Campaign Journal Book Four
Table of Contents
Lord Payn Ack-Arthur, a weathered outdoorsman. The strong, silent type, Payn's conscience will not let him rest if his sword is inactive while danger threatens his homeland; Payn was recently named a Lord of Dragonspur, and he commands his own regiment.
Malcall Grimson, another powerful barbarian. Malcall is a ravager and a berserker who dismays people by his manners and appearance. Originally his goal was only to fight and collect "souvenirs"; lately, he has come to care for the fate of the Liberated Kingdoms.
Lord Valanduil of House Cirana, a noble elf and Lord of Gloralion who has a shaky friendship with Bartarius. His life's doom was to seek the Elven artifact called the Stone of Silence, which he recently recovered then lost. He now fights to regain it from those he took to be his allies.
Drapier Ada of the Church of Heshtail, a comely but serious young woman. A cleric of Heshtail, Ada believes that she is on a mission from her god to help Kelerak and her church by aiding the Lords of the West. She has single-mindedly trained for nine years to complete this mission and she would lay down her life to do so.
Lord Bartarius of Dragonspur, a powerful Northman from Outelion and one of the new Lords of the Spur. Plagued by inner demons, Bartarius always attempts to forward the cause of Good, but often gives himself over to bloodlust. Bartarius currently leads the Spurite army on behalf of General Elmore and Lord Naglor.
Tharivol of House Meliane, an aloof Elven cleric. Charged by the Elvenking with helping his friend Valanduil in his quest for the Stone of Silence, Tharivol awaits the day when he can return to Elven lands.
Fundin Northammer, a cautious Dwarven cleric who is no longer with the group. He aided them greatly, however, when the Lord of Envy attacked Dragonspur by bringing a force of dwarves to help, and he continues to aid Dragonspur.
Rolindor Ack-Turpin, a battle mage and experienced tactician. Fleeing from the Ranulph Barony, which Afej recently conquered, Rolindor hoped to use the group to free his homeland. He currently serves as head of the Dragonspur battlemage college under Lord Yedus.
Dralin Ironshield, a powerful and greedy Dwarven cleric who is currently seeking the legendary Dwarf-hold Liferock in order to restore the Dwarves to their former glory. His whereabouts are unknown.
Tili Deepdelver, a powerful Dwarven warrior, fell defending the heroes during their attack on the Winged One. He lies in a hallowed cairn deep beneath the Hilly Crags.
Belshrum Stoneaxe, a berserk and freakish Dwarven warrior, Belshrum's fondest wish was to die in battle. His wish was granted when he fell during the group's exploration of Karn Keller.
Ragnor Ack-Rohan, a half-elven cleric/mage. Ragnor was a no-nonsense, pragmatic type who got the job done. He seemed closer in heritage to his human rather than his Elven ancestors in this respect. Ragnor heroically fell trying to keep secrets about the Stone of Silence from falling into enemy hands.
Gilbert Ack-Keler, a devastatingly powerful professional soldier, was the quintessential warrior. Gilbert aided the group out of loyalty to his city, East-of-Sky, and to Baron Oliver, whom he viewed as a grandfather. He returned to East-of-Sky when it was attacked by Afej and there fell in mortal combat defending his beloved city.
Chapter One- Comes the Dawn
With Afej's army in retreat, the heroes head toward what they take to be the tent of the commander. They find it empty but make an important discovery. In the fire they find a bunch of documents, all of which have been incinerated-except one, the most important one of all. It is orders to High Priest and General Widfaral, commanding him in the case of loss of the battle to meet an agent from Afej two weeks hence in a farmhouse on the outskirts of Hometon. The note indicates that Afej is cooking up a plan to deal with the Stone of Silence, and this top-secret plan must be delivered only to Lord Widfaral himself. Recognizing the value of the note, the party delivers it to Naglor.
Naglor, after some time to gather information and employ spies, informs the companions that General Widfaral is an extremely powerful priest of Grlarshh who works for Afej because he considers the lich to be the incarnation of his god. Widfaral is apparently a very capable and charismatic leader. It seems likely that Widfaral cast the note into the fire in his haste to retreat before the victorious forces of the Spur and probably assumes it burnt. This is a unique opportunity to dispose of Widfaral, since they have proof positive of his location at the set date, and that he will likely have few guards around him. Naglor states that he believes the army of Afej will lose most of its impetus and will be forced to withdraw back west of the Lake of the Sky if Widfaral is slain. He promises the heroes 500 silver each if they will undertake the dangerous task of slaying Widfaral. He also warns the party that Widfaral is one of the most powerful spellcasters they will ever have faced, and the danger will likely be mortal. The group nevertheless agrees. Before they go, Valanduil tries one more time to convince Naglor to have Yedus return the Stone. Naglor again refuses. The elf then reasons that he must get his spellbooks back from Khadufel or die trying if he is to be any help to his friends.
The next day the heroes concoct a daring plan to retrieve Valanduil's items. Under cover of a raging thunderstorm, the elf enters the camp of the army of the Lord of Sloth. He is well concealed by silence and invisibility spells, and he manages ingeniously to sneak into the heavily guarded tent of Khadufel, where he finds the wizard asleep, although he is guarded by three heavily armed ogres. He also sees a chest full of his equipment. The elf creeps past the sentries, but one notices evidence of his presence and awakens the wizard. Before the evil mage can react, Valanduil leaps forward, grabs the chest, and uses the powerful spell Dimension Door to move instantaneously through space to a point near the edge of the camp. The army, however, has been raised and alarms have been sounded. In a harrowing chase, Valanduil manages to escape his pursuers, and with the help of his companions, retreats back across the rain-swollen river to the safety of the Dragonspur lines. He has recovered all of his equipment save his armor. In the face of their overwhelming defeat, the army of the Lord of Sloth, led by Dargon Skullcrusher, breaks camp and leaves Kelerak, heading back east to Zeland.
