Portals through Time

Chaos Temple, Week 1

Having come across a bounty flyer fluttering perhaps all the way from Port Kardell, the party was surprised to find “The Eyes of Wisdom” in strong letters at the top of the page. Realizing that their name had become something they’d need to either defend even stronger or change for ease, they chose the latter—the dynamic and feel of the party had changed since they had first formed up in Foredge, months and months ago. They agreed on Arcane Staffing & Co—Kilya made a point that even the fanciest twirl of her dagger couldn’t magic up a candle flame, even. That bit of business out of the way, they tucked the flyer away for safe keeping and approached the village.

After some initial nervousness about approaching—they had seen first-hand the imposing drake-riders, and the beast that the village was in the process of skinning was easily ten feet long, so they clearly had some skill—they decided that a direct approach would be least suspicious. After a group of men rushed between the party and the village folk and summoned the larger warriors, Minuet managed to cool off these seemingly conflict-eager men and they were introduced to Medukáa, who looked as if he would have been of the warrior caste except that he walked with a cane. He explained that, yes, Gavernus had been there and had been tossed into the tower as his “trial”. The tower, he explained, was traditionally used as a testing ground for chiefs and great warriors and thus was filled with dangers. Being neither a warrior from a different tribe (who would be released or killed, depending on the current relations) or a civilian who might be jailed or placed into servitude, the tribe had decided to put Gavernus to a test of warrior-ship, or to die.

However, even though a prisoner had been thrown in as a potential punishment, that didn’t mean the party would be able to easily access the tower, which was sacred, or leave it easily if they could get in—the tower’s position as a testing ground was partially due to its own judgment of those who would exit its doors. But he, Medukáa would help them if they would assist him in his argument against the tribe’s current chief, Chingutsao, who was turning too far from the old ways. Sighing as the specter of nigh-inevitable conflict sprang up once more, they agreed, and were guided past the half-staring, half-glaring eyes of the tribespeople in to the tower.

As soon as they entered the tower they could feel ancient powers quivering within them. Upon entering the first chamber and gazing upon an ancient altar to Kord, each of them felt a rush of bloodlust and the intense desire to slay their foes and feel the heat of their last breaths on their faces—and with it came an increased confidence in their abilities to strike the enemies’ vitals, though they found the impulse distracting when they were a greater distance from their foes. To the sides of the room were stairways spiraling around the outside of the tower, heading upwards to their left and downwards to the right—and that a number of collapsed sections of floor leading down to the basement all glowed with an eerily flat, red light.

Immediately on entering they found a macetail behemoth—Medukáa explained that wild beasts often would be brought as a sacrifice to the tower, to keep its dangers fresh—that had arrows notched into it back. It charged immediately, seized of the bloodlust of the place—but what started as a one-sided four-on-one fight quickly escalated into a massive mob frenzy as an orc leading a number of gnolls ordered them to defend their dinner and a number of fire beetles likewise scuttled into the fray as the stench of blood filled the air. Despite the ever-increasing number of combatants, though, the party held their ground and ended up dispensing the behemoth, the beetles and three of the five humanoids, though two of the gnoll archers flaunted their cowardice and escaped to the floor above.

Considering their options while they caught their breath, bandaged their wounds, and cleaned their blades, the party next decided to investigate the chamber below. They had noticed during the previous fight that the blood on the floor seemed to pool and then drain downwards. As any of the many things the gathering of blood might indicate was something to approach in a readied state they decided to investigate that while they remained relatively fresh. Nor did their reason fail them; descending into the depths they found a surprise from nightmare: Chingutsao, the leader of the human tribe who had brought them the power to ride the red mountain drakes, knelt in meditation before a faintly glowing red orb. A pervasive aura of evil and power-lust was evident to even the magically disinclined, and upon noticing the party’s entry Chingutsao immediately stood, vowed to kill them before they could tell anyone what they’d seen there, and sliced his palm to let his blood flow down onto the orb. He then drew his massive stone greataxe and charged them.

Chingutsao was clearly a worthy opponent himself, but his sacrificed blood called out, too, to the demonic masters that apparently had given him his powers. Four evistros, foul-smelling pink humanoid demons, appeared in the room and rushed to his defense, their foul claws seeming to fly in from every direction at once as they swarmed over the party. It was a pitched battle but the party managed to fell Chingutsao, hoping the demons would then disperse. They were unpleasantly surprised when they then seemed enraged by this, rather than losing any purpose. Even after slaying the demons, their fallen forms imploding in a mess of blood and entrails, they did not rest: red gems fell from their chests and seemed to crawl towards the red orb as energies coalesced around them. Striking at the gems in an attempt to rid them of their evil magics both Cordelia and Mulgott instead found themselves infected with the demonic taint. Dispatching the last two demons they then examined their wounds and agreed it was likely demon pox, a foul parasitic projection where the demons’ lingering presence would attack and attempt to take over their bodies as the evistros attempted to regain their physical forms and kill their former foes at once.

Disgusted with these rashes that were already starting to streak with unnatural greens and yellows and blacks and exhausted after two pitched battles, the party was dismayed to hear from Medukáa that he did not think the tower would yet allow them to leave. They had come for their friend, he said, and had not yet accomplished that goal. This the tower would know and refuse them what would be less than a warrior’s exit. Steeling their resolve, the party looked upwards. Two gnoll hunters had escaped them to the upper floors, they knew. But what other hazards might lurk above? They knew they’d soon find out. . .

Quick Adventure Catch-up

The party found a lost tribe deep within those caves, coinhabiting with the goblins. The Shadar-Zao were suspicious of outsiders, though some were friendlier than others, and had a strange problem that over time all their tribesmen were falling into deep, unending slumbers. Dispatching a number of marauding cave-nasties won some good will from them, though, though their leader still refused to lend them a guide. Skid volunteered, though, and the party—plus Skid and Rika, his wife—made their way out to the Western Wilds.

The wilds were not welcoming—after a few hours of making their way towards Westlanding, which was visible from the moment they departed the caves, Skid ran off to fetch a flower for his wife. Within seconds both goblins had taken arrows to the chest, killing Skid and injuring Rika. A smug, self-important, and black-clad ranger then walked up to receive back pats for “saving them.” Richard Thesbitt was his name, and he was working for Phelen Ostricar. As the party’s blood all boiled they still managed not to kill him on the spot—within sight of the town and its guards—and set off to bury Skid.

Despite their hesitance to take Rika into a town they knew contained a man who’d just tried to murder her, they made their way into Westlanding, where they were relieved to find that it was an impeccably well-run and well-defended town whose guard force showed equal care in protecting all of its guests. The inhabitants of the town seemed to confirm what they’d heard about unrest in the tribes, though they were hesitant to enlist their aid. Still, the party needed that information and, lacking anything else of import to do, they tried to build up the favor of the townsfolk. Slowly at first—starting with Tal, the friendly, loudmouthed rogue who took a liking to Cordelia, and then more rapidly as they intervened in a Thesbitt-produced conflict with the neighboring Kenku tribe—this worked.

