East of Winter

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At long last
Admiral's Log: Stardate 95573.62

For the first time in a long while, longer than I can remember, I feel hopeful. I am reluctant to give myself over to this feeling, but I am optimistic that the time is drawing nigh to put to rest the beast that has plagued my existence for so long. The device my sistren and I discovered as we delved below the muck shall be a valuable weapon in the inevitable battle. For now, I shall keep it secret and safe, for there are those who would use it for their own selfish aims.

It is my hope that once we have dispatched the beast that has wreaked havoc on my life and on Yera's life, we shall more readily and easily deal with Aby's troublesome parent. But we must not get ahead of ourselves. First, we must disarm the harpy by destroying her weapon. That must be our focus now.

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Reflections on a Post-Battle Morning
Personal Diary Entry
This is the first moment I’ve had in near a week to sit down for a moment and reflect. I feel like my head might explode. So much has changed, so much more is clear, and yet…

The orcs came to Cradle, the army they were massing brought to bear on the town itself. I had hoped to disrupt it, or meet it in the field between Barkhamstead and our own walls, but the world doesn’t often grant wishes, I've found. 

The first night of the battle…a blurred memory of fire and blade, defending the town hall and the breach at the gate, orcs to near every side of me. We fought until there was nothing left for us to give, until the sun began to rise and the waves of orcs pulled back… and then, I think, I fell asleep where I stood, though I woke in the temple to prepare for the second night. 

They came in a horde, trying to overwhelm us at the break in the wall, and I was surrounded and grievously wounded before I could even plant my feet against their assault, but I am a paladin of Rhollor and I will not be defeated by a great bunch of dirty orcs. I called up a shield of my faith, crackling with golden fire, and swung my sword until their numbers were more manageable, and I will say I took out a fair many of them. But there were always so many more, an endless stream, pouring out of that damnable fog. I’ve had this nightmare before. It’s worse in real life. 

I do not know if we would have survived the night without the elementals. We definitely wouldn’t have without the magic Cicada brought to bear against their wizards; that’s what broke their lines, ultimately. They have pulled back further since Remidon sent their shiny soldiers to parade about on our walls, but it is a temporary reprieve. More, and worse, will come for us soon. But at least…a moment to rest. To think

Imildrak was confronted at last, and is captured and back in jail. But he was there before, and they failed to hold him then, so I dare not relax my guard. That Soraya is gone too, fled from town the same day, Gods only know what she plans. The threat they represent is not dormant until she is safely imprisoned also. I felt the spell she attempted to cast on me, a fog of mindless rage threatening to overtake my will, and I don’t need to know the details of her magic to know what she intended; Imildrak has certainly threatened to use me against Alcadizzar often enough (though he will find, as she did, that my determination on that front is far beyond his skill).
 
It’s obvious she’ll actively work against us for Imildrak’s sake, and we cannot leave her at large. And she has betrayed us, that much I know, though I do not yet understand to whom. It doesn’t matter, there is nothing that would make her actions understandable. 

Then, the news Yera and Cicada brought, the greater plans becoming clear at last. The Abandoned, a lich, but a lich for reasons I can understand, a life spent standing against, the light against the dark. He has extended his own life so that he can continue to battle those who cannot be allowed to return; aren’t I hoping to do the very same? But what he is, what he has done for that life, is that not unquestionable evil? How can I reconcile that with my own role, flame of righteous fury, destroyer of the wicked, if I allow him to continue to exist? 

And, of all the evils he binds…her. If I choose not to destroy the Abandoned, am I doing it for selfish reasons, to avoid my own destiny? Every choice I make is a move in our greater battle, and I can never know if they are leading me closer to or further from victory. She wants my heart and soul and I have no idea if it’s even possible for me to ultimately resist. I believe myself to be strong, but she is so much more than me. Thank the Gods I will not face her alone. I believe I would be lost without him. 

We have had a clear victory in the Crackhammer Peaks, in any case, which are free of the despotic slaver King Barbedbeard. The city is back in dwarven hands, and under the rule of the Crackhammer family once more. I’ve offered sanctuary to those former slaves who might not wish to remain in the place of their imprisonment, though perhaps Cradle is not as much of a sanctuary as once it was. But it will be so again. We will rebuild, and grow stronger, and stand tall against our enemies, wheresoever they may come from. 

I refuse to allow any other outcome.
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Conquering Crackhammer
Arch de Triomphe

(Penned in red ink by Alcadizzar.)

Dear Dream Journal,

Today I led a second expedition to the Crackhammer Peaks.  Before we had come to sabotage.  This time we came to conquer.  In all fairness some of our number were there for the shiny bits, I may have played up the wealth of the Duergar to attract more interest in the mission.  Runt, Nocturne, Fenriss, Aby and myself embarked on this holy quest to wrest control of Crackhammer from the Duergar and return it to it's rightful dwarven owners.

Whoever said getting there is half the fun didn't have a helm of teleportation.  BAMF!  We arrived in the Duergar Forge with a puff of smoke.  It had been repaired, but was not in use.  I used my tools to disarm a pressure plate trap and unlock the door.  I find the intricate movements of small mechanical devices to be a cathartic discipline.  It soothes me in a way that is hard to describe.

We encountered and dispatched some defenders in the cramped tunnels.  The resistance became stiffer as we drew near the captive worker quarters.  We armed the predominately dwarven population with Duergar forged weapons.  We bade the workers to hole up in their quarters and protect themselves lest the Duergar attempt to exact retribution on them for our attack.  We learned that two members of Dwarven royalty had been executed in response to our last foray.  Runt found that he had siblings in the same breath that he discovered they were lost forever.

Fenriss helped us avoid most of the Duergar patrols.  I have been opposed to stealth in the past…however a friend has taught me to see trickery in a different light recently.  It isn't my favorite tactic, but I begrudgingly admit that it was more effective than announcing my presence with fire and fury (in this isolated instance).

We entered the city proper.  A stepped landscape of imposing ziggarats, gothic accents and lava flows.  It is a beautiful city and I highly recommend it as a travel destination.  Here we met the disembodied visage of Barbedbraid, the Duergar demagogue who currently sat on the throne of Crackhammer.  He mostly mocked Runt whilst inadvertently giving away information.  It concerned me that the illusion could hear, understand and reply to us, it meant his magics were more formidable than the phantasm initially suggested.  The conversation abruptly ended when the Duergar dictator called upon his minions to release the Kaiju!

From the lava flows the form of a molten wyvern rose dramatically and flew straight towards us.  Duergar soldiers scattered for cover as the Kaiju's shadow spread over the city.  Molten fire dripped from the monster's teeth and a malevolent intelligence burned in its eyes.  I knew that it was too hot to burn, even for one of Rhollor's famously hot fireballs.  I reached deeper into my soul flame and tapped into a heat so intense that even the magma Kaiju could not resist it.  My beam disintegrated the hard outer shell of the magma wyvern, leaving its vitals exposed.  Fenriss finished off the beast with some well placed arrows into this soft spot.  The foul creature drew its last breath before it could breathe on us.

We crossed over an intricate lava bridge and dispatched some…Duergar calvalry astride giant mole mounts?  They were tenacious creatures but we were able to put them down.  From the bridge we could see dwarven heads on spikes.  No doubt Runt's relations of whom the captives spoke of.

We made our way to the throne room.  A basalt Ram's head throne.  Menacing Statues.  Elite Minions.  And a princess suspended from the ceiling.  Every detail broadcast the Duergar Despot's calamitous intent.

After some villain banter the fight was quickly joined.  I flew in to save the princess lest she be harmed by area spells less discerning than my own.  "Teleport!" I screamed as I flew off with her on my disc.  She turned out to be Runt's aunt, but she was dressed as his mom?  Dwarven customs are alien to me.

Runt used a maelstrom to flush the room, which ended up being more crucial than we knew because it kept us from wandering too close to the statues.  True to form the statues would attack any that wandered too close.  These Duergar were tough.  They have natural magic resistance that kept them from taking the brunt of our spells. They also had fire resistance*, either because my reputation preceded me, or because it's just a logical precaution in a city filled with liquid hot magma.  In either case they proved very hard to kill.  It looked grim, one of the elite guards was in melee with Fenriss, blocking her shots.  The only thing keeping Abaraxia standing was Nocturne's healing magics. Bravely Aby fought on, she smote down the guard distracting Fenriss.  This in turn gave the tiefling archer an open shot on the other guard.  Just that quick the tables had turned; the big cheese stands alone.

