Shadowvale

Adventure Log for Session 12
Stalked by Grief

Aimon knelt over Gledrick and gave me a grave look. He showed me where to apply pressure with my hand and he worked on the open wounds, pouring some foul liquid into them, and then smearing a poultice. He wound bandages tightly over the dwarf’s shoulder and chest. Then we waited. Gledrick’s breathing was very slow, and I began to lose hope. It was about a halfbell before Gledrick stirred. Aimon nodded and said that was a good sign.

He went on to heal Ilirithil and Tresa while I studied. We expected to leave as soon as Gledrick was awake enough to drink a healing potion. So, I only had enough time to memorize a simple cantrip. Strange thing. I noticed that my study came little easier. I know the casting pulls the memory from the mind, but studying this spell was somehow more…familiar. I didn’t feel I was starting from nothing. I thought I knew it’s pattern before memorizing anything. Perhaps, a cast spell can leave a trace? Perhaps, I’m learning more than I realized.

I had just finished learning the spell, when Alexey’s voice called up from the bottom of the slope. When I’d hiked down to him, he was stooped over one of the hobgoblin riders. “What do you see?” he asked.

A close look revealed a muscular, healthy, well-fed specimen. He was fierce looking, even in death. Even his skin, a sickly color by the standards of the civilized races, looked taut and smooth. By comparison, the goblins from the prison camp were a scrabbly bunch, more likely to fight over a rotting piece of meat, than organize an attack on Hammer Hill. Alexey’s search also revealed a very interesting item – a scrimshawed piece of bone. Etchings and symbols covered the piece, but none of us recognized any part of it. This will be something to research when I have access to Master Vontaze’s library again. Perhaps, there will be some clue about the power behind the attacks. This piece may be just what I need to convince the council that I would be more valuable doing research than nearly getting myself and my friends killed in the wilds.

Finally, more than a bell later, Gledrick was conscious and moving. Aimon helped him drink a potion, and after a sour look, the color returned to the dwarf’s face. He looked ready, and we all felt anxious to move away from the threat of more riders. Aimon suspected the riders would come from the south and east, so he guided the caravan of prisoners north, slowly bending to the east after a couple hours. For the time, it seemed to work. We pushed on for several hours before needing to stop for the weaker prisoners…and me. I longed for sleep and felt ashamed that some of the half-starved prisoners were better able to travel than I was. Master Vontaze was right. The price of a strong mind may be a weak body.

My weak body had more to say on that subject. While finding a place to lay my bedroll, I stirred up a pile of dead leaves and molds, triggering a wild fit of The Cough. I wonder that all the worg riders in all the forests didn’t hear me. Some day, my weakness will be the death of us all. I must stop putting my companions at risk. Next time, I will tell the City Council I cannot go. The risk is simply too great.

When The Cough finally let go of me and the waters cleared from my eyes, I found a sight to make them water again. Silhouetted against the deep gray of the grove, a solitary figure shook and wept. Brother Maclin doubled over with grief for his fallen friend, Brogue. To be honest, the loss of the giant cut to my heart as well. I didn’t know him well. I had never gone out of my way to see him, and I wouldn’t if he were still here. But, we asked him to roll the boulder down the slope. We put him in harm’s way. I think Brogue thought it was all some sort of game. Even as he fell, he wore that same puzzled smile, as if he expected us to announce that it was some big joke. He lost his life, but I think Hammer Hill might have lost something even more precious.

Once I settled into my blankets, I noticed another scene of our grief. Tresa rested a hand on Alexey’s shoulder and spoke some soft words. Alexey’s shoulders sagged and shuddered. I never thought to ask about his woodsmen. There are only a couple with us now, so their losses must have been great. I can hear Konnor Hale say we took a tactical risk, and that they were unavoidable losses.

I hate all this! We traded two dozen good, strong woodsmen and Alexey’s heart for three dozen merchant prisoners. We lost men who could defending Hammer Hill against a driven foe, for men who can drive a bargain for a bolt of heavy weave. These losses were avoidable. We should never have gone. I grieve for the woodsmen, for Alexey, for Brogue and for Brother Maclin. They say sorrow begets sorrow. And, I find I grieve for Andor, for his proud hunting dogs, for Tresa’s companions and for the lost caravan members. Tonight’s camp provides no respite. It is a dirge.

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Adventure Log for Session 11+
Caught Between the Hammer and the Anvil

“Now!” screamed Gledrick as he shouldered his shield and bull rushed down the slope. Tresa reached for him saying, “No, wait for them…”

Brogue lifted the boulder, but his hand slipped and it rocked harmlessly back. Seeing this, I stepped toward the edge and cast Dormireus at the two lead riders. One succumbed, slipping from his mount and tumbling over the rocks. An arrow from Aimon flew past me and over the head of the charging rider. It had begun.

Gledrick hunkered down as he ran, then slammed his shield upward into the neck and jaw of the worg. The rider flew about fifteen feet, landing near a waiting Tresa, who finished him with two quick strikes of her spear. The horrific collision left Gledrick on the ground and the worg stumbling awkwardly.