|24th of Flame, 8170 F.R.|
The heroes then turn their attention to preparing for their next task, and the two weeks pass quickly. They set out, traveling lightly and without mounts, taking the dangerous step of passing behind enemy lines, for the farmhouse lies 30 miles from the Spur, 20 of which are through enemy-held lands. Yet Payn's woods lore again serves the party well, and he leads them by hidden paths known to few, skirting any roads that enemy troops would travel. They do meet several patrols as they approach Hometon-it seems the security of the enemy is tight-but the silence spells of Tharivol, the fleet feet of Malcall, and the flashing blades of Payn and Bartarius dispatch the enemy troops before they can alert the town. As night arrives on the appointed date, the heroes find themselves nearing the farmhouse where they will attempt to dispatch the powerful enemy cleric general. They adjust their weapons and call to mind their magic, preparing to enter the house as darkness falls ominously over the scene.
They manage to sneak into the house and hide themselves after declaring that the coast is clear. The heroes soon hear a noise-the front door of the farmhouse opening. They are still surprised, however, by three cloaked figures that move in unearthly silence. The figures, however, are just as surprised to see them, and soon battle is joined. It is impossible to tell the figures apart, for they are black-cloaked and hooded. Soon four more black-swathed figures join the fray. Some prove to be ghouls as they try to tear into the heroes flesh with their teeth. At least one, however, is a powerful cleric, as he soon proves by calling down a powerful column of scathing fire from the sky, striking Malcall. Soon the farmhouse is ablaze and the heroes have escaped the inferno. So have two evil clerics, however, one of which the heroes suspect to be Widfaral. Unable to outdistance the heroes, this personage attacks with mighty spells, nearly slaying Malcall and forcing him to retire from the fight. But the arrows of the other companions finally bring down the cleric. Before they have time to search the body, however, four men on horseback arrive on the scene, and, seeing the tableau, charge the party. They heroes, even wounded as they are, quickly slay the men. In haste, they search all of the bodies, learning that the powerful cleric is indeed Widfaral. They also learn that one of the men on horseback was the Chamberlain of Afej. The man bears a scroll with the spell Mage's Disjunction, and a note that explains that this spell is powerful enough to destroy even the Stone of Silence. The note instructs Widfaral to give the spell to one agent "C" in Dragonspur city, a man who has contacts enough to get near the Stone and knowledge enough to read the scroll, although agent C. does not appear to be a spell caster himself. The horns of orcs warn the heroes that they have been discovered, however, and taking the bodies of the Chamberlain and Widfaral, they flee into the Wilderness and eventually make it back to the Spur. This is a momentous moment for the heroes, because for the first time in three years the Spur is not facing immediate danger, and they have brought about this happy occurrence! It is like dawn coming after a long, dark night.
When they arrive at the Spur Fortress, they have a surprise in store. Before they are able to speak, Naglor informs them that there is a person who insists on meeting them immediately. He brings out a comely young woman with a severe demeanor who is inextricably clad in heavy armor! She introduces herself as Ada of the Church of Heshtail and explains that she has been training for nine years to serve the Lords of the West. The heroes, of course are puzzled, but she explains that her high Priest Burcan the White had a vision that she would be a great aid to Dragonspur and the West if she trained properly and was devout. Because of the young lady's obvious devotion, and upon advice from Tharivol, they welcome her into the party. Finally they tell Naglor the news and he is ecstatic. He informs the heroes that he believes the death of Widfaral, the linchpin of Afej's army, will throw the enemy into chaos and give the Spurite forces an opportunity to drive them out of Eastern Kelerak. He gives each of the companions 500 silvers as a reward and tells them that they are now free to chose their own next course of action, though he hopes what they choose will help the Spur. Valanduil calls his attention to the missive and suggests that Agent "C" is Corfin, the powerful Thieves' guild leader. Naglor agrees. Valanduil states that he wishes to bring Corfin to a reckoning, as this is high treason. His companions agree and point out that Corfin has caused them enough trouble in the past. They determine that their next step will be to slay Corfin. Naglor states that meanwhile he will organize the army and asks Bartarius to lead the attack. He agrees. Payn puts Taren in charge of his battalion so that they can attempt to track down the notorious rogue.
Chapter Two- Loose Ends and Losses
|6th of Cabos, 8170 F.R.|
They began in the place where they last confronted the agents of Corfin, Paulie One-Tooth and Christopher. Paying some disreputable individuals, they find out that Paulie frequents a tavern called The Greyhound, which locals call The Dog. Arriving at the dog they find it is a crowded, seedy establishment. They scan the patrons for Paulie but don't spot him. As they are asking around they spot someone who seems to recognize them and who leaves in a hurry. Suspicious, they redouble their efforts to gain information. Malcall, however, is more interested in having a dalliance with a lady of the night and retires with one to an ally behind the tavern. There he sees a large crowd of armed men pass by the ally on their way to the tavern. The armed men, led by Christopher, draw the heroes outside and attack them viciously, trying to gain revenge for the thrashing that Malcall and Payn gave to Paulie and Christopher, who have since been having a difficult time regaining the respect they lost in the defeat. Again, however, the heroes make short work of Christopher and his thugs, and they capture the Christopher and bring him to a secluded spot to question him about the whereabouts of Corfin.
