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Lhynard
Posted by the GM
De Exilio
Chapter 4 — Pog and Band
~ sixth-day, 16th of Nightal, The Year of Wild Magic, morning
east of the Fork


It was only a mildly cold day as they set out from the Wildlands Rest. A constant fair wind blew a fast moving fog, which kept their faces damp and made it feel colder than it actually was. Leokas led the way, now riding alone on his camel. Next to him walked Kytharrah and behind him was Belvin on Kamil. Then came Hakam and Ilthian, followed by Szordin and Thimbletoes the gnome on camelback and Solisar on foot. Lastly, Tavis and his son followed behind.

   Many deer were out that morning, nibbling on what few shrubs still had leaves outside the Wildlands Rest.

   They had not traveled far from the Fork when Solisar stopped suddenly, as Thimbletoes and Szordrin were laughing together about their favorite practical jokes. "We are being watched," Solisar said in Elven.

   "It is not the giant siblings or Basil?" asked Leokas.

   "No, whoever it is did not use the agreed-upon signal. The mind is too powerful for me to tell who it is."

   "Is it Ilthian or the boy?"

   "The focus is on Ilthian," Solisar replied.

   "What is going on?" asked Hakam. "Speak in Common."

   "Someone new is watching Ilthian," answered the sun elf.

   "It is likely Samber or Iyraclea," said Hakam. "We do not know who is more powerful of the two; I am not sure whom I would prefer it to be."

   "If whoever it is wanted to and could teleport here to take her, he or she would have already appeared," said Solisar, "although if it is Iyraclea, she may not consider it important enough to come herself and may send one of her servants. Even so, I am not worried yet, as the person appears to be simply observing for at least the time being."

   However, the "observer" did not stop watching them for many hours.

   "Is Ilthian still being watched?" Hakam asked when they had stopped to eat lunch rations.

   "It is a powerful scrying spell," said Solisar. "It has not ceased this whole time."

   "One cannot scry into an extradimensional space," said Szordrin. "We could have Ilthian climb up the magic rope and then back down again. That should cancel the scrying spell."

   "I agree that that should work;" said Solisar, "however, it will also warn our observer that we know that we are being watched."

   When sunset came, the scrying still had not ended.

   "I can only scry on someone for about ten minutes before the image fades," said Belvin. "Could it be a team of scriers?"

   "I believe that it is simply a single very powerful diviner," said Solisar. "Powerful spellcasters can maintain such a divination for hours not minutes."

   As Szordrin had predicted, the scrying ceased as soon as Ilthian passed into the extradimensional space that he created for shelter for the night. Solisar also set a magical alarm around the base of their camp. Belvin took the first watch, followed by Leokas, and Szordrin wrapped up the guard for the night. It passed safely.

   The weather the next day was too terrible for traveling. A bitter cold and dry wind of extreme velocity came from the east. They were forced to build igloos again and take shelter for the whole day, lest they freeze to death.

   "Can the ice queen control the weather?" asked Szordrin during a brief break from the howl of the wind. "Could she be preventing us from continuing?"

   "If it is her scrying," said Leokas, "she would want us to continue unhindered, because she wants more than anything to find the lost realms of Jhothûn."

   "I do not think even a Chosen of Auril could send such winds from so far away from us," said Solisar.

   "A Chosen of Auril is your enemy?" said Thimbletoes. "Garl's jewels, I am beginning to think that I chose my escorts poorly!"

   Whoever it was scrying on them, the magical sensor was fixed on Ilthian again for the entire time that she was out of the extradimensional space.

   They held out against the cold and wind. The next day, the eighteenth of Nightal, it was surprisingly warm; the temperature was above freezing. The winds had calmed down to a pleasant breeze, and the sky was clear.

   Hakam was greeted by a message from Jayce, whose projected voice was full of excitement. "Found man in Dtakkar — claims mother was once married to cleric of Gond obsessed with making golems. Samber? Long shot, but will search more."

   "That sounds promising," Hakam replied to the bard. "Inquire further. Mythlos and Cassiera go ahead to High Forest. Still meet us at the keep. Possible enemies scry on us. Beware."

~~~~


That evening, soon after sunset, Belvin spotted a group of figures ahead and quietly notified the others. Kytharrah sniffed the air. The scent was strong, he told them, he did not recognize it.

   Solisar enchanted his clothing, and Szordrin also began casting some personal spells.

   "Whoever they are," said Hakam, "You cannot play with them, minotaur."

   "You are no fun," said Kytharrah.

   Before discussing further with the others, Hakam rode forward, though not too far, and called out a greeting in a loud voice.

   "Pog greet you too! Pog not attack you!" came the gruff reply.

   Some of the figures moved closer, such that even Hakam's eyes could begin to make them out.

   "They are orcs," said Thimbletoes.

   "Solisar, do you speak Orcish?" asked Leokas.

   "They can speak Common well enough," said Hakam. Then he responded again to Pog, "Good. We are not going to attack you either. I am Hakam yn Hamdulah el Anachtyr, and these are my traveling companions."

   The orcs continued approaching. Though still hard to make them all out, there were at least a dozen of them. Leokas held his bow at ready.

   "Where do you go?" asked Pog. "You ride funny beasts."

   "Noble beasts!" muttered Belvin.

   "We ride to the desert," Hakam replied. "We are simply passing you by. We have no quarrel with you."

   "Pog not know 'quarrel', but Pog thinks you are very brave. Or you are very stupid. Orcs not go to desert. Evil ruins! Ruins filled with dead things and big, beautiful women that eat orcs. Other monsters too!"

   "I wonder what the orcish definition of beautiful is," mumbled Solisar.

   "Nevertheless," said Hakam to Pog. "We are going to the desert, and you will let us pass you by."

   "Pog agrees. Pog and band have work to do. Pog and band look for humans or animals to catch, but Pog not stupid orc. Pog see that you have big, strong warriors. We not fight you. We walk by you now."

   "Proceed," said Hakam.

   The adventurers cautiously watched as the band of orcs passed them by. It was a well-armed group. They counted thirteen orc warriors, two of whom were leading enormous, tusked boars on leashes. Pog was better outfitted than the others, and he had three bodyguards. There was a shaman also. Many of the orcs eyed Tavis with nervousness as they walked by.

   "Excellent conversationalists, orcs," said Thimbletoes.

   "Hill giants and ettins are worse," said Tavis.

