East of Winter

The Return to Virtum Sol
Uh oh. Skulk made a boo-boo.

Skulk has had better adventures than Virtum Sol.

You understand, yes, Skulk did not mean to release an ancient evil? You understand Skulk did not want to make talking-bones-lich mad?

Ho boy! Was he mad, though! He so mad that he could see us, though I think he was very, very far away. He called us foolish and yelled at us for opening the catacombs beneath Virtum Sol. Talking-bones! It was your lizard who attacked Skulk! Skulk could have chopped his lizard throat in secret, but instead Skulk practiced ancient Belchamping art of diploming. (Is not as useful as Milton said.)

Once their lizard saw Imildrak, all was over, though.

Skulk has been trying to understand irony. Is pretty sure Talking-bones' minions attacking us for having necroman is is what that is. It was less funny at time when lizard spit lightning at us, but Skulk is having little chuckle right now.

Harder to chuckle when I think; we do not understand what we did at Virtum Sol. There was a thing caught there, and now it is loose. Skulk cannot see what will come of this. Skulk cannot know what will come of Talking-bones's ire.  If evil bones wanted it locked away… can it be so bad?  

Talking bones calls himself 'Abandoned.'  Who abandoned Talking-bones?  

Sometimes when everyone is sleeping, and Skulk is alone in empty house… Skulk starts to worry that maybe we are not doing the right things.


A Vision of Missing Children

I recently joined the Dawn of Spring Guild to find inspiration for heroic songs. I had an unusually vivid dream of a specific village, far to the east, of innocent children being dragged by Drow from their burning homes. I saw an elven woman I did not recognize. Upon awakening, I discussed my dream with other members of the Guild including Jelder and Urki, and I met Ligeia, the woman from my dream. I was convinced this dream was prophetic, as the details were so specific and they seemed to be happening right as I witnessed them. We hastily traveled to the area where my dream took place, but found an unburnt village. The elders of the village claimed nearly all of their children had been taken by Drow who lived near the Wailing Woods, although they had not actually seen them do it. We travelled through the woods on the border of the Wailing Woods, having been warned of the danger of the place, and encountered a strange blue light that spoke to those of us who were on second watch every night. Ignoring the light, which claimed to me that it could help us find the children if we followed it, we pursued the tip from the elders (and my dream) to find the Drow camp near the woods. We decided to use a decoy and disguises to try to infiltrate the Drow camp. Ligeia and I disguised ourselves as drow, and I created a Minor Illusion of a bound and kidnapped child to pretend we were bringing them a fresh one; we were simply trying to find out where they were taking the children. Our deception ran afoul of the Drow who were upset we had kidnapped a child and attacked us. After a lengthy battle, where several of the Drow died, their leader stopped to ask why we were killing them when they only had 5 people left. We stopped fighting and talked for a while, learning that the Drow children had also been stolen in the woods, and that their leader At-Ob had disappeared into the woods a century ago, shortly before their children began to disappear as well. Grieving, the Drow clan decided to stop having children, and their numbers dwindled from hundreds down to five. We stayed with the Drow that night to mourn their recently dead, and promised to return their children if we could find them to atone for our sins. Venturing back into the woods, we encountered the will-o-the-wisp we saw before, and it led us deep into the forest to a place called Table Rock, where we were ambushed by a gargoyle and some pseudodragons. We are still trying to find the missing children.

Two liches, one east?

We flew on the wind back to Vitrum Sol. What should've been a 3 week journey, Cicada's magics turned into just hours. It was impressive, I must say. 

Inside, we found a group of guards: a couple of humans and a half dragon leading them. They said they were followers of the Abandoned, a lich with a kingdom somewhere in the reaches beyond the Edict.

Yes, beyond the Edict. The edict only created a wall of winter. Everything beyond it is untouched, and some do not even realize that the Edict has ended. This lich's minions definitely didn't. They didn't live to tell their master the news.

Yet, they rose again. After a time, their corpses arose to serve their master. What's concerning is that they were just as powerful in their newfound glory of undeath. By concerning, I mean it's concerning that I can't do that.

We fought through the Sol, eventually coming to a chamber, where a spectral image of the Lich appeared and yelled at us for "unleashing a terrible evil upon the land," whatever that means. Liches like being melodramatic. Maybe it's the original lich, the one from before the Edict. That would be fun.

Dwarven Nights, Disguised Goblin

I was enjoying catching up with three of my 6 best friends, Esmerelda, Soraya and Runt, when our favorite Dwarven Guild leader appeared to invite Runt to speak at a Dwarven debate.  Naturally we tagged along because of there being an entire party hall full of Dwarves.  The trip was easy, though I did have to let Soraya disguise me due to specisim.  Just cause 99% of all goblins are murder murder dogs taste good, I have to be wary around people outside cradle.  On the plus side, they had tiny cakes!  After smoozing with the dwarven elite and making new friends, it became clear that the Dwarven crusader leader was a big thief, so we stole things right back!  I have learned a lot from best friend Cicada, including that us Divine Casters can unlock doors and disarm traps almost as well as Rogues.  So I did that and then we took out really large minotaurs.  After Runt took down the crusader leader wuth his words, we headed back to Cradle.  

Game of Dwarven Thrones
People in Cradle really love their dramatic entrances. I mean, far be it from me to tell anyone else they can’t be dramatic, but I think Esmerelda might start charging if people keep kicking in her doors. There was even fog swirling behind Garoka when the door opened. Does he pay someone to provide that sort of effect? I would. I should

Anyway. Garoka wanted Runt to go to Belchamp and then to the Congregation of Clans Keep, and he asked Esme, Kawli, and me to accompany him. Having recently met Sir Milton de Paon, I thought a brief trip to Belchamp could be educational (let’s be honest, I had to go to find out if the puffy sleeves thing was really an upcoming trend: spoiler alert, yes, if anything, he’s a sensible Belchampi), and we’d all just been discussing getting out of town for a bit. We readily agreed to leave in the morning, and spent much of the rest of the evening watching Runt attempt to flirt with Isbeil, a cute lady dwarf who would be accompanying Garoka on the mission. He’s adorably awkward, but she seems to be enjoying it. 

In the morning, Kawli and I said goodbye to Yera and Imildrak at the library, and headed over to the inn to meet the rest of the travelling party. Esmerelda handed the keys over to Amastasia, and we set out on a <s>weekend getaway</s> adventure. 

The trip to Belchamp was uneventful, but Garoka let slip why we were going on this expedition: the dwarves are trying to decide what to do about Eastward expansion, now that the snows have cleared. They wanted Runt to speak because he’s the only dwarf who’s really been involved in the last year’s progress (but I saw Brightmine’s expression when Runt showed him that banner. An unexpected element. And useful).

Belchamp is delightful, and I’d like to come back on a longer holiday one of these days. Did you know they sell tiny cakes in the inns there? Fresh-baked. And their fabric selection! The best I’ve seen since I left the capital, silks and velvet and linen, any color you’d like (and the Belchampi like all of them).
I had only the afternoon to work, but I like to think I managed to create three new masterworks for the rest of the party- a green silk dress (and fascinator hat, she shows excellent taste in millinery) for Esmerelda, a purple feathered number for Kawli, and a set of dwarven noble clothing for Runt, in the colors of his house. I shall simply have to wear Anna-Henrietta’s mithril gown. And all of us will wear our medals- dwarves like shiny things. 

First impressions are important. Especially if you have intentions

We were some of the last to arrive; the keep was full to bursting with dwarves. Apparently this is the event of the dwarven social season, and everyone who’s anyone was there, along with all the people who just wish they were. It’s easy to tell which is which, with enough practice. 

Dwarves, it appears, make decisions by making grand speeches at each other. Each of the potential leaders is to have a day to impress people with their words and deeds. The rest of us are primarily here to corroborate Runt’s stories, and, presumably, to stand about and look pretty, at least as far as we’re letting the dwarves know. 

It’s remarkable how much you can learn, if you pretend to be ornamental. People just love to talk about themselves. 

After the first evening, we’ve sussed out the major players and where they all stand, and we’ve got a better idea who among this lot recognizes Runt, and he’s spoken to all of them directly. I don’t know if it’s something in the air of this keep, but he’s really come into his own. He held his ground with only minor blessings from Kawli and me. 

And the next morning, he gave a speech I fully intend to record and give to Yera for the library in Cradle. The spider-dwarf is a master orator. Who knew? 

(I wonder if he realizes how easy it would be to sway this crowd. Does Runt want a crown?) 

This remarkable speech was followed by a rather less successful one by Tearlach Rockforge, the leader of the anti-expansionist dwarves, accompanied by some odd confidence from his main opponent, Angaidh Stormfall of Clan Stormgranite. 

Being a usefully and expertly suspicious sort of person, I decided this might be a good time for me to find out exactly what Mr. Stormfall was thinking. As it turned out, what he was thinking included prior knowledge that Rockforge’s magic hammer wasn’t magic at all. Well, well, well. 

People are people, no matter what shape they take. 

After this scandalous discovery, the dwarves broke away for the day to drink the excellent beer Runt had shipped from Belchamp and to discuss what should be done about Rockforge’s fraud. 

Esmerelda and I waited for Angaidh to enjoy several tankards, smug in his victory, before approaching him to express our deep dismay at the actions of Rockforge, and encouraging him to tell us all about his own plans. He summoned a minion to go and bring his own magical item, an overly ornate battle axe (compensation? Probably). 

We admired it to the extent required, then made our excuses and promptly followed the minion back to Angaidh’s quarters. They were guarded, but we retreated briefly to disguise ourselves thoroughly and approached to near touching distance before we were challenged, which just goes to show what you can do if you’re confident about it. 

Esme hit one guard with charm person and became his best friend, and I suggested the other should go ahead and join the party before all of the best beer was gone. Esme and her new friend went for a quick walk while I “guarded” the room, by which I mean I found the secret compartment all such men have, stole all the documents I could find from it (I don’t speak dwarven. But my friend does!), and promptly left. 

Angaidh is apparently the sort to keep notes on a criminal conspiracy. Really, I almost feel bad for him, he’s terrible at this. 

The letter told us where the real hammer was being kept, beneath the Keep, so we went ahead and retrieved that- there were several minotaurs guarding it, but they were no match for us, especially Esmerelda, who took out two at once with rays of flame- and then returned in time to get a good night’s sleep before Angaidh’s speech the next day. 

He never saw it coming, poor fool. 

Following Runt’s recommendation, the dwarves seem to have settled on the moderate candidate, Gillesbalg Irontoe. But only, I suspect, because Runt himself hasn’t fulfilled the dwarves’ strange leadership requirements and crafted a magic item of sufficient sparkle. 

All in all, an entertaining excursion, and a welcome distraction from more serious matters. I’ll have to meddle in dwarven politics more often.  A girl needs hobbies. 
Giant Fireworks Display
Hot frost on ice action

I left on an expedition from Cradle with Imildrak, Soraya, Skulk, Yera and Cicada.  We spent some time snooping around the pier.  I made note of Clayhanger's comings and goings (halfling shadow smith guild member and slave trader.)  He usually took a two week round trip, but he had been gone for 8 weeks now.  Where was he?

Soraya and Imildrak posed as slave buyers and met a middle man.  They were unable to make any real progress until the merchant returned.  Yera made friends with Clayhanger's favorite escort.  Cicada made friends with the infirm.  We discovered the whole venture is being backed by the merchant's guild of Remidon.  I postulate that they have set up this pier right outside of Remidon so that they can engage in trade that would be illegal within the realm.  It's technically legal, but it reeks of corruption and greed.  Also this one pony show only has the single boat, it wasn't here and they couldn't tell us when it would return.  That is just poor pier management.

We saw the lights to the north.  Akin to a great fireworks display we discerned that the cascading fire was likely launched from a huge siege engine.  The small clouds rapidly forming and dissipating were a mystery.  We followed the lights overland.  I wanted to wait for the boat to come back but the Iblith, with their short life spans, were impatient as always.  The wily lizardman Skulk guided us through the wilderness.  We made good time until we got mired down in the marsh.  We encountered Banshees there.  They are frightful to look upon and deadly to listen to.  Like most incorporeal beings they are resistant to damage with the exception of force and radiant. Blessed be the white hot rage of Rhollor, may my enemies be consumed in the inferno of his fury.  Amen.

As we traveled into the mountains we sent a Ted ahead of us to bait out an ambush.  He was crushed by a large rock.  Two frost giant sentries stood atop a cliff and hurled down boulders at the Ted's.  Imildrak bade me to wait instead of retaliating.  I waited for the giants to crush some more of his minions before attacking.  Imildrak was not pleased with my decision to attack.  Frost Giants are cruel creatures, untouched by the warmth of Rhollor.  My companions were of no help during this fight.  I must be more conscious of how limited they are at range.  I drove the two giants off the ridge with fireballs then pursued them by air as they lumbered towards a giant fortress in the distance.  I slew one with lightning, fire and force.  I let the other sentry escape rather than risk getting into range of the castle's defenses.

Cicada snuck into the castle and discovered that Clayhanger was working with the frost giants.  He recognized the description the sentry gave of me and now the King of the Frost giants knows my name and has motive for revenge.  Curse Clayhanger and his meddling.  I should have killed him in the desert months ago. 

Cicada, invisible and posing as a spirit, convinced the Frost Giant to parlay with him.  He discovered that the Giants are battling a silver dragon, he convinced them to spare us his wrath in exchange for us slaying the dragon for him.  The Frost Giant King agreed to send out a party of four giants to lead us to the dragons lair.

Cicada plans to betray the giants and make friends with the silver dragon after they show us to the dragon's lair.  Imildrak opposed this plan strongly, threw a tantrum, and stormed off.  This strengthens my resolve that it is the correct course of action.

Soraya is increasingly of like mind with Imildrak.  I divine that his darkness is infecting her.  She has a mercurial nature that lends itself to Imildrak's brand of entropy.  Unless she turns from this path it is only a matter of time before she becomes hopelessly lost.

State of Play 2
More Story Tellers

First of all, you all ought to be very pleased with yourselves.  Some of your characters are reaching Level 5, 6, and even 7.  Which is awesome!  Most campaigns tend to peter out around these levels.  But you brave souls are just getting started.  

In fact, you're all playing so much D&D that I need help running so many sessions.  To that end, I'm pleased to now count John Horan and Kyle White in their number.  I've promoted them to GMs on this website and taken them "behind the curtain" in terms of plot development.  We've all had chances to play in their adventures and I'm stoked to see what tales are woven under their auspices.

We've also had James Johnson run his very first D&D session as a Game Master!  Bravo sir.  I started this whole thing to do that myself; at least do it regularly and get better at it.  You are well on your way to building your own narrative campaigns and I think I speak for everyone when I say I can't wait to play in it.

Finally, we've got over 30 miniatures painted!  Holy cow.  People are coming over now and painting when they're not playing D&D and another group is running.  It's been a great dynamic to witness.  I'm amazed at how well this is going.  Keep it up gang!

Thanks to all.  Looking forward to playing with everyone!

Diary- Spring 1469
I fucking knew it. I knew she was going to come back to haunt me, and here it is, at last: dear old mom. Devils do nothing by happenstance. What does she want

And this, the dreams, a fiend following me around and messing with my mind, how am I supposed to fight against this? You can’t swing a sword at something this nebulous, I’m not equipped for this kind of battle. They’re in my mind and I’m trying to stay on the best path, but it’s getting so hard to tell what that is. Which memories are mine, and which are theirs? 

(The voice has started sounding like my own. But I know who I am.)

And Cradle, the mayorship, what am I going to do with that? Eramia Fol refuses to cooperate with me, it’s clear she’s gathering power for some sort of political play. And in the meantime, Cradle is unprotected, here, on the edge of civilization. So I will play mayor if I have to, and I will make certain these people survive. I’m not having a village overrun by monsters while we wait for some posturing noble to decide to take any sort of responsibility. 

But, oh, dear Trithereon, do I hate this paperwork. Guard rotas from Glim, a report from the merchants about some sort of shipment, letters from various people (all of them want something), endless stacks of it. Decision after decision. 
Yera’s stuffed the whole town hall full of bookshelves while I was gone- I suppose it’s better than ruined walls, and I certainly don’t have time to decorate, glad she’s happy, but they loom with all the knowledge I don’t have about what I’m doing here. I’m too young for this. Who the hell put me in charge? (Right. Alcadizzar did. And that’s complicated too, isn’t it?) 

I can’t figure out if the amount of time it’s given me to think is a good thing. I have a lot to think about- the slavers, always top of my mind, but there’s nothing we can do about the Queen in Farlongin yet (but I will return and destroy her, oh yes, one day), or even that huge city in the Crackhammer Peaks. The Shadow Smiths continue their vile practice and citizens of Remidon are being dragged away to chains, and I just have to sit here…it's unbearable. Why am I here, if not to stop them? I’ve written to Sir Kedrom; he needs to know, and perhaps his own quest has uncovered something that could help. 

And then…Imildrak. Everyone, everyone we met on our journey to the alchemists’ tower questioned why I let him accompany me- the fae, the unicorn, hells, the succubus even, and I'm beginning to run out of answers. He has an army of his undead creatures now. What’s he planning? 
But it’s not illegal what he’s doing, he’s permitted (but it’s wrong magic doesn’t have to be like that), I can’t just- 

I hope Sir Kedrom answers soon. I…could really, really use some advice. 
The Alchemist's Tower
How Sandy got her Groove Back

Dear Diary,

Abby and Imildrak assisted me in researching the curse afflicting the elven maiden that we rescued from the Lamia in the desert.  (She doesn't talk much, and we have taken to referring to her as Sandy.)  After several days of study we discovered components for the ritual we need, as well as a likely place to find some of said components.  An alchemist's tower north of cradle and adjacent to the coast seemed a likely place to have the supplies we required.  We hired a goblin guild member as a guide and set out on our journey.

