Monday 1 August 2011

Loudwater, inc Sessions 1-20

The town of Loudwater sits at the confluence of the Delimbiyr and Grayflow rivers. The forested shoulders of the Star Mounts rise above the town in the northwestern sky. These cloud-veiled peaks remind the townspeople that beyond the city’s walls stretch wild lands, where deadly monsters threaten the unwary.
Merchants, caravan guards, local craftsfolk, hunters, farmers, and retired adventurers treat the Green Tankard Tavern in Loudwater as a second home. In the tavern’s common room, talk turns to tales of hostile tribes and barrows glimpsed through mists; folk speak warily of goblins in the Southwood, of the serpent folk of Najara, and of ancient, ruined kingdoms. 
The tavern attracts young and old with its warm company and tall tales. But before buying an ale for one of the inn’s regulars, a visitor should think carefully. Many adventures have started from stories exchanged over cheap ale and greasy food, but not all have ended with the glorious exploits of which bards sing. An old story or a wrinkled map could be the doorway to adventure—or the path to a quick death...

Fortnightly campaign set in the 4th edition D&D Forgotten Realms campaign setting, in and around the isolated northern township of Loudwater.

Permitted materials are:
The 4e D&D Player's Handbook
Player's Handbook 2
The Forgotten Realms Player's Guide
The two Essentials Players' Books
Adventurer's Vault 1 & 2 - except the double weapons.
Any WoTC 'Power' books.
Player's Handbook 3 Monk class and Skill Powers
Neverwinter Campaign Setting (Bladesinger etc), except for the campaign Themes
Dragon magazine non-setting specific material.

You can have a FR Background or one of the generic Background benefits from the PHB2.  You can bring a PC, or tell me what you want and I'll stat one up for you.

There is a single 'party level' for all PCs.

Inherent Bonuses

As the Loudwater campaign setting is quite magic-poor - no magic shops, limited trade, etc - I've decided to use the DMG2 Inherent Bonuses system.  This means that PCs get the following 'quasi magic' attack & defense Enhancement bonuses, which do not stack with any magic item Enhancement bonuses you might get.

Level 2: +1 to all Attacks.
Level 4: +1 to all Defenses (AC, Fort, Ref, Will)
Level 7: +2 to all Attacks.
Level 9: +2 to all Defenses (AC, Fort, Ref, Will)
Level 12: +3 to all Attacks.
Level 14: +3 to all Defenses (AC, Fort, Ref, Will) 
Level 17: +4 to all Attacks
Level 19: +4 to all Defenses
Level 22: +5 to all Attacks
Level 24: +5 to all Defenses
Level 27: +6 to all Attacks
Level 29: +6 to all Defenses

30th level PCs can have one Power/Feat Retrain per 250,000 XP, as if levelling up. 

New PC Starting Wealth
1 Item of Level -2, 1 Item of Level -5, 1 Item of Level -7.
Level 1-10: 100gp
Level 11-20: 1,000gp
Level 21-30: 10,000gp

Level 1-2:   100gp
Level 5:   1 Item Level 3, 100gp
Level 6:   2 Items Level 1 & Level 4, 100gp
Level 8:   3 Items Level 1, Level 3, Level 6, 100gp

Level 11: 3 Items Level 4, Level 6, Level 9, 1,000gp
Level 21: 3 Items Level 14, Level 16, Level 19, 10,000gp
Level 30: 3 Items Level 23, Level 25, Level 28, 10,000gp

Starting items may be sold pre-game for 20% of book value, to a maximum of 100,000gp per item - this assumes they were sold in a metropolis like Waterdeep, and affects only the level 25 (base 625,000gp) through level 28 (base 2,125,000gp) items.  The PC may use the money raised to buy PHB/PHB2/Essentials items, each item being of level 20 or lower, using their standard book value (100%).
High-Epic PCs are usually better off keeping their two highest level items and only selling the lowest.  Eg a Level 30 PC can convert their Level 23 item to 85,000gp and use that money to buy various lower-level stuff, while keeping their Level 25 & Level 28 items.

House Rules: I use reduced hit points for non-minions, and a damage threshold to kill minions (Level+2, half that to Bloody).  Encounter XP is usually x1, x1.5 if higher level, or x.5 if much lower level. 

Otherwise by-the-book - and I don't pull any punches.  >:)

Cohort NPCs
Players can level up their Companion character PCs each time the PC levels up, using the electronic copies of the NPCs on the web page. Jorah & Cerdic would go to level 16 after this fight and Anaveth to level 13. Cerdic gets +6 hp/level. Jorah +5 hp/level, Anaveth +4 hp/level. Everyone gets +1 to attacks & defences each level. Everyone gets +1 to damage every even-numbered level, Cerdic gets another +1 at levels divisible by 4. At 21st level they add another damage die to damage and gain an additional Encounter Power.

The Year: Seasons, Months (30 days) & Holidays (+1 Day each)
M1: Deepwinter
M1 End: Mid Winter Holiday
M2: Claw of Winter
M3: Claw of Sunsets
M3 Day 19: Spring Equinox
M4:  Claw of Storms
M4 End: Greengrass Festival
M5:  Melting
M6: Time of Flowers
M6 Day 20: Summer Solstice
M7: Summertide
M7 End: Mid Summer Holiday, plus Shieldmeet in 1480, 1484 etc
M8: Highsun
M9: Fading
M9 Day 21: Autumn Equinox
M9 End: Highharvestide Holiday
M10: Leaffall
M11: Rotting
M11 End: Feast of the Moon Holiday
M12: Drawing Down
M12 Day 20: Winter Solstice

Timeline 1479 DR

Month 5: Mirtul/The Melting

s1 11/05: Goblin raid on Loudwater blows a hole in the South Wall
s1 12/05: Quarfein and the Hellfire Trio perish in the Barrow of the Ogre King

Month 7: Flamerule/Summertide

s2 5/07: The Burning Hand kill a tiefling threatening Calla Marran, rescue 6 captive girls from the slavers of the ship Pale Minnow, and 7 more from Zark the Half Dwarf's cider barrels, capturing the dwarf and the ship captain while killing 6 slavers.  Talk of Serpentfolk of Najara.
s2 5/07:  The heroes are thanked and rewarded by Lady Moonfire, and locate the apparent lair of the Loudwater crime boss The Lady of Shadows, also involved in the kidnappings.

