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Who gets to keep the CDs?

Much fighting continued.  I penned the grey dwarves in with a wall of fire, and was then attacked by the cultists who had come in through the door next to me, but used my gnomish magic to disappear from their eyes when the first one hit me, so the rest missed.  I saw Thorg finish off the bulette rider, and then go and wait for the grey dwarves to come through my wall of fire.  Invisible, I then moved around the back of the cultists and killed one with a sneak crossbow bolt, while Arielle finished off the rest.  Arielle, Sorrel and Feyabelle then vanished through that door, while I went over to help Thorg against the grey dwarves, who had still not emerged.  Thorg went through the northern stone doors, and was hit by a crossbow bolt from a concealed arrowslit so some of them were still alive.  I conjured some smoke mephits from my pipe, and sent them through the wall of fire to attack any living grey dwarves, but they soon returned, so I dropped the wall of fire.  We found the charred remains of three grey dwarves, but no sign of the other two, so assumed that they had turned invisible and sneaked past us – hopefully to flee into their deep diggings.

I guess we had better go and find out what has happened to the other three – they have been gone for quite a long time.

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a Short-Chamber Boxer-Henry .45 calibre miracle

Our rest after the first attack was brief, but allowed us to tend to the wounded and get them into the farm house to rest.  Two of the three steaders with bows in Feyabelle’s group on the roof of the barn were wounded, so we moved one of the steaders on the roof of the forge across to help her out.

The next wave attacked in a similar manner, but with six orcs in each of the four groups.  This time, we started shooting at long range, and this time the two groups attacking from the west side didn’t even make it to javelin range before taking enough casualties to break off their attack and flee.  We switched our concentration of fire to the two groups attacking from the direction of the ridge.  Having concentrated on the other two, these groups did make it into javelin range, and a javelin killed one of the homesteaders on the roof of the barn – our first casualty of the encounter.  Another round of shooting, aided by some potent firebolts from me, broke the morale of both groups though, and they ran for the ridge.  We continued our fire as they fled though, and only one of the twelve in those two groups made it back to the ridge.

The two large orcs were still visible on the ridge and so, when another attack was not forthcoming, we had a short rest and sent Blinky to have a look and see what they were doing.  She reported that some of the orcs were resting, while others were piling branches, twigs and grass into heaps along the ridgeline under the direction of the two large orcs.  One of the large orcs only had one eye, which identified him as a devotee of Gruumsh, the orcish war god.  That might make him a potent opponent.  Blinky could only see around eleven orcs in addition to the two large ones though, which was good news.

We guessed that they might be going to use the piles as bonfires to generate a smoke screen, as the wind was blowing from that direction, and we were proved right about an hour and a half later.   The sun was setting in the west behind us, and this made it difficult for us to see far in the smoke that started filling our position, while probably silhouetting us against the sunset.  As the smoke closed down our vision, I leapt on my hippogriff and flew over towards the ridge.  It was unoccupied, so the attack had obviously started.  I landed and started to try and kick apart the fires and put them out with a combination of stamping and prestidigitation, while keeping a ear open for sounds of fighting from the farmstead.  For this reason, for the account of the fighting at the farmstead, I only have the testimony of my companions to rely on, which is obviously less reliable than my own keen memory.

Over at the farmstead, shapes suddenly loomed out of the smoke at close range.  Our shooting was sporadic and ineffectual in the smoke.  On the left flank, a great orc strode forward and brandished his fist in the direction of Thorg and the farmsteaders holding that rampart.  A spectral ram leapt from his fist and tore a great gap in the rampart.  Six of his orcish minions leapt forward past him for the gap, but Sorrel used her nature magic to cause thorns to erupt from the ground in a circle around the great orc.  Four of the orcs died as the great thorns torn their legs apart, and only two reached the remains of the palisade, where one was killed by Thorg.  The orc brandished his fist again and another spectral ram battered Thorg, flinging him backwards.  As he clambered to his feet and prepared to charge the orc, Sorrel outlined the great orc in a halo of light and a final volley of arrows from the scouts on the roof of the house (who had been sniping at him during the fight so far through the smoke) felled him where he stood.  The orc on that flank was swiftly dispatched by the spear-armed farmsteaders manning the barricade.

