Wicked's Edge

Wren's Garden

Darris squinted painfully at the sun. He shook his head ruefully at how high in the sky it was, then instantly regretted the sudden movement. An evening of story-telling at the inn was taking its toll on both his body and his punctuality. Lady Wren had been quite clear that he was to be at the Parsonage shortly after breakfast, but according to Lady Amaryllis, he had already missed both breakfast and mid-morn tea by the time he had made his way downstairs.

Moving as quickly as his pounding head allowed, Darris hurried to the well-tended garden in back of the Parsonage.

Wren took one quick look at him and grunted. “I see Sven and his crew are being a bad influence as usual. You can start weeding around the corn.”

They worked in silence for a while, giving Darris time to mull over everything he had heard in the common room of the inn. As if reading his mind, Wren glanced over at him and asked “So how far into the story did they get last night? The short of it please – I’ve heard Sven’s Bard tell it often enough.”

Darris cleared his throat. It was hot and dry out here in the garden, approaching high-sun, and he hadn’t had anything to eat or drink in his haste to get here. He quickly recounted their trip to the Heteronomy of Virduk, their adoption into the Highhill Clan, and the rescue of Reshni Verdu from the vampires. How the information gathered there lead them to the Calastian Battle Mage, Kuliom Ganthes, who was in possession of the sword Believers Truth.

At this point Wren chuckled, “I take it they left out the part about us losing the one sword we had on that trip? Figures – it wasn’t one of our finest moments. We lost it to a big grasshopper-demon in service the Belsameth.” She waived-off his pleas for details and asked him to continue.

“The Battle-Mage required a favor in exchange for Believers Truth. The bard was remarkably short on details there as well.” Darris looked expectantly at Wren, hoping that she would tell him more, but she remained busy at her work, seemingly unaware of his interest. He sighed and continued, “You were apparently successful, and traveled to Ankila to retrieve the sword from the Temple of Hedrada, getting embroiled in politics with both the High Minister Arnas Riven and the Vigils of Vesh. And that is where he left off.”

At any rate, that was all Darris remembered but he wasn’t going to admit as much.

Wren stood up and stretched “Time for a break before we get started on the next patch.”

Darris eyed an evil looking plant that covered a small patch of ground surrounded by a barren stretch of stone & dirt. It was a vine that crawled over itself reminding Darris of a pile of snake; leaves writhing in a gentle breeze made it seem almost alive. He shuddered as Wren returned with a small pewter pitcher and two mismatched cups.

“I hope you like Frostberry Tea. It is particularly refreshing on warm days like today.” Wren passed him a cup filled to the brim.

Darris grimaced to himself. Frostberry tea was delicious when served cold, but weak and acidic when warm. He politely placed it to his lips, planning to take but the barest of sips, when he felt a surprising chill rise from the surface. He eyed Wren over the edge of the cup as he gratefully drank the refreshing draught.

“It was about that time that I picked up this delightful little pitcher,” said Wren as if reading his thoughts. “It may seem frivolous to have a pitcher that does nothing but cool its contents, but it has been a comfort to me for many, many years, and I had the money to spend.

When we returned to the Vault from Ankila, there was message waiting that our mining venture in the Valley had begun to prosper, and our first payment awaited us at the Asuras House in Catlaigh.

It’s a wild land between the Vault and Catlaigh – even more so back then – so we traveled with a caravan for safety in numbers. I remember that the caravan master’s name was Jinn Ochaki. It’s funny that I can remember his name after all these years, but not what I ate for lunch yesterday.” Wren sighed and gazed off in the distance, seemingly lost in thought.

Darris coughed politely and Wren was jerked back to the present.

“I don’t know how that man could make that run with any regularity. We were attacked by Umber hulks on the way there and hunted down a marauding band of Mormo lions on the way back. Dangerous business to be in.” Wren shook her head.

“If you’ve never been to Catlaigh, you should visit, if for nothing else than to attend a morning service at the Madriel temple. One of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. They actually had peacocks roaming the gardens. Just beautiful.” She laughed, “And speaking of beautiful, ask Sven about Tuva, his “old friend” in Catlaigh.

While there, we met a man in the employ of Asuras by the name of Tyrad Churk. He helped us manage our business there and was kind enough to show us around town. It was in the shops there that I found this little beauty.” Wren held up the pitcher admiringly.

Darris and Wren both jumped as Amaryllis suddenly popped up from behind a Mulberry bush. She had a sly, knowing look on her face as she said “He spent more time showing some of us around than others.”

If Darris didn’t know any better, he would have said that Wren was blushing, but she brushed off the comment with a quick “Apparently break time is over since Amaryllis was kind enough to stop by to help.”

“Oh, no. I’m not helping you with your nasty Serpent Weed. Darris and I have…business…back at the inn. Yeah, that’s the ticket. Unless of course, you’d rather stay, Darris?”

He took one shuddering looked at the sinuous vine and jumped up from his seat.

“Yes, yes…business…I’d quite forgot. Thank you so much for reminding me.”
He and Amyrillis left Wren chuckling to herself as they headed back to the inn.

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A letter to his mistress (found amongst the papers of lord anarchy)

Miss Lady, Im done with my resentment for you
It is true that I once thought I knew best in regards to hwyrdd’s promise, but now I see that your vision goes beyond the simplistic plans I had so grandly devised in my own head.
My love you are as far above the likes of me as the gods to the titans and my devotion to you is like the trapped fly paying worshipful homage to the approaching spider and like that spider you drink my blood. But unlike that spider you set me free of your web of embraces and cast me into the world to accomplish my goals in ways I could never have dreamed.
You are right in that the only way to remove calastian rules will be to make calastians shudder at the notions of coming to set up rule here in the promise; what noble will take such an assignment knowing that he and his family will be targeted by the people they oppress?
You my love have shown me the light by taking it from me; in your shadows I am reborn and my vision is now like that of the long at sea sailors who see the lighthouse ahead and that lighthouse burns with the illumination of freedom for all sailors to have ever walked the oceans.
You have created me my lady most true
and in your shadows I do as you bid me to.
Your blood is my life my most sacred ale
And your ways I hold dear without failing to fail.
To the promise I guard like web to its spider
But where’re calls my lady I come stand beside’r.
__
I hope to one day recite that homage to you and to further show my adoration for your visions of revenge and decimation. I someday hope to unite with you in calas but I know your scope of mincing out vengeance encompasses the entire hegemony. When calas is free I will take up your more grand cause but for now my loyaltys lay with my own people much as the wild dog roams his alley and fights for every scrap of food to feed his pups. I am that wild dog, I am the lord of anarchy that the satrap and his array of nobles must take notice of; I will dispense ruin unto them as the buffalo do who trod the grasses of the planes of lede! I will stamp out the nobilities desire to remain, we will make it too difficult, too personally taxing to they and their families to set foot in the promise!
__
Like bee to flower I hover beside you and await your precious drink
like star to the moon I wait in darkness and see only what you think.
Like hours to the day you fill me with the hope of a new day
Like flower to the sun I bask in the glory of your ray.