Finally, Brogue’s boulder let loose, gaining speed down the steep slope and smashing into the first worg. Ilirithil also scored a hit, leaping from the ledge and landing on the same worg. Seeing Gledrick on the ground next to the second worg frightened me into action. Without my full contingent of spells, I had to try a simple cantrip. I ran a few steps forward, recited the words and snapped my fingers. I looked for the flash of light to burst in front of the worg, but only a small spark lit and the worg didn’t seem to notice.

Gledrick, however, didn’t seem to care. From his prone position, he swung his hammer and struck a solid blow against the worg. The beast raged. Claws and jaws ravaged Gledrick. With its huge maw clamped on the dwarf’s shoulder, the worg shook the life out of my companion.

Ilirithil finished off the first worg and leaped for the next. Just then, the third mount and rider crested the hill, cut a wide circle and struck hard against Tresa. Even worse, the hobgoblin I had put to sleep got up and drove his sword deep into Brogue’s gut. The giant doubled over, surprised and confused. He never cried out. He just fell.

I had just enough time to get a quick spell off to daze this hobgoblin warrior before he flanked Tresa. Aimon continued firing and buried an arrow deep in the worg mount. Ilirithil and the other worg were a knotted mess of fur and teeth. As the mounted hobgoblin readied another strike against Tresa, Alexey and Omlet suddenly appeared from the opposite side of the ridge, firing arrows and bolts. Another arrow from Aimon finally brought the worg to the ground. The hobgoblin left his fallen mount and fled.

The loss of Brogue and Gledrick filled the sudden quiet. Aimon couldn’t help the giant, but he was able to stabilize the dwarf. As he worked, Alexey approached with bad news. “That was only the hammer,” he announced. “We’re now against the anvil. There are more coming from the other side of the rise.”

I looked at our fallen friend. “We won’t stand without him, Aimon. Can you revive him enough to drink a couple healing potions? Or, do we fly?”

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Adventure Log for Session 11
The Rescue

In the distance, the drums and horns signaled some rallied goblins charging up the bluff toward Alexey’s woodsmen. I could barely make out their small black forms, some larger shapes among them. Behind me, Gledrick’s hammer splintered the wooden door to the prisoner’s pen. In front of me, bathed in the ominously shifting glow of flame, stood a ferociously massive man. Brogue had burst the bars of his cage. His eyes and his veins pulsed, rabid, wild, desperate. I stepped into the light of the fire and his intense eyes focused on me. His fists clenched. I suddenly realized the danger before me. Shhhh! I calmed my nerves and voice. My only goal was to calm Brogue.

After settling him down, I asked if he could break the other cage and save the woman. With her legs pushing, and his massive arms, the door gave way. I told Brogue I that he was good and I was happy. The horrible grimace he flashed must have been a smile, I hope. The woman gave Brogue a wide berth and introduced herself as Tresa Pence, the leader of the White Gauntlet troupe hired to protect the caravan. She wore a bloodied blue tunic with a white fist. Tresa told me this was the first time the White Gauntlet’s had ever failed. Frustration fueled her words.

The wooden door finally yielded to Gledrick’s hammer blows. Twenty prisoners poured out of the cramped space. Four of the prisoners, including Brother Maclin, couldn’t walk. In the midst of all this death and confusion, I witnessed one of the most tender moments I have ever seen. Brogue pushed his way past some of the prisoners to gather Brother Maclin in his arms, dwarfing the pious man with his bulk. I wouldn’t have imagined such softness could reside in such a brute.

During the rescue, there were tears, shouts and song, but there was not enough fear. We calmly searched the camp for supplies and for pack animals. We gathered kindling and oils to signal to Alexey that we were out. We loaded gear, made sleds, and finally set a small fire and fled the camp. But during all this time, we were methodical and slow. We needed the fear to drive us faster, and none of us felt it.

As we set off, I summoned my magical horse so that Aimon could quickly retrieve Master Timble. This cost me my one spell through the Arcane Link with the ring, but we all felt this was a critical piece of our escape. The prisoner caravan moved slowly through a rough terrain, enabling Aimon to easily catch up to us. We tried to move toward Hammer Hill, but to take a slightly northward path to throw off any pursuit. During our journey, Tresa Pence encouraged, drove and organized. She worked like she had a personal stake in the success of this rescue. When we discussed tactics, she had strong opinions. In fact, Gledrick pulled me aside and expressed some concerns about where she was leading us. He told me he didn’t trust her. I guess I don’t know how I feel about her. We’re all in a terrible situation, and she seems to be helping. But desperate times may lead us to trust without wisdom.

