East of Winter

Newly Arrived and already saving a Princess.
(With a Little Help)

Having freshly arrived in Cradle, Brave Blade Ander, had the good fortune to Stumble upon several Heroic adventures setting out to save a blacksmith whom for reasons only confused big folk favored, was off making House calls, in some dangerous country side. Setting forth these brave souls drove a lovely wagon off into the wilderness to the last known position of said Blacksmith.  After a couple brief skirmishes, in which Brave Blade Ander, bravely stayed well back and mocked the our foolish foes party discovered the wagon of our missing blacksmith. In the wagon they discovered a magical blade of light, which our brave heroes trust to Blade Ander as he seemed most fit wield such a weapon. After that they Layed to rest the Blacksmith's brave bodyguard whom had been killed by most cowardly poison. The Party soon followed the trail of the attackers. Laying into the Foes the brave Fighters and Paladin with aid from Ander's new improved sword skills,  soon slew the enemies taking on alive to question. Finding the path to the most villainous lair, our epic Heroes set out once more praying they would be in time to save the blacksmith whom they had discovered was rumored to be a natural daughter of the King. 

The Vile Varmint in question turned out to be a terribly mustached Human, with a shield that constantly made faces at the party. Bravely Abby freed the Princess, while the fighters faced off against  a spiritual weapon. After the melee ensued blows were exchanged, and the enemy was struck down, though the body disappeared before the blow sinister was struck. 

On the way back to town the braver heroes rid the world of a land shark. A good time was had by all, and a great deal coin was made. Now Ander must complete his first song, how I rescued the Princess with some help. What rhymes with princess? 

Bring out your dead

Bring out your dead the law is 
coming and there’s no where left to 
hide, Big black suit is coming down gonna 
clean out from the inside 
People being killed for what they made. 
Taking on more than they can carry away.

Somebody pushed me in a hurricane 
cuz I can’t stand standing still. 
I’ve got a whole shitload of trouble 
but I still ain’t had my fill. 
I've got sin covering my lies. 
Good God I’ve got nothing to hide.

Bring out your dead the law is 
coming and there’s no where left to 
hide, Big black suit is coming down gonna 
clean out from the inside 
People being killed for what they made. 
Taking on more than they can carry away.

Left town a block up not nearly far enough.
I’m not well, it’s unsafe and I think I’ve had too much. 
Gonna push back and make noise today. 
I’m gonna be heard coming in this way. 

Taking fire from behind it’s not safe to be in this land.
Show them the driver, 
show them his gun, it’s in your able hand. 
Gonna be free or dead tonight. 
One foot one fight at a time. 

Bring out your dead the law is 
coming and there’s no where left to 
hide, Big black suit is coming down gonna 
clean out from the inside 
People being killed for what they made. 
Taking on more than they can carry away.

The words flowed through his mind, endlessly repeating themselves. Already,
they were dancing on his grave. Yet the prisoner clung to each verse, 
as if they were the puzzle to his salvation. Bring out your dead.

The man looked as though he had gone through hell itself before landing in this cell.
Little more than a gaunt shadow of an elf, he sat in the center of the prison meditating.
Scars worked their way across his skin, tracing a terrible map in his flesh. His entire
face was masked by a terrible burn, but even the burns could not hide the wicked
grin that stretched across his mouth. Bring out your dead.

He came in good faith. Yet they dare, the prisoner fumed. The voice of his thoughts
dripped with a hatred so complete and explosive that for a second he lost concentration 
on his poem. Bring out your dead.

Imildrak sat there, in the heart of Remidon, accused of crimes against humanity.
His ritual was the only thing that kept him sane, kept him from succumbing to thoughts
of ruin and desecration. There would be time enough. Bring out your dead.

Liberation of Crackhammer Peaks
Down with the Duergar

Dear Dream Journal,

Where one witnesses wickedness one has a duty to eliminate it.  For far too long we have sat idly by while the Duergar slavers in Crackhammer gain strength.  It has weighed on both myself and Abaraxia for some time, today we decided to do something about it.  I assembled a crew of paladins (Abaraxia, Umbriel and Sir Milton).  Along with Runt, the lawful heir to Crackhammer, we set out to deal with the Duergar.

