The Hope of Erethor

Into Ibon-Sul
Deals with Deamons

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100 LA, Arc of Halail 19

The Heroes sat in council with Suruliam and her peers under the great Cyprus tree known as Echo’s Gate. The great druid congratulated the party for their remarkable success against Vrolk and his acurssed Obsidian Spire.

Whilst sitting in council and discussing the vicotry, Co’ree entered the council and landed softly on Suruliam‘s shoulder. The druid listened intently then looked to the Heroes and spoke. "The legate and her orc soldiers have, indeed found their way to Ibon Sul. How they learned its location is unknown to me. But their ambition will be their downfall. Co’Ree and his leapers have followed their trail through the Aruun Jungle. We now know the way through. You mentioned that it was your desire that you’d enter this forbidden city. You know already the opinion of Aradil – that you should not enter this place. I will give you my own council too – I fear you’ll succeed. Yes, I fear it. The artifacts you seek may be our undoing. A key that opens a long locked gate into the depths of Stone Deep? A realm known to be as demon-haunted as Ibon-sul? But I see you are adamant. I am not going to urge you to stop. You’ve achieved more in a year that we’ve achieved in a hundred. Go. Take what supplies you need. We will do everything in our power to aid you in this quest. Though I will have much to explain at the Council of the Throne and to the Queen herself…."

Co’Ree lept onto the shoulder of Kreel to serve as aid and guide on their journey.

The Heroes left Surruliam and equipped themselves as best they could. After going through the trackless jungle for fully thrity seven days of travel, the Heroes came to the edge of the great city of Ibon-Sul.

Much of the city was drowned, the waters and shape of the land likely altered by the great Sundering of ages past. Here now, among the first mortal beings in three ages approach the city, once a centre of the Altherean race’s culture and magic.

While investigating a tower, the heroes heard chanting in a nearby building. Though quick, they were not quick enough. The female, Sarcossan legate and her four Orc Elite guards had completed their prayer (and descation of the temple). They were not to outlive the day however, as the heroes dispatched them with ease and took from the fallen legate a contract written in blood on the skin of a Danisil elf. It read:


To the Master in Grey,

It is by my will, the will of Xarudulex – Lord of Ibon Sul and of the Violet Citadel – that an alliance between our forces be made.

Our terms are simple: free us from the glphs of Ibon Sul!

Our responsibility is equally simple: slay the Danisil and enslave them then drive upward over their corpses while you press down into Erethor from the North.

Upon the fulfillment of your terms, we will fulfill ours – as is our will and desire!

Death and slavery for the Fey! Misery and servitude for the Humans! Extinction for the Dwarves!

I shall lead the Demons into Caradul and make Aradil my footstool. I will slay her, and make her body a trophy, nailing it to her own great Tree! The forests shall fade and the land itself will sicken and grow putrid with the flood of Fey Blood our deal shall bring!

Free us!
-

An enormous thumb print in blood stains the bottom of the document, beside it, a red-wax seal bearing the sigil of Izarador. is stamped onto the leather document.

The heros investigated the rest of the ruin, hoping to avoid being flanked from behind. Though they were wise to take such precautions , even these battle-hardened veterans could not be ready for the trickery of the demons. The heroes split the party, half of them entered a building submereged in the stagnant waters of Ibon Sul. The other half waited on shore. At this precise moment, four Babau demons teleported into the small building and began to flank their foes, driving their claws deeply into the Heroes’ backs. It was hard to move in this five foot deep water and so the battle was treacherous and escape, difficult. More Babaus appeared, called by their bretheren. Finally, the last Babau was slain. The heroes learned a valuable lesson that afternoon – the treachery of demons is far beyond that of the mindless orcs!

The heroes reached an arch of stone, at its centre on a small colum, a purple flame burned. One by one the heroes touched the flame and found themselves swept high into the air, landing some three hundred feet from the archway, elevated onto sheer cliffs of a strangely glowing purple stone. This ruin was indeed, the violet, Daemon Citadel.

A disemobodied voice mocked them while three Vrock made futile attemps at summoning other demons to their aid. The Heroes took advantage of this failure and made their way to tactical postions, stimied by the high platforms of their foes and the debris covered terrain that filled the central square of the old citadel.

The Vrock danced and wailed, three of them in a circle. How strange and terrifying to see demons delight. Mystified and frustrated the heroes waited for their foes to engage them but an evil force swept from the centre of the ring of Vrocks and shuddered outward, rippling and crackling in the air like an expanding globe of evil. The power of sin and ruin filled the heroes, some escaped the power of the Vrock’s danec while others took the full brunt, unable to defned themselves from the vulgar strength of their foe.

The Vrocks, confident of victory swept in, meeting the Heroes in melee. It looked like the end of the Heroes until a single Vrock was finally slain. With this demon’s death, the death of the others quickly followed.

Enraged, the self-appointed master of the Citadel appeared. Xarudulex Lord of Ibon Sul and of the Violet Citadel – a Glabrezu – a creature of malevolence and chaos 5,500 pounds of pure evil!

Furious that his lietenants had been slain, Xarudulex walked across one of the high stone bridges of the citadel. Here, Sparrow saw an opportunity. His covenant weapons, weapons he holds to be more important than even his own life, were used to their full effect. Casting Shatter from his blade, the elfling targeted the keystone of the bridge. Xarudulex unable to fly and caught off guard fell fifty feet from the bridge and landed hard on the bare stone. Now unable to choose the terrain for his final stand, the great demon clawed his way up the side of the citadel and was stuck in a corner. Kendra took full advantage and tripped the great creature. The once mighty demon was humilated and beaten on all sides – but even now he was not helpless. His many attacks were terrifying, even from this positon and very nearly killed Kendra for her boldness!

The demon died, its huge carcass lay dead in the purple stones of the ruin.

The Heroes, having destroyed the guardians of the citadel entered its treasury. There they saw it – the great shell and beneath a nearby throne, the key to the lower reaches of Stone Deep.

Half dead but victorious, the Heroes pondered their next move.
End date: 100 LA, Arc of Zimra, 22.

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The Obsidian Spire
A strike against Sunulael!

Lich001

Return to Blackshard

100 LA, Arc of Sahaad, 6

The unbroken fortress of Three Oaks rose before the heroes as they returned from the dragon’s lair. It is much as they had left it, save for a thick fog now surrounding the woods immediately to the north and beyond. The Elves of Three Oaks seem even more meagerly supplied than before. A massive pile of backpacks and sacks are piled along the floors of the fortress – laid out in case of evacuation. It seemed Lord Dashtir’s fear that Three Oaks may be overwhelmed was sincere. Lord Dashtir greeted the Heroes in his usual manner, “The Shadow will fall!”

To which the Heroes responded, “And the Light shall return!”

Sitting down with his most trusted allies, Lord Dashtir spoke plainly, “This fog and the growing malevolence of the insane whisper emanates from a source of some great evil. My spies tell me of an ebon crystal in a mist-shrouded gulch. Burned buildings surround the place yet orcs and oruks are there, seemingly demolishing what was ruined and rebuilding the key structures. My troops have, one-by-one, been going mad since the fog from the darkening wood has returned. The only good news we’ve received has been your slaying of the dragon! In the weeks I have known you, you have accomplished more deeds of renown than most heroes could ever hope for in a lifetime and yet, I must task you one final time; will you seek out the source of this Darkening Wood and destroy it once and for all? If you succeed, return to Three Oaks and tell us of your success.”

After a lengthy journey back to the Darkening Wood the Heroes made their way toward Aelgar’s Gulch. The fog that had receded from these lands now filled the camp. Through the thick gauze, a lyre’s strains were heard as were Orcish voices. Snatches of the conversation hinted at the orcs rebuilding the camp. Sounds of hammers and saws punctuate their conversation.