s3 6/07: The Burning Hand travel to Zelbross and in a dusk battle at the ruined Temple of Tyr they defeat the Bandit slavers, a Najaran Serpentman, & the treacherous Zark, rescuing 10 damsels.
s3 7/07: The Burning Hand return with damsels to Loudwater, and a hero's welcome.
s3 9/07:  Evening - Calla Marran staggers into the Inn minus her left hand.  The Burning Hand receive invite to a masqued ball at the Moonfire estate, to take place 11/07.  Most refused access to Lady Moonfire, except the tongue-tied Dru!

s4 10/07 - While resting, the ladies of the Burning Hand are admired by a local chap called Sunsteen Arbeth, with a spellscar-withered leg.  He calls them his 'angels'.  Dru has now absorbed the power of the wolf-spirit that formerly accompanied her.
s4 11/07: At the Masquerade at Moonfire Manor, Dolf Dragonheart is suddenly called away by an inner compulsion.  Later that evening a young woman in a raven mask and low-cut black dress enters - Amara DeTrevani, who the Burning Hand rescued from the Zelbross slavers.  Amara asks them to help her father Kiris Alkirk and the wise woman Treona in recovering a Slaying Stone from the goblin-infested ruins of Kiris Dan, on the edge of the Southwood.
s4 12/07  1 am: Just west of Treona's tower 15 miles east of Loudwater, the Burning Hand, Amara and her manservant Grigor are attacked by wolves during an unseasonal sleet storm.  Grigor and Ashara the Genasi are slain before the wolves are driven off, but in Treona's tower the wise woman brings Ashara back to life!  The Burning Hand bed down for the night.
10 am-11am The Burning Hand listen to the tale of Kiris Dan, agree to help recover the Slaying Stone, and head south, 6 miles to the edge of the Southwood.
s4 2pm: Dru scouts the goblin-occupied gate house of Kiris Dan in wolf form.  The sentries try to tempt her with rotten meat, she lures one away into the forest and then mauls the poor little goblin to death.

Dolf Dragonheart:
11/07: Dolf felt an inner compulsion to leave the masqued ball early (leaving Marsh Laval, the rear end of his dragon costume, behind at the buffet table!), and took the ferry boat north of the river. Travelling north through the night in the growing winter weather, he found the elf Alarc Darkwind half-frozen in a blizzard. Dolf rescued the elf and returned with him to Loudwater before dawn, finding that his companions in the Burning Hand have left Loudwater with Amara deTrevani.

12/07: ca 5am - Alarc warns Lady Moonfire of the growing danger from Draigdurroch Tower, and she starts to assemble a group to deal with the threat, while Dolf rests for a few hours to recover, then leaves Loudwater, heading east to rejoin his party. At deTrevani manor, Amara and her aged father Kiris Alkirk tell Dolf that the Burning Hand have headed south to the ruins of Kiris Dan, on a mission to locate a deadly artifact called the 'Slaying Stone'...

'Icy Spire' pt 1: Late morning ca 11am 12/07: 6 adventurers assembled by Lady Moonfire head north into the High Forest towards the Draighdurroch Tower 16 miles away. Protected by Curuvar's 'Endure Elements' ritual, they travel north for hours, encounter a sorcerous blizzard, battle frost goblins, and reach the tower that evening, as the sun is setting in the west (ca 8.30pm).  After dispatching a flying clay gremlin and several stone toad/lizard/cockatrice guardians, they enter the Tower...

s5 ca 2.30pm: The Burning Hand are observing the Kiris Dan gatehouse from hiding when Dolf Dragonheart arrives, assisted by the elf Ranger Carack.  They head east along the riverbank, past fields sprouting with saplings to an area with woods on both sides of the stream, cross the stream by means of Esmerelda's Floating Disc ritual, and enter the town out of sight of the gatehouse goblins, through trees into decaying houses.
s5 ca 3pm: The Burning Hand reach the old Kiris Dan library, dispatch a group of goblins including an ooze-summoning wizard, and find several tomes with four rituals.  There is evidence that a very big dragon entered the library and took something from a hidden alcove.  Carack spots a verdigris-coloured scale.  The group debate abandoning the mission.
s5 ca 3.30pm From the library the Burning Hand head north to a street of ruined temples, including that to Kelemvor with its roof collapsed, and one to Chauntea that still appears to receive occasional use, a few mouldy grains on the altar.  The area is used by the goblins in occasional festivals to their god Maglubiyet.  Lirael notices that something human(oid) has been scavenging goblin trash.  They track it back to a large chamber beneath the Temple of Sehanine.  A man in threadbare nobles' clothing crouches beside a pool of silvery water resembling the full moon.  He strongly resembles old Kiris Alkirk, last lord of Kiris Dan.  Conversation reveals that he is Kiris Hoyt, and claims to be the true lord of Kiris Dan, but seems very uneasy, his nose twitches; when 11 goblins attack, he turns into a wererat!  A 3-way battle ensues; Kiris Hoyt slays the goblin leader Triflik, who wielded a silvered dagger.  The goblins are slain, Hoyt nearly kills Ashara before being plunged into the moon-pool, he recovers his human form.  Hoyt tells the Burning Hand that the dragon who entered the library months ago now lairs in the hot springs in the NE part of town.  He also says that the goblins are led locally by the hobgoblin Hujat, a lackey of the goblin High Shaman Sancossug, destroyer of the 'Champions of Loudwater'.  Hujat is based in the old Kiris Manor.  The Burning Hand leave Kiris Hoyt, his wounds now vanished, and head for the manor (ca 4pm).