I shall speak this last poem over the satrap as he begs me for his mercy!
__
The satrap be damned I’ll hang him up high
And ‘is every lordling will hear his weak cry.
Virduk himself, like a pup lost at see
Will drown on the tide that sends him to me!
“Lord anarchy!”, cries he with a trembling fear
Tis cause you that my kngdom crumbles this year!

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Late Night Story Tellin' With Granna Mirty
Late-night story-tellin’ with Granna Mirty

After a long day of travel,feasting, drinking, greeting, hugging and smoking your fill of fine buck-weed tobacco, your exhausted party is finally being shown to sleeping chambers made up for you in the guest bedroom of the Highhill manor. Not so fast says Granna Mirty….

As your new mother is lighting your way with a small lantern toward the narrow stairway leading upstairs, the reclined and tiny rocking figure seated by the dying embers of the cooking fire waves you over with a glint in her eyes and a slight trembling of her frail, bony hands.
“Have a seat grandchildren, for it is time you learned more of the family that has taken you as ours; I think it is a story you should know even if our paths had never crossed, as there seems to be connections tying ourselves together, or, perhaps, we just have common forces of good watching and comforting us. I like to think that both are true; that whatever forces have been giving me comfort all these long years, have also brought you to this hearth and this family to both do good and lend comfort – to a fragile old woman and also to you strong, brave adventurers.”

She motions for a neatly folded quilt warming in a basket near the heart and allows for you to spread it over her lap while motioning for you all to take seats on the floor before the fire like a gaggle of children staying up late for a midnight ghost story. Once comfortable and set to a rhythmic back and forth rocking, Granna Mirty continues, her gaze browsing along your faces, meeting your eyes and holding your gazes one by one as she speaks in her softly trembling voice.
“This is a tale that stretches back to the divine war and to my great-great grandfather, a hero of said war. Our family’s patron God, Hwyrdd, acted as a scout for the Gods during their fray with their titan fathers, and like Hwyrdd, my great-great grandfather, Blitzu Brightleaf and a troop of Halflings from the Pryan hills, served as a scouting party for one of the divine armies in this region. The squad Blitzu led was a small group of Halfling who located titanspawn encampments for the divine armies; it was a highly respected position and a very deadly one; many good, brave Halflings died at the hands of vile titanspawn, and these small bands of Halfling scouts were, despite their success at information gathering, being quickly depleted.”
Granna Mirty shakes her head sadly, but then offers you a soothing smile as if to remind you before bed time that all is not dark and fearful in this world and that you will be safe tonight here in the presence of your family.
“Now this next part, may or may not be true, but it is said that the herald of Hwyrdd, the great treant Ackeran, personally assisted Blitzu and his squad when they had been ambushed by blight wolves near the Broadreach Forest. With the help of Ackeran the squad defeated the wolves and it is said the treant stayed on for three nights sharing stories and offering aid to the wounded squad of Halflings. So taken with this group’s courage, fearlessness and cunning, Ackeran promised before he made his leave that assistance would be provided to them to help keep them safe and see to their continued success. Upon the morrow, the squad was awakened by their sentries who saw in advance the approach of two large, brilliant white hound dogs walking like ghosts through the pre-dawn forest. The halfing archers gathered around the camp’s perimeter and took aim, but calmly and steadily the hounds marched forward and with them advanced a feeling of calm, peace and fierce determination to do good.”

Granna Mirty levels a knowing stare at the lot of you and points a bony finger in your direction, “Do these hounds sound familiar? Amaryllis has told me of your rescue from those horrid slavers…” She then waits on one of you to bring her a warm mug of cider before continuing.
“It became apparent that these hounds were trained to scent and seek out titanspawn, and certainly not trained by any mortal hand – it was the Huntress Tanil herself who had instilled within these divine hounds the means of tracking, finding and removing titanspawn from this world. The hunting hounds stayed with the squad until the very end of the war, and by that time only six of the original members remained alive, including Blitzu Brightleaf who the hounds had taken to heeling and obeying as if they were soldiers and he their commanding officer. The affection and respect between these animals and my great-great grandfather was powerful and mutual; it is known that he adored these dogs as comrades in arms and siblings, and for every instance of a hound putting its life in danger to help a halfing, you could name three Halflings who had done the same for these hounds, even a few of the dead are said to have died giving their lives to assist one of these hounds. Sometimes ties form through hardships that are as strong as blood – perhaps this is why the gods allow for such hardships to befall us. Sometimes kin is not just the people who gave you life – it’s often the people who continue to give you life.”
Again she gives each of you a firm look, as if to command you to remember what she’s saying and to heed this story or this message if nothing else is remembered through the fuzz of this long day.

“At the end of the war each of the surviving original members of the squad vowed to live their lives in a manner of honoring Tanil and Hwyrdd; they further vowed to craft something to honor the hounds who they thought they would never see again. For the next few years Blitzu helped his people; the Pryan Hills, our precious homeland was spoiled and ravaged by war and was now claimed by titanspawn. With his people forced to move, Blitzu assisted in those who sought out, and eventually found, a new home here in these lands. Finally, with years of war, years of toil, blood, death and loss behind him, Blitzu settled into a quiet and peaceful life; in between working his land, he also worked a nearby forge and soon he had produced what he hoped was fitting tribute to those hounds: The Dog-sword of the Pryan Hills is the name he gave the blade, but today we refer to it as simply The dog sword. Your Uncle Rigo wields it now as did his brother Paitr before him. It has travelled a wondrous path, even resting in my hands for a short while, to get where it is now, but it has always stayed in the family – and it always shall.”