When it was clear that the half-starved prisoners could not continue, Tresa pointed us to a defendable grove on a hillside. Gledrick shot me a look, but having no tactical expertise, I couldn’t argue her advice. Aimon seemed to agree with her, so we set up a makeshift camp. Some people napped. Tresa checked gear and talked to the hodge-podge travelers. Aimon healed Ilirithil. Gledrick simply watched Tressa with a critical eye. I tried to study, but fell asleep in my book. After a few hours rest, the camp was stirring again. It was morning, and I tried to fit in more study, but Tresa pushed us to leave. I only memorized half of my spells. Maybe she does have an ulterior motive.

We set off, resuming the same slow pace. After a while, we heard pursuit. Tresa assumed command again. She directed the lead riders up a rough slope to the top of a ridge. Everyone followed and we soon found ourselves atop a steep rise with three mounted hobgoblins approaching. At the top, as the riders approached, Gledrick grabbed Brogue’s arm, imploring the giant to push a huge boulder down the ridge. Brogue nodded and started grabbing the rock. Gledrick had to tell him repeatedly to wait for the signal. Wait. The riders approached the bottom of the ridge. Wait. They howled and the first two charged up the path. Wait. They closed on Gledrick and Tresa. Wait.

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Adventure Log for Session 10+
The Assault Begins

Everything happened at once. I cringed as I heard Gledrick‘s hammer striking something metal. Instantly, one of the goblin hounds bolted toward the north side of the wooden pen. I was relieved that my location wasn’t the shortest path from the fire to Gledrick. These are the kinds of things that can suddenly go badly.

I pulled the rose petals from my pocket and started my Dormirius spell. As I chanted under my breath, the bugbear suddenly roared loudly and clutched at an arrow in his shoulder. He was scanning the dark to the south when my spell released, centered on him.

I felt the magic swirling around him, but he didn’t seem to notice. The two nearby goblins, however, both slumped to the ground. The bugbear roared again and stepped quickly out of my view. A moment later I heard Ilirithil yelp. Then, another roar and the loud crunch of something heavy falling to the ground. Could it be that Ilirithil and Aimon felled the foul beast so quickly? These are the kinds of things that can suddenly turn a battle.

As I was beginning to feel good about our chances, I discovered that goblins and hounds had somehow circled behind me. I guess Gledrick’s hammer strike summoned more than the single hound. Panic’s icy fingers gripped me tightly as a goblin archer noticed me. For a moment, I couldn’t breathe.

In honor of Master Vontaze, I came prepared. I understand him now. Even if I believe he was overzealous in his efforts, I know why he set his traps. Why he bothered trying to teach me how to cope with surprises. I grabbed the scroll I had prepared, and summoned a viper from the positive plane. Knowing how goblins hate magic, I had hoped the shock would send them running. It didn’t.

In the back of my mind, I know I heard a woman’s voice shouting back by the fire. With all my attention on a new foe, I couldn’t afford distraction and I shut her out. This was the set up for Aimon’s incredible strike. He claims, and frankly the evidence supports it, that he shot an arrow through the neck of one goblin and into the chest of the second, killing both. With a decapitated goblin sprawled near the fire, the first part of his story fits. His scrawny neck seems to have just burst asunder. And, a second goblin with an arrow buried deep in his chest suggests the second part. A close inspection showed the fletchings to be blood soaked, presumably from the first goblin. I think he actually did it. This is a tale for the Bludgeoning Ogre. Surely, he will have the boys of Hammer Hill walking around with tiny bows and bits of leather tied to their bodies.

I struck at the goblin archer a couple times with my Hand of the Apprentice, but only managed a minor cut. The viper had completely distracted him, but I could already feel the magic beginning to dissipate. It had come time to retreat and trust to my magic shield. I stepped back around the corner of the wooden structure, hoping to escape the black arrows. Thankfully, Aimon came to my aid, killing the goblin with one arrow. These are the times I feel I am more of a burden to the party. They shouldn’t have to protect me, to get my kills for me, to worry about a hapless wizard’s apprentice. I owe it to them and to Master Vontaze to turn all my energies to research.

I leaned against the wooden building and caught my breath, fighting down The Cough. The sounds of battle still surrounded me. I heard Ilirithil growling and snapping. I could pick out the futile sounds of goblin swords striking Gledrick’s new braided armor, like so many small bells. Speaking of Gledrick, his huffs and grunts were nearly always followed by crushing sounds and high-pitched shrieks. It must have been quite ugly around the staunch dwarf. I’m glad he draws such attention.

Two sounds had really caught my attention. The first was from the fire. The sound of strained and snapping metal filled a sudden lull in the fighting. I peeked around the tent and saw Brogue, Father Maclin’s giant idiot, standing outside his ruined cage. Maybe he can rip the woman’s cage open as well and help us get the prisoners to safety.

The more concerning noise, however, was the hollow call of crude horns in the distance. I hope it is merely goblins trying to rally themselves against Alexey’s onslaught, but my mind still conjures images of orcs from the north. Could they possibly be here so fast? If so, it will be our undoing.

