Beyond Bale Keep

Episode 21: "Death is Temporary--Mold is Forever"
**Even the best fall**

Recovery in Fifthsent sets the survivor’s mental wheels to turning. Though nothing can be done for brave Ilveck, the Heroes do find a way to revive Aurina, whose role as heir to the Goldstone throne make her survival paramount. Through a combination of research and mysticism — Xant received images from the Dragon’s Heart — the party finds out they’ll need to raid a Dragon’s Lair to recover what they need to revive Aurina. In the meantime, fearful of Orst incursions by the Orst and Green Leaf Goblins against the now bereft of magical defenses village, Gromm and Xant begin training the populace in matters martial. Training proceeds apace, until…

A gathering of Elves from Ilveck’s tribe appears, led by a shaman whose name means Fire. They gather outside Fifthsent, and begin a ritual chant in honor of their fallen comrade. As the party has treated Ilveck’s remains with respect, they garner the friendship of the Wild Elves, which proves to be pivotal later on.

With Ilveck’s remains cared for, the party sets its sights on the Orst pit it passed on its way to Fifthsent from the mountain home of the Strazh. It is a location well marked by Gromm, who feasts on such battles against the typical dwarven nemeses. However, the pit has changed in nature over the past couple weeks. From the depths of the underdark, a terrible creature has seeped to the top, a Dusanu, a creature of mold and magic. It has absorbed the Orst and set up a lair here. And the party, having never seen nor heard of such a creature, is due for the rudest of awakenings.

A scouting party led by Gromm discovers the change, and a warrior party is quickly put together. They approach the pit stealthily, before putting their plan into motion. At first, all goes according to plan. The party uses the advantage of higher ground to draw the enveloped orst to the pit edge, where fearless fighters Gromm and Xant begin hacking at the minions. Meanwhile, the ringleader of the troop, the central “brain” as it were, rises high in the air above them all and begins floating forward. As the party dodges the fatal swipes of Orst club and claw, the enveloped brain creature, a being of some magical ability, unleashes a devastating cloud of death upon them. Elven rangers pledged in service to the party immediately fall. But worse, worse than than that, worse than any other fate they can imagine, Warren, the conscience of the party falls, fatally enveloped by moldy death.

In short order, there are but 2 stalwarts left up right, Gromm and Xant. The two dive into the pit beyond the creatures, only to find the only way is down into darkness, where they hear a torrent of water rushing. As they hide beneath the pit’s lip, weakened and vulnerable, their foes turning to come after them, they are faced with the prospect of possibly plunging to their doom, or fighting it out in the pit. The prospects look bleak when…

A torrent of fire engulfs the lands above…and all is silent. The surprised Dwarf and stolid Paladin come out of their safe haven to find the Elven Shaman at the pit’s lip. The mold creatures are finished off. Unfortunately, the sacred fire has also torched what remained of Warren’s body. Once again, the party triumphs, but this is their most pyrrhic victory yet. The number of Bale Heroes is now down to 2.

There is little to do now but revive Aurina, balance the scales of life and death, and try to do the right thing in a world whose cruel hand has touched the group too many times. With the location of the object firmly set in Xan’ts mind due to meditation and prayer, the party heads for the Gnomish mines they previously passed. Thankfully, they have additional help — Ethan Easter appears from out of nowhere, bringing with him the Blademasters Laurance and Brownen, a halfling thief named T.T. McBiggins, a dark protege, Agaaro, a former Silversword fighter and follower of Dimitry named Galen Wrack, and a tale of Ztirul’s next move. It appears the party nemesis is intent on “reviving Ouroboros, the sleeping God.” The repercussions are impossible to fathom, but Easter does know that reviving Ouroboros will give Ztirul power over time. What he intends to do with this power is unknown. In any case, Easter informs the party they must return to Foursquare within 2 weeks. There is intrigue involving Harold Goldstone, and a possible civil war that could engulf all of Dozelmair.

So the party has a pair of problems to deal with, and not much time to deal with them. They only know reviving Aurina Gem’Aurel, the direct descendent of Ferring Goldstone, is key. So off to the Gnomish mines they go.—

The small set of caverns is completely deserted, and it doesn’t take long to see why—a vicious creature from the Underdark has taken up residence there, a floating, vampiric Death Kiss beholder. A somewhat dicey encounter ensues, and the creature is slain, mainly thanks to Gromminique’s offering himself as the thing’s main target. The party searches the area and finds the passageway seen in Xant’s visions.

The passage is cramped and small. Party members end up crawling one behind another through the cramped space. Eventually, it opens on a sheer cliff high above a great chamber, the bottom of which features a mound of treasure. Of course, the party is suspicious, and carefully makes its way down using a secured rope. Naturally, they find evidence of the invisible dragon, snoozing on the pile. But the object they need is there, a philter tucked in the treasure pile.

Such a scenario is ripe for the skills of a thief, and T.T. McBiggins is up to the task. He stealthily creeps up to the treasure pile, snags the object, and the party hastily makes its way out, leaving the trove — as well as the fatal danger — behind them. In the end Aurina is revived, the dragon’s heart placed within her frame, the elixir melding the whole together. The addition of the heart outwardly transforms her into a being of almost ethereal beauty and presence. As for what inner changes have taken place, the group does not [yet] know. But certainly the blessings will probably be mixed.

And so the adventures in Fifthsent come to an end. With a long journey ahead, the majority of the party sets its sights on a trip into the Underdark, the quickest way through the now frost-covered Orstfell. Laurance parts with Bronwen to take the overland way, in an attempt to contact the Blademasters to guage where they stand in regards to the impending civil war. For the rest, it is a return to the site of Warren’s demise. Below, the Dragon’s Throat, and the great river it is said to contain.

For a party that has experienced much darkness, the darkest journey yet remains…
Meanwhile…in the land of the dead...

Warren recovers in the utter darkness of the afterlife, knowing full well what has happened to him. Surely his life as a hero means he will ascend to the peaceful lands of elysium. But there is only a shrouding darkness. Within that darkness, a pale light appears, glowing from an extended hand.

Your journey need not end here, my friend, the voice soothes. Take my hand, and I will show you how…

As Warren turns to the source of the light and sound, he looks up into the face of Breddith, and pauses…

Episode 2O: By Any Other Name
"A rose is a rose is {not} a rose"

The village of Fifthsent quickly turns into a springboard for a new set of party adventures. From the discovery of the magical barrier which protects it [casting aura’s around each person in the city according to ethos], to the presence of stealthy pickpockets [costing Gromm a parcel of cash] to finding a connection to the Strazh [Willows, a very old elf from the time of Ferrin Goldstone].

