Blood and Honor

Episode 13 - "Morthward"

The cold was bitter and ever-present, chilling the adventurers to the bone as they headed down the mountain towards Shamkell to find Thelena. Unfortunately, a blizzard hit, and several frost giants attacked. The whipping winds and blinding snow made it very difficult to fight, but the party was victorious nonetheless.

They eventually made their way back to town, and Ignis explained to Thelena everything that happened with Uddrerryg. He asked if she would speak to the griffons about the situation, and she agreed. Therefore, they all trekked together to where the griffons were hiding, and she spoke to them in their strange language. There was some squawking and pawing at the ground, and then the griffons flew off.

A debate ensued about what to do next… scry on the phylactery? Ask about the lich? Go to the church? After much talk, it was decided to find the Seeker who is somewhere north of Cerl in the “Morth Forest”.

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Episode 12 - "Always speak politely to an enraged Dragon"

About a week passed, and finally assistance arrived. Inquisitors and folks from the Ethenian Church arrived. They were welcomed and summarily asked for assistance in the matter at hand.

Keldorn, an aging inquisitor, was obviously in charge. His holy symbol didn’t match the others, and even John Anderson did not recognize it. He said The Revered Mother would not send help from Cerl, so he came from the Church of Laencaster Thessal, the home Etheniasm. Among his entourage was an investigator of the Travari named Traven Wintersong.

Keldorn was able to give a lot of information to the group regarding the undead incursion in Shamkell, particularly about Captain Leoric. Some time before this, there was a Corvenian Admiral who was sent off to fight, being the imperialists they are. The battle turned against him, and the Corvenians abandoned him. Therefore, he turned to piracy for a living. Years passed, and when he got old, a deal with a devil to turn himself into a lich in order to avoid death. Unfortunately, his whole crew was turned undead as well. Killing him and his minions has no effect; they only rise again.

In order for the adventurers to kill him for good, they have to find a way to “un-lich” him. This required finding his phylactery and destroying it. Unfortunately, Captain Leoric had an entire fleet, and the group had no idea where to find it. Keldorn stated that a boat or ship was needed for the task.

The party members asked Thelena if she knew where to find The Seeker, as this individual could be useful in locating the place of the lich’s phylactery. She said yes and that there was a problem she wanted them to solve first. There was a place where griffons lived, and they have started attacking people’s cattle. This behavior was unusual and something they had never done before. She wanted the party to find out what the cause of this was and to solve it.

The group trekked to the mountains to where the griffons lived and were attacked by massive winter wolves. By a combination of spells and might, the monsters were dispatched. After the battle, it was late afternoon. A short rest was taken in the cold, and the party moved on, eventually locating the remains of the griffon roost. There was old excrement containing goat, but the griffons had not been there in awhile. Large footprints in the area indicated movement but then then disappeared, as if from a being that could fly. Ignis said it was most likely an adolescent dragon, and due to the area, perhaps a white dragon. Traven’s owl found a cave that probably served as the dragon’s lair. Rona cast Leomund’s Tiny Hut so the group could rest comfortably prior to confronting the dragon. Ignis’ idea was to go talk to the dragon and ask it to leave the area.

The next day, Ignis went forth to talk to the dragon, who was actually a blue dragon. The rest of the party remained outside the cave. Rona cast Comprehend Languages so she could eavesdrop on their conversation. Ignis said that he was sent by his father Vanlith to check up on all the dragons of the world. The dragon said, “Well, you’ve checked up on me.” Ignis then broached the subject of the griffons.

“Yeah, I moved in, they left. They’re smart,” replied the dragon.
“Why?” Ignis asked.
“Gotta live somewhere.”

The dragon said he moved in after the griffons left. Ignis posed that if the griffons returned, would the dragon leave them alone. The dragon said, “Maybe, maybe not.” He wondered what griffons tasted like.

The dragon, whose name was Uddrerryg, popped out, looked at Ignis, and said, “How long have you been like this? Your father was a cruel man.” Ignis replied that his father had only ever showed him kindness. Uddrerryg finally consented to not bothering the griffons should they choose to return, for whatever reason they were so important to the party. However, he steadfastly refused to leave. Uddrerryg had no idea where the griffons went or where they currently lived.