She now clears her throat hoarsely and wipes her eyes a tad with the corner of her quilt, Granna Mirty was never one to hide her emotions, and nothing gets her emotional like talking of her family and her fallen son Paitr. For a short while she seems lost in memories, perhaps story time is over as she is staring distantly into the embers, but when some of you shift to stand her eyes return to the here and now and she offers an apologetic smile and continues.
“Stay seated, humor this old lady a little longer. I’m nearly finished… No one’s sure exactly when, but people on the surrounding land soon noticed that farmer Brightleaf had two new hounds on his land; two brilliant white hunting hounds, large bounders and bayers seemingly bred from the purest of hunting stock. These hounds heeled Blitzu for years until old age caught up with him. Even on his deathbed, where he wasted away for five nights, the hounds rested nearby, curled up on a rug watching him and offering comfort. On the early morning of the sixth day, Blitzu’s maid was awoken by the mournful howls of the hound; when she arrived in Blitzu’s chamber he had passed away and there was no sign of either dog.”

Granna Mirty continues, but her story-telling voice is gone and she speaks as though in conversation, rounding her tale to a conclusion and bringing things back to the present.
“Members of this family have sworn they have seen one or both of these hounds from time to time. I know that my boy Rigo tells of hounds appearing to aid in skirmishes with Calastian troops and, more personally, I saw two pure white hounds gazing at me sadly one morning when I was out tending to some vegetables. One of the hounds had bloody gashes upon its sides and face, but both stood calmly and still watching me from a distance with expressions that I can only describe as sorrow-filled. It was the next day I learnt of Paitr’s death at the hands of Calastians. I later learnt that Paitr had a strong affection for hounds and kept many keepsakes and trinkets featuring hound dogs – perhaps he saw these white dogs as well… And of course there is the lot of you who have had a very real connection and interaction with these sacred dogs.”
Granna Mirty sighs then lifts her hand to cover a deep yawn. She shakes off the sleepiness and concludes in a more hushed voice, “I don’t know what it means really, not in the big picture anyways. The way I see it is that one’s family is generally bigger than one might think, and that one’s family need not share the same house, the same lands, the same features or even the same race or, who knows, the same species. Family is in the heart children, your family is who you let into your heart and who opens theirs to you. Now, Granna Mirty will see you in the morning. Go get some rest and let me sleep away this happy day here by the fire. Kytex, if you could add another log for me… Jotas, perhaps a second quilt… Good night grandchildren.”

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The road back

We reached Wolf’s den, to try to sell Rayneson the trophies we have collected (Redbark and myself) and rest the night in a bed. People were telling their tale about their great adventures, pointing to the trophies like they brought them in. When it came to my turn, I decided to tell the story after we left the cave that stopped the portal from being open.

We left the cave and decided to see how the dwarven company was doing with the ore. During the first night (2) two ogre stumbled into our campsite. We cut them down to our sides with no problems. Later that night a flying creature (Wren said it was a dragon) came into our campsite and grappled Jotasren and started to fly away with him. After a pause, we got Jotasren back. The flying creature was a wyvern.

We reach the citadel on the 17th. The Luminous order paid us for the exploration of the Slaughtergarde. Luminary Capt Armin Harrak asked us if we would help him with the rest of the cleanup in Slaughtergarde. We had to decline because we were on a mission to collect the eighteen blades of Vode Nulan.

We left the next day to head to the dwarven mines. They were working like crazy and had a good bit of ore. That night the dwarfs were telling us about a goblin attack that stole some of the ore. They were telling us that they were grey non-bleeding goblin type. We decided to investigate the area and found a cave. We moved up to the cave trying to be stealthy (all of us except Jotasren). In the cave, we found the grey goblins or they found us. There was a bigger then normal grey goblin that vomited all over Sven. Sven rushed into the cave after the big goblin and was surrounded by a lot of little ones. Sven attacked and the swarm was to mighty for me. He fell in battle. Then they went after Amaryllis and she fell. We finally killed all the goblins but it was a close battle that could have gone either way. Jotasren was shooting magic missile at the ones trying to run out of the cave which was a good thing, didn’t need anymore of these foul creatures around. After the battle, we discovered that Sven was dead. We rested with the dwarfs before heading back to town to try to bring Sven back to life.

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Sven's Adventure Log

After the dinner at the inn we were back on porch with our pipes. Darris was going thru his notes, on our time in the valley, and asked, “Lord Wohba, would you mind going over the last battle with the Gnoll chieftain in the valley?”

“Priest, that brings up some bad memories, we lost a boon companion that day, but I guess you would need a full account if you’re going to put this all down.”

“Now let me start the day before when we collected the last piece we need to destroy before the portal…..

We left the room we slayed the dragon in and moved thru the rooms we battled the gnolls in for the chest. We could hear the clanging of metal on metal from up ahead. Amaryllis was scouting up ahead, the rest of us not far behind. As she round the last corner a large troll warrior charged out of the shadows, knocking Amaryllis unconscious with one shot, the rest of us made quick work of the warrior, we discover that she was guarding four study looking doors, from which the noise was coming from. They were barred and voices from behind it let us know there was more than one person back there, since they would not open the door for us it took a while to break down one of them. Once we got it opened we found ourselves in a large forge, and we were attacked by three Abyssal Dwarves with poison crossbow bolts and magic, that battle took us some time. The last dwarf did try to make a very impressive escape attempt but fell short and died. At the end of the battle the forge started to shake a bit, I’m not sure if the dwarves did something or not they appeared to be just as surprised as we were. Just as we got the last item off the forge a very large fire elemental emerged from the molten lava, chasing us out of the room, luckily it was not able to follow us. We spent the night again in the dragon room.