The party rests and recovers, as they uncover the origin of this oasis in the middle of Orst. Willows, the 5th of the Strazh sent to find signs of Ferrin’s return, disappeared into the wild long ago. As it turned out, Willows settled in a small town, which eventually bore his name — The Fifth Sent to find Ferring [or simply, Fifthsent]. He eventually placed the magical stone he brought from the Strazh, the Heartstone, at the city center. The Heartstone, reportedly an object of great power [as claimed by Willows] protected Willows from the aging process as he searched for Ferrin. It’s power strangely amplified, it became the present-day source of the city’s magical wards, creating a haven of protection for the inhabitants, each of them a castoff, a traveler, or just a struggling pilgrim who settled at the stone’s site. Thus the oasis was born. A secondary trait of the Heartstone was that it slowed the aging process greatly while people remained inside its aura, which spanned the borders of Fifthsent. And, of course, it also somehow served as a barrier against the Orst, who were particularly susceptible to its magic. Surely an item of great power, and one the Strazh never bothered to mention (strange that, but there was a reason for it, as the party soon learned.

In the present day, of course, the Heartstone has gone missing. The barriers of Fifthsent are weakening, and the aging process has returned. For most the effect is subtle. For Willows, though, the effect is rapid, causing dementia and loss of physical faculties. On top of that, the ancient Elf — who initially mistakes Xant for Ferrin — reveals that he himself is responsible for the Heartstone’s loss. Enchanted by “a secret black and midnight hag,” he delivered the stone to her somewhere nearby. His memory somewhat sketchy, he offers to lead the party there, if they will help him bring back the stone. Realizing the power of the Sunsword [Ferrin’s Blade] must be unlocked through “freeing a place from tyranny” Knight Dimitriy takes up the quest, hoping this is the second key to the sword’s power. The rest of the party, of course, joins him, including the enigmatic Ilveck, whose personal motivations are not yet known.

Having procured fresh mounts, the group rides north into the hills, soon making its way to a box canyon. Tucked away behind brush, scrub and stone outcroppings, they find a well-built iron door, protected by a path of stones serving as pressure plates for clever traps within the wall. Gromm surmises such work is most likely of Dwarven make. Once inside, his suspicions are confirmed. The party has located “Outpost #23,” built during the time of Q’ugo Studbud, the last holder of Chaar’s Axe.

It is indeed a historical find, but the party has little time to dwell upon the academic merits of such. Quickly making their way further into the solidly cared chambers, they come upon a group of foul, gargoyle-like creatures, each of which singing a ghastly, haunting, tune. A pitched combat in close quarters ensues, and the party is victorious. In the aftermath, though, a clue to Ilveck’s “secret mission” appears. Each of the “garga-harpies” changes form upon its death, turning into an elf from Ilveck’s tribe. It is then that the close-mouthed shaman tells them of the “dark one” who has been kidnapping his people, and whom he has sworn to destroy. It appears the party’s mission and Ilveck’s are now completely in tune.

After a quick rest, the group pushes further through the chambers of the ancient outpost, where they locate another abomination of sorts — a group of giant lizards capable of wielding electrical energies, which arc between them with deadly effect. The lizards are soon dispatched [the last of them in an explosion of fire]. The party rests and presses on.

Eventually, our heroes locate the old troop quarters, where they are greeted by a strange figure wearing a hood, standing before an open door, its recesses an impenetrable black. The hooded figure “welcomes” each of them, delivering a telepathic entreaty to follow it through the door. A suddenly agitated Willows shouts, “She’s here! I must go to her!” He races through the opening, disappearing before their eyes. After a brief moment of deliberation, the party realizes it has little choice but to follow.

Beyond the portal, they find a huge chamber, magically illuminated by ancient torches, which reflect off a great, square pool situated between vast columns supporting the roof. Across the chamber, they see a comely woman, flanked by 4 garga-harpies, the robed figure beside her.

“Rose,” says Willows. “I have returned to you.”

Rose regards him sadly, he shimmering red hair glinting almost metallically in the light. “Yes, you have. Approach me, Willows. And give back to me what is mine.”

The party watches from afar as Willows steps forward, walking toward Rose in a daze. It occurs to several of the now-seasoned adventurers that something is very much amiss. What is it that Willows must “return?” Indeed, is it not this “Rose” person who holds something that THEY want?

It is then that a layer of the mystery is peeled back, and violently at that. As Willows kneels before Rose, the robed figure approaches.

“You will now return what I gave you, Willows,” Rose intones.

“Yes, mistress,” Willows replies, seemingly enchanted.

As that moment, a mass of tentacles shoots out of the robed figures cowl, penetrating Willow’s skull. As the adventurers watch in horror, Willow’s brain is pulled from its skull and devoured by…

“An illithid!” Warren barks, both excited and nervous. And indeed it is one of those strange, underdark creatures. But what is it doing here?

There is no time to answer that question, of course. Events are moving rapidly. The illithid splits open Willows chest, and pulls forth…a glowing stone. It hands the stone to Rose, who clutches it greedily. She turns and walks toward the far end of the great cavern, uttering a single command as she goes….

“Kill them.”

Once again, magic and steel are brandished against creatures of darkness. The garga-harpies race forward. The mind flayer approaches, as well. The mental abilities of the Illithid, and the charming song of the harpies notwithstanding, this encounter appears to be a mismatch. There are only 5 opponents, and the party is braced for conflict. And indeed, it more or less goes exactly that way, as the Illithid falls rather quickly. However, this seeming advantage soon turns to a frightening mismatch the other way, as Rose opens her chest, revealing a second, glowing stone. She inserts the Heartstone, which fuses with her own “heart.”

“Finally…I am whole again!” she cries. Before the party’s eyes, Rose morphs into a huge dragon!

Now the party fights for its life! The close quarters keep Rose from using her flight ability, but there is more than enough room to bring her terrible breath weapon to bear. The dragon’s burnished hide, glinting reddish-gold in the light, ripples as it draws in breath and spews out a gout of flame. In one shot, Ilveck and Aurina, the weakest of the party members, drop to the floor.

Immediately, the stout warriors Gromminique and Xant close on the dragon from different sides, hoping to draw its attention. If, of course, focuses its attention on the Paladin, approaching from its left. Meanwhile Laurance, Bronwen and Warren maneuver into position to use ranged weapons and spells. It is then that a second, unexpected stroke of ill fortune occurs. Somehow, Warren and Laurance, maneuvering on the Dragon’s left, using the columns for cover, have stumbled into a zone of silence.

is a spellcaster here somewhere…[/i] the Mage surmises. For the moment, he must take up the armament of a warrior. The back-ranker actually drops one of the harpies with a well-placed hit!

