The Coldfire Campaign

Session 13

15 Month of Light 4228 AE, midday

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Session 12: Ravens and Mimics and Stags, Oh My

14 Month of Light 4228 AE, afternoon

Our heroes were battered, but alive, after the attack from the awakened trees. They rested on the canyon’s edge, not seeing any movement from the forest as they did so. Once they had recovered some, they made their way into the woods. They found a path leading into the trees from where the bridge had been, and took it.

After seeing more of the white trees scattered throughout the woods, Zorrik wanted to take a closer look. He started digging around the base of a white tree, noticing the bones that littered the ground. He uncovered a ribcage, then more bones along with it, suggesting an entire skeleton was buried at the foot of this tree. The roots of the tree seemed intertwined with the bones.

As he knelt on the ground, a raven landed on the soil in front of him. It looked him over, then started to caw. As if on cue, more ravens flocked to the party. Dozens of ravens, all cawing loudly, surrounding everyone. Just as abruptly as they’d arrived, they left in unison.

Continuing down the path, the group saw a white stag standing in their way, about 50 feet from the group. It stood and looked at them for a moment, then slowly walked south into the trees. When the group approached the spot where the stag had been standing, they noticed the stag was still in the trees just off the path, watching them. Once they had seen it, it continued walking south.

It led the group to a tree that did not look quite like the others – it was slightly more pale than the dark trees, and seemed more gnarled. It was against the side of a cliff that towered 30 feet above them. It appeared as though it was growing into the ground of the cliff itself.

The stag stopped next to the tree, motioning its head towards it. The group examined the tree more closely, finding a knot that looked somewhat out of place. Pushing on the knot, it slid ever so slightly into the tree, and a door opened up in the bark. The stag left.

The party went through the door, finding stonework within. The passage took them into the cliff and several levels down a spiral staircase. At the base of the stairs was a room, 20 feet wide and 30 feet long, with a metal door at the far end. The air was very stale. This door was incredibly ornate, and didn’t have a handle or any visible mechanism for opening it. Ianos knocked on the door, and it opened with a hiss, as though the air inside the room had not been disturbed for a very long time.

The next room was a similar size and shape, and there were three chests at the far end: one against each side wall, and one against the back wall. A corpse lay against the chest on the left. Examining the chests revealed nothing special about any of them. Stax threw a dagger at the chest on the left, and it sprang to life! The chest on the right also animated, giving the group quite a battle. They noticed that any weapons used against a mimic adhered to it. At one point, Durian had been bitten and grappled by the mimic and lost consciousness. He was close to death when the group successfully destroyed the last mimic and they were able to revive him.

The battle took quite a toll on Zorrik and Ianos. Zorrik could only speak in gibberish for a short while, and Ianos stopped speaking entirely.

The final chest did not respond to an arrow being shot at it: it was a real chest. Stax picked the lock. There was only one item inside: a gold ring set with three blue stones. One of the blue stones was glowing. Stax concluded that this was a Ring of Three Wishes, and there was likely one Wish left in it.

The group spent the night in that room, far below the earth. They had an uneventful night, though a raven did briefly make an appearance. (They left the door open, after all.)

When the group awoke and was packing up their things, they heard faint raven caws. Ravens surrounded the entrance to the tree, cawing incessantly. Stax decided to take out the Fire, showing it to the ravens without showing himself in the doorway. The ravens responded by leaving.

15 Month of Light 4228 AE

Zari was able to lead the group back to the path, and they continued to follow it. Suddenly, they heard raven cawing behind them. When they looked that direction, they didn’t see any ravens, but they did see a creature unlike anything they’d seen before. It stood twelve feet tall, with the body of a tree. It had long “arms” with long, spindly branches as fingers. It had an animal skull for a head, likely from a stag or an elk. The antlers of said skull were intact, and spread at least five feet end to end. It wore tattered leather on its waist, torso, and head. As it moved towards them, they noticed it made no sound. It walked out of view behind one tree, emerging from behind a much closer tree. It was suddenly only 20 feet away.

The creature tried to entangle Zorrik with white, spindly roots, but Zorrik was able to jump out of the way and avoid being entangled. It took a swing at Durian with one of its arms, misjudging his height so badly that it broke off some of its fingers on a tree. The party attacked it with fire and defeated it easily.

Farther down the path, they saw the ruins of a tiny village. Twenty buildings or so sat in the clearing, many of them propped up on stilts. Most of the wood walls were far from intact, and what was left was covered in moss. There were humanoid skeletons in the houses, each with a white tree growing through it. It appeared that many of these people had died in their sleep.

They heard faint crying coming from the remains of a small shed, and discovered a small tiefling girl. Her clothes were tattered, her skin dirty, and her eyes weary. They gave her water and food, which she devoured like she hadn’t had anything for days.

They questioned her, finding out that her name was Andie, she was eight years old, and she’d gotten lost in the forest with her parents, who fell asleep and never awoke. She said she couldn’t remember exactly where her parents were, but she remembered the direction she came from. Ianos, still unable to speak, did some tricks with a coin.

Zorrik could tell something wasn’t right about this girl, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. He privately shared his concerns with the group. They were able to determine that she was not a tiefling girl at all. At that revelation, Ianos pointed Shatterspike at the girl, who started cowering in the corner. The others demanded she reveal who or what she really was. Ianos swung Shatterspike at the taller walls of the shed, shattering them upon impact. The girl ran. Zorrik was able to catch up to her and grab her by the arm.

The girl smiled at him, and five gremlins emerged from the ground around them.

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Session 11: Into the Dark Forest

9 Month of Light 4228 AE, late afternoon

After finishing preparations in Haydon, our heroes set off for the Dark Forest. They made the three day journey on the north road to the small town of Ypar, where they stayed for the night.

12 Month of Light 4228 AE, evening

The tavern was lively, mostly full of locals. There was, however, a table of people wearing adventuring gear—three humans, an elf, and a dwarf. Most of them were already pretty drunk. Ianos spoke with Jeremy, who appeared to be the leader of the group. They were heading to the Dark Forest as well, to avenge the attack on the capitol and “kick the Hunter’s ass.” Jeremy and the drunkest amongst his party cheered at this comment, and the dwarf seemed to do so only sarcastically.

