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Posted by the GM
De Exilio
Chapter 4 — Basil of Lyndusfarne
~ eighth-day, 18th of Uktar, The Year of Wild Magic, evening
Castle Hartwick

Solisar sat in the library of Castle Hartwick, waiting for the chief librarian, Basil to arrive. As he waited, he was perusing some tomes on magic, hoping to find any more information on kiira, but the the books were heavily focused on runecasting. He had given up on finding anything and was now looking through A Full History of the Dobbins of Stagwick, by Neville Dobbin, 35th Earl of Stagwick.

   A very tall, hunchbacked figure entered the room. "Solisar, I presume," said a cheerful voice.

   Solisar looked up to see a hideous giant of a man. He should have been about nine feet tall, but his hunch brought him down to seven feet. His features were shriveled and deformed, and his skin was almost transparent; one could see all his blood vessels and bones.

   The elf stood up from his chair. "Yes, I am Solisar Keryth of Evermeet, Island of the Elves, a scholar of Jotunbrud history. You must be Basil? Am du paart."

   "Am du paart. Yes, I am Basil. Basil of Lyndusfarne, runecaster and chief librarian. Strange it is that an elf would take interest in the history of the sons of Othea."

   "My people saw a great threat rising far to the northeast," said Solisar, "a powerful hierophant of the human goddess of winter. We learned that she was seeking ancient giant relics buried under the ice. I have dedicated many years to learning her plans, and it has taken me deep within what records we had of your people. Granted, our records are not as complete as I would have liked."

   "If you want to know the true history of giants," said Basil, "you have come to the right verbeeg!"

   "Pardon my asking it, but are verbeegs known for their runecasting?"

   "If you mean to ask, 'Are not verbeegs known as rogues and thieves?' I would answer yes, but are not elves known for thinking their histories the only ones worth studying?" These questions were asked with a smirk on his shriveled, ugly face. "I suppose you also want to ask me why I look more like a grotesque fomorian than a handsome verbeeg?"

   "I admit that the question has crossed my mind."

   "It was the Sky Cleaver that did it to me," said Basil.

   "The Sky Cleaver? Is that not the name of Annam's fabled axe?"

   "So you are well-read in our stories. It is no fable, young elf! Tavis and I each held it, on the day that we defeated the Twilight Spirit."

   "That is precisely about which I wished to ask you more. I know that the Twilight Spirit was defeated and that the queen and her child were rescued — we have spoken with the storm giants of Mount Woe — yet I do not know the details of how."

   "Oh, what a story it is to tell!" said Basil. "I shall sit down for it." The verbeeg took a large-sized chair. "Where to begin? Where to begin?"

   "Actually, could you begin with how the queen first came to power? I have read a book here of the War of the Twins, but I do not understand why it was that King Camden was deposed. That history seems too recent to have been recorded in the books to which I had access."

   "Because he sold his first-born daughter to the ogres!" Basil exclaimed. "The ogres in these parts are far more clever than the ones you may be used to. When the War of the Twins began, Camden could not defeat his brother on his own. He stooped so low as to make an alliance with the ogres of a certain tribe, unaware that their chieftain, Goboka, was working for the Twilight Spirit. The ogres agreed to fight for Camden, and in payment, they demanded his first-born daughter when she came of age.

   "Now, it is important to note that there has never been a daughter born in the many centuries of the Hartkiller line. Camden made the promise, figuring that he would certainly have many sons to replace the daughter he would have to give up. This never happened. In fact, his first wife died shortly after Brianna was born, and despite taking many wives and mistresses, none bore him a boy.

   "At the time, however, he was quite content with the deal, because with the aid of Goboka's ogres, he soundly defeated his brother, who died childless.

   "Now we jump ahead some fifteen years or so. Brianna has grown into a woman, and her father is trying to marry her off to one of the earls. She happens to be in Stagwick at a play. I happen to be... visiting... with Earl Dobbin, and I meet the great Tavis Burdun. That is how I became a part of this story.

   "On the way back to the castle, Goboka's ogres ambush the princess and her firbolg bodyguard, taking their promised payment. I accompany Tavis as he tracks her — and the fineset ranger he is! — and determines that she has been kidnapped by ogres, but when we report this to King Camden, he forbids us to pursue.

   "Naturally, we disobey his orders, and Tavis, the young orphan Avner, and I track the ogres back to their lair and free Brianna.

   "Brianna, as you might expect, was not too happy with her father, once she understood the situation. When she returned to Hartsvale, she orchestrated a coup and exposed and deposed the king. He was banished from Hartsvale forever and sent into exile."

   "Where is he now?" asked Solisar.

   "I have not a clue," said Basil, shrugging.

   "Have there been any conflicts with the ogres since?"

   "Nothing significant," replied Basil.

   "This is the second time I have heard of this Avner," said Solisar. "I have surmised that he has died. Who was he?"

   "A sad tale indeed! A devoted boy he was — and a good thief too! Apparently, he was even a good midwife; he cut the queen's baby from her belly with her knife, so large was the child! But, yes, he later died defending his queen against a horde of fomorians."

   "Did this occur at the siege of Castle Wynn, during the Second War of the Hart, when the queen was taken by the Twilight Spirit?"

   "You have studied Hartsvale's recent events well! But no, he survived that battle. In fact, he was with the queen in the tower when the Twilight Spirit ripped it from its roots and strode off with it."

   "What exactly happened at that siege? Please trust that I am not accusing you, but many humans to whom we spoke claim that they were betrayed either by the queen's own husband or by a 'verbeeg runecaster from Lyndusfarne.'"

   "There is much racism against the giant-kin in this country, especially among its leaders, excepting her majesty," said Basil, "but I will tell you the truth, verbeeg or no.

