Karameikos

After Dark in Axe Town

Leaving Karulala at the Inn, the adventurers head into Axe Town for the rendezvous with the Librarian, Valenian. Mood on the street sis subdued. Smoke drifts in the air. Closer to Axe Town, there is an underlying air of menace.

Switch dons Koala’s pendent, taking on his appearance. Both he and Switch can sense eyes constantly observing the party and separate, taking to higher ground. At the address given for the meeting, there is a wine seller opposite. A dozen denizens of Axe Town congregate there.

Whilst Memnon waits outside, guarding the door, Kara and Ozzie enter the dark property. Guided by Ozzie’s light spell, they find their way upstairs and to a study room with sleeping couches and other furniture of a (repaired) good quality. Valenian sits behind a desk, greeting the two heroes and introducing them to his compatriot, Fabio.

Outside, the drinkers call for Memnon to buy them a drink, which he does, returning to his post afterwards. Inside, Valenian quizzes Ozzie about the Precepts, voicing his concern that the knowledge it can grant the reader may destroy him. As the conversation continues, Ozzie slowly realises he is being dominated and wit starting swiftness, Fabio is attacking Kara, shifting form to that of a Snakeman! Valenian bellows and outside, the majority of the drinkers at the wine sellers drop their drinks, draw weapons and charge over the Memnon. Three get past him and upstairs before the Cleric kicks the door shut and starts to fend off the foe.

From their vantage points, switch and Tol open fire. Tol misses, but Switch’s shot strikes home, and the enemy takes on a more serpentine aspect. Switch leaps from the rooftop and joins Memnon in combat as the Cleric shifts into diabolic form and consecrates the ground, laying several fanatics low.

Ozzie turns his beguiling strands on Kara and the three fanatics charge in landing several blows too. Outside, as Tol lands awkwardly in the street, burning his hands on the rope, Memnon and Switch finish off the fanatics and rush into the building. As they arrive at the study, Ozzie shakes off the domination and begins to fight back against Valenian.

The heroes make short work of the three minions (with natural 20s from Kara and Ozzie and two from Memnon) but as Tol makes a spectacular entrance through the study window, Valenian dominates him and begins to seep a noxious yellow gas as he is bloodied. Tol knives Ozzie and twin strikes Switch before shaking off the domination. Kara is healed by Memnon and slays Fabio as Switch grabs hold of Valenian until realising the battle is lost, the Snake Man goes limp.

The adventurers bind and blindfold the Librarian, before searching his rooms. The adjoining room to the study is a shrine of some kind. Ozzie’s spells allow him to comprehend some of the strange symbols on the walls and notes on the desk in the study, although it pains him to try and do so. When quizzed, Valenian only says that the shrine is to “none of your immortals”. Ozzie thinks he determines the name “Yurgh-Thal: He Who Must Not Be Seen…”

Several books from the library are found and stashed in a bag and the desk yields a pouch with five rubies, which switch estimates are worth 2,500 gp each. Each member of the party takes one, before preparing to secure the rooms and spend the night at the study with Valenian as their prisoner.

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Ozzie's troubled thoughts
Ow my head hurts

Ozzie’s head was thumping from translating the ancient arcane language on the wall.Migraine2.jpg His thoughts spinning around in a whirlwind of conjecture. Valerian had met his father, and for some reason had captured him and more than likely sent him to Sind. But where?

Going round and round in the back of his head…

Two and two are five
Five and five are eight
Eight and eight are thirteen
Thirteen and thirteen are 54

But that’s wrong, it should be

Two and two are four
Four and four are eight
Eight and eight are 16
16 and 16 are 32
Inchworm, inchworm

Ozzie! Order your thoughts, Marshall your powers, command this battlefield…..

The writings on the wall are a series of mathematical formulae, but their meaning is not clear. In addition the formulae also include several apparently random words. There is meaning here but the stress of battle and strangeness of the language means their interpretation is not immediately clear.

Two and two are five
Five and five are eight
Eight and eight are thirteen
Thirteen and thirteen are 54

Some of the words Ozzie can pick out are

Rasthz the Many-Mouthed,

badge_of_rasthaz.jpg

That Which Must Not Be Seen

badge_of_the_one.jpg This may not be correct?