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Adventure Log for Session 10
Finding the Camp

Alexey rejoined us after the hilltop fray. His look of worry turned to humor as he surveyed the craters around Gledrick. “I see you have been at it again, dwarf.” Gledrick only grunted as he wiped off his hammer.

We tied the sleeping goblin and followed Aimon to a copse of rennelwood that provided a good shelter from the wind, and some wood for a small fire. I studied my spells as they questioned the goblin. Fueled by the tiresome, but predictable puffery that seems to flow from Gruncheck across all distance, the captive goblin swore we would soon meet our deaths. I blocked them out and focused on my studies.

A sudden shock of noise wrested my attention from my book. Alexey howled with laughter! Gledrick stood over the goblin growling, his hammer embedded in the ground by the goblins head. Aimon stood over the goblin as well, and the goblin babbled on in his quick, high-pitched jabber. I could tell they had made a breakthrough in the interrogation.

We later discussed what the goblin said. Even though he spilled what he knew, it was still a puzzle. “Mighty Kossack knows secret ways. They go north.” He told us that Gruncheck and Kossack will buy an army. Who is Kossack? What is north? Our best guess to solve the riddle is that they may have plans to buy armies of orcs from the Syrock Highland foothills far to the north. If so, this is ill news indeed. Already, it seems there are enough goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears to overrun Hammer Hill. A well-armed orc army could sow the seeds of slaughter.

The goblin also told us that his camp was due west about two days. This is what we initially wanted to know. We made our plans for another day of travel. Aimon healed Sven, doubling his debt to us. An opportunity will come for him to settle up. Finally, we tried to get some sleep – visions of orcs now pressing our dreams.

With Timble and I on a horse and the goblin in tow, we followed Aimon who had found the tracks of the scouting party. A full day of travel brought us to a small hill. Aimon climbed a tree for a better look, and told us he thought he saw a bluff in the distance and evidence of multiple paths to an open area. This was much closer than the short-legged goblin led us to believe. Aimon and Alexey decided to scout ahead. I took the time to study my spells again, now that I was thinking of battle. I have to admit I felt nervous about approaching a goblin stronghold. There were so many ways for this to go badly.

After a while, Aimon and Alexey came back and stirred us all to action. “Now!” They kept saying. “Now is the time to strike.” Alexey immediately organized the woodsmen and started them marching north. They would sweep around the camp and attack from the bluff on the west. We would follow after four bells and come from the east. While we waited, Aimon told Gledrick and me of their scouting effort. He found several goblin camps, by tribe, around the main camp. He and Alexey managed to steal an arrow from one camp, and shoot a goblin hound from another camp. This seemed to start some infighting. What a great plan!

With such a hasty start, I was worried that my spell prep had been incomplete. I silently mouthed a prayer to the gods. I don’t often look to the divine for help, but at moments like this I want all the help I can get.

Far too soon, I found myself creeping through the woods toward the main camp. We saw a few abandoned outposts on our way, and we heard the clashing sounds of battle in the distance. I took a moment to cast Shield on myself. With all the noise, we didn’t worry about being heard and we made good time. Eventually, we saw the red glow of a fire and heard some voices. Aimon swung to the south, under the shadows and cloaked in silence. Gledrick had wandered ahead and I found him crouched between a tent and a wooden structure peering ahead at a fire. A bugbear taunted a caged prisoner, a woman, while two cowering goblins watched and laughed. There were some hounds around the fire as well.

As I formed a plan, I became aware of voices, close voices. They spoke in common. I realized they came from behind the wooden wall and I mentioned it to Gledrick. He was intrigued and stepped back into deeper shadow. I then heard his deep, hushed voice in whispered song

The wind o’ the north on frigid wings Across the lake and through the vale

He paused, and then we both heard a halting reply, sung by two voices

Carries the sound of hammer rings Oh glorious song, oh hearty hale.

That was all Gledrick needed to hear. He set off to look for the door to the pen.

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Adventure Log for Session 9+
Goblin Scouts

Just after Sunpass on the third day, with Alexey off drilling his troops, the rest of us crested a hill. Aimon led the way, talking in a hushed tone with Master Timble. Gledrick and Sven followed. They seemed to be taking turns grunting. Ilirithil and I brought up the rear.

In a flash, Aimon turned his head, drew an arrow, and fired down the hill into some trees and brush. Without thought, I cast a shield on myself and stepped away from the downslope. Even Master Vontaze would have appreciated my reaction. Gledrick and Sven seemed not to notice for a moment.

A second arrow from Aimon dropped a goblin hound that had charged halfway up the hill. A second hound bolted up and leaped toward Gledrick, but bounced off his shiny, new shield. In addition to the hounds, several goblins suddenly swarmed us. I attempted a new tactic, casting Daze on one of the approaching goblins. I think I cast with good form and clear pronunciation. I felt the energy flow through my body as it should, but there was no affect on the goblin. Master Vontaze warned us that some individuals may resist some spells. Perhaps that’s what happened here. I was quite disappointed.