We discovered the main entrance to the Duergar city.  A cleverly concealed door in the mountains led through rough hewn tunnels to an impressive gate adorned with statues of Duergar Deities.  To our surprise, when the massive portal opened the statues came alive and attacked us.  I banished the metal sculpture so we could focus on the smaller stone minions.  The stone golems were susceptible to fire and thus were dispatched very quickly.  When the metal monstrosity returned it was set upon from all sides.  It was healed by fire, however magical weapons were very effective.  It was overwhelmed by force of numbers in the end. 

I summoned an earth elemental from the broken stones of the Duergar's fallen idols.  Before I could properly bind the creature we were ambushed by invisible Duergar who distracted me from my spell.  Luckily I was able to banish the elemental before it went berserk.  While I was busy cleaning up my own mess Abaraxia was smiting the dark dwarves with holy vengeance, Fenriss was unleashing a hail of arrows and Umbriel fought with all the majesty of the fabled angel Icarus.  Sir Milton insisted that I document how well dressed he was for this engagement.  I contributed one fireball to the fray, it was all that was necessary.  One word shall suffice when it is the last word.

We pressed on past the sundered gate and came upon a team of Duergar supervising some subjugated surface humanoids who were loading wagons for them.  Sir Milton snuck ahead and led the charge with much derring do.  Abaraxia held aloft her lantern and revealed the wicked Duergar lurking in the shadows.  I held my righteous indignation in check for fear of the collateral damage and limited myself to rays and bolts.  Runt rampaged in the form of a giant Elk and trampled the usurpers who stole his birthright.  After the Duergar were defeated Runt transformed back into a dwarf and revealed himself as the heir to Crackhammer.  An enslaved dwarf, who I shall refer to as Fitz, volunteered to rally his kinsman to our cause.  I filled my bag of holding with weapons the Duergar forged for the orcs and gave the sack of armaments to Fitz.  We instructed him to distribute the weapons and we would return at dawn the next day.  We rescued two female slaves and took them back to Remidon.  We went shopping, ate a suspiciously decadent meal, slept in a warm bed and then teleported back to Crackhammer by morning.  When we returned to the wreckage of the burnt Duergar wagons we encountered the orcish caravan who came to purchase the weapons.  We made short work of them and re-appropriated their currency.

We fought our way through their defensive and claustrophobic corridors, slaying another Cleric of Daera.  We freed and armed more slaves and incited them to revolt.  They paid dearly for the distraction they caused to the Duergar while we made our way to the forge.  We encountered the mighty forgemaster and his salamander minions stoking the forge.  Sir Milton fought with panache, gracefully jumping from anvil to anvil, taunting the forgemaster and smiting him in turn…and only occassionally being knocked about the room by a gigantic hammer.  Runt took the form of a giant scorpion and restrained our foes.  Balboa, my friendly and not at all berserk earth elemental, distracted one of the salamanders while the party dealt with the other.  I dealt fire to the dwarves and lightning to the salamanders until it smelt of ash and ozone.  In their final moments the wicked shall glimpse the light.  A fleeting vision in the flames will reveal the folly of their dark path.  As they perish they will lament their wickedness and beg in vain for mercy.  Rhollor Rhollor blah blah blah.

Balboa smote the anvils and caved in the walls until the forge was buried in rubble as we escaped.  We rescued 70 souls from the Duergar.  We led them into the wilderness and hid deep in the mountains.  Over the course of several weeks I was able to teleport them all to the safety of Cradle.  The righteous shall be delivered from darkness and shall live their days in the light.    Praise be to Rhollor, the living flame, the sustainer of the righteous and destroyer of the wicked.  Amen.

Would you like to play a game?
It'll be fun!