Yurrgh-Thal

badge_of_yarrah_thai.jpg

Finally there is a phrase “‘AN-CHAGGOTH MWATH-KHEM!’” Which remains meaningless to Ozzie.

So, what could be the consequences of presenting Valarian to the emperor? He could charm them and get us executed or jailed is the worst scenario, one that must not be allowed to happen. How to mitigate this?

* Present the creature dead
* Present the creature so wounded that he can’t polymorph…. Is this possible?
* Present the creature gagged and bound with a bag over his head…. Probably not,

Two and two are five
Five and five are eight
Eight and eight are thirteen
Thirteen and thirteen are 54

Aaargh, focus.

Torture Valarian until he tells us what we need to know…. Which is

* Where is my father being held
* Where is the Lost library
* Who was the note for
* Who are those who came before?

What will frighten Valarian the most? The loss of a limb, putting out an eye or two? How else can we get the information as torture isn’t a great way to do it.

Two and two are five
Five and five are eight
Eight and eight are thirteen
Thirteen and thirteen are 54

What does this mean? Is it a clue to the calculations on the wall? What are the calculations on the wall for? Why are they there in plain sight?

Something is missing which we haven’t found. Ozzie re reads Valarian’s note

Aaah some things are clearer now:

  • those that came after* are us…. which begs the question who are those who came before?
  • Could the "one who is closest to our secrets be the person we helped leave the city? and was he also referred to as Galfridus Cassius Cato in reference to the author of the Precepts of Akh-all
  • Who are the Flaems? Could they be the Alphations in reference to the conflict Thyatis is engaged in with them?
  • A ha! Valarian knows of the ‘library’ this can only be the Lost Library

    Two and two are five
    Five and five are eight
    Eight and eight are thirteen
    Thirteen and thirteen are 54

    What are the books from the library we found here? Ozzie goes off and wakes Tol to get the books. He also thinks the apartment needs a further detailed search for notes from the people Valerian’s note was destined for and that he must remember to examine the staff for magical properties. Now what were those books held here?

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    The Bread Riots

    Inside the Colesium, Switch and Tol sense panic beginning to spread at the far end of the building. It soon becomes clear that there’s a disturbance, with shouts and sounds of smashing clearly audible outside and smoke visible. The games in the arena stop. Thincol’s son, Usebius, makes an announcement (boosted by magic) for everyone to remain calm and stay inside the Colesium whilst order is restored.

    Out on the streets, angry citizens complain about the poor quality of their bread. Random fights and looting are prevalent. Ozzie, Kara and Memnon cautiously make their way along doing their best to avoid trouble. Memnon spies an injured man and goes to his aid, moving him into the shelter of a looted shop (and sensing scared citizens hiding elsewhere in the premises, reassures them they are safe). Ozzie and Kara join the Tiefling, as more mobs surge through the streets, followed by soldiers and soon after, the sounds of melee and people dying.

    At the Colesium, gladiators and guardsmen form a line of defence on the sand. Some of the audience begin to vocalise their support for the rioters and begin to speak of joining them. Tol and Switch sidle away, trying to make their way closer to Usebius, ready to be of assistance to ingratiate themselves with the Emperor. Warned off by the guard for getting too close, they find a safe distance between the gladiators and the muttering members of the crowd.

    In the looted shop, the sounds of fighting have moved away. The trio of adventurers decide to head for the library and see how it is faring. The streets are littered with dead bodies, and the wounded, both citizens and guardsmen. The rioting has spread city-wide. Water towers have been knocked over. Palls of smoke rise in many locations, especially by the harbour. Fortunately, the library is shuttered and looks to have escaped the attentions of the mob.

    The Colesium is now ringed by protestors, chanting “Bread! Bread! Bread!” There are also calls for the emperor to show himself (although Thincol’s has already left). Some of the crowd inside proclaim themselves in support of the mob and surge forwards, only to be brutally subdued by the guards.