The undazed goblin then turned on me, stepped around Sven and swung his short sword. I know I cringed in anticipation, but his arcing sword found my shield energy and diverted harmlessly to the side. I’ve never seen a goblin make a sour face…or rather, I thought all their faces foul. This one, however, clearly soured when his sword failed to find its mark. He had no time to gather himself before Ilirithil shook the life out of him.

It’s strange to think of finding humor in a battle for our lives. However, Gledrick found some and I also had to share the laugh. He found himself facing two goblins with a hound at his side. For a moment, he simply enjoyed their futile attempts to strike against his new armor. He told me what it was. Some banded, splinted, braided, bonded mail of some sort. I don’t recall now, but he seemed rather proud. Here he stood among teeth and swords grinning like a devil…a short devil. When he finally went to work, a few strokes brought down a dog and obliterated a goblin. For his final blow, he tossed his new shield aside, swung his hammer over his head and brought it down through the goblin’s hapless shield. The force of the blow was staggering and decisive.

At one point, I used my Hand of the Apprentice trick with the dagger. I beamed as the dagger flew from my hand to fell a goblin warrior that harrowed Sven. This has become a favorite attack of mine, but I’m glad I don’t have to use it too often.

After our visible foes had fallen, we noticed Aimon drawing an arrow on a distant tree. Just before striking, he lowered his bow and suggested I try to cast a sleeping spell on the goblin. Once I sited him, I set forth with my cast. It was a good cast with a square step forward and an even tear of the rose pedal. We watched as the warrior fell where he stood.

This could be the piece we need. It seems we found a scouting party, presumably from the camp. With this captive goblin, we may be able to persuade him into leading us there. In any case, it seems we are close now. I look forward to finding it, so we can be done with this madness. There is much research I hope to do upon my return to Hammer Hill.

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Adventure Log for Session 9
A Rescue Party

An unexpected summons from the town council started my day earlier than desired. Bleary-eyed, I followed the messenger through the soft, late-summer snow to Hammer Hill city hall. Aimon, Alexey, and (eventually) Gledrick were also summoned. The two indebted guardsmen, Omlet and Sven, made an appearance as well.

Once assembled, Konnor Hale wasted no time. He told us that Master Timble has agreed to serve as guide and he asked our party to lead a raid on the camp holding the Hammer Hill prisoners. He even saw fit to assign a small troop of 25 guardsmen to Alexey’s command. Actually, he offered the command of these men to any of us, but for my part I avoided his gaze. I can hardly keep myself from harm. I will not be responsible for a bunch of guardsmen. I hope we shall not miss Alexey’s stealthy tactics during this mission. We depart before dawn tomorrow.

With a full day available, I thought I’d take some time to familiarize myself better with Master Vontaze’s library. While looking through some papers on his desk, a soft knock at the door tripped the silence. The unexpected noise surprised me and it took a moment for me to respond (beyond giving the door a harsh, questioning look). Mr. Brightscale, the steward of the Academy, stepped through the door, poured me a steaming cup of tea, and asked if there was anything else I needed.

I have to admit I was a little taken aback by this. I am no Academy Instructor. I cannot replace Master Vontaze. I have no authority over this man. But, there he stood with some strange hope creeping into his eye. Again, I took my time to reply. (He must think me a bit slow.) Recalling Aimon’s request, I asked Mr. Brightscale if he could find us a map, as detailed as possible, of the wilderness between Hammer Hill and the Dragon’s Spine. He set off, looking pleased. I have another task I’ll ask him about later.

That evening, I bore witness to some cunning dwarven magic. Gledrick has, undoubtedly, become a bit of a working man’s celebrity in the community. Just yesterday in the square, I heard Kardum Smythe loudly bragging that he forged the hammer used by Gledrick to crush goblins and their hounds. But last night, Gledrick used his bit of notoriety to conjure, out of thin air and with no spoken words, a 20-year single malt scotch in a crystal glass. (Crystal? I didn’t know there was a crystal glass in all of Hammer Hill.) I watched in amazement as he downed the glass and received another. After pushing my mead aside, and looking longingly at the barkeep, I received my own crystal glass of liquid gold. It was incredible, and led to a slumber undisturbed by dreams.

Pre-dawn came with a brisk wind and a thin frost just etching the edges of the windows. We met by the bell tower on the square and set out, Timble near the front and Alexey at the head of five neat rows of the town guard. During the day, Alexey would sometimes split off with his troop and practice tactical maneuvers and hand signals. They would disappear for one or two bells, and then rejoin our party. The goal for the first day was simply to move west and help Master Timble recall his harried journey from the camp.

Just after Sunpass, with legs weary, I called to mind the new spell granted to me by the town council. Mount. I pulled out some horse hair I had gathered from the stables. I spoke the words, released the hair, and watched as the winds seemed to carve a shape out of the very air. Within moments, my horse stood before me. I was suddenly aware of the eyes of the rest of the troop. Some gasped. Some stepped back from me and the horse. A few of the more quick-witted asked for a horse of their own. Sharp fellows. I offered Master Timble a ride with me and we spent the next couple hours riding to our camp.

