Shadowvale

Adventure Log for Session 15++
Up, Into The Mountains

As we walked through a more open area, I was startled to suddenly spy a huge humanoid charging up an incline toward us. He stood, waved his gigantic flail in the air, bellowed a loud guttural sound, and charged Gledrick.

Gledrick braced, and used his hammer and shield to guide the arcing flail to the side. But, I saw Gledrick do something I have never seen before. He staggered. The blow from the ogre clearly missed, but the sheer force of the swing made the dwarf take a step and reset his stance.

I attempted to cast a flash in front of the ogre, but with the distraction of a second ogre, my spell was weak and had no effect.

Illirithil’s viscious snarl pulled my full attention to the second ogre. The dog prowled around to the back and bit deep into a hefty leg. Taking the cue from Illirithil, Alexey also came up behind the ogre and with two flashes of steel, drew a broad red ribbon from the back of the howling ogre. Aimon drove an arrow full into the gut of the beast.

The ogre swept his flail behind his legs, sending Illirithil sprawling and crying for fifteen feet. He cast hateful gaze at all of us.

Behind me, I heard a nasty crunch followed by the raging voice of the ogre. Then, I heard a second, louder, crunch and Gledrick’s faltering voice emitted a stream of dwarven oaths. I know the dwarven tongue, but I lack the familiarity Gledrick has.

I am always amazed at the speed and all the mighty feats of battle. Illirithil, who I expected to be down for good, charged the ogre, leaping high and clawing his way up the back, only to clamp his jaws on that thick neck. The ogre spun around, looking surprised. He dropped his club. His massive hands reached up for his neck as he fell to the side. Illirithil held tightly until the shaking stopped and the ogre lay motionless.

The remaining ogre had no chance. It was sad, actually. I watched as a distraught look came into his eyes when the other ogre fell. He fought on, but without much hope now. Aimon’s arrows and Gledrick’s hammer took their toll and kept him distracted. With all the ogre’s attention forward, Alexey made his way behind and cut the backs of the knees. The surprise of pain brought the ogre to his knees. Now, at a proper height, Alexey drew his blade across the throat and let loose the flow of life.

A brief search showed that the two ogre companions each had a shiny rock – one piece of obsidian and one of malachite. Alexey estimated their worth to be 5gp and 2gp.

We gathered the horses who had scattered during the fray. A couple hours further and Aimon found a likely ford. With robes and legs gathered high and a tight hold on the neck, my horse and I safely crossed. We found ourselves at the feet of the mountains in a gently sloping glade with a blanket of grass and leaves. We set up a camp and took a well-earned rest.

In the morning, a quick look around convinced us that the horses would likely be injured on the steep trail that lay before us. We let them loose. Aimon hoped the food and shelter of this area may keep them close at hand for our return. He warned, however, that we shouldn’t count on it.

We transferred some of the load to the more surefooted mule. He carried rations, blankets, torches, my books, and other supplies. We then began the climb. Gledrick took the lead, seeming to feel his way forward through the familiarity of the mountains. We climbed. He occasionally called out his dwarven greeting, but no answer came.

We climbed.

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Adventure Log for Session 15+
Into the Biting Wind

The night before our northward trek, after finishing my spell research and turning down my bed, a thunderous knock assaulted the front door of the university. A moment later, a protesting Dadrigor followed a heavy-booted tread down the hall toward my quarters. The thunderous knock found my door next and I was convinced this was the warning we’d been waiting for. The goblins must be coming to the gates. Instead of one of Burdic Chainsunder’s runners, the dim light revealed Gledrick, grinning from ear to ear.

He pushed past me, knocking my nightcap to the floor. All the while he carried on about, “Won’t believe it. Wild bitters were the key. Never better.” He commented something about the pleasures of Moradin himself. And, he finally ended with a somewhat acrobatic flourish involving a waterskin and a small tin cup of frothy amber held out to me.

“Welcome, Gled…” was all I could get out before he shushed me and wiggled the cup.

I took a sip. He grinned. I took a swig. He beamed. I took a gulp. He burst into another glorious rant of ‘best ever’ and ‘never tasted its equal’ and ‘how the Gods intended it’ and finally closed with, “I think I’ll call it WunderBrew.”

For my part, I have to admit that it was wonderful – probably the best I had ever tasted. Just as I was forming the words to ask for more, Gledrick pushed past me, knocking loose my nightcap again, and bound down the hall shouting that even that elf would have to admit his new brew was a WunderBrew.

Dadrigor woke me well before daylight with a hearty oatmeal and strong tea. I studied and memorized a small assortment of spells, including my new one. Knowing we would have horses for this journey, I packed two of my research books. Dadrigor took my bags and loaded them onto the pack horse. I stepped out into the brisk dawn and met with my companions on the north side of Hammer Hill.