Killing a sentry, the Heroes crept into the old camp. In the guise of a Legate, the Heroes approached, demanded to be seen by their head Legate of the camp. The orcs, seemingly unimpressed stated that there was only “one Legate”. The Heroes became suspicious of the orcs immediately, but realized only too late that the Orcs where Fell, bound to some unknown power. Mahogin now Fell led a group of undead Oruks from a secret passage in the Western crag. Aelgar, Fell too, led a contingent of undead Oruks as well. The fog made attacks at range difficult. Using what they knew about the Darkening Wood, the Heroes focussed on destroyed the crystal shard at the camp’s heart. A minute later, the fog dissipated, making attacking at a distance a possibility once more! Soon after, the foes were quickly vanquished. The shards of the crystal were collected as were there Fell bodies of Aelgar, Mahogin and Aelgar’s son.

Once more the Darkening Wood has been banished from Erethor. The voices of Whispering Wood, so often defiled in the past months spoke again. Though the fog rolled away to its hidden sources and the trees themselves found peace, the first voice heard by Kreeland Sparrow was not one of gratitude but of distress. Vague feelings of urgency and fear permeated their senses and called the Heroes south. The words Three Oaks, Ossion and grave news were clearly heard.


Three Oaks and the Brightening Wood

100 LA, Arc of Sennach 3

En route to the Hamlet of Druid’s Swamp the Heroes headed back toward Three Oaks. Though the fog was gone, the flames of the Burning Linehad risen. From atop a hill the Heroes could see the army of Commander Jorg Kinslayer has gained ground on the battlefield, and what was more, a foul new threat rose from the South. On the horizon a long, thin line, like a skeleton’s shadow stretched out toward the front. It appeared that a third army had arrived. Though not yet within striking distance of Three Oaks, it was a matter of hours before this dread legion joined the assault. Anxiety gripped the Heroes as they hurried through t he woods toward Three Oaks, eager to join in her defense.

They arrival was marred by grim news. Lord Dashtir had been badly wounded. Pushing against his healers with his right hand upon seeing the Heroes, Dashtir half-rose from the cot. His eyes were unfocussed yet his face was set in the same grim mask of determination. “Dragon Slayers and Saviours of the wood! My soul hastens back to my body and my spine turns to iron! You have succeeded in our hour of need, yet there is more devilry coming from the south, as I feared.

Sunulael, the First Legate of Izrador has sent an army of Fell and Giantkin to Three Oaks. How this black priest can control the Fell is a mystery to all, yet it cannot be denied! The walking dead, once a scourge to friend and foe alike…a mindless storm of death and disease has been harnessed by the master of death and they come to Three Oaks to end our resistance at last!”

Suruliam beckons you to the Hamlet of Druid’s Swamp. She believes she knows the source of this new malignancy. The fate of all rely on you now brethren, you are indeed the Hope of Erethor.” Looking to the Heroes, his eyes fluttered. He fell back into his cot, his body convulsing in agony. Clenching his fist, he spoke, “I know you will not fail us. The Shadow will…” but he did not finish. The silver Beacon, Lord Dashtir had fallen silent.


Return to Druid’s Swamp

100 LA, Arc of Sennach, 20

Upon reaching the Hamlet of Druid’s Swamp the Heroes approached the great oak tree known as Echo’s Gate. Sitting in council was Suruliam – Hierophant Druid of the swamp. With her was Breouland Yihil. Standing in their midst was Ossion and Rolarr. Seeing the Heroes, Breoul summoned them. “Grave news, friends. Ossion, speak of what you’ve seen in the heart of the Dead Marshes.”

The Heroes were just about to listen to Ossion’s tale when they noticed yet another familiar face. Huge and silent, the prophet known as White Mother’s Sonsat in council, listening.

Ossion’s eyes glassed over and a look of terror came unbidden to his face. “I had not reached the heart of the marsh, but came close before the dread overtook me. A massive cloud swirls overhead and cries fill the air! The Lost, those souls of the departed, fly in a whirl overhead, a grim gyre, warning the living of foul magics and of a siren call unheard by any but the dead! I felt a heart beat pounding in the brackish waters around my knees and on the wind, shrieks of agony from the centre of the marsh. The evil Aradil spoke of – in the utter south – Suruliam agrees – I have found it! The last thing I saw before I was overcome with fear was an ebon outline in the grey mist, a black finger, a tower reaching up from the depths. I did not approach it but my guess is that it rises some 420 feet into the sky. It is the epicenter around which Lost souls churn and howl."

Hearing that the mysterious threat they had sought so long had finally been discovered, the Heroes wasted no time. They knew that Three Oaks was still in jeopardy, and waiting here would do nothing to aid their allies in the north and so, without hesitation, the Heroes ventured into the greatly feared Dead Marshes.


The Dead Marshes

LA 100, Arc of Sennach, 33

Ossion’s words were proved true soon after entering the Dead Marshes. In the sky above, the Lost swirled in an anguished maelstrom. The spirits of the dead formed a wailing host amongst the glowering storm clouds that have driven all creatures of flesh from the swamp. The chill mists of the Dead Marshes were thicker than anywhere else in the Druid’s Swamp – and they are as cold as a winter’s night. The ground of the glade was broken and unstable, little more than mounds of earth covered by clumps of black, lifeless grass between pools of stagnant water. After days of travel, the Heroes found themselves near where they assumed Ossion and Rolarr turned back – for the same instinct screamed in the Heroes veins to turn back – to flee now, before it was too late…

The stink of decaying vegetation and water-bloated flesh filled the Heroes’ nostrils. The disquieting sound of a monstrous heart, felt rather than heard, grew ever stronger. A green light emerged from the depths of the water and cast a fiendish glow in the haze that is sickening to the living. To the Heroes astonishment, the sinister glade began filling with a green mist. The Sickening Mists filled the air around them. From below, a splashing was heard. Bony hands clawed at the Heroes’ ankles. Grim, orc-skulled Fell emerged from the bogs, attempting to drag you down with them into their watery graves.

The battle that followed was fearsome. Six heroes stood perilously on tiny lumps of land. Around them rose twenty-four Fell orcs, clawing at them. The heroes, though overwhelmed in number were not shaken by these maelgral fiends. Too slow moving to deal a serious blow to the Heroes, even when tripped and threatened, were able to use their expertise to undo these vile creatures in short order. Among the great warriors of this battle was Kendra, an expert with the spiked-chain, she could slay these undead in a whirl of steel and fury, even from a prone position.

What the Heroes realized most from this battle was simple: the rumours of Orcs being made Fell were indeed true, and perhaps rumours of Sunulael himself being behind the corruption of his rival, Jahzir’s orcs had truth in them as well. They also briefly recalled the words of the letter entitled: To Maelzon from the Master in Grey, that spoke of “when the South burns and the swamps are thick with sinew, then the day of triumph will have come…”


Skirting the Spire

Marching onward past the bogs and bodies, the Heroes at last came to the foot of the Obsidian Spire. The jagged tower glistened in the centre of a maze of treacherous paths and grassy humps filled with stagnant water. Below the surface of these mires, a sickening green seeped from the depths, a ghost light the colour of fresh bile.

The walls of the tower were constructed of long shards of black, glassy rock, wickedly pointed and overlapped like the scales of a monstrous beast. There was something reptilian about the Obsidian Spire, and it is almost seemed alive. From its depths, a dull pounding reverberates across the glade like a vast demonic heart; each beat sends ripples through the scum that covers the water of the tainted pools and sends waves of dread into the marsh beyond.

To the astonishment of the Heroes, a line of slaves, mostly orcs, were being led, drugged and in chains toward the entrance to the Spire. At the head of the column stood a scrawny but cruel faced Legate, his Ape Astirax nearby, its red eyes glinting menacingly above the heads of a dozen mercenaries from Sharuun.

