The Purge of Ellysia

Rexan at The Paladin's Gate
An Excerpt from Maelokh's Journal

I can’t believe it. I mean I knew that we were probably right about Rexan being a scoundrel, but I never suspected that he might be at the very heart of everything going wrong with this city. Who knows, we might have just uncovered the puppeteer himself. The very one behind all the turmoil within this city and possible the region. Oakson and I dust ourselves off and bring Absalom back around. It’ll definitely be okay with me if we don’t see that guy for a while . . . even though something tells me we will be revisiting this madness again very soon. Curse you, Rexan.

We are able to leave the garrison without too much trouble, though we do end up having to cover our tracks by pushing the guard we charmed into the sewers below. Those sewers have come in handy during our time here in Fallreach, I would highly recommend them to anyone wanting to cover up some sort of scandalous activities. Although, then I would probably kill them for partaking in said scandalous activities. Then throw their body in the sewer. Hmm… food for thought.

We rest up at an inn nearby, but we are not in the spirits to turn in for the night. After uncovering such a horrendous truth about Rexan and the events in Fallreach we are spurred on by the urgency of the hour and we rest quickly and are soon on our way to the Paladins Keep.

Upon arrival we head to the sanctuary and find Lady Catherine Lightheart there. Oakson sits as a rat hidden in my pocket, but as we approach Lady Catherine I suddenly feel him scratching at my nipple… I mean, erm, my side because I don’t have a nipple down there by my pocket on my side because that would just be… well… so anyways there we are and I can tell that Oakson had rolled a 20 on his insight and something is wrong with Lady Catherine. So I warn Absalom and we hesitantly ask her to speak in private.

We move to a private room and she seems calm, a little too calm. Oakson magically bursts forth from my pocket and she seems surprised, she quickly sobers up when she hears our news. She said she has not been able to meet with the council but maybe we should check out the portal. We agree but our suspicions are aroused (Hmm . . . Maybe I should pick another word when referring to Lady Catherine . . . ).

We follow her, but as we do Oakson tells us quietly that he senses that she is under a charm of some sort. In talking with her we decide it is best we head down to check out the portal now but for security measures we bring along another Paladin.

Lady Catherine orders everyone out of the Keep and then she goes to the sanctuary and reveals a secret passageway under the altar that everyone begins heading down. I am overly suspicious as always, and take my normal perch in the corner of the room where I can best assess any danger that might try and flank our position as the rest of our company heads below.

They are not down there long before, to my great shock and confusion, I see none other than a disheveled and panicked-looking Lady Catherine run into the sanctuary from outside and my mind spins for a split-second as to how there could be two Lady Catherine’s but then I discern that this one standing in front of me is certainly not the imposter. I am suddenly full of fear for my friends.

I quickly yell to Lady Catherine what is going on as I sprint down the stairs in the secret tunnel. As I am running, a thought crosses my mind that I should write a song about secret tunnels, specifically those going through mountains. It would probably be a big hit.

My mind snaps back to attention as I calmly assess the situation I see before me as I run into the grand open room that holds the portal, my friends, and the impostor. Without hesitation, I pull out my bow and fire an arrow across the space that lies between me and my company that sails straight and true, hitting it’s mark and sinking into the impostor posing as Lady Catherine. Everyone whirls around and are shocked to see both me rushing Lady Catherine as well as a second Lady Catherine running in behind me.

A fight ensues where our company turns on the impostor for a moment and she fends off the blows coming against her. But then suddenly Oakson wisely discerns that there might be more here going on than we see and breaks up the fight. Absalom grapples the Lady Catherine that ran in with me and I grapple the Lady Catherine that I first attacked.

We begin to question them and our minds spin and are quite confused as we cannot tell the two apart. Who is the impostor and who is not? I might have attacked the wrong person. Suddenly Absalom knocks the Lady Catherine that came running in with me to the ground and begins beating her, throwing punch after punch. Suddenly we see her transform into a familiar creature-the Cambion we know as Rexan. Heh.. my bad, Caherine. We begin attacking him but the real Lady Catherine suddenly starts yelling for us to stop and begins to try and make Absalom stop attacking Rexan.