   "Yes, allied tribes of giant-kin did assemble against the humans. I had no part in that! They were gathered because of the prophecy of a firbolg seer who put too much trust in his own prophecies. Mind you, he is a good man at heart, even a friend now, but Galgadayle had some pride issues to work out. He had prophesied that the queen's new son would bring the downfall of all humans and giant-kin. The giant-kin armies thus wanted to take the child by force. Tavis and I were in the castle when the siege started and when the Twilight Spirit appeared in the form of a roc made of shadow, which then coalesced into the titan Lanaxis. Lanaxis was squishing humans with his fingers, and Tavis could not use his explosive arrows that I had enchanted for him without blowing away the keep along with Lanaxis, so he came up with another crazy plan. He indeed opened the gate to let the giant-kin in, but he did not do it to betray the queen! Absurd! Tavis loves that woman more than I have ever see a man love a woman. He opened the gate knowing that the giant-kin would attack Lanaxis, because Lanaxis was the one who wanted to raise the child to become the emperor of ancient Ostoria, which would fulfill Galgadayle's prophecy. And that they did. Mind you, giant-kin are big, but they are not as tall as the so-called 'real' giants, to say nothing of comparing us to one of the first-born of Annam! The kin could do little to stop Lanaxis, but they at least made him bleed, and he took the queen and left without killing the whole lot of little humans."

   "...And the giant-kin armies pursued Lanaxis," said Solisar.

   "Yes, and that is when Tavis and I joined them. We caught up with him far to the north, but he summoned six storm giants, and those noble, depressing monsters nearly killed us all, and the fomorian cowards fled the field. At the end of the battle, only Galgadayle and Tavis remained alive among the firbolgs, and there were about a dozen verbeeg left besides me.

   "Recognizing that we would obviously not defeat Lanaxis with the strength of our armies, I suggested another plan to Tavis and Galgadayle. If we were to defeat one of Annam's own children, we would need the power of Annam himself. Recently, in my studies, I was convinced that I had discovered the location of Annam's axe, the Sky Cleaver. The giant myths claimed that, when discovering his wife's infidelity, he cast his axe to the earth in anger, and it split a mountain in two. After studying the names of some mountains on a series of ancient map fragments, I found a place that could translate into Common as "Split Mountain". It was also in the same region as Othea Tor, the supposed place of Othea's final rest. Moreover, I found evidence in some old tales of ghost-like monsters of former giants being spotted in the area of the mountain, which was thus avoided by the frost giant tribes living in that area. I was sure that it must be the final resting place of that great axe.

   "I do not think Tavis fully believed my idea, but he did not have anything else to lose, so our small band set out on a minor detour on the way toward the Twilight Vale, and we took a quest to find Sky Cleaver.

   "Find it we did, deep within a cavern between the two halves of Split Mountain, guarded by a hill giant whose flesh was transparent from all of his years protecting the weapon, which he worshiped much like a god. Now I understood what it meant when the legends said that the axe would strip away the corporeality of mortals who bore it. Simply put, the weapon was never forged to be wielded by mortals.

   "Tavis took the chance, however, and claimed the axe as his own.

   "We arrived at the Twilight Vale, a mystical valley that only came into existence when in the shadow of Othea Tor, the same shadow that restored and sustained Lanaxis for so many centuries. We knew that Annam's axe was said to have the power to cleave anything created, and Tavis used its power to literally cleave Othea Tor in half — an amazing display of magic power, or I am not a runecaster! With that mountain demolished, the Twilight Vale was, in a sense, also destroyed, forcing the ancient palace of Voninheim back into the world of Toril again, and exposing Lanaxis to his curse of mortality.

   "Then, in the final showdown with Lanaxis, who had taken his shadowroc form one last time, Tavis defeated the ancient titan once and for all.

   "Brianna, having been rescued now a second time by Tavis, returned with her husband and son to her throne in Hartsvale."

   "What about Galgadayle?" asked Solisar. "Is he still alive?"

   "He is, though he has returned to his tribe, and I have not seen him since."

   Solisar paused and processed all the new information he had just learned.

   "Is there anything else you wish to know?" Basil asked.

   "When we spoke with the queen, she had mentioned you by name. She said that you confirmed the existence of Jhothûn?"

   "Yes, 'Iseheim' the other giants call it."

   "Do you have a book about it?"

   Basil did, but the only line of interest was simply a parenthetical:

...The kingdoms of Ostoria were eight in number, one for each of the sons of the All-Father, the Prime. The kingdoms were ruled from the great citadels of old. These included foremost Voninheim, the capital, the Bleak Palace. Vilmos ruled from Uvarheim, deep below the waves. Nicias reigned from Skyeheim, which sailed the heavens. Masud controlled the peaks of flame from Ildheim, while his rival, Ottar, held Iseheim atop the ice flows, (which some called Jhothûn.) Obadai claimed Nedeheim, in the deeps of the earth, and young Ruk was given Haugheim. Dunmore, the bastard, dwelt among the trees in Skogheim with the race some call the voadkyn....

   Solisar spent several more hours with the hospitable verbeeg, learning much about the art of runecasting, a form of divine magic, and some further knowledge about the giant-kin. For example, while he had heard that firbolgs could not lie, he now learned that they could, only that it would make them nauseous and insomniac for days at a time, so ingrained was the importance of truth and honor within their culture. He asked Basil about the town of Lyndusfarne and if he knew the Pulkdrivvers. (He did not.) Finally, he studied some divinatory spells, before joining with his companions for the night.
Session: 85th Game Session - Wednesday, Feb 01 2017 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
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De Exilio
Chapter 4 — Castle Hartwick
~ seventh-day, 17th of Uktar, The Year of Wild Magic, morning
Earls Bridge

The party stayed at the Weary Giant Inn that night, (with Solisar and Kytharrah each taking time to entertain the young orphans,) and, the next day, headed west through Coggin's Rise again.

   Now they came to a cliff overlooking the Clear Whirl River and could see Castle Hartwick in the midst of its waters. The island was a sheer spire of granite, rising hundreds of feet high out of the water and forming a plateau covered in spruce trees. The castle itself was constructed from huge, sun-whitened blocks of granite, and it included several flying turrets containing ballistae. They could see the delicate looking drawbridge, supported by two flying buttresses.

   The road descended over a lip of cliff and down to the blue waters of river. Near the bottom, a small watchhouse had been carved into the solid stone by the river's edge. They were here greeted by three sentries bearing halberds. "Halt! Welcome to Earls Bridge." Hakam presented the re-sealed document from Earl Dobbin, and one of the guards nodded after opening it. He then shouted down over the cliff.

   A giant bald head with smooth gray skin and gaunt features appeared. A giant must have been sitting below on the right side of the inclined road. Now standing, the giant took a step south and began turning a massive crank, which lowered the drawbridge.

   "A stone giant, I suspect," said Solisar.

   They all continued forward, descending the last stretch of the road and then turning right to step onto the narrow bridge.