Not willing to risk letting these villains enter the Obsidian Spire, the Heroes quickly formulated a plan. Charging the unaware foes, the Heroes unleashed hell. Valana used her Ashen Loop to full effect, blowing a cone of flame at the Sharuun mercenaries, catching nearly all of them in her firey path. In a few short minutes, the reign of terror enjoyed by these servants of the shadow faded into smoke. Looting the bodies, the Heroes equipped the slaves who seemed most capable. Directing them back to the Hamlet of Druid’s Swamp and especially to White Mother’s Son, the Heroes proceeded toward the nearly invisible door to the Obsidian Spire. The slain Legate, Krell, knew the password, but his grimacing, cracked skull had no way to betray its secrets now. Instead, the Heroes employed the mighty Vala’im to crash through the gate. This was no small feat, for the Obsidian Spire is made of powerful material. Eventually, the door gave way, and the Heroes, now giving up all hope of a surprise attack, made their way in to the fearsome stronghold of the foe.


The Spire’s Brides, Servants and Secrets

Within the spire, the black rock glistened with beading moisture. The air was hot and fetid, like a rotting womb. The eerie lich light and a hazy mist cast a sinister cloak over the narrow corridors, winding stairs and uneven chambers of the Obsidian Spire.

The tower stretched above the Heroes. Peering up, they saw nothing but darkness, as though the entire tower was a hollow shadow. A spiral staircase in the Southern end of the structure seemed to be the only way up.

Climbing nearly 100 feet up, the Heroes mounted the stair. The floor above was a semi-transparent, black, volcanic glass. Through it, the Heroes could see shadowy figures hurrying to and fro.

An altar to Izrador sat in the centre of this room. Half a dozen female Legates of the Shadow stood ready, their lioness Astiraxes licking their chops – eyes glowing red in the torch light. None spoke, but the mad brides of the tower raised a baleful battle cry and prepared themselves to defend the master of the tower.

Rushing forward, Kendra took two steps onto the obsidian floor of the chamber, to her shock, the floor simply gave way – an illusion! Such tricks are always dreadful but to plummet one hundred feet straight down through shadow is a feeling of total helplessness that few can stand and fewer still can survive. The Heroes, now tentative of the very floor beneath their feet tread carefully during the battle, most opting to hop over the altar at the room’s centre – a canny choice which undid much of the traps’ trickery. In time, the brides of the tower fell before the Heroes might, but at no small cost, paid out in blood and fear.

Climbing another hundred feet into the shadowy tower’s heart, the Heroes saw yet another semi-transparent floor. Here, the movements were slow and deliberate. Maniacal, male laughter filled the chamber above. There, standing near an altar to Izrador were the Spire’s servants and their Tiger Astiraxes. A similar situation unfolded. Illusory floor panels gave way, sending many of the heroes to a dreadful, one hundred foot fall. In the end, the Heroes triumphed. Peering up into the darkness, the wondered and what dreadful tricks still lay ahead.

The same, Obsidian glass floor came into view as they ascended a total of 300 feet in the air. Here, there were no telltale sounds or shadows. All was silence and darkness as the Heroes entered the chamber.

Being born into a world little better than a nightmare, never before had the Heroes any occasion to doubt their senses at the horror around them. Yet in this moment, looking up, they saw a figure from a madman’s dreams – alien and utterly diabolical in appearance, a humanoid form swathed in eldritch horror peered down with dull and merciless eyes. An instinctual fear stirred at the base of each Heroes’ neck – an instinct as ancient as the Elthedar themselves. The creature’s head – there was something wrong with its head that the Heroes could not seem to fathom. After seconds of denial and dread their minds finally admitted the truth being told by their senses: the head of the creature, was putrid purple in colouration with whirling tentacles writhing in the near darkness. Casting their eyes about them, the Heroes saw three other such figures standing at the chamber’s far side. Every nerve shouted out to flee…senses awash in a primal dread. Never had the Heroes been in the presence of a nightmare cthonic and ancient as this. A name came unbidden to the fey – Darghul – the mind flayers floated before them!

Within seconds, Kreel stood forzen, stunned by the psionic powers of the fiends. So too did the mighty Valana. The other heroes had all fallen trough grim, illusory holes in the chamber’s floor – all save the valiant Sparrow. Risking all, he leaped across the chasms, barely being quick enough to grasp the side before he fell. Pulling himself up at the feet of a Darghul, the Elfling stood before the might of its psionic assault – yet he did not quaver or fail. Standing against the great power of the enemy, Sparrow single-handedly slew the creature, then hurried off to aid his stricken comrades. Had Sparrow not succeeded here, this tale would have likely ended in the death of half the party, yet luck was ever at the Elfling’s side, and so at his time of greatest need, the boon granted him at his birth bore fruit. It was not long before the other two stalking creatures were slain, and the last of their number was outmatched by the combined force of the Heroes. They’d survived that which few may endure, and proved themselves once again, true champions!


The Lich Loft

The highest chamber in the Obsidian spire was awash with the sickening glow that permeated the rest of the tower. The sound of the beating heart was hunderous in this place, and words could not be heard at all. A skeletal creature looked up from the balefully glowing orb over which it stooped. The sharp angles of its skull were encased by withered, leather skin, stretched to breaking by its rictus smile. In the empty eye sockets, two pricks of cold blue light grew larger at the audacity of the Heroes’ intrusion. A male and female legate stood guard at the lich’s command, as did the Legates’ astirax companions.

Making quick work of the Legates and their creatures, the Heroes rushed the old lich, Vrolk. About to utter a dreaded spell, he was stifled by the resourceful Elfling and his magical weapons. An unnatural silence filled the room, making it impossible for Vrolk to utter the words of power needed to cast his spells. Even his dreaded Staff was of no use. Fleeting into secret paths behind the Cadaverous Eye, the lich was stopped by the relentless Valana. Wrestling the withered creature to the floor, she smashed the beast with her bare fists, pounding the unlife from the corpse. The other Heroes joined in the fray and in moments – the great power of the Dead Marshes was destroyed.

Turning their attention to the Cadaverous Eye, the Heroes wondered at its power – the power to control the Fell! Temptation filled their hearts – to use the Fell against Izrador and to hold the keys to an unending army! Yet they remembered too that their allies at Three Oaks were under siege by the Fell, obedient to the last command given. Knowing that Three Oaks must not fall, the Heroes destroyed the ancient and evil wonder, and in so doing, sent the army of Kulos the Exonerated into a madened frenzy, thus saving the fortification of Three Oaks from being overrun, and saving the life of their old friend, Lord Dashtir!

Cracks in the Shadow had begun to form. Widespread knowledge of Sunulael‘s treachery against Jahzir moved through the Whispering Wood like wildfire, and it is assumed, into the ranks of the Shadow’s forces too.

What lies ahead may have been hinted at months ago through the words of Dustel Terk the seer. “If Dashtir is triumphant, there shall follow civil war.”

The Heroes returned, triumphantly to the Hamlet of Druid’s Swamp on 100 LA, Arc of Halail 19!


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Three Oaks and the Southern Threat

Dragon

From the Abyss into silence

100 LA, Arc of Shareel 26

An unnatural silence hung in the air. The Aruun near Stone Deep was known to be a place where natural life recoiled but this silence was something more sinister. At first the Heroes attributed the strangeness of this silence to the effects of the deafening winds of the Domhain but, after a few more minutes, they realized it was something more. The jungle, the Whisper itself was silent. During their time below the surface, something had muted the voice of Erethor.

The eerie void was filled by a strange voice. Staring at you from a moss laden branch, the Heroes could see Co’reethe leeper. His usually vivacious eyes looked sullen. “Return. Druid’s swamp.” Pointing at himself, Co’ree steps eagerly to and fro. “Follow. Whisper-Gone.”

Waiting to see if the Heroes understood, he shuffled slightly in the tree, seemingly anxious to lead them back to the Hamlet of Druid’s Swamp

The four-day journey seemed much longer. The rainy season had begun in the jungle making everyday hard going. Sleeping was less comfortable than before and more work too. Beyond these inconveniences, the lack of the Whisper troubled the Heroes, particularly Sparrow and Kreel. The void created by the Whisper was occasionally filled by chilling sounds: a long bout of weeping, shouts of pain and worst of all, a maniacal laughter that had more than once uttered each of the Heroes’ name between breaths.