The party spent only a week or so in Westlanding, but when they did so it was having made the friendship of both the town and the neighboring Kenku tribe: Thesbitt had kidnapped the Kenku’s spirit speaker, and it was the party’s timely rescue that prevented a large-scale conflict between the town and Kenku that would have led to many deaths. Despite this, they had been able to rescue her only by moving in on Ostricar’s tents, injuring or killing a number of his men in the process. Uld Rohansson, the de facto leader of the town, thanked them earnestly but said that he was sure they could understand they had to leave.

He did give them a new lead, though: Gavernus Cambillon, their top scout, had been sent north to investigate the human tribe, which had recently begun domesticating wild drakes for use as mounts. He was due back some days ago—a tardiness which had never previously occurred. The name sent off a hint of recollection, too, in Cordelia: Tunius Cambillon had been one of her father’s last allies defending himself against the political wiles of his other children, Cordelia’s half-siblings.

Understanding full well how necessary their taking quick leave would be—Ostricar was in Westlanding as an official envoy of the Mallian government, while Uld and James Pellegrin, captain of the guards, and the guards who had hesitated or declined to interfere were all in the employ of Korend—and given a new lead to investigate that seemed to put them back on the trail of the problems they had originally been sent to look into, the party set off towards the north. They were immediately thankful for what might have seemed a smaller boon: their copy of James Pellegrin’s map of the westtern wilds.

Stopping by Skid’s grave to pay their respects once more before leaving the area, they were then able to make their way north with relative ease, walking between the tall grasses and wild beasts of the plains and the rocky foothills of the divisional ridge. After a few days they came upon the village, a surprisingly permament-looking structure for the traditionally nomadic people, with mud huts built before—and on the grounds of—a temple they knew was traditionally open to all the tribes.

Watching carefully, as if they needed a last clear indicator that things were different than before, they next saw the return of a hunting party. Some eight warriors on red drakes as large and muscled as bulls flanked and escorted a cadre of foot troops, who bore on a grid an enormous cattle-like grazer, some ten to fifteen feet long. Clearly something unnatural was afoot, and the party was determined to find out what.

Traversing the Kardell Caves

Having spent a night at rest, the characters packed up camp and then prepared themselves for the journey deeper. Forming a circle around the goliath-built door, they lifted the heavy iron bar and dropped it with a heavy clang off to one side. They pulled open the door, steel and spells all ready and aimed at whatever might come out. Nothing came out.

Cautiously creeping forward into the next cavern, they found a massive chamber with tunnels spreading outwards both from their level as well as halfway up the tall chamber—where they thought they saw a hint of movement. When it disappeared they set to examining the tunnels, choosing the one that seemed to head most westerly.

Venturing for some time, much of the traveling was easy work—the tunnels were spacious and had few hazards other than the occasional pools of muck. Then, to their dismay, they found their tunnel opening into a large chamber—some thirty feet up one side, an pool of vividly blue-green liquid below that gave a light hiss when they dropped a copper down into it. Realizing how relatively branch-free the long tunnels they’d come down had been, the party concluded that if they’d picked the right tunnel there was no way to avoid crossing this room. Ever so carefully, they let Kilya take the lead, edging out horizontally along the cave wall, slamming pitons into small, sturdy cracks, then descending to the ground below.

Tossing their packs down to Kilya, the rest of the party followed, all enduring a few scrapes and bumps but only Cordelia having the unfortunate luck of slipping down into the acid pool—scurrying out only to find the burning acid still clinging to her skin and clothes and searing at her hands as she tried to wipe it off, though then moving to a corner away from her comrades to kick and shake the foul liquid off proved more effective.

Resuming their forward march, the party found the tunnel to have grown less hospitable as they pressed forward. Hours went by as they walked, doubled over and at times with their knees all but pressed to their chests as they had to squeeze through the narrow and bumpy path, often slipping down small rises or being cut by small stalactites they didn’t fully manage to avoid. It was with a collective sigh of relief, then, that they found the tunnel opening out into a small, circular room where they found finally stand straight, hands on their backs.

Examining the chamber, though, they found that it was a dead-end, except for a tall, vertical chimney, a goblin skeleton below a small blood stain at its bottom. Realizing that a slip here could have fatal consequences they unanimously agreed that attempting to traverse it would be madness, though when Cordelia sent Moose up to examine the room above they did find large fungus, indicating it was likely to be closer to the exit, or at least organic life. Nonetheless they realized they had to head back. Staring, for a moment, at the cramped tunnel welcoming them back inwards, they sighed and squeezed back in, knowing, at least, that there would be open traverse at the end.

The party took a night’s rest after their many hours underground, during which time they saw a goblin scouting party stumble onto their well-hidden camp and then, entering its magical ring of light, scream and run in surprise. The rest of the night passed without incident, though, and after they walked all the way back to the entrance—seeing the claw-scratched goliath wall as an unfortunate reminder of how far they hadn’t gotten—they found the next path to prove easier to finish. After hours of walking they emerged through an opening some twenty feet off the ground into the same room—they suspected, seeing similar features to what Moose had seen as well as a dark, funnel-shaped pit at one end of the room—they would previously have had to traverse the cave chimney for.

Climbing down into that chamber they noticed there were again small acid pools—seemingly just tinier versions of the large one they’d crossed earlier—and that the mushrooms they’d detected were most of three feet tall and black as night. Doomspore fungus, they reckoned, nasty things with spores that’d get into your lungs and for whom meat was their favorite meal. The last thing they noticed was that there seemed to be a number of tall, gangly creatures sneaking forward—away from them—through the cave. Pursuing at a safe distance and keeping the torch out of clear sight, they saw four of these tall, thin creatures—some seven feet tall but only a foot or a bit more across at their widest—two that seemed to have large, worm-like creatures on poles. Cavern chokers, they thought was probably what the tall ones were, but the worms they were unsure about.

Attempting to keep a safe distance, after a few chambers these things seemed to notice them, as they started striding from halfway across the room back towards where the party was standing. Hiding as best they could, they laid in wait, preparing as best they could for if battle were to be joined. But the chokes sent to investigate where the party hid were called back by a sort of bark and then they heard the sounds of battle—a very one-sided one, as far as they could tell. Realizing the chokers likely would head back through their position even if they won this fight, they decided to attack while they—or their foes, whichever side seemed manageable—were distracted.

The party found the cavern chokers and their worms—which now reared up off the floor displaying “mouths” that were a ring of horrible, toothed tentacles—attacking a small group of goblins. They prepared to fire as one choker’s fist came slamming down into a goblin, a horrible crunch and a whimpering as it did. They unleashed a volley of magic and steel, drawing the attention of the chokers and, after they realized the party presented the much larger threat, found themselves facing off against a half-dozen foes. They held resolutely, though, and—after some initial whimpering and retreating off into a corner—the goblins assisted, sending crossbow bolts flying into the backs of the chokers, and the day was won. They were dusting themselves off, cleaning the ichor off their clothes and gear, when one of the goblins stepped forward, pointing to his chest and saying, in a high-pitched screech, “Skid!”

