered the room, Calla had the others wait in the tunnel while she attempted to gather all the longswords with her mage hand. Unfortunately, the moment she lifted one up into the air to pull it back towards her, it activated some kind of invisible magic trap that caused all the swords in the room to animate! A dozen longswords came flying through the air and started hacking and slashing at Keluak and Keth, who were standing just inside the entrance way.

After a few frustrating seconds of trying to fight back against flying swords, Calla ordered everyone to fall back deeper into the passage. She wanted to test out a theory that proved to be true – the swords couldn’t follow them out of the room! Calla used her fire to melt the swords down and then the PCs entered the room.