The Wandering Age

Alvo in Summary
The Adventure as it Ended

From a Distance

The tower seemed simply surrounded by trees and far away, but as the party broke into the clearing they found the third tower to be in incredible disrepair. It was using friction to keep from falling into what was once a sea cavern below, now a massive salty grotto. Within the group learned of the giant predilection to treat people on the surface as creatures of dream, essentially not real, and only to be respected in terms of another stone giant’s property. They found various overlarge spyglasses in varying states of disrepair and a lift that rocketed the majority of them to the top of the tower. A few nearly died, the lifts were not made for the diminutive weight of humanoids. It was worth it however, the party was able to glimpse many things, including a tourism map and in the distance what seemed to be another island behind the shores of Alvo, previously unknown and as yet still unexplored. Using pieces of a few giant spyglasses they then slid down the side of the tower to get back to the bottom and avoid the extreme shaking manner of the lift. Back at the bottom they realized they were able to access a basement of sorts, a hatch that lead to a disabled lift hanging out from the bottom. On it was the body of what they would learn was a Sea Elf, or Merfolk, a young man named Hikara.

The Merfolk

was perhaps the most interesting find in the tower. After he was healed and given time to gather himself, there was much he was able to tell the party, haltingly, in broken elvish. He was from Tria, a City-State under the ocean. There, they had no anti-dragon barrier. They were under the thumb of Imperious Envious III—a dragon. Frigidine the Ice Queen was not the only one, and this Imperious had green scales and had breath like poison. Were there other dragons, other cities?

There Would Be Time

later for any further details, as the party came upon the northern jungles, and many pairs of yellow eyes. They had learned that Alvo was likely where Displacer Beasts lived, and it seemed that they would be able to verify such claims and hopefully find the pet that was declared missing on the bounty boards back home. As they entered the wooded region, they did eventually come across the creatures as well as Lady Moxia, a gaudy pink ribbon around her neck. A meek attempt at fighting her and her cohorts lead the group to decide that she wasn’t worth the trouble. They took her ribbon, having fallen off when she was struck by Kaho’s magic, and continued toward the northwestern tower that had been frozen shut by Frigidine.

As Expected

the tower would be harder to approach than just the ice that surrounded it. In a full circumference around it was a gorge of stone skewers. With them were the wooden posts that denoted where a suspension bridge would have been once. But as the party contemplated what they should do next, they were approached by a gold-furred canine, arcane etchings like tattoos on its skin. It barked at them, blinking from one spot to the next. When the attempt to pet it was made it seemed to back off, but always turned to face them and bark. It wanted them to follow.

The Flumph in the Cave

was an unexpected turn of events. It was strange in appearance, stranger than anything any of them had seen, but it was also badly wounded, possibly on the verge of death. It was given potion fruit and Mele’one ministrated her tribal medicine to patch up the terrible wound, and the effort did not go unrewarded. The Flumph was alive, well enough to float, as it did, and speak into the minds of the party, as it also did. It had wandered away from the safety of its home, fearful of creatures below that were invasive and powerful. But it was a dutiful Flumph, and wished to show the party an underground entrance to the tower if they so wished for the knowledge.

The Way Down

was dark and strange the path littered with strangely shaped boulders and stones, a number of them with old broken weapons nearby. Eventually they were lead along the precipice of a great gorge. Off in the distance they were able to make out lights on a bridge of natural stone that connected to a cylinder of stone not unlike the make of the tower. Within that light, five figures, one of them in heavy black iron armor with a skull enveloped in flame for its head. On its back was a massive fullblade that in elvish read “Liberation”. The party realized that contending with this group was inevitable.

The Disposition of Blink Dogs

could easily be compared to that of a righteous paladin, believing in a fair even fight even if it meant their own death. So, even if the adventurers had wanted to try and sneak up on the menagerie of undead that now clearly stood ahead of them, the Blink Dog that the Flumph had told them did not mind being known as Fishbiter or a Dragonborn name that only Mele’one used, was going to change that plan. It was discovered that the one at the center, with his burning skull, was Geist, a name that appeared on a list of those who were on the original council of Un alongside Strahd von Zarovich. Long life, or unlife in this case, seemed to be part and parcel with the title, yet while Strahd languished within the city, here was one of his allies deep in the earth. The Wights that stood with him did not like the appearance of the group, demanding their death. Geist allowed one to stay behind, to test their mettle as combatants.