Payn manages to strike a deal with Christopher that if he reveals the location of Corfin and the new thieves' guild and swears off his life of crime, Christopher will merely be banished from the city. The young underboss states that he doesn't know where Corfin is but says he will tell them where Paulie hangs out: an Inn on the other side of the river called the Eagle and Apple. He also warns the heroes that Paulie will likely know that they are coming because of the rogues that lived through the recent fight and escaped. The group is undaunted by this. The heroes then head back to the Spur Fortress and tell Naglor of their plot. Naglor informs them that the Spurite army has crushed the final forces of Afej that remain East of Lake of the Sky; victory is theirs! The party is ecstatic to hear this, because all of their work and toil has finally paid off, and they decide to tie up some loose ends. They vow to Naglor that they will rid the city of Corfin and his crime wave once and for all. While in the Spur, Valanduil again reminds Naglor of the fact that they have ended the immediate threat to the Spur and that he is duty-bound to give back the Stone of Silence. After conferring over several days with Yedus, Naglor returns his answer: the threat, they feel, is not yet ended as long as Afej still holds power, and Yedus fears that the Stone, if put into Elven hands, will disappear into the reaches of the Belendale, never to be seen again. Valanduil assures him that if he has his way the Stone will be used to defend the human lands, but Naglor puts a further condition on the return of the Stone: he says that if the Elves either send an army to help defeat Afej or if the heroes defeat him themselves, then he will agree that the threat is ended and return the Stone. Having no other choice and not yet willing to take the matter to the level of open hostility, Valanduil agrees to try to get an Elven army to help. Before he and his companions set off, however, they decide to take care of Corfin.
Traveling to the Eagle and Apple, they find that Paulie has anticipated their arrival-he is not present, but he has left them a note, an invitation to the new Thieves' Guild, an abandoned warehouse on the east side of the river. The heroes waste no time and journey to the abandoned warehouse. They enter through the front door and make no attempt to hide their presence. In the heart of the warehouse they find Paulie and several other toughs arrayed for battle, plus there are archers on a loft above their heads. There is, however, no sign of Corfin. Paulie attempts to buy off the heroes, but they will hear none of it, and attack. Amidst a rain of arrows, the group begins to cut down the thieves, even though Malcall is captured in a net. Still Paulie is soon slain and the battle appears to be won, when Corfin, coming out of invisibility, sneak attacks Payn and wounds him badly. Ada, Malcall, and Valanduil attempt to come to the ranger's aid, but the skill of the senior thief is too much, and Payn falls beneath his slashing sword. The ranger is killed, but his death is avenged as Ada deals Corfin the killing blow. At long last this additional threat to the city is halted. The heroes quickly and somberly wrap up the battle, killing the remaining thieves. Not surprisingly, they find documents implicating Corfin in the scheme laid out by Widfaral to destroy the Stone of Silence. They also find a letter from the Lord of Lust himself, stating that Corfin is to set him up in a safe house on Hook Street, where the Lord of Sin plans to undertake a new scheme to regain the city: subterfuge. Finally, and disturbingly, they find a list of many important individuals in the military and government whom Corfin is paying off. Yet the noble Payn is dead and their hearts are heavy. They bear him to the temple of Heshtail were Payn endures the arduous trek back from the other side, and his soul returns to his body. He is raised from the dead. After suitable rest time, the heroes inform Naglor that they will go see if the Lord of Lust is in the safe house before undertaking the journey to the land of the Elves. A cursory inspection of the street reveals no safe house, but the heroes are undaunted and prepare to search more carefully.
Chapter Three-- Moral Dilemmas
|27th of Cabos, 8170 F.R.|
Malcall takes Corfin's hat of disguise and goes to a bar on Hook Street to see what information he can uncover. There he learns that two Spur Elite Guardsmen appear weekly at the seedy joint and buy supplies for the next week. This is extremely suspicious, because no Spur Elites are stationed near this part of town. He goes to tell his companions. The rest of the group is intrigued and start to make plans in case those guards are working for the Lord of Lust. Payn goes to interrogate the captured agents of Corfin while Valanduil argues that the group must prepare a way to follow the Lord of Lust to his home plane, the dreaded Abyss, and kill him there so he doesn't keep returning every few years. To that end, he and Ada research the Abyss. Payn and Malcall return to the bar on Hook Street in a few days, where they meet the Spur Elites. They secretly follow them to a nondescript house on an alley, and Payn determines that this is indeed the Safe house of Brathelathor. They return and tell the news to Valanduil. He convinces them that they in fact must go to the Abyss immediately upon the death of the Lord of Lust, hunt him down again, and slay him there; this is all against the grave misgivings of Malcall. Nonetheless, this is their plan.
That night, under cover of silence and invisibility, they sneak into the house and make short work of the charmed guardsmen. Valanduil also successfully ensorcells the demonic Lord so that he cannot teleport away. After a pitched battle wherein they suffer some difficulty, they dispatch the Lord of Lust. Alerting some guardsmen under the command of Sir Payn to take control of the house, Ada calls upon the might of her god to transport them to a place that is chaos and evil embodied-the Abyss.
