Joining the Caravan

Allyson and Alfred Sweetvine found many caravans forming in Loudwater, where they went to look for work as guards. Alfred could offer some bardic rituals to make the caravan travel faster, and Allyson could offer, well her sword. They chatted with the Loudwater factor for Turlough’s Steel, Kresh and the chief guard Kargil, who tested them, along with a gnome wizard named Gnif, and a mysterious southern redhead named Max on a bunch of giant bugs of some sort in a pen.

They passed the test and all were hired, since there were serious worries this spring about bandits and an upswell in hostilities from the kobold cohorts.

That evening at the local tavern, Gnif met a girl gnome! Her name was Wynn, and she was a druid just starting out, patrolling the South Woods. Wynn seemed very friendly, and Gnif spent the evening talking to her. They also heard a rumor about a book or a scroll or something that had been stolen from the Tower of Vellum

In any case they were hired and set off with the caravan, which was headed for Waterdeep but need extra guards until it reached Daggerford.

Caravan to Daggerford

The caravan proceeded well at first, despite a little trouble from some kobold raiders, and some stirges at the waterhole. That night after supper, stories are told around the campfire. Gwyneth, traveling to Waterdeep with her two sons, Jacob and Nathan, tells the story of Hansel and Gretel. Merrill, a passenger who has otherwise kept to himself, tells of an intrepid soul who used a ritual to bind a demon and have it grant him a wish, but he was a fool. Kargil tells of fighting some zombies in these parts, years ago. Cedric, a merchant, tells that he heard there was once a temple to Orcus in these parts, though it was sealed long ago.

The next morning, Kargil is very sick. Gwyneth has some healing lore and tells the other guards that she needs them to find some selsun plants which grow nearby. So Allyson, Alfred, Max and Gnif go out to find the, and return with enough to ensure that Kargil has a speedy recovery.

Which was fortunate because the caravan was ambushed later that day by some bandits who used giant beetles and smoke pots to sow confusion. Kargil was well enough to fire his crossbow from his seat on a wagon. Once the bandits saw that the caravan was heavily guarded, they tried to simply grab cargo and run off. The leader fought with Allyson, but with some help from Kargil and others, he was defeated as well.

The next morning the company awoke to find that Jacob was missing, along with Merrill. Nathan says he saw Merrill looking at an old scroll, and when Merrill went to relieve himself, Nathan peeked at it and it said something about “rectivating” it in the name of “Ocrus”, and how it needed a “vigrin”.

From this the party concluded that Merrill was trying to reactivate the nearby shrine to Orcus, using Jacob as a virgin sacrifice.

After a very tiring overland trek to find the temple, they finally arrived and found a very old fenced area with just a few buildings and a larger underground temple.

At the temple entrance, deactivated a divinely powered trap, and many undead were put to rest before the party confronted a hooded Merrill standing before an altar with Jacob upon it, engaged in some elaborate ritual.

A battle ensued, in which the party discovered that somehow Merrill had transformed into a ghoul, while retaining his memories and identity as Merrill. Alfred darted in and grabbed Jacob off of the altar, while the others fought bravely against Merrill and his undead minions, finally defeating them and putting them back to the earth, and disrupting the ritual.

They returned to the caravan, which Kargil was guarding and the rest of the trip to Daggerford was uneventful.

Night of the Black Hoods
Would you like some gnome legs with that?

The party, Allyson and Alfred Sweetvine, Gnf the Gnome and Max, agreed to continue on from Daggerford to Waterdeep so that they could better find work, and so that they could accept Gwyneth’s invitation to stay at her sister’s and accept a proper reward for rescuing Jacob.

They stayed at the house of Gwyneth’s sister Glynn and her husband Hannes Silverman, a jeweler. Next door, there was a bakery that all visited in the morning. The baker, a half-orc by the name of Oleg Frunk was a jolly sort, and offered all manner of pastries with names such as Orc Claws, Dragon Tails, Deva Ears, and Gnf’s favorite, Gnome Legs. He nearly terrified poor Gnf out of his wits with a fixed stare and a hostile demand, “Well, do you like it?!!” But this soon dissolved into a huge smile and belly laugh, and a large handful of extra treats to show he meant no offense. At about this time, his wife came into the shop and scolded him, good naturedly for scaring the customers. He pointed out to Alfred the Eladrin Noses, a sort of conical pastry, with the remark, “y’see they always point up!”

At Waterdeep, Gnf quickly found The Great Library but had trouble getting in. However, a somewhat frazzled researcher named Calfalas came to his rescue, and in return received help in his research from Gnf.

Calfalas was interested in researching rituals having to do with teleportation, since there seemed to be a problem with some of the teleportals recently. He and Gnf made a catalog of all the teleportation type rituals that they could find. Together, they managed to make a basic catalog of them, crossed referenced by historical period of origin and by any religious connotations, too. This will make a nice basis for further study.

Calfalas explained to Gnf that he was a devotee of Oghma, and in particular was a member of the Order of Olde Magicks, devoted to the preservation of arcane knowledge, even such knowledge that perhaps was not safe to be widely known. Upon questioning by Gnf, Calfalas intimated that he thought the scroll that Merrill had used was in fact a trap, made to look like a ritual to reactivate the Black Head of Orcus, but would in fact turn the ritual caster into a ghoul.

With some prompting, Gnf recalled the rumor that Wyn had told him about some book or scroll being stolen from the Tower of Vellum in the South Woods. Allyson later recalled doing the fellow that lived there a favor by chasing off some of the gnome children that would dare each other to throw rocks at it, or run up and knock on the door. Alfred strolled about town trying to not stare at the three and four(!) story buildings. He managed to find a small wooden church of Mielikke, with a nice garden outside, and made a donation. Then he went to the (much larger) church of Sune where, after making a donation in his father’s name, he did the Rite of Seeking, plunging his hand into a deep vase and coming up with a stone with a nice streak of crystal through it. This was for a small donation, of course.

Allyson and Max went to a nearby tavern and watched people come and go. In one corner, a halfling lad and an elf girl had only eyes for each other and murmured to one another much to each other’s bemusement. However, another bar patron seemed to take offense to them, to the point of calling over a barmaid and having some words about it. The barmaid responded that she didn’t think they were interested in serving those Black Hood types, and the customer left angrily.

Some time later, a figure appeared at the doorway. Disheveled, with wild gray beard and hair, walking stick in one hand, and with a eye that looked into a different plane, he came in and ordered a flagon. Looking around on this plane, he spied Max and, in seeming recognition, he said, “Ahh you, you’ve been fighting zombies”.

Coming over to Max’s and Allyson’s table he asked if Allyson was Max’s girlfriend, but Max said no, just a partner. The man told Max that Max had a destiny, and that he knew this because “the dog”-indicating some empty air-had told him. It seemed as though the dog told him many things. He left abruptly as well, as the “dog” had told him there was another message to deliver.

On the way back to the Silverman’s they noticed some figures in black robes and hoods talking with Oleg. They appeared to have threatening postures, but this seemed to have little impact on Oleg, him being a very stout-figured fellow. When Allyson made their presence known, the black hoods departed with muttered threats.

At the party, they met several residents of Waterdeep, including Eldreth Deepwater, guildmaster of the Waterdeep Jeweler’s Guild and his daughter Melia, Alden Goldsmith, another prominent member of the guild, and Chess Silverman, Hannes’ brother and a Sergeant of the City Guard.

They received a some very nice presents as thank-yous for rescuing Jacob: An Amulet of Mental Defense +1, Magic Leather Armor +1, Fireburst Cloth +1, and Delver’s Hide +1, along with 700gp.

At the party, Eldreth explained that he came to have the name Deepwater because he has the belief that all creatures with shen can and should live in harmony, though he is under no illusion that this is easy or will be universal. Since that is how Waterdeep operates, he took the name Deepwater in honor of the city, and lives there instead of isolating himself with other Eladrin or in the Feywild.

Melia eventually begged Alfred to play more songs on his pipes or sing, and Alfred bargained for a kiss. She stewed a little, but obliged with a peck on the cheek, earning Alfred a glare from Allyson, but no notice from Eldreth.

There was talk of the Kobold Legions and confirmation that the teleportals were not working correctly. In fact, some sort of accident had occurred. This puts even more pressure on the caravan resources, given that new gold mines have recently been opened up in the Nether Mountains. Chess is impressed with the party, and tells them that if they ever want a job on the Watch, they should talk to him. He’s otherwise worried about reports about fellas in black hoods skulking about town in a threatening manner.

And so a good time was had by all. The next day involved shopping, registering at Turlough’s Steel, research at The Great Library by Gnf, and a visit to The Coal Mine, reputed to be the tavern with the best performers in the business. Syra Smoke, the great gnome torch-song singer, impressed Alfred with her stage presence and ability to work the audience. After that, some half-orcs, a goblin, and a shifter or two, gave an instrumental act. It was mostly drumming, and somehow related to the goblin drumming Alfred had heard in the South Wood, but it was both more wild and fierce, and yet more controlled. A true marvel.