S6 4pm: Heading for the Manor, the heroes are attacked by 10 goblins and 6 wolves in a fierce street battle near a burnt-out Inn.  They slay their enemies, one goblin survivor fleeing south towards the kobold slums, and loot the wolf pens.  The heroes reach the Kiris Manor across a broad central square, spotting an Orc observing them from a house to the left.  Goblin archers open fire from the manor; the heroes attack and slay the goblins and their master, the drake-riding hobgoblin Hu-Jat, minion of the Goblin High Shaman Sancossug.  They loot the manor vaults of 10,000 sp and 200gp.  Then a very large female Orc axe-woman appears, wanting the Slaying Stone 'for Dreus' - the heroes don't have it.  Esme executes a goblin captive.  An initial cordial conversation turns frosty when the Orc woman realises two thirds of the heroes are Elves or Half-Elves!  Ashara advises her to run; she departs.
The heroes head over to the hot springs & ruined baths on the east side of Kiris Dahn, where they enter an enormous tunnel dug in the sandy soil.  It leads down to a huge cavern, where the Keeper of the Slaying Stone, the Huge verdigris dragon TYRISTYS, awaits.  Nervous negotiations, and a gift of all the wealth looted from the manor, persuade the dragon to hand over the Stone.  It is now 5.30pm, still about 3 hours before sunset, but the new goblin citizens of Kiris Dahn are likely to be rousing from their slumbers soon.    Might be time to leave...

S7 6pm: The group head east out of town, Ashara burdened by the Slaying Stone.  At the eastern palisade they are attacked by a kobold shamaness and her four iron defenders - they kill her, and Esmerelda gains psychic control of the metal dogs.  While resting in an old barn, Dru senses movement outside - Lirael goes to investigate, and spots an orc Wolf Shaman in the bushes.  Six Severed Eye Orcs attack, and a furious battle ensues; Dolf is hard pressed by the orc commander & his spiked chain, Esme is taken down by an orc morningstar, while the female orc Krayd bursts into the barn and lays about her savagely, destroying two of the iron dogs.  Ashara struggles to resist the urge to use the Slaying Stone.  Eventually the group are victorious, killing all six orcs, and hurriedly depart Kiris Dahn, trekking back north to the deTrevani Manor.

9pm: Back at the Manor they are greeted by old Lord Kiris Alkirk along with the wise-woman Treona and his daughter Amara. Alkirk asks for the stone so he can kill the chief of the Severed Eye Orcs occupying Castle DeTrevani, a hill fort north of the Delimbiyr river, and restore the family fortunes.  The group refuse, there is much debate, eventually Esmerelda persuades Alkirk to let Ashara take the Stone back to her masters in Airspur, Akanul for study.  Amara deTrevani asks Ashara to accompany her and begin to learn the ways of Fire Magic from her.  The group rest overnight in the manor house - the air is unseasonably chill, a light snow is falling.

'Icy Spire' pt 2: Evening ca 9pm 12/07: The adventurers charged by Lady Moonfire begin to explore Draighdurroch's Tower, and are attacked by ice monsters using portals from the Elemental Chaos.  They win after a fierce fight, sealing the portals, then rest in the frigid tower, still protected by Curuvar's ritual.

ca 6am 13/07: After resting overnight the adventurers explore the upper levels of the tower, discover relics of the dwarven Warlock's researches, and at last battle the Spirit of Winter atop the tower, destroying it and freeing the Gray Vale from wintry doom.   They return as heroes to Loudwater (ca 3pm 13/07).  Among the heroes, the dwarven warlock Valath is particularly pleased to have recovered  Draighdurroch's research notes...

S7 ca 4pm 13/07: After rest and binding of wounds, the Burning Hand head west from deTrevani Manor - the climate is suddenly warm again - arriving back in Loudwater ca 4pm to find the town celebrating another group of adventurers who have just returned from the north, having ended the Menace of the Icy Spire and saved Loudwater from the threat of eternal winter!   At the Green Tankard Esme is warmly greeted by Marsh Laval, she asks about local alchemists/apothecaries.

Marsh Laval, to Esme:
"Well, there used to be two apothecaries in town - but Tanara Cothwick vanished a few weeks back, when all those girls were being kidnapped by the slavers - her store was looted, too.  Shame, she was a fine-lookin' lass - not as fine as yerself, o'course!  So now there's just Brosha Manx - he's a half-elf, too... oh, and old Garwan sells stuff - oddments and charms - out of his Curiousity Shoppe.  I doubt he'd know what to do with those, though..."  - he indicates the gory remains Esme is carrying.

When Ashara reports back to her masters in Airspur (via reply to a routine Sending) she receives instructions to travel west from Loudwater to the nearest still-semi-functioning magic Portal, where they can use a Ritual to retrieve the Stone from her - Ashara will be out of play for an indefinite amount of game-time while she journeys.  Amara deTrevani will accompany her on the journey as her new apprentice.

S8: 14/07-17/07: Esme gets Curuvar to resize the enchanted silvered dagger she found on the goblin Triflik, and Megana Nistral the smith reworks it into a useable sword.  Esme also pays Megana to repair her two damaged Iron Defenders (ready 20/7).  She sells ankheg glands to Brosha Manx the apothecary, then visits Lady Moonfire with her severed drake & hobgoblin heads, persuading Moonfire to give her a chit with which Dolf acquires 3 healing potions from Brother Griffon at the Temple of Silvanus.  Moonfire tells her there will be another Grand Ball tonight (17/07) to celebrate the Heroes of the Icy Spire saving of Loudwater from supernatural winter (also Summer).  Dolf meanwhile has a fancy new sword crafted for him by Megana Nistral, who clearly fancies him.

S8 ca 5pm-8pm 17/07: Four thugs visit the Green Tankard to collect protection money from Marsh Laval for the Lady of Shadows; Esme sends them packing, they threaten her.  Lirael is away on Ranger business. Dolf, Esme, and Dru recruit a new arrival in town, a knight Sir Calard who is seeking revenge on a dark elf slaver, and together they assault the Lair of Shadows beneath an abandoned tenement.  In an epic battle they kill ten thugs, the Tiefling rogue Tighte, and the Dark Creeper Dara, the 'Lady' herself.  They capture the elf archer and gang member Vyonin, and Sir Calard rescues a captive woman, the apothecary Tanara Cothwick, who was enslaved by Tighte the Tiefling.  Dolf destroys some enchanted flagstones carved with dwarven runes, as they 'reek of wrongness'.  Tanara accuses Vyonin of being among those who also abused her, and says that her rival apothecary Brosha Manx is a member of the Shadows gang.   Dolf stops Esme killing Vyonin.  The group plan to hand Vyonin over to the Watch, deal with Brosha Manx, and still make it to the Ball in time!