   A frost giant was there to guard the other side of the bridge. The yellow-bearded guardian did not speak, but looked each one in the eyes as they passed through the drawbridge gate.

   "Play?" asked Kytharrah.

   "Not during work hours," said the giant.

   They entered into a park which had statues of rulers spread around it. The largest statue was eleven-feet-tall, and they grew progressively smaller after that. The last statue had been struck down at the knees.

   They continued walking along a path under the spruce trees to the outermost gate to the castle. It was presently open, and the men guarding it did not speak to the travelers as they passed through. Within the outer walls was a dusty courtyard, and several shops and an inn were along the walls. The inner gate to the central keep and palace was shut, and the guards there informed them that only those with an appointment could see the queen, except for on tenth-day, when she held court.

   As it was seventh-day, Hakam composed a letter to be delivered, requesting an appointment:

Hakam yn Hamdulah, Justiciar of Anachtyr,

To Her Most Esteemed Royal Highness, Queen Brianna of Hartwick,

I honor thee.

I represent a group of ambassadors on a sacred mission from the Ordning. We are seeking the true heir of the Empire of Jhothûn. Jhothûn is awaiting its true ruler, and we have reason to believe that thy majesty thyself or his highness the prince may be able to claim the throne.

We await entry into the castle to speak with thee at thine earliest convenience.

After that, they could only wait to see if the queen would summon them. They paid for a stay at the inn within the outer walls, having the best selection of rooms, as few visitors from foreign lands visited Hartsvale and fewer still with winter approaching.

   Belvin left the castle proper and wandered among the spruce trees. He noted the largest statue in the park bore the name "Brun" on a plaque. The one next to it had "Bran". Later, that night, he would ask Solisar about this and be told that Brun was the son of Hartkiller and Bran the grandson, the first and second kings of Hartsvale after Hartkiller. The knocked-over statue was of King Camden, Queen Brianna's father. He had been removed from power by his own daughter and banished from the kingdom.

   Solisar only knew this because he had spent the day in the library within the castle. He had entered the room and asked a steward for books on the Hartsvaler language, Bothii, and on the country's history. It had also been recorded that, when queen Brianna was only a child, King Camden had fought a civil war against his evil brother, his twin, Dunstan — a three-year war of succession known as the War of the Twins. He did know the details of why Camden had then been removed from power by his own daughter.

   Like Belvin, Kytharrah had also left the castle, he went and sat near the frost giant and pestered him with "Can you play yet?" until sunset. At that point, the giant, whose name was Hrodmar, (Belvin learned this fact, not Kytharrah,) ceased from his somber demeanor and willfully scuffled with the young minotaur. Hrodmar soundly bested Kytharrah, taking advantage of his greater reach. It was by no means an easy feat for the larger humanoid; by the time the two tired, the "Friendly Red Beast" was developing the skills to slip inside the giant's reach and gain the initiative.

   For his part, Hakam visited the chapel there at the castle, seeking to learn why he had lost his powers. A human man was there, a priest, portly and bald, wearing lots of gold jewelry and carrying a silvered staff in the shape of forked lightning in one hand and a thurible in the other. This was Simon, cleric of Stronmaus for the queen. Hakam asked the man where he might find a temple to any of the Triad, particularly Anachtyr.

   "You mean Tyr?" replied Simon, which made Hakaam grimace. "You will not find any of his worshipers here in Hartsvale; the Ordning reigns in this land, not your southern gods. You might find a shrine to Tyr at the Fork, far to the south over the Ice Mountains, but the Fork is barely a few buildings, not even a village."

   Simon did, however, permit Hakam to use one of the prayer rooms and some candles to seek answers from Anachtyr. If Anachtyr spoke to him during this time, he did not share the answer with the others. In any case, he still did not have his powers.

   That night, they sat in the taproom of the inn meant for visitors to the castle and discussed what they all had learned and what their next steps should be.

   "The queen might favor us more if we reference the maid Livia rather than Earl Dobbin," said Solisar, "since the former is a friend, nay, almost a daughter to her husband."

   "Her husband has no blood relation to the last son of Annam," said Hakam. "He is a firbolg, is he not? Giant-kin, not giant. He might misrepresent himself, caring more for his people than for the good of the giants."

   "Since when do we care about the good of giants?" asked Belvin. "I am just here so that Leokas can be freed from his curse as portal guardian."

   "Nevertheless," said Solisar, in answer to Hakam, "the earl has no good feelings toward the queen. I think that reaching her through Livia and her husband would have the fastest result."

   "We shall wait to see if she responds to my letter," said Hakam. "If not, we shall have to try a second method."


They did not need a second method, for on the next morn, on eighth-day, a courier from the queen found them at the inn. "You have been summoned," he said. "You are to be present at the gates to the inner keep at highsun."

   They thought it best that only a subset of their group enter the throne room, so Hakam, Leokas, Szordrin, and Solisar dressed in their finest clothes and prepared to enter the central structure of the castle.

   While they were getting ready, Hakam heard a familiar voice in his mind. "At Sundrah, whence those gnomes came, remember? Still no news. We sail to Suj next, the second island. I hope that you've returned to civilization."

   Hakam answered Jayce, "We are still on the genie's quest, may have found heir in Hartsvale. Cassiera's back, but my magics are fleeting at the moment."

   When they found themselves within the castle proper, they were led by halberd-bearing guards to the throne room, and the large doors were swung open. The four bowed, stepped through the doors and bowed again. Before they had finished their ritual bowing, the queen spoke from her alabaster throne on the other end of the long room. "I had thought that you strange visitors to my kingdom wrote utter nonsense, but then I spoke with my librarian and seer, Basil."

   Queen Brianna was the tallest human woman any of them had ever seen. Even seated, it was clear that she was well over six feet, if not seven feet, tall. She had a rugged body for a woman, with well-defined muscles in her bare arms, yet she was still feminine. Her striking face had clear skin, and her long blond hair had two braids in it, falling down the front of her body. She was clothed in ceremonial armor and crowned with a golden circlet. Velvet gloves covered her hands, and a thick, curled golden armband surrounded her left bicep. A holy symbol of a flaming spear hung around her neck, marking her as both a priestess and a queen. Instead of a scepter, she held onto a long, ceremonial spear.

   The white throne on which she sat was massive, making her appear like a child in its seat. It had clearly been carved from a single piece of gypsum and had sharp angles, giving it a distinctive Dwarven appearance.