That being done, the party needed to locate the griffons and convince them to return home. Since Thelena’s tribe had a connection with them, the hope was that perhaps she or one of her people could assist in communicating with the griffons and let them know that they could return to their land.

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Episode 11 - Butting Heads

Although the battle continued, Keats did not pass up an opportunity to peddle his stank oil in the middle of town. The party continued to fight wave after wave of skeleton maunders, and it soon became clear that there was more than one leader. A squid-like Captain Leoric made himself known. Rona and Uri both fell in the battle, but Keats was able to revive Rona. Unfortunately, Uri was lost, and his entourage fled.

The fight finally turned, and the adventurers pushed the undead back so much so that the captain and his lieutenant retreated to a manor on the northeastern side of town.

After a much-needed rest, the group argued whether or not it was a good idea to take on the manor. There was the lieutenant and Captain Leoric plus over fourteen undead there that could be seen. It seemed like a very bad idea as they were fortified with unknown numbers, but John Anderson was firm about attacking. Rona, however, stated that she was not inclined to die, and she turned away.

It was made known to the party that Count has supposedly been drafting troops and sending them to three towns, but none of the Count’s men were present in Shamkell. Rona once again expressed her concern that they had been set up on a suicide mission. Ignis said perhaps they had joined the legions of the undead.

“Maybe Sister Helen’s Ethenian Church people could assist?” Rona asked. Indeed, the Count had sent the group to protect the village against raids from Kaeylites, not undead pirates.

Ignis wanted to find out who was responsible for turning people undead. Rona did not want to fight. Inquisitor Anderson refused to leave the town undefended even though Rona was sure the party would certainly be defeated, but he said they could win. Rona said they would die and become part of the skeleton army. The party sent messages to Cerl: to Sister Helen at the Church of Ethenia asking for assistance or insight into the matter, to Captain Liosa asking for assistance, and to Count Brendan Caridhas to let him know what is happening and to request orders.

And so they waited…

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Episode 10 - Shamkell Welcomes You

The party arrived at Shamkell to find it besieged by undead instead of Kaeylite raiders. Rona grumbled once again about Belle Marcon sending them on a suicide mission to be rid of them. Zombie ogres, skeletons, and wolves attacked from the west part of the town as the villagers hid.

In the midst of the fight, a very familiar Gotha necromancer priestess caught a glimpse of the party and cursed in frustration. “You don’t know what’s going on! I’m not your enemy… This time.” Rona knew it was the same priestess from before by the mangled hand and cast Suggestion on her, succeeding. “Cooperate with me,” she said. And so Lady Gotha, as the group fondly called their non-enemy of the day, was compelled to assist in the battle.

What was so annoying and difficult about the fight was that the skeletal pirate lieutenant had an ability to inflict necrotic damage to anyone who “killed” his skeletal pirate allies. Therefore, killing them only hurt the party members more. They eventually managed to surround the lieutenant, but he gleefully stated that they couldn’t kill him. He then vanished.

Skeleton pirates continued to harass the town. They were free-thinking and seemed to want to take over the town. The fight dragged on….

(continued next episode)

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Episode 9 - Women With Bad Habits

On the road back to Cerl, the party was camped around a fire telling ghost stories. After a while, there were sounds of marching off in the distance. “Is that fanfare?” John Anderson asked. “No, I don’t think so. I’ll go sneak about and find out what’s up,” replied Rona. From what she could tell the darkness, it looked like a small army marching toward the group about a half a hundred human-sized creatures; she could see their armor and weapons glinting in the moonlight. Somewhere on horseback, and as they drew closer their features became more discernible in the light of the torches they carried.

This ended up being Count Brendan Caridhas and his entourage returning to Cerl. However, the party members were unsure if he was after them for freeing Devan Eva, if he even knew. Rona tried to persuade a soldier named Collin to take the party to the Count, but she was kindly told to fuck off. Therefore, she cast Charm Person, and she made best friends with him. He then took the adventurers to the Count, and all the stuff about werewolves, demons, etc. was recounted to him so that he was forewarned prior to his arrival to Cerl. He finally allowed the party to join his convoy.

As is the adventuring party marched at the back of the convoy, Ignis’ behavior was very odd. He said nothing and stared at the nobles carriage for the entire trip back and refuse to say why. Finally, when pressed, he simply said, “Don’t worry about it.” It was as if he were in some sort of trance. Rona attempted to use Mage Hand to remove the circlet from his head, thinking that was the source of the problem, some sort of enchantment. However, this failed. Ignis got very upset at Rona about this and continued to follow the Count’s carriage, just staring at it.