    Outside, more and more soldiers enter the streets and a mass cavalry charge breaks the mob surrounding the Colesium, driving it to the harbour. By late afternoon, the fighting is over and the streets are clear. A stunned silence hangs over the city. Kara, Ozzie and Memnon head back to the Inn, walking past the bodies of men, women and children.
    Switch collects his slave, ‘Karulala Nuar’ and he and Tol rendezvous with the others at the Inn. Memnon is far from happy to see Switch has acquired himself a slave and makes his disapproval very clear.

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    Bread and Circuses

    At the Colesium, Switch and Tol are separated by the crowd, sitting on separate tiers. Switch lifts a couple of purses to pass the time (gaining 4 Lucinus/Gold and 30 Sisteri/Silver) only to find out he too has been pickpocketed in turn.

    At the Library, Ozzie. Memnon and Kara seek information on their new tattooed friend, discovering glyphs from Hule that match some the man’s tattoos. None of this rings any bells for the Tattooed Man himself. Ushered in to meet Valenian, the Heroes are given a polite refusal to their request to sview the Precepts of akal. A vouchsafe from a senator, member of the royal family or Colleg of Magic would be required. However, a cryptic clue and the exchange of 100gp gains an address and a the time of one hour after dark.

    At the Colesium, Emperor Thincol’s Birthday games get off to a start. A group of lawbreakers, bound at the wrists, do battle against a pack of wolves with but a single blade between them. A lithe female Pearl Islander is the only survivor, using great athleticism to avoid the wolves until the game is called to a close.

    It is announced that this woman murdered her master, before she is offered up for sale. Switch and Tol bid in an attempt to raise the amount of coin paid for her, but Switch ends up (thanks to tricky wordplay from Tol) as the ‘proud’ owner of a new (murderous) slave.
    More games take place, gladiators battling an Owlbear and Hydra, until one giant blond Northman remains. The Emperor then leaves, to continue his celebrations elsewhere.

    The library shuts for the day as Ozzie, Mem and Kara leave. Their tattooed friend is becoming distressed and says he needs to leave the city so he can think more clearly. Taking him to the nearest gate, he accepts 2gp towards provisions and sprints away before he can be given any more, leaving the three adventurers puzzled.

    The address they have been given by Valenian is in ‘Axe Town’. A shady neighbourhood, but one where few questions will be asked. Wulf, one of the guards at the gate seems to recognise Ozzie, calling him ‘Hans’ and striking up a conversation (he appears to genuinely think he knows Ozzie). All the guard look a little.. off. Tunics scuffed, buttoned up incorrectly, eyes glassy. Not what would be expected from a unit of Storm Soldiers. To extract himself from the conversation, Ozzie invites Wulf to meet him later at the Gaudy goblin pub, before the trio sets off through the streets, which seem to be increasingly filing with people. An atmosphere is in the air…

    At the Colesium, the serious betting money fights have begun and star gladiator Anaxabius is fighting. Yet over the cheers of the crowd, Tol and Switch realise there is a great deal of noise forming outside the arena.

    In the streets, and angry mob has formed, heading towards the heart of the city and the Colesium. Chanting about the bread they receive, brandishing rocks and pieces of wood, a bread riot seems to be rising (!)

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    A visit to Thyatis city

    Ozzie and Memnon speak to Adronicia, a scribe at the library, and discuss Sind and the lost library. Ozzie suspects that she has had this query recently.
    He goes on to ask about anything on Sind.

    We discover that 50% of the population was wiped out in A.C. 430.

    There doesn’t sound like a great point of going to Sind, there is no money. The culture is very fixed. It’s very Indian, with clerics and wizards at the top of the tree. In the common mind of Thyatia, there is a lot of confusion between Sind and the Great Waste.

    Travel across the Great Waste is by camel caravan. Top tips take plenty of water.

    There is still a lot of references to lycanthropes in particular weretigers. Ozzie notes that we will need to take suitable weaponry

    Very little is coming up about the lost library, it is almost as a metaphor for what we don’t know yet. There is no reference for over 200 years to the library’ since the 800s. It appears to have been an actual location with books and scrolls. There is a meme that the only thing you can take out of the library is Knowledge.