It Would Not Be So Simple

as that of course. While Geist and the other three backed away into black portals and left the single Wight, he was not so alone. He summoned to him a squad of undead lizardmen, looking freshly killed no more than some days ago. They populated the dangerous stone bridge leading up to the Wight and he stood in the back taking shots at the party with his crossbow. But a judicious use of sword and sorcery fell the undead minions, and the final blow was struck by Mele’one and the purifying moonfire she could summon even in what Altonlochar called the Underdark. The Wight’s name was Sigmund.

It Took an Elvish Hand

to open the doors at the end of the bridge, leaving Francesca the only one who could complete the task. A strange thing considering the construction was not itself of Elf design. But it nevertheless allowed the party ingress, and after that, there was nowhere to go but up.

Never Was there a Winter

on the island that the Wallbound and Dragonborn alike called home, though they had to suffer the occasional ice shower from Frigidine. Here, inside the tower that was covered in her ice it was absolutely frigid. This did not however distract from the interesting scene that spread out before them. A stellar map of the Whirl and its orbiting bodies, the great entrance emblazoned with the ashes of a dragon, a burning, familiar rune in a great glass egg upheld by an ancient dragon skull, and all of it wrapped in a staircase that spiraled upward into the next floor.

The Sum of All Effort

was to unlock the secrets in this frigid place. The party would split up shortly as they finally found the other missing person, Councilwoman Clover Eredhes. Sour and Imperious, she seemed to have a history with Westree’s family and the Half-Orc would sooner have died of frostbite in that tower than lift a hand to help her. Kaho joined him, feeling belittled by the woman’s dismissive attitude. Mele’one alternatively wished to understand more about the fire opal that held the rune that caused fire. Amidst all of this, Clover wasn’t even corporeal. On the second floor she was suspended in a giant bottle, in a fluid that apparently kept her mortal body alive and was protected by a nefarious neck-snapping trap that the party managed to evade, only to find themselves surrounded by deranged spirits. They were once also preserved in the bottle Clover was in, and hundreds of years of separation from their eradicated bodies while haunting the tower that was the site of the murder of countless of their kind left them with only so much control. It was at least enough to allow the party to solve a quick puzzle to unlock the lifts in the room. But which lead where? On a whim they selected the correct one that took them to the top of the tower.

Meanwhile

back at the bottom of the tower, Mele’one was playing with the devices that littered the room as Westree toppled boulders that they learned were the ancient corpses of stone giants. The stellar map looked like it could be activated, a few exposed gears sticking out of its base, and it looked as if there was a siphoning device attached to the glass egg that surrounded the Ild Rune. It seemed to be mostly deactivated, likely the power source of things like the map. Mele’one had learned however that by drawing the rune in this place would cause the fire opal to face it and strike that surface with a ray of fire. Eventually, she used this new feature to melt the stone doors until all that was left was the draconic ice that held the tower. In its current form, the Ild rune was not powerful enough to melt that.

Around Them Were Giants

or more specifically the statues of themselves the stone giants created. Four of them held a ceiling up over the top of the tower, wind whipping through the open area. A single set of stairs slipped around to the top of this ceiling, whereupon sat a grand telescope. A plaque on the dragon skull had mentioned that for the Ild to awaken it must gaze upon itself. The Wallborn name for the sun was Ild strangely. In spite of this serendipity the two at the top simply used it to their advantage, using cranks and gears to align the telescope with the sun.

Winter Made Way

for the warmth that thrummed forth from the Ild rune. The glass egg filled with fire, and melted away the dragon’s ice, freeing those that inhabited the tower. As Francesca and Hayes made their way back down, Clover had convinced the others that there was no point in staying on the first floor, which very nearly got Kaho killed, not perceptive enough to evade the neck-snapper that had never been properly disabled. That was left to Mele’one who spied the trap’s gearbox, breaking it with a sling. There was one last task: Get Clover out of the jar. The spirits had begun to lose control and attacked the party, also nearly killing Kaho. They seemed trapped with the statues of elves in that room, as the party escaping to the first floor was enough to exit the radius of their ghostly wrath.

There Were Complications

to their discovery. The Ild Rune was powered and they had a potential weapon to fight Frigidine, but they could get nowhere near it. It had to be activated if they were to leave with it, but they didn’t have the final piece of the puzzle. In the meantime, the solution that had covered Clover was removed and her spirit restored. She was a whole person again, it looked like there was one bounty that would be turned in successfully. Then, as the party mused on how to handle the rune, a voice floated in, serpentine and unfamiliar.

