Recap: After resting up after breakfast on the 11th of Trical, the party decided to return to Terrace, and investigate the ruins -- hoping to find Beral's spellbook, and perhaps find the nymph Selera al Ha'kiel had mentioned in his use of legend lore. Aust and Lucian would remain at Lok Magius, where Lucian was coming to understand arcane energy in a whole new way. Aust, it turns out, is kin to Lucian -- they share the same surname. Quill would also remain at Lok Magius, working with Mistress Brin and Reed to gather necessary information. Lucian would send Alora with the party, 'just in case'.
The journey to the ruins of Terrace was uneventful, and the party set out in the morning, leaving Gheledon, Thalst, and Visik to guard the ship, as usual. The three, together, could run the Black Holly II if push came to shove -- and perhaps rescue the party, if necessary.
The ruins had been disturbed. A super-coccoon contained all the ruins on the small peninsula, and the party took to the river, wading along the shore until they came to the end of the peninsula. Fifty feet behind them lay the only green in the area -- a druid's grove. Before them lay spider webbing on a scale they had never seen -- and less than a bow-shot into it were the stables, and the main tree hulk where Lucian had nearly died.
Traps abounded -- made of spider's silk -- and so N'Kara used a flaming sphere of greenish flames to clear away enough webbing to reveal the entrance to the stables. The bones of a horse were just outside the stable -- slightly burnt from the sphere of fire, but obviously chewed upon by some unnatural creature. Rather than clear out the stables, they watched the edges of the coccoon, while Maui used detect evil -- and received twin results, nearly on top of the party.
Seamus pulled the group back, away from the ruins, and over to the druid grove. N'Kara and Xzax made a frightful discovery: the nymph was still there, gaunt with hunger, nearly wild from her binding -- and very unstable. She nearly killed Xzax and blinded N'Kara with her beauty, and the rest of the party was withdrawn by the draconic ranger without ever seeing the nymph. N'Kara managed to get through to the nymph, using the druidic tongue, but it was obvious that she was highly unstable -- and could perhaps kill them all at a moment's notice. Despite the dangers, N'Kara and Xzax took on the daunting task of comforting the nymph that Beral had bound to the grove's altar.
Realizing that Lucian had the key to the nymph's dimensional shackle, Alora was sent back to Lok Magius to find Lucian and retrieve the key. That having been done, they settled in on a sand bar not too far down river from the grove. Seamus decided that the ruins were too dangerous with undead, and that it would be best to bring in priests or mages to clear them out. Their best estimates put Alora at returning some time around noon of the next day.
Lucian, meanwhile, had run into Prat. The werebear-mage gave Lucian the command key to his tower, so that the young sorceror would have access to it, the laboratory it contained, and somewhere else to be in the storm that raged all about Lok Magius. Lucian and Aust managed to get into quite a bit of trouble in the laboratory, before Alora arrived. As soon as the familiar had hit the storm, she had tried to fly through it as best she could, but the winds made it nearly impossible. Lucian and Aust set out to find the grounded falcon, and were aided by the mad mage P'Arkon. When things began to prove dicey on the mountain-side storm, P'Arkon brought in Mistress Brin, and together, the four managed to find and rescue poor Alora.
The familiar filled them in on events in Terrace, and Mistress Brin decided that Prat would be needed. The werebear-mage would teleport Aust, Quill, and Lucian back to the group, once they had a destination. Drawing something to work with, the bard Tram aided the group in reconstructing the druidic grove from Lucian's memory, and then using it to scry a quick destination. That done, Prat ripped a hole in space-time, and deliver the rest of the party to the druidic grove -- with the key to the dimensional shackle.
Xzax nearly fired upon the four, before shouting a warning to close their eyes. The frightened nymph drew upon the power of the grove, and her unearthly beauty nearly killed them all. Quill's heart broke, and the young half-elf fell to the earth in a collapsed heap. Aust and Lucian obeyed Xzax's order just in time, but Prat did not. The werebear-sorceror was smitten.
