A First for Many

Where is Lord Calver? (DM Edition)

Following the rout of Dirren Kas, the whole group got together in Westwall to seek the wise counsel of Duchess Ashdrake once again. She took into account the recent events, and the continued threat of BlackFire. After discussion with the group, they agreed to discover what had happened to Lord Castor, the MIA lord of the modest town of Calver. With such evidence in hand, Adeline reasoned, they could approach King Treville Pargraven directly, hopefully getting into the monarch’s good graces in the process. At that point they could inform the king of the BlackFire treason. The Gala invitations from Kas’s lair could wait, as they had a two week window before that event. As they geared up, Heisenberg and Mendel the monk rejoined the group. The fighter had once again used his guard contacts to dredge up more information. As it turned out, they were being tracked by several well-known bands of mercernaries; the Reavers, led by a vicious half-orc named *; the Blue Falcons, a hilariously inept, ragtag band of misfits; and a shadowy organization with no commonly known name that Heisenberg was able to ascertain, learning only that their contact was one “Sillith the Hexmaiden.”

The team set out south to Calver, enjoying the beautiful sights of the glittering Coldhallow lake and the bountiful forests, even catching a glimpse of a griffon flying high overhead at one point. Sadly, the light-heartedness was not to last, as even at a distance they could see Calver was in ruins as they approached along the main road. Belladonna thought she saw something, or someone, scurry behind a building, likely an orc. The group very carefully split into teams, searching the delapidated buildings for clues and any undiscovered items. Belladonna carefully pocketed a magical headband, while the others found some potions and a lovely bottle of Elven brandy, but not much more. Signs of orcs abounded, from hastily abandoned straw mats to various strange bone trinkets. Dobby was able to commune with the birds and learn that the orcs had holed up in the lord’s large, defensible home, with at least a few Worgs with them. As they approached the wooden double door to the large stone manor, the noticed a pile of burnt corpses to one side, doubtless the remains of the villagers. Suspecting a trap, Belladonna checked the door for traps, inadvertently setting it off, causing several bolders to splinter the door apart. Our dexterious halfling narrowly avoided being squished. Inside, on either side of a long fire pit, multiple orcs stood ready for battle. At the end of the hall, their burly, two-handed axe wielding chieftan stepped forth, flanked by snarling, slavering Worgs. The tumult began, with our barbarian guffawing casually into the fray, slicing this way and that, while Heisenberg maintained a somewhat more conservative approach, deflecting blows with ease as he stood toe-to-toe with the green goons. Dobby made an attempt to befriend one of the giant canine monsters, only to enrage it to the point that it focused entirely on the poor gnome. Elora, for her part, decided it would be just peaches to get into a ranged weapon contest with the chief, landing a crossbow bolt square in his chest, much to the orc’s surprise. As Queso did what Queso does best, Hofniel thought it would be helpful to enlarge Heisenberg again, enabling him to effortlessly skewer one orc from above on his giant silver sword to toss casually into the firepit. Elora and the chief seemed hellbent on seeing who could be more like Boromir from Lord of the Rings, both sustaining multiple arrows/bolts, each one teetering on the verge of death. Hofniel scrambled forward to save Elora, casting healing magic in the nick of time-At least it would have been the nick of time, had Heisenberg the Huge not meandered over and casually stomped the orc chieftan’s guts out before he could fire another shot with his bow. Mendel the monk took down one remaning orc with a spectacular uppercut, shattering the sap’s skull like a melon. This gave him enough time to engage the Worg that sprinted toward Dobby, inflicting powerful strikes against the creature, but not putting it down. Queso tried to stop the monster, slashing into it’s mangy hide with his blade, but he just couldn’t finish the job in time. It bit Dobby savagely, nearly ripping the tiny druid off of her feet. It was then that Norbert the hitherto shy Wyvernling, aghast to see its “mother” under attack, launched into the building and delivered a vicious sting to the wounded Worg, ending it’s existence with a delivery of potent venom. On the other side of the room, Elora angrily bashed the other Worg’s head in with her staff, much to the surprise of her warrior comrades, who had been working hard to finish it off beforehand. Cleaning themselves off, the group advanced to the side rooms, only to find a few torn pages of a journal along with dented swords, broken armor, and dried blood stains- signs of a last stand. Amongst the wreckage was lord Castor’s split shield, identifiable by the oak tree painted on its wooden face. The journal indicated what the team had suspected- they had come under assault by orcs in the night, and had been hopelessly outnumbered. The journal made references to this kind of attack as being unusual for southern orc barbarians. Queso, while rooting through the dead orcs’ gear, inadvertently noticed burn scars in a splash patters on a few of them, just like the acid burns from the hellish creations of Dirren Kas. Having the evidence they needed, the group made the journey to Starkhaven to deliver the sad news of Castor’s untimely demise.

Starkhaven was immense, bustling with activity of all kinds. Clay shingled buildings with stone and plaster walls were painted a variety of colors, making the city vibrant and aesthetic. Tradesfolk of all stripes hawked their skills and wares at every turn. The group soaked up the sights, culminating in the tremendous castle of King Pargraven, flanked with banners of all kinds, with that of the king himself foremost, bearing a single white rose. Built close by was a towering spire that crackled with magical energy, no doubt the lair of Erath’s Order of Magic, the proximity of which made Elora bounce with glee. Dobby, for her part, found the prospect of making another animal friend irresistible, wandering off to hunt down an exotic animal trader to obtain her very own naked mole rat. Queso, noticing a tattoo parlor, immediately wanted to get a teardrop tattoo for every poor sap he had ever cleaved in half. Hofniel gently reminded him that would likely take a week. The group bought useful gear and upgraded their current armor and weapons as much as they could, personalizing it with some added flair (Hofniel made sure there was a sun on everything he owned, while Heisenberg preferred his items embossed with large “H”s. Eventually they made it to the castle, convincing the guard of the urgency of their news and their need to obtain an audience with the king himself.
They were ushered in, walking through a high-ceiling hall adorned with all manner of heraldry. Nobles and vassals held conversations here and there, attending to important business, no doubt. The adventurers were guided further into an expansive room, where the king and his closest knights held counsel. Bedecked in the finest plate armor, shields bearing the crests of each house, they were as something out of legend. In the center, hovering over a table, stood Treville Pargraven himself, who beckoned them to approach. He addressed Hofniel directly, instantly recognizing the son of one of his lords. All of them carefully bowed, following Hofniel’s example. Even the mighty Queso stayed on his best behavior, stifling his flatulence in an uncharacteristic manner. The conversation was terse, and nerve wracking. They presented their findings, and though the king seemed concerned at the loss of Lord Castor, he betrayed no emotion, acknowledging the team’s efforts to aid Erath, and, much to their relief, granting them a formal pardon for their assault on the Duke of Sorpigal. Treville wryly commented that, so long as they maintained unwavering loyalty to the crown, they could keep their questionably obtained mace, at least for the time being. Mentions of their misadventure with Torval elicited giggles from a few of the nearby knights, though Treville kept his stoic composure. Things became particularly tense when Hofniel realized the king was…purportedly..unaware of the Blackfire problem, being forced to explain the plot himself. King Pargraven made it clear he would look into the matter, but promised no more than that. At the conclusion of their audience, the king granted the group access to the finest artisans and smiths in his domain, to include the Order of Magic that Elora had so eagerly hoped to enter. Within they found access to enchanters, spell tomes, and the wise old astrologer Dinweld, on the top story. Wielding an enormous mobile of planets and stars with mirrors set at all angles to collect the sunlight through the glass roof, the astrologer could ascertain the exact location of a fallen godstone, at the behest of the gleefully drooling Queso Grande. Moving on, Elora bypassed the normal spellbook salesperson to obtain a cheaper copy from a fence, catching some questionable stares in the process. All in all, our heroes chalked up a success, now well outfitted and eager to pursue a greater challenge, which was sure to come.

Necromancer, or Necromentor? (DM Edition)

After their last adventure, our heroes met again with the esteemed Duchess Ashdrake in Westwall castle at the war table. Knowing that it would take more than words and accusations to get an audience with King Treville, Adeline sagely advised the group that they would need to perform some service to the kingdom to gain credibility (particularly considering their notoriety). She recommended discovering the fate of Lord Castor, who had not been heard from since the southern orc incursions. Though they knew they needed to get in the King’s good graces sooner or later, they also felt that they had procrastinated far too long in regards to the dread necromancer, who even now was commanding the Black Fire mercenaries into doing who-knows-what. They came to the conclusion that it was time to find and end this “Dirren Kas.”

Adeline quite helpfully alerted the group the existence of one of the few remaining veterans of the Chevren war, an understandably venerable gentleman who lived in Falcon Watch. Conveniently, Falcon’s Watch was on the way to the mysterious location where Kas purportedly was. They determined it would be safest to travel incognito, aka as merchants. With their looted wares, it was not difficult to put on a convincing show of it.
On the long road North, the heroes met a real merchant travelling along the road, a Dwarf who moved wares from as far as the Grey Mountains and back. Our fragrant champion Queso Grande took this as an invitation to sprint forth and rub the terrified fellow’s face in his sword-drawing, and it took no small amount of damage control from Hofniel to get the poor Dwarf to stop hiding behind his cart. He turned out to be reasonably helpful, providing further interpretation of their schematic, alluding to something called “godstone iron,” from stones that fell from the heavens (read: meteorites). A wordly fellow, he noted that only a good astrologer would be able to reliably locate such an object. The merchant proved useful in other ways as well, outfitting them (at a price) with various fine dwarven crafts and weaponry before they all waved their goodbyes.

Falcon Watch was a large, bustling, but otherwise unremarkable city with an assortment of amenities. Naturally, the team set off to the tavern for information, chatting up the barkeep. Everyone obtained their favorite beverages (aside from Queso, who was having an increasingly difficult time obtaining fermented goat’s milk outside of Sorpigal). Upon further discussion, the were able to ascertain the location of the only known veteran of the Chevren-Erathian war, along with his favorite potable: a spiced rum made only in Sorpigal. Thankfully, the barkeep noted they could just look into the local markets rather than be forced to travel all the way to Sorpigal proper to find the stuff. They moved on to the marketplace, costumes still in place, and located a trader who specialized in luxury goods from their (least) favorite port town. Queso put in a request for some fine hobbit leaf (read: Wacky Tobaccy), and so Hofniel approached. Sadly for him, it became immediately apparent that the real merchant had recognized Hofniel even through his disguise, forcing some heavy bribing to keep his mouth shut. He purchased both the rum and the weed, moving quickly on to the veteran’s home. Dobby the Druid, who was hooded and cloaked as a very short merchant herself, noted several individuals quietly gathering around the merchants booth, and so the party double-timed it.

When the old-timer was informed that the adventurers had come by on a social call with a large bottle of his favorite rum, he assumed an expression of merriment and dragged the surprised friends into his home. Hofniel at first thought he was going to be able to sit back and allow the man to drunkenly regale them with tales of the war (and hopefully, the mace), but as it turns out, the oldster was quite spry and sociable at heart, inviting the nervous cleric to drink with him- shot for shot. The brave Pelorian kept up, if only barely, his vision becoming foggy and his words slightly slurred as drink after drink went down. In the end this binge session was rewarded with a speech- a speech, the man said, that the king himself delivered at the onset of great battles, upon which his magical mace would light up like a star. He felt that it may have happened about the time the king shouted his name- thankfully, the rest of the group was paying attention to this whilst Hofniel hiccuped and nodded dumbly.

The group traveled further North through the woods to the mysterious location. With every step, the darkness seemed to become more oppressive, until nearly no sunlight broke through the forest canopy to the ground. Finally, they saw in the distance a stone building, and before it, a partial clearing with a few scattered, gnarled old trees. The ground seemed to to shimmer with a fine mist. Rightfully anxious, the resident druid called upon the trees to speak to her, which uttered only these words: “Look to the ground…the dead walk.” This did nothing to ease their jitters, so Belladonna very, very carefully tiptoed around for a closer look, taking mental notes of several patches of loose soil. The entire group decided to follow suit with the tip-toeing bit, lining up and sneaking along the periphery until someone stepped on an obnoxiously loud twig. Instantly, gray, rotten corpses began bursting up from the ground, moaning eerily as they did so. Elora and Dobby scampered up the nearest tree, while Queso leapt into the fray. Hofniel took up defense near his treed comrades, deflecting flailing zombie strikes while utterly failing to inflict any of his own damage in return. At one point, he missed so spectacularly that he smashed his own foot, harming himself more than any of the zombies could. The ladies fired stones and bolts from above, while Queso blasted through the undead with wide, cleaving blows, until every last wretch was given eternal peace. In the meantime, Belladonna had crept closer to the stone structure, getting a better view of what appeared to be a large sepulcher, flanked by stone statues. They appeared to be humanoids, one carrying a large bowl, and the other holding a curved ritual dagger. By the time the rest of the group had made it to her position, she had crawled into the bowl to get a closer look, finding what appeared to be dried blood. Informed of this, Hofniel’s face lit up, as he instantly recognized this for what it was- a door locked with ritual blood magic, something he had conveniently studied and written extensively about in his school days. Withdrawing a small dagger, he offered up some of his own blood into the bowl, charging the magical device and opening a solid rock doorway into the sepulcher.

There was no light inside, and so the enterprising Hofniel cast light upon himself, melting away the darkness in part. Toward the back of the crypt, two figures paced. As they approached, they saw two horrors, stripped of skin down to the muscle as if flayed alive, teeth uncovered by skin, and lidless eyes staring back at them. One was approximately human shaped, clutching a jagged, makeshift sword. The other was more horrible still, a squat, hulking brute with enormous fists wrapped in twisted iron. In the very rear of the sepulcher sat a smiling, hooded fellow, no doubt the necromancer Dirren Kas. He applauded the group for making it to him, noting that those that had come before had not been up to the challenge of testing his creations. Queso and Hofniel charged forward to engage, swallowing their fear. The others began their support roles. Hofniel cast protective magic upon them while the barbarian unleashed powerful strikes. As he cut into the taller humanoid, the brackish black blood spatter sizzled and smoked on the stone floor. Elora lit the monster up with magic missiles, while Queso was able to finish off the human appearing creature with a few powerful strikes. Dirren Kas, content to watch until now, stood and clapped. He didn’t want to make it too easy on them, he stated, immediately launching a spectral hand toward Queso while casting a wall of ice between himself and the adventurers. The hand froze Queso in place with a ghoulish touch spell. Hofniel’s hastily cast sanctuary prevented the monster from harming Queso further for the time being. Dobby called forth a flaming sphere directly over the necromancer, forcing him to dodge to one side while presumably being very distracting. Elora’s next spell sadly fizzled, and the hulking iron fisted monster decided to sidestep the frozen Queso and attack the wizard directly, blasting her with violent force. Meanwhile, Dirren Kas had dispelled the sphere, using his spectral hand to attack once more, this time giving poor Hofniel a terrible case of the shakes (aka, draining his dexterity). Queso was still locked in place, his sanctuary all but worn off, and the necromancer was gearing up for more terrible magic. Realizing they had nothing to lose at this point, Hofniel attempted to unlock the mace. Recalling the tales of their veteran friend, he raised the scepter high and shouted the name of the king, at which point it burst forth with light, empowering all of his friends with it’s warm radiance. With renewed vigor, he struck at the ghost hand, sending it back into the ether, and eliciting a yelp of pain from the astonished necromancer.The team had a second wind, and Belladonna used the opportunity to unleash several swift dagger strikes into the brute, whose swings became erratic and off-balance. Elora took a deep breath and, channeling arcane energy she hitherto did not know she had access to, let forth a lightening bolt that incinerated the wounded hulk, while cutting directly through the fire-sphere weakened ice wall…directly into Kas, who still nursed his injured hand. The bolt seared into his chest and slammed him into the stone wall. He gasped with pain, loudly exclaiming his disbelief that Elora could have mastered such a powerful spell at her level of experience. Before they could accost the diabolical elf, he assumed a gaseous form and wafted through cracks in the stone wall, escaping their wrath. Our adventurers counted themselves victorious however, finding not only a great deal of gold, but various useful items, including magical anklets and a gruesome, intimidating horned helmet with a skull face that Queso took quite a liking to. The final thing they discovered was a set of careful sketches and diagrams. These drawings clearly depicted the creation of the flayed horrors they had recently fought, and thus Elora made it a point to decipher as much as she could from the including margin writings, hoping to be better prepared in case they should encounter more desecrated beings in the future.

Necromancer, or Necromentor?
New crypt, who dis?

As you recall, our adventurers had just discovered a grand plot to overthrow the king by an extremist cult under the disguise of the Black Fire Mercenaries. The party sat at a war table with Adeline Ashdrake in West Wall and discussed their next action. On the one hand, there was a necromancer they now knew was connected with the Black Fire. On the other, the King, as far as the party knew, was oblivious to the pending crisis. Adeline advised that the King would consider such accusations if they came from someone he trusted, and suggested discovering the whereabouts of Lord Castor. After much debate, the party decided to engage the necromancer.

Weighing heavily in that decision was a piece of intel that Adeline shared with the party. There were few soldiers who had fought in the Great Chevren War that were still alive, but there was word of a veteran living in Falcon Watch, which conveniently was on the way to the alleged location of the necromancer. The party decided to thus go to Falcon Watch first, then confront the necromancer. Unfortunately, the party’s notoriety was starting to make travel difficult without the occasional assassination attempt. Fortunately, with all the wares they had secured from their previous adventure, they could convincingly disguise themselves as merchants.

On their travels to Falcon Watch, they found no sketchy situations. They did, however, cross paths with a merchant dwarf traveling towards West Wall. Though not a Grey Dwarf himself, he frequently traded goods with them. Queso, in his excitement, scared the crap out of this little dwarf while shoving the schematic in his face. After some coaxing from Hofniel to calm him down, the dwarf took and inspected the page. The dwarf was able to read some of the runes, and told the party that it would probably require God Iron, which is mined from stones that falls from the gods. He suggested that if we wanted to find some, we would need to talk with an astrologer. The party bought some goods and continued on their way to Falcon Watch.

The adventurers finally reached Falcon Watch with their disguises intact. The first stop was the local tavern. Inside was the common assortment of riffraff and a typical barkeep. Queso was upset when he found that they did not have curdled goat’s milk in stock, but he settled down over a mead instead. The party asked the keep if he knew any veterans from Great War, and he instantly recalled one who is a regular at the tavern, although he was currently absent. The party asked for directions to his place and on a whim asked the barkeep if he knew the veteran’s favorite drink. He enthusiastically replied that it was a spiced Sorpigal rum. The tavern didn’t have any in stock, but he knew they could find some in the market.

With the barkeep’s directions, it was not difficult to find the Sorpigal merchants. Trying to keep things incognito, they decided to let Hofniel purchase the rum. As he was leaving, Queso requested some “Wacky Tabaccy” from the merchant, and Hofniel agreed to try. Still in his own merchant’s disguise, Hofniel approached the trader and requested the items. Unfortunately, Hofniel’s face was now (in)famous as well, and the merchant immediately donned a face of recognition. Hofniel then slid a sum of 10gp while ensuring the merchant that he was nobody of importance. The merchant insisted that he must be someone, to which another 10gp found its way into the merchant’s possession. Skeptical but silent, the merchant from Sorpigal retrieved the requested items, Hofniel paid for them, and quickly turned back to his friends. As Hofniel walked away, the rest of the party saw a small group of individuals crowd to the merchant’s booth as soon as Hofniel left. There was some debate about whether to try to draw out this crowd beyond the city gates and ambush them, but they decided to ignore them, since they would probably not try anything risky inside the city.

The group then headed to the verteran’s house. With a couple of knocks, an older and jovial man came to the door. The party said they heard he was a veteran and had some rum that was weighing them down. At the mention of the Sorpigal spiced rum, he swiftly whisked them inside. Hofniel and a couple of others went inside, while the rest kept watch in case the group with the merchants visited. Hofniel had originally planned on simply letting the old man drink while they talked. However, the veteran believed that drinking was a group activity. The group did their best to hold down the liquor while they asked him to tell them stories of the war, then stories of the King, before stories of the mace. Although the rum was strong, everyone was able to hold their drinks down while he told his tales. He described how the King would give a grand speech before the great battles, and they would end with him shouting something with his name and his mace lighting up. When they had extracted all the information they could, they gave him the rest of the rum and parted ways.

From there, the party decided to head straight for the necromancer in case there were more nosy people in Falcon Watch. Their travels were uneventful and they entered the woods that were marked on the map. The woods started as a bright and lively place, but as they ventured farther in, the woods grew darker and a chill entered the air. They eventually found a partial clearing. There were a few old, gnarled trees spotting the clearing, with dead leaves and a fine mist covering the ground. At the far end of the clearing the outline of some stone structure could be seen, but not clearly. Belladonna scouted the area and discovered that beneath the fog there were multiple patches of disturbed ground. Queso climbed a nearby tree in order to keep an eye in the sky while the rest of the party skirted about the edge of the clearing. However, as they walked, someone in the party stepped on the biggest, loudest branch to ever exist.

Immediately the patches of earth birthed zombies that started approaching the party. Dobby and Elora quickly climbed the nearest tree they could, while Hofniel protected himself before defending the tree. Queso went on the offensive, leaping heroically from the tree and started chopping and slashing. Elora and Dobby were successfully attacking from the trees while Belladonna snuck past the zombies and advanced to the other side of the field. Hofniel, new to his tank role, discovered quickly that he is not made for offense, as he smashed his mace into his own leg. Thankfully the zombies were not too powerful, especially with Queso killing two at a time. In almost no time, the zombies were returned to death without major damage.

Belladonna was able to successfully scout the far structure and found it to be a stone crypt with massive, closed stone doors. Two massive statues were on either side of the door. One was holding a dagger while the other held a bowl. Belladonna climbed into the bowl, and after her eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness, saw a dried brown stain in the bottom of the bowl. The rest of the party came to the doors. Hofniel immediately recognized this as a ritual door that required a human blood offering to open (he had done his senior thesis on the stability and longevity of ritual magic). Hofniel paid the price into the bowl (after Belladonna left) and the doors opened on their own.

They could tell that the inside of the crypt wasn’t lighted, so Hofniel cast light upon his helm and they entered the darkness. Inside, they could see many stone slabs with dissected corpses upon them. Two shadowy figures stood in the middle of the crypt, one thin and the other much thicker. Suddenly, an eerie voice whispered from further in the darkness. He welcomed the group, stating that he had been waiting for them to arrive. He was excited to test them, since most groups never made it this far. The party went to their battle positions: Hofniel and Queso advanced to engage the two figures while Belladonna, Dobby, and Elora stayed in the back.

Up close, it was possible to see the outline of a robed figure sitting at the far end of the crypt. The two figures looked like they were stitched together abominations: the smaller carrying a dangerous sword while the bulky one seemed to have iron incorporated into his fists. Hofniel cast magic to protect Queso and himself while Queso went to town attacking the smaller of the two. To their surprise, with every blow that Queso landed, the blood that was released began to burn anything that it touched, and this was in addition to the pounding they naturally did on Queso. Elora unleashed a magic missile and Dobby attacked from a distance, while Belladonna ensured that the dissected corpses would not rise to join the fight. Thankfully, the skinny one fell without too much trouble, but that was when the tide began to turn: the necromancer stood and joined the fight.

Immediately, he created a wall of ice to separate himself from the rest of the party, while commenting on how glad he was to see Elora again. Queso was able to land a solid blow on the brute, but then, the necromancer sent out a spectral hand which immediately went to Queso. With a ghoulish touch, Queso was frozen in place, which was a particularly sticky situation with a hulkish brute right next to him. Dobby showed her fiery side by creating a flaming sphere right on top of the necromancer, forcing him to immediately dodge. Elora attempted to scorch the brute on this side of the ice, but missed both him and the wall of ice behind him. Hofniel, ever the attacker, managed to miss the brute as it attempted to attack the defenseless Queso. The necromancer was not nearly as unlucky, as his spectral hand grabbed at Hofniel and seemed to drain his dexterity.

Queso was getting dangerously low on health, the protection spell would not last much longer, Elora was struck with one of the brute’s punches, and the necromancer was able to dispel Dobby’s flaming sphere. The battle seemed grim, and in their desperation Hofniel decided it was time to try and unlock the mace. With a bellow of the king’s name, the mace erupted in golden light that filled the room. The party felt empowered, and channelling Pelor’s strength, Hofniel struck at the spectral hand. It fizzled at the onslaught as the necromancer howled in pain.

Using this distraction to their advantage, Belladonna and Elora attacked. Belladonna surprised the brute with a serious stab to its leg. Elora lined herself carefully and cast the most powerful spell she could muster. A streak of lightning erupted from her fingertips, successfully passing through the brute, burning it alive. But Elora’s aim was true: the bolt continued through the brute, shattered through the ice wall, and struck the necromancer in his chest, doing incredible damage. He cried out, “Where did you learn that spell?!” before transforming himself into gas and escaping through the ceiling. The necromancer may have been hindered, but he was not defeated. The party then turned to Elora, wondering how she knew this madman. They looted what little remained, and prepared for their next adventure.

A Hostage Situation (DM Edition)

Having retreated to the safety of Peloria, the friends settled in to plan their next move. The group wisely decided to set aside some of their gold for intelligence gathering, with a large portion going to help the refugees from the southern lands. Dobby set off to determine how she was going to hatch the Wyvern egg, and Gregor the monk decided to meditate on the recent events for a while.
In time, their efforts bore fruit, giving them a better sense of how they were perceived by Erath’s various nobles, including the Duke’s and Duchesses. Understandably, assaulting Torvald created some political angst particularly in the eastern regions, with Duchess Ashdrake in the southwest being the only definitively friendly noble. This was in part due to their recent rescue of Peloria, a town which fell in her jurisdiction.  Various lesser nobles in the Western region, particularly the devout, also seemed to have a favorable impression of the group as one might expect. Additionally, the found that the rod they had “borrowed” from Duke Torvald doubled as a heavy mace, rather convenient for Hofniel. However, the magical properties of the mace were locked behind a command word.
While planning their approach to the hitherto ignored necromancer, the team was approached by a courier of none other than Adeline Ashdrake, with a matter of some urgency. The team, not wishing to lose their one significant potential sponsor, made haste to Westwall where the Duchess reigned.
Their journey was marred by an orc ambush along the road. Belladonna noticed the creatures shuffling along the treeline, calling out to the rest of the group, but not before Hofniel sustained an arrow to the arm. The party quickly leapt from their horses to engage, while Hofniel bellowed Pelor’s roar, a sonic shout that did devastating damage to three orcs, felling one. Heisenberg calmly ran another orc through on the opposite side, while Queso, in classic Queso fashion, sliced through two orcs like butter. Meanwhile, Elora launched a dagger directly into a stunned orc’s eyesocket, and the team quickly and easily eliminated the remaining creatures. The group was able to make it the rest of the way without further issues.
Finally, they arrived at Westfall, the combined city and fortress that guarded the westernmost pass to neighboring Chevre. Nestled between the northern mountain range and an enormous lake, Westfall was very defensible. The courier greeted them at the gates of the massive castle, which was built directly into the side of the adjacent mountain. They were directed to the ramparts, where Duchess Ashdrake waited. Bedecked in glittering full plate and carrying an ornate but weathered war-hammer, Adeline was clearly no stranger to conflict. After formal introductions, she informed the group that they had been chosen for a delicate task, both for their peculiar political situation as well as their proven resourcefulness. It seemed, the Duchess’ son was missing, with only a ransom note asking ten thousand gold for his safe return. Ashdrakes, she informed them, do not give in to ransom demands, though naturally she wished her son’s safe return. Further discussion revealed her son, James, to be something of an aggressive, hot-tempered young man with poor impulse control. She had ascertained that one of his favorite haunts was a gambling den on the outskirts of the city, and suggested the group begin their search there. Pondering, Hofniel asked the Duchess if they might obtain a sack of fake coins from her to which she agreed, sending word to the town blacksmith. Switching gears, Hofniel asked the Duchess about his new mace, now named “Pelor’s Radiance.” She rubbed her chin thoughtfully, remarking that, if this was in fact the weapon she thought it was, that it had quite an intriguing history. The mace had been used by Duke Stark Pargraven in the Chevren-Erathian war some fifty years ago. Stark would later become king, and the mace itself seemed to only have been in the hands of Torvald since he was cousins with the son of Stark, Treville Pargraven, the present king of Erath. The mace itself had been crafted by powerful mages specifically for the late king. The group thanked the Duchess, obtained the fake coins, and set out for the gambling den.
As expected, the location was a seedy building tucked behind a copse of trees. Various unsavory individuals drifted in and out, and sounds of yelling and laughing emanated from within. Not wishing to be too terribly conspicuous, Hofniel, Elora, and Heisenberg chose to stay outside at a safe distance, awaiting a designated call sign from Queso, which was to be, unsurprisingly, “Who cut the cheese?!” Belladonna and Queso entered the establishment, presumably with Queso as her bodyguard. Queso wisely kept his mouth shut at first, not wanting to tip off the locals that he was Chevren. Belladonna hopped up to the barkeep and, after ordering drinks, casually questioned him about James Ashdrake. At first the barkeep seemed very suspicious, until Belladonna informed the man that James owed her money, which drew some raucous laughter. She then proposed they roll dice for the information, with the terms being that if she won, he’d tell her everything he knew, and if she lost, she’d pony up one hundred gold pieces. She attempted to subtly influence the dice roll, but unfortunately, her effort was easily spotted by the man behind the counter. He snarled and hoisted a large mace onto the counter, making it clear that Belladonna was leaving minus the gold she had gambled, or else. Queso, however, was having none of it. He calmly placed a hand on his enormous blade and announced who he was. This caused a visible ripple of apprehension, even among the hardened thugs present. The barkeep, his tough facade broken, begged the pair to simply leave, but the barbarian wanted more information. The barkeep told them he had seen James hanging out with some Black Fire Mercenaries. Queso, having the memory of a goldfish, could not recall where he had heard that name, and rather than simply sending for his friends, he shouted out the call word, yelling “Who cut the cheese?” in front of the increasingly startled gamblers. The remainder of the party barged in, weapons bared, when Queso stated calmly that he just needed to ask them a question. The situation rested on a knife’s edge as they asked the barkeep a few more questions, without ascertaining much in the way of new information. Queso simply swatted over a glass on the table sauntered out, as if daring anyone to do anything about it. Poor Hofniel gave the innkeeper some gold pieces, being sorry for the mess.
And so, off they went to the drop point outside of the city of Falcon Watch. Along the way, they came upon a broken oxcart, it’s axle shattered, blocking the road. Our adventurers were quite on edge now that they had become so infamous, and so proceeded with great caution, yelling out to the peasant to come clean. This only seemed to upset the fellow, who proclaimed innocence- until Queso charged forward to call his bluff. As the party suspected, it was a trap, with multiple men springing from within the cart and behind nearby hills, including one garishly armored individual wearing a harlequin mask, wielding two sinister blades. Arrows flew, while Heisenberg, Queso, and Belladonna fought back. Queso and Heisenberg could not seem to land a shot against the exceedingly nimble masked man, who landed a vicious strike against the burly barbarian. Hofniel wasted no time, politely requesting to touch Queso, in order to turn him into…an even larger Queso. Now a towering force of pure unbridled destruction, he obliterated his dancing opponent with a gut-splattering swipe. After soiling themselves, two of their opponents fled. The rest of the party easily cleaned up the remaining assassins, with one asleep, thanks to Elora’s magic. Upon interrogating the last, no longer sleeping bounty hunter, the discovered that they were wanted dead or alive- 250gp dead, 500gp alive, by edict of Duke Torvald. After Heisenberg carved an “H” on the man’s forehead, they allowed him to leave otherwise unharmed.
Finally, they made their way to the drop site, off in the woods some distance from Falcon Watch. Belladonna wisely scouted the area for a couple days, not only finding where a couple of Black Fire mercenaries had set up in tree stands to observe. The team came up with a plan, quietly taking up positions to flank the hidden mercenaries, while Queso hoisted the fake gold to the site hidden away beneath a boulder. He walked just far enough away to be out of site, and they all waited. After about an hour, one of the mercs dropped from the tree to inspect the loot…and immediately became aware of it’s counterfeit nature, giving the kill signal to his comrade. They both bolted, but thanks to careful positioning, Heisenberg and Queso were able to grapple them both to the ground, after which binding them was a simple matter. Hofniel and Queso began their classic routine, this time with Queso hoisting one of the guards by his nostrils, eliciting much screaming and squirming, while leveling his steely gaze upon the second. Hofniel was then able to calmly pry information from the trembling man, who now doubt wanted to keep his nose intact. They discovered that the captain commanding the fort was, in fact, their wayward James Ashdrake, and he had been involved with the Black Fire mercenaries for some months. It was clear at this point he was helping extort money from his mother. They also ascertained the location of their fort, a day’s travel north of them. A long debate ensued before coming to an agreement on their strategy. The captives were bound, set next to some bowls of water like caged dogs, and left in the shade to be set loose on their return.
The stalwart crew approached the weathered fort per the captive’s directions. Elora, with the aid of magic, disguised herself as one of them; full Black Fire attire and all…with a little suprise, namely Belladonna, hiding in the sack she carried, pretending to be gold. The rest of the crew hid, at the ready, in the nearby woods. Approaching the door, Elora saw a slat open and was immediately asked for a password; something the team had forgotten to get from the mercenaries before. Attempting a bluff, Elora tried to impress upon the guardian that she didn’t have time for such trivialities. However, her voice cracked, and the guard hit the switch that opened a trapdoor beneath her feat, causing her to fall into a pit. To her credit, she never broke character, and when a second mercenary joined the first, she was able to convince them that she was indeed who she claimed to be, and so they hauled her from the pit. However, when they grabbed her bag, they realized that rather than gold, a small person lurked inside. Belladonna leaped forth like a cat and backstabbed the nearest fellow, nearly killing him. At this point, the heroes hidden in the brush sped forward; Queso did an acrobatic somersault through the air, landing behind on of their adversaries, while Heisenberg attempted a similar jump, also clearing the pit, but without the grandeur of Queso (he was wearing heavy armor at the time). Hofniel made a simpler entrance, and together, the group defeated the first two guards- almost, anyway, as for some reason, Queso had difficulty dispatching one of them, while the rest of the part moved to the far door, having heard commotion from within. Elora placed her ear against the door and heard whispering about “setting up crossbows,” rightfully concluding they would be walking into some bolts the moment the door opened. Trying to ascertain more information, she tried to peek under the door, only to see someone else peeking right back at her. Bracing for confrontation, Heisenberg took point, turtling up as a good tank does, while the others stood to the sides, ready to move on a moment’s notice. Eventually the doors flung open, twin crossbows firing at Heisenberg simultaneously, with one bolt doing a small amount of damage, the other plinking harmlessly off of his armor. Inside, they saw an armored warrior manning the crossbows, with a scraggly-bearded blonde male in fine armor behind a table next to a staff-wielding sorceress. They instantly realized the man was James Ashdrake. Attempting to parley, Hofniel stood in the door frame, explaining calmly to the perturbed James that they were there at the behest of his mother, Adeline. Being no fool, he did this AFTER casting “calm” on the lad, with Elora quietly putting the foremost armored guard to sleep. They could hear more guards inside, on either side of the door, and so wisely did not fully enter the room. The sorceress, henceforth inexplicably named “Francis,” conjured a small Earth elemental from the ether as a barrier between her, James, and the crew. She maintained a hostile expression throughout Hofniel’s eloquent soliloquy. Eventually the brave cleric was able to convince James to stand down and surrender himself…only to have Francis slap him with a “hold person” spell and initiate violence, namely with a lightening bolt straight into poor Queso, who had just managed to join the party after finally finishing off the last guard. Understandably annoyed, Queso blasted through one of the flanking guards and into the rock monster, with Heisenberg finishing the earthen monstrosity off with his silver sword. In the meantime, Belladonna invoked their scroll of invisibility and snuck up behind Francis, unleashing a devastating dagger-strike that nearly felled the mage. Unfortunately, the teetering sorceress was able to use a vampiric touch to siphon life force from our halfling heroine. Seeing her small friend being nearly killed, Elora exploded with rage and magical energy, invoking a searing volley of fire magic that incinerated the hapless Francis. The rest of the adventurers were able to neatly clean up the last standing Black Fire mercenaries, leaving them with James to question once his holding spell wore off. James was seemingly filled with regret at his actions, and offered no resistance spilling the beans on Black Fire- namely, that they were a widespread para-military organization that was gathering allies and influence within Erath to initiate a coup of the rightful king, Treville Pargraven. He also knew the name of the necromancer they had been tracking- “Dirren Kas,” apparently as creepy a fellow as his profession would suggest. As it turns out, he was a regional commander for Black Fire. A war chest in the compound contained lots of gold for the heroes, in addition to lots of stockpiled food and other dry goods that the party loaded themselves up with. Elora got her hands on a handy staff of summoning and some spellbooks, while Hofniel and Queso nonchalantly relieved James of his masterwork half-plate armor and greatsword, respectively. Queso renamed the new blade “The Bigger Cheese Knife,” the clever-for-a-barbarian sequel to his “Big Cheese Knife.” Elora was able to forge a copy of the strategic map the mercenaries were using, which gave them a better idea of who the traitors were targeting as potential allies. With all that accomplished, the fantastic five gathered their horses (as well as those from the compound) and headed back to the sanctuary of Westwall.

A Hostage Situation
and the treachery it revealed.

After spending some days gathering political information, the party discovered who was important, who would tolerate them, and who actively hated them. Furthermore, they discovered that this rod was quite unique. As far as they had learned, the rod was actually a magical mace. They knew it had a command word, but they had also discovered that they only had three chances to guess the command word before it locked up. Gregor went to meditate while Dobby went looking for someone who knew how to raise a Wyvern.

After about a week of resting and researching, a courier entered Peloria, and he immediately recognized the adventurer’s and addressed them. He was a courier for Duchess Adeline Ashdrake, and she apparently requested them for a time sensitive task. Knowing that this was one of the few political powers that didn’t actively hate them, they decided to postpone the necromancer quest and head to her aid instead.

Thus they embarked towards the border city of Westwall. But on the first day of traveling, the party was beset by a roaming band of six orcs! Belladonna noticed them first and warned the party, but not before one loosed an arrow into Hofniel’s arm. He immediately retaliated with Pelor’s Roar (a sonic burst) against the three on his side, which dazed the middle one and damaged them all. Heisenberg used the distraction to slay an orc on the other side, while Queso cleaved through two more while guffawing. Elora, not wanting to be outdone, sunk her dagger right between a deafened one’s eye. Heisenberg then decapitated the dazed one and Queso skewered the last. The rest of the trip to Westwall was uneventful.

Upon arriving, the courier greeted them at the gate and informed them that Adeline was waiting for them on the ramparts in order to have a private conversation with them. The party was ushered there, found her waiting, and they introduced themselves. They were informed that, due to their political alignment, she believed that the party could handle this task on the down low while being reliable. She handed over a note she had received. Her son, James Ashdrake, had been kidnapped for a ransom of 10000gp. She provided a quick physical description of him, and told them that James was a brash and foolish hot head who tended to gamble at a joint outside of town. She clearly had no intention of paying the ransom, and wanted the adventurer’s to deal with it.

Hofniel asked if they could be provided with counterfeit gold pieces, to which she agreed. She also gave a signet ring to the party so James would know they were sent with her blessing. While they waited for the fake money to be crafted, Hofniel asked Adeline if she knew anything about the mace, which Hofniel was now naming Pelor’s Radiance. She responded that, if it was what she thought it was, then the Duke had only possessed it since he is a cousin of the King. Back during the Chevre war, then Duke now King Stark had used a powerful mace. It was specifically crafted for him by an elite team of mages, and had been instrumental in their victory. This, however, was the extent of her knowledge.

After the counterfeit coins were finished, the party decided to first drop by the gambling house that James frequented. They decided that only Belladonna and Queso would enter, while Elora, Heisenberg, and Hofniel stayed outside guarding the fake gold. They agreed that the code phrase would be “Who cut the cheese?” should anything happen. Thus Belladonna and Queso entered. Inside, they found all sorts of different low lives, most of which were playing some dice game. There also was the barkeep who seemed to be in charge. The dynamic duo went to the barkeep, ordered some drinks, and asked about the game everyone was playing. After wetting their whistles, Belladonna then asked if he had seen James Ashdrake recently.

At this, the keep narrowed his eyes and asked why, to which she immediately replied that James owed her some money. This brought a twinkle to his eye and he laughed, claiming he owed a lot of people money. He then said he could maybe say more if she coughed up 100gp. Not willing to part with that much gold, she counter offered with a gamble. If she wins at dice, he tells her. If not, she owes him 100gp and he says nothing. So they play their game. Belladonna tried to use some sneaky hand moves to help, but she was never any good with die [rolled a 1] and the barkeep was not pleased.

He grabbed his mace and put it on the counter. At this, his five guards from around the room turned their attention to the duo. He demanded they get out immediately, but Queso was having none of it. He stood up, placed his hand on the hilt of his sword, and introduced himself as Queso Grande. This visibly shook the guards. Queso continued to inform the keep that this would get ugly if things didn’t go well. The barkeep then pleaded with Queso to just leave, but he demanded some information first. The keep agreed, and then Queso asked where he had last seen James.

The barkeep claimed that he had seen him a few weeks back with some guy from the Black Fire Mercenaries. Queso thought the name sounded familiar, and had also ran out of questions. So, instead of just calling out to rest of the party outside, Queso just screamed, “Who cut the cheese?!?!”, which startled the guards. A few seconds later, the rest of the party burst through the front door, ready for some action. Just before the blows began to fall, Queso told them he didn’t know what else to ask. Recovering from their recent heart attacks, the party calmed themselves and asked more questions, such as what he was doing with the Black Fire Mercenaries and if James owed the mercenaries. The barkeep didn’t know much more, so the party left. As they exited, Queso knocked over his drink on the counter, and Hofniel through a few gold coins in apology.

So the party embarked to the drop point, which was located just outside of the city of Falcon Watch. But, midway there, an interesting event happened. As they were traveling down the road, they spotted up ahead a broken ox cart with a peasant crying near it. With their new notorious status, the party immediately expected something to be up. They yelled angrily at the peasant to second guess whatever shenanigans he was up to. He cried even louder that he was up to nothing, it was just his cart broken down on the highway. Hofniel had a feeling that the cart was just a setup, and Queso went forward to rough him up a little.

Low and behold, as Queso advanced, the peasant let out a cry and two men jumped out from the cart, while two more jumped from blind spots on either side of the road. They had fine armor, and the last one was wearing a white theatrical mask with two exquisite blades. Queso cried out his name, while engaging in the fight. Two of the band fired arrows while the other three closed in. Elora put one to sleep while the other two attacked. The masked adversary danced around, feinting and slashing deeply at Queso. Heisenberg was able to land a blow, while Belladonna engaged one that was coming to flank Elora. Hofniel once again asked for permission to touch, but this time imbued Queso with a new move: Grande Queso Grande. With his even larger and more muscular status, Queso effortlessly slew the closer enemy, before making the masked enemy a streak of blood splattered over 20 yards.

At this monstrous sight, the two archers high tailed it, leaving the sleeping assassin. After binding him, a very short interrogation revealed that they had been hired by the Duke to kill the party. It appears that Duke Torvald had set a bounty of 250gp for each of them dead, or 500gp for each of them alive! The group secured the bounty letter and the little goods they carried (including some nice poisons). They let the last assassin live, but not before Heisenberg placed his signature H upon his forehead. Thus, they continued to the drop point.

When they were at a significant distance from the drop point, the group sent Belladonna ahead to do recon. Using her scouting intuition, she located two men who were staking out the place, which was a small, shallow cave in a hill. The plan was then set: everyone but Queso would sneak in their blind spots until the surveillance team was mostly surrounded. Then Queso would place the fake coins in the drop site before walking away and hiding on the other side of the hill. Hopefully, the two would take the coins back to their hideout, where the party could then plan a rescue.

The plan worked brilliantly… except for when one of the mercenaries went up to the sack of gold, inspected it, and gave the kill signal to the other! At that point, both men started bolting in opposite directions. The one still in the hiding spot turned and ran toward the west. Heisenberg was closest to him, and was able to close the distance before he was noticed, then Heisenberg pinned the man down. To other ran to the east around the hill, but Queso was able to easily out pace him. The rest closed in and were able to secure both of the prisoners.

Hofniel and Queso then decided that it was once again time for some “Good Guard, Bad Guard”. Queso began with a fantastic bad guard, by staring one of them down, then without breaking eye contact, hoisted the other mercenary by two fingers in his nostrils. Hofniel then came in with the good guard, and interrogated the one on the ground while Queso stared. The adventurer’s learned that these two were definitely sent to recover the ransom and were to bring it back to their keep in the north. However, their commanding captain was none other than Captain James Ashdrake, the supposed hostage! He had been a member of the Black Fire Mercenaries for some months apparently.

At this turn of events, the party knew they would need a new tactic to pull this off. There was much debate about how to proceed, but it was finally settled. They decided to bind their two captives and free them on the return trip. Elora would take one of their uniforms and cast a disguise spell in order to infiltrate the keep. Belladonna would hide in the coin sack, while Elora would play it off as the ransom. The remaining three, Heisenberg, Hofniel, and Queso, would wait nearby to run in when things got hairy.

Well, the plan worked great, until Elora actually got to the door. With a knock, a little eye slit opened in the gate and the guard ask for a password: a password which the party had forgotten to retrieve during the interrogation. Elora tried to pass it off that she was clearly whoever she was supposed to be impersonating, but her voice cracked, which led the guard to open a trap door that was in front of the door! Down tumbled Elora and the sack containing Belladonna. Unsure how to proceed, the men continued to wait for their time to shine. After a while of waiting, the guard came out, accompanied by another guard who apparently identified Elora as his friend. They lifted her out of the pit, but when they also retrieved the sack, the original guard was alarmed when he felt a small person inside instead of gold!

Thus all pandemonium broke loose. The three men bolted from the bushes while Elora avoided one attack and Belladonna did a sneak attack from the sack, nearly dropping one of the guards. Hofniel did a standard jump over the pit, for he was not very coordinated. Queso, wanting to demonstrate him impressive jumping prowess, jumped over the pit, then over Elora, then while spinning in midair, over the closest guard, safely landing on the other side! Heisenberg, not wanting to be outdone, attempted a similarly grand jump. However, his jump was weighed down by heavy armor, so even though he did clear the enemies, he did not do it with as much flair. Queso let out a small guffaw under his breath.

Hofniel protected himself from attack while advancing deeper into the fort. The guards let out a cry, then Queso silenced one of them, and the party thought he could be left alone to take on the other one. Thus, the rest of the party advanced into the fort. They could hear some commotion through a large, main door. Queso, however, wasn’t doing great against the second guard. He was injured multiple times while also dropping his greatsword. Apparently he guffawed too soon.

Elora dropped to the ground to try to look under the door. She could see another eye staring back at her! She took a defensive posture behind the corner next to the door, Hofniel readied a spell to cast inside, Heisenberg turtled up in front of the door, and Belladonna stayed hidden on the left side of the door. Suddenly, the doors swung wide, revealing some crossbows that immediately attacked the party, inflicting minor damage. Furthermore, the party could hear groups of men on either side of the door. Immediately in plain site, was a very heavily armored individual in front of a table, and at the back of the room behind the table was James (identified by his pretentious facial hair) and a wizard, which everyone somehow knew was named Francis.

The wizard wielded her staff, then stones appeared and took on a humanoid form that began slowly advancing towards the party. Elora cast sleep from around the corner, and the heavily armored mercenary slumped to the floor. Hofniel cast his calming spell, and it definitely calmed James, while its affect on Francis couldn’t be determined. Then, Hofniel spoke the words he thought would be most frightening to James, “Your mother sent us.” This rattled James less than anticipated, and he was still bent on ending their lives. While the enemy was distracted, Belladonna managed to use a scroll of invisibility and silently entered the room. Then, Heisenberg and Hofniel stood in the doorway (not quite in the room) and Elora peeped from behind the corner periodically. Hofniel then tried intimidation, informing them that Queso was right behind them. At that very moment, Queso was STILL engaged with the same guard, but definitely getting closer to joining the others.

At this point, the party could easily tell that Francis was definitely more experienced in these situation than James. But thankfully, everyone was holding back from attacking. Elora tried to daze Francis, but Francis deflected the spell. Hofniel tried reasoning, claiming that James was clearly in over his head. It would be best if he just came with them peacefully, then Francis could become captain of this fort. He also added on that there was another team waiting for them outside (a bluff that amazingly worked). James began pacing around seriously thinking over this plan. Elora then successfully charmed Francis. All the while, Heisenberg stood guard while Belladonna sneaked behind both Francis and James.

Finally, Queso finished off the other guard. Then he cut off the guard’s head and brought it to the standoff, taking a prominent spot in the middle of the room. Hofniel continued to try to persuade James to just come with them. It was on the verge of working, when Francis’ patience expired. She cast a paralyzing spell on James while instructing the rest to continue with the original plan.

At the moment of betrayal, Belladonna sprung from her invisibility and sent a debilitating barrage of blows to Francis. Queso tossed the head while advancing to the elemental, dealing it a blow. Heisenberg joined the fray, easily dispatching of a couple of enemies before focusing on the elemental as well. Hofniel tried his best to help drop the enemies, but his first blow happened to miss. Elora, the devious minx, cast a mage hand, used it to pick up the severed head, and dropped in on one of the remaining guards. Francis, not pleased with the backstabbing, turned around, harshly grasped Belladonna, and began to draw upon Belladonna’s life essence while she healed her own wounds. Hofniel got in a strike! But much more impressive was the rate at which Heisenberg and Queso defeated the remaining enemies. Then, Elora emerged from her corner, rushed towards Francis, and unleashed a scorching ray which engulfed Francis in flame. The party then heard some snoring and thankfully remembered to put the last mercenary out of his misery.

When the battle was over, the group bound James before he could move and investigated the room. On the table was a map depicting forts and alliances with the Black Fire mercenaries. It revealed which duke and duchess sided with them or against them, and gave the name of a Prelate Dirren Kas who was holed up at the Mysterious location where they thought the necromancer was. When James could finally move, he further revealed that Kas was the regional commander of the Black Fire mercenaries, which were apparently a front for some radical cult bent on overthrowing the king! The adventurer’s knew this information would only help if the enemy didn’t know they had it. Belladonna forged a copy of the map, slightly burned the original, then folded it and hid it on Francis’ corpse. The party then had James tell them where the horses were. The fort was then plundered of as many good as they could carry, including some very helpful books from a library and a war chest containing much gold.

The heros then mounted up, (returned to free the captives), and traveled back to Westwall.

A Treacherous Exchange
and how the Duke now hates us

The day after the orc attack, a hermit monk named Gregor came wandering into Peloria. He had been looking to stop the orcs himself, and hearing that this party was able to stop them, decided to join up! He wasn’t much of a conversationalist (having taken a vow of silence), but he would prove to be quite the character. After being showered with reknown and treasures from Peloria, the group decided to overthrow the supposed Necromancer they had been warned about in a journal entry. Thus, they set off back to Sorpigal in order to resupply before heading on to the Mysterious location. Almost immediately upon arriving at Sorpigal, the party heard a crier declaring a bounty for a Wyvern being hosted by the Duke of Sorpigal. There was a minor discussion amongst the party members, and it was decided that just receiving more information on the bounty couldn’t hurt. Along the way, Heisenberg rejoined the gang, having benefited from a short training session with the local garrison.

So off to the Duke’s castle they went. Upon arriving, they were greeted by the Duke‘s steward: an older gentleman named Graverly (I think, didn’t write it down). After a formal introduction, he informed everyone that the bounty for the Wyvern located at Whimsdale would be 3,500 gold. This amount, of course, would only be given if the creature was not dismembered when returned. The party then began the classic argument between “Stop a Clearly Evil Guy” and “Stop a Beast for Gold.”

During this argument, it was brought to everyone’s attention that the Duke did not seem to be concerned with stopping the necromancer nor the band of orcs, while he was strangely interested in this Wyvern. Heisenberg used his new guard contacts to discover that this was not the first reward for an intact monster the Duke had made. Could it be that the Duke was supplying dead creatures for the necromancer to raise?!?! Who knows? But, gold is gold, so the party decided to help the citizens of Whimsdale (interpreted: get gold with some good deeds on the side).

The trip to Whimsdale was to be a straightforward endeavor: but when you least expect encounters, that’s when you should suspect them. A meer day and a half from Whimsdale, while the party was sleeping around the campfire, Elora was keeping watch. Then, almost too quietly to hear, a twig snapped in the brush. Elora, who was extremely on edge for some reason, started yelling to get the party’s attention. Most of the party awoke just in time to see a creature leap from the shadows and fall upon Belladona. With a sinister growl, the being grabbed Belladonna’s leg in its maw and began to drag her away.

In the light of the fire, they could tell it was some hairy humanoid figure. Elora quickly unleashed a magic missile on the beast, and the creature was confounded enough to release Belladonna. Heisenberg and Queso delivered powerful blows to the animal while Hofniel cured Belladonna’s wounds. But despite the distraction, the beast’s murderous rage was turned on Elora and, almost too quick to perceive, charged Elora, raking her with one of its claws. She immediately felt a sinister foulness in her blood, but knew this was no time to panic. The party quickly closed in the creature amongst themselves, and the wolf creature soon fell to their onslaught. After the ambush, the party tracked it back to a cabin not far from the road. Thankfully, the cabin was deserted except for a small collection of gold. Thus, with Elora feeling quite… different, the party continued their rest until morning.

In the morning, the party made their way quickly to Whimsdale. The first order of business was to cure Elora, who appeared to be growing a beard at this point. Hofniel tried the local temple, but there was no cleric powerful enough to remove the disease. After some information gathering, they party soon found an apothecary who might be able to help. Upon entering his shop, they found that an interesting, and rather relaxing, smoke was thick in the air. The apothecary was extremely laid back, and did happen to have a mixture that should help Elora’s impending lycanthropic conversion. With a quick swig, Elora’s beard and other extraneous hairs disappeared. Furthermore, after learning that the party was in town to kill the Wyvern, he offered some Wyvern antivenom, which was a fast seller since the Duke’s bounty had been announced.

Since it was still midday at this point, the party decided to head to the local tavern, hoping to gain some knowledge about the beast. In the tavern was an assortment of individuals, including one that let slip that he was hunting the Wyvern as well! Queso was very interested on how he planned to do this, and proceeded to intimidate him. While Queso acquainted this man’s face with the table, the others went to the bar to relax for a bit, knowing there was no stopping Queso at this point. The man admitted that he and his pals were planning on poisoning the Wyvern with some sort of lure, and attacking it after it was weakened. Queso was also interested in obtaining this poison, and thus proceeded to intimidate the man into leading him to his room.

Thus, Queso marched this man up the stairs towards the inn section of the tavern. Near the top of the stairs was a door on the right, and from this door pounced two men with daggers drawn! Queso quickly threw the first guy back behind him and drew his greatsword. However, Queso did not factor in that he was a large man in a tiny stairway wielding a large sword. His sword sunk deep into the ceiling and the entire tavern could hear the commotion. The rest of the party was not surprised that Queso was causing a ruckus, and proceeded to continue drinking while offering the barkeep compensation for the impending damages. Back on the stairs, one of the men was able to stab Queso before he could dislodge his weapon. But these men were no match for Queso, who soon freed his blade and knocked both men unconscious. Seeing his two buddies so easily dispatched, the original man decided to obey Queso’s demand of retrieving the poison. But Queso was not yet satisfied. The sane members of the party saw Queso return down the stairs with his arms full with a pile of weapons and armor, which he promptly headed out to pawn in the town. At the sight, the innkeep decided he had had enough, and refused to let the party stay in his inn. Thus, the party camped outside that night.

In the new morning sun, the party created their plan. Dobby’s animal companion was able to scout out an approximate location for the Wyvern. They would poison a large bag of entrails that they received from the local butcher, and after it took effect, would all charge the beast. So they marched towards the crags that were on the outskirts of Whimsdale. After some quick recon, Belladonna discovered a spot where an alarming amount of animal bones had been discarded. Thinking this was the place, the party split up in a semicircle around this point. Belladonna, being the sneaky one, placed the poisoned bag of guts in the clearing. They waited… and waited… and waited some more. Finally, the party heard the flapping of a large set of wings. Then down from the cliff flew the lizardlike creature.

It eagerly ate the lure and the party waited for the poison to kick in. Midway through the meat, the Wyvern let out a small roar and shakily stepped back from the meal. The adventurers knew it was their moment to strike! Elora quickly weakened the monster with a Ray of Enfeeblement while Belladonna crept forward for a sneak attack. Dobby and Gregor lobbed projectiles at it, but its scale hide was too thick to penetrate. Queso, extremely weary of the Wyverns stinger, ran around back in an attempt to chop off its tail! Unfortunately for both Belladonna and Queso, the attacks did not do as much damage as they had expected, and the Wyvern quickly retaliated with a devious blow against Queso.

As Heisenberg was about to advance on the beast and protect his friends, Hofniel (ever the gentleman) asked for permission to touch him. A little confused, Heisenberg agreed and with Hofniel’s touch, was quickly enlarged: a target that the Wyvern could not ignore. And thus the battle raged. Heisenberg took point, attacking with his gigantic silver longsword while Queso and Belladonna attacked from the rear. Queso made another attempt to dismember the Wyvern’s tail, but in the heat of the moment somehow flung his greatsword on the other side of the Wyvern. Elora kept berating it with spells while Gregor switched from shuriken to his trusted fists. Finally, with a massive blow from Heisenberg, the creature fell.

Heisenberg quickly carved a giant H on the beast’s chest for some reason while Queso guffawed. Then the party was presented with a dilemma: this creature was quite large, and the cart was still in town. Queso and two others decided to stay with the Wyvern while the rest of the parted went to retrieve the cart. But, as soon as the rest of the party was well out of range, a group of three men jumped out from some rocks and charged the guarding group! When they drew close, Queso could identify the three men he had accosted in the inn, carrying crude spears. Queso was glad to flex his great muscles and charged right up to the three. In a single swift move, he slew two of the three, which caused the third to stop in his tracks and run the other way. Too bad Queso wasn’t finished, and that is how another band of misfits met the terrible fate of DBQ.

The others returned with the cart before too long. Hofniel, thinking that he may know something about Wyvern anatomy from one of his classes, miraculously removed its poison gland. Then, the party had a thought: where was the Wyvern’s lair? Belladonna quickly went on a recon mission, and after climbing the cliffs adjacent to the largest pile of bones, found the makeshift nest of the Wyvern. And there in the center was a large egg. The party carefully retrieved it, packed their cart with the mostly intact Wyvern, and returned to Sorpigal.

Upon arriving at Sorpigal, the merry band immediately went to the Duke’s estate and demanded their reward. They were quickly granted an audience in the main hall. Torvald was giddy with their haul and began speaking with Hofniel. At this point, Queso was sad that they would lose this grand trophy, and quietly pocketed a couple of loose scales from the cart. The party, now finally seeing the Duke, knew why he wanted the Wyvern. The was dressed garishly in all sorts of animal skins, some looking quite exotic. Torvald thanked them for this task, and offered them 2000 gp. This clearly did not please the party, since they had been told the reward was 3500 gp. Torvald continued to stiff them, at which point the party had had enough, and began to back the cart out of Torvald’s hall.

At this point, Torvald’s merriment was at an end. He grabbed and raised the golden rod that was at his side. Suddenly, as if by magic, all the guards in the room immediately readied themselves and all looked at the adventurers in unison. Feeling quite distrustful towards Torvald and the rod in his hand, Hofniel cast detect magic and immediately saw rays of magical energy emanating from the rod to each of the guards in the room. The party asked what the Duke was doing, and he replied by demanding they leave the Wyvern where it was. Refusing once again, the party began operation “Is this Really Happening?”

Hofniel, thinking that Torvald was somehow controlling the guards, quickly began casting Obscuring Mist while Queso ran towards the Duke. When the spell was cast, a large mist blocked the guards from the Duke’s sight, and it was obvious that the guards were affected, so Hofniel tried to persuade them to stand down. Elora tried to touch one of the guards with Fatigue, but stumbled at the last second, unable to connect. Belladonna and Gregor leaped into the mist towards the Duke, while Queso was trying to grab the rod from him. Some of the guards, though slightly confused, still had the state of mind to peel off towards the Duke.

At this point, Gregor was also trying to grab the rod. Belladonna came from behind while the Duke was distracted, but then slipped on the smooth floors and somehow tumbled into the Duke’s lap! Thankfully, the guards were slowed down by the mist while the other half of the guards began closing in on the rest of the party by the cart. Finally, Queso was able to grab hold of the Duke. When this happened, Hofniel removed the mist and everyone realized that this had turned into a slight hostage situation. Trying to salvage it, Hofniel then gave the best speech of his life [nat 20], discussing how the Duke was manipulating his guard and owed the party and his people. Furthermore, Hofniel negotiated, with the help of Queso, for the original 3500 gp, then an additional 3500 gp, in exchange for the Wyvern. Then, pushing their luck, Hofniel also demanded the rod. At first, the Duke refused. But after more coaxing and a flexing of Queso’s pecks, he finally yielded the rod.

The party took their goods, backed out cautiously from the hall, and turned from the Duke’s murderous glare. They high tailed it safely back to Peloria. The good adventurers dispersed 1500 gp of the extra earnings to the refugees of the orc crisis, while devoting the rest to gaining political information about Erath, which they had suddenly found quite critical.

A Treacherous Exchange (DM Edition)

The brave adventurers, in the wake of their last victory, made sure to restock their supplies and rations, to include lots, and lots, of rope. Within a few days, they met a lone, silent monk, who wordlessly communicated his desire to join them, having seen an increase in orc violence on the roads. Not wishing to look a gift horse in the mouth, the party accepted. Waving a fond farewell, the group set forth back to Sorpigal without incident. It was not long after reaching the city that they overheard the town crier, announcing a bounty for a great beast issued by Torvald, the Duke of Sorpigal himself. It was the gold that caught the party’s ear, a princely sum of 3500 gold pieces. The team quickly set out to meet the steward, Graverly, who informed them that the party must bring the carcass of the dead Wyvern back to the duke in order to collect their reward. Heading off to Whimsdale, the Defenders of Peloria felt ready to take on anything.

As night fell on the second night of their journey, Eloria stood watch over the encampment of snoring adventurers. From the bushes, she detected a rustling noise….and immediately began screaming her head off! Waking everyone aside from the notoriously un-arousable Queso and Belladonna, she witnessed a shaggy, wolf-like being bolt from the underbrush and slash into the still-sleeping Belladonna with wicked claws, rending the poor halfling before getting a grasp of her ankle. The party finally awoke in full. Gregor the monk sent a volley of shurikens, which did not connect. Queso characteristically charged, but unfortunately missed with a wide swipe of his greatsword. Elora flung a magic missle, causing it to release poor Belladonna. Heisenberg was able to injure the monster with his silver blade, while Elora sassily taunted the werewolf, incurring it’s wrath. The monster charged and bit Elora square on the shoulder, inflicting its lycanthropic curse on the mage. Her friends quickly flanked the werewolf, working together to finally end its miserable existence. Elora implored her comrades for information regarding her new affliction. Hofinel, having read childhood tales about were-creatures, recalled that those who had been bitten would turn by the next full moon. Dobby the druid realized that would be in but four days. Picking up the pace, they reached Whimsdale within 2 days, leaving a bit of time to prevent Elora from becoming a werewizard.

The team scoured the town, first beseeching the local cleric for disease healing magic, who pointed them to the local apothecary. This fellow was high as a proverbial kite, with a strange smelling fog of smoke filling his small workspace. Regardless, he proved friendly and helpful, providing a much needed cure disease for Elora, who, unhesitatingly paid the expected 50 gold to end her lycanthropy, along with her increasingly unsightly whiskers. After some discussion, they also procured several Wyvern antivenom concoctions from the alchemist. The group had no idea if they would work, but they figured anything was better than nothing. Having dealt with those issues, the team was then free to dig up any information about wyverns and wyvern hunting that they could, starting of course, at the local tavern. Almost immediately, they noticed a liquored-up man in a corner, bedecked in armor that set him aside from the common folk. Some easy questioning determined the man was part of another group of Wyvern hunters. Queso wasted no time and began chatting him up, and by that I mean smashing the poor fellow’s face into the wooden table until he spilled his guts (metaphorically, for once) about their plan to take the Wyvern down, involving a special-made poison. While the rest of the team settled in and ordered drinks, Queso had the battered man guide him to their upstairs inn room…only to be immediately ambushed by his two armed friends. The mighty barbarian whipped out his massive blade, only to get it stuck in the ceiling. Undaunted, he brought the pommel of his greatsword down upon one, and then the other, knocking them senseless without incurring so much as a scratch. Our reckless barbarian had no issue getting the drunk, would-be Wyvern hunter to deliver the vial of poison to him, after which he shamelessly relieved all of them of their weapons and armor. The ruckus was bad enough for the increasingly agitated innkeeper…and when Queso ambled down the stairs carrying armloads of paying customers’ gear, he snapped, ordering everyone out before he called the town guard. Our heroes were forced to sleep outside, which had presumably been where Queso was going to be all along.

At daybreak, the adventurers began to piece together a plan to find and kill the mighty beast. While Dobby’s owl, Pidgwideon, did some reconnaissance, the group obtained a bag of intensely smelly animal entrails from the local butcher to use as a lure, applying the poison to it when the time was right. Setting out to a set of a northern rocky promontory where their owl companion had led them, they began broadly surveying the area, sending out their talented, low-profile halfling rogue Belladonna to scout around. At the Western base of the outcroppings, she discovered the bleached bones of numerous animals, raising her suspicion that a large, dangerous predator…perhaps a Wyvern…was nearby. After the group took positions behind several jutting boulders, Belladonna very, very carefully placed the lure, scampered behind a rock, and they all waited. In time, they heard the buffeting of huge wings, and a shadow swept forward from the base of the rocks. The terrible, scaly creature landed directly in front of the intestines and began feasting, too stupid to question where they had come from. In short order, the beast trembled and let out a squawk as if in pain. The poison, it seemed, was legitimate. Taking their cue, our brave band engaged it in combat: Elora zapped the creature with enfeeblement, while Dobby ignited a colorful display of fairy lights directly in the creatures face as further distraction. Belladonna hurled stones at it with her tiny sling, most of them plinking harmlessly off the monster’s scales. Gregor’s shurikens found little more purchase, though he was able to sink a few into its chest. Heisenberg bravely, and stoically marched shield-first to face the Wyvern, with Queso charging into the fray from the opposite direction, attempting a strike on the stinging tail of the beast, but failing to do significant damage on the first blow. Hofniel stood adjacent to Heisenberg in support, which would soon prove beneficial. Flailing attacks from the winged wretch failed to connect, perhaps in no small part due to the poison they had wisely utilized. Hofniel, after respectfully asking permission, cast enlarge upon Heisenberg with a touch, who now stood eye to eye with the reptilian monstrosity-not a moment too soon, as it then delivered a vicious bite on our stout fighter, clamping his shoulder painfully in its jagged beak. Meanwhile, our Chevren barbarian tried another tail strike…only to trip hilariously over it and face-plant into the ground, sword skittering across the rocky terrain. It was then that Heisenberg, the MVP (most valuable player-character) of the day, delivered a series of lightning fast, wicked strikes to the creature, felling it at last. His companions noticed that the blows had not only been lethal, but had carved a large “H” pattern into its scaly chest.
Queso, Hofniel, and Heisenberg stayed with the body of the Wyvern while the rest of the group set out to retrieve their cart. Once their friends had moved out of sight, a group of three men burst from nearby cover to attack, armed with spears and clad in their underclothes. Queso guffawed in amusement, recognizing the trio as the same failed Wyvern-hunters from the inn. Meeting their advance, Queso, grinning ear-to-ear, swung in a tremendous arc, cleaving two of the three in half in a single blow. Dismayed, the last wisely chose to flee, a trail of urine in his wake. Hofniel decided to pursue something a bit more constructive. Channeling his childhood interest in monster lore and his clerical knowledge of anatomy, somehow, with a generous helping of luck, he was able to withdraw the Wyvern’s intact poison gland from the base of its tail. When the rest of the crew returned, they carefully moved the beast’s remains into the cart. The ever curious Belladonna took it upon herself to look around for a nest, eventually coming upon a single, large, well-hidden Wyvern egg. Satisfied that they had what they came for, the victorious band set off to Sorpigal for their reward.

Heading straight for the Duke’s estate, cart and Wyvern in tow, they presented the trophy to Torvald in person. The Duke was a gaudy, foppish man, dressed in regalia pieced together with what appeared to be a variety of exotic animal hides, feathers, and other bits. It became quite clear just why the Duke had wanted this creature in the first place-no doubt to add to his wardrobe. Hofniel took point to address the Duke, requesting their reward. Torvald flippantly offered them 2500 gold, 1000 less than the original bargain. The party balked at this, muttering amongst themselves, quickly deciding they didn’t feel like being stiffed. As they began packing the wyvern back into the cart to leave, the Duke’s tone changed. He screamed at them, demanding they unhand his new prize, at the same time burnishing a large, golden rod in one hand. As the rod came out, the multitude of guards in the room seem to respond as a singular mind, turning in lockstep with halberds lowered. Hofniel, immediately suspecting something, cast detect magic. He saw swirling energy coming from the rod in Torvald’s grasp moving out to envelop each of his guards. Fantastically, despite this revalation, the fearless band remained undaunted, and, exchanging glances, knew there was only one thing to do. Hofniel cast obscuring mist to block line of sight between the Duke and his guards, while Queso and Gregor bolted through toward him, intent on getting that rod out of Torvald’s hands. The guards, upon losing sight of the Duke and his strange scepter, suddenly lost their hive-minded unity, blinking as if disoriented. The rest of the group, Dobby, Elora, Hofniel, and Heisenberg, taking advantage of this brief confusion, put on their best “We’re just as muddled as you!” act, treading thin ice in their efforts to avoid inciting a pitched fight, for which they were woefully outnumbered. A few guards recovered their wherewithal enough to enter the magical fog, while Queso and Gregor scrambled to get a grip on the flailing Duke. Belladonna, having slipped into the fog behind the group, made a quick attempt to snatch it from the Duke’s hands, only to trip and fall directly in his lap. By this time, the guards that had cut through the fog saw what was going on and shouted “They have the Duke!” Queso had had enough, finally snatching up the squirming, pompous noble in one burly arm, with the golden rod in his opposite hand. Hofniel quickly lifted the fog, running to the head of the throne, delivering the most inspired speech of his young life to the tense but bewildered guards, diffusing the situation enough to allow some negotiation to take place. They managed “convince” their new hostage to double the original price from 3500 to 7000 in payment for the Wyvern. Pushing their luck to its absolute limit, they demanded the rod as well, which the Duke angrily refused to concede, at least until Queso tightened his python-like grip on the helpless man, after which he became more amenable to the idea. Sensing that fortune would only favor the bold to a point, the group carefully backed out of the hall, dropping the fuming Torvald off at the entrance. Taking no more chances, the adventurers high-tailed it back to Peloria as fast as their legs and horses could carry them.

In the Name of Pelor
...how many orcs did you say?

After settling our affairs in Sorpigal, the party went to rest at the only tavern. Quickly after entering, Hofniel was addressed by two individuals. They introduced themselves as Dale and his daughter Gwen, two villagers from the small town of Peloria. Seeing Hofniel’s mark of Pelor, they instantly knew they could trust him and requested of the party to help fend of an imminent orc attack. Apparently, while the party was making a quick gold, the orcs had continued ravaging the southern regions of Arath. Peloria was now a home for many refugees displaced by the onslaught.

The party, feeling compassion (and guilt since they ignored the orcs earlier) swore their help and promptly left the next day. Heisenberg had some training in town to complete, and thus did not join the party. Dale and Gwen only had one horse, thus it became the beast of burden while everyone but Belladona walked on foot. After a day and a half of safe travel, a group of four individuals sprung from the bushes and demanded our goods. The party was having none of it, and quickly engaged.

Unbeknownst to both the party and the bandits, there was a druid named Dobby who had been tracking the bandits and was hiding in a different patch of brush. She had been hunting the bandits, for she knew they were illegal poachers! From the shadows, she began attacking a rear bandit, who had no clue what was happening. The other three bandits did not notice, for at this moment Queso charged forward and slayed the closest bandit, rending him in two. Hofniel took this opportunity to persuade the other two engaged bandits to flee for their lives, which they did… but not quickly enough. Elora quickly buried a crossbow bolt into one’s leg, and Queso impaled the second. Dobby, taking advantage of Queso’s distraction, was able to incapacitate the rear bandit.

Now you may be asking yourself, “Where was Belladonna?” Well, she was resting on the horse and wasn’t aware of the situation. But Elora woke her, and Belladonna contributed by bounding the living bandits. Seeing how Dobby had helped the party, they decided to be friends and interrogate the bandit with the wounded leg. Hofniel and Queso decided to try out a “Good Guard, Bad Guard” routine. After prepping their strategy, Hofniel went in first with “Good Guard”. However, due to the heat of the day and being a bit peckish, Hofniel did a poor job soothing the bandit [interpreted “rolled a 1”] and began berating and kicking the already injured bandit. Then came in Queso, who overplayed his “Bad Guard” [interpreted “rolled ANOTHER 1”] and hurled the bandit over his head, cracking the bandit’s neck on the landing.

Thankfully, they had another bandit to interrogate. This time, they started off with “Bad Guard” and it worked perfectly. The bandit told the location of their nearby camp, where the party found some horses, gold, and the pelts they had been poaching. The party let Dobby dispose of the pelts in an honoring way, and let her pass judgement on the remaining bandit. Based on his actions against nature, she sentenced him to DBQ (Death By Queso) and joined the party in their endeavors.

After a new day of travel, they arrived at Peloria, which was bustling with refugees. After a quick inspection, it was apparent that few in the town would be of any help against orcs. There were a total of 2 archers, excluding Gwen the ranger, that could help them defend the town. Furthermore, they were lacking in basic defense supplies since the blacksmith was in a state of depression. Although Hofniel and Queso tried to convince the blacksmith, it was only with Elora and Dobby’s comforting words that he recovered enough to help. Next for the town’s defense, the party asked for some poison from the local wizard. Even though he was a few eggs short of an omelette, he was able to procure some poison for the party. Even better, Belladonna was able to abscond with his poisonous frog. The final thing to check was the walls. Hofniel did identify one extremely weak spot in the wall, which they got the local mason to patch up with the help of some refugees.

In preparation for the coming battle, Hofniel referenced a book on orc battles. The party then decided to booby trap the former weak point in the wall. With the final placement of the majority of the party in the towers and Hofniel and Queso at the gate, the party waited. Then tension in the air was almost as thick as Queso’s stench. Suddenly, Dobby noticed that the wildlife was suddenly silenced and warned the town. No sooner had the alert gone out before a dense line of orcs marched from the treeline toward the little town. With great skill, Elora was able to attack an orc at quite a long range, which triggered a battle cry and rush from the enemy.

Queso and Hofniel held the door while the villagers and rest of the party trimmed the orcs using their projectile weapons. Dobby summoned a vicious wolf to attack the orcs on the outside of the wall. When the orcs were in range, Hofniel blessed himself and Queso with protection before they threw open the gates and met the orcs head on. Orc after orc fell as the party attacked them both on the ground and through the air.

However, after about half of the orcs had fallen, the party began to hear slight tremors… that sounded like large footprints. A magical fog then appeared at the treeline and started advancing toward the town. By this time, Hofniel, Queso, and Belladonna were all on the ground slaying orcs as quickly as they could. They had only a few orcs left when the extremely close fog lifted, revealing a huge ogre and orc shaman. Queso met the challenge head on and charged the giant being, while Hofniel and Belladonna tried to clear the final few orcs. The archers aimed at the shaman, and Elora engaged in a mage’s duel against him. Dobby was using her companion owl to deliver her Goodberries to her allies, and about this time the ogre landed a severe blow against Queso. But after a quick healing from Hofniel, he unleashed his barbarian rage and reentered the fray. Belladonna slayed the final stray orc, then hid under his corpse. While the ogre was facing Queso in battle, she sprung out and let out a devastating barrage along the ogre’s leg. Through the teamwork of the archers and Elora, the shaman fell. But the ogre still stood. Then suddenly, time seemed to stand still. All eyes focused on Gwen upon a tower, arrow nocked and aimed at the ogre. Channelling the force of nature itself, she released the arrow that fell the terrible beast.

The dust settled, blood had flowed, but the town still stood. The clerics were overjoyed and showered the party with gifts and thanks, including a special Shield of Pelor and protective talisman. Then, from the back of the library, one scholar produced an ancient parchment depicting some musical greatsword, of which Queso was extremely interested. But since he could not read, all he could do was enjoy the picture.

In the Name of Pelor (DM Edition)

And so, our brave adventurers returned to Sorpigal from their first successful foray, dividing amongst them the loot they had acquired, including a magical, crystalline dagger, several potions, plenty of gold, and a ring that gave Queso the guffawing barbarian the ability to sing in combat. A quick analysis of journal scrap they had acquired by Elora and Hofniel made mention of some manner of necromantic “Prelate” with a vague map location. The team decided to revisit this when they were prepared. Heisenberg the fighter took a breather from adventuring for a time, getting some temporary work in the local guard to make extra coin and train to defend against rogue banana peels.
Arriving at the familiar Sorpigal Inn, Hofniel, the vain yet righteous cleric, was quickly approached by a gruff, weathered looking man and a raven-haired half-elf. Introduced as Dale and Gwen, they implored Hofniel for aid, immediately recognizing him as belonging to the Pelorian church. The seat of the church in Erath, Peloria, was directly in line for an advancing series of unexplained assaults made by increasingly intrusive orcs from the southern jungle regions. Unable to resist this plea, Hofniel convinced the rest of the group to join him in this venture. As a Thunderlight, he knew he would be well received in Peloria and was well aware that the town housed some of the largest archives of tomes and scrolls in the kingdom. Elora the wizard greatly approved of a chance to access such a trove of knowledge, while Queso, perhaps feeling a smidge of guilt for leaving the poor, doomed farmer to his fate on their prior adventure, loudly accepted the chance to smash some filthy orcs for the greater good. Belladonna, presumably after stealing several people’s drinking money, shrugged ambivalently and went along with the plan. Dale and Gwen agreed to go in advance to deliver news to the town quickly.

After obtaining provisions for the road, Hofniel, Elora, Queso, and Belladonna began their journey along the Azure river toward Peloria. On the second day of their journey, as they made their way parallel to the river at midday, the group was set upon by a group of ruffians. An arrow sliced through the air, narrowly missing Elora. Hofniel lifted his shield in the direction of the attack, seeing three armed bandits charging from an elevated position, with the one who had shot at them already knocking another arrow. Queso roared, brandishing his greatsword, but before anyone could act, the enemy archer was struck in the back of the head by an unseen flying object, pitching him forward, off balance. Encouraged, Queso quickly closed the distance to the nearest bandit, cleaving him in half with one tremendous swing, sending blood spatter all over himself and the adjacent attackers. The other two, terrified and dismayed, were easily convinced by Hofniel to give up their attack and darted in opposite directions to escape. Elora, huffing in contempt, loosed a crossbow bolt into the back of one, incapacitating and nearly killing him. Queso easily overran the other fleeing bandit, driving his greatsword through the poor sap’s meager armor, impaling him before nonchalantly flinging his corpse to the side. Standing on a nearby tree trunk, Hofniel finally saw who had taken down the archer: a fuming, tiny female gnome carrying a sling and dressed in what appeared to be a carpet. Queso, grinning from ear to ear, ran to their new gnome friend like an excited puppy, while Elora approached with a more calm and diplomatic demeanor. Hofniel, rolled his eyes and snorted, turning his back to attend to their pack horse, muttering about how he did not care to associate with “wild, unkempt forest folk.” A quick discussion with their new companion, Dobby the Druid revealed that these “bandits” were also, in fact, poachers, slaughtering all manner of adorable forest creatures and harvesting their parts, which in turn incurred the wrath of Dobby, who had been waiting for a proper time to strike against the critter killers. Attempting to speak to the concussed and very dizzy bandit archer did not go well; Hofniel, exhausted and annoyed, lost his composure and began kicking the sad fellow and swearing in very un-Hofniel like manner. Queso, wanting to help, attempted to lift the bandit by the collar and intimidate him. However, in his post-fight, adrenaline addled state, he accidentlly flung the man over his head, who landed on his neck, killing him instantly. Upon realizing that one of the attackers was still alive, if only barely, the team decided attempt a second interrogation, hopefuly without unintended fatalities. Hofniel found and shook Belladonna the Halfling awake, who had been asleep on the back of the pack horse the entire time. The group, lacking any rope, instead used vines provided by Dobby as a makeshift substitute and bound the wounded man, providing just enough bandaging to keep his wounds from becoming worse. Though he first attempted to lie about his dealings, the stern gaze of Hofniel combined with menacing, ranting gibberish from Queso convinced the fellow to tell it straight. He had in fact, been not only poaching forest creatures to sell at markets in the capital city and Sorpigal (including to the Duke of Sorpigal and his associates), his group had also been attacking helpless travelers along the road to murder and rob, which came as no surprise given their recent attack. Dobby shook her tiny fist and demanded the man die for his terrible crimes, while Hofniel nodded solemnly in agreement, clearly disgusted by this evil wretch. Queso took the liberty of bashing the villain’s head in with one giant fist. They later found the bandit’s spoils, some gold and the pelts feathers, and teeth of various animals, which were given proper respects by Dobby before interring them into the earth. They also obtained several horses. The group continued the remainder of their journey to Peloria without incident, with their new friend in tow.

At last the adventurers arrived in Peloria, housing the cathedral to Pelor, the sun god. The town was surrounded by a fifteen foot stone wall with a sturdy gate and watch towers on each of the four corners. Hofniel was greeted warmly by the local priest, remarking on how reassuring it was to have a Thunderlight come to their aid. In return for their help, the priest promised to provide the party with whatever they could dig up from their expansive archives, in addition to whatever gold and provisions the beleaguered township could afford, strained as they already were with refugees fleeing the oncoming orc incursion. The team quickly set upon ways to help prepare for the assault, having been informed by Gwen and Dale that, based on scout reports, could happen as early as that same evening. Knowing preparedness was key, everyone began assessing the town’s defense. Elora discovered a weakness in the north wall, quickly rallying townsfolk to seal the breach. Her elf eyes caught sight of movement in the nearby woods, indicated that their efforts were being watched. Queso and Hofniel found the local blacksmith weeping drunkenly into his ale. Continued efforts by the duo failed to convince the dour fellow to chip in. Only after Belladonna’s soothing words and encouragement did he reluctantly agree to work on fashioning more arrows and repairing some broken equipment. Attempting to be more helpful, Hofniel performed some research on orc barbarians, revealing a few tidbits about common tactics. As the day wore on, many of the group found the local hedge wizard, an eccentric, white haired little fellow in a small shop with various trinkets, potions, bubbling flasks, and other various odds and ends. They were able to convince him to sell them a small bottle of oil that, as far as they could tell from the man’s tangential rambling, was poisonous. When Dobby the druid noticed an orange and yellow toad in a small cage, she immediately wanted it freed. At Dobby’s behest, Elora distracted the odd man with wizard jargon while Belladonna swiped the colorful pet. The toad appeared pleased, as much as a toad can be. As night began to fall, Gwen, the handful of town archers, Dobby, and Elora took up places in the watchtowers on the gated side of the wall, with Hofniel and Queso bravely taking point by the gate. Dale stayed in the cathedral with the refugees as a last line of defense. Arrows were coated in poison, spells readied, and lamps hung, as Peloria braced itself for battle.

The crescent moon provided little extra light as the sun disappeared over the horizon. The town was well lit within, though visibility was short outside the walls. With their darkvision, Elora and Dobby were able to see into the darkness some distance. For what seemed an eternity, all was calm. As midnight neared, Dobby’s preternatural connection with nature gave her the sense that something had changed- birds quieted, frogs and insects went silent. She was able to detect animals running out of the forest line about two hundred yards from the gate. All attention was directed to the gate/forest side of the wall, which is where the adventurers had anticipated the bulk of the onslaught. Both Elora and Dobby finally spotted them- a small horde of orcs, girded for battle, moving at a near sprint toward the gate, not a one of them making a sound. Elora fired first, her bolt singing through the air and planting itself directly in one enemy’s neck, dropping the orc instantly. A cry of anger and surprise went up amongst the horde, knowing they had been spotted. Arrows flew from the walls, some with the aforementioned poison, which thankfully proved effective- those orcs so poisoned writhed in pain upon being struck. Dobby summoned a wolf to aid them as the orcs closed on the gate itself. The animal was able to drag an orc to the ground, but could not kill it before the summoning wore off. The attackers began hacking into the wooden gate, intent on breaching the town. Hofniel and Queso, not wishing to wait around for the door to be splintered, took the initiative and flung open the gates themselves, laying into the vicious creatures with mace and sword, bashing, cleaving, and in Queso’s case, guffawing into the fray. With the aid of those on the towers, the tide had turned, and victory seemed near. It was then that an ominous, unnatural fog appeared along the forest, billowing toward them with unnerving speed. As Queso and Hofniel fought against the last of the orc attackers, the ground began to tremble very slightly, as if under heavy footsteps, causing much consternation among the defenders. The fog finally lifted near the gate itself, revealing an enormous, hide-clad ogre wielding what appeared to be a small tree as a club. One injured orc, having the misfortune of being in the creature’s path, was sent careening twenty feet by one tremendous bash of the monster’s club. A painted, skull-staff toting orc shaman stood several feet behind the ogre, conjuring fire to hurl at Elora in the tower, initiating a wizard’s duel between the two. Queso, upon seeing the ogre in action, knew the only acceptable thing to do was to charge it head on, sword swinging. Though Elora, not wishing Queso to be flattened, cast a ray of enfeeblement on the hulk, weakning it substantially. Queso fought with all his might, unleashing his inner rage and doing substantive damage to the Ogre, who in turn sent Queso reeling more than once with his earth-shattering strikes. Hofniel spent every last ounce of his holy energy trying to keep his friend alive, with the exertion becoming visible on his features as the struggle wore on. The village archers proved to be of little help overall, against either the shaman or the ogre. Belladonna cleverly hid amongst the bodies of the dead orcs, waiting for her opportunity to unleash a series of vicious strikes behind the monster, though even this was not enough to bring it down. While the battle on the ground raged, Dobby sent her faithful owl with handful of Goodberries to the singed Elora, who was locked in a magical struggle with the grotesque orc shaman. Magic crackled in the air and streaked across the sky as the two unleashed their arcane knowledge upon eachother. Exhausting her magic did not stop our wizard heroine, who, with uncanny precision, fired the bolt that finally killed her rival. At the gate, Queso, Hofniel, and Belladonna struggled to stop the rampaging ogre. As if by divine reprieve, Gwen the raven-haired ranger set forth an arrow that struck the monster directly in the eye, eliciting a long, last groan and it’s final thunderous collapse. A cheer went up along the wall, and the heroes knew they had saved the proverbial day.

The following morning was one of celebration and cheer. The adventerers were given gifts of gold and praise, now dubbed the “Defenders of Peloria.” Hofniel Thunderlight was bestowed a gleaming, sun-embossed shield from the treasures of the church, and a holy, protective talisman too was awarded to the group. Our heroes knew they could enjoy a well deserved rest- at least for now.

Welcome to Erath
All adventures start somewhere

We enter the country of Erath, specifically the town of Sorpigal
through the Dragon's Mouth channel. It was getting late in the evening, so some travelers were heading to the local inn. However, right outside of the inn, 5 patrons suddenly encountered a large, grotesque rat. Hofniel Thunderlight was first to encounter it, and promptly guarded himself from the filth before him. Belladona used him as a distraction so she could sneakily stab the rat. Elora shot it with a crossbow, but it just wouldn't die! Heisenberg attempted to end its life, but slipped on a banana peel instead, landing right on his back. Finally, Queso was able to overkill the rat.

With this impromptu greeting, the new party went inside. Seated around the tavern were three interesting sets of people. First, there was a group of mercenaries in their purple, logoed uniforms. Next was a rich halfling with his half-orc body guard. Finally there was a sullen farmer, staring into the distance. Hofniel spotted the fellow high-class individual and introduced himself to the halfling. The halfling informed the party of a dwarven map he would like, and after Hofniel and Queso bartered for a higher pay, they agreed to retrieve it. Hofniel then went to bed.

The rest of the party asked the farmer why he was so sullen. The farmer told a tale of how his village was ransacked by orcs that came from the south. Queso and friends felt concern for the farmer, and agreed to help after they had more funds.

The next morning, the party left for the dungeon which supposedly had the treasure. After traveling three days, they found the abandoned building as instructed. There was a blatant front door, but Elora and Belladona felt like there must be more. These two went around the building looking for another entrance while Heisenberg, Hofniel, and Queso devised a strategy to enter through the first door. Around back, the dynamic duo found an abandoned waterway that entered the back of the building, which they started entering. Around the front, the terrible triple had successfully bashed down the door, and Hofniel was promptly greeted with a swinging mace to the chest. After the triple entered and started walking down the halfway, Hofniel narrowly avoided a bear trap as well. Hofniel decided to stop walking in front.

Soon, the party was reunited in the hallway and proceeded to find a doorless entryway. Elora looked around the corner and saw bones and a rotting corpse reaching for a glittering blade. She reported back, and the party as a whole proceeded into the room.  As the party entered, the bones began forming themselves into a skeletons that began attacking the party.

Belladona attempted to attack with a sling… and in the process slung her stone at Queso's head, which he narrowly dodged. Next, our melee fighters went to prove their meddle. Queso confronted a skeleton by himself. He gaffawed at the skeleton's lack of accuracy, while bashing it into bonemeal. Heisenberg tried to redeem himself by also confronting a skeleton. He missed. Elora advanced to attack with Heisenberg. Hofniel managed to turn one of the six opponents, but 4 still remained.

Queso, the savior of the day, gaffawed at another weak skeleton's attempt to wound him, while quickly dispatching it. But on the other end of things, Belladona managed to lose her entire sling in her next attack… Heisenberg, not wanting to  be shown up, attempted to attack again… and promptly broke his sword on the ground while simultaneously falling on his back. Fear not, because immediately afterwards both Hofniel and Elora missed as well. Then finally, Queso defeated another enemy, and with the power of teamwork, the rest of the skeletons fell without incident.

Then, after the skeletons were all defeated, a ghostly apparition appeared at the far side of the room and began to approach. Hofniel attempted to turn it… and was extremely unsuccessful. Heisenberg reached for the dead man's sword and shield and confronted the wraith. Queso, the ever gaffawing, attacked the wraith, but it did no damage! Elora attacked with spells, and Belladona… well, she investigated the chest at the other end of the room. The wraith, unlike the skeletons, was very successful at attacking Queso and draining his life energy. Heisenberg missed again, but Hofniel was able to run behind Queso and enchant his greatsword. Queso now was able to do massive damage. Then after Heisenberg (finally) landed a serious blow, Queso was able to rage kill the wraith!

The party was able to open the chest and retrieve all the loot. Belladona was able to identify a corpse as one of the mercenaries. Everybody lived, returned home, and prepared for another adventure.


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