Ssezerak, Friend of the Softmans

was the owner of the voice, a Lizardfolk hunter with a pack behind him. He suggested that the dragon’s breath could quell the Ild rune long enough that it could be taken away. Frigidine was as much a threat to him and his people, he wanted to see her taken from the sky, and so offered to watch after the tower so that the party might leave and return with that which they needed to abscond with the rune. Though the likes of Hayes had misgivings as to the motivations of these creatures, none could come to any other conclusion. If nothing else, they would know who to look for first if the rune was gone when they returned. With that however, the drow’s time with them was over. He had assisted in a few ways and certainly stayed until they found what they were looking for, and as he had said, he’d found what he wanted already. Duty fulfilled, he took out a brass doorknob, inserted it into nothing, and walked through the door that created.

Night Approached Again

leaving the party to their second night on the island. They sought out the quiet cave they’d tended to the Flumph in as a fairly safe and dry spot to start camp. Some foraging was done, food was made by Francesca with surprising expertise, and Mele’one met a quiet dryad as most of the others turned in for the night. The Dryad, Sprigg, was saved by the old High Druid who sacrificed her arm so that Sprigg would have a tree for her spirit to inhabit. She spoke kindly to Mele’one and of that which she owed the druid. She asked the young Dragonborn of herself and listened with intent, then presented her with gauntlets made of what seemed to be a lacquered wood but were as pliable as animal skin. Then Sprigg gave Mele’one her final gift, a message about the future from the High Druid, something told to the Dryad to make sure it would only be spoken at the right time. She then set upon Mele’one with a single piece of fruit, and told her to give it to the old druid. “She’ll know what it means.” Then, as the conversation was over, Mele’one left, surprised to discover that Francesca was waiting with a plate for her as well.

Rising With the Sun

made sure that there would be ample time to march across the island and return to the ship. They were able to avoid the Displacer Forest, but by going through the center of the island the party instead found the graveyard that the southwestern tower had spoken of. There they were able to see exhumed caskets and old corpses that seemed badly mutated, sitting in line with what they knew of Alvo’s history. But then peeled through the air a roar of ten thousand voices. The “Rage of the Giants” that they’d been warned about. An effluvial mess of giant flesh that bubbled and popped with countless sharp mouths all over it. Kaho took one look at the beast and ran. The whole party followed after him.

It Was Unstoppable

Whole trees were thrown at it, ice and dozens of animals all smashed in its wake. Outrunning it seemed simply impossible. Where their successes lay seemed in spells, but it wasn’t enough. The corrupt giant corpse seemed implacable. They could see the beach, the ship waiting for them, and like that the earth beneath their feet began to overturn, uprooted by giant hands ready to smash them asunder. But then the unthinkable happened, Frigidine herself swooped in, incensed by the appearance of the giant, grabbing it in her jaws before landing. The party was saved by the Ice Queen, of all things. As they made their mad dash for freedom she breathed a gout of ice that solidified the corrupt body in totality, then smashed it in half with her jaws. She did not stop there however. As the ship began to feverishly set sail she ran up to the shoreline, freezing the ice and whipping it with her massive tail, sending volleys of it toward the ship. Miraculously, only two sailors died that day.

Alvo Existed then in the Past and Future

for the group. While their adventure to find the Ild stone was over, they would have to return when they had the proper tools to take it. Until then, they had to return to a city that had begun to change in the week that they were gone…

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The Horror Behind the Mask of Time
Wherein is Seen a Glimmer of the Truth

The First Morning in a Foreign Land

Was an interesting experience, to say the least. While the party slept, the half-orc ranger was able to track himself back to them. The night before, Mele’one was able to transcribe the map they’d found onto one considerably more portable. There was some discussion as to where the group wished to go next, and the decision was to continue on north.

There was an Old Settlement

And it was irrevocably Elvish despite its stone construction. Very little of the detail of the town seemed to show the influence of the Giants that supposedly ruled over the island. There were few baubles in this place, and nature had begun to take the settlement back. One of the taller buildings had long since fallen over, its remaining corner still barely holding itself up and providing shade for a stream that flowed out west toward the ocean. In fact the only building that seemed in one piece was an Elvish church that Francesca went to explore for the shrine back home. The boys meanwhile picked through buildings to find anything of interest. At some point, a strange shoebilled bird began to fly overhead, the only animal that the party had seen in the town. Though Hayes was interested in the animal, it seemed only interested in Mele’one who had gone into the shade of the ruin to inspect the small stream.