The next morning we returned to the entrance to the portal room and once more were met by Laurazhi the women who was watching the gnolls, she informed us that the rest of the gnolls had abandon the Gnoll chieftain Gashkar, and he was attempting to open the gates without the relics he needed. She said she would help us stop him. We got one of the doors open and a demon immediately attacked us, I later found out it was called a Mezzoloth. As we were trying to enter the room it dropped a poisonous cloud on us with divide the party Amaryllis and I inside the room the rest still outside. We began leading the demon to the back of the room from which we heard chanting. The room was very high there were stairs in the back leading to a balcony about 100 feet up the chanting was coming from there. We moved about half way to the far wall when the others began coming thru the poisonous gas. Everything began to look good when we reached the far wall and the stairs, when the Mezzoloth dropped another poisonous gas cloud. About that time a pile of skulls burst thru the portal in the northeast portal, which was the closest to where we were fighting the Mezzoloth, with the skulls came a Hezrou came thru and began attacking us and the Mezzoloth. The Hezrou a huge toad-like creature had a stench that sickened me and made it hard to move. Sometime during this Amaryllis began to make her why up the stairs, everyone else had spread out to avoid the new cloud and the Hezrou, Tristan was behind the Hezrou, Wren and I were at the bottom of the stairs and Kytex and Jotasam were across the room. Amaryllis got to the top of the stairs and disrupted the Gnoll with a crossbow bolt, and Kytex killed the Mezzoloth. I was unconscious on the stair Wren revived me and we began making our way up. Laurazhi merged from the wall on the balcony and charmed the Gnoll who began to fire arrows down on the rest of the party, keeping everyone along the ways out of sight. With the chanting disrupted the portal began to pull the skulls and the Hezrou back in it. Tristan was trapped between the demon and the portal and was sucked into the portal along with it when it closed. Wren and I reached the top of the stairs, we found Amaryllis unconscious, and the women tried to cast a spell on me, at the time I wasn’t aware of what was going on so I attempted to kill the Gnoll to stop him from killing the party members still on the ground floor. Jotasram killed Gashkar with his magic missiles and the women disappeared with the tome. Sometime during the fight Jotasram sent a summons to the paladins of the Luminous Order, at this time one of them arrived helping us destroy the 2 items we had to open the gates and agreed to set watch on the portal room.

“That’s how I remember the fight priest, it’s from my view point and I was not able to see it all, I know we all fought bravely and to our fullest and we still lost a good man.” Sven said soberly, “Now if you want to hear a tail of a real epic battle, ask Jotasram about how he tried to convince Fertile Mertle to leave Sumberton with us!”

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A Dragon...really and truly, a DRAGON!!

12 Madrot 150: Descend into Slaughtergarde Armory to explore the west side.

It seems we will never leave this awful place. It just seems to go on and on but I know we have to keep this portal from being re-opened or really bad things will descend upon us. I shudder to think what would come through if we fail.

So we head back down and take one of the lifts we have not used yet. It leads us to a corridor with 2 hallways. Kytex says something about left containing evil and since we are just fumbling around in the dark anyway, we head to the left. Sven activates the fiery archway and much to his surprise there is a DRAGON behind it. Oh my it’s really a real and true to life dragon!! It’s not quite as big as I thought dragons would be but still it is really nasty looking. It makes sounds as if it is actually talking but I do not understand it or maybe I am imagining it. I mean, come on, a TALKING dragon.

Well this thing proceeded to tear into Sven. It was so fast and it’s attacks were coming from all directions. These damn portals keep opening and closing and at one point Sven and Kytex were on the other side, with the dragon, all by themselves!!! I activated the portal and when it opened Sven was down and Kytex was fighting the beast so it didn’t eat poor Sven. I imagine he would have made a tasty meal for that dragon. I mean he has a good bit of muscle to fill up that big dragon belly. I was very glad that we did NOT find Sven sticking out of the dragons mouth when we got back inside.

Wren saw the terrible situation and ran to Svens aid. I moved in as well and Jotas continued blasting the beast with spells. As we hacked at the dragon we saw two tieflings emerge. It seemed as if this dragon was talking to them. Sven, Kytex, and Jotas had weakened the dragon that with one last hit I managed to take it down. The rogue was attacking Wren and she was not doing to badly against him. But the others finally took out the tieflings and we managed to regroup at that point.

Kytex helped me get two barbs off the dragon that I think I can get made into really exquisite daggers.

We slayed the mighty dragon, Oraxtrik and his sniveling tiefling rogue and wizard. Then rested in dragon’s chamber. (not sure our characters actually discovered his name)

13 Madrot 150: Descend western stairway deeper into Slaughtergarde Armory;

After we rested we had room after room of gnoll soldiers, barbarians and clerics of Vangal. It seemed we headed the wrong way in looking for one of the 2 missing items. But then finally in last room there were 30 of gnoll clerics guarding this weird box that had little heads all talking or maybe it was chanting. It was very disturbing and I was very happy when Jotas lit up the heads and the cleris with a fireball. HA! No more chanting for you Creepy Heads!

We managed to take them down without any casualties and claim from them The Ark of the Resurgent Mountain (The force for good bound and reversed).

We returned to dragon chamber to rest and heal. We had a couple of visitors in the night but the boys dispatched them. Sadly we still have one more piece to find.

14 Madrot, begin further exploration, seeking the sigil.

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A Fortunate Fool
As told by Sir Bishar Savatyr

In my short time as a hired guard among the Order of the Morning Sky I was able to travel extensively through this small mountain valley which I had never heard of before leaving Darakeene. In these travels I was able to speak to many of the fine people who dwell here; they are a good-natured folk, a bit superstitious but for the most part, appreciative of those who assist them. I have heard many of the local tales and legends, from the twisted depths of Redbark to the horrid mountain passes of the north to the blasted Slaughterscar in the south.
And so, with my term of service to the order completed I tried to find the roving band who had become heroes for assisting the forsaken town of Dundurran. Being unable to find this group I joined up with another collection of daring adventurers calling themselves the Red Tiger Paws. After much thought and planning myself and the Paws set out for Slaughterscar, assuming we were well enough outfitted and experienced to put down some of the undead roaming the area and do a good turn for the Luminous Order and the people of the Valley in the process.

The best laid plans, right? We truly did have nothing but good intentions; we wanted to strike a blow against evil, hit them where it hurt and severely weaken their hold on the region. All started well enough, we dispatched a warren of flesh-eating ghouls and slew a clutch of marauding zombies, but with the fall of night came the end of our adventures. We were set upon as we camped by a group of gnolls who targeted our horses from the cover of darkness, dropping three mounts before we even saw one of them; the axe-wielding gnolls then swarmed our campsite and, though I respect their courage and intentions, the Red Tiger Paws were no match for the bigger and stronger gnolls. I was mounted upon Embarr in the end and was being assaulted from all sides; I remember an axe blade striking deeply into the neck of my faithful mount and an arrow caught me square in the chest even as my mount toppled beneath me.

I awoke lashed to a wooden cross-post in a dark room filled to my waist with dark, cold water; some manner of water-dwelling creatures attempted questioning me, but their language was alien and strange and I could make out little of their words and I truly had no information worth their efforts anyways. they tried to feed me poorly-cooked chunks of fresh, bloody meat that I just knew had to have been members of the Red Tiger Paws and they delighted in the feast Embarr provided them. I have no doubt that I would have shortly met a horrid demise had Sven and his company not arrived to rescue me. By the grace of Madriel I now fight at their sides, my sword Ender back in my hands and eager to spill the blood of those who oppose the forces of good.

I do not know all of what is transpiring; it seems that this place is the nexus of something truly evil, something that could change the world in a dark and lasting way. We must stop it at all costs, if the odd but beautiful woman we encountered down here is to be believed, a gateway to some demonic place is soon to be opened, all that is needed are three objects to complete the ritual to make this portal functional. These objects are down here and we must see them destroyed.

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Local Legends of Dondurran

The tangled stretch of Redbark casts an ominous shadow over the village of Dondurran, and during your time amongst her people you have heard many a fantastic tale and legend of the tangly old forest. From legends of ravenous beasts sheltered in its depths to stories of locals getting lost in the woods and living as the tormented “guests” of the cruel faeries for the rest of their days.

One tale, told often around the fires of Dondurran spoke of the Great lone wolf of Redbark. Enough hunters claim to have seen the great mountain wolf within the forest to lend a note of truth to the stories, and locals – both children and adults who should know better – step quickly and seek shelter when the full moon is in the air and fog rises over the crops.

It is said that this large wolf stalks for human blood during nights of the full moon, forsaking the forest to prowl the streets and farms of Dondurran. The Disappearance of Little Davv Crook is the most often told story about the great lone wolf, wherein the beast ignores the easy meals of sheep, cattle and chickens in preference of the young and mischevious Davv.
In the story, the beast stalks through the fog-shrouded town, sniffing the air, using his scent to track through all the places Davv frequented during the prior day. The wolf tracks Davv’s scent through the town, on the way ignoring easy meals such as dried meats hanging in a butcher’s shop, a constable’s horse tied to a hitching post, sleeping ducks nesting at the pond and a lost ewe wandering the quiet streets at night. In the end the wolf closes in on Davv as the naughty boy is sitting up in his candle-lit bedroom, proudly viewing the coins and trinkets he had pocketed from each place he visited during the day – all places where the wolf tracked his scent.
In the morning Davv’s parents find the boy’s room covered in blood, the stolen trinkets and coins scattered about on the bloody floor and a path of large, bloody wolf prints lead out the window and into Redbark, where it is assumed Davv was dragged and eaten.

This tale has been told for generations by the folk of Dondurran, though, it had originally been a massive gray-furred bear who eats poor Davv. Only recently was it changed to suit the current times, fueled by hunters who have been frightened by encounters with the odd lone wolf who stalks the forest. The mayor, Oswald Gittens claims that long, long ago there really was a farmer’s son named Davven Thews who was “snatched all bloody-like in the night.” The constable never solved the case and it eventually became a piece of horrific lore.

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A Torch Held Tightly
Domino's Tale
The small brown bird shook momentarily, his feathers puffing out and then flattening back into their previous position. “I really don’t remember meeting him, he was always with me as long as I can remember,” Domino explained. “He told me he ‘woke’ me with magic.”

The other birds watched him uncomprehendingly. The native avian life consisted mostly of blackbirds, robins, and the like. A piper was out of place, though not a bird of prey and so not instinctively considered a threat. Still, the calls the piper made were exceedingly complex, not the simple tweets of a warning call to one’s flock or a mating offer and thus their meaning was lost to his audience.

Undaunted, Domino continued as if he were being understood. “Yeah, I know… you’re fascinated,” he remarked sarcastically. Domino had struggled enough with the idea of being something more than a normal bird, but still unable to really communicate with humans… except for somewhat with his master. He wasn’t comfortable with the idea yet, but had given up worrying about it. “Worrying”, he thought, “something I wouldn’t have done until I was ‘awoken”.

The silence in the area, combined with the empty headed eye blinking of the other birds was too much for Domino. He continued as if they were staring with interest, not bafflement. “His name is Jotasran… the guy who woke me, I mean. Some animals get powerful mages as masters when they are ‘awoken’. Me… I get something of a tool.”

“Don’t get me wrong,” Domino continued, “he’s a good enough sort, and probably more powerful than a bear or something, but it’s not like he’s the TT or anything. Aw come on, you never heard of the TT? Taniel’s tits… you guys are dumb.”

One of the blackbirds “cheeped” back at Domino. Domino had no idea what the point of it was but took it as encouragement.

“Right, so take this one time… he goes into this Serrinok hunting lodge with the rest of his group and they find this trap door to the basement. I guess they were looking for evil stuff, and they sure found it.”

“As usual, Jotas is the torch carrier. I guess that’s what a mediocre sorcerer does. The foray is led by Amaryllis, a halfling who’s supposed be sneaky. I guess sneaky doesn’t cut it when you’re in torchlight because no sooner does she poke her beak down the stairs does she get one-shotted by an arrow from out of the darkness. Turns out these odd dark skinned elves who can totally see in the dark were waiting for them. It also turns out that Kytex is just as good of an archer as the elves ‘cause he one-shotted one of ‘em right back. Tristen, a warrior-priest of Madriel, charged and put down the other one pretty quickly. I’m pretty sure Jotas missed with a spell or something.”

“The other priestess of Madriel, the creepy one with feathers in her hair, patched up the group’s injuries fairly quickly. Jotas bravely continued to hold the torch.”

“So there’s a couple of doors in the place, some brass, some made of purple mist, and some made of fire. The group stuck to the normal doors and the mist ones, avoiding the fire. The first door they open leads into this room with a couple of big lizard mounts for the dark elves. One of them was ridden by a higher ranking dark elf who must have heard the earlier fight because he was buffing up when they entered the room. Sven, this mountain of a man, led the attack against the dark elf who used illusionary magic to distract his attacks. Amaryllis worked in concert with Sven and got the killing blow in. The lizard continued to fight after its rider was down but Sven killed it. I think Jostas was still holding his torch.”

“After regrouping, the group head through one of those purple mist portals and were attacked by a large, bear headed humanoid with a club. It was tough, but between Tristan, Amaryllis and Sven, it really didn’t have much of a chance. I can’t stress how critical Jotas’s torch holding skills were during that battle. If he had dropped it… whew.”

“Continuing on, they discovered a twisted shrine with four makeshift altars, two to some demon prince and two to Belsameth. They bagged the idols from each altar and moved on. Not to long after they ran into two more loin cloth wearing humanoid with jet, black eyes wielding great axes. The heavies in the group, which may I add does not include my master, managed to bring them down.”

“Though somewhat worn down, the group went a bit further and encountered a magical guardian of some sort. The creature appeared to be guarding a sarcophagus and several chests overflowing with gold. The guardian was entirely composed of magma and hawked up a big lava luggie as a warning not to enter, threatening to throw it at them. Sven tested him and was downed immediately when struck by the lava man’s missile. The group managed to put his unconscious body back and get the door shut. The guardian didn’t follow, apparently content merely to drive them back.”

“Not wishing to attempt another whipping from the guardian, the group healed up their wounds as best they could and changed directions. The on the opposite side of the complex, they encountered a spiked chain wielding dark elf who read an incantation from a scroll as soon as he saw them. A huge ball of fire erupted, felling Amaryllis and badly burning some of the others. I would like to note that Jotas, my master, was well away from the blast and his critical torch holding tactics where not interrupted. Those who were still standing charged the dark elf and slew him. Upon searching the elf’s corpse, they discovered he carried the magical short sword which they originally came to the area for.”

“Burned and battered, the group decided to retire to the lodge above to rest and recover before making another foray against the elves. Kytex discovered that a mobile and apparently carnivorous vine had attacked and killed Jotas’s steed. It wasn’t dark or anything, but I’m sure Jotas would have done an excellent job of torch holding as the rest of his group destroyed the plant creature for him if it were.”

“After dealing with the carnivorous vine, the group settled down for the night. The night was uneventful and surprisingly there was no counter attack by the dark elves.”

“The next morning, the group ventured back beneath the lodge and encountered a pair of rat-man who were apparently engaged in a crossbow fight with a serpent headed man and his pet black dragon. The rat-men, now flanked by hostile forces, attempted a fighting retreat past the group. The rat-men seemed to regenerate blows directed against them, but one fell to magic cast by the two Madriel clerics. The other retreated through a purple mist portal. Kytex and Sven engaged the serpent-headed man and force his surrender, which they accepted. The dragon spewed acid on several members and then retreated. The serpent headed man explained he was of a race of titan spawn called “Yuan-ti”. He stated that he was an enemy of the dark elves and was in the complex searching for clues regarding the worship of a little known serpent god. Having accepted surrender, the group listed to what information of the place that the Yuan-ti was willing to give and then let him go.”

“It was at this point the group began to argue as to the wisdom of continuing their attacks on the dungeon, which they referred to as ‘Slaughterguard’. They decided to make one last attack on the magma man and then head out to report to an order of paladins who had asked them to investigate the lodge in the fist place.”

“The attack went well enough, a concerted assault consisting of Sven’s charging in while being supported by magical attacks from both the clerics and Jotasran, who manifested some startlingly effective new magical powers during the battle. Though Sven was badly wounded, the group downed the guardian and began looting the tomb.”

“The copious amounts of gold in the chests were apparently some part of an illusionary trap designed to alert other guards when the coins ‘screamed’ and vanished. However, the party didn’t retreat when the alarm was set off. Instead, they spent a good amount of time pulling down the lid to the sarcophagus. When they finally succeeded, they managed to retrieve a magic sword and shield from the grave. At this point, the group decided to take their winnings and retreat for the time being.”

“That was just a couple of days ago, and we are returning the paladin’s stronghold now. I’d love to stay and chat but the master is starting to become anxious again. He does that a lot. He particularly likes to blather on to me about how he’s a titan tainted sorcerer or some such. Personally I think he gets his power from fey, like pixies. In any case, a song generally cheers him up so I’ll head on out.”

Domino launched into the air and back towards camp.

“Cheep,” a blackbird replied.
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Murder Sprites, Druids and Slitheren...Oh my
Off the beaten path

as told by Amaryllis Highhill

Darrius and Sven turned to see Amaryllis bounding down the stairs in what seemed to be an awful hurry. She stopped and looked at the two and said “Let’s get a move on fellas! We’re late for lunch.” Pausing long enough to see them both start to get up she bounced out the door and waited on the steps. Even for her age Amaryllis was still full of energy and hunger.

As they reached the doorway Amaryllis looked to Sven first “A bit early for you isn’t it big fella?” she gave a little giggle and wink to her friend. She and Sven had a bit of a cantankerous relationship but there is no better fighter that she would want at her back. He is strong and loyal to the end even if he is a bit crude and rowdy. Amaryllis turned her attention to Darrius “So, it seems my friends have been filling you in on our little adventures with Wicked’s Edge.” Her face lit up with a big smile as she added “Well if you want to hear some more you best get moving because this gal can’t think on an empty stomach.”

That said Amaryllis headed to her favorite eatery when she visited Wren. It was a small tavern that didn’t look like much from the outside. She turned back to Darrius and informed him that this place has THE best halfling cook besides her own Ma. As she entered through the well-worn wooden door the staff and patrons all greeted her. It was immediately obvious that Amaryllis spent a great deal of time here. When Sven walked in a few steps behind her he received a warm greeting as well as a few well intentioned jokes about him being here so early in the day. The little halfling had already found a table for the three of them and there was a huge plate of biscuits and honey already sitting in the middle. Amaryllis patted the seat next to her while looking at Darrius “Come on young lad have a seat and some food and we’ll have a nice chat.” The place was warm and inviting and Darrius seemed to visibly relax a little as he sat in the offered chair. He started to pull out all his paper and writing doodads when Amaryllis stopped him. “You aren’t really going to put all your important papers out while we eat are you? I mean what happens if something gets spilled on all those notes you’re taking? You should just put that stuff away and have a biscuit!” As Darrius was attempting to remove, Amaryllis was swiftly putting away, all of his items. Before he knew it he was sitting with his bag hung on the chair behind him and a plate of biscuits in front of him. Melinda was bringing a pitcher of hot cider for the three of them and behind her Lulubell Quickfoot was bringing and array of platters from her kitchen. There were meats, eggs, cheeses, breads and fruits of all kinds. There looked to be enough food five or six people. Lulubell gave Amaryllis a big hug and half shouted as she was heading back to the kitchen “I heard you brought some guests with you dearie. I’m working on some more food for you and I’ll have it out shortly.” Lulubell was the proprietor and cook of the place. She was short and plump and had the warmest smile. Amaryllis gave a shout of thanks as she piled her plate high with samplings from each platter. Darrius tried hard not to look shocked as the she began making her way through the piles of food in front of her.