Nolgrim and Rona stopped at a tavern for a drink before the group headed to the church to see the Revered Mother. Ignis refused to go with them, so Rona cast Suggestion only to have it fail. This was most disturbing, so the group proceeded to the church.

The Ethenian religion is matriarchal, so there were lots of young ladies there with bad habits (ha!). Rona, afraid to say anything in front of Ignis about wanting to remove his circlet as he was obviously quite reluctant to have it divorced from his head, slipped a note to the Revered Mother stating just that and that Ignis had not been himself since putting it on. She turned away, gestured, and very suddenly some inquisitors grabbed Ignis. A priestess approached, cast a spell on him, removed the circlet, held it up like a holy relic, and whisked it away.

Rona, a little frightened, begged to know if he was alright. The Revered Mother said that Ignis was alright now. Ignis, seemingly a big groggy, confirmed that he was alright. Rona asked what was going through his mind with that thing on his head because he was very clearly not himself whatsoever. He said that he had an overwhelming desire to keep secrets from everyone.

Ignis also said that he felt much more intelligent and knew that this circlet was part of a key to an unknown door. He could feel the presence of the other two circlets and knew their general locations: he was following one into Cerl, and the other is at sea to the east.

The party left the Church and had a hard think on the situation. Firstly, the next circlet is in possession of either the Count or his betrothed. Second, they just handed a very powerful relic to the Church that is perhaps more political than holy. Third, whoever is wearing the circlet in Cerl will undoubtedly be drawn to it in the church.

Suspiciously, the adventurers are invited to the wedding for being big damn heroes. Belle Marcon had a lovely circlet on her head. Count Brendan Caridhas offered to knight us, and most of the party accepted. Belle smiled wryly.

After the knighting and the wedding, the Count ordered the group to Shamkell because it kept getting raided by Kaeylites. Rona expressed her concern that Belle Marcon is evil and that this order was to get the party away from Cerl and maybe even dead. No one else seemed to agree.

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Episode 8 - Acquiring the Circlet

The party located a trapdoor that ran beneath the road and led to the other side. It was a goblin-sized tunnel, and Nolgrim led the way, crouching. He encountered three goblins, dispatching them with ease. Everyone else followed his lead, and the tunnel opened into an area where the goblin king lived. A horrific fight broke out, but the party was victorious despite nearly losing John Anderson and Nolgrim.

The adventurers found a small bit of loot and the goblin king’s lair: a cure wounds spell scroll, a half empty file of fine perfume, a ruined but repairable ornate leather scabbard for a short sword, a silver ring, and a magical circlet. Ignis took the circlet, and Nolgrim took the goblin king’s sword.

Demons run when a good man goes to war
Night will fall and drown the sun
When a good man goes to war
Friendship dies and true love lies
Night will fall and dark will rise
When a good man goes to war
Demons run, but count the cost
The battle’s won but the child is lost

After some discussion, the party decided to take the circlet back to Cerl, more specifically the Ethenian church.

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Episode 7 - You're A God and I Am Not

The party thus decided to bust Devan Eva out of jail. Devan is the notorious bandit captain of The Red Hawks, a scourge to both Baron Leolin McCelland and Count Brendan Caridhas, as they operate mainly in both Cerlihid County and Skuld Barony.

Though the nobles may label her as a rebel, a traitor or a criminal, most locals regard her as a hero. Though a bandit she may be, she is highly charismatic and a lady with an almost Robin Hood type character. She strictly orders her gang to leave the commoners, homesteaders and ranchers alone and instead only target what she regards as “the big game” – tax collectors and wealthy merchant caravans.

Devan, on multiple occasions, after robbing tax collectors who have came to collect the taxes of homesteaders, returned the tax collections of the less fortunate or struggling homesteaders after consulting the ledgers. She has even brought provisions to outsteader families. Because of her generous acts, she has become known as a folk hero and a sort-of symbol in the area that nobles can’t do anything they want and expect to get away with it.

Recently, Devan was apprehended. Currently, she is being held in a dungeon in Cerl, pending an execution. When Count Caridhas announced this, there was a public outcry to release her. It, however, fell on deaf ears.