Names were exchanged and then Skid started pointing past the end of the chamber—to where the party figured was most likely the west—and then repeating “Skid! Safe!” until finally the party understood and, nodding, followed him forward. He led them onwards, deeper into the caves, until finally they opened into the largest chamber yet, a tall, circular vault, a few makeshift barricades up at the entrances, holes carved in neat patterns in the back tall, roughly vertical wall, and a large fire built in the middle. Grateful for signs of civilized life, the party, led by Skid, strode forward.

Ascending the Tower of Thrym

Entering into the icy tower, they found that it was mostly built of stone, but that ice seemed to cover most surfaces, in thicknesses ranging from a thin frost to tens of feet of solid ice jutting outwards.

In the first floor of the tower they found a pool of icy water in the middle of the room, with two ice statues of giants holding giant, curved alphorns facing towards it. Trying to sound the horns was ineffectual—the horns were far too large for their lungs to sound. Cordelia summoned a floating disk and they made their way across the pool, noticing that a coin dropped in was instantly seized by icily stabbing crystals.

On the second floor they found themselves facing a large open room, but setting a toe out over a large, chessboard-like rectangle revealed that the ice could crumble beneath. Looking upwards at a stone carved sign, they found it to be a rough map of sorts, which they used to make their way mostly safely across the room. They also noticed there was a large central pillar that could be loosed and they did so, sending it crashing down into the pool below and freeing a frostwolf cloak that provided magically warmed protection.

Ascending, then, to the third floor, they found an ice statue that dwarfed even the ones at the entrance, a grand frost giant standing with his fist aloft in a victorious salute. Before it stood an altar, plain except for a circular hole a few inches in diameter in the very center, which seemed to correspond to the iron hilts of ice-cast weapons that were arrayed on long tables on either side of the room. Finding no guide to the functions, they plunged one hilt-first into the altar—only to find that it seemed to fill with energy and explode outwards, sending icy shards shooting across the room. Through much trial, error, and quick ducking beneath the altar’s thick stone, they were able to finally embed a waraxe in the altar and the thick icy doors behind the statue opened.

Ascending to the fourth, penultimate floor, the party was surprised to see a number of goliaths—though their manner was not like mortals, more as if they were part undead. The goliaths were still sentient, though, and engaged the party in a brief discussion of Thrym, the frost titan to whom they built this temple tower. When the goliaths realized that they were neither followers nor potential converts, though, they attacked, warning as they fell beneath the party’s blades that Thrymalda would be the end of them. They checked the bodies, which were mostly unadorned, except Cordelia was able to take the robes of the high priest, finding them a good fit and that they sent a ripple of magical energy coursing through her.

Rising, finally, to the top level of the tower, they found a young white dragon etching astrological calculations on the thin, glass-like ice ceiling. She introduced herself as Thrymalda and entertained their discussion briefly—though assuring them there was nothing to do about the caves being frozen, as it was a byproduct of their tower’s power channeling. When the discussion took longer than she was prepared for and started to delay her work, though, Thrymalda attacked.

The early combat went well—it was only a short time before they seemed to have weakened the dragon, her blood staining her white scales dark. The chill of her icy resolve seemed to catch in her breath, though, as Thrymalda unleashed volley after volley of freezing cold breath into the party’s ranks. Spreading out to avoid her breath attacks and cutting off her retreat to cover, though, the party was able to defeat her. They looted her stash and made their way out of the tower, then pleased to find that the ice covering the cave entrance had started to melt.

A few hours of hacking, slashing, magicking, and simply waiting, and the ice had cleared enough for them to pass. They entered into the goliath’s former wintering cave and, finding the back wall nicely bricked and mortared and the remaining ice blocking much of the wind from outside, were finally able to get as good a field’s night sleep as they could expect, waking up energized and ready to brave the caves before them.

Meeting the Goliaths

After about a week, the goliath tribe arrived in Ironheim. The party joined the welcoming committee and Yakum introduced them to Kashtir, his blood brother and leader of the goliaths. They spent most of the day setting up a sort of competitive fun-fair. They threw spears and rocks through a straw, donut-shaped target in Vagash’s new game and gawked as Yakum and Kashtir got some serious spear-fighting in in that circle—and cheering when Yakum won with the phasing spear-throw they’d told him about.

They went back to the Iron Stein to talk. Kashtir told them of a cave in the south that could lead to the Western Wilds—they used to winter there, but then they were attacked by a great evil and no longer go back. It’s the only way they might possibly be able to traverse in these winter months, though. Then they give him some wine, since goliaths normally never drink. He likes it but thinks he’ll stick to goats’ milk.

The party leaves early the next day and the trek down to the cave is harrowing—they descend into a steep valley and are buffeted by freezing, howling winds. Some cockatrices fly overhead and try to send a rock outcropping tumbling down on top of them but the party all dodges—whew. The cockatrices fly away and they trek onward, finally arriving at the cave—to find it caked over in ice and a large tower off which an icy mist rolls in waves stationed above. They wind around the back of the tall, circular tower, and assemble a basic camp, throwing blankets as windbreaks. They wake up still a bit stiff from the cold, but the tower before them stands between them and the cave, so there’s only one thing to do. . .

Happy Returns
Back in Ironheim

The next two days were an emotional trial for the Eyes of Wisdom. Still burdened with their late comrade’s death, having caused the death of Nathaniel Kindor, and having found themselves impotent, surrounded by foes, in the face of their worst enemy to date. Even more, in the place of the easy camaraderie of Tyrion, they found themselves in the still slightly uncomfortable of his standoffish half-brother, Mulgott. The journey itself was but a lesser trial, the mountain pass turning from cool to cold, but otherwise easy travel.

Arriving back in Ironheim began to warm them despite the cold of the high mountains. Every passerby seemed to have congratulations or condolences for them, even people whose faces they couldn’t recognize seeming to be well familiar with their adventures. Seeing this kind of reception still in the streets they decided to not immediately head to the Iron Stein, figuring they would likely find themselves detained there for some time. They instead headed to the town hall, to catch up with whoever was there at the time. As it turned out it was only Steelbeard and Piltarus—both Yakum and Gerndrn were on guard duty in the mines, where they had had no further incident but still kept a closer watch since the events of the last time the party was in town.

Steelbeard greeted them warmly, asking if they would be in town for a few days and if they wouldn’t mind a small ceremony in their honor. The dwarf seemed delighted when they confirmed both counts, and set off to the sides to look over some book of notes. They then spoke with Piltarus, who had been told of their recent troubles by Tavash. He expressed gladness to see them—and, of course, sorrow at Tyrion’s death. He confirmed that they were seeing strange things in the west, incidents that suggested a sinister influence. When they asked what they might do to get there, Port Kardell being closed off to them, Piltarus said that the goliath tribe was due to arrive shortly, as they wintered in Ironheim, getting their gear mended and training with the city guard. When asked if he knew specifically when they might arrive Piltarus had to admit that he didn’t—they arrived each year with the change in seasons and temperature, not according to the calendar. The party thanked him and, making sure Yakum and Gerndrn would be told of their arrival, headed over to the Iron Stein.

As soon as they walked through the door Jackie Olearen was already swooping over, hugging Minuet and Cordelia, patting Kilya on the shoulder and nodding at Mulgott. She was overjoyed to see them and particularly glad they’d be able to stay a few days. She’d already prepared a room, she said and—as she paused for a moment—they followed her eyes and saw Korek and Brin, the older dwarf smiling with admiration while the girl looked rather happier and healthier than when last they’d seen her. Jackie smiled and asked if she could get anything for them. They breathed a collective sigh of relief and Jackie immediately set off to procure smoked meats and ale and wine. They walked over and greeted Korek. He smiled and told them how good it was to seeing them, expressing his condolences for Tyrion—whose generosity had gotten them well-situated in Ironheim—and then asked if he might speak to them later. They nodded and he leaned in, whispering conspiratorially that he wanted to speak to them in private. The party nodded and then Jackie was returning, smiles on her face and plates and mugs spread all across her arms. They set into their food, catching up on the latest—most of which Jackie and Korek had heard from Piltarus but were still happy to hear from the heroes directly, and then when they’d finished eating and sharing their tale they excused themselves to head upstairs and doff their packs, gesturing surreptitiously for Korek to join them.

Going upstairs, they shed their packs and gear in the large room reserved for them, then turned to face Korek, asking what it was he needed. The dwarf started in hesitantly, seemingly unsure himself of the appropriateness of his request. Jackie’s father Colin, he said, they knew was not in a good state. He was overly taken to drink but, unlike many a man whom Korek had seen in such a manner, did not seem to have an excessive fondness or a predisposition for it. Rather, Korek thought, he seemed driven to it, by some haunting or demon. He seemed to have occasional moments of clarity, at times, while at other times he’d stand still and mumble whispers to himself. The party immediately wondered at possession, but Korek had nothing to support that idea. He was very hopeful that they’d help, though—the town and Jackie in particular had been such a help but, after hearing of the troubles in the town, he was nervous about what intervening might bring. Happy both to help Korek and also to repay Jackie for her kindnesses themselves, the party immediately agreed. This matter settled, Korek excused himself and the party settled down for a brief rest. They needed it for, as they woke up that morning and went down to the bar, they found half the city—all their gathered friends—waiting and excited to speak with them. All expressed their condolences but were also excited to hear of the party’s travails, even as they seemed to already know the details. Yakum in particular was thrilled to hear that they were to stay and meet the goliath tribe. He said he looked forward to introducing them all to his blood brother, the goliath leader Kashtir.

Once the festivities died down, though, the party set about their latest task, knowing they had limited time with Jackie’s father, who spent all of every day in a drunken stupor and whose vigor had faded greatly even since they first met him, just a few months ago. They worked tirelessly over the next few days, gathering information from Jackie—with as much sensitivity as possible—helping sober her father up, and then, finally, putting all the pieces together. They realized that what was happening, Colin being drawn to drink the same way he was shortly after his wife’s death, was that she had lingered on for some time. It was now that she was starting to fade once again—and for Colin it was like losing her all over again. They explored around the town and then, briefly, they felt her presence at the clearing south of town, a scenic spot where couples often gather to watch the sun set down behind the mountains, sending deep shadows over the forest. Working with Piltarus the next day they were able to concentrate enough of her spirit for her to speak through him. She was forgetting the world she knew, they found. She had been called back by her husband’s despair and, after happily watching them for so many years, was forgetting what they—or she—had been like in life. They spoke to her for some time and, after helping figure out the truth, sent her on her way, knowing the Raven Queen’s call cannot be delayed forever.

Returning to Colin and Jackie they told them of what they’d learned. Jackie took the news with exceeding grace and Colin, too, did his best. He excused himself but the party delayed him, asking him to swear that he wasn’t going to fall back into drink. With a small, bittersweet smile that widened a touch as he looked at them, speaking both of how far he had fallen as well as a giving a hint of the life that used to always sparkle in him, Colin said he’d try. They slept uneasily, that night, listening for the snores or crashing that often accompanied Colin’s drunken stumbles or slumber, but did not hear it. In the morning they found him, for the first time they’d seen, helping prepare breakfast with Jackie. They ended up getting far more food than they could eat, but, with the smile in Jackie’s eyes shining through her tears, they realized that, for now at least, this was worth all the trouble.

Confrontation in Port Kardell

Having finished their quest for Lady Valinor, the party returned to the Merchant Star inn where they’d taken a room. Confronting the elephant in the room bluntly, Minuet asked Mulgott if he intended to stay on. While some sparks had flown over the topic of his brother, the rest of the party’s late companion, he had proven himself useful. While Mulgott was nervous about their character, he did still want to know, too, about the changes in his brother and—if hesitantly—accepted. That settled they split the gold from Lady Valinor equally and then settled in to rest up before the big meeting, the next day.

The morning and afternoon were relatively uneventful. The party went to the bazaar and heard a number of rumors swirling about town, some of the tavern and inn-keepers in particular seeming to have the attention of the gossip-mongers. While the party’s interest was piqued a bit, they ultimately decided to head out to Lady Valinor’s, instead. They were shown inside by Guillermo and, after a short delay, led back to Lady Valinor’s laboratory, where she had Valborg spread out on one of the dissection tables. They brought her a nice bottle of wine which she absent-mindedly thanked them for and had Guillermo take it for her and then showed them the work she was doing: the bear was decidedly not from local stock, but of a variety that usually comes from the west. That it was found so far away from its native habitat was extremely unusual. But she would have to examine further before she had any additional information. She leaned in close to examine some of the skin surrounding the circular wound on the underside and, after being ignored for a long moment, the party excused themselves and returned to town. Once back in town, the party freshened up before the big meeting, cleaning and straightening their clothes and polishing their armor.

When they arrived they found the meeting to be more like a party than anything else—elves and eladrin all around congratulated them on their work in Andorrel and the wine flowed freely. They met with Nathaniel Kindor shortly after walking in and he introduced them to Davrielle, who was, as described, an attractive, red-haired half-elf, wearing a green dress with her red hair cut short with a small braid circlet. As soon as they’d all met, though, Kindor was being summoned elsewhere and, with a grin and a clap on the shoulder, he walked off. The party sat down and ordered themselves a bottle of expensive elven wine, which they consumed with glee—the usual pleasant buzz of alcohol seemed accompanied by the happy calm of lying in sunshine on a grassy hillside. They began to order a second bottle but, when Mulgott caught up with the waiter and asked, concerned, how much it would be they realized that the prized and rare elven vintage they’d been consuming rang in at some 250 gold per bottle. They canceled the order and Kilya, grin as wide as the horizon, generously offered to pay for the first bottle, onto which Mulgott added a tip—though evidently not enough for the waiter, who all but snorted at it and was not seen by them for the rest of the night.

Awash in congratulations and wine, the party’s anxiety about the meeting—they had far from forgotten their original reason for coming to the Emerald Ring—faded into the background. And then, through the crowd, they thought they saw a shock of up-combed blonde hair, floating around waist-height. Immediately recalling Glimnock from the underground fortress, they quickly gathered themselves and made for the doorway, but found that the eladrin guards who had previously been checking guests on their way in were now standing with their backs to the doors. They plead that they were just looking to catch some air and the eladrin simply apologized but informed them that the main of the meeting would be starting soon and that perhaps they would like to take their seats, then gesturing towards the head of a giant banquet table that had been assembled all the way across the ground floor. They nodded and thanked them and made their way towards the head of the table, where Nathaniel Kindor was already seated. He leaned in, “See, everyone’s excited for you.”

