War of the Burning Sky

Session LV

4 Almsberth 459

Azgaar was miserable. He’d expected the cold mountain terrain to remind him of home, but there was little comfort there. His home in the Ragesian northlands was not a happy memory. He’d been intending to return for the past few years and show his appreciation to his kinsman. He’d imagined various tactics for doing so, but his favorite thus far involved turning the whole mess of them into undead slaves. That way he could enjoy his retribution for years to come.

Not that Leska would approve of such extra-cirricular pursuits. Azgaar bit off a guttural epithet or two for the new empress and eyed the orcs that surrounded him. As a wizard of some renown, he measured a good deal more respect amongst his countrymen than a typical goblin. Nevertheless, he’d trade all that respect in a heartbeat for the chance to be free of his Ragesian yoke.

The alien cry of Second General Sigmus’ destrachan mount pierced the night from somewhere above. Azgaar shuddered, ill at ease with the officer’s monstrous companion. Given that its trumpeting was doubtless intended to serve as a sizable boot up his goblinoid ass, he was quick to unwrap the Icon of Kersh and set it gently to the ground. The crystalline shape immediately captured the moonlight around it, the resulting luminescence clearly betraying that it was more than simply decorative. Its aura was palpable and slightly uncomfortable to the goblin. Leska had entrusted him with the device because he was clearly capable of handling it, but that did nothing to ease his tension. Quite the contrary; it was almost as if he could sense Leska’s touch on the thing.

Azgaar sighed, barking a quick command to his bodyguards. The orcs moved a few steps away, giving him room to wield his magic. Wanting nothing more than a warm fire and hot meal, Azgaar lifted the crystalline artifact into the air and chanted his first invocation. As cold fire coiled in the heart of the crystal, it lifted free from his grasp. Adjusting quickly, the goblin planted his ashwood staff firmly into the frozen earth and changed to the second invocation. He felt a moment’s drowsiness as the magic of the icon poured forth into the night. It would reach into the dreams of every sleeping wizard in the village and keep them locked in slumber.

And in Eresh, that was very nearly a third of the population.

The destrachan hovered in the darkened skies, and Ragesian footmen formed a ragged line on the snow-covered plain. Distantly, Azgaar could sense a disruption in their ranks. Swordsmen had emerged from the houses near the river and approached the soldiers, and the goblin could clear hear the ring of steel. Men were falling beneath the blades of this new threat, and Azgaar wondered briefly if he had misjudged his chances of survival. That warm fire suddenly seemed very far away.

Suddenly, the icon blazed to life and exploded in a shower of sparks. An arrow had emerged from the darkness, somewhere to his left, and the artifact had been destroyed. Azgaar had but a moment to digest this new development as the blackness closed in. There was pain, there was light… then there was nothing.

Encountering a Ragesian patrol guarding a goblin wizard and a mysterious artifact in the field just east of the inn, Jasmine and Elessar divide their forces and coordinate an assault. As Charm and Elessar charge in from the south, Jasmine, Basil and Arlyn sneak up on the goblin’s bodyguards from the east. The enemy commander descends from above astride some sort of monstrous beast, and the enemy soldiers begin to rally. Taking the initiative, Arlyn targets the goblin’s glowing artifact and unleashes a deadly arrow.

Then… everything changes. The magic of the artifact is unleashed in a chaotic burst, and most of the heroes suffer from random transmogrifications.

Jasmine finds herself naked on the field of battle, her armor, clothing and weapons having been somehow absorbed into her flesh. A little experimentation demonstrates that the armor remains effective and the weapons can be summoned at will.

Charmalina’s flesh is turned to living stone. She is slowed, but overjoyed by the feeling of invincibility.

Elessar’s sight is changed so that the life force of others appears as a nimbus of luminescent flame. He can more easily pierce the veil of invisibility, but soon finds that the undead are even harder for him to perceive.

And Derek, who was rendered unconscious by the artifact’s initial power, has been reduced to but a sixth of his regular size.