Once the situation was in hand, the nymph was released, and she immediately disappeared. Prat teleported back to Lok Magius with Quill, to see if anything could be done for her. Reunited, the group moved into the druid's grove for safety against the night... For as soon as the sun had set, a calling had begun within the coccooned nest of Terrace -- a female elf, calling for her son: Lucian.
Lucian was stricken by the haunting calling, barely able to hear it from across the river. The party huddled together against the cold and the night, while Aust blessed the grove to keep the undead out.
In the morning, they were nearly trapped by the secretive, invisible, undead spiders that had made the coccoon about the ruins. The spiders could not see the party -- and neither could Beral, alerted to their presence. Xzax became caught up in a trap that had been set during the night, while they slept, and Beral exposed himself -- throwing spell after spell into the trap, unable to see any members of the party. Aust turned him with Xoriah's wrath against the undead, and destroyed all of the undead spiders.
Beral plodded for the opposite shore, even as Lucian launched volley after volley of flaming magic missiles. Seamus calmly read the scroll of chain lightning he had, and called down the wrath of the heavens. A storm cloud blotted out the sun, and rained down lightning upon the undead mage with such fury that nearby cedars that rose hundreds of feet into the air were toppled, and a fifteen-foot wide crater was all the remained of the vaporized Beral. The party had learned its lesson, though -- Aust made sure that the ground where Beral died would be holy, and the mad elf would never walk the earth again.
It raised questions, though... Beral had raised Lucian's father from the dead. But who raised Beral?
N'Kara and Lucian together used their flaming spheres to burn away the webbing well aways from the stables. Keeping their vigilance outside, with Xzax and his arrows notched, the druidess, the sorceror, and the ranger ensured that no undead spiders would rebuild the coccoon while the others went inside. Seamus, Cleo, Aust, and Maui slowly burned away the cocoon inside -- revealing one slow foot at a time.
Cleo accidently found a number of traps, and nearly lost her life to a few of the cleverly constructed traps. But she did find Beral's spellbook.
Once the spellbook had been secured, Lucian took on the difficult task of translating the mad man's words. He found chaos, and hints of dark deeds. He also found the long-sought secret of Craft Wonderous Items, and the ways Beral made all of the magical items he had.
Once the stables were clear, the party set out to return to the Black Holly II -- but they were being shadowed. A great bear walked along the opposite shore, with something held in its mouth. N'Kara approached the bear, and spoke with it. The thing it held in its mouth was a scimitar, courtesy of the nymph. The scimitar identified itself as Letheleyehema, and its deep, greenish glow bespoke (literally) a great deal of power. Letheleyehema was the nymph's way of saying 'thank you' for her release.
Once back at the ship, they rested until dawn the next day -- and then set out again for Rilan. Near sunset, they passed the town of Avath, which is a half-way point between Teras and Rilan. There were no ships on the docks, and no villagers in the town. Only three of the largest buildings had any smoke at all in the early winter's cold. Even more unusual, an armed bowman awaited at the end of the dock -- apparently ready to fire upon the Holly should she near. Past sunset, as Visik scouted ahead in the water, he reported bodies, floating down river.
Captain Seamus, sensing things were not right, had the ship weigh her anchor, and doubled the watch.
Come the dawn, they creeped in to Rilan, but did not moor, instead staying in the middle of the river. As in Avath, only a few buildings had smoke coming from their chimneys -- and they were the largest buildings. Alora, sent aloft, returned to report that a funeral procession had left the largest building, and taken a body to a mass grave. The mass grave was not yet filled.
Alora reported this, even as Visik and Maui entered the river, swimming up to the docks for a quick reconnaissance. Seamus whistled for their return. All the signs pointed to plague. Plague. It matched the rumors he had heard in the Blue Tyven about a plague ship that had washed up on the shoals near Spider Werks.