Everyone else likewise seemed to be taking seats around the banquet table, the few loitering people who were standing finally getting the picture when the lights dimmed. Looking up to the second floor gallery they watched as the leaf canopy slowly opened and an eladrin with a greenish-brown hooded cloak walked slowly across the second floor, all eyes on him as his every step sent small flourishes of magical green light shooting up from the floorboards. He walked this way until he was aligned with the head of the table and then, as the silence in the room became absolute, raised his hands and his cloak burst into a bright emerald light, sending magical leaves raining down across the hall. Now that they could make out more of his form they were convinced he was the leader Nathaniel had spoken of. He had pale skin and an aquiline nose on an angular face. His long, straight, platinum blonde hair cascaded down over clothes that were fabulously well-made, and the scabbards he wore on his sword belt were gold and jeweled. He began to speak, his voice high and elegant, but cold.

“My friends,” he smiled down, extending his arms across the table, “some of you may not yet have met me. I am Vasiln Adar, your leader. We are here today to celebrate a great victory. Together, we have accomplished much. Yet Glimnock,” the party rapidly started looking around, abandoning their previous caution, “informs me that our noble circle has let an enemy into its midst. Yes, that’s right. An enemy of ours who has slain our comrades and desecrated one of our portals is here among us. He who has invited them here. . .” he paused, a small, malicious grin curving up the corner of his mouth, “must pay.” Before the party could react, the eladrin had pulled his dagger from the sheath at his side and pointed it down at Nathaniel Kindor. A ring of green lights raised up, seeming to hold Kindor in place, and then all of a sudden Vasiln Adar was before them, drawing his dagger across Nathaniel’s throat.

Vasiln stood before them, pushing the blood off his dagger with a leather-gloved thumb. It fell before them with a sickening drip, mere inches from a growing pool flowing from Nathaniel’s glassy-eyed form. Minuet was the first to shake off the grip of shock. “What have you done.” “Why, I thought it was obvious. I’ve killed him.” “But why?” “He brought an enemy into our midst. That kind of failure cannot be tolerated.” “But. . .!” “You would rather I had killed you?” “No, but Nathaniel—!” “He made a mistake. He brought enemies of ours not only into our organization but straight into one of our holiest sites. He was too incompetent to let live. So I killed him.” He seemed to almost laugh and the party felt their collective stomach turn. “As far you,” he continued, “you have proven yourself useful. I am not. . . unappreciative and so I am letting you live. For now. You cannot stay here in Port Kardell, though. I will give you. . . one day. You have one day to leave and if you are still here,” he raised his hands in a shrug, “I’ll have to have you killed.” “Why, I!” Minuet started, standing, but Mulgott put a hand on her shoulder, sympathetic but shaking his head. She closed her mouth. “Let’s get out of here,” Kilya said. “Yes,” Cordelia agreed emphatically. Looking back over their shoulders, cursing bitterly at not having an opportunity slay him on the spot, they saw Vasiln Adar step down from the table and sit at its head, resting his feet up on mere inches from Nathaniel Kindor’s murdered corpse. Silently vowing revenge, they walked out the doors of the Village Vine.

“Wait, wait!” They turned around to see a human male limping after them. “Wait, I’m a friend.” He hobbled up behind them. “I’m Tavash, of the Gatewatchers. You have met some of us before—Piltarus and Diggendur?” The party looked around amongst themselves and then nodded, “Yes. Good. I am with them. I would speak with you.” They examined the man. He looked eccentric—maybe enough a touch crazy, wearing bright orange clothing and with sharp eyes that had just a hint of madness wedged between a shaven head and a bush brown beard. Coming to a swift agreement that they could take him at his word for the time being—after all, Piltarus had indicated they had a friend, here—they decided to stop somewhere more private for a drink. Tavash led them back to the Smelting Pot where he had a room. The rough-and-tumble crowd of miners and craftsman turned and gave them a lookover and then, grumbling, returned to their ales.

Sitting down and ordering drinks for them all, Tavash began to speak, a few words at a time flowing out like a flood before he paused a moment to build back up. “I am Tavash of the Gatewatchers. We are an organization dedicated to watching the gates—portals, landcrossings and the like—between this world and the other planes. Diggendur sent you here to spy on the Emerald Ring and—even if we don’t know what they are ultimately up to—it seems to have been a good decision. For now, though, it is too dangerous to stay here. There are things, too, that are going on, elsewhere in the world. In the western wilds we have noticed strange things—very strange. More sinister, perhaps than the energies here, if not the people. We would like for you to investigate. For now, though, it seems you need to get away. Is there somewhere safe, somewhere you can go for a short while?”

The party nodded, Minuet providing, “We can go to Ironheim.” “Ironheim,” Tavash nodded, his shoulders rocking him back and forth, “that is good. Piltarus is there. He will be able to help you figure out what to do. I will tell him. . . that you are coming.”

They talked over a few more details and then parted company. The party returned to their rooms, where they rapidly gathered their supplies for the next morning and, being sure to always have someone on guard, even in the inn, rested until morning, when at dawn’s light they departed, headed north, back to Ironheim.

The Return to Port Kardell
Friends New and Old

As strange as it had been fighting alongside Valen, seeing elven locks and hide armor where they’d been using to seeing Tyrion’s form, before, it was stranger still to be leaving Andorrel without him. For as long as three days felt then, it seemed so little as they started on their way out—not so much that some part of them all didn’t feel as if he might emerge from what little was left of Strongax’s tent city, pulling the straps tight on his armor, a slight foam of beer dripped onto three days of stubble. But that didn’t happen—he was gone, and each step back towards Port Kardell seemed to shout as much.

Returning to Port Kardell their first destination was the Village Vine. As soon as they walked in they received mixed congratulations and condolences from both Elrador Ilsallar and—to their surprise—Nathaniel Kindor, who was having a small lunch and bottle of wine by himself in the mid-afternoon, practically beaming. They joined him and he offered his congratulations—he was sorry to hear about Tyrion but said the honor paid to him by naming the treaty after him was incredible. Through their actions, he said, the town was protected for years to come.

They chatted a while with him, some of their sorrow shaking off in the warmth of his company—and elven wine. He had met someone, a half-elf mage named Davrielle, which had changed his whole outlook on his job and life in general. Plus, a bit meeting of the Emerald Ring was coming up, where the leader himself was going to be in attendance—perhaps to congratulate the Eyes of Wisdom. After taking some flak from the party for dating in the office, Nathaniel waved them all off and asked if they’d been out to see Lady Valinor. His opinion of her seemed to have mellowed since the last time he spoke of her, as he described her as eccentric, but sometimes quite useful.