Unfortunately, there is little time to celebrate. While Bronwen drags Ilveck behind a column to tend to his wounds, Gromm and Xant close on the dragon. Strong-armed warriors with deadly steel, they may be able to turn the tide of this battle, if they can bring their sharp weapons to bear. Xant does so, engaging Rose even as the harpies flank him. If he can just keep it occupied long enough for his Dwarven friend’s axe to do its work…

But Gromm has his own troubles. As he goes on the attack, he suddenly finds himself completely paralyzed! Once again, the work of a spellcaster. But who? and where?

As Gromm struggles to free himself from paralysis. Xant exchanges blows with the dragon. Laurance and Warren take down the harpies, while Bronwen brings Ilveck back to his feet. Aurina, unfortunately, is beyond help. The dragon’s first attack has killed her.

It comes down to Xant holding firm in the face of the dragon. Can he hold on long enough for Gromm to shake his paralysis, for Warren to bring his magic to bear, for the elves to fire their Greybows?

Eventually, of course, the Dwarf does break free, only to discover the identity of the hidden spellcaster — it is Ztirul Velnet! The evil caster locks down the Dwarf yet again, but, in doing so, he is spotted by Brownwen. The battle takes another turn, as Velnet makes use of the powers of darkness, unleashing a life-draining burst of energy. Once again, Ilveck falls, but not before delivering a damaging blow to Velnet.

As for the dragon, it has been whittled down by the attacks of Xant [one of those, the deadly Bolt of Slaying], Warren and Laurance, but it is far from dead. The battle reaches its climax, as a severely wounded Dimitriy brings his blade down in a glorious smite of divine strength. The power of Ferrin’s blade suddenly crackles to life, delivering a tremendous blow of searing radiance. Rose howls in pain, crashing to the earth.

This leaves just Ztirul…

But the dark caster is not one to take on impossible odds. With a magical POP he disappears, leaving the beaten party with their spoils, and two more dead companions.

Episode 19: Sturm , Drang and Dust
**The Gods send blessings (and lots and lots of snow)**

At long last, the party makes its way toward Fifthsent, that oasis in the Orst described by the Strazh. Laden with coin (not to mention their aforementioned individual burdens), our heroes move slowly through the rough terrain and scrub of the valley that separates the Orstfell from the unknown. Of course, this area, too, is unknown to the stalwarts, though they have become acutely aware of the capricious weather patterns of oncoming winter in the Fell. Once again, a great storm brews, and the group finds itself barely keeping ahead of it.

But before the freezing ice, sleet and snow hails down, an interlude. Traversing a narrow canyon, several members of the group decide to drop their packs and reapportion the great share of loot carried by the acquisitive Gromminique Riptor. As they bicker over their slow pace, a rumbling in the distance is heard. Young Warren, having scrambled up the top of a large rock set in the canyon center, spots the cause — horses, a river of them, and before them (barely) a wildly tatooed elf. Behind the horses, a hunting party of “Leaf Eaters,” goblins who nevertheless enjoy meat when winter descends.

In short order, the company scrambles on top of the rock, riding out the wave of hooved fury that pounds around them. One of the horses, a great, noble, white stallion, is injured by goblin arrow fire. The leaf eaters, mounted on great wolves, close on their prey, still unaware of the party’s appearance.

This changes immediately. Moved by the plight of the stallion, the heroes take action. A volley of arrows from bow masters Bronwen and Aurina flies into a pair of riders, slaying them immediately. Not to be outdone, knight errant Dimitri Xant loads one of his magical Bolts of Slaying into his heavy crossbow and fires a lethal strike, bringing down two goblins with one fell swoop (including the largest of the party). The lone remaining rider turns his mount around and retreats, receiving a fierce wound as he does so. With the herd of horses off in the distance the other direction, the party is now safe to come off the rock. But it could be a case of frying pan and fire, as the riderless Worgs, their nostrils full of blood from the wounded stallion, are intent on making a meal of the beast right then and there. The party sends a pair running, but one huge, snarling beast remains.

Enter the fighters, Grommonique and Laurence, and in moments said “fire” is no more. Fighting alongside their mail companion Xant, the three send lethal slices through the remaining Worg, punctuated by a killing stroke from Xant (who, at long last, is not patching up and/or defending everyone else). The stallion is saved, and a new friend is made — Ilveck, tattoo mage and dealer in herbs who also happens to be headed to Fifthsent, and knows the way. Happening upon the horse herd,but outnumbered by Leaf Eaters, he incited the creatures to bolt, only to end up in their path.

Ilveck’s strange appearance intrigues the curious Aurina, who, along with Warren, questions him about his people. Meanwhile, Xant, sensing a kinship with the great stallion, heals him with divine power and, on something of a whim, mounts and rides the noble beast. There is an instant connection. Wind in his hair, bringing the horse to full sprint back up the canyon, Xant realizes he has found his godsent companion. He christens the shining white creature “Orstrunner.”

But there is always little time for contentment with our crew. In short order, they realize the winter storm lay less than two hours behind them. Thankfully, the appearance of Orstrunner provides the party with a desperately needed pack animal. Quickly, Laurance and Xant use their long-neglected “civilian skills” to lash several of the party’s packs to Orstrunner, and off they all go, somewhat faster than before. But will it be faster than the storm?

Ilveck is chosen to lead the way, and the nimble elf quickly guides them through the rough terrain. Unfortunately, Fifthsent is still a day and a half away, while the storm is minutes behind. Ilveck informs his new friends of a nearby Dwarving mining emcampment belonging to the “Maluene” (which Gromm quickly informs them means “the Sundered” in his native tongue). Knowing nothing about the miners, the party realizes it has little choice. It must have shelter or risk perishing in the oncoming freeze. Unfortunately, it is upon them before they can reach the camp.

Yet does not luck ALWAYS smile down upon the heroes of Bale Keep? Rushing onward as the blizzard comes down, they locate a large, overturned wagon, wheels busted, but salvageable. There is evidence of a struggle here, but the group has little time to investigate. Instead, they rapidly set about converting the wagon into a shelter, using the twin struts connected to the tongue for support of a lean-to, then attaching and staking down the canvas. A great bear skin located back at Clear Lake covers the opening facing the storm, and soon, the group is snug (quite tightly) inside, a fire burning from the hastily gathered wood provided by Ilveck and Laurance.

As the storm rages, the smaller, but no less important aspects of adventuring life take place. There is shared drink and song. In addition, the budding romance between Bronwen and Laurance blooms full, as the latter is assured of her feelings for him. Months of adventuring, first with the Silverswords, and now with the members of Bale Keep have strengthened their bond beyond the kindship of soldiers. Meanwhile, Gromminique strengthens his own bond with Alasharta, while Xant broods over his future — what is he? King? Herald? Catspaw?