Breoul head of the Hamlet of Druid’s Swamp greeted the Heroes upon their arrival. Unlike their first visit to this place, the serenity of the Whisper Academy was replaced by armed Danisil standing guard. Much of the population of the Hamlet of Druid’s Swamp was either in arms or in hiding. Breoul guided the Heroes toward Echo’s Gate, the great Oak and heart of the Hamlet. Upon reaching its roots, he sat down and inhaled deeply.

“Friends, we welcome you. Your return from the depths brings hope to us who live in such dismal times. I am eager to hear of your adventures in the Domhain, but before you speak, let me tell you of what has come pass in your absence. The Darkening has returned and what is more, has spread. Few messages were passed along through the Whisper before all this unfolded. We heard, perhaps a week ago, that Aelgar has died, so too has the noble Mahogin. Days later, a message from Ossion was sent, that he has heard rumours of a great army rising from what he called a necropolis and that a bastion of evil lurks in the Dead Marshes. Then the Whisper was silenced. I fear for our troops defending against Grial’s orcs. Without the Whisper, they have lost a great tactical defense. Speak friends, what news or queries have you?”

The Heroes spoke if their discoveries within Stone Deep. Breoul’s enthusiasm was tempered by his dread. After much deliberation, the Heroes decided to head north, toward Three Oaks to see what aid they could be there.


Grim Tidings: Fell Heralds of the South

100 LA, Arc of Dorsham 12th

Following the path north toward Three Oaks for nearly 10 days, the Heroes noticed the brush beside the path had been pushed through. Strange indeed that anyone would choose to walk through the brush when the path was so close, and even stranger that it seems no attempt has been made at stealth. A gruff laugh was heard ahead and voices spoke in the orcish tongue.

The Heroes headed into the clearing, attacking the orcs they could see. Sadly, there were orcs nearby that the could not see. These orcs, all of them, were Fell and far tougher than the usual orc soldier. Such a revelation made the Heroes wonder where the enemy had come from and where he was going.


Three Oaks

100 LA, Arc of Dorsham 23rd

Cresting a bald hill by night, the Heroes were taken aback. A light like dawn burned in the north. This light was distant but distinct, too massive to be missed. Kreel shook his head in wonder knowing that what the Heroes saw was the infamous Burning Line. The ever burning fire Grial’s orcs fed in an attempt at finally breeching Erethor’s defenses. The Heroes hearts sank at seeing its scale magnified by the darkness. Looking just east, another dread filled their heart. As though the earth had opened, belching up devils the fields, they saw campfire after campfire. Thousands of fires burned in a terrible glow. This can only be the army of Commander Jorg Kinslayer Orc leader in the East.

High above these unholy fires, some other light shimmered. Easily mistaken for stars, these white lights shone at the forest’s edge. Elf fire to be sure, but impossibly high up. Marching onward dim outlines of trees could be seen, massive trees, the likes of which exist nowhere else in Eredane. The Heroes approach the fortress known as Three Oaks. Three massive oaks dwarfed the trees around them, standing proudly at the forest’s edge, defiantly against the Burning Line’s threats and Commander Jorg Kinslayer troops. Here was the fortress that had never fallen. Guarded by the noble Elf Commanders Trevalin and Lord Dashtir.

Weathered Elf guards drew bows on the Heroes briefly but seeing the were elf-friends, they lowered their weapons. Allies were in short supply and they had little time to parlay. They hurriedly lead the Heroes by secret ways into the fortress of Three Oaks and up the massive, vine staircases into the fortress itself. Standing alone for a moment, The Heroes wondered at the many injured elf warriors laying in cots and being tended to. Vigilant guards stood at the ready, their armour dingy and their once splendid robes tarnished. Fatigued and dirty, they had little cheer, merely looking at the Heroes as a token of acknowledgement. Soon, a familiar figure appeared. The mighty Lord Dashtir emerged from a small building nearby. He greeted the Heroes, nodding first to Kreel and Sparrow. “The Shadow will fall!”

The Heroes responded, “And the light shall return!”

“Come, I have been told some weeks ago that you might be sent here. We’ve much to discuss.”

(The following is an excerpt from the war journal of Lord Dashtir)

100 LA, Arc of Dorsham 23rd

I met with the Heroes long into the night. They had much to tell and I much they needed to know. Their intelligence, coupled with our own, lead us to suspect that Sunulael may be turning healthy orcs into undead, swelling his own ranks of loyal soldiers while depleting those of Jahzir and Grial Fey-killer. I cannot admit much regret for the death of another orc – or another million for that matter – but each orc risen as Fell under Sunulael’s banner becomes a more deadly and implacable foe.

Despite this dire news I took a certain modicum of desperate hope from this turn of events. If we can not through our own strength destroy the enemy from without perhaps we can, through guile and intellect, facilitate it’s destruction from within. The great generals of Izrador’s army working for their own ends and their own selfish schemes is naught but welcome news for us. The first cracks have appeared in their once-united front, we now need only find the right wedge to help rend it asunder.

What troubles me most is this mysterious Master in Grey. I have no inkling who this person – or creature – may be and this unsettles me greatly.

100 LA, Arc of Dorsham 24th

The fog of the night before was burnt away. I took the sun’s strength and the clearness of the sky above as a good omen for our success this day. I went to the highest balcony of the city to overlook the massed orcs below and was surprised to find one of the Heroes there, the elfling Sparrow. He too, it seemed, wanted to take the measure of the enemy. No words passed between us – this moment was one for neither pleasantries nor bravado – we simply stood together and dwelt on our own thoughts as we watched the thousands of orc camps break and arm for the coming battle.

An hour later we were massed and ready to meet the enemy. Our own thin ranks seemed ludicrously inadequate, almost insignificant, compared to the endless sea or orcs before us. From atop my horse I could see rank upon rank of them rolling across the plain and, in the distance, Jorg Kinslayer himself. I would gladly give my life to strike but a single blow against him but he cowers at the rear.

I sounded my horn and we charged. First blood was struck by one of the heroes, that same elfling Sparrow. Whether fueled by bravery or folly I know not but he bolted ahead of the army, leapt atop a towering oruk four times his size and gutted the beast before it took three steps! His companions were right behind, savaging the oruks with blade and bow. Their skill and ferocity was astounding to watch. I understood now how these heroes were able to delve the demon-haunted depths of Stone Deep and emerge alive.

I have seen oruks slay seasoned warriors with a single stroke of their massive weapons, I have seen them struck by a dozen arrows and carry on fighting as if their wounds were little more bothersome than the stings of insects, but I have never seen them decimated so easily as they were this day. Kendra and her curious chain weapon knocked them prone and bashed in their skulls. Valana pummel one to death with her bare fists. Kreel rained death upon them with power and accuracy I’ve rarely seen. Little Sparrow was a blur, gutting and slicing them with the speed of a hunting bird. Vala’im dropped three with a single blow! Truly, this was the work of heroes worthy of the name.

With the aid of these heroes the tide was turning. With Jorg’s southern flank in shambles we began to wrap around and start pressing the enemy on a second front when near-disaster struck. Saroula had returned from the south. She and her guards had clearly traveled hard and fast to reach Three Oaks, which could only mean that her mission had been a success but that the news was dire.

“Saroula returns! Protect her at all costs!” I bellowed to my troops, yet once more it was these great heroes who saved the day. With no concern for her own life Helka plunged into the ranks of the oruks and snatched Saroula from their grasp. Throwing Saroula over her shoulder Helka struck down one of the fearsome beasts and, dodging blows and black orc arrows, delivered her safely behind our lines. I foolishly allowed myself to be distracted by this and nearly paid for it with my life. Were it not for the Heroes coming to my aid I’d have been pulled from my horse and slain by the orc and oruks that surrounded me.