****Last call!  Entries due by EOD 12/1/17****


Hey everybody!  Let's play a game about our D&D characters.  No not an actual session of D&D.  But rather a silly and irreverent game about our story.  If I finally got my big break and got to make a movie about East of Winter, our amazing West Marches style D&D game, I'd need to cast all of your characters.

So the game is to leave a comment below about which actor or actress would play your character.  Is there someone in Hollywood, past or present, who looks a lot like your character? (ya know with the proper makeup/body modifications/prosthetics to actually look like a Tiefling or a Kenku or a Lizard folk)  Bonus points for telling me what Wardrobe would need to pull off their current look.

Everyone who leaves such a comment is rewarded with one Inspiration.  The best comment (as judged by me laugh ) will win one Reroll.  You can reroll any one of your dice.  You can make me reroll any one of my dice.  You could even let/make another character reroll a dice.  So go for the gold; that reroll just might save your life.

Rhollor Quest
Star of the Morning

Dear Dream Journal,

The time had come in my spiritual journey to take the next step.  The first of my disciples was prepared to be embraced by the warmth of Rhollor.  Abaraxia has expressed her desire to worship Rhollor for some time.  She was forced to affirm this choice three more times before we were ready to begin.  Once to her mentor along the path of Tritherion.  Once to Cicada, and once to myself.  Thus satisfied that she was serious about this endeavor I contacted Rhollortron, the mouth of Rhollor.  We asked it 5 questions.

Will Rhollor accept the worship of this paladin? – Maybe

Will you grant us visions of a quest to prove her worthiness? – One

Will you grant us a boon on this quest? – Perhaps

Does it please Rhollor for Remidon to control the Eastern Marches? – Irrellevent

Is Remidon a lawful influence? – unclear

True to its word Rhollortron granted Abaraxia one vision of her quest.  The meaning was to clear, she was to slay the succubus/dream bandit  that works for her mother.  It was heavily implied that she had a day to complete this task.  As both good and bad luck would have it the dwarven brewer from the lodge of the bear was taken into the temple for healing at this time.  He was attacked by a shadowy yet comely figure at the lodge.  Suspecting the succubus was involved we traveled to the lodge to investigate.  We discovered the hydra head was missing.  Abaraxia found a nail fragment from the assailant's talon.  I used it to scry on the Succubus and found her in the sunless citadel.  We watched her plane shift from the lower tunnels in the bowels below the citadel.

I teleported us to the sunless citadel, and brazenly contacted the succubus via a contact other plane spell.  She agreed to meet us that day, but was infuriatingly non specific about the hour.  She also seemed annoyingly pleased with herself.  While waiting for her we encountered and dispatched some hell hounds and discovered a secret alcove with the tomb of a paladin of Pelor.  We dispatched the golem tomb guardians with cold hard steel.  Yes, I condescended to use a sword, and was surprisingly good at it.

We discovered a suit of armor, a shield and a sword with sun iconography.  Abby donned the gear and was granted a vision by the spirit of the Pelorian Paladin.  When the time comes you will have to make a choice.  Wrath or Mercy.  You will know the moment when it comes.

Around this time we heard the succubus calling us to the room at the top of the well.  I let Abaraxia pilot the disc and carry us both up the well.  The succubus had brought help, an imp and a snake bearded fiend.  The imp failed to catch us in its net trap, I failed to banish Snake Beard.  I dispatched the imp with cantrips while Abaraxia banished Snake Beard to the bottom of the well.  Harry Turtledove thunder gunned Snake Beard on his long climb back to the top, while Abaraxia dealt with the succubus one on one.  The succubus was irritatingly smug even in her defeat.  Peloradin beseeched Aby to be merciful and not slay the succubus.  I beseeched Rhollortron to block the dream bandit from re-entering the material plane.  Abaraxia smote the succubus and completed her quest.  Dedicating her life and service to the everburning flame of Rhollor.  As it was foretold in the chronicles of flame "The fifth angel shall blow his trumpet and a star will fall from heaven to earth.  Both life and death will be her dominion.  The keys of light and darkness shall be hers to command."