The next morning, I started early with the horse. I wanted the chance to talk to Timble about his escape. Encouraged by my request, he closed his eyes and relived the dangerous journey. He found a bluff shortly after leaving the camp, turned south and came down a long incline to a marshy ground. At this point, haunted by the memories of a worg attacking his friends, his mind was jumbled and less accurate. We pieced together some vague ideas with the help of the map and set off in that direction.

Once my horse dissipated back into air and dust, we were on foot the rest of the day. An errant path took us to the end of a box canyon and forced us to retrace our steps. With darkness stretched across the vale, we camped at the mouth of the canyon. The nights were crisp, but the midday sun felt good in the cool air.

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Death on the Road

Morgan Aleman carefully folded his White Gauntlet tunic, an armored fist in white on a black background. He set it on a large rock next to his sword and heavy boots.

“This is work for an ox, not for a mercenary!” he rumbled loudly enough to send a few merchants and wagon drivers scurrying in the other direction. Morgan stepped down into the mud, sinking to mid-shin. He took his place at the side of the wagon, flanked by other members of the White Gauntlet and some of the beefier merchants. After securing his grip on the undercarriage, he shouted, “All right. Whip up the horses, driver!”

A holler and a snapping whip preceded the groans of ropes, horses, men, and straining wood. Slowly, the wheels turned and the wagon began to move. After pushing the wagon several yards toward more solid ground, other sounds drew the attention of the men. At first, they thought another team at the rear of the caravan was celebrating after getting a wagon out of the muck. But, then the cries turned desperate. A single word suddenly rang out over the chaos.

“Goblins!”

The alarm, however, came too late. Just as Morgan and the other men released their grips, a volley of arrows hit both sides of the wagon. Several men were injured and one was killed. Morgan found his left forearm pinned to the wagon by a rough, black-fletched arrow. He reached over to snap the arrow and free himself, when a shadow fell over him. Morgan’s sharp glance was met by the wide eyes of a hulking bugbear. It grinned and seemed to shake its head sadly. Its long flat ears swung with the motion. It held up Morgan’s own sword and, with incredible strength and agility, drove it through Morgan’s right shoulder and into the side of the wagon. Morgan shrieked, but it was drowned out by the sounds of battle on all fronts.

The last hour of Morgan’s life was filled with horror. He fought to keep his weight squarely on his feet, preventing his shoulder and forearm from holding him up. As he nearly passed out from the pain, the shadow fell on him again. He looked up. The bugbear had dragged a fellow White Gauntlet, Will Carver, to a place in Morgan’s view. While Morgan watched, the bugbear threw Will to the ground and swung a morning star high through the air. The splatter caused Morgan to wince and shift painfully on the sword.

Time and time again, the bugbear dragged and executed its victims where Morgan could see and hear. Will Carver. Bren Crowcatcher. Laili Alu. Ankar Stonebrow. Merchants whose names he didn’t remember. Dear friends he’d fought with for more than a decade. A pile of fifteen bodies was the last thing he saw before succumbing to the pain and the blood loss.

A month later, as Aimon, Gledrick, Robinov and Alexey were hunted by worg riders, the remnants of the caravan attracted insects, vermin, and more dangerous creatures drawn by the smell and the opportunity of an easy meal.

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Adventure Log for Session 8
The Next Step

With the bedraggled halfling on a makeshift stretcher, we made our way from the fields back to the center of Hammer Hill. The late summer winds coming down the vale carried the promise of an early winter. The quiet of night finally began to fill the streets, the distant sounds of battle dying away.

We came to a hive of activity at Temple Hearthstone. Volkeam Drakehammer hurried from injury to injury, making it impossible to catch his attention. The reclusive elf, Shyael, helped with the healing and eventually came to us. After a brief look at the halfling, she pointed to an open place on the floor and shewed us away.

I watched her for a short time. I remember sleep coming and being vaguely afraid of the idea of returning to the Magic Academy. Instead, I crawled to a small space formed by a pillar near the outer wall and wedged myself in. I didn’t need anything more comfortable that night.

The dark of the temple hall held dawn at bay for a while. Eventually the stillness yielded to a cocophany of coughs, moans, creaking floors and the sounds of the wind trying the doors and windows. Somewhere a shudder beat irregularly against a window. I stirred as if slowed by one of Master Vontaze’s prank spells. Dimly, I became aware of Alexey standing over me. A disappointed look haunted his features.

“You send me into night to find ”/characters/konnor-hale" class=“wiki-content-link”>Konnor, and then you sleep?" he said.

It’s true, we had intended to see what else we might do, but then each of us fell to the temptations of rest. After rousing Aimon andGledrick with this same disappointed accusation, Alexey suggested we report to the City Council. I obviously wasn’t thinking clearly, and simply followed blindly. I missed my chance to get out of this mess and simply retire to do more magic research. Hindsight is the midwife of misfortune.