Lirael crept out of Loudwater at first light, leaving her companions behind. It felt strange to be alone again after so long in their company; strange company though it was. But familial duty called and she set off for Elfstree at a swift pace. Her older half-sister, Anwyn Pyro, from her father's first marriage, was once again heavy with child and fit to burst. Perhaps the sixth time? Seventh? Lirael had lost count.

Anwyn's letter had been brief and to the point. Come quickly. I need you. was all it had said. Even so, Lirael had been reluctant to go. Anwyn's husband was a rough sort, as were all of his brothers...of which there were many. Children ran in the family, Anwyn often said with a laugh--a saying she had picked up from her husband, Berl, though he said it with a leer that gave Lirael pause. 

The whole Pyro clan made her uneasy. Men often made Lirael uneasy. She thanked Mielikki she had found the Burning Hand and they had accepted her--she had never before seen a group of women bound together such as they were. Except for the paladin, of course. Dolf was male, and an imposing one at that, but he was also good and honorable. She had never seen him make an untoward move, not even on Esme, who likely would have encouraged it. Though Dolf did have a strange relationship with deer that was hard to understand. 

Lirael reached Anwyn's home at dusk but did not immediately knock at the door. Something felt wrong. There were no lights on and everything was far too quiet. When upwards of twelve people, over half of them under the age of fifteen, lived in a place, silence was not what you expected to hear. She inspected the perimeter and finally, once sure there were no traps, approached the house and peered in a window. It was empty -- empty of everything, save for a few broken odds and ends unidentifiable in the gloom.

Lirael inspected the entire house from top to bottom and found nothing save a green ribbon she knew was Anwyn's. No note, no signs, nothing. She had not come quickly enough.


Lirael left the empty Pyro house behind and went into Elfstree. Anwyn had worked at a tavern on the outskirts there before she had settled into motherhood. The Green Dragon looked just as Lirael remembered it; slightly decayed but convivial, like an old uncle gone to seed. She stepped inside to look for the crusty old man that ran the place, Corm. As her eyes adjusted to the dimly lit interior, she was greeted by a loud whoop and something grabbed her around the middle.

"Auntie Li--" screeched a young voice.

"Lyssandra!" Corm interrupted. "As I live and breathe, if it isn't my dear cousin Lyssandra!" He crushed Lirael and her niece Breton, her first greeter, in a hug.

Lyssandra? What was Corm up to? He surely remembered her name. She had downed many a pint there over the years, even if it had been some months since she had last visited Anwyn. She hugged him and stepped back.

"You remember my niece, Brettana?" He continued, his eyes intent on hers. He gave a small jerk of his head towards the bar where two hulking men sat nursing their ales.

Lirael looked from Corm to Breton. Her niece gave her a faltering smile. "Yes, of course," said Lirael. "How have you been?" 

"Wonderful, wonderful!" said Corm, his back to the men and his face belying his words. "Brettana, perhaps you could tell your brothers and sisters the good news of Auntie Lyssandra's coming? Lys, can you come with me to the kitchen? I need to work on a pie; perhaps you could help! You always were a better cook than I!" He laughed heartily, obviously for any potential audience. Lirael laughed too, not least of which at the thought of her being a cook of any caliber. She followed Corm into the kitchen, hot with the heat of an oven that never saw rest. He was famous for his pies.

"What is going on?" asked Lirael as soon as the door shut behind them.

"You've been up to the Pyro house, then?" he asked. She nodded. "Anwyn sent the kids to me when things began to get bad. She always had a good head on her that one. Other than marrying that idiot Berl."

"What things?" asked Lirael. "This is the first I've heard of anything being wrong. I got a mysterious note from Anwyn, but there were no details at all. None."

"Ah," said Corm. "I'm sorry, I thought you knew. Berl got in with a bad sort and ran up a large debt with them doing what all I don't know. Then we started hearing even up here about you and the adventures you'd been getting in." He chucked her in the shoulder, nearly knocking her over. Even old, he was still strong, probably from lifting all those heavy sacks of flour over the years. "Berl wanted Anwyn to get a share of any reward money or treasure you'd collected."

Lirael snorted. She didn't even have enough gold to get a decent bow. 

Corm paid no mind. "I think he talked it up to whoever the people are that he owes money to. They expect you to have a fortune in gold, I wager. When you didn't come right away, they took Berl and Anwyn to Loudwater to find you, but they left those two louts behind in case you showed up after all."

Lirael paced. "I haven't got that kind of money, Corm. Not even close."

"Honestly, girl, I'm not sure it's money they're after, really. I think it's your skills they want. Once they get in their cups, those two fellows are loose with their tongues. They're after something. Something dangerous and I think they need you and your friends. I heard them mention a shaman as well. Not anything I'd want to get mixed up in, that's for sure."

Lirael nodded again. She never had liked Berl much. Now she knew why.


S9 17/07: Dolf & Calard leave the captured gang member Vyonin with Captain Harrowleaf of the Loudwater Patrol, also an elf, then attend Lady Moonfire's Summer Ball.  Subsequently (19/07) the apothecary Brosha Manx is arrested and expelled from Loudwater, his shop and property are given to the rescued appothecary Tanara Cothwick in compensation.

Month 8: Highsun

01/08/1479 DR: After a couple week's rest, Dolf, Calard and Lirael are having a drink in the Green Tankard, when Ashara the Fire Mage returns from Akanul (via a portal on the Sword Coast), along with her newly trained apprentice Amara DeTrevani.  They are summoned to the estate of Lady Moonfire, who introduces them to Queen Valeris of Orlbar.  Valeris is seeking recruits for a mission to slay the leaders of the Hand of Naraash, who threaten her northern borders - three previous missions sent by the Light of the Sun over the past year have been lost.

02/08: Dolf, Calard, Lirael, Ashara and Amara ride east with Valeris and her guards through the Vale to Castle Valeris, a sinister fortress that was previously the Temple of Bane-Iyacthu.  They stay there a week (03/08-09/08) while Valeris' master smiths fashion masterwork armour for Dolf and Calard, a bow for Lirael, and wand for Ashara.  Lirael investigates the political situation in the eastern Gray Vale: a precarious balance of power between Valeris, the Bandit King of Llorkh to the east, and the evil dwarf warlord called the Mountain King to the north.  A cleric of Bahamut called Oran volunteers to accompany Dolf and the Burning Hand north against the Hand of Naraash.