Leaving Kindor to the last of his wine, they headed east, walking off their buzz as they headed out of town towards Lady Valinor’s manor. They found it just a short ways outside of town, its massive form rearing up atop a shoreside cliff, far larger than any of the manors in town. They knocked and were soon greeted by a human male with shoulder-length blonde hair and a shirt open down to his muscled abs. He introduced himself as Guillermo, Lady Valinor’s butler, and asked what it was he could do for them. When they explained who they were he immediately recognized the name and showed them to a drawing room, replete with a library collection of classic literary items, posh furniture, and dark woods. He poured them amber spirits into real glass and excused himself to inform Lady Valinor of their presence.

A few minutes later he returned and then led them upstairs to Lady Valinor’s chambers. She was a well-kept human woman in her early fifties, with blonde hair fading to white smartly pulled behind her. She greeted them from where she lounged upon a chaise longue in a see-through black robe and little more. She smiled and greeted them warmly, laughing without malice at their slightly embarrassed looks. They exchanged pleasantries—she confirmed that she was not put out about the wind dragon and that the Emerald Ring had already made good to her. Their attention, which had been rapidly shying from her exposed form, was caught when she complained what a pity it was, with the wind dragon gone, that she wouldn’t get to compare its anatomy to a mortal plane dragon. She smiled and said that she had another interesting proposition for them, if they could come with her.

She led them through the menagerie—a world-class affair full of animals from all manner of exotic planes, with only a handful of the most marvelous mortal creatures making an appearance. Yet she seemed to pay this collection no mind and led them to a smaller and more practical room—a large underground museum-cum-laboratory with skeletons, organs, and books concerning various monsters lining all the walls and every available nook and cranny, while the central table—a massive slab of stone—was occupied with the pinned-open corpse of a dragon, mid-dissection. Her real interest, she explained to them, was monsters. Their anatomy, lifestyle, everything about them. And there was a particular quarry, a demon-possessed bear known as Valborg the Mauler, that she’d recently come into some interesting information on and, as it was the life-long quarry of her late husband, she was extremely interested in pursuing its capture as quickly as possible.

After some initial hesitation the party accepted and she relayed to them the tale of a hunter who had been venturing through the woods where Valborg made her home—her location had not been a secret for some time. However, while the bear has a craggy, red-veined hide that’s as hard as rock, as the bear reared up to claw at the hunter’s wolf pet he saw an exposed circle of flesh on its underside. Notching an arrow and letting fly, a single arrow was enough to set the beast howling in pain. The hunter’s pet was dead—but the beers he cried into were what enabled this story to get to her ears. She explained she wanted it trapped alive—they would need to render the beast unconscious—anything shy of dead—and then the ritual would put a stop to its bleeding and also render it tranquilized up to a day, during which time they could return it to her.

They agreed and took the scroll and a couple healing potions from Lady Valinor, then decided to return to town to prepare. Going around the market district looking for supplies, they were surprised to be approached by a half-elf who asked if they were the Eyes of Wisdom. They confirmed that they were and—after a few drinks and conversation that seemed to range from indelicate to just shy of confrontational—they reluctantly agreed to join forces. The newcomer, Mulgott, was Tyrion’s half-brother and a swordmage of (he assured them) some skill. He could fill a role they were lacking and, well, he was intrigued to find out more about his late half-brother’s adventuring companions and particularly what influence they may have played in driving him to become a savior of towns—let alone elven ones.

Calling the hunt for Valborg a trial period, they set out the next morning in search of the great bear. It was a few hours journey to the edge of the woods where she made her cave, and as soon as they stepped out past the last of the large trees into the smaller growth and, then, clearing before the cave she roared a challenge, her eyes glowing red in the darkness of the cavern. When they continued to approach she let out a sharp barking roar and two smaller bears came lumbering out towards the party. These they dispatched with relative ease—Mulgott did seem as skillful as their late companion and drawing the ire of his foes—and it was with a mighty roar as they felled the second of her minions that Valborg launched herself forward.

The party was quickly able to discern how this target had remained elusive for so long. Physical attacks and even many magical assaults clanked off or fizzled against the craggy armor of her demonically infused hide. Shifting away from battle to reflect on the story that Lady Valinor had told them they realized the key was getting her up in the air. She had reared back to make claw attacks a number of times but they’d been too slow to take advantage. But they refined their tactics Mulgott and Cordelia pushed—with stell or spell—the beast up into the air while Minuet and Kilya unleashed everything they could upon her exposed underside. Having discovered the winning strategy they worked smoothly together and it was only a short time before the great bear fell to their feet. Hurrying as they saw the blood beginning to pool beneath her body, Cordelia read out the arcane scroll. A net of arcane power enveloped Valborg, staunching her bleeding and rendering her pacified.

Cordelia cast another ritual as well, summoning a floating disk which they struggled to lift Valborg up onto. With the bear not needing to be carried and floating a few inches off the ground, now, they made their way back to Lady Valinor’s manor. Guillermo greeted them at the door and explained that Lady Valinor was “indisposed,” which he followed with a cough to disguise the carnal sounds emanating from above. He was prepared to take the bear, though, and had their payment ready. The party graciously agreed—eager to get out of the echoing entrychamber and then away from the manor in general. They took Valborg in to a specialized cage and deposited her there, and then were pleased to accept a bag of 250 gold from Guillermo in exchange for their services. At that point, with the greatest of courtesy, he hurried them out.

Tying up Loose Ends

After taking a few days to get through the worst of mourning for their fallen companion, the Eyes of Wisdom decided inaction was no fitting tribute to Tyrion’s memory and turned to wrapping up loose ends. After Tyrion’s death they had received word that Port Kardell should be safe for them again and that, furthermore, Lady Valinor was not holding a grudge and might fully forgive them in exchange for some aid on a quest—but asking Diggendur’s aid to scout for any surreptitious flanking or other careful maneuvers in the goblin raid, they had also promised him they would gather some additional information about the worldfalling lodge. While Kilya and Minuet were ambivalent about returning to face any of the dusk elves, Cordelia was quite insistent—and when Calladril offered Valen’s assistance as a warden the matter was sealed.

They once again arrived at the clearing shortly before sunset and, again as twilight began to fade, the ruins appeared. This time, however, they heard noises coming from within—an almost prayer-like chant. Backing off a short ways, they watched as the large stone doors rumbled open. Three elves came out, along with three animals, but while two of each were what they expected—dusk elves and wolves—the last pair gave them pause. The woman who looked unique among her companion had purplish, almost black skin and gray-white hair. Before her no companion wolf walked, but rather a giant spider skittered forth.

After they emerged it was only a moment before they were noticed. Though she confirmed she was Captain Yacine, of whom Haldrin had spoke, this acknowledgement did little to improve diplomatic relations. The dusk elves’ stance was still that any incursion—even the very act of coming her, purportedly to converse diplomatically—was an intolerable invasion, and that the party had bought nothing but trouble. Battle was quickly enjoined. The party emerged victorious without significant difficulty, but certainly with some puzzlement: after they had killed the darker-skinned leader of the elves her fallen body not only seemed to relinquish its hold on the mortal coil prematurely, but once she had died she rapidly decomposed, shriveling down to nothing more than a heavy iron necklace clanking to the ground in mere tens of seconds.