But Arlyn suffers most of all. Immediately following his attack on the artifact, he awakens in the body of the goblin wizard. The goblin, now a halfling unrecognizable to his Ragesian watchdogs, is gone. Disappeared into the night.

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Session LIV

4 Almsberth 459

Eresh.

Joshua gazed down upon the quiet village with a sense of purpose. In many ways, as unimportant as this tiny mountain community was in the grand scheme of things, Eresh’s plight represented much of what Joshua fought for. The trillith, though she had intended no evil, had held the village practically enslaved in a desperate bid to prevent hostilities. Balance herself had desired nothing more than peace and solace, and had used her power to enforce that need. In a way, her invasion had been no less violent than the Ragesians.

He couldn’t quite make out the Ragesian camp from the narrow pass, but they should certainly have recovered sufficiently from the trillith’s power to mount an offensive by now. With luck, their initial advance would have met an unexpected resistance from the locals, many of whom had spent time at the monastery and learned to effectively defend themselves. But the Ragesian commander was likely no fool, and he would press any advantage he could.

So there it was. Eresh. Once a peaceful community well-isolated from the war, recently beseiged on more than one front. Joshua hadn’t the opportunity to interact much with the villagers, but it was likely they desired nothing more than to be left alone. But like it or not, the Monastery of Two Winds had suddenly become a major player in the conflict, as prophecy dictated that they held the key to reaching the Torch of the Burning Sky.

Joshua sighed, leaning on Sharakis whilst his companions took a much-needed breath. He was tired. It seemed like they’d been fighting for months without a break. Either fighting or walking. There’d been a lot of that too. Joshua reflexively extended his leg, relieving the pressure on his once-crippled knee. The damage had been undone, but he still felt a twinge at times, like a reminder from Holy Thaeos that the threat posed by Leska’s vile minions was far from over. The stately cleric snorted, his breath hanging in the pre-dawn air. He needed no reminder. Everywhere he went, Ragesia’s presence could be felt like a shadow across the sun. He’d begun to suspect that the unnaturally long winter was itself a Ragesian ploy.

He’d begun his journey in Gate Pass. It would not end in Eresh, but he strongly felt that there were surprises yet to come.

Surprises like the grinning gnome who now emerged from the nearby rocks…

The heroes return to Eresh from their struggles in the Valley of Storms, to be greeted by a gnomish tracker referred to as The Lynx. Their new acquaintance leads them on a circumspect journey through the village’s outlying structures, and soon brings them to the town library, where Bechus, Eril and Three Weeping Ravens have established a base of operations. As the party exchanges information with them, learning of Second General Signus’s recent assault and their suspicion that he intends yet another attack after daybreak, the library is inflitrated by enemy soldiers and a battle ensues. As the heroes dispatch the Ragesians, an explosion rocks the night, and the party empties into the street to find an enemy regiment on approach. Joshua remains behind to question one of their attackers.

It takes the heroes less than a minute to eliminate the two dozen invaders. In the distance, a roaring blaze can be seen in the direction of the inn. Realizing that their enemy’s assault has begun in full force, the heroes take to the shadows between buildings and make their way toward the heart of the village.

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Session LIII

3 Almsberth 459

Jasmine heard the woman’s voice just a heartbeat before the attack. Every nerve in her body suddenly screamed in pain as a crackling bolt of energy, not unlike lightning from a stormy sky, moved through the group gathered near the door. An acrid odor blended with that of sizzling flesh and crisped hair, and her eyes began to tear up. At her side, Joshua stumbled, as if struck by giant fist. A sharp laugh and further running commentary erupted from behind the party, as if their antagonish had somehow ridden the lightning to escape the chamber and now floated in the air just beyond the stairs. Her words were largely swallowed by the ringing of her ears, but Jasmine didn’t near to hear the woman to kill her.