Aimon wore a small copper symbol around his neck – the holy symbol of Melora. Ilirithil walked awkwardly, and I thought perhaps he hadn’t healed well from his terrible wounds. I then noticed he wore a form of studded leather armor. Clever, but I wondered if he could really move with the freedom he needed during combat. Alexey was there, but no one saw him arrive. Gledrick protectively cradled his over-full wineskin and pleaded with Burdic to protect his brew should the goblins come.

With a few urgent words of haste from Burdic, we started the northward trek. We hugged the east coast of The Lake of the Clouds. Unlike the western shore, the forest was not thick here and the wind bit at us as we traveled.

Eight slow, frigid hours later, we were frozen by what we found. A wide swath of tracks showed where 50-some goblinoids marched southward. Aimon told us the tracks were less than 24 hours old. He picked out goblin, hobgoblin and bugbear tracks from the mess. I was relieved we didn’t leave a day earlier, but I wondered what might be following this troop from the north.

Another day of travel brought us close to the mouth of the river where we thought Gruncheck may be. Aimon suggested a wide berth and to come back into the area from the north. When, at last, we came to a low spot with some shelter from the wind, we set up camp. Alexey and Aimon crept ahead to scout the area.

They returned and told us about a small outpost with only one tent. They didn’t see any evidence that Gruncheck, or any other prominent leader, was present. I shared with them the reading I had done during their scouting. I had brought a book on the History of the Northern Lands and found a short entry about the Khazaban clan:

The Khazaban clan is a reclusive clan of mountain dwarves who have long inhabited the mountains north of The Lake of the Clouds. They drift into and out of the history of the region for centuries. They keep to themselves and have little contact with outsiders currently, even other dwarf clans. Not much is generally known about their ways.

A dull, cold morning greeted us with a thin layer of snow and a light breeze. Gledrick made another stew, though not nearly so good, as Alexey and Aimon scouted the area again. The outpost still showed no signs of a significant inhabitant. We decided our advantage lay in not being discovered, and continued north without accosting the camp.

A span of four long days found us standing on a rocky outcrop overlooking a rough river. With no obvious ford, we headed upstream. The terrain was wild, but beautiful. Rugged, but fragile. I was lost in the vision, when the peace was disturbed by Gledrick’s shout, “Amarak mir da razak.” I recognized the dwarven phrase, “My heart lies in the mountain.”

Gledrick explained that this was how he intended to engage the Khazaban clan. He expected, like with any decent dwarven clan, that we would be known to them before they revealed themselves to us. With no apparent answer, we continued on, climbing a steep ravine and leading the horses carefully.

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Adventure Log for Session 15
An Old Friend?

With only two days before our next unwelcome departure, I suddenly had to prioritize all the research I intended to do. I decided to focus my attention on a new spell. With access to Master Vontaze‘s notes, I thought I could find a way to accelerate the work. Of course, by relying so strongly on his notes, I was allowing him to select my next spell. Given the time constraints, I didn’t really have a choice. As I poured over the pages, the silence of the study gave way to a soft scratching sound. I dismissed it as rats and continued my study. I scribbled a few notes, and then heard the scratching again. It occurred to me that the scratching sounded like a quill on parchment.

I pushed away from the desk and looked around the study. The sound seemed to come from behind some books. I ran my fingers across the spines of the books on a shelf, surprised as my fingers disappeared through some books. An illusion. A hidden compartment. My hand abandoned my mind and plunged into the illusion to find the treasure I knew must be hidden there.

A blast of shocking light sent me sprawling across the floor. I laid a moment, waiting for the ceiling to come into focus. The fingers on my left hand were blackened and painful. Dadrigor knocked urgently and came into the study upon my summons. Soon after, he spread a poultice on my fingers and wrapped them in bandages as I told him about falling for one of Master Vontaze’s tricks again. A trap in his own study? I wouldn’t have guessed it, but I should have.

With an herbal brew to deaden the pain, I began my study again. I had found a spell with notes simple enough for me to understand. This, whatever it was, would be my next spell. I added my own symbols to help with the pronunciations and added more notes, when again I heard the sound of a quill on paper. My head jerked around and my eyes sought a source. Not again, Master Vontaze! I pulled out my spellbook and cast Mage’s Hand. With the hand at a safe distance, I grasped a pointer near his maps and dragged the tip across the backs of the books. As expected, I found two illusory books hiding a small area. I used the hand to guide the pointer into the cavity and probed around. When nothing happened, I dropped the pointer and pushed into the space with the magic grasping for an unseen object. When I sensed something in the grasp, I pulled the Mage’s Hand back and saw a small journal in it’s grip. Still suspicious, the hand laid the journal on a book pedestal, where it fell open to the most recent page.