In any case, all returned to the Silverman’s for supper, and just as it was finishing up, a ruckus was heard outside. Some fellows in black robes and hoods were smashing the window of Oleg’s Bakery, and threatening Oleg with an axe. A battle ensued, and Oleg pulled out a huge maul from behind his counter and joined the fray with a howl of battle-joy.

Once that group was defeated, a look around showed smoke, and other dark figures distant in the twilight. Many other bands of Black Hoods were about, and causing mischief. Oleg asked the party to help him get his wife Festa and their two children to the Watchhouse. The party agreed, navigating the streets and fighting off another band of Black Hoods.

At the Watchhouse, Chess told the party that the Captain had been drugged, and that this had slowed down the response of the Watch considerably. He thought they had it going well now, but could the party see if they couldn’t track down a meeting place for these Black Hood fellows.

Walking the streets, the group slowly narrowed in on the meeting place. One black hood was captured and intimidated into giving more information. At one point Alfred even pretended to be a sympathizer, and was told to look in a warehouse with the mark of the four squares. Between the use of sharp eyes and ears, and scouting by stealth, the party found a warehouse with four squares in yellow painted on it, and two black-hooded guards at the door.

Gnf summoned a shadowy serpent which crawled through a gap between the wall and the floor, and allowed Gnf to get a look at the interior, since he could see through the serpent’s eyes. Unfortunately, the guards spotted the serpent and were set to “go tell the boss”, when Oleg charged them and dropped them both.

The party then put on some black robes and hoods and walked in, pretending to be part of the group. Inside the building were many banners and decorations declaring “The Foursquare Company” and it’s four principles “Humanity”, “Integrity”, “Purity” and “Security”. A raised platform held a man in black robes and hood, only these robes were of finer quality and had some ornamentation, denoting status of some sort.

As the party entered, he called to them, “Hello my friends, and how goes it?” Alfred bluffed a response to the effect of it going well with fires burning and the unclean running. It sounded marvelous to Allyson, but The Hooded One was suspicious. “I don’t know your voice! What is your name?” Again Alfred was able to give a name that sounded in perfectly in character for Waterdeep, but perhaps it was some other sort of name that was sought, and The Hooded One blasted the party with some sort of thunderous crash, commanded the Black Hoods to attack the traitors and left via a rear door.

In the fight that ensued, Oleg was disabled for a period, but Alfred revived him. Max made fine use of an Offensive Challenge, narrowly evading attacks from a Black Hood Whip and a Black Hood Axeman.

In the aftermath, prisoners were taken, though some managed to escape. In the warehouse the party found a Lamp of Discerning, an Orb of Inevitable Continuance +1, a Frost Greatsword +1, and a Cloak of Resistance +1. The Watch were happy to let the party keep these items, since the attacks petered out once The Hooded One was chased off.

The one that surrendered did not know who The Hooded One was, and had never seen his face.

Bad Night at Redspring
I'll take anything but rat bars.

After the Night of the Black Hoods, Max went to relax in his favorite tavern, accompanied by Alfred and Allyson Sweetvine. Somehow the same old fella he’d seen before found him there and handed him a couple of vials, saying “He says you might need these.” He then looked down at the (still not visible to Max) dog and, after listening, told Max, “Oh, and he says not worry, it won’t change you, it will just make you stink.”

While Max pondered that, Gnf was helping Calfalas do some more research. They discovered that there were many kinds of teleportation: Arcane, Divine, travel through the Feywild, and even Primal powered teleportation. Presumably there is also Shadow teleportation as well, though this wasn’t discussed. Calfalas thinks that a trip to a site that has been used by teleportals may be interesting and useful, he’s going to research a good spot, and when he finds one, would like some accompaniment there.

The party was then summoned to Turlough’s Steel, and told that they had been hired by the Jeweler’s Guild and that they should contact Alden Goldsmith for further details. He says that the clients were looking for something a bit higher level, but the Plumbers and Cellarers hired away all the other talent for some secret mission, probably in the Waterdeep Sewers, which are unique among sewers in not stinking to high heaven.

The go to Goldsmith’s shop in the posh section of time, getting a good look at the Waterdeep Tower in that neighborhood. Goldsmith tells them how much he appreciates what they did the other night, and how much Chess Silverman has been talking them up. Hannes Silverman thinks that he will be supplied with free pastries for quite some time.

They are ushered into Goldsmith’s private office, where Eldreth Deepwater awaits them. He tells them that they are to guard a caravan shipping gold bullion from Silverymoon to Waterdeep, but that job is merely a cover for another mission. There is a Very Important Person that they are to meet in Redspring, a small town on the south edge of the Glimmerwood. They are to escort this person to Waterdeep. There will be payment of 1000gp each on delivery of said person. The catch is this: the person is an orc, an emissary of the newly-founded Kingdom of ManyArrows. Deepwater gives Alfred a signet right, the emissary will have an exact duplicate. It shows a cowled figure with rough features and a patch over one eye, standing in front of the Waterdeep Tower. On either side of the tower are bundles of arrows, placed as chevrons.

Deepwater thinks that the group is ideal for the mission. That’s why they arranged for all the other guards to be hired away. Furthermore, the party is given scrip to ride hippogriffs to Redspring. There, they will meet the emissary, and proceed to Silverymoon as guards. There are extra guard credentials provided, should they find extra willing, like-minded, and able-bodied souls.

They take up the offer to expense a little equipment by having Gnf brew up some healing potions. Extra rations are purchased, and the griffon master, who turns out to be a Genasi named Estelle, is consulted. Alfred does the visit and flirts with her a bit, pretending to be some VIP incognito. She seems doubtful of that, and figures Alfred is merely flirting.

In consequence, Alfred gets the most spirited mount, but seems able to control it. Gnf is tied to his mount, since he can’t reach the stirrups. The journey takes 5 days, which are long, hard on the hindquarters, and otherwise boring.

They land outside town to avoid notice and walk in. Redspring has a log stockade and many wooden buildings inside the stockade, and several tent camps outside. Most prominent is the Double Crescent Inn, run by a dwarf named Frodi Nibbleheim, who has magnificent whiskers and a somewhat pointy nose. Frodi is genial and loud, and a vocal follower of Selune. He wishes the Moon’s blessings on the party, who are seated under a large, open-sided tent which is pitched in the common area and supplied with tables. Waiting tables are Lida and Urd, who seem to be a couple. There’s something a bit off about their appearance, and Lida flinches visibly when Gnf makes a witicism about wanting something to eat other than rat bars.

They spot an orc sitting at a table under the tent with two companions, a shifter and a half-elf with a bow, both women. Approaches are made and contact is made. The orc is named Ugrun and his companions are Lyra and Aprilane. He is informed of the plan to hire him on as a caravan guard and he agrees, though he is worried about it seeming unusual.

The town is awash in gossip and rumors of The Queen of Beasts. The talk is that she’s taken a dislike to Respring, since it a base for much logging and mining activity in the area. A good portion of the population is from the region and is somewhat conflicted about the developments. They don’t like all the noise and treecutting, but they like the gold coin and Frodi’s ale. There is a large smithy in town, as well as a stable for carting animals.

In the afternoon, a very good looking youngish man comes out to the tent, and Frodi sees him and cautions him, “Everyone is welcome here, as long as they behave themselves, Lenz!” Lenz sneers him off and proceeds to drinking. Meanwhile, while traveling through the inn, Alfred finds a scene he had dreamed of only a few nights before: A young man and woman having a heated discussion in one corner of the inn. He wants her to leave, she protests that she doesn’t want to sleep on the ground, or get leaves in her hair, this is her home. He stomps off, and Alfred sits down and tries to flirt with her, to gain some information. She brushes him off, saying she has to work, but allows that her name is May.

Back outside, after some time, Lenz stands up and proclaims that the town and all of his listeners are an abomination to the Queen, but that by tomorrow none of it would matter, they are all doomed. He pours out his ale all over the ground (only the latest), and proceeds to unbutton as if to pour out the used ale as well. But before he can do that, Frodi appears out of nowhere and puts his dagger to Lenz’s most treasured parts, threatening to cut them off if Lenz took that line of display any further.

Lenz left disgruntled, but swearing that none of it mattered. Frodi, who is, in fact, the Mayor of Redspring, rings a bell on his porch and gathers the guard, who stand to the stockade, which has some walkways. The party volunteers their services, and he says he’d like to keep them together and use them as his reserve. May approaches Alfred, and, quite fearfully, asks that they not kill her lover if they can help it.

Not too much later, they get there chance as a heaving and creaking in the timbers of the stockade to one quarter commences. Traveling outside, the party finds some spellplagued badgers, undermining the stockade. The beat them down before they can manage to bring the wall down.

Back inside, Frodi is under attack from Lida and Urd, under the big tent. He curses them for this betrayal, saying he gave them a place in the world, and this is how they repay him? At this, they change form into that of human-sized rat-men (and woman) and attack him. The party rush forward to help him, and the people sitting at the tables rush to the sides once the fighting starts. It seems there they stop to watch, dumbfounded, but it seems that they were part of the betrayal, bringing the tent down on the party and Frodi. Urd is killed, but Lida manages to slip away, rats having an easier time of it burrowing out from under the canvas.