There is a flash and a mist descends. When it raises, they unexpectedly find themselves in a place of nightmares-an endless sea of lava interspersed with rocky islands. The sky is a dull red, and black clouds skid across it at high speeds, even though there Is no wind. They are on just such a small rocky island, no more than 10X10. They must all fight to keep their balance, and Ada stumbles and horribly burns her feet. Worse, there appears to be no way to reach their goal, or what they take to be their goal-a larger island covered with jungle trees with razor leaves. A large phallic-shaped black tower rises from the island. To add to their peril, the heroes spot a ship some distance away. The ship seems to be pure chaos-the very hull is made of crushed bones that seem to be held together with a mortar of wailing spirits. Small, albino creatures with wicked claws cling to the outer hull, apparently also stuck to the ship. The ship also seems to spot them and makes a beeline towards their location. Now the situation is dire; how can they reach the island? Valanduil's immortal mind comes to a solution, though-he levitates and clasps Payn and Malcall, and Ada uses the magic of her god to walk on air and push the levitating heroes towards the island. This is perhaps the most dangerous thing they have done for some time, for if their magic fails, they will surely die. Yet it succeeds, and they find themselves on the rocky shore of the evil island, but the chaos ship changes directions and heads for them. They double-time it to a causeway surrounded by molten lava, which leads up to the tower. Yet their progress is halted by several demons that guard the path. They dispatch the demons in a whirl of blades and spells, but the fight has given the chaos ship time to moor, and the heroes watch aghast as several dark figures disembark and head towards them. Their eyes strain to see through the noxious atmosphere and smoke, and finally the figures are revealed to be horrible bipedal spider creatures, four of them, that pour from the ship onto the dock. The creatures part, however, and a huge demonic toad-thing, wearing a bandanna and an eye patch, strides towards the heroes. They prepare to fight, but despair of their chances for victory, because they have been quite injured in their previous battles.
The party, though, hears a voice in their heads commanding them to halt. The contemptuous voice, which clearly belongs to the toad-leader, names itself as Zebedor. It inquires of the "meat" what they are doing here. Payn wishes to fight, but his friends restrain him. Valanduil speaks to the creature, revealing that they have come to slay the Lord of Lust who is newly arrived back at his stronghold. This is news to Zebedor, but his abyssal cunning is quick to take it in, and he informs the heroes that they may wish to strike up a pact with his gang. He tells them that they are raiders come to clean the supposedly empty tower of booty. If the Lord is back, however, the tower is sure to be heavily guarded, he says. Moreover, the heroes don't know the password to get the doors to unlock and the drawbridge (over the lava) to lower. "Without us," the oily toad intones, "you will never slay the Lord." He tells the heroes to strike a deal with him. They agree that they have no other choice, but are taken aback when they hear the terms of the bargain: in exchange for Zebedor's soldiers slaying the tower's guardians, one of the party must offer himself as a sacrifice to the pirate-demons to be slain once the Lord of Lust has been killed! It seems that Zebedor is every bit as evil as the Lord of Lust and wishes to sow fear and chaos in the hearts of the companions. And he succeeds, for they debate and argue as to their next course of action, their hearts rueful and heavy. Finally Valanduil heroically offers himself as the sacrifice, pledging to return alone and weaponless to the remaining band of pirate-demons after the Lord of Lust has been slain. The untrustworthy demon-captain Zebedor casts a Geas spell on Valanduil to make certain that he does indeed keep his end of the bargain. Valanduil only stipulates that his body be returned to his companions once he is dead, and the demon agrees but warns the Elf that if he is slain in the abyss his spirit will be trapped there forever. Valanduil is sure he is lying, but begins to feel great dread.
Soon the unlikely allies arrive at the tower and Zebedor uses a stolen password to enter it. In the lower hall of the tower, the group encounters four vulture-like demons, Vrocks, and a fierce battle is joined between the pirate-demons and the Lord of Lust's guardians. The heroes do not engage in the fight, reasoning that whomever loses will mean an advantage to them. Eventually Zebedor's party defeats the Vrocks, although heavily wounded themselves, and tell the party that the Lord is upstairs. They stay downstairs to ransack some chests of treasure.
Ascending the stairs and encountering several traps, the heroes eventually come to the top of the tower. There they encounter another Vrock as well as a large group of mix-raced slaves, apparently a harem. There is, however, no sign of Brathelathor. The warriors began battling the demon while Ada uses her detect evil to try to find the Lord of Lust, for she reasons that the shape shifter may be one of the slaves. Soon the heroes defeat the vulture-demon and Ada finds she is right-the Lord of Lust is indeed shape-shifted into the form of a harem slave-but it is too late! He has managed to charm Malcall and Payn, and he is steadily attempting to charm the remaining two heroes. If they fall under his spell all is lost, as they will certainly be killed or worse. Yet the Elven blood of Valanduil and religious devotion of Ada allow them to avoid the charm long enough for Valanduil to dispel the charm on Malcall. The Lord of Lust quickly falls under the Northman's slashing blades and there is a huge explosion as the Lord of Lust passes away forever!
Yet they are not free of danger yet; as harrowing as the battle with Brathelathor was, there is still the bargain to keep. Payn and Malcall wish to go down with Valanduil to face Zebedor, but the Geas spell and the Elf's honor will not allow it. There is an air of shock and sadness as Valanduil divests himself of his weapons and slowly descends the stairs out of sight of his companions. Valiant Payn uses magic to try to follow him secretly, but the counter-magic of the Geas physically injures the elf, alerting him to the ranger's presence, and Payn reluctantly gives up the idea of helping his friend. Valanduil must face this, his most dreadful test, alone. His heart is full of fear but his resolve is strong.
He descends into the midst of the demons, who attempt to laugh at his predicament and taunt him, but they are silenced by the quiet dignity of the Elf. Yet Zebedor cannot resist one last taunt: he informs Valanduil that he intends to eat his body and not return it to the heroes as the agreement dictated. "I am, after all, a demon," he mocks. Yet this is all the quick-witted elf needs to hear, and he magically tells his companions that the agreement is null and void because Zebedor has broken it-"help!" he calls. Simultaneously, he shows that he is not as unarmed as he appears; he still has his magical spells. He unleashes a huge fireball on the pirate demons, destroying some of the Spider-soldiers. Meanwhile, Ada, who has been despairingly looking out one of the arrow slits of the dark tower, calls on her God to send a spinning wall of holy blades down on the demons. Zebedor is injured and another of the Spiders is hacked to pieces. Just then Malcall and Payn descend the stairs and burst on the scene, two tornadoes of swords, and put paid to the remaining demons, casting Zebedor himself into the molten moat of lava. Valanduil is saved and their task is complete! The heroes, breathing a deep sigh of relief, use Ada's divine magic to return to Farland, leaving the foulness of the Abyss behind them.