I dismissed the Mage’s Hand and looked at the pages that laid open. A smooth, rounded script read, “Malacai, I’ve not heard from you for some time.”

Below that, “Are you there?”

Finally, “Malacai, answer me!”

Three lines. I had heard three scribblings. My mind reeled. Malacai was the first name of Master Vontaze. He had a secret correspondence with someone? And, presumably, he could write back. How? I thought about the process of writing a scroll…focus on the writing while you focus on the capturing of the energy. I suspected this was similar. Focus on the writing while focusing on sending the energy. I grabbed a quill, and focused.

Malacai is no longer available. I am his student, Robinov. Who is this?

After a brief eternity of self-doubt, the curling letters drifted across the page,

“For now, you may call me ‘E’.”

But, who are you relative to Malacai?

“An old friend. Is he safe?”

No, he is…passed.

“How?”

Kosmanoark.

“That is an old name.” The writing paused. “This is dreadfully inconvenient. These are dangerous times. I fear a darkness approaches. I may need you to do something for me.”

I have already been given a quest. I am trying to save Hammer Hill.

“Save from what?”

An unknown enemy that uses goblins, hobgoblins and possibly orcs for pawns.

“A distraction!”

A damned good one.” I was losing patience with E.

“I must go. We must speak again, soon. Be on your guard!”

For what?

No reply came. I threw the quill down. Riddles from an unknown acquaintance of Master Vontaze. This was not helpful! A dreadful inconvenience? Did this, E, have helpful intentions? I had to assume so, just based on the friendly tone of the first few lines. I picked up the quill again.

E, I am off to the far north to seek help from the dwarves. I will bring this journal.

I packed the journal in my pack and looked suspiciously around the study. I couldn’t study more without knowing what other secrets made a home here. I cast Detect Magic and did a slow sweep of the room. Although the room had a general aura of magic, there were two brighter auras, one in the bookshelves – possibly another trap – and one in the desk. I jotted down the locations for later so that I could get back to them.

At that moment, an easy knock rapped through the room. I called to the door, and Alexey slipped through with hardly a sound. This gave me an idea. In my defense, I warned Alexey. I told him that Master Vontaze likely trapped the desk, but we were both curious now. A few minutes later, I helped Alexey to his feet. His eyes were unfocused and his fingers were slightly singed. After settling him in a chair, I searched the desk again and pulled out a clear, glass vial filled with a greenish liquid. A note, in Master Vontaze’s writing, identified the potion as Cure Moderate Wounds as mixed by a level two alchemist.

Alexey and I both protected our hurt fingers, sipped our pain-killing broths and decided we wouldn’t explore the other aura in the office just yet.

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Adventure Log for Session 14+++
A Painful Message

Before Gledrick and Aimon left the university, I wanted to try the bone cylinder. Master Vontaze whispered to my mind, “It’s too soon. You don’t know enough. The risk to yourself is too great.” I pushed my caution down into a small corner.

“Gledrick, I have a favor to ask.” My tone bespoke the seriousness.

“Aye,” replied the dwarf casually.

I explained that the bone device might be a way to listen to the enemy. Aimon and Gledrick took a deep interest. I described some of the symbols as I showed them the bone. I told him that the aura suggested to me that there may be pain involved. The stern voice of the Gledrick remained unchanged.

“Aye,” he said, again.

I led them to the university test chamber, a deep stone pit with a thick wooden door, circled by a crenelated balcony for viewing. I stood Gledrick in the center, closed the door and climbed the stone stairs to the overlook. After Gledrick braced himself, I shouted, “Ba’aash Ki.”

Gledrick’s grip tightened. His temples pulsed and his skin turned red. He clenched his jaw. After a moment, he gasped and dropped the bone cylinder. My heart sank and my head rested against the stone banister. Again, I had caused more harm than good.

When I looked again, Gledrick seemed to have recovered, though his breath still came in gulps. He dabbed some sweat from his head and, looking up, simply stated, “I heard it.”

“Heard what?” called Aimon.

“The message.”

I hurried down the stairs to unlatch the door for him.

Gledrick’s look was serious. “A voice in my head said, ‘The Blackspears march. I know you have failed me. The enemy‚Äôs champions still live. Gruncheck will deal with them. You will meet him in four days where the river meets the lake. He will deliver your punishment.’”

We all looked at each other. Gledrick said it first, “We know exactly where Gruncheck will be in four days.” I started shaking my head.

AImon added, “There’s only one river to the north that would be worthy of note. I know the way.” I shook my head more.

“We can finally take him out,” they nearly sung out together. I shook faster, but they didn’t seem to notice…or care.

