Strangely enough, the Archive’s collection of information regarding the Melding Saga is very limited in its extent. That which is contained here is the total of all knowledge of that era, unfortunately.
But, with sad news comes a glimmer of hope. A new collection of tales may soon join the collection here at the Archives…
Having found their way out of the Nether, the party found themselves deep underground in an ancient city. The architecture was strange to all of them, and despite their best efforts they could not recall anything that looked like what they now found themselves exploring. After an hour of wandering, the group was caught off-guard by a strange group of reptilian people in front of them.
“Stop! How did you three find this place?”
The three stopped and turned to find a party of five Dragonborn eyeing them cautiously from a distance back. Wander jumped immediately behind a pillar, peaking his head out only far enough to keep seeing these new imposing figures, while Criòs pulled his hood over his head in an attempt to conceal himself from the explorers. Auric, who had dealt with the Dragonborn before, approaches them in the cultural manner by which they are accustomed. He then explains the events that led to their unusual location, which seemed to calm the group down.
“Well, you lot seem to mean no harm, would you like to come with us? I’d be surprised if you managed to find your way out of this place without our help.”
“Sure,” said Auric, “but could you spare something to help us patch ourselves back together? We’ve been through a bit of an ordeal.”
A female with the standard gear of a cleric approached from the rear of the group and gasped at the sight of them. “Oh my! I’m so sorry, we should have taken care of that first. Please, let me help.”
After a brief rest, the newly merged group worked their way out of the ruins to the surface. A hot, arid wind met the three, which caught them off-guard as the Kinsine Foothills offered much more hospitable conditions than this. Criòs beings panicking as this environment is the exact opposite of what he is accustomed to as an elf. This leads to him wrapping his cloak around his face even tighter, but for protection this time more than secrecy.
A day of traveling finds the group at one of the rumored nomadic fortresses of the Dragonborn. As they entered the gates, one of the Talons they traveled with said to them, “Don’t bother trying to come back here after you leave. We’ll be long gone before you make it back to this place.” The Talon sneered at them, begrudgingly watching them enter through the door of his home.
The party is taken to the elder of the band, who greets the three cautiously, holding himself defensively until the nature and method of their arrival is explained. At the revelation of this new information, the elder perks up and looks curiously at the group.
“So you have made your way here by means of a sub-city portal? I have so many questions to ask but no way to phrase them without a long discourse of history behind each, which neither you three nor I have time for. So instead, could I ask a favor of you? There is an expedition leaving tomorrow to examine a different portal we uncovered in a different sub-city, and I would like for you to accompany them to compare it to what you have traversed.”
The three agree, both indebted by the hospitality of the Dragonborn and intimidated by the nebulous consequences of denying the request.
“Wonderful!” the elder says, grinning from ear to ear. “We’ll begin preparations immediately. Now that we have cleared that out of the way, is there anything you would like to ask of us? We do not have much to offer beyond the riches of knowledge but we will try to accommodate you as best as we can.”
Criòs steps forward, reaching into his satchel to withdraw the vial of binding ink and the charcoal rubbing of the strange language from the drug den. “Could you help us with identifying either of these? Both are things we have run across in our adventures and we are interested in learning more about them.”
The elder reaches out and grabs the vial of ink first, pondering its appearance and fluidity, then uncorks the bottle and wafts the scent towards his nose. “Hmm.” ponders the elder, “I have encountered this substance only once before, in a ruin we found some distance away. It seemed to have properties that allow it to bind objects to a different plane of existence. But beyond that, I cannot recall anything else. You might consider…”
Before he could finish his thought, his gaze lands on the blackened paper. “Quickly, let me see that!” he says, nearly tearing the paper from Criòs’ hand. “Ahh, yes. I see that I was right to choose to send you with the expedition. Where did you find this set of characters?”
Criòs, still surprised by the vigor of the elder responds, “We came across it in a bandit’s den outside of Brightstone. Does it mean something to you? Can you read it?”
The elder sighs, a bit sullen. “Sadly no. But this script has been etched all over many of the sub-cities up here. We hope that it has some connection to the origins of the structures since the rest of the carvings are just bare stone with naught a story to be told. The portal we are investigating appears to be formed with this same script. Maybe your experiences can help us to unravel the mysteries there. If that is all, please feel free to go rest, tomorrow will be arduous travel for you and it will be the best sleep you will get for a week.”
The party excuses themselves and make their way to the makeshift quarters that had been set up for them. Bright and early the next morning, the three were awoken by their expedition companions: two Talons, two Achivists, and a Cleric. The delivers all loaded into the wagons carrying a week’s worth of supplies and archaeological equipment and headed out across the Steppes. The day of traveling in the searing sun wore heavily on the party, especially the ill-suited Criòs, while hardly seeming to affect the reptilian companions.
Eventually the caravan wound its way down into a crevasse and the damp cold of a subterranean environment. As the walls seemed to close in, the crew reaches an alcove in the side of the winding path that offers enough space to set up camp. While getting situated, the Cleric says to the group, “Just wait until you see this thing. It’s just a little further down the path. It’ll blow your mind.”
The expedition rests for the night, or what can only be assumed the night in the dank darkness of a hole in a cave wall a few thousand feet below the surface. The Archivists produced orbs of light that mimicked the day/night cycle of the surface as the group descended into the depths. So at the pseudo-sunrise, the party is roused from their sleep to continue on for the first day of analyzing this mystery structure.
As the delivers round the final bend of the path, the crack in the earth suddenly opens into a gigantic cavern littered with a few small buildings. However, towering over these structures stands an imposing 75-foot tall door frame, similar to the portal frame the three adventurers exited the Nether through. The sheer size of the structure was enough to stagger the senses, but the amount of sygaldry etched into it, ancient as it was, shocked the minds of the party. Such vast amounts of effort went into the construction and detailing of the structure that it seemed to be a shame that the world was denied access by the tons of dirt and rock above.
“Alright,” started one of the Archivists, “We’re here to get as much information about this gate as we can. It will be a long time before we’re able to access this place again.”
Wander stepped forward and asked, “Why don’t we try to start it? We’ll have to clean the sygaldry anyway to get anything useful, might as well try to get some data from the inside.”
“Well, I suppose it is worth a try. We’ll gather notes and writing along with doing the best we can to prep this structure for activation. Let’s get to it!”
The whole of the expedition begins working to refurbish the decayed structure, spending the next three days attempting to get it in an operable state again. The Archivists, though doubtful of the success potential, start the activation process as they understood it for the massive gateway. The rest of the crew stands back, watching as this massive construct begins to sizzle and groan, the air gap within the framework beginning to fill with a brilliantly multicolored fluid.
Then, with a loud crunch, the portal deactivates, returning the cavern to its dull tones and low light. Hurriedly, the Archivists begin scribbling notes and slowly make their way back to the group, detailing out a new set of tasks to help improve the structure’s performance. The crew gets back to work, fighting through another three days of back and forth debate of the meaning and use of certain symbols and gritty work cleaning and refining the writing carved in ages ago.
Standing clear again, the two Archivists start their refined activation process. The gate roars to life, quicker than anyone expected. As the gate stabilizes, a dominating low growl issues forth from the gate, shaking more than just a little dirt from the carvers ceiling. Everyone immediately covers their ears as a voice so low as to barely be audible begins slowly speaking in an unrecognizable language.
Expressing his curiosity as only a rogue can, Wander aims his crossbow into the middle of the portal and lets loose a bolt. Auric sees this from the corner of his eye and is unable to do anything but watch in horror as his companion enacts aggression against something that quite literally could be anything.
The bolt sails through the air and silently passes through the portal. A moment later, a violent scream blasts into all of the expedition’s minds, which instantly liquifies one Archivist’s brain, reduces both Talons to sniveling children hiding in corners around the cavern, knocks the wind out of the three adventurers and physically maims the Cleric through biochemical reactions. The remaining Archivist manages to steel himself against the psychic onslaught long enough to deactivate the portal before more damage could be done. But as the portal collapses, a single crossbow bolt, iridescent with a crimson glow, launches back through the gateway and lodges itself in Wander’s chest, pausing only for a moment before the bolt integrates with his body.
Bloodied, the group tries to recover from the onslaught. Auric heals the Cleric, who in turn helps him patch up the others and restore the sanity of the two Talons. Criòs, furious at Wander for doing what he did, shoots him in the knee with a blunted arrow, dropping the cleric to the ground in deep agony.
“Do something stupid like that again and it won’t be such a friendly response.” Criòs adds as the Cleric comes over to help patch up Wander.
With a vast new collection of both wanted and unwanted knowledge, the expedition decides it’s time to head back. The expedition makes their way solemnly out of the cavern, back into the arid landscape of the Steppes, and back to the fortress to report their findings and losses. Though saddened by the loss of a member of the band, the elder was exhilarated by the new information and the encounter that the group had illicited.
“Thank you for accompanying the expedition, despite the results.” said the elder. “You did help a lot with the work there and we wouldn’t know what we do now if it wasn’t for you. There’s a caravan taking some trade goods down to the Kinsine Foothills here in a few weeks. I would be honored if you would work with us during the time, and perhaps you can learn some new skills as well.”