As the elation and adrenaline wore off I was haunted by what the Rhollortron said to me.  Remidon's influence is irrellevant.  I thought I was doing Rhollor's work by advancing the goals of Remidon.  Clearly Rhollor has bigger plans for me.  I must do more, push myself to the limits.  The work of my hands and mind will bring glory to Rhollor.  My talent shall no longer be buried in the sand, I intend to pay it back…with interest.

Staring into the Abyss
Are you Eyeball f-in me B?

Dear Dream Journal,

I recently led an expedition to the devil's horn peaks.  Imildrak had a vision which suggested demonic activity, all of the warnings we had of the place were excruciatingly vague, and our curiosity had been piqued.  Abaraxia, Nocturne, and Runt accompanied my brother and I on this mission.

We returned to the cross roads where we encountered the mighty Mint-o-taur and traveled towards the mountains along the road.  We were forced to circumvent a curious tar pit that blocked the road.  We continued to a cave in the mountains and made our way into the darkness.

We encountered some minotaurs who bore the eye of Grummsh, they fought alongside hobgoblins who walked along the ceilings with spider slippers.  My wall of fire drove them back, Rhollor be praised.  Runt and Abaraxia made good use of the flames by holding our enemies close to the heat.  For the flames of Rhollor shall consume the wicked and spare the righteous. 

Without thought of rest or preparation we stumbled into the next room which was full of orcs.  I summoned another wall of fire through their ranks.  Imildrak cast a fireball into their midst, Runt summoned a flaming sphere, the orcs melted under the onslaught of flame.  Praise Rhollor blah blah blah.

Aby chased the one surviving orc into the next chamber…and that boys and girls is when everything turned to shit.  A trap was sprung that caused a large boulder to roll through the hallway that we were standing in, and separated me from my companions.  A roper wrapped Abaraxia up with hentai hugs and a beholder doused my flames merely by looking at them.

I was forced to return to the chamber through a path that ran through the ceiling.  The rest of the party was being waylaid by the roper while the Beholder spun in circles shooting arcane death in every direction from its eyestalks, while locking us down with its potent anti magic field.  Our goal quickly shifted from winning the fight to getting out alive.

Nocturne was able to make it to me first.  I vowed not to leave a disciple of Rhollor behind.  I let down a rope for Aby.  Runt was able to climb up too, barely, which I guess was just fine.  Imildrak didn't make it to me in time, but you can't save everyone, so I teleported the faithful away from the fray.  So far Imildrak has not been receptive to my sending or scrying attempts.  I assume he will find his own way back.

Against Ice and Darkness
Personal Diary Entry
Some days, I spend the whole day in my office with nothing more exciting than supply reports. Others: Ramathon and a group of new adventurers reporting a problem with a barely sealed demon gate. Sure. That’s what we needed nearby. 

I’m alarmed at how long this has apparently been a problem without my being aware of it- it appears they have already located the seal system for this gate- some sort of resonance from magical tomes- and one of the tomes in question, though given whose possession it’s actually in, I don’t know that I’d really claim “we” have it. A problem for another day. 
First order of business, these adventurers know where another of the books is, and it seems even one should be enough to keep the gate sealed. It’s an inefficient system, I’ll have to consult with the wizards to see if there’s something more effective we can put in place once it’s secure again. 
This key-book was meant to be with a group of elves in the far north, though the exact location of their settlement had been lost to general knowledge. One of the adventurers, a fighter and scholar called Eonar, suggested his contacts at a University might be of use in pinpointing the settlement, and we arranged with Alcadizzar to teleport us to the library there. 
The library- Yera has to go there one day, she’ll lose her mind. It’s enormous. I’ve never seen so many books in one place. Honestly, I’ve probably never seen that many books total. I should speak to the librarians, perhaps they’d agree to some sort of knowledge exchange. 
With some assistance, we were able to locate a pre-Edict map and more information about the group we were seeking (along with a few interesting stories I found on my own. The University really does have knowledge on quite a broad range of topics). 
Autumn is passing quickly even in Cradle; where we were headed, it would be firmly winter, so we sought out more sensible clothing before heading out (…mostly sensible. Warm, certainly. The gold lining and phoenix embroidery may not have been strictly necessary, but they’re pretty and I like them). 
The journey north from the University was to be two and half days, through the Wailing Woods and into the mountains.