My mind reeled with questions. Who are the Blackspears? An orc tribe? That should be easy enough to research. More importantly, who was this message meant for? Do they have another way to receive it, or will they miss the appointment? Whose voice was giving orders to the likes of Gruncheck and the others. How many other bone cylinders were there? Who had them? Will Gruncheck have an escort? Is he with the Blackspeers? Do we really want to be there?

My thoughts were jarred when a dwarven fist knocked into my chest. I staggered and started a mild bout of The Cough. “Yes,” he said plainly, “It hurt like the Nine Hells.”

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Adventure Log for Session 14++
Dark Auras and Conflict

Refreshed! For the first time in more than two weeks, I slept until I was refreshed.

Excited! For the first time since the death of Master Vontaze, I was excited about my work. My research. I had his books. I had some sort of magical device to explore. I had puzzles from the Underdark and from the fey woods. I had time!

I settled on the bone cylinder with scrimshaw for my first object of research. I looked up some of the symbols, but only found one in a reference book about the gods. The symbol, goat eyes in a skull surrounded, is a seldom-used icon for Bane, God of War and Conquest.

I used my scrying spell to discern more and to my surprise, I found myself looking upon raw pain. The aura was of a deep red hue, tinted with black on the edges. It looked like long, barbed thorns sticking out of the bone in all directions. In fact, after seeing the aura, I become more afraid about touching it and lancing myself. Of course, auras don’t work in that way, but the image cried out to my mind. In addition to the needles, long tendrils came from the ends and hovered in the air. My gasp at the aura sent the tendrils quivering, and a little testing showed they responded to sound. As I turned the bone, I found two unfamiliar symbols outlined. I copied them down and poured through the library..

A couple hours and an untouched breakfast later, I found the symbols in another book on archaic languages. The symbols, pronounced Ba’aash Ki, roughly translate to ‘command me to suffer’ or maybe ‘grant me suffering.’ The barbed thorns in the aura came to mind.

Given these clues, I began postulating the purpose of the device. The tendrils response to sound made me think of this as a listening device. Perhaps they respond to other types of magical messaging as well. The use of such a rare archaic language made me think it was meant to be a secret, or used in secrecy. My wand, by comparison, was quite easy to employ with it’s use of a common elvish word. If my suppositions were correct, this may allow some sort of communication. And, my final assumption, the thorny aura would actually inflict the pain it implies in the magical energy. This was more of a fear than a conclusion. How could something look so painful, and not inflict pain?

I came out of the library, almost in a fever. Maybe, I had actually found a way to help my friends without putting them in danger. Maybe, we could listen to our enemies. I hoped the reverse wasn’t true.

My joy fled when Gledrick and Aimon arrived and announced that I must pack immediately to go to the northern mountains. I assured them that my research was more critical. In fact, I’d already had a minor breakthrough. They obviously couldn’t understand the importance and insisted again. They pushed. I resisted. They argued. I protested. Gledrick, as always, spoke plainly.

“This is stupid. Get packed. You’re going.”

The conversation eventually escalated to a point where Aimon challenged me to defend my decisions.

“We need you, ”/characters/robinov" class=“wiki-content-link”>Robinov! Why won’t you come with us?"

Gledrick, attempting some sort of compromise suggested I could do my research on the road. Silly dwarf!

“You don’t want me with you!” I stated with more emotion than I intended.

“Why not?” pushed Aimon.

I couldn’t help the sudden torrent of emotion. “I killed ”/characters/alexey-darkstep" class=“wiki-content-link”>Alexey, except for your knowledge of healing. I have been more of a burden than a help, falling twice to mere goblins – again, relying on your healing. I couldn’t protect Brogue. I couldn’t help Omlet. I let the worgs kill Gledrick. The Cough is going to ruin us at some point. You and Gledrick and Alexy are always putting yourself in danger to try to protect me." I took a breath…finally.

“You’re forgetting..” started Aimon. But, I interrupted with the coup de gras, “I couldn’t even run across a log to your aid when you were under attack. Alexey had to rescue me from the damned log!”

Gledrick turned his head away for a moment. His neck turned red. Aimon paused, shook his head, and started again.

“You’re forgetting how many times you’ve saved one of us.” He stepped toward me. “You somehow turned a bugbear on his own kind. You put goblins to sleep faster than Gledrick puts down ales in the Bludgeoning Ogre. Alexey would have died anyway, with that swarm covering him and you simply gave him, and us, a chance. You,” here he assumed an air of officiality," Robinov the Bugbear Slayer, stole Gledrick’s kill with a mere flick of your dagger."

Silence held it’s breath between us.

Despite my best attempt, I couldn’t help a small grin at the last comment. Gledrick had been so mad he took his aggression out on a poor goblin warrior that never even saw him coming. Splat!

We all breathed again. “I need two days,” I said. I had a new spell partly researched and I wanted to finish if I could.

Gledrick nodded. “You’ll have them.”