The storm rushes through overnight, leading to a crisp dawn. Now inured to the cold, the cold, the party packs its things and decides they must head directly to Fifthsent, passing up the side trek to the mines altogether, despite the clues left in the wagon (most clearly, a case of theft of fine silver ore and murder). A second possible trek is left behind when the party locates a sinkhole, thanks to the faint smell of decay coming from the area, plus the keen eyes of Tobias, Warren’s familiar. From the hawk’s vantage point, there appear to be Orst of the largest variety inside the hole.

The group vows to come back to explore these. With Fifthsent a day and a half away, they make straight for the hamlet, with but one more night to spend on the road. The day’s somewhat uneventful night behind them, they bed down in the middle of what Ilveck’s people call “The Valley of Fallen Trees.” The name is ironic at best, as no trees are fallen. Indeed, it is mostly scrub and thick brush nestled into rough hills. Yet, Ilveck assures them that his people usually take pains to avoid it, as there have been many unexplained disappearances.

Before long, however, the reasons for both the name of the area, as well as the disappearances, becomes all too clear. During Dimitri’s watch, the sound of snapping trees is heard, at first faintly, then growing in volume. The knight uses his divine senses to detect evil, and does so — a strong aura that shatters him to the marrow. As the sounds of large, cracking trunks approachs from all sides, the party takes up arms, staring off into the darkness, a darkness that appears…to be moving!

A vast wave of black soot suddenly rushes over the group, and the terrain mystically changes. No more a scrub-filled hill, the group is now on a charred and blasted battlefield, the smell of smoke and death all around them. They have little time to analyze their surroundings, as suddenly, a band of dusky skeletons sprouts from the ground beneath their feet!

At first, the party is momentarily relieved to be facing such pitiful opponents. It soon becomes clear, however, that these are not the bone creatures they are familiar with, but rather skeletons made of the earth itself. The party’s weapons explode into the skeletons, only to see the creatures immediately reform. Our heroes are truly in trouble this time (or so it seems).

Yet this is no ordinary group of adventurers. After the first onslaught, an attack that leaves Xant with a terrible wound across his face, the group recovers, using their wits instead of their weapons. Where steel has failed them, they find water works, and they begin spraying their skins on the creatures, which has a decidedly lethal effect. Better yet, a pair of attacks somehow, through the strange alchemy of the magical world the now inhabit, conjure a pair of water elementals. The group triumphs once again! As the last vestiges if the dusky skeletons explodes, the party recovers, bracing for more. They peer off into the distance, and see an army of similar creatures surrounding them, led by a fearsome creature the scholars of the party recognize as a Thorn Lord — one of the evil druids who beset the lands west of the Orstfell some half century ago. This is a battle that a handful of stalwarts cannot win, not with these odds.

Thankfully, no battle is required. The great wave of soot reappears and explodes, sending the party back to their own time and place. They realize they are on cursed ground now, and quickly pack up, preferring an exhausted trek over an additional attack. By dawn of the next day, they are finally within sight of Fifthsent, a walled hamlet that promises safe haven, and, as the group inevitably finds out, another test of their resolve.

Episode 18: Clarity
**An heir (mayhap) is found**

After some time to rest and recover, the party makes plans for departure from the environs of the Strazh. Their mission discharged after centuries of fidelity, the ancient guardians have begun to fade into the rewards of afterlife. With the advent of winter upon them, and with a sense of melancholy the season pervades, the group bids adieu to their allies, and heads north to the lowlands, specifically, the hamlet of Clear Lake, a village that was once the temporary home of Ferrin Goldstone himself. With snow and ice blanketing the highlands, they will have to march their way back to Foursquare in a roundabout fashion. The appearance of flights of Ice Wyverns far above them further convinces them this is the correct course of action. Why bother with great lizards and angry Orsts, after all, if you can avoid it? A jaunt down the mountain, in unseasonably clear weather, takes them to Clear Lake, where tragedy has struck. The city has been raided and pillaged, with nary a soul left in it…or so it seems.

The eerie quiet of the town is shattered when a young girl sprints into view, shouting a single word: “GOBLINS!” Once again, battle calls, and the heroes of BBK become the embodied spirit of vengeance, setting on the pursuing beasties. In short order, several Ogre-sized Orst appear, and the battle is joined.

It isn’t much of a battle. The troupe dispatches the creatures handily, plowing through them like sharp blades through wheat. The girl, a half-elf as it turns out, is rescued. Shaken from the loss of all she knows, she is welcomed to the party. This addition seems more fated than lucky. For the girl’s name is Aurina Gem’Aruel. Both Warren and Dimitriy immediately recognize her last name as “Goldstone” in the old-tongue. Could this be a long-lost relative of Ferrin himself? Certainly, his visage on a great statue erected in the village center speaks of this. So, too, does her resemblance to Xant, who also bears some features of said monument. Are they BOTH of the Goldstone line? The strange emanations from Ferrin’s blade in her presence attests to this, as well.

Yet, these answers must wait. After putting out fires created from their battle, and an overnight stay in what is left of Clear Lake, the party decides to delay their trek to Foursquare to track the perpetrators of the village slaughter. The next day, they are off to the mountains, following a trail similar to the one that brought them down. Led by Aurina, they come to two paths in the lower mountains, just as the weather begins to turn bad. The resourceful group takes shelter from the storm overnight, before headed back to the crossroads, where they choose the path that takes them to the canyon of the White Hand — a xenophobic lot of Orst not usually known as far-ranging pillagers. After a brief attempt at parley with a pair of goblin guards, they find themselves ambushed by the creatures.

It is a slaughter…

Shrugging off a massive explosion from a pair of arcane grenades, the party coldly slays their opponents. Between the magics of Warren, the unerring arrows of Bronwen and Aurina, and the cold steel of warriors Xant, Gromminique and Laurence, a host of goblinoids fall to the ground. Even when the greatest of threats emerged, huge creatures the size of hill giants, the party smites them.

Yet there are so many. Eventually, the battle turns. Orcish archers appear on the bluffs above, augmented by a massively muscled Orge. Arrows and boulders rain down on the party, and soon, Bronwen falls. Laurence scoops her up and makes a beeline for one of the lair entrances, only to run into reinforcements, among them, another grenade thrower, armed to the teeth. Thankfully, Warren’s spell holds the creature before it can do any harm. Laurence and the mage dispatch the vanguard, leaving little more than the brief dispatch of the creature.