On the other flank, five orcs rushed the barricade.  Drina the druidess used her nature magic to cause entwining tendrils to erupt from the ground in front of the barricade, but only one of the orcs was restrained by them.  In their initial attack, the orcs killed all three of the farmsteaders manning the barricade, leaving only Erned and Allyria to hold that flank.  They dispatched two of the orcs in return however.  The one-eyed orc was also on that flank but did not advance, instead flinging some kind of spell at Feyabelle. It failed to affect her, and she shot him with an arrow in return.  The two dwarves manning the western barricade rushed across to help Erned, leaping over the barricade in their enthusiasm to get to grips with the orcs.  Between them, and Allyria and Erned, they killed the remaining orcs.  The Eye of Gruumsh however attacked Feyabelle with a huge spirit-axe, but despite the damage from that, she was able to fell him with a final volley of arrows.

Thus ended the seige of Dellmon Ranch.  We found a magical ring on each of the great orcs – one a Ring of the Ram (the effects of which we had already observed), and the other a Ring of Protection.  The farmsteaders offered us 25 gold pieces each for defending them, but having seen the devastation wrought on their homes and lives (and indeed the lives lost, although we had kept that to only four of them, which was not a bad exchange for forty-two orcs slain) we refused their money and suggested that they needed it more than we did to rebuild their lives.

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All aboard

We descended through the tower, heading for Thurl’s apartment in order to rifle through his possessions with more thoroughness.  We were disappointed, and to an extent bemused, to find that Sorrel the rat had indeed successfully extracted all the interesting items from his correspondence.  There was an amount of treasure there that we thoughtfully pocketed, but no additional magical items beyond his greatsword (already pocketed, if that is the word, by Thorg).

Continuing down the tower, we headed for the bunkroom where we had espied the emaciated men who we had now been informed were members of the Howling Hatred.  It was unaccountably empty, although possibly we should have expected that at mid-morning.  Refusing to be derailed from our purpose, we tried the kitchen and found five them sampling the steam once again.  We called upon them to surrender, but they eschewed our offer and hurled themselves upon us with, well, howling hatred.  I suppose we shouldn’t have been surprised by that.  We made pretty short work of them, but as we were checking the area for more loot, a previously unnoticed door from the solarium was opened.  A figure appeared, and the next thing I knew I was bowled from my feet and severely injured by a wall of sound and fury.  Fortunately, some of the others were more fortunate, being protected from the brunt of the blast by kitchenware and were able to keep their feet.  Thorg leapt forward with his battlecry of ‘I am Thorg’ and with the aid of Arielle and Feyabelle, was able to rapidly dispatch the sorcerer.

A check of the rest of the level showed that we were now alone, so we continued down into the stables.  Here we were able once again to persuade the hippogriffs to accept up by donning the black-feathered cloaks.  Theodorm and Therel looked askance at the mounts, and offered to return on foot to Womford and keep the River Maid once again safe for us against any future need of it we might have.  We therefore paid them a handsome bonus for their trouble in having been kidnapped, and some weeks salary in advance, and then saddled up with our two captives and the rescued shepherd and returned to Red Larch.

We landed in Red Larch to some consternation and also considerable excitement.  Enderath pointed out to me that wearing air cultist cloaks and riding air cultist mounts might in some way lead people to jump to the conclusion that we were air cultists, and suggested that we should exercise some level of discretion in the future.  I agreed that it was a point that we should take under consideration.  Enderath was pleased with the recovery of the books from the River Maid, and paid me a good sum for them.  Indeed I now have so much gold that I can scarce spend it in a village like Red Larch, although the hippogriffs are costing a goodly sum to feed each day, a sum which I am only able to partially offset by the charging of a few coppers for locals and travellers to see them.  It is tempting, having made my fortune, to return to Waterdeep, but I suspect my patrons in the Harpers might view such a return askance and make life harder for me than I would like.  Also, it would please Feyabelle immensely I think to see me departed, and it pleases me most to not please Feyabelle.  Therefore I have made a further study of the arcane books that I have found and have decided that I shall follow the inclination of my race and delve into the magics of Illusion, as they come most easily to me, and I have no desire to make things unnecessarily hard for myself.