~~~~

It was another warmer day on ninth-day, relatively speaking, but it was windier again. Come highsun, they saw some strange herd animals up ahead. The animals seemed something like the giraffes some of them had seen in Chult, yet with shorter necks, though still long enough for them to browse along the high pine boughs of the trees near the road. Their bodies were somewhat like horses, with thicker limbs and massive clublike hooves that were spread out like a camel's for trekking across snow. Their heads were unique, with a bony ridge ending with two parallel blunt nose horns.

   "What animals are these," asked Leokas.

   "Branta," said Thimbletoes and Tavis together.

   The nine branta bolted when the adventurers came closer to them. It was not long after they encountered these animals that Thimbletoes spoke up. "Ah, see that gnarled tree ahead? It is a 'signpost' for us gnomes. Graevelwood is south of here. Here is where we part ways and I carry on on foot." He proceeded to thank them for accompanying him this far and wished them the best of Garl Glittergold's blessings on the rest of their journey. "Be wary of those big, beautiful orc-eating women!" he called out with one final wave, before disappearing into a cluster of small pines south of the road.

   Just before dusk, they could see where the road would end. While just as cold, the fallen precipitation was much less in this region, and the yellowed grass of winter was even visible in patches here and there, a sign that they were approaching the magical climate of Anauroch. Ahead, they could see some low hills, and the road, marked by packed snow, passing between two of them. "The great desert is just over those hills," explained Tavis. "We are nearly at Ascore."
Session: 87th Game Session - Thursday, Mar 23 2017 from 12:00 AM to 3:00 AM
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Pointer-left Investigator__male_2_thumb
Lhynard
Posted by the GM
De Exilio
Chapter 4 — A Fork in the Road
Szordrin approached he fallen goblin shaman and found a wand of bone in its belt. "It has runes on it," he reported after picking it up. "Dethek runes, I think."

   Leokas came over and confirmed this. "It says, 'Disappear.'"

   "That explains how all of them were invisible," said Mythlos.

   "The wand cannot have many charges left, if they used up sixteen just to set up their attempted ambush," said Szordrin, yet still adding the wand to his own collection.

   "Impressive work, my friends!" said Tavis. "How I wish I could have joined you, but to watch you in action was nearly exciting enough. I had my arrow nocked the whole time, but there was no opportunity for me to loose it safely."

