Mysteriously wrenched from your home worlds, you awaken in a strange new land.
You open your eyes and are immediately aware of a brilliant blue summer sky arching above you. Where are you? Is this a dream? Last evening, you each went to bed in the familiar or somewhat familiar surroundings of your home environs, but now are clearly somewhere else.

You lie in a field of tall grass, in what appears to be a narrow alpine valley of some sort. Sheer granite peaks rise on three sides of you, their snowcapped summits touching the sky. A pine scented breeze tousles the meadow grass around you, and you can hear the musical lilt of a nearby mountain stream flowing down the valley. Larkspurs, daisies, bluebells, and wild marigolds grow in abundance.

You realize you are not alone. Eight other individuals lie in the grass with you and are rousing themselves from slumber as well. Based on their garb and gear, you judge them to be adventurers like yourself, but you know them not.

The valley itself descends gently to the east. In the distance, you see a cluster of simple buildings, a mountain village of some sort. Thin columns of chimney smoke indicate that it is inhabited.

Where are you? How did you get here and why? Who are these companions you have found yourself with? As of now, the only answer to these questions is the chirping of a mountain bluebird somewhere among the tall grass.

Thus, it begins . . .

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Piss on the Frost Giants!

Congratulations on a great victory over Jarl Grugnur and his band of evil frost giants. Once again, you all played brilliantly, using a combination of guile, subterfuge, spellcraft and brute force to carry the day. As a result, several characters have leveled.

Xylia is now a level 11 Druid
Gener is now a level 9 Magic User
Aman Suun is a level 8 Magic User
Aesquith is now a level 6/7 Fighter Sorcerer

Well done everyone!
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The Knotted Cord
Asquith folded the linen cloth into a small square as he examined Banefire to make sure he had cleaned all of the oil from the beautiful and mysterious blade. He gazed across the fire at Heela, his watchmate, but she was too engaged in her own maintenance to notice his look. Dalben snored and the confrontational mage they'd rescued from the Fey Kingdom seemed very restless in his sleep, but the rest of the party rested peacefully enough; no surprise after the difficult encounters with the ice giants and their minions.

The Eagle put away the cloth and his whetstone and pulled out several strands of green silk string, feeling guilty that it had been so long since he had worked on his ceremonial rope. He remembered marveling as a child at complexity of his father's knotted cord, like the tight buds of exotic flowers. Sitting with his family, he would listen to the events each knot represented: His first yeti, his first giant, one for each of his children, one for his successes with establishing trade with the barbarian tribes, among a whole rosary of other tales told in tangles of silk.

Asquith looked at his own cord, still short and largely untied, and knew what knot he would add to that of his family: his defeat of an earth elemental. The first knot of the elves of the Council is usually the knot for killing a yeti one-on-one. It was on such an attempt that the sorcerous fighter had lost his focus and been attacked by a second and third beast. If not for the timely intercession of The Strangers, his cord would've ended there. Because of that intercession, however, Asquith couldn't return to his people until he'd proven his ascension to adulthood, so this adventuring party was now his new family, his knew home. He had developed a knot for his connection to them, to symbolize the ways their lives were now intertwined. It looked like an asymmetrical rose by looping and weaving a basic cobra stitch back into itself. Now, he needed another tangle to represent the fight that had won him this magnificent sword from Drist the Smith in the Fey Kingdom.

While his mind cast back to the scene of the stone circle, his fingers, still stinking of oil, deftly played up and down the silk strands, doing and undoing simple knots--celtic, wall, and lanyard--in order to regain some flexibility in them in this frigid night air.

The challenge of facing an unknown opponent in single combat in order to gain a much needed weapon to aid in their fight against the Queen of Air and Darkness. It was only his sense of responsibility to the party that got him to enter the ring. A tight chain sinnet will do nicely as a base to indicate that bond between himself and The Strangers.

The first attacks of the earth elemental that the Smith had summoned and how closely they had almost brought him to defeat so early in the fight. He still carried the bruises from the mighty blows of that rocky creature. A string of Monkey Fists will do very nicely to indicate the power of those boulderous hands.

Aware my straits, the fey smith asking if I wanted surcease. Looking from the living stone, to the smith, and to the party of my friends and concern on their faces, thinking of the evil that we were soon to face, I gave him the only answer I could: fight on. Yes, an ocean plait mat will show that hardening of my will to fight off my fear and face the danger ahead with stout heart.

The turn to sorcery to buy myself time and recover from the initial blows. Ahhh. A ring of Grog's sliding splice will show the slipperiness my magicks allowed me.

My last blow, delivered with quivering arms and ragged breath as I choked on the stonedust. Hmmm. How about a tassel ending in a large Wall and Crown to indicate the end of a struggle epic and worthy of any adult of the Council of the Knot?