10/08:  Equipped with horses and provisions for the journey, the group ride out from Castle Valeris, skirt Orlbar, and travel north-west towards Adakmi on the Shining Falls, the beginning of the Black March that runs north along the high Delimbiyr into Naraash territory.  A 20 mile ride brings them to the village of Erstlin, finding it under attack from human Banite raiders, while a light rain is falling.  Four men are killed, Lirael's arrows cutting several down, and a fifth is captured, interrogation reveals little.  Suddenly more Banites attack; one farmer is killed by a hobgoblin arrow, a second is only saved by Dolf's healing power.   A mother (Dara) and her boy are killed by the force blast of a hobgoblin warcaster, the Banites' leader, as they beg to be allowed into the village tavern, the door barred shut by the local headman.  Calard is attacked by two bugbears, and holds them off, while the warcaster uses a 'force lure' on Amara.  Eventually the 3 bugbears, 2 hobgoblin archers and hobgoblin warcaster are all slain.   The six battered adventurers decide to rest in Erstlin for the night.

S10 11/08: Dru turns up in Erstlin, having crossed the Delimbiyr at the nearby summer ford, and meets the others.  The village headman Auldwyl has left after being pelted with rotten vegetables by his angry compatriots.  The group decide to stay in Erstlin a week to help the villagers erect a palisade and train them in combat skills.  Calard takes the captured cultist back to Castle Valeris and returns.

18/08: Heading north-east out of Erstlin that morning, just a mile down the track the group are ambushed by four figures in the guise of Jaryn, the paladin - dopplegangers!  They brutally kill Amara deTrevani, and fell Oryan before being dispatched.   During the fighting Ashara noticed one talking in Abyssal, the language of Chaos - strange for a Banite.  With a heavy heart they return to Erstlin, and Ashara asks the villagers to return Amara's body to deTrevani manor.  Then they head out again, reaching Adakmi that evening.  Forty dead Banites hang from the fortress walls - remnants of a failed attack by one hundred Hand of Naarash cultists some months back.  Inside Adakmi, a citadel built for two thousand now holds four hundred, including women and children, but the eighty or so armed defenders seem doughty, a contrast to Erstlin.  Drinking at the Sundial Tavern that evening, the locals are sceptical of the group's prospects at even making it to the Pillars of Night.  A flat-capped dwarf, Glasur, offers to take the group upriver on his 'Moon Boat', and they accept, paying for passage.

19/08: That morning the group leave Adakmi by the north gate and take the tough trek up above the Shining Falls to the Moondocks, where they board a strange 35' long boat pulled by two giant pike.  Ashara boards reluctantly.  The boat heads upriver at twenty miles a day.  Glasur estimates five days to the Pillars of Night.

21/08: After two and a half days and fifty miles upriver through mountainous terrain, seeing nothing but three burnt-out hamlets, that afternoon the group encounter a small village, Kalnak, on fire and under attack by five Hand cultists - they attack and slay the three dragonborn, inept bugbear strangler, and human mage.  Dru manages to put out the fire before it destroys the last building.  The two dozen surviving villagers, led by an elderly woman (Yrma) thank them for their aid.

Esmerelda of Waterdeep is scouting the Southwood hunting for the goblins who 'murdered' her half-brother Quarfein, when she enters a secluded grove dotted with ancient dolmens scribed with Davek runes, a legacy of ancient Ammarindar. Suddenly there's a 'pop' and she finds herself on a mountain slope in the Greypeaks, a small village burning down below on the banks of a rushing river, and the familiar figures of her battle-comrades moving among the surviving villagers to put out the flames... 

Swiftly followed by, "What the hell happened there then?"

S11: Esme goes downhill and joins the others with her two iron defenders, to their surprise.  Dolf, Oran, and Lirael decide to escort the 24 survivors of Kalnak the fifty miles down the Black March to Adakmi, while Esme, Dru and Ashara (and Calard) press on towards the Pillars of Night.  They return to the Moon Boat 'Blacksnake' and continue north, camping that night by the river.

While Esme and her Defenders stand watch that night, they are attacked by a strange Tiefling whose cloak enables him to turn invisible and teleport. He destroys one of the Iron Defenders.  After a long battle he flees into the night.

22/08: The Moon Boat continues north along the upper Delimbiyr.

23/08: Fifty miles north from Kalnak and a hundred from Adakmi, it is dusk when the group spot the mountain known as the Pillars of Night to the east. Glasur the Dwarf brings the Moon Boat to shore; Dru leads the others east through the rugged terrain towards the Pillars of Night.

24/08: A little before dawn, the heroes see the cult complex before them - a ruined giant city repurposed as the headquarters of the Hand of Naarash, with more cult settlements in the valley around.  Beyond the city, great stone steps lead up to an archway set into the mountain - the temple of the cult.
The group disguise themselves as cultists and enter the city at dawn.  Children practice battle with wooden staves.  Esme's smooth tongue persuades a sashed Naarashite priest that they are emissaries from Boris, the Bandit King of Llorkh.  After a short wait in a human & hobgoblin guards barracks they are escorted up the steps towards the Temple of Naarash, to meet with the master of the cult.
As they near the entrance to the temple, a lone figure comes running up behind them - the Tiefling!  He yells a warning to the Banites: Intruders! but before his comrades can react, the heroes dive into the temple and bar the great stone doors.  They are in a chamber with great fire-braziers, ancient giant writing on the walls concerning 'Naarash', and further steps up to two more pairs of doors. A low thrumming indicates that the ancient defenses of the temple have been activated - evidenced when the heroes go through the left door and encounter ancient suits of giant-sized plate armour - though decreipt they are still dangerous, but prove no match for the heroes...

