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Of Endings and Beginnings


The smoke from Hartmut’s funeral pyre spirals upward into the somber, slate colored sky. Valindra kneels before the flames, arms outstretched and lifted to the heavens, quietly intoning her sacred orisons to the Great Oak. In one hand she clutches a cluster of oak leaves, in the other a sprig of mistletoe. The heat of the fire has softened the frozen earth beneath her knees, turning it slushy, but she heeds it not, so intent is she upon her prayers.

It is the autumnal equinox one of her deity’s two most holy days, and she has fasted and meditated in preparation for the previous day. This morning, she rose early, bathed naked in the icy creek, blessed her flesh with the smoke of burning sage, and anointed herself with oil of rosemary, all in preparation for this sacred event. As a druid of the Great Oak, she celebrates this as a day of transformations and endings, and it thus feels appropriate to include the funeral of her fallen comrade as part of its ritual observance. In years past, she observed the equinox with feasting and dancing after the noontide ceremonies had ended, but not today. Today she has merged the equinoctial ceremony with Hartmut’s funeral, a great honor for someone she has known but a scant few weeks, but an honor owed him nevertheless. There will not likely be dancing tonight.

Eyes half lidded, her face lit by the fire’s glow, she begins her funerary chant as the rising flames consume the dwarf’s corpse:

Tumba seere a' lle, Hartmut Ironhelm
Tumba seere en' i' nurien estram a' lle
Tumba seere en' i' lienwold ‘n vilya a' lle
Tumba seere en' i' quiet Arda a' lle
Tumba seere en' i' shen giliath a' lle
Gatrea atar, creosa ho n'alaquel e'a lle rhatre


[Deep Peace to You, Hartmut Ironhelm
Deep peace of the running stream to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Great Father, welcome him back into your heart]

Valindra regrets that she knows very little about Hartmut’s Gods, if he even worshipped any at all, so her elvish prayers must suffice. Her comrades stand in a rough semicircle around the pyre, listening, heads bowed, each in turn thinking their own silent farewell to the dwarf.

That he fell by her hand makes the occasion all the more painful, and she will carry its sorrow with her forever like a stone. She knows it is not unheard of for comrades to die in this way; in the heat and clamor of battle, blows often go astray, and catastrophic mistakes do happen. Yet this knowledge does not lessen the anguish.

Later that evening, after having spent the afternoon constructing a cairn of stones atop Hartmut’s grave, she finds herself walking alone through the dusky gloaming. Heading nowhere particular, her feet take her along the frozen creek bank some distance from camp. In her hand, she holds the coin, so sacred to Hartmut, which bears the graven image of Dolora. Pausing, she looks down upon it, and she knows what she must do to honor the noble dwarf who fell by her hand. Someday, she thinks, she will find Dolora, give her this token, and speak Hartmut’s final words to her. A small gesture perhaps, but the only thing she can do.

Walking back to camp, dusk having turned to night, she suddenly senses a presence in the frost-rimed vegetation along the water’s edge ahead of her. Yes. There up ahead, at the edge of her vison, sits a beautiful creature. A large northern Lynx, its coat silvery grey and highlighted with dark spots. The animal turns its tufted ears towards the elf and fixes her with its stare. The two unlikely strangers, elf and lynx, sit for long moments quietly regarding each other. Then, unexpectedly, like a ghost gliding over the icy ground the cat silently approaches the priestess on its large pad-like paws. Purring deeply, it rubs its entire length back and forth across her buckskinned legs.



Valindra gasps. Deeply moved by the sudden and utterly unexpected appearance of this creature, she can only assume that it comes as a sign from the Leaf Lord himself. The equinox is a day of endings, after all, but it is also a day of beginnings. As with all things in opposition, you cannot have one without the other. Every and each is contained within its opposite. So teaches the Leaf Lord. Perhaps the friendship of this beautiful animal represents just such a potential new beginning found amid this day of endings.

She squats and gazes into the creature’s green eyes, breathing in its smell, its feline muskiness mingled with flavor of the winter landscape. She asks it its name, not in human or elf words, but in a more primal fashion. “Sasha” is the reply. A good name the elf thinks.