   "There was no deceit in my letter to thee, thy majesty," said Hakam, giving yet another little bow.

   "You may forgo the formalities and the stifling language," said the queen. "I do not have the patience for it today. Basil tells me that Jhothûn is ancient Iseheim, and that it truly existed. Yet why should I care about the plight of frost giants — I am a human queen — much less be their ruler?"

   "It is true that the frost giants today are little better than feral tribes," said Hakam, "but in the time of Jhothûn, in the time of Ostoria, they were as noble as their brethren. We have seen physical evidence of this, having come from a land far to the east where the magic and power of that ancient kingdom still survives, being tended to by the great power of an ice genie. The same entity has sent us on this quest as his chosen ambassadors, and we are bound to fulfill it."

   "What business has a genie with frost giants?" asked the queen.

   "We wondered the same," said Hakam. "We have learned that in the ancient history of Jhothûn, the ice genies made an alliance and pact with the sons of Ottar Annamson, to serve them in perpetuity."

   "Even if these things are true, for what reason think you that I might be the heir?"

   "We suspect that the line of Ottar has died out," answered Hakam, "in which case another line of Annam may perhaps rule in its stead."

   "Perhaps? Many generations am I removed from Hartkiller," said Queen Brianna.

   "We ask only that you travel with us to see. There is a magical throne within the royal palace of the emperors in Jhothûn. It alone can judge who the true heir is."

   "And shall I abandon my kingdom for such a fancy?" asked Hartsvale's queen.

   "There is more," said Solisar. "We believe that this may be the will of the Ordning. We have crossed paths with a clan of cloud giants and been granted a stay upon their cloud palace. Stronmaus has seen fit to blow the palace directly to Mount Woe, where we were granted an audience with the storm giants. The tribe there lives in despair, waiting for redemption from Annam the All-Father. The priest of the cloud giants believes that this redemption may soon be nigh, through our delivery of our message to you. Your gods have led us here."

   The queen seemed intrigued by the elf's mention of storm giants. "With whom did you speak upon Mount Woe?"

   "The paramount, Ramos, did dine with us."

   "Ramos? I met him once. He cooked me moose, though I never did taste it...."

   "I am a scholar of history, your majesty," continued Solisar. "I know that Annam prophesied that his heir would sit on the throne of Ostoria, ushering in his return to Toril. Do you not believe this? I see that you are yourself a priestess. I also know that, though human, you are in direct line to Annam. If you are not the prophesied ruler, perhaps your firstborn son is."

   "I have only one son," said Brianna curtly. Then they heard her mutter to herself, "Is this really happening a second time?" Finally, she addressed them again. "My husband is not of the Jotunbrud. If you are a scholar of history, tell me, why should Annam's will permit a giant-kin boy to rule his empire? I have heard enough. My answer is no. I bid you farewell."

   At this, the doors behind them opened, and the guards came in to escort them from the queen's presence.

   Solisar dared a further question. "Your majesty, if I may ask one more trivial thing,..."


   "Would you at least grant me, as a student of your history, an audience with your librarian Basil."

   "I permit it," she said.

   As they were walking back to the castle's inn, Leokas asked Szordrin if he had learned anything with his magic.

   "Her thoughts were either too alien or were magically blocked," said the bearded wizard, "but it does not take magic to see that we were doing well until Solisar mentioned her son."

   "It is high time we learned more about the truth of her child," said Solisar. "I shall visit this Basil tonight, Corellon be willing."
Session: 84th Game Session - Thursday, Jan 26 2017 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
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De Exilio
Chapter 4 — Stagwick
~ sixth-day, 16th of Uktar, The Year of Wild Magic, morning
Stagwick, Hartsvale

In the morning, traveling along the road on camel back or pulkka, they exited the aspen wold and passed into a valley among the hills. (They were protected from the cold solely by Belvin's magic, since the coming of dawn did not bring Hakam's power back.) Within the valley was a tiny village of tightly clustered log huts and only two or three larger buildings. The road continued past the village and forked. Each branch of the road led to the top of an overlooking hill. A large, walled manor sat atop one hill; what appeared to be a mill of some sort rested on the other, with large amounts of smoke rising from a large chimney.

   "The smelting furnace," said Solisar.

   "We should go directly there," said Hakam, "and be rid of the silver as soon as possible."

   This they did. At the gates to a stone wall around the smeltery complex, they were greeted by two armored guards bearing halberds. They spoke in Common to the strangers.

   "We carry a delivery of silver ore," said Hakam. "We have taken over for the Pulkdrivvers. They will no longer be making deliveries, as it turns out that they were filthy werewolves."

   Hakam requested that the head smelter come speak with them, and soon the man came outside to investigate the shipment. They lifted up some canvas to reveal the boxes of ore, being careful not to uncover the dead bodies also lying on the pulkka. He did not seem to care about anything beyond if the expected number of crates of ore were there.

   "Do you know whence the Pulkdrivvers hailed?" asked Solisar.

   "Lyndusfarne, I believe," said the smelter. "I do not rightly know; I just took the silver and handed them their payment. That was all."

   "Then where is our payment?" asked Hakam.

   He was almost struck in the face when the man tossed him a small sack, then turned and went back into the building.


When they descended again to the village proper, they were not met by any guards. No one seemed to be outside, but it was not a ghost town, as smoke was rising from all the chimneys.

   Since they were concerned that Kytharrah might scare some of the villagers and since they did not want to carry dead bodies into the village, they left Kytharrah with the pulkka and the camels outside, and Cassiera and Galadrel kept him entertained and Mythlos stood watch. Belvin rode Kamil somewhere off on the outskirts of the village, while Hakam, Solisar, Ilthian, and Szordrin entered the narrow streets between the huts.

   When they entered the village, Hakam saw a building that he suspected was a chapel. It was the only building in the village constructed with stone. He parted with the others to visit it.

   He entered the simple rectangular structure. It was a single large room with a very high ceiling. In the very center was a massive statue of a bearded giant with his arms raised to support the ceiling. Besides the beard, the statue's face was completely blank, with no mouth, nose, or eyes.

   Surrounding the statue were several fonts and braziers. Against one of the walls, an old, grey-haired man, with his long, narrow beard tucked into his belt, sat on the floor, snoring.

   Hakam cleared his throat to wake the old priest.

   The man rose to his feet and apologized in Bothii.

   "Do you speak Common?" asked Hakam.