Keats confidently and assertively took charge, and the party followed him into the jail. He announced himself as a priest there to minister last rites to a prisoner about to be executed. The rest of the group were his acolytes. Deception was achieved.

There were two inquisitors standing in the prison yard. A bit of the conversation was caught, something about they wanted Devan released into their custody instead of executed by Count Caridhas.

Various party members tried to pick the lock to no avail while Keats chanted. Finally, Ignis just burned the lock. Having a potion of invisibility among the party, it was given to Devan, and she was led out among the group. They started to leave and ran into the guard John Anderson and Inquisition Knights.

Code names had been assigned to the party members, such as “Grim-nol” for Nolgrim and “John Jacob the Elder” for Keats. “John Jacob” talked to a knight to distract him, but the knight was not interested in religion. Keats, ever the salesman, said to him, “Excuse me brother, have you heard the good news? That fresh breath is pleasing to the gods? Well I have something for you…” He tried to sell a mint for 2 gold, but the knight was not going to buy. Keats lowered the price to 5 silver, saying, “A clean mouth is akin to a clean soul, my son.” Uri, attempting to play along, said, “Have you accepted Stank Oil into your life?”

Just about the time when the party reached the jail door is when the guards realized they had been duped. Keats cast Pass Without a Trace, and the party fled to the Bandit Camp. Rona asked, “So we’re abandoning the idea of going to see the seeker Sister Mary Helen who can help us find Bankiqa?”

Ignis answered, “For now.”

Apparently the group’s priorities shifted to locating some artifact that Devan knows how to find. However, she discovered at the camp that many of her bandits had disbanded and that she was no longer in control of her people. Then this happened:

Uri: Rona, play really loud to lure in any potential party members!
Rona makes up bawdy songs about the party
Rona makes fun of herself as well as the others
Rona makes a joke about a stick up Uri’s ass that sticks out of his mouth
Jack (GM): The group applauds Rona. One of them brings her a bowl of food and demands she eats.
Rona is appreciative and continues the performance
Rona sings about politician greed and eventual uprising of the commoners
Rona tucks away the fact that Uri worships Ignis’ sister
Rona winks at Ignis

Ignis found out that Uri worships his sister Allie, who had been back in the homeland deifying herself. After a bit of a heated discussion and clearing up a misunderstanding, Uri learned that his “goddess” is truly Ignis’ sister. Therefore, Uri now worshipped Ignis as well. Rona, for fun, decided to worship Ignis as well. Ignis was embarrassed and asked Rona to stop her advances. She did not because fun is fun.

The group hit the road again and crossed paths with John Anderson and the Inquisitors. John demanded to speak to Devan, and Nolgrim bristled. He said to John that he knew John only sought the artifact of power, some circlet. Nolgrim and the others tried to convince John to join us. Rona sat down against a tree, singing, and said three will need to be killed before one would join. Ignis disagreed, saying that John would never travel with a group that killed his inquisitors.

John Anderson told the party that they were permitted to go and fetch the relic, but they must return it to the church. For such a task, John decided to join them on the journey to Mythhelm. Ignis told Nolgrim that these people, these inquisitors, killed the mother of Vancia and Varena. Not good.

Along the way, the party encountered and defeated several goblins, a goblin shaman, and a hag. The countryside was not safe…

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Episode 6 - Necromance If You Want To

The party continued to the next crypt and encountered two zombies and a hooded, cloaked woman. A necromancer perhaps? Tyven dashed off after her. Others tried to follow, but the necromancer disappeared, and two undead ogres attacked attacked those who attempted to keep up with Tyven. Therefore, he was cut off from everyone else, and Tyven had to face her alone.

Rona cast Thunderwave to repel the ogres, and Keats used his magic to make them run away. The necromancer, a Gotha priestess, used Touch of Death on Tyven. What the party didn’t know was that there was a second necromancer, and she cast a fireball upon the party. Rona was unconscious, Tyven was dead, and Nolgrim was nearly killed.

Rona, quite displeased with this turn of events, proceeded to question the Gotha priestess. She was not forthcoming and actually quite aloof. Rona, unfeeling, went on to torture her and cut off two fingers of the captive witch.

Priestesss: “You’ve already killed one of Bankiqa’s servants. When he finds you, what he will do you will be far worse than anything you can do to me.”
Priestesss: “He is in a place you can’t reach.”
Priestesss: “The rivers of Echia will soon run red.”
Priestesss: “Bankiqa is only the beginning.”
Rona: “Why?”
Rona: “What is after Bankiqa?”
Priestesss: “I don’t know.”
Rona: “Tell me something useful, and I will spare your life.”
Priestesss: “Will you really let me live?”
Rona: “Yes”
Priestesss: “He is after Echia.”
Rona: “Just tell me why you are here in this place.”
Priestesss: “The deep magic is stronger here.”
Rona: “Why does Bankiqa want Echia?”
Priestesss: “Have you looked around? It’s easy picking.”
Rona: “Be gone.”

The priestess smiled and walked away. The rest of the party was not happy with Rona’s decision to let her go, and there were a few ranged attempts to kill the necromancer. They all failed.

Thelena Wintermoon, the druid, stated that the deep magic was most powerful in the Dark Wood. The ley lines crossed where the party was, right there near the crypts. Certain types of rituals could be very powerful there, including animating the dead. Thelena said there is a seeker (Sister Mary Helen) who can find the demon Bankiqa .

Just then, a group of inquisitors happened upon the party. One of them, John Anderson, spoke and asked why they traveled with scourge such as the tieflings Varena and Vancia. They defended their friends, and the group was permitted to pass.

At a bit of a crossroads, the party discussed what to do as it had a noble who owed them a favor, Nolgrim received news that his on-again off-again girlfriend was in prison, Bankiqa was a problem, and someone should be told about everything going on.

The consensus was to travel back to Cerl to seek out Sister Mary Helen and also to let Commander Liosa MacLiuthar know about everything. While there, Nolgrim could visit Devan.

At Cerl, there were festivities going on. The people were awaiting the Count bringing his betrothed to the town. Rather than go seek out Sister Mary Helen, the group then reported to Commander Liosa and told her about all the goings on to date: the demon turning people into werewolves, the necromancers, etc. It was made very clear that the Count would not care.

The last task was to ask about the bandit queen Devan Ava, who was supposed to be executed upon the arrival of Count Brendan Caridhas with his betrothed Belle Marcon. The party started to scheme to bust her out.

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Episode 5 - On Bankiqa's Trail

The party headed back to Rybalka’s library to return the book. Ignis was interested in the Emerald Grove and asked Maestra about it. He said he didn’t know. The group asked him for assistance, and he said he could help if his alchemical supplies were returned. As they were found in the cave, they were returned to him. Maestra gave each party member a Potion of Healing, and he also gave offered the group a Potion of Climbing and Dust of Disappearance.

The party’s next stop was to see Mayor Igor Leonid. That man was happy, or perhaps he was just drunk. Regardless, the report was made regarding the missing hunter, the library break-in, and the existence of werewolves in the area being controlled by the Devil of Darkwood. At the mention the Emerald Grove and the Vikmordere family, the mayor seemed confused.

Rona suggested to Ignis that he take the doll out and bend its leg backwards to see if anyone around nearby cried out in pain. The fourth werewolf would then be made known. Uri said, “Your beautiful face does little to hide the cruelty in your heart.” Rona, always irritated at Uri’s arrogance, now angrily why him why he went around insulting everyone. She then walked outside to wait for the rest of the group.

Uri was confused about this, unsure what had just transpired. He could not understand why people took offense at his demeanor. He and Tyven then got into a heated discussion, and Uri actually drew his glaive. Luckily, Ignis diffused the situation. Uri was very sensitive about his homeland and comments about it.

The group decided to head to the plains north of Rybalka to seek out the wandering Vikmordere clan. On the way, they ran into a Valihideen woman. She said, “I hear you’re looking for us.” Rona introduced herself. The woman’s name was Thelena. Ignis showed her the doll, and she said it looked like Bankiqa’s doll, and Thelena is no friend of the Demon of Darkwood. So the demon’s name was Bankiqa. Nolgrim asked if we could discuss this somewhere else, like around a fire eating a rabbit. His mind was usually on food or fighting. Uri asked why was Bankiqa was turning people into werewolves, and Thelena answered, “Why do devils do the things they do?”