On the good side of the coin, the tempest above Lok Magius was gone, and Alora was sent there with a message quickly scribed by Lucian. Marks passed, and there was little to no sign of activity in Rilan -- and then Alora returned, with a message written by Mistress Brin. The message detailed the nature of Davin's Plague... It's incubation period was two days, and then it would strike, leaving the victim weakened considerably. Two days later, even as the victim recovered, it would strike again -- a killing blow. Dwarves could be killed by it, but rarely. Tomanths were immune. Humans and elves were particularly hard hit. Symptoms included dry, red eyes, and an unwillingness to eat or drink. A quarantine had been declared for all of Rakore.
Mistress Brin included one, last warning... Stay out of the river, for a great many bodies had fallen into it.
Everyone looked to Maui.
The Sholin went to the bow of the ship, and placed himself in isolation -- with Aust near, but out of reach, to soothe him. Xzax remained in the crow's nest, keeping a watch on things. Marks passed. And then days.
When it became certain that Maui did not have the dreaded disease, the party let out a collective sigh of relief.
Not long thereafter, Oliver -- Mistress Brin's familiar, a parrot -- arrive with a scroll, and a regular correspondance took place between the Holly and Lok Magius. One of the messages detailed a squadron of orcish rocs stopping in Firland and sacking it. The rocs had flown in from the west, and were so loaded down with something that they had to stop in Firland. After the small town was sacked, the rocs flew off, again, towards the east -- unladen. As the messages continued through another day, another note caught Seamus' eye: the rocs had been seen flying over Kashin, and three had been brought down by the Rakanus Clan's priestly fires.
The final message was deliver in person, from Lok Magius. Prat tore a hole in the space-time continuum, and arrived at the front of the ship. He was dressed in simple, white robes, and his eyes were dark from lack of sleep. He delivered Seamus' newly enchanted rapier, and left behind a thick set of scrolls before he left as he entered.
The scrolls detailed a set of ruins called Tymarell. Mistress Brin asked if the party could investigate the ruins, and try to find a map within them that reputedly had once been found there, and then lost. Nearly a year before, the ruins had been sacked by a warrior with a two-bladed sword, and a blue elf. The gold and treasure had reputedly been lost six months prior, but many suspected there was some connection to the troubles in the capital. The king's council still had its traitor, and Mistress Brin hoped for some clue to the mess. Given the quarantine, with every city sealed, and clerics travelling about, the ruins of Tymarell might be the only place the party could go. Best estimates placed the quarantine at lasting another week, and aid was en route from Kur Maeth to defeat the plague. In the meantime...
Seamus set sail for the ruins of Tymarell, planning to stop well short of the city of Takanal that lay near the ruins, and along the river. On their journey northward, they saw many ships run aground, and even bodies in the water.
By sunset, they had run the Black Holly II aground nearly ten miles from Takanal. A quick scouting foray revealed little, and they settled in for the night. The next morning, they set out north for the ruins, and reached them by nightfall.
There was a quick scuffle with a half dozen orcs and an ogre, and the party showed no mercy, even after they surrended.
The incident split the party decisively, for the slaying of the ograns hurt the N'Kara and Lucian deeply. The party rested the night, some ways from the slaughter, but the morning saw them heading back for the Holly, infighting and bickering. Seamus gave up all leadership of the group on land to Xzax, and then slipped into the shadows -- surreptiously heading back to the ruins, to find the map that Mistress Brin needed.
Xzax ordered the party to hold fast, when he discovered Seamus missing, and moved to follow. The party waited only long enough to let the ranger think himself ahead, and then followed him.
Inside the ruins, Seamus nearly met his death encoutering an otyugh, but he was rescued by well-placed arrows from Xzax. Together, they moved further into the ruins, only to discover the guardian of the treasury -- a huge earth elemental, bound within a summoning circle. It was then that the rest of the group caught up with them. Xzax, thinking to bypass the guardian, tried to slip over it with his wings outstretched. The guardian had other ideas, and nearly killed the ranger before all his friends could rescue him.