Speaking of my companions, and unnecessary hardship, it seems that they have their own agents in the town, for they have returned with tales of woe and inequity that must be remedied.  Arielle has found the location of the Sacred Stone monastery, and also information that it is linked in some manner with the Knights of Samular who reside at Summit Hall, and who apparently are worthy of trust in all matters.  Thorg was apparently at the same meeting but was characteristically un-forthcoming as to what was discussed.  Sorrell and Feyabelle have returned with tales of an ancient dwarven city under the Sumber Hills called Tyar-Besil (Thorg nodded taciturnly at this point), and also the suggestion that having found cults of air, earth and water, we should expect one of fire somewhere.  They also returned with news of a more urgent errand; a delegation of wood elves who are besiged by orcs at a place called Dellmon Ranch, and require rescue.  I would comment that I am not a boy to be sent on errands, but I have an affinity with the wood elves from my youth and so am always willing to help them (I think the only reason I tolerate Feyabelle).

Given that Summit Hall is on the way to Dellmon Rach, we fly there initially.  There we meet Lady Ushienne Stormlianner, who commands the Order of Samullar, an order of knights dedicated to Tyr.  It seems, in the course of a long exposition, that the Sacred Stone Monastery was founded by his brother Renwick, who, despite being a good paladin of Tyr, ended up descending to lichedom in order to save himself from death on the battlefield.  The Sacred Stone Monastery is no longer in the hands of those loyal to Renwick or the Order of Samullar, and they therefore charge us to determine that his tomb remains undefiled.  They have a more immediate need for us however, for one of their number, Erned Stoutblade, but recently departed for Dellmon Ranch in order to investigate reports of marauding orcs, and now finds himself besieged there by the self same orcs.  I recognise a direction from the gods as well as the next gnome, and resign myself that Dellmon is our next destination (Sorrell and Feyabelle had left me in little doubt of that anyway).

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I am legend

After a gentle sail up the impressively large Dessarin river (around half a mile wide here it appeared, which convincingly disabused even Sorrel of her initial plan for swimming across it from the Sumber Hills on the way to Summit Hall), including a quiet and restful overnight, we arranged our pace such that we would arrive at Rivergard Keep as dusk was falling.  We proceeded as we approached to put my carefully designed plan into action.  While the rest of us cowered in the cabin, I disguised myself using my previously acquired skills in this department as the recalcitrant halfling who had formerly served as the first mate.  We also disguised Therel as the deceased deck hand, while Thedorm played himself with remarkable facility.  As we neared the chain boom that stretched across the river gate, a we were hailed by one of the sentries on the wall.  I cast an illusion of Captain Quanderil sitting on the quarterdeck, and Thedorm responded that we were the Rivermaid returned.  A lanky head poked out of a window in the left hand river tower and looked us over, asking what our voyage had been like.  I made the illusion seem to be Quanderil waving to the man and then going below.  Thedorm replied that the pickings had been reasonable.  Obviously satisfied with our responses and identity, the chain was lowered and we moored along the quay by the outer wall.  The guards from the wall were watching us, which prevented us using plan A of all sneaking off the boat, so we moved seamlessly to plan B.  Thedorm called up, to explain that he had four new recruits that they had picked up.  Two guards appeared, armed with curious shark-teeth swords and shields made from turtle shells.  They brusquely accompanied Sorrel, Arielle, Feyabelle and Thorg us to the keep and showed them in.

Inside was a large, gruff man, who we immediately assumed was Jollivar Grimjaw.  He was attended by a woman who appeared to be his lieutenant and two guards.  Words were exchanged I understand, and I get the impression that Jollivar was not at all jolly, and pretty suspicious of the new recruits.  Nonetheless he agreed to try them out and ordered them to be quartered for the night.  I then say them being marched from the keep into a low building in the centre of the fort.  Here they were introduced to other members of the garrison, and allocated two bunks (between the four of them).