With his battle lines in chaos and his oruks dead Jorg sounded the retreat. This was not a true victory, only a reprieve, but Three Oaks will stand for another day. Truly, Aradil chose wisely when she chose these Heroes. Were it not for their skill, their bravery, and their dedication I doubt we would have won the day.

The light shall return!


Captain Saroula had spent hours healing. Despite the wishes of her elf guards, she wished that the Heroes and Lord Dashtir enter. Surprised by the many races before her, she looks to Dashtir in wonder. He nodded knowingly and bid her speak.

“So these are the heroes of Eredane who pulled me from the jaws of death. I thank you. My journey south and the death of my loyal guards would have been for naught if I lay dead on the battlefield.”

Her blue eyes gleamed in the light of the lamps. Brushing back loose hanging curls of thick red hair, she revealed a bandage around her neck. The Heroes surmised that this was the nearly fatal arrow that nearly drew her from the land of the living. Grimacing and sitting up she continued.

“I have been told that you faced incredible odds to save me, at a risk to your own lives. If such a coalition of Fey and Man can stand up against the Shadow we can win this war. You are truly the Hope of Erethor.”

Sipping from a wineskin, she paused then looked to each of the Heroes’ faces, “It is time I discuss what I found in the South. I’ve made a map. Lord Dashtir, I ask that you give it to these noble warriors. Follow it carefully. I found the cavern of the Dragon, though I did not see the beast, only the balls of fire that it left in its wake. I heard it though. I heard it’s fearsome cry and it’s unholy howl. I also found tracks. For some time I swore we were fighting a phantom, but no. It is a physical thing, merely one that attacks at night and cannot be seen. I have already spoken with Lord Dashtir. He will create a distraction in the North of his front come dawn. When you see Jorg’s troops move northward, a break in the southern line will appear. That will be your chance. Hurry through and look for the landmarks. The land becomes barren quickly and you’ll easily make your way. May the will of the Forest protect you on your quest. Slay the dragon and save the South from damnation.”


Flame and Shadow

100 LA, Arc of Dorsham 28

At dawn silver trumpets were heard in the north. Lord Dashtir commanded his forces and pressed the orcs nearest the Burning Line. Watching from a distance, the Heroes were amazed how swiftly Jorg’s soldiers moved toward the battle. A hole in the southern most extreme of the enemy front was revealed. Looking quickly at the map provided by Captain Saroula, the Heroes spotted the first landmark on the horizon. Not wasting this chance, they proceed carefully ahead.

The next days were spent moving from woodland to wasteland. Hills and flat-lands dominated that neither region. Orc patrols seemed all but non-existent. Still the Heroes remained vigilant. At last, the yawning mouth of a cavern was seen.

The cave descended steeply underground. Darkness surrounded the Heroes. Only Valana and Vala’im could see until a torch was lit. Soon enough, the Heroes found themselves at the bottom of the passage. They were startled at the size of this cavern, its dome reached 60 feet high and was equally as wide in diameter. Fires burned ahead. Peering out into the wide cavern, they saw three fires burning in a triangle. Another cavern seems to continue downward beyond this point.

Choosing to invsetigate the flames, the Heroes were stunned to realize these fires were living beings. Fire elementals! Behind them, a shimmering shadow appeared, large and terrible. The dragon, the dragon they had come to slay was seemingly made of shadow. It attacked them then seemed to disappear. It was barely visible in the dim light. The battle that followed was a dread test for the Heroes yet the Shadow Dragon was not invincible. A thing of flesh and blood, it was tripped by Kendra in an unlikely turn of events. From here, the Dragon’s fate was sealed as the Heroes teamed up to end the beast’s life. In short order the mystical scales of the slain dragon were removed from the skeleton of the creature and brought back, a trophy to Three Oaks!


Return to Three Oaks – Dragon Slayers!

100 LA, Arc of Dorsham 34

The Heroes returned to Three Oaks and noticed the fog lingering near the Burning Line had drifted south in their absence. The woods, it appeared, were Darkening once more.


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Darkness of the Domhain

Stone deep

Valley of the Lost Fortress

100 LA, Arc of Shareel, 23

Stone Deep – Domhain in the elder tongue. The heroes rested a day and spoke little – the name of this ancient place never far from mind. Having heard tell of the moldering fortress’ entrance from the Arunath Giant, the Heroes took a day to steel themselves then headed off along the twisting paths of the mountainside.

Coming to a small clearing in the jungle, the Heroes were at last confronted with huge, pitted statues more than a hundred feet high flanking a brooding threshold, the top of which came only to the figures’ knees. Their forms were badly worn by millennia of wind and rain. Yet even now, the features of the armored warriors were clearly not human or elven, but neither are they dwarven. The style of their amour and weapons is antique and of a design similar to that used by the dwarves in the First Age.

The brooding valley leading to the fortress was strangely quiet and empty of life. While standing by the collapsed entrance, the Heroes noticed movement in the jungle nearby. The rippling coils of a huge snake wound around a great cypress; the serpent’s pale green and white scales blending almost perfectly with the moss-stained bark of the tree.

The snake’s broad, flat head tapered to a blunt nose and was crested with two bony ridges above the red eyes – eyes that glittered with reptilian intelligence. The monster lazily swayed in the tree’s branches, its open mouth revealing long, sharp fangs. It spoke in a sibiliant hiss, recognizable as speech, (High Elven no less) and addressed the gathered adventurers.

“It is rare to see anyone approach the Domhain of their own free will, save the servants of the Shadow. What brings you to this abysmal tomb? I am Ahilissa, wanderer and defender of these mountain bogs.”

Treating with the Dire Snake, it became evident that Ahilissa knew the fastest way into Stone Deep. She slithered along the wet, moss-covered stone of the mountainside. Gliding diagonally up the rough stone, she did not wait for the Heroes, some struggling under the weight of their packs, to keep up. Soon, all were gathered on a narrow stone shelf jutting from the mountain. Only then, high above the trees, did the Heroes realize how far they’d climbed in the past few days since they left the Hamlet of Druid’s Swamp. The Aruun lay spread before them like a emerald mantle shot in silvery-white cobwebs of foothills and low, bald mountains. Ahilissa watched, her red eyes darting from Hero to Hero until at least she spoke, “Here, at your knees is a window. It was once a watchtower from within the mountain. The view you are enjoying was a similar one to those elder fey who built this fortress in the First Age. Crawl through the window and you’ll be within the Domhain. I can lead you no further.”


Within the Western Hold

A crumbling stair spiraled along the side of the circular guardroom. Large, metallic pipes clung to one side of the room and disappeared into the ceiling and the floor. The only clue to their purpose was a strange mouth piece. It was from this that the Heroes concluded that this room was once a citadel used to warn of invasion.

The warmth and humidity of the Aruun Jungle disappeared within the walls of the Domhain. The silence of the jungle was replaced with a distant cry of wind. A wind which bellowed from somewhere far below.

Though there were many battles in the rooms ahead, the Heroes persevered, finally clearing the fortress’s Western Hold. Many mysteries lingered for them. For there was a room, tall and perfectly domed, that had not been disturbed for ages. The dust was thick on the floor. In the room’s centre stood a stone pedestal marked with Dwarf-like runes, yet none could make them out. In another room, three dry pools stood and above them, three shafts of moonlight. The Heroes wondered at what ancient wonders had once been observed in such rooms as these.

It would be sometime before they learned the ways of the Domhain. After rest, they made their way toward a room they’d not seen before. Unlike the howling, cold abyss around them, this room glowed a dreadful red. Flame burned here and a natural crystal formation was left untouched. The strange shape curled and pulsated from one corner of the room to the other and for a moment, the Heroes felt as if they looked at the beating veins of the corrupted mountain. This was not the only horror that awaited them in this pocket of Hell. A being, muscular and terrifying lunged from the dancing shadows, his face familiar to them all – Aelgar. It looked like Aelgar himself who had so recently died, was now there before them. He spoke, cursing them for leaving him to die only to be damned! The devil attacked and so too did his invisible servants. Lion like creatures that shimmered in the shadows. It was no small task, but the heroes prevailed. The face of Alegar vanished from the dead thing, but his words did not leave their minds. A strange treasure awaited the heroes. a steel barrel stood in the corner – its origins and purpose unknown.