Chapter Four- Successes and Set-Backs
|4th of Dekkos, 8170 F.R.|
Note: The events below, as well as the events of the rest of the books of the Campaign Journal, occur after 8170 F.R., the year in which the rest of the articles on the site are set. Thus the rest of the events of the Campaign Journal are not canon and need not have taken place in your game.
Arriving back in the city, the party informs the grateful Naglor of the final death of his enemy, the Lord of Lust. Valanduil also tells Naglor that he wishes Naglor to invade the Afej barony so that he will have a good will gesture to show the Elven King when he attempts to plead for his military aid in exchange for the Stone of Silence. Naglor tells Valanduil that since winter is approaching and Naglor's own coronation as king of all of Kelerak is coming up in two weeks, he believes that invasion is not a good plan and that the Elf should winter in the Spur. He also declares his intention to make Payn a full Lord of the city. The two get into a heated argument, as Valanduil still sees this as one more ploy for Naglor and Yedus to keep the Stone from him. The discussion ends with the two at loggerheads. Valanduil is fuming.
After much thought, Valanduil decides to take Tharivol and head secretly through the lands of Afej to the Belendale. There he hopes to ask the Elfking to pledge and army in order to defeat Afej and thus regain the Stone of Silence as per Naglor's promise. The two elves arrive safely in Gloralion and after visiting Ingwe, Valanduil asks Baranwe for the army. Baranwe, however, is unwilling to commit any elves to the human lands, and charges Valanduil with personally defeating Afej, whom Valanduil after all unleashed. Valanduil is at first crestfallen, but King Baranwe reminds him to be patient and assures him that the Stone will return to him in time. The son of Curufin is cheered by the wisdom of his king, and he agrees to undertake the mission. He remains for approximately six months in the Summervale, where Baranwe names him Lord because of his service in recovering the Stone.
Meanwhile, back in Dragonspur, Naglor tells Sir Payn that he will be named Lord Payn during Naglor's coronation. At this the ranger is elated. While waiting for the ceremony, he attends a ball at the house of Lord and Lady Arundel, where he has been invited to meet their daughter Lady Virginia. It is clear that Lord Arundel has Payn in mind as a potential suitor. Indeed, over the next few days Lord Arundel suggests to Payn that he ask for Virginia's hand, which the ranger does and is accepted. He has but to acquire a mansion in which to keep his wife-to-be. He borrows a substantial sum from usurers in the city, and, buying out Bartarius' share of the Lords of the West's mansion, he commences reconstruction. Soon Naglor's coronation arrives, and Naglor is proclaimed King while Payn is named to the peerage of Dragonspur. It is a momentous occasion.
Malcall, however, has his own interesting event-he is confronted by Mary of the Arch District, the lady of the night with whom he had a liaison while waiting to attack Corfin. The lady claims to be pregnant with Malcall's child! Malcall is flabbergasted, but agrees to support the woman and puts her up in the farmhouse. Ada, meanwhile, goes to visit her elderly parents to inquire as to their welfare and to ask about her brother who disappeared many years ago. There is, however, no news of them, so she returns to the Spur after several weeks. The winter, New Year, and early spring pass. Finally Valanduil arrives back in the city, sans Tharivol, who has remained behind in the Belendale.
Immediately, the new King of Kelerak and the Lords of the West confer. Valanduil gives Naglor the bad news, and the group begins discussing how best to eliminate Afej and regain the western half of Kelerak. After much discussion, Lord Payn puts forward the plan to began in the south part of Kelerak and retake the enemy holdings city by city. They will start by attacking and freeing Fisherman's Solace. Payn and the party take Payn's regiment, the Woodsmen, and 125 other troops and march on the port city. Arriving in the nearby friendly town of Jacob's Rock, the heroes learn that they must defeat a party of orcs riding worgs in order to give their army a chance to take the city. They encounter the 20 worgs and their riders and have little trouble dispatching them. The next challenge is how to get the army inside the wooden palisade of Fisherman's Solace. The wise Valanduil concocts a plan-the Lords of the West will dimension door right inside the gate and fight off the defenders while Ada and Valanduil open the gate to the approaching Spurite force. This they do, and they are successful in their daring plan, even though they face a fierce defense, including boiling oil, archers, and ogres. They get the gate open and the army pours in. But they have underestimated the difficulty of attacking a fortification and at first are repulsed. Eventually, however, especially because of the fighting prowess of the Lords of the West themselves, they take and free Fisherman's Solace, albeit with moderately heavy losses. Yet the recaptured port is an important piece of strategic ground, for they have recovered part of the fishing fleet and can now work on sending fish to Dragonspur, which is in the throes of a famine. The Lords begin the reorganization of the captured city.
Payn and Valanduil interrogate captured human soldiers, offering them clemency and turning many of them to the side of King Naglor. From one they learn that the next strategic target is Eston, a wooden palisade-fort town that commands a very strategic location on the South Lake Road, the only route passable to an army proceeding north from Fisherman's Solace. Knowing that this fort must be taken, Lord Payn sends out spies to scout. The spies report that it is a fairly standard fort set on a hill that commands a view of the surrounding area. Through further interrogation, the Lords of the West learn that Eston is likely to receive reinforcements from Dessingrove in the form of the late Widfaral's personal bodyguard-a group of trolls that, separated from Widfaral, are now being employed by Afej as a strike force. The heroes decide that they will counter this strike force with a force of their own: the Lords of the West. They set out, and through Payn's woodslore, skirt Eston and set up an ambush several miles north of the Fort. After several days, the expected relief column arrives. Some of the heroes are aghast to see 20 trolls leading a column of supplies and non-combatants, but Lord Valanduil buttresses the groups courage, and they courageously attack the evil beasts. After fierce combat, the trolls are dispatched with no loss to the heroes, and the supply column is captured, along with the drivers of the column and an evil cleric of Grlarshh, one William. The next challenge the heroes face is how to get the large wagon full of food and supplies back to the Spurite forces. They decide to go by water, and thus travel to a small fishing Hamlet on the shore of the nearby Lake of the Sky. There they convince the reluctant villagers to sail them back to Fisherman's Solace. Their mission has been a success.
At this point, Drapier Ada wishes to return to Dragonspur City, for the holy month of her god Heshtail is approaching. She and Malcall take the prisoner back to the city, and a month passes while Valanduil and Payn see to the Southern Front and plan the assault upon Eston. Soon Ada and Malcall arrive back, and the assault begins. Utilizing the magical power of the Elven mage Valanduil, they destroy the wooden gate; the Elf unleashes barrage after barrage of magical fire on the gate, and even succeeds in slaying the garrison's wizard who attempts to counter the magical assault. With the gate in ashes, the son of Curufin handily escapes the pursuit of heavy cavalry in half-plate armor that issues from Eston. The next day Lord Payn moves his force into assault position, and the party moves forward alone to offer the Fort terms of surrender. The same heavy horsemen that pursued Valanduil ambush them and they are overtaken. The leader of the horseman, a Knight named Haylon, challenges Lord Payn to a duel from horseback, stating that to spare lives, if Sir Haylon wins, Payn will withdraw his forces, and if Payn wins, Haylon will surrender to the Spurites and leave the horseman to make their own decision to accept the surrender that Valanduil has offered them. Payn agrees to the duel, but refuses to fight from horseback. At first the knight's riding skill calls the outcome of the battle into doubt, but, utilizing his control over plants, Payn immobilizes the knight's steed and cuts the horse down, forcing the knight to dismount. Once on foot, the slashing blades of Payn make shot work of him. Payn has honorably defeated one of the Fort's main military leaders and the remaining heavy cavalry willing join with the Spurites. The heroes then begin the assault proper: Valanduil offers the human defenders of the fort clemency if they will turn on the Orcish defenders of the fort. Then Lord Payn sounds the charge. At first the assault is in danger of failing, for the orcs fight fiercely, but the might of the Lords of the West and the timely defection of the humans in the Fort leads to a decisive victory. The Spurite Forces capture Eston and now hold the lower half of the South Lake Road. They have recaptured a good portion of the territory of Afej the Black.
Valanduil then suggests that the heroes may better serve the cause of good in another area. He suggests having Overgeneral Elmore and Lord Bartarius continue the offensive against Afej, while the party kills two birds with one stone. He suggests that they invade Western Zeland secretly and slay the General Lord Dargon Skullcrusher, who has up until now escaped justice after his unjust assault against the spur. In doing so, Valanduil hopes to increase the power and resources of the group, priming them for the inevitable attack on the mighty Afej the Lich. The party sends messages to the city and soon the two military commanders arrive, and the heroes hand over leadership and journey back to the Spur. While there, Valanduil researches the Kingdom of Zeland in the library of Keler while Malcall meets his new born son-- a boy named Malcall Jr. He has mixed feelings. Meanwhile the heroes plan their assault, learning from Naglor that the only real crossing into Zeland is at Stone Ford, which is surely held in strength by the troops of Dargon. After making sufficient preparations, the companions set out to slay the evil Ogre-Mage and begin the eventual liberation of the town of Hestor and all of Zeland.
Chapter Five- Death in the Troll Pits
|9th of Reos, 8171 F.R.|
Arriving at the Ford, Payn scouts and realizes that the crossing is indeed held and watched over by a tower. It will be difficult to cross unnoticed. Nonetheless, the group tries to pass unseen, using their classic invisibility maneuver. This time, however, they are unsuccessful and are spotted by a mischance. They are confronted in the middle of the ankle deep ford by two giants, a uruk commander who wields the power of the evil god Vornoth, and an unseen archer from the tower. They begin to force the crossing by dint of sword and spell, but are troubled by the sound of metal on wood, a hammering, which issues from a nearby ravine, a tributary river that flows into the larger river that they are attempting to cross. Looking at the cliffs that surround the river, wise Valanduil guesses the import of the sound and warns Payn, Malcall, and Ada that he feels the enemy is trying to flood the ford. Payn casts a spell on the himself, the elf, and the barbarian that allows them to walk on water, and it is soon revealed that the son of Curufin was correct. A horrendous wall of water, carrying logs and debris crashes through the ford, striking the heroes like a sledgehammer. The three men are safe because of Payn's magic, but the unfortunate Ada is bowled off her feet and, born under by the weight of her heavy armor, is in danger of drowning. However by force of sheer determination and the magic of Elven Valanduil, Ada is rescued from certain death and plucked from the growing lake that was once Stone Ford. Luckily, the flood combined with the swords and bows of the heroes have slain the defenders of the ford, and the rabble of orcs, the back-up force that issues from a nearby barracks, surrenders to the wet and bedraggled party. After questioning these orcs, the companions learn that at least one has escaped and fled at high speed towards Dargon's capital of Hestor, some 40 miles away, to warn the evil Lord. The heroes set off after him but are waylayed by several Orcish patrols, which they make short work off. Unfortunately, they never catch the escaped orc and hence assume that Dargon knows they have forced the ford.
Arriving at the town of Hestor, the heroes refrain from entering and scout the surroundings. The town is located near a large hill, the cliff-like southern face of which looms over the unfortunate community. Part of this cliff has been walled in, creating a rather imposing fortress which the heroes surmise guards entrance into the cliff and what is surely the underground dwelling of Dargon himself-- the Troll Pits of Hextor, so named because of the evil sorcery that is practiced within. The next task of the Lords of the West is to find a way into these accursed pits, but it won't be easy. Malcall, the swiftest runner of the group, sets off under cover of Valanduil's invisibility magic to scout an entrance. The barbarian climbs the wall and sees that they do indeed guard an entrance to the pits, but he is spotted by the gate guardians, who seem to be able to see him despite his magic. He flees and reports his findings to the group. He has also found evidence of other entrances to the pits, but they seem to be hopelessly blocked off. The group ponders how they will gain entrance, but knows that the fort has been alerted and time is short.
Soon the the heroes spot an incoming patrol and they withdraw in the face of it, setting a point of ambush. Soon they encounter a group of trolls and orcs and dispatch them with little problem-except for one minor issue. An orcish scout escapes to report their presence to those in the troll pits. The heroes reason that if another patrol issues forth, they can dispatch it as well, and, proceeding on this course, they may well empty the pits of monsters. Yet it does not work out as they plan, for the next patrol, which they again try to ambush, is nearly beyond their power. This force consists of powerful trolls that can enter into a battle rage like Malcall, as well as two gigantic fire giants. The Lords of the West fight valiantly, yet they feel the stealthy footfalls of their own death approaching as the mighty axes of the giants fell both Payn and Malcall. This is as close to death as Malcall has yet been, but the healing powers of the priestess Ada save him and Payn from the icy clutches of doom. With much trouble, the group is victorious in this fight, albeit severely injured. And they aren't out of danger yet, for they observe a third patrol hot on their trail. In their present state they fear to face the beasts and attempt to flee under cover of magic; they know, however, that Dargon Skullcrusher possesses powerful magic, and are unsure whether or not they will be able to escape. Their future is uncertain.
They make a break for it, moving at speed for a full day before vanishing into Valanduil's extradimensional sanctuary. They manage to elude the patrols and the next day renew their plan to attack the troll pits, this time from the other side of the town. They run up onto the guarded gate and, amidst a hail of arrows, use Valanduil's dimension door spell to appear right inside the gate of the mines themselves. Since the gate is closed, the outside defenders are confused as to the whereabouts of the heroes, giving them time to explore the outer halls of the mines. They discover several passages and what appears to be an iron golem blocking their way deeper into the mines. They return to the foyer hall to contemplate their next move. Under cover of a silence spell, however, they fail to hear some guards behind a secret door, and soon fierce battle is joined. They make short work of the guards, including a kobold sorcerer, but the outside defenders have discovered their whereabouts. A huge fire giant bashes down the front door and a party of uruks and two giants attacks the heroes. Several uruks escape deeper into the mine during the pitched battle, alerting those dwelling within. Soon a hill giant-wereboar and four huge dire boars join the fray, making it one of the toughest battles the heroes have yet faced. The axes of the hill giants yet again fell Malcall, and he nearly dies. Even Ada is at death's door, but she manages to use her spells to save Malcall and herself. Once Malcall rejoins the fray, the companions finally dispatch the remaining enemies. Yet they hear further enemies, alerted by the escaped uruks, coming to the hall, and they retreat back into Valanduil's rope trick, but this time inside the troll pits. The ageless elf is troubled, though, because he knows that the entrance to his extradimensional space is visible to those who can see invisible objects. He fears that Dargon, who might have this power, is searching for the party and will locate their hiding spot.
It seems that Dargon does indeed discover the hiding place of the heroes, as they hear a large group assembling in the room below. Dargon indeed taunts the heroes, telling them that he knows their location and that if they do not come out he will have his orcs begin to slay the denizens of the town. The companions plan to use one of Ada's spells to return to Dragonspur City, but first they have to risk an attack from whatever is assembled below. Soon they must face the music, and dropping out of the rope trick they see a huge group of ogres, trolls (including several half-fiend and lycanthropic trolls, Dargon's experiments), several orcs and gnolls, and some human mages. Valanduil braves the attacks of the combined beasts, and with arrows whistling around his head, he casts a huge ball of fire on the enemy mages, slaying them. At that moment Ada completes her spell, and the heroes return to the Spur. But they know that it is dangerous to allow Dargon to regroup, so they quickly heal and ride over the ford and back to Hestor. Arriving outside the town they discover that Dargon has made true on his threat-his forces do seem to be burning the town.
Deciding that they can help most quickly by slaying Dargon, they make a renewed assault on the dreaded fortress of the Troll Pits of Hextor. This time, however, they try to assault the hidden side entrance that they discovered during their last foray into the mountain. They are met at the side gate by several orcs and trolls, and are sickened by some hideous troll-abominations guarding the gate. Yet they dispatch the guards with little trouble-except for the fact that some orcs escape to warn the rest of the Pits. This proves to be the heroes' undoing, for as they travel deeper into the tunnels they are met by a concerted defense that indeed seems to consist of the entire remaining denizens of the pits. The force consists of many ogres, some troll abominations, some uruks (including several clerics), a gnoll captain, and three invisible stalkers. This force attacks with horrendous force, but the heroes meet their attack with equal vigor, and the battle rages. Malcall and Payn are whirling tornados of steel, and the spells of Valanduil and Ada deal terrible damage to their foes. The battle is almost won, when suddenly one of the orcs turns out to be Dargon disguised by magic. He unleashes a magical cone of cold against the heroes, damaging them severely. But the heroes are undaunted, and they attack and more severely wound Dargon, who flies away. Yet the heroes will not let their quarry escape so easily this time, and they pursue him at high speed into the darkness of the pits, descending to a lower level in pursuit. Dargon, however, eludes them by passing through a magically warded door, and the heroes know that time is on his side-he is regenerating. They thus try to find another way into the locked room, and in their explorations they stumble upon the heart of the pits: Dargon's troll spawning chamber. As they stare in shock at the liquid filled vats and writhing figures in the pits, Dargon appears in the room and slams and locks the door. It seems that this is to be the final showdown. Both sides attack with deadly intent, and the heroes manage to dispatch Dargon, finally putting the evil despot to death-but not before he uses magical fire to gravely wound the heroes and slay the noble Valanduil. When the battle is over, the heroes are left to stand amid the carnage and weigh the loss of one of their number against the good they have done by slaying the enemy general and freeing the town, if indeed any town remains on the surface above.
After recovering their strength and mourning over the elf, the heroes send Payn to scout the town. He finds a large group of about 500 townfolk-the other 1500 people have been slain by the orcs or have fled-and he sees a party of heavily armored uruks about to attack the villagers. With his flaming arrows and his skill with his longbow, Payn makes short work of the orcs, and comforts the stricken townsfolk. He instructs them to head to Stone Ford some 60 miles away. The companions themselves then prepare to cast the magical spell which will take them back to Dragonspur City, when suddenly they see a small dust cloud-a rider approaches! The horseman, who is clad in the colors of Zeland, tells them that the Lord of Sloth, Orax, bids them wait, for he is on his way and will arrive in three days. A Lord of Sin wishes a peaceful parley with them! Shocked, the heroes agree to meet the Lord to see what he will propose. They return to the Spur, where Burcan the White, Ada's mentor and the High Priest of Heshtail, has raised Valanduil. Ada's magic restores Valanduil back to full health, and after briefing King Naglor on the death of Dargon, they do some research on the Lord of Sloth. Valanduil discovers in Keler's ancient library that the Lord of Sloth is an intelligent ooze, an elder black pudding. He is a terrible abomination and a powerful fighter, indeed a deadly being. Knowing this, they again use Ada's magic to return to Hestor in time to meet with this Deadly Lord of Sin.
Soon the meeting arrives. Fearing treachery, they cautiously discuss the Lord's proposal. It seems that Sloth realizes the heroes are a serious threat to his kingdom, and he doesn't wish to face them personally. In fact, he doesn't care much for his kingdom at all! He reveals to the heroes that he was tricked by the Dweller to be a Lord of Sin, and it is the magical power of the Lord of Anger that keeps the Lord of Sloth from fleeing. He tells the heroes that he is deathly afraid of the Lord of Anger, who he reveals to the heroes as a pitfiend named Nabarus! He proposes to the heroes that he give them inside information about the Lord of Anger, as well as maps of his kingdom and his palace, if they agree to slay him. He states that if they do, he will voluntarily leave Farland and never return, disbanding his armies. He also gives them information about his own kingdom and his generals, his undying conflicts with the Lord of Envy to the South, and he agrees to give them safe passage through his lands. He also promises not to attempt to take back Hestor, and to swear a pact of non-aggression against Kelerak if they will do the same. After much debate about what the heroes characterize as a "deal with the devil," they agree to Sloth's plan. The enemies exchange geas spells, binding the heroes to kill Anger within 5 years and binding Sloth to his end of the bargain. The Lord then departs.
Wondering at the wisdom of their bargain, the companions set about to finish exploring and clearing the rest of the troll pits. After much care and effort, they dispatch a water-creature from a fountain and unearth a troll burial-ground wherein dwells a troll ghost. The ghost catches them unaware and proves to be quite a challenge, but eventually they dispatch it, after learning more about it from an imprisoned gnoll they discover. Having gotten rid of the ghost, they prepare to finish clearing the pits. They soon decide to destroy the iron and clay golems guarding the place, and they make short work of it. The heroes then head out to the town, where Payn searches the woods and rounds up some more refugees from the town. The party escorts them back to the Stone Ford, then, after Payn confers with the captain there, heads on to the Dragonspur. There they find that some important diplomats from the elves await them. The Lord of the Shadow Walkers, Leanorfin of House Arduval, has come with two other ranking Shadow Walkers, including his cousin Galadwen of House Arduval, to reestablish ties with the kingdom of Kelerak. When the meeting with Naglor ends, Leanorfin pulls Valanduil aside and tells him that he has also come to insure that Yedus does in fact return the Stone of Silence-for the elves want it back-and he is prepared to offer whatever aid to recover it from Yedus that Valanduil needs. But the elves are creatures who follow the ways of goodness, and thus Leanorfin tells Valanduil to keep his end of the bargain and slay Afej, and to do it quickly; in fact, he says he will try to provide him with some substantial help in doing so, although he does not say what that help is.
Meanwhile King Naglor tells Lord Payn that he has decided to give him fealty over the newly conquered city of Hestor. In return, he asks that Payn support him strongly in the future; it seems that Naglor has machinated to make Payn owe him a big favor. Meanwhile, Ada has received good news of her own: Burcan the White tells her that she is to be promoted in the Church to the rank of Marshal! This is an honor indeed, and a ceremony is set to take place three weeks hence. Burcan also tells her that a man who goes by the same name as her long-lost brother has been found in a suburb of the city. She goes to investigate but unfortunately finds that it is just a coincidence. In the meantime, Mary, the mother of Malcall's son, has told Malcall that her ex-pimp, Borel the Spider, is harassing her. Malcall investigates, preparing to fight the thug, but finds that she legitimately owes him money, so he pays it. While this is going on, Payn is settling a land dispute at one of his holdings. Having taken care of their sundry concerns, the heroes ponder their next move: how best to defeat Afej and do it quickly.