They soon reappeared at the boat, saying that they had received an unfriendly welcome from the rest of their bunkmates, who were eight mercenaries and two of the elite guards, called reavers.  They proposed to take a keg of ale back with them to try and get their companions drunk enough to sleep through them leaving the barracks.  I promised to remain in touch with Thorg using my messaging cantrip.

I messaged them in an hour and received a curt response from Thorg.  Plans had changed apparently.  The reavers were not drinking and grudgingly allowing the others to drink.  There were now four reavers in the barracks, and one bandit would guard each door through the night.  Sneaking out was no longer an option, Sorrel and the others had decided that we needed to kill them as they slept.

I was concerned about this turn of events, because I am not usually in favour of killing those who are helpless, unless truly evil, and I felt that a great many of the garrison, like us, were just trying to make an honest living in a hard world, trying to escape from hard lives scrabbling a living from the soil.  Plus some of those garrison members were also the young lads from Womford that had joined up – should they really be punished like this for a momentary lapse of judgement?  But a message cantrip is no place to try and change the mind of a hardened killer, and Sorrel’s instincts were definitely driving her at this point.  I went along with the plan, because it would be even worse to leave my friends without backup at this time, and it is certain that this fortress is a focus for evil along the Dessarin valley, as Endrith had indicated.  Or rather he had indicated that there was evil afoot along the Dessarin valley; I had traced the source of it to this tumbledown castle.

I snuck carefully up to the east door of the barracks and messaged Arielle to let her know I was there.  I didn’t know why I needed to do this, but soon understood as I saw the black smoke of her shadow magic wreathing me.  Satisfied that I was now almost completely invisible to those on the walls, I snuck around to the north door as I had been ordered and messaged Arielle again, then activated the poison on my venom blade. I teased open the door, and then before the guard sat next to it could respond, struck him with my dagger.  The strike was true and the venom did its work quickly.  Looking around the room, I saw my friends rapidly dispatching the sleeping guards and reavers.  Soon we were standing alone in our gruesome charnelhouse, and they filled me in quickly.  The guards on the walls were pretty drunk, having partaken from the key before they were replaced, and would now be on guard until morning.  The reavers had threatened to call in Jollivar if anyone had gotten too drunk though, so the other bandits were only merry, which is why they had had to kill all of them.  The two awake guards had meant that they had had no chance of leaving without the alarm being raised in some way.

We had an hour before the shadow magic would wear off, so we needed to move quickly.  We crossed the bailey, wreathed in shadow, and listened at the great door of the keep.  We could hear low voices within, and Blinky, perching by an arrowslit high up in the wall could see Jollivar and his lieutenant talking in front of the fire.  We decided not to confront them and moved east around the other big building in the bailey.  On the east side were double doors – cautiously opening these we saw it was a temple.  Thedorm had spoken of a crazy woman who urged on the cultists in the chapel, and there appeared to be some sleeping pallets at the far end.  I snuck up the chapel alone, and could see a woman sleeping there with two of the reavers.  Creeping forward, I slit her throat, and then the throats of the two reavers sleeping on either side of her.

Exiting the chapel, we proceeded to the northernmost river tower.  Listening at the door there, we heard guttural tones in a language that sounded a bit like goblin.  Feyabelle examined the ground outside, but a quick sniff of the air confirmed to her that there were bugbears inside, although only a handful.  We decided that killing even a couple of bugbears would be a noisy task and decided to leave them while we continued to search for the missing ambassadors.  Returning to the opposite corner of the castle, we passed the ruined stableblock and found the gatehouse.  There was no noise at the door, but on opening it we found four more sleeping guards, who we killed as they slept.  Ascending the stairs to the upper floor, we found more guards sleeping, along with two more reavers.  All these also perished at our blades as we slept.  Killing men in their sleep still seems a nasty business to me, but I could not disagree with Sorrel that it was allowing us to venture almost unhindered around the castle, although so far we had found no sign of the captives.  The upper floor of the gatehouse had doors onto the wallwalk.  I opened the one to the wall leading to the keep – the guard on duty there was slumped bored against the parapet.  Swiftly I cast a sleep spell upon him, and watched him slump down against the wall.