As we walked to the town center, Aimon pointed to a young lad nearby. He wore a hat of parchment crudely shaped like Gledrick’s helm. The boy carried a small tinker’s hammer and the top of a butter churn as a shield. Although the rest of us enjoyed the joke, Gledrick just said, “Go home, boy.” The mini-gledrick looked disappointed and ran off. Poor kid.

Master Chainsunder greeted us with his usual cordiality and made sure we were seated and fed. This made Gledrick much more agreeable. We heard reports from the council that there were six raiding parties which hit strategic points around the city. Konnor’s scouts found that larger numbers of enemies were held outside Hammer Hill in reserve. For what, or when? Concern etched our faces. This attack was clearly coordinated and well-timed. Councilman Gorgic, however, was quick to point out that the actual damage to the fields was minimal. I’d like to see him tell that to Hargen.

The discussion turned to speculation about how the death of Master Vontaze might be related. Although it’s true that the timing is unfortunately coincident, I just don’t see any connections. Gledrick, however, didn’t care that connections weren’t obvious. He suggested that the murder was done by an insider. Awkwardness perched in the middle of the council table, a black thing daring anyone to speak. Finally, an offended looking Councilman Bella offered that, “Vontaze was too wise to be tricked by an apprentice.” Nobody was comforted by this answer, but no one could refute it. One new piece of information came to light with this discussion.

The apprentice, Storin, fled from town by boat across The Lake of the Clouds.

What could that mean? I had assumed that he fled magically with this Kosmenoark. It now seems he had been abandoned by this other being and left to his own devices of escape. Could it be that he is still alive in the northern wilderness? If so, there is little chance of tracking such a cold trail, even with Aimon, Alexey, and Ilirithil. Though Aimon looked like he wanted to take on the challenge.

My ponderings and Aimon’s interests were interrupted by a knock at the door, and the introduction of Timble Ramschick, our ragamuffin halfling. Even in his uneven, stammering speech, he held us all rapt with his tale of the ambush of the caravan as it made it’s way from Crawford’s Point toward Hammer Hill. He described the location of the caravan during the attack, and Master Gorgic nodded his head.

He told us about the attack, goblins and hounds from the rear, then hobgoblin archers from the sides, and finally worgs and bugbears to slaughter the White Gauntlets, hired mercenary escorts. As he described the attack, I couldn’t help thinking it was well coordinated…again. He says several survivors were split into three camps and taken away as slaves. He and Amanada and Gil tried to escape, but only Timble survived.

Interestingly, he recognized the name Gruncheck, and thought it referred to a particularly large hobgoblin. He also recognized the image from the leather armor Aimon cut from the hobgoblin warrior of our wilderness encounter. This image seems to be the emblem of an army – yet another startling fact that points to a high level of coordination. Could this Gruncheck, an overly ambitious hobgoblin chief, be the source of all this? I have my doubts.

TImble told us that Brother Maclin and his idiot giant, Brogue, were both alive. So was Ansinger Harfoot, the merchant in charge of the caravan. With this news, Konnor Hale changed his tactics. No longer shall we search for Storin, or the potential goblin camp to the east. He wants us to rescue the remaining prisoners. I pointed to my wounds, to the folly of attacking a guarded camp, and claimed that this was a job for the town guard, but Konnor wouldn’t listen. He told the council of my lucky spells of the previous night. The council nodded their approvals. Next, Konnor motioned to one of the assistants who brought in several boxes.

Konnor explained that the council had gathered these items as payment for the work we’ve done on behalf of the town. The gifts included a masterwork shield for Gledrick, a quiver of masterwork arrows for Aimon, and a masterwork dagger for Alexey. For me, he presented a well crafted scroll case. The real gift, however, was inside. A scroll with an unknown spell. I will have to take some time to study it and see if I can copy it to my spell book. I’m very excited. Then, it occurred to me. By accepting the gift, my services had been paid for.

We are now preparing to venture out to rescue the prisoners from a goblin camp. When (if?) we get back, I may have to simply avoid Burdick and the council to get myself out of this mess.

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Adventure Log for Session 7
Saving Konnor

Alexey bolted through the door of Temple Hearthstone out of breath. He hurriedly told us Konnor Hale and a small party of militiamen were pinned down in the old part of Hammer Hill. He said he saw and heard several skirmishes around town during his foray. Apparently, the goblins are striking with small, quick teams to disrupt and separate the Town Guard.

Despite our fatigue and wounds, we all agreed to go to his aid. I wanted to stay in the temple out of harm’s way, but without Konnor there won’t be any safe place in Hammer Hill. My pain had not subsided and I was feeling rather weak, so Gledrick helped me to keep up with the party. As we approached Konnor, the hair on my neck stood up. I could smell goblin filth on the air.