Meanwhile, Aurina, Xant and Gromminique hold down the fort on the plane of battle. The Orge from above slides down a rope, shouting vulgarities at the young half-elf, then spewing hatred at the fallen prince of Chaar when he emerges at her side. A pitched battle between dwarf and giant ensues, as arrows yet fly from the cliffsides. The battle-harded Gromm take an unfortunate blow to the his left eye, losing sight, but never determination. A massive exchange between the Wielder of Necksplitter and the creature called “The Exalted” rocks the canyon, shouts of battle echoing along with clashing steel. Both combatants, scarred and trailing blood, barely standing, are locked in a struggle from which only one will emerge.

Back in the cave…

Laurence strides forward to the held grenade-mage. At the behest of Warren, he slits the creatures throat, dispelling the mystical paralysis that binds him. It proves to be a massive error. The creature topples forward, crushing ALL of his grenade cannisters. A tremendous explosion, WHOOSHES through the cavern, shaking the area. As Laurence leaps to safety both he and Warren are caught in the cave-in. Within seconds, two more members of the party are down for the count.

Enter Dimitriy Xant…

With enough deaths on his conscience already, the hardy Paladin races toward his friends, arriving just in time to use Warren’s healing staff to stabilize them. Heartbeats later, he has pulled Laurence from the rubble. As he stares at them, unconscious yet alive, he realizes the party is in dire straights. Though the efforts of Aurina and himself have driven the Orcs from the bluffs back down into their hiding places, there is yet the great giant known as “The Exalted.” And Gromm looks all the worse for wear.

It is then that the heroes’ newfound compatriot concocts a brilliant plan. Utilizing her last dose of inivisibility dust, Aurina steps within range of the Exalted’s cleaving strikes, tossing the magical spray onto Gromminique. The bloodied and battered dwarf literally disappears before everyone’s eyes, leaving the Exalted to howl in anger.

Quickly, the Prince takes advantage of his newfound stealth, and, not long after, he, Xant and Aurina stand over the dead body of the great creature. Bodies, blood and gore are everywhere. Three members of the troup have fallen. Yet, again, they have prevailed. But what of the White Hand? There are so many more in the caverns below.

The answer comes all too soon, as the sound of stone grinding against stone is heard. Hammered by inestimable losses, and without their great Exalted warrior, the creatures choose discretion, and lock their lair up tight. And though there may be yet survivors from Clear Lake within those hated bowels, the group is in no shape to pursue their chosen quest. They beat a hasty retreat back down the mountain, taking up residence against the oncoming cold in the same cave they slept in the night before.

Once safely hidden away, with the watch set, Blue Defender Warren, and former Silversword Xant congress with Gromminique, the three of them the last survivors of the original party that set forth for Bale Keep over 5 years ago. Having seen so much success and fame, they cannot help but contemplate their failures, and the trail of death behind them. Convinced that any survivors of Clear Lake are long since gone, they resolve to make the long trek back to Foursquare, their next destination, the outpost of Fifth Sent. According to the Strazh, they can find shelter and provisions there.

In the meantime, a long night of soul searching awaits them.

*For Dimitriy Xant, there are still memories of the lost, and of the friends nearly lost in the battle with the White Hand. He begins to wonder if his hero’s heart is yet the thing that has caused all this pain. And this charge laid upon him, restore the Goldstone reign, what can that mean? Is he truly Ferrin’s heir? What of Aurina? Is she, too, of Ferrin’s blood?

*For Warren Young, Doomsayer and (now) Firebringer, thoughts of Ten’lev yet intrude. Surely he is still out there, still purseing his arcane motives. Though the storm has long since swept by, he yet feels the calm is but a prelude to another, greater storm. The still youthful wizard, now burdened by experience and loss, vows he will do something about it, alone, if need be.

*For Gromminique Riptor, an uncharacteristic bout of soul-searching begins. Shaken by the last battle with the Exalted, and now fully aware he is without a home, he begins to realize those with whom he travels are his only family (“Except for maybe Warren, who continually makes horrible choices”). A sea change sweeps over his heart, filling it with a yearning to atone, to do good again. He vows to leave behind his old identity. That night, Gromminique exists no more. From his ashes, Phoenix-like, a new creature emerges. The Prince takes the name of his fallen enemy, and becomes….The Exalted.

*For Laurence, there is that moment when the former realizes that, when he heroically carried his fellow Blademaster away from battle, he was perhaps doing more than saving an ally. Maybe, just maybe, there was a spark of feeling for the Elven mistress of the bow. Could it be that she who is above reproach, she who would selflessly sacrifice herself for any of them, could it be that his ally and fellow Blademaster, Bronwen, is now the woman he loves? For now, such thoughts remain hidden.

And so, too, does the future of the party seem shrouded by doubt. There are so many miles to go before they reach home again. Once there, how long will it remain home, with a throne to reclaim, and an old enemy to track down?

The snow falls outside the warm cave all night, obscuring all tracks and traces of what has been…

Episode 16: Tomb Raiders
**Allies appear**

The journey to the tomb is uneventful, save for the appearance of a pair of travelers, a barbarian shieldmaiden named Ranzhen Stoneknife, and an enigmatic Kenku called Whistler. Xant immediately senses their evil aura, but as the two desire but a fire (and a way out of the mountains), they are allowed to join the quest. At the very least, they can provide extra security against possible threats.

Those threats appear as soon as the party hits the Ermsagh, when they are accosted by a tribe of Steel Elves, who demand payment for the party to pass through their lands. Canny negotiation grants the group access to the lower canyon, where their map soon leads them to a dead end – a bare cave evidently empty for a long time.

But, of course, there is magic afoot, and within short order, the group finds the secret entrance to the tomb. Leaving their mounts with Stoneknife and Whistler (which they have been leading along behind them for days, due to the rough terrain), the group heads into the legendary king’s final resting place. There they are met with a series of riddles to solve, each of which they handle (with varying degrees of ease). A great iron door at the end of the test chamber is opened, and beyond they find it – a tomb filled with the bones of the dead (including a huge, ancient dragon). There is also more treasure than anyone in the party has ever seen. A massive allotment of coins piled high in overflowing chests.

But there is yet the object of the quest to be found — Ferrin’s blade. In the center of the great crypt is a large sarcophagus with a heavy lid. The party moves the lid aside and find the perfectly preserved body of Ferrin Goldstone. Across his chest lay a sword. Surely this must be their prize.

Alas, but the sword resists all attempts to wield it. Each time someone touches it, they have the overwhelming urge to use it against their compatriots. Several party members attempt the task of overcoming the power of the sword. No such luck, though each of them at least resists the urge to attack friends. This comes to a crashing halt when Laurance, in his ill-fated attempt to conquer the sword, is possessed by it. In short order, he eviscerates poor Ork Librarian Ignidias Maximillian. He then turns on the rest of his friends.