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Morgan, he not write Thyatian properly

Equipped ship with enough 10’ poles and wolfsbane to equip an army of lycanthrope hunters.
Sailed south.
Observed an uncharted island to the west, but the winds were fair so we pressed on.
Observed what appeared to be a floating ‘island’ of houseboats when observed through the captain’s spyglass, off the port quarter, but the winds were fair so we pressed on.
Made land fall with Island after 6 days of sailing.
Sailed down the lee (eastern) shore, we didn’t risk a storm blowing up and wrecking us having just reached here
Reached southern end of the land mass after a number of days and found habitation.
Emissaries from the village local population paddled out to greet us in a flotilla of dugout canoes.
Language barrier didn’t seem a problem and they were welcoming and pleased with the trade goods we bought them; the metals objects went down particularly well.
We went ashore and shared a meal with them and were then taken to a central ceremony where the four ‘groupings’ / families of the village had a ceremonial meal – it wasn’t us.
We stayed in the log house of our family.
On the second day, as we were wondering how to overcome the language barrier and how to find the shaman that the log described, the shaman appeared from the other village near the wall.
We talked, we learnt enough of the language to make ourselves understood, then we left and sailed round to the village by the wall.
Before we left we deduced that the villagers had mastered the art of partial-resurrection of the dead; the workers in the fields appeared unaging and compliant.

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Fancy a new handbag?

The party return to the lizard man lair without incident and the acolyte is welcomed warmly. They leave for the croc’s pool with warnings about the obvious madness of the reptile ringing in their ears.
During the march to the hill spur Rob and Amber discuss ways to lure the beast from its abode. Eventually they agree on Rob’s suggestion to use a sheep and take a detour to rustle one from the lowly shepherd previously met.

Morgan is appointed as bait setter and he leads the unfortunate even-toed ungulate towards the pool. It is tethered to a stake with enough rope so that it can approach the pool to drink. Just as Morgan finishes his round turn and two half hitches there is an explosion from the water’s edge. A LARGE (no, bigger than that!) a MASSIVE crocodile bursts from the water and snaps towards its prey. Morgan retreats and Amber, Bael and Minerva all loose arrows. Varys casts Magic Missile and then steps back, taking no further part in the action.

Isis casts ‘Invisibility to Animals’ on Morgan and Rob in the hope that they can creep closer to the behemoth and deal some extra damage. Precise details of the battle are hazy, fog of war and all that, but it seems that Bael’s playing must have been slightly off key as Morgan didn’t have such a successful combat encounter. Minerva, however, did a good job and soon the beast is down.

As everyone pauses to take a breath and consider bag, belt and shoe designs more trouble appears. A large, odd looking reptile appears from the pool. It has spiky sides and emanates heat… Isis throws javelins, Amber fires arrows, Morgan swings his sword (ineffectually again!). Minerva again does a decent job and scores a couple of hits. In one attack, Morgan’s sword slides across the beast’s scales and he stumbles into it’s flank. He jumps back, badly burnt. This beast seems to be too powerful for our plucky band of heroes and there are mutterings of retreat. However, Minerva strikes another blow and the monster looks shaken. Morgan charges in a do-or-die attempt to finish it and he strikes!!! The reptile is felled and everyone feels better.

Bael suspects this is a sub-species of dragon, and everyone knows that dragons have treasure. So, they go to search for a lair. Hidden in a glade of trees on the far side of the pool they find a stash of treasure. Coins, a necklace a potion, a sword, a staff and a scroll. They return to the lizardmen with the head of the croc and the dragon and are welcomed by Old Lizard. He recognises the dragon and says it is known that these can control other lizards and this must be why the crocodile had gone mad. Morgan offers the coins as a further peace offering, for which Old Lizard is truly grateful.

Our heroes spend a few days resting and recovering at the lair, and in doing so they find that they are all feeling stronger, tougher and able to cast more spells.

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