She wanted to know why we were seeking out the Vikmordere family. The party began to argue. Rona said, “I don’t even know anymore,” and sat down on the ground. Uri got impatient and wanted to make haste to the capital, wanting nothing to do with any of this. He said there was a “bigger demon” to deal with, and that was the Corvenian Empire. Nolgrim spat upon the ground and grumbled, “Politics! More useless talk!”

“It will not be politics when Corvenia consumes this land, burning and killing their way westward,” replied Uri, agitated and haughty as usual.

Eventually the party got back on track, and they learned that Thelena was no longer welcome in her clan because she made the decision to join the druids. She also said that all the Vikmordere tribesmen were dead; there was just a grave. Some wanted to go to the grave; some wanted to go to the clan. Uri, of course, wanted to do neither as he planned on taking over Ecchia.

The party ended up heading to where the clan used to be; it had all been burnt.Searching through the ashes revealed nothing. Suddenly, Uri’s huntress said she heard something unusual in the woods nearby, and Rona cast Faerie Fire. Uri swiftly used his glaive to knock out a 16-year-old boy who had been hiding. Thelena said he looked like one of the Vikmordere clansmen. Uri, in an odd show of regret, gave him his healing potion.

The young man, named Quinn, told the party that his people were slain by dead things, zombies. Two women had walked out of the woods and were controlling the zombies. The zombies killed all the clansmen and then left. He didn’t look like the doll, and he was the only survivor. Rona asked him how he was able to turn invisible. He said he was “blessed or cursed” with the ability to do so.

The party was interested in going after the zombies, but since the attack happened “a few” or “a couple” weeks ago, the trail could be hard to find. So the group rested among the ashes and set off the next day to find the burial mound as Quinn posited that the zombies came from the bodies of dead Vikmordere clansmen. Indeed, there were zombies and even a banshee, but the party was victorious.

A very large sarcophagus laid at the end of a hall with the name Conall carved on it. It was undisturbed unlike the rest. Nolgrim and Tyven expressed interest in opening the crypt. Uri expressed his displeasure at this, and he insulted Nolgrim, calling him one of the “lesser races” in need of gratification in regards to looting the crypt. Rona turned on him and said, “So Uri, you’re okay insulting the living but you respect the dead?” He had no response.

Nolgrim and Tyven tried to open the grave, but they were unsuccessful. Uri boldly told them to step aside, and he tried. His attempt was miserable, and Rona loud laughed at him. However, eventually it was opened, and inside was a fine rapier and studded leather.

A Scarab Shield was also found. It was magic, from a far-away land. Keats took it and attuned to it (this shield functions as a +1 shield and in addition, any swarm can not enter the space occupied by the wielder.) Ignis attempted to attune to the studded leather, but he could not. Rona then tried, and she was successful. The armor was crafted by the great skald Conall Vikmodere. Legend has it that Conall, during his travel through the vale, came across a viscous winter wolf chasing a Valihideen girl. He played his pan flute, calming the winter wolf and allowing the girl to escape. The girl turned out to be the daughter of a Valihideen chieftain, who rewarded Conall by having his mystics weave magic into his armor that would harmonize with whatever music he played.

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Episode 4 - From Rybalka to the Devil of Darkwood

The party managed to locate all the supplies on the manifest, but there was far too much to carry to get everything back to Skolland in Cerl. It was suggested that only the most valuable items be taken as proof of contract fulfillment, but scavengers could fall upon the place and discover the rest. It was at that point that someone recommended heading to the nearby town of Rybalka since that’s where the provisions were supposed to go in the first place, it was closer, and the party could get assistance there.

Rona sang to raise the spirits of the weary party:

We’re going to Rybalka
We’re happy to be gone
We’re a crazy bunch of assholes
With a bunch of shit to pawn

The group moved through the snow, slowly taking in the new and alien sights and sounds of the remote village. The smell of cedar wood burning along with the searing flesh of wilderness animals was carried along as the smoke from small log cabins mixed with the valley mist. Large poles made from solid wood and carved with all manner of animal faces stared at the party members like trapped lost souls begging for salvation.

Many of the log cabins displayed elk horns above their front doors, while others sported large wooden discs with eerie faces carved in traditional Echian fashion. It seemed quite strange that after taking the village of Rybalka that the Klave Clan did not rid themselves of all the silly wooden idols the original Echian settlers so prominently displayed.