   "I do," said the old priest. "You must be from the far south. How may I be of service to you?"

   Hakam nodded, then he asked what shrine this was.

   "This is a shrine to Annam All-Father," said the priest.

   "Is this the only shrine in the village?" asked Hakam.


   "Do you know where the nearest shrine to any of the gods of the Triad would be?"

   "'Triad'? I do not think I know that word in Common. Is it like a third?"

   "It is an alliance of three gods, yes."

   "That seems a small pantheon!"

   "It is only a part of the greater pantheon."

   "You will not find shrines to your foreign gods here in Hartsvale," said the man. "Only the gods of the Jotunbrud are worshiped here."

   "I have a further question then:" said Hakam. "My companions and I were deceived by a pack of werewolves last night; we were victorious, but we are wondering how to properly dispose of their bodies."

   "Werewolves? Were any of you bitten?"

   "We have taken care of it; we simply want to know if the dead should be buried and where."

   "Despicable creatures," said the man. "The bodies should be burned."


The others went to the largest building in the village, what seemed to be an inn. It was two stories and had a stable attached to it. As they approached the main door of the log structure, they looked up at the swinging sign, which read "Weary Giant Inn & Orphanage."

   "Strange that an orphanage would share space with an inn," noted Szordrin. He cast a spell on himself to read thoughts, and they opened the large, thick doors and entered.

   Within was an open dining area with a bar. The ceiling was especially high though a woodstove in the center kept the room toasty warm. It was not overly crowded, but plenty of folk were eating or drinking, and children of a span of ages were serving tables or performing chores, such as sweeping the floor or dusting the window sills — the place was meticulously clean. Along one wall was a raised platform, likely for performances. Behind the counter was a young barmaid, perhaps just having come of age.

   Solisar approached her and asked her for a drink.

   "Are you an elf?" she asked excitedly, smiling at him.

   "I am. Do you not see many elves?"

   "I have never seen an elf before at all, but then, I do not leave the village often, and we rarely have visitors. What would you like?"

   "What do you recommend?" asked Solisar.

   "When did you last have visitors?" asked Szordrin.

   "Elderberry wine, most definitely," she replied. Then she turned to Szordrin. "Four months ago, I think."

   "Then I shall have some," said Solisar. "How much for a glass for me and my two companions?"

   "I can bring out out a pitcher for two silver pieces," she said.

   "This is quite delightful," said Solisar, after tasting some. "My name is Solisar Keryth, by the way, from the isle of Evermeet."

   "My name is Livia," said the woman. "I do not have a surname."

   "Is that because you are an orphan?" asked Szordrin bluntly, though he already knew the answer, since he had been "listening" to her surface thoughts. He gave no indication that he himself was an orphan.

   "Yes," she said. "I grew up here, as a matter of fact."

   "What is an orphan?" asked Ilthian.

   "It is someone who does not have parents," said Solisar.

   "But everyone has been telling me that, except on my island, everyone has parents! Does this mean that I am an orphan?"

   "It means that her parents died," said Szordrin.

   "Oh," said Ilthian. "I am sorry."

   "It is alright;" said Livia, "I never knew them. You do not have parents at all? How is that possible?"

   "I do have parents," said Ilthian. "What I mean is that I was never born."

   "It is complicated," said Solisar.

   "She is an automaton," Szordrin whispered.

   "I can hear you," said Ilthian, "and I am not an 'ought-to matron'! What does that even mean?"

   "Has this inn always served as an orphanage?" asked Solisar.

   "I have been told that the inn has served as a haven for lost youth, both orphans and runaways, ever since it was run by Isa Wirr, who raised Tavis."


   "Tavis Burdun. Tell me you have heard of Tavis Burdun, the queen's own husband!"

   "Not by name, no, but we have been told that he is a firbolg. Is that true?"

   "Yes, he is a firbolg, though a short one. He is only eight feet tall — or was; I think he might be taller now, strangely. You might not even know he was a giant."

   "I have not met many eight-foot-tall humans," said Szordrin.

   "Tavis is like a father to me," said Livia. "He used to run this inn and tavern before he went off and got married. He left me in charge, which may have been a silly thing to do."

   "I am sure that you do a wonderful job," said Solisar. "Does the queen support the orphanage?"

   "Yes, she certainly does. She has dedicated funds from the kingdom to keep the building in good repair and to ensure that we all have food and shelter. She is also a priestess of Hiatea, so she cares for such things."

   "We are traveling to see her," said Ilthian.

   "You must have permission to cross the drawbridge to the castle," said Livia.

   "Have you met the queen?" asked Solisar. "Would you be able to gain us access?"

   "Yes, I have met her many times, but I am just a commoner. I cannot do anything to allow you on the island. But the queen holds open court on tenth-days.

   "She does not visit often any more, but when she was a princess, she came to see performances here. In fact, I was here when she first met Tavis. It was so cute watching them fall in love. As you can imagine, some in the village and country were not very happy with a noble human woman wanting to marry an orphaned firbolg runt."

   "Tavis is himself an orphan?"

   "He always told me that he was born 'under a red moon.' I never did understand what exactly that meant, but yes, he was an orphan, and he was banished from his tribe and came to live with humans. He cannot even change his shape, because he never learned how. I cannot imagine how anyone could banish him. He is the nicest person that I have ever met."

   "When did you last see him?"

   "He visits every few tendays or so," she said. "I do not see him as much, now that he lives at the castle. Plus, I think that the Weary Giant reminds him of Avner." A tear came to her eye, so Solisar thought it best not to ask who Avner was.

   "Since we are visitors here, are there any laws or strange customs about which we should know?"

   "I do not know what customs you might consider strange. I am told that we are thought of as similar to the kingdoms of Cormyr or Tethyr to the south, yet those same countries think of us as barbaric, so the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

   "One custom that I find personally strange is the obsession with the hunt. All of us, when we come of age, must participate in a hunting ritual. I was carried in a pulkka, a sort of sled, behind six klantars, which was all decorated in celebration, and I had to wear my nicest dress and cloak. I was towed behind a hunting party, and once they shot down a stag with their arrows, I had to go up to it and drive a dagger through its heart. It was terrible; there was so much blood, but it was the only way I would be considered a woman here.

   "Likewise, if you commit a serious crime, you are released into the wilderness, and anyone is permitted to hunt you like a deer."

   "Are the laws recorded anywhere?" Solisar asked.