And for a moment the weight on her heart eases a tiny bit. “Well met, my friend,” she whispers to the nuzzling beast. “Well met.”

Session: Game Session #2 - Sunday, Oct 07 2018 from 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM
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Jack
Posted by the GM
Heroes of Cambria
Episode 4: Creepy Statues and a Hag!
Delving deeper into the catacombs beneath Rivercross, the party solves a difficult puzzle, encounters a strange Hag named Muriel, and statues that look exactly like them. They also accidentally awaken an restless ghost due to their unending greed. Finding random treasure and discovering the true nature of their Metal Shards, the heroes figure out that an ancient Hero of the area has been resurrected by dark magics. A difficult battle ensues, with each member fighting bravely against the undead fiend. After defeating the Wight, the party finds some treasure, vials with mysterious liquid, and the Brown Mushrooms! Hastily returning to Riverscross, the party returns the mushrooms and gains some gold. Resting at the Dirty Shame, our heroes look for a new adventure...
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Tags: Battle , Level Up , NPC , Recap , Summary
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Jack
Posted by the GM
Heroes of Cambria
Episode 4: Creepy Statues and a Hag!
Delving deeper into the catacombs beneath Rivercross, the party solves a difficult puzzle, encounters a strange Hag named Muriel, and statues that look exactly like them. They also accidentally awaken an restless ghost due to their unending greed. Finding random treasure and discovering the true nature of their Metal Shards, the heroes figure out that an ancient Hero of the area has been resurrected by dark magics. A difficult battle ensues, with each member fighting bravely against the undead fiend. After defeating the Wight, the party finds some treasure, vials with mysterious liquid, and the Brown Mushrooms! Hastily returning to Riverscross, the party returns the mushrooms and gains some gold. Resting at the Dirty Shame, our heroes look for a new adventure...
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Genet Fouts
Posted in Lankhmar
The Eye of the Universe
Margon dreams of her god Mortis Dey. She says she has chosen the wrong spot for her temple and should choose a different location. When she awakens, she is in a different location from where she fell asleep. There is a reddish/black fog that envelops the house. Margon is outside a house where several people died during the night. Margon tells the people gathered there that the gods are angry and the house is unclean. A cart arrives to take the bodies away through the south (marsh) gate. Margon follows the cart and inspects the bodies. The bodies may have died by suffocation.

Ricky and Tyla look at the beautiful masquerade mask Ricky picked up. Instead of eye holes there are two large gems. It is possible to wear the mask and see though the aquamarine gems. Ricky gives the mask to Tyla and he goes to the orphanage for the night. The next morning Tyla runs into Valin, the innkeeper of the Lucky Copper. Valen tells Tyla to be wary. The watch stopped by the Lucky Copper asking questions about who was around at closing last night.

Walking south to the marsh gate Rafe finds that several fishermen found some valuable pearls overnight. Rafe suspects that Ricky may have a hand in this and is perhaps the reason Ricky is “retired”.

Genet runs into Mrs. Codsbellow and tells her he will meet her at the Lucky Copper.

Once together, we decide to search for Palp. Palp is a member of the Thieves Guild. Tyla has “contacts” in the thieves guild and reluctantly offers to investigate. His contact asks him to take on a task as a personal favor. He asks us to obtain the large crystal Eye of the Universe from the Church of the Eye for a client of his. The thieves guild cannot take on this task but we can. The reason the thieves guild cannot take on the contract is because the Church of the Eye often hires the Beggers guild to supply “miracles” for the church. He offers 125 smerdics and information on Palp in exchange for the Eye of the Universe.

Madam says Leela’s roommate’s name is Jolks. Tyla, Genet, and Rafe ply her with drinks, money, and sympathy. Jolks tells us that Leela was invited to a party of some sort. Adding that Leela was restless about life on the street and wanting to stick it to the rich for making life difficult for the lower cast citizens of Lanhmar. Rafe gives her some money for “rent” and offers to meet her later.

We decide to go after the crystal Eye of the Universe. When casing the temple, we see Baron Ustov Cordovna walking outside the temple. Genet has to hide and cannot help his friends. The temple is three stories tall. There are trap doors on the roof that are open during the day and closed at night. We have been assured that these will be open for us at night by our contact. There is a basement where the priests live. However, there are usually a few priests sleeping on the main floor at night in case beggars try to break in. The Eye is a head sized crystal that is suspended from two crossbeams.

Flossin and Ricky climb up to the roof of the temple. Ricky lowers Flossin down and Flossin grabs the crystal. The instant he grabs the crystal, two crab like gargoyles morph out of the wall. Genet unlocks the front doors of the temple and looks inside. He sees the crystal crabs climbing up and through the roof. Genet closes the doors to the temple and Rafe spikes them shut. The crystal crabs chase us through the neighborhoods of Lankhmar until we finally lose them. Tyla sits this one out at a bar where he can be seen (not pillaging a temple).

Flossin hears voices (the crystal) that guides us to a thugs’ hideout room with mysterious writings on a wall. The wall has a depression on it that the crystal would fit in. Flossin hears “place me here -home!” Flossin places the crystal in the depression. There is an intense flash of cold and the crystal goes dark.
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Epic × 2!
Session Three: In The Dungeons of the Sa Karan
Anssi, Ivan, Thom, and I were riding, and riding, and riding, going along the stream that led to the cave, tiring, and we saw (well, Ivan and Anssi didn't) four horses through the trees, all emblazoned with the red letters S.R. I knew at once they were the Scarlet Riders' horses, but the others, who can be a bit stupid sometimes, thought it meant Senior.
"You idiots!" I hissed. "Of course there aren't four horses named Senior here on that tree for no reason. If we continue a little bit further, I bet we'll find the entrance to the ruins."
They came around, Ivan chortling about the 'Senior' thing, and just as I said, we found the overgrown cave, and as Emil said, looking back we could in the distance see the glowing lights of King's Port.
"Well, let's enter," I said, though to be perfectly honest, I'd been hoping we might be able to get to Trabyan before we had to enter the cave.
We entered, Thom holding a torch 3rd, Ivan rear guard, and Anssi first with Blueberry, his wolf companion. It was a steep and dark downward descent, and a few times, one of us had to grab hold of another in our party in order to not fall down.
Eventually, the path leveled and we were in a worked stone hall that was certainly not dwarven make.
Fifteen feet ahead of us, the hall T'd off, to our left, there was a pit trap and a long-ago broken portcullis, to our right, a short hall that turned left, previously blocked by another portcullis.
"We should go left," Thom said, while Ivan argued "To the right."
I flipped a coin, so we went right, turned, and looked upon three recently slain bodies.
"Oh, great," I sighed, looking over the bodies as Anssi pointed out scratched in a wall. Tallies rather
"What are they?" Ivan asked, looking at the froglike bodies on the floor.
"They are Cave Gnashers. I've fought a few, and they are horrible. They're a race of frog people that live in water," I replied, gesturing at the stream ten feet away, basically a dead end. "They prefer to ambush-" I started to continue, but rose, yelling, as five large cave gnashers sprang up, out of the water.
Two landed behind me, attacking Anssi and Blueberry, while one, to its misfortune, found the waiting blade of Thomdril's axe. Another stabbed at Ivan, and the last made a fruitless attempt at robbing me of my life, which I parried.
"An Caradhuinh deliam! An Caradhuinh cuilam!" I roared, turning and charging the two on Anssi, bringing my tarj on one's head, while my claymore sliced the other cave gnasher clean in twain, before spinning and catching two blows from the first cave gnasher as I charged back at it.
Thom chopped his greataxe down at the frog-man facing down Ivan, but missed, so Ivan stabbed his bayonet into the fleshy underside of the creature's chin, letting loose a gunshot as he did so(such inelegant things, don't you agree) just for the fun of it.
Blueberry charged, snapping at my gnasher but missing as Anssi shot an arrow at the cave gnasher. The arrow hit its side, but the thing appeared not to feel it.
I flipped my eyepatch up, revealing the hole where my eye should have been, grinning ferally, then with a cry of "An Caradhuinh Eluviel!" I cut my claymore deep into its chest, Dragon Isles-man kicked it back towards the water, then, while it was teetering on the edge of the stonework, hurled my sgian dubh from underneath my shield into the creature's heart.