Just then a man with skin the color of ash stepped out in front of the party and looked them up and down. His eyes were dark, almost black, and he gazed into each person’s eyes, seemingly piercing to the soul. “You are new here; today you live, but you have the smell of death upon you. See Sulwotik at daybreak to be cleansed, or the beasts of the wood will come for you.” The tall man then turned and walked away back into the mist from where he came.

“Don’t mind him” said the captain, “Just another Vikmordere loony. A local family that still hasn’t quite come to terms with idea of settling.”

So the party went to the Bugg Inn, and it was relatively run down and torn apart. Bugg himself was there and asked the party what they wanted. They wanted to get word to Skolland, the valet to the Baron of Lampshire. He instructed them to go to the town hall.

The Rybalka Town Hall is a striking structure decorated with onion domes. Oddly enough, there was the carved wooden head of an eagle protruding over the entrance. Double wooden doors opened inward, presumably so in times of heavy snow, access can be maintained. Upon the wooden doors were the carvings of many local animals in the traditional Echian tribal style.

The great hall had wooden beams crisscrossing the ceiling and a long, old red carpet covered in stains and mud stretching the length of the wood lodge. A roaring fire blazed away in a great hearth, radiating a significant amount of heat into the large structure. The entire building smelled of wood and smoke, and the sound of someone reading aloud could be heard from a back room. The jingle of chain mail armor greeted the party as they struggled to shut the enormous double doors.

Two of the Rybalka village guard emerged from behind a drawn curtain in a side room and approached. Both the men wore slightly damaged chain mail and carry long blades at their sides.They were dirty and smelled quite foul. One of the men sported a curled mustache, which he twirled as they approached. The other donned a tweed cap and coughed.

“Hail travelers and welcome to the fine village of Rybalka. This day, on the edge of the last foothold of civilization that you show true honor and allegiance to the king of your kingdom,” said one of the guards.

The other man snickered and said, “Ah, they heard enough, Nolan! Let ‘em relax. I bet they wanna talk with Igor and get away from our stink.”

The man with the mustache turned to face his fellow guardsman. “Barret, have you learned nothing of honor and respect in your time here? Those who fail to follow the ways of the God of War will fall in battle. You must remain alert and always represent yourself and our village in the- ”

“Ah, shut it.” The other guard chuckled and motioned the party onward. “Mayor Igor Leonid is in the office. Just go on in.”

The party members pushed aside the red curtain which hung over the doorway and found a man sitting behind a huge wooden desk. He was writing feverishly, and sweat dripped down his face. He glanced up and grinned from ear to ear. “Ah ha! You have made it! Very good!” He dropped his quill and walked out from behind the desk. He wore only an undershirt and pants cropped short with a pair of huge fur boots. “I am Igor, Mayor Igor Leonid of Rybalka, the village on the very edge of the great Echian Kingdom! I pledge allegiance to King Owen Ivor and will uphold the laws of the Echian Kingdom until the day death takes me. I trust your journey was a safe one? Please, sit down, have some whiskey. Tell me your names and a bit about yourselves.” The mayor pulled up some stools from the corner of the room, poured liquid into small glasses, and pushed them toward everyone while he drank from the flask.

Rona drank with the mayor and offered him entertainment. He said it had been a long time since they’d had a skald in these parts, and he welcomed the offer of story and song. The mayor also paid the party and sent men to retrieve the rest of the items that the party had hidden in the cave. Finally, he spoke of things occurring in Rybalka, most notably some Kyladians that had come to town, which was a very odd thing. They could be found in the Thirsty Serpent Tavern. Also, there had been a break-in at the local library.

The party decided they could use some food and perhaps more drink, so they found their way to the Thirsty Serpent. It was a large building which looked like a two-story log cabin. It was quite large, and the sound of laughing and drunken ruckus escaped the cracks around the wooden door at the entry.

Above the entryway hung an old wooden sign upon which a twisting sea serpent with its tail wrapping around a mug of ale was carved. Pushing the doors open revealed a large barroom, warmly lit by a glowing fireplace and a raging wood stove. A long wooden bar faced the kitchen and was lined with rough and tough looking men covered in dirt and sweat. They pounded ales and talked about their day while enjoying the company of other laborers.