For the next two weeks, the party works alongside the Dragonborne, assisting them in their tasks. Wander and Criòs both help with hunting, learning new methods of stalking prey without being noticed, while Auric helps to fill the role of the lost Archivist, learning a new perspective of some of the arcana in the world.
When the time comes to leave for the Foothills, the elder wishes them safe travels and a deeper understanding in the endeavors they pursue. The trip is long, lasting a two months as the caravan lazily drifted from settlement to settlement. Criòs and Wander spend the time being mocked in Draconic by the merchants until they finally pick up a functional knowledge of the language. Days come and go with ease and discussions until the party finally makes it to Brightstone. A bittersweet goodbye is exchanged in the same manner as was given to them by the elder as the merchants continue on their path without their new friends.
The party enters the town to banners and signs, with the typical festivities of an election. Out of nowhere, the man Wander hugged in the drug den runs up to Wander and says, “What perfect timing! You just have won the election for mayor! I hope you don’t mind that I ran your campaign while you’ve been gone these last five months.”
Confused, Wander asks about the date, finding that they have been gone for 2 months longer than they originally thought. Wander shrugs as he is rushed off to celebrate his new victory.
Another man, a bit more sullen, approaches Auric. “Sorry, sir, we failed to take the mayorship, but the campaign staff and I decided we should give you and Criòs the remainder of the funds from the campaign. Maybe next time!” he says as he hands off a rather heavy lockbox to Auric.
Before settling back into their old room, Auric finds his way to Sven to sit and recall the story of the last few months. Sven is ecstatic to see Auric and sheds a single tear at the sight of the armor, but the two have a wonderful evening discussing old stories. Criòs picks up the cut from the inn and joins Wander in a post campaign party that lasts most of the night.
Having completed their engagement with Chardis, the party set to enjoying the evening, seeing as it was such a violent encounter. After a night of revelry, the party decide to turn in for the night, tired from a long day of work and danger.
However, their rest was abruptly interrupted when the trio are roused by a strange noise from downstairs. Gearing up, the party prepare for something foul to make itself known. When nothing immediately bursts through the door, Criòs decides to venture out in search of the clamor.
As the door opens, a this black smoke billows into the room, engulfing the party in absolute darkness. Coughing and wheezing, the smoke finally disappates, revealing to the three that they no longer are in the inn but rather now find themselves on a cliff over a unfathomingly deep abyss in a dark realm that none of them recognize.
The group begins assessing the situation, attempting to determine where they are, how they got there, and how they are going to escape. All of the sudden, Auric realizes that they are in the Nether, the plane bridged to allow colonization of Erelandis. Criòs and Wander look on in horror as Auric describes the location in which they find themselves. The rogues bring up their guard as Auric calls again on his divine senses to see if he can find a way for them to escape. The faint scent of untainted air barely fights through the acrid odor of the evil of the Nether, giving Auric a direction for them to head towards.
As the party sets off toward what they hoped was their salvation from this plane, they take notice of the terrain around them. The rough edges of the cliff give way to carved, flat stone lined with ancient, corroded torch stands that trace along the route Auric is leading them on. After traveling for a while, the party’s decides they must be on the road cut by the Forerunners as the terrain around this oddly clean-cut path lacks any sort of order or sense to it that would indicate otherwise.
A few hours into traveling, the trace of clean air is overwhelmed by something pungent with malevolence. The space around them is dark, and even the dark vision of the elf-blooded members isn’t enough to see much of anything. The floor has leveled out in a wide, flat expanse, and Wander notices that the ground has suffered etched grooves in places, as if something chewed into the road after it was carved.
Suddenly, Auric stops. He motions to the other two that the source of the horrible stench that overwhelmed his senses was directly above them now. With some silent planning, Auric mutters an evocation that ignites one of Wander’s crossbow bolts with an amber light, which Wander then fires directly up. The sound of the bolt being launched echoes, and a slimy, slurping sound begins eminating from above them, although quite some distance above them.
The bolt arcs up, and up, and up. Finally, it lodges itself into some material that obscures the light partially, and then the bolt seems to just disintegrate. Criòs draws an arrow and aims, a thorny vine wrapping itself around the arrow shaft, and looses it upwards. The sound of wood creaking and chemical bubbling echoes from the arrow impact as the sloshing sound intensifies.
Auric, concerned about what they might have just stirred, signals to the other two to quickly start moving the direction they had been going. Trying to remain quiet, the group moves further into the cave. Both Criòs and Wander launch missiles toward their previous target, connecting with their hits.
The sloshing noise stops abruptly, forcing the party to increase their distance from where they first launched their attacks so as to try to gain some advantage against the unknown foe. Criòs and Wander attempt to strike the target again, with Auric igniting one of his bolts with an evocation, but the missiles fail to hit. The light from the flame does however reflect off of something dripping from the ceiling.
Before anything can be said, a thunderous splatter sound echoes the the cave, indicating whatever was above them now is on their level. The impact illicits a new reaction, though. As the splatter sounds through the cavern, a piercing scream echoes through the party’s minds. The three clasp their heads, trying to keep the psychic shriek from getting in, but it proves to be overwhelming for Auric and Criòs, leaving them stunned.
Wander, still holding together, decides to rush the mass in an attempt to buy recovery time for his friends. As he approaches the impact site, he in confronted by a massive wall of black, sizzling, animated slime. With a gulp, he charges forward, thrusting his blade into the mass. As he retracts his blade, though, the blade’s normal gleam is dimmed by corrosion covering all that pierced into the mass, with the dying sound of chemical etching resonating from the blade. Angered that his weapon was damaged, he levels his crossbow at the mass and fires a bolt, which shudders the blob before rapidly dissolving.
The slime responds by lurching at Wander, attempting to slam its massive weight against him, but he deftly dodges out of the way before harm could befall him. This fails to phase the mass, as it flows through the motion and moves toward the two stunned members of the group.
With a curse under his breath, Wander rushes toward the blob, leaping in the air with a roar and slamming into the ground, sending forth a shockwave with the boom of thunder. The wave slams into the mass, which resists most of the forces, but chunks of the ooze harden and crumble as the main body jiggles from the impact.
With his senses back about him, Auric draws his glaive, whispering the prayer that lights his blade aflame. With a great heave, he brings the glaive down on the monster with a furious overhead strike, cleaving the beast in two and corroding the blade of his weapon. Two more psychic shrieks, one after another, rip through the group’s minds, stunning everyone and breaking Auric’s psyche, forcing him to the ground in a semi-catatonic state.
The now separated ooze does not rejoin. Rather, one mass moves towards Wander while the other rolls over Auric’s chest. The splash of acid and crushing weight of the viscous fluid winds Auric, knocking him completely unconscious as the acid eats at his armor and exposed skin.
The second ooze, flowing clumsily across the floor, rears up to strike Wander but suddenly freezes as if stopped by some external force. The pudding shudders and crumbles to a fraction of its original size.
Now recovered from the psychological trauma, Wander sees Auric laying on the ground, unstable and damaged by acid burns. He whispers a prayer and with a faint yellow glow, the erratic breathing and caustic sizzling cease as the downed warrior stabilizes. Following this, Wander draws his crossbow and fires a bolt into the remainer of the nearest ooze, destroying what remained in a cloud of fine dust.
Sliding off of Auric and along the floor, the second ooze lashes out with its body like a whip, striking at Criòs but missing barely. The advance of the slime brings it too close to strike, so Criòs jumps back, trying to gain some ground between him and the mass. As he flees, a second tentacle-like protrusion whips around and winds around Criòs’ ankle, melting parts of his boot and skin. In pain, he turns and fires at the mass, tearing through it as it hardens completely and crumbles into dust.
The monstrous slime now slain, Wander helps Auric up and the party regroups after the encounter. Auric begins searching for the scent of less evil things in the devilish realm again while Criòs and Wander attempt to gather some of the dust from the monster to no avail. Eventually, Auric is able to discern the path they had lost earlier and the group heads out.
After a few hours of travel, the party notices that they have diverged from the flattened, torch-lined road they were on earlier. Wander asks Auric if they are still going the right direction, to which he responds that there are no other paths that lead toward anything that could be considered “good” in this plane. While arguing about the proper definition of good, Criòs sees a large stone structure, made of granite in an otherwise unrecognizable geological environment. The structure resembled a door frame, but one that was about 15 feet tall and missing any sort of door construction. Recognizing this as a planar portal, the trio run towards it as fast as possible.
Upon inspection, the sygaldry of the structure is saddenly aged and worn. The style of work is noticeably different from the standard techniques seen commonly around the world, but the three are able to clean up the work a respectable amount. With crossed fingers, the three activate the portal, which sputters and groans as a orangish fluid fills the frame. The three rush in, excited to get back home and to escape this fiendish realm.
The scenery opposite the portal catches the group off-guard. Instead of the beautiful green hills and blue sky of the Kinsine Foothills, the three are met with stone and dark corners and the carved halls of some subterranean civilization. Light trickles in through faint gaps high in the ceiling and diffuses the the point of almost uselessness.
After looking around, the three agree that they have no idea where they are and that the architecture of this place is something none of them have seen. Looking into the distance in the large cavern, the remains of some ancient city sprawl out into the darkness and deep recesses of the cave. The group wanders through the ruins, and eventually crosses a bridge after an hour of exploration and is confronted by a group of reptilian people who draw back and reach for their weapons with shocked looks on their faces.