It was too Late

That Kaho noticed that the darkness around the stream was unnatural. He tried to reach inside and pull Mele’one back, but was beaten in a contest of strength by whatever had created that darkness. Which turned out to be a man named Fetherwyrd; black skinned and white haired but Elvish, claiming to be something the party had never heard of: a Drow. He apologized for the misunderstanding, claiming that he thought whatever was trying to grab the young Dragonborn was potentially dangerous, and he was there in the dark due to a sensitivity to light. He seemed familiar with the sort of thing the party was doing as well and offered a deal. He would help them find what they were looking for while he looked for something he needed to find along the way. The group had a tentative agreement. They left some notes for Francesca who had made herself scarce in the church. The party had to keep moving to the next tower after all.

An Ampitheater in the Forest

Was hardly strange after the events of the last few days. Shaped like the gaping maw of a watching Lion, the area that consisted of its stage and mouth was flooded with water from an underground spring bubbling through cracks in the stone. There was an opening in the back of the structure, like the entrance to the lion’s stomach. It was slick with water and all along the left hand wall was a yet enduring mural depicting the history of the Elves and Giants. Toward the bottom, the mural seemed to change artists as it began to depict the events of Dragnarok, Elves and Dragons killing Giants, the Elves changing into horrifying visages to do so. The final image at the bottom was a mad scribble depicting a horror with a single red eye. Beyond it was the living quarters of the actors that used the ampitheater in ages past.

The Ancient Environs

Had number of old beds and dressers wherein old fineries were found. A half-wall in the back revealed a kitchen and door to the right stood jammed in the frame. Kaho in his rummaging found a strangely removed stone with a backplate of silver that seemed to fit into a wall in the kitchen hidden away near the larder. It revealed an altar depicting a human hand entwined by two tentacles dragging it down into water. The outstretched appendage held aloft a green flame. Finding fear where the profane was he sealed the hidden shrine back up and filled it with water produced by his Genasi magic and hid the stone that opened the wall in an oven. The group was none the wiser. In fact Mele’one had traveled back up the stairs to inspect the water on a hunch. Using old druidic magic she discovered there was a waterborne disease that was capable of terrible transformation of the ill, likely what changed some of the bodies the party found before, and referenced in the mural. The others focused their attentions to the jammed door. It was soon busted off of its hinges into an underground river rapid.

Erosion over Centuries

Seemed to have destroyed a hallway that lead from the living quarters to a room that the actors used for private performance. In a feet of able strength and dexterity, Jonathan climbed across the ceiling and was able to establish a rope bridge for the others to move over safely. This allowed them into the private performance room where it looked like the ancient actors practiced scenes and performances amongst themselves. There were two statues that framed the stage near the stairs, one a mirthful looking elf man with a sword at his side, the other a sorrow-lorn elf woman wearing an unusual necklace.

periapt_of_health.jpg

The relic was clearly something worth taking. The suspicion that the statue was enchanted and would retaliate if it no longer had the necklace was strong however. Hayes suggested trying to destroy the statue before removing the necklace, and Kaho saw no reason that wouldn’t work. Unfortunately striking the statue only seemed to activate it prematurely, and it wasn’t long until one was choking Kaho to the ground while the other tried to run his restrained form through. But Mele’one was able to create a distraction with her scalding breath weapon that allowed Jonathan to take the necklace and for Kaho to escape. The party went back over the bridge post haste and for his trouble, Mr. Westree decided to hang on to the necklace.

It Was Around This Time

That Francesca finally caught up with the group. She and Hayes gave the kitchen a second look as water had begun to trickle out from under the kitchen door since she’d arrived. It didn’t take long for Francesca to find the stone and inevitably the shrine, which doused her in water thanks to Kaho’s spell. Something was different this time. There was no green flame. In its place was a ritualistic syringe that seemed to be full. Francesca very carefully wrapped it up and placed it in her bag of holding to take it to her church later. The tentacles then pulled the single arm down into the water-like base of the shrine, which then turned black before taking on the same symbol as the religious item Kaho found in one of the towers the previous day. It soon found a home next to the syringe. The party then spoke of policy regarding profane religious items and Mele’one made sure Francesca was not infected from the water, as Kaho remained tight lipped to its origin. Regardless, the ampitheater seemed to be mined of points of interest. The party continued on north.

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They Called it Alvo
In Which Our Party Learns

Further Complications

lead to the next decision the party would make. Just as they had obtained the massive language book that would allow them to understand the ruins better, Frigidine the Ice Queen, tyrannical dragon ruler of their island, darkened the sky over the Forbidden Island, her wings making the earth tremble. In the span of minutes she crossed a day’s worth of travel for the team, firing a frozen comet at one of the other giant watch towers, encasing the structure up to its roof in thick ice. Then, she left, returning to the south and in all likelihood back to her roost at the top of Dead Heat mountain. The very sight of her caused the recently acquired half-orc ranger to lose himself, and he abandoned the group to try and catch the arctic wyrm. Certainly this did not change that there was a facility further east where there was some sort of elvish magic service, but it was an instinctual imperative to want what the dragon hid.

So the Decision

was made to head for the giant tower the dragon struck, and visit each of the other towers that were along the way. With the towers organized (roughly) in two rows of three, the party decided to head west to reach the first tower and simply continue north and hit the next two. They were going in essentially the opposite direction of the magical facility, but again they needed to know what Frigidine, powerful as she was, was trying to hide. So they journeyed south through the island forest until a fog began to hamper their progress. Before long the adventurers could barely see each other, let alone the path to the next watchtower. Eventually it lead them past a strange light in the mist. It was vexing. On the one hand, a strange light on a forbidden island left them uneasy, but on the other hand, it was the only landmark they had, otherwise they would have to brave finding their way through the fog on their own. Francesca decided to let her adventuring instincts guide her and she took the plunge to investigate, almost literally. The area around the light was marshy and bog-like, forcing them to be careful with their book of translation.

They Were Rewarded

with a small house that seemed to be sinking into the mire around it. Francesca was let in with great enthusiasm by an old elvish woman. She seemed happy to see another of her kind after so long, so much so that she was willing to let in the others as well. She explained to the party that hundreds of years ago, Alvo was home to a race of giants that the Elves were made to obey. When Dragnorok took place, the giants were alone in their defense of the island, the Elves using the chaos as their chance to liberate themselves. Eventually though, the dragons became a far worse menace, and the old woman fled to this marsh, using illusion magic to hide her home in mist. Kaho found himself enamored with the silvered elvish blade the old woman kept on her mantle as she spoke, and asked to see it. The old woman seemed quite amenable to the idea, using some high elf magic to pull it from its place and hold it before the swordsman. It all turned out to be a trick though, the blade nearly impaling Kaho on its own as the old woman revealed herself as a green hag. She frustrated her would-be victims by turning invisible as they fought her animate sword and summoned thorn blights, only reappearing at the most advantageous moments to strike at the party with her claws. But, the combined spellwork of Francesca and Mele’one was her undoing as she was compelled to stay within a beam of burning moonlight.

Proper Compensation

came to them with the Hag’s death. Not only did the mist vanish, Hayes found a box of the items the Hag had collected from the few people who visited the island against the Council’s orders over the years. Among a few interesting items, there was a bag of holding, perfect for handling the heavy book the group had been lugging around. They had to leave quickly after finding it though, as the house had begun to finish sinking into the mire. Their journey to the next tower managed to give them no further tribulation. There, it was a simple matter to get inside and start looking around.

It Was Far Different

to see this tower compared to the first. To begin it was leaning on its side, making moving around a bit of an unusual chore. but beyond that it seemed to be a place of medical research with many elvish coffins and tools made for giant hands, but small subjects. There they realized that there were giant runes on these coffins that labelled them as different causes of death, as well as a set of coordinates for where they were from. All of the bodies in the coffins labelled “disease” seemed horribly disfigured with clawed hands, enlarged limbs, and spurs of bone protruding from their skeletons in different formations. Upstairs the group found a map to transcribe and further up from that, a profane religious symbol of blackened silver hidden beneath a giant bed, sized for a giant neck. The group decided to ruminate on a number of things for the time being, and left what would be done next for the morning. With the doors sealed, they settled in to sleep for their first night on the island.

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Setting Sail for the Forbidden Island
An Ancient Place of Chance Encounters

Having secured items, equipment, transportation, and even crew for their journey, the party was ready to set off to what the people of Un knew only as the Forbidden Island. Mele’one’s people knew it as Kaiapili’ona’mea, a mystical place and important to those who would become Druids for the tribe. The trip, despite being to a place of relative closeness to the main island, took four days due to the strait currents that ran against the ship between the islands. Regardless, the trip itself was otherwise a safe one, and the adventurers were able to go aground in high spirits and health.