The “onlookers” have now gone into a rage and are attacking the party as they emerge from under the canvas, doing some damage before being dispatched.

Aprilane had noticed that there was some commotion in the smithy, and, since she moved that way before the canvas was dropped avoided being caught. So she was able to help put out that fire, which she believes they would have been able to stop in time. But events intervened.

After emerging from the tent and dispatching the ragers set upon him and Lyda, Alfred noticed more smoke than usual coming from the Double Crescent Inn. Rushing over to investigate, he found May’s boyfriend in the common room, looking for May. Alfred sent him upstairs, and looked downstairs himself. He found her and some other scullery maids in the kitchen, fighting a fire that had been set there, apparently by Lida. She doesn’t want to leave, even though the beams are creaking dangerously. Alfred convinces her that if she doesn’t leave her lover will die, so she comes with Alfred to safety outside.

Frodi thinks that Redspring is lost, he orders evacuation, and asks the party to guard their flanks as they leave. The party manages to fend off first some spellplagued bears and then, in the last of the attacks, Lenz, who is a werewolf, accompanied by two spellplagued mountain lions.

Dances With Gnomes
What do you mean WE, elf?

The refugees from Redspring marched until well after dark, accompanied by those employees of Turlough’s Steel that found themselves in their company after the Redspring had been attacked and burned by the The Queen of Beasts.

After a nervous night, they were attacked in the morning by a band of dire wolves. The wolves seemed infected by spellplague, though of a somewhat different form than had been seen before. Alfred questioned May and her boyfriend, but he didn’t know all that much about the Queen, other than she seems to move about a lot, and doesn’t often make specific claims of territory. She holds bonfires at which she supplies drink, there is drumming, she will speak for a bit and herbs are thrown on the bonfire.

Frodi Nibbleheim said that most of the Redspring refugees figured on going to Silverymoon which was where the party was headed, so they set out moving the caravan down the road in that direction.

But soon, small but significant differences were being noticed. Lyra noticed that the spirits of the places they were traveling had changed slightly. Spirits don’t speak in language exactly, but if they did they now had strange accents. Aprilane noticed that while the same types of birds were still present, the birdsong had changed, much like it does when you visit another region. Alerted to these changes, Gnf noticed that the road had become considerably less developed than when they had left Redspring, though he’s not really sure when it happened. Gnf noticed that the mana had shifted slightly, as from vanilla to chocolate.

Lyra had been through the area before and while the caravan kept moving, she studied the area. She observed that in the large it was the same, but there were many small differences. A bluff in the distances was less eroded than she remembered. The same animals were present, but they had different markings than usual, or grew to a moderately different size. That evening, it was observed that while the stars seemed to be the same, the moon and the planets took a slightly different course through them.

Gnf realized that this probably meant that the caravan had stumbled someohow on to the parallel world. The familiar world being Toril, and the parallel world being Abeir. In his researches with Calfalas, Gnf had run across a few such stories, where travelers somehow switched from one world to the next, or even where regions of Toril had been replaced with regions of Abeir. This seems to be another consequence of the Cataclysm.

Frodi pointed out that cities often exist where they do for geographical regions, so there might well be a city where Silverymoon is. The caravan continued.

The spirits, when questioned by Lyra, mentioned that orcs and elves lived in these parts, and that the orcs liked the spirits, but the elves didn’t have much to do with them.

About noon on the second day out from Redspring, they came to a river. Allyson and Ugrun had run ahead and had found a good ford, so they proceeded to take the wagons across, one by one. Allyson also pointed out the figures on the hill about a mile off, watching the proceedings, and said that someone had run off somewhere, while two remained watching.

The water came to mid-abdomen, so the wagons were taken across without unloading. Aprilane and Lyra helped manage the animals, while Max, Allyson and Ugrun helped to pull or push wagon that became stuck while crossing. Most of them went over well enough, but one became stuck in midstream, and no amount of heaving could free it. So Gnf did a ritual to conjure a Tenser’s Floating Disc, and lots of the material from the wagon was loaded on to it.

While this was going a large column of dust was seen approaching from beyond the far bank of the river. As the troublesome wagon was pulled up on the far bank, a very long line of figures appeared on the slope above the far bank. They were orcs, and they all had spears, snf carried white banners with black spears on them.

Alfred came forward, flanked by Allyson and Ugrun, with other party members hanging back. The leader was named Lungrik, chief of the Blackspear Tribe, and his chief shaman was his sister Lurtma with a few lesser chiefs attending. Lungrik stated that they could not pass, there were elves among them. Allyson declared “I am Orc, I have passed Bak Fa” and Ugrun stated “I am Orc, I have passed Bak Nur”. This made an impression, so further questioning was made. Lungrik was taken aback when Alfred referred to Allyson as his sister, and asked bluntly if there had been rape. Allyson bristled and said that this was an insult to her mother and her father. Lungrik was more amused than offended.

When asked to explain the caravan and the refugees, Alfred spoke of the Queen of the Beasts, but Lungrik had not heard of her or any like her. Lurtma was familiar with lycanthropes, but not so familiar with Shifters, their descendants.

Lurtma seemed keenly interested the party’s story of a different world, and asked a few questions, though the others seemed less interested.

One of the lesser chiefs that attended him objected to the way the conversation was going, “They are spies for the elves, sent to count our numbers and find our paths and ways!” But Lungrik had him well in hand. The caravan was offered the opportunity to undergo Bak Nur, and if seven of them were Orc, then they would be allowed to conduct their business in Blackspear tribal lands, moving their caravan through. “And don’t worry, Oogrik,” said the chief over his shoulder to the protester, “I’ll put you in charge of the Bak Nur.”

With that they pulled back, leaving about a third of their force as guards, while the rest of the wagons were brought across the ford.

Gnf and the others who didn’t speak orcish wanted to know what to expect from the Bak Nur. Ugrun said that it would involved hardship and danger, and skill at fighting. In his lands, it is a tournament, since they aspire to be more civilized. He also said he didn’t expect there to be much in the way of rules, orcs aren’t that big on rules, especially tribal orcs.

Lurtma visited the camp and provided more details, as well as questioning others about their travels and the dual worlds. Lyra offered details about the differences in the spirits of both worlds, since she was a shaman like Lurtma, and Aprilane discussed the differences in animals. As to the upcoming Bak Nur, there were to be two tests: the Test of the Hunter, and the Test of the Hunted. In the test of the Hunter, they will be required to track down and kill wild stags, and decorate themselves with their antlers. In the Test of the Hunted, they would have to travel to a distant goal area and take a banner while being pursued, ambushed, traps set, and perhaps defenders of the goal.

Lurtma also explained that among the Blackspear, administering a death blow to a downed opponent was a crime unless it was done in the course of a war. There would be fighting and it was understood that some may die due to misfortune, but there were to be no deathblows. The party would be asked to put up a blood price as a sign of their good faith, which would go to the families of any who died accidentally. And both tests were to be completed by sundown.

The next day the tests began. Oogrik tried to stall a little at first, but the stags were released and given 15 minutes head start. At the tree line, Aprilane saw that they had split into two groups, of three and two. The group of three were tracked first, and fortunately the stags decided to fight, and were brought down swiftly. The party then returned to the branch in the tracks and followed the other group.

It seems Oogrik prepared some surprises on this trail. Alfred barely spotted a pit in time to avoid it, and later a swinging spike log gave him quite a good smack as it swung down. But the snare Oogrik left was crudely done and easily avoided. The stags were handled with ease once the one that seemed ready to run was put to sleep by Gnf.

The stags were too large to all fit on Gnf’s floating disk (which was still going), so Aprilane dressed them and took the heads with antlers as well as the heart and the best cuts of meats. These were brought back and offered to Lungrik, while the antlers were fitted out as headdresses and jewelry.

The party was asked for the blood price for the Test of the Hunted, and offered a pouch with 100 gold pieces, on Lurtma’s advice. Lungrik then asked Oogrik for his 100 gold pieces. This appeared to be a larger sum than Oogrik was expecting, but he came up with it and then hurried off to get in position for the test.

It developed that Aprilane had particular skill in covering tracks and the party moved swiftly over the 5 miles between them and the goal, a platform on a distant hill with seven banners flying on it. The only difficulties encountered were a few traps. Alfred managed to spot an ambush, which the party then avoided.

Approching the goal, Aprilane and Max managed to keep everyone hidden as they crept up to top of the hill where Oogrik waited with several Orc Raiders and Drudges. Oogrik had the Drudges keep the party at range while he blasted them with his druid spells, and the Raiders guarded the platform he was on. As he targeted Allyson with one of his powers, he called her a disgrace to orcs. However, luck was not with him, as several of his spells missed their target, and Aprilane targeted him from the outset, taking him down when her best daily ability got a critical hit. Ugrun transformed into a ram, and pushed on of the raiders deep under the platform.. Gnf had knocked two others under the platform with his Thunder Wave, and proceeded to leap up onto the platform with a single jump. Allyson and Max finished off the last Raider, with the help of Lyra’s spirit companion, at which point the resisting force surrendered and the day was won.