   Our giant friends missed this one too," said Solisar. "I last saw their faces through the rippling waters a few hours ago."

~~~~

It began snowing again the next day, though not heavily. It was still cold. As they crunched over the snow, Tavis explained that they were now in an area known as Adbar Run. "Uthgardt tribes live in this area," said Tavis. "It is said that my wife's people, the Hartsvalers, are an offshoot from the Uthgardt, that Hartkiller 'civilized' them from the barbaric practices of the tribes."

   Nevertheless, they encountered no Uthgardt nor any other creatures that day.

   The day of the fifteenth of Nightal was similarly uneventful. The sky was clear, and the winds light. As dusk approached, they could soon see smoke rising from an unseen chimney in the distance — a welcome sight! Here at last the Adbar Road reached the Fork. The Fork Road continued to the west toward Sundabar. They would be following the nameless road east to the ruins of Ascore on the edge of Anauroch.

   But not until tomorrow — tonight they would find rest at the only structure at the Fork, the Wildlands Rest. It was a stone blockhouse of a simple square construction, with two floors. It looked like it had had a recent addition of a stable and a storehouse, attached to the side.

   Tavis set Kaedlaw down, and then something unexpected happened. Tavis began to shrink. Soon, he was no taller than Kytharrah and looking rather goofy in his now baggy clothes. He cinched his belt tighter so that his pants would not fall off.

   He answered their silent questions with a smile. "I would not fit through the door if I did not lose some height," he said.

   They knocked on the door and heard a loud "One moment!" They heard numerous locks and bolts being unfastened, and finally the door opened. They were greeted by a jolly, old dwarf with no beard but a long white mustache that reached down to his waist and was tucked into his belt.

   "Grumbelham Goldhand," said the dwarf. "If ye be not goblins or orcs, ye be welcome to the Wildlands Rest. It be not as nice as an inn ye might find in Sundabar, but it will keep you warm, and ye'll be safe, that much is certain. The orcs have learned more than once this last year that Irvag and I can still swing our blades! Irvag can also swing a meat mallet; I think ye'll be enjoying some tender lamb if ye stay with us this night."

   There were several couches and tables in the torchlit room and a single hearth in the corner. Behind a bar stood a hulk of a man, who was clearly past sixty years yet still strong.

   There were only two others in the room, a young gnome named "Thimbletoes" and a human woman named Silifrey. The latter was strumming a melody on a lute; the former was smoking a pipe and whistling to an entirely different tune than Silifrey was playing. Kytharrah was immediately drawn to Silifrey's playing and sat his rump down on the floor beside her to listen. This startled her at first, but Solisar assured her that the minotaur was harmless.

   The "inn" only had two floors, the first-floor lounge and an open area upstairs with many cots spread out, but the dwarf was correct; it was warm and safe, and the food was better than they would have expected.

   Irvag "the Bear" and Grumbelham were retired adventurers. About a year ago, they decided to build this stronghold at the Fork, since many merchants traveled from Sundabar to Adbar along the Fork and Adbar Roads and the lands had many orc and goblin raiders, as the party now knew from personal experience. Moreover, the Wildlands Rest was just below some dwarven ruins.

   "If you look out the back loophole," said Irvag, pointing at one of the many arrow slits that served as windows, "you will see a low hill. Atop that hill used to sit Ghaurin's Hold, a mansion/fortress/museum built by the Delzoun dwarves of long ago. You will not find many this time of year, but we have a lot of adventurers spend time here before heading up to explore the ruins. Grumbelham always tells them that there is nothing to find there, but he is a dwarf, so he just wants to keep dwarven secrets to himself!"

   "There be nothing there, I tell you!" said Grumbelham.

   Szordrin, however, using his magic, knew that Grumbelham was not being honest. While Irvag's thoughts were primarily focused on cooking, Grumbelham was annoyed at all the adventurers whom he felt were desecrating sacred dwarven ground. Thieves, all of them! In the old dwarf's mind, any treasures found in those ruins belonged to the dwarves. When Irvag and I adventured, we kept away from graves. What is this world coming to?

   Thimbletoes, on the other hand, was laughing to himself. Ha! Nothing to find there, my gnome toe!

   Silifrey, he could sense, was very insecure in her ability as a bard and was embarrassed that there were now more visitors who might judge her skill, especially when she saw Mythlos' mandolin. She was also self-conscious of her appearance; she found herself homely.

   While the idea of loot was tempting to Szordrin, he also desired to put an end to the portal guardian problem and get help from a satisfied genie in tracking down the Interlink Consortium, so he did not even mention what he had learned from his mind-reading to the others.

   It seemed, once they gathered after dinner to discuss the matter, after Galadrel, Tavis, and Kaedlaw had already retired for the night, that all were in agreement.

   "I see no reason to explore the dwarven ruins," said Solisar.

   "I would prefer a timely return of the heir to the throne in order to avoid a lifetime of servitude as a portal guardian;" said Leokas. "I insist on continuing on without distraction."

   Hakam also agreed, as their time limit was continually growing closer.

   There was a brief silence as they sat around the hearth. Then Cassiera made an announcement. "Galadrel and I have been talking," she said. "This is the closest we have ever been to civilization. We know that Leokas would prefer his mother not be in harm's way, and there is no reason for all of us to return to the genie. Technically, only Leokas must return with Tavis and Kaedlaw. As for myself, I never wanted to be an adventurer; I wanted to escape from my home and find a life elsewhere, to discover who I am and why I have the power to control fire as I do. I am suggesting that you allow me to take a camel and escort Galadrel to Sundabar and then the High Forest."

   "What makes you think that you will make it safely?" asked Szordrin.

   "Who killed several goblins and a worg a few days ago?" said Cassiera, offended. "I can fend for myself, and my powers are constantly growing stronger."

   "Do not be offended, Cassiera," said Leokas, "but my mother is not a fighter nor a magic user. I am certain you could make it to Sundabar and beyond safely — you are perhaps the best in our party at stealth — but can you defend her also? The High Forest is a wild and dangerous place for non-elves."

   "Can she not still take the form of a wolf?" said Cassiera. "I do not think you give her enough credit."

   "She can, but she despises fighting. It made her sick to the stomach when she fought for all those months at my side in secret. I wish to spare her that again."

   "I can be her guardian on the journey," said Mythlos. "My training as a bladesinger is not complete, and I wish to master the art. What better place to find another master than the High Forest?"

   "You would pass up on what treasure we might gain from the genie's wishes?" asked Szordrin, quite surprised.

   "Promise me that you will wish for the most valuable items you can," said Mythlos.

   "Your loss," said Szordrin.

   "No, I still claim a share in that treasure!" argued the moon elf. "I do not intend to stay in the High Forest forever. I will rendezvous back with you at my keep in Tethyr in a few months."

   "What about the rest of you?" asked Leokas. "Is everyone else continuing on to the portal?"

   "Kamil and I go with you wherever you ride," said Belvin.

   "The matter of genie interests me greatly," said Solisar. "I would like to see that journey through before I attempt to return to Evermeet."

   "I will be going with Leokas also," said Hakam.

   "What about the minotaur and the automaton," asked Szordrin.

   "Ilthian is not simply an automaton," said Solisar, "but I think it best to keep her close by us for her safety. It is the only way to protect her."

   "I insist that she stay with me," said Hakam firmly, "and I am going with Belvin and Leokas. It is my duty to return her to her island. I care not whether the minotaur stays with us or goes with the others."

   "We should let Kytharrah decide for himself," said Solisar.

   "I agree," said Cassiera.

   The minotaur was sitting on the other side of the room, almost entranced by Silifrey's music.

   "He will not even understand what you are asking him," said Szordrin.

~~~~

The next morning, over breakfast, Irvag explained to them that it was 80 miles to the desert, a two-day ride, if the snow was not deep. He warned them of possible orc patrols.

   Thimbletoes agreed. "The orcs have been getting worse since the establishment of the Silver Marches confederation," said the young gnome. "Those tribes living closer to the cities of the confederation have been pushed to the frontiers, such as here or near Arn Forest. Even so, I would take an orc patrol over a swarm of pernicon, and unfortunately, we gnomes of Graevelwood must deal with both."

   "What are pernicon?" asked Ilthian.

   "Pernicon are the worst!" Thimbletoes replied. "Awful, two-inch-long locusts with stingers. Sometimes come out of the valley and into Arn Forest on hot, dry, summer days. Will not have to worry about them now, thank the Lords of the Golden Hills, as it is winter."

   "Is your home, Graevelwood, in the direction of Ascore?" asked Tavis.

   "It is. It is within the Arn Forest, south of Ascore. I would be happy to have an escort, if that is what you are asking." He smiled at them.

   "We have had some... issues with escorting others in the past," said Hakam. "How can we know that you are of good moral standing?"

   "I am an adventurer like yourself!" said Thimbletoes.

~~~~

Hakam could sense no ill intent from the gnome, yet he was still cautious about the arrangement. Some magical spying by Szordrin did not reveal anything suspicious, and Kytharrah said that Thimbletoes did not smell like dogs like the Pulkdrivvers had.

   Once Cassiera had assured him that she would visit him wherever he ended up, the minotaur had decided to stay with his "little sister" Ilthian, as he was having fun learning to write with her. ("I can write the word prompansikt now," he said, snickering.) They also exchanged some of their magical items. Hakam returned Gargon's signet ring to Mythlos, since the latter would likely be arriving at the keep first, and Mythlos handed over the elephant figurine to Hakam, since they were more likely to face dangers heading into Anauroch than was the group heading west to Sundabar. Cassiera and Galadrel would ride one of the camels, and Mythlos would ride a second, leaving three for the other group.

   After finalizing their preparations, (they had purchased more rations and feed from storehouse at the Wildlands Rest,) they all stood outside in the morning sunlight and began to say their goodbyes. Kytharrah gave nearly crushing hugs to his three friends and one to Silifrey and Irvag too. (Grumbelham would not accept a hug from anyone.)

   Galadrel and Leokas privately exchanged words together. Then the wood elf joined his traveling companions.

   "It was an honor to fight by your sides," said Mythlos bowing.

   "My bow will sing with your sword once again," said Leokas. "...but promise me that you will not let them walk second behind you!" he added, a reference to the time Mythlos had set off the dwarven trap that had temporarily killed him.

   "Try to keep your clothes on," said Belvin to Cassiera.

   She stuck her tongue out at him. "Only if you keep on yours!"

   "Sweet water and light laughter until next we meet," said Solisar.

   "Tenna' ento lye omenta," replied Galadrel. "Until next we meet."
Session: 87th Game Session - Thursday, Mar 23 2017 from 12:00 AM to 3:00 AM
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Pointer-left Investigator__male_2_thumb
Lhynard
Posted by the GM
De Exilio
Chapter 4 — Ambush Averted
~ third-day, 13th of Nightal, The Year of Wild Magic, dusk
Adbar Road


By dusk, the wind had thankfully calmed. They had left Citadel Adbar behind them and now traveled over the snow from pillar to pillar.

   Suddenly, Kytharrah stopped, sniffing the air. There was something new, but similar to a familiar scent. "Puppies?" he said.

   Belvin began a guttural chant, waving his arms wildly. The magic revealed the shapes of animal auras where his eyes could not see them. "Eight large wolves, just in front of us!" he warned, using the Elven tongue.

   Solisar reached into his component pouch, spoke some magic words, and tossed some silver dust into the air. "Goblins," he shouted, "on wolves!"

   "Yes!" said Leokas. Remembering the animosity his friend had towards goblins, Kytharrah growled.

   "Fight well, my friends!" said Tavis, who then turned and ran to put distance between Kaedlaw and the danger.

   With an elven grace, Galadrel dismounted from behind her son. "Ilthian, to me!" she called.

   Ilthian tumbled off the back of the camel and landed in the snow. She drew her carving knife before standing to her feet.

   Mythlos drew his sword and waited.

   Kytharrah was confused. He could smell the puppies, but he could not see them. Maybe they were still far away and only the elves could see them. He knew that elves could see far. He grabbed the javelin he had acquired from one of the dead ogres in Tosvin's fortress and readied to throw it. "I do not see the puppies!" he complained.

   "You will in a moment, Kytharrah," said Solisar, who was fumbling for a tiny vial of mica, which he snapped open between his fingers. He tossed the powder in the direction of the opponents that only he could see.

   There was a burst of sparkling dust, which outlined the form of two wolf-riding goblins. "I cannot see! I cannot...." shouted one of the goblins in its own language, which only Leokas could understand. He was silenced by the javelin from Kytharrah, which sailed perfectly through the air and took its target in the chest. The glittering goblin outline fell from its mount, impaled by the shaft. An instant later, the second goblin dropped from its mount, pummeled by blasts from Cassiera's fingertips as she sat atop her camel.

   Leokas, no longer with a goblin target, sent an arrow deep into the hide of one of the outlined wolves. "Leave some for me!" he called from his mount.

   Szordrin had cast a spell and held his hand as if ready to throw something. "Where do I aim my magic?" he called out.

   "Ten yards to the west of the others!" shouted back Solisar.

   A moment later, a flash of fire and heat erupted near where Solisar had indicated, accompanied by high pitched screams of pain. The snow below the blast was now slushy and splashes were kicked up as the invisible foes moved about.

   Belvin still saw the auras of the eight wolves and with a tribal yell caused the snow around their feet to turn as red as blood. Two of the wolves, also blinded by the glittering dust from Solisar, collapsed to the snow, as the magic sucked their strength away. Only two wolves were not now standing in the U-shaped stain. One of them was off to the side, standing back; the other, quicker than the others, had avoided the blood snow and bolted toward Mythlos. Its rider became visible to everyone as he broke the spell by swinging his morningstar at the moon elf, striking at the thick leather on his shoulders. Mythlos swung at the goblin's mount but it leapt away. It gave him an evil look with its red, glowing eyes.

   "Not wolves," shouted Mythlos. "Worgs!"

   Leokas dispatched the goblin with a single arrow in the back of the head and then sent two more into the worg.

   Solisar spoke more words in High Elven, and two more warg-riding goblins appeared, their magics dispelled, south of where Szordrin had unleashed the fireball. They were moving slowly from the effects of the red snow. Kytharrah bounded over and was upon the nearest in mere moments, slamming the rider from his seat and then swinging at the worg. The beast growled and avoided the blow, but its growl turned into a yelp as its side was pierced by one of the minotaur's horns. The second now-visible goblin rode up to defend his fallen companion and strike at Kytharrah's back, but he was blasted off his saddle by a burst of magic from Cassiera. Barely ten seconds had passed, and six of the eight goblins were already dead.

   The worgs, however, were much more of a threat. The one near Mythlos, with two of Leokas' arrows in its side, caught the elf's leg in its jaw, yanking him off his camel. The camel nuzzed and bolted, and Mythlos hit the snow hard. Belvin charged over on Kamil and then leapt from his camel's back to defend his friend, but Mythlos was already back to his feet with a kip-up and swung a blow with enough force to nearly severe the head of the worg that had attacked him.

   The other riderless worgs now had them partly surrounded. Kytharrah struck one as it darted past, and it tumbled onto its chest. Leokas shot at it twice while it was down, before it could get up on its feet again.

   Another faced down Hakam, who had dismounted and stood with his sword drawn. It growled at him, and then it spoke. "Smell tasty!"

   Hakam swung, striking it on the snout but barely drawing blood. "Stay back, fiend!" he shouted.

   "Bite your head...!" began the wolf, but then magic from Cassiera and an arrow from Leokas between its eyes finished it.

   One of the two remaining goblins, the one who was standing back off to the side, suddenly became visible, floating oddly in the sky. This one was clearly a shaman or adept of some sort. Pointing his dark dagger at Hakam, he shouted a command. (Leokas understood him to shout, "Fall down!") Hakam felt a strange sensation, but he fought against the urge to lie down with his mind and resisted the spell. Magic bursts from Szordrin's fingertips assured that "fall down" would be the last words the goblin would ever speak.

   Solisar was more concerned about the remaining goblin that only he could see. This one was wearing a full suit of goblin-sized armor, and he was holding his worg back just at the edge of the blood snow, waiting for an opening and watching how the other worgs fared. Solisar tossed more powdered mica at him.

   So the goblin leader, now effectively visible and sparkling, entered the fray. He charged at Mythlos, and swung his morningstar down at the elf, who interrupted the swing with his sword. At the same time, the goblin leader's worg lunged low and took Kytharrah's hairy leg in its mouth. It could not trip the heavy minotaur, however. Kytharrah lowered his head and charged the armored goblin, but the little creature deflected the attack with his shield, giving a deafening clang. Kytharrah was shocked that the little creature was still on his mount. The leader turned his attention from Mythlos to his attacker and struck the minotaur on the head with the armor-breaking weapon. Kytharrah's thick skull withstood the blow, and he cared little about the bump it would leave. He snorted a challenge back at the goblin.

   Most of the party now ganged up on the leader. Belvin and Leokas loosed arrows, Solisar and Cassiera sent bursts of magic force, Belvin sent a ball of fire, and Mythlos and Kytharrah swung their blades. The goblin could not avoid either the magical or mundane arrows, but his thick armor spared him severe harm. The worg dodged the flaming sphere, while the rider was surprising well-trained at defending the melee attacks with his morningstar and shield. At last, the minotaur, in frustration or perhaps an act of cunning, hooked his enemy's shield with his horns and, bellowing, ripped it off the goblin's arm with a toss of his head. It flew through the air and landed on the snow near Galadrel and Ilthian. "Stupid shield!" said Kytharrah.

   Meanwhile, Hakam found himself facing two of the remaining worgs. "Eat you together from both ends," said one worg, licking its jaws. They each kept snapping, but the cleric defended himself with his longsword.

   "Hakam!" shouted Ilthian, but Galadrel held her back.

   Szordrin heard her call, however, and galloped over. A burst of fire spread from his open palms and engulfed one of the wolves. It yelped and ran off, fur burning, before it collapsed and was still.

   The other worg, though, landed a bite on Hakam's shield arm. Hakam yelled in pain, and Solisar sent bursts of force into the worg until it released the cleric from its grip. Hakam then stabbed the beast.

   It growled and snapped again but missed. Szordrin opened his palms again, but no fire came out this time. "Curses!" he shouted.

   A short distance away, the battle continued against the armored goblin. His worg bit at Mythlos' legs and yanked its head to the side. Mythlos was thrown down onto the snow again, and his sword slipped from his fingertips.

   At the same time, the worg's violent thrashing caused the goblin leader to fall from the saddle. Kytharrah stood over the goblin in an instant and brought his axe down, cleaving breastplate and chest in two and driving the creature deep into the snow.

   Leokas loosed an arrow. "But his worg...." He loosed another arrow. "...will not...." A third arrow. "...fall!" Cassiera shot at the beast with her magic as well and Belvin directed the sphere of flame to strike the worg on its hindquarters. Singed and with several arrows stuck in its side, the worg would not give up. It stepped forward and mauled Mythlos, who had just reached his sword but was still prone. He called out in pain, as the worg chewed into his leg, and touched himself with the side of the blade to ease some of the pain with the sword's positive energy. Kytharrah rushed over and rescued his friend, striking down the leader's worg at last.

   One worg remained.

   "Curses again!" shouted Szordrin, who failed a spell a second time. Hakam was managing to hold his ground against the final red-eyed wolf. Each continued to inflict minor wounds to the other by tooth or sword. Cassiera galloped over and tossed a vial over Hakam's head that splashed acid unto the wolf's dirty fur. Belvin commanded the snow, and some of it rose up from the ground and shaped itself into a long lance of ice. Then it shot forward like a ballista bolt... and struck Hakam in the lower back, piercing into him and then bursting into shards of ice. The cleric fell forward to his knees.

   "Belvin!" screamed Ilthian. "What did you do?"

   "I missed!" shouted Belvin, and his voice showed genuine concern. He rushed over, hands glowing with positive energy, to try to repair his mistake.

   The worg took the opportunity to attack, clamping down on Hakam's right shoulder, but magic projectiles from Mythlos and Solisar killed it, releasing Hakam from its grip. Hakam fell back unto the snow, covered in blood, and Belvin touched the spot where the icelance had struck him. The magic sealed the wound, and Hakam stopped grimacing in pain.

   "I apologize," said Belvin. "Had I intended to kill you off, I would have done so back in Calimshan."

   "I am sure of it," said Hakam.

   Kytharrah ran up to Leokas, and said proudly, "I killed a goblin!" Then he paused for a moment, frowning. "I like playing better than killing."
Session: 86th Game Session - Thursday, Mar 09 2017 from 1:00 AM to 4:00 AM
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Lhynard
Posted by the GM
De Exilio
Chapter 4 — Adbar
~ fourth-day, 4th of Nightal, The Year of Wild Magic, morning
between the Ice Spires West and the Ice Mountains


In the morning, it had started sleeting. The sleet fell for most of the day with only a few short breaks. This made for miserable travel, but thankfully, it was not overly cold or windy, else they would not have made any mileage at all.

   Such was not the case on next three days, however. So much wet, heavy snow fell on the night of fourth-day that it effectively trapped them where they had camped for the night. They built a second igloo, and for the entire next day, they simply had to wait for the snow to stop falling. It did on fifth-night, but by then the temperature had plunged. It was so cold that night and all day on the sixth, that they were trapped in their igloos with nothing to do but try to stay warm, for even Belvin's protective magics could not keep them warm enough in such bitter weather. It did not warm again until eighth-day.

   Belvin would monitor the area each day for wild animals, but presumably, any of them were also taking shelter. To be extra safe, he would take the form of a large polar bear and patrol the woods around their camp.

   Solisar and Ilthian passed the time taking Bothii lessons from Tavis. Kytharrah paid some attention, until he grew bored, at which point, he would crawl outside and throw himself in the thick snow and play until he grew too cold. Sometimes he returned frostbitten, yet it seemed to neither bother him nor persist for long after he had returned to the shelter.

   Thankfully, Cassiera had her collection of games, which kept them somewhat entertained. Once Ilthian learned the rules of draughts and chess, she was able to easily beat anyone except Solisar, but he observed that she could think more moves ahead than he. His advantage at chess was that he knew many already established strategies; Ilthian was making them up as she played. Hakam soon became the master at Talis. Although Ilthian excelled at keeping track of which cards had already been played, what she could not master was how to make good bets. She also had trouble recognizing every time that Szordrin would cheat and deal from the bottom of the deck. Leokas was the best at marbles, but they had to stop playing that eventually, because Kytharrah kept loosing them. The minotaur was terrible at Old Men's Bones, because his fingers were too large, but he enjoyed playing it with Szordrin, even though Szordrin always won.

   At night, they would listen to Tavis tell stories of his adventures with Princess Brianna, Basil, and Avner, and Mythlos would strum his mandolin. Ilthian began watching the moon elf intently as he did this, making note of where his fingers were on the strings.

   On the morning of eighth-day, Hakam received another message from Jayce. "Darluj is the next settlement we have visited. Still nothing to report. Why is Anachtyr not pleased? What did you do, Hakam, break the law?"

   "It was simply a misunderstanding," answered Hakam. "I am certain that it will all be squared away soon enough. Our journey has started, with no problems yet."

   "Not making any progress for three days is certainly a problem," said Leokas. "We have a time limit, remember?"

   "I assume that that was your former bardic companion," asked Solisar.

   "It was. He still has learned nothing useful."