Shadows, blacker than night!

With each step the Heroes descended lower into the Domhain. With each step, the sound of the distant wind rose. Making their way into a new section Stone Deep the Heroes found themselves in a large room. Rubble from stone tables and benches littered the floor, making travel across the room difficult. In the far end of the room, a statue of an Alethar warrior stood, overlooking his ruined domain. Sparrow searched the room while the rest of the party explored other routes below. From the statue lunged two shadowy figures. Demons of pure darkness that flew with a terrifying agility. Such enemies on difficult terrain were dreadful indeed. Even while this horror unfolded, Kreel and the others were engaging a dreadful, spiny demon – with it came a pack of Hell Hounds. The party was forced back to the large room where Sparrow stood against the Shadow Demons alone. The battle was fierce, Kendra was gravely injured but battled on, taking refuge behind her powerful sister Helka. Through sheer dint of will (aided by tremendous tactics) the Heroes were able to defeat the Demonic foes. Nearby, they found a well – a deep, massive well and a strongly constructed lift that had stood the test of time. In the well room, the Heroes saw two more strange metallic barrels. It was not till much later that the Heroes realized the secret of the Western Deep.

In another abandoned chamber, the Heroes found a symbol that had the appearance of Dwarven Guidemarks – Goral Fen. Valana discovered that by speaking the meaning of the glyph (Armoury) aloud, would cause the door swing open. Here, a strange treasure waited. A simple figure-eight loop of Mithril, similar in style to the design on the outer wall that had swung open for them upon speaking the word. Puzzled, the Heroes continued on, deeper into the dungeon below.


Chaos!

The winds of Stone Deep howled loudly in the depths. The Heroes, barely able to hear one another searched the hallways around them. A massive room opened up before them and to the East, an archway decorated with the same marks as the secret room above. The party moved toward the door, all except for Helka. She ventured alone into the massive room to the West. There, beasts cut from the mind of a madman throbbed and slobbered, their formless bodies belching and lolling mindlessly. Engaging the fiends, Helka was stricken. Her form began to melt away before her eyes, in moments, she was nearly the consistency of a pudding – her skin falling away from the now formless bone. The party did not hesitate but turned wildly, seeking the enemy that felled their comrade – yet the Heroes kept their distance, striking with bow and arrow rather than blade and fist.

Desperate for a cure, Kendra ran off into the depths, seeking anything that might save her sister. Sparrow, seeing the other beasts being destroyed steadily by his able friends, ran along with the furious and terrified sister deeper into the dungeon. Their torchlight attracted the attention of yet another demon, this one a wall of muscle known as a Herzou. Though the demon was powerful, he was no match for the wit and guile of the two rogues, fist tripping then flanking, again and again, making all of the Abyssal muscle next to useless. Not knowing that the other Heroes led by Kreel had brought Helka back to the mysterious yet comforting Valut of the Heavens, hoping that its would have some healing properties to bring to bear. The elf’s gamble paid off, and the sister began to stabilize, slowly regaining her form.

In the meanwhile, Kendra and Sparrow retrieved a book printed with mithril pages. The other Heroes who’d stayed behind to slay the chaos beasts used the mithril whorl as a key, revealing a trove of ancient armour, much needed by the forces of Aradil in their battle for survival.

Sharing their news, the Heroes regrouped in the Vault of the Heavens. To their surprise, the mithril book had similar symbols as the stone pedestal. Placing the book on the stone and closing the iron doors, a spectacle unfolded. Stars appeared on the huge, vaulted roof and the pages of the book flipped forward – the stars moved in a blur as though passing through time – and the book spoke, calling itself “The Tome of Shandring’s Gambit”. Three wandering stars glowed in the constellations, “The Crown”, “The Banner” and “The Storm”. Then, the book fell silent.

Realizing that Stone Deep held many riddles, the Heroes began recounting their adventure thus far. Their minds wandered back to the mysterious, empty pools upstairs. Gathering all three barrels, the Heroes filled them with water from the Well and filled the moonlit pools. A secret door opened and a trove of weapons and a book known as the Tome of Champions was made known to them. Placing the Tome of Champions on the stone lectern, the Heroes listened in awe to the powers of their new weapons, read aloud by an ancient Alethar writer who’d left this very weapons for those worthy enough to take up the mantle of this ancient and noble race.

At last, the Heroes were united, armed and armoured for the fight that remained…
Filling the barrels with water from the shaft…filling the basins. The Chamber of Champions). reading the “Tome of Shandring’s Gambit” inside the vault of the heavens.


The Scar

A huge scar tears across the stone floor in this chamber, and from it issues the chilling and preternaturally loud wind that fills Stone Deep. Your torches flicker in the eldritch winds. Crouched atop a toppled throne, a gray mass of muscle, feathers and talons stares pitilessly across the chasm at you. Spreading its wings, this huge, humanoid figure with the head and wings of a vulture preens its body, peering at what appear to be puss filled, open sores on its sides. It steps from the throne and glides a few paces. Its gaze fixed upon the intruders. The creature croaks out what you guess to be a mocking laugh. Gliding across the massive fissure in the centre of the room, the monster used spells to confuse and disorient the Heroes. It appeared as though there were not one, but three vulture-headed demons to contend with. Fearlessly the heroes pressed on, despite the ever growing power of the winds.

In the midst of this battle, another front opened. Crawling from the scar, a spider-like demon known as a Beblith emerged. This powerful hunter attacked the heroes relentlessly. Great harm was caused by its claws and poison. The heroes prevailed but needed to retreat to the Vault of the Heavens to heal.

After three days, the heroes emerged and continued their investigation. The found a huge, circular design on the floor of a chamber. Upon exmining it, a guardian spirit appeared.

“Greetings outlanders. I see by your strange dress and foreign looks that you come from afar, yet…I sense some good in you. What brings you to the mouth of the Abyss that was once known as the Domhain? I am King Valtarian Dor. The Key to the seal is in the palace of Ibon-Sul.”

He explained that this seal was created to keep the demons below from rising. It seems they are bound to Stone Deep – Domhain so long as the seal is in tact. Valtherin revealed that the key to this seal is held as a secret in the Palace of Ibon-Sul. Sadly, the king had been slain long before the city of Ibon-Sul had fallen and was unaware of its fate when the heroes spoke with him. Upon hearing of the city’s fall, he was dismayed. The Heroes left Stone Deep and emerged back into the Aruun.


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Of Blood and Daemons
The Jungle Path to Stone Deep

Bog hag

The Journey South
99 LA, Arc of Sutara, 22

Having sent Sula and her Wildlanders back to Caradul with Mahogin and Aelgar, the Heroes moved steadily South. En route, the New Year came to the lands of Eredane, and on the eve of the first of Shareel, beneath the new moon, an ambush unfolded. The Heroes survived, but just barely. Pursing an Orc and goblin who escaped the battle, the Heroes learned much about the mysterious figure known as The Master in Grey.

100 LA, Arc of Shareel, 6

Lord Dashtir, famous general of the Elf nation, led his troops through Erethor he met briefly with the Heroes and discussed the need to defend Three Oaks from the coming tide of Commander Jorg Kinslayer’s troops.


Druid’s Swamp
100 LA, Arc of Shareel, 8
The Heroes received a warm welcome from the Arch-Druid Breoul and his comrade Rolarr upon arriving in the Hamlet of Druid’s Swamp. Healing those who required it, Breoul encouraged the Heroes to rest. Yihil insisted that a war council be convened to share news of a new threat, recently uncovered by the Heroes’ recent destruction of Camp Blackshard.

Yihil explained that a new, dreadful menace was hidden by the Darkening Wood that has only now been seen. Ossion will go to investigate this terror that lies beyond the Dead Marshes.