   "I do not know."

   "How do you know what is right and wrong then?" asked Ilthian.

   "I just try to be a good person," said Livia, "like Tavis taught me."

   They continued speaking to her for some time, as they finished the pitcher of elderberry wine. When asked if she knew of the Pulkdrivver's, she claimed that she had never heard of them. When asked about rumors of werewolves in the area, she likewise shook her head, though she said that there was often talk of shapechangers in the area, which was actually true, because firbolgs lived in Hartsvale. They inquired about where they might purchase warmer clothes in the village and were told. They asked her where Lyndusfarne was located, but she said that she had only ever been to Stagwick and Hartwick. They asked her of burial customs, and she told them that the ground was usually too hard to bury the dead. Instead, some places built mausoleums, but their village was too poor for that. Instead, their dead were placed in tombs in the hillsides around the village.

   By this time, Hakam had joined them again. He took his three companions aside and they exchanged the information that they had gathered. Hakam then approached one of the patrons. "What is that manor at the top of the hill?" he asked.

   "It is Dobbin Manor," said the man.

   "Who lives there?"

   "Why, the Lord Mayor of Stagwick, Earl Ruther Dobbin, of course!"


The party now made their way uphill along a path leading to Dobbin Manor. It was their hope that Earl Dobbin might be able to grant them permission to cross the drawbridge to Castle Hartwick.

   While the others had been inside the Weary Giant, Belvin had been doing his own form of investigating. "A stray dog in the stable told me that a pack of humans who smelled like dogs often camped outside the village," he told them. "The werewolves must have avoided people and only targeted those, like us, who would not have others looking for them if they went suddenly missing."

   The manor was composed of several stone and log buildings and surrounded by a stone wall. There were heavily armed guards everywhere, probably half as many guards as the whole population of Stagwick.

   They cautiously approached the gate guards and asked if they might be granted an audience with the Lord Mayor. They were taken inside the main meeting hall and made to wait — nearly two hours — at the long table before the Earl finally appeared, wearing a thick sable cloak. "What business do you strangers have in my Earldom," he demanded before he had even fully entered the room.

   Hakam rose and took a posture of obeisance, as Jayce had taught him to do if wanting a favor from a noble. "Lord Mayor," said the cleric. "We have come through your good lands on the way to seek an audience with your queen."

   The noble scoffed. "I have little love for the queen. If you have business with her, it is not likely to be a matter about which I care."

   "We have no opinion yet of your ruler, for good or ill," said Hakam, "but might you share with us what it is that you have against her?"

   "She is married to a giant! A dirty giant, I tell you — the same scum who attacked our lands but three years ago — and not only that, a commoner. It should have been me sitting on the throne. My blood was the noblest of all her suitors, yet she chose him — illegally, I might add — over me, rejecting the sacred customs of our land."

   "Sacred laws are of great import to me also, Lord Mayor," said Hakam. "If you are truly the most worthy one to sit upon the throne of Hartsvale, then our matter may indeed be of interest to you."

   "You have my attention," said Ruther Dobbin.

   "We have come to this land to deliver a prophecy to the queen, one that predicts that her true throne is among the giants in a palace far to the north and east and away from these lands. I cannot say much more about this ancient seat of secret Jhothûn, but if she were to leave the throne of Hartsvale because of our words, who better to fill the vacancy than you yourself? Yet we need permission to cross the drawbridge to Castle Hartwick to deliver the words of the prophecy to her."
Session: 84th Game Session - Thursday, Jan 26 2017 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
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De Exilio
Chapter 4 — The Ethics of Werewolf-Slaying
Cassiera rushed up and took Brianna's petite body from Kytharrah's hand, wrapping it in her arms.

   Hakam, seeing that his spell had hurt the minotaur, rushed forward and prayed for healing power. "I apologize!" he said, with disappointment in his voice. "I did not realize how far you had strayed from the path of justice; I thought you would... be... unharmed."

   He stuttered, because no positive energy formed in his hands.

   The dumbfounded minotaur suddenly came to his senses with a snort. "Cave in!" he shouted in his giantish dialect, and before Hakam or anyone else could respond, he had tackled the Calishite man to the ground, pinning and muffling him. Kytharrah glanced around at the others, as if inquiring why they too were not "caving in" on Hakam for his overly rough play. This, the others understood, was his people's punishment. The minotaur could not bear to be restrained. Unlike in play, Hakam would not be released until his struggles subsided.

   Belvin was more concerned with the fact that three of them had been bitten. "We must find wolfsbane," said Belvin. "We only have about an hour for it to be effective."

   "You know herbs better than I, my friend," said Leokas, "but in this climate? The ground is frozen solid."

   "We have to try," said Belvin, and he entered the brush to search.

   Hakam stopped struggling with Kytharrah who then let him go. As soon as the cleric was freed, Solisar angrily said, "Savalir! Your over-zealousness killed a little girl and injured our companion. The pup was subdued and, therefore, no different than a prisoner."

   "Did you yourself not scold me for executing a prisoner in the past?" added Mythlos.

   Hakam tried to heal Kytharrah with another, weaker spell, but nothing worked. Then he replied to Solisar, "This kill was indeed righteous. My justification is twofold: First, werewolves — especially this family, who were transforming willingly on the new moon — are demons, who have no rights as prisoners and must be destroyed. Second, this family gained our trust just to lure us into the woods and launch a coordinated ambush, thus forfeiting their lives."

   "The child made no such choices!"

   "How do you know this?"

   Just then, Galadrel and Ilthian finally descended the rope to find the carnage below and the arguing. Galadrel noticed the decapitated wolf head and Betha Pulkdrivver's body, and an expression of understanding came over her face. Tears came to her eyes. Cassiera was still holding Brianna's body close to her.

   "This was a kill of mercy," said Leokas. "Without her family, the pup would never have survived in the wild. It is also very unlikely that she would have been accepted by Hartsvale society. Additionally, had she stayed with the party, it is likely that she would have eventually been killed during an encounter."

   "Did you not listen to my story?" Galadrel said sadly in Elven toward Leokas.

   "I am not arguing that she is inherently evil and deserved death," he replied, "but from a strict survival perspective, granting her a quick death was an act of mercy. Countless innocents lose their lives every day in the endless cycle of life and death!"

   Ilthian said, "Are they all dead? What happened? Where is Betha's head? Why are all of the Pulkdrivvers naked?"