“So you’re here to find out about that damn sword are ya? Well I have a bit I can tell you if you’re ready? However, this was more of a side note than our actual pursuit of the sword. But one never knows how things fit together. So you should probably at least be aware of this part.” she smiled at the boy and then added bit more food to his plate before beginning. “Let’s see now. Sven told you all about the dryad and what led us into that god forsaken forest so I will start from where we found that awful druid.” Amaryllis inhaled another small pile of food before continuing.

“This druid of Chern had carved out his foul nest in the forest. It was a small island with a half rotted hut in the middle. There were rusted out lanterns and parts of animal carcasses hanging all about the place on poles. The meat and brain matter that was hanging about was attracting gobs of mosquitos, flies, gnats, maggots and all manner of filth carrying creatures. It was dank and humid and the festering pool of water that surrounded the place was as vile and filthy as the rest of the place.” Amaryllis noticed that the young lad had stopped eating as she was describing the place. She gave him a pat on the arm and said “Eat up; there is a lot more story to tell.” She took a big swallow of the cider and continued “So we saw two ways to approach. There were two big trees that had fallen and were lying like bridges to the center island. Most of us decided to try the closest one while Wren was going to make her way to the other side. Sven took one look at the narrow and possibly slippery tree trunk and chose to plow through the water. Kytex took the lead and climbed onto the tree bridge. Jotas and I were following close behind. Now before we could reach the actual trunk this huge ass rat appeared. The darn thing looked as if it could swallow me whole!! This was disturbing to say the least so I took a shot at it. It landed square in its side. Sadly this would be my first and last contribution to the battle as things went quite badly after that.” Amaryllis took a deep breath and piled up her plate again. She looked about the room and smiled. She certainly never thought she would live long enough to be telling this story at this point in her life. She put a few more items on the plate for Darrius even though he had not eaten a bite of what she had placed there earlier.

“Okay so now on to the rough stuff. Sven was closing in on the island and Wren was heading towards the other bridge. Kytex was firing at the enormous rat while the rest of us were trying to get to the log bridge. At this point we heard the eerie noises that those murder spites make and a whole swarm of them came out of the forest from the far side of the cesspool. They flew right at Wren, Kytex and Sven. Two of them attacked Sven but he made quick work of them. Kytex had the sprite and the rat to deal with but managed to take down the rat with his next shot. Wren was amazing she really kicked ass against that nasty disease spreading sprite. Madriel must have been looking out for her because Wren is usually not the best at fighting. But she made mincemeat of that vile creature and made sure it’s little ass drowned right there in its own nasty swamp water.” A broad smile appeared on the little halflings face as she told of Wren’s deeds.

“It seems that the nasty Chern druid had a few more tricks up his sleeves. He cast a spell that entangled half of us so that we were unable to move. Jotas and I were stuck on the roots of the log and Sven was stuck in the water. Kytex managed to nimbly avoid the reaching roots and grasses and continue across the log towards the druid. Wren and Tristan were thankfully not caught in its area. Kytex finished off his sprite and Wren hers but they were both pricked by the little bastards before they could kill them. I continued firing but the plant life binding us was hampering my shots.”

Amaryllis took Darius’ hand and said “The next part is a little disturbing so be prepared.” A solemn look came over her face as she continued the story. “That evil druid then cast a spell that produced a ball of flame.” She visibly shudders as the words leave her lips. “He rolled that flaming ball right on top of Jotas. It was awful. He was rooted there on that stupid tree and was being burned alive. His screams were terrible. I was only 10 feet away but stuck as well and unable to do anything. I never felt so helpless. Kytex, Sven and I continued the battle with the druid. I plunked a couple of bolts in his direction but the blasted roots were making it impossible to hit him. Tristan headed into the area where the spell started in an attempt to help poor Jotas. But the roots grabbed him as well and held him fast. His flesh was melting off him and we could only watch.” A tear began to roll down Amaryllis’ face as she slowly described what was happening to her friend. “Wren started making her way to help Jotas as well but the water slowed her movements and it seemed like each step was an eternity. Jotas, Tristan and I tried our best to break free and just as Wren was close enough to help, Jotas got loose. He stepped back away from the flames and promptly got stuck again. But at least he was not slowly being burnt alive. He did however look like he was going to pass out and the charred skin all over his body and smell of the burnt flesh only added to the nauseating environment.” At this point Amaryllis hopped of her chair and walked around the table a few times. She took a few breaths, took her seat and grabbed a biscuit.

“Sven was still trying to break free and Wren made a little rain cloud on top of that ball of flame which put it out. Kytex had his sights set on the druid. He was pelting him with arrows which caused the druid to brandish his wand. He struck Kytex with it and he was suddenly blind. Wren was close to the druid now and Sven managed to break free. They moved in and began attacking him while for some reason Kytex felt the need to fire blindly in all directions. He did manage to land one arrow…” a sly smile appeared and her eyes lit up as she looked at Sven “…right into Sven’s back. At that point we all yelled for him to stop shooting. Which he did but apparently he thought it best to ready his big ass axe.” Amaryllis shrugged “Who knows what he was thinking.”

Her smile revealed that the tide seemed to have turned and her words came quicker and with more excitement. “Sven and Wren, I like to call them the EN’s, continued beating on that druid and so he tried to use his wand on Wren. He failed and then sensing his defeat he ran away. Or rather he tried to but the EN’s each took a swing and the result was him dead on his muddy island.” Amaryllis paused and refilled her plate. After gobbling down half of the contents she continued. “So there we were dead druid and all and a crappy shack we had to explore. The roots finally gave way and I started to make my way up to the tree trunk when I slipped and fell into the foul water below me. I finally made it out and across and began carefully searching the hut.” Taking a deep breath and a swig of cider she continued “Inside we found all kinds of disease filled jars and such. Down below we found two poor souls that had been given some disease by the foul druid. They looked about to die when Wren and Tristan began tending to them. We also found a piece of bark with a message on it. We were not able to read until the next day but Wren said that it was from some Slitheren named Scab Maggot and that he seemed to be the leader. It also said he and his warren were in Sumberton.”

