East of Winter

Better when wetter
Take it from me

(Harwen is overheard talking loudly over a beverage.  His nose is red and his eyes are blurry.)

Land horses get cramped up on ship.  Ya see she needs to stretch her legs.  Harwen comfort the couped up horsies.  Bad fish comes, Admiral chases them away with hammer.  Harwen stays with land horses.

Horny lady makes Harwen get real wet.  (Pause as Harwen's drinking partner discusses the nuances of the common language.)  Horned lady make Harwen breathe water.  She's ah real smart.  She has a fish fork.  Wants to give it back.  Nice lady.  Wet Cat look silly, sound scary.

Sir Caeryn is a right princess.  Darling of the water people she is.  Throw big party.  Fin is a good underwater jousting guy.  I wonder if he joust on land horses too.  Harwen will never know the joy of being a mother.  (Drinking partner has quizzical expression on face, opens mouth, thinks better of it, shuts mouth again.)

Famous fish folk really happy to get the fish fork back.  I think the fork is happy too.  Whale tastes good.  (Harwen looks satisfied that he has relayed all the pertinent information, his drinking partner quickly changes the subject.)

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Darkest before the dawn
Admiral's Log: Stardate 95631.12

I have not been myself lately. And it is not the beard. Well, it is not just the beard. The voice of the hammer is constant in my head. And I fear his incessant berating to get up and go out and fight is driving me mad. He will no longer let me wallow in my grief, and I resent him for this. But I cannot part with him. Whelm's power is now part of me, and I refuse to be without it.

Also, Whelm is right. My crew is dead and gone. Despite my best attempts to place blame on the shoulders of others, it is my fault. I have always known that. Now I accept it. It is time to move on. 

I have returned the chartered ships to their owner. Out of respect to the lost crewmen, the remaining crew and I burned the ship given to me by the necromancer. We held a Northern funeral for those who died as we watched the cursed vessel burn and sink beneath the murky water. I think we all feel more at peace now, but less at ease. 

I have replaced my former fleet with two warships. Merchant vessels will not do for what's to come. And Heimdall brings word that things are not well in Cradle. I anticipate we are approaching the Ragnarök of our time. Oddly, I am not afraid. Nor am I at peace. My blood has begun to boil with a lust for battle.

It is time I put my affairs in order.

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Official Minutes of the Town of Cradle
Last Entry of Aby O'Conner
I have been informed by Duke Norway’s men, in no uncertain terms, that my services will no longer be needed. The town is now under martial law, and this will be my last entry as Magistrix of Cradle. 

I can only hope that hindsight will see what I have tried to do for this town, and for its people. I cannot force the eye of history to understand, but perhaps this record will provide some evidence for my side, in the later scheme of it all. 

I was never meant for this, I never claimed to be. But when the responsibility was thrust upon me, I took it on. I watched over this town on the edge of chaos for two years, while the nobles back in the capital schemed and plotted and decided how they might like to move, and the civilians would have starved, or frozen, but for what we did, what did. This was my home, the only one I have ever truly known, and I loved it with everything I was. I stood against the oncoming hordes to protect these people with my own flesh and blood..! 

And I would do so again, though it seems none of it will be remembered. 

So quickly, the gazes turn sour and suspicious. So quickly, people look at me and see, again, only the devil’s wayward daughter. So quickly, what we have done for the town, the country, the people- forgotten. Was I a fool, to think things might be different here?
 
They were different, once, when we were building a bright new civilization. But, now…it's the same as the world I grew up in, all the sideways glances, the assumption that those races with an extra tail, or horns, or scales, or feathers are…different. Not to be trusted. One of those

Cradle was meant to be better than that. The beginning of a better world. I suppose I simply wasn’t strong enough to protect that dream.
 
For that, and that alone, I beg the forgiveness of those who come after.

To the one who will replace me, poor soul: best of luck. Please watch over the people. Don’t let them be trampled and suffer under the political machinations of those who will likely never meet them. Don’t let them be forgotten, because they are your responsibility, because they are the only thing here that really matters. 

As for me? 

Find me at the bleeding edge, the point of the spear. I will be the light in the darkness, wherever I am needed. Perhaps, in the end, my home was never really meant to be a place at all.

Remember me kindly. 

-Abaraxia O’Conner, paladin of Rhollor, ex-Magistrix of Cradle
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The Death of Alcadizzar
The Elemental of Surprise

(The following story is told in Primordial by Michone, a being of Elemental Fire.)

My spark was torn from my home of heat, love and light.  My flame flickers in a cold world populated by chatty fluid sacks.  The damp one who brought me here has pointy ears and white robes.  He respects the flame, but he is not one with the flame the way I am.  I want to share my heat with him, envelop him in my love and warmth.  He forbids me to touch him, and I am compelled to obey.

He brings me to a place of darkness and invites me to share my light with the denizens of this cold place.  There are other pointy eared fluid sacks here.  I share my warmth with them.  Their voices lift up in song as their spirits are released from this cold plane.  There are other creatures born of flame here.  Twisted monsters forged in the fires of the abyss.  They cannot appreciate my warmth and I try not to touch them; for lo they are icky to me.

We continue descending into darkness, the only light is that which we bring with us.  We arrive in a large chamber.  There are a dozen flying abyssal monkeys led by the wicked witch of the North.  She is the queen of the pointy eared fluid sacks.  She has been touched by the abyss.  She shares the darkness, but not the heat.  My moist master bids me to envelop her.  I rush to her to share my light with her dark soul.  My warmth spreads to her and engulfs her.  She sings the keening song of one touched by fire, but she is not consumed.

Then she said a very, very naughty word.  This word of power is directed at the damp one who brought me here.  The word is too naughty for him.  He falls from his flying disc, what little warmth he had quickly fades.  His air is still, his fluids no longer circulate throughout his pink sack.  Perhaps he has found escape from this frigid plane.  Perhaps his spark is now one with the great inferno.

The wicked witch and her flying monkeys are all released from their prison puddles.  The singing stops.  My purpose here has been fulfilled and I am granted release.  I return home to the collective warmth of the inferno.  My spark mingles with the conflagration.  We are warmth, we are light, we are one.

 

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Frost Dragon Quest
Sunken city

(Penned in red ink by Alcadizzar)

Dear Dream Journal,

The silver dragon Chigera reached out to the Knights of Solaris for aid.  An ancient white dragon, Greethum, stole some valuable works of art from her hoard.  She wanted us to dispatch this foe and return her treasures.

It took several trips to his lair to complete this quest, and many adventurers accompanied me over the course of this quest.  We discovered a frost giant civilization living near the top of a spiraling cavern leading down into a mountain.  We found no indication that they were in league with the dragon or the warlike giants under the Jarl's sway, so we passed them by. 

As we descended into the cavern we fought many of Greethum's brood.  Some juvenile dragons were easily dispatched, however, there were many mature dragons as well.  The first time we encountered an adult we mistook the massive beast for Greethum himself.  After that grueling fight we were forced to regroup. 

We returned the next morning to find Ice Elementals lying in wait for us.  We dispatched them and fought our way onward.  We finally encountered the beast in a chamber of ice that he had rigged as a trap.  The floor was thin ice and a reflection of a treasure chest was intended to lure us to cross the ice.  Luckily no one noticed the chest and we did not fall for the trap.  We battled Greethum until he was at a disadvantage and he fled through the chasm below the floor.  We were taxed, and again were forced to regroup.

For our third and final foray into Greethum's lair I returned with a group of hardy adventurers, Runt, Nocturne, Fenriss and Zanath.  All of which had experience slaying dragons and/or magma wyverns.  Close enough.  This time we decided to more directly interact with the frost giants to ascertain their allegiance.

We found two frost giant sentries guarding a door.  I flew into their midst and announced my intention to slay the dragon.  This gave them pause.  Their orders were to kill intruders, but they wanted the dragon dead as much as we did.  I bribed them for safe passage and information.  They told us the location of Greethum's lair far beneath us and we set off in the direction they indicated.  We learned of a city far below the mountain, built by giants, and now captured by Greethum.  The dragon had forced the giants out of their ancestral home.

As we went lower we encountered the spawning grounds of Greethum's brood.  Interesting fact, white dragons copulate under snow banks.  We found and dispatched a pair of lusty lizards caught in the act.

Next we came to the egg chamber.  An adult female guarded her clutch.  Gene, the air elemental, spun into the room sucking up newly hatched wyrmlings and ejecting them at their mother.  Once all the reptiles were in a pile a fireball blossomed over them leaving ashes and bones in its wake.

Runt summoned a flight of pixies who used their magics to good effect, putting smaller wyrms asleep and polymorphing our enemies into harmless creatures.  Zanath accompanied me on my flying carpet and the two of us rained down destruction from our elevated position.  Fenriss got down and dirty with her hammer, tossing it at her foes and bashing any that came too close.  Nocturne proved especially effective in the final fight with Greethum in his lair.

Greethum was a cagey beast.  Creating illusions and reflecting light based attacks back at us.  Luckily Nocturne revealed the reflection trick with faerie fire before I attempted a more destructive spell.  Runt and i sent our summoned elementals in to flush out Greethum, when he emerged Zanath and Fenriss unleashed a volley of ranged attacks at him.  I was able to draw out the last of his defensive reserves with a fireball and he was left open to Nocturne's attack.  Nocturne unleashed a psychic onslaught that sundered the dragon's mind.  Eye's and ears bleeding the beast crashed to the ice, it's neck snapping under the weight of its fall.

We were richly rewarded by the wealth of the Greethum's hoard.  We returned to the frost giants, informing them of the dragon's demise.  Their city was safe for them to return to.  They threw us a feast in celebration of the deed.  We promised them peace with Remidon as long as they stayed in their mountain home.  They agreed to take in frost giant refugees who preferred peace to war.  Perhaps this will come into play later when we fight the warlike frost giants. 

Chigera rewarded us with items from her hoard after we returned her missing treasure.  I was tempted by a brazier that summoned fire elementals, but settled instead on a protective necklace.  Fenriss claimed the most interesting prize, Daern's instant fortress.

Praise be to Rhollor the eternal flame.  May he warm the hearth of the frost giants who live in peace as his flames scour those who raise up arms against us.  Et Cetera ad infinitum.  Amen.

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Mortal Tales Vol. 1
Bright paths, dark woods.

In the sidhe courts most are known by which liege lords above.  My lord demands a name born of labor done or honor won.  You may call me the Guardian of the Evergreen.  You may call me the Doom of Redcap Riptooth. You may call me the Dread Hound or the Hand that White Stag Bound. Truly spoke though, I am K'thwll'sihlfestre's.(Kithyl Sylphestras in common tongue) 

Recently I had the unexpected pleasure of common course with Lady Auliotte, She suggested a counting of deeds done here amid mortal coil. So now I temerariously deem this sword familiar hand worthy to wield the weighty burden of a pen.

The customs of this liars paradise are not always clear though at least some denizens of this drab land understand the old ways. But I forget myself. A proper mortal tale starts predictably at the beginning. I found myself in the Gutsy Gatherer, a festhall named much more literally than one might initially presume, when a human bannerman of Remidon by way of Cradle entered.  They came to discharge the bold few gathered here to unravel the disappearance of scouts in a dark wood well known me.  This dark wood being the demesne of the Unseelie I knew most of these mortals were likely lost.  As I began to offer counsel a lady of foreign court spoke first.  Lady Caeryn agreed to look into the matter without even so much as a thought to the dangers of the Unseelie.  (Lady Caeryn I now know is a dignitary of the triton land Gavoll.  Hers is a mission of reconciliation with the surface and she comes with no retinue.) It would be reprehensible to allow a stranger to this land to be led to the same fate as the woefully ignorant scouts so I offered escort to her and succor to any fortune favored survivors.

The guards sagely offered some trivial sum of gold, saving me the trouble of requiring a boon so as to not give offense for my aid. And then we went to enlist the fellowship of some steeds.  There was a strange glade ringed in felled timber and two horses were brought.  Shy creatures they had human allies or servants (not sure which) to speak for them. My steed , gelded presumably for some past misdeed, was bound with a wide thick belt and some sort of seat on his back. He was biting on a contraption of leather and metal on his face with two leather thongs hanging down.  Unable even to speak his own name, Freckles, I removed these impediments. My assistance was rewarded wth an approving stamp and nicker. I introduced myself  and beseeched him for aid to which he agreed.  Lady Caeryn seemed shocked to see that many horses do not like to be bound and decided to offer the same bargain to the mare Bubbles.

Lady Caeryn and I passed the majority of the travel gregariously conversing about our respective impressions of this land, and discussing our own customs. The tritons of Gavoll are an interesting and genial people if she is any indication.  At woods edge a great yipping and howling began. We raced forward to find Yeenoghu's get mauling two dying human scouts. Here I learned that Lady Caeryn is a storm-blooded war caster of no mean power. Calling on the healing sprites of my liege's court we saved the scouts after dispatching the gnolls.  With the din of combat ended I heard the manic laughter of a woman hiding in the bushes.  The wide bloodshot eyes of madness staring blankly outward but screaming inward are sadly all to familiar to me.  Cradling her in my arms I whispered soothing charms and struck a silent bargain feeding her pain to the unsavory fae that collect such things. Her resilient mortal mind restored non the worse she and scouts returned to Cradle, wiser and sadder.

Traveling the wood for sometime it became apparent that a white gravel path marked the boundaries of this world and the Feywild.  We found more demonspawn along the path but this lone beast was all tooth, claw, and base violence easily dispensed using the equine speed of our companions with my bow and the Lady Caeryn's spells.  Some rudimentary enchantments were laid to prevent mortals from wandering too deep in to the darkest parts of the Fey Wild, while presenting the opportunity to prove your worth for audience with the Queen of Air and Darkness. 

At a bend in the road I had the distinct displeasure of hearing a darkling, a yeth hound, a quickling, and few more fangs of Yeenoghu plotting to betray the rightful ruler of the dark wood in an effort to curry favor with some interloper called the Bloodlord.  Now I may hunt mostly the woods of Arcadia, but I will not stand by idly while sidhe nobility is impinged and hospitality broken.  To witness and suffer the plots of oathbreaker would be to sully my lord's honor.  I lowered my Dread Stag Helm and issued challenge on behalf of the Sidhe.

The quickling came first, attacking directly with guileless speed. His many years taunting the dulled murky reactions of half dreaming mortals instead of refining artful swordplay allowed me to easily absorbed his wrath on my shield and dispatch him with a single stroke of my blade, albeit one enhanced by a green flame binding. I will admit that the darkling respectfully shrouded my vision in shadow as the rest of the assailants surrounded me.  I heard spellcasting, both Lady Caeryn's and a new voice, but that was all the attention I could afford at the time.  The yeth hound and fang attacked in concert but their clumsy clomping sounds in the gravel betrayed them and wasted the advantage the darkling offered.  Cutting them down was no small pleasure.  The shroud fell with the darkling.

My attention was snapped forcibly to Lady Auliotte radiantly crowned in potent glamour, yet eyes tinged with weariness. Unsure of what a lady in waiting to the Queen of the Evergreen was doing in Unseelie lands I moved unbidden to bend the knee and offer up sword and aid.  She smiled and I recalled briefly a wild dancing girl pleasing the courts Seelie and Unseelie to be sure but more importantly delighting herself free under starry  fae lit skies.  The moment passed and Lady Auliotte bid me rise and gave proper address. We exchanged pleasantries and she made clear what confused me.  I am no courtier and so that accounting will suffice for this volume. 

I introduce Lady Caeryn to Lady Auliotte and we took it upon ourselves to purge this safe passage of treacherous abyssal influence.  We found the missing scouts and more.  Near fifteen score bodies exsanguinated and displayed in a grotesque tableau.  Here several flinds congregated to make the bloody offering to this Bloodlord.  The battle was fierce and boon was rendered by a servant of the Queen of Air and Darkness that prevented me from falling beneath the ghastly demonic flails.  But we were victorious.  In the midst of this grisly charnel we did find a young wolf with a gleaming silver coat.  I will teach him to hunt. And for now he will be called Telore (Tel-or-ay or Silverheart in common)

We departed the wood shortly thereafter excepting Lady Auliotte.  I offered to escort her to a fey portal I sensed not far away. The lady had other business to attend so I simply marked a map for her and bid farewell.  Lady Caeryn, one of the few polite and good hearted people I have met in this land, and I made our way back together.  Along the way she asked for aid with a different venture, but that is a tale for another volume.

(Apologies for any failings of translation, feel free to make any changes required for the prime material tongue.) 

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The Battle of the Iron Bound Timber
The Giants War Continues

 

Sir Finnian Ravenfray sat patiently at the Gutsy Gatherer waiting for the next expedition to begin. Before his slight buzz could cross over into really drunk, a very dangerous set of adventurers strode through the doors. At their head, the Elven Evoker Alcadizzar, a wizard he had heard many legendary stories about, but Al seemed like a very reasonable Elf to Finn. Alcadizzar briefly questioned Finn about the Rune he captured from the Giant Temple of Hontun Shur, and asked if Fin would join them to fight more giants. Happy to oblige Finn readily agreed, Save them or Fight them as was needed. The others present included the Tiefling Paladin of Rolar Abaraxia "Abby" O'Connor, another whom Finn had heard much of, but in person she left him thinking she was as brave, and as powerful a Warrior as he had ever dreamed of. Fenriss, he recalled from Kawli talking about her at some length, though he couldn't recall her telling him Fenris had such a magnificent perhaps even "dwarvish" beard.  She also seemed to have swapped from being an archer to throwing a really amazingly looking Hammer. Next was the Golden Dragonborn Fighter Tarhuun, as one of the other Fighters in the area Fin had heard of him from Jelder.  A brave and Stalwart knight if there ever was one. Last but not least was the an Actor turned adventurer Halmidor Something(?), Fin was never really sure, as he rarely made it out to the theater, and as the party teleported about half hour after convening, formal introductions were skipped.  

Upon teleporting they found themselves in large area of 10 foot walls, lit at regular interval by torches. As it became clear the party preferred stealth to being bolder targets, Fin began using the magic of the Illud rune to snuff the torches in the area.  Making it difficult for the Hill giants patrolling the area to see. Having spent 6 months helping a giant spirit carve a temple to giants, Fin was confident he had a good understanding of Giantkind, and so felt comfortable completing their ambush by lighting a fire about 100 feet away from them, sending the guard patrol scurying towards the sudden illumination. 

  The Fight ended almost as soon as it began, the Actor turned adventurer grievously wounded the giant on the left, with some very effective attack, Fin didn't see due to the darkness, and also did something equally effecting if perhaps not as deadly to the one right. Charging forward Fin dispatched the one of the left quickly doing the little that needed to be done to finish it,  and other guard as also finished off, by the remainder of the group. Fin again missed the specific due to distance and near complete darkness.

While their ambush was a total success, the other giantish defenders were equally quick to re-act. As the ground shook, as 9 giants ran towards the area the party had just created. Attempting to regroup, Fin followed his ears towards where he thought the rest of the party stood, but soon found him self in the dangerous position of spoiling their counter ambush, if he stepped any further into light of the fire he created to draw in previous patrol. Not wanting to blow the plan, Fin froze and readied to attack any foe that came into reach. 

What followed was confusion, blades, magic and darkness. The next clear thing Fin perceived beyond some flash, thuds, cries of pain, and maybe a bolder or two, was Paladin Abby's flame tongue light up, and then she charge far enough away that her sword become to dim to see. Fin charged a pair of giants who stepped into the area of the fire he was next to. Then just as things seemed like they might be getting a little on the dangerous side, Fenriss leaped in and saved the day. Fin had no idea of the nature of the magic  the tiefling ranger used. but it seemed to render all but one of the enemy nearly completely senseless. Some 12 seconds later they dispatched the only one to resist, and finished off the those effected by whatever magic Fenriss had employed. 

The next waves were equally quick to respond, ogres, direwolves, and giantish artillery support, breached a section of the wall, and began to poor into the battle field. This time each of the enemy combatants carried torches. While the last battle had been a confusion of darkness and sudden bloodshed, this fight was a true battle. Enemies pressed in. Except for his time in that goblin village facing a seemingly endless series of undead, Fin could not recall a battle as heated as this.  Alcadizzar summoned a great wall of flame to divide up the enemy forces and caught most of the direwolves, in the conflagration. 

Fin called his battle cry and struck, cutting down an ogre but soon found himself, pined in by three more. Bloodied by his foes, he prepared to meet his ancestors, until a fireball flashed around him, and one of his attackers was stuck down by Tarhuun. Freed from the flank, Fin was able to finish the two remaining ogres, and turned to see Alcadizzar struck from the sky by a bolder. While the battle raged on, it was clear most of the foes being dealt with. Fin sprinted towards the wall, hoping to find the Giants throwing the bolders. 

As he reached the wall, a Alcadizzar finished a loud and complex chant, and suddenly a tornado appeared on top of the giant he had been running towards. Switching direction he then headed towards the other long ranged attacker. Before he could reach the target Abby borrowing Alcadizzar's disc reached the giant and attack it, and Fenriss and the actor finish the remaining one with bow shots. 

Upon the battle's completion the party burned the dead, and divided up a great deal of treasure. Fin was shocked at the speed this new method of adventuring, only  a couple hours ago he had been mile and miles away, even the powerful air walking spells Cicada Song employed which up until this trip had seemed like the fastest way to travel in history was suddenly replaced by a method he found hard to internalize. With the ability to move like this, suddenly so many things seemed possible, and how his order had been successful in defending struck him as  a shock. Was such magic blocked by the winterlands?

This and many other thoughts distracted Fin as he turned for home. 

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Observational Report for Lady Vladryn Gavollath
deserts and faeries and gnolls, oh my
Aunt Vladryn,

Each time I believe I have the surfacer world figured out, something even stranger crosses my path. I sometimes yearn for the quiet serenity of Gavoll, where everything had a purpose and everything made sense, but I know it is vital for us to know what we missed and to re-establish links to the surface, and so I will stay and continue to report.

My efforts to communicate with Bubbles (the “horse” I mentioned last time) continue, though I have yet to be able to re-create the sounds of her language, and attempts to teach her primordial were…unsuccessful. We are getting along through gestures and affectionate touch (she likes it when I comb her mane and feed her sugar, and sometimes nuzzles my shoulder). One of my new surfacer friends told me that the saddle and bit and bridle are uncomfortable for horses (I removed them immediately, of course! If only Bubbles could have told me!). She does seem happier without them.

I accompanied Isilmar and Harwen and Lulu and several new friends to a place called a ‘desert’. Aunt, it is horrific. It’s so hot and, there is no water anywhere, except occasionally there is an illusion of water, which is meant to pull you into a trap. Also, it is filled with enormous bugs called scorpions that try to bite and poison, and giant stompy creatures called elephants. We were there intending to speak to a king who had a meteorite which they needed to turn into a key. I think. I was mostly there for observational purposes, though I believe my observations of the desert will be sufficient for all tritons for centuries. There is no need for us to go there.

I had to return to Cradle briefly for the ritual to St. Tethys, and while I was in town, overheard a town guard bemoaning some missing scouts and the fact that he had no one to go look for them. In no hurry to return to that terrible desert place (and of course unwilling to let the poor scouts go unrescued), I volunteered to go and look for them, as did an elf named Kithylsylphestras. He is the friend I mentioned before, who told me about the saddle; he seems to know a great deal and be able to talk to almost anything. Also, his hair looks nearly oceanic- I wonder if he’s related to any sea elves? Haven’t seen any surfacers with green hair before.

Anyway, the scouts had disappeared south of Cradle, so we traveled there with Bubbles and his horse Freckles. At first, it all seemed very like the other adventures I’ve been on, trees, travel, and bright sunlight. Until we reached the border of the forest, where things started to get…weird.

We stumbled on two people under attack by gnolls (Kithyl tells me I should not call them “dog-people” as apparently there are other surfacers who are more like dogs who are people and would be really offended if I called them the same as gnolls), and fought them off and healed the two injured men. There was another, a girl, hidden in a bush. She laughed, but not because there was anything funny. She’d clearly seen horrors, poor thing. Kithyl was able to relieve some of the strain on her mind, at least, before we sent her and the two guards back to the safety of town; maybe she will be able to get some healing sleep in peace.

Before they left, they were able to give us some idea of what we were walking into. It seems the forest belongs to someone called “Queen Mab”. Kithyl seems familiar with her, perhaps she is from the same country as the Lord Oberon he serves? The gnolls were not supposed to be there, though, and were what had attacked both this party and likely the missing scouts, so it was necessary to enter the forest.
 
The Queen has very specific rules for those passing through her lands, but luckily Kithyl was there to explain the customs to me before I accidentally blundered into something. Most importantly, we had to stay on the path, marked out in distinct white gravel. What was beside the path looked like forest, but wasn’t, really. Or it was a different forest, in a different place, and not necessarily always the same different forest. Things got a little fuzzy, I’ll be honest. It was most disconcerting.

We fought more gnolls as we came across them- it seems some of them are in league with demons, and some are hideous dead creatures walking, and some throw darkness clouds around and attack people dishonorably from within them, and overall, I think I must recommend we do not attempt to ally with the gnolls. They are not our type of people.
 
Some of the denizens of the forest (creatures called “faeries”) did attempt to ally with the gnolls and betray their Queen. It did not go well for them. She sent this wizard called Auliotte, who took distinct offense to the betrayal and slew a couple of them while they were attacking us. Kithyl clearly knew her- she is some sort of Lady amongst his people (do they all have blue and green hair?)- and they agreed to team up to root out the traitors and gnolls and reclaim the forest. I think I may try to reach out to their people next- if Kithyl and Auliotte are any indication, they are quite powerful, and also seem to understand hospitality and guest-right and the importance of accepting others’ culture (which is…refreshing).

We all traveled deeper into the woods, a long, strange way, broken by traps and sounds trying to tempt us from the path. And then we found the scouts. They had been hung up, and their hearts, and their blood…I will not describe it. Suffice it to say, it was clearly blood magic of the darkest sort, a conclusion supported by the spellbook/ritual plan we found on one of the gnolls after we slew it. They are trying to summon someone they call the Blood Lord, and the only way to do so involves the sacrificial deaths of hundreds of people.

We tracked the creatures to a central glade, where we found a number of not-yet slain humanoids, along with giant effigy figures, and, once we started freeing the prisoners, a number of especially nasty gnolls. Between the three of us, we were able to slay them all, though at one point Kithyl went down and I was really worried, but then something very fast and flying came and gave him a potion and then he was fighting again. I still don’t know quite what happened there, but I’m glad it did. Someone watching?

They had a whole chest of hearts, and jugs of blood, so we had to dispose of those as best we could. I wish we could have buried the victims properly, but how do you bury someone in so many pieces? I said a prayer to Persana, and to whatever surfacer gods might be listening. I can only hope it is enough for their tormented souls.

Kithyl and I brought the survivors back to Cradle; Auliotte chose to remain in the forest to defend against whatever remnants of the gnolls or the traitor faeries might remain. I would be afraid to remain there alone, but something in her expression suggested it should probably be they who should be afraid. Kithyl seemed fine with it, so I’m sure she’ll be okay.

And now, Aunt, I am afraid I must return to the desert. I did promise to help with the quest, and my word is my bond…even if deserts are hideous hellscapes. If I survive it again, I shall write soon.

All my love to the family.

Your loving niece,
Caeryn 
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The ballad of hefty Harwen
Rat magic, goblin gangs, lost inheritence

(This conversation was overheard at a tavern where Harwen was talking to his beer very loudly)

Poor Harwen.  Everything I touch, it turns to shit.  I inherit big house from Aunt Nana, but  Goblins burn it down.  I find some friends, but they horse thieves.  Arrive in town safe from goblins, but no drinking allowed.  A fate worse than death!  Poor Harwen. sniffles interrupted by belching

My friend Islemar returns.  You remember him, he is the horse thief.  He makes big important friends while away.  How you make friends when you no talk?  Oh Islemar talks, he just no like talk to Harwen.  They bring me before queen, I tell her tale of poor Harwen.  She cares.  This is the most surprising part ah Harwen's tale.  She likes part about  family and evil rat magic.  This is Harwen's most not favorite part.  Harwen don't do rat magic.  I tell her so.  She sends us on quest anyway.  There are elephants.

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Flame Dragon Quest
Giant Alliance

(Penned in red ink by Alcadizzar)

Dear Dream Journal,

I was recently contacted by Culsixreal, the brass dragon who originally asked us to clear out the sunken keep.  We sought out his lair where he warned us of a great danger.  There is an alliance of Frost, Fire and Hill Giants.  They have amassed a great army.  Their goal is to destroy Cradle, the Knights of Solaris, and possibly all medium humanoid life as we know it.

I knew it was only a matter of time before this giant threat reared its ugly head and I took a strike force of adventurers to investigate.  We found the hill giant lair.  They are using manticores and ogres to bolster their forces.  We stole their loot, killed the Hill Giant matriarch and set the wooden fort on fire.  We discovered a magical device that can teleport us to the frost giant lair, although we are being cautious about using it on account of the high probability that it is a trap.

Through divination magic I have discovered that the Frost Giant Jarl who we dealt with previously is involved in this giant war machine.  After his unsatisfactory dealings with us he ran and told his daddy.  Daddy is a bigger, meaner, more powerful giant who sits on a throne adorned with silver dragon skins.  He views the hill giants as expendable and is using them to probe our defenses before he commits his elite forces.  He doesn't have all of his pieces in place yet, and some disruptive strikes could cause his army to fall apart before it fully forms.

Ideally we would strike back with two teams.  One to finish off the hill giants, and another to probe the frost giant's northern forces.  Culsixreal has promised treasure from his hoard for adventurers that complete his quest.

*Footnote: The sahaguin are using dragon turtles and shark herds to terrorize the waters north of pier town.  Fenriss lost the crew to one of her ships to their savagery.  A stronger navy will be necessary to secure our coast.

 

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