With a parting shot at Runt the villain escaped through a secret passageway leaving nothing but the echoing sounds of his laughter.  As his malign presence left the room the throne turned from black to gold.  Crackhammer has been restored to it's rightful owner.  Long live Runt, King of Crackhammer peaks.  May the warmth of Rhollor grace your hearth.  May the light of Rhollor guide your path.  May the flames of Rhollor smite your enemies

*Fire resistance is not guaranteed to resist the righteous fires of Rhollor.  

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Warning signs
Engraved by Ramathon

A large stone with a crude pictograph can be seen at the beginning of the road from Cradle to the Lodge formerly known as Bear.  It appeared shortly after the orcs raided Cradle.

A grinning gnoll with a mustache and devil horns.

A wagon driven by a peasant painted over with a red circle and slash.

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Blood and Water
Rehab and Redemption

Dear Dream Journal,

Where do I begin?  As I take stock of recent events I am forced to critically examine many of my deeply ingrained assertions that I have mistaken for truth.  The bonds of blood, the worth of life, the role of race.  But I am getting ahead of myself, allow me to explain.

The siege of 1000 orcs continued.  A thick fog hung over cradle, the back gate was sundered, we made our stand at the temple.  Zanath, Cicada and Imildrak perched on the roof.  Nocturne and I hovered by the broken stained glass window.  Aby stood alone in the breach.  Imildrak's retinue of chattering skeletons stood on the temple grounds.

The orcs swarmed in; ill equipped, poorly trained, peasant orcs.  By sheer weight of numbers they were able to severely injure Aby and take down many of the skeletons.  We were able to regain control of the fight with the help of Earth Wind and Fire.  The three powerful elementals summoned by myself, Cicada and Runt wreaked havoc on the orcish lines.  The wind elemental exposed an orcish command section.  The general escaped back into the fog, but many of his honor guard were slain.

We fought bravely, but the orcs just kept marching in under the cover of fog.  Cicada began performing a ritual to restore the weather to its proper pattern, a daunting task considering the power of the control weather spell he was attempting to dispel.  I aided him by mimicking his ritual, repeating the words and capering about after his fashion.  The fog lifted revealing a hoard of orcs tip toeing about and suddenly looking very sheepish.  With their cover blown and their general in flight their ranks devolved into chaos and they were forced to retreat and regroup.

As the orcs retreated into the night I flew to the top of the temple to confront my brother.  The seven bounty hunters revealed themselves as we spoke.  I had convinced the bounty hunters to hold off on attacking Imildrak until he had spent his spells on the orcs.  They had now grown tired of my stalling tactics, they were ready to collect their bounty. 

I told Imildrak that I was taking him back to Remidon to face justice.  The protection I offered was in part referring to insuring that he was brought in alive, and in part was referring to protecting him from himself.  Imildrak promised to "kill us all" and flung himself off of the temple roof.  I could hear him chanting the words to Dimension door as he fell, however, the Forbiddance spell that Cicada had cast earlier thwarted his teleport and left him lying on the ground in a heap. 

Imildrak ordered his two remaining regiments of skeletons to open fire on me.  I was shot repeatedly by a hail of arrows and was left on death's door.  I retreated back through the stained glass window of the temple where Cicada mended my wounds.  Zanath rained down shots from the roof and Aby delivered red hot smiting justice on Imildrak's prone form.  She left him unconscious at the foot of the temple.  Cicada and his air elemental, Mean Gene, sent Imildrak's undead packing. 

Soraya rounded the corner and cast a spell on Aby.  I knew she had a history with Imildrak, but I couldn't bring myself to believe she would openly attack the Order.  I was more concerned about my brother and ignored her spell.  It was Zanath who realized what she had attempted and she fled under his assault.  Luckily Aby did not succumb to the crown of madness that Soraya cast on her.

I dragged my brother's unconscious form outside of the area of the forbiddance spell and teleported us back to Remidon.  I turned him in to the lawfully appointed authorities and told them of all that transpired.  I urged them to be more careful with him this time, and warned them of his co-conspirator who was still on the loose. 

To reward the Knights of Solaris for bringing their rogue agent to justice the Arch magi pulled some strings and helped me with my plan to stall the orcish invasion.  Taking a page out of the orcs play book I created a temporary teleportation circle in Cradle and led a small army of Remidonian soldiers to our aid.  They made a big show of manning the walls and the orcs fell back after this show of force.  The soldiers won't stay forever, but it buys us some time. 

I gave my brother's bounty to Aby.  I'm sure she will distribute it in an equitable fashion to those that assisted in Imildrak's capture.  Aby rewarded me with some of Soraya's hair.  I turned a strand in to the Arch Magi and kept a strand for myself.  This will aid in our efforts to find her with divination magic.

After the tumult died down I had a chance to speak with Cicada and Yera.  I learned much of the Reaver and the Abandoned.  I saw the parallel between their path and the potential path of myself and my brother.  Some think that Imildrak's incarceration will cause this prophecy, I for one believe this is the act that prevents it from happening. 

I learned that the lizardman I suspected of betraying us to the orcs was not skulk at all.  It's either a doppleganger or I'm just really bad at telling lizards apart.  I'm not sure which.

I grew up in a world of Elven Privilege.  Are we really as great as we tell ourselves?  Imildrak and Soraya are traitors.  A substantial population of elves has fallen in league with the demons.  Haldo and Amastacia are well intentioned enough, but I wouldn't count them as the two strongest members of the order.  At least there is Nocturne, she is legitimately awesome.  And what about me?  Have I been holding myself to the standard that my prejudices demand?  Can I truly say that I am the best of us?

I held myself above humans and yet it was my friend Zanath who was clever enough to spot Soraya's treachery while I was blinded by my bias.  I thought all goblins were beyond redemption but Kwali has proven me wrong.  I thought that all lizardmen were secretly in league with the orcs, but that accusation has turned out to be baseless.  How would I have reacted if I came upon a village of Kenku in the wild?  If I had never met Cicada would I have treated them as people or monsters?  My field study of Tieflings has revealed them to lean much more towards their humanoid tendencies than their fiendish ancestory.  Abaraxia has shown me that a righteous daughter can grow from a wicked mother.  In short, everything I thought I knew about the world was just…wrong.

Praise Rhollor the eternal flame.  Protect Remidon from Imildrak and keep him bound.  Praise Rhollor the eternal flame. Protect Remidon from Ilmildrak and keep him bound.

Blessed be Pelor the light of the sun.  You once offered to bind a great evil of this world and we declined your offer.  Now I come to you beseeching you to bind my brother, the greater of these evils.  Keep the planes safe of his evil machinations.  Blessed be Pelor the light of the sun.  You once offered to bind a great evil of this world and we declined your offer.  Now i come to you beseeching you to bind my brother, the greater of these evils.  Keep the planes safe of his evil machinations.

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Law and Order
The Fugitive

Dear Dream Journal,

Marble columns, austere architecture, pervasive repetition and consistent formatting.  Remidon really gets how to administer a criminal justice system.

The council of the arch magi had brought my brother, Imildrak, to trial for his crimes against humanity.  First they brought an expert witness on the stand who explained how evil acts shift the cosmic balance of good and evil gods.  Both I and Milton gave what I consider to be a fair account of Imildrak's deeds.  I got a little heated on the stand and revealed that a massive orc army was amassing at the eastern edge of Remidon.  I called loudly for an execution by orc.  My advice fell on deaf ears and I was dragged off of the stand whilst shouting and gesticulating.  "Yes he's a monster, but he's OUR MONSTER!!!"  Couldn't they see how a final act of redemption would be good for both the world and my brother's immortal soul?

None of the testimony that I gave was as damning as what Imildrak said about himself.  Revealing the number of bodies he has raised to be in the hundreds.  He also talked about 15 children he raised.  I had assumed those were adult goblins…Nature never was my strong suit.

The judge was extremely lenient and sentenced Imildrak to a paltry 3 years in prison.  A blink of an elven eye.  I thought this was a huge win for him.  He was apparently less enthusiastic about the outcome and he made his escape with a Dimension Door spell. 

I was extremely disappointed with Remidonian security and decided to take matters into my own hands.  I convinced the counsel to name me as the chief inquisitor in charge of bringing in Imildrak.  They assigned 7 bounty hunters to this task.  They placed a sizable bounty on Imildrak's head as well.  I ported the bounty hunters with me back to Cradle.  Skulk also accompanied us, but he disappeared before the orcs showed up for round 2.  Coincidence?  I think not.

I didn't think Imildrak would be able to make it back to Cradle as quickly as I had.  So you can imagine my surprise when I saw his Raven familiar, Quoth.  He bore a note for me asking for protection and promising to subject himself to the brand.  Those terms seemed reasonable, however, the specifics needed to be discussed.  I sent Quoth back with a letter asking Imildrak to parlay with me in Cradle so that we could come to terms.  We are brothers after all, there is no reason we couldn't settle this with a reasonable discussion instead of a world shaking magical apocalypse. 

Imildrak arrived at dusk, he was at the head of a column of undead.  The bounty hunters wanted to immediately attack my brother, but I had invited him here to talk in good faith.  It took some convincing but I got them to stand down…for the time being.

I told Imildrak that I could offer him protection if he subjected himself to the brand.  However, I have to bring him back to Remidon for the brand.  It isn't something I can cast myself….yet.  I also informed him that he would be talking to Jubilya again as part of the council's terms.  They want to rehabilitate him…or at least try, which is a noble goal.  I do not believe that my brother is beyond redemption.  He seemed less than enthusiastic about going to Remidon, we were exploring meeting at Duke Norway's instead when we were interrupted by the army of 1000 orcs.  Night had fallen, the raid had resumed.

A heavy fog descended over the whole town.  Manticore riders swooped down around town hall.  An army of undead orcs knocked on the front gates.  The assault on the front was a ruse, as we shifted forces to meet the assault the back gate was blown off the hinges by a crude explosive.  Wave after wave of orcish infantry spilled through the gate.

Runt and I had both summoned elementals which were critical to the town's defense.  Nocturne joined the fray with her potent magics.  Abaraxia and the bounty hunters held the orcs at the wall.  Imildrak commanded his undead hoard to defend the city.  After slinging many of his spells he transformed into a T-Rex and started eating orcs coming over the wall until his concentration was eventually broken.

The orcs had necromantic magics that allowed them to control the undead that Imildrak had summoned.  They turned a group of them on Abaraxia, but that didn't end well for the un-teds.

I discovered some sneaky orc rangers looting the temple.  I chased them about on my flying disc whilst hurling firebolts and insults at them until I could retrieve my monogrammed towels.  The orc hoard was being held back by my wall of fire in front of the sundered gate.  The fire has gone out now and the night is dark and full of terrors.  I write these words during a brief lull in the attack.  The air is electric with anticipation.  The calm before the storm.

Armed with many of my spells, a full compliment of 7 bounty hunters, and my stoned elemental I stand in anticipation of the brewing maelstrom.  Let them come.

Though I wander through the endless night I shall fear no evil for the light of Rhollor is with me.  The righteous shall be preserved, the wicked shall be cleansed.

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The siege of Cradle
The night of 1000 Orcs

Dear Dream Journal,

I had just arrived back in Cradle from a lackluster excursion into Barkhampstead.  It was dusk.  i was preparing myself for Imildrak's trial, which would take place the following morning.  It began with the beating of wings.  Manticore riders swooped down from the sky and dropped torches on the town.  Orcish ash rangers infiltrated the town and doused our beacon fires.  The battle of 1000 orcs had begun.

Zanath and Fenris proved very effective shooting the manticores from the sky.  The orcish Sky Riders fell to earth like rotten apples in a windstorm.  Fenris moved to the sewers to help save the citizens.  Zanath moved to save his lumber mill from the flames.

Glim and his guards proved effective.  The guards seemed ill equipped but they fought well.  They certainly were proficient with the scorpion siege weapon.  I'm not sure if it was good training or white knuckled desperation that guided their hands.  

Amastacia lurked about and tossed a few half hearted cantrips about.  She can kindle a fire, but there is no fire kindled in her heart.  Until she gives herself to the flame I fear that her magic will not blossom to it's potential.

Esmerelda on the other hand was dropping hot fireballs on regiments of orcs like a world ending meteor shower of righteous fury.  She shows great promise.  If only she would venture forth from town more.  Her talents are wasted tending bar.