From the end of the grand open corridor we hear gears start to turn and to our dismay we see the portal beginning to open. I dash towards it and quickly read the celestial inscription above the door:

Justice comes from Pelor alone, and it is his will that closes these gates to banish the fiends within. Only by his great mercy may they be opened again.

It dawns on me that the very act of mercy that Lady Catherine is doing at this moment in defending Rexan is actually opening the door, and very swiftly at that. I hesitate for just a moment, a strong-suit of mine, and realize I need to stop Lady Catherine at all costs. I wheel around and fire off a shot. It is aimed at her jugular knowing that it will cause her to bleed out and lose consciousness, hopefully stopping the door. As I fire, I yell out my deepest of apologies to Lady Catherine and for Oakson to heal her and get her out of there.

My arrow hits its mark, praise HaShem, and she faints, but Oakson quickly gathers her up, pulls out my arrow, and heals her wounds. The doors stop opening and reverse their process and close with a resounding slam. I breathe a sigh of relief.

Rexan, knowing his plans have been foiled, bursts out in a rage of strength and throws Absalom off of him and sprints up the stairs back to the sanctuary. I see Oakson transform into a lion and give chase to him as I do the same, only steps behind him. The chase lasts all the way up the stairs to the sanctuary. I reach the top just in time to see Rexan with wings outstretched heading for a window in the corner of the room. I take aim and fire off an arrow and whisper an incantation, hoping to ensnare Rexan with my binding arrow. To my dismay the arrow flies by him and he is out of the building and away from our reach. My heart sinks knowing we will have to, for a third time, face this evil being sometime in the future.

Our party gathers together and decides we need to get in touch with the mages, and quick. We make our way down to The Silver District and with minimum commotion at that. Just a couple dead guards and some trickery. No big deal. We arrive and I find my new friend Ronold Cobbler. He’s a nice fellow, a bit on the nerdy side, but sincere. A thought pops into my mind that he should begin an order called Torrey for other intellectual types like him, he seems to like the idea as I tell him about it, but somehow I get a sense I will regret mentioning that to him.

We let him know that he must get in touch with the order of the mages and tell them about the recent events and then he lets us know that they had just adjourned from meeting about a growing evil in the west they have sensed. He has actually been appointed as the scout to check it out. We tell him we would like to go with him if we can. He lets us know it won’t be for a couple weeks until he leaves, so we have some time.

Next we head to the great oak that lies behind the mages guild. There we find a very old druid named Rapha which means healer. He tells us his story of being here long before the city had grown up around him when there were lots of old trees like these. Oakson also recounts his story to both Rapha and us because we had never heard it before. It is a beautiful story of how he became a druid and his history from creation. We are all moved by the story, though of course none of us show it. Such is the company of adventurers.

However a very odd thing happens. As Rapha tells us his story he mentions something and suddenly my eyes widen and my heart almost stops as a revelation hits me.

To be continued…

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The Mystery Unravels . . .
The Elven Gardens: There and Back Again

The adventurers decided to wait until evening to steal the traveller’s papers. They stayed in their room in the inn until the sun had long been set. It was two hours past midnight, and they tiptoed down the stairs into the foyer to sneak out the main door, only to find the body of a large armored guard blocking their path.

Oy! Where do you think you’re going this late in the night?

The adventurers were, unfortunately, not able to allay his suspicions (despite Maelokh’s best efforts to convince the guard that they were taking him to meet his lover). The man informed them that Darian’s guard had declared a curfew after the events of the previous morning: Some ruffians (or terrorists!) had broken into the barracks and attempted to set the entire building on fire. As such, the entire district was under a curfew until the troublemakers were caught. This particular guard had been hired by the innkeeper to protect her establishment, and clearly was not going to let anyone leave it in the middle of the night.

Their way barred, the trio returned to their room and weighed their options: They had no other choice but to escape through the back window onto the roof and sneak through the alleys toward the gatehouse. Sneaking through the window, luck once again revealed that it was not on their side that night. The guard beneath them heard the commotion, but thankfully Absolom was able to leap from the window and silence him before any alarm was raised.