13 Month of Light 4228 AE

The party woke up early the next morning to follow the other adventurers into the Dark Forest. The others didn’t wake up for a few hours, as they were all pretty hung over. As the sun neared the horizon in the evening, the other group stopped in front of a tree that had a symbol carved into it. Beyond that tree, the forest and its trees seemed a little darker than the area they were in, but otherwise the same.

After some deliberation, one of them walked beyond that tree and promptly vanished. The remaining party members were alarmed, but eventually went in after their friend. They all disappeared just after passing the tree.

Zorrik, who was wearing the Hunter’s pendant, saw something different. The adventurer who went through first didn’t disappear from view, but he immediately panicked. He started looking around quickly, and didn’t seem to see or hear his friends. After the entire group had gone beyond the tree, they set off almost perpendicular to their previous course.

After Zorrik explained what he saw to his companions, the party approached the tree. Durian went in first. The moment he was past the tree, he noticed the ambient noise of the woods—the insects and birds, even the wind rustling the leaves—had abruptly stopped. He could no longer hear his friends, either. He turned around, but instead of seeing his party standing in the brighter area he’d left, he only saw more dark trees. The sunlight was completely blocked out by the canopy above him, so he could only see 60 feet in any direction thanks to his Darkvision.

When Zorrik stepped beyond the tree, there was no abrupt change as there was for Durian. He could turn around and see the place he just left, and he could see and hear his friends on both sides of the boundaries. Ultimately, the entire party went through, realizing they would need the pendant to find their way back out.

They were able to follow the tracks of the other adventuring party, who had long since disappeared from view. The group had gone north-northeast, which was around the periphery of the Dark Forest instead of towards its center.

Our party noticed that there were thin, white trees with no leaves scattered amongst the huge, dark trees that formed the canopy above. These trees looked like twisted white spears jutting out of the dark earth. Most of them had small white twigs scattered about their base. Some had branches, some didn’t; some came in groups of 3 or more, and others were alone.

Upon closer examination, the white twigs at the base of one tree were not twigs at all, but bones. Fae sight revealed that dark fae was flowing through the white trunks like water through a normal tree. Holding up the Fire very close to the tree caused the white bark to start to char on the surface.

Suddenly, our heroes heard a loud crash and screaming some distance ahead of them. They ran towards the sound, and they eventually came upon a gory scene.

The bloody smears and piles of mangled flesh had most likely been the other adventuring party, but none of the bodies were very recognizable. Some of them had been torn apart, and others had been ground into the earth like an insect under a boot. Due to the condition of the bodies, there was nothing to be gained from looting them.

There were huge tracks on the ground that led up to one of the many large, dark trees. Could the tracks belong to the tree itself? Ianos decided to test the theory with Shatterspike. He approached the tree and struck it with the sword. Immediately, one of the large trees behind the group came to life and attacked them. It stood over 30 feet tall, swiping and slamming the party with its huge branches. Blunt force and stabs attacks didn’t seem to do much harm to it. The fire attacks and Melf’s Acid Arrow ultimately felled the tree, but didn’t seem to engulf it like fire should have. As it died, it let out a horrible scream unlike anything the group had heard before.

The group decided to camp for the night in a tree. They got lucky, choosing a tree that didn’t animate when they touched it. They climbed up a bit and found some sturdy branches to rest on. During the night, there were still none of the usual ambient forest sounds—no insects, no toads, no birds. Two of the people on watch that night heard some rustling and a noise that sounded vaguely like laughter. The night was otherwise uneventful.

14 Month of Light 4228 AE

The next day, the group realized at breakfast that their waterskins were empty, and discovered slits in all of them. There were slits in their backpacks as well, leading everyone to inspect the rest of their equipment. They found similar cuts in their coin purses, and none of them had any coins left in their bags. Stax mended the cut items, and the group used the Decanter of Endless Water to fill their repaired waterskins.

Zari cast Primeval Awareness to detect magical creatures in the surrounding area. She closed her eyes was still for a short while. Then, her eyes opened wide, and she sat there doing nothing. After a few minutes, she became her normal self again, and she told the group what she’d seen: Around a third of the dark trees in the forest could awaken, and the ground was littered with small tunnels filled with fey creatures, likely the ones that had drained their water and money.

The group decided to head northwest again, following the direction the earth fae was flowing. After some time, the trees abruptly stopped to reveal a river with banks made of volcanic rock. Stax brought out his Foldable Boat and said “ba ba ba,” and the boat unfolded itself into a small sailboat with a pair of oars. The group was able to fit inside, though it was a bit tight as the boat was only meant for four people.

After over an hour of traveling in the boat, the sky opened up downriver, and it looked like they were approaching a cliff. They got out of the boat, and Stax said “babadook” to fold it back into a box. There was indeed a cliff in front of them. The forest stopped about 100 feet from the edge of what was a very large chasm. It was at least 80 feet across and hundreds of feet deep. The volcanic rock that made up the riverbed also made up the sides of the chasm. On the other side was another river flowing towards them, pouring over the cliff like the river they had just left. Below, the falling water joined a river that was flowing southeast, following the canyon.

This was the first time the group had clearly seen the sky or any sunlight since entering the forest. They could see a cliff to the northwest, just above the horizon.

The chasm was too wide to attempt to cross here, so the group walked along the edge going northeast, following it around a curve. After another hour or so, the chasm had narrowed to about 30 feet across, and there was a rope bridge spanning it. The bridge was old and in disrepair. Stax and Durian were the first two across, affixing an extra rope to the poles supporting the bridge. Ianos went across next, but a board broke under his feet. He fell into the hole, grabbing onto the new rope spanning the bridge and hanging from it with both hands.

Suddenly, a large awakened tree stomped out of the forest to attack the party! Zari rushed across, grabbed on to Ianos and the rope, then cut the rope to swing across. Stax quickly tied another rope to a pole at the far end of the bridge and used Mage Hand to get the loose end over to Zorrik. Zorrik cut the remaining rope supporting the bridge so it would fall. He tied the rope from Stax to himself and leapt off. Zorrik, Zari, and Ianos all hit the far wall of the chasm and climbed up, just as the tree they’d escaped let out a horrible roar and marched back into the forest.