In the last hour of his watch, Asquith looked over his elaborate walnut sized knot and smirked a self-deprecating smile, hearing his father chastise the ostentation of such a large first knot. However, he didn't move to undo it. Even in the half-light of the dying embers, his elven eyes allowed him to clearly see his creation and he felt that it's size matched the scope of the event.

He looked over as Aman Suun grunted to his feet and stalked off toward the tree line. Must need to relieve himself, Asquith guessed, vaguely wondering what strange strands had connected his fate with such an unpleasant human. The question of whether they would knit together or only tangle would have to wait for other nights. For now, he satisfied himself with adding the knot of Earth and Banefire to his cord, the first of a string of tales he hoped would make his people, eleven and Stranger, proud.
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Epic × 3!
The Fire Within
Aman Suun woke with a start, his body slicked with sweat despite the cold air. He rubbed angrily at his face, eyes squeezed shut attempting to scrub the images from his mind, but the dream wouldn't be dismissed so easily. The mage from the shore of Lake Ostryd looked around to make sure that his discombobulation had gone unnoticed--it wouldn't do to let the Strangers see such weakness on the part of such a new addition--before he resettled his pack for a pillow and settled back down to try to sleep.

Sleep proved elusive, however. Every time he closed his eyes, he kept seeing the face of the Queen of Air and Darkness--that wicked smile outlined starkly on her pale face by bloodred lips, the dead black eyes of a deadly predator, and the silent, moth-like wings--laughing at him as she hung him from his magical manacles atop the Spire of Frozen Tears. The humiliation of the ease with which she overcame his magicks and imprisoned him was only worsened by her contemptuous laughter at his struggles counterpointed by the softer snickers of the smaller fey folk.

Aman ground his teeth as he threw his bedroll off and stiffly climbed to his feet. The watch were in quiet conversation and ignored him as he stomped off toward the treeline, his breath clouding ahead of him in the cold. He barely saw where his feet fell though as he relived over and over the moment of his utter powerlessness.

Growing up in the Hersaag Empire beneath the flag of the Priesthood of Hextor, Aman learned that feats of strength and dominating your opponent was the only way to prove your worth. He worked on his physical prowess as any good Hersaagian did, but eventually found even more power in his arcane abilities. He proved his value to the Priesthood and proudly did his part for the empire, even when he began to realize the foolishness of the Hextorian battle against the forces of Good.

While Aman certainly agreed that those forces definitely enabled the weak and unworthy to absorb resources better used for the strong, he also so the Priests' obsession with opposing those who would support the weak as ultimately short sighted. The forces of so-called evil were just as destructive ultimately because they are so focused on the short-term and individual benefit at the expense of the strength of the social body.

The mage had been swayed by the Grindwheel apostasy, a belief that ultimately got his sold into service to the Queen. According to the writer of The Celestial Grindwheel, Hextor and Heironeous aren't rival brothers but instead are two halves of the personality of a single god. It's only the balance of strength and an acknowledgement of it's limitations that lead to the staying power of a stable, sustainable society. That belief in that balance ultimately led to Aman's enslavement and then imprisonment in the Fey Kingdom.

He always knew he was subservient to the Empire, but felt that his service to such a strong society only added to his own strength. However, that pride only made his humiliation at the hands of the Queen that much more painful.

The cold air finally dried the dreamsweat from the caster's body. As Aman began to slowly relax and regain control of his emotions. As he began to shiver, he realized he smelled a strong acrid scent of ash and flame and turned back to make sure that their campfire wasn't out of control. He was surprised to see it only dying embers and was confused until he realized he himself was the source of the cinder scent.

Aman flexed his hands from fists to fingers remembering his fireballs that had incinerated so many ice giants, the likely source of the smell. Despite his recent feelings of despair, this memory of his arcane power definitely was a balm to his spirit. He looked at the sleeping forms lying around the small pool of dying firelight and how they had come to his rescue. The powerful nature priestess who could break the Queen's spell. The massive manchild who bested him in physical prowess. The others who had proven their own might in fights in the Fey Kingdom as well as the cold behemoths here.

Aman's beard twitched as he smiled at his turn of fate. He might have been shown to be weak once, but the mage had been given another chance to prove his worth. He would do whatever was needed to make The Strangers as strong as possible. They were his redemption. His redemption and his burden for while they showed great promise, Aman was sure these happy-go-lucky adventurers could use a little of his toughness to be sure that they were prepared for the very dangerous world that it was everyone's fate to live in.
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Epic × 2!
The shadows of the past: part II
Skaeya suddenly looked up from her mug straight into Asquith’s eyes. Then, just as quickly, her gaze darted to a window, to Eleanor sweeping up around the abandoned tables, back to her ale. And after a fortifying quaff from her flagon, Skaeya went on with her story.