S12 24/08: The Temple of Naarash

Shawna Carter, Deva Paladin - Emma
Ashara, Genasi Fire Wizard - Catherine 
Esmerelda, half-elf Bard - James 
Dru, half-elf Uthgardt Druid - Damian 
Lirael, half-elf Ranger - Kimberly 
[Calard, human Knight - Mark - absent]

The Amaunite Deva Paladin Shawna Carter had been held in the prison block of the Temple of Naarash for at least a month. Part of the third and final strike team sent by the 'Light of the Sun' to kill the leaders of the 'Hand of Naarash' Bane-cultists who threatened the borderlands, she was the last survivor, captured on the Black March and brought to the cult headquarters. She had had plenty of time to reflect that perhaps her group leader's refusal of a 'trip up the river on my magic moonboat' by the dwarf Glasur back in Adakmi at the south end of the Black March, might have been unwise. Yesterday a new prisoner was brought in - Lirael Sirocco the half-elven Ranger.  She had been escorting villagers down the Black March towards Adakmi with Dolf Dragonheart and the Cleric Oran, when they were ambushed by an overwhelming force of Hand commandos. Wounded in the leg, Lirael held off the Hand forces to give Dolf & Oran time to get the villagers to safety, before being captured and taken swifty north to the Pillars of Night and the Hand's headquarters.
But then something happened - intruders in the temple have activated the ancient temple's arcane defences, causing a small earthquake in the prison cells. In the confusion Shawna & Lirael were able to overpower the hobgoblin jailor and his two minions, recover their equipment from a store room, and escape the cells into a rune-carved corridor,  just as a second earthquake brought down the ceiling behind them. 
In the giant-plate-armour strewn chamber where the rest of the Burning Hand were catching their breath, the same earthquake dislodged masonry from the ceiling, one chunk struck Calard on the head and knocked him out, but also revealed a hidden door in the west wall, that led into the corridor where Lirael and Shawna were.  Ashara readied to blast anyone coming in - but luckily spotted Lirael in time, and the group was reunited and introduced to Shawna.  Shawna noticed Esme's strong resemblance to Valeris of Orlbar, despite her cut-short hair.
In the rune-scribed corridor, double doors to the south were barred, scribed with both glowing glyphs of warding, and instructions in Goblin and Common: KEEP OUT!!!!! The group planned to go through there, but Lirael also spotted a secret door in the west wall, partly hidden by fresh plasterwork.  Opening that brought them to the foot of giant steps and the inner sanctum of the Temple of Naarash.
The guards struck - hobgoblins and human berserkers - and a fierce battle followed.  Dru reached the top of the steps, only to be attacked by flames flung by a burning skeleton.  Across the temple, beyond a huge giant altar, more steps led up to a raised area where the Stone of Naarash glowed with baleful red light.  Atop the steps a handsome fair-haired man watched the battle with weary intensity - Jaryn!
The Burning Hand fought their way into the temple, eventually dispatching the blazing skeleton, last of the defenders.  Jaryn, founder and former leader of the Light of the Sun greeted them, especially Shawna, to whom he had once been a mentor, and more strangely Esmerelda, who he named the Bane-Child and Sister of Strife.  Jaryn explained that he was now leader of the Hand of Naarash, that Naarash had given him the power to defeat Lakarzh, the former leader, and become Bane's instrument.  He offered Esme a choice - either join him and rule together, or fight him and if victorious replace him as Voice of Naarash, just as he had replaced Lakarzh.  The group tried to convince Jaryn to return to his old faith - he explained that Lathander-Amaunator had perished in the Spellplague, and in this ruined world there was only Bane...
Jaryn offered the group wine, which Shawna angrily dashed from his hand.  Esme ascended the steps towards the Stone of Naarash - having rejected Jaryn's offer, battle commenced.  Jaryn struck hard, but Esme's companions aided her, and the fallen paladin proved no match for the heroes' combined power; Esme's iron defender ripped out Jaryn's throat. 
A moment later a fountain of flame erupted from the stone, scorching the ceiling above, and a great horned ape-demon appeared: Naarash!
"You have slain my champion and shown your worth. Who among you accepts the mantle of Voice of Naarash?"
Deaf to the demon's entreaty, the group attacked.  Naarash proved a terrible foe, swiftly felling Esme and Shawna with mighty blows.  Ashara called down massive fire-magics which massively burned the beast. Lirael's deadly arrow struck its left eye, Naarash's howling making their ears bleed.  Dru healed Shawna with her magic seed, and Shawna healed Esme - but this only angered Naarash.
"This time, you'll stay dead."
Failing in his attempt to crush Shawna, Naarash turned and smashed Esme unconscious to the floor - then grinned, raised a mighty fist, and drove it deep into Esme's chest, smashing her ribs and killing her instantly. Esme's companions attacked with renewed fervour;  and eventually the terrible demon collapsed - the Stone of Naarash pulsed, then exploded in a huge fireball, scorching everyone - but they survived, and Naarash was no more.
In the aftermath the group had time to catch their breath; a treasure-alcove was revealed by the destruction of the altar, and Shawna took Jaryn's fine blade.  With dust falling from the ceiling, Lirael suggested the group vacate by a concealed door, and after recovering Calard, awake but still groggy, they gathered up Esme's body and took a tunnel through the mountainside, soon emerging above the valley. Below in the ruined giants' city, all was confusion - the demon's destruction had been felt by his followers, and now there was chaos as cultists fought each other and fled the area in droves. The Hand of Naarash was no more.
Returning west to the pike-pulled Moon Boat on the Delimbiyr river, they found Glasur the dwarf waiting for them. The return journey downriver was swift, just two days (25/8, 26/8) took them to Adakmi. From there they travelled swiftly west to deTrevani Manor (27/8), where the wise woman Treona had placed Amara deTrevani's body in Gentle Repose.  She did the same for Esmerelda. Pooling resources, with treasure from the Hand of Naarash  Ashara was able to raise enough to buy the necessary sacred oils in Loudwater for the Raising of Esmerelda and Amara (16 hours, 28/8-29/8).  

Esmerelda wakes up with an old lady looking into her eyes, she feels like she's got the worst hangover ever.
~Oh dear god, that must have been one hell of a celebration...~
(Suddenly she remembers the fist of the demon coming towards her, and all that follows)
~Oh dear god, am I, did I,what the...~
<Ashara explains what happened>
"If anyone tells Marsh about my outburst about him being the only man for me, I WILL KILL THEM.
Ok. Is everyone clear on that!"

Then it was time for Ashara the Genasi to return to faraway Akanul and report, for she realised the Stone of Naarash was likely the fire-artifact which she had been sent to find, and now it was destroyed.  Ashara bid a fond farewell to her friends. 