Dispatching the other elves and examining the necklace, they were quickly reminded of what Haldrin had said about the fact that only the captain had been allowed in the walled-off cell. The necklace, a large iron carving split vertically between a spider and a tree, was heavy and square-ish enough they suspected it might be usable as some kind of key. Proceeding carefully—after describing the entire scene through the scrying bowl to a delighted-sounding Diggendur—they descended into the lodge. Noticing that it seemed more occupied than the last time they had come through they proceeded with caution—tip-toeing most carefully past the northern barracks, where they could hear a few of the elves having a late-night chat.

Entering into the walled-off cell, they found the clothing piles the doppelgangers had been maintaining all removed. It was empty until they proceeded into the next room, a low-celing, empty chamber that was inconspicuous except for a collapsed section in one corner and a set of large, dark wood doors opposite. As they started heading towards the door, though, each of them felt a chill down the spine. They turned to see a number of aberrant creatures fading into existence, maddening balls of tentacles and mouths that seemed to be collapsing in upon themselves. Shuddering, Cordelia and Minuet both quickly recognized these as fell taints, nigh mythological beasts who were said to hail from the far realm and whose very existence weakened the walls between planes.

The battle that ensued—they clearly were in the broad category of things that were not the fell taints and thus were food or foe—was harrowing, the creatures lashing out at them with psychic assaults that connected as keen as any blade and as heavily as a dwarven hammer. The creatures seemed to be looking to soften them up both physically and mentally, and the battle took on an even greater urgency as the party found themselves pressed up against the walls, unable to escape from the creatures’ tendril caresses as they couldn’t slide along the wall quickly enough to escape the hovering monstrosities. Still, after one fell their psychic hold on the party’s morale seemed to weaken—and it was as the second body dissipated into thin air, its limbs dissolving into a murky blankness then disappearing—that they felt victory was close at hand. Still the things unthinkingly lashed out, and it was with greater relief than usual—both the ferocity of the mental assault and the freshness of mortality weighing heavily upon them—that they exhaled deeply after finishing the fight.

Taking a few minutes to rest, they observed the low, broad doors. An wide iron band wrapped across the center of each door, and in the very middle of their bulk the party noticed a sort of oversized keyhole—into which it looked as if the necklace would fit perfectly. Looking to each other they nodded assent and then fitted the necklace into the middle of the door. They heard a number of latches set off and then a large clank. Attempting to silently nudge the door open, Kilya was dismayed to find it opened with unnatural ease, swinging wide at barely a finger’s touch.

“Is that you, Yacine?” They heard an elderly woman’s voice inquire. Looking amongst themselves in a brief panic, Minuet was first to step forward, “Uh, yes.” Clearly the wizened woman’s hearing was not what it was, for she seemed please to hear this. “Oh, good. Do come in. You’ve brought me more to eat?” “Um. . .” she looked amongst her companion as her usually quick wit failed her. “You’re not Yacine at all. Who are you?” “We’re friends of Yacine.” “No friends I’ve met—why have you come?” “We, um. . .” “Oh no. I knew this day would come,” the voice shouted, louder and louder, “You’ve killed her, haven’t you! You killed my daughter!” In the far corner, only dimly illuminated by their torchlight, they saw a large figure shambling upwards—a massive half-spider, half-woman, indeed very similar to the darker-skinned elf outside. The woman threw her overcloak off behind her and unsheathed the swords off her back, screeching and then lunging for the party.

The woman proved a formidable combatant, keeping the enemy at bay with her legs and slashing out with her twin swords or encasing the party in webs. Exhausted, still the party fought on, seeing a bloodlust in their foe’s eyes they knew there could only end with her death or theirs. They noted again that her death seemed entirely unnatural, as well—with her dying throes the elven part of her separated out from the giant spider, then grew pale, then decomposed, the same as with the captain outside.

Shaking their heads and each promising to spend less time in mysterious underground structures, the party spoke a bit more with Diggendur—they’d been carefully bringing the bowl forward on regular intervals, leaving it close enough to observe but far enough to stay outside of battle—and sent a sample of the spider-woman’s blood, which he said he’d take a further look at. When he next said that it sounded as if they might want to leave they could scarcely be quick enough to comply.

The Death of Tyrion

The ogre fell at their feet and the Eyes of Wisdom bent down, resting their hands on their knees as they struggled to catch their breath. That should be it, they thought, looking over to one another and grinning through the blood, sweat, and dirt that covered each of them. Yet when they turned back they did not see a disorganized mess of fleeing goblins, but rows upon rows—still in formation—looking on as their commander, Hruntas, raised his banner over the broken corpse of a deserter, vowing revenge on the sons of Strongax and the friends of the dusk elves. “Hruntas, hruntas,” the goblin troops chanted, resuming their forward march.

The party stood back up and braced themselves as the surging wave of goblins crashed down on the front ranks of the town’s defenders. It was only a moment later the newly invigorated goblins and hobgoblins began breaking through Dalgren’s men and Andorrel’s scouts and hunters. Those who headed farther in towards the town, though, met a swift demise beneath a readied flurry of steel and spells, falling among so many comrades in the mud before the party’s feet. They nodded at each other and fell back into formation. The fight wasn’t over, yet, but they would persevere.

A moment later, though, the party was surprised to see a larger gap open before them as a band of hobgoblins, led by the commander himself, fully split the front line of Andorrel’s defenses. Hruntas raised his spear overhead, shouting a challenge as a number of troops rushed around him to charge headlong towards the party. Keeping up the chant that shouted his name while ever keeping his eye on these most capable defenders of the town, the wily commander seemed to be awaiting an opening. As a number of his hobgoblin infantry pushed through to stand in the middle of the party’s ranks he saw it. A wicked and bloodthirsty grin split his face as he charged in, shouting a quick flurry of orders and deftly maneuvering his units to surround his enemies. Backing up to cover each other, the party realized the greatest threat still stood before them.

Hruntas was as formidable a fighter as commander, making good use of the strength of his shield arm as well as the reach of his spear. Aided by a number of his hobgoblin infantry and archers, he continued to outmaneuver the party until all the air seemed filled with goblin swords and arrows. Yet through all the din of battle every hero was able to hear the sickening sound as, rushing forward into a gap in their defense, Hruntas plunged his spear deep into Kilya’s gut, then pulled it swiftly back out, a fountain of blood erupting forward. Kilya’s eyes widened with horror as she doubled over, then her body went slack, falling before his feet. He roared with vigor, her blood dripping down onto his face from his high-raised spear.

Steeling themselves and keeping a careful eye on Kilya’s fallen form, the party redoubled their assault on Hruntas, for the blood flowed from his wounds, as well. But their losses continued to mount: mere moments later Tyrion joined Kilya on the ground, taking a vicious shot from one of the hobgoblins who had rushed forward to protect his commander. Now faced with both the commander and the small number of remaining troops, Minuet and Cordelia corralled their courage once again, the weight of their responsibility hardening their resolve. They deftly dodged away from their enemies’ blows, lashing out with powerful spells as they retreated around the battlefield. One by one their opponents fell until it came down to just them and Hruntas, bolts of magic flying across the battlefield as the last two standing focused their fire on the hobgoblin leader. Spells sparked against steel, staggering the hobgoblin with their vicious intent, until finally, before the horrified eyes of the goblin troops who had amassed to bear witness to this final fight, Hruntas fell to his knees, clasping his head as he tried to fend off the psychic assaults, then his eyes rolled up and he collapsed to the ground.