As if in response to the roar, two more trees came out of the forest on the other side of the chasm. The group was trapped against the edge. They were clearly outmatched, so they formulated a plan: they would lure the trees closer to the cliff and then use Thunderwave to push them off. It was a long shot, but it was all they had. Zorrik volunteered to be bait since he was still tied to the bridge pole. The trees advanced, and Ianos and Durian took serious damage. Ianos was able to dive between the two trees and slide behind them, casting his Thunderwave as he did so. It worked! The two trees toppled over and fell into the chasm.

After the trees disappeared from view, Ianos curled up in a ball on the ground, screaming in terror. He remained like this for a few minutes, unable to be shaken out of it. Eventually he calmed down, not quite knowing what happened to him.

The party assessed their wounds and regrouped. What yet awaits them in this forest?

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Session 10: Jaggonath and an Abundance of Items

6 Month of Light 4228 AE, morning

At breakfast, Zorrik and Ianos told the group about a woman they met the previous night who recognized the fake pendant Zorrik had fashioned. Ianos was able to convince the bartender to tell them who she was: Ciani, a half elf who had a magic shop in town. In addition, Stax had learned that only part of Jaggonath was open, and Zari had overheard a woman talking about her cousin doing some research at the university involving solar fae, and he’d been working with the church.

Ciani’s shop was open, advertising “sorcery for hire.” She told them more about the Hunter’s pendant, and about the people who show up in towns and villages wearing them, on the same day or night that someone goes missing. She also said there were ghosts left behind in Jaggonath, and that they shouldn’t be an issue if you don’t piss them off.

The group went to the adventurer’s guild next. They learned that only the southeast portion of the capitol was accessible, and their guild papers should get them in that entrance. Advice for the ghosts: “Don’t be an asshole.”

The group went to the city. The ground was dead from 20 miles away. Dead livestock dotted the landscape, as well as farms full of now dead crops. On their second day of travel, it started to rain and hail.

7 Month of Light 4228 AE, evening

Approaching the city, there was no smoke coming out of any chimney, and very few people traveling the roads at all. By the time they reached the wall around the city, the weather had cleared, and it was a cool evening. They got to the northwest entrance first, and they were promptly directed to the other side of the city. The guard at the southeast entrance looked at the party name on their registration papers, looked at Stax and Zorrik, and chuckled. “Heh, I get it.” Then he let them through.

The city was quiet. All the windows were dark, save for the occasional ghost floating past. The ghosts all had some distortion about them—a twisted limb or facial expression, like they had died in agony. They saw the ghosts fade in and out of sight, and were able to tell that it wasn’t just invisibility, but something else.

In the uphill wealthy district, the paving was more decorative, buildings were in better condition, and parks that dotted the district were now their own miniature wastelands. The party went to the church first. On they way, they passed the university, and saw people going in and out of a few buildings packing boxes into carts.

They arrived at the church, a majestic building towering over the rest of the district. The front doors were locked and barred, but they picked the lock on an iron door around the back. They found a storeroom and an office. There was a key hidden in the office desk, as well as a book with a very detailed account of the war on the dark forest.

They went to the sanctuary, which was empty. Ianos was determined to get the front doors unbarred. After attempts to lift it were unsuccessful, Ianos used Shatterspike on it, and it violently exploded into splinters.

They didn’t find anything of note in the sanctuary, so they continued looking for rooms, and found stairs leading to a basement. There was a locked iron door at the bottom. The found key didn’t fit, lockpicking failed, Shatterspike was drawn, and Ianos took 4 damage from the iron splinters thrown into his face.

The stairway opened into a large storeroom in the basement, filled with mundane church supplies. There was a locked door on the opposite wall that Stax picked. Inside was a ghost wearing priest robes, and his jaw was hanging loosely from his head. The room was a small office with bookshelves and a desk. Stax and Zari were trying to look at the books and the desk, respectively, and the ghost switched between the two to intervene, wordlessly darting in front of them to obscure their view. He was getting more and more agitated.

When Stax finally reached for a book and opened it despite the warnings, the ghost let out a terrible wail. Ianos and Stax were immediately drained of life and fell unconscious, and Zari and Zorrik were badly hurt. Healing potions were used on Ianos and Stax; meanwhile, Zorrik tried to fight the ghost, and the ghost attacked Zorrik and then disappeared. It reappeared behind Zari and knocked her out with an attack before retreating to the other side of the room. Once the group fled towards the stairs, the ghost stopped attacking and floated in the doorway to the office. The group went upstairs to rest and recover. During the night, the ghost floated up through the floor, watched the group for a while, then went back to the basement.

8 Month of Light 4228 AE

In the morning, the group tried to talk to the ghost. Ianos asked yes or no questions so the ghost could answer with a nod. He convinced the ghost they were trying to help, and the ghost pointed to the desk. Ianos found letters in a drawer from a man named Duri, talking about solar fae, research at the university, and something called Fire. The group left for the university.

Only two men were there at this point, taking boxes out of what looked like the main building on campus. Ianos persuaded them to point them towards Duri’s office, and one of the men directed the group to the Magical Items building, saying Duri’s office was in the basement.

Once in the basement, the party called Duri’s name, and a ghost came into the hallway from an office at the end of the hall. Ianos showed him the letters and explained that they were there to help. Duri’s ghost went back into the office it came from and pointed at a specific desk drawer. Inside was a key. Duri’s ghost then flew down the hall, gesturing to a locked door behind the stairs. The ghost left them. They opened the locked door with the key.

Inside was a storeroom full of various items: an empty wooden box with delicate gold inlay; a leather bag with a design on the flap that looked like a face; beautiful purple gloves with a spiderweb and arrow pattern on them; an iron rod about two feet long, with horse figures on either end; an intricate glass decanter filled with clear liquid; a pale wood lute with cherry wood veneer carvings depicting various animals; a green quiver with gold trim; and a grey robe covered in different patches. Ianos strummed the lute and took psychic damage. At the far end of the row of tables was a small metal lockbox; the key from the church office fit it, and inside was a very bright vial of solar fae.

The group made their way back to Haydon.

9 Month of Light 4228 AE, late afternoon

They brought everything back to Ciani’s shop in Haydon and got it identified.

The wooden box was a Folding Boat. (Stax shouted “Avantio!” as soon as he learned this, but nothing happened.) Saying the phrase “ba ba ba” would turn it into a small sailboat, saying “dook dook dook” would turn it into a ship, and saying “babadook” would return it to a box.

The leather bag was a Bag of Holding.

The Gloves of Missile Snaring enable the wearer to catch arrows and other projectiles, lessening the damage they do.

The iron rod was an Immovable Rod — pressing a button on it locked it in place, even if it was left floating in midair. It would only move with extraordinary force until the button was pressed again.

The bottle of liquid was a Decanter of Endless Water. It would pour out different amounts of water based on the word said at the time of pouring: “stream” for one gallon, “fountain” for five gallons, and “geyser” for a forceful release of 30 gallons that could be aimed at creatures or objects.

The lute was the Doss Lute, named after a legendary bard college. With attunement, it could cast spells when played.

The quiver was an Efficient Quiver, capable of holding a large amount of numerous weapons and ammo without ever weighing more than two pounds.

Finally, the robe was a Robe of Useful Items. Tearing off a patch would turn it into whatever was depicted in its image. There were two each of the following patches: a dagger, a filled and lit bullseye lantern, a steel mirror, a 10-foot pole, a coil of hempen rope, and a sack. There was also one of each of the following patches: a pile of gems, 4 potions of healing, an iron door that would expand to fit the opening it was placed in, a tall wooden ladder, a beautiful silver coffer, 2 mastiffs, and a 10-foot square pit.

After celebrating their haul, the party talked to Ciani about the Fire. She was in awe of it—she knew of it but had no idea any still existed. She said they had a better chance in the dark forest than anyone else because of the Fire, but without a pendant their trip would likely be unsuccessful. After lots of conversation about where/how to get one (short answer: it would be near impossible to find one randomly), Zorrik asked her if she had one. She did. She didn’t want to get it for the group yet, because she still didn’t know enough about them. She went around the group one by one, asking them each their story. Zorrik, then Zari, then Ianos, then Stax. After learning about the group, she went to her back room to get the pendant.

She was gone an oddly long amount of time, around 15 minutes. She finally emerged with the pendant, showing it to the group and then giving it to Zorrik. She wished everyone luck.

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Session 9: The Bandit Cave and the Merentha News Network

27 Month of Gifts 4228 AE, morning

The party went back to Eastoak to talk to Bart and their prisoners some more. After talking with Bart, they discovered the captive bandits had escaped! The group went back to the cave in the woods and got there by mid-afternoon. The two guards that had been in front were no longer there. They staked out the cave entrance for several hours.

That evening, after seeing no activity, the party went into the cave. They found nothing but an unlit room filled with dusty tables and crates which were all but empty, like no one had been down there in quite some time. They’d been had! Suddenly, they heard a slimy gurgle from the back wall. It was a large pile of bubbling black ooze!

During the fight, Zari’s shield and Ianos’s armor got badly damaged after the creature made contact, its acidic ooze eating right through the material. Durian’s quarterstaff and fists suffered the same after attacking it directly.

When the fight was over, the group victorious but injured, Stax searched the tunnel for any secret entrances. He found one that led to a hidden closet with two chests in it. The chests contained some gold (which Stax kept), a golden goblet, some fine clothes, and a note:

Due to the poor quality of your deliveries, your services will no longer be needed.

The note was signed with a symbol that looked like an eye crying three tears.

The group decided to rest and heal in the now empty cave. They made their way back to Eastoak, told Bart the bandits were taken care of, and spent the night in Bart’s house.

28 Month of Gifts 4228 AE

The next morning, the group awoke early to commotion in the village. There were lots of people clustered around someone on horseback. He was trying to speak over everyone, saying, “I don’t know anything more than what’s in that message.” He gestured to a piece of parchment someone was holding. “I have to continue on to deliver the news to the next village.” He made his way out from the mob of people and left Eastoak.

The party got ahold of the parchment he had brought. It was two emergency broadcasts from the Merentha News Network.

0215 28 Month of Gifts 4228 AE: “There is something underway in the capitol. Anyone awake and outside in the city center has just died unexpectedly, and others in the surrounding area are all feeling fatigued. Currents are extremely abnormal and seem to be flowing downward into the ground. We are sealing our offices and activating wards. Further broadcasts will not be possible.”

The above was received from Jaggonath transmitters early this morning. The situation is being monitored. Updates will be broadcast as they are received.

0430 28 Month of Gifts 4228 AE: Disaster has struck the capitol. Over 100,000 are suspected dead. While the city slept, life was drained from the land and its inhabitants. Emergency broadcasts sent at the start of the incident suggest a fae-related event that took mere hours. Jaggonath transmitters have activated FAECON wards and are no longer broadcasting. There is no word from within the city, nor from the nearby towns of Cowick or Wamor. A guard regiment from Eswick, 40 miles to the northeast, has been dispatched to gather more information and look for survivors. It is unknown whether this event was natural, accidental, or intentional. Those in the surrounding area should activate any available protection wards. Updates will be broadcast as they are received.

They cast fae sight; the currents were flowing north even more strongly than before. The party headed back to Osley, getting there in the early evening. By then, there were two more emergency broadcasts posted on a board near the market.

1020 28 Month of Gifts 4228 AE: The investigation into the blight on Jaggonath continues. It affected the city itself as well as the land for twenty miles surrounding the city limits; this includes Wamor and Cowick. This is the first blight known to have humanoid casualties. The blight no longer seems to be active, and teams are being sent into the city to continue searching for survivors. It is not yet known whether FAECON wards provided protection against this event, and if they did, how many people made it to safety. Due to the death toll and the centering of this event on the city, it is being treated as an attack until evidence presents otherwise.

1845 28 Month of Gifts 4228 AE: Attack on Jaggonath: Survivors have been found within the blighted area. FAECON wards successfully protected against the attack. Transmitters in Jaggonath have returned to broadcasting, and transmitters in Cowick and Wamor have been found alive and relieved of duty.

Including MNN transmitters, 1,306 survivors have been found so far, mostly in wealthier homes and government buildings equipped with updated wards. The blight seems to have spared lives in the outskirts of the affected area: Many farmers and ranchers survived while asleep, though they are being evaluated for any impacts to their health. There has not been an official death toll released yet, but it is still estimated at over 100,000. Government officials are forming a task force to find the source of the attack. Anyone registered with the Merentha Adventurer’s Guild who wishes to help should report to the nearest MAG office or MNN station for more information.

The party went to the Merentha Adventurer’s Guild (MAG) office, and they were handed more formal registration papers to fill out and keep with them. Zorrik took this opportunity to write himself in as the party leader and rename the group “The Demons.” Most other parties, they heard, were ignoring any jobs not related to the attack at the capitol.

The group decided to stock up on supplies in Osley and head east, towards the capitol. They had dinner at the Strangled Goose, and Stax won a Monster Card playing a boy in the tavern. He used his invisible mage hand to steal the rest of the pack, which still had the attunement slip in it. The next morning, everyone set off for Haydon, a large town nearer to Jaggonath.

Their eight-day journey was uneventful, though they got more updates about what was happening in the capitol. Bodies were being recovered, and the city was closed off to anyone not helping with the recovery of victims or search for survivors. Midsummer came and went with no celebration this year.

5 Month of Light 4228 AE

The party arrived at Haydon in the evening, and talked to a representative at the Merentha Adventurer’s Guild office. They heard that some other parties were helping with search and rescue or body recovery in Jaggonath, and a few had foolishly headed off to the Dark Forest. Apparently there was a rumor the Hunter was behind the attack: a bogeyman from children’s stories for centuries, and also someone rumored to live in and control the Dark Forest. They were directed to the Church of Human Unification to learn more about the Hunter.

A priest at the church talked to the party and told them what he said he’d told others heading to the Dark Forest: the Church believed there was an entity in the Dark Forest, and had led an army into the forest centuries earlier to try to defeat him. They had gathered over 80,000 people together to pray, and were able to successfully bind solar fae to water. Such a feat had not been achieved before or since. They used the infused water to coat weapons and armor with solar fae, which gave them a chance of winning, but they were ultimately defeated by the forest itself. If there was anything left of this solar fae-infused water, it would be at the church in Jaggonath.

The party decided to spend the night in Haydon and set off for the capitol in the morning.

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Session 8: Lord Arroway's Convoy and an Incinerated Bandit

26 Month of Gifts 4228 AE, morning

The stable boy who delivered the note was Hans, from Orhall. The convoy it mentioned was on its way to Osley, but at least a few hours behind Hans. When the group decided he might be useful in a diversion for the convoy, he was very excited to be involved.

The party hid near the road about an hour south of town. Hans intercepted the convoy when they got close, pretending to be lost. A guard knocked him out and put him in the prison carriage with a bound and gagged Stax. Ianos came out from behind the bushes, which immediately made the guards suspicious, and when he said the word “plan” they started shooting at him. Ianos took two arrows to the shoulder, but used minor illusion to spook the horses of the first carriage with a loud boom. The carriage started to pull away, and a few of the guards jumped or fell off of it. During the fight, Durian went right for Stax, who disguised Durian as a baron wearing the crest of Lord Arroway. Durian was able to stop the fight, pretending Hans was his son, and they ultimately persuaded the guards to move on without them or Stax.

Back in Osley, the group went to the local adventurer’s guild office. A brawny red-haired woman sat at a desk full of papers. Her name was Baza. She filled out a preliminary registration for the group (Stax gave her the party name “The Magic and Stabby Hero Gang”) and gave them a job helping out a village with a bandit problem.

Before setting off for the village of Eastoak, the group went to the wizard’s tower in town. The wizard, Godbert, identified Shatterspike, the sword that had belonged to Sir Braford. It would shatter mundane objects it was used against.

The journey to Eastoak was uneventful. They arrived late at night, so the party decided to make camp nearby instead of trying to find someone awake in the village. During the night, they were attacked by bandits!

The group was outnumbered, but after Stax used a Tiefling power to instantly incinerate one of their attackers, people started running for their lives. The party captured three bandits and killed the other three. Of the captured bandits, one was a badly injured dwarf named Sanders. He was from the south, had run away from home, and dreamed of being a fighter when he was younger. The group let him go.

The two remaining bandits, a young man and woman, were Jonas and Mary. Jonas was the leader of this small group, though not in charge of all the others. The group was able to get some information out of him: the bandit hideout was a cave a mile northeast of here, they were stealing survival supplies, and they had a rather painful initiation ritual: their arms were broken after joining up. The party also found scraps of paper on the bandits with different numbers of tally marks on them.

In the morning, the group brought the bandit prisoners to Eastoak. They sought out Bartholomew, the person who set up the contract with the adventurer’s guild.

27 Month of Gifts 4228 AE

Bartholomew (or Bart) was gruff, with scraggly, dark hair. He was pleasantly surprised to see the bandit prisoners with the group, and he volunteered to keep them in his shed. He told the party that the bandits had been attacking every other night, stealing food and clothing instead of valuables. Every month or so, someone would get killed during an attack.

The party decided to scope out the bandit cave. It was in the middle of a blighted area within the woods. Two teenage bandits guarded the cave entrance, playing cards. After watching for a while, the group headed back into the woods to eat some lunch. While getting his rations out of his bag, Durian found a note that had been put in his bag by someone.

Hello, fair friends. Meepo and I have recently arrived at my home and are still getting settled in. He is no longer in pain from his wounds, and my next task will be to restore his leg and tail. What follows is Meepo’s message to you, transcribed by me. — Gilly Primspindle

Hi friends of Meepo! Gnome’s home is very big, and much colder than Meepo’s old home. There other kobold here, from many tribes. Even silver kobold, and Meepo not know of them before! Gnome says Meepo will get leg back soon. Kobold here smarter than Meepo’s tribe. They read and write! Meepo write again soon. Have safe times, no mean dragons!