Amaryllis pushed herself away from the table and hopped down from the chair. She looked at her companions saying “Come let’s sit by the fire and enjoy the rest of this cider as I finish up the story for you.” There was a very large fireplace with comfortable furniture all around it. There were several small chairs and couch plus human sized furniture all neatly arranged for story telling gatherings. Amaryllis made herself comfortable in one of the small cushioned chairs and when the boys looked like they had settled in she continued on with her tale. “So as we continued to look around Wren found THE MOST AMAZING GOAT!!” her eyes were big and wide and her face lit up as she half shouted the last sentence. “Let me tell you this goat was in perfect condition. It was super healthy and finding it in this awful place in such good health stuck us as very bizarre. We gathered up the stuff we found and the people and the goat. We had piled all the nastiness up in the bottom of the hut and burned everything to the ground. Sven led the goat seeing how Kytex wouldn’t be leading anyone for some time to come, and with all of us keeping a sharp eye out Sven managed to lead us back to where the dryad had us spend the night. Sadly there was no sign of her but she did leave of 5 perfect apples. At first I thought how great it was she knew how hungry we would be and I was about to bite into one when Wren, or maybe everyone, yelled at me to stop.”

Amaryllis sighed at the thought of not being able to taste the beautiful apple. After a moment she continued “The healers thought perhaps they had some healing properties and that the injured should try them first. Kytex tried one and while it didn’t cure his blindness it did heal his wounds. We spent the night and in the morning one of the sick people seemed to be a little better while the other one looked much worse. We managed to make it out of the forest and spend the next night near the road. We asked the one boy that was able to talk, Tobias, about the goat we found. He said that they were sometimes given milk from it and that it made them feel much better. We milked the goat and Kytex drank half and Wren the other half and nothing happened. So we got another cup full and this time Wren drank the whole thing and she seemed to feel much better. After one last cup for Kytex the goat was done for the day. We decided we would try and milk it each day to help us recover. I KNEW that goat was something special!”

Amaryllis got up and stoked the fire a bit and refilled everyone’s cups with more cider. She sat back in her comfy, halfling sized chair and looked at Darrius “Sadly the one sickly fella didn’t make it but the other one, Tobias, seemed to be holding his own. We burned the body before continuing on towards town. As we hit the farmhouse furthest out a man called out to us. He came out to speak with us and we found out his name was Adam and he and his group of rangers were here to assist the town. Their leader was in town speaking with the constable and he would let him know of our arrival. Rather than stay with people we were not sure we could trust we found another abandoned farmhouse to stay in for the night. The leader of the ranger group, Rayngul, Dogwood (Adam) and a dwarven ranger named Batwing stopped by the farmhouse and told us about the goat. He also told us they were a Vigil of rangers from Vesh.” At this point Amaryllis paused and sat and watched the fire for a few moments. A few of the townsfolk had stayed to listen to her tale and they were making themselves comfortable by the fireplace.

“Wren showed the bark to Rayngul and he explained about the Slitheren and their warrens. He asked what we thought about the constable of the town being mentioned and it suddenly hit us that he was probably in league with the Slitheren. We knew they had someone helping them in town and now we knew who! We got a good night’s rest and drank some more milk in the morning. We needed to get Kytex back to Sumberton so he could get his eyesight restored and we could get some supplies for the town. Wren decided to stay and tend to the sick in Dondurran. The rangers agreed to watch over her while we were away. Rayngul gave me a note for his commander and also asked me to speak to the Luminous Order guy and arrange a meeting.” Amaryllis stopped long enough for a quick drink of cider “We set out the next morning and made it to Sumberton without any issues. We…” Amaryllis stopped and titled her head thinking. “Oh my! I almost forgot THE most important part!!! We saw an entire heard of pure white horses. They were the most beautiful creatures I had ever seen. Jotas said they were Coreanic Steeds and that they were magical creatures. We decided to take a little detour and try and head them off. We managed to get near them and then guess what… they CAME TO US!! It was so amazing. They circled around us and the leader seemed like he was smart. Not smart like a horse but smarter like a person. He looked like he was smirking at Kytex when he tried to do his animal thingy on him. But sadly they took off but it was still worth it!” Amaryllis stopped again trying to remember where she left off.

“Oh yes we headed straight to the Madriel temple and the cleric there told Tristan, Kytex and I we needed to stay because we were all still sick. Sven and Jotas left us behind for a much needed night on the town.” Surveying the group that had gathered made the halfling smile and continue on with her account. “The next morning I was feeling much better and needed no further assistance. The Madriel cleric cured Kytex of his blindness and Tristan of his lingering illness and we headed out. We headed over to talk to Luminary Captain Armin Harrak. I explained all of what I just described to you good folk and he seemed very eager to meet with Rayngul when he arrived. Our next stop was to see if we could find Collen. He was right where Rayngul said he would be and after delivering the note he asked if we could come back because he might have some weapons for us. He said cold iron seemed to help against the slitheren. We still had much to do and agreed to return in a few hours. We found Jotas and Sven and joined them for breakfast. There was a young girl there that seemed to take a liking to Jotas although he seemed a bit uncomfortable with the attention. After a hearty meal we set out to get supplies and managed to get a wagon and some extra supplies donated for the town. They assured us the wagon would be taken to Dondurran and that we could get back on road. After meeting up with Collen again he gave us a few weapons and a note for Rayngul. Back to Dondurran we went. This time we had a quiet ride and returned safely.” Amaryllis took a big chug of cider from her glass as her story made its way to the end.

“When we retuned things seemed to be looking up for the town. The people were on the mend and their hopes seemed to be lifted. We brought some supplies back with us and assured the town and the rangers that the rest of the supplies would be along very soon.

After spending the night we let Rayngul know that we had other business we were on and that we need to depart. We left Dondurran that morning and headed towards the Surrinak Hunting Lodge. It wasn’t long before we ran into 2 men that stopped us and said no one from Dondurran was allowed to proceed any farther. Jotas tried to assure them that the town was on the mend and that we were not infected but they were under orders. Jotas told them we would return once their orders were lifted. With that we made our way across the plains and around the men.” Amaryllis finished off what was left in her glass and motioned to Melinda for a refill.
“That my friends is the end of my story and we are now back on the hunt for the sword.

Darrius there is so much more to come I think you might want to get your papers back out again.” Amaryllis gives a giggle and settles into her chair watching the fire burn and hoping someone else will step in and tell a tale.

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