The party ascended to the platform and one by one took up a banner. Alfred arranged to go last and drew it out, making sure that all eyes could see that he, the half-elf, had won the day and proudly took up the banner of the Blackspear.

At the ensuing celebration, Lungrik announced that they had shown that they could serve the tribe despite hardship and opposition and that they were now Orc and members of the Blackspear tribe. He awarded them each a spear that could give them +5 endurance once a day.

Many orcs crowded around Gnf, and found one who could speak to Gnf using the goblin tongue. They wanted to know how he could jump like that and could he teach them, but Gnf said it was a gnomish secret, which he learned through reading books.

Alfred went up to Oogrik at the party and said, “If you ever insult my sister again, I will cut them off and feed them to you.” Several orcs listening approved of this, saying, “You really ARE an orc, aren’t you!”

Journey to Abomination Elf City
Has anyone seen any odd magical occurences?

Since at the celebration of the Blackspear Tribe there was a great deal of fermented goats milk and fermented corn juice, many of the party were late in rising the next day. Except for Max.

Max had avoided imbibing, though pretended to in order to not insult his hosts. So he rose early and rather enjoyed the morning air and the chorus of groans from the rest of the party, the Redspring refugees and also most of the orcs of the Blackspear tribe. But one of the orcs, with black hair gone gray and wild, and leaning on a staff, approached Max. He sniffed at Max for a moment, then nodded.

“Take care of the Queen, and the gold will be easy,” he said, nodding sagely. He then took a bit of something that looked like dried meat from a belt pouch and held it up over my shoulder, as if feeding it to his pet monkey. When Max asked what “take care of” meant, to tend or to kill, he grinned and said, “You’re a smart boy, I’m sure you can figure it out.”

Alfred was nearby and hurling his usual gibes when the old orc turned to him and said, “You can’t put the cart before the horse, but you can put it before the bird.”

The party was still puzzling over his words as they cleaned off their war paint, took off the last bone headdresses and the wagon train mounted up. Lurtma came by to bid them farewell. They asked again about the elf city, what was it called? She said that the Abomination Elf City was as good a name as it needed, and that they should watch out for those elves that way, because they were very nasty and mean.

With that warning, the wagon train started off, hoping to perhaps find a way back through to Toril and to reach Silverymoon instead of (it WAS instead of, wasn’t it?) Abomination Elf City. Gnf paid close attention to the smell and color of magic, Aprilane to the look of the flora and fauna and birdsong, and Lyra to the nature spirits.

However nobody managed to notice the five elf archers hiding in the brush on the hill, sending their Blood Hawks to stoop on Allyson and Ugrun, the two orcs (and on Aprilane, the one with a visible bow) in a successful ambush. Alfred made a brief attempt to negotiate with the elves, but the elves were not in much of a negotiating mood, and resumed drilling Allyson and Ugrun after pausing a moment to evaluate the surprise of finding a half-elf among those of orcish blood.

Eventually, the blood hawks were downed. Alfred drew one of the scouts guarding the creek line forward off his line, Gnf put two archers to sleep after scorching a few others, and Max “phased” right by the remaining scout guarding the creek line to attack and down an archer. The elves broke and ran, and a further archer was downed.

After the battle, one of the scouts and one of the archers were found to be still alive. They were stripped of all their gear, down to a basic legging/loincloth, orc paint smeared on them, their “kill count” jewelry taken and they were told that their lives belonged to Alfred, and that they had better not interfere with the party’s travel any more. Meanwhile Lyra tended to two of the blood hawks that had been downed but not killed, making good friends with one of them, which then accompanied her. Since her new friend looked restless and ready to attack each time Allyson or Ugrun came into view, she quickly made it a makeshift hood out of a spare stocking. Aprilane volunteered to supply it with rabbit guts.

The journey resumed and soon the party realized that the heat shimmer up ahead wasn’t a heat shimmer at all, but some kind of planar boundary zone. The vegetation grew sparser and smaller, the birdsong more silent, the spirits more scarce, and the inherent magic more turbulent. The country grew flat and open.

Some strange crystalline structures were spotted headed for the party slowly. Alfred and Gnf identified them as Chaos Shards, born of the junction between the Elemental Plane and the Abyss. Chaos Shards are thought to exist due to the influence of the shard of pure evil from which the Abyss was created; some even think that Chaos Shards are splinters from said shard of pure evil. They also recollected that some arcane spellcasters will capture Chaos Shards and attempt to use them as sources of power.

The party circled the wagons and took out 4 Storm Shards and one Death Shard, peppering them with ranged fire as they slowly advanced. Alfred and Gnf managed to collect some arcane ritual components from the dust formed when the shards shattered.

Then they were through the zone and to everyone’s relief, they were back into Toril. Camping for the night Frodi Nibbleheim thanked them again, saying he figured his group would break up in the morning. He himself would head to Silverymoon and try and figure out what his next move would be. He’d like to be part of a force to take out the The Queen of Beasts, but he was sure that he couldn’t do it himself. Gnf encouraged him to contact them via sending or courier, telling him a Waterdeep address or Turlough’s Steel, also.

The party then made their way to Silverymoon. As they approached, Ugrun became nervous, and confessed that he was really worried about going into Silverymoon, fearing an unwelcome reception for one of his blood. It was agreed that Ugrun, Lyra and Aprilane would stay outside, waiting along the southern road which it was expected that the caravan would leave by.

Before they got to the city itself, the party came across a shantytown, that had a look of being there much longer than any of the shacks or tents there. It had the usual collection of poor and miscreant, though glimpses of some sort of avian humanoid were made.

Gnf also noted many magical wards which appeared to have stopped functioning. Silverymoon appears to have depended on these wards, since it has no city walls. Many of the city’s protectors The Knights of Silver were in evidence, and at a checkpoint along the main road into the city some of said Knights were highly suspicious of the party and Allyson in particular until the papers from Turlough’s steel and a few quiet words from Alfred about his sister smoothed things over.

Once past the checkpoint, Max and Gnf separated from Allyson and Alfred, heading to the college of magic. Once there, Gnf told a bored a bored young (elvish looking, but human) man at the desk that he wanted to talk to someone about some “odd magical phenomena”. The young man listened Gnf describe the odd magical phenomena that he had encountered recently, shifting from Toril to Abeir and back, and so on, then, with something of a bemused grin that puzzled Gnf, sent him upstairs to speak with someone named Tulvin. Entering Tulvin’s rooms, Max and Gnf found a silver-haired Eladrin with a somewhat aloof and skeptical attitude. When Gnf described the experience of finding himself in a place where “magic felt different”, Tulvin handed him a perfect sphere and asked him what he made of it, arcane-wise.

Gnf studied it a bit and said that it appeared to be abjuration magic with some sort of psychic tie-in, as if it were meant to keep certain kinds of people away or some such. Tulvin seemed quite impressed, and pressed Gnf for further details of his travels and observations while in Toril. Gnf obliged but felt it prudent to leave out the details, or in fact, any mention whatsoever of their encounter with the Blackspear tribe. As he spoke, Tulvin called in a scribe to take down the details, and then pulled a volume off the shelf and began thumbing through it. Gnf paid no mind to that, but Max had noticed already that the big multi-volume book on that shelf was written, in fact, by Tulvin, and was titled “Odd Magical Phenomena”.

When Gnf told him of the chaos shards encountered at the returning junction, Tulvin nodded and suggested that the important thing about them is that they have little motive for self-preservation, caring only for destruction. For this reason, most scholars think that they do not possess shen. But they should not be thought of as un-intelligent.

Furthermore, he showed Gnf and Max one of his books, that had a reproduction of a hand-drawn map showing the lands that they had travelled in and labelling (in Elvish) the “Shining Moon City” and “Abominable Orcs live here”. Some other inscriptions were written in a language that seemed to be Orcish, but neither Max nor Gnf could read it, and neither asked.

In any case, he wrote a swift letter to the city Tower describing the phenomena, gleeful at this time knowing what was going on before they asked him, and set about preparations to go out and observe the junction himself. He thanked Gnf for his information, and told him he owed him a favor.

In the meantime, Allyson and Alfred went to the office of Turlough’s Steel in Silverymoon. There they found Dunstan Oredigger, factor for Turlough’s Steel in a highly paranoid mood. It seems that one of his guards was murdered just last week, just as the other guard, Daval, was taking Dunstan into the vault area where the gold is kept. He looked over the papers Alfred presented carefully and became quite alarmed at the prospect of one of the guards being a full orc. Alfred reassured him that Ugrun had saved Alfred’s life twice already, and that seemed to mollify Dunstan.

Dunstan described his preparations: The gold was to be hidden within a shipment of iron bars onto four wagons. He had hired four teamsters that he knew and trusted. It will be shipped out of a fortified warehouse that he’d arranged to only be used by him for the time being. Dunstan wants to load very early this morning and be out of the city by roughly dawn. Alfred agreed to round up the other guards by then and meet him at the office.