    There is speculation that the library may be in Sind and/or the Great Waste, but may instead be in the Isle of Dawn or Davania

    Meanwhile Tol, Switch and Kara went in search of accommodation. met a fixer called Claudio who recommended the ‘Bunch of Grapes’ to be the right price.

    Claudio is then sent to find out who is in town from Kariemikos , the Karameikan ambassador to Thyatis is Tanora, but the heroes have never heard of her.

    The Emperor’s Games will be at the Colosseum, following a procession from the palace. Claudio hopes that Anaxibius will be there, he is the top gladiator there at the moment.

    22nd Flaurmont 1004

    On the way to the library, after we have bribed the scribe to be present and allow access on the Emperor’s Birthday. Ozzie, Memnnon and Kara note that slightly ahead of us is an emaciated man with blue tattoos who sees us and pushes his way towards us. The tattoos relate to a religious caste from some sort of obscure sect of immortals. When he gets to us he reaches out to touch us before stiffening and passing out. Kara drags him through the crowd to the side of the street before Memnnon tells us he is in a trance of some form. A further religion check indicates that his tattoos are of various immortals, none evil, all applied at varing different times. When he comes around he doesn’t know who he is or where he is from. He remembers being in the dark, where it was cool and pleasant . He had a feeling that he had to tell someone something or be somewhere. Kara picks him up and takes him to the library.

    We make it to the library and are met by the scribe we bribed, after asking if the tattooed man can stay and being told he is either with us or outside, so we take him with us.

    Ozzie asks to see the Precepts of Akh-al. This disturbs the scribe who tells us that we must speak with her superior, Valenian, in about an hour.

    Meanwhile

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    Setting Sail for Thyatis

    15th Flaurmont to 21st Flaurmont
    Passage to Thyatis is negotiated on the Sea Steed, under Captain Luthor Corodiz and his First mate, Justin Cortaryas. 100 gp will pay the hero’s way, with the possibility of a partial refund if any opportunity arises for them to show their worth as warriors.

    The Sea Steed sails, laden with cattle, foodstuffs and drinks for trade. On day two a storm hits. The adventurers help the ship make it through the storm, but a couple of crewmen and several of the rowers are lost. The sea remains calm until the Sea Steed reaches Karendos.

    The next day, the Sea Steed docks at Thyatis. (Tol notices Luthor paying some ‘informal tax’ to customs officers.) Once ashore, the party seeks lodgings near the harbour.

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    Return to the Natural Realm

    The party plans its next steps:

    • Spend circa 4 more days in the fey Wild, for the earning of rituals, exploration and acquiring items
    • Travel via Ozzie’s gatestone to the Island of Lost Dreams and meet with the Seer
    • Split the party for some individual time which will include:
    • Travel to Specularum to retrieve Kathra’s body
    • Travel to the Villa to see Duvenstahl and retrieve Kathra’s arms and armour
    • Visiting Eltan’s spring
    • Visiting Ozworts at Knosht
    • Checking on the pipeweed trade
    • Hugging trees
    • Rendezvous at Duvenstahl’s Villa to travel to Thyatis to search for an ancient text about the ‘Far Realm’ and by association, the ‘Lost Library’ and Ozzie’s father.

    The winter Court allows Eshtaroth to accompany the party to essentially ‘see how we do it on the other side’. This could be the start of a valuable alliance with the Fey Realm (something we must remember to tell /keep secret from Duke Stefan).

    Ozzie and Memnon learn rituals, Switch takes samples of some pipeweedish plants and soon wants to leave asap after doing some mysterious thing he shouldn’t have (see separate entry). Kara/Kathra spends time with Mazan at Shatterstone. Tol explores, noting that the land here seems… spread thin out at the edges, almost dull. As if it had been lumped in from somewhere else. (Any parallels with Kara/Kathra’s conglomerate stone..?)

    Gating back to the natural realm and meeting with Fyodor the seer (Ozzie’s gatestone crumbles to dust after use) the adventurers are a little shocked to discover that they have been away for a whole year (one day in the Fey Realm = 1 month in the Natural).