30/8/1479 DR
The knight Sir Calard decided to head east investigate reports of trouble at the Monastery of Torm in the ruins of Spellgard. The rest of the group travelled on to Loudwater, where they met with Sir Dolf Dragonheart. Dolf informed them that he had decided to accept the treaties of the people of Erstlin to become their liege, to protect and continue rebuilding the village. With permission from Queen Valeris of Orlbar, Dolf would become Sir Dragonheart of Erstlin, build a manor there, and in time he and Oran hoped to found a temple-monastery dedicated to both Torm and Bahamut, to train a new generation of heroes against the darkness.
The unnamed Druidess sat, bunched awkwardly with her legs drawn up in front of her, in a high back wooden chair in the Green Tankard. Before her, the wood in the fireplace had burnt down to embers as Marsh droned on behind her. He was telling another of his long-winded tales to one of the other patrons.

She took a sip from her flagon of honey-mead and curled up into her wolf fur cloak, her eyelids feeling heavy. The flames in the fireplace seemed to roar higher for a moment and the Druidess felt the wooden back of the chair softly give way behind her and she was falling. 

She opened her eyes and found herself standing next to a silver pool deep in a forest glade, an ancient oak's twisted boughs shading her. A lone wolf stood at the pool, drinking of the crisp water. The Druidess could somehow taste the water as the wolf locked its eyes upon hers.

The Druidess felt a sudden chill pass over her as a shadow moved at the edge of her vision. She turned quickly to catch a glimpse of the figure, but as she spun about, the ancient oak burst into flame. Within a heartbeat the verdant leaves and cool shade of the glade were a raging inferno. A cloaked figure disappeared into the flames.

"Follow." The voice echoed in her mind and she realised the wolf was beside her. "Fire Heart, follow."

She took a step towards the flames and the wolf matched her step. Gathering courage, she stepped closer, the heat searing her skin. The wolf howled in pain beside her as she plunged into the fire, the pain burning through her flesh and into her bones.

A tiefling stood before her, its skin blackened and cracked but a maniacal grin upon its face. "Sancossug will claim your soul, as he has claimed mine, Fire Heart" he cackled. "We will all burn together in the end." The wolf continued to howl in pain, until suddenly the Druidess realised it was she that howled.

She awoke with a start in front of the fireplace in the Tankard, still wrapped up in her cloak. A word formed on her tongue and without thinking she spoke it aloud. "Fey'Tel'Arael." The Fire of the Heart.

Marsh paused mid sentence and called across the room. "What did you say, druidling?"

"Arael!" she corrected, standing up and striding towards the door. "You may call me Arael."

Month 9: Fading

S13 14/9/1479 DR

After two weeks' rest in the Green Tankard Tavern under Marsh Laval's tender loving care (frequent baskets of red apples, but alas no roses), the bard Esmerelda of Waterdeep is recovered from her recent demise and ready at last to revenge herself upon Goblin High Shaman Sancossug for the death of Quarfein, her half-brother. Esme has taken the time to learn the Enchant Item ritual from Curuvar the Brazen, the local hedge wizard, while Megan Nistral, Loudwater's master smith, has repaired Esme's Iron Defender. Esme decides to leave the Iron Defender with Marsh, but recruits the Deva Paladin Shawna Carter and newly-named Arael on her mission of vengeance.
They head south out of Loudwater, passing the palisades of Sunstone, and soon enter the forest.  Travelling through the trees they come across a slender, moss and mulch covered skeleton lying with its back to a tree.   The skull-pate gleams whitely, and clasping the tattered remnants of its cloak is a Harp brooch.  Esme recognises the symbol - the legendary Harpers of Faerun, champions of all that is good and right! The Harpers are believed to be a century gone. Esme takes the brooch and feels it attuning itself to her.
Continuing on, the group reach the goblin trail that leads from the fortress-caves of Gorzzbad north-west to the Barrow of the Ogre King, a sacred site to the goblins.  A half mile or so north-west brings them to ancient dwarven ruins a little after noon; four skulls are staked above an archway in the shape of a bearded dwarven face.  Esme retrieves the black-fleshed skull of a drow - Quarfein, her half brother - while Arael faces her inner(?) demons in the shape of the horned tiefling skull of Morthos.  Arael survives the psychic battle against the fiery evil remaining in the skull, which shatters.
Passing through the archway, the ground suddenly gives way and the group plunge into the Slaughter Pit, the goblin guardroom.  A fierce battle ensues, but the heroes are triumphant.  After investigating a Stepping Stone portal device of ancient Ammarindar they venture deeper into the Barrow tunnels, defeating orc and human woman zombies, and more goblins, but fail to topple a heavy statue of the ogre king. Down steps and through a door they enter another chamber, where goblin hexer and hobgoblin archer await...

S14 14/9/1479 DR
As battle commences, the group are joined by Lirael and Arya, a wizard sent by the Light of the Sun's leader Emesha to summon Shawna Carter back to Orlbar. Two more hobgoblins lie in wait, and a goblin warrior emerges from the stepping-disk, but all are soon dispatched and their foul lair looted.  The group descends into the Barrow and confronts Sancossug and his minions at the Tomb of the Ogre King - an Oni or Ogre Mage.  A bloody slaughter of goblinoids follows, then with Quarfein avenged the group take bits of the ogre king's skeleton as trophies and rest, before returning to Loudwater that evening.  Esme and co decide to return east with Arya & Shawna to meet with Queen Valeris of Orlbar.