Then Alfred went to a nearby temple of Mielicki, made a donation and engaged the priestess on duty in chat. It turns out she knew Alfred and Allyson’s mother from long ago. She said that she had heard of the Queen of Beasts, though welcomed Alfred’s more detailed description of her methods. She hadn’t yet heard of the razing of Redspring, but it surely was bad news. However, the Kingdom would have little to spare to deal with her, since tensions with the Kingdom of Many Arrows were on the rise; it was believed that Many-Arrows was preparing for an attack.

Allyson and Alfred then returned by Turlough’s Steel, where they had agreed to rendezvous with Max and Gnf. Dunstan had denied ever knowing or hearing about Allyson and Alfred to Gnf, who had stopped by looking for them, then told Dunstan that if they should come by, he and Max would be in that inn across the street. So the party met up, Aprilane was brought into town, and Allyson got to sleep in a bed that night, even if she had to get up and oh-my-god in the morning.

Loading the wagons went off without a hitch, Alfred used his bardic ritual to make the oxen pull the carts faster (he managed to get Dunstan to provide extra arcane ritual components to help hurry the journey along), and Gnf and Max (being a merchant’s son) inspected the wagons for anything that might break down, finding nothing.

As they drove out of the city, Gnf spent a lot of time telling Aprilane how bored he was, while Aprilane could hardly contain her amazement at the tall buildings and wonderful gardens. A few sightings of hooded figures on the roof were made.

Once out of town, Ugrun and Lyra were picked up, and they were off. A few hours later, where the road ran close to the Surbin River they saw a pushcart that had run off the road and a small robed and hooded figure trying to pull it out with markedly small success.

Allyson and Ugrun hopped off the wagons and ran down the slope to pull the cart out. The figure turned out to be some sort of avian humanoid. His said he was a Kenku and his name was Fflutter. He was quite grateful for the help, and on hearing Ugrun’s name mentioned, reported that he had heard that an assassin had been hired to kill an orc named Ugrun. “A Kenku assassin,” he insisted, “elf assassins no good! But since you help FFlutter, me no think you should die, so watch out!” And thus did the party put the cart before the bird, who marched off in the opposite direction of them.

They crossed the bridge across the Surbin at noontime, and the rest of the day was watchful, but uneventful. They made camp at a well-used caravan campsite, and made camp. However, those of the party slated for the third watch awakened to find the second watch guards asleep and their campground overrun with giant ants, who had been taking the gold!

There's Gold in Them Thar Anthills
You mean I get to use my Dungeoneering?

Last time, we left the gold caravan headed to Waterdeep from Silverymoon camped at a campsite. Waking up for third watch of the night, Max, Ugrun, and Alfred discovered that Lyra and Allyson were asleep, and that the campsite was overrun with giant ants! Furthermore, the giant ants appeared to be taking the bars of gold and carrying them back down into the anthills which had erupted around the camp.

Gnf woke easily, as did Aprilane. At first, Gnf simply observed the ants, but Aprilane couldn’t observe much of anything, because it was dark! Max lit a torch from the embers of the watchfire, which had burned very low untended. Now that he could see that giant ant right next to him he smacked it over the head with his torch, and the fight was on. Ugrun equipped his shield and short sword and advanced to face down one of the larger warrior ants that had come over.

Most of the workers fled back to their home, but two warriors and some workers remained to defend the rest. Allyson and Lyra struggled awake, Lyra turning and tossing for several seconds while giant ants battled with Aprilane right over her head.

When the ants had been dispatched, a search showed some glass vials near where Allyson and Lyra had fallen asleep and a booted footprint or two nearby. Further investigation revealed some sort of ant-like smell on the gold bars, but not the iron camouflage. As the implications of this were discussed, a group of flying drones emerged from the largest hill and attacked, biting party members as they flew by them.

Once they were dealt with, the party advanced to the largest of the anthills and started climbing down. The descent was steep and somewhat slippery and at least a few of the group landed on their face in a big pile of sand at the bottom, in spite of the assistance rendered by others holding a rope at the top. On the other hand, Alfred and Aprilane decided they could slide down the slope on their feet, landing lightly.

And it was fortunate that they could, since a group of hive warriors and soldiers started attacking before they all reached the landing. Gnf set off a colossal Color Spray, dazing most of them, and stopping them from swarming around the party. The soldiers tried to grab and sting Max a couple of times, but the first was killed before he could manage it and the second missed Max once before being dispatched.

Continuing on, the party came across a group of humans, including Daval the guard from Silverymoon. The leader was a half-elf woman named Valsturia, and there were 4 more guards and a rather berserk looking dwarf woman with a big axe. They were inside one chamber, so Allyson, Max and Ugrun charged in, Gnf and Alfred filled in behind them, and Aprilane and Lyra stayed outside, firing in, and watching the corridors.

Ugrun shifted appearance slightly to look like a ram, and pushed one of the guards all the way back to the back wall, opening a path to Valsturia. As Alfred entered the chamber, a Cave Choker dropped from the ceiling onto him, grabbing him around the throat. Then, when Gnf tried to shoot the Choker, it swung Alfred around as a human shield, so that Alfred bore the brunt of the Rolling Thunder. Gnf also targeted Valsturia with the Rolling Thunder, which slid her over to in front of Allyson. Valsturia gulped hard and didn’t move, considering the ball of lighting ready to explode if she did, thinking Allyson the lesser of evils. She was wrong.

Meanwhile Daval tried to convince Allyson that Gnf was reallly the source of all her troubles, and that he had heard Gnf say that he hated half-orcs. Allyson just laughed it off though. This was after Daval had utterly failed to hide his movements from the party, so they weren’t taking him too seriously. However, he then did a more successful sneak and managed to stab Ugrun in the back while Ugrun had the remaining three guards engaged.

Gnf unleashed another big spell, downing two of the guards and wounding the third, but also getting Ugrun in the zone. Daval gave a pitiful appeal to those around him to spare him, and tried to flee. However, Lyra and Aprilane managed to cut him down at the cave entrance, having been too far away to be affected by his pathos.

After the fight, a search revealed several items, including Bracers of Mental Might, which went to Alfred, Parry Gauntlets (Allyson), Vigorous Resolve Vestments(kept for trade/sale), Goggles of Aura Sight(Ugrun), and a Pure Spirit Totem(Lyra). Along with a 700gp and 2 100gp-value gems. Also found were a ritual book and some ritual scrolls.

One of the scrolls was a ritual called Peaceful Slumber, while the other was Control Insects. The party concluded that the thieves must have put a scent trail to the gold, and used the Control Insects ritual to have the queen send out scouts to find it, letting their ant instincts take care of the rest. But that left them with the problem of finding the gold and getting it back out of the anthill.

At about this time, Gnf heard a voice in his head, the voice of Tulvin Narnari, the scholar with which Gnf had discussed unusual magical phenomena. Tulvin seemed quite angry, and said that he had gone through the planar boundary, found some elves who said that there had been a caravan including orcs and that they had killed some of the elves. Tulvin said that he owed Gnf, but Gnf and he were going to have a serious discussion.

Aprilane noticed that the thieves clothing had a bit of an anty smell to it, so they decided that the thieves must have blended scent with the ants to avoid conflict with them. So the party draped themselves in the clothing of the bandits.

This ploy seemed to work as the next chamber entered was in fact the queens chamber. The attendant ants examined the party and then ignored the party. There was a passage leading downward on the far side of the chamber, following it, the party came to a storage chamber with a big glittering pile of gold bars in it, along with some fungus and rubble.

Gnf, with Alfred’s assistance, summoned a Tensor’s Floating Disc capable of carrying the entire pile of gold (weighing about a ton) in one trip, and the party made its way back out of the anthill. They passed by a flurry of activity as the ants had discovered the bodies of the theieves and were cleaning them up. They had little trouble climbing out, and an hour or so of hard labor restoring the gold to the wagons and covering it with the iron ingots.

The Dragon in the Woods
Remember, green looks like blue

After recovering the gold from the giant anthill, there was a brief interlude wherein the part of intrepid adventurers from Turlough’s Steel regained their rest. During this time, Aprilane showed some attentions to Alfred Sweetvine. She brought some healing salve out and ministered to Alfred’s wounds and in general gave Alfred the sort of attention that caught the eyes of the other party members. Allyson Sweetvine kept a close watch on her brother, but did not manage to pick up Afred’s embarrassment at these attentions. Neither did Ugrun, who sat glowering at Alfred. Lyra tried to offer some consolation and advice to Ugrun, who declared he didn’t know what she was talking about.

When the wagons prepared to roll, there was a bit of a scramble to see who would sit next to whom, but Aprilane ended up in the lead wagon, to take advantage of her sharp eyes. This was Alfred’s idea. Ugrun ended up next to her in the front wagon, with Alfred further back, and Gnf busily studying the ritual book that they had recovered from the gold thieves.

The road led them along the edge of the Evermoors to their right, with the Lost Peaks slowly emerging from the forests on their left. It being springtime, thunderstorms were visible frequently, and wetted down the travellers sometimes. After a few days travel, Ugrun called out and pointed. Looking, the party saw what appeared to be a dragon at some great distance, flying in and out of a thunderstorm.

The dragon, it was determined, was a great distance away as yet, which meant two things. First, it was not an immediate threat. Second, it was HUGE! The caravan pressed on with renewed vigilance. Alfred recalled that there was a town in these parts known as Dragonwatch, which was known for collecting tolls on the road.