We took a boat up to the tower.  There was no slaves or shadow smith operatives at the dock.  The owner and employees of the dock consist of honest citizens of Remidon who have made the brave trek east. 

Upon arriving at the tower we discovered that it is protected by a powerful force field, akin to the one protecting the town hall in Cradle.  We could not figure out a way to get in.  While we attempted to enter an elderly gentleman in robes appeared in a puff of smoke.  He has been living inside the tower for 500 years he says.  He can get in and out of the tower but he can't get us in he says.  He knows the spell we need to sever Sandy's connection to the demon Grazz't, but he needs one additional ingredient.  Unicorn's Blood.  We left Sandy with the old Alchemist and left in search of a Unicorn who lives in the fey woods nearby. 

A rushing river blocked out path, with the aid of my fly spell Abby was able to carry us over the obstacle, but the horde of Ted's was left trapped on the other side.  Imildrak commanded them to march across the river, most were washed downstream, the remaining few Imildrak sent away.  I was glad to be rid of the undead before entering the fey wood.  The fey were distrustful enough without them.

With the aid of Abby's magic lantern we discovered that we were being groped by nosey pixies who were spying on us.  We explained our quest and they told us where to find the unicorn.  We eventually caught up to the unicorn and completed an errand for her so that she would allow us to draw a vial of her blood.

We returned to the tower and the Alchemist started the incantation to save Sandy.  Except that he isn't an alchemist at all, he is a succubus in human form.  And he/she isn't trying to save Sandy so much as corrupt Abby.  In the middle of the incantation the devil reveals itself just as another lurking gorilla-like devil is revealed by Abby's lantern.  The gorilla is quickly banished by smiting and holy fire.  The succubus escapes to the ethereal plane, firing off a yo momma joke at Abby as she departs.  After comparing notes we believe that the succubus is working for Abby's mother and has been following her around since she returned from the corrupted temple near the crack hammer peaks. 

After the fight with the devils something very curious happened.  A mysterious figure from within the tower dropped down a potion to cure Sandy from her affliction.  The potion worked, and Sandy seemed to come back to herself before falling into a peaceful sleep. 

Imildrak hurled spells and curses at the tower to no avail.  I assume he scared the occupant into hiding, for he would not treat with us after being treated in such fashion.  Perhaps another group of more charismatic guild members would have more luck in talking to the tower's keeper.  He seems to be powerful, well intentioned and extremely cautious. 

Sunken Citadel
Highway to the Underdark

Dear Diary,

There is an ancient dwarven citadel a few days east of Cradle.  The old structure is sinking into the mountain where it comes into contact with a long tunnel leading to the underdark.  In the keep there was a powerful mind flayer who is controlling monsters with a horrific blend of magic, medicine and good old fashioned coercion.  When we confronted the mind flayer he shifted to another plane of existence.  We have disrupted his operation, but he is still out there somewhere.

We cleared out the upper keep of drow and malevolent spirits.  The servants of the spider queen favor darkness.  I have had to bolster my continual flame spell to illuminate their shadows.  Many of the dwarven ghosts have found some measure of peace after Runt promised to restore the Citadel.  We freed a giant who has vowed to rescue his family and bring vengeance to his captors.

Under the citadel we saw the support columns which are inadequate to hold it aloft.  If this place is to be restored it would begin with he arduous task of bolstering this system of columns.

We followed a tunnel that I can only describe as a highway to the underdark deep beneath the citadel.  We encountered a band of minotaurs that have been subjugated by an orc tribe.  They bear the eye of Gruumsh on their chests.  A spirit naga "aided" them in their fight against us.  Truth be told the naga's lightning bolts hit the minotaurs as often as it hit one of our party.  Unless you count the Teds.  That snake did fry a whole horde of zombies.  Just more evidence that evocation is more powerful than necromancy.  Spirit Nagas reincarnate after they are slain, so we have left another loose end in the form of a powerful enemy spellcaster.  My concern grows.

I hope that the dragon is pleased with our progress.  He was the one that informed us of the citadel and it's denizens.  He was forged in the fires that wrought the world and being in his presence fills me with awe.


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