“Stop! How are you three find this place?”
After a week of mayoral training, Wander meets up with his teacher Trevor, a diplomat from Priodym. Trevor, after indicating that Wander had completed as much of the training as he could while remaining in Brightwell, started explaining the plans to bring Wander into the capital to fully inaugurate him into the new political position. Wander takes this command rather well until Trevor mentions that Criòs and Auric need to come with as well so that they can get their permissions to operate with Wander, to which his mood deflates noticeably.
“We’ve been here in this gutterwater excuse of a town for too long. We need to get you to Priodym as soon as possible.” says Trevor haughtily. “This place is beneath me and so are you for wishing to claim responsibility of it. We’re leaving first thing in the morning; I’ve already made the preparations.”
With the meeting concluded, Wander meets up with the other two members of the group in the town square. While Wander explains the new plans, Criòs spots Sven across the square and politely smiles and waves. Sven sees the gesture and excitedly runs over to the trio.
“Hello friends! Come by my shop later, I’ve finished the last set of modifications on your gear!” says Sven, cheerful as always before running off to continue his business.
With pleasantries exchanged, Wander finishes explaining the current plans for the trip to Priodym and the group makes their way over to Sven’s workshop. Somehow, despite his running off in the opposite direction, Sven has beaten him back to his shop and meets them with a warm smile and three bundles of gear. “Make sure you look it over carefully,” Sven adds, “I want you to be sure I did everything as according to your requests.” After some passing small talk, the group parts ways and heads back to the inn.
Each person examines their gear, admiring and complimenting the quality of the work to each other, when Auric notices a note attached to the hilt of his glaive. He opens it and reads it, finding it to be a message from Ryalt.
Auric begins reading the note aloud to the other two, detailing out how Ryalt has acquired intelligence stating that a very prominent diplomat will be leaving from Brightstone the next day and how he would like to ask the three of them to help in the capture of the diplomat. Upon completing the note, Auric looks up with a morbid expression on his face.
“We can’t kill the rebels, and we can’t hand over the diplomat. What are we going to do?”
Criòs and Wander look at each other, then back to Auric. “Well we might as well kill the rebels. It’s not like they’re important and if we want to do something major in this region, we need to get access to Priodym.”
An argument breaks out, both sides struggling to push their point forward. Finally, Wander starts mixing something up with the poison kit he keeps with him.
“What are you doing?” Asks Auric, slightly indignant.
“I’m going to spike his drink with this knockout potion. Should put him down for half a day while we get him out of here.” Wander replies as he strides out of the door. Criòs, a bit confused, jumps up and follows after him.
Grabbing a few drinks from the bar downstairs, Wander mixes the potion in with one of the drinks and hands another one to Criòs. Auric catches up to them and tries to stop them but fails to convince them to stop their plan.
Bursting into Trevor’s room, Wander wakes him up energetically. “We need to head out now. We can’t wait till morning.”
Confused and angered, Trevor looks up at them and says, “Why? What could possibly be so important that we need to leave in the middle of the bloody night?”
Not anticipating the question, Wander hesitantly replies “Well, uh…Criòs here is deathly afraid of sunrises. If we leave now, he’ll sleep right through the sunrise.” Criòs covers his head with his cloak and Wander puts on his most convincing smile.
“I’m not buying it.” Trevor responds, even more furious than before. “He’s a wood elf for Torm’s sake!”
At this, Wander and Criòs look at each other and start giggling as they start acting incredibly drunk. They push the spiked drink into his hands, nodding at him to take a drink.
At this moment, Auric bursts into the room and says urgently, “Trevor, we received some information that says you’re going to be attacked on the way back to Priodym and that the assailants are expecting you to leave tomorrow. If we don’t leave tonight, you might be in danger.”
“How did you come across this information?” Trevor asked, skeptical of the chaotic intrusion into his privacy.
“The people from the drug den that we cleared out caught wind of this plot and passed the information on” replies Auric, choosing his words and inflection carefully.
“Well, scum like that would know. Let me get dressed and we’ll head out.” Trevor sighs as he throws back the drink in his hand in one gulp.
By the time the group loads up the cart and is ready to head out, Trevor is feeling the effects of the potion. As Auric starts the wagon towards the gate, Trevor lies down in the back of the cart laden with some of the rogues’ ale. After he fell asleep, Wander and Criòs dress him in a large burlap sack and hide him under some hay in the back of the cart.
Upon reaching the gate, the group is stopped by a pair of soldiers of Paladic Guard. With it being as late as it is, the guards approach the cart cautiously, unsure of how to address the situation. Recognizing Wander, one asks, “Sir, what are you doing traveling this late at night? Shouldn’t you be resting for the trip tomorrow?”
“Well,” Wander replies, “We’ve got a major order of alcohol due to go to Priodym since the new market there has opened up. We just decided to leave early. Besides, this fool next to me is afraid of sunrises.”
The dubious response prompts the guards to concern. “Sir, we’re going to have to search the cart, just to be sure.” The closer guard moves to the back of the cart and begins moving things around, quickly finding a sleeping Trevor in an odd sack. Both guards draw their weapons, while the searcher asks indignantly, “What is the meaning of this?”
Wander shrugs, smiles coyly and says, “He was tired. He fell asleep in the back and I thought he looked cold so I covered him with what we had.”
Cautiously rushes thing their weapons as they shrug at each other, the two guards stand down. “Well,” one starts, “we’re not allowed to leave our post without direct command from him, so I guess we will wait here. Just be careful out there.”
The group leaves the town with a collective sigh of relief at avoiding a conflict by just a few words. The crew continues off into the night, beginning their week-long journey.
About halfway through the next day, Trevor rouses himself from his sleep. After waking up completely, a very angry expression crawls across his face. “There was something in that drink you gave me right before telling me about an attempt in my life. Explain yourself right this instant.”
Panicked, Wander responds. “We grabbed the drink off the bar on the way up. I guess someone spiked it before we got it?”
This answer settles better with Trevor than expected. “That makes sense. I’m glad you three were around to help me get out of that situation.” The resolution of the situation visibly relaxes the diplomat. “I tell you, the only time that I get to unwind is while I’m on the road. Pass me some of that ale good sir.”
Over the next few days, the four travelers start to get to know each other. One day, while Trevor is feeling the effects of the alcohol and enjoying the shade of the tree canopy over the road, Auric asks, “So, honestly, how are things in the capital?”
“Well, it’s all that beaurocratic nonsense.”, mumbled Trevor. “No one on the Patriarchal body seems to be able to get any of their pet projects going, so all that happens is what they all can agree on. Which, to be honest, isn’t much. They can override single dissent, so at least they can get some stuff done.”
Wander looks over, “Is all this expansion effort the result of some unanimous decision? It seems like it might not be the best idea for diplomatic relations.”
Trevor slowly changes his gaze from Auric to Wander. “No, it’s not s plan everyone likes. Patriarch Chamberlain is opposed to it but he has been overruled. Honestly I think he might be the only sane person leading the country.”
Auric chimes back in. “Well isn’t there some way that the system could be changed so that it is run better for everyone?”
Sighing, Trevor sits up, closing his eyes and shrugging. “I don’t know. I think the only way to fix the system is to get rid of it. You’d have to kill off all the Patriarchs and just restart the government.”
Before anyone can respond, a loop of rope drops right in front of Trevor and yanks him out of the wagon by the neck, left dangling and surprised above the road. Wander reacts, jumping from the cart onto the rope while drawing his rapier to cut the rope. In a single motion, he frees Trevor from the snare and lands on the ground, muttering a prayer and throwing a small light orb at the ground. Suddenly a huge , dense cloud condenses around him and the cart, obscuring the trees and cart from view. Realigning his sensory ring to enhance his hearing, Wander moves to Trevor to help him up. In the process though, he hears the rustling of leaves as people run above him, the footfalls of people on both sides of the road, and the breathing and charging of horses from the road behind them.
Auric reacts to stop the vehicle, coming to a halt a short distance away while Criòs draws his bow, whispering to the vine entanglement as he fires an arrow into the fog, which responds with the sound of rapid growth of plant life. Wander carries Trevor quickly to the cart and throws both himself and Trevor on the back. The sound of people in the trees and beside the road have disappeared ahead of the wagon beyond his hearing range.
Auric gets the horses moving again, but before they cover much ground a net drops from the trees in front of the cart, catching the horses up in a tangle of rope. The cart violently comes to a stop until Criòs jumps to the horses and cuts the net away enough to let the horses get free. As the horses begin to move forward again, Wander hears the sound of bourses in pain as they collide with the vine hedge Criòs formed behind them.
Criòs, unsure of where the assailants are located, draws an arrow, aiming toward the back of the wagon in preparation of any attacks. Auric struggles against the horses to get them under control after the spook they endured. Wander, still attempting to locate the rebels, looks up to see if he can spot one. At that moment, one drop from the trees directly behind him. On instinct, Criòs fires an arrow at the falling person, landing a solid hit that sprouts vines that envelop the target, binding him. The now-bound body slams into Wander, knocking him to the floor.
Wander kicks the bound soldier off the wagon and throws a fiery hand toward the ground behind them, casting a blue flame that streaks out and ignites the net behind them. Auric looks back, feeling helpless to assist in the defense beyond just steering the chaotic wagon until he gets an idea. He hums a quiet tune that summons a ghostly hand, which flies back and lifts up cut up and burning net, moving it slower to try to distract the attackers. As the fog begins to thin out, Criòs turns his attention forward to ready a shot for anything that can come up in front of them as they leave the fog.
As the cart breaks free of the fog, six pikemen can be seen readied across the road, weapons lowered to strike. Criòs reacts, firing his shot into one of the middle pikemen. The blow lands with a small puff of purple gas, which causes the pikeman to swing his polearm away from the center of the road, knocking his comrade to the ground. Wander turns and fires a crossbow bolt, clipping the same man with his bolt, which drops him prone. As the cart draws closer, Criòs draws one more arrow and fires it at the other central pikeman, knocking the man to the ground. At the last second, Auric pulls the reigns to avoid running over the bodies, hoping that he can keep control over the wild horses.
The horses breeze past the line of rebels with little room for error. As the cart speeds past the line, the wagon exits the canopied section and enters a pasture. With no places left for ambush, the group lowers their guard and sheathes their weapons. Trevor, who has finally recovered from the shock of the situation, cannot stop thanking the three for their protection.
The rest of the travel is calm, and the party tops a hill to see the large city of Priodym in the distance. As soon as the walls of the capital come into view, Trevor sits up and dons his haughty diplomatic air. As the cart approaches the gate, Trevor flashes a diplomatic badge at the guards who immediately open the gate for them. Before anything else, the party sees horseless carts driving along the road beyond the entry gate, and the three wonder what they have gotten themselves into.
The day starts off with Auric, Criòs, and Wander finding their way to the notice board in the town square. With no new postings, the party pulls the notice from the infirmary down to take with them. Criòs and Wander, though, remember that they have a tab to settle with the inn regarding the use of their still, so they leave Auric to find out the details of the task at hand.
Auric makes his way to the infirmary, where he meets Chardis, the local doctor. Chardis, a nervous and twitchy Dwarf, is caught off guard as Auric enters the building. “Oh dear, what can I do for you? It must be bad if I can’t see what’s wrong.”
“Oh no, I’m just here about the notification you posted on the notice board in the center of town. Something about investigating a disease?” Auric replied curtly.
“Oh good, you had me worried there for a moment.” Chardis replied, visibly relieved. “Well, you see, it’s not so much a disease. Or at least not anything like any disease I’ve seen. I would like to think that I know my way around diseases, but this just doesn’t seem to be one. The man was left on the doorstep of the infirmary the other day, and has been mumbling in and out of consciousness. He seems healthy but his mind is a bit damaged I believe. He’s in the back if you’d like to see him.”
With a nod from Auric, Chardis quickly leads him into the back of the building to the patient area. Skittishly, Chardis motioned towards a drawn curtain and said, “Uh, he’s back there. I’d come with you but, uh, I’ve got some things to take care of. His name is Grehm, just so you know. You won’t likely even get that much out of him though.” Auric steps out of the way as the dwarf scurries past him back towards the front of the infirmary.
Meanwhile, back at the inn, Criòs and Wander had collected their earnings from the week and were enjoying a drink while waiting for Auric to finish up at the infirmary as a new, beautiful barmaid walked past their table. With a glance brimming with nothing but the fiercest competition, both the elf and the cleric begin chugging their drinks to finish first. As was the unspoken rule between them, Wander got the first shot at the fresh face as he finished his drink first. Criòs just sat back and dipped at the remainder of his drink as Wander moved to the girl and began slinging his charm and displaying his acrobatic prowess. Visibly impressed, the girl giggles as Wander balances himself on a upright broomstick, which triggers Criòs to action.
Stepping over to the girl, he leans in close, catching her off-guard and causing a bit of frustration. However, with a few words, the girl’s look shifts from anger to intrigue to excitement as she grabs Criòs’ hand and pulls him frantically toward the stairs to the rooms. With a smirk, Criòs disappears up the stairs as Wander makes his way back to the table, sullen from the defeat.
Back at the infirmary, Auric approaches the curtain that Chardis pointed him towards. Grunts and strained breathing issue forth as he approaches, which are accompanied by a grotesquely grey-skinned man tied by leather restraints to his bed. Upon entering, he thrashes once more before locking bloodshot eyes on Auric.
“Grehm, my name is Auric, and I’m here to help you out. Can you tell me about what’s going on?” Auric says softly, attempting to calm the afflicted man. “Grrrh…urg…I just need another infusion…” strains Grehm through bared teeth.
Auric asks, “An infusion? Infusion of what?” Grehm hisses at him and replies, “I would even take an unrefined one…I just need something…” Pausing for a moment, Auric starts examining Grehm for diseases or poisons, but after a fruitless hour of examination and fighting against the resistance that Grehm put up, Auric is unable to recognize the contaminant in Grehm. In frustration, Auric asks “Well, Grehm, can you tell me what an infusion is so I can get you some?”
Eyes darting around the room, Grehm spots the glimmer of the moonstone fitted into the hilt of Auric’s glaive. “There…That…grr.” Auric realizes the intent behind the comment and asks, “Well where can I get you another infusion?”
“Argh…down a few miles from the gate…mmmmmmrh…there’s a cave. Tell them I need another infusion.”
With this last statement, Grehm begins seizing and falls unconscious. Auric heads back to the front of the infirmary, where Chardis is startled by Auric’s return as if he had forgotten that he was ever there. “Oh. Did you manage to get anything out of him?” Chardis inquires. “I did, it’s not an actual disease, but rather some kind of infusion of mana stones. He told me where he gets them, so I’m going to go get my friends and go investigate a bit more.” Surprised, Chardis replies, “Oh? Well that makes me fell better about my…uh…skills as a medic. Let me know if you need anything I guess.”
About the same time that Auric finds his way into the inn, a disheveled Criòs makes his way back down the stairs, reuniting the party. Auric relays the details of the events in the infirmary and, to Wander’s distaste, Criòs recalls the details of his excursion as well. The group decides that, even with the sun setting, they should head out immediately. As they approach the gates though, Auric hears Chardis calling out to him. “Here, before you go, take these three healing potions. I figured you might, uh, need them.” The party graciously accepts and heads out to find the cave.
Lead by a very confident Auric, the party searches for the cave for hours before Auric realizes he has completely led the group the wrong way. Late into the night, the party starts making their way back, getting lost severs, times along the way. By the time they reach the cave, beams of light are peaking out over the Orthoclast Parapets. Auric leads the group into the cave, following a winding path down into the cold earth until the party finds themselves in a large cave with small beams of the morning light making their way through small cracks in the ceiling. The party looks around and sees nine people in the room in varying states of health; two are unconscious, three are having panic attacks and seizures in the corners, and four others walk aimlessly about the room, muttering softly to themselves.
Criòs immediately attempts to hide himself in the shadows while Wander runs forward into the room. The rough ground, however, trips him up and he ends up catching himself on one of the ambling men in the room. Rolling with the action, he shifts his stumbling attempt to catch himself into a warm embrace of the shocked man, whispering softly to him.
“Everything is going to be ok. I’ll take care of you.”
With a burst of tears, the man snaps out of his surprise and embraces Wander tightly. “Thank you, that is exactly what I needed to hear. You won’t regret this kindness you’ve shown me.” The scene is so poignant that everyone stops and looks, a common warmth flowing into each heart in the room. While hidden, Criòs even sheds a single tear when he knows no one is looking. At the point where the tear splashes, a small rose begins to grow, unbeknownst to anyone present.
After this moving display, Auric walks over to another lucid man and says “Hey, Grehm needs another infusion.” The man looks up and responds, “Tell him to come get his own. But I can give you one if you want.” Auric hesitantly agrees, to which the man says, “Hold out your arm.”
Auric recoils at the request, no longer willing to partake. But Wander manages to jump in and tell the man, “Give it to me then!” with his arm outstretched. The man shrugs and produces a large syringe and jams it into Wander’s arm before hammering down on the plunger. Some unknown substance then flowed into Wander’s as he becomes invigorated by the substance. As the newly energized Wander decides to rush the wooden door at the far end of the room, both Criòs and Auric notice that there’s now a faint green glow growing around Wander. Shrugging, they follow their companion towards the door.
Without hesitation, Wander slams straight into the wooden door in an effort to break it down. However, the door is more resilient than he estimated, and while he manages to breach through, the impact staggers him and he tumbles forward into the room, landing finally in a seated position. Recovering from the shock, the other two join Wander in the room, which they see to be an intricately carved out office within the cave. A massive fireplace roars with a billowing flame behind the desk of a seated man sporting a look of confusion at the intrusion while still maintaining his posture of writing something on his desk. The man at the desk was dressed in merchant garb with a clawed and red paw embroidered onto the left chest of his tunic and a hat with a distinct red feather, and after a moment of awkward silence, the man whistles, calling forth four men from doors on the sides of the room.
“Well, that was a bit unnecessary, but who can expect any better from couriers from the Hadrin brothers.” the man says. “Now listen, I know there’s a shipment due, but you three need to tell your boss that things are going to be a bit late this time around. There’s been some delays.”
Auric casts a brief look to the other two. “Yeah, we can tell them that. Do you know when the next shipment will be ready?” With a bit of delay, Wander adds “Yeah we’re basically best friends with them.”
The man looks suspicious at this comment and nods to his four men around his desk. Each man slowly moves a hand behind their backs. “Oh really? I’m sorry, I haven’t gotten your names yet. And pardon me for not introducing myself to new faces. I’m Devlin.”
With this, Criòs begins setting himself up in the doorway while reaching for his bow. Auric responds curtly, “Just ignore him, he’s new and doesn’t know his place.” Wander smiles and shrugs his shoulders. “My name is Auric, the seated man is Wander, and the elf by the door is Criòs.” Looking to Wander, he continues “We’re not actually best friends with the Hadrin brothers, right?”
“No, of course we are!” Wander replies. A feeling of danger settles into the room as Devlin asks Wander, “What are their names then?”
After a moment of thinking, eyes turned skyward, Wander locks eyes with Devlin, smiles coyly and shrugs again. At this moment, Criòs looses an arrow at one of the guards as Wander jumps to his feet, then onto the desk. With a grand flourish, he utters an encantation and drives his rapier into the table. A thundous boom erupts from the desk, sending papers flying along with syringes that each of the guards were reaching for. Three of the guards are flung to the walls of the room and knocked to the ground while Devlin stumbles a few feet backwards toward the fireplace. The sonic blast catches Criòs off-guard, causing his ears to ring badly enough to blur out other sounds.
Auric then rushes over to one of the men prone on the ground, heaving his glaive down on him. As the blade cuts through the sir, it glows with a brilliant intensity which bursts forth upon impact. The man has hardly a chance to scream before Auric follows through with a blow from the hilt of his glaive, collapsing his skull inward and ending the guard’s life.
Still dazed from the thunderclap, Criòs takes aim at the one standing guard and fires, but misses just barely over the shoulder of the man. With this, the same guard begins charging toward Criòs, but the motion alerts Auric to danger and he reels around and catches the guard in the chest with his glaive. Angered by this, he changes target to Auric and swings a shortsword at Auric, but the blow only glances off his armor. Meanwhile, the two remaining guards get to their feet and run to the corners, grabbing the syringes and immediately injecting themselves with them. A bright red glow issues forth from both men and a billowing flame of fury builds in their eyes.
Auric squares himself to the man who just swung at him and brings his blade around, connecting with a solid hit against the guards side. The blow winds the bandit, causing him to drop to his knees. Auric then swings his weapon around to follow through with the hilt of his glaive but catches the blade against the ground, forcing him to drop his weapon.
While this is occurring, Wander leaps from the desk at Devlin with his rapid extended. He scores a deep hit into Devlin’s abdomen, piercing deep enough to start some deep bleeding. While piercing his foe, Wander lands feet first against Devlin and pushes off in a backflip that sends Devlin into the fireplace. While midair, Wander draws a bead on Devlin and fires a bolt as he lands his feet square back on the desk where he started. The bolt lodges squarely in the center of Devlin’s chest with great force.
With an enraged yell, Devlin jumps out of the fire and pats his clothes down briefly before drawing his scimitar and boot knife. He then lashes out at Wander, missing his first blow but catching Wander off-guard for his second scimitar cut followed by a lunge wih the boot knife that connects against Wander’s armor, piecing slightly through it.
Criòs, determined not to miss a second time, levels his bow against the guard on his knees. With the reverb of the recoiling bow, his arrow pierces the neck of the injured guard and fells him. However, while this is happening, Criòs is jumped by one of the men in the previous room who injects him with one of the syringes. The material now flowing in his veins, Criòs feels slightly nauseous but otherwise unchanged as a sickly blue glow begins softly shining around him.
With their comrade fallen, the two remaining guards roar and charge, one at Auric and the other at Criòs. Still disarmed, Auric attempts to brace himself against the blow, but the bandit hits with more force than he expected. The sword strike breaks Auric’s guard and cuts him badly, knocking him to the ground. The other guard raises his sword while charging but misjudged the distance to Criòs and swings too early, missing his target.
Auric, staggered a bit by the blow, slowly stands up, muttering under his breath. The guard takes this to be a sign of weakness and lowers his guard a bit. What he failed to notice was the glaive now in Auric’s hands again and the growing glow of a white flame along the blade. Auric’s muttering becomes more clear and he hoists his weapon high and come down with a furious blow. The blade emits a blinding flash, and when the light in the room returns to normal, the only remnant of the guard is the charred shadow on the stone floor.
Wander, reeling from the flurry of strikes, composes himself and strikes Devlin again, piercing him deeply in the shoulder, loosing another torrent of blood from the bandit captain.
With this blow, Devlin raises his hand and says weakly, “Can we just, like, stop for a second and discuss things? Everything just escalated real fast and I think we can come to an agreement that satisfies both parties here.”
“Drop your weapons and we’ll consider talking to you.” Wander says sternly as he points his rapier at Devlin’s throat and his crossbow at Devlin’s knee.
“If someone will come patch me up, I’ll agree to that. Otherwise I won’t be much use to you guys here very shortly.” Devlin replies, his eyelids starting to droop more and more.
The three look at each other and nod in agreement, so Auric walks over and starts patching up Devlin as Auric begins interrogating him. Criòs begins tying up the remaining guard.
“So tell me about the Hadrin brothers. Should we know anything about their strengths or possible weaknesses?” Wander asks, maintaining his aim with his crossbow.
“Well,” Devlin starts, searching for a starting place, “no one knows their real names. But there’s three of them: The Butcher, The Baker, and The Candlestickmaker. They’re the most imposing men I know, and they tend to keep to themselves and just manage the clan. Th Butcher is known for his brutal handling of external relations and his two huge cleavers he carries with him. The Baker is in charge of production within the clan, and only seems to wear some special gloves. As for the Candlestickmaker, no one knows what he does, just that he’s very greasy-looking and hides in his workshop. People just try to avoid him typically.”
Decently appeased with this answer, Wander prods further, both in question and with his crossbow. “How about you draw us a map and let us know any other information we might need, like passwords?”
Devlin grabbed one of the scattered papers and begins scribbling out a crude map. “It’d be easier to show you myself but if you insist I’ll give you a map.” Pausing briefly, he adds, “Just tell them I sent you, that should get you in.”
As he finishes, Criòs approaches Devlin and says, “Of course you know we must take you to the authorities now. You’re not doing the most legal of activities.”
At this, Devlin’s face flushes, he reaches slowly for a sword but winces from the pain of his severe wounds. Desperation flashes across his face, and Criòs and Wander only catch a glimpse of the morbid resolve that relaxes Devlin’s face as he slams his hand down on his hip, shattering a glass flask on his hip that engulfs him in a bright, searing flame. The immolated body falls back into the roaring fireplace, sending forth a shower of cinders into the room.
Shocked, the party stands there watching the body turn to ash. After a brief moment, Auric moves to the other guard and asks him, “Do you know where the infusions are stored?”
The guard begrudgingly nods towards one of the doors that all the guards issued forth from before the battle. Auric makes his way into the back room and finds a large stash of infusions along with a lockbox. After grabbing the lockbox, Auric whispers a prayer that lights the blade of his glade with a holy fire. With one fell swoop, the glaive destroys the stash of infusions, vaporizing the materials within. Before he can react, Auric inhales some of the mist, which makes him feel more powerful than before.
While this is going on, Criòs and Wander stand at the fireplace, pondering the events that just occurred. The guards, while the two rogues are distracted, manages to free himself and reach for a flask on his hip. With a roar, the guard rushes the two, smashing the vial against his chest which explodes in a violent fireball, burning and knocking the two rogues to the ground.
Auric returns to the front room, curios of what cause the explosion. Seeing the mess, he helps bandage the two other party members while they recover their senses. After patching the others up, Auric takes a moment to draw upon his divine senses as a paladin to see if there’s anything amiss in the room. At first, he can’t detect anything over the myriad of elements around the room, but as he focuses more, he picks up the signs of something tainted with some malificent touch. He makes his way to the fireplace and determines the source is from the back wall of the fireplace. Using his mage hand, he moves the firewood and charred remains from the rieplace and scatters them so they don’t set the room ablaze.
The three look at the back of the fireplace and find a circle of sygaldry written in a script that none of the party recognizes. After pondering the writing for a moment, Criòs snatches up a piece of blank paper from the room and a chunk of charcoal from the scattered firewood and makes a charcoal rubbing of the sygaldry in the paper. He then folds up the paper, pockets it, and the three decide to head back into town. Returning to the antechamber, the party finds the cavern vacant. With a shrug, Auric leads the party back out of the caves.
Upon returning to Brightstone, the party returns to Chardis to discuss the results of their investigation. After describing the events as they occurred, the doctor sighs in relief. “Well, at least it wasn’t something I should have recognized. Uhh, as long as it’s not something that will trace back to me. I mean…at least we know what we’re dealing with.” With that, Chardis excuses himself quickly to the back room of the infirmary and the party returns to their room at the inn.
Upon searching the lockbox, the lot find a sum of money and a pair of golden bracers, which Wander claims due to his affinity for shiny things.
Early one morning, one week after the recovery of Denna from the Red Claw hideout, the three adventurers Auric, Criós, and Wander go to recover their weapons from Willem’s workshop. Auric’s glaive gives off a small glint of light now, Criós’ bow has grown a small bramble of vines with deep purple leaves around the newly socketed gems, and Wander’s crossbow now seems a bit harder to perceive, as if in shadow.
The party decides to go pick up some new work now that they have recovered their weapons, so they make their way to the Noticeboard and look things over. The group notices a new flier campaigning for Wander’s mayoral campaign that is not done in his handwriting, which they find curious. Besides that, they see that the two notices from the previous week are still hanging and decide to go talk to the blacksmith to find out what he needs help with. Before addressing the quest, Wander sells his warhammer and great axe to the blacksmith in exchange for a rapier and some spare gold, while Criós purchases a set of rapiers for those close encounters.
The group is met by a large half-elf who introduces himself as Sven. He seems to be a very genuine, happy person as he readily greets the three companions. Auric brings up that they are there to discuss the job posting that was on the local notice board. Sven then excitedly explains that he needs a shipment of tools taken to the town of Faelheim, which is a day’s worth of wagon travel away. Due to being behind schedule, he needs the order delivered as soon as possible and that he cannot do it himself due to his order backlog. Criós presses for more information, asking if the reason he can’t take the shipment himself is related to the increase in Red Claw activity in the region, but Sven assures them that the reason he cannot take the shipment himself is just because he is too busy.
The party agrees to take on the job, and Sven shows them to the already-loaded wagon hitched behind the workshop. “Once you get to Faelheim, take the goods to Ryalt. Ask around, people know him there.” remarks Sven. As the group loads their gear into the wagon, Criós and Wander ask if Sven would be willing to send them with some drink, to which Sven offers a keg of ale for them to enjoy on the slow journey ahead.
Before even reaching Brightwell’s gate, Criós and Wander have cracked open the keg and started their usual tradition of competing to see who can consume more alcohol in a given amount of time. Auric shakes his head as he mans the reigns and steers the horse and wagon down the road. Before long, the intoxicating effects of the ale have started to take hold of Wander. This doesn’t stop the contest though, and despite the slurry of slurred speech, the two in the back of the wagon have a grand time.
A short while later, with the crisp morning air still lingering around the group, Criós notices something quite a distance up the road; two adults and a child huddled around a wagon set off to the side of the road. Fearing an ambush, he blends himself into the wagon’s equipment and readies himself for anything that might happen. Wander, on the other hand, decides in his stupor that he should “sneak” up to the group and try to discern some information before the rest of the party approaches. Auric protests, but Wander has already started staggering alongside the wagon before he can manage to get more than a few words out. Wander then proceeds to move up to the group, stumbling and shuffling until the strangers notice him approaching. He then drunkenly raises his crossbow and attempts to aim at the group. One of the adults, a man, quickly jumps in front of the other two, holding his arms out in an attempt to cover them as much as possible.
About this time, Auric pulls up to the scene with the wagon and manages to talk Wander down from bearing his weapon against the obviously afraid family before them. Turning his attention to the family, Auric offers an apology for his companion’s actions, and warily, the father of the family asks if the group could possibly help repair their wagon. He continues to explain that they know what is wrong and how to fix it, but just need some extra muscle to get everything situated.
The group agrees to help, and spends the rest of the morning and a large portion of the afternoon repairing the rear axle of the wagon. At one point during the work, Criós and Wander decide to fetch some of the tools from the shipment to help with the repairs. Upon moving some of the various implements, though, the pair discover a false bottom to the wagon. Curious as curious can be, the two move some of the boards and find a large shipment of weapons underneath what they thought was the intended shipment. With a cursory discussion of how to proceed, the two decide to return the weapons and false floor to the way they found it, and Wander tied down the floor with a decently secure and complicated knot so as to protect the equipment a bit more.
With the axle repaired, the party waves to the family as they continue along their path down the road. Much of the day has passed, and the trees along the sides of the road start to glow orange from the setting sun. The two in the back of the wagon have finished off their traveling companion of a keg and lay back to enjoy the brilliance of another sunset in the Foothills. Criós tells Auric after putting good distance between the family and them that there is a hidden weapons stash under the tools in the wagon, and Auric nods in acknowledgement. After a bit longer, Auric mentions that he sees something up ahead. The three look in the dying light of the day and make out a slender figure dressed in a brilliant emerald and white dress walking hurriedly in the direction of Faelheim. Noticing the curves and dressing of the woman, Wander musters up both his natural and liquid-induced bravado and attempts to call out to her in his most manly of voices. However, as he begins his utterance, a hiccup overtakes him and staggers him enough that he fall off of the wagon. Criós sees this and cannot help but die laughing at the sight, with the knowledge of Wander’s intentions only making the spectacle more enjoyable. Auric lets a grin creep across his face as he raises his hand to his forehead in disbelief.
The woman hears the commotion and stops to see what was going on. Upon seeing the wagon, she began running back towards the party with her arms waving above her head and begging the group to wait. Upon reaching the wagon, she explains that she was separated from her group and her horse was scared off by a pack of dire wolves roaming the forest. After agreeing to give her a ride, Wander assists her in climbing onto the wagon and then returns to his spot in the back. With great relief, the woman identifies herself as Rina Larkhill and thanks the group for the ride, as she was concerned that she would not make it to Faelheim before dawn the next day. Wander attempts to swoon her again, but fails to find a favorable reaction in her demeanor, which is then followed by a swift blow to the back of the head from Criós. Rina bursts out laughing as Wander glares at Criós while rubbing the new sore spot on his head.
Long after the sun has set and the stars have revealed themselves across the sky, the party manages to spot the lights of the town of Faelheim ahead of them. As they approach though, a second set of lights, much closer, come into view. The group spots these closer lights and is able to identify a Paladic Guard checkpoint ahead. Auric quickly notices as they approach that, while three of the Guard have the standard pearlescent white with aquamarine trim, the one who approaches bears a crimson band above the trim on both shoulder plates. Recalling his history with the Paladic Guard, he recognizes this rank insignia and calls out “Hello, Lieutenant of the Guard!”
A mark of surprise, followed by a warm smile passes over the Lieutenant’s face. “Well, hello to you too. You lot seem to be traveling late, what business might you have?”
Auric responds, “We’re traveling to Faelheim to deliever a shipment of goods. We would have passed here earlier today were it not for some delays. We stopped to assist a family who suffered a broken axle to their wagon, and we also picked up a young woman named Rina Larkhill.”
At the mention of the name Rina, the Lieutenant seems visibly relieved and says, “Oh, thank Torm. We knew she was supposed to be arriving today. Having not seen her pass by yet, we feared for the worst. Good decision, you, to give this very special girl a ride. Now, it sounds as if you have been traveling for just today, does that mean you lot are from Brightstone?” The Lieutenant stiffens back up again, and eyes each member of the party as they answer.
“We’ve traveled from there, but that is not where we are from.” Auric replied. “I have no singular place that I call my home anymore. My travels have given me friends and respites throughout this world we live in.”
“I am from Bortalis. In fact, you might have heard of me, as I’m kind of a big deal in that town.” Wander says as he strikes a cheesy heroic pose. When he sees the Lieutenant’s blank stare, he quickly returns to his seat.
“I’m from the elven realms.” is all Criós offers as he matches stares with the Lieutenant, who eventually backs off and breaks eye contact.
“I take it you all are telling me truth. But tell me, who sent you on this delivery? You don’t seem to be craftsmen yourselves.”
Auric explains that Sven, the Brightwell blacksmith, was too busy to deliver the goods himself and needed someone to deliver the shipment for him as the order had already been delayed several times. Throughout this conversation, Wander has been carefully and slowly moving his crossbow to aim at the Lieutenant without him knowing.
“Ok, then. Well I can only assume you’re delivering this load to Faelheim. Have you heard any kind of shady business going on there?”
“No sir, we were told to deliver the goods and given the wagon and horse this morning. None of us know anything other about Faelheim other than it’s just up the road from here.” said Auric.
With this response, the Lieutenant eyes over the wagon and says, “Well, boys, we’re going to need to do a search of the wagon, just in case. We’re trying to make sure that the people of Faelheim are safe so the Paladic Guard can continue operations here. After all, the Patriarchal Body deserves to rule as much of this land as they can, so it’s our duty to stop anyone from interfering with their holy work.” Wander slowly returns the crossbow to his side.
Holding back a retch from the obvious indoctrination, Auric inquires, “Who would want to interfere with the work of the Patriarchal Body?”
The Lieutenant responds hesitantly, “Well, I really shoudn’t say. It’s all rumors and hearsay, so spreading discontent would be undermining to our mission here.” At this, Criós clears his throat and glares at the Lieutenant. A bit staggered by the piecing look, the Lieutenant recoils and says, “Well, there’s rumor that a rebellion is forming in Faelheim. We’re doing what we can to prevent any support going to this effort. You lot seem right enough though, we’ll forego the search. Make sure you get Rina to town safely, and have a nice night.”
As the party pulls away, Auric notices that Rina has visibly relaxed after the encounter with the guards. Upon inquiring about if she is ok, Rina replies “Well, I was just very worried that there might have been a conflict. I’m not a fan of violence, nor would I imagine my father be happy with me being involved in a dispute with the Paladic Guard.”
Well past sunset, the group pulls up to the gate of Faelheim. The gate guard stops them and asks what their business is. Auric replies, “We’re here to deliver a shipment of goods to Ryalt.” While Auric is talking to the guard, Wander attempts to seduce Rina again, only being met by her cold shoulder. Another swift hit to the back of the head is delivered by Criós, leaving Wander muttering again.
“Wait right here, I’ll go grab him.” the guard says as he walks into town.
Wander is suspicious and decides he wants to follow the guard. However, he is not quite sober yet, and Criós decides to go with him to help keep him in line. The two sneak into the town, keeping enough distance that the occasional stealth blunder from Wander is able to be hidden by Criós’ efforts. The pair make their way along the shadows until the guard stops at a cellar door attached to the local tavern. He knocks, and a tall man with striking red hair opens the door to greet the guard. The guard whispers, “There’s a wagon at the gate that says they have a shipment for you. I suspect it might be a delivery for the resistance.”
Meanwhile, Auric has a discussion with Rina. She explains that she is the daughter of a major merchant family in Priodym and was on business to come see the mayor of Faelheim to negotiate terms for a trade agreement. Auric apologizes again for the poor behavior of his companion, but Rina just plays it off. “You seem to be nice enough. I’ll manage.”, she replies.
Looking intrigued, the red-haired man follows the guard back to the gate, while the pair of rogues watch to make sure nothing foul plays out. Eventually everyone makes it back to the gate without incident.
The red-haired man introduces himself as Ryalt, and thanks the party for their service in delivering the shipment. He then offers to pay for the party’s stay at the tavern that night. Auric asks Rina if she needs escorting to her destination, but she tells him she planned on staying at the tavern anyway.
As soon as the party enter the tavern, the rogues head straight to the bar. Ryalt laughs and tells the two that the night is on him, and that the bartender should give them the local stuff. Both order five tall pints and start at their normal contest again. This time however, the ale is an acrid fluid brewed in the tavern’s basement. This hinders Criós’ ability to down the stuff and Wander manages to finish off his drinks first. Criós is punished by being served another drink, which he sips on slowly as they enjoy the company of the other tavern patrons.
Auric, Rina, and Ryalt head over to a side booth, as Auric has some questions for Ryalt. As they sit down though, Auric asks Rina to go grab some drinks for them, which she does with a sashay of her hips. Auric turns to Ryalt and asks, “So what are the weapons for?”
Ryalt, surprised at first, relaxes a bit and responds, “Well, I did catch a glimpse of your friend Wander on our way to the gate, I am sure you probably know by now that there is a resistance being built here in Faelheim. I actually am their leader, and we need the weapons badly. In fact, earlier this evening, we were forced to send out a raiding squad with the worn-out equipment we have now and because of the poor condition of their gear, several men died. We had no choice though, there was a major Paladic supply caravan coming through the area and we couldn’t allow it to make it to its destination.”
Auric, soaking the information in, asks another question. “Why is there a rebellion forming, though?”
“Well,” Ryalt says as he leans forward in his seat, “the resistance doesn’t originate from the state of Priodym. In fact, most of us are trained spies from Ciron. The Rin family doesn’t like the rate and intensity of expansion that Priodym is putting forth, and we’ve been tasked with causing as much havok, in as many places, as frequently, and as devastatingly as we can. We’re slowly recruiting members from the towns here that are tired of Paladic Guard presence, but growth is slow. I know that we’re only a means to an end with the plan from Ciron, but the real goal is far above my pay grade. I do know that Sven is starting to build a resistance group in Brightwell, but he is stubborn as a mule and won’t even react to questions or comments relating to his work with us. If you’d like, we could use your help; we’ll send you messages through him when you’re needed.”
Auric nods. “Sounds like a plan. I’m sure the others will be up for it as well.”
Rina returns and the whole group enjoy a delightful rest of the evening before turning in. Wander makes his way back over to Ryalt and, obviously under the influence, blows a kiss at him. Ryalt looks confused and mentions, “Maybe we can use you as a distraction…” Seemingly out of nowhere, a third blow lands on the back of Wander’s head, followed by Criós’ laughter.
The next morning, the party helps unload the delivery with Ryalt, who hands them a note and tells them to make sure that Sven gets it. During the process of unloading, two kegs of ale manage to find their way into the back of the wagon. When Auric asks about it, no one seems to know, but the rogues skirt the question as well as they can. With a wave, the party heads off to return home. After leaving Ryalt’s sight, Wander reads the note, which says. “We’re looking forward to those llamas. Thanks again, -Ryalt” A bit confused, Wander puts the note away and breaks into one of the kegs.
On the way out of town, Criós and Wander get the brilliant idea of building a still in the back of the wagon with the spare time they have. Between the two of them, they manage to pull together the ingredients, mechanisms and know-how needed to construct a functioning sygaldry still. Before Auric can react, Wander jumps down and gives some to the horse, who doesn’t seem to be hurt by it. This is evidence enough to the rogues that their product isn’t poisonous, so they continue gathering herbs and work to produce their alcohol, adjusting the ingredients and cooking parameters in attempts to increase the quality of their good. In the process of building the still, though, the rogues had to empty one of the kegs quickly, at which both of them are quite adept.
As the group approaches the checkpoint again, the Lieutenant stops the group again. “Hello again, I’m sorry to delay you, but I have to ask if you’ve heard anything about that rebellion we discussed last night?”
“Look what we made!” Criós blurts out. The Lieutenant steps back and looks at the makeshift contraption. “Here, have a mini-keg, on us!”
Surprised at the generosity and quality of the brew, the Lieutenant is distracted and says “Have a safe travel home, sirs!” as he walks back to his fellow soldiers. The party then heads on down the road, selling their ale along the way to other travelers they pass.
Around midday, the party comes across a man with distinguished clothes on poking through the trees and brush along the road. At the sound of your wagon, he turns and yells for the party to stop.
“Sirs, my name is Devlin, and I’m in dire need of your help!” he exclaims. “My niece Rina has gone missing after getting separated from her escort to Faelheim and we found her horse with animal wounds. I fear the worst for her, but would you happen to know anything about her?”
“You are in luck, sir,” Auric replies, “because we found her on our way to Faelheim and gave her a ride. The last we saw her, she was safely inside the town with not a scratch on her.”
“Oh good!” he shouted. “Please, tell me your names. If you are ever in Priodym, please call on the house of Larkhill. We will reward you greatly for your kindness! I must be off to meet with her though. Take care!”
As he almost skipped back to his horse, the party continued down the road. Criós muttered something about her sleeping with everyone in town, but the utterance fell on deaf ears.
Back in Brightwell, the companions were met by the father they had helped. He explains that his family doesn’t have much money, but his wife is an exceptional chef and will gladly cook some of the best food the three of them have ever tasted anytime they want.
Before returning to Sven, the rogues decide that they would try to lease the sygaldry still to the inn, since the Faelheim tavern was able to make a fair bit of money off their in-house brew. After some negotiation, the innkeeper settles to sell units at 20 gold, while the crafty rogues take half of the profit. With this new source of passive income, the party decides to return the wagon to Sven and receive their pay.
Sven greets the group with open arms and asks how the delivery went. “Well,” mentions Criós, “we delivered all of your cargo.” Unaffected by the comment, Sven exclaims his happiness that everything went smoothly. Wander remembers the note, and hands it over to Sven.
“Oh lovely. I’m glad he’s excited for the llamas.” says Sven, with a more serious look than the party expected. He then hands the party a bag containing two more stones and a hefty sum of gold. As the group begins leaving, he stops them.
“Oh, I forgot. I got this ring in trade the other day. As it’s a magical item, I don’t have much use for it. Maybe you three can find some good place for it!” Sven tosses the ring to Auric, who immediately begins working to identify the object. Wander makes his way over to Willem’s to socket a jasper into his rapier, while the rest of the party turns in for the night.
The first section of the archive are dedicated to the tales of the Melding Saga. In the short history of the realm of Erelandis, this is the first series of events that helped shape the events of the various races of the world.
The saga begins in the midst of the Priodym Golden Age, around 236 S.E. The theocracy, governed by the Patriarchal Body of the Church of the Loyal Fury has had a major revival and is pushing boundaries out and flexing both its military and executive muscle. This show of force has been seen by the other human states and both officials and civilians are showing greater and greater unrest and distaste towards the actions of the Patriarchal Body and presence of the Paladic Guard.
Due to the new decree that the city of Priodym is now “a holy sanctuary to be maintained by only those deemed worthy”, many towns and settlements have been founded by settlers from Priodym. Due to this common origin, all such settlements are subject to the laws set forth by the Patriarchal Body of the Church of The Loyal Fury.
With the growth of civilization comes the growth of crime. To this end, the bandit organization called The Red Claw has taken up to raiding Paladic supply caravans as well as the fledgling towns dotted across the Kinsine Foothills.
One of the earliest settlements and larger towns at the beginning of this saga is the town of Brightwell located halfway between the capital city of Priodym and the looming face of the Orthoclast Parapets. Much of the region’s trade and travel passes through this town of about 6,000, bringing both good and bad business within its limits. This town is the place in which the Melding Saga begins.
The party consists of a human cleric/rogue named Wander, a half-elf paladin/bard named Auric, and an elf ranger/rogue named Criós. They decide to take a quest up to find out what’s behind a series of child kidnappings in the area, so they go to the local constabulary to get information on what’s been happening.
Immediately upon entering, Wander posts a flyer on the wall that reads “Wander for Mayor” without anyone noticing. The party is told that there have been six kidnappings recently in the area and that a local farmer named Willem is the father of the most recent kidnapping. The group then decides to head to Willem’s farm. Upon arrival, Willem is still very unsettled and stressed about the situation. Auric attempts to persuade him that everything will be ok, but only succeeds in working the man up even more.
Eventually he calms down and the party learns that his daughter Denna was playing near an abandoned farmhouse. Party investigates, finds that the house is mostly abandoned. Wander moves to a couch after a brief search of the house just as footsteps are heard outside. Auric calls out to the strangers twice; once asking “Who’s there?” and the second time to say “We’re here to help” Party then proceeds to stage an ambush as the responses to Auric were “Oh crap, someone is here” and “Get the others over here!”
Criós is first, and as a wood elf is very good at hiding in natural phenomena, such as the settling dust in shadows of an old, abandoned house. He readies an attack with his longbow aimed from the living room into the entryway of the house.
Wander is next, and he sneaks beside the door from the entryway to the living room with his one-handed crossbow and war hammer and waits to pounce.
Auric is third and stands himself ten feet from the door from the entryway with his glaive readied.
The first bandit runs down the entryway, which triggers Criós to attack. His arrow pins the first bandit against the wall through both of his ears.
Two more bandits run down the entryway to try to flank the group through the dining room next to the living room. Then a berserker comes roaring into the house and charges at Auric. Auric is ready for the charge and manages to deeply cut the berserker’s left arm. This halts the berserker in his tracks as he bellows in rage.
Criós shoots the berserker over Auric’s shoulder, landing a hit that pierces halfway through the berserker’s left shoulder, lodging itself in place.
Auric hauls back and lunges at the berserker, but watches the blade just glance off his chest.
Wander has trained at great lengths to use his crossbow along with a second weapon, so he swings his hammer at the berserker, managing to only hit his foot. But in the process of hitting his foot, Wander brings his crossbow to bear and fires a point blank shot into the berserker’s left arm, piercing it all the way through and lodges the bolt in the shoulder. This effectively renders the left arm of the berserker useless.
The furious roars of the berserker actually break the psyche of one of the bandits. He hides in the corner and cries while the other living bandit runs through the dining room and posts up against the doorway, looking into the room to see if he can figure out what’s going on.
The berserker then draws his great axe one-handed, moves towards Auric and takes a furious swing. Due to his loss of one arm’s use though, his blow falls short and lodges the head halfway into the floor of the house.
Criós fires another round over Auric’s shoulder, only managing to get a shallow hit on the berserker’s already damaged arm.
Auric steps back and takes another swing with his glaive, connecting against the berserker’s left ribs and flaying some flesh as he retracts the weapon.
Wander advances from behind the berserker at swings his war hammer again, but his aim is low and only manages to deliver a very forceful spanking. However, as per his style, he draws his crossbow again on the hulk and lodges a bolt between his left shoulder blade and spine.
The broken bandit is still screaming in some corner of the house, begging for his mother. The other living bandit advances into the room, triggering an opportunity attack from Auric. However, Auric manages to only flail a bit and smack him with the flat of his glaive. The bandit then takes a mighty swing with his scimitar against Auric, clashing it against his chainmail. On impact, a shard of the blade breaks off and pierces through the chainmail into Auric’s upper right bicep.
The berserker pulls with all he has left to remove the axe from the floor, but fails, so instead he swings his fist at Auric’s face. The dead weight of his limp left arm shifts his aim though, and he misses.
Criós changes targets and aims at the bandit in the room. As he is still hidden, the bandit only sees the glimmer of light off the tip of the arrow right before it is loosed to pierce his head outright. The bandit collapses to the floor in a heap.
Auric takes one more swing at the berserker, coming down hard from the left. The blade connects, lodging deep into his neck. Blood sprays violently and as Auric pulls his weapon back, the berserker’s head struggles to remain attached to the rest of his body. The berserker falls backwards, landing on his buried great axe which finishes severing the heavily punctured left arm.
Following the battle, Wander attempts to pull the axe from the floor. With a mighty heave, he yanks the axe out of the maimed floorboards. The party loots the bodies, finding 10 gold split between Auric and Criós as they reasoned that Wander got a big, expensive axe.
The party moves to interrogate the mentally broken bandit. Auric takes a stance of gentle persuasion, Wander attempts to kneecap the bandit twice but fails both times, while Criós works an angle of deception. After working the bandit over for a bit, he explains that there’s a trap door in the kitchen in which they have been feeding some creature with a taste for children. Criós asks if there are any traps down in the basement, and as the bandit answers “No”, he swiftly severs the bandit’s head.
Criós then searches the house again for loot while Auric looks for something to prove that they killed a berserker. After some searching, Auric finds a tattoo on the severed left arm of the berserker that Wander is able to identify as being a sigil of the Red Claw bandit clan. Auric skins the tattoo to return to the constable as proof of their actions.
As Criós and Auric head to find the trap door, Wander manages to finish severing the berserker’s head and hide it among his belongings. Somehow.
The party descends into the house’s cellar and Auric lights his holy symbol with the light of an early sunrise by issuing forth a cantrip. The light fills the room, illuminating the body of a small girl bound and gagged in a chair in the corner of the room. Criós moves over to free the girl, who explains that she’s Denna and doesn’t know where she is or how she got there or what has been going on.
Criós then looks around and his eyes fall on a stack of five covered paintings. Denna notices and issues forth a muffled sob while covering her eyes. Criós asks Denna if she knows what the paintings are, but Denna seems too traumatized to discuss them. At this point, Auric offers to try to console the girl and also to take her back to her father while the other two explore some more. Criós reveals the paintings and sees that the pictures are of horrified children with frozen, blood curling screams on their faces. Upon further examination, he deduces that the ink used is in fact ink and not paint, that it had some historical significance he couldn’t manage to recall, and also that it is used by a cult that believes all the planes of existence should be brought together into one. Criós also finds a vial of ink in the corner of the room and takes it along with the paintings.
While Criós is examining the paintings, Wander searched the cellar and found 6 gold. He then pocketed the money without alerting Criós.
On the way back to town, the party reunites as they approach Willem’s home. Denna cries out in exhaustion and relief as she sees her father, who turns and runs straight to his daughter, dropping his work. Willem cannot be more grateful, and tells the group that he will gladly cut and socket one mana stone for each of them as repayment. He then recognizes one of the children in the paintings as the son of a neighbor and begins weeping again, pulling Denna close.
The party heads into town and decides to stop by their room at the inn prior to reporting back to the constable. Auric spends 20 minutes examining the paintings and the ink to try to determine the properties of both and concludes that the paintings are a link between a soul in the material plane and some other plane, and that the ink is capable of binding souls between planes through a linking object and some unknown ritual.
The head that Wander is carrying with him sets into rigor mortis and the jaw manages to clamp down on his backside, leaving a wound that would scar into a bite mark. On this, Wander jumps up and turns around to see what bit him as the head falls out of its hiding spot. Auric and Criós look on in disgust as Wander looks at his fallen trophy and vomits as one of the eyes rolls out of socket.
The party makes its way back to the constabulary and talk to the constable about what they found. Criós tosses the skinned tattoo on the desk and after a subdued retch, the constable explains that it is a berserker sigil from the Red Claws and that officials in Priodym have been sending Paladic Guard kill squads to eliminate camps as they find them. Upon revealing the paintings, the constable’s face drains and explains that this now seems a bit above his pay grade and that maybe someone in the Great Library in Priodym might have some idea about what could be going on with them. He then pays the party their reward of one Moonstone, two Obsidian stones, one Malachite stone and 20 gold.
The party then decides to pay a visit to Willem before sunset to ask about socketing the new gems they have acquired. Along the way, the party stumbles across a dropped bag containing about 50 gold, which is split between Wander and Criós while the Moonstone is given to Auric. The group talks with Willem and asks that he socket their weapons; Auric’s glaive with Moonstone, Criós’ bow with one Obsidian and one Malachite, and Wander’s crossbow with one Obsidian. Willem tells them it will take about a week to complete and the group leaves their weapons with Willem and head back into town to turn in for the night.
Hello! Welcome to the archives of the adventures that have been braved throughout the realm of Erelandis. The archives are still growing, so be sure to check in from time to time. This place is designed to chronicle the actions of heroic individuals within the realm and to remind us where we have been and come from.
The first entries into this archive will be of the Melding Saga, in which the exiled Paladin Auric, the doom-seeing Ranger Criós, and the folk hero Cleric Wander have started forging their path. As in life, people come and go, so as characters enter, they will be introduced and each entry into the archives will begin by listing the primary actors involved.