Aprilane scouted in advance, belly crawling up to each new ridge before the caravan crossed it. After another few days, she noted smoke in the distance. The smoke turned out to be from chimneys in the town, though there also seemed to be a camp on the far side of town.

As they approached the town they noted the heraldic device of the town, which was a blue dragon rampant on a dark blue field. This apparently was Dragonwatch.

The toll collector met them at the city gate. She asked what the caravan was carrying. “Iron ore for Waterdeep,” said Alfred. “Let’s take a look,” she said, lifting the canvas on the back of one of the wagons.

She then looked around and remarked, casually, “you’ve got a lot of guards for an iron ore shipment.” Alfred, who was toying with a purse, replied, “Well, you can’t be too careful these days.” and there was a glint and a clink.

“That will be 100gp for the iron shipment,” was the prompt reply. And the caravan drove into the city. Alfred noted that the toll collector appeared to note down even the bribe, and placed it in the strongbox along with the normal fee.

It developed that there was an army of kobolds, perhaps a thousand or more, camped outside the south gate. Two days earlier, the blue dragon who rules these parts, Lord K’Lenth, had flown over the city and demanded that the city pay him the 10,000 gold that they had cheated him of, or suffer the consequences.

The party fanned out and investigated. At the inn several reported how the town guard were blasted by lighting, though there was dispute as to whether the lightning came from the dragon, a machine, or a wizard of some sort. The dragon had overflown the town, and then the kobolds had presented his demands, after bloodying the town guard outside.

Alfred, Allyson and Gnf went to see Mayor Grundi. The mayor confirmed that he had been to see Lord K’Lenth recently, who had no complaint about the accounts at that time. It also seemed unusual that the kobolds would present Lord K’Lenth’s demands, rather than Lord K’Lenth speaking for himself.

Grundi agreed that it looked a lot like a scam. But the town guard couldn’t handle whatever it was that was throwing around that lightning, and he couldn’t risk more men or overt opposition, just in case it WAS Lord K’Lenth. And he absolutely, positively FORBADE the party to act on their own! On no account were they to sneak out and take out that machine that was causing him so much trouble, he wouldn’t hear of it! Would he?

“No, no, you won’t hear a thing”, replied Alfred, taking his meaning. They headed back to the caravansarai. Meanwhile, Lyra had climbed a rooftop and managed, with the help of the spirits, to spot the contraption. It had two long metal spikes on it, and a capstan around a large metal dome.

In the meantime, Max stayed with the wagons, studying his scripture. His studies were interupped by a half-elf with a walking stick and wild gray hair. “He wants you to remember that green looks like blue,” he said, nodding to the space over his left shoulder. He asked Max what he was reading; Max replied that he was reading about the prophets. Glancing over the text and conferring with the air over his left shoulder, the gray-haired man pointed to one and said, “He says that one’s his favorite.”

Max noted that the prophet indicated was a prophet who liked to travel a lot, spreading the good word about Selune, and unusually, he also preached and performed service on behalf a few other deities, such as Amaunator, Silvanus, Torm, and Sune, to name a few.

Meanwhile, Lyra decided to make the rounds of the guards, and find out more about the fight they had with the kobolds. Some of the guards had been struck by lighting, and their wounds were consistent with that. They reported the lightning coming from the machine. Others had been the victims of dragon breath. To Lyra’s eyes, however, the injuries from the breath were not lightning at all, but seemed to indicate a more poisonous sort of injury, as would come from a green dragon.

The party rejoined one another and slipped out the north gate for a reconaissance, leaving Allyson to guard the wagons and the drivers. Gnf sent out his Shadow Serpent, and was able to get a good look at the lightning machine. Gnf was of the opinion that the kobolds must have stolen the design from gnomes, since no kobold could ever think up something like that on their own.

The Shadow Serpent attracted notice however, and led the kobolds on a merry chase while they tried to dispose of it. This was convenient for Max and Aprilane, who were conducting their own survey. They found four main camps, each seemingly led by a Kobold Wyrmpriest, and as best they could tell, the highest command was located in a copse of trees beyond the ridgeline, out of sight from the town.

The approached it, and saw dimly a large winged shape speaking to the kobolds. “So, they have attempted to spy on us, have they?” said the voice. “We will need to arrange a demonstration.” However, Max and Aprilane also noticed that the shape was about the size of a single wagon, which was much smaller than the blue dragon they had seen earlier, which was about the size of the entire wagon train. And they overheard what sounded to them like the chanting of a ritual, in the dragon’s voice.

About the time they returned to Gnf and Alfred, a patrol of Kobold Skirmishers found them and attacked. They were dispatched with only a little difficulty, and any attention that the battle might have attracted was directed to the city’s south gate, where the “demonstration” was developing.

The party slipped back into the city, with someone at the gate clearing their way with the guards. The kobolds were kicking up a fuss at the gate, the dragon had overflown the city, and there were citizens demonstrating in front of the Mayor’s house, demanding that the mayor hire mercenaries or adventurers to get rid of the menace of Lord K’Lenth.

The party realized that with most of the kobold army at the front gate, it would be an ideal time to assault the lightning device and destroy it. So they bribed a guard to watch their wagons and slipped back out of the gate.

The assault on the device went well, except that the Kobold Dragonshield running it managed to get one shot off at a group of party members, singing them pretty thoroughly. The minions who were supposed to recharge the machine by turning the capstan were wiped out by a very effective Color Spray, and the Dragonshield was dispatched after he fell asleep under the influence of a Sleep spell.

After the battle, some of the party rested while Alfred set to work sabotaging the machine. He was successful, but about the time he decided to rest to regain his healing abilities, the party heard a voice coming from the trees below the ridge. “You want the blue dragon to remain at large, would you?” they heard. “I would have rid the world of a scourge, and it would have worked if not for you meddling adventurers! Now come and face me, Jareth, or I shall visit my wrath on the town and the innocents within.” The dragon within the woods continued his monologue, spurred on by the jeers and taunts of the party. This gained Alfred enough time to recover his healing abilities, and the hunt was on.

Approaching the woods, the party thought they saw a dim shape far through the trees. However, Alfred discerned that this was no living thing, merely a shape made of canvas and lumber. The green dragon was spotted by Lyra, but it ignored her spirit, and loosed its breath on Allyson and Alfred, inflicting them both with a gnawing poison. The party charged, and Ugrun knocked it off it’s feet, invoking the power of Earthstrength to pin it to the ground for a time. This limited the havoc it could wreak for a time, though it managed to instill some fear in some party members. Just as it was filling its lungs for another breath, Aprilane drilled it with a magnificent shot, and then Lyra’s spirit downed it with a Stalker’s Strike.

Whump. Whump! Whump!! WHUMP! WHUMP!!! Just as the party was catching its breath, they heard heavy wingbeats and a gigantic form landed nearby, shaking the trees with tremors. It was a gigantic blue dragon, Lord K’Lenth. “Not bad at all,” he said, turning the green’s corpse over with one giant claw. “A green, it figures.” K’Lenth rolled his eyes. “They always have some angle they are working.”

“Well, you have done me a service, and I won’t let it be said that I don’t repay favors. Please come to my keep for a feast.” And with that the dragon flew off. From the sounds of battle nearby, the party presumed that Lord K’Lenth was dealing with the remainder of the kobolds.

The party settled accounts with the mayor the following day, and set out to Lord K’Lenth’s keep. The keep was enormous and on the top of a small mountain, visible for miles. They stabled their horses and were treated to a feast before a roaring fire in gigantic hall of unusual design. It had an entrance door that was most impressive, but still on human scale. But once they entered the hall they could see that there was a very large portal in the far wall, from which the dragon could fly in and out. Gigantic wooden shutters were in place to shut out undesirable weather, though Allyson wasn’t quite sure what kind of weather a blue dragon that liked to fly in thunderstorms would find undesirable. There was a roaring fire, an enormous blue cushion before it on a raised platform, and Lord K’Lenth on the cushion.

Unseen servants served up plenty of roasted venison and pork. Orc-eye Swill, a very fine dark beer brewed by orcs in the Kindom of Many Arrows, was served, much to Ugrun’s delight. He described how he had the castle built by a group of mostly dwarves, and the portal arrangement was thought up by a clever gnome by the name of Fenster Wockle. Alfred realized that meant that castle had to be on the order of 670 years old, since the buildings he’d heard of designed by Fenster Wockle were typically the oldest building in the city the sat in.

After dinner, K’Lenth admitted that there was something he wanted the party to do for him. He brought out his account book, all 600 plus pages of it. He flipped to recent pages and when trying to read it, held it out, craned his neck, squinted and otherwise demonstrated his oncoming presbyopia. “I have heard that humans have things called spectacles, which assist one in reading. I would like some,” stated K’Lenth. So the party proceeded to measure him and try out some lenses. Alfred made a carved model of K’Lenth’s head, Gnf conjured up an assortment of glass lenses as basic magnifiers, and the others assisted in general measurement.