The goblin ranks dissolved and a victorious cry sounded up and down the lines of the town’s defenders, but for Minuet and Cordelia their exhilaration was short-lived. Hruntas’ body had barely stopped moving before they spun around to run back to their fallen comrades. Calladril, too, who had been picking off what few goblins had dared try to come to the aid of their commander, rushed forward to Kilya’s side, pulling a field dressing kit from his bag as Minuet threw herself down next to Tyrion. Tightly wrapping his wounds in fresh cloth she felt panic sneaking around the edges of her mind as she failed to staunch the bleeding, yet even as she tried to wrap faster the bandages continued to soak through, the pale cloth turning scarlet in seconds. Elven smelling salts roused Kilya and she shook herself to a weary consciousness, but even as she struggled to pull together the strands of her reality she found herself directed towards where Minuet and Cordelia both stared. Without fully comprehending, they saw the spread of blood beneath Tyrion slow and then stop completely, the last of his noble life oozing out mere minutes after the last foe was fell.

For some time it was all they could do to watch over Tyrion’s corpse, looking into space and silently blinking away tears. That mortality could so swiftly swoop down upon one of their group seemed to dawn into their minds as lightly as their friend and comrade’s corpse lay heavily upon the ground, and it was not until Nadira, in charge of the burials to come, came and touched each of them lightly on the shoulder that they roused themselves and stood off to the side as a team of men and elves gingerly shifted Tyrion onto a stretcher to remove him to the preparation area. Wandering in slowly dissipating a fog, the party started taking in superficial details of the activity around them. Teams of men and women; human, elf, and half-elf; all worked together swiftly and efficiently, taking all the wounded to be cared for and moving all the dead to where they’d be prepared for their funerals. Seeing their coordination the party felt a small spark of hope reignite within them. Each of these teams took orders as swiftly and respectfully from either faction’s leaders. The party was not alone in suffering losses; both Calladril and Dalgren had lost many men, but in the wake of the fighting there seemed to be a newfound respect and understanding between them. This seemed to bode as well for the future of the town as the banishing of the invading hordes.

Sitting on a bench and drinking from waterskins that had been brought to them by a young half-elf, tirelessly working through a combat wound, the party watched as Dalgren and Calladril stood near, shouting a few last orders and then walking off to lock themselves in the town hall. The two men rushed to make concessions almost before they were asked for, and it was a single night of intense negotiations that produced the written form of the truce that had been wrought in blood, an agreement they named after he who had distinguished himself most of all the fallen combatants in selflessly defending the town with great ferocity and the highest dedication: the Treaty of Tyrion.

The next day most of the townfolk were occupied treating the wounded and refortifying against the chance of a second invasion, but Calladril made sure that one of the town’s morticians was made available to the party to help with the preparation of Tyrion’s body, a soft-spoken half-elf woman with an aura of quietude such that they felt alone despite her presence. As she carefully removed his armor and started to clean the wounds she asked about the preparations for the funeral and the party began to realize how little they knew of the mundane life of their adventuresome companion.

In the course of preparing the body, though, they did find a letter addressed to “Mulgott”: a small iron letter tube with a twine-fastened note explaining that Mulgott was Tyrion’s half-elf half-brother, a swordmage of considerable skill. Contracting with a black-clad messenger who had approached the party with unrelated letters, they arranged for the letter to be delivered to this Mulgott—trusting in the Messengers Guild’s uncanny ability to quickly track down individuals based on even the smallest scraps of information—and also for Tyrion’s spear of blinding to be sent to Ironheim to Spearmaster Yakum, the only funeral wish of his they could recall. It was with sadness that they parted, too, with the last of his belongings as his shield and another spear were handed over to the town to start the monument to the fallen that Calladril and Dalgren had vowed to build.

Funeral pyres started the afternoon after the battle ended, spouts of black smoke rising high into the sky above. Paying their respects at each of these—for the men of each side—it was night before Dalgren, Calladril, and Nadira joined the Cordelia, Kilya, and Minuet in the middle of town. There they stood before Tyrion’s pyre, a tall bed of logs salvaged from the makeshifts barricade supporting his pale, still form.

Calladril looked over to Dalgren, who nodded back, and then the elf stepped forward, the age seeming to show on his torch-lit face for the first time since they’d met him. He cleared his throat and, looking to each ally in turn, spoke: “It was only a few days this brave, fallen soul ever spent in our town, yet despite this he endeavored with the strength and commitment of an honor-bound defender to aid us. The few days he spent among our number sadly were the last of his, yet in so short a time he did no less than help assure the continued existence of our town, and sacrificed his own life to save many. For this, we remember Tyrion, and we honor him.”

Dalgren was next to step forward, an uncharacteristic trembling sounding in his voice as he struggled through the first words, “As Calladril has said, it was only a few short days that Tyrion was around us all. He came to our camp and shared our food and drink and seemed like one of us. Yet though he drank our ale and ate our meats, what they produced in him was sturdier stuff than in us. He was a man who did not seek to make himself out to be more than a common fighter, yet both in skill and quality he was much more. He will be remembered for fighting to save us, but it was also in his fighting against combat that helped relations between our two groups survive long enough for us to fight together. In this, as surely as with spear and shield, Tyrion helped save us all.”

Dalgren stepped back, bowing his head, and Calladril reached up to pat him on the shoulder. A silence descended over the gathering—which had swelled outward as passersby stopped to reverently listen to this simple funeral—and then Nadira stepped forward, the torch she carried overhead sending flickering light dancing over her red hair, upon which Dalgreen’s eyes seemed fixed. In her other hand she carried a small white sash with a shell of Melora embroidered at one end.

“It is as they say. Tyrion died nobly that others—strangers, many of them—might live. For this we honor him as a hero and send him off to the beyond with this prayer to Melora. May she guide his soul through the wilderness as he journeys on to meet the Raven Queen, who will guide his soul to its final rest, where he will linger in peace, remembered as a hero.”

She turned and extended the torch to the party. Minuet stepped forward to accept it and then lowered it to the corner of the pyre, a fire starting quickly up the thick black oil. Quickly spreading from log to log, it was only a minute later that flames began to lap at Tyrion’s body, tears glistening in the eyes of those around as they witnessed a hero’s departure. Minuet considered starting a song, one of honor or valorous deeds, but the thought stopped before it reached her throat. Tyrion deserved his own song, she knew. His adventures had tragically ended far too soon, but they had touched—and saved—many lives. A bittersweet and valorous melody starting forming in her head, Minuet smiled lightly through the tears. Looking to her companions she knew they’d found their own ways in which they’d remember him. His fate would be remembered. His death would not be in vain.


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