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Session 7: Racists, a Tavern Brawl, and a Jailbreak

24 Month of Gifts 4228 AE

After finishing breakfast at the Goblin and Duck, Durian parted ways with the group, telling them he’d meet them in Osley in a few days. Stax then excused himself, saying he forgot something in his room, and went downstairs. Once Moira reminded the party that Stax hadn’t stayed at the inn the previous night, they ran after him, but he was already gone.

They went back to the Temple of Knowledge to ask the sage about the orb they found in the citadel. He didn’t remember anything off hand, but he told them to come back in a few hours, after he’d had a chance to locate his notes on the citadel.

Kerowyn Hucrele intercepted the party in the streets, and she carried Shatterspike with her. She said the sage had told her about the Gulthias Tree, and she realized that the group wouldn’t have been able to save Sharwyn. Since no one in town knew who Sir Braford was or where he was from, there was no one to claim his belongings. She handed the sword to Ianos, thanked the group once more, and left.

After killing some time, Ianos and Zorrik went to pick up their armor. Zorrik found a note in his chestpiece, folded into a ninja star with the words “OPEN ME” and a pair of antlers drawn on the outside.

To my adventuring group (tentatively known as The Magic and Stabby Hero Gang),
I was reeeaaally looking forward to going north with you but my grandmother is very sick.
Don’t look for me.
— Stax
Demon child of Kale, of the Young Shadow, Druid-slayer, and the Antler King

Since Stax was probably long gone by now, the group decided to head back to the sage to hear about the orb before leaving for Osley. They found the sage in a secluded back office, papers and books strewn about every surface in the room. He was hunched over the smaller piece of the orb, measuring something about it with a calipers, and he had a magnifying monacle on his left eye.

“I found mention of the orb in my notes,” he said, “but no other information about it. There’s absolutely no magic eminating from it, either. However, the stone itself is rather fascinating. It is not native to these lands.”

When Zorrik asked what type of stone it was, he replied: “I have no idea!”

He asked if he could keep the orb to study it further, and he’d send a message to the party as soon as he knew more. Zorrik agreed.

The group set off for Osley.

It was a hot afternoon, but there was a decent breeze. The journey was largely uneventful. An hour or so after sunset, the night was getting very dark. They reached the town of Heahill, which was about halfway to their destination. In front of them was a large wooden wall with tall wooden doors that were closed. Two guards stood outside, and one of them stopped the group.

“You and you,” he said, pointing at Ianos and Zari, “can go in. YOU can’t.” He glared at Zorrik. “No demons in Heahill.” Ianos was able to persuade the guard a bit: he demanded 100 gold as a bribe, which Ianos paid. He shouted at other guards inside to open the doors. He chuckled and said to Zorrik, “Good luck in there.”

Since the hour was late, there was little activity in the town. Many windows were dark. The path they were on led them to a town square, where they saw “The Slaughtered Stag” scrawled on a wood plank above a door. The windows were lit, and commotion could be heard inside. Ianos went in alone to gauge the room.

There were six tables in the tavern, five of which were full. Ianos walked between the tables, playing his lute as he tried to listen in on some conversations. Most of the people in the tavern – all humans and dwarves – were workers and traders. One trio in particular were exceptionally drunk. After a while, a couple of groups left.

Ianos tried to get a read on the drunk trio. He wanted to see if Zorrik would be welcome in the establishment. The most outspoken of the three, a large man in work clothes, had no kind words to say about Tieflings. Ianos stepped outside to convey this to his friends.

Zorrik disguised himself as a human, and he and Zari now joined Ianos at the bar. Zorrik and Ianos had more ale, and in his drunken state, Zorrik forgot to renew his Disguise Self spell. His true appearance as a Tiefling was revealed to the room. The outspoken racist stood up, immediately hostile. The table of dwarves in the center left some coin on the table and made a quick exit. One more table of three remained, and two of them decided to join in the fight.

It was as epic a tavern brawl as the group could have had. Drunk men swinging mugs and fists up against three adventurers wielding weapons and magic. One person made it outside to pull in two more fighters. The outspoken racist took an acid spray to the face and a firebolt to the back, and he was down for the count, barely clinging to life. Four town guards then barged in, and Zorrik and Zari were able to make a quick escape out of a back entrance. Ianos remained, taking the blame for the entire fight. He and the other remaining patrons were led out by the guards and locked up in cells in the guardhouse.

25 Month of Gifts 4228 AE

Zorrik and Zari observed the guards from a dark corner down the street. They identified one that looked like he was in charge. Once he left the guardhouse, Zorrik disguised himself as the captain and entered. He demanded to see the half-elf prisoner, and the guards brought him forward. Ianos was suspicious of this sudden interest, and realized it was actually Zorrik. He played along. Zorrik commanded the guards to go rein in the group of drunks in the other cell, and then he and Ianos made a break for it out the front door. After meeting up with Zari, they made it to the back entrance of the town.

The group was able to neutralize the guards in front of the gate: Two were sent away by a disguised Zorrik, one was overwhelmed with disembodied whispers, and the other two were knocked over when the doors rapidly flew open. The party fled into the darkness and made a camp in a grove of trees for the night.

It started to rain as they were making camp. When they awoke in the morning, it was a full blown thunderstorm. Walking down the road to Osley was no picnic, but it was manageable. Along the way, they met a couple on their way to trade in town – Vance and Githa Kicheda – but their wagon had broken an axle. The party helped them make a makeshift axle from a long, straight branch, and they all continued to Osley together.

The group asked around and eventually found the Strangled Goose tavern & inn. The barkeep was an old dwarven woman named Frances. The party enjoyed a meal and bought rooms for the night.

26 Month of Gifts 4228 AE

In the morning, Zorrik was awoken by loud knocking on his door. A young boy, out of breath, said he worked for Moira in Orhall. He handed Zorrik a note.