Umbriel fought bravely.  I swear I saw him fall off the side of a building, doesn't he have wings?  He ended up getting surrounded and severely beaten by a gang of orcs, although he tenaciously pulled through.  He was forced to withdraw after his resources were expended.

There was a strange bard who played piano during the siege.  I've never seen him around town before.  He didn't seem keen on sticking his neck out to help us.  Rode his horse off during the fight.  Probably a spy.

Runt pulled out all of the stops for this fight.  He transformed himself into a holy being of pure fire and laid waste to the orcish hordes.  I like him much better in elemental form and hope he spends more of his time on fire.

Abaraxia leapt off of a roof onto a flying manticore.  She succeeded in unsaddling the Sky Rider as the manticore flew higher.  Luckily I was there to cast feather fall to get her back down safely.  Together Abaraxia and I held the town hall and defended the citizens within.  Surrounded by a shield of fire I goaded the orcs into engaging me.  I was cut and beaten and bruised severely.  The pain was exquisite. 

Wave after wave of orcs came at the city.  The defenders were being worn down and driven into the sewers.  The orcs had followed them underground and the fight raged on through the night.  I had rained down the fires of judgment until the point of exhaustion.  I needed to regroup, and I had an important obligation half a world away.  With a snap of my fingers I was checking into a ritzy hotel in the capitol.  The sheets were of a sinfully decadent thread count and the food was a little too rich for my taste. 

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A New Wolf Joins the Hunt.

Finnian stands waiting on edge of the tourney ground. His Cousin Mara and an odd but very pretty blue skinned female named Karen climbed up to sit in the stands, the two young ladies seem occupied in conversation. He just hopes his nervousness didn't show, the Lord Norway's Master of the Hunt, Lord Sander Borja over looked the group of eager young squires all excited just to be able to watch this event. Finnian almost wished he could be just another one of those squires. Sense completing his training and joining his Cousins in the field he learned a lot. His eyes are now open to the many dangers the East holds. While he felt better prepared for this test then he ever believed possible, he just didn't see how adding three letter to the front of his name was going to do much to aid the brave adventurers he was looking to fight besides. 

It's funny how something you wanted your whole life, simply became another detail in the faces of new knowledge and Greater understanding. Then Borgia began speaking welcoming all the knights, and challenging the new Class of Winterwolves to prove themselves in the Three tests. The Legs of the Wolf, The Fang of the Wolf, and Running with the Pack.  

Though the exact forms of the test varied from year to year, the three tests all required the newly rising Winterwolves to prove fitness of body and mind, fitness in combat, and fitness to fight besides allies.  In truth Jelder and Mara had taught him before he had ever gone on an adventure, but knowing something and proving something were very different things. 

He was selected to go first in the Legs of the Wolf. The contest to catch a winter hare with ones bare hands before it escaped into the forest.  After doffing his platemail, Finn waited for Borgia release the white rabbit, Finn dashed after like a shot, surging ahead in a straight line sprint. He turned and quickly grabbed the bunny as it tried to run past him. He watch the 4 other contestants cheering and sympathizing when the final rabbit escaped.

Next the test of the Fang.   First facing a younger Knight of the order Finn, re-armored advanced wait for the combatant to close the distance. Then they carefully exchanged blows. Finn went back and forth for couple exchanges before hitting him across the belly and pushing him down to the ground. After the first melee, the other knights took there turn with mixed results. 

The second melee was against the famous swashbuckler of the Winterwolves. Though his skill was great he could not over come Finn's stubborn attack. As that combat drew to a close the contest was interrupted by the Lord Norways other henchman. Who was proud to exclaim how the Order of the Winterwolf has gone soft and his sent his man to test Finn. This opponent was polearm master using a spear and shield. 

His opening attack was devastating critical blow from his large steel shield, that luckly for Finn the effect was greatly negated by his Adamantine Platemail. Though ringing note from this shield was nearly deafening to whole crowd. The battle was hot and heavy and Finally drove Finn in a real fighting mode. Surging forward he stuck him down with four power great sword strikes, and demonstration of the Great Weapon Mastery. 

The second trial complete the ceremony was nearly disrupted as the Newly arrival Lord's attempt to redirect the tractional pack test of hunting a Winterwolf with the news the town was under attack from Gnolls. But bravely or maybe just because he was to much of a try hard, Finn suggest they complete both missions. 