With that business concluded, K’Lenth told them of the time a red dragon invaded his territory, and how he learned to cooperate with humans as a result. Then it was time for sleep; the party retired to rooms shown to them. In the morning, they left, with no sign of K’Lenth anywhere, returning to Dragonwatch.

Last Chance Kidnap
Some folks call me Shifty

Waking with a hangover, the gold caravan (disguised as an iron ore caravan) left Dragonwatch the next day, taking note that K’Lenth was visible in the skies, flying visibly closer to the road and to Dragonwatch than they had seen him earlier when they approached.

Further attentions were paid to Alfred by Aprilane, but as the days went by, Alfred’s protestations and avoidances became fairly clear to most of the group. Even Ugrun’s glower was replaced by a different attitude. Alfred assured Ugrun that the field was clear, and encouraged Ugrun to speak his mind to Aprilane.

Accordingly, Ugrun presented Aprilane a package of some hand picked flowers, a snared rabbit and a dagger. Ugrun hesitatingly explained that he wasn’t free to pledge himself for his own sake, though he was quite interested. Aprilane accepted the gift with good grace and interest and Ugrun seemed quite elated by this result.

Aprilane consulted with Allyson about the meaning of the present. Allyson’s reply was, “Oooh, somebody likes you!” Further discussion revealed that the common custom among orc tribes was that women were taught and expected to defend themselves from unwanted advances, and that no questions were asked should any man die while within a woman’s tent. Thus entering the tent was an act of courage and faith on the part of the man. There appeared to be some confusion on Allyson’s part, however, because when Aprilane mentioned Ugrun, Allyson was taken somewhat aback.

“Oh, Ugrun gave you that?”
“Yes, who did you think?”
“Oh, never mind. Ugrun? That’s wonderful!”
Aprilane then asked, “But why the dagger?”
“His life is in your hands,” was Allyson’s reply.

And in this somewhat frothy state of mind, the caravan reached the town of Last Chance which lies at the extreme north end of the large plain to the north of Waterdeep. North of Last Chance, where the caravan had been travelling, was hilly and difficult, and the river ran under the hills and moors by some twist of The Cataclysm.

Accordingly, there was a large caravanserai and plentiful accommodations at a luxurious inn. So the caravan decided to take advantage of the hot baths. The inn had a spa-like arrangement where they took the travelers’ clothes for cleaning and mending and loaned them smocks and robes which they wore while dining in a large common room with a roaring fire.

Their serving wench, Pearl, was both friendly and comely, and engaged in lighthearted banter. She encouraged the group to visit the nearby ruins of the “old king”, and told of the local “ghost stories” which surrounded it, though assured all that it was safe enough by day.

Alfred took a break and wandered about the inn a bit, checking things out. He noticed something odd: One of the help was hanging up Ugrun’s clothes by the fire, where they should have been hanging all along, so it seemed to Alfred. Once the clothing was recovered, he and Ugrun and later Gnf examined them carefully. Ugrun saw that a button was slightly different, and couldn’t quite remember whether that button had been missing. Gnf was quite certain that the shirt had no spell on it, nor had been subject to a spell recently.

This seemed to all concerned to be related to the Kenku Assassin that Flutter had warned them of just outside Silverymoon. Perhaps the shirt could be used to locate Ugrun. Some debate was made as to whether to sleep in the rooms or in the caravan, but Allyson wanted a night in a real bed. Ugrun said that he wasn’t surprised that someone would make the attempt, and would prefer to avoid it, but wasn’t terribly afraid to face it, and maybe here and now would be better than some other place. So Alfred threw the shirt under the bed and all retired…

…to bad dreams. Alfred dreamed of meeting a pretty girl but failing to impress her. Each remark intended to thaw her chill instead made her both prettier and more icy. This continued until she turned into a statue of ice.

Aprilane dreamed of that there were a party of orcs trying to kill Ugrun, only the orcs turned out to be her brothers.

Gnf dreamed of that he entered into a portal vortex and was surrounded by some very large Chaos Shards.

Lyra dreamed that she was a cat, and every time she lay down in the sunshine to nap, she was dripped on. Each move was answered by more dripping until a downpour opened out of the blue sky.

Max dreamed of walking through an ancient temple which is deserted. It is so quiet that his quiet footsteps echo plainly. There is a malign presence. In a room off to the side, Max sees a man with neatly cropped gray hair and erect posture. His feet are chained to iron rings in the floor, and his hand are manacled together. There is recognition in his eyes, but no madness. He holds up his hands to Max expectantly.

Alfred and Gnf awoke from their dreams to find that Ugrun was not in the room. Going to the window, Alfred saw, in the middle of the town square, a blue glowing disc or sphere, several dark, hooded figures, and Ugrun, being hauled through the blue portal to elsewhere.

Alfred shouted the alarm and jumped out the window in pursuit. Gnf leapt out with a bound, as did Max. Allyson and Lyra heard the ruckus and followed suit. Aprilane had stayed with the wagons, and on waking from her dream, had felt the need to pace a bit, thus being close to the scene, rushed to join the others.

After only a score of seconds, the group entered the portal in pursuit of Ugrun and his kidnappers. Through the portal, they found themselves in an area that looked a bit like the town squate, having the same fountain in the center, but was really more like a large temple room, with pillars on the sides and a large opening at the far end. And Kenku. Lots of Kenku.

A battle ensued. A large sack, presumably containing Ugrun was dropped and lay there, tied shut and wiggling. Aprilane and Gnf rushed to open the bag, Aprilane with her free hand, and Gnf with his Mage Hand. The other party members dealt with the Kenku in the usual way, with the Kenku Assassin seeming to focus on Allyson.

After untying several knots, Ugrun was free again, and shortly thereafter, the Kenku defeated. But before the group could catch their breath, a sizable group of skeletons was seen approaching through the opening at the far end of the first chamber.

The group retreated through the portal and made ready to battle the skeletons. Alfred rushed through the inn, warned them, and grabbed Ugrun’s fighting gear, jumping back downstairs.

The skeletons gave the party some trouble, as some of the exploded in bursts of boneshards, while other threw balls of fire at them. But they were downed in the end. As the fight ended, the party saw something curious. Alfred was holding Ugrun with an arm around his throat and a dagger in his back. “What did you do with him!” hissed Alfred.

Shortly, the figure changed into a smallish humanoid with strange blue skin, wearing Ugrun’s clothes. A doppelganger, it developed. He was questioned repeatedly, and maintained that he never intended any harm. He was hired to get in the bag and pretend to be Ugrun to throw the party off the scent, but was perfectly willing to, well, help them fight, though he wasn’t the fighter that Ugrun was. Which was how Alfred had figured out that it wasn’t Ugrun.

He had learned to impersonate Ugrun by watching the group.
“How did you do that?” asked Alfred.
“Like this,” he said, and shifted to the likeness of Pearl.
“And they copied Ugrun’s clothes by magic?” he was asked.
“Or by a seamstress.” he replied.
“What is your name, anyway?”
“Folks call me ”/campaign/kalaushum/wikis/shifty" class=“wiki-page-link”>Shifty."

Shifty appeared to know little else about Ugrun’s kidnapping other than this: It had been arranged by The Hooded One, or “that guy in the hood”, as Shifty called him. And “that guy” had been insistent that the Kenku Assassin should “make sure she’s dead”.

The party decided that this was sufficient cooperation to satisfy them, and that ropes could very likely not hold Shifty. Shifty confirmed this, and they freed him and proceeded deeper into the Shadowfell? Extradimensional Space? to rescue Ugrun. For they reasoned that the ploy of using Shifty might have been to use a ritual that caused permanent, unraisable death on Ugrun.

They defeated some wights in a large circular chamber littered with so many bones that the footing was treacherous. The wights were a grave annoyance as their weapons had a reduced effect, and the wights could float about freely, phasing in and out as they pleased.

But the final battle was versus a Skull Lord with three heads of bone, a large staff, two Mummies and half a dozen Zombies at his command, and Ugrun chained upon the altar. Max, it turned out, had studied Skull Lords, and warned the party that when they downed the creature, it would sacrifice one of its heads to restore it’s own unhealth to full. They discovered that one of the heads could raise a fallen zombie, and that there were scythes that cut across the room, through the spaces between rows of sarcophagi. Max narrowly avoided one such blade. Another head of the Skull Lord knocked Allyson off the top of the sarcophagi where she had climbed with a blast of fire.

Between Lyra’s spirit animal and Aprilane’s arrows the skull lord was finally downed, at which point the zombies were dispatched. This left the Mummies, who hit very hard and were very hard to down. The party emerged victorious, if severely bruised and battered.

Return To Waterdeep
She cures a mean rabbit pelt

On the last day of the journey from Silverymoon to Waterdeep, accompanying both the gold shipment and Ugrun, there seemed to be little left to go wrong. Gnf had contracted mummy rot, but was looking forward to visiting a healer in Waterdeep. Ugrun had been saved from the kidnap plot.

However, the first sign that the last day’s journey would not be smooth came when Lyra noticed that some of nearby geese were acting oddly. Further investigation showed that they were of slightly odd marking and shape, and that their animal spirits were slightly off, much as they were during the party’s journey through Abeir. Gnf was concerned that the party might have crossed over into Abeir again, but found no evidence of it. Nor could Aprilane be sure that the rabbit she saw off in the distance was a normal Toril rabbit.