   "Do you not realize that you could be one of them now?" said Solisar, almost shouting. "What shall we do if you change in half a month? Kill you?"

   "Yes!" exclaimed Hakam. "If I turn into a wolf, it is too late for me. Cut me down."

   Solisar sighed. "I will grant you this, Hakam:" he said, "Your shameful act removed the difficult task of explaining the death of her family to the girl once she was restored to human form."

   "Where is Brianna?" asked Ilthian.

   Solisar shook his head. "What is done is done. Logic dictates that we must now decide how to deal with the situation, as this could strain relations with those in Hartsvale."

   "Hakam can fix this, right?" asked Ilthian. "Just like he fixed Cassiera?"

   "I am not bringing the demons back!" He could not if he had wanted to; the cleric continued failing to cause any healing to Kytharrah's mauled inner thigh or his own arm. Mythlos' sword healed his own leg wound, and he touched the blade to Hakam and Kytharrah as well. Belvin returned from the brush, shaking his head. "There is no wolfsbane here, either over or under the snow," he said. He cast a healing spell on the minotaur and also gave his three injured companions some enchanted berries to eat.

   Solisar turned to Galadrel. "Is there anything that you know about lycanthropy that must be done, or can be done, to prevent the blood-lust, if it turns out that Hakam, Mythlos, or Kytharrah have contracted the disease?"

   When she was able to regain her composure and answer, she replied, "The Lythari are not werewolves. Our blessing was a gift from Sehanine Moonbow to a band of forest elves in ancient times. The blessing can only be passed on in a sacred ritual voluntarily; it is not a disease or a curse like other forms of lycanthropy." Then she added, "I might be able to soothe any of the party who succumb to the disease on the full moon, but I have never encountered true werewolves before."

   "When the full moon approaches," said Hakam, "I must be bound tightly, along with the other two."

   "Hakam is highly unlikely to have been affected," said Szordrin, standing up. (He had been collecting werewolf blood from Luth's body.) "His was ultimately a small bite, and he has always proven himself rather resilient; I suspect that he will be spared of the disease. Mythlos and the lunk, however, should be bound and watched over at night while we lack a cure."

   "I am not a lunk," Kytharrah protested, "and I'm too fast and too strong for anyone to tie me up!"

   "We have magical means to 'involuntarily suppress' the minotaur if need be," said Leokas.

   "What does that mean?" said Kytharrah.

   "It means, 'calm you to help you not hurt others.'"

   The minotaur subsided at that, looking guilty. "I didn't mean to hurt them so bad," he murmured, gesturing to the Pulkdrivvers.

   "No, I must be restrained with the others and treated no differently," said Hakam. "The precaution is probably not necessary until the full moon, however. But I plead with you: any of us who become werewolves must be killed if it comes to that. Admittedly, I would prefer that all who were bitten be cured before we fully transform."

   "I agree that Mythlos and Kytharrah not be bound until the full moon," said Belvin. "I believe that at least those two can control themselves until then."

   "Solisar," asked Ilthian, "Were these people like Belvin or Galadrel? If so, what did they do that was wrong?"

   "They tried to kill us," said Hakam.

   "I shall try to explain it to you later, Ilthian," said Solisar kindly. "I promise you." Then he said to the others, "We should bring the bodies, along with the werewolf's head, to Stagwick and deliver the silver to prove to the local rulers that the Pulkdrivvers were werewolves, that we are not bandits, and that we did not steal the silver."

   "I agree with Solisar on this," said Hakam.

   Belvin disagreed. "It is too risky," he said. "We should dispose of the pulkka, use its wood to make a funeral pyre, and release the reindeer into the wild."

   "These deer are tamed," said Solisar. "We cannot release them to the wild."

   "Nevertheless," said Belvin, "we should go to Hartwick, not Stagwick. The locals at Stagwick may know the family, and unlike some people in our group, I do not trust the so-called 'laws' of humans in a land that I have never visited. We may be tried and punished in Stagwick no matter what our actions."

   Leokas said, "I agree with Belvin that we should cross by ferry to Hartwick and that the reindeer should be released into the wild. I think we should leave the pulkka, with the silver shipment, on the path. Delivering the silver ourselves would raise too many questions. However, destroying the pulkka and taking the silver would not be right either."

   "It is more than just silver," said Mythlos, who was over by the pulkka, examining it. "There is a secret compartment on the floor of the pulkka. They had a large stash of gold coins here." Szordrin joined him at the sled to see for himself.

   Also, in one of the tents, Szordrin found a jar of magic oil. Among Betha's kitchen things, she had kept a saucer of coral. She also had a golden yellow topaz in her possession, among her weird fur clothes.

   "As far as I am concerned," said Hakam, "the family's belongings are fair game for us to take, but the silver is not. We must deliver the silver — or at least bring it back to the last citadel."

   Szordrin said, "I prefer to go to Hartwick. They will have more magical resources there anyway. Once we loot the pulkka, we can either discard the bodies or not. I do not care one way or the other, but I think that we should carry the head of the werewolf with us as evidence."

   "Nothing is preventing us from going to Hartwick for magical resources after visiting Stagwick," said Solisar.

   "...Unless we are put in prison or executed at Stagwick," said Belvin.

   "We should take a vote," said Leokas.

   "Who gets a vote?" asked Szordrin.

   "Regardless of what you all vote," said Solisar, "I am going to take the bodies and the silver to Stagwick, alone if I have to, to deliver the silver and give this family a proper burial or give their remains to their family, if we can find them."

   "I will go with you," said Hakam, "but if they are werewolves, we are not visiting their family! Rather, we should take along the bodies as evidence."

   "Yes," said Solisar, "but also to bury them respectfully then."

   "How? The ground is frozen?"

   "We will ask the villagers of the proper customs."

   Everyone at last agreed to this plan of action. They carefully moved the bodies onto the pulkka and covered them with blankets and the canvas of their tents. Then, after cleaning themselves of blood, they tried to rest a little more that night, while Belvin stayed on third watch.

   ...Except for Hakam. In the darkness, he prayed to Anachtyr, asking why his powers had been taken away.

   All he received in answer was silence.
Session: 83rd Game Session - Thursday, Dec 15 2016 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
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Chapter 4 — Tragedy at Coggin's Rise
~ sixth-day, 16th of Uktar, The Year of Wild Magic, moondark
Coggin's Rise

Mythlos' watch was nearing its end; it was nearly time for Cassiera to relieve him. He heard commotion coming from the direction of the elder Pulkdrivvers' tent, followed by moaning, and it became clear that the two adults were engaged in an intimate moment.