Maybe Gledrick is right. Maybe I can do some reading on the journey.

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Adventure Log for Session 14+
Preparing for Research

My deep slumber, predictably interrupted by the summons of the city council, only lasted a few hours and failed to refresh. Fifteen minutes later, I sat at the large table in City Hall. I waited. Five minutes. Alexey and Aimon showed. Ten minutes. Tea was served. Twenty minutes were peppered with small talk. My eyes rested on an impressive suit of ancient dwarven armor displayed in the corner. As I pondered why it was here, Gledrick finally arrived. Likely the runner sent for him didn’t know to look in The Bludgeoning Ogre.

Konnor Hale started the conversation by asking about the surviving woodsmen. All eyes turned to Alexey. He couldn’t speak and simply looked down at his hands in his lap. Aimon reported that only Egsy and Sven remained. Alexey convulsed in his chair and his quiet sob tore the silence.

“Thar is no blame here,” announced Burdick, drawing all the eyes to him again. “They volunteered. We all new the risks. Thar is no blame to lay on anyone.”

We all nodded, except Alexey.

The conversation turned to a review of what we had seen and experienced on our journey. Aimon took the lead, but I was very particular about highlighting the need for research on each point. Aimon described the encounter with the swarm of insects at the pixie’s house. I pointed out the similarities to Andor‘s cabin that needed research. Aimon mentioned that Gruncheck traveled north to try to recruit help from orcs. I stated that research into the orc tribes and methods may help us prepare. Aimon talked about the strange skrimshaw bone we found. Another clear example of my need to research. At every turn, I pushed. I’d need weeks to research everything, maybe even months. I would begin tomorrow, after a long sleep.

The council discussed tactics and readiness for the town. The key point rested on how to effectively defend the borders of the town, including the docks, since the hobgoblins apparently built ships. After much debate, and a vote, we all agreed that the mines would be much easier to defend, though I dislike the idea of putting the entire town in a bottle. I brought up the question about the mines tapping into the Underdark.

This spurred another debate which wasn’t settled until Gledrick’s venerable father came into the council room and talked about the mines – his mines. He claimed they were far too young to have found their way down that far. He recalled a few goblin scouts or patrols wandering in over the years, but doesn’t think hobgoblins ever made it into the mines. This put an end to any opposition and drew the meeting to a close. Hammer Hill will recede into the protective belly of the mines.

Gledrick stayed to talk with Burdick as the rest of us filed out. I found myself outside The Bludgeoning Ogre, in want of food and drink. I decided to try a seldom used spell, and after a moment, walked into the inn as… Gledrick the dwarf. I sat down in Gledrick’s normal seat and within seconds a tall ale and a hot stew were set in front of me. The barkeep asked whether I wanted to settle the tab. Knowing I had Gledrick’s looks, but not his voice, I merely shook my head in a dwarvenly contemplative manner.

I left, walked to my bedroom at the university, and fell into a dreamless void.

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Adventure Log for Session 14
Put Some Hair On Your Cookies

With the retreating boat finally out of Aimon’s range, he decided to hike back and retrieve the caravan. This left Alexey, Gledrick and me with a few hours to kill. I searched the tents, finding nothing but a few grotesquely-soiled, woven cloths. I assumed they served as bedrolls. The wind had picked up, driving a touch a winter from the northwest. After moving the putrid blankets out of the tent, I found the smell tolerable and the wind much less biting.

The crunching sounds of 40 people walking into camp woke me with a start. I reassembled myself quickly, stepped out of the tent and helped direct the vagabond prisoners toward the boats. I was surprised to find two smaller boats in addition to the mid-sized skiffs. Gledrick and Alexey found them during a search along the shore while I napped. Though I didn’t intend to sleep, once again I’d failed to pull my weight.

Loading the boats with people and gear took some time. It’s a good thing we were not rushed through the process by the enemies on our trail. We were able to take everything except the livestock. Hopefully, one of the mules or horses is clever enough to lead the way to Hammer Hill. As I watched a few men struggle to load some of the gear, my thoughts went back to Brogue, who could have loaded the boat single-handedly. My moment of regret shattered when Gledrick started pushing me into one of the larger boats. I found a seat toward the middle, thinking that might be the best position against the roil of the Lake of the Clouds.

The trip was cold and swift. Except for the distant south, towering mountains surrounded us like Gods looking down on their creation. Great plumes of snow whirled off the highest peaks. The two skiffs quickly outpaced the two smaller craft. I felt pretty fair during the voyage, keeping my stomach tightly under control. The only time I started to feel sea-tossed was after a swig of Gledrick’s brew. I was sitting still, even rocking a little with the boat, focused on the distant horizon where Hammer Hill would soon show. Suddenly, a thick, hairy arm stretched over my shoulder holding a water skin.