Thrilled with this answer the various knights set out, companions in tow. Mara sat easily on her mule despite Finns repeated attempts to buy her a nice war horse, and Bubbles the Horse seemed ether skittish or maybe just his rider Karen was. They traveled back towards town about 6-8 hour journey though the snow and wind.  Just at the edge of the farms around town the Gnolls sprang their ambush. One large gnoll with an Axe sprang from the trees and attacked Mara and Finn fairly ineffectually. Then a larger one with claws and teeth sake its teeth into Finn. Finally two archers revealed themselves sending arrows into Finn and blue skinned Sorceress. 

Always Alter Finn acted during their surprise attack and struck at the Gnoll with the axe but failed strike true being at some disadvantage. In the next instant thing began to get bloody as arrows continued to be shot at the parties brave sorceress. With help from arrow from Mara, Finn finished the axe carrying Gnoll and yelled his Battle cry "Rally to Ravenfray" as he fell back trying in vain to shield the Sorceress, as she cast a spell a flew into cover behind a nearby tree.  After another fierce exchange of blows the last gnoll in melee was finished and the archers were defeated by Mara and the Mysterious Sorceress Karen. Deciding to camp where they were to rest and recover, they started a large Fire and picked watches.

As the Witching hour began the hair on the back of Finn's neck prickled. An unearthly howl spread into camp. A strange pack of wolves raced through the very trees. Before Finn could even yell wake the beasts were upon them. Running the very air after a exchanging blows with Finn. Hovering over the camp fire.  Finn dumped gift from Cicada Song to him. An oil etherlness, and struck once more at the ghost wolves. Their green ectoplasmic bodies seeming howl and bite in all directions. Karen was nearly killed before she could awake, but bravely recovered and flew into a superior attack position. Mara shot magic arrows into the beast, and Finn struck with all his might and freshly oiled blade into the heart of the pack. Quickly they dispersed leaving one behind asking them to avenge the death of this pack from the hands of Gnolls. Having some small experience with Ghosts from his time with the giants Finn readily agreed. Putting such a foe to rest was certainly their business. 

The rest of the night past peacefully, and they set out once more, but quickly found the remains of the gnolls and as luck or fate would have it, they currently in discussion with a Winterwolf. Well prepared this time, Mara and Karen struck with magical swiftness. Destroying most of the gnolls, before Finn could even close the distance with the foe beasts. He arrived barely in time to strike down a deeply wounded Gnoll, and then slew the Winterwolf, with a mighty blow to it's neck. 

Quest completed they gathered up their rather grizzly trophies and set out to find Borgia. Upon Showing their proof of success the order compensated the brave adventuresses for their time, and were proud to Knight, Sir Finnian Ravenfray of the Order of the Winterwolf. As the ceremony concluded an exhausted rider stumbled into the camp exclaiming the Orcs were attacking the town. 

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Hear Ye, Hear Ye
The Town Criers Call

The town criers call forth the news each day at dawn.  This is how information traveled in the feudal age.  Bards were social media and the local paper all combined into one.  On the morning of the second day of the new year, this was the news that rang out across the Kingdom of Remidon.

Be it known that the elf known as Imildrak Il'Mahkeem, formerly a Knight of Solaris, has been found guilty of grave robbery, resisting arrest, obstruction of the King's justice, and practicing in illegal, black magics.  He stands stripped of his lands and titles, owing restitution to the crown, and an outlaw of justice.  It falls to all of the King's subjects to aid in seeing justice meted out to this criminal. 

If you provide aid to the good King's agents in apprehending this man then you shall be compensated in the amount of 500 gold pieces.  If you apprehend him your reward shall be 5,000 gold pieces.  Anyone found aiding him shall suffer the same penalty as he.  That penalty includes restitution, imprisonment of no fewer than three years, and a branding of the Mark of Death. 

This decree is rendered on behalf of King Hecaton IV, ruler of the Kingdom of Remidon, protector of the Hillfolk, and commander of the Dragon Guard on this day, the second of Quantawhuir in the one thousand four hundred and seventieth year since the crowning of King Georje I, Slayer of Rothilhug the Red. 

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