Needing to deal with the incapcitated guard, Absolom split off from the rest of the party, who continued on through the city streets toward the gatehouse. The alleys were dark and the moon was shrouded by the cover of clouds, allowing the adventurers to easily sneak past patrolling watchmen. Before long, they found themselves hiding in the shadows beneath the grand entrance to the Elven Gardens. The gatehouse—and their golden ticket—was right before them, but it was across an open street containing four soldiers on watch. Oakson, taking the form of a giant spider, made an attempt to scamper across the shadowy street, but was spotted by the guards, who followed him on a chase down the street leaving only one guard left for Maelokh. The halfl-ef cleverly threw his remaining bottle of Alchemists Fire down the street to distract the guard, who raced to put it out. The street was now clear, and Maelokh quickly dashed to the gatehouse and, easily picked the locked door, and hid inside. Wanting to work quickly before the guards returned, he examined the room. Unfiled request forms, parchment, ink, blank traveller’s documents, and—his keen eyes noticed in the darkness—the official seal of Fallreach. Not wanting to leave any evidence of his presence, Maelokh grabbed some blank documents, gave them the appropriate seal, and left without a trace.

By now, Oakson the Spider had elluded the nightwatch and Absolom had staged the death of the Inn’s guard. The trio returned to the inn, documents in hand, and began fabricating their story:

Absolom was a foreign aristocrat and traveler who had come upon an ancient warforged from a long-forgotten war. This warforged, though beaten and battered, was perfectly operational (save for a broken voicebox). He had heard of Darian’s exploits in the city and wished to reveal the secrets of this unique creature to the king. Maelokh was his bodyguard and assistant who had accompanied him on this journey.

Papers properly prepared, the party progressed along the path before them.

The Elven Gardens

Entrance into The Elven Gardens district was swift and uneventful. Before they knew it, they were surrounded by the affluent homes and broad streets of the upper terrace. It was immediately clear that the guard’s presence was much weaker here, though large, passive Warforged wearing the silver and blue colors of Darian’s army patrolled through the streets.

The adventurers made their way for the Paladin’s Keep, but first they passed the Great Library of Gilean and Darian’s Art Gallery. Maelokh went towards the library, while the human and warforged explored the gallery.

The gallery had recently renovated and was displaying all new artwork. It was almost entirely filled with great scenes of war: Honorable soldiers, brutal battles, and glorified death. Near the back of the gallery they spotted Jackson enjoying the artwork. They warned him of the wanted poster they had seen with his information, and suggested that he take care of himself. On their way out the noticed a large mural depicting a heavenly battle: A war of light and dark. Leading the fiends from the abyss was a creature, monstruous and red, with horns sprouting from its forehead. Absolom immediately recognized the it as the figure from his dream. The inscription beneath the painting red: “The Army of Asmodeus.”

The duo promptly left the art gallery and joined Maelokh in the Library, where he was examining a book oh Ha’Shem. Just before leaving, they heard a large commotion come from the entrance, and a youthful wizard wearing a pointed hat and robes two sizes too large came barreling through the front door, rushing towards the restricted section of library books. Using a key, he opens the locked cabinet and finds an old tome, and begins to read.

Curious, Maelokh approached the young man and asked him what he was reading. After being somewhat scorned, the Ranger assured him that he was, in fact, desiring to seek the truth. The Mage proceeded to tell them that he had heard accounts of a strange green light bursting from the woods near Evansdale. At first he thought nothing of it, but then he remembered something from his studies as a child:

Similar lights had been seen in the past . . . Stories tell of a similar light coming from the eastern edge of the The Yellow Forest, many years ago . . . legend spoke of a light errupting from the mountain range to the south of The Silver Lake. And one report claims that one of the Fates in the Wasteland similarly erupted with a green, toxic light (but who can trust anyone from the Wasteland, anyway?).

The adventurers, trusting Ronold due to his hunger for truth, chose to tell them their story, and their future plans. After promising to not share their secrets, Ronold returned to his studies and the party continued on to the Paladin’s Keep.

The Paladin’s Keep is an enormous temple with several robed figures walking throughout its outer courtyard and gardens, as well as several large, armored men. Paladins!

Entering the main sanctuary felt like stepping into holy ground. A sacred reverence and beauty filled the air. At the end of the chamber stood a pedestal with Pelor’s sacred scriptures, and behind it was woman, praying, basking in the sunlight.

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The woman was Lady Catherine Lightheart, a High Paladin of Pelor. Sensing her good will, the adventurers chose to reveal everything to her that had occurred in the past few weeks, hoping to learn more information about what was going on.

Many years ago there was a great war. The prince of the Nine Hells, Asmodeus, had risen to power over the other demons and devils. He found that as his power grew his reach into the veil extended. Over time, he learned that though he could not travel across the veil directly, he could subtly influence already dark minds on the other side. Over time, his forces grew, and their evil spread across the land until the light was lost and the veil vanished beneath the darkness. The forces of Asmodeus began to spill through the veil across the land. Thankfully, all was not lost. The elves had not completely abandoned Fallreach, and the followers of Pelor had not yet lost their way. The armies of good were able to band together and banish the fiends back into the abyss. Good Wizards bound to truth and not power gathered to construct powerful portals across the realms, and the fiends were cast back into the Plane of Fire. The portals were sealed, and for the next generation the Paladins of Pelor spread across the land to create sites of worship and goodness where there had once been evil and chaos. Temples, memorials, altars, shrines . . .places to hold the evil at bay and repair the veil.

Their conversation lasted for quite some time. Catherine told them of the followers of Pelor, and how they had created these portals all over the land . . . at least some were in other nations, but many were here in the region of Fallreach.

I’ve heard it said that one was in the wastelands, and another in the great mountain to the west. There is at least one in the Yellow Woods and beyond the mountains north of it, near the coast. And, of course, there is a gate here, in the city! Fallreach is one of the most carefully guarded cities in the world. We have our own safeguards to keep the door from being opened.

After creating these portals, many followers of Pelor, over the generations, began to lose their way. They began pursuing good deeds rather than THE good. They followed their law rather than Pelor himself, believing that they could perform so many good acts that evil would no longer have room to exist.

After their discussion, Maelokh and Oakson convinced her to try and call an emergency meeting with all of the high Paladins to inform them of these recent developments—specifically the horrors that Darian and Rexan have been creating. They now fear that these abominations could be so evil, that the very fabric of the veil around Fallreach is starting to wear thin.

During this conversation, something interesting had happened to Absolom. While Maelokh and Oakson spoke with the Paladin, he collapsed in front of the altar, overtaken by the peace and the beauty that accompanied filled the Cathedral. It made him question himself, his actions, his law, and his sins. Some while later, he came to his feet, and approached Lady Catherine. To the surprise of everyone present, he said that he wanted to follow Pelor, and learn his ways. The Lady was moved by his sincerity, and gave him a small tome: The Light of Pelor. He thanked her, his companions urged her to call the council as soon as possible, and then they left the cathedral, devising a plan on their way out.

It had become clear that the evil of Darian and Rexan had to be stopped. Rexan had clearly broken the natural law and brought great evil and corruption into this city, but even if Darian had no knowledge of how the Warforged were created, he was still perpetuating a crippling system of evil and tyranny. They had to be removed. It would be very difficult to assault Darian’s Palace. Perhaps a small assassination attempt or kidnapping could be effective, but it seemed more manageable to go after Rexan before attempting to overthrow Darian himself. Furthermore, Rexan would be able to provide insight into how the warforged work and how they are controlled. Perhaps—just maybe—our adventurers could use the warforged army as a first line of defense against attacking fiends.

Thus, the adventurers continued on, leaving The Elven Gardens and returning to The Silver District. Getting through the gate was no trouble, and they continued onward toward the barracks. The guard outside of the barrack’s front door proved someone troublesome, however. As they approached he immediately recognized the group from a few days prior when they had ran away from the burning building. A quick charm spell from Oakson calmed his suspicion, however, and he willingly went and retrieved Rexan for them.

The Fiendish Plot

Rexan seemed slightly bothered by the disturbance, but upon hearing Absolom’s story he willingly brought the group down to his laboratory. Absolom intended to slowly reveal Oakson’s unique traits as a magic user, hoping to draw out information regarding Rexan’s own warforged, but distrust and tension filled the air only moments after the conversation began. The facade was dropped, and the alchemist lashed out at the trio with pillars of flame. Blows were exchanged, and the battle was not going well for the adventurers. Absolom’s keen skill was not enough to land a blow, and the ranger found similar trouble. Oakson, rearing back and transforming into a lion, pounced upon the man, and to everyone’s surprise, his figure changed before their eyes. His skin crawled and his wild mane of hair shrunk to reveal a red-skinned man with black hair, twin horns, and enormous, scaly wings. Not quite human, yet not fully fiend, the creature let out a laugh and vanished before their very eyes . . .

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The Road to Fallreach
From the Journals of Maelokh and Oakson

When we awoke, the first thing on my mind was the shock of being able to so easily work our way into Beorn’s camp. It was as if life was one big game and we had gotten some amazing dice rolls. Hmm… something to meditate on later.

I must say though, It was quite a surprise to learn that Grayback had not quite been honest with us about what we would find here, nor that the so called enemy camp would turn out to be lead by a seemingly noble man following a noble cause. While this is not our pressing mission, I am interested to see what becomes of this. I like underdogs with pure hearts.

The morning passes quickly. We are sent on our way with some provisions and horses with Beorn’s blessing. So we head out towards Fallreach, but decided to head across the plains. We’re not sure exactly what would be waiting for us if were to take the road all the way.

As we ride, I begin thinking of something that has been on my mind recently. I have, of yet, kept my past narrative to myself. However as I glance at Oakson and Absolom I decided that my companions have increasingly won my respect and my affection, though I doubt I would ever express that to their face. My brow furrows as I also think of the strange things that have surrounded my past in relation to what is going on right now and I decided to speak. So as we ride, I speak to them of my past, including the death of my parents, the prophecy and my journey up until now.

They are welcoming of my story and seem just as perplexed as I am about how this all involves me and the stone that I carry. We ride on.

It isn’t too long before on the horizon we see a great beast in the distance lift it’s fearsome wings and take flight. A chill goes through my spines – a dragon. It does not come our direction but instead heads towards the mountains. While I love slaying colossal beasts, I am glad that for the time being our meeting is delayed.

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As we race onward we see another great beast in the distance. As we draw nearer we make out it’s shape to be one of a giant! Knowing giants very well, having studied them as well as fought them, I instantly am hesitant. We carefully approach the giant and see that it seems to be in lots of pain and is rubbing it’s eyes and howling. On second glance it seems to be blinded.

I call out to the giant in his native tongue and let him know we are not intending him harm, and ask what happened. In a rage and panic, he swings out and almost crushes us, but still manages to damage our party a bit. Still not wanting to make this a fight against a dangerous foe if we can avoid it, I call out again and explain that we can help him.

He believes me and we begin leading him to the river to wash him his eyes out so that he can see again. As we go I begin singing an old giant song to him so that he can follow my voice and potentially trust us more. I still am unsure of what his disposition towards us would be and do not want to hurt an innocent creature.

So on I sing. A song of victory, giant pride, and lots of buxom female giants. He lumbers on happily behind us singing along with me. Then he asks if he can sing a song to us. So he bellows out his song about himself, Grok, and how he has killed his village full of peasants, and done many foul things and how he should be feared because of such things.

Oakson, Absolom and I look at each other and know that this is not one to neither trust nor help and prepare for battle.

We are able to surprise Grok due to his blindness. We sustain damage, and Oakson even shocks us by transforming into a giant spider and crawling upon Grok’s back, but eventually Grok is defeated with his own club as he tries to hit the eight-legged beast, but instead hits himself, killing him instantly.

We do a little victory dance and then I cut off his head and take it with us as a token of the great feat we have accomplished. Maybe the dance didn’t actually happen, but it was happening in my head.

We continue on and stop at an old abandoned tower for the night. As we explore it we find a few dead bodies and two bodies specifically of ruffians that appeared to have murdered the others but ended up quarreling and killing each other. It matters not to us, but we do find some poison on their persons that could come in handy later.

In the morning we head out to Fallreach and it isn’t long until we arrive. We head in the gates and are surprised that we are let in easily without even a second glance from the guards. Oakson had decided that it would be best to stay hidden until we find out what is going on with the other warforged. So in he trots by our side as a strong warhorse. I must say, even as a horse, I still wouldn’t want to mess with that guy.

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We head into town and make for a large tavern close by that, as we walk through the front doors, bears a symbol above the doorway that is the exact one of the Hammerfist family. Intrigued, we walk in and begin talking with the bartender. Yet we are hardly in conversation with him when some armed men who we guess to be guards come in and walk straight up to the bartender and ask if he is loyal to Hammerfist.

The bartender straightens up his back and says that he is. The leader of the group pulls out his sword and advances towards the bartender. I pull out my bow and notch an arrow from my usual spot in the corner. I ask him if he really wants to do that. However Absolom seems to not particularly care to extend them the same grace I was offering and pulls out his sword and kills the leader before he has a chance to answer. Part of me enjoyed that.

Needless to say, a fight ensues. Blows are given and taken as people scatter out of the once crowded tavern. Tables, swords, and horses (and even a decapitated head) fly through the air as we manage to kill all but one of the intruders. He had run for the door and Absolom pursued him outside into the street.

As Oakson, still in his horse form, knocks the man sprawling, we hear a bellow from what we see to be an actual guard approaching with an authority that shows he used to being listened to. Probably for good reason.

The guard, wearing the full-plated silver and blue armor of the Graybacks, takes Absolom by the collar in one hand and the last man, who we now know to be a ruffian, in the other and take them back to the tavern. As the guard is questioning Absolom, the young ruffian, and the bartender about what happens, the bartender takes an open opportunity while the guard has his back turned and plunges a knife deep into his side. The guard strikes out with his sword and the bartender falls to the ground—dead. The guard is badly wounded and Absolom is able to win his favor by offering him a vial of potion he has.

Once the guard releases Absolom, he makes his way with the horse version of Oakson down the road and I leave my spot where I was watching them from the shadows and tail them, not wanting to be seen as an associate of theirs quite yet.

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Eventually they find an inn and tavern in a not-so-friendly part of town and I join them there. It seems to be run by a tiefling, to our surprise. The crowd there matches the part of town and seems to be made of ruffians and ones we would do best not to trust. Yet we decided to stay the evening after Absolom ventured downstairs to find out the type of “entertainment” they had available.

Interestingly enough he did see a most curious sight. This room was surely filled with the most wretched scum and villainy to be found in Fallreach. Gamblers, addicts, and thugs crowded the room. In one corner sat another Tiefling – a mage of sorts – who seemed to be leading patrons into private worlds of illusion. There seemed to be another set of stairs leading even further beneath the ground that goes to the sewers. However, the path to the sewers was barred and locked and there were streaks of blood in the ground beyond it. Most curious.

In the morning we arise and make our way downstairs to ask the tiefling some more questions about Asmodeous, in case he would know anything. We descended into the tavern’s basement, and approach the

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The Bandit's Camp
The Haven of Hammerfist

The air was damp, and the stench of death still filled the underground chamber. The portal to the abyss had just be shut, and the bodies of the fiends and cultists lay dead on the ground. One cloaked figure was still alive, pinned against the wall. Maelokh held his sword to the cloaked man’s neck.

Tell us everything you know.

The man lowered his eyes, dejected. He appeared utterly defeated, with no fight left in him. After a few moments, his eyes raised, but he did not look at our party of adventures. His gaze pierced the end of the room, where dead bodies lay in pools of still blood.

I . . . I was just a blacksmith. I have a wife and four kids of my own. Times were tough and, well . . . I guess there’s no harm in telling you anymore . . . we fell on some hard times and I got wrapped up in some, well, you know how it goes. I may have some blood on my hands, but I needed some extra money, so I started working for some people who could help me get some. We all gotta do what we gotta do to survive, right? I don’t regret what I did. . . . And then everything started changing. I would have horrible dreams at night . . . dreams of fire and death. And I started to see the faces . . . see the faces of some of the people I had hurt. I wasn’t a religious man, but after a while I couldn’t ignore them, so I went to the temple. It was night time, and only a few priests were there. Cuthbert was doing confession, and I walked in and started telling him about what I had done. . . . But he didn’t rebuke me. He started telling me things about the way the world is. He told me I was strong, and it was good for me to do whatever it took to take care of my family. The weak die because they aren’t strong enough. I had never heard no one talk like that before—especially not a priest of Pelor. I thought they were all about helping the poor and stuff like that. I told him this, and I remember he let out a laugh and told me that things were changing. I told him about my dreams—why would I have such horrible dreams if I was doing what was right. He said that those dreams were my weakness trying to make me feel guilt. But he and his friends could help me get rid of that.

That was only two months ago. I . