Book One: Blood Ties

    Book Two: Near and Distant Shores

Memorable Quotes

"You'll find that most people are very stupid. You'll probably learn to turn that to your advantage... but it does get quite tedious and depressing at times."
~ Edrik Kynedyr to his nephew Elias (Session 10)
"It's nice to look nice."
~ Ethme Tremayne (Session 26)

Campaign Timeline

1345 CR

High Laird Pwylloch Kyrmac begins the Great Hunt, an attempt to purge Snowdown of all its monstrous threats. 

1345 CR Hagen, a Northlander mercenary,  arrives on Snowdown with his son, Vangrid.

1346 CR

Tristan Kendrick becomes High King of the Moonshaes. Kale Kynedyr, his wife Verona, and his son Dunham are lost at sea during a voyage back home to Snowdown. Elsbeth Kynedyr marries Lucan Mullenwyr, a lesser noble of Alaron. 

1349 CR Edrik Kynedyr leaves Llandrian.

1350 CR

Hagen arrives in the cantrev of Llandrian with his son and his pregnant Ffolk wife, Aramana.

1352 CR

Heilyn Prosser dies at the hands of a troll in the Dweller'sWood.

1354 CR The Great Hunt ends. The Draka are driven deep into the Laird's Mire and the Burning Fens, and the High Laird declares the island free of trolls, giants, and gnolls. Elsbeth Mullenwyr leaves Alaron for the Korinn Archipelago and marries Birger Haxx.

1355 CR

Iden arrives in Llandrian.

1356 CR Piers Haxx is born.

1357 CR

Elias Kynedyr is born. Aislin Kynvelyn and Iden Tremayne are married.

1358 CR Jenna and Ethme Tremayne are born.

1359 CR

Ardel, the Druid of Llandrian, dies. Iden inherits his position.

1363 CR Riordan and Jenna Kynvelyn leave Llandrian to live out the rest of their days in Myrloch Vale.
 

The Preludes begin...

 

1365 CR

Late Spring: The Sisters Tremayne and Elias Kynedyr travel with Iden to Westphal, the capitol of Snowdown, and then to the southern cantrev of Andover. At Westphal they meet the High Laird Pwylloch, the Calashite  wizard Ibrahim, and the High Druid of Snowdown, Heroan. At Andover they meet the Sisters Aldfrith, Nuala and Sorcha, who are said to be witches and are also the great aunts of all three children.

1365 CR

Late Summer: Alicia Kendrick becomes High Queen of the Moonshaes. The Tremayne household acquires a House Thing. Elias begins training with Vangrid Hagensen.

1365 CR

Early Autumn: Piers Haxx arrives on Snowdown with a Northlander named Brek and an emissary from Calidyrr named Ellery. He is to be fostered with the Kynedyr family. Hagen gives Piers the nickname "Koli", which means "dark" in the Northlander tongue. 

1367 CR Bran Kynvelyn marries Cadhla Kundry. Ernan Prosser marries Ula Kynvelyn soon after.
1368 CR Mercia Kynedyr unexpectedly becomes pregnant. Rhian Kynedyr is born later in the year. 

1369 CR

Early Spring: Piers loses Casnar Seamere’s boat and nearly drowns during a storm. Days later, on his birthday, he has a disturbing dream during which he sleepwalks. Elias finds him on the parapets of the keep. 

1369 CR

Spring: Iden Tremayne travels to Liddenholm, a renshi community nestled in the hills of the Northern Weald, to obtain a special metal for Llandrian's master blacksmith, Dowel Brenagaine. He brings his daughters with him, as well as Elias, Piers, and the aspiring druid, Shane. 

1369 CR Late Spring: Vangrid Hagensen agrees to train Ethme in swordplay.

1369 CR

Summer: High Laird Pwylloch travels to Llandrian to retrieve the sword he had commisioned Dowle Brenagaine to make. He arrives with a sizeable retinue, which includes his family. The sword is presented and Pwylloch is so pleased with the work of the Master Smith, he calls for a celebration to honor the weapon and its maker.  

1369 CR

Highharvesttide: Elias and Piers participate in their first hurley game. They prove to be a formidable combination on the field, and become the rivals of Torin Eideard and Elias' brother, Nolan.

1369 CR

Winter: Ethme inadvertently casts her first cantrip.

1370 CR

Early Spring: Once again, on Piers’ birthday, a thunderstorm hits the island and Piers again has the dream. He awakens to find himself standing on pebble beach. 

1370 CR

Spring: Ethme, Jenna, Piers, and Elias  travel to the south end of the island with Iden to visit the Sisters Aldfrith. Elias has an encounter with a Quarry Thing named Ruavard. It's agreed during the visit that having Jenna and Ethme spend more time with their great aunts would be a good idea.

1370 CR Midsummer: Riordan Kynvelyn marries Maeve Angharad. 

1370 CR

Summer: Piers finishes Casnar’s replacement boat and begins working on one for himself. The Sisters Tremayne spend the season with the Sisters Aldfrith.

1370 CR

Winter: Elias visits the Sisters Aldfrith during the Solstice and meets one of the Llewyrr. The fey creature informs him that he isn't entirely human, that he is "gen" and is "of the air": kin to elementals.

1371 CR

Early Spring: Piers again has the dream on his birthday. As before, there is a harsh thunderstorm, and as before, he awakens on the pebble beach. 

1371 CR

Sping-Summer: The Sisters Tremayne stay with the Sisters Aldfrith.

1371 CR Highharvestide: Piers and Elias begin playing hurley with the older crowd.
1372 CR Early Spring: Even though there is a storm on the night of his birthday, just like the previous three years, Piers doesn't have his dream. The next morning, signs of a shipwreck begin washing up on shore. Piers goes to Pebble Beach and finds that there is a survivor there, a man named Raiza Il'imon.
1372 CR Summer: Jenna and Ethme must come home early, because their aunts have business to attend to that's going to take them away from the island.
1372 CR Highharvesttide: During a particularly harsh hurley game Piers strikes Torin the Younger across the back of the head with a hurley stick. Torin is knocked unconscious and doesn't stir. That night, Draka attack the village of Llandrian. The campaign begins...

Session 1 (11-22-03) 

Player Game Rating: 8.25

1st Day of Marpenoth

The session opens with all four characters at the Tremayne abode. 

Inside the house, Jenna and Ethme are soundly asleep in their bed with their new moorhound pups. Across the room, their father sleeps alone (his wife is still at Connel’s house tending to the guardsman’s son, who Piers had severely injured in a hurley match the previous day). 

Despite the autumn chill and the late hour, Elias and Piers are outside in the backyard. Piers is brooding about what had occurred during the hurley game. Both boys are finding sleep elusive.

Inside, the House Thing disturbs Jenna’s slumber by urgently shaking her. She awakens to find the cat-like sheeaghan (a benevolent spirit) quite distraught. Taking this as a bad sign, she begins calling for her sister and father to wake up when, somewhere in the village, a woman screams...

Outside, the boys hear the scream as well, but just as they are about to react to it, their attention is drawn to a more immediate disturbance. Something large and vaguely man-shaped is crashing through the wood, toward the house. They watch as, in a blur, the interloper vaults up into the trees and then leaps onto the roof of the building. The roof promptly gives way under its weight, and a great crash comes from within the house, caused by the invader’s descent and landing.

At the sudden ruckus, Iden springs out of bed and calls for the girls to get behind him. It becomes clear that what has fallen into the house is a gangly and hideous olive-skinned monstrosity… a troll.

The troll is positioned in such a way that it denies Iden and his daughters any clear avenue of escape. The creature snarls as it steps toward Iden, but then the House Thing launches itself at the monster and begins clawing at its rubbery face. 

The troll tosses the House Thing away and takes another step toward the druid. Iden begins to call upon the Earthmother’s spirit, no doubt planning to unleash something unpleasant at the monster. He has to abruptly abandon this strategy, however, because Piers comes rushing in through the back door, which places him directly behind the troll… and directly in the line of fire.

Piers stabs at the troll with his dagger, but his blade fails to break the creature’s tough hide. Despite this, the troll decides to turn on the new threat.

Seeing the troll turn on Piers, Iden quickly snatches up a poker from the hearth and smacks the monster with it. “No!” he roars, “It’s me you’ve come for! It’s me you want!” The troll snaps around and hisses at the druid, revealing its yellowed fangs and black gums. That’s when faithful Seward comes bounding in and attacks the monster’s leg. In reaction to this assault, the troll reaches down, buries its claws into the moorhound’s sides, and then tosses the animal out the hole that's been made in the roof. 

As the troll is occupied with Piers and Seward, Iden turns to the back wall of the room, places his hand upon it, and whispers. Jenna and Ethme watch in amazement as the wood of the wall splits and breaks away around their father’s hand, leaving a hole big enough for the girls to get through. “Climb out,” Iden commands, as he brings his attention back to the troll.

Elias would’ve been right beside Piers, but just as he is about to step into the house, he notices that flaming crossbow bolts are being shot into the western side of the building. Without consideration for the consequences, he rushes over to knock the bolts away before they set the house ablaze. It's not until he puts out the first one that he realizes he has made himself an easy target for whomever is doing the shooting. When he is nearly hit in the neck by a bolt, he decides to abandon his firefighting mission. Instead, he rushes into the woods to confront the crossbowman. 

The girls scramble out the hole, just in time to see Seward sail through the air and land with a sickening thud. They rush to the moorhound’s aid. They find Seward alive but in very rough shape. There is little they're able to do for him, but at this point they notice the fire catching on the side of the house.

Inside, the battle continues. Piers jumps onto the troll’s back, desperately trying to cut its throat, but to no avail. Iden, meanwhile, has conjured a fire that forms a sheath around the iron poker he's wielding. As the druid thrusts his flaming weapon at the monster, the troll manages to rip Piers off its back and slam the young Northlander into the hearth. However, the effort leaves it prone to Iden’s attack. The fiery implement strikes home, impaling the creature through the belly. The troll howls and screeches as the air becomes fouled with an acrid odor.

Iden attempts to press his advantage. He successfully pushes the troll back a few feet, away from Piers… but once the troll becomes determined to remain where it is, the druid is no match for its sheer strength. Piers looks on in horror as the troll grabs Iden, smashes him into the wall, rakes open his chest and then flings him unceremoniously back into the bedroom. Iden lands with a thud behind his own bed. As Iden is sailing across the room, Piers sees what appears to be one of Iden's hands transforming into the shape of a bear's paw.

Outside, Elias searches the wood for the wielder of the crossbow. He doesn't have to look for long. Something small and quick dashes out from the shadows. It slashes at Elias’ leg with a dagger as it passes, nearly hamstringing him. The only details Elias catches of his assailant as it disappears back into the shadows is that it is no more than a few feet tall... and it has a tail.

The girls take up the task that Elias had abandoned, attempting to combat the flames that are threatening to spread across their home. Ethme finds herself wishing that she were able to snuff the fire with her magic. However, though she knows that such power will one day be hers, it's a day that is still a long ways off. For now, the sisters have to work with buckets of water.

Inside, the troll takes a step toward where Iden has fallen, presumably to finish him off… but again the loyal and tenacious House Thing launches itself at the monster, clawing up its side and fastening itself to its face. The troll reaches up to tear away its diminutive nemesis, but is surprised by the great roar that then comes from the bedroom. Iden’s bed erupts upward and flies aside. Where the druid had been sprawled moments before, there now rises an enormous grizzly bear.

The bear launches itself at the troll and the two burst out through the cabin door. Piers follows the storm of claws outside, just as Elias returns from the woods, having decided that discretion really is the better part of valor. Though astounded by the sight of the battling bear and troll, the four youths manage to keep their wits about them and form a bucket brigade from well to house, fighting their own battle with the flames. 

Then several things happen at once: the troll and bear break apart briefly. An arrow flies out of the darkness, piercing the troll and, with a battle cry, Liam bursts upon the scene, slamming his sword into the monster's side. Iden uses the moment his brother-in-law has bought him to shift back into human form. He immediately begins calling upon the Mother's power again. Liam leaps aside as a gout of fire smashes down upon the troll, apparently from the sky. The troll bursts into flames, lets out a wretched screech, then collapses into a heap of smoldering meat. 

Jenna, Ethme, Piers, and Elias have the fire under control at this point; the cabin is a shambles, but it won't burn down. Jenna runs back inside to check on the terrified Betha and Finn (the puppies), while Iden tends to Seward. Piers heads off with Liam, while Elias races for the keep to check on his own family. 

As Piers and Liam run, figures begin to emerge silently from the wood and run along beside them, like wolves joining a pack. By the time they reach the village proper, Piers and Liam are accompanied by Garhalt, Corwyn, Bran, and Riordan. The group hears the sounds of battle and runs towards it. They find several fishermen, including Hagen and Casnar, combatting two trolls, and just as the group arrives, Casnar falls. Several of the men drag Casnar's body away from the troll and Bran and Piers, in turn, each run past and drop a flask of oil at its feet. Each time they do this, one of the archers shoots a burning arrow into the flask. After the second time, the troll is completely engulfed in flames. Liam turns to attack the monster that Hagen is fighting just as Hagen shouts, "Into the other one!" He drops his axe and grapples the troll, lifting it over his head -- a stunning feat -- and then hurls it into its flaming partner, causing it, too, to burst into flames.

The trolls are quickly dispatched after fire is introduced to the scenario. Piers stops over Casnar for a moment, who beckons the young Northlander closer and whispers to him, "Piers...I know you covet my wife..." He then wheeze-laughs at Piers' horrified expression. Abashed and amazed that a man could joke while in such a condition, Piers picks up Casnar's sword and continues on into the village, as the fisherfolk turn their concerned attentions to Casnar himself. 

Meanwhile, Elias reaches the keep. There are draka bodies everywhere and a great hole in the center of the courtyard that wasn't there before. Just inside the keep gate, Elias encounters a draka that's still barely clinging to life. Enraged, he stabs at it. As it lets out one last, gurgling breath, Elias sees a vision of a great, winged figure soaring overhead - a dragon. Disturbed by the experience, Elias races on into the keep.

When he gets inside, he observes that the main hall's conversion into an infirmary has already been started. He runs through the halls until he finds his father, Vangrid, and Connell, all in his father's office. He learns that the draka had burst up out of the hole in the courtyard. His mother, grandmother, and brother are safe, but his grandfather was attacked and is not at all well; it's not sure that he'll last the night. 

Iden, after tending to Seward, goes into the house to dress himself and tells the girls they'll be coming with him. The girls swiftly grab their cloaks and toss whatever medicinal supplies they can quickly lay hands on into sacks. In short order, they are following their father, with Seward and the pups in tow. The group of people and dogs head up to the High Hill. From there, they can hear the sound of combat and see fires burning all over Llandrian. Iden begins to call upon the power of the Mother again. Soon the girls see clouds gathering in the distance, which begin to tumble rapidly towards Llandrian, filling the sky overhead. There's a crack of thunder, and the heavens burst open, delivering a torrential downpour upon the village, which begins to dampen the fires. Iden is not finished, however. Soon after, several bears emerge from the woods, answering his spiritual call. He instructs them to go down into the village and chase their mutual enemies from it. He then instructs the girls to follow him again, and they make their way to the keep, stopping briefly at Connell's, so that they can check in on Aislin. 

The battle with the invaders lasts until dawn, but eventually, the trolls and draka are driven from the village. At one point, Piers sees a bear chasing a draka through the Prosser's fields, almost as if the animal were playing with it. People begin to come together at the keep, and the wounded are brought up to the makeshift infirmary, where Jenna and Ethme immediately join their mother and their cousins, Ula and Maeve, in tending the wounded and the dying.
But just as things are beginning to settle, there's an explosion somewhere in the distance, to the south.

A decision is swiftly reached that the disruption must be investigated. Garhalt, Thorvid, Corwyn, Piers and Elias mount up and ride off down the southern road. Just outside the village's perimeter, they come upon a crater and a partial corpse; apparently a rider on the road was somehow blown to bits. There's a brief discussion, in which Piers expresses a concern for the neighboring cantrev of Harloch. Garhalt doesn't believe there's anything to be concerned about. Nonetheless, Garhalt and Thorvid return to Llandrian to report, while Corwyn, Piers and Elias continue down the road to the next village. 

During the ride to Llandrian's southern neighbor, there is some disagreement between Corwyn and Elias about whether or not they are likely to face danger in Harloch. It's eventually agreed to take a cautious approach. When they are close to their destination, they leave their horses off in a small clearing, and sneak into the village on foot.

It's quickly observed that Harloch is in quite a state. It has suffered a great deal of damage, and it appears all but deserted. Only the keep in the distance shows any signs of life. Corwyn continues to move deeper into the village, against the protests of his companions. Then, Elias notices a figure up the road. Unfortunately, the figure notices him as well. It emits a forlorn moan, and a group of  people clamor out from a nearby house in response to its call. A chase ensues, with the boys being pursued by this shambling mob of people. But it's quickly deduced that they are not people... not anymore. They are restless dead. There is even a draka among them.

The boys run for dear life, with Caer Harloch being their intended destination. Upon reaching the keep, they shout for the gates to be opened. The opening of the gates seems to take an obscenely long time. Fortunately, the restless dead are not very fast, and the boys make it inside just before their pursuers can close in on them. Once within the safety of Caer Harloch's walls, they are met by Donnard, the captain of the guard. Donnard and Corwyn, then Donnard and Piers, caught up in the tension of the moment, exchange some heated words. However, everybody gets hold of themselves and settles down soon enough. 

The boys learn from Donnard that Harloch was also attacked and that the laird and the druid are both dead. The assault on Harloch was apparently much more intense than the assault on Llandrian, perhaps because of its proximity to the Laird's Mire. There was a red draka with the attacking force -- now dead -- and it was the one that defiled the fallen and made them walk. The dead are not just restless either; when they claw you or bite you, they inflict a disease that makes you like them. It only takes a scratch for the infection to be delivered. That's why the townsfolk have not been able to deal with the wretched abominations, so far. Donnard also explains that they had sent a messenger to Llandrian for help... which reveals the identity of the unfortunate rider who died on the road.

After Elias spends a brief time with his uncle (during which he tells of the attack on Llandrian and the attempt on Regan's life), it's decided that Piers, Elias, and Corwyn need to return to Llandrian as quickly as possible. They need to tell everyone what's happened in Harloch, and they must also ask if Iden can come to the village's aid. Another messenger, Marcus, is to be sent to Brannoch, in the south. First though, it is Marcus who will provide a distraction so that the Llandrian folk can escape.

The three young men from Llandrian are given fresh horses, while Marcus is suited up with as much protective clothing as possible. When he is fully outfitted, he looks very much the absurd sight, especially due to the "weapons" he wields: a heavy pot and a large, wooden spoon.  The gates are opened, and Marcus sets out with surprising speed, despite the encumbrance of his clumsy armor. He races through the village like he's been shot from a bow, banging spoon upon pot and shouting. The dead pour from the buildings to chase after him, as Elias, Piers and Corwyn gallop off to the north. Once beyond the village, they retrieve their own horses, and head home to bring the news.

Session 2 (12-20-03)

Player Game Rating: 8

Elias, Piers, and Corwyn make it back from their  excursion to Harloch with a harrowing tale of the surviving villagers trapped in the cantrev's keep by a horde of disease-ridden, walking dead. They manage to keep the tale pretty quiet. Elias tells Torin, Connel, Vangrid and, inadvertently, Ethme. Corwyn tells Jenna, who tells Maeve, who tells Ula. Piers tells Riordan, Iden... and a mole that he suspected may have been Iden.

Elias checks on his grandfather, who's condition is still critical. He's conscious though, and he gives Elias a quest...

Elias is to take the life's work of his grandfather, a complete history and guide of Snowdown, to the great library of Candle Keep, located on the Sword Coast. Elias must see that the book gets there safely and is accepted, because Regan, even if he lives, will never again have the strength to make such a journey. Elias' grandmother, Brianna, motivates him further by saying, "Regan may not have long... but I'll be sure to live long enough to see you come to ruin if you make a mess of the task you've been given."

Iden decides that he must go and try to aid Harloch, but he is loathe to leave Llandrian without its druid... so he gives to Elias, Piers, Shane, and his daughters, a mission. The group of them, along with Seward, must travel to Liddenholm and ask the Wardens for assistance. The group is to explain that all the Goddess' children are endangered by this newly organized and aggressive draka menace. Iden gives the group twelve goodberries, and arms Piers and Ethme with weapons that neither girl knew he had. The group takes what few things will be needed for the journey and heads out, but not before Jenna asks her father to please send word south to find out if the aunts are well.

The group is initially tense, but the walking eventually relaxes everyone enough that people start talking... and Jenna and Piers start bickering. Seward puts a quick stop to that, however, by suddenly racing off after something in the trees. He comes right back, but several time after that he becomes noticeably tense, stopping to stare at a particular spot or sniffing the wind or growling.

The group continues on, much more subdued now. After a while, Seward suddenly begins barking again, madly this time, and races off into the forest. The group can hear him barking and barking, and there is a brief argument about what to do. Jenna wants to go off after Seward, but Piers and Shane and Ethme want to keep going, and Ethme convinces Jenna to start moving again. After a bit, Seward returns with a bolt in his mouth that Elias recognizes as one of the crossbow bolts the draka used.

The group pushes on toward Liddenholm, now feeling sure that they're being followed, but unsure of what else to do. Darkness falls, and Piers lights a lantern.  Shortly after full dark, Seward again seems to become alarmed.  Piers sets the lantern down, and the group spreads out to the edges of the light. Jenna is startled when she suddenly realizes that there is a renshi standing right next to her, peering out into the darkness with her.

After the inevitable moment of confusion passes, Jenna explains to the renshi that they believe they are being followed by a draka. The renshi introduces himself as Finder Bridden, son of Voled, and takes them into Liddenholm to see the Old Warden.

The Old Warden is not pleased that the group has lead danger to Liddenholm. After speaking with the youngsters about what's happened and hearing their plea, he tells them that the matter must be discussed, and they'll have an answer in the morning.  The group is put up in the same barracks-like guest quarters that they were brought to in their last visit.

In the morning, Old Warden Braeved tells the group that the renshi will send Warden Legear, his initiate, and the finder, Bridden, to Llandrian. They might have sent more, but the security of Liddenholm must be their foremost concern. The combined group of humans, renshi, and moorhound set out for Llandrian...

Session 3 (01-03-04)

Player Game Rating: 8.75

The group arrives back at Llandrian without incident, and heads up to the High Hill. Legear, Shen, Shane, and the badger remain there, while the intrepid heroes take Bridden to the keep and introduce him to the acting Laird, Torin Kynedyr.

Bridden gifts Torin with a stone. Torin accepts the gift graciously enough, even though he obviously has no idea what to do with it. The ensuing dialogue is difficult and awkward, but all the necessary information is conveyed. On the way out of Torin's office, Piers points out the crater in the middle of the courtyard. Bridden stops to inspect it briefly, then everyone heads back to the hill.  

Shane is left to assist the renshi while Jenna and Ethme go to Connel's to check on their mother. They learn that Young Torin woke up the night before, which is promising news. After speaking with their mother, the girls head home to work on cleaning the house. They find their two uncles and Corwyn there already, patching the hole in the roof.  Their mother returns later in the day.

Meanwhile, Piers and Elias go back to the keep. Elias shows Piers the Book of  Snowdown and tells him of his quest. Elias then begins to read any references he can find in the book about renshi and draka to Piers... which lulls the Northlander to sleep.

 Later in the evening, there is a gathering at the Tremayne home. The renshi come to dinner, along with Piers and Elias, the girls' aunts and uncles, Shane, Corwin, and Bran. Everyone is surprised to learn that Bran and Bridden have met before. After dinner, Bran tells a tale of how his sister had once drugged their parents so she and he could venture off into the woods together in the dead of night, and they had come upon Bridden. Bridden had treated a wound Ula had taken from a fall, and then had shared with her secrets that had allowed her to make Bran's medicines more potent.

Eventually, dinner ends and people go their separate ways. Piers goes and speaks with Young Torin's mother briefly, while Elias goes off with Shane. Jenna has a talk with her Uncle Liam and Aunt Duana. Ethme reads her cards, seeking to divine how her great aunts are doing.

The next morning, it starts to rain. The girls invite the renshi, as well as Shane, to breakfast. The boys show up for the meal also. During breakfast the autumn rainstorm suddenly increases in ferocity, becoming a gale in a matter of minutes. The renshi say they must return to the standing stones. They quickly depart, along with Shane.  Elias manages to reinforce the blanket covering the hole in the cabin wall. Ethme and Piers are bickering in the kitchen when suddenly there is a thunderbolt so loud that Jenna screams and drops the porridge. Elias, outside, can see smoke rising from Caer Kynedyr. He and Piers race off to the keep, which has been struck by lightening; the top floors of one of the towers has been blown off.

The boys look for Elias's mother and father, eventually finding them in the broken tower with several others, trying to salvage what they can before sealing it off. They help with the work and eventually the doors are closed and bolted. The boys brave the storm and head out onto the wall, where Elias looks out at the ocean and realizes that people might have been caught out fishing, given how suddenly the storm came up.

Elias and Piers race down to the shore, where the families of the fisher folk are gathered. There's been no sign of any of the boats that went out that morning. Eventually, somebody decides it'd be prudent to wait out the storm at the Kundry House and people head inside.  Those who went out that morning are: Desmond and his son, Logan; Casnar's brother, Willem;  Casnar's sons, Gwynne and Niles; Willem's son, Bruinn; Hagen, and Arna. Piers and Elias go to Vangrid's, then up to the Point, but they can't see anything except the raging water.

Meanwhile, Sorcha arrives at Aislin's in a flurry of dark, wet cloak; she states that she has business in Llandrian with her niece, but wanted to see "her girls". She is told briefly of Iden's mission to Harloch and of the renshi presence on the hill, and she tells the girls that Nuala is well, and at home, and that apparently the whole island except for Westphal itself, was attacked. Then she leaves for the keep.

Elias and Piers, out on the Point, are summoned to the keep by Sorcha's whispered voice in their ears. "Child of rain, child of wind. Come to me. I have need of you."  At the keep, the boys participate in a ritual conducted by Sorcha, and attended by Elias' grandmother, Brianna, in which Sorcha scries the origins of the gale. She and the boys see a gathering of chanting draka, centered about a draka with wings like those of a small dragon. The winged draka looks up suddenly, as if sensing their presence, and Sorcha casts the scrying bowl aside. Elias shows her Regan's book, with Brianna's permission, and she reads the draka information. She then tells them that the renshi are trying to stop the storm, and sends them to get Ethme and Jenna and meet her on the hill.

Upon the hill, the four friends offer up their blood to Sorcha (the boys for the second time) and each take their place at a standing stone. Sorcha is in the center of the clearing, flanked by Legear and Shen. Sorcha raises her sword to the sky, her voice lost in the wind, and a bolt of lightening crashes down upon the sword, passes through her, and branches out to strike each of the four brave souls. Some of them can see the others. Those that can, see Ethme wreathed in flame, Jenna apparently melded to the stone, Elias surrounded by a whirlwind, and Piers wavering, as if underwater. Sorcha collapses, the four youths black out, and the storm breaks.

After a short time, the renshi are able to help Sorcha to her feet, and the others are once again awake and able to walk. They all head down to the shore, where people are already putting boats into the water to go out and search for the fishing fleet. Piers and Elias take a boat, while Sorcha and the girls head up to the point. Sorcha calls some seagulls and instructs them to gather their comrades and to fly out over the sea and hover over any people or pieces of floating wood that they see in the water.

Piers is rowing for all he's worth, when suddenly their boat is propelled through the water, as if somebody was lifting and pushing it from behind. They travel rapidly like this for several minutes, then come to rest near a flock of seagulls. The gulls are hovering over three people, all tied to drifting wreckage: Arna, Gwynne, and Niles. All are unconscious, but Arna wakes up and has the strength to climb into the boat and help Piers row.  They tow the boys back to shore, once again being propelled for part of the journey. Gwynne is in very bad shape and he is immediately carried off. Aislin is called for, and she and the girls go to tend him. Piers and Elias immediately set out again. All the boats stay out until well after dark, but nobody else is found.

Later in the night, Sorcha stops by Aislin's house to say goodbye to the girls. She asks a few questions about Young Torin; Piers had previously asked her if she could help. Sorcha tells the girls that she will see them again, but it may not be soon. Travel may not yet be safe, come spring.

At the keep, Elias sees Sorcha and his grandmother walk out the front gate. He follows them down the south road and out of Llandrian. He calls out to them, and Sorcha yells back to him to go home. Then he sees Sorcha and his grandmother rise up into the air, and float away.

Piers, meanwhile, has gone to Hagen's home to be with the family. Arna tells him, on the sly, that she has a theory. She thinks that Hagen would have made for Eyetooth Rock when the storm came up. She and Piers make plans to row out there the next morning.

Session 4 (01-17-04)

Player Game Rating: 8.5

In the morning, Piers and Arna row out to Eyetooth Rock. It's a long and grueling journey, but they make it. When they get there, they are rewarded by the sight of a piece of fishing net and a shirtsleeve, snagged upon a rock. They find an opening in the massive Rock and make there way into a cave where, indeed, they find Hagen, great-axe still strapped to his back.

Hagen is dehydrated, very badly hurt, and more or less delirious. He is able to move enough that they can get him out to the boat, but it takes so long that it's near dusk when they finally set out for home. They have Hagen in a second boat which they are towing behind their own. Full dark catches up to them not long after they push off from the Rock, and as the wind picks up, the sea becomes increasingly choppy. Eventually, they have to take turns at rowing and bailing out the boats. At one point, they see lights in the distance, and begin rowing towards them. It's not long before they realize that even as they approach the lights, the lights are moving towards them. Soon a great sailing ship looms into view. Ropes are tossed down and the three are hauled aboard.

Aboard ship, Hagen is taken off to see the ship's doctor, after Piers has a few short words with a bosun with interesting taste in jewelry. Arna goes with her grandfather, and Piers is taken to see Captain Laraiza Il'Syne. Laraiza gets Piers' story out of him, then shows him some maps and tells him just how far off course he and Arna had been. The ship he is now on is headed away from the Isles, towards the Sword Coast. They discuss a variety of options and methods of payment, then there is a knock on the door and Raiza comes in. He tells the captain that he knows Piers, and he and Piers go off to talk. Raiza says that he can arrange with the Captain for her to get them back closer to Snowdown, then the two talk some about Hoar and about dreams and the way of the Three Thunders and tattoos.

Meanwhile, back on dry land, Elias has gone hunting with Clan Kynvelyn. He and Bran capture a draka after it lobs a small stone at Elias. Elias, reacting instinctively, shoots it in the leg, then Bran tracks it until they find it. They leap out and ambush it and are able to take it alive. It seems terrified of them and offers no resistance; it is obviously in great pain. Elias can talk to it a little bit in Aladreen and learns that it's name is Aloszek. It has the head of a black draka in a bag and also some kind of powder that it seems to be very afraid of. It keeps telling them that it wants safety and that it stopped the black from bringing back word of "warmlings" and "groundlings." Bran bandages its leg up and they start to lead it back. On the way, Bran blows his hunting horn and eventually, Liam shows up. Liam decides to bring the draka up to the hill, to the renshi, while Elias goes and tells his father about it.

By the time the group reaches the edge of the woods, they've been joined by Garhalt, Corwyn, and Riorden. They get to the Tremayne backyard and instruct the dumbfounded girls to fetch their mother. Ethme runs off to do so, while Jenna removes Bran's dressing from the draka's leg and begins cleaning and preparing it for their mother's care. 

Ethme runs off to Connell's and simply tells her mother that the hunters are back and somebody's hurt. On the way, Aislin tells Ethme that young Torin, though awake, is "not right" and that he may never be right again. Aislin is not entirely prepared for what she sees when she enters her yard and at the sight of the draka she screams. This sets off a panicked flurry of motion as the draka leaps in fright, Seward leaps at the draka, Jenna leaps at Seward, and the uncles struggle to regain their grip on the terrified little patient. Aislin pulls herself together and goes about tending the draka's leg, then calls the girls inside to finish preparing dinner, while their uncles and cousins go off with the draka up to the hill, and Elias runs off to the keep. They manage to get her permission to go up to the hill as soon as dinner is over, however. 

Elias brings the news of the draka to his father, who instructs him to get the draka to the keep when the renshi are finished with whatever it is they're doing with it. He means to make an example of it. He also tells Elias to stop at Connell's on the way and tell him to prepare for an execution. Elias heads back to the hill, a journey that does not take him past Connell's home. There he finds the Warden questioning the draka, but Aloszek is not taking to them very well. He seems quite relieved to see Elias return. The girls also arrive, and Shane is there. There is some conversation with the draka, and then amongst the others. It is decided that Elias will try to talk his father into waiting until Iden returns before executing the draka. The whole group thinks the draka may be a source of valuable information and that Iden would be the best suited to obtain it. Ethme and Bridden are also concerned that, slim as the possibility is, if the draka is being truthful about its willingness to help the humans, it would be wrong to kill it. Bridden thinks that divination is the only way to be sure, and he and the girls talk about the possibility of getting one of the aunts back, if possible. In the interim, Ethme will query her cards to see if she can determine anything.

Elias, who has gone off to the keep to see his father again, is successful in convincing him that the best course of action is to wait for Iden. He explains to Torin that he thinks the draka may have valuable information about the other draka, such as how many there are and what they're planning, but it's difficult to communicate with it. His grasp of Aladreen is limited and it seems to speak only a rough variation of the language, and it doesn't seem to take well to the renshi. His father instructs him to get it to the keep without anybody seeing, and throw it in a cell. Elias returns to the hill with this news.

Session 5 (01-31-04)

Player Game Rating: 8.75

Elias, Ethme and Jenna take Aloszek to Caer Kynedyr's modest dungeon and put him in a cell. Elias asks the girls to find Piers. The twins head off to Hagen's but find nobody there, so they go to Vangrid's. Eventually, they end up down on the beach, where they find all of clan Hagensen as well as several of the other fisher folk. Three huge bonfires have been lit. Vangrid tells the girls that Arna and Piers are missing and that he suspects they went looking for Hagen. He asks them if Piers had mentioned anything to them (which he had not), and asks them to fetch Elias. Ethme runs off to get Elias while Jenna remains on the beach. 

Elias had been speaking some more with Aloszek, but leaves to go down to the beach. He reports to Vangrid that Piers had not said anything to him about going to look for Hagen, either. Eventually, Aislin arrives and tells the girls to come home. They comply, but Jenna is sleepless for most of the night. Elias stays at the beach.

Meanwhile, the Venture turns about and heads back towards Snowdown, after a brief chat between Raiza and Captain Syne. Piers and Raiza talk for quite a while about the way of Hoar, also called Assuran the Doombringer, and the Three Thunders. Piers learns that Raiza is a priest and that the tattoos that adorn his face must be earned. Eventually, the two are joined by Ebrin, the ship's healer, and the three men have a drink together. Piers learns that Hagen is recovering, and that Arna is with him. Ebrin has heard of the Haxx's of Baldur's Gate. He tells Piers that payment may be made by a donation to any Ishtishian temple. After a time, the ship gets to a point where the bonfires on the shore are visible. This is as close as the Venture can get. Hagen, Arna, and Piers are lowered to their own boats and they row for shore. Elias is still waiting on the beach, along with most of Arna and Hagen's family, when they reach the shore. On the way back to keep, Elias catches Piers up on the local happenings and shows him Aloszek before the two turn in for the night.

It rains all the next day. The girls go to Vangrid's early in the morning and speak with Shianna; she tells them of Piers, Arna, and Hagen's return. They go bring breakfast to the Renshi, then head up to the keep and pounce on the boys. Ethme sees Piers naked. Piers tells the story of finding Hagen, and about how he had previously met Raiza when Raiza was shipwrecked, and had given him his boat. Then the group goes down to the dungeon and speaks with Aloszek. They learn that the draka are trying to awaken their old masters, chromatic dragons, and that one white one seems to be stirring. The draka were created by the dragons to be their slaves, but the masters have been gone for a long, long time, and the draka wish to serve them again. Aloszek has heard of other dragons, the colors of metal, that are not like the red and green and black dragons, and he hopes to find them, to serve them instead. After a while, Jenna and Piers go outside, leaving Elias and Ethme to talk to the draka some more. Piers and Ethme discuss what they've learned about Draka. After Ethme and Elias are done, the boys go to visit Hagen and the girls go home. Jenna retreats to the pottery shed, while Ethme throws her cards, while focusing on the question of whether or not Aloszek is being truthful. She gets a mixed answer, as if Aloszek might be omitting part of truth, or perhaps telling the truth from his perspective. 

Piers and Elias find Hagen feeling better, though he's quite annoyed by being 'doted' over by his wife. He also warns Piers about renshi and witches and the like. After the visit, Piers and Elias go out to the woods to practice for a while, then Piers visits Jenna in the workshop to talk about Aloszek some more. The girls decide to make a round about the village, visiting those who are laid up and delivering some stew, and Piers decides to join them for the first patient - Hagen. The girls were quite delighted to learn that Hagen hates to be doted upon.

Session 6 (02-28-04)

Player Game Rating: 9

6th Day of Marpenoth – 11th Day of Marpenoth (afternoon)

The evening of the sixth, Jenna and Ethme make the rounds of the all those sick and injured in the village, visiting and bringing some fresh stew. Piers accompanies the girls for their first trip, to Hagen's, then stays to talk to Hagen about a problem he's having he's struggling with the guilt he feels over what happened to Young Torin. Hagen advised him that he needs to figure out whether or not his actions were justified or not.  

Day seven and eight of Marpenoth are uneventful, but on day nine, the rite for the Ishtishians who died will be conducted by Rohn, of the Muirfinn clan. Piers knows that the Muirfinn's, one of the older fisherfolk families, are Ishtishian. They are connected to the Kynvelyns through the Prossers; Desmond Muirfinn's sister is Ernan's grandmother. Years ago, Desmond's sister Rohn married and left Llandrian, but she suffered some tragedy and returned. Desmond and his son, Logan, were killed during the storm. As the only resident Ishtishian, Rohn must perform rites for them. The ceremony takes place at first light, on the beach. Rohn is very nervous, and Ishtishian dogma, even the parts that are read in the common tongue, is largely ineffable.  

At highsun of the tenth day, Iden and Seward return home from Harloch. All Iden's women are thrilled to see him, of course. He has a sad tale to tell, however. It seems that the restless dead of Harloch were inhabited by something, and he was able to force it out and deal with them fairly succinctly. However, while there he learned that the Brannoch was completely destroyed by the draka. A few escaped, but the cantrev itself is a smoking ruin. High Druid Hiroen is currently there. The girls, in turn, tell their father about Aloszek; some of the story he already knew, as he'd been to the keep before coming home. The girls follow their father up to the hill where he converses with the renshi and with Shane, some. Shane will accompany the renshi home. Elias and Piers show up later in the day, and they fill Iden in on their stories over dinner. After dinner, all four accompany Iden up to the keep, to speak with Aloszek. 

Iden learns from Aloszek that the draka tribes in the Lairds Mire and the Burning Fens are lead by the Kyr'nyth, which means 'Wings Open.' He claims that they number hundreds - perhaps thousands - and that tribe Kyr'nyth is over 500 strong. There are many, many smaller tribes as well. The winged draka is named Ezieroth. Ezieroth has further plans, but Aloszek doesn't want to say more about that. The tribes in the Mire and the Fens are in contact with each other. There are tunnels and caverns deep beneath the island - even under the lakes - and things have been found there. Aloszek describes them as old creatures, like insects, but not, and very large. Ezieroth plans to use them somehow. 

After the questioning of the draka ends, Iden tells the four that he is unsure whether or not the draka is lying, and that doubt alone is enough for him to recommend that Aloszek be taken to the High Laird. He questions Piers some about Hagen's health, then goes off to speak with Torin. Elias, Piers, Jenna, and Ethme retire to the boys room to partake of a bottle of almond brandy. The four drink and talk, more or less coherently, about the possibility of going to Westphal and eventually to the Sword Coast, and about a bunch of other stuff. Elias tells the girls about Candle Keep.  

On the way home, Ethme and Jenna talk some more, then chat with their mother for a bit, before falling into bed. They are awakened far, far too early by their father, who instructs them to come with him. It is still dark out. Iden marches them for miles into the woods, at a merciless pace, but it all seems worthwhile when they reach their destination. It's a glade so beautiful and ethereal and glowing with the Mother's essence that the girl's are stunned. There is an enormous tree in the center of the grove, and a small waterfall spilling down into a pool of crystal clear water; the pool emits an ambient light that fills the glade. There is a cave across the grove and a bear comes out of it. Iden goes and has a chat with it, then calls the girls down to the pool. He tells them that these groves are scattered about the isles. They are the heart of the Mother. They are called Moonwells, and this is the smallest of the three on Snowdown. They are the charge of the Jennathi and they must be protected. It was through a Moonwell that the Dark Walker came into the world.  

Iden tells the girls that there are things that he must know about what fate awaits them. He instructs them each to drink a handful of water from the pool, which they do. They promptly fall asleep.  

Jenna wakes up alone. Nobody responds to her call. There is light coming from the bear cave, and she follows it. It leads her through winding tunnels until she comes to a dead end. The way behind her is sealed, cutting off the light, and she is encased in rock on all sides. As she is approaching panic, she hears a sound coming from overhead. Looking up, she realizes there is one direction that is still open to her. A goose looks down over the edge of the rock shaft and squawks. Jenna begins to climb the rock wall and soon reaches the top. She follows the goose down to the edge of a lake. There are the sounds of people laughing and the smell of smoke coming from a village along the shore, as if there is some kind of gathering going on. That sounds inviting, but then she notices a small, mist-cloaked island out in the center of the lake. It's rocky, and there are dolmans atop it. There is a small boat, and she gets in and rows out to the island, the goose swimming along behind her. When she reaches the island, she climbs up to the standing stones at the top and finds that they encircle and alter with an old book laid upon it. The book is a heavy tome of wood and metal, with jewels encrusting its cover. The design on the cover of the book, she immediately decides, is what she will craft out of her d'larun. She opens the book, then turns to say something to the goose, who she's been having a more or less running conversation with. Where the goose was, her mother now stands. Aislin says, Your choice has been made.Then Jenna wakes up, next to her sister and father, and begins to draw in the earth before she forgets the design.  

Ethme wakes up alone and sees a cabin up on the ridge that wasn't there when she went to sleep. She goes up to the door and knocks, then enters. Gavin is there. He is thrilled that Ethme has finally come home, and kisses her passionately. Before she has quite recovered from that shock, Ethme hears a child's cry. Gavin goes and fetches the  source of the sound and hands it over to Ethme - a beautiful baby boy with a lock of curly, red hair. He quiets right down as soon as he's in Ethme's arms. Gavin keeps saying how good it is to have Ethme home finally, and how much he and the baby have  missed her. Throughout this, Ethme keeps hearing the sound of some large animal outside. She asks Gavin about this, but he only tells her that it's nothing. Ethme looks around the cabin some, and sees a large sword hanging over the fireplace in the next room. Unable to stand it anymore, she goes to the front door to see what is making that noise, although Gavin either isn't hearing it, or is ignoring it. Outside is a large boar. It snorts and paws the ground when it sees her. Off in the forest that surrounds the house - the glade is now gone - Ethme can hears the sounds of combat, both martial and magical. There is shouting and the clashing of swords and flashes of blue lightning cracking in the distance. The boar turns towards the gate and starts trotting towards it, then stops and looks back at Ethme. Meanwhile, Gavin is trying to convince Ethme that nothing outside matters; nothing outside the walls of their home is of any consequence. He tries to get her to come to bed with him, but she is still looking out towards the boar at the gate. She hands the baby to Gavin and says, I'll be right back. She goes out to the gate and asks the boar what it wants from her. She thinks she's hears Piers voice in the battle, but behind her, she hears laughter. Turning back to the house, she sees Gavin at dinner with her mother and father. The little boy is older now, and there is  a younger girl with a very serious look on her face. Ethme goes inside the house. She goes to her mother and her father and tells them that she loves them, but that sometimes you have to make choices in life. She goes to Gavin and the children and tells them that she loves them very much. Then she goes and takes the sword down from the wall and goes out the door. Hagen is now standing where the boar was, ax in hand. As she and Hagen turn to walk towards the  battle together, Ethme hears Aislin's voice say, The choice has been made. She wakes up next to her sister and her father.  

Iden has the girls tell him all about their visions, in detail. On the way home, he talks  to them about the goose and the boar, then he tells them to go and prepare to to leave for Westphal with Uncle Liam and Bran. While they are packing, Jenna overhears bits of the conversation between Iden and Aislin, and relates it to Ethme. Aislin is sad. The whole family goes to the keep, where they meet up with Liam and Bran, Elias and  Piers, and a shackled Aloszek. Aloszek's chains are bolted to the wagon that's been provided, and he is covered. Jenna is given the reins, while Ethme is told to ride next to her sister. The men will all be mounted. As we're leaving, Elias' mother comes running out after us, calling for us to wait. She hands Elias a warmer cloak, in case it gets cold. He gets off his horse and gives her a hug. Then the group sets out again. 

Just outside Harloch, the group is met by a couple of riders, one of whom is Marcus. Marcus is now a guard, apparently, and he and his companion escorts the group through Harloch and for a little ways south. There's a brief break for lunch, but then it's time to push on. It's mid-afternoon when the group reaches the crossroads. From this point on, the road follows the river, and is completely exposed to the moors on the other bank. Half-way down the road to the bridge, Bran - the group's forward scout - rides back and lets everybody know that there are bodies ahead. Sadly, the group cannot risk stopping to give them a proper burial. Jenna and Ethme pray to Jennath as they pass the two bodies; they were young men, no older than Piers. 

After a time, Bran signals a stop. He comes back to the wagon and tells Liam that something's wrong. The two dismount and move forward on foot. Suddenly, Aloszek yells in alarm, and the ground erupts in front of the Kynvelyns. An enormous creature with huge, lobster-like pincers bursts up through it. The creature is being ridden by a draka.

Session 7 (03-13-04)

Player Game Rating: 8.75

11th Day of Marpenoth – 13th Day of Marpenoth

The group is astonished by the sight before them, but there's no time to waste dwelling, especially not as four more draka come into view behind the beast - one of them, black. Thinking quickly, Ethme casts Dazzle on the beast's eye, causing it to rear back briefly and shake it's head. It lunges forward at Bran but misses, due to the light in its eyes. Bran takes a step back and looses an arrow, hitting the beast in one of its many limbs, as Elias leaps off his horse; he throws the reins of both his horse, and Bran's, towards the wagon and races towards the black draka. Aloszek makes a grab for the reins, while Jenna worries about keeping the wagon horses under control. Piers forces his forward, galloping it past the beast and bearing down on the draka behind the thing. It seems as if the tide of battle shifts from moment to moment, in favor of one side or the other. Piers is thrown from his horse, but manages to regain his feet. He makes a mighty slash at the back of the black draka, just visible on the edge of Elias' darkness, but then himself is felled by a draka bullet to the back of the head. Liam slays the mounted draka, then unleashes several shots directly into the head of the giant beast. It retaliates by spitting a green, viscous fluid at him that burns his skin. Meanwhile, Ethme and Bran are both assaulting the beast, but sword and arrow both find it difficult to pierce the thing's shell. Back at the wagon, Aloszek has managed to regain control of Elias' and Bran's horses. Jenna is desperately trying to force the cart horses forward, towards the fallen Piers, but they are staunchly uncooperative.  

Suddenly, the riderless beast retreats, skittering backwards towards its hole. Bran continues to pelt it with arrows while Ethme and Liam turn on one of the ones who had earlier attacked Piers (and was now attacking Ethme).  It drops. The remaining draka see this as a bad sign, and flee towards the hole. Liam leaps onto his horse and charges forward, firing down into the hole after them. Bran is doing the same thing, and another draka falls. With the beast now gone, Jenna manages to get the recalcitrant horses to move forward, but Bran and Ethme have gotten to Piers now, and are able to stop his bleeding and apply a poultice to his wound. Then the darkness falls away and we see Elias, standing victorious over the corpse of the black draka. 

Liam beheads all the dead draka except the black one, which Elias finally manages to hack the head off of. Piers is loaded into the wagon with Aloszek and the draka heads, and group continues on. Pier's  horse, which had bolted more from fear than injury, is recovered further down the road. Piers wakes up during the journey, and is able to sit up in the front of the cart, though standing is not yet feasible. Nobody has any idea what that beast was. 

The group arrives at Westphal late in the afternoon. Once through the city gate, they immediately go to the keep and request an audience with the High Laird, but are stopped by a guard who can't think past his orders. Those seated in the wagon see the familiar form of Sir Nerian walking across the courtyard. Piers stands up and calls out the him, the effort nearly rendering him unconcious again. Sir Nerian approaches the gate and orders the guard to open it. Upon hearing a brief version of the group's tale, he arranges for a suite of rooms to be made ready, and then takes Aloszek off to the dungeon, accompanied by Elias and Bran. Over the course of the evening, food is sent to the rooms, and a healer comes to tend Piers and Liam, and the group is informed that they'll be meeting with the High Laird in the morning. Elias' brother Alroy also stops by and talks with Elias briefly.

Jenna and Ethme have a brief discussion, which causes Ethme to stomp off angrily. She ends up wandering out onto a balcony and finding Alroy there. They talk for a bit about events back home and a little about fear, and whether they are afraid. Alroy isn't, and he wonders if that's strange. 

The next morning, the group is invited to breakfast with the High Laird, Sir Nerian, Sir Tedmund, and Ibrahim. The discussion mainly focuses on what should be done. In particular, the High Laird asks Elias and Liam their opinions regarding Iden's suggestion to bring in mercenaries from off-island to deal with the draka. The group learns that men were sent out to recover the bodies of the two boys they had passed. They also learn that the High Laird and Ibrahim will be speaking with Aloszek that day. The High Laird also singles out Ethme, telling her that he either owes her his ire, or his gratitude...it's too soon to say which, yet. As he and Ibrahim leave, he gives her a gold coin, telling her it's from Duncan. Afterwards, the knights want to hear all the details of the group's battle on the road.  They also talk about the High Laird some, and how angry he is at the way his people have been attacked. When breakfast is over, Piers asks Sir Nerian to relay the message that he's like to speak with Ibrahim before the questioning of Aloszek. 

After breakfast, the group splits up. Liam goes down to the courtyard. Jenna goes out of the keep to the town market, and buys a present for her mother. Ethme goes and visits with Alroy again, and tells him about the breakfast with the High Laird. Alroy's theory is that the High Laird is angry because the whole incident is a stain on his perfect record as Laird of Snowdown. He also asks if Elias' opinion was solicited by the High Laird. Ethme is getting a bad feeling from Alroy.  

Meanwhile, Elias, Piers and Bran have gone back to the suite. Ibrahim shows up, in response to Pier's request, and they tell him all about the previous interviews with Aloszek and the information he's already revealed.  

Later in the day, when everybody is gathered again, the High Laird and Ibrahim come to the suite. The High Laird says that he's keeping Aloszek, and the thanks the group for their service. He states that as long as Aloszek behaves with honor, he will be treated honorably. He says that Aloszek has asked to speak to Elias. Elias and Ethme go to the dungeon to see the draka, escorted by Ibrahim. On the way, Elias questions Ibrahim about magic, and admits that he has an interest in it. After the chat with Aloszek, Ibrahim leaves the two to find their own way back to their rooms. Ethme expresses some concern to Elias about Alroy's state of mind, and warns him to be careful. 

While they are gone, Sir Nerian comes to the suite to speak with Piers. Piers had never had a chance to send the last letter he'd written. They go off into a room together to chat, and Piers questions Sir Nerian about Assuran. Sir Nerian is aware of an obscure bit of theological lore that speaks of a contest between Tyr and Beshaba for Assuran's allegiance. Piers' also mentions his desire to have a longsword made. Sir Nerian recommends the Brenagaines of Llandrian, but says that the keep can certainly provide Piers with a longsword. 

Ethme and Elias make a detour to the balcony, so that Elias can see his brother before the group leaves. Alroy was going to be thinking on whether or not he had any messages to send home. They talk briefly, and Alroy sends his best wishes to the family. 

Back in the rooms, Piers and Jenna converse briefly, but for the most part, everybody is quiet and lost in his or her own thoughts. Eventually, everybody turns in for the night. In the middle of the night, Elias awakens suddenly from a dream and realizes there's somebody standing next to his bed. It's his brother Alroy, who wants to speak to him. They go out into the corridor and Alroy tells Elias about how it's really him, not Elias, who's been the outsider all his life. He talks about he's always tried to imitate others, like their older brother Nolan, but in truth, he just doesn't seem to care about anything or anyone. He says he knows that Sir Tedmund thinks there's something wrong with him. He just wants Elias to know that he's not the outsider he thinks he is. He eventually ends up just walking away, leaving Elias to ponder.  

The next morning, as the group prepares to depart, a longsword is delivered for Piers.

Session 8 (03-27-04)

Player Game Rating: 8.25

13th Day of Marpenoth – 1st Day of Tarsakh (1373)

On the morning of Marpenoth 13, Elias and Piers talk about Elias' strange visit from Alroy, then the two go to the stables to talk to Sir Tedmund about it. Then everyone leaves for home. The group stops in Harloch and has lunch with Laird Anson, his wife, Winifred, and their son, Glew. It is a trying event, for which Elias apologizes profusely to the group on the way home. The group arrives in Llandrian in the late afternoon, where the mood is somber. The funeral rites for those who died in the attack were held that morning. Elias, Piers, and Liam go to report to Torin, while the girls and Bran go home. The girls go to the cemetery to pay their respects at twilight, and meet Elias and Piers there. 

The next day, Ethme goes to talk with Hagen about learning to fight with an ax. He scares the sense back into her, and she determines to continue her training in sword fighting with Vangrid. As the month of Marpenoth passes, Piers begins to train with Vangrid with his new longsword. Jenna speaks to her father about the battle on the road, and learns that Uncle Liam had told both her parents all about it. Elias asks the Kynvelyns if they can make crossbow bolts. Word comes that druids from Gwynneth have arrived in Westphal, and that Sir Tedmund and Sir Nerian have left for Alaron. Bards are carrying the word of Snowdown's need around the islands. Brianna returns, near the end of the month. 

In Uktar, news starts coming in about draka raids on outlying homesteads in the southern weald just like in the old days. Militia are again activated, and watches are doubled. Ethme begins working the watch. Jenna works on her Book of Secrets and begins to spend more and more time in the shed, working on her pots. The Seameres recover, but Young Torin remains the same. Connel is pushing for a trial, and Regan confides to Elias that he'll have to acquiesce sooner or later. The days get colder and shorter as winter arrives, and Day of Remembrance is quieter and more somber than it's been for some years. The first snow falls on that evening, and by the 1st day of Nightal there's an inch on the ground. The blanket of snow and the early fog give Llandrian an ethereal, other-worldly feel. 

Piers trial is held in the first week of Nightal. Connel speaks his complaint, and Piers his defense, then the floor is opened up to all. Several people speak on Piers behalf, including Elias, Vangrid, the Seameres, and Arna. Riddock stands up and says that what Piers had said, about  Torin taking pleasure in tormenting Piers and Elias, was true (much to the chagrin of his father). After hearing Iden's whispered counsel, Regan decrees that the penalty shall be 50 gold, to be paid to the Eideard family one year from the date of the trial, and that should Young Torin recover within that time, the penalty will be lifted. Connel is incensed, but Regan explains his reasons and remains firm in his resolve. After the trial, Ethme goes off with Piers and Elias, while Jenna goes on home.  

Hammer arrives, bringing the year 1373 with it. This is the coldest and quietest month of the year. Nothing happens except for intermittent snowfall. At Midwinter, Elias' family goes to visit Anson's family. Elias learns that Glew has taken a shine to Ethme and intends to ask for her hand. Elias tells him he's very brave.  

The 30th day of Alturiak is Elias' 16th birthday, his Day of Choosing. He is allowed to invite anybody he wants to the celebration, and invites the entire Kynvelyn, Tremayne, and Hagensen clans, Hagen's family, and Shane. He gets many gifts, including a short sword made by Castor from his parents, two flasks of honey mead from his brother Nolan, twenty crossbow bolts from the collective Kynvelyns, a pendant made from d'larun from Jenna, something from Ethme, and a fine leather backpack from Iden and Aislin. He also gets ten gold which had been held in trust until this day. Later on, after the gathering, Regan gives him a small vial and tells him if he ever has a dire need to get out of a situation, to drink it. The vial looks like glass, but is apparently unbreakable; it weathers Regan's smashing it against a wall without even a scratch. 

Ches comes in like a lion and leaves like a lamb; the weather is unseasonably warm. There's no big storm, and Piers does not experience any sleepwalking or dreams of bald men with large spears. News of more draka raids comes from the south. 

Piers' seventeenth birthday is on the last day of Ches. Elias organizes a little party, and he and Jenna and Ethme all chip in and get Piers a nice scabbard and sword belt for the longsword. 

During the first late afternoon of Tarsakh, Piers and Elias are on their way home. As they approach the keep, the see three riders coming up the road. They go down to meet them. One of the riders is a stunning woman with skin of warm bronze and a fall of honey-gold hair cascading around her shoulders. She wears finely crafted scale mail with a disc of lavender enamel set into the breast piece, and a cloak of violet-red. There are two men there, as well. One of the men peers down at Elias and says, "You look like me." He questions Elias about who he is, and somehow Elias manages to tear his attention away from the woman long enough to answer that he is Elias Kynedyr, son of Torin. At that, the man dismounts from his horse and embraces Elias, calling him "nephew." He introduces himself as Elias' uncle Edrik.  

Elias and Piers lead the group up to the Keep, and Elias takes them all in to see Torin. Piers, ever the gentleman, offers his arm to the woman and escorts her. Torin is literally speechless, so surprised is he to see his brother. Edrik introduces his companions as Anhagan ap Woden and Sora Gautiero. They have come to Snowdown in answer to the High Laird's call, and Edrik thought it wouldn't do to be on the island and not see his family. As they leave to go to the suites that are being prepared for them, Edrik takes Elias aside and asks him if he's 'touched.' Elias replies that that's what he's been told. Edrik assures Elias that he'll fit right in with the group, as they are all "completely fucked up".

Session 9 (04-10-04)

Player Game Rating: 7.75

1st Day of Tarsakh – 2nd Day of Tarsakh

Edrik wishes to see his sister, so Elias agrees to take him down to Shianna and Vangrid's house. Piers decides to stay behind to see to the needs of Anhagan and Saura (emphasis on Saura), but Anhagan makes it blatantly clear that they already have everything they need. As a result, a mildly disappointed Piers ends up accompanying Elias and Edrik into the village.

Upon arriving at his sister's home, Edrik appears somewhat taken aback that she's living in such a... modest dwelling. Shianna is extremely surprised and excited to see her brother. The two siblings reminisce for a while. Edrik is not very forthcoming about his past, and it's revealed that there is some issue between Edrik and his father Regan. Eventually Piers and Elias decide that they're not going to hear anything else particularly juicy and they leave. They head over to the Tremayne household, have some dinner, and ask Ethme and Jenna if they'd like to meet Elias' long lost uncle Edrik, as well as his companions. Of course, the girls are enthusiastic about this prospect.

After dinner, the four head up to Caer Kynedyr and Ethme and Jenna are introduced to Edrik, Saura, and Anhagan. There is some polite chitchat, during which it's learned that Saura comes from a place called Iriabor, in the Western Heartlands, and Anhagan is from someplace "south of everything else". His earliest memories, he eventually admits, are of a place called Port Nyranzaru. Then Edrik says they all need to get some sleep and he ushers the four out.

The next day, Piers, Elias, and Ethme go about their business. Piers and Elias go hunting and get in some practice time, while Ethme covers a watch shift. Jenna takes some of Ethme's fresh-baked bread and goes up to the keep in search of Anhagan. She doesn't find him, but she does find a bored Saura. The two converse for a while, and then Jenna takes Saura on a tour of the village. Jenna learns that the woman is a priestess of Lathander, the Morning Lord. She is considered to be 'god-touched' and there is something of a history of that sort of thing in her family. Though she originally hails from Iriabor, she has most recently spent the majority of her time in Waterdeep, which she refers to as the "jewel of the north" and the "city of splendors." After her excursion with Saura, Jenna goes out into the woods looking for a special 'place' where she can find some peace and quiet, as her living situation is beginning to feel a little cramped to her, lately.

That evening, just as dinner is being set, Anhagan comes to the door of the Tremayne home. He wishes to speak with Iden at some point, not about anything particular - just a kind of 'sharing' he says. Iden agrees. Anhagan is invited to stay for dinner, but he respectfully declines and takes his leave. Jenna runs off up the road after him, wanting to ask her question from earlier that morning. She wants to know what he meant when he said that 'everywhere you go is more or less the same.' The two talk briefly about a variety of subjects, such as the Jennathi faith, chivalry, and the natural order of things. 

Later that same evening, Edrik seeks out Elias. He tells Elias that he's just had a most disturbing experience; he's discovered that his father is not the self-absorbed bastard he'd always taken him to be. He goes on to tell Elias that he and his companions will be leaving within the next couple of days, but that they will be back afterwards. He wants to share with Elias some of the things he's learned about the way in which they are both apparently 'touched.' He's spent quite a bit of his time and effort researching the subject and looking for clues. He hopes that maybe he can save Elias time in his own quest for those answers, and that perhaps he can offer him some of the insights he's gained from his own experiences.

Session 10 (04-24-04)

Player Game Rating: 7.5

3rd Day of Tarsakh – 6th Day of Tarsakh

Knowing that his uncle is to leave on the following day, Elias decides to seek Edrik out. Piers comes along, taking advantage of the opportunity to potentially gaze upon Saura once more.

The boys find the three adventurers at the Kundry House -- the effective tavern, inn, and general store of Llandrian -- and sit down to talk for a while. The conversation (which is mildly awkward in its initiation), primarily revolves around the trio's "plans" for assaulting the draka. Edrik's strategy seems to be nothing more than to go in, kill the winged draka, and get out. When the boys exhibit a slight dismay over the simplicity of the plan,  Anhagan reveals his suspicion that the experience will likely involve him having to save Edrik's hide. It's a task he's apparently well acquainted with, though Edrik tries to downplay that revelation. Saura admits that there was a time when she would've protested the "cloak and dagger" approach that's to be taken. When Piers asks her why the draka would deserve more honorable treatment, Saura explains that, "it's not a question of what they deserve. It's a question of what you deserve."  The conversation winds down soon after that. Piers takes his leave, and Elias and Edrik go out for a walk together.

While heading toward the outskirts of the cantrev, Elias and his uncle discuss the manner in which they are both touched. Elias relates to Edrik his experiences with Ruavard and the Llewyrr. Edrik in turn reveals what he has learned about the unusual condition they share. He explains that their inhuman blood is very, very old  -- even older than the Aldfrith line -- and that it was introduced long before the Telfyr came to the islands. He adds that there are legends of an ancient people that roamed the Western Heartlands and used a dark and powerful magic, suggesting that it is perhaps these ancients that are somehow responsible for the legacy that Edrik and Elias have inherited.

Offering further insight, Edrik claims that the power in their blood is of the air, of shadow and of cold. He stresses that it is a dark thing, and that Elias should always be mindful of that. He must never let himself be ruled by it. The elder Kynedyr also reveals that he has met others like them (including some who gave in to that darkness). Apparently, there are a fair number on the mainland, due to an unexplained surge in the number of babies born 'touched' during his and Elias' generations.

Edrik then informs Elias that he will have a talent for the magic of shadow, but that he will find himself most unwelcome on Snowdown if he decides to pursue his gifts here. He gives a couple of small demonstrations. First he points to two trees and asks Elias what's between them. Elias says there's a rock there. Edrik points out that he shouldn't be able to see that. Then Edrik tells Elias about how matters get more and more weird as you get older and he gives him a brief example of what he means; he seems to be able to draw shadows to him, so that the air around him grows darker and darker. Edrik also shows Elias a small black star, tattoed on his wrist. He indicates that the symbol represents a loose organization of like-minded people and that perhaps Elias might seek help from somebody with that mark someday, should he ever find himself in need. Finally, Edrik says that certain things will just call to Elias, will just feel 'right,' like the winter wind and shadowy places. He points out that he is not the type to stay still for too long, nor to weigh himself down (wearing heavy armor). Finally, he makes the peculiar recommendation that Elias should learn to dance, then he takes his leave. 

The next day, Edrik's party departs for Westphal. Jenna and Ethme go with them, so that the girls, who are supposed to be visiting their great aunts, will have an escort up until they reach the capital. There is a brief stop in Harloch, while Edrik visits with his other brother, Anson. The group arrives in Westphal in late afternoon, and they find Darton there waiting for the sisters.
The two groups part ways, Edrik offering bows of farewell to the ladies Tremayne. Darton and the girls go to an inn and chat for a while about the state of things on the island before retiring for the night. 

The next morning, Darton and the sisters set out for Andover. As they are following the road through the Southern Weald, they hear screaming. Darton immediately charges toward the sound and the girl's follow. They discover a hysterical woman who has been driven from her house... by shadow things.

Darton, after examining the situation, decides that it is a matter for the Sisters Aldfrith. Between him and the girls, they manage to calm the woman just enough to get her up onto one of the horses. Darton rides for Andover with the distraught woman, leaving the girls with a warning not to go near the house. 

After waiting for a while, Jenna decides she wants to check the land surrounding the house to see if she can find any sort of grave or marker, as she and Ethme are of the opinion that one of the shadow things may be the poor woman's baby. As they are completing their circuit, two of the spirit creatures charge out of the house at them, scratching Jenna across the back before retreating back to the house. This angers Jenna and she marches up to the door intending to give them what for.

However, as she declares "that's enough!" to the creatures, one of them hurls a knife, which implants itself in her thigh. It is quickly decided then that the direct approach will not work. The girls manage to slam the door behind them and Ethme is able to help Jenna over to where their lone horse is waiting. Unfortunately, Ethme is too upset by the event to really help beyond that, so Jenna tends her own wound. After that, the two stay put until Darton and the aunts arrive.

Meanwhile, back in Llandrian, Elias tells Piers about his conversation with Edrik. The discussion eventually becomes one about the plans the young men have for the future. Piers is taking his debt to the Eideard family very seriously and has been pondering how to acquire the money. He and Elias decide to go out to Eyetooth Rock, to explore the stories and rumors of treasure to be found there. 

Back in Southern Weald, Darton, Sorscha, and Nuala arrive at the house at a gallop. The elder twins immediately set about performing a ritual that, in part, results in the summoning of Ruavard. He races off towards the house, launches himself through a window, and assaults the shadow things. Outside, the aunts enlist the aid of Ethme and Jenna to create a magic circle about the house, while they chant over the fire and bubbling cauldron they have prepared. After a time, the house falls silent and Ruavard emerges, a little scratched up, but none the worse for wear. The shadow things have been driven away. Ruavard is released back to his pond, and everybody mounts up and heads for Andover, then on to the aunts' house. The ride is an extremely painful experience for Jenna, but she is able to ask some questions on the way about the ritual that she saw and the nature of shadow things. When they reach the aunts' cabin, Jenna's wound is healed by Sorscha. 

The sixth day of Tarsakh, the boys prepare for their voyage to Eyetooth Rock, which they have planned for the next day.

Nuala takes Ethme into Andover with her, to Darton's house. They speak with Gavin some, then he goes into the house to rouse their guest. The woman who emerges is a striking, dark-eyed foreigner with a flowing mane of black hair. Her name is Callinda, a sorceress, and the the aunts have brought her to the island to teach Ethme of her gifts. 

Jenna and Sorscha pack up for several days stay away from home, and march off into the woods. They walk for the better part of a day, until they finally arrive at a small, dry, and partially furnished cave. This is where work will commence on Jenna's Book of Secrets. Sorscha talks with her some about the consequences of the decision she is making, and also about the importance of total honesty between the two of them in the coming days; she asks if Jenna is sure she wants to embark on the path of the Witch, for it will forever put distance between her and everyone she knows and loves. Jenna confirms that she is.

Session 11 (05-08-04)

Player Game Rating: 8.75

6th Day of Tarsakh – 7th Day of Tarsakh

Elias and Piers set out in the morning with the other fisherfolk, Piers making a show of teaching Elias to fish. After several hours of rowing, they make it to Eyetooth Rock. The first thing Piers notices is that parts of the landscape of the rock have subtly changed. For example, where there used to be a point of rock, now there is a ridge. The hole leading inside is still there, but it's much smaller than it was before; Hagen could never fit through it now. Inside the cave, there is a new opening in the ceiling, letting a shaft of light in. The cave smells like something died in it. Cave isn't really the right word though, as there is no real floor. There are a series of ledges lining the walls, and the central part of the cavern is an open shaft extending down into darkness. The ledge that one steps on when entering through the hole ends in what almost look like rough steps that drop off into nothing. 

The boys have both brought rope. They are able to tie their ropes together to make one very long rope, then they tie one end of that to a rock formation and the other to Piers' waist. He is able to lower himself down a ways, with only one small mishap which, fortunately, the rope around his waist keeps from turning into a nasty fall. He makes it to another small ledge with a little cave behind, and signals for Elias to follow. There's nothing in this first small cave, and they decide to go down a little further.

Using the same method as before, they descend deeper into the shaft, until they find another ledge and cave. This one is bigger, but just as empty of pirate loot or long lost treasure. Elias can see the bottom from this ledge, though. Most of the floor is covered by a pool of water and there are stalagmites sticking up from the floor. There are ledges lining the walls of the cavern, and a tunnel opening on the western side, just above the water. It looks like there is another cave mouth under the water, at one end of the cavern. Piers knows that they are well below sea level now.

Elias learns rather abruptly that the water is only about a foot deep, when he falls the rest of the way down the shaft. He is unharmed, though quite cold and wet. Piers soon joins him in that condition, as they want to check out the underwater opening in one wall. The water at that end of the cavern deepens to about three feet. They swim under and through into another small cave, and again find it to be empty. They then decide to check out the tunnel opening.

The opening indeed leads to a true tunnel. The boys have to crawl on hands and knees, and brace themselves against floor and ceiling, as the tunnel begins to slope quite steeply downhill. They have had the foresight to drag their rope with them, however, as there was still quite a bit of slack left; this helps some.

Suddenly, the tunnel ends. Piers finds himself looking down from the ceiling of a large chamber - a chamber that is obviously not natural. It is square, and there are pillars extending from the ceiling, presumably to a floor, which is covered in water. They try to lower themselves down, but their position is awkward and the tunnel very steep; they both fall into the water. As they hit, they hear something cry out in the darkness.

The boys begin to swim down the length of the tunnel, and very soon find stairs leading up from under the water onto a platform. The platform is tiered; a second set of stairs leads to a higher platform, then another. There are braziers hung on the walls, giving off a green glow. By the dim light, the boys can see the source of the noise they've been hearing. In the center of the topmost platform, there are four pillars surrounding a circular pool. A figure is chained hand and foot, and suspended over the pool. It is face down, as if to be able to see its doom approaching. The boys can just make out that it has a tail. The move closer, very slowly and cautiously. Eventually, they get to a point where they can see three statues, standing in a semi-circle, just beyond the chained figure. The statues' eyes sparkle in the glow from the braziers. They also find two doors, one on each side of the steps leading up to the ceremonial platform -- at least, ceremonial is the impression it gives. 

Now that the two are closer, they can see that the chained figure is a Sahuagin -- or so they assume, based on the stories they've heard. As the boys are debating what to do, the prisoner's cries suddenly become louder and more intense and it begins to struggle against its chains. Suddenly, the water in the pool erupts. A great white head that is all spikes and teeth bursts upward and chomps the prisoner whole, leaving only flapping chains and bits of bloody appendage behind as it disappears under the water with its prize. The boys are frozen for a moment, then Piers screams and bolts, racing down the steps and splashing into the water. He swims out to the rope, then suddenly realizes that he's IN THE WATER. He turns and swims as hard as he can back for the platform, where Elias is waiting, only slightly less panicked. The boys move up to dry ground again and take a moment to recover.

Meanwhile, in Andover, Ethme is getting to know Callinda. Callinda is from Tethyr, a place that is closer to Candlekeep than it is to here, but for all that, is not very close to Candlekeep at all. The two walk out across the fields to a rise overlooking the water, talking about the differences between sorcerors and wizards, and about the nature of magic, and the Weave. Callinda then sits Ethme down and explains the meditation she'd like Ethme to undertake, guiding her a bit, initially. After what seems only a short time to Ethme, she is astonished to see the world take on a fiery glow, as if it were all painted with red and gold. This is the Weave, Callinda explains, and sorcerors can see it because they are connected to it; it's part of them and they're part of it. Ethme realizes that it's grown dark while they sat there. They walk back to Darton's house, finished for the night, though Ethme is eager for the next day's lesson.

Far from the sunny south and deep undersea, the soaking wet and freezing Piers and Elias have recovered enough of their wits to remember the purpose of their mission: treasure. They examine each of the two doors and determine them safe enough to open. Behind them are small rooms, each containing what look like ceremonial items. There are breastplates made from shells, daggers, and small pouches, perhaps of spell components (or perhaps not). Examining the statues closer, they see that the sparkling eyes are actually large stones, smooth, dark, and perfectly round. Elias climbs up and pries the first one out, but drops it, and it rolls across the floor and plunges into the pool. Unwilling to go in after it, the boys content themselves with prying out the other five eyestones. 

As they are returning to the room with their loot, they hear something emerging from the water at the bottom of the platforms. They quickly duck into one of the side rooms. Through a crack in the door, Piers sees two Sahuagin walk up onto the platform from the underwater end. They take note of the fact that the prisoner is gone, and return the way they came, apparently without noticing the rope dangling in the middle of the cavern or the eyeless state of their idols.

Frantic now to get out, the boys rush down to the water's edge and Elias plunges in, swimming hard for the rope. Deep beneath him, the Sahuagin, who have exceptional senses underwater, feel a disturbance above them and turn around, coming back to investigate. They break the surface just as Piers and Elias are both climbing back into the tunnel mouth and hauling the rope up after them. They do not see Piers and Elias, but the disturbance causes them to examine their temple more closely, and soon the boys hear their cries of outrage - at least, they assume it's outrage. 

The boys climb back up the tunnel as rapidly as they can, and then back up the rope to the top of the shaft. Now, however, they are faced with the question of what to do. Darkness has fallen. They are far from home. And the Sahuagin have been alerted to the presence of thieves. Piers elects not to meet them on the open ocean at night, and decides they have a better chance of staying in the shelter of the rock until daylight. They huddle inside, on one of the ledges, until finally they become convinced that the cave mouth is growing smaller and smaller; they move outside, into the bitter wind, to await their fate.

Jenna, oblivious to her friends' danger, is warm and dry and happily at work on her book. So engrossed is she in her task, that for some time she fails to notice the llewyrr sitting and watching her work. She is startled when she does look up, though not alarmed, as the llewyrr are the Good Folk who trained her grandfather. Greetings are exchanged and this one explains that he, or she, has been asked by Sorscha to offer Jenna some instruction. They talk for a short time, and Jenna makes tea, and perhaps gives the llewyrr some wrong ideas about humans and their child-raising practices. The llewyrr tells Jenna that he, or she, had found watching Jenna work quite interesting and would not mind doing so for a while longer. Jenna goes back to work on her book. She finds it initially difficult to concentrate while being watched, but finally, another cup of tea later, she is once again able to lose herself in her work. When she finally finishes the section she's crafting, she looks up and realizes that the llewyrr is standing right next to her. She is again quite startled. They make small talk for another short time, about death and dying, and other things. The llewyrr explains to Jenna how they are of the Mother in a way that even humans aren't. They are part of Her. He, or she, explains that the draka can't "find them" although Aunt Sorscha was able to, easily enough. Jenna doesn't really understand. The llewyrr, whose name is Sephaerian, has no news of Jenna's grandparents. Eventually, Sephaerian decides it is time to begin their lessons.

Back at the cabin, Ethme and Nuala have returned home, and Nuala explains the absence of Jenna and Sorscha. That night in bed, Ethme concentrates and again sees the Weave in her mind's eye. She eventually falls asleep looking forward to the morning.

Session 12 (05-22-04)

Player Game Rating: 8.5

8th Day of Tarsakh – 9th Day of Tarsakh

Oblivious to the boys' plight, the girls happily continue their training. Jenna is put through a series of endurance exercises by Sephaerian and Sorscha, while Ethme continues to get to know Callinda.

To the north, and far from land, the bitter wind eventually drives Elias and Piers back into the cave, though Elias is convinced the cave-mouth is getting smaller and smaller. He consoles himself by wrapping his arms around his knees and rocking. Come morning, the entrance is still large enough for them to get through. They set the boat back into the water and head home. It is an uneventful, though extremely uncomfortable journey. The boys are soaking wet, cold, exhausted, and barely able to see due to a thick fog. The boat is bumped once by something under the water, but nothing accosts, assaults, or otherwise molests them. They arrive in the mid-afternoon to find many of the fisherfolk, several of the Hagensens, and Elias' mother, waiting on the beach. Most are gathered about the remains of a bonfire, though Mercia is off to the side, by herself. The boys gather their loot into the bottom of the boat and make sure it's covered, as they approach the shore.

People gather around, as the boys haul their boat up onto the beach. Jatha, Powell's daughter, runs forward and throws her arms around Piers, thanking the Goddess that he's alright. Piers and Elias make up a brief excuse about having been out to the islands, and are instructed by several of the fisherfolk that they're to report to the Kundry House that evening to tell their tales. After everyone but Hagen and Arna have left, Piers tells Hagen the truth about what happened. Hagen tells the boys that they'll be spending the night on the beach with him, and that they should get some sleep. Elias apologizes to his mother for having worried her, then goes to Aislin to have his hands healed, while Piers go back to the Keep to get a head start on that sleep. Elias learns that the midwives are keeping an eye on Rowyna, Thorvid's wife, who is due to give birth at an time.

Down in Andover, Ethme and Callinda have gone off someplace remote to work on spells. Ethme's task is to learn to focus and concentrate. She is supposed to try to cast while Callinda constantly distracts and annoys her. It's very frustrating. Eventually, the lessons finish, and the two begin just talking. Callinda tells Ethme that there are things she can teach that are not specifically related to spellcasting; things about how to survive in urban environments, for example. They're relevant, however, because sorcerers are prone to travel. Callinda thinks that they should go spend some time in Westphal. She also thinks they should walk there, despite Ethme's protestations that riding horses would be much faster and easier. Unswayed, Callinda decides they will leave for Westphal the following morning - on foot.

Off in the cave, deep in the Daunsannym Forest, Jenna spends the day with Sorscha, working on her book and learning some of the spells and rituals that will be included in it. As evening approaches, they break for dinner, which Jenna prepares. They talk some about the taboos that witches must assume as they learn new secrets, about other witches in far off lands, and about the Mother and the role of the gods in the world. Sorscha briefly describes the Time of Troubles and about how men can become gods. They talk some about free choice and fate. Jenna's head is swimming by the time bedtime arrives and Sorscha jokes that it's good she didn't choose the path of the priestess, who have to think about such matters all the time.

That evening, when the boys go to the beach, they find Hagen, Vangrid, Vangrid's sons and daughter, and Odara all waiting for them. Hagen and Vangrid are of the opinion that the sahuagin priestesses will have the means to find their stolen objects, and that the sahuagin will want to come retrieve them, and perhaps wreak vengeance on the defilers and thieves. Each of the people gathered has chosen to stand with Piers and Elias, should the sahuagin come, and not to tell anybody else about what actually happened, so the boys' reputation will not be ruined. The group is split into pairs and stationed at various points along the shore. Hagen takes Thorvid with him, Vangrid takes Elias, Piers is instructed to go with Arna, and Vidar and Odara remain together. Each pair has a torch. Because the want to be as quiet as possible, the torches will be their signal if anybody should see anything. 

As the pairs wait, they chat quietly amongst themselves. Vangrid wonders how Elias will feel about his little adventure if Arna, Thorvid, or Vidar don't survive the night. He hopes that Elias understands what is being done for him, and remembers the gravity of the choice the Hagensens' made, even if the sahuagin don't come. Arna, on the other hand, is much less grim than her father. She explains to Piers, who was surprised by Jatha's greeting, that many of the girls in the cantrev - some as young as seven or eight, and others of marrying age - have started to look at him differently lately; apparently he's much more popular than he'd realized. She tells him how she and Vidar and Odara are really looking forward to a fight, and how it's probably best for Thorvid to be out from under the midwives' feet anyway. She also mentions how her grandfather seems to have a far different view of death than anybody else she knows. 

Her grandfather, meanwhile, has walked down the hill a little ways away from Thorvid, to have a few quiet moments alone. In other words, he needed to relieve himself. While down there, he sees movement by the river. Unfortunately, the torch is up the hill with his grandson. Casting aside his concern for quiet, Hagen roars and charges at the sahuagin just emerging from the river. 

As the others race towards the sound of his war-cry, Hagen closes with the lead sahuagin - a creature who matches him in size - and takes several bolts while doing so. The two meet in a clash of weapons. Both draw blood. The large sahuagin - who wields a double-ended trident - is followed by four other sahuagin of a more modest size. One of those, however, begins to chant in a guttural tongue and gesture with its hands. It steps forward and touches the large one, who shimmers briefly. 

Thorvid lights one of the torches. Elias is now in bow range and he looses an arrow at the spellcaster, as his companions close in on the group. One of the sahuagin steps onto the shore to flank Hagen, but is stopped abruptly by the arrival of Vidar and Odara, who cut it down in a flurry of blows. The pair then continue on, into the water, going after another of the enemy. Elias continues to shoot, from the bank. Piers races forward towards the large sahuagin, which is still trading blows with Hagen. Piers swings at the enemy's weapon and strikes it a solid blow, but not before the large sahuagin turns and drives the end of the trident into Pier's mid-section. The double-ended trident breaks as Piers drops, forcing the large sahuagin to discard it, which could've very well saved Hagen's life.

Thorvid runs forward and stands over the fallen Piers, waving his torch about him to ward off the sahuagin. Vangrid arraives then and swings his longsword, taking the large sahuagin's head clean off its shoulders. Vidar and Odara leap into the water and attack the spellcaster, while Arna goes after one of the others. Elias drops his bow and races forward, drawing his short sword. The three remaining sahuagin are on the retreat now, moving deeper into the water, away from the humans. One stops to fire an arrow that grazes Elias. Vangrid, in turn, leaps into the water and cuts it down before it can make good its escape. Odara and Vidar move back up onto the bank and draw their bows, firing at the retreating sahuagin, and drop another one. Hagen hurls his axe at the retreating spellcaster, and Elias throws a dagger, but both miss, and she submerges and disappears.

On the bank, Thorvid is trying, and failing, to stop Piers from bleeding to death. Odara runs over to help and is able to stabilize him. Hagen retrieves his axe, then he and Arna carry Piers to his house, while Thorvid runs to fetch a healer. Vidar and Odara leave for their home, while Vangrid hauls the enemy bodies up onto the shore. 

Meanwhile, Elias is thinking about the escaped priestess. He decides to go and check out Pier's boat, which is where the loot has been stowed. As he watches the boat, he sees something moving away from it. He dips one of his arrows into the pouch of draka poison he's been carrying, and fires. A beautiful shot: he hits the Sahuagin square in the back of the head. She drops. As he stealthily approaches the shoreline, he sees something glittering in the surf. It is the stones that were pried from the statues' eyes. Apparently, the stones were all the sahuagin priestess had taken from the boat. Elias starts to drag her back towards Vangrid, but realizes she's not quite dead yet when she starts to make noise. With a grimace, he finishes her off, then drags her to the riverbank.

Vangrid is pleased that the priestess didn't get away after all. He tells Elias that they will say it was a raid. Elias is uncomfortable with the lie, but goes along with it. Vangrid cautions Elias that Regan is too smart too be fooled. He'll know something is wrong. He'll know that it's not right for sahuagin to have launched a raid with so few. After a bit of conversation, Vangrid asks Elias if he wants anything from the bodies. Elias takes a trident and necklace from the spellcaster, then goes to check on Piers. 

Piers awakens to pain, and the sound of distant screaming. Maeve is tending to him, and she tells him that the screaming he hears is Rowyna. Elias and Arna come in and Elias relates the story of the boat and the priestess. They talk about the possibility of selling the swag in Westphal, then Elias goes home. 

The next day, Ethme and Callinda leave for Westphal. It's very, very windy, drizzly, and foggy. As they are trudging along, Callinda suddenly stops. She appears annoyed and disturbed. She tells Ethme that there's going to be some trouble, and starts moving off the road, through the trees. The travel until the trees break, then they climb a small rise. They are looking down on a guard outpost on the edge of the Lairds Mire, and it is under attack. Draka are running everywhere. Callinda has some terse words with somebody unseen - presumably her familiar - then tells Ethme that they have to help here until "her friend is satisfied." They tie Finn to a small tree, then Callinda casts a spell on Ethme and tells her that nobody can see her. She tells Ethme to stick by her side and to make every effort to do nothing.

Session 13 (06-05-04)

Player Game Rating: 9.25

9th Day of Tarsakh – 14th Day of Tarsakh

The scene is the edge of the Laird's Mire. Two watchtowers have been constructed, and workers have begun setting the foundation for a fort. However, their work is interrupted by a draka raid. Guardsmen trumpet their war horns but the wind and weather steal away the sound. Only one very unusual familiar hears the blare and urges its "master" to heed the call... 

Ethme the Invisible and Callinda move down the hill towards the furious battle between several units of draka and a small group of guards who are trying to fend off the Draka long enough for panicked workers to flee to shelter. One of the workmen has other plans however, and charges one of the draka, only to be cut down. He is quickly attended to by one of the guards while several of his craftsman cohorts race to his aid, one of them felling the draka with a shovel.

The injured worker is dragged away to safety by a couple of his companions and several of the other craftsmen flee with them. Meanwhile, the guardsmen in the watchtowers have felled some of the attacking draka, but the draka are not taking this lying down. They respond with tanglefoot bags and poisoned bolts, hitting the captain of the guard with both. The guards, at least, are taken by surprise when a ball of flame erupts, engulfing several of the draka. Most of the the draka turn their attention towards the newly arrived sorceress, who quickly disappears from sight. Some of the draka had seen her casting though, and one responds by hurling a thunderstone, which deafens Ethme. 

Then a new surprise appears out of nowhere - a group of large, larval creatures with conic noses, emanating heat like small furnaces, appears around one of the guard towers. In so doing, they melt off the hardened tanglefoot debris that had entrapped the captain and his moorhound; they then disappear into the earth, burrowing under the tower. All the guardsfolk down their potions of antitoxin. There are only two workmen left at this point - the man wielding a shovel, and another man who is completely panicked and cowering behind one of the towers. 

One of the archers (Brent), fearing the imminent collapse of his perch, leaps out and drops to the ground, drawing his sword. He engages the group of draka that are coming around the flank of the defended ground. He is assisted by the shovel-wielding gentleman and Digger, the moorhound. The other archers are continuing to trade shots with the draka, though their targets are momentarily limited by the smokestick that one of the draka throws. Lorus, the group's medic, rushes to the aid of his Captain and is able to arrest the spread of the poison. More draka explode into flames as Callinda appears again, out amongst the enemy. Another group of fireworms materializes around the second tower, and immediately begin to burrow under it. Atop the tower, the now entangled Jenni forgoes attempting to free herself, and just keeps shooting.

Then the trolls show up. Two of them.

One troll advances on Brent, who was hit with a tanglefoot bag after his leap from the doomed tower. Digger leaps over the entanglement and attacks the troll before it can get to Brent, and thus is caught in the next eruption of flame, which also ignites the troll, and catches the unit of draka that are shooting at Brent. Digger retreats in response to his master's whistle, racing to Captain Trahern's side.

Ethme has moved down towards the battle now, still invisible. She passes quite close to the second troll, as it moves towards the very center of the defenders. The man with the shovel charges at it's back, striking it a mighty blow. This irks the troll, who turns around and grabs the man, ripping him in two. Ethme is stunned and horrified by the man's violent end. This appearance of the troll is the final straw for the remaining workman, who bolts and runs for the road. The captain roars in rage and swings two-handed at the troll with his bastard sword. Both blows land, but the troll appears to shrug them off, and returns the favor two blows and a savage bite that very nearly kill Trahern on his feet. Ethme attempts to cast a spell at the troll, but in her deafened state, she is unable to get the words right. Jenni's entanglement wears off just in time for her to look down from the tower and see the troll savage her captain. She responds with two brilliant shots: one through its eye, and another through its neck. Ethme makes another attempt to cast, this time a successful one. Gouts of flame shoot from her hands and hit the reeling troll, who turns towards her. She is now visible. 

Lorus has now reached Brent's side, racing over there in response to Jenni's shouts that Brent's in trouble. Sadly, he arrives just in time to see the smoldering troll rip his companion in two, showering him in Brent's blood. He is shocked and horrified. He backs away from the troll, then turns and flees. As he rounds the corner, he sees the captain locked in combat with another troll, which has two of Jenni's arrows protruding from its head, and a young red-headed girl, apparently standing and watching the battle. He races over to Ethme, placing himself between her and the draka who are now moving around the tower. 

On the other side of Jenni's tower, Horben continues to trade shots with the draka, using the tower for cover. The draka begin to close in on him. In response, he starts to retreat and takes a shot at the troll that Trahern is fighting. Lorus also draws his bow now and begins shooting at the troll. 

Meanwhile, several draka and one of the fireworms are trying to lock down on Callinda's location and she has to leap for cover, at one point, as some of them seem to be waiting for her to become visible - which happens whenever she casts an offensive spell. The tower that Brent was in suddenly keels over and collapses. 

Captain Trahern, who is in a very bad way, now also sees Ethme behind the troll. As the troll turns towards her, he strikes it again, drawing its attention back to him. The troll strikes him again, and he drops at its feet. Unable to contain himself any longer, Digger attacks the troll and is felled, next to his master. The troll steps over him and enters the tower, looking for the archer that shot it in the eye. She leaps off the tower and tries to put some distance between herself and the various enemies, as her strength in combat is the longbow. Horben has abandoned his bow and drawn his longsword, hoping to cut his way to his captain's side. Ethme races over to the fallen captain and is able to stop his bleeding. Then the second tower collapses, falling on the half-blind troll. 

Draka are closing in from all sides now. Another ball of flame erupts, dropping several more draka, and hitting the remain troll, but still not dropping it. One of the draka, apparently one of the leaders, drops Horben, then moves in to strike the final blow at the unconscious Captain Trahern, who practically dies in Ethme's arms. Then Callinda is there, stabbing at the draka leader, but missing. Lorus, trapped outside the circle of draka, throws his healing kit to Ethme, hoping she'll be able to use it on Horben. Jenni is still circling, shooting at draka. Then the first troll appears around one of the fallen towers, closing in on the group. Callinda intercepts it and suggests that, all burnt up as it is, it might enjoy taking a nice swim across the entire moor. It thinks this is a splendid idea and, much to the exasperation of its draka commander, races off to do so.

The draka leader hits Ethme and she falls to the ground. Then the fireworms all burst from the ground behind the embattled group, and begin moving forward, apparently intent upon attacking both friend and foe. The draka leader decides it might be a prudent time to retreat, now that their task is accomplished. Lorus runs in and picks up Ethme. The remaining two draka break and run. Several shots are fired at Callinda, and one of the draka, the summoner of the worms, apparently commands the fireworms to focus their attention on her. She yells out to Lorus to get Ethme out of here, then runs over to where she can get a line of sight on the two fleeing draka, taking them both out with another fireball. The summoner, meanwhile, decides this might be the opportune moment for his escape. 

Lorus carries Ethme to a safe distance then applies first aid and is able to stabilize her, while Jenni and Callinda lead the fireworms around the battlefield, firing arrows and spells at them, until they eventually all disappear. 

Ethme wakes up in the best inn in Westphal, where she is doted on by Callinda for the next several days. 

Meanwhile, safe and warm in their cave, Jenna and Sorcha are confused by Betha's strange agitation on the ninth day of Tarsakh. She is nervous and restless and simply cannot be consoled for several hours, then she eventually calms down. During the following days Jenna learns to make tanglefoot bags and smokesticks and assorted tricks and charms. 

Up north, Piers is recovering at Hagen's home, being tortured daily by the sight of the dawn light streaming through Saya's sheer nightdress. People are telling the tale of the sahuagin attack, and Piers hears Aramana tell it so many times to her clients that he can eventually repeat it word for word, even with her inflections. Eventually he is well enough to get up and about, and he and Elias decide to head to Caer Westphal with their loot. 

They leave on the fourteenth, taking two horses from the laird's stable. This time Elias tells his mother where he's going. They ride straight through Harloch, wanting to make it to Westphal before nightfall. As late afternoon approaches, a fog settles over the land, and it becomes difficult to see for any distance. As they ride along the road, the begin to note a disturbing odor in the air - that of something dead. It grows stronger as they advance, and shortly they seem what looks like a man standing against a tree. They call out, but receive no answer. As they cautiously approach, they see that the man is dead and has been speared to the tree by a blow that no draka could have struck. He wear's the liver of the Westphal guard, and a symbol has been painted on his breastplate.

As Elias peers into the fog towards the river, he sees another body adrift in the water, being carried down to the sea. Then Piers hears the sounds of weapons clashing and somebody yelling. They gallop towards the sounds, arriving in time to see a massive figure in what appears to be a horned helm, swinging a bastard sword at another man. As they gallop closer, they see that the man who has just been savagely cut in two was another Westphal guard... and that the horns are no helm at all. The man is enormous. He has black skin - truly black skin, like coal, as opposed to like Ibrahim's skin. His eyes are also black, and two large curved horns protrude from the sides of his head, not unlike ram's horns. He is fully armored and wielding a bastard sword. He turns towards the sound of the galloping horses just as Piers and Elias pull up to an abrupt stop. The three eye each other for a moment, then the giant yells, "Come on. What are you, cowards?" Elias and Piers raise crossbows and shoot at him, but both shots miss. "Apparently so!" bellows the warrior, and he starts to laugh.  The boys kick their horses into a gallop, racing around the giant, back towards the road. As they run, he yells out, "That's it, run! Tell them this road is ours!" They gallop the rest of the way to Westphal.

Session 14 (06-19-04)

Player Game Rating: 7.75

14th Day of Tarsakh – 15th Day of Tarsakh

Piers and Elias get to Westphal and are sent by a guard to the High Captain, to tell their tale. They meet High Captain Lennis Konnard and convince him of the truth of their story by successfully describing the body they saw speared to the tree; their description matches one of the members of the patrol, which is late in returning to Westphal. The Captain will be forming a hunting party to leave at dawn, and he wants the boys to go with him. He also anticipates bringing Ibrahim along.

Once they are dismissed, they go to the Sojourn Inn, which Elias remembers from his long ago trip to Westphal with Iden. As Elias is securing bread and board for himself, Piers, and the horses, Piers notices something hanging from the top of Caer Westphal. The two walk back towards the keep until Elias can make out that the hanging thing is the body of a winged draka. The two conclude that this must mean Edrik and company are back. They bed down their horses, stow their gear, and then go in search of Edrik in the place he's most likely to be found - a tavern. 

Meanwhile, Ethme is fully recovered from her ordeal and able to get out of bed. She talks to the chambermaid briefly and discovers that she and Callinda are the subject of much talk in Westphal. She goes and finds Callinda and learns of the killing of the winged draka. Callinda was thinking about going out to try to get a glimpse of the heroes. Apparently there's a particular tavern they've been frequenting. She and Ethme decide to head out, despite their newfound notoriety. 

Piers and Elias go looking for Edrik in two different taverns. One of them is obviously the guards' favored watering hole. The mood inside is somber; the Westphal guard has lost seven of its members within a tenday (although Elias and Piers have not learned of all the losses yet). There are mugs raised several times to "Lane" and to "Trahern." They go over to the bar and get an ale and sit quietly. While they are drinking, a young man comes in and is met with cries of "Lorus" and several raised mugs. The new arrival goes and joins a young woman sitting at the back of the room. Another guard enters and notices Piers and Elias. He calls out to the room that these are the two that brought word of Lane. Piers raises another toast to Lane, and tells the tale of their encounter on the road (during which one person, with a rather loud whisper, expresses surprise that both Elias and Piers are boys). They learn that a veteran guardsman at the bar is named Sceotend and they introduce themselves. When the bartender overhears the introductions, he realizes he's heard Piers' name before. After a moment of though, he says, "You're the one what sank Casnar's boat!" Piers quickly averts the chiding by making another strategically timed toast to Lane. 

Now engaged in the general conversation in the room, Piers and Elias learn of the battle at the mire, and also that it was Edrik and his friends that brought the winged draka to Westphal. They've apparently been making a spectacle of themselves at Brianna's Tankard - the tavern right across the street from the Sojourn. At that point, Elias takes note of a man getting up and leaving in as discreet a manner as possible. 

Meanwhile, Ethme and Callinda are sitting in Brianna's Tankard, having a drink, when Edrik and Anhagan walk in. Edrik sees Ethme, but his attention is immediately diverted by Callinda. He walks over and wrangles an introduction for himself, first getting prompted on Ethme's name by Anhagan. As Edrik and Anhagen are about to take seats, Ethme spots Elias and Piers coming in the door. She yells out "Elias!" (almost directly into Edrik's ear) and launches herself across the room and into his arms. Piers goes over to the bar to gather ales for the three of them, and is soon joined by Elias and Ethme, who gives him a big hug as well. As the three are sitting at the bar, Elias notices the discreet man from the guardsman's tavern, apparently watching Edrik. Piers asks Ethme to go over and quietly let Edrik know that he seems to be being followed. She does so. Edrik stands up to have a look at the man, who promptly leaves. 

Ethme joins Piers and Elias at the bar again, and the three are telling their various tales, when Anhagan comes over to get an ale. They strike up a conversation with him that leads into some interesting tangents, including one in which he speaks of the creator races. They tell him about the Sahuagin temple. Their tale is overheard by a woman sitting at the bar next to Elias. She leans over and tells him that she might be interested in purchasing some of these items. Her name is Cordelia. She, Piers, Elias, and Ethme go back to the boys' room to see the goods. Callinda is wrapped up in conversation with Edrik. And Anhagan, having declined to go with the group, is drinking alone. 

Down in the Daunsannym Forest, Jenna spends the day working on some of the crafts she's learning. She successfully makes a smokestick (after several failures) and a tanglefoot bag, which Sorscha tells her could bring several gold pieces as some markets. She also tells her to pack up, as they will be leaving on a journey the next morning.

On the 15th morning of Tarsakh, Jenna, Betha, and Sorscha leave their cave. It's overcast. The walk north, across the Southern Weald, towards the Andover Cliffs, otherwise known as the Beast's Back. On the way, they find some of the remains of old battles, and Jenna sees an ogre's skull. Betha has a grand time racing across the open hills of the Weald, though Jenna finds all the open space a little unnerving at first. Eventually, they turn towards the northwest, veering away from the Beast's Back and towards the Kionfirryn Forest. Upon entering the forest, Jenna can tell that it's very, very old. It has a pristine, primeval feel to it. They walk until they come to the ruins of an old village. Sorscha tells Jenna that this was a gnoll village. She asks Jenna what she can tell about those who lived here, from the ruins of the village, and speaks a bit of the things she has learned from her study of it. She mentions specifically that the gnolls had shaman, and that they were adept healers. She says that they will be staying in the village that night.

Session 15 (07-03-04) 

Player Game Rating: 8.25

14th Day of Tarsakh -- 16th Day of Tarsakh

Piers, Elias, Ethme and Cordelia go to the boys room and barter over the Sahuagin loot. They reach an arrangement of 200 gold for everything except the black pearls (which are not shown). The boys carry the goods to Cordelia's inn at her request, leaving the pearls with Ethme for safekeeping. They collect their pay and are standing in the entryway of the Westmere House when Ethme comes in; they hadn't realized she and Cordelia were staying in the same place.

Ethme and the lads retire to Ethme's room, which is far larger, more lavish, and more sumptuously decorated than anything that either of the boys have ever seen before. Shrewdly, they count the gold and there are indeed 200 pieces of it; each piece is stamped with the words "City of Splendors" on one side. The chambermaid brings some wood for the fire. After she leaves, Piers and Elias tell Ethme some more about the Sahuagin.

They stay in her room that night, and enjoy a most comfortable rest... until everybody is awakened by the sounds of Callinda and, presumably, Edrik, having a romp in the adjacent room.

The next morning, Piers and Elias have to leave to meet Captain Konnard. Ethme wants to go along but lacks a horse, and trousers. When Piers and Elias arrive at the barracks, they find Captain Konnard, Ibrahim, Sir Tedmund, Alroy, Lorus, and two other guardsmen all waiting. Most of the men are mounted, though one guard is driving a wagon.

The group heads out to collect their dead and investigate the scene where the conflict with the horned man occurred. Piers directs the men to the various sites of the battle. Captain Konnard dismounts and goes to investigate the area on foot, with Elias following behind. They find Lane's hand-and-a-half sword, as well as the remains of the fourth guardsman. They do not find Jared - the body that Elias saw in the river. Ibrahim is able to identify the mark on Lane's breastplate as draconic, and says it is a territorial marker. It roughly translates as "here be dragons." They also see that Lane's face has been burned, as if with acid. On the way back to Westphal, Piers mentions to Ibrahim that there is something he and Elias would like to discuss with him.

When the group arrives back, Captain Konnard tells Lorus to take some men and try to find Jared's body. Ethme is waiting at the gate for them, eating poppyseed cake and drinking root beer that a nice lady had given her.  Piers swings her up onto his horse with him, so she can ride along.

Ibrahim indicates that the three of them should accompany him to Caer Westphal. After having their horses taken for them at the stables, Ibrahim leads them to his private quarters. There they are served strong, hot coffee, which they had never experienced before. Ibrahim asks after the health of those in Llandrian, and in turn tells the trio some news of his brother, who lives in Calimshan. After that, the group gets down to business. Ibrahim asks for a more detailed description of the horned man. After hearing the murderer described, he reveals that he believes a black dragon is involved, and he lays out several frightening possibilities. For one, the man may actually have been a black dragon in human form. For another, he may be the offspring of a dragon and a human, or some other race. It sounds to him like the armor that Piers and Elias describe may have been made of metallic dragon-hide.

After that, Piers and Elias tell him a bit of the story of Eyetooth Rock and show him the black pearls. Piers offers them to Ibrahim as a gift. The mage takes two but gives the rest back. He tells them that the size of the pearls may make them difficult to sell, but it is possible. A black pearl of normal size might be worth about 500 gold. Ibrahim thinks they should be able to get just as much for these enormous specimens from a wizard who would use them in spellcasting. In that instance, the size of the pearls would be an asset. They might even be worth more to the right buyer.

Ibrahim offers to keep the rest of the pearls overnight to "cleanse" them, so that the Sahuagin can't track them. He also thinks the temple was a temple to all three of the Sahuagin gods, but does not explain who or what those three gods are.

Eventually, the trio part company with Ibrahim, and ponder what to do for the rest of the day. Ethme is still quite set on getting some trousers. She goes to see Callinda, who is still bleary-eyed and only partially awake. Callinda gives her some money, and she is able to purchase pants and a shirt from an apparently far-sighted old seamstress, who mistakes Elias for a girl. Then they go exploring the marketplace. Ethme is looking for gifts for people. As they are moving from stall to stall, Elias sees a lithe figure leap from one rooftop to another, then peek over the rooftop, down at the market. They start walking, trying to determine if the figure is following them. It is. Ethme catches the briefest glimpse of honey-colored hair, as the figure leaps off a roof and disappears into an alley. She thinks it is the same color hair that her chambermaid has.

Far to the west, Jenna and Sorscha are making camp in the gnoll village. Sorscha instructs Jenna to make them some dinner, which she does, while Sorscha brews up a concoction of her own. After the two have eaten, she holds out her bowl to Jenna and instructs her to drink. Jenna does. She is sitting cross-legged, at Sorscha's feet.  Sorscha is talking quietly to her and stroking her hair, as she drinks. It is not long before the world begins to spin. Jenna tries to speak to her aunt, but finds that she can't say anything. Nor can she make any movement beyond sort of tilting herself sideways, so she is leaning on Sorscha's legs. The world is spinning faster and faster, and seasons are flashing by her. After several spring thaws and leaf falls have passed by, the world slows and eventually stills. She is still seated, as she was, but now the village is alive. There are tall, tall creatures walking about. They are dog-like, but they walk upright and have hands instead of front paws. They are fierce looking beings, painted and pierced and very feral looking. The males are all armed. There are females among them though, and also children - or pups. She sees one particularly rambunctious pup who keeps charging at the males and attacking their legs. He keeps getting cuffed on the head and knocked away for his efforts, and the adults all make a rasping, high-pitched sound -- maybe like they are laughing. None of them seem to see her.

She gets up and goes over towards the shaman's hut, tentatively reaching out to touch the fabric. Her hand passes right through it. Feeling a little more bold, she steps through the tent, inside. The shaman is in there. He looks just as a fierce as the males outside, but he also looks very old. There is a grizzled quality to his face, like an old dog, and his stripes have faded till they have nearly disappeared. He keeps drawing on the ground, then scratching out his work, only to start again. Jenna suspects he is trying some sort of divination, but he doesn't seem to be liking the answers. She tries to move to where she can see the drawings from his angle, and as she moves, he suddenly looks over at her. She freezes in place, and after a moment, he goes back to what he was doing. She watches him for a while longer, and also examines the tent. Then he gets up and goes over to one side of the tent. He grabs at something, and Jenna sees that he has snared a mouse in one hand. He pops the wiggling little thing into his mouth and chews it up and swallows it. Then he grabs some other things off a shelf and returns to the center of the hut with them. He makes up a paste or gruel of some sort, and eats it. Jenna recognizes the signs of a trance that soon follow. He begins drawing again, and now she moves again, cautiously, trying to get right next to him so she can see what he's drawing. This time, his hackles raise and he turns his head and looks right at her, and there is no doubt that he sees her. He straightens up. Jenna takes a step back, and lowers her head, looking at the ground.

The shaman regards her for a moment, then seems to accept the gesture of submission. He says, "You bring men here?" She hurriedly shakes her head no, glancing up at him now without actually looking him in the eye.  The two then begin attempting to converse, but it is mostly in sign language as the shaman's grasp of the trade tongue is limited. Jenna tries to draw, at one point, but is frustrated by her inability to interact with the corporeal world. This gets a laugh from the shaman (she thinks). He has a raven feather, which Jenna associates with Sorscha, but it's not enough for her to figure out what he's getting at. He then shows her an old tooth, wrapped in a bit of leather. He seems to be trying to get across that this tooth was passed down to him, and he has nobody to pass it on to. He buries the tooth in the center of the hut. Jenna thanks him. Then he raises his head as if he hears or senses something. His expression is kind of like the one that Seward gets when Iden is going someplace without him - as if he's sad. He picks up a large, spiked staff and steps out of the tent.  Jenna follows him out, passing through the fabric again.

The shaman calls out to the others, and a huge male comes forward. He is all battle-scarred and painted up. The shaman goes over towards the fire-pit at the center of the village and begins swinging the club around his head. As he does so, a wall of stone shards forms, spinning in the air around him. Then men burst from the trees, charging into the village with weapons drawn. Jenna sees one man -- going too fast to stop -- run right into the wall of stone shards and the whole front of him is torn open. She sees another charging towards the large male, apparently the war chief, who impales him with his spear. Horrified, Jenna can't tear her eyes away from the scene unfolding before her. She takes a step back, so she is standing through the tent wall, and watches as Hagen -- much younger and more blonde than the Hagen of today -- comes charging out of the woods and swings his greataxe at the war chief, splitting his chest open. She watches as several bowmen shoot down the pup as it tries to flee into the woods. Then she sees the wall of stone shrapnel fall away, allowing High Laird Pwylloch himself to close with the shaman and bring his longsword to bear. As the shaman starts to fall, Jenna feels the world begin to spin again. She tries to fight the sensation, and hold herself in place, but she can't control it. She starts running towards the shaman, calling out that she'll remember him, as the world goes dark.

When Jenna opens her eyes, she is again sitting in the gnoll village, this time leaning on Sorscha's legs. She gets up, though her legs are wobbly underneath her, and staggers over to the shaman's hut. She digs until she finds the tooth, its wrapping all but rotted away now, and shows it to Sorscha. She tells her aunt the story of what she saw, and the two talk for a while about gnolls, and the old times, and about respect. Jenna learns that Sorscha had known the shaman when he lived and that his name was Kruk Char.  She also learns some things about her great-grandparents and how they played an important role in unifying the clans of Snowdown. Eventually, Jenna says that she needs to sleep.

The next morning  Jenna and Sorscha are pack up their gear and head south again. As they cross the Southern Weald, Jenna brings up a topic that has been troubling her for a while - Piers' trial and the compensation he has to pay to the Eideard family. Sorscha explains much about the traditions of the island and goes into some of the historical considerations that probably went into Regan and Iden's decision.  Sorscha also expresses some of her own unfavorable opinions of the Eideard clan, and talks about actions and how we don't always get to choose the consequences. Jenna feels better after the talk, and races off to romp with Betha.

Session 16 (07-31-04) 

Player Game Rating: N/A

Skirmish Session.

Session 17 (08-28-04) 

Player Game Rating: 7.5  

15th Day of Tarsakh -- 17th Day of Tarsakh

Piers prepares for his dinner engagement with Cordelia, but when he gets to her room, there is no answer. He ends up joining Ethme and Elias at Brianna's Tankard for dinner and drinks. The food is not very good, and it's pretty quiet, so early in the evening. Eventually, the pace picks up however. Some minstrels start playing, and Ethme prevails upon Elias to dance with her. They get a number of other patrons dancing as well. Elias also notices a rather large woman with honey-colored hair, like the hair they had seen on their shadow, earlier in the day.

Piers overhears a man make a comment to another, to the effect that 'he wishes it was him that foreign lass had been looking for.' He takes his leave of his companions and goes back to the Westmere House and strikes up a conversation with the honey-haired young woman working at the desk, Maggie (short for Magnolia). She is flattered by his attention, and invites him into the back room for tea, where she rudely snaps at her sister, Lily, to bring another cup for their guest. Over the course of the conversation, Piers discovers that Cordelia was traveling with a large, dark-haired man, who has not been seen for several days, and that Maggie is about as smart as a stick. He makes a couple of cutting remarks, for Lily's benefit, which go right over Maggie's head; but he is rewarded by the sound of a choked laugh from the other room. Eventually, he takes his leave and goes to rejoin Ethme and Elias, but runs into Callinda in the street. She is looking for Ethme, and seems very harried. She runs off towards Brianna's Tankard without waiting for Piers. 

Inside the Tankard, Callinda spots Ethme and asks if she might speak to her outside. The ladies leave, passing Piers on this way in. Outside, Callinda explains that Edrik and his friends have been asked to go deal with the Horned Man, and she is going with them. She tells Ethme that she can escort her back to Andover first, but Ethme opts to stay in Westphal instead. The two embrace, and Callinda retires to her room at the Westmere House, after telling Ethme that the group will be leaving the following afternoon. Ethme goes back inside to continue racing Elias down the road to Drunken Oblivion.

The three talk some, then Piers decides to turn in. As he is passing Cordelia's room, he gives a knock, and is surprised to hear her answer. She comes to the door, apparently not in an entirely friendly mood, and says that she had thought they were to have dinner that night. Piers explains that he had been there, and it turns out that they simply missed each other. Piers suggests a nightcap, and says that he can back within a half an hour with a bottle of fine wine or mead. Cordelia turns over an hourglass on her night-stand. Racing the time, Piers runs back to the Tankard and buys a jug of the best wine they have, and two clean mugs, and runs it back to the Westmere House. He makes it in time. He and Cordelia chat, and he learns a bit more about her business, and also that the large man's name is Renaldo, and that his job is to be a 'deterrent.' As the two talk, it comes out that Piers knows the heroes who are going off after the Horned Man, and Cordelia asks if he might be able to arrange an introduction. He thinks he can, although he makes no guarantees. Eventually, sadly, it is time for Piers to leave. He takes with him, however, the  suggestion from Cordelia that perhaps next time his offer to rub her tired feet will be accepted.

Meanwhile, Elias and Ethme are talking about magic. She tells him about having seen the Weave. Eventually, however, it becomes apparent that Elias has won the race. He manages to get a barely mobile Ethme back to the Westmere House, although he's not able to get her up the stairs on the first try. After Ethme is more or less safely tucked away in her room, Elias goes back to Brianna's Tankard and sits at a table, drinking and watching people. He is interrupted by a voice behind him saying, "How like your uncle you are." It's Anhagen, who joins him. They converse a bit about the special nature that Elias and Edrik share, and also some about the Sword Coast - specifically a place called Amn. Anhagen speaks of the slave trade, which is legal in Amn, and warns that the group should be careful should they ever go there - specifically the girls. Ethme, in particular, would bring a very high price on some markets.

On this evening, days to the south, Jenna and Sorcha have made it back to the cave. The next morning, Sorcha says she has something for Jenna to see, and leads her off into the woods. They walk for a long time, until eventually they get to a high spot, overlooking the forest.  They sit on rocks and Sorsha smokes, while Jenna strokes the rock spirit she is resting on and waits for Sorscha to reveal the secret. After a while, Sorsha points out what appears to be a bird, flying high in the sky.  As it approaches, Jenna realizes that it's not as high as it seemed and is, in fact, very, very large. Sorsha seems more excited than usual; she watches the bird with anticipation in her face. As it comes in for a landing, it is revealed to be a hawk the size of a horse, with two woman riding on its back. It lands, and then shrinks in size until it only a slightly larger than normal hawk, and the two women are standing on the ground. One is a tall, striking woman, apparently of Northlander heritage, with long, golden hair. The other is a smaller, rounder, and darker woman, very motherly in demeanor. Sorscha and the tall woman embrace warmly, for several minutes, and then Sorcha introduces the woman as her daughter, Thianne. The shorter woman is named Yanna. They have come to help prepare for Jenna's initiation, which is to take place in a tenday's time. 

There is some initial excitement when Yanna's companion, a fox, leaps out of her backpack and is immediately set upon by the savage Betha. The two are separated with no undue harm to the fox however, and everybody returns to the cave and sets to work. There is not a lot of conversation, although Thianne has a tendency to suddenly go off on tangents and have to talk about a particular subject until she's exhausted it. She mentions at one point that she's met a new man, and Jenna is unable to hide her dismay that the man is a knight.

The next day, Yanna and Thianne go off into the forest to gather herbs, and Jenna and Sorcha chat a little bit about witches, and about Thianne's taste in men. Jenna learns that Sorcha's son's name is Aramon. She also learns that her initiation will involve some sort of trial, and that it will be difficult, but Sorscha has total faith in her.

Segue...

Sephaerian walks through an ancient and pristine glade, somewhere deep in the forest. He leans forward and reverently kisses the bark of an enormous tree, and whispers that the coven of the Ffolk gathers to welcome a new member into its ranks. The tree is chagrined that the Ffolk do this so often - it has only been forty years since the last one -  but he agrees to attend, and says he best get started. Then he begins to uproot.

Session 18 (09-11-04) 

Player Game Rating: 7.25  

16th Day of Tarsakh -- 19th Day of Tarsakh

After a night of being violently ill, Elias wakes up surprisingly clear-headed. Ethme...not so much. Apparently Anhagen had given Elias a concoction of his own devising - an Edrik Special - to purge the body of the excessive alcohol. The group gathers and heads up to the keep to say farewell to Edrik, Callinda, and company. They find that Edrik's group has been joined by a druid named Mariam. She is a very small, Ffolk woman, with an equally small owl perched on her shoulder.

After the group has seen  their elders off, they head down to the docks and inquire into shipping schedules and the best ways to get to the Sword Coast. They also find the third tavern in Westphal - Harridan's Rest.

Time passes, and the next night, Piers goes in search of Cordelia. He runs into Lily instead, who confides in him that Cordelia "flew away." He attempts to get Lily to agree to meet with him to talk about things she knows about the town, but she doesn't take the suggestion well and runs away.

Elias, in the meantime, has taken up the habit of playing fidchel with the guards down at Humble Hill. On the 18th, Piers and Ethme are with him there; the group learns that a patrol has reported that the Dweller's Wood is on fire. A garrison is being sent north - 50 soldiers to Harloch, and 50 to Llandrian. The group makes ready to accompany the garrison, as do a number of other citizens, taking advantage of the opportunity for an armed escort north. Despite the coming darkness, there is no time to lose, and they set out immediately. The troops are under the command of Sirs Nerian and Tedmund.

The company reaches Harloch in the middle of the night. The Laird is much distressed by the sudden appearance of so many troops, and willingly takes the advice of the knights on how best to deploy the new guards. The town itself has been locked down. Most people have left their homes and gathered in the keep. In the distance, the horizon glows. Piers takes the opportunity to find Marcus and chat for a bit. During the conversation, Marcus tells Piers and ancient legend of the Fianna - Ffolk who were chosen by the Mother to be her warriors.

After some rest, the company is split into two, and 50 guardsmen and women, along with Ethme, Elias, and Piers, follow Sir Nerian on to Llandrian. They are met just outside the village by Riordan. They all continue on to the keep, where Torin is also--as his brother was--surprised by the sudden onslaught of reinforcements, but immediately goes about organizing them as he sees fit. He is soon joined by Vangrid. He also speaks briefly with Elias, learning that both Elias and his brother are well, and tells Elias to go and find his mother.

Elias finds his mother standing at a window, watching the hustle and bustle in the courtyard. She is pleased to hear that he and Piers and the girls, as well as her other son, are all well. Elias, Piers and Ethme then set out for the Tremayne household, only to find it empty. They go to Garhalt's, where Ethme learns from her sleepy uncle that her mother is at Liam's. They go to Liam's, but are reluctant to knock and wake a second household, now that they at least know where Aislin is. They are surprised by Bran, who confirms that Aislin is indeed inside, and that Iden has left for the Dweller's Wood. The three return to Ethme's house and turn in for the night.

Segue...

Bran watches his cousins walk away, then something seems to catch his attention. He looks up at the moon, and his expression changes from wary, to attentive, to serene. He walks off into the forest. In Harloch, Marcus is sitting on a wall looking up at the moon. Suddenly, his face splits into a broad grin. He leaps down off the wall and races out of the cantrev, into the woods. In Westphal, Lily slips out a window, her pack secured to her back. She shimmies down a drainpipe and heads for the city walls. In Andover, Gavin stands over his father's sleeping  form. He traces his fingers over the contours of Darton's face, then turns and walks out of the cabin. As he looks up towards the moon he gasps, and whispers under his breath, "I can see it." Then he walks out the gate, and towards the woods.

...

The next morning,  Piers goes to speak to Regan about the fact that he has the money for the Eideard's. Regan tells him he has to go give it to them himself. He and Elias go to do just that, and find Riddock home alone. The learn that Torin has disappeared. It seems as if he just got up and walked out, although he had not been able to walk on his own the day before. The boys look around for a bit, but find no clues.

Meanwhile, Ethme is doing some chores about the house when her mother comes home. Aislin is surprised to find Ethme home. Ethme assures her mother that both she and her sister are well, and explains very briefly how they came to be separated. She learns that Bran is missing. The whole village has turned out looking for the missing men, though , of course, most of the concern is for Young Torin.

Elias and Piers are out in the woods, when they see a group of people coming towards them. It's Liam, Duana, Corwin, and Garhalt, and with them are Bran and Torin. The group is remarkably subdued; they all seem quite tense about something. Elias approaches the group, and they all greet him, including Torin. They all walk back to Garhalt's, as Bran is anxious to be reunited with his wife. From there, Garhalt, Liam, Aislin, Piers, and Elias escort Torin home. Torin's mother is greatly relieved to see him safely home again, but then astonished when he returns her embrace and greets her. His father is equally astounded and moved and they all embrace for some time. Garhalt then tells them that Torin has a story to tell them, and maybe they should take him inside and hear it. The family goes inside. Elias and Piers then learn, as Garhalt and Liam tell their sister the tale, that the Mother spoke to Bran and Torin. They are Fianna now. Garhalt, who is quite distraught, also says that they are "no longer alone with themselves" and that there is a risk of them going feral. Liam tells him he just has to deal with it.

Down in the Daunsannym Forest, Jenna and the witches have been working for days, preparing  for Jenna's initiation.  On the night of the 19th, the witches are all unusually testy and cranky. Finally, Yanna says that they might as well just say it out loud - there's something wrong. Jenna learns that the spirits are being particularly loud this night. They are gossiping and on edge about something, and that after her initiation, she'll be able to hear them too.  She is also educated as to the rather special relationship that the druids and the witches of the islands have. There is  an unspoken agreement between them - a matter of respect - the precludes the witches from delving into certain matters that are judged to be strictly the affairs of druids. It's a pretty hard arrangement to take, given the curious nature of witches, and Jenna's not particularly taken with the idea.  Eventually, Jenna can't stand the atmosphere in the cave anymore, and goes outside to sit atop it, on her favorite rock. Becka joins her, promptly sprawling out and falling asleep. She is sitting there for some time, looking out into the darkened forest, when she suddenly realizes that  a pair of golden eyes are staring back at her. What's unusual about this is that she at first can't make out the shape behind the eyes. Only after focusing for some time does she eventually realize that she is looking at a large wolf of a black so dark that she initially couldn't tell where it ended and the night began. The other odd thing about it is that Betha doesn't seem to know or care that there's a wolf so close. It turns and fades back into the darkness. Jenna goes down to the cave mouth and asks Sorscha to accompany her. She takes Sorcha out to the spot where the wolf was and describes what she saw. Sorscha converses with her raven briefly, then declares, "Things are worse than we thought. Roan is on the island." She takes  Jenna back into the cave.

Segue...

Callinda, Anhagen, and Edrik are examining the tunnels where they had defeated the winged draka. The lair has been completely abandoned. Once the three are gathered again, Edrik removes a locket from his neck and opens  it. Wisps of shadow rise from it and form a gossamer door. He opens the door and Saura and Miriam step out, both looking quite unhappy. The group makes camp.

Session 19 (10-09-04) 

Player Game Rating: 8.75 

(In this session, the players take on the roles of Edrik, Callinda, Saura, and Anhagan to play through their showdown with the Horned Man...)

The story picks up with Edrik and Anhagen tracking a group of draka northwards, towards the Northern Wield - disturbingly close to Llandrian. Anhagen has detected the presence of human tracks amongst the draka, and the tracks of another creature that he can't identify. Eventually, the tracks lead into a small pass between cliff-faces, forming a natural gauntlet. The men judge that this is the best place they've seen so far for the enemy to stage an ambush for their trackers; they think they're in there. The women and Spot are released from their shadow prison and they all discuss the situation. Miriam's small owl is sent out to fly over the area, but reports nothing of note. The group decides that they will prepare spells and the more stealth-oriented members of the team will move cautiously forward, but if nothing happens when the spells start wearing off, then the group will retreat to rest and devise a new plan. Spells are cast. Anhagen takes to the air, while Edrik and Callinda begin to sneak forward. Saura and Miriam remain at the mouth of the pass, waiting till they are needed. Saura has cast a spell on Anhagen, Edrik, and Callinda that allows her to monitor their position and condition at all times.

As Edrik and Callinda are moving down the length of the pass, Edrik suddenly steps on something. He leaps aside as a cloud of yellow smoke plumes up from the spot where he stepped. Then a lot happens at once. The illusions that masked the true terrain give way, and Edrik and Callinda see that they are in a cul-de-sac. Crossbow bolts, thunderstones and tanglefoot bags fly out from the very walls themselves! Elias is hit by a bag, and Callinda is struck by several crossbow bolts. A fiendish direwolf appears in a flash right next to Callinda, but is unable to attack her as she is warded against evil. Then Edrik is struck by two daggers, thrown with such force that they knock him into the wall. He draws darkness over the whole area, then retreats up onto the low cliff walls and hides. Anhagen begins to call lightning.

Callinda casts Mirror Image on herself as another summoned monster appears, this one equally ineffective against her wards.  Saura communicates aloud that Edrik and Callinda are wounded, and Miriam begins running forward towards Callinda. Saura moves forward behind her, but pauses to throw a Wind Wall up, ringing the central area of the dead-end, in an effort to keep the draka from shooting at Callinda. As she does so, she see the Horned Man run across the pass from one of the cave mouths. Miriam never sees him. He swirls his double-bladed sword and slices her into pieces, cutting her head clean off. Saura yells for Callinda to run past her, and Callinda does so, one of her images disappearing as she races past the invisible Horned Man.

Then the Horned Man appears in the middle of the clearing, as if challenging the group. Saura however, due to her True Seeing spell, sees the real Horned Man, still invisible, charging her. She yells this information out the the group, and prepares to meet his blow. Anhagen entangles the field of battle, which Edrik and Spot move down to try to flank the Horned Man - no easy task for Edrik, as he can't see his opponent. Callinda has made it past Saura and is just outside the edge of Anhagen's entangle.

Saura and the Horned Man are now locked in battle, but nobody else can see him. Saura steps back, drops her mace, and casts Dispel Magic, targeting the Invisibility effect, and it works. Now Edrik is able to move in, though his strikes do not always seem to have the effect on the Horned Man that they do on most opponents. Spot also attacks and manages to hit. Anhagen shoots arrows and calls down bolts of lightning, Callinda hurls Magic Missiles, and Saura calls forth rays of Searing Light. Then chanting is heard from someplace overhead, and the Horned Man shimmers and begins to move faster. Saura, abandoning spellcasting, drops her shield and draws the holy greatsword, stepping in to engage again. The Horned Man is now surrounded by Saura, Edrik, and Spot, and is taking fire from Anhagen and Callinda.

Then several draka appear behind Callinda, and several more emerge from the caves and walk through the Wind Wall to begin casting at Anhagen. This only gets them caught in his entangle, however, and brings them into his bow range. They immediately rethink and begin to retreat again, though one is unable to break free of the twining weeds.  The Horned Man has turned his attention from Saura briefly to Spot and Edrik and hits them both, "killing" Spot. Edrik is now badly hurt, and out of range of anybody who might be able to heal him.  Edrik has to withdraw from the battle and begins to move towards Callinda. The chanting begins again, and the Horned Man shimmers. Saura requests that somebody kill the spellcaster.

Callinda can't see the spellcaster, but can hear her. She targets an area above the Horned Man's head with a fireball, and is rewarded with a scream. Apparently, she hit. Edrik summons an illusory Spot, who begins to float towards the Horned Man. Saura, now badly hurt herself, steps back from the battle and casts a cure spell on herself. The Horned Man takes this opportunity to leap away from her and Spot, up onto one of the low rock walls. He bows to Saura, saying, "First round, to you." Then he strikes the gem set into the hilt of an ornate dagger. It shatters, and he disappears in a burst of light. Saura now tries to get a look at the spellcaster without revealing her attention. She sees a woman wearing Calishite clothing, which scaly blue skin and horny ridges along her head. The woman is not taken in by Saura's bluff, and flies away. Saura releases the Flamestrike that was meant for the spellcaster at the draka over by the caves. Anhagen finishes off them off, while Edrik closes with the ones who are threatening Callinda. He makes short work of one, and the other flees in terror.

Saura had recognized the sigil of the Cult of the Dragon on the Horned Man's dagger, and communicates this to the others as everybody begins to tend their wounds. They gather up Miriam's body and put her into the shadow room for transport. They investigate the illusory wall, and find a cave behind it. Within the cave they discover some trinkets... of Sahaugin design.

Session 20 (10-23-04) 

Player Game Rating: 8.25 

29th of Tarsakh -- 5th of Mirtul

Days go by. There is severe weather for a few days - heavy rains and storms. Piers goes out into the spring storms, but does not meet a large bald man with a spear. He does speak with Torin however, and the two decide that things are even between them, and shake hands. Torin and Bran leave for the Dwellers Wood. The fires subside. The whole island is tense, though; people are just waiting for the next thing to happen. But days pass and nothing does. Wary preparations for Greengrass begin.

On the 29th day of Tarsakh, Aunt Sorcha prepares a lunch for Jenna that puts her to sleep. When she awakens, it is dark, and Thianne is waiting at the mouth of the cave. Betha is gone. Thianne tells Jenna to get her book, and takes her outside, where Sorcha, Yanna, and Aunt Nuala are waiting near a bonfire. Sorcha is dressed all in shades of pale gray, giving her an ethereal look. The moon is full. Thianne leads Jenna to the circle and asks Jenna some questions, all of which Jenna responds to affirmatively. Then Thianne cuts Jenna's palm and places Jenna's bloody hand onto one of the blank pages of the book, pressing it there. Once the imprint is made, Jenna squeezes her hand over a goblet held by Yanna. Then she drinks the wine mixed with her blood, as do each of the other witches in turn. 

Once the ritual is completed, the older witches lead Jenna off through the woods, to a grove. Jenna is becoming increasingly distressed about the absence of her dog, but when she asks Thianne, she will only say that "with luck, she will return to you." There are several llewyrr there, and some people that Jenna doesn't know. Sorcha leads her over to a massive weirwood tree, on the far side of the grove. She presents Jenna to the tree, and asks for its blessing. There is a sound from the tree, like a soft snore, and Sorscha asks again, louder. Jenna leans back against Sorscha so she can look up into the branches of the tree, but it's very tall, and very dark, and she can't see the source of the sound. This time the tree responds. One of its branches reaches down and brushes across Jenna's hair, then the tree states that he grants his blessing. Jenna doesn't move a muscle until Sorscha turns her around to face the gathering.

Those gathered begin to come forward and offer Jenna their congratulations. She thinks she recognizes Sephaerian among the llewyrr. There is a little man with mushrooms growing out of his cap, and a tall old man that she's never seen before. Darton is there, and so is Heroan. The last person to come up and greet her is her father.

Before she can spend any time with him, though, Sorcha points out to the woods and tells her to go. Jenna goes off into the woods, which are not as dark as they might be due to the bright moon and the many, many bright stars - many more stars and much brighter than seems entirely normal. She begins to circle the grove back towards the cave, in hopes of finding Betha there. As she walks, she hears a low growl, and sees a black wolf watching her from under a tree. She begins to talk softly to the wolf, hoping the animal remains calm, when a fox shows up and begins taunting the wolf. Then an owl appears, and a chipmunk, and a raven, and soon Jenna is surrounded by a ring of various animals. She is a little stymied by this, but also very intrigued and wants to pet them all. She is about to start with the wolf, when suddenly there is a crashing through the forest and Betha comes bounding in. She skids to a halt among the circle of animals and flops to the ground with her paws over her nose, looking completely dejected. Jenna begins to scold her for having run off and worried her that way and calls her over. She has to call several times as Betha seems to be having a comprehension problem, but finally Betha comes bounding over and launches herself at Jenna, knocking her down. Betha is extremely excited, and Jenna can feel how excited she is, as if she were sharing the dog's experience. The other animals start to drift away, as Jenna calms Betha down.

At the same time, at the other end of the island, Ethme is suddenly awakened by a feeling of terrible loneliness, like she is all alone in the world. She sits up and looks across the cabin, and sees Finn laying on the floor, with his back to her. She gets up, taking her blanket with her, and goes and curls up with Finn on the floor. Finn is greatly comforted by this and now Ethme feels content and happy and can go back to sleep.

Back in the Daunsannym, Jenna and Betha return to the grove. Sorcha proclaims the choice a wise one, and Jenna joins the party. There is much food to be had, and she eats and mingles, thanking people for coming. But mostly she wants to be near her father. In the course of her conversations with Iden and with Sorcha, she learns of the return of the Fianna and that Bran, Torin, Gavin, and a young man from Harloch are among them. She also learns that Bran and Torin, and Bran's family, will have to leave Snowdown, as they have to renounce all clan ties and serve only the Mother. There are also rumors, brought to the islands by the very tall man, that Moonwells have appeared along the Sword Coast. The man, who's name is Malvian, is going to travel to Gwynneth with Heroan to speak with the druids about it. Sorcha absolutely refuses to speak with Malvian, but Jenna gives it a try. It doesn't really go well. Aunt Nuala tells her about the Horned Man, and that Edrik and his companions were sent after him and "made quite a botch of it." Eventually, the gathering breaks up.

Jenna decides to return home for Greengrass, and Darton escorts her home on the 30th. When they arrive, they find Ethme and the boys are there, and Iden has also returned before them. Jenna's reunion with her mother, and with her sister and her friends, is very warm. Ethme has all sorts of news about her new experiences with Finn, and about Callinda and hooking up with the boys in Westphal, about the battle she was in, and about the boys looting the sahuagin temple. 

Greengrass is relatively subdued, as people are still anxious and worried. Several more days pass, then on the 5th day of Mirtul, Edrik, Anhagen, Saura, and Callinda arrive in Llandrian. The group goes up to the keep to see them, Elias and Ethme racing ahead, while Piers and Jenna take their time and talk along the way. In talking about the battle the subject of the things they found - such as the sahuagin pouch - comes up, and Piers recognizes it as the pouch he sold to Cordelia. He dictates everything he can remember about Cordelia to Saura, who writes it all down. Ethme introduces Jenna to Callinda. Everyone eventually joins Edrik, who is already eating, in the dining hall. Nolan is there briefly, as well. As the conversation progresses, it comes out that Elias wants to go to Candlekeep. Jenna is in no rush to get to the Sword Coast, but does want to spend some time in Mintarn, which is something Sorcha recommended. Saura suggests that the group might travel with them, at least as far as Caladyrr, much to Edrik's consternation. Ethme, Elias, and Piers are very excited by this prospect, although Jenna has some problems with the timing, which remain to be worked out.

Session 21 (11-06-04) 

Player Game Rating: 8.25 

6th of  Mirtul - 13th of Mirtul 

Jenna talks to Niles Seamere about her plans to sell her pottery wares. After going over the options, it becomes clear that she can't be ready to go anywhere in three days time; she won't have enough money for her passage by then. However, Elias tells her that he has money of his own, money that didn't come from the sahuagin temple, and that he can pay until she can begin earning her own way. She accepts this.

The girls tell their parents about their decision, and Elias tells his as well. They spend as much time as possible with their families over the next few days -- Elias, specifically, with his mother -- and also prepare for their journey. The Kynvelyns prepare a great feast for the group, as well as for Bran and Cadhla. Hagen's clan throws Piers a very special going away party - Piers gets to drink from an enormous and very old drinking horn that has been in Hagen's family for generations. Like all others who've faced the horn before him, Piers is greatly vanquished. As he is laying, semi-conscious, in a bed, he is awakened by Arna, leaning over him. She gives him a special going away present, too.

The next morning, as Piers is leaving, Aramana calls him over, and points out that each notch in the horn represents a member of Hagen's family. She indicates the new notch that represents Piers himself.

On the 8th day of Mirtul, the combined group leaves for Westphal. They travel all day, not stopping in Harloch, and arrive at Westphal in the late afternoon. They stay in Caer Westphal. Jenna gives the boys the tanglefoot bag and smokestick she made. The next day, the group boards a ship called the Mother's Blessing. They meet Master Cauldwin, and set sail for Calidyrr.

The trek takes four days, and is largely uneventful. Jenna spends some of the time talking to Saura, and one night Elias happens to witness his uncle and Callinda appear in a wisp of smoke and sneak into bed. For part of the third day, the winds die and the ship is becalmed, but it picks up again in the afternoon. Elias has trouble sleeping while on the ship, and gets something from Anahagen to knock him out.

On the fourth day, late in the afternoon, the ship arrives at Calidyrr. To the eyes of the four Snowdowners, the city is enormous. There are thousands of boats in the harbor, many of them much bigger than the Blessing. The walls of the city are white, and they rise to a height that one might think impossible for a building, and the city stretches away from the keep and the harbor for as far as the eye can follow. Saura leads the way to an inn near the docks, called the Ship's Prow, and gets rooms for everyone. She tells the group where her room is, and informs them that Edrik will probably be spending most of his time in the first floor tavern, should they need anything.

Session 22 (12-04-04) 

Player Game Rating: 8.75  

13th Day of Mirtul

Everyone wants to go out and see the city, and also eat and drink. Jenna wants to find the market place. They find the options are almost overwhelming, in terms of taverns and festhalls, but most of the shops are starting to close down. They decide to put off the market trip until the next day, and just find a place for dinner. They pick a tavern, more or less at random; the placard has a flower wrapped around a tankard.

When they walk in, they immediately see a man such as most of them have never seen before. Though he's sitting, he looks to be as wide as he is is tall. His face is covered in tattoos and his hair is a multi-colored strip down the center of his head. Jenna openly gawks and is hustled along to a table by the others. They order food, and as they are sitting, taking in the sights, Jenna realizes that Betha is no longer at her side. Both dogs are over by the stout man with the hair, and he is feeding them bits of meat.

The girls go over and introduce themselves. The man's name is Doranadin Oathborn, though most simply call him Din, and he is a dwarf. They talk a bit. He tells them where they can get meat for the dogs the next day, and Jenna buys him an ale. Then another man comes in, accidentally hitting Ethme with the door. He is human and seems a bit distracted or absent-minded; he is draped in satchels of various sizes. The dwarf whistles and the man turns around suddenly and says "oh, there you are" and takes a seat.

The girls excuse themselves and return to their table, but the man with the satchels rises and follows them. He seems fascinated by Betha and Finn and wants to know if they are moorhounds and how old they are, and if he can touch them.  He examines them for a bit, then goes back to sit with Din.

As the group is eating their very bad dinners, they continue to watch the odd couple. A third man joins them, this one a Northlander. He sits and talks to them for a while, then eventually gets up and leaves. The girls start to make up stories about the three companions and what they are up to. Eventually, Ethme wants to find a place with dancing. As they are walking through the city, the see a huge, domed building, inset with stained glass windows. It's beautiful, and unlike anything they've ever seen before. Ethme asks a passer-by what that building is, and learns that it's a temple of Istishia. They all go in.

Inside, the building is even more breathtaking. There are four waterfalls cascading down into a series of streams that are spanned by small foot bridges. In the center, is a calm, crystalline pool. There is also a device that is a series of rings and spheres, all moving around one another. As they are examining the device, and young priest comes out of another room. He is apparently surprised to see them, but greets them. Piers asks him, privately, how to make an offering to Istishia, and is told to put the offering in the central pool. Then he comes over to talk to the others. Jenna wants to know all about the device. The priest doesn't know how it works, much to her disappointment, but does tell them that it represents the planes and points out the elemental planes to them. The Plane of Water is, of course, the largest of the four. He tells them how to make donations, as well.

Jenna and Piers go outside, but Ethme and Elias hang back. As they are leaving, the priest says to Elias, "Good luck with the curse." Elias, mystified, asks for an explanation. He learns that he and Piers have been marked by the sahaugin. There is a mark on their foreheads, which the Istishian priest can see, indicating the curse. He doesn't know how they can get it removed. His suggestion is to atone. Elias tells Jenna and Piers about this, as he and Ethme rejoin them in the street.

The four go to another tavern to mull this over. Sadly, there is no dancing, as it's very crowded, but there is ale to be had. Elias and the dogs spot an enormous black cat, up in the rafters of the tavern. Ethme tries to see if she can see the mark by invoking the weave-sight. She can see that there is something there, and that it is divine in nature.  They discuss their options, such as perhaps throwing the pearls back into the ocean. Not all members of the group are comfortable with the idea of getting back on a ship, especially without telling the captain of whatever ship they board.

Eventually, they head back to their inn. As they walk, the boys fall behind, letting the girls and dogs lead the way. The girls and their dogs all simultaneously hear a sound coming from an alley they are passing. They hear running feet coming towards them and a voice call out, "Stop!" Jenna sticks out her staff and trips the running man, then Ethme and the dogs all descend upon him. He drops the satchel he was carrying, and flees. Jenna, followed by the boys, proceeds down the alley to see if anybody has been hurt. They find the man who they had met earlier - the one with all the satchels.

He seems to be unharmed, and as they approach, the stolen satchel lifts itself up and floats back to him. Seeing them, he suddenly become flustered and exclaims, "I wonder how that could have happened" but the group assures him that they don't care --  at least, some of them don't -- that he can make his satchels fly. They learn that his name is Oliver. He is on a journey to study trolls and is particularly interested in the theories that trolls originated in the Moonshaes. The Northlander is his guide, and Din is his bodyguard. Din specializes in slaying trolls. The group offers to help get him back to the docks, and as they walk, they learn something of Doranadin's story, and tell Oliver some of the lore of the islands. They part ways when they reach their inn, which is in sight of the docks.

Session 23 (12-18-04) 

Player Game Rating: 9.25  

13th Day of Mirtul -- 21st Day of Mirtul

The girls are up in their room, in the Ship's Prow, when Jenna tells Ethme that she has something to show her. She makes Ethme turn around and close her eyes. When Ethme looks again, Jenna has changed into a young northlander man, about Piers age.  They girls get the idea to play a trick on the boys. Ethme goes downstairs to the tap room and joins them at their table. A short time later, a beautiful auburn-haired woman comes in and joins them as well. She engages the boys in conversation, then asks if one of them would be willing to walk her back to her room. Elias immediately jumps at the chance, and he follows the woman upstairs. When they get to the upper hallway, the woman makes Elias close his eyes, then changes back into Jenna. This causes a brief argument over whether or not to tell Piers; Elias doesn't want to, but Jenna insists that they must. Eventually, Elias agrees. However, when Piers gets back to their room, and finds Elias there, the Elias doesn't get much opportunity to do so. Ethme has also returned to her room, and she and Jenna sit themselves on the floor with their ears pressed against the wall between their room and the boys, listening. Eventually, Jenna can't stand it anymore. She goes and knocks on the door and gets Piers to come out. Then she shows him the trick as well. He immediately begins thinking over the long term implications of this ability, and doesn't even seem to be particularly angry. Jenna goes back to her room, where she and Ethme set about comparing spells.  

The next day, the 14th day of Mirtul, is warm and sunny. Elias gives the girls 10 silver pieces and they go out to find a butcher shop and buy food for their dogs. The girls wander the market some, checking out the price of thunderstones, smokesticks, and pottery. The pottery is much more expensive then what they are used to in the markets on Snowdown. Jenna realized at one point that she has been robbed. The girls go back to the inn and get Elias and Piers and the group goes back to the market for a while, then eventually heads to the temple.

The boys talk to Samael's father, Seeker Raphael, and bring two of the enormous pearls, which are from dire oysters, it seems. Raphael is unable to remove the curse, but another priest will be arriving in a few days, who may be able to help.

It will be three days before that priest arrives. In that time, the girls spend a day outside the city, past the south gate.

Elias makes a "trick" pouch, which contains only a few coppers and a note, and hangs it to his belt. On his trip the the market to buy a blank book, Elias feels a tug on his trick pouch. He gives chase to the thief and eventually gets a clear shot at the miscreant at the end of an alley. He fires an arrow treated with petrification poison and drops the perpetrator in its tracks. He runs up, and discovers that the thief is a young girl. Just then a guard runs over and questions Elias, wanting to know what happened and if the girl will be alright. The guard believes Elias' story and lets him go, as this girl is known to him, but he makes it clear that he'd rather Elias not shoot anybody else. Elias goes back to the market and hooks up with Piers. Before you know it, he is robbed again. This time he and Piers both give chase, causing some property damage and they race across rooftops and leap from trellises, but this time the thief eludes them.

On the 16th day of Mirtul, Edrik and company leave for the Sword Coast. The whole group sees them off. The next day, a message is sent for the boys to come to the temple of Ishtishia.  They meet Seeker Ezekial. He is an older man, very weathered. They tell him all about the sahuagin temple underneath Eyetooth Rock, and he tells them a little about the three gods of the sahuagin. Then he removes the curse. As they are leaving the temple, Samael stops them. He asks if he might accompany the group to the Sword Coast. Jenna agrees, rather too swiftly, but the rest of the group has no problem with it. Samael says that he'll arrange for a ship. When the group gets outside, Jenna and Ethme check to see if they can tell if the mark is really gone, and it is.

Two days later, the group and Samael, leave for Mintarn aboard the Golden Crest.  The journey takes two days, during which Samael spends most of his time reading from the Book of Mysteries and writing.

It's the 21st when the ship arrives in Mintarn. It's harbor is enormous, and full of even more ships than Calidyrr's was. There are northlander longships, galleys, and many, many other kinds. Mintarn is not a large island, there are no forests or grassy plains, or anything that looks like wilderness, at least that can be seen from the harbor. The island is composed of sheer cliffs with natural bays that manage to look as they'd been blasted out of the rock faces. The island is dominated by shipyards, and in fact, the cargo of the Golden Crest was lumber. The city of Mintarn is a crescent around the bay. Some of the crews, visible on the other ships, are not all human, and the group sees more of these strange people on the docks. Before anybody is allowed to disembark, everybody's belonging are searched by guards.

Elias picks and inn called Bertha's Bountiful Bosom, or the Triple-B, to stay at. Bertha is there, and she lives up to the inn's name. Piers pays 10 gold for the whole group to stay for a tenday. Piers goes to some trouble to remove a loose floorboard, hide his and Elias's belonging, then put the board back. The group decides to go in search of food. There's not shortage of taverns and festhalls, and they settle on the Broken Keg. The owner is an enormously fat black man, with pearl earrings and a couple of gold teeth. Most of his clientele appear to be dark-skinned southerners, like Ibrahim. There is one lone white man sitting off  in a corner, who has the look of an old sailor about him. At one point, during dinner, the old sailor begins yelling at the owner that he'll win the place back, and the owner makes it clear that's he's welcome to try at any time. The group learns that the place used to belong to the old sailor, but he lost it in a game of cards.

Ethme, Piers, and Elias notice some people at another table being served coffee, with cinnamon sticks, which is a treat Ibrahim had introduced them to. They order some, even though it's quite expensive when compared to the fare for dinner. Jenna does not like it at all, and Samael does not seem to care for it, but the others all like it.

Eventually, the group returns to the inn and everyone goes to their respective rooms. When Elias and Piers enter theirs, they find that all their goods have been rifled. The things that were under the floorboard are now strewn upon the bed. However, nothing has been stolen. They ponder the meaning of this while the girls, blissfully unaware, sleep.

Session 24 (01-01-05) 

Player Game Rating: 7.75  

22nd Day of Mirtul -- 23rd Day of Mirtul

The next morning dawns cool and foggy. The whole world is white. The girls find a general store and get scraps for the dogs, then everybody goes in search of breakfast. After breakfast, the group explores the market and local shops, staying more or less together, but sometimes drifting apart. Elias is by himself when he is suddenly grabbed from behind, spun into a merchant's tent, dropped on his back, and sat upon by a pale-skinned, dark-haired, young woman - a young woman who looks remarkably similar to him. It gets noticeably darker in the tent, as she looks down at him. Her knees are pinning his arms to the ground. She asks what he's doing here, and he asks why she's on his chest. It seems her name is Tenembray, and she is, indeed, like Elias. He manages to convince her that he is but an innocent traveler, just passing through on his way to the Sword Coast, and she leaves as abruptly as she'd arrived, and the shadows recede again. Elias takes a moment, then emerges from the tent, much to the merchant's distress, and Pier's relief, as Piers had just noticed that Elias was nowhere to be seen. Elias tells Piers about his encounter with the mysterious and beautiful Tenembray. 

Over the course of various conversations with people, the group learns that there are temples to Tempus, Tymora, and Valkur, and shrines to Gond, Akadi, and Istishia. Ethme knows that Tymora is the goddess Callinda follows, but nobody has heard of Gond except Samael, who explains what little he knows. Jenna also visits a shop that sells herbs and various items that she learns are made by a local woman named Loksa, who lives above Rabab's Fish Market.

Ethme wants to see the Tymoran temple, so the group goes in search of it.  They eventually find it, and also a man sitting out front, leaning back in his chair, apparently deeply asleep. Some debate ensues about whether or not they can just go in without permission, and finally Jenna and Piers push the door open and walk in. The room is very simple. There is an altar and a wooden statue of  a beautiful woman that they assume to be the goddess. There is a small pool, almost like a birdbath, a single window, and a winding staircase leading to a loft area. There is a smell in the air that the group does not recognize (but, OOC, is oil paint).

Jenna wants to see the shrine to Gond, so that's the next destination. The shrine is a metal obelisk topped by a 4-spoked wheel that turns. Jenna presses her ear to it and can hear moving parts inside.  A local man informs the group that Gond is a god worshiped by a race of small people who make noisy things, and that Monty tend the shrine.

Over the course of the day, the group starts to notice that many people are wearing a particular emblem - the silhouette of a sailing ship with a hammer on the side of it. Elias realizes that Tenembray was wearing that symbol. They see it on a fat butcher, and a man who looks like a pirate, and a variety of other people. Eventually, Elias asks a man who's wearing it what it means. He learns that it's the symbol of the Tyrant's Hammer, an elite force of hand-picked individuals charged with keeping law and order in Mintarn. The Hammers are appointed by the Tyrant himself.

The girls also speak to a man with a pair of moorhounds about the best place to get food for the dogs at a reasonable price. Then Jenna and Samael return to the inn, and Ethme, Elias and Piers go looking for something else to do. They find themselves in what seems to be a gaming den. There are all sorts of games going on at different tables - dice, cards, fidchel, and some they don't recognize. When they sit down at a table, two pitchers and three glasses are set down on it. Looking about at the other patrons, they see that everyone is drinking the same thing. People  seem to be mixing the water from one pitcher, with the green, milky liquid, that smells minty, then drinking it. They all try this, and find they quite like it. They inquire of a waitress what a bottle of it costs, and are quoted a high price. However, they pitchers they are currently drinking are on the house. They also notice several people smoking pipes, or passing pipes around, and it's rather smoky. Elias decides he'd like to get in a game, and runs back to the inn for his fidchel board. Almost as soon as he gets back, though, a gong begins to sound. Most of the bystanders start to drift towards the back of the back of the room, which is quite large. Even many of the players quit their games, or leave them where they are, and go too. Ethme, Piers, and Elias follow the crowd.

They find themselves being ushered through a door and down a corridor into an underground coliseum, ringed by stone steps that serve as benches. There are other doors at various points around the circle, and people are drifting in from all sides. There is an area that is set off from the steps, like a balcony, and they see a fair-haired, well-dressed man, sitting there. With him are Tenembray and also the man they'd noticed in town, who looks like a pirate. Elias points Tenembray out to Piers. Then the doors at one end of the pit open, and a half-orc man is shoved into the central circle.

The Tyrant stands and addresses both the crowd, and the half-orc. It seems the half-orc is Braxon Bloodfist, a captain who has been found guilty of piracy by the Tyrant. But he will be given a chance to win his freedom, by facing the Tyrant's champion, called the Reaver, in mortal combat. The Tyrant assures Braxon that he is a man of his word, and that, in fact, the Reaver had once been a condemned man who won his life this very way. Braxon makes a rude gesture in reply. Then the door at the other end of the pit opens, and a human man walks in, who is greeted by a tumult of cheers from the crowd. He is apparently hugely popular. Although he is not an overly large man, he somehow manages to exude menace. The signal is given for the fight to begin. It doesn't last long. The Reaver takes Braxon apart with an efficiency and precision that leaves Ethme a little shaken. His success is met by more cheering, though there are some in the crowd who think he should have made it last longer. The three make their way out with the crowd, and head home. Ethme tells Jenna what she saw, and how disturbing it was. Jenna asks if Ethme is re-thinking the warrior's path, and Ethme replies that she's not sure.

The next day, rain is falling in sheets. The girls must go out to get food for the dogs, so everybody decides to brave the rain and try to find some breakfast. Elias and Piers don't feel well at all, however. Piers is clammy to the touch. They are both sweating, and thirsty, and need to relieve themselves often. As they talk about their experiences the night before, Samael recognizes the drink they describe as one that is outlawed in Calidyrr because it's addictive. It seems the boys may feel worse before they feel better. The stuff leaches all the water from their bodies and they'll have to keep drinking water, and try to weather the discomfort until it's out of their system.

They all go back to the inn and their respective rooms. Elias and Piers collapse into bed. Eventually, the rain lets up some, and Jenna decides to go out again. She goes in search of Rabab's Fish Market, and Loksa, who she expects to be a witch. Loksa probably is a witch, though it's a little hard to tell, or to get a coherent sentence out of her. She has many cats, and a home packed to overflowing with all sorts of interesting things, ranging from herbs that Jenna is familiar with to small heads in jars. They have tea, and Jenna learns that the sleeping man at the Tymoran temple is the priest, and was probably drunk, and that Monty is a wealthy man and lives up on the hill, towards the Tyrant's keep.

Jenna manages to politely escape her tea with Loksa and then goes up to Monty's estate and knocks on the door. It takes several minutes for him to answer, but he eventually comes to the door just as Jenna was about to give up. She sees he is a very, very tall man -- apparently a northlander. She promptly asks him about Gond. However, instead of telling her of the god, he abruptly invites her into his home.

Monty leads Jenna through his manse to an upper room which is a combination of a library and workshop, hands to her a book, a small volume about the Wonderbringer, and points to a chair where she may sit and read it. He then returns to his workbench, upon which is his current project: a mechanical man. He informs her that she is welcome to visit anytime so long as she doesn't mind reading quietly while he works.

Eventually, Jenna goes back to the inn and gets Ethme and Samael to go out for dinner with her. They discuss their plans, how long they should stay on Mintarn, and the prospect of Samael getting them passage on a ship to the Sword Coast.

Session 25 (01-29-05) 

Player Game Rating: 7.75  

24th Day of Mirtul -- 25th Day of Mirtul

The 24th day of Mirtul dawns foggy and cool. Samael goes off to see about securing passage on a ship to Baldur's Gate. The other four go out to explore the lands outside the settlement, and to let the dogs run. The terrain past the outskirts of the city is mostly composed of scrub, stumps, and rock. There is a lot of bird and small rodent life. As the island is crescent shaped, it doesn't take long to walk across the width of it to the other coast, which is a series of shallow cliffs forming natural steps and platforms that fall down to the sea. As they approach the edge, they see a group of men gathered about a fire on one of the cliffs. Then a voice from behind the group breaks the silence, asking what their business is. 

The dogs growl low in their throats as the group turns to face the source of the voice. He is a man of middling years, with a mop of shaggy hair and beard, which are both dark and shot through with gray. He wears a patch over one eye, and a silver ring in one eyebrow, and a flat, wide-brimmed hat. His face is pockmarked, and several of his teeth are missing. He is wearing a cloak made from the pelt of a single, very large wolf, over a long, leather coat. There is a cutlass slung at his belt, and he carries a large walking stick that looks like it could double as a cudgel. He comments on how pretty Ethme is, then asks if they are just out for a stroll. When nobody responds for a moment, Jenna nods and replies, "You?" He says that he and his friends come out here for the privacy, which prompts the group to indicate that they'd be happy to go 'that way' -- away from the group of men. They take their leave of the man, and start walking back in the general direction of the settlement, taking pains not to seem rushed or panicked.

The group gets back to the outskirts of the city and are turning a corner, when a voice calls out to Elias. Tenembray is standing there. She asks if they've seen a man with a patch, and Elias replies that they have. Tenembray leaves, and a brief argument ensues between Jenna and Piers over whether or not Elias should have informed on the patch-eyed man. That doesn't last long though, and everyone decides to get something to eat. Then Elias go back to the inn, and Piers, Ethme, and Jenna go visit the Tempurian temple.

Segue...

The patch-eyed man stood huddled with his ruffian companions around a fire on the cliffs of Mintarn. The fire was encircled by arcane-looking runes, painted on the rock with what looked to be blood. After a brief conversation, the patch-eyed man motioned for silence, closed his good eye, and began to speak...

"Oh, Dark Laird, Master of Lies, Dweller In Shadow, we, yer humble servants, give unto ye these offerings and beseech thee, grant us a boon--"

"Gurnz, what do you think you're doing?"

The question, coming from nowhere and entirely unexpected, startled the patch-eyed man and disrupted his concentration. This, in turn, resulted in a blinding blue flash, a loud "whoomp" noise, and a gout of flame shooting up from the fire, which sent one of the men careening and screaming down the cliffs.

"Oh, fer-- pity's sake!" The patch-eyed man, Gurnz, took off his hat, whacked it across his knee in frustration, and stomped his foot like a child having a tantrum. "Tenembray!" he bellowed, turning to glare up at the woman who had snuck up on them and ruined their ritual. "Can't ye see we're trying to summon a devil here?"

"You should know better, Gurnz." Tenembray smirked the smirk of smug satisfaction and placed her hands on her hips. "That's not allowed."

"Technically, we're not in Mintarn!" Gurnz quickly countered with ample bluster. "Come on now, lass, we had no designs on you or yours! This was private business! Can't ye give a man a break!?" He sighed then and gestured helplessly at the broken and unconscious fellow below them. "And look at my man down there, limbs all askew in so unnatural a fashion. It'll take weeks 'fore he's fit to sail again!" His eye shot to her once more. "I should be compensated!"

Tenembray chortled. "Take it up with the Tyrant." And with that she spun on her heel and sauntered away.

The temple is only slightly larger than the Tymoran temple, and it has a statue that looks like it was made by the same person who made the statue of Tymora. This one is of an imposing man, bearded, wearing a horned helm and standing next to a chariot. He wields a sword in one hand and a hammer in the other. There is another room off the main chamber, with a pit of sand in the center of the floor. There is a fat northlander man sitting on one of the benches, reading. He has blonde hair with a hint of red in beard and mustache; his beard has braids in it, and his mustache is waxed. Through the door, the group can see another man, working out with a polearm. This man is a foreigner. He is short and stocky, with close-cropped hair, goatee, gray eyes, and chiseled arms. He is wearing only a tunic and simple breeches. Both men appear to be in their forties.

The northlander greets the group, calling himself Vlanmir and offering them the blessings of Tempus in return for a small donation. Ethme donates a short sword, and Piers, nine pieces of silver - which is a bit of joke on Vlanmir. There are some interchanges between the two men that imply that they have a somewhat tumultuous relationship. The group learns that the book Vlanmir was reading was poetry. The smaller man is Praefect Horatio. Piers is after a Book of Steel. It turns out that Prefect Horatio has one, which was made at the Vault of Swords. He is willing to sell it, as he memorized it long ago. He will let Piers have it for five gold pieces, which is quite a bargain. He and Piers talk for some time, and a dinner invitation emerges from the conversation. Horatio agrees to meet Piers, and anybody else who'd like to join them, for dinner that evening.

Outside the temple, Jenna and Piers have another brief spat, and she storms off back to the inn, leaving Piers and Ethme. Eventually, the whole group is reunited by Samael, who calls everybody together to talk about potential passage to Baldur's Gate. He says that there is a ship called the Black Maelstrom leaving in two days time. It's captain is a man named Gurnz, and from Samael's description, the others realize that this is the same wiry-haired, one-eyed man they ran into outside the city. Nobody is particularly keen on sailing with Captain Gurnz, especially on a ship called the Black Maelstrom. Samael thinks it would probably be fine, although he doesn't seem to keen on the captain, just on principle. Elias decides he'll try to find Tenembray and talk to her about Captain Gurnz, before a final decision is made.

Elias, Piers, and Ethme then go to meet Horatio for dinner, while Jenna and Samael simply retire to their rooms. Horatio talks about his history and how he came to the church of Tempus. He tells the group about the trials that are an indoctrination into his church and a bit about the Vault of Swords, and about the Moonsea region in general.  He expands on some things he'd said earlier in the day, regarding the differences between the eastern and western versions of the faith, and about how he may eventually move on into the islands themselves, to live among the northlanders. Piers also asks about Assuran, but Horatio doesn't know too much about him, although he does mention that he's also called Hoar. He also doesn't know the name Gurnz, but he does speak a bit about Mintarn and the Tyrant. He says that the people adore the Tyrant and that the name is mostly a kind of joke, and he expresses the opinion that the Tyrant is Tempurian in many ways. He also mentions that the Tyrant is completely accessible to the people; if the group wanted to, they could just go knock on his door and ask to speak to him.

Eventually, the dinner is over, and everyone retires to their rooms. Jenna and Ethme speak briefly about Ethme being on the path of the warrior.

The next morning, everyone meets for breakfast. Jenna has had Ethme braid her hair up. Piers has become determined  to read the entire Book of Steel in two days, due to an argument with Jenna over his ability to do so. Unbeknownst to the others, he goes back to the drug den and buys a flask of the green liquid, which has the temporary effect of sharpening the mind and senses. Elias goes off to the market in search of a buckler. Jenna manages to get Elias alone briefly, before the group splits up, and tries to convince him to keep an eye on Piers and tell her how much of the book he's actually read. Samael continues his queries about ships, in hopes of finding an alternative to the Maelstrom. Piers and Ethme return to their respective rooms to read - Ethme has borrowed Piers Book of Fire. Jenna goes up to Monty's.

While Piers is reading, he begins to hear strange noises. At one point, he hears whispering coming from the girls room, and distinctly hears the words "Piers" and "leave him behind."  He is also not feeling well at all. At times the word on the page seem to shift and change, and he is light-headed and sweating and very thirsty.

Ethme meanwhile, is absorbed in her own reading, as is Jenna, up at Monty's. Ethme is learning about the metaphysics of the Tempurian doctrine, while Jenna finds information on Baldur's Gate, Lantan, and a fascinating book describing failed experiments in mechanical flight. Elias buys a buckler.

Eventually Jenna returns to the inn, and after talking to Ethme briefly, the girls decide to go fetch the boys and get some dinner. When they go to Piers room, they discover he is quite sick again.  They go and get him some water, and convince him that perhaps some fresh air and a bit to eat might make him feel better. They're also concerned that Elias might have taken a turn for the worse as well. They get Samael, then go in search of Elias. They find him rather quickly, and learn that he is fine; he doesn't seem to have gotten sick again.  After dinner, everyone returns to their rooms except Samael, who continues his queries about potential ships. Piers confesses to Elias that he took more of the drug.

Session 26 (01-29-05) 

Player Game Rating: 8.25  

26th Day of Mirtul -- 30th Day of Mirtul

The 26th day of Mirtul is foggy and unseasonably warm. The group has decided to wait for another ship to Baldur's Gate, rather than going with Captain Gurnz.  Samael continues working the docks, looking for prospective passage. The girls check in on Piers, then take the dogs outside the city for a run. They are looking for medicinal plants to make a healing tea for Piers. They also try looking for shells briefly, but quickly decide the cliffs are too treacherous.  Jenna is able to find or buy elder flower, linden flower, and peppermint and makes a tea for Piers to make him feel better.

In the early evening, Elias is sitting alone in a pub, when suddenly he is straddled by Tenembray. She wants to know why he's been asking about her. The two begin to talk - well, as much as Elias is capable of talking - about "people like them." Tenembray doesn't seem too impressed or intrigued by their special nature. She mentions having once seen a man with a pincer growing out of his chest, and how that was strange. She does know that some of those who share their particular traits call themselves Shadowdancers, and that sometimes they have gatherings. She declined to join their little club. The star that Edrik has tattooed on his wrist is their symbol. Elias also asks about the Shadow Weave, which she doesn't really know much about. She  speaks of Mintarn some.  She talks about the freedom of being an outsider; how less is expected of you. And she talks about how many who were outsiders where they came from have settled here on Mintarn, where they are free to be so. She raises a let and rests it on Elias's shoulder, then asks if he'd like to see where she lives. He agrees.

Tenembray takes Elias to the citadel. As they enter the gates, the guards chortle knowingly, and one of them salutes Elias. Tenembray leads Elias into the building proper and takes him to... an office, wherein sits the Tyrant himself.

She introduces Elias to the Tyrant, who seems to have been expecting him. The Tyrant has a brief chat with Elias, in which he offers him a job, when and if he should return from Candlekeep. Then he says that he'll probably see him in the morning. Tenembray leads Elias out of the office and down to her chambers, which contain, among other things, an enormous, plush bed, and a small altar with a black mask hanging over it. Tenembray has her way with Elias all night long. In the morning, as he staggers out the front gate, he salutes one of the guards, who chortle knowingly just as the other pair had the night previous.

Meanwhile, the rest of the group is becoming worried about Elias. Jenna sends a calling spell, but Elias does not return. The others speak to one of the Hammer's about their missing friend. Eventually, a message is sent that he is the guest of the Tyrant's this evening, and everything is fine.

The next day dawns bright and sunny. Ethme and Jenna go outside the city again. Jenna is gathering as much as she can in the way of herbs and plants. Piers goes out and buys some smithing tools. At dinner that evening, Elias tells the others what happened to him last night, without going into too much detail. After dinner, the girls and Elias go in search of music and dancing, while Piers returns to the inn. Samael did not join the others for dinner. Piers asks Bertha about Gurnz. She refers to him as the "Black Bastard of the Sword Coast" and says he'd probably be a lot  more dangerous if he were smarter. The rumor is that he dabbles in black magicks. She thinks the group probably wouldn't have any trouble with him, as long as they were paying passengers on this ship, but he does tend to attract trouble.

Jenna makes a salve and tends Elias wounds with it, before he turns in for the night. He has welts and scratches all over his body.  She leave the salve so he can tend  the ones in more sensitive places himself.

On the 28th, Piers tells the others about his conversation with Bertha. Jenna buys scissors on her way out of the city with her sister. When they are out in the moor, Jenna chops off her hair, and lets it blow across the island, in the breeze. Ethme tries to neaten it up, then on the way back into town, they stop at a barber to finish the job.

Samael has news of a Ffolk captain whose ship just docked, and will be heading for Baldur's Gate. Later that evening, Samael reports that he has secured passage on the Ffolk captain's ship, and that it will leave on the 30th. The passage for everyone is 10 gold, which Piers pays.

On the 29th, Jenna goes to the Tymoran temple on her way outside the city. She talks to Roderick for a while about his paintings, and he gives her one.  Then she goes to Monty's to say goodbye.  He is in the process of selling something to a man, but then his business concludes, and Jenna tells him she's leaving. Then she goes outside the city alone and tries to commune with the spirit of Mintarn. She gets the sense of a presence of both enormous age, and childishness - somewhat like an old person who is experiencing a "second childhood." She has the urge to be sly and impish for the rest of the day; she shifts into as close an approximation of Ethme as she can, and wanders around the city like that for the afternoon. Meanwhile, the real Ethme gets food and supplies for the dogs. Piers and Elias buy food for the people. Piers also writes a letter to his sister.

At dawn on the 30th, the group boards the Ocean Flight and meets Captain Kerig Ierne. They also meet two officers. Alfgeir is a broad-shouldered, rather short, Northlander. Selim Idras is a dark-skinned man with a very relaxed manner and way of moving.   The group's quarters are part of the hold that has been set aside; there is no cargo this voyage. It's actually quite spacious.  The dogs seem to quite like Captain Ierne.

On the way out of the harbor, the captain enters into a race with a Captain Dartan, who is the man Jenna saw at Monty's.  The race ends in a draw as the ships hit open water, and must peel off to go their separate ways. Many birds follow the ship. Samael tells Jenna that the captain is from Moray and follows the old ways. The two talk about Mintarn a bit.

Segue...

Kerig and Selim are talking to a cloaked and cowled figure. The figures says that it sees a storm of blood red hue coming. We cannot face it, so we must be ready to flee. The captain says that "that's what we're built for." The figure also says that it "won't be the last time."

Session 27 (02-26-05) 

Player Game Rating: 7.25  

30th Day of Mirtul -- 5th Day of Kythorn

Eventually, there is no land in sight anywhere, which puts Jenna on edge. Ethme and Elias take to it alright, though, and Piers is in his element. He begins to work with the crew. At one point, when Ethme and Piers are the only members of the company on deck, they see Selim escorting a cloaked and cowled figure. It walks like an old person. A sailor tells Piers that the figures name is Galloban and he's a seer. He sees things that are to be, and things that might be. He says that this ship has never fallen to any piracy, storm, or other mishap. Having Galloban on board makes the captain a lot of money; its seems that sending cargo on this ship is a close as a guarantee as you can get, that your cargo will arrive safely. The sailor also mentions that those three - meaning Kerig, Selim, and Galloban - are very tight with one another. He also mentions that he's a family man, and likes this ship for that extra sense of security.

While that's happening, the others are below deck. Elias is practicing. Jenna is bored and irritable. She tries reading Piers' Book of Steel for a while, but it holds no interest for her. Samael is reading, but then switches to playing a lute, which soothes Jenna some.

Days go by. Piers continues working with the crew, and gets to know several of them. He learns that there are a number of family men on the ship, and that everybody has been a member of the crew for at least one season.  Most have homes in the islands, in Baldurs Gate, or in Athkatla.  About a fifth of the crew is Amnish.  There is always some sort of life around the ship, like flocks of sea birds or pods of dolphins.

On the third day of Kythorn, the sea is relatively still, but there is a storm on the horizon. Alfgier tells Piers that he shouldn't worry, but that he'll need to stay out of the way the next day. Piers tells the others, then he and Elias go to get into a game with the off-shift sailors. Piers notices that the crew seems very tense. That night the ship is rolling. Stuff is sliding around, and there is dripping. The dogs are upset. Then the thunder starts. Samael and Piers sleep through all of this.

The ship calms down some as morning comes, or so it seems, below deck. Up on deck, there is much activity. The crew is racing around, chased by Alfgier's shouts. There are five vessels off of starboard, each one twice the size of the Ocean Flight. Sailors are arming the ballistae. Piers calls out for Samael and Elias and tells them that there are five ships on an intercept path with us.  Elias grabs his bow, and everybody heads to the stairs. They are met by Alfgier. He directs Piers to go with a couple of sailors, and sends Samael up to the front of the ship. He orders the others to stay below. Jenna goes back to her bunk and gathers healing supplies, and tells Betha to stay. Then she and Ethme and Elias gather on the stairs, waiting to see if there is anything they can do.

Piers overhears the two sailors he's stationed at a ballista with, arguing. One is saying, "It's him." The other is in denial. When Piers asks who "him" is, they tell him about Captain Helgrim, also called the Storm Lord. It's said that he's favored by Grandfather Doom.  He's been organizing the Nelanther pirates, and has become the scourge of the southern seas. This is very far north for him to be.  They tell Piers that Ierne will try to outrun them, and only stand and fight if there's no other choice.

The five ships get so close that the shouts of the enemy crews can be heard. There is a flag blowing in the wind bearing a skull and crossbones, and another with a symbol of three lightening bolts on it. Piers can actually make out figures on the decks. Many of them are not fully human. One, on the middle vessel, stands out.  He is a black shape, his cloak whipping about him. He has long black hair and a beard, and very pale skin and hands. He makes a gesture with one hand and a bolt of lighting crashes down out of the sky, striking the Ocean Flight's mainmast. It cracks and falls, taking the sails of the mizzenmast down with it. Jenna and Ethme are tossed down the stairs. Elias manages to keep his feet.

Then suddenly the triumphant shouts of the pirate crews changes to cries of surprise, as two whales rise up out of the water, between Ocean Flight and the enemy fleet, then crash down into the water again. The Ocean Flight is moved, by the whales' wave, away from the other ships. Another lightening bolt cracks down, striking the front  of the ship, as Captain Ierne yells to "release the harnesses." Huge rope ties are dropped overboard. The pirates open fire with ballista, and the crew returns fire. Suddenly, the Ocean Flight begins seemingly flying across the water, moving at  an impossible speed, away from the pirate fleet. Just as the ship makes it's escape, Piers and partners let fly one final ballista bolt. Piers aims it right at the opposing captain, and it looks like he hit. The sailors are stunned. They decide that maybe they should keep that just between the three of them...just in case Helgrim survived the attack.

Eventually, the Ocean Flight has left the pirate fleet far behind, and Ierne orders the crew to "cut them free." They cut through the heavy ropes and the ships slows to a normal rate. Repairs begin. The crew and Piers speculate, as they work, on why the Storm Lord would be so far  north, but nobody really knows. Samael tells Jenna that the captain had been calling the whales for days. He had known that there was some sort of trouble coming that they'd need to outrun.

The next day, Jenna is alone below. The old, cloaked figure, approaches her. He tells her that "the truth often wears a veil." She remarks that she's always found that to be one of it's more annoying qualities, and he says that perhaps that attitude is why he was supposed to tell her. Then he turns and leaves. His hand, which he has places on her shoulder, is deformed, or perhaps, not human. He has a single, very fat, and taloned, finger, but also had what appear to be a normal human finger, and a thumb.

On the fifth day of Kythorn, which is clear and warm, the Ocean Flight enters the mouth of the River Kyonthar. The group is called up on deck to witness the entry to the river. There is a small cluster of islands that the ship passes through. Once it clears them, there is land on the horizon, and there is no end to it. It's lands as far as the eye can see, from north to south. The river is flanked by enormous cliffs. There is constant traffic on the river, and it gets heavier and heavier as the ship approaches Baldurs Gate, which is about 20 miles from the sea. The water becomes almost brownish in color, as the ship approaches the city.

Then, the ship rounds a bend, and sails in the bay of Baldur's Gate. The city seems to go on forever. There are so many ships in the harbor, that it seems like a separate, floating city. There are all manner of ships in the bay. They see one ship that has a large wheel, which is crewed entirely by very small people who Jenna suspects of being gnomes. She is hanging on to Elias' arm, gaping. Piers is pacing up and down the rail, trying to get better views of the city.

Baldurs Gate is a walled city, and there are three prominent structures visible from the ship. One looks like a castle, one seems to be a metallic building, and one is a complex that dominates an entire section of the city. There also seems to be a large, empty space. It is over twice the size of Calidyrr. Despite the large empty space, the city seems to be bursting the bounds of it's walls and expanding out onto the river. Just the population on the bay might exceed that of Mintarn's. There is a jumble of northern and southern architecture, and there are a lot of dark-skinned southerners on various ships in the harbor, and also many half-orcs. There are also a lot of animals on the decks of various ships, which seem to be mostly cargo.

The captain says goodbye, and tells the group that he makes the run regularly. Jenna asks him to tell his cloaked friend that she'll remember his words. Then the group disembarks and begins the trek down the wharf to dry land. There are many strange sights, even before getting to the mainland. Some of the wharves have some sort of gigantic machinery on them, unlike anything the group has ever seen.  There is a group of six men standing and talking, and six chests are floating in the air behind one of them, in the most blatantly casual display of magic any of them have ever seen. There are guards with a red stripe on their helmets, and a flaming fist emblazoned on their shields. All manner of clothing styles can be seen. One of the people they notice is a huge, hulking man - over seven feet tall - who seems to have stone pebbles growing out of his body, in patterns all over his back and chest. There is a woman with very dark skin, short-cropped orange hair, and gold rings in her ears, who smiles at Samael. Samael tells the group that she's Kossuthian.

The buildings are five to six stories tall and there bridges that arch over the streets, connecting building to building. The streets are very shadowed. Eventually, the wharf ends at the mainland. Everyone had been following Piers, but Samael says that there is an Istishian temple in Baldurs Gate, and they'll be able to get recommendations on places to stay, and to eat. He leads them along the waterfront, looking for the temple. At one point, a man offers to buy the dogs and is not happy when the girls refuse. After that, the boys notice some men watching the group, and the dogs. There are several houses along the route where women are hanging out the windows, calling to the men. Eventually, the temple is in sight. It is a simple, cylindrical building. Samael leads everybody in.

Samael meets Ladonus, the high priest of this temple, which is called the House of the Cascade. Ladonus recommends the Three Old Kegs inn and Nodbender's Table, which is a festhall directly across from something called the High House of Wonders. He also mentions that there's all sorts of food to be found in the Wide.

After taking their leave of Ladonus, the group heads away from the docks, trying to follow the priest's directions to the Three Old Kegs. Ethme hears a man in an alley calling for help. She tells Jenna, who immediately heads down the ally, with the rest of the group right behind her. As they round the corner, they see two men standing there, one with a dagger in his hand. The two men look at the group, then turn and run off out the other end of the alley. The group looks around and quickly discovers an old man laying in a doorway. He's been stabbed and is bleeding badly. He keeps asking "Why...I have nothing...why..." Jenna and Samael try to save him, but he's too far gone. Meanwhile, Piers has run down to the other end of the alley to see if he can see the two men, but they are gone. Elias is looking around and finds an old coin purse with 12 coppers in it, near the old man's hands.

The group goes out to the street again to look for the guards. They find a couple, and bring them to the old man's body. The guards knew the old man. His name is Jasso, and he was a local. He was not a rich man, and they are stymied as why anybody would have murdered him. Not only did the old man have nothing worth stealing, but it seems that the thieves guild makes it their business to protect the locals...so now the murderers will be wanted by both the guards and the guild. It seems like a very stupid thing, to them. Elias gives the guards the purse he found, and adds a gold to it, to pay for the old man's funeral. As they are all leaving the alley, Jenna expresses the idea to Samael that the old man was bleeding much, much too fast. She thinks perhaps the blade was poisoned with something; she thinks they actually did get to him in time, but for the abnormally rapid bleeding.

The group eventually finds the Three Old Kegs, which is a pleasant and cozy little place, with small, but comfortable rooms. It costs 15 silver per night for three rooms. Ethme is quite distressed about the death of the old man, and if very subdued. She agrees to come and eat, though, and everyone gathers again and goes in search of Nodbender's Table.

Session 28 (03-12-05) 

Player Game Rating: 9.00  

5th Day of Kythorn

On their quest for Nodbender's Table, the companions enter an open area that is dominated by a massive complex. It looks like multiple buildings of diverse architectural styling, all piled together. Motes of light dance in the air around it. There are enormous gear works turning on the outside of it, and there are glimpses of sparkling water from within, as if there's a waterfall actually inside the building. The symbol of Gond hangs over the front gate.

The festhall is indeed, right across from this house of wonders, and it is a wonder of its own. From the outside, it's a long, low structure, with a domed roof. Inside, there's a platform that forms the foyer, and a sense of cavernous space beyond. There is a row of cages lined up at the edge of the platform. As the group watches, a cage rises, seemingly from the floor, and fills in a gap between two others. The front gate opens and several people emerge and leave the building. Then the very small man who is attending to a lever - apparently the control - asks them if they'd like a table. The group indicates that they do, and enter the cage, some more trepidatiously then others. The gate smashes shut behind them, and the cage jolts off downwards, following a track who's breathe-taking downward plunge is interrupted only by sudden, stomach-churning turns. The cage feels like it's going to shake apart at any moment.

Outside the cage is a world of mechanized, clockwork efficiency. Conveyor belts carry platters of food to and from platforms that contain tables full of happy diners. There are minstrels on some platforms, and their stages are in motion, slowly making their way around the cavern. Everybody who seems to work in the place is a very small person, like the cage-master. The cage stops on a platform with several tables, some already occupied, and the small man leads them to their seats and goes over the menu with them. It all sounds very exotic. They order drinks and dinner, and Jenna asks the small many if he's a gnome. He replies proudly that he is, and tells them that the grand building across the street is the High House of Wonders. It's associated with the temple of Gond, but is more of a museum or showroom. The food is excellent, and very, very expensive. Piers pays, and the total is more than the cost of passage on the Ocean Flight was.

After dinner, Ethme and Jenna and Samael decide to take the dogs out for a walk, then turn in, while Piers and Elias go looking for local taverns. They don't have much trouble finding one. It almost has the look of a hunting lodge inside. There are animal heads hanging from every wall. The clientele is all male, which is a great disappointment to Piers and Elias. There is music, but the mood on the whole is pretty quiet. The men all have the look of hunters and frontiersmen about them; it seems like a place Liam and Garhalt would fit right into. Each of them has a bow. There is a man sitting with a group of others who is clearly not entirely human; Elias comments to Piers that the man reminds him of the Llewyrr. The bartender is a very large, bearded man. The boys take note of a man who enters and goes to join two men who are playing a board game, though not before he and the group of four that include the half-elven man size each other up. Eventually, a woman does enter, but she has a child with her, and immediately goes over to join the other newcomer. After their round is done, the boys go looking for someplace less quiet.

They find a place soon enough. The sign outside, a shield actually, has a skull on it. When they enter, they are in a large room, with dark red walls. There are not tables, just casks of various sizes scattered about, being used as tables and stools. There is a gigantic hearth with a roaring fire in it. Equally gigantic is the giant manning the door. Piers thinks he looks like a frost giant, but he's too small to really qualify. The music here has a heavier tone to it; almost like battle song. The place is full of both men and women, and a wide variety of them. They are all armed. Piers and Elias make their way over to the bar to get drinks, and proceed to people watch. They see a man with a chain wrapped around his wrist. The other end of the chain is attached to a collar around a fur-clad woman's neck. She is sitting on the floor with her head resting on his lap. They see two men in a corner, talking. One punches the other in the face. The other grins and nods, and purchases the gauntlet he was just struck with. They see the tall man with the rocky growths that they'd spotted earlier, on the docks. There are a couple of dwarves sitting at one cask. The bartender is a skinny, human man, who's screws apparently aren't all as tight as they could be. They see a man do a blade-dance around the man's fingers. That man gives Piers and odd look and asks, "Luskan?" Piers just shakes his head, and them an goes back about his business. At one point an entire quarter of the room breaks into an ear-splitting cry of "Tempus!"

Then the giant bellows for quiet. The music stops and everybody turns to look. He turns over a cask, and a human man with dark, curly hair, climbs up on it and addresses the crowd. He speaks of a woman named Mallory, who is known to many of them, and says that her baby's been stolen. He says that the Fists have been alerted, but some of them want to take some action on their own. They're forming search parties. Interested people should meet him outside.

Piers and Elias join the crowd gathering outside. The bald man who had addressed Piers earlier is saying to the curly haired man, "This is not the first time, Lees. It's been happening for weeks. People gone missing. Especially children." Lees replies that it's the first time it's happened to "one of us." Lees tells the crowd that they are looking for a slight man, older, with thin hair and wearing plain clothes, in dark colors, and a dark cloak. They'll meet at the Green Sage, on the docks, and spread out from there.  The boys introduce themselves to Lees and ask for directions to the Green Sage. They say they want to help, and they have friends who may also want to. After getting directions, they run back to the inn to wake the others.

The girls and Samael hurriedly dress and gather the things they might need, and follow the boys down to the docks, with the dogs. When they get there, they are met by Lees. The docks have been broken up into sections, and people are already out searching. The mother, Mallory, is there, as is the innkeeper of the Green Sage. Samael says he may have a way to locate the baby if they get close enough, and goes off to talk to Mallory. She gives Samael an amulet; the baby was wearing a similar one around her neck. The girls meanwhile, are asking questions about where the baby was taken from, and the innkeeper offers to show them. It seems the baby is fairly newborn, and was taken right out of her crib. Mallory was just coming up the stairs when she saw a man go out the window with the baby. The innkeeper gives them one of the baby's blankets for the dogs to sniff, and they immediately pick up the scent and follow it to the window. They leap out as the girls clamber through, and they are off.

The dogs lead everybody by an extremely circuitous route through city streets and narrow alleys. At one point, the even need to break through a wooden fence, which somebody must have climbed over. They seem to have lost the scent at a sewer grate at one point, but then Betha picks it up again several yards further on. This goes on for so long that people are starting to lose faith that the dogs really have the right scent, but then Ethme finds a scrap of blanket that looks just like the blanket the dogs were shown, from the baby's crib. The whole thing is making less and less sense to everybody. Ethme speculates, at one point, that the baby is being handed off from person to person.

Eventually, the dogs stop at a grate that leads through the city wall. Piers tests it and finds that it's already been loosened and is easy to pull out. He and the dogs go in first, with the rest of the group close behind. It's a disgusting, muddy run-off vent. By the time everybody emerges on the other end, they are filthy. They are outside the city now, near the river bank. The ground is wet and muddy, and the dogs can't pick up the scent again. They are running around in circles, looking for it. Samael holds up Mallory's amulet and begins to cast a spell, then he points and says "that way." Everyone starts trying to run, some with more success than others. It's very dark, and the muddy, uneven ground makes falling distressingly easy.

Elias, the only one who can see any distance, sees a figure by the riverbank. It raises the baby up over it's head and throws her into the river. Though nobody else can see this, everybody now hears the baby's cries, followed by the splash. The figure, a man, then bolts off along the bank, fleeing the oncoming group. Elias veers off in the direction of the river's flow, hoping to rescue the baby. Jenna and Betha go after him, while Ethme, Piers, and Finn pursue the fleeing man. Samael stops, pulls his cloak off, and begins casting a spell.

Elias reaches the riverbank shortly behind Betha, and plunges in. The water is very cold and the current is strong; he can't see the baby. Samael, meanwhile, has finished his spell and also leaps into the water, then disappears under the surface. Finn swiftly catches the running man, and grabs onto a pant leg, yanking the man off his feet, while Ethme and Piers run up. Jenna reaches the riverbank and also leaps in. As Elias and Jenna are looking for the baby, Samael surface, baby in hand, and yells for help. Spotting the other two, he begins to swim towards them one-handed, holding the baby above water with the other. The group of them are able to clamber back up onto the bank.

The baby-tosser has managed to regain his feet, only to find himself flanked by Piers, Ethme, and Finn. He dodges Ethme's blow, but Pier's dagger strikes home. The man falls, apparently dead. Ethme immediately starts trying to bring him back. Meanwhile, Jenna is working on the baby, and yelling for anybody with any dry clothing to get over there, as she, Elias, and Samael are all soaked through and freezing, and have nothing to wrap the baby in. Piers starts running towards them, stripping his cloak off. Elias, while this is happening, happens to see Jenna's cloak stuck to a branch a little way down the river and retrieves it for her.

Ethme has managed to revive the man, but he's badly hurt and is rapidly slipping away again. She calls for Jenna, but Jenna declines to leave the baby. Samael runs over to Ethme and the dying man. Piers reaches the other group and throws his cloak over Jenna and the baby. Then Finn growls and Ethme and Samael look up and see four people appear out of the darkness, approaching them. Two, a woman and a man, are carrying daggers. One man has a short sword, and there is a large, heavy set man wearing a butcher's apron, and carry a butcher knife.

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