Aimon started drawing his bow, but in Gledrick’s haste to get to the fighting he ran over the ranger, sending him sprawling. Ilirithil, too, could not be restrained and ran to the front. Alexey loosed an arrow into the fray. And, I took a moment to cast a magic shield on myself. It’s not much, but it might help if I get into another bad spot with a goblin.

We soon discovered there were more than goblins around. I have to say, bugbears absolutely terrify me. They don’t care about anything other than hurting someone. One sauntered out of a nearby building dragging a bloodied morning star. It spied Gledrick and calmly walked over as if it had nothing better to do than to dash a dwarf’s brains. Gledrick gave the bugbear cause for alarm when his hammer found it’s mark on the side of the massive creature’s knee. It howled a terrible sound.

Somewhere in the distance, I heard Ilirithil yelp and heard the twangs of more bows.

My attention, however, was immediately drawn to my left as a goblin archer appeared from behind a small shack. Just as Master Vontaze predicted, I cast a quick acid splash before I could think how to do it. Sure, it’s not a powerful spell, but it gave the nasty bugger a distracting sting as Aimon took careful aim. I wish I’d had a little more focus to make the spell more potent. It was quick and dirty and I barely completed it before moving on to the front of the shack, out of his sight.

The ferocity of the bugbear unnerved me and I stepped into the doorway of the shack. As I hid inside, peaking through a crack in the door, I heard Aimon’s bow snap and a goblin’s pitiful death cry. It carried on a while. By the Gods, death is ugly.

I’m sure I only shuddered in the doorway for a few seconds, but battle raged everywhere. I heard Ilirithil’s deep growls, the higher pitched barks of the goblin hounds, the clash of metal and the snap of bows. I watched as Gledrick laid another vicious strike on the bugbear. How could that thing still be fighting?

Then, my view through the crack in the door was blocked by another huge bugbear. Two of them in one attack! Before he knew it, Alexey was face to face with the new monster. He sprung backwards into a roll while knocking and arrow, and fired a shot that grazed the surprised bugbear. It grinned pure menace.

With a couple militia men down, and Gledrick now surrounded by two bugbears, I was finally moved to action. Master Vontaze had given me the plain ring on my left hand, had showed me how to create my own arcane link with it, and taught me how to let the magic flow from the ring through my fingers. I stepped from the door, ordered the ring to call my new fear spell, and felt it cast through me. The power filled me before releasing. A greenish vapor spilled from the air and rolled over the ground seeking its target. It climbed up the legs of the grinning bugbear.

The menace etched in its lips distorted into wide terror. A bone-jarring shriek filled the air, seemingly pausing all the other combatants. Then, the bugbear turned and fled.

Aimon let out a whoop and lodged an arrow deep into the other bugbear’s side. Alexey disappeared into the moon-spawned shadows. After a moment, the familiar twang of his bow rang out. Ilirithil yelped again and I wondered how the huge dog kept fighting.

With the confidence boost from dismissing the first bugbear, I stepped a little closer and struck at the second with my Hand of the Apprentice. The dagger hovered in midair between my open hands. I love that feeling. It flew from my hands and I swung my arm as if striking upward at the remaining bugbear’s throat. To my shock, and the shouts of everyone but Gledrick, my dagger dug deep into the bugbear and sent a shower of blood into the air. It fell in a heap.

At this point, Gledrick let out an exasperated scream. He turned, sniffed the air, and dashed around a building. His hammer arched through the air as he turned the corner. A sickening sound, like dropping a crock bowl full of thick chowder, was followed by the great huffs of the dwarf. I sometimes don’t know what to make of Gledrick. He has an odd sense of a battle, and where to find the next foe. His last strike, against a goblin archer that was hidden from his view, is yet another example of how he can crush lesser creatures with one blow. I am glad to be on his good side. I must remember to buy him an ale at the Bludgeoning Ogre.

The battle seemed to be over. Our weapons and our tensions dropped. No one, however, told Aimon. His sharp eyes peered off into the inky distance. He drew his bow back, angled it up over Gledrick and sent it into the night. It was a full three seconds later that we heard a distant cry and the soft thud of a fallen body. Amazing! Perhaps, a mead for Aimon. I think an ale for Alexey, too, wherever he is.

As I caught my breath and prepared to return to town, Aimon healed a town guard, John Lane. I thought this act quite prudent, as we need all the men we can get. Two other guards, Sven and Omlet as I’ve heard them called, fell over themselves expressing their gratitude. This was obviously quite intelligent of Aimon. It is never a bad idea to have three of the town guards in our pockets. This could be useful if we get in a pinch.

As we prepared to go back to town, Alexey cocked his head, squinted his eyes and drew his bow. That ebbing tension swept back in. We were all on edge and I simply fell back away from the fields. A few tense moments gave way to signs of relief. Alexey unearthed a half-starved halfling ragamuffin in the field. Not recognizing him as a Hammer Hill resident, I nearly declared him a spy for the goblins. But, Alexey stopped me. The halfling’s stuttered pleas were undeniable:

“Help us! Please. There are others!”

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