~~~~

They had finally set out again on eighth-day. It was surprisingly warm, so that they now trekked through deep slush. On top of this, it rained, but at least they were moving forward again. The mountains on their north and south were closer to them now, as they neared Adbar Pass.

   On the ninth of Nightal, it was cold again, but all of them were delighted that any precipitation had finally ceased. The sky was clear, and there was no wind. Around highsun, Hakam, surprisingly, was the first to spot movement on a ridge to the north. He stopped his camel and pointed. Belvin's eyes also noticed — humanoids, very large ones. The wild elf dismounted. "Guard!" he commanded Kamil in the Sylvan tongue.

   "What is it, Hakam?" asked Ilthian, who was sitting behind the cleric.

   "Frost giants," said Tavis, as he quickly set his son down on the ground.

   "Pappa, why are we stopping?" asked Kaedlaw. "Is it time to eat?"

   But Tavis was removing Kaedlaw's carrying cloth and raising Mountain Crusher to the sky. "Eyes to the sky, all of you! Watch for rocks!"

   They all looked up and saw a large object traveling through the air in a high arc toward them. With a loud crunch and a burst of snow and ice, a boulder plummeted to the ground perhaps 50 yards from them.

   Leokas nocked an arrow, but it was a difficult shot, farther than any range at which he and Tavis had been competing. Tavis already had one of his rune-covered arrows in hand. The firbolg called out a command word, and the runes on the arrow began to glow. Another boulder took to the air, just as Tavis released his missile in a high arc. Both Tavis and the giant missed. The boulder struck the ground 25 yards to the north; Tavis' arrow likely struck the mountainside somewhere.

   Tavis shouted out another magical command word in a booming voice that echoed through the hilly valley. In answer, the whole mountainside where his arrow had struck exploded. With a rumbling roar, the side of the mountain collapsed in a torrent of snow and rock, tumbling and racing down to the base of the mountain. It took a solid half-minute before the avalanche ended and all was still again.

   Everyone looked to the ridge, and no one saw any movement at all.

   "I thought that you were not supposed to engage any enemies," said Szordrin.

   "I cannot lie to my wife," said Tavis, "but nothing is stopping you from doing so if we speak with her again." He gave them all a guilty smirk and began to tie the carrying cloth around his shoulders again.

~~~~

Sleet had fallen again the night of their brief encounter with the frost giants on the ridge. This turned to heavy snow as the temperature continued to drop. Once again, they were prevented from making any progress on that last day of the tenday.

   On first-day, the snow had ceased, but a heavy fog remained. After traveling for several hours, Tavis began to grow concerned that they might go too far. "We must have passed through the gap of Adbar's Pass by now and should probably turn to the south," he said, "but I cannot be sure with all this fog."

   "I can answer that for you," said Belvin. He began to remove his leathers.

   "Pappa, why is Belvy taking off his clothes in the snow?" asked Kaedlaw.

   "I have no idea," said Tavis.

   Once naked, the elf began to grow larger, his fingers especially so, and the skin stretched between them. The back of his skull protruded back, and his jaw shot forward. His skin became leathery. In moments, a pteranodon was hopping on the snow nearby, still wearing the goggles Belvin had bought in Hartwick that enhanced his sight. Belvin sprung into the air, flapping his new wings, and took to the sky. He soared in a climbing spiral up and up until he finally burst out of the fog cloud and could gaze over the expanse of northwest Faerûn.

   To the west, he saw a very large forest beyond the edge of the fog. To the east, he could see the full extent of the Ice Mountains and what he assumed was Mount Woe far on the horizon. To the south, before the Ice Mountains bent to the east, there was a large volume of smoke rising and another forest beyond that.

   Belvin returned to the ground and to his humanoid form and dressed again, as he reported to the others what he had seen.

   "That would be the Cold Wood to the west," said Tavis. "It is indeed time to head south along the feet of the Ice Mountains."

   "Was the smoke you saw from a volcano?" asked Leokas.

   "It is the dwarves," said Hakam.

   "Your priest speaks rightly," said Tavis. "It is the dwarven settlement of Citadel Adbar. It is a city, a fortress, and a massive foundry. Unfortunately, I am told they are not warm to visitors. I would recommend that we simply pass it by. The road we are intending to follow, comes down from the slopes upon which the citadel rests."

   They changed their course and now headed south. By the time night came, they had begun descending to lower elevations. They could hear a river growing closer on their right.

   During the last watch of the night, Leokas was on guard, while Belvin, in the form of a polar bear was patrolling around their camp. The wood elf saw his companion approaching him. Belvin the bear sat back on his haunches and pointed with a massive paw behind him and pantomimed. Leokas understood this to mean that a wild bear was approaching, a very large one.

   Leokas rushed to shake everyone else awake while Belvin changed back into an elf.

   "What is it?" asked Mythlos.

   "Some sort of enormous bear," whispered Leokas.

   "A dire bear," said Belvin.

   "Why are you whispering?" said Tavis. "If it is a bear, we should be making as much noise as possible!"

   This they did. The bear came to the outskirts of the encampment and sniffed for food, but when it heard all the commotion, it bumbled off.