"Hey, can I read your feet, Anssi?" Thomdril asked casually, and, while I left back the way we'd come and Ivan searched the bodies and 'accidentally' elbowed Thomdril in the face, Thom read Anssi's feet.
Eventually, when I called for them enough, the other three joined me by the pit.
"Okay, this should be really easy," I said to my compatriots. "On three, I jump, then Ivan throws Thom, then Ivan goes, then Anssi."
My friends(though I hesitate to call such strangers friends, all nodded in agreement.
"One, two, THREE!"
We all made it easily across, and saw, five feet ahead and to our right, a opening, once guarded by large double doors. I was standing back barely peering into the tunnel, Ivan was up in front looking, and Thomdril and Anssi were jostling for position ahead of me.
"The spiders nested here," Ivan said, looking into the tunnel, which, now that it was illuminated, we could see was a steep downward slope, but everything was covered in chitinous tunnels. It was like a leaning, upside down tree under the earth(the main tunnel was the trunk), except the tree was gone, and the tunnels of chitin were where its roots had lain.
Suddenly, I remembered. I had read about this from the books at King's Port's public library. During the time of the Scourge, giant spiders, attracted to sources of magic, had nested in Sa Karan ruins, and this was a perfectly preserved example of what they looked like.
"We should go down. Trabyan's probably there," Ivan said.
"Yes, but that's steep, and I don't have rope, do you?" I asked.
"I can climb," offered up Thomdril.
"Yes, but what about the rest of us? Do you think we can climb down? And besides, even if the rest of us don't go down there, how are you to get light down?"
"Er, I think we should continue on. There's a hallway that goes on and bends out of site," Anssi chipped in unexpectedly.
Leading Thom and Ivan by their hair, we got to the bend. The hallway continued just to the edge of our vision, where it looked like it expanded. Ten feet ahead and to the left was a portcullis that was still functional, and beyond it, presumably another room we couldn't see.
We convinced Anssi to go first, which he did, without blueberry, walking semi-confidently towards the portcullis, but almost immediately, he groaned in pain, falling into the portcullis.
"What happened?" we asked.
"I-I dunno," Anssi replied.
Dubiously, I walked the same path he had, and a great pain filled me, making my head feel like it was being split in two.
"Well, its definitely the hallway, not just you," I commented to Anssi, shaking off the pain, just as Thomdril said, pointing to the floor "Look at the stones!"
Looking, I saw what Thomdril meant. Little glowing rocks were embedded in the hallway, pulsating with a strange white light.
"Well, you can climb, can't you?" I demanded of him "You had better give Ivan the torch, though."
Thomdril started to climb like an expert, but immediately, Ivan followed suit, climbing the walls without his hands, putting the torch between his teeth like I've seen Kosan pirates do with daggers.
"Well, the light's ahead of us, we'd better catch up," I said to Anssi, and we started to climb the walls, too.
Twenty feet to where Thom and Ivan had gotten off of the wall, Anssi, who didn't notice that I was straining to grab a handhold particularly far away, moved his foot right onto mine, and we both fell backward off the wall.
I cracked my head on the hard stone of the floor, but immediately rose and proffered my hand to Anssi, who was still groaning on the floor.
"Well, let's go before we get hit again," I said to Anssi, and we both sprinted to the end of the hallway.
As we got to where the torchlight was, Ivan commented "This is where we fight the big bad evil guy. I'm excited."
It did indeed look like a place where we would fight a huge monster. The room was wide and grand, supported by columns of white marble, but still oppressive. Just in front of a set of five stone steps were three scarlet riders, lying motionless beside two gigantic, three legged, chitinous monsters, who were also dead. One of the monster's legs was stuck through one of the pillars, and the other had destroyed the pillar opposite with its weight.
I scanned the room fruitlessly for the forth Scarlet Rider, hopefully Trabyan, but Ivan interrupted me with a breathless "Look!"
I looked, and saw, set in the wall above the steps, a blood-red gem, at once more beautiful and more dangerous than anything I had ever seen before, pulsating softly with a light of its own.

We had found a famed Sa Karan Bloodstone.
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