    During the following catch up, it’s learnt that:
    • Not much has changed in Dymrak re news from the watchers
    • There has been increasing tensions between Glantri and Alphatia, centered on the Isle of Dawn.
    • The Thyatians are becoming increasingly belligerent too.
    • Alphatian wizards have been travelling the land, seeking duels with local wizards
    • Duvenstahl has (as requested ) established a network of informants (dubbed ‘The Irregulars’)

    The party splits, agreeing to rendezvous at Duvenstahl’s Villa in XXX days’/weeks’ time.
    Notable occurrences during this time include:
    • Knosht: An Alphatian wizard came to Ozworts to challenge Ozzie, but finding him absent, left with relatively little trouble.
    • Eltan’s Spring: The Temple to Halav has been completed. Memnon’s mother, Gorgo, has moved from Eltan’s Spring to Eagle’s Gate.
    • Switch’s pipeweed trade is doing moderately well. The number of wagons involved has doubled to 8, although the quality of the weed has dropped slightly. Switch’s Radu friends are well and truly involved.
    • Tol’s beau reappears, having travelled to “get away from ze ‘orrible events in Glantri.” There are allegations of forbidden magics being used in glantri and trade between it and Alphatia has all but ceased. The Clerics of Alphatia, who have until recently acted peacefully; are becoming increasingly jingoistic.

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    Battle at the Shrine
    (Switch & the Black cloud of Crap)

    The combat ebbs and flows. The Gods seem to hate Switch (2 Natural 20s against him) and Drathu equally (a lance of faith from Memnon burns her with a Natural 19). The twisted Dryad uses the tree around the shrine to manouever, stepping into one and out of another, especially after being intimidated by Ozzie (42!).

    For several minutes arcane energies, divine powers, claws, steel and bowfire rage around the shrine. Dark shapes stumble out of the treeline and into the fray– more animated enemy. And one Howler.

    dryads.jpg

    The enigmatic howler unsheathes fearsome claws and hacks his way to Drathu, seeming to have some particular hatred for her as he pursues her relentlessly. Switch is felled and saved by Memnon rushing forwards to cure the rogue’s serious wounds. Kara piles in against Drathu dealing crushing blows, drawing on her reserves and felling the Dryad!

    As the rotting wood and vegetation that comprised her form come undone and drop to the ground in sickening clumps, Drathu manages to utter “I will win in the end. you have but won this round…”. Qerwellian collpases and Emfara begins to gradually fade.

    In the immediate aftermath of battle Mazan is unconscious but stable. Qerwellian seems to regain most of his sanity. Howler leaves almost as suddenly as he appeared, but not before Memnon makes an attempt to reverse any offence he caused back at Shatterstone tavern. A quick recce of the ruined shrine and analysis from Ozzie determines that the purple light (which has now ceased it’s roaming and shines in one constant place) emits from a shattered window with a strange design that hurts the eyes to try and follow. There is no visible source for the light, it seems to be generated by the window itself. The design is not in the book Ozzie gained in the encounter with the death titan and is therefore is not of either the Natural, Fey or Shadow realms…

    The wizard senses something older and more powerful than he has ever known before, as he runs his hand through the glow. Ozzie thinks that the light is both a gate and the key to the gate (Iä Yog Sothoth!!! *in-joke for the DM there) Concerned that Ozzie is becoming too fascinated by the purple light, not without irritation on Ozzie’s part, Memnon gently steers him away.

    Kara’s keen eyes (Natural 20!) spy broken pieces of greenish, purple veined stone, that after some gathering, present what was a 5 foot diameter shallow bowl, previously situated where the purple light now constantly falls. The bowl looks repairable.

    Under questioning, Qerwellian reveals that the shrine was built to guard a weak point between the worlds, shoring it up. If it were to fail, then “things” could come through. With Drathu gone (returned to her ‘Soul Tree’, which will need promptly locating and destroying) the shrine needs a new guardian. Emfara agrees to this role and her skull is buried there in a brief ceremony. She calls for elven stonemasons to be sent to once again make the shrine whole.