A convoy just passed through carrying your Tiefling friend – the kid who came back wearing the antlers. He was being held in a
prison carriage. There were eight of them. They’re from Kale, headed back through the capitol, going north from here to get to the main road.
I charged them double and spit in their drinks, but you could do more.
— Moira

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Session 6: Shop 'Til You Drop

22 Month of Gifts 4228 AE, Late Morning

Sharwyn looked up at the party, trying to hold back her tears. “What’s the plan? Are we leaving the citadel?”

As the group debated what to do, the ground started to rumble. An earthquake was starting! Rocks started to fall from the walls and roof of the cavern as the earth shook more and more violently. Zorrik shouted at everyone to not use magic, and they all started running. It was hard to move quickly through the grove, but they made it back to the entrance just as the quake started to subside. The wall to Belak’s study had collapsed. As they made their way through the hallway, an aftershock started, and more debris was falling all around them. They ultimately made it back to the large garden to climb the vines back up to the upper level. As they were climbing, another aftershock hit. They ran through the citadel back to the entrance, navigating around more collapsed walls and fallen stone as a third aftershock struck. On the way, they noticed the door to the dragon’s room was in pieces on the floor, as though the wyrmling had broken through it.

Zorrik tripped over a rope that was pulled taut across the doorway to the entrance chamber. Ianos and Sir Braford fell on top of him. Stax attempted a flip but landed poorly on some fallen rock. They saw Durian standing there, holding an unconscious Meepo in his arms. The lower half of Meepo’s right leg and the end of his tail had been turned to ice, and a blast of frost coated the floor and wall across the room. Durian said that the dragon attacked Meepo and then fled the Citadel. Two boulders now blocked the exit.

Four of the group pushing together were able to move the top boulder, and they climbed over the remaining rock one by one to exit. A fourth and final aftershock struck, and debris fell behind them. They climbed the stairs in the cliff face and then ascended the rope to the top of the chasm.

It was late morning, and very hot, so Meepo’s leg and tail were quickly melting away. The group made their way to Croprot to find the gnome that knew about kobolds. Durian was carrying Meepo on his back, and he and Stax ran ahead of the group to get to the village as quickly as possible. They arrived around midday. Durian went to the temple, where the priest knew nothing of a gnome. Stax went to the tavern, and the young man there had not seen a gnome recently, either. The rest of the group arrived, and they soon realized that the gnome had been in Orhall, not in Croprot. Since Meepo was stable (though his leg and tail were almost completely melted away by now), they wanted to stay for a meal. Unfortunately, the barkeep wanted them all out, because he didn’t want tieflings and a kobold hanging around. He agreed to give Ianos one meager ration and kicked them out.

They walked back to Orhall. The ice had melted, and Meepo was left with cauterized stumps on his right leg and tail. He was still unconscious. They drew stares from everyone who saw them on the road. As the party approached the watchtower outside the town, they saw a tiny figure in bright blue clothing walking their way. It was the gnome, Gilly Primspindle! He told them he was on his way to the citadel, and they asked him to look at Meepo. He examined his wounds, feeling very sorry for the kobold. He said the damage could be reversed by a skilled enough healer. When Durian asked him if he knew a place Meepo might be safe, Gilly thought for a moment, then said he had the perfect place in mind—but he wanted to ask Meepo first.

They took Meepo off of Durian’s back and woke him up. He was grimacing in pain, and asked to be taken out of the sunlight. Stax covered Meepo with his own cloak. Gilly knelt down next to Meepo, and Durian asked Meepo if he remembered him—he did. Gilly started whispering in Meepo’s ear, and Meepo’s face lit up. He was suddenly very excited. Meepo very much wanted to go with the gnome. When questioned, Gilly would not share the destination. He swore that Meepo would be safe, and promised to get a message to them all when they were settled in or when Meepo was healed (whichever came first). Meepo was eager, and the gnome seemed genuine, so the party agreed to let Meepo go. Gilly took a small wooden box out of his bag, put it on the ground, and said, “Avantio!” The box unfolded itself into a cart. They loaded Meepo into the cart, and Gilly covered him with orange silk, returning Stax’s cloak. The old gnome then lifted the cart by himself, and set off to the south.

The party continued into Orhall. By now it was early evening, and the tavern was half full with people enjoying their dinner. When they got Moira’s attention, she rushed over and immediately embraced Sharwyn. “Oh my, you’re alive!” She went to get Kerowyn, bringing her up from the rooms in the cellar. Kerowyn ran to her daughter, holding her tightly in her arms. After a minute, Kerowyn asked Sharwyn about her brother, Talgen. Sharwyn went to hand his signet ring to her mother, when she suddenly collapsed on the floor, dead. Sir Braford collapsed at the same time. While Kerowyn was weeping over her daughter’s corpse, Ianos mentioned their reward. This quickly drew Kerowyn’s wrath, and while she promised them their reward for the signet rings, she would not speak to them further.

The party had some dinner and retired to their rooms for the night.

23 Month of Gifts 4228 AE

The next morning, they collected their rewards, which Kerowyn had left with Moira. They headed to the marketplace to spend their newly earned gold and sell some of the trinkets and excess equipment they’d looted from the Citadel. They commissioned upgrades to their leather armor, bought new armor and weapons, and picked up supplies, balking at the price of the healing potions. The tanner modified the leather strap of Stax’s antler crown so it would fit his head perfectly, and she made him a new sling from some leather scraps.

After lunch, the party made their way to the Temple of Knowledge to speak to the sage that had examined Sharwyn and Sir Braford’s bodies. After hearing about the Gulthias Tree from the group, he hurried off, returning with an open book. A Gulthias Tree grew from a stake pushed through a vampire’s heart, and one had been documented a few centuries prior. Once the tree died, any supplicants it had taken were doomed to die as soon as their remaining energy ran out. There was nothing anyone could have done to save Sharwyn and Sir Braford, after all. Next, Zorrik inquired about the Shadow the group encountered in the citadel, and the weakness he’d been feeling since he was attacked. The sage rushed off for another book, and came back with the answer: Zorrik was cursed, and a remove curse spell would do the trick. The sage was able to perform the spell himself, and Zorrik was healed.