Consulting the maps of the ruins that Mistress Brin had included, they bypassed the guardian, and finally found the room in question. The map was tricky, but revealed the location of an isle about fifty miles west of Firland -- and it was marked only as a 'navigation hazard' on Seamus maritime maps. Thinking the isle important, and having found what they sought, they quickly returned to the river where the Black Holly II had been beached.
Only the Holly wasn't there. Knifed into a tree was a message from Thalst: A scrag had made an attack on them, and they had to withdraw. As soon as they could get the Holly repaired and taken care of, they would return -- probably on the morrow. As the sun was setting, they settled in to rest, banking up a small fire.
They were silent, and embittered, as the cruel north wind rolled down out of the Tikranor Plateau. The party was fracturing, with several sides blaming themselves, and one another. They had found the map, but slaughter of the ograns haunted their dreams that night, on the 19th of Trical.
XP Awarded: 1,800 (total to date is 12,550)
DM's Notes: It took us awhile to get started, because the cuttin up was good. Fred, Mac, and Mac were all in rare form, and Pam took delight in scaring the dickens out of Fred, sneaking up on him from behind, and startling him good.
The roleplay was excellent, all around. Maybe it was too good, because, in character, the party is fracturing a bit. Outside of character, they're all having a good time, but in character, the party's a mess. I thought the encounters in the burned out husk of Terrace were done quite well, as was the reaction to the plague in Rilan, and the situation in the ruins of Tymarell. I'm concerned, though. The party's leadership is crumbling because of this decisive moral issue: is it moral to kill ograns, even if they surrender? It's a tough question. The vetarans of the orc wars in Rakore, and those that have fought orcs and ogres before, feel they were justified in killing the ogran scum. The others feel that killing anyone that's surrendered, even if it's ograns, is wrong. Good roleplay, here, and I'm interested in seeing the outcome, when next we play.
Adam seemed a bit goofy in his prayer-casting, as a cleric of Olorin. I don't know whether this is due to inexperience, or bull-headed role-playing. He'd be wise to research his prayer selection a bit more, and think more tactically. Tom's doing a good job with his cleric of Xoriah, so maybe the two, together, can wrangle a better system from the party. The new party dynamics are not as good, without Jena and Gunju, and a new equilibrium must be reached. And soon...
Dark forces are gathering.
Cut Scene: Aust kneeled, his holy symbol in his hands, and prayed to Xoriah. The burned out husk of Terrace lay coccooned by the undead spiders, and though the N'Kara and Lucian had destroyed many of the creatures, the elven city was still undying. Aust remembered what the city had looked like in his youth, before the War of the Undead, and he prayed.
Maui joined him, kneeling beside him, praying as well to Olorin to cleanse the city. The spirits that still resided there needed to rest. The city needed to be cleansed.
When their prayers were done, they both stood, and rejoined their comrades as they waded along the river's banks, and back to the Black Holly II. Marks passed, and they soon passed out of sight of Terrace, and the dying woods around it.
Seamus had felled a massive cedar with his scroll of chain lightning. The cedar had been burned again and again by N'Kara and Lucian's flaming spheres. The surface of the great tree was scarred with fire, from the War of the Undead, and the day's events, but the fires were dying out. And in the crook of one shattered branch, an ember glowed. The nymph's sensitive nostrils could detect the gentle smoke that wafted up from the ember -- but she knew the spiders would re-coccoon the shattered tree, and smother the ember.
Two prayers to two goddesses were joined by a third prayer to a god, as the nymph prayed for the city to finally die, as it should have done -- so that new grasses could grow. She prayed for the fire to consume all of Terrace. She prayed for winter winds to breathe life into the flames. She prayed for winter rains to quell the soil, and prepare it for the next spring. Barith, Olorin, and Xoriah, together, answered the prayers.
The north winds picked up, fanning the ember into flames...