    Qerwellian wishes to make amends for his actions by hunting down and destroying Drathu’s Soul Tree. Eshtaroth and the heroes of Dymrak agree to both help and supervise him in this quest, but not before a return to Shatterstone, so that the Shifters and Elves may know what has befallen their leaders.

    Back at Shatterstone an audience is held and a mostly recovered Mazan and shamed Qerwellian address the combined audience of their people. Qerwellian admits his part in things and that he was misled and wrong. After destroying Drathu’s Soul Tree he intends to join Emfara in guarding the Shrine. Sheshtarian is named as his replacement at the Winter Court. Mazan asks that the actions of the Heroes of Dymrak be recognised by all. Peace, albeit fragile, is once more.

    The heroes rest and the following day, accompany Kara to an audience with Mazan. There, secrets are revealed as Kara explains that she is in fact Kathra, residing in the body of her recently deceased sister!!! (a fact she revealed to Memnon in confidence when the two went to search Tuss’ lair at shatterstone village).

    Kara had passed away with her grandmother present, who performed last rites over her body, perhaps a deal was struck with the Veiled Lady as part of this, for when Kathra too died, she recall meeting her Grandmother and then awakening in the body of Kara. After surprise and joy have run their course between the party, Mazan gifts Kathra a conglomerate stone that belonged to her mother.

    Shortly after, the quest to find Drathu’s Soul Tree begins. Qerwellian keeps his word and after four days a twisted Beech tree is discovered and burnt, with an echoing unearthly scream. Qerwellian is escorted to the Shrine of the gate and left to be watched by the elves. The adventurers sat farewell to Shatterstone and travel to The Winter Court, where they are welcomed by Prince Regent Sheshtarian and at a ceremony to honur them presented with a casket of diamonds (22k worth whoot!)

    Winter_Court.jpg

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    The Shrine of the Gate

    Vegetation knots together and humanoid forms stalk (see what I did there?) over to Tol, Eshtaroth and Ozzy. The Dryads are swiftly defeated, Kara turning two into compost and Ozzy’s beguiling strands removing the rest. Hit and run attacks from the gnomes quickly take their toll, with Tol, Eshtaroth and Ozzy bloodied.

    There is a shimmering in a corner of the keep and a finely armoured elf appears, with a smaller figure bound in silver chains at his feet. The figure speaks to Eshtaroth and then disappears the female Elf’s cry identifies the mystery figure as Qerwellian!

    Ozzy call out to the hidden Gnome spell caster, who agrees from hiding that this game isn’t as much fun as Qerwellian said it would be and the attacks cease. Eshtaroth becomes aggressive, aiming her weapon at the heroes and fearing that they have betrayed her, but Memnon is able to calm her down.

    Tol consults with the skull of Emfara. After berating him for not showing her remains to Qerwellian, she muses that Qerwellian may be at the ‘Shrine of the Gate’. This shrine was built to control a flaw between the realms, with a guardian posted there: Drathu.
    Pausing to examine the sacks and crates and finding some fine food and wines (fit for an elven Lord..?) ,the party sets off for the Shrine. Getting closer, the vegetation becomes more decayed, trees have dead branches. A sickly purple glow is visible before the shrine comes into view, the glow emanating from it.

    As the party draw closer Qerwellian steps out of the shadows, a bound Mazan at his feet. as his companion stake up positions, Memnon tries to reason with Qerwellian, but it’s obvious he is a changed Elf, speaking of wars to start and a realm to topple. Tol produces Emfara’s skull and Qerwellian rants about how he will do anything to bring her back, even using “the power of this place”. Drathu has shown him things and Shatterstone must be “expunged from the realm”.

    Even Eshtaroth sees that all is not right with her lord. As party close in, there is a whirling in the leaves and a female Elven form takes shape, composed of briars, dried and cracked twigs and worm-ridden soil; Drathu. Memnon engages her in conversation but it’s instantly obvious that this dryad is now exhibiting signs of death, rather than life; even before she begins to her rant about how it was foolish to block off the powers at this place and how they have shown her sooo much.

    The mounting tension is broken by a cry, as Aja leaps forwards, shifting into wolf form. The Elf Lord ducks to one side and as Eshtaroth berates him for going to the dark side; a gesture from the mad Elf sees her seized by vines and dragged across the clearing. Kara charges through the sick purple light and engages Qerwellian, her sword clanging off his armour. Missing her with a swing of his blade, the Elf Lord turns the missed stroke into a savage strike at the helpless Mazan.

    As Memnon’s Shield of Faith protects his companions, Ozzy screens the entrance to the shrine with a hypnotic pattern and switch attacks Drathu. Emfara’s spirit manifests from her skull and with a howl, launches itself at the Dryad. Drathu is knocked flat by switch before she is dragged into the hypnotic pattern and set alight by Memnon’s flaming mace.
    As the battle begins to rage, Aja shifts back to human form and begins to work as the barbed silver bindings restraining Mazan…

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    White Thorn Keep

    A parley is agreed. Tuss is thought to be alive, but his supple female companion dead (Tol & Eshtaroth slew a weresnake earlier). Memnon is introduced to Kara and the two go to Tuss’ nest in case he has returned, but find no trace of him there.

    Ozzy muses that the possible third party behind the current situation is acting because they want something from or of the strange ‘shift’ he has detected, partway across the river. The possibility that Qerwellian is behind his own abduction, giving an excuse for the pact to be broken and the slaughter of shifters to begin that will avenge Emfara.

    It’s agreed that both Aja and Eshtaroth will accompany the heroes of Dymrak in the search to uncover the truth. The party tracks Tuss to the ford, losing his trail there. It’s decided to head for a ruined elven guard tower; White Thorn keep, which could be a good hiding place via the barrows.

    The Barrows still feel mournful and seems more fey than the surrounding woods. As the party enters the clearing Emfara appears. Conversation with her brings the revelation and an offer. Qerwellian visited her three nights ago – which is after he was supposedly kidnapped. If the heroes can entertain Emfara by fighting her champions to first blood, she will give loan of a magical sword, powerful against the shifters and of an artefact that contains a portion of her soul.

    After a quick debate, the combat is agreed to and as Tol Memnon Ozzy and switch step forwards ready to do battle, Quicklings dart from the treeline, attacking the heroes, even as the very vegetation rises up against them.

    Two Quicklings are swiftly bloodied and withdraw (sulking) from combat, closely followed by Memnon and Ozzy. Switch bloodies the final two Quicklings and Emfara keeps her word, offering a mithril scale shirt, sword with a Moonstone built into the pommel and her skull; on the understanding all three will be returned (we’re looking at you here, Gabriel Windchime..!) when the quest is complete.

    Leaving for White Thorn keep, the vegetation becomes more luxurious. As twilight falls, odd bits or worked stone and paving become visible on and around the trail. Eshtaroth ruefully note that since the end of the War of the Pelt, the influence of Winter has become less.
    The Keep loom ahead and Tol and switch set off to circle around it. Tol encounters a bloody pelt nailed to a tree, taken from something smaller than a human but bigger than a Halfling. Night has now fallen, with starlight but no moon. As the party creeps forward, they see sacks and barrels placed against interior walls of the keep. There is a feeling that there is something more than an Elf/Shifter alliance at work here.

    Switch (noisily) scales the far wall of the keep. Memnon takes his usual direct approach and strides into the centre of the keep, igniting his flaming mace and boldly announcing the presence of a servant of Halav, seeking both Qerwellian and Mazan. The very floor of the keep seems to grab the Cleric and he is hurled across the courtyard. Ozzy senses elemental magic and various enchantments as he casts a light spell over the area.

    Grey, Gnome-like creatures emerge from the stone and attack-one slashing at Memnon with a pick and the other, older, more wizened looking; striking the ground with his staff. The earth shakes, both Kara and Ozzy falling to the ground. Kara gets back to her feet and charges the wizened gnome, attacking with the short sword loaned to her by switch. Tol shoots at the other gnome attaching Memnon
    To be continued…

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