Ianos inquired about help with “performance,” and the sage mentioned there was a temple for the God of Pleasure across town.

The party returned to the tavern to talk to Moira about where they might be needed next. She mentioned there was a man through town two days prior who had mentioned a blight near Faraday, where the land went dead rather suddenly and decimated a farming village, just like what happened to Croprot hundreds of years ago. There was a green dragon giving people trouble at the outskirts of the Dark Forest northeast of the capitol. Far south, the orcs had been leaving the Orclands more and more to raid villages and towns outside their territory. North of Orhall, about two days’ travel, was the town of Osley, a large trading hub that had an adventurer’s guild office. If they wanted something to do in the immediate area, that guild office would be the place to go for leads. (She also mentioned that Osley had a killer Midsummer Feast, which would be happening in about a week.)

That night, Ianos entertained the tavern in exchange for a free room. Zorrik and Durian decided to share a room. Stax had dinner with the group but left afterwards, and Zari was nowhere to be found. Ianos and Zorrik got drunk (especially Zorrik) off an entire bottle of elven wine.

24 Month of Gifts 4228 AE

When everyone awoke the next morning, Ianos and Zorrik discovered their leather armor was missing. They saw Stax sitting in the tavern’s dining room in his new studded leather armor. When confronted, he said the tanner had told him she had an opening to rush all their armor, and that he’d talked to Zorrik and Ianos about it the night before. They dragged Stax to the tanner by his collar, and she confirmed his story. Zorrik and Ianos weren’t sure what to think. The tanner said their armor would be ready by this afternoon.

Back at the tavern, Zari showed up eating an apple. The party decided their next move would be going north to Osley, though Ianos and Stax seemed rather reluctant to do so. We left off with the group eating their breakfast.

Note: A few of you will be getting character-specific updates next week. You’ll get an email notification when they’re posted.

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Session 5: The Gulthias Tree

22 Month of Gifts 4228 AE, Morning

The party was in the gallery outside the arboretums, having just killed the bugbear tending to the myriad of plants in the large hallway. Stax peeked in through the eastern door, opening it silently. In the large, octagonal arboretum, he saw two twig blights and two skeletons. After silently killing one of them with a perfect dagger throw, the group quickly dispatched the other creatures. Ianos took the opportunity to gather a sample of the prolific fungus covering the walls and floor of most of the rooms they’d been through on this level. Seeing nothing else of value in the room, they all moved on.

Behind the northern door was another octagonal arboretum, filled with plants and fungi. There were no creatures in here, however, and there was an additional door to the southwest. They heard nothing beyond the door, so they ventured into the next room. A giant dragon shrine greeted them, made from red-veined white marble and with glowing red eyes. A dark tile on the floor in front of the statue had a phrase carved into it in Draconic. Saying the phrase in Common had no effect. Zorrik stood on the tile and repeated the phrase in Draconic (with Zari’s help), and a red mist enveloped him. He felt more confident and charismatic than before! Behind the statue, the group found a shadow, which immediately attacked them. Physical attacks weren’t as effective as the group would have liked, but they still did the trick, and the shadow dispersed into thin air.

The next room was a ruined library, lined with shelves that had long since been destroyed. Piles of tattered books and scrolls lay on the ground, most completely worthless and unsalvageable. They did find some more spell scrolls. Erky found two brown leather tomes bound together, each with colored markings painted on the spine: one book with red, green, blue, black, and white circles, and the other with gold, silver, brass, bronze, and copper triangles. The books were filled with handwritten notes, most of which were in Draconic, but some in a language no one could recognize. Zari examined the book with colored circles while Zorrik took a look at the book with metallic triangles. Zari said the writings were that of a madman, and they made little sense; after Zorrik handed her the second book, she confirmed it was the same gibberish contents. The group moved on from the library.

Down a long and winding hallway, the party came upon two doors. Hearing noises behind one of them, Stax picked the lock on the other door to reveal a study – likely Belak’s. A thorough search of the room uncovered some items of value, including some additional spell scrolls, but otherwise only contained notes written in Draconic. The noise they made drew the attention of the goblins outside, and the group attacked them through the other door, gaining the advantage by flanking the goblins. Twig blights from the grove beyond joined the fight. When the group attempted to rest inside the study, more twig blights came from the grove, attacking the intruders. Continued attacks left the group with the realization that they would not be able to rest here safely, and so they ventured into the grove.

Bushes, shrubs, fungus, and rubble dotted the inside of this immense cavern. In the distance, they could see the gnarled branches of a blackened tree reaching upwards. The fae in this area was heading violently towards the tree. It was indeed the Gulthias tree, sitting in the middle of a clearing surrounded by ancient ruins. A middle-aged human dressed in furs stood before the tree, flanked by two other humans: a young noble woman and a young man in armor carrying a unique looking sword. The eyes of the young man and woman were a glassy black, and their skin was gray and bark-like. They were the remaining members of the adventuring party our heroes had been searching for – Sharwyn Hucrele and Sir Braford.

The middle-aged man spoke to the party, revealing himself to be Belak, the druid. He had been using the tree’s power to create supplicants, which he offered as a “peaceful” end for the group. A fight ensued, and the battle turned immediately in the party’s favor. Ianos paralyzed Belak, and Zorrik was able to charm Braford. Sharwyn cast a magic missle at the party with small effect. Belak’s giant frog familiar jumped down from the Gulthias tree to join the battle, to no avail. The party ultimately prevailed, and burned the Gulthias tree to a crisp.

They bound the hands of Sharwyn and Sir Braford, both now unconscious, not knowing if they would still be under the tree’s influence upon waking. Indeed, they were of their own minds. They explained that they were taken prisoner by the goblins, then brought down to the grove after a while and tied to the tree, and that was all they could remember. Sharwyn asked about her brother, and the group gave her his signet ring. She also saw her brother’s splint armor on Erky.

We left our heroes with Sharwyn weeping for her loss and Sir Braford thanking the group for their help.

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Session 4: The Goblin Chief and Belak's Laboratory

21 Month of Gifts 4228 AE, Evening

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