“Put some hair on your cookies,” croaked the voice of the dwarf.

One swig later, I could no longer anticipate the rolls of the skiff. I’d roll right while my stomach and the boat went left. I never actually got sick, but the strain pushed me to my limits. When Gledrick offered another swig, I told him his brew was best enjoyed on dry land and I would wait for such a time. The arm withdrew, but I suspect it found another victim.

We all heard the staccato cries of the hammers before we could see Hammer Hill. As we came within view, we could hear sawing and construction sounds that were not typically part of the cacophony. As we drew even closer, there was a sparkling moment of recognition. A cry went up from the docks. People ran to the end of the pier. Others ran toward the town center. Fingers pointed. Hands waved. Voices called. Even Burdick Chainsunder, in his great bearskin cloak, lumbered down the dock.

“I never doubted,” he shouted more than once over the open waters.

Finally docked and moored, we piled out of the boats. There were hugs, tears, silent gasps and great cries. During the commotion, I slipped away from the docks and made my way to the University. It seems Gledrick had a similar idea. I saw him down the street, as he faced a small boy brandishing a tinker’s hammer, holding a lid to a small pot, and wearing a cloth roughly folded into the shape of a wizard’s hat. The dwarf pulled up short. (heh) “Brave lad!” he declared, sending the boy scurrying off with a grin his cheeks could barely contain.

Dadrigor greeted me warmly, showed me to my room, where a great stack of books waited my return. He brought a warm cup of tea as I looked through the titles. “These are them?” I asked. He nodded.

“Thank you, my friend.”

He nearly smiled as he backed out of the room.

I couldn’t even finish the tea before slumping over the desk into a death of sleep.

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Adventure Log for Session 13+
A Safe Path to Hammer Hill

A steady snow muffled our approach to the shore. Aimon and Alexey crept ahead, and then told us there were three medium skiffs and a small camp. “We can take them,” urged Alexey. I nodded absently, thinking more about the resources and organization required to build ships. What could muster goblins and hobgoblins to this level of cooperation? It’s true, hobgoblins can be crafty at times, but it frightens me when I think about the materials, skills, labor, and planning to build even a small fleet of three ships. Someone must be driving all of this.

Still distracted by the thoughts of the bigger picture, I simply obeyed as Alexey told me to quietly move forward. I crouched and stepped carefully. The stillness of the snow swallowed the sound of my approach. I peered over a small rise and into the camp just in time to hear a soft ‘twang’ and see an arrow bite deeply into a bugbear. The beast roared and charged Gledrick, who just emerged from behind a bush. The dwarf tightened the grip on his hammer and grinned.

My quick survey of the area showed a few goblins with bows charging into deep brush. Mechanically, my hands and mouth started a Dormiris spell, which came out quickly and penetrated into the undergrowth. I couldn’t see whether the spell worked, and suddenly I heard Master Vontaze in my ear. “Step one, protect yourself.” “Always cast your shield first.” “What can you do if you are exposed?”

I cowered behind Aimon.

The arrow from the bushes never came, and I began to think the spell worked. I looked up. Goblins were running everywhere. Gledrick stepped up, shield bashed two attacks, and then struck hard against the bugbear. I watched as Alexey materialized out of some shadows right next to the bugbear. The rogue brandished a sword and a dagger and looked rabid. Over his shoulder, however, a second bugbear charged from his blindside.

I pulled out my wand, gripped it tightly, and shouted, “Mell’on.” A warm energy flowed from my chest, down my arm and across the open space to the second bugbear. He paused in his charge. His fierce look relaxed and his eyes sought mine. I smiled and nodded, then called to him in my broken goblin tongue, “My friend, we need your help.” His brows creased and he stepped toward the main fight. Again, Master Vontaze haunted my inner mind. “Do the goblins sleep, or do they take careful aim.” “Where is your shield?” “You didn’t protect yourself.”

Once again, I cowered.

Gledrick’s hammer whistled with the force of his swing and the disturbing crunch hung in the air for a moment before the bugbear’s body thundered to the ground. I began to think we’d gained the upper hand, when a sharp pain shot through my leg. Vontaze was right. I looked down, expecting to find an arrow. Instead, I found a goblin had crawled through the brush and stuck me with his sword. I staggered backwards, unable to catch my balance and prepare a spell. The goblin stood and stepped toward me, readying his sword for another swing. The sword never came forward. In a bloody shower, an arrow from Aimon’s new bow burst clean through the body of the goblin. The small creature crashed to the earth.

I finally took a few seconds to cast shield on myself. Protect myself first. “Yes, Master Vontaze! I won’t forget,” shouted my leg.