The sand of the beach was black, likely some kind of volcanic sediment, and the tree line was incredibly tall, making it difficult to see anything at all in the distance. They seemed to be lined with lantern sized red fruits that contrasted against their dark bark, but as interested as Hayes was in them, a few of the team caught on to the sound of battle from within the coastal forest. Within, two half-orcs, nearly identical save for one carrying a strange device on his hip, fighting to the death. Kaho, filled with more enthusiasm than sense, decided whichever one that survived was the good one, and began hucking axes into the fray. The rest arriving afterward had only the bounty hunter’s hunch to go with and began attacking in force. The mystic moonlight that Mele’one wielded exposed one of the half-orcs to truly be a doppelganger. It burned away in the cold blue flames of the druidic moon shine, and the party was left with one remaining half-orc. He introduced himself with a peculiar drawl as Jonathan Westree. He’d been chasing down a young lady that had been kidnapped by Sahuagin, and when he dove into the sea to try and follow them, the ocean currents had their way with him. He’d been on the island for a week already having been harried by his duplicate for longer than he liked.

Once introductions were sorted and the party found a mutual goal with Jon in their distaste for Frigidine the Ice Queen, they focused on their surroundings. It seemed that they were in some sort of old courtyard ruin. In the center stood a long dried up fountain, and on the north and south ends of the clearing, two archways. From them, the group learned a few things: Much of the writing on them was old Elvish with words borrowed from a language none of them recognized; The most prominent borrowed word among them was Alvo, which the fountain was a tribute to the longevity of; The fountain was once magical, and its enchantment had been meant to last for eternity, but any technical difficulties with its magic were handled by a specific municipal group that were located east of where the party was.

As their first clue took them east, the team came across a massive watchtower made of immaculate stone work. It didn’t seem to be of the same craftsmanship as the ruins from earlier. The doors seemed to be made for people well over ten feet tall, but with a magic word (Alvo) they opened to what seemed to be some processing and imprisoning area for people of more humanoid size run by giants. Kaho tripped a security system, brash as always, and destroyed it in kind, but not before Francesca caused Mele’one to kill a bird trying to find a way to turn it off. Up the stairs seemed to be a place for the giant overlords to rest and keep their things, though it had since seen a change of ownership, having turned into a den for gigantic constrictor snakes. Between Mele’one’s animal handling, and Kaho’s … murder skills, as well as more magical means from Hayes and Fran, the party was able to clear the area and look around. There likely were areas above, but the rest of the tower collapsed likely long ago. From the height this place took them however, they could see above the tall trees to a network of five other watchtowers all connected by presently dilapidated stone walkways. Hayes meanwhile found a rather large book that upon close inspection was revealed to be a book meant to translate elvish to the language the group could not understand. With some time and with someone manning the book for its size, Fran could reverse translate the writing from before and anything further. This was going to be a turning point, they could feel it.

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Until Now
In which we recount the meeting and rise of our heroes

At first…

they were a simple caravan rolling outside the walls of Un. Kaho was a masked member of the Bloodletters on a bounty board mission looking for Orc heads to complete his contract; Hayes was a leatherworker looking for unique skins to take back to the shop (and any business contracts would be a bonus); Francesca was a simple adherent of St. Cuthbert looking for artifacts and old religious sites beyond the walls; Mele’one was their guide, a dragonborn from the tribes acting as the caravan’s eyes in the strange territories beyond the city.

But then…

Kaho had the caravan take a detour. Orc tracks had been found, and his contract was with the city, a hard angle to ignore. A small bonfire with a few of the monsters was found and dispatched, leaving one for questions. The party learned, at large, of the rising warlord known as Red Eye, one of Frigidine’s blessed, and his plans to search for an old ghost town against the mountains. The warlord was further south, a direction the caravan was heading on its own, so the party decided to stay on and figure out what to do with the information they had. Then, they reached the crossroads town of Tusk.

An old town with new buildings…

that was Tusk. The price of being a settlement beyond the walls meant that Tusk had to just keep up with the cycle of destruction and restoration. There, the party was mistrusted by Warmaster Ahohako who lead the local militia, schmoozed with Akamai the Clanless who ran the only watering hole in town, and were called upon by Kei Lanakila, the town’s elder. It seems that Red Eye was close enough that he was a growing threat to the settlement, as well as a group of kobolds the Orcs had corralled and goaded into attacking anything nearby. The Elder offered a surprising variety of things for the party if they could take care of the problem, apparently Ahohako’s warriors were not up to the task of fighting a war of multiple fronts. The Caravan would be in Tusk for some time, so the party decided to partition their time wisely.