S15 15/9/1479-25/9/1479 DR
The group rest five days in Loudwater (15-19/9/1479), Lirael carves ten bone arrowheads from the finger-bones of the Ogre King. At dawn on 20/9/1479 they take the merchant Tollun's oared river-barge the 40 miles upriver at ca 1 miles/hour to the Orlbar wharfs, arriving after 2.5 days' travel (ca 40 hours' oar/sail, and 2 10 hour overnight rests) on the afternoon of 22/9.   Leaving Tollun arguing with the Orlbar merchant Jarvis over the price for 60 casks of not-really-'58 vintage' Amnian wine at the wharfs, they visit Queen Valeris in her castle, Valeris discusses her kinship with Esmerelda.  Esmerelda talks with Valeris' magist Toruvas about repairing her Iron Defenders. Then they visit the Light of the Sun temple in Orlbar, where Emesha thanks them for their great service. They ritually bathe their feet and hands, then at a sunset ceremony at the Temple, with Valeris and much of Orlbar in attendance Emesha presents Shawna, Esmerelda, Lirael and Arael with blessed golden sun-disk Amulets of Amaunator.
Next day (23/9), Arya, Shawna, Esmerelda, Lirael and Arael ride east with Queen Valeris, Emesha and her escort to meet with King Boris of Llorkh at the old watchtower that marks Orlbar's eastern border, near the north bank of the Greyflow.  Boris tells Valeris that dwarves of the Glintshield Clan are attempting to re-open the old Stonefang Tunnel that leads south from Timbervale, through the Greypeaks to Citadel Yaunaroth, Bleached Bones Pass and the Vale of Naurogloth.  Boris has a Glintshield emissary in Llorkh.  Boris sent 20 men to clear the Tunnel - 3 returned, the rest having fallen prey to the Mountain King's snipers, orcs, stirges, an ochre ooze and other horrors. The five heroes volunteer to join a new expedition to clear the tunnel - Lirael asks Valeris to send along one of her Royal Guard, Karvol. These six go east by boat with Boris to Llorkh, where they meet the dwarf emissary Rangrim, then spend a nervous night in a chamber listening to shouts of raucous revelry mixed with the occasional scream and moan. Boris sends them a sumptuous repast, but they share their food with the two half-starved male slaves who serve them.
Next day on 24/9, the six join Rangrim and four of Boris' 'best' men - three warriors led by the mysterious hooded Vale, the 11 head the 8 miles up the banks of the Greyflow to the village of Timbervale in a mountain valley.  On the way Rangrim talks at length about his clan and their struggles with the Orcs of the Severed Eye. Some 20 Glintshield dwarves are in Timbervale, refugees who came through the Stonefang Tunnel with Rangrim.  None are warriors. 
The party are greeted by the local aristocrats, Lord and Lady Sevrym, and spend the night at their manse. Timbervale was once wealthy through trade with the Glintshields of Naurogloth, but has declined since the tunnel was closed by civil war and orc invasion a century ago. Esmerelda plots with Sir Galtos, the Sevrym's 18 year old son, and forms plans to incite rebellion and overthrow Boris' rule.
Next morning (25/9) the 6 heroes and Boris' 4 men depart Timbervale and head up into the mountains towards the tunnelhead.  Nearing the tunnel, they are crossing an ancient stone bridge across the Greyflow when suddenly two huge winged forms come sweeping down from above...

Session 16 Episode Summary

S16 25/9/1479 DR
The party are attacked by hippogriffs, one is killed. Karvol the Royal Guard is knocked into the river by archer fish, but Shawna distracts them by pushing the dead hippogriff into the river, and he is able to reach the shore.
The party reach the north entrance of the Stonefang Tunnel; Lirael and Arael/Dru scout dwarven patrol footprints heading west, while the others enter the tunnel. Some distance into the tunnel the party battle stirges, then a small earthquake opens a cleft from which pours spiders.  During the fighting the Zhent Black Sun Adept (Cyricist) Vale tries to kill Arya, but in turn is attacked by the other three Zhents, Banites. He blasts them with the power of the Black Sun and flees south, back down the tunnel.

S17 25/9/1479 DR
Vale runs out of the tunnel, sees Lirael & Dru-Arael, and bluffs Lirael into going into the tunnel to assist her friends.  Vale flees north towards Llorkh, where it's rumoured there is a portal to the Zhentarim fortress of Darkhold.
Lirael enters the tunnel, heading south, and joins the main group past the site of the battle with stirges & spiders. They head south through the tunnel for nearly 15 miles (ca 6 hours) to the enormous stone slab that bars the tunnel. Entering the gatehouse, Lirael is menaced by traps, iron cobras, & hammerer automatons, but they defeat the ancient defenses and Arya uses the Lever Automaton, a huge dwarf-shaped golem, to pull the lever that raises the slab. Orcs rush in; Arya drops the slab and crushes 6. On the gatehouse steps a bitter battle ensues; the three Zhent soldiers are killed but Lirael, Arya and Valeris' Royal Guard Karvol defeat the orcs, taking a strange magic stone hand from their leader's corpse.

Party reach 7th level (10,000 XP).

S18 26/9/1479 DR 
Lirael, Arya, Shawna Carter & Karvol the Royal Guard rest overnight in the dwarven gatehouse, and are joined by Dru-Arael. Next day they use the Lever Automaton to raise the stone gate and pass through to the southern part of the Stonefang Tunnel, finding no orcs present.
A mile or so south, a dead dwarf props open a concealed door into a chamber of orc and dwarf corpses. As the party examine the chamber, more orcs arrive. The PCs defeat them, and head downstairs to a magical pit chamber, defeating an orc shaman, his pet ogre, and orc archer lackeys. They investigate the glowing magic circles arrayed around the pit.

S19 26/9/1479 DR
Shawna & Dru are tired and rest, while Esmerelda is recovered and the group is joined by a half-elven cousin of Lirael's. Investigating tunnels north of the pit chamber, they hear chanting and a dwarf cries out: "Beware, the orcs lie in wait!". This is true, and the party are assailed by a strong force of orcs, defeating them after a bloody battle. All but one of the four dwarves spent the fight chanting inside a magic circle. 

S20 27/9/1479 DR
The party rest and talk to the dwarves, led by Gwendar, leader of the Shadowed Chain cult. The Earth Titan Stonefang is stirring, his missing bits must be recovered and placed in the binding circles before he escapes the Pit of Doom. The party hand over Stonefang's Hand.
After resting they continue south along the Stonefang Tunnel, emerging at dawn above the north bastion of Citadel Yaunaroth. They attack and defeat the orc guards, led by a powerful boar-riding champion, and see a white dragon atop the tower - they enter the tower before it can fly down to them. Inside, they head upstairs, disable a magic trap, and find four dwarves chained to the wall - Thane Harval, his son, and two wives. They free the dwarves and attack the orcs next-door, seeing Stonefang's Seeping Heart atop a table... 

Party XP tally: S17 10,000 (min for 7th) +S18 650+S19 500+S20 400= 11,550.
Need 13,000 for 8th level.

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