Another sickly crunch drew my attention. I saw my bugbear friend standing over a dead goblin and look at me. “Gling Gra!” (“Thank you!”) It looked pleased. With no enemies in the immediate area, I limped toward the bushes where I hoped to find two unconscious goblins. The bugbear followed closely. We each killed one of the sleeping goblins. When I killed mine, the bugbear grunted a laugh, and told me something in goblin that might translate as, “Good one, Little Bit!”

Near the shore, in front of two beached skiffs, the battle continued. Aimon’s arrows stuck into a strange looking goblin clothed in a cloak. Two hobgoblin archers fired at Gledrick, causing the dwarf to howl wildly. The cloaked goblin chanted in an unknown language, and spread his arms wide. A desperate doom crept into my mind, and I struggled to fight it off. Gledrick crushed a hobgoblin. Aimon fired again. Then, out of nowhere, in a flurry of flashing steel, Aimon appeared and cut down the cloaked goblin with sword and dagger.

One of the ships had departed, and I asked my bugbear friend to keep his eye on where it went. Then, I departed to search the tents. While I was gone, the final hobgoblin was killed, and Alexey used his newly-learned, two-handed attack to slay the bugbear. I even heard that Aimon fired a long shot and hit the lone hobgoblin on the fleeing vessel.

With our victory secured, Alexey pointed out that we could use the two remaining ships to take the caravan to Hammer Hill. I wish I’d thought of it. It’s such an obvious choice and gives us a safe path home. I hope some of the merchants know something about sailing.

We departed, with a few limps and groans, to find the caravan.

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Adventure Log for Session 13
Of Auras and Magics

Our encounter with the pixie and the swarm of centipedes took most of the morning. A fact Tresa harped on when we finally came back to the caravan. She kept hissing the words, “duty” and “off task” as she organized and directed the caravan to follow Aimon. Gledrick took the rear guard again. I originally thought he wanted to keep watch for warg riders tracking us through the light snow. That may be true, but I now think he is even more motivated to be far from Tresa.

A long day’s journey through a slowly accumulating snow left us all tired. We broke a little before dusk, when Aimon found another excellent camp that protected us from weather and prying eyes. Morning came too soon and witnessed a camp that was very slow to stir. Tresa tried to move everyone more quickly, but we all felt the pangs of too much travel, loss and fear and too little food, rest and warmth.

During my morning study, I prepared a spell to scrye for any magical energies around Aimon’s newly found, old family bow. When I found him distracted, I cast my spell on the bow. I could hear Master Vontaze lecture in my ear while I looked at the aura. “There are three kinds of magical energy,” he would say. “‘Energy that gives’ glows with a living color, typically brighter than one finds in nature. ‘Energy that takes’ appears muted and shadowed, though it can have color. ‘Energy that is shared’ mostly shows up as a neutral or metalic color. But,” he would warn, “you still must use your mind to interpret the energy of the aura. It doesn’t give answers away like an old gypsy woman.”

I looked at Aimon’s bow under the effects of the spell. An aura, best described as a gold color, shone around the bow. In addition, a long strand of the gold aura extended out the front of the bow, narrowing down to a sharp point like a long funnel. The metallic color suggested the magical energies of the bow shared their powers with the wielder. The long aura out the front suggested an arrow… maybe a direction…or a pointer. Although this aura would be invisible to the user, it’s effects might act on the arrow in flight. I formed my first premise, that the magic of the bow helped guide the archer and the arrow to achieve better accuracy.

I thought about other possible meanings of the aura during another day’s long march. I considered the pointer aura working in the opposite way, attracting arrows toward the wielder. I thought about how it might guide someone carrying the bow toward other magical items or a certain place. I even considered whether a closer examination might show a trigger word to cause the bow to cast a light in the direction of the pointed aura. Eventually, I decided these other theories were a result of cold, wet, tired feet and I went back to my original idea.

By this time, Aimon had selected another camp and I fell, exhausted, into my bedroll. I didn’t even eat an evening meal before drifting off to sleep. It seemed like minutes later, Aimon and Alexey woke me. They excitedly, but incoherently, talked about some boats on The Lake of the Clouds, only a few hours away. Then, they left to find Gledrick who fell asleep under one of the small carts.

After they woke me again, I studied for a while, and then cast the scrying spell on the wand the pixie gave me. A light blue glow emanated from the wand. Within the aura itself, brighter lines formed the elven character for “Mell’on” one of their words for friend. As I followed Aimon and Alexey through the dark forest, I contemplated the aura. Clearly, “mell’on:” was the trigger word embedded within the aura itself. I’d never seen a wand before, but Master Vontaze told us how the trigger word would show itself. Of course, it’s still up to the wizard to decipher the meaning, assuming they can even read the word. For this case, I guessed the trigger would cause a charge of magical energy to fly to a target and perhaps make an enemy more friendly toward us. Or, less likely, it could summon some sort of friend to join us. No telling how long that might take.