Thankfully, he is subdued, and the cursed item tossed aside. The group follow’s the advice of Gromm, and reaches into Ferrin’s body. And there it is — a hilt alone, awaiting a blade. It is the Sunsword. Or part of it, anyway. The quest is a success.

But, no that isn’t all. The treasure itself proves to be a trap, as well, activating a magical ward that causes bones to assemble into undead skeletal guardians. The party hacks and crushes its way through them, emerging (again) victorious. They take their hard-earned relic (and loot), and head toward they exit where they find…betrayal!

Mercenaries have followed them, and are now demanding the sword. Worse, Whistler and Ranzhen appear to be among their number! Warren attempts to mislead them, using a fake sword obtained in the treasure horde, but no dice. The operatives know it is not the actual sword. It looks like the beaten, battered party is going to have to hack their way out of the cave when suddenly…

A group of brown-garbed clerics teleports in, weapons and spells at the ready. Calling themselves The Strazh, they offer the bandits one chance to beat feet. Now outnumber, and seeing a fair number of spellcasters ready to obliterate them, the mercs wisely leave. The party is then transported a short distance away to the safe haven of the order of the Strazh, the immortal, historical guardians of the Tomb of Ferrin Goldstone. Here, they rest, recuperate and gather information. In short order, their next course of action is clear:

*The Orst — a mix of goblinoids and giants, controls the territory. They also have quantities of Hazewort. The group makes this item #1 on their agenda, as Gromm is now completely overwhelmed by the hammers, and is weakened into a coma-like state.

*Ferrin’s Treasure is located somewhere on the upper steppes of Bal Brak. Dimitriy Xant must retrace the great King’s steps, if he is to know his true destiny.

So, after several days healing, and getting to know their new allies, the party (sans Gromm), heads to the Orstfell. Taking a stealthy approach, they locate an Orst encampment. They manage to sneak in and obtain the Hazewort, but not before being detected by the Orst. The group speeds away into the night, a horde of angry giant-kin and their ilk raging after them. The Hazwort is found, and now Gromm can be healed. All that is left now, is to scale Bal Brak.

Episode 15: Destiny Taps Two Shoulders
**A Treasure is Revealed**

Xant returns to service with Silver Swords, bringing with him his tale of rescue, and Eltron’s brave sacrifice. He is feted by his peers, promoted in rank to Captain of the First Watch, and quickly becomes enmeshed in the daily doings of the SIlverswords.

But politics is not for him. Before long, his status breeds resentment among other, more ambitious members of the organization which, combined with his great guilt over the death of so many friends (and his own self-perceived failures to protect everyone), forces him into retirement. Beset by constant dreams of Quincy and Kanen set, and still obsessing over Eltron’s cryptic message, he plunges into intensive study with Ivan Kolenov, a Dark Arts sage of Mestamilsa, where he pours over ancient tomes concerning the Goldstone legacy relic, “Ferrin’s Blade” (aka The Sun Blade). Charged with finding this device and “restoring the Goldstone name,” he find no concrete evidence of where to begin, and once more lapses into despair. Worse, a wound given him in the Balicanth cave, a wound that just won’t heal, gnaws at him painfully. He stoically pushes on, hoping somehow to uncover the nature of a destiny that seems forced upon him.

Gromminique Riptor returns home to Char’n Delminnen…for a time. Always dour and prone to fits of temper, he know becomes outright violent, causing harm to those closest to him. Before long, his dishonorable behavior (which includes maiming one of his sister’s by cutting out her tongue), leads to a death sentence. He is saved from the brink by members of house D’runkin, who owed him for delivering Ludwig’s token. It seems the small box, along with Gromm’s testimony as a (then) honorable prince, restored the old dwarf’s honor, and the family owed him. Gromm is escorted out of Chaar, where he is now believed dead and gone (and where scheming rivals have taken over his holdings through marriage to his eldest sister). Still torn and enraged, filled with dark impulses, he makes his way toward the only friend he has left – Dimitriy Xant.

Months later…

A trio of Ashtree Elves, led by an old friend of Eltron’s, Oryol of Ashtree, makes its way to Foursquare. Accompanied by trainees Bronwen of High Bark and Laurence Silverheart, the three are to find and meet Xant, and to “deliver a message.” The trainees have no knowledge of the whys and wherefores of the meeting (much less any message), and are further placed at a disadvantage when they are ambushed on the trail by members of The Kestral, a mercenary band. Oryol is killed in the brawl, but manages to pass off a scroll tube to Laurence, with instructions to complete the delivery and to “serve the recipient until your services are no longer needed.” The two novices also manage to capture one of the escaping operatives, an initiate from whom they derive small bits of information about The Kestral.

The fledgling warriors make their way into Foursquare, where they deliver the message to Xant. Now more scholar than knight, Xant and librarians Kolonev and Ork Ignidias Maxmillian discover two things. First, the message contains a map to the tomb of Ferrin Goldstone, the greatest of the Dozelmarian kings (and the one who abdicated to institute councilor rule). Second, they find that Gromm, weakened, weary and sick, has been “infected” by the magical throwing hammers he obtained in the Gimli Mines. The Mithril Hammerheads surround a magica; l “Zero Stone” which enforces a quest upon the wielder. The problem is, no one knows what the quest is. And the hammers are so old, the only way to find out is to talk to the long dead owner in the Halls of Hardhome, deep within Chaar. If the Zero Stones are not “cleared” of their quest, they will eventually sap Gromm of his life force (but not before driving him more mad than he already is).

Thankfully, there is a way to heal the dwarven warrior. In the mountains there is a rare herb called Hazewort. The problem? It grows in remote places, and only at certain times of the year. Naturally, this is the time, as fall begins to turn to winter. Yet, still, it’s a stroke of incredible luck. Ferrin’s Tomb lies in the same direction!
So, off the party goes, into the cold, broken crags of The Mountbane, that devouring land that defies the use of horses. Somewhere within the depths of Ermsagh Canyon is Ferrin’s Tomb. And to the west, the dark peaks of the Everrise Mountain Range hold (the heroes hope) the cure for their ailing comrade.

The group is six: stalwarts Dimitriy Xant, Warren Doomsayer and Gromminique Riptor. Accompanying them, the two young Blades of Ashtree, Laurence Silverheart and Bronwen of the Amberfist Tribe, and Max, the Scholar-Ork. The task before them – brave the elements.