With three steps and a powerful leap, the assassin hurled herself at the flying monk. A magical shield turned her blades, however, and she found herself plummeting to the ground amidst the glowing green biomancy tanks. Tucking her legs up and adjusting to her momentum, Jasmine landed smoothly with little more than a grunt and a couple of bruises, rolling instantly to her feet. Surrounded by the creepy glass tanks and their seemingly lifeless inhabitants, the swordswoman quickly got her bearings and moved into a silent crouch, making her way around a few of the vats to the base of the stairs. There, she found the battle firmly in progress. Even as she lined up for another attack, Elessar and Charmalina relentlessly laid into her. Her magical flight had somehow been dispelled, so her companions had her at a disadvantage. Before the whole of the party could marshall their resources, Caela suddenly disappeared.

An explosion of flame in the office’s upper story revealed the woman’s movements. Setting her teeth, Jasmine spurs her body into motion, ignoring the pain that wracked her slender frame with every move.

The heroes pursue the woman back into the office, Basil falling prey to a maneating rug en route, but the monk responds by shattering the glass ceiling and raining sheets of glass down on the heroes. She escapes into the storm, which immediately intensifies. The entire lab is shaken by its ferocity and begins to collapse around them. A desperate flight results as the heroes navigate the debris in an attempt to reach the crevasse through which they entered. They are successful, and soon find themselves back in the valley above.

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Session LII

Basil Corbett had spent the majority of his life in the mountains. He was accustomed to the snow and ice, the morning chill and the glare of the sun. As he leaned against the frost-rimed canyon wall at the edge of the Valley of Storms, however, conducting a quick manicure with the tip of his dagger, Basil reflected on the distant vistas he had encountered in the past few months. He’d grown a little soft since leaving Gate Pass. The rain-swept port city of Seaquen had provided a welcome departure from the endless winter which now gripped the world. In the city’s seedy taverns and underworld gambling dens and drug parlors, it had been easy to forget the cold climes of his home city.

He pondered, not for the last time, his decision to leave. Not Gate Pass… that had been an easy decision. His guild fellows had become increasingly difficult company in recent weeks, and the Ragesian siege wasn’t making things any more comfortable. An ill wind blew from the nearby mountains, and war was inevitable. He’d had no stomach for it, and saw no future in remaining close to home. Joshua’s quest had been an opportunity. A dangerous one, to be sure, but the greater the risk, the richer the reward. And Seaquen had seemed a fine reward indeed.

Until he’d run afoul of the local pirates, anyway. He smiled, fondly remembering Anya’s creative bedroom gymnastics. True to form, however, her prior relationship had managed to come crashing through his door, sword-first.

He sighed. That seemed to happen a lot.

Basil blinked. A nearby boulder had moved. More specifically, it had turned slightly and raised two bulbous appendages over its head. Correction… heads. With a pair of toothy grins and an evil glint in its eyes, the ettin straightened fully and moved to face the swordsman. Basil’s sword flew from its sheath as he raised an alarm. He needn’t have bothered, he soon discovered… his companions were on their feet with weapons in hand.

They were surrounded.

A quartet of two-headed giants with fallow, useless wings on their backs assault the party’s campsite. The heroes make short work of them, then quickly break camp and push onward into the valley. Arlyn spots a tower in the distance, situated on the far side of the valley, and the party closes with the edifice.

The tower turns out to be a ruse. A hidden crevasse takes the party by surprise upon approach, revealing a subterranean doorway in its icy depths. Once the heroes dispatch the sentries, a group of distorted humans and dwarves who might once have been Seaquen’s previous envoys, but have since been transfmored into mindless icy monstrosities. The cavern’s interior turns out to be some sort of twisted laboratory, with numerous occupied biomancy tanks situated throughout. One enormous pit shows signs of recent use, but is now empty. The party traverses the lab and approaches the office on the far side.

The office is arranged in two levels connected by a curving stair on the back wall. The second story chamber overlooks a nicely-appointed sitting room, which is currently occupied by a monastery official named Caela, who hovers invisibly just inside the door. As Basil leads the way into the chamber, a disembodied voice drifts down from above.

“You just don’t understand the concept of ‘forbidden valley’, do you…?”

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Session LI

2 Almsberth 459

A trumpeting sound broke the silence as the enemy monks took to the trees. Jasmine spun and tossed her gaze up into the sky. The impenetrable fog above churned restlessly, swirling to make room for some sort of massive creature. As it’s green scaly hide lowered into view, someone – Jasmine was never quite sure who – gave voice to the sense of dread that lurked quite suddenly beneath her calm exterior.

“It’s a DRAGON!” came the shout. Everyone seemed to be moving at once. A swath of trees collapsed beneath the weight of its monstrous roar. There simply wasn’t time to get completely out of sight as its bulk desended from the mists. Jasmine couldn’t help but stare.

For a dragon, it seemed to have a most unusual tail…

With a destructive roar and a deadly volley of spikes from its tail, a mantidrake drops from the skies above and spreads chaos in the wake of the monastery force’s departure. The heroes mill about trying to get out of sight whilst avoiding the spreading mass of falling pines. A clearing has developed around the creature as it casts about, attempting to discern the most accessible prey.

It’s Balance who manages to save them, stepping forth and wrapping the creature with her unusual power. With an uncertian toss of its scaly head, the mantidrake retreats, no longer interested in the fight. The heroes regroup, then make their way to the edge of the vale, seeking shelter in a small box canyon where the road descends toward the valley floor. There they establish a camp for the night, hoping to determine their best course of action upon dawn’s approach.

Balance seeks one final conference with Joshua before finally separating from the company of her rescuers. She has regained some measure of her strength, and the distance from Eresh has likely freed the locals from her ensorcellment in a gentler, more controlled fashion, but she can sense the unnatural disturbance that grips the valley. She informs the cleric that the heroes may want to consider investigating the monastery’s activities here in their forbidden valley before returning to deal with the Ragesians, and urges him to consider a path of balance and wisdom in the efforts ahead. She assures him that violence will not always be the best answer to their needs, and grants him her magical boon.

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Session L

2 Almsberth 459

Arlyn glanced upwards, hoping to catch a break in the perpetual mist that clung to this side of the pass. The trees had appeared in the last hour or so, just as the frost-coated rocks of the mountainside had given way to frozen earth. He’d glimpsed their destination just before they’d entered the mist, a verdant vale of snow-dusted conifers below an unnatural storm. The afternoon sun had been completely swallowed by steely grey skies and occasional flurries. He’d been forced to slow the party as the pass began its winding descent.

Now they were wrapped in a hollow world of icy fog. It sent chills along his spine, and more than one of his companions had muttered some oath or comment regarding the frigid welcome. As they moved through the eerie silence, the only sound that accompanied their footfalls was the occasional snatch of conversation from Joshua and Jasmine, who seemed to have been having the same argument, off and on, for the past two hours. Arlyn was beginning to agree with the woman. This place was nowhere he wanted much to be.

A tiny sound caught at the very edge of his awareness, almost like some sort of whisper. Arlyn halted, raising his hand for silence.

The attack came from the trees…

Near the edge of the Valley of Storms, the heroes encounter an ambush by monks from the Monastery of Two Winds. One contingent leaps from above, flying from tree to tree with long, bladed whips, whilst another creeps through the underbrush, throwing magical lightning into the party’s ranks. The flying monks provide targets for their hidden counterparts through the use of glowing shurikens. As soon as the heroes can get a handle on their enemies’ tactics, they scatter, focusing their energies in every direction at once. Once they’ve brought a number of their opponents to ground, the remaining monks bug out, disappearing into the mists.

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Session XLIX

2 Almsberth 459

Jasmine stood amidst the ruins of a familiar city. It was Seaquen, but not as she knew it. Here, the heavens were obscured by smoke and ash. The decaying structures which lined the streets were bathed in eldritch flame. The heat was nigh unbearable; sweat poured from every inch of her body. Immediately to her right, his pace slowed to match her stride, Joshua glistened in the ruddy firelight. He walked without his armor, though Sharakas was ever at hand and a part of him body, mind and soul.

For this was not the world they knew, but one which existed in a dream. A nightmare, more precisely… and one that Jasmine knew to respect. This was Crystin’s mind, not hers… and the young sorceress dreamt of a world where all things burned like the woodland which dominated the skyline of her youth. Indistinct cries pierced the night, and distant shouts of unbridled rage. Jasmine shuddered, realizing how much she’d come to rely on the idea that she would never again hear the voice of Haddin Ja-Laffa. Those whom you silenced were supposed to remain that way.

Joshua pointed, indicating a familiar compound just ahead. The Lyceum. Jasmine nodded. It was the only place that was free of the magical fire. Jasmine fervently hoped that they would find Crystin quickly. There was nothing in Adlion’s notes that explained whether wounds sustained in the dream realm were life-threatening, but she wasn’t about to take the chance.

Jasmine contacts Crystin via the dreamstone, incidentally dragging Joshua along, and explains their quandry. Crystin agrees to teach her the Song of Forms, and Joshua steps aside to act as a sentry as the two of them seek a more secluded place for Jasmine’s singing lesson. Unfortunately, the magical song completely eludes her, so Crystin suggests an alternative plan. Invoking a bit of her father’s forbidden magic, she establishes a sort of “soul splice” that allows her to send her consciousness back into Jasmine’s body, thus allowing her to be present to perform the song.

This tactic works, though Jasmine wisely agrees not to inform anyone else in the party – particularly Elessar – that Crystin’s awareness in now riding along in the back of her head. Through Jasmine’s body, Crystin is able to perform the seela’s magical ballad and force Balance into a corporeal state. The heroes immediately abscond with the woman, following a treatment by the healers to ease her pain, and make their way eastward toward the forbidden Valley of Storms. A single Ragesian patrol appears to slow their progress, but they aren’t foolhardy enough to pursue the adventurers once they’re quit of Eresh.

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Session XLVIII

1 Almsberth 459

Charmalina Goodberry was vaguely annoyed. They had managed to work their way into the village, through the Ragesian camp, without a single weapon being drawn. Joshua had taken half the party up the mountain to the monastery, leaving her to serve as one of Jasmine’s lackeys. And to top it all off, Jasmine had taken off into the village and left her here at the inn. And her mug of ale was empty.

Charm looked up, gaging the distance to the bar with a practiced eye. Despite the afternoon crowd, she knew that she could wend her way easily across the chamber. Numerous locals and several Ragesian soldiers sat looking into their own empty mugs. They wouldn’t prove much of an impediment.

Charm sighed. She simply didn’t see the point.

A low hum of conversation surrounded her table. Beside her, snoring fitfully into his beard, was a grizzled dwarf with extraordinarily horrid breath. To her left, a woman sat with a mug in her hand, obviously pondering a very similar problem to Charmalina’s own. The diminutive swordswoman squinted a little, taking in the woman’s bare legs and short apron, then snorted as she realized that the girl must be one of the local serving wenches. Charm smiled, suddenly sensing an answer to her own dilemma, and leaned forward to ask the young lady to fetch her a drink.

She was interrupted by a soft giggle from across the table. Charmalina blinked. The sound had either emerged from her brother or the soft, halfling woman he was cuddling on his lap. Arlyn looked only vaguely more interested in what was going on than she was herself, but it didn’t seem to stop him from sharing a few kisses and letting his hands roam about a bit. Charm frowned, certain that she should have had an opinion about her brother’s canoodling, or about the halfling tart with her bosom nearly hanging out. But she just sat and glared.

“Well… yer brother seems to have found him a bit o’ fun.”

Charm turned to regard the speaker, a ruggedly handsome, grinning fellow of similar stature to her own, standing just behind her. His eyes seemed to soak her in from head to toe, which left her feeling the slightest bit dirty. “Ye look like ye could handle yerself,” he offered. His accent was vaguely Sindairese, like Torrent’s. His gaze was piercing, challenging… which she was surprised to learn really didn’t matter much to her right now.

He offered a black-gloved gauntlet for her to grasp. “Name’s Pax.”

“Charm,” she responded, clasping his arm in the Dasseni tradition her father had favored. Pax seemed bemused, running his other hand along the narrow beard protruding from his angular face. Despite herself, she found the man intriguing. There hadn’t been much halfling companionship to speak of on the road they had traveled thus far.

“Come,” he said. “I have something of a treasure that I think ye’d be able to appreciate.” He tossed his head toward the stairs and pulled her to her feet. “Come,” he repeated. She found herself following. Why not? It wasn’t like he could hurt her. If he happened to have the wrong idea about her, she’d just relieve him of something vital. His head, if he were lucky.

Charmalina followed the strange little man to the top of the stairs. She watched his gait, recognizing his walk as that of a warrior. He reached a nearby door in the dim upstairs corridor and produced a key. Charm found herself wondering if they’d procured quarters as yet. When she was finished here, she didn’t know that she’d want to bother with the stairs a second time.

The room was small, but cozy. There were two bunks and two packs, though both of them appeared to be situated near the same bed. Pax drew her attention to the other bunk, however, where he deftly uncovered his mysterious treasure with a dramatic flourish, watching carefully for her reaction.

Charm’s eyes widened. It was a sword, and it was a thing of beauty. Hand-and-a-half and scaled for a halfling, the blade glimmered slightly with its own blue luminescence. The edge appeared to be sharp and unblemished. Tiny runes chased the length of the blood groove, as if spilling from the gold wire-wrapped hilt. A leather tassel was tied to the pommel, which appeared to be inlaid with tiny sapphires. Despite her strange malaise, she itched to touch it. Pax was talking at her back, going on about wresting the blade from some farmer who didn’t know the value of what he had. Charm rather doubted that claim, since the blade was rather obviously enchanted, and was about to say so when a leather cord appeared at her neck and attempted to close off her air.

Pax, it seemed, was trying to murder her.

Whilst the halflings lounge at the Peak’s Shadow, Jasmine combs the village in search of an elder named [Bechus], whom the barkeep identifies as the man with whom Seaquen’s previous envoys interacted with the most. She is unable to locate the man, however, and returns to the inn. She witnesses some odd behavior from the locals on the way, which seems to be a reaction to the curse that has beset the town. People who are recovering from the curse seem to react violently, as evidenced by the scene outside the inn, where four Ragesian soldiers are taking out their sudden burst of aggression on an unsuspecting villager.

Even as Jasmine is outside the inn issuing a challenge to the Ragesians should they choose to continue their bullying, Arlyn finds himself in mortal peril when the halfling woman with whom he has been engaged for the past several minutes attempts to stab him with a hidden dagger. In fact, having already examined much of the girl’s body with his hands, Arlyn finds the weapon’s sudden appearance to be something of a mystery. He is forced to defend himself, and sadly slays the girl where she stands.

Charm, meanwhile, makes short work of her would-be assassin, and relieves him of his sword and magic gauntlets. Then she and her brother both rush outside to see Jasmine putting the last of the Ragesian agitators to the sword. Bechus appears from the crowd at this point, approaching the swordswoman just as Joshua’s party enters the square from the opposite direction. The party regroups and accompanies the elder to his home, where the only surviving member of Seaquen’s original team is secreted away in the basement, trying desperately to resist the curse. [Eril], a ranger who accompanied four other adventurers on a mission from the Lyceum, does not know of his party’s fate, but suspects that they met their end in the forbidden valley to the east.

A local healer visits the elder’s home that evening, summoning Joshua to meet with the unusual creature which addressed him earlier. The summoner’s name is [Balance], and she identifies herself as a [Trillith], a race of magical beasts who escaped from the depths of the world many moons ago. Indomitability, whom they slew in the fire forest, was another such creature, as was Madness, disguised as a gnomish sorceress at the court of King Steppengard. Balance informs the heroes that she is dying, that the magical effect on the village is her doing, a desperate attempt to quell the violence of the Ragesian siege, but that the hostilities present in the valley are weakening her and will eventually end her existence. She warns that the abrupt cessation of her magic will drive the locals mad, and all who are affected by her enchantment will suddenly be beset by their returning emotions in a raw, uncontrolled manner. If she could withdraw out of range, it would be more gradual, but she lacks the strength. And the Ragesian camp, which is already starting to slip from her control, would obstruct any attempt at escape.

She lapses then into a coma, and the healer explains that they are unable to help her in any way as she is an incorporeal being. The party retreats to Bechus’s home, pondering their options and considering their resources. Jasmine points out that the Song of Forms, used by the [seela] in Innenotdar to trap Indomitability in a corporeal form, would allow them to treat her and perhaps even carry her from the valley, but only Tiljann and Crystin knew anything of the song and weren’t here to be of aid.

Then Jasmine coincidentally discovers that the [Stone of Sarinine] is in the elder’s possession. He had acquired it several years ago, when he was a student at the monastery. With the dreamstone, and the notes penned by [Adlion] all those years ago, it might be possible to reach into Crystin’s dreams and have her teach Jasmine the magical song. As the party establishes a watch around the house, Joshua and Jasmine retreat to the elder’s bedchamber to try and access the rock’s mysterious power.

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Session XLVII

1 Almsberth 459

Brother Kiernan woke in a cold sweat. His hands were shaking as he struggled to a sitting position, trying to catch his breath. The dreams were getting worse. They were more than dreams, of that he was certain. They were holy visions, granted him by a divine agent of his faith, and they were getting more insistant. He took a deep breath, reciting a quick prayer to the morning as dictated by the Aegis of Racene, before rising to greet the day.

A water basin sat on the small chest near the foot of the bed. As he broke the thin layer of ice, he gave thought to the last night’s visions. There was unrest in the kingdom and talk of war, so dreams of a battle were not necessarily uncalled for, though the intensity of the dream left him shaken and a little frightened. It was as if he were there, a foot soldier in the armies of Duke Gallo. His companions were now a familiar lot, heroes whom he had followed since their departure from Gate Pass on New Years Day. He could assume that the battle had already happened, as his dreams seemed sometimes weeks behind. He’d heard naught about a battle, but word had spread that the Dasseni king had been deposed as a villain and a madman, and that Duke Gallo had accepted the crown in his stead.

Kiernan shook his head. The rise and fall of kings and madmen was of little import to the tenets of Faring House, but he had obviously been selected for a grand adventure. It was past time to stop dragging his boots and bow to the will of the Lord of the High Road, to whom he had pledged his very soul. He sighed, glancing through the narrow window at the tiny village surrounding him. Winter had clung to the Dasseni hilltops long past its due. ‘Twas the very first day of Almsberth, the day following the Bel Tane holiday, and the rolling lowlands surrounding the town should be covered in wildflowers, not frost.

Word had come from the temple. Teleportation magic was decidedly dangerous, but sufficient fire protection would offset much of the risk. A leisurely trek would certainly be his preference – Kiernan loved nothing so much as the earth beneath his feet and a clear destination on the horizon – but it simply wasn’t an option. It was time to tap the potent resources granted him by his faith, and be away to Bresk with due haste.

It was time to find the Stormborn.

At the gates of Eresh, the heroes make their way through the Ragesian camp under a magical cloak of invisibility. The Ragesians, though diligent in maintaining their patrols, show a decided lack of enthusiasm for much of anything. As the heroes make their way into town, it becomes obvious that the villagers are suffering from a similar malady, and Elessar and the halflings soon start showing signs of it as well. At the local inn, a sizable structure entitled The Peak’s Shadow, the party encounters a couple of monks from the monastery nestled in amongst the other disaffected patrons. With a little bit of prodding, Joshua is able to convince them to accompany him to the monastery, which is situated at the top of about ten thousand steps on the side of the mountain to the north.

He drags Elessar, Derek and Basil in his wake, leaving Jasmine and the halflings to learn what they can from the locals.

At the northern edge of the village, Joshua finds himself drawn to an odd little building just off the road where he encounters a cryptic creature that seems to speak with him as both a man and a woman, addressing him from behind gossamer veils in alternating directions. It seems to be delivering some sort of warning, but its intent is unclear.

High on the mountain, Joshua’s company encounters a pair of elemental guardians intent on keeping them from reaching the monastery. As the others strive to distract them, the cleric grants himself the gift of flight and circumnavigates the battle on a quest to reach the gates. A woman comes to the door and refuses him entry, unwilling to entertain visitors until the strange curse laid upon the village below is dealt with. Agreeing to do just that, Joshua retreats, gathering his companions on the return journey.

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Session XLVI

27 Aurorsmoon 459

The old wizard deftly navigated the clutter in his parlor, balancing a tea tray on three slender fingers as he used his other hand to keep his robe from snagging on anything. Jasmine watched in utter fascination, amazed that no magic was used in the process of traversing the room. Unlike men, elves showed their age very subtly, and Adlion was old indeed. His skin had a pallor to it, his narrow brows were heavy, and his hair was so white as to be nearly without color. Jasmine refrained from reaching out to catch the tray as the magus drew near. Despite his age, he seemed remarkably… stable.

The wizard’s narrow eyes met her own and he smiled. Jasmine kept her mask firmly in place, but she strongly suspected that he knew what she was thinking. Whether it was simply remarkable intuition or some sort of ensorcellment, Jasmine had no intention of laying her thoughts bare to this doddering Shahalesti. Adlion laughed as he settled into a chair opposite her own, crooking a finger to encourage the tea to pour itself. Jasmine raised one delicate eyebrow.

“Just trying to set your mind at ease,” he offered, his voice surprisingly clear. “I wouldn’t want my shaking hands to compromise your… um… wardrobe.”

Jasmine snorted, coloring slightly. He probably didn’t receive many visitors, few of them in any kind of armor, but he hadn’t hesitated to invite her into his little house. It occurred to her that he likely had nothing to fear from most visitors, given his years of study in the arcane arts. Yet his manner was easy, his movements relaxed. He certainly didn’t perceive her as any kind of threat.

“Show me,” he said, gesturing toward the scroll case in her lap. Jasmine deliberately took a sip of her tea before handing the tube across the table. Adlion’s graceful fingers wrapped entirely around it as he accepted it, almost carressing it in his hand. He examined the container for several seconds before loosing the clasp, and Jasmine detected the slightest movement of his lips. She smiled as she took another drink. The old elf hadn’t reached his golden years without being cautious.

His eyes sparkled as he recognized his own handiwork, and he grinned as he glanced Jasmine’s way. His gaze lingered briefly at her throat, and she resisted the impulse to reach for the pendant secreted beneath her jerkin. He knew… she could see it in his eyes. But he said nothing. The worship of Sarinine was not spoken of aloud, not by strangers. But the secret they shared filled the space between them and gave her a moment’s pause. Adlion was Shahalesti by birth, a fact that she couldn’t dismiss entirely, but they were far from his homeland and the gods who watched over his people.

“So you seek the dreamstone,” he said, settling back in his chair. Jasmine nodded, schooling her features to stillness once again. He watched her for several moments before sliding the documents back across the table. “I’m sorry,” he intoned, “but I no longer have it.”

Jasmine blinked. That wasn’t the revelation she’d been expecting. “May I ask who does?”

“For that,” he said, groaning as he got to his feet, “you’ll require access to the monastery to the north.” Jasmine breathed a sigh of frustration, somehow not surprised that her goddess had elected to set the artifact firmly on the raod ahead. Adlion seemed not to notice. “I studied with Longinus and Pilus for a time,” he continued, “living in Eresh and using my skills for the betterment of the community. It was peaceful. When I left, I gifted the stone to the monastery.” His fixed her with a piercing stare as she joined him on her feet. “They had little interest in the stone’s power,” he added.

Jasmine nodded, reading the warning in his eyes.

The party purchases fresh mounts and leaves the city of Yen-Ching traveling northward, into the mountains. On the third day of their journey, they are ambushed by a Ragesian patrol led by a goblin worg-rider. Following a prolonged, bloody battle on the treacherous mountain path, they manage to take a single prisoner. Joshua separates from the others and interrogates the man. The soldier readily describes the Ragesian encampment at the gates of Eresh, and the mysterious malady that seems to have afflicted the soldiers who remain near to the town, and Joshua frees him with instructions to flee southward, away from his countrymen.

The heroes rest for the night, planning their morning approach to Eresh and the Monastery of Two Winds.

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