~~~~

On the next day, the twelfth of Nightal, it was foggy again and cold, and the winds were calm. The fog finally burned away by the afternoon, and the sun provided some welcomed warmth from the cold air. They at last could see the river they had been hearing. In only a few miles more, they could observe that it would curve off to the west and enter the Cold Wood.

   On third-day, it was extremely windy, but the sky was clear. Shortly after setting out for the day, they passed under the huge bulk of the Citadel Adbar's above-ground structure. The stronghold sat atop a spur of solid rock and was constructed of massive blocks of granite. It had multiple towers. The strangest feature of their construction was a collection of enormous barbs and pikes of metal, jutting from the surfaces of the towers like the spikes of a porcupine.

   "I am told that those spikes defend against flights of dragons," said Tavis, shouting to be heard over the wind. "The place is always ready for coming war. Legends say that the fortress has withstood nearly one hundred attacks by orc hordes throughout its long history. It is one of the few remaining settlements of Old Delzoun, an ancient dwarven kingdom of the North."

   Running down from the slopes upon which the citadel sat was a stone-paved road. The dwarves had kept it clear of snow for the descent to the valley but not beyond that. Instead, large stone pillars marked the way every several hundred yards.

   "This is the Adbar Road," shouted Tavis. "We are entering Old Delzoun and the Cold Vale. There are no settlements from here to the Fork."
Session: 86th Game Session - Thursday, Mar 09 2017 from 1:00 AM to 4:00 AM
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Pointer-left Investigator__male_2_thumb
Lhynard
Posted by the GM
De Exilio
Chapter 4 — Tanarukks
~ third-day, 3rd of Nightal, The Year of Wild Magic, dusk
between the Ice Spires West and the Ice Mountains


It was the third of Nightal, the last month of the year, the third day on their long journey to Jhothûn with Tavis Burdun and his son of miraculous birth.

   The boy, Kaedlaw, was already five feet tall and ate as much as a grown man. He had gray eyes, a cleft chin, a straight nose, and curly, black hair. He was a particularly shy boy, and for the first day, he never said a word in the presence of anyone but his father, whom he clung to in an over-the-shoulder carrying cloth while they walked or rode. By the third day, he would at least say, "Alae," back to anyone who said it to him, but then he would immediately hide his face in his father's beard.

   They rode in a straight line. Mythlos led on camelback, and Kytharrah trudged along on hoof beside him. Cassiera rode next, then Szordrin. Leokas and Galadrel rode together, and Solisar walked behind them atop the snow with his magic boots. Then came Belvin and Kamil, followed by Hakam and Ilthian riding together. Lastly, Tavis came carrying his son.

   Each day as they traveled, Solisar sensed a magical sensor near Kaedlaw that then immediately flickered away before returning again seconds later. This was the agreed upon signal that Basil would be scrying on them. On occasion, the sun elf could even see the image of the wrinkled verbeeg in his mind. Likewise, nearly every day, at inconsistent hours, a sensor would flicker and then remain on the whole party, and Solisar would see the faces of Skata or her brother or both, with looks of anticipation initially. When they saw that the group were simply walking, the young giants looked bored, and then the sensor vanished.

   Tavis had seemed to gain an energy from being outside, even though it was so cold. "How I missed the fresh air, being in the castle all day," he had said. His strides were long enough that, like Kytharrah, he needed no mount to make good time, even over the snow.

   Kytharrah wanted to play with their new "big brother" and "little brother," but Queen Brianna had forbidden Tavis to let the minotaur play with Kaedlaw. When the giant child had been put to bed within their tent, however, Tavis was willing to grapple with the red beast. The firbolg won most of the time. Tavis was stronger than Kytharrah for one thing, but he was also far more technical in his wrestling than the frost giant guard Hrodmar had been.

   Leokas, also, was eager to compete with Tavis, whom everyone in Hartsvale claimed was the greatest ranger in Faerûn. Tavis had denied this, saying that he had heard about a legendary renegade drow ranger with far more skill, but as they walked along, the firbolg recognized every last set of animal tracks that they passed and could name every kind of bird song that they heard. He could predict the weather from the color of the sky and the "taste" of the wind, and he had an impressive knack for predicting how long it would take them to reach any landmark that they could see ahead.

   Archery, of course, was where Leokas most wanted to challenge the firbolg ranger. On the second night, near the same silver mine where they had fought the leucrottas, they had set up an archery competition. Leokas was impressed by Tavis' massive bow and asked about it. Tavis had named it Mountain Crusher. He claimed that it was made from a composite of polar bear bone and strung with woven steel cord. The length of it was covered in Jotunalder runes. "My friend Basil enchanted this bow for me," said Tavis. Leokas could not even begin to draw it, and even for Kytharrah the draw required too much exertion to make an accurate shot, though Belvin asserted that his magic could make Kytharrah able to use the bow.

   For the actual competition, Tavis had used Kytharrah's longbow, (which he noted was finely crafted,) and Leokas used Belvin's. This way, there would be no magical advantage. They had placed a small target 200 yards away. Leokas was able to strike the target seventeen times out of twenty, but Tavis struck it eighteen times. At farther distances, Leokas began to gain an advantage, because the elf seemed to have a better grasp of how to arc his arrows than did the firbolg. When they competed for speed at a closer range, Tavis could unleash four arrows in the time that Leokas could release three.

   They had carefully crossed the ice of the Clear Whirl and headed west into the wilderness, leaving the queen's territory. The terrain was hilly and only covered in scattered trees. They passed up and down along these snowy wolds, roughly following the path of a creek that Tavis called the Spire Flow. To the north, they were bounded by the Ice Spires West, and to the south by the Ice Mountains.