And the Orst…

Episode 14: The Coming (non) Storm
**A Brave Defender is Ridiculed**

Once the party returns and recovers, brave Warren addresses the Blue Defenders:

“My fellow Defenders, protectors of the weak, defenders of the innocent, I come to you today with a heavy heart and a worried mind. Some of you may be aware of my journey to Bale Keep six years ago. In that unhallowed mountainside, I met Breddith, the ancient evil god of vermin. My allies and I clashed with it, and we lost two friends. Despite those losses, we thought that what we did there had put an end to Breddith’s plans. We were sorely mistaken.”

“Very recently, I ventured to the Dimvale to tell my friend and fellow Hero of Bale, Gromminique Riptor, that his mines had collapsed. He left to investigate, and I stayed to assist in finding the Silver Sword, Corporal Dmitri Xant. He, along with the elven prince and another highly ranked Silver Sword, were being held captive by a dark undead creature that stole their blood. We barely escaped with our lives.”
“After a short rest, we managed to catch up to Gromminique on his way to the Gimli Mines. There, we found that the mines were infested with undead. We were captured, my companions and I, and awoke to a horrible sight. Dozens, if not hundreds, of Underdark creatures, Bugbears, Goblins, Orcs, and more, surrounded us. Leading them, in the name of Breddith, was one of our old allies from Bale Keep, corrupted by Beddith’s dark soul. And he had Barhott’s Blood. It is a very real thing, not just some Dwarven fairytale as I had assumed.”
“Five people entered those mines. A powerful Cleric, a skilled ranger, a talented Fighter, an awe-inspiring Paladin, and myself. Only three of us emerged.”

“This evil legion is planning something. Something big. Something evil. I call upon you, Blue Defenders, to do whatever you can to protect the people of Foursquare from the dark times ahead.”

And so they have been warned, all of them. Yet…time passes…and nothing happens. The guardians of Foursquare, poised for an assault, dismiss the Defender’s “rants,” taking to calling him “Warren Doomsayer.” His reputation sullied, the (now not so) young spell-weaver retreats to the obscurity of arcane texts and research, along the way finding solace in the arms of his companion, Astoria, the daughter of a humble innkeeper. With no “great threats” on the horizon, she begins to pressure him for a firm commitment. And perhaps, with so many brushes with death, it IS time to retire from the trail.

And that is how it seems to be for all the survivors –for a time…

Episode 13: Sins of Omission (Returned)
**An Old "Friend" Pays a Visit**

As the party gathers itself to explore the deeper parts of the mines, they hear a fear-crazed caterwaul. Rushing into the great central chamber, a vast place dotted with dwarven living spaces in the walls (and many passages leading to places unknown), they find a babbling Gnome named Vrozh. Distraught over witnessing the death of so many, it is all Xant and Warren can do to calm him down. They bring the crying creature back to the relative safety of the connecting passageway, hoping to make sense of his blathering (and maybe gather some information).

Unfortunately, their plans go awry when folks like Quincy and Set are around. The two impulsive individuals head into the great chamber themselves, where they come upon the second Mandragora beast, and additional undead. Hearing the sounds of the fray, the more -level headed members of the party have no choice but to forge ahead to help their beleaguered companions.

Yet, all does not go well. A skirmish turns into disaster, as the party is overwhelmed and taken prisoner. Surrounded by horde beasts, and bound within hardened cocoons of nasty, hardened resin, they come face-to-face with the author of the Gimli-mine disaster. His name: Stirul Velnet, a corrupted combination of Ten’lev’s soul and Luritz’s body created from the magical death throes of Bale Keep. Stripped of their possessions, and forced to listen to Velnet’s sneering gloat over his victorious revenge, the party is left to the tender mercies of the horde – goblins, orks and bugbears all.

But true heroes are never without hope. Ludwig von D’runkin, assumed killed by advancing undead, rushes into the chamber, and frees the party, using the Silver Throwing Hammers of K’terran K’Tal. In short order, the party breaks free of its bounds and, using the element of surprise (combined with their mighty prowess born of many adventures), they break through the horde, sprinting down a passageway to freedom. This mad dash is not without its cost, however. D’runkin dies, bequeathing a small, metallic box to Gromminique (with a request to deliver it to his kin. Quincy is overwhelmed by Orks, who eviscerate her into a mangled mess. Kanen Set, armed with his trusty long knives, voluntarily holds down the passage while the rest of the party, tired, beaten and unarmed, runs into the unknown. As they sprint down the escape tunnel (directed by Gromm’s usually faulty memory), they hear the sounds of Kanen Set’s death knell. Having died the selfless Hero’s death so long denied him, Set at long last joins his beloved wife in the afterlife.

For Xant, Gromm and Warren, however, there is still a distance to be covered. They make their way to a chamber, where an old, rickety rope bridge once stood. Beyond that, a warning sign indicating death awaits if that passage is taken. But there is nowhere else to go, not with a hundred goblins on their trail. Gromm and Warren make their way across, but Xant is not so lucky. Losing his grip, he plunges down into the abyss, seemingly gone forever.

Goblinoids enter the chamber. Faced with a cut bridge, they begin peppering the survivors with arrows. But the dwarf and young Defender slip away through the passageway toward (as Gromm remembers it), freedom and safety. Before long, they find a clean, dry chamber, and there, stowed under canvas, most of their items. It appears the wildest stroke of luck.
It is, in fact, too good to be true. The items have been placed there as bait to distract them from the lurking guardian – a Roper! The creature lashes out at them, hurling tendrils toward Gromm, locking him down and drawing him in. Yet, as always, luck, ever fickle with the rest of known existence, but not with our heroes, luck saves them. They overcome the obstacle.

And so it goes that the survivors of the Gimli mines drag their broken bodies through and out of the Roper tunnel, where they are greeted by an ironically glorious day, a day made brighter by the discovery that Xant has survived his plunge. Landing in a rushing river, the knight fought his way out of his armor, and swam to freedom not far below his compatriots. It is only by divine guidance that he has come upon his remaining friends. Yet, even as the sun shines down on their broken forms, as they collapse from stress and exhaustion, there is little rest for the weary. The hordes of the Underdark will swarm these hills come nightfall. By then, the crew needs to be back to the relative safety of Foursquare.

In the meantime, they are at their lowest emotional ebb. Quincy has died, ignobly crushed by vicious Orken hordes. Kanen Set has at long last died for good. And the heroic Ludwig? Torn limb from limb by the soulless minions of the deep.

So many friends lost…and worse, Stirul Velnet has the substance known as Barkhat’s Blood. What does he intend to do with it? And how did Luritz and T’enlev become one and the same (AND a servant of Breddith, the group’s greater nemesis).