“Wands and staves,” Master Vontaze cautioned, “are a dangerous business unless you make your own. Until you cast them, you can’t really know what they may do. Oh, the ones with simple spells can be fairly harmless, as long as you’re not too attached to your eyebrows.” He rarely laughed, but this joke always got him going for several minutes. “But, with more serious magic, you should only experiment in a secure place. There are profound powers in the world, some of them able to mask the true nature of an aura, some able to hide a trigger word, and some able to cause great pain and even death to an unskilled meddler.”

I had been warned.

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Adventure Log for Session 12+
Mysteries of a Fey Wood

A restless sleep eventually yielded to a haunted consciousness. The griefs that chased me in the night, greeted me in the dull gray morning. I mechanically stirred and started my morning studies. I had been caught once without fully preparing my spells. By Master Vontaze, I won’t be caught again.

I lost track of time while I poured the arcane energies into my mind. The sun was up, and the camp stirred when I finally gave up my study. Aimon came into camp, breathless. His eye found me, and as he headed toward me, he anxiously sought Gledrick and Alexey. Once gathered, he told us he had found a feykind in the woods – a brownie, or perhaps a pixie. Gledrick laughed at the idea of a childhood story come to life, but Aimon insisted. We followed him, and sure enough some small creature flew about and babbled quickly about troubles at home. He, or she, or it, begged us to follow and deal with something “most unnatural.”

None of us knew what to expect, but we followed the strange being through the forest. After a short while, I noticed the trees carried more color. The air held more warmth. The earth itself bore more life. I cannot tell what place we entered, but it was no mere wood.

The pixie led us to the calmest place I have ever seen. In the center of the glade was a tight bundle of trees and brush with a door-like opening – his home. He was quite distraught about it, and we soon saw why. A massive swarm of legs and pincers soon poured out the door. There must have been thousands of centipedes, acting as a gigantic, mindful mass. They instantly swarmed over Gledrick and Aimon before we knew what happened. Their howls tore the sweet silence of this beautiful place.

Aimon managed to light a torch, but the affect on the swarm was minuscule. I could barely make out my two friends under the mass of writhing insects and found myself at a loss. How do I attack such a mass? Eventually, I used my arcane link with my ring to cast a ray of frost at the mass. My friends howled even more, but some of the centipedes fell away from the mass. Gledrick yelled something about his nipples chafing on his armor. Dwarves are a strange lot.

Gledrick and Aimon finally broke free and ran from the swarm. They dove through thick brush and scraped off some of the bugs. Alexey, however, became the next victim. He was completely engulfed by legs and pincers and he shrieked with pain. With only one more useful spell readied, I began a familiar chant and sent a greenish orb of acid flying toward Alexey. His shriek sputtered into an awful silence as he fell to the ground…motionless.

It finally happened. I’d actually killed one of my friends. I knew it was only a matter of time.

The bugs continued to writhe over Alexey, feasting on his limp body. I stood stunned at my gaff. Aimon gathered himself and swept a torch over some of the remaining bugs. Gledrick lit his blanket on fire and dragged it over the swarm. My two companions had finished off the swarm, as I stood and watched. How can they trust me any more? I failed them all.

Aimon brushed the remaining centipedes from Alexey, stomping the few with enough life to pose a threat. The rogue had no color in his face, except some scarlet splotches where my acid siphoned his life away. With healing kit in hand, Aimon worked on Alexey and soon his breathing was visible again. Saved. I believed I had been saved as much as Alexey.

The next few minutes were very strange. The pixie buzzed around happily, chattering and bouncing through the air. He gave an intricately carved bow to Aimon. I took a close look, but none of the carvings meant anything to me. Even more strangely, the pixie gave a torn piece of paper to Aimon, and it nearly brought the elf to tears. He told us it was a page from his mother’s journal. It must be 60 years old, a mere childhood to an elf, but I had only half so many years myself.

The pixie also gave me what looks like a wand. Master Vontaze taught me about these, but I had never seen one. There are many markings on it, and I know some of them must tell about the type of wand, and the casting word. Who knows what else I may find when I research it. I’m intrigued and cannot wait to get back to the library. I have much to do.

Aimon had a chance to look at the burrows made my the centipedes and described them as unnatural and driven. Strange words to describe insects in a forest. What could drive them? Why here? It brings to mind the unnatural and timely events in Andor’s cabin. Could there be a link? We have too many disparate clues and no means of tying them together.

As we left for the camp, Aimon and I watched closely to see how the fey world dissolved into the forest known to us mortals. Although I watched closely, I could never find where the one ended and the other began. Aimon says he saw where it happened. I want to research this as well. There are too many subjects that required a focused mind. I shall spend the next years pulling on these threads of knowledge. Thankfully, I will be too busy for more field work.

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