The inn keep, a spry looking young man with a handsome grin, rushed to and fro attempting to appease his customers. A serving boy brought plates of steaming venison and potatoes out to the round tables where the captain and his men sat. There was one seat left at the captain’s table and he motioned at the party should one of the members you to join him. But as they walked in, everyone stopped drinking and turned to stare. It was obvious that they didn’t encounter outsiders too often, and they didn’t look very friendly.

Rona sat down, took out her lute, and started to play softly as the party was served food and drink. The mood started to improve, so she continued to play a bit louder and sing a jolly tune. Meanwhile there was an elf sitting away with what looked to be an entourage; those were the Kyladians. The red elf had a massive glaive, and he gave Ignis a cold stare as Ignis, being himself, went over to introduce himself and make friends. This elf’s name was Uri, and he was tired of being stuck in Rybalka. He grudgingly accepted the party’s invitation to hang out together and possibly investigate the library situation.

The group wanted Rona to talk to the captain, so she went to his table and did so. The pertinent information gathered was that a hunter went missing and the library got broken into. A shepherd was tending his flock, and some sheep went missing. So he hired a hunter to go after a wolf, and that hunter went missing in the Darkwood. It wasn’t completely unheard of, but it was out of the ordinary. Also, the library break-in was odd because the only thing stolen was a book of genealogy of the town that the librarian/alchemist was working on.Rona, having heard tales of lycanthropes, conjectured that it was a werewolf and wanted the book to hide bloodline information.

There was no room at the disgusting Bugg Inn, so the party camped and went to the library the next day. They met with the librarian named Maestra. There were claw-marks on the door halfway up like where a human would scratch if they had claws. There were also broken branches outside the library and a few bits of brown fur. Rona asked if there were any bloodlines that were strange, and Maestra said no, although there was some inbreeding. However, that was not uncommon. Rona then asked if there were any families that were not forthcoming with information, and he said the Vikmordere clan, but that was to be expected because they were out in the wild and didn’t like these folks. Once again, Rona stated that werewolves were likely.
Uri’s huntress stated that if werewolves were to blame, the group should not go unprepared. They asked the alchemist for alchemical silver, but he needed silver to make it. The group split up to get sources. Rona sought an audience with the mayor to discuss the situation and hopefully get some assistance in either coin, weapons, or silver. Uri accompanied her, which was the beginning of a very strained relationship between the two.

Silver was found, and crossbow bolts were made. The party headed into the Darkwood for werewolf hunting. They followed tracks, and a heavy rainstorm moved into the area. Before long, the entire group was soaked and chilled.

As they approached a pile of ice-covered rubble, a human voice called out. “Get away! I’ll kill you! He’ll make me kill you! Get away! I can’t do this… I… someone please… stop me…” There was a human man in blood-stained clothing nearly torn to shreds and hanging from his water-soaked skin. He clutched his head tightly in his hands and screamed as if his mind was being torn asunder. “He’s going to make me kill you! Don’t you understand?!”

The party asked who, and he replied, “The Devil of Darkwood.”
“Who is the Devil of Darkwood?”
He would not, or could not, give a clear answer.
Rona asked if he was a werewolf. He replied, “How did you know that?”
Ignis asked if he took the book. He replied, “How did you know that?!”
He begged us to kill him.
“How can we find him?” Uri asked, referring to the Devil of Darkwood.
“He lives in a cave.”

The party dispatched the man and went into the cave. There were indeed werewolves, and the fight was long and gruesome. Finally, a demon appeared. The group, awed, tried to make a plan, but the demon flew off and disappeared before they could do anything. Within the cave proper, the party found an ancient stone table with stolen alchemy equipment on it as well as some additional apparatuses.

We went into the cave, fought some werewolves and tried to fight a demon. But the demon flew off and disappeared. Within the cavern proper the party finds an ancient stone table with the stolen alchemy equipment and some additional apparatuses. Also, the party found strange fetish dolls discarded by the devil. Three were able to be matched to werewolves the party had killed, but the fourth did not match anyone the group had seen. Rona cast Suggestion on the doll in the hope that she could force whoever its counterpart to go to her, but she could immediately tell that it resisted.

The book of genealogy was found, and the last entry was about the Vikmordere family. Inbreeding was definitely happening in that family, but the most pertinent piece of information was their connection to a druid circle called The Emerald Grove.

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