Turns out, the Woods are full of ice faeries, who are exactly as unpleasant as you might expect from creatures so far from light and warmth. They particularly enjoy ambush. While invisible. And, if they can manage it, while you’re asleep, though to be fair, the first time they attacked us, we were awake. Immediately trapped in a thornbush, but hey. 

I got good use out of my night-light, though- whatever Alcadizzar did to its light works just fine on fae invisibility too, little bastards. 

And, of course, ice faeries can’t bear the touch of flame. Nocturne has shown a propensity to throw fireballs that I seriously appreciate, and my smites have begun actually lighting my enemies on fire lately, so that was…effective. Blessings of Rhollor be upon us. I suppose He would approve of the destruction of ice creatures. 

We endured several attacks as we made our way through the Woods, and I could see the strain building amongst my companions- Fenriss and Chimera took to sleeping tucked into tree branches, and Nocturne spent her meditation trance perched on her broom, ready for quick escape if necessary. 

The attacks got stranger as we pushed forward- even the trees cannot be trusted, their leaves razor sharp, branches lashing out to grab and grasp. The fae, too, tried to capture us, flying at our faces and attempting to administer some sort of exhaustion gas- the only one who tried it to me got my instinctual reaction, the blaze always barely held under my control lashing out to destroy him.  
(and Gods help me, I shouldn’t enjoy that as much as I do)

It took most of our resources, but we made it through to the snowy plain on the other side of the Woods. Ramathon and Fenriss lead us unerringly to the spot we’d found on the map, where there was…nothing. 
Or, at least, no city. What we did find, after some clever searching on Eonar’s part, was a suspicious patch of mid-day darkness, covering what turned out to be stairs.

We made our way carefully down into a multi-story complex, and after a quick survey by Chimera’s familiar revealed the first floor to be entirely abandoned, down one more floor. At which point, we finally encountered someone, an elven lady in leather armor, wandering toward a locked door we’d just been investigating. We greeted her and I explained our purpose, asking about the book. 
The elf brought us to her sister, the Princess. Again, we introduced ourselves and explained our mission, and why we had come to them. Much to my surprise, the Princess…was not inclined to cooperate. She was bitter at having been left behind on the other side of the Edict, and inclined to protect her own people, even at the expense of others, which I can understand, if not agree with. 
Not so much the part where she suggested we ally ourselves with the very demons we are trying to keep sealed away. As she, and her people, apparently have. 

I yearned to smite her. A year ago, I would have. But I am no longer simply myself. What I do is what Cradle is seen to do, and we cannot afford impulsive violence.
Even in the face of blatant demonic cooperation, Gods damnit. 

In any case, having seen we would not be able to come to any sort of agreement, we left before the troubled mood could boil over into actual battle (probably, if I am being entirely honest with myself, begun by me, if I had remained there for much longer), and returned to Cradle.
If these people are, in fact, in league with demons, though- and why do I have to keep explaining why making deals with demons is always, always a bad plan?- we cannot leave the book in their hands for long. 

When he realized what they'd intended, his claw quivered as if to move and stop it, but it was far too late. Their rasping captive gurgled in the conjured acid and grew still. His stomach churned like the cloudy morass of a black water swamp, and Runt's voice rising to insist it was for the best had to compete with the clanging klaxons of anger and revulsion howling in his skull.

Shckt, scrunk, swop.

When he snuck off to return to the site later, he was thankful that the ground had yet to fully give over to winter, even if the fall air was enough to make him more and more sluggish and dull the longer he went without his dragonhide shield strapped to his arm. He turned the earth over from the hole he was digging into a small mound.