So many questions…but nightfall will soon be here. The exhausted troop has promises to keep. And miles to go before they sleep.

Episodes 11-12: Yours, Mine(s) and Ours
**A Clan is Put to Sleep**

Episode #11: Orst-while Companions
In short order, Xant, Set (who evidently cannot be killed [thus explaining his reckless nature]) and Warren make their way toward the mines. A vision from the Goddess Mestamilsa brings new life to the Captain, while the rescue of Starrisen has brought a renewed sense of friendship to the cynical Set. The three wend their way through a shortcut and catch up to Quincy and Gromm on the road to the Gimli mines. The heroes of Bale unite once more, their sights set on the mines, and the unnatural disaster that lay therein. The front entrance destroyed beyond repair, the group heads to a side entrance, faintly familiar to Gromm. Faced with a heavy portcullis, and beyond that, a heavy door, the group is ambushed by massive Orst giants. A fierce battle ensues, during which the stalwart (and somewhat maniacal) Gromm is nearly killed. Yet, the fates smile down once again on the hardy heroes. A burst of magical power results in a cocoon of one of the Orst. The other is brought down by a combination of spells and steel. The party triumphs despite long odds, and makes its way to the relative safety of the mines.

Episode #12: More Depths, More Darkness
After an interlude involving a trap and a swim with vermin-crayfish, the party discovers the last survivor of the dwarven guardpost. Someone has summoned a Mandragora beast, a mystical creature whose keen puts dwarves to sleep. Having devoured most of the guard, the beast is content to sleep in its hardened sheet of ooze above the elevator down, the one way into the mines the adventurers know of. Light on magic, but strong on confidence (due to Kanen Set’s nimble rescue of dwarven warrior Ludwig von D’runkin), the party decides to rest awhile. They hole up in the dwarven barracks, contemplating their next move while Warren and Quincy recoup their spells. Of course, during this rest period, the Mandragora beast sets to foraging, heading to the larder across from the barracks. The party stays stealthily hidden while it searches for a feast.

The group are now veterans of many trials, some of which are wrought by their own hand. The ensuing battle with the Mandragora beast is no exception. Bored with waiting, the chaotic Kanen and Quincy draw the beast into the adjoining chamber, where it charges out, intent on dealing its sleep-song. Warren lets loose a tremendous salvo from his staff, bending, but not breaking the beast. It prepares to sing its song of sleep (and to dwarves, possible death). But fickle Croitia blesses Quincy’s magic with special effect. Her lightning bolt charms the creature, after which the steel-wielding members of the party set the creature down…in itty, bitty pieces. The feared adversary is easily dispatched. Once again, the party triumphs. Truly they are blessed by the heavens.

Armed with supreme confidence, the warriors of Ermlinger’s Creek make use of the dwarven elevator. Down, down, down they descend, through swirling bats, combating the effects of fatigue. At last they come to rest on the floor of a deep chamber. They have entered the mines proper. The smell of death and decay wafts through the corridor, assaulting their nostrils. The adventurers gird themselves, and head inside.
Once again, the host of dwarven guards who should be there, watching over the entrance, is gone. In their place, horrid visions of what they were. A small cadre of foul-smelling Chaarans, hovering in that semi-life of undeath, assaults the party on descecrated ground. Cleric Quincy calls on Croitia to turn them aside. The God answers, though the desecration is so great, the effect is only temporary. Once again, the stalwarts of steel, Gromm, Xant and Kanen, leap into action, dispatching the zombies Quincy was unable to effect. The battle rages on, as several of Gromm’s former brothers-in-arms fall, their spirits released.

Yet a few remain, their pestilent forms a grim reminder of what has happened here. As the party cleaves its way through the powerful enchantments warding these creatures and this place, they must be wondering, what has happened here? A feeling of deep forbidding falls over Xant, as he recalls the vision granted him by the Goddess – a dark form on a promontory, looking down on his compatriots, slaying them. Is this what lurks below, this dark vision?

But such thoughts must now wait. There are yet more undead violations to destroy. A signs of yet another great Mandragora beast lurking somewhere within.

Episode #10: The Mordanth of the Deepwere
**A Sacrifice is Made**

Ages ago, a great schism took place within the community of High Branch. Faced with the growing threat of humankind, its fecundity and avarice, the Elves there experimented with protective magics that turned dark. King Fireveldt’s brother, Deepriver, became a twisted vision of his old self. Now called The Mordanth, Deepriver set upon a nearby human establishment, wreaking wrongs darker than night and death. He then set his sights upon the throne of High Branch itself. After great loss of innocent life, Deepriver was overcome and captured.

The Elves abhorred taking the life of one of their own, no matter how changed he may be. Yet, something had to be done. The Mordanth was just too dangerous to contain by normal means. And so the denizens of High Branch instead used their most powerful spells to lock The Mordanth away. After which, they took a vow, en masse, to be ever neutral in their affairs, as it was the taking of sides that caused the calamity in the first place. They cast him through a Dimension Stone into the great underground of the Deepwere, an expanse of darkness and nightmare.

Years later, the extra-dimensional space was breached from without, and The Mordanth began using his Balicanths to overcome the barrier. Once one of the great pillars was weakened, all that was required was pure or innocent blood to break the barrier for good. The Balicanths brought to the Deepwere many victims, the latest of which included the king’s son, Starrisen, and two paladins, Eltron Goldstone and Dimitriy Xant. Ensorcelled and tied to great stone “X’s,” each was slowly drained of his life’s blood, which the Mordanth needed to destroy the imprisoning pillars, above.

Into this lair came Warren and Deyst. Having found their friend and the king’s son lashed there, the two play a dangerous game of cat and mouse with the Mordanth, trying in vain to convince the creature they are his contacts from the outside. The subterfuge works long enough for them to activate the Moonstone given them by Easter. The stone keeps the hordes of Balicanths away, and thwarts the Mordanth’s magic. The intrepid adventurers make their way through the swirling, evil horde. The creatures bash themselves against the Moonstone barrier, weakening it little by little. Though across the acid lake, there is still the matter of the ascent through the Dimenson Stone, which is far, far above the party.

But Ethan Easter has returned. The party escapes, using the old mages spells and devices. Once outside, there remains the specter of the Balicanths opening the barrier. The only way to permanently close it is to sacrifice the life of one pure and good. Eltron Goldstone offers his soul to close the portal, leaving behind a cryptic mission for Xant. Easter and Warren call upon their ritualistic reserves to close the barrier. With a resounding flash of light, the portal is closed, the Balicancths banished. The king’s son is rescued and returned, the adventurers rewarded. Yet, there is work to be done, still. Friends to find and support, and another journey to be made.


I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.