The Heroes traded much of their gear with Eridon and her beautiful though willful apprentice Sue-Cora.

Before leaving Druid’s Swamp, the Heroes sought the council of the two seers, Dustel Terk a Whisper Adept who can see the past, and Criagth Galeck a Whisper Adept who can give limited and conditional glimpses into the future. Much of Craigth’s visions were predicated on two factors: the Heroes success in undoing the evil beyond the Dead Marshes, and Lord Dashtir’s military victory at Three Oaks. If either of these two matters failed to come to pass, his visions were, by his own admission, of no reliability whatsoever.


Up the Mountainside
100 LA, Arc of Shareel 9

The Heroes departed the Hamlet and made their way up toward Stone Deep. They had been warned of daemons in the jungles. They’d also been warned of some dark evil rising. Infant Danisil had been kidnapped in droves as had nine elf sisters. Yihil feared that a sacrifice was in the offing to free a daemon long locked away.

Guided by Co’ree, an intelligent Leaper and aid to Breoul, the Heroes were led toward Stone Deep’s known entrance.

En route, Kreel and Co’ree felt a malign influence in the Whispering Wood and had to fight off thoughts of betraying their own party members. It was at this moment too that the Heroes able to hear the Whisper learned the dreadful news that both Aelgar and Mahogin were dead.

At this moment of woe, the Heroes were attacked by highly organized and motivated Garillon, Displacer Beast, and a Displacer Beast Pack Lord.


White Mother’s Son
100 LA, Arc of Shareel 20

After healing and camping, the Heroes ascended the mountain. Here they met White Mother’s Son a peaceful though unstable Orc. He claimed to be a deserter from a party of Legates and Orcs sent to liaise with Demons in Ibon-Sul. For reasons unknown, the emissaries came to Stone Deep. Here, they attacked the Arunath Giant and were killed, apparently, to a man.

White Mother’s Son claimed that he received a vision from the White Mother that she was trapped in the heart of Stone Deep and that she needed him to free her.

The Orc also informed the Heroes of the location of the Circle of Standing Stones where the fell Giant lived. White Mother’s Son had heard elves screaming and infants crying in the circle and warned the Heroes of grave dangers at the deserted temple.


Battle of the Standing Stones
The Heroes encountered beautiful, Danisil elf sisters, apparently tied up and terrified. The sisters warned the Heroes that the Danisil infants were being sacrificed at the foot of a great tree. The Heroes rushed to aid the Infants only to discover the sisters were in fact, Bog Hags using a glamour to change their appearance.

The Dark Tree was, indeed, preparing to ingest the Danisil infants. The Heroes, through use of fire and sheer will, destroyed the Dark Tree in record time. As the tree died, the sounds of stone on stone could be heard. The Aruun Giant emerged from the fog and joined battle, slaying some of the Bog Hags. The Heroes have gained a powerful ally in this ancient Giant.

Co’ree the Leaper and his tribe promised to take the Infants back to Druid’s Swamp to be reunited with their families.

The Heroes heard tell of a nearby gateway that will lead them into the very heart of the once great Alethar kingdom of Stone Deep.


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The Darkening Wood
Enlightening the Gloomlander

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99 LA, Arc of Hisha, 27

Arrival at Harancara

After a long trek South through the forest, the Heroes arrive near Harancara. The sounds of battle and the sight of smoke rising from the nearby woods alarms the travellers at first. Upon entering the fortress city itself, a group of Elves and Dire bears surround two female figures. Sensing danger, the heroes prepare to engage in battle when the Elves suddenly withdraw. Ailhal, Commander in Harancara introduces himself and his female charges, Kendra and Helka. What the Heroes had walked in on was a training exercise. Admittedly, Ailhal also wanted to test the mettle of the visiting Heroes. He’d heard much of their courage and wanted to see their reaction to any potential danger. He was duly impressed.

After a half day in the fortress, Ailhal invited the Heroes up to his private banquet hall in order to introduce Helka and Kendra. They were assigned to the Heroes as much needed muscle by Puiomoro. After an interesting night of chatting and swapping stories, the Heroes turned in and prepared for their journey into the Darkening Wood. Ailhal, when reminded of the Bard Mahogin insisted that he was a good Elf, but a hard one to track down. No one knows more about the heart of the Darkening Wood than he.


99 LA, Arc of Sutara, 9

Entrance to the Darkening Wood

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Leaving at dawn from Harancara, the Heroes and their new comrades, Kendra and Helka made for the Darkening Wood by war canoe with their Elven guides. Upon reaching the shores of the Darkening Wood, they were greeted by drawn and terrified looking Elves. These Elves, having been on a shallow patrol of the Wood had begun to lose their grip on reality, warning the Heroes of their inevitable failure and of the power of the Wood to twist reality. The Elves departed by war canoe leaving the Heroes on the shore, ankle deep in a thickening fog.


99 LA, Arc of Sutara, 14
Arrival at Mahogin’s camp

The Battle of Biorion’s Brood

After a five day march through the madness of the Darkening Wood, the Heroes at last reached the Maudrial tree of Mahogin. A thick fog had rolled in, covering the entire wood in an eerie gray cloak. The weeping and wailing of elves was heard throughout the platforms of the tree. Following the cries, the Heroes at last met the Legendary Mahogin. Here, the Bard tended to a Whisper Adept who had gone utterly mad – unable to bear the lies told him by the grief filled wood. Administering a light, blue fluid to the Adept, Mahogin calmed his patient and spoke to the Heroes. For some weeks, he’d been sending out small bands of elves and dire bears to seek a spot in the wood known as Aelgar’s Gulch. After weeks of prodding, some hope. A recent report indicated that a handful of Wildlanders and Dire Bears had found what Mahogin had been seeking. Soon after this, a horn blasted in the fog, an elf signaled to the Bard that Aelgar’s Gulch had been found. The Heroes, eager to see the end of the Darkening Wood, rushed on, following the Elf through the impenetrable fog.

It wasn’t long before they regretted this decision. The Heroes found themselves corralled into a crescent-shaped gully. Elf archers overhead, and below, Dire Bears led by the Maegral Dire Bear known as Biorion. He had killed the dire bears and their Wildlander partners and turned them into his Fell puppets. The fiendish creature was well practiced in the art of deception, and chose this site specifically for the slaughter. The battle was brutal and nearly claimed the Heroes lives, yet they prevailed. Among the treasures looted from the fallen Wildlanders were silver tipped arrows and strange, silver Bastard swords, not of Elven make. Injured and increasingly wary of those calling the Darkening Wood their home, the Heroes sought answers from Mahogin.


99 LA, Arc of Sutara, 22
Arrival at the Orchid Temple

Battle of the Orchid Temple

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“So you want to hear about the Battle of Orchid Temple, do you?” the cloaked figure asked. He leaned forward and lit the tall tallow candle that stood in the centre of the table. “Telling tales is thirsty work.” The moustachioed man seated opposite motioned for the barmaid who deposited two brimming flagons on the table. The cloaked figure picked one up and leaned back against the wall. “I’ll have to back up a little bit,” he said, taking a swig from his ale. “The heroes were at Caraheen, preparing to head out for Harancara…”

The tale-teller upended his flagon and added it to the small army that covered the table surrounding the sputtering candle, burned almost to the table. He took a full flagon from the barmaid and continued. “Which brings us to the Orchid Temple,” he said, slurring slightly. “Our heroes decided to make camp on the plaza outside the temple. It was a clear night with a moon like a bright silver shield. It was so calm and peaceful one could almost imagine it was the old days, before the Shadow fell, but such illusions are short-lived in our troubled times.”

" Sparrow had volunteered to take watch so that his companions, tired and weary from the travails of the trip and the psychic assault of the forest itself, could rest and regain their senses."

“He stayed awake all night and stood watch alone?” the man asked, clearly impressed.