   He looked down and saw that Cassiera was already awake. She motioned toward the parents' tent and indicated that their activity had woken her up early. He nodded, and tried to enter his reverie, still perched up on the thick branch of a spruce.

   "Gôr mig skâlla!" Betha called out with an embarrassingly loud volume.

   Cassiera shook her head, trying not to laugh. Then her eyes spotted movement in the shadows among the tree cover. Her monochromatic darkvision revealed the presence of a warm body where no human eyes would have seen anything. It was a small creature, with dark fur, some sort of animal. As the animal came closer, Cassiera saw that it was a wolf pup.

   "A puppy!" she said excitedly but quietly. "Come here, little wolf. It is safe."

   The little dog ran up to her without hesitation, its tail wagging.

   "You do not bite, do you?"

   As if in answer the tiny wolf sat down, its tongue hanging out of its mouth.

   "May I pet you?"

   But before Cassiera could touch the animal, Hakam let out a scream of pain, loud enough to wake anyone.

   Within the interdimensional space, Ilthian was startled awake. "That was Hakam!" she exclaimed. "He is hurt; he needs our help." She grabbed her carving knife, which was by where she was lying on the white, featureless "floor".

   "No, child," said Galadrel, grabbing onto her by the shoulders to hold her from getting up.

   Kytharrah, who had also slept up in the space, jumped out with abandon, and Szordrin rapidly descended the rope after him. Solisar cast a spell and vanished.

   Outside and below, Leokas was already out of his tent and nocking two arrows. In the darkness, by the blue light from Mythlos' sword above in the tree, he could see a full-sized wolf with Hakam's arm in its mouth and growling. Hakam was thrashing about, trying to free his arm from the animal's jaws.

   His two arrows plunged into the beast's side — or rather they should have. Instead, they seemed to hit and then fall off, leaving no visible sign of injury.

   Then another object flew past him. Belvin, having quickly mounted Kamil had thrown his dagger. The blade left a streak of silver along the wolf's back. It released Hakam.

   Leokas had encountered such a thing before, deep under the sands of the Calim Desert when they had first encountered a lycanthrope.

   This was a werewolf.

   ...And it was a pack of them, for Kytharrah painfully landed with a thud on the frozen ground from his leap from the sky to find himself facing two more approaching wolves, coming from the east. Mythlos, likewise, leapt from his tree branch, driving his glowing blade down onto the back of one of them. It punctured its left lung, and the wolf began wheezing as it struggled to shake off the heavy elf now on its back. Mythlos rolled off and extracted his sword and noticed a distinctive sizzling, silver wound where there should have been blood. Kytharrah followed Mythlos' lead and attacked with his axe. The blade cut into one second wolf, spraying blood. This wolf then bit into Kytharrah's groin, teeth sinking in deep. The wolf that had mauled Hakam and two of its pack mates ran toward Kytharrah and Mythlos. Now four wolves surrounded Mythlos, snapping and growling at the moon elf, and one of them caught his leg, drawing blood and yanking his weight out from under him. He tumbled to the frosty ground.

   Meanwhile, the "puppy" that Cassiera had wanted to pet was now snapping at her with its little jaws, yapping as she continually avoided it. She tried to hum her enchanting tune, but it did not have the desired effect.

   "Anachtyr smite thee!" Hakam shouted, as he managed to clamber to his feet. A surge of holy fire fell from the sky in a column of swirling flame. Three of the wolves were engulfed, including the one that had bit him and the one that had tripped Mythlos. When the the fire dissipated several seconds later, only two wolves were lying on the melted snow, fur burned off to the skin. Beside them, curled in the fetal position, was a nude young woman.

   Only Szordrin, who had just reached the surface, recognized the body; it was Mara.

   Leokas reached higher ground and nocked his only remaining silver arrow. He sent it into the hindquarters of the wolf biting Kytharrah. It released him with a yelp, and then wobbled and fell to the ground.

   Mythlos sprang to his feet from the prone position, avoiding another bite from the remaining wolf. He then decapitated it with a single swing. The head landed near Kytharrah's hooves and rolled, but the headless body was that of another woman. The minotaur was extremely confused. These wolves smelled like the Pulkdrivvers, and that body might look like Betha Pulkdrivver if she was not wearing any clothes. Szordrin rushed over to one of the two wolves that had been scorched by Hakam's magic and stabbed it through the neck with his dagger. Suddenly, there was Lander or Ander, also naked. But where was Brianna? Kytharrah did not know, but he knew that Cassiera needed help. The little wolf puppy was still snapping at her. He set his hoof on the wolf that had so viciously bitten him to stop it should it try to rise, then reached out his long arm and caught the wolf puppy by the scruff of her neck. She struggled in vain to free herself, yipping and snapping.

   Belvin rode over on Kamil and tried calming the creature with a spell, which failed. Then Cassiera spoke at the little wolf in a commanding tone this time, and as soon as the little dog's eyes met hers, she calmed. Instead of trying to bite Kytharrah, the wolf began trying to lick him.

   Hakam took up his sword.

   "The fight is over," said Solisar, who appeared out of thin air in the middle of the dead werewolves.

   "No, it is not over!" Hakam replied. "Werewolves still live." He jumped off the slope where he had been sleeping and plunged his sword into one of the wolf bodies. Lander or Ander's dead twin now appeared.

   "Wait!" said Belvin. "Let me try to save these animals." He followed up his statement with another spell, but he could not remove the disease of lycanthropy from the little girl with his spell; she remained a wolf, held by her neck from Kytharrah's paw.

   "We cannot kill her!" Cassiera argued.

   "We are out of options," said Belvin.

   "Feel order's wrath!" Hakam shouted.

   "Faer fanil!" Solisar shouted in answer, seeking to undo the spell.

   But Hakam's hold on the Weave overpowered the sun elf's. A three-dimensional grid of blue-violet beams appeared in a 30-foot cubic area, trapping Kytharrah and the werewolf pup within. Kytharrah felt a painful burning sensation as the beams blazed over him.

   The small canine in his hands ceased moving instantly. Never would little Brianna sing again.
Session: 83rd Game Session - Thursday, Dec 15 2016 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
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