However, she did mistake the smoke from all the chimneys of Waterdeep for a great fire in the city. Looking closer, when still about a mile off, she noticed that there was some sort of disturbance at the city gate ahead, and that there was a great figure sheathed in fire standing outside the gate with sword and whip, engaging the guards of the city. A demon.

Max looked and said it was a Balor, and that we had no chance of doing anything against it. The party was debating what to do when other demons, smaller, were noted spreading out and causing chaos. These were the Carnage Demons, the Evanti. A group of them were headed up the road toward the party, so the wagons were sent to the rear and preparations made.

The Evanti were dispatched with relative ease. Though Max developed some strange new tactics wherein he ran around the battlefield like a man possessed, inviting the demons to swing at him. They did, of course, and this allowed Ugrun and Allyson extra shots. But then, with a cry of “Retribution” Max unleashed a mighty swing which staggered one of the demons. Then he followed up with a blow only slightly less potent, killing another demon.

As the party finished, they followed Lyra’s point and watched a great dragon stoop from the sky onto the Balor, landing all four claws and jaws upon it with a great crash. Then great beats of its wings slowly lifted the Balor off and toward the sea.

This was to be the last fight the party had with Ugrun. They passed through the gate with the heads of the six demons on display, which both earned the gratitude of the guards and the admiration of passersby, but served to distract them from Ugrun, who had his hood pulled well over his head, and hung back. Many of the guard had died fighting the Balor, and very generous donations were made to the widows and orphans fund by party members.

Questioned about the guard, they said simply that the dragon was known as [The Silver], and that he was known to appear from time to time to aid the city.

The caravan proceed through the city to a warehouse of the Jeweler’s Guild. The clerk there looked at the manifest and the signet carried by Alfred Sweetvine, and waved them into the inner yard and quickly closed the doors. He then commenced to uncovering the gold and counting it in the party’s presence. When all was accounted for, he made out a receipt and gave them their fee. 1000gp each.

While this was going on, Ugrun drew Aprilane aside to a private corner and engaged her in some earnest conversation. When they returned, Aprilane seemed a bit staggered by whatever news Ugrun had conveyed to her. The party was soon staggered when Ugrun revealed himself to be no less than a Prince of Many Arrows, son (though not the heir) of the King.

At about this moment, Eldreth Deepwater arrived and congratulated the group on their fine work. Ugrun, who seemed to have met Eldreth before, introduced Lyra and Aprilane. Eldreth included an extra share for each of them as members of the company, and told them all that they were invited to a reception that night as guests of [The Chairman] at [The Residence].

The rest of the day was spent by most in fevered preparations for the soire, though in Gnf’s case, it was merely spent in a fever at the healers, where he was cured of his mummy rot. Allyson, Aprilane and Lyra all obtained new garments to wear, and spent the afternoon at the Lion and Compass Inn preparing and dressing.

Allyson obtained a fairly low-cut evening dress that was blood-red in color, and managed a very convincing air of femininity, particularly when she did elbow smashes with Ugrun in the receiving line.

Lyra settled on a sort of priestess’s garb, and beads. Lots of beads. More beads than she had ever seen on one person before, in fact. The feather in her hair was cleaned and combed right along with her hair. And not very gently either.

Alfred went along with Aprilane while shopping, and gently steered her toward garments befitting nobility. Although he did manage to chisel the price down somewhat by mentioning the important friends that Aprilane had, and how noticed the dressmaker’s wares would be that evening.

Meanwhile Max bathed, laundered, and relaxed in the common room, resting his feet and watching people come and go while pondering the house that he had seen this morning where there had been an empty field just before. Indeed, no one else had seemed to notice the house.

At the reception they were all announced, and mingled. They met a variety of people, including Krendel, headmaster of a, no, pardon me, of THE young-wizard’s school in Waterdeep. Gnf made quite the impression by reenacting the morning’s fight with the Balor via his prestidigitation.

Others in the party met Harry Diggs, of the Plumbers and Cellarers Guild.

Then the trumpets sounded, and the Chairman entered and said, “Tonight we welcome a new visitor. He is an envoy from a kingdom that we believe it advantageous to have better relations with. There is much opportunity for trade, and mutual security as well. I ask you to greet our guest with our best Waterdeep greeting, not forgetting that there is money to be made.”

This brought a chuckle from the crowd.

“In any case, I give you Prince Ugrun of Many Arrows”

Of course, when Ugrun walked out, he was finely attired in Waterdeep-style clothing. He was greeted both by gasps and polite applause. The party’s applause was quite a bit more enthusiastic, though they managed to keep themselves from becoming a spectacle through assorted pokings and elbowings.

Ugrun said a few words about how glad he was to be there and how much he thanked Waterdeep for its hospitality. His words were greeted with more applause, slightly more enthusiastic than before. And thence the receiving line.

Ugrun made it clear to the Chairman and any watching that he knew the party members when they came through the line. Of Alfred he said to the Chairman, “Watch this one, or he’ll deal you out of your shoes!” Of Aprilane he said, “She makes an excellent rabbit pelt!”. With Allyson there was first the formal hand-kissing and curtsy, and the the familiar fighter’s forearm smashes and dap was given. Max, who had worn his scimitar to the party, also exchanged forearm smashes. The Chairman inquired about the sword, and Max replied serenely that death was always nearby. The Chairman replied blandly that it certainly had been nearby that morning, and thanked Max for his work. Ugrun asked Lyra if Bob (her spirit companion) had come along, and Bob promptly appeared and gave Ugrun a ghostly lick.

After this the party loosened up. Some teenage girls glomped Lyra with questions about Ugrun. Gnf found some other gnomes and exchanged family connections and geneologies. Some of the gnomes told him about the sewers, the domain of the Plumbers and Cellarers, and how gnomes were very imporant in that guild. The sewers, it seems, do not stink. There is some sort of special fish that keep them clean. Except, of course, when the Plumbers and Cellarers are unhappy with some state of affairs in town. The sewers and catacombs eventually lead into the Underdark, but the gnomes doubted that anyone knew all of them.

Alfred, of course, spent the evening dancing with every pretty girl he could find, whilst Aprilane spent the evening begging off dances, saying she needed to rest her feet.

Wiser about alcohol from her experiences with the Blackspear Tribe, Lyra mostly refrained, and thus awoke early the next morning to find Max at a corner table in the common room with scriptures before him and parchment and quill in hand. Apparently up all night, his appearance was somewhat haggard though his eyes were intent.

Alfred struck up a conversation with Celine, Paladin of Sune, whom he met at the Temple of Sune. It seems that Celine wanted to talk something over. She has taken on the task of visiting villages nearby and planting and tending flowers, especially roses. This is particularly important for the upcoming Midsummer Festival. And it seems that travel about the region is getting more difficult and dangerous. Though it could be just bad luck, or her imagination. What did Alfred think? Alfred advised her to trust her instincts and keep her eyes open. Did she want some accompaniment on her travels? Celine thanked him and said that so far, even though more dangerous, it wasn’t anything she couldn’t handle. But she thought that maybe someone in the city should know about it. Alfred suggested that she mention it to Chess Silverman, make a report to him, and mention that Alfred sent her.

Lyra wandered about the city and found herself attracted to the waterfront. Perhaps it was the smell of fish, or maybe it was the skewer of something called octopus that she purchased from a vendor’s cart. Wandering among the stalls, she encountered scores of strange new creatures until she found and promptly purchased an octopus. Wrapped in a piece of oilskin, she carried it back to the Lion and Compass, where it was turned into a fine soup for her lunch. Lyra went back into the city determined to find a fishing pole, and to perhaps catch one of these octopus for herself, or perhaps one of those sharks.

Gnf went to visit Calfalas the next day, and debriefed him about everything that had happened since Gnf had last visited. When Gnf mentioned his communication with Tulvin Narnari, Calfalas gave him a scroll of Sending, with which to reply. Calfalas was most eager to hear about both the spontaneous interplanar travel to Abeir, as well as the strange portal and other planar space to which Ugrun had been kidnapped.

He then detailed to Gnf what his studies had revealed. Namely, all teleportation and interplanar travel magics had depended on a stable correspondence from one plane to the next, a sort of interplanar matrix. It had never occured to Calfalas that such a thing might change or decay, but that is what seems to be happening. To take the example of the Silverymoon-Waterdeep portal, at first, right after the Cataclysm, the landings were slightly off, and it was frankly the least of magical worries in those days, but instead of settling down to a new configuration, like most magic did, it continued to drift more and more, making travel through them more erratic and dangerous. Things would change size a bit as they came through or land a bit off. As the error grew, so did the danger, to the point were now no one used it, lest they end up in rock up to the waist, or turned inside out.

Gnf asked Calfalas if he knew any means to ascertain, for certain, what plane one was on. Calfalas said that there must be such tests, and he would look them up. It would also be helpful to visit a nearby site that Calfalas had recently learned of. Would Gnf and perhaps a few others like to accompany him there?


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