In the face of a kobold threat…

they were more than up to the task. They set out the same day to deal with the small vicious menace. They were disorganized, having been herded away from their homes in the caves near the mountain, and with the element of surprise on the party’s side, it was only a matter of time before the vermin were routed. The party made their way back to Tusk to relay the good news. Their compensation was modest, but Akamai the Clanless was more than willing to have them stay at his inn for the night for the paltry fee of a live fight featuring Kaho with one of the town’s militia. Of all of the techniques and showmanship he learned as a gladiator, one thing he had never learned was how to let an opponent lose graciously. The crowd that came to watch seemed happy however, and the party was able to sleep.

Mele’one slept under the stars…

which turned out to be an incredible mistake on her part. Separated from her traveling companions, she was very nearly dragged off half-dead by half-orc assassins under the orders of Red Eye. The fight was vicious, blood glistening in the light of the moon, but in the end the majority of it was spilled in the party’s favor. Red Eye apparently wanted the Dragonborn Druid, for what reason there was no way of knowing without asking him. The party resumed their rest as best they could, though some had revenge on their minds for the underhanded attempt on their lives.

That morning they had to head out on foot…

for the Caravan would not take them to Red Eye’s doorstep. For their trouble, the party fought through Orc scouting parties and stumbled upon the cave dwelling of a half-ogre that seemed to be a geode of some beauty. Among his personal effects was a stunning wooden box, long and thin, that Francesca could not pick with her best and considerable efforts. The good luck they had maintained up to that point could not last however. Red Eye’s men ambushed the adventurers and they were taken prisoner.

But that only brought them closer….

to the one they came to kill. It took little work for the team to escape and set their jail and jailers on fire. From that moment they were forced through a gauntlet of Red Eye’s strongest soldiers and profane sorcerers. And yet the tyrant was unfazed. He beckoned his captives in for a final bloody confrontation. The four of them against him. And his Peryton named Luke. The battle was arduous and very nearly lethal for a few of them, Hayes in particular, but the party succeeded. For their efforts, they were able to loot Red Eye’s coffers and were given a few odd pieces of information. Red Eye, despite having received Frigidine’s blessing, was able to make incursions inside the city walls. He did this with the necklace that once sat around his neck but had, without warning appeared around Mele’one’s neck. Francesca tried to get a sense of the magic on it, but it seemed simply to be a talisman enchanted with illusory magic. Whether the spell produced an illusion on the user or on the talisman, it could not be said.

A Hero’s Welcome…

was not what the party received when they returned to Tusk to relay news of their victory. Something strange had happened: fire rained down on the town from Dead Heat mountain; A place that had been dormant for ages since Frigidine the Ice Queen began to roost within. Stranger still, the ejection had not been predicated by the customary shuddering of the earth as one educated in the natural ways would expect from a volcano. The party did not have the time to dwell on the mystery however, as the falling flames had done great harm to the settlement, including Elder Lanakila’s hut. The party did what they could to help quell the fires, and Mele’one did what nature could afford her to save the Elder. His burns were severe, but her knowledge of medicine pulled the old dragonborn through. It was simply another debt that the people of Tusk owed the adventurers. One they would simply hold on to as they took their promised payment for Red Eye and rejoined with the Caravan they had come out with in the first place.

The Return to Un…

was uneventful as they crossed the empty plains. It allowed thoughts to wander to what exactly would happen when their dragonborn guide came into contact with the barrier surrounding the city while she wore Red Eye’s awfully sinister necklace. Getting into the city ended up being a bit of a chore due to a set of bumbling gatekeepers, but the caravan wagon passed through without a hitch, carrying the first true dragonborn into the city in five hundred years.

And then the party split…

to go their separate ways, though not before being stopped on the road by members of the Vanguard, soldiers trained to protect the city in the lower district known as the Prudent Shield. Their audience was demanded by High Shield Phell Lorent, captain of the Vanguard and Councilman for the Prudent Shield District. As it was under punishment of imprisonment, the party decided they would get their business in order swiftly. Hayes returned home to his leatherworking shop, receiving and earful from his mother who had been running the store in his absence; Francesca returned to her shrine in the Verdance Given Temperance District to tell of the maps she received; Kaho meanwhile took up the task of setting up Mele’one for her time in the city. He set her up with his guild, the Bloodletters as a provisional contractor and gave her access to his apartment in the Entertainment District, less popularly known as Temperance Given Permanence. He also helped her slip between the fingers of Marcus Eredhes, owner of Oli’s Bar and Grill (and Shrine), and the district’s councilman. He was a half-elf and for it naturally charismatic, which when combined with his fast talking nature left young Mele’one utterly flustered before Kaho gave her a way out. Marcus did leave the aspirant druid a vital piece of information: The illusion that her necklace seemed to create that allowed her inside the city and go undetected among the common folk did not seem to work on those with power in the city, so he would not be the last to try and bend her ear.