   As they had traveled, Tavis asked them about their visit to Mount Woe. He was particularly interested in the downhearted giants living there. It pained him that, several years ago, he had been forced to slay some of them when they were following the orders of Lanaxis.

   Belvin had asked Tavis about the flora and fauna of the area. Tavis had said that one could find herds of deer, elk, branta, and rothé in the region. Besides wolves, smaller carnivores included wolverines and dire skunks. "Horrible creatures they are! As if their ferociousness were not enough, their spray is strong enough to immobilize a grown man with stench. Basil used to shapeshift into one. In fact, he was disguised as one on the first day that I met him." Tavis also helped Belvin gather wild berries as they walked that were edible.

   Now, on third-day, the sun was setting, early as always. The air was cold but clear and there was little wind. Tavis spotted some smoke rising from a nearby hillside. "Someone is probably sheltering in a cave ahead," he said. "I must ask you to scout out the matter."

   So they dismounted and left their camels and Galadrel and Ilthian with Tavis and Kaedlaw. They carefully climbed to the top of the next hill and spied down into the valley between it and the next. A cave opening could clearly be seen in the side of the next hill. Smoke trickled out of it.

   They carefully and quietly descended. As they neared the entrance, Leokas pointed out some tracks in the snow. "Orcs," he explained to the others by whisper, "large ones."

   Mythlos drew his sword out, and Kytharrah sniffed. He did not know what orcs smelled like, but all he could smell was the delightful smell of meat cooking on a campfire anyhow. He rubbed his grumbling belly.

   "Kytharrah, ready your bag of sticky goo like you did... on the day that I died," said Cassiera, interrupting his thoughts of eating. "I will change into a snake and investigate," she continued, trying not to show hesitation.

   "There is no need to put yourself in harm's way," said Solisar. "If you give me time to prepare and concentrate, I think that I can scout the entire cave for us without any risk." He removed a bit of fur from his spell component pouch.

   Kytharrah asked to sniff it. "Bat?" the minotaur asked.

   "Yes," said Solisar. "I need it for this spell." The elf then began to concentrate and chant, looking as if he were going into a trance. The others grew somewhat impatient, as nothing seemed to be happening. Finally, after about ten minutes, Solisar spoke again. "I am entering the cave."

   "No, you are standing right there still," said Kytharrah.

   "Do not disturb him," said Cassiera.

   "The passage is not too long," said Solisar. "It descends, though mildly. The ground seems relatively flat. The walls are about ten feet from each other. It is opening up into a large chamber now, and I can see the fire. There are two figures behind it. Let my eye adjust a moment."

   "You have two eyes," said Kytharrah.

   "Shh!" said Cassiera.

   "There are two orcs sitting by the fire, as Leokas predicted. They are large. Something is off about them though. They are short and stocky. Their tusks are unusually long, and their lower jaws are too large, their snouts too short. Ah, their eyes glow too. I had not noticed at first, because of the light from the fire. These are tanarukks!"

   "Tanarukks?" asked Mythlos.

   "Orcs tainted with the blood of tanar'ri," said Solisar.

   "Demons," said Hakam.

   "They are planetouched creatures, much like Szordrin," said Solisar. "They are not true demons."

   "I do not see the difference," said Hakam.

   "There are two more orcs resting behind them on mats. There are a few sacks lying about as well. There are several large boulders in this chamber, which is... about twenty feet high. It looks like a passage branches off over here. It starts to get very narrow, very quickly. Yes, perhaps Cassiera or Belvin could squeeze through here as snakes, but no orc ever could. I am turning around and coming back up. Now, I am looking around the northern.... Ah, yes, there are two more orcs, two more tanarukks here. They are hunched over, as tanarukks usually are. I am looking at the back of one's head. His hair is very coarse and patchy. I am near certain that these are not simple orcs now. They are each carrying a nasty-looking axe. Beyond them, I do not see anywhere else that anyone might be able to go, but I am not skilled at caving.... Oh, if I go lower, I see a place where one could crawl.... Aha! this takes me back to near where the tunnel reaches the chamber. Now I am going to look on the other side, beyond the other large boulders. Yes, there is a seventh tanarukk standing guard here, and there an eighth. If we were to have advanced, they would have easily been able to surround us."

   Solisar's body moved, and he no longer looked like he was in a trance. "Is there anything else you would like me to investigate?" he asked the others.

   "It seems like you were rather thorough," said Leokas.

   "I see no reason why we need to fight them," said Cassiera.

   "They need to be destroyed or else they will come kill us in your sleep as we encamp," said Mythlos.

   "I can seal them in the cave," said Belvin, "like we did with the remorhaz portal guardian."

   "It is a terrible fate to be trapped in a cave, unable to get out."

   "I feel little pity for demons," said Hakam.

   "We do not know that they are evil!" said Cassiera.

   "While I agree with Cassiera," said Solisar, "I must admit that it is highly unlikely that they are not despicably evil creatures. The culture of normal orcs is wicked, yet these have the blood of evil and chaotic demons."

   While some in the group hesitated, they all eventually agreed to let Belvin call on the powers of earth to shape the stone at his touch, sealing off the entrance. Leokas was convinced that there were no more sets of tracks than those of the eight tanarukks now trapped within.

   They returned to Tavis with their report. He had not encountered tanarukks before, but he had heard tales of their evil, so he understood their decision.

   It was now dark, and they had to camp for the first time in the wilderness. Just in case the tanarukks managed to escape their prison and could track them, they took extra precautions; Solisar surrounded their camp with a magic alarm. A rope trick was used to keep Ilthian, Galadrel, Tavis, and Kaedlaw safe for the night. Leokas was happy to teach Tavis how to build igloos, a new skill for the firbolg, as the people of Hartsvale did not build such snow structures as did the natives of the Great Glacier. They built such a shelter for the animals, since Tavis was tall enough to set the ice blocks for a larger sized igloo. Belvin used magic to detect the presence of any dangerous animals in the area; all he sensed were a few wolverines. Mythlos kept the first watch, followed by Cassiera and then Belvin and Leokas together. With these plans in place, they passed the night in safety. There was no sign of any orcs, demonic or otherwise, through the cold night.
Session: 86th Game Session - Thursday, Mar 09 2017 from 1:00 AM to 4:00 AM
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