So, then, my parents wondered, why had an envoy from the Throne itself come to relay this news to them? They were told that they could not be told. Well, not precisely; the envoy had orders to bring them back to the throne, and with all their earthly possessions. There, the already exhausted horseman reasoned, all would be told. My mother, being an empathetic human being, invited the man in for something to eat and drink, and he gladly obliged. There was no room in the small cabin for him, but could he sleep in the barn? So, that night, with an envoy from the Throne in the hay loft of their ancient barn, my mother and father gathered saddlebags of clothing and blankets, a few cooking pots and utensils, and food and waterskins, in preparation for a journey to the Capitol Estate. The messenger had made it seem like they would not be coming back, so they took everything the horses could conceivably carry. Their only concession to sentimentality was a few of Kaalya’s sketchbooks and some carvings of Daeyu—miniature animals, trees, and people—nestled in handfuls of green hay. The books and carvings were stuffed in a knapsack that my mother would carry on her back. The next morning, they loaded the two sturdy draft horses, Fritte and Taigh, with the bags. The two great deerhounds, Stilla and Garrei stood calm and composed; they were trained to do so, but even so it was unlike the normally indomitable troublemakers. It was almost as if they knew they were saying goodbye to their home. Daeyu boosted Kaalya up to the coarse wooden saddle with Tsavi wedged between her body and Fritte’s neck, and he swung up on Taigh’s back holding Niveane in front of him, and they set out to the Capitol with the envoy on his lanky messengers’-mount—this morning still looking a bit lathered—in the lead, and the hounds ranging ahead.

The return trip to the Capitol was considerably slower than the envoy’s journey out to my parents’ farm, and after a while on the road with his horse stepping out regally he succumbed to the warm sunshine and struck up a conversation with Daeyu. When my father several times had made an effort to bring my mother into the conversation, the envoy good-naturedly sought her opinion on many subjects, from farming to cooking to the best way to wash out wine stains. When he learned that she spent her days in the forest hunting while my father was at work in the fields, he engaged her in a long discussion of the best way to field-dress a deer and stalk autumn pheasant and goose. Stilla and Garrei seemed confused at first that Kalya wasn’t shooting at the birds they flushed from the brassy grasses of the late-summer fields (because, of course, she couldn’t shoot while holding Tsavi mounted in front of her), and eventually they began to take turns trotting next to her when they tired of chasing pheasant, being sure to stay safely away from Fritte’s pendulous hooves.

The messenger was happily conversant on the mundane; the three talked about the weather, hunting, farming, horses and livestock, cooking, herbalism, even the shape of the clouds in the sky. The messenger even told them a little about himself, that he was a ward of the castle and had come to the Capitol Estate when he was a young boy to learn to serve the Throne in whatever capacity was required. In this mindset, he had learned something of military and survival arts—how to ride, how to handle various arms, and to how to survive from the land—as well as of other, more delicate arts—scribery and painting, mathematics and philosophy, and cooking—including everything in between. The man could count only some thirty years as his life, but he could boast a great many skills. The old King had treated him well.

On his new masters and mistresses, the envoy would not converse. He stubbornly refused to tell Daeyu and Kaalya anything about the princes and princesses, the old King’s children. He also was obstinate about the reason for their summons. After a solid twenty minutes with no progress in that direction, my parents gave up the direct approach, but continued discreetly slip a question in about the royal succession, to no avail. It seemed that the messenger was true to his oath of secrecy, which he did deign to mention. To whom was this oath made, my mother asked. “Them” was the only answer the man would give.

Again Skaeya stopped speaking, but this time she stared at her empty mug, then looked almost pleadingly at Eleanor, who had finished sweeping the floor and was in the process of extinguishing the candles in the sconces set along the walls. Eleanor at first gave Skaeya a stern look, but soon relented.

“It’s time for y’ to stop drinking, lass, but y’can sit by the fire if y’need time before y’re back to y’r tower.”

Asquith shot Eleanor a grateful glance as he removed his sore spine to an overstuffed armchair in front of the still-roaring fire. Skaeya grumbled a bit as she gave up her mug but came to sit in a chair across from Asquith. As she gathered her jumbled thoughts to speak again, Asquith thought he could see the pain in her eyes melting away in the firelight as she unburdened herself of her past.
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Frost Giants

Last night, Session 43, the strangers began a second assault upon the glacial lair of the the Frost Giant Jarl, Grugnar, and I must say that this attempt went much better than the first. Mostly, your success resulted from your crafty use of spell craft, reconnaissance,and deception. Brute force also played a roll as well when necessary. Well done everyone.

Just for the record, to date the party has spent a total of 139,600 gp on scrolls and potions. You still have about 124,000 gp in your party hoard. Note that this does not include the treasure you acquired last evening, which was 34,000 gp. Yes, the Jarl has a great deal of wealth.

The battle is not yet won, however. Who knows what nasty surprises the Frost Giants may yet have in store for you as they defend their lair. Who knows what further wealth the Jarl may have. Who knows what glory may yet await!
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