“Well there may have taken turns and there may have been someone else on watch with him but that’s not the point of the story. Now where was I…oh yes. Near dawn Sparrow spied a sight most mysterious – part of the forest itself came alive! Stone, soil, leaf and branch erupted from the earth and formed a great a terrible creature in a mockery of a humanoid form: a Forest Guardian, though corrupted by the dark magic of the Darkening Wood!”

“Sparrow roused his slumbering allies with a shout and, showing no concern for his own safety, fearlessly launched an assault on the thing. Slash! Stab! Sparrow was a blur, darting beneath the thing’s powerful limbs and deadly attacks. ‘Rise, my companions!’ he shouted. As always, Sparrow’s only concern was for the well being of his compatriots and he had reason to be concerned, for what happened next would cause most men to quiver in their boots!”

The mustached man was enraptured, leaning forward eagerly to soak in every word. The speaker tapped the rim of his empty mug and it was quickly refilled. He drained half of it in one thirsty gulp before continuing.

“From the forest came a most unholy sound, a heart-rending shriek that no man would ever want to hear twice in his life, but hear it twice they did as six horrible beasts erupted from the forest. Huge, hairy and horrible, demonic apes whose very cry could set a strong man to weeping like a child. The heroes were rendered helpless by the assault – some fled, others froze, still others wandered directly into the waiting teeth and talons of these demonic creatures.”

“Our heroes were doomed! All of them rendered helpless by the demonic creatures. All…but for Sparrow!” He took another drink. “Ah yes, Sparrow. Heart of a lion, will of tiger, only he was able to withstand the creatures’ dreadful wailing. He redoubled his efforts, hoping to down the corrupted Forest Guardian before the demonic apes slew his companions and friends. He was a blur, a deadly dance of steel. Never before has anyone seen such a display of sheer skill and artistry in combat, and likely they’ll never see it again. ‘My companions! My friends! Defend yourselves!’ he shouted, again and again.”

“Somehow his words must have got through for one by one our heroes shook off the spell of the demonic creatures and joined the fight, slaying the horrible ape things and defeating the Forest Guardian. Were it not for Sparrow, brave little Sparrow, the day would surely have been lost. Yet Sparrow was not one for personal glory. So valiant and so gracious he even let Valana strike the last blow against the Guardian!” The speaker set his flagon down and wiped the foam from his mouth.

“Incredible,” the mustached man whispered, spellbound. “And all of that is true? This Sparrow character sounds incredible.”

“Every word of it is true, my friend, and believe you me I’ve not even touched on a fraction of how incredible Sparrow is.”

There was a sudden draft that caused the guttering flame on the candle stub to flicker and die. A huge figure – a Dworg by the look of him – stood in the doorway. He looked around and spied the tale teller. “Oi, Sparrow,” the Dworg said, jerking his thumb to the street behind, “Let’s get going.” With that he was gone, leaving the door ajar behind him.

The teller stood, took a last swig from his flagon, and gave the mustached man a hearty slap on the shoulder. “Thanks for the drinks, friend,” he said and darted into the crowd.

“Wha…” The man managed, confused as if roused from a dream. It took him a moment to take in what had just happened. “What the…hey, my purse!” he shouted. Jumping to his feet he cast his gaze about the room, spying the tale teller just as, with a smile and a wave, he dashed through the door and vanished into the night. ❧


99 LA, Arc of Sutara, 22 – Afternoon
Arrival at Camp Black Shard

Battle of Camp Black Shard

Gloomlander2

Gloom and thick fog covered the ancient stones of the Orchid Temple. Following the battle with the darkened Sentinel of Erethor, the Heroes took stock of their situation. Shrouded in the grey gauze around them, notes of a Lyre, not far off, sounded on the breeze. Mahogin uttered the word, “Gloomlander” and hurried off toward the fleeting sounds. The Heroes followed, trusting the Bard’s instincts. Not far from the Temple, the Heroes looked upon a wavering shadow, hid in the mist. Though the Lyre sounded some distance off, a dirge was sung in High Elven, a funerary song of a father’s woe. Aelgar himself was the singer, and the loss of his son and his perceived betrayl by Aradil herself (who forbade Aelgar to seek his own son, kidnapped by Orcs an Age ago) was the substance of his lyrics.

Knowing that some magic played within the fabric of the tune, the bard sang Mahogin’s battle poem a composite, ritual poem, woven of strong magic and the very soul of the Heroes themselves. While the poet engaged Aelgar, the Heroes sought the source of the Lyre.

Cresting a hill and seeing, as though by magic, the fog was lifting, a military base was visible in the shadow of a high, stony crag. Oruks and Orcs performed military drill, apparently unaware of the Heroes’ approach. With luck and skill, the heores bested their foes in an ambush. When the dust settled, a Black, crystaline shard was found at the centre of the camp. Within the prison stood the singing form of a long dead elf, cut down in the prime of his youth. Despite their woe, the Heroes knew that his unlife as a slave to Izrador was too ignoble a fate for a son of Caradul, and so, the crystal was smashed, and Aelgar’s son was no longer tethered to this blasphemous spell. The Heroes sought what clues they could from the now empty barracks, finding in the slain Legate’s room a scroll containing a letter To Maelzon from the Master in Grey.

Aelgar was comforted by Mahogin and the two old warriors left together, carrying the remains of Aelgar’s son for burial. As they left, the rescued Druid Sula and her Wildlander companions went in tow. Sula was afflicted with disease and was beyond the help of the Heroes’ arts and so, wounded, diseased and dead – the Elves of the Darkening Wood disappeared into the slowly waning fog, leaving the Heroes to pursue their quest South to the Hamlet of Druid’s Swamp.

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A Secret War
The Heroes begin a quest to the demon-haunted South.

99 LA, Arc of Hisha, 17 “Day of the Sun”

Aradil and the members of the Council of the Throne have requested that the Heroes go South. The armies of Grial Feykiller are massing in the North and East. Yet the Council of the Throne is certain there is some fatal weakness of Izrador somewhere in the south.

Aradil’s tasks are as follows:

1) Find the Druids and Wildlanders who have gone to the Darkening Wood. In this region, the Whispering Wood no longer functions. Some dark magic plagues the area. Aradil sent the Druids and Wildlanders to investigate, but they never returned.

2) If possible, head to the lost mines of Stone Deep. It is rumoured to have once been a Dwarven clanhold in the Second Age. Before that, it may have been the domain of the Elthedar. Aradil hopes there may be some traces of a mithril mine there. Ideally, she’d be able to use her new found knowledge of mithril weapons without having to send for mithril from the Kaladruns.

3) Seek the South. Rumours have long circulated about some unnamed evil lurking in the utter South of the Jungles. If you find it, learn what you can. If you can learn anything useful, then report back. If you must take action, follow your instincts.

4) Avoid the city of Ibon-sul. It is lost, and for good reason. Seek it not.

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Shades of Grey
Uncovering Grial Feykiller's plans.

99 LA, Arc of Obares, 32nd

The Heroes were sent to meet messengers from Baden’s Bluff. They came upon a terrible scene at the meeting place. A lone woman, fighting for her life against a troop of orcs.

After the battle, they discovered that the woman, Tuwin was the agent they’d been seeking. With her knowledge of the Checkpoint’s defenses, the Heroes were able to find their way to Lurz’s room, steal the plans and make off with five riding horses, escaping the orcs and men on foot.

The Heroes parted ways with Tuwin, each party satisfied that their mission had been accomplished.

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Predator and Prey
Scene Seven in Crown of Shadow

99LA, Arc of Obares, 17th “Day of Rests”

The Heroes, beguiled by Jael the Hunter, were attacked at a tree outpost near the Green March. They won the day and later found Sparrow in Caradul with Aradil.. She bestowed upon them the Cloaks of the Lady for their devotion and daring.

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Against the Current
Scene Six in Crown of Shadow

99 LA, Arc of Zimra, 26th

The Heroes were taken into the care of Tuk, a Gnomish insurgent. He helped the Heroes gain access to a Gnomish ship, the Honoured Beauty. This ship took them to Baden’s Bluff.

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