Shckt, scrunk, swop.

The repetative refrain of the spade halted for a moment while the monster turned to look over his slain kinsman for a very long moment as he tried to process how he felt about what had transpired. “Skulk is sorry,” was what he'd decided upon when he broke the silence, and the spade went to work again.

Shckt, scrunk, swop.

Skulk tried to convince them to spare you.” He explained as his shoulders rose and fell.

Shckt, scrunk, swop.

…But we are monsters to them. We'll always be monsters to them.”

The shovel made a dull twanging thud when he tossed it out of the hole and scurried back up to ground level after it. Skulk hoisted the shaman into the pit he'd dug, uncorked his waterskin and spilled it liberally over the slain creature before crouching to tuck it under the corpse's claw.

Softskins looked to the sky to speak to their gods. Skulk looked to the earth beneath his claws instead.

Skulk has made many sacrifices to many gods. He as asked them to ignore him, to leave him in peace. Skulk knows that this was seen. Skulk returns your servant to you.” He offered as he stooped to swipe a foreclaw through the dirt, gathered a handful of it, and sprinkled it over the corpse.

With this final respect given, Skulk began to shovel once more.

An Update from the East
To: Roland Fairisle, King's Poet
My dear Roland, my most sincere apologies for the length of time that has passed since my last correspondence. The East has not yet been re-civilized, and it takes but one failed caravan to render us utterly alone in the wild for a time, without a way to communicate with anyone in kinder climes. 

Which is to say, of course, that I have been having most excellent adventures. There’s now an official Order of people whose very existence appears to be devoted to doing the sorts of things you hear in some of the more dramatic ballads and epic tales, so I have often been able to accompany them to observe and record (keeping my own hands quite clean, of course, but there’s no substitute for really being present, it gives the work that something extra). 

I’ve enclosed several poems about some of these events, if you could see your way to distributing them through the usual channels, I should be terribly grateful. 

(enclosed are, indeed, several poems, which are mildly obfuscated versions of prior missions Soraya’s been on, as well as several pages of what appear to be clothing designs)

More will come in short order, as I recently went on a very productive journey to a city across the newly thawed sea, called Fargonlon, to accompany an initial diplomatic mission under His Majesty’s orders. I knew you would want me to be there to witness such a momentous occasion, if you couldn’t be there yourself. 

We were viciously attacked as we sailed, harpies, singing their hideous songs, and boats full of minotaurs- pirates, perhaps, or some other sort of malcontents. The harpy music was no match for my classical training, and I dare say my singing allowed the adventuring types to do what they needed to do to dispose of the nuisances. And now I know what it looks like when a woman summons a fireball three hundred feet away onto a ship (terrifying and glorious both). 

The city itself… I will describe it more fully by the time I send my next letter, but it was a wondrous splendor- golden and warm, and filled with fine things. Our party, lead by the Countess Eremia Fol (the East is full of opportunities for advancement, it seems), was met by the Queen, Amemni, a most striking and imperious woman. She is fully eight feet tall, and the aura of power around her is palpable, even were she not guarded by orcs and minotaurs. 

Strange times we find ourselves in, calling for strange alliances. 

But for all their unusual appearance, they were hospitable, and we remained there in comfort for a few days while the Countess settled in to her quarters in the palace there, where she will remain until the treaty is worked out and signed, and, if she plays her cards with any skill, where she will perhaps remain as a foreign ambassador. Fargonlon is a lovely place to spend your time, if you are among its privileged.

I shall continue to write as couriers allow. Do send news, if you can spare a second for

Your devoted apprentice, 
Isabelle de Caris
Making Mountains out of Ant Hills
(Written by Ramathon)

(The following is recorded on stone using pictographs.)

500 demons broke the metal men and took their book. 

Luftwindia buried their book and heads in the sand.

Ants hate Green Jelly and love grape jelly.

The ant queen is a book worm.

A book has been read a gate has been sealed.


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