The art of avoiding arrest…

was a simple one when you were given clear instructions on how not to go to jail. The party gathered again as they made their way for the High Shield’s office. They were accompanied by two Vanguard to ensure their arrival, though they were forced to stop when the halfling councilwoman of the Fields of Fruition District, who simply handed Mele’one a leaf and vanished into the tall fields.

Phell Lorent, Man of Action…

was quite interested in the actions of this small party of adventurers. The fighting man that survived the trip beyond the walls had already spread the tale of Red Eye’s defeat amidst the party’s other accomplishments, and now that he could see her, the Paladin Captain could already see the potential in a dragonborn capable of coming and going freely. He had a proposition. Phell Lorent wanted to free the city from itself: tear down the barrier, oust the councilman known as Strahd von Zarovich, kill Frigidine the Ice Queen, and usher in a new era for all mortal races. The catch was, he couldn’t simply do as he pleased. Majority vote would never let him expend the resources. But if there were an unaffiliated group outside the walls looking for the implements necessary for slaying a dragon and otherwise furthering his goals, he might be able to extend them some immunity within the city and give them carte blanche on any treasure they find outside of that which he charges them to bring to him. The group was in tentative agreement with this offer. It sounded rather good for them, but the ramifications seemed larger than a simple group of inquisitive types.

Can we sleep on it?

That was the general consesus at first. The party needed to process such a request. The party was no longer under the threat of arrest, and so let some days pass as they considered their next moves. Hayes ran things at his shop, catching up with local news and regulars; Kaho spent some time at the Arena, his main source of income between bounty board jobs; Francesca poured over the old maps now that she had the time and cross-referenced them with old Shrine texts, her pious mission to find important artifacts still her most important duty; Mele’one spent some time acclimating to the city, purchasing goods to take back to her clan, speaking with the halfling councilwoman and trying her hand at the bounty board jobs. For the time, it lead to some mysterious dead ends.

And yet…

Even when the party was ready to agree to Phell Lorent’s terms and receive their first job, they found only dire interruption. Minotaur ships had slipped into the abandoned harbor district known as the Wrecks, likely due to the intentional negligence of the district’s primarily criminal population. Their ship cannons rained iron down on the city. The party mobilized almost on instinct and in spite of High Shield Lorent’s brash demeanor. On their way to the upper district they saved a number of people including: several children, a blacksmith, and a mother and her newborn, all while dodging cannonballs and crumbling buildings. And yet it was only a prelude to the deadly battle that would be fought across three ships. The turning point was when Kaho’s magic sword the party had found via the help of a generous unicorn, seemed to transform under the water in the harbor. It gave him strange preternatural power and manipulated the water to sunder one of the Minotaur ships in one swing.

But as quickly as things come…

They go. The sword sealed back up, whispering a single word: “Whelm.” The rest of the party meanwhile sank the first ship the old fashioned way, which meant setting off the ship’s magazine of gun powder. One ship was left, and with his burgeoning magic Kaho froze it in place long enough to allow the party to converge on it before it could properly set its cannons on the city. Hayes nearly died in the fight as they battled with the formation’s captain to a final decisive victory. It was by then that Captain Brassa Seahammer and the fishermen were on the scene mopping up any minotaur survivors in the water. She was the councilwoman of the Ocean’s Bounty district, and she owed the party a debt she was eager to pay off as soon as possible. She seemed… forgivably disinterested in Mele’one’s existing.

And without further ado…

they were able to speak of missions with the High Shield. Apparently, they were to go to an island not far north from the city. Cityfolk knew it as the Forbidden Island, and there were certainly laws to keep people from going, but it was Lorent and his Vanguard who upheld those laws. A blind eye from them meant it would be smooth sailing, so long as the other council members caught no winds. And yet it would be that favor Brassa owed them that would give them the means to cross the strait that sat between the islands. Getting the boat, however, was the easy part. A ship needed a crew, and it was up to Francesca and Hayes to go door to door speaking to the fishermen of the district to man the positions. Miraculously, not a single sailor said no. The party decided that while Brassa prepared their ship to sail they would spend some time preparing for the trip in their own ways. Francesca, Kaho, and Mele’one all spent some time carousing, all for different reasons, while Hayes responsibly manned his store for the duration. All gained coin in their own fashions which would help with any last minute purchases.

Then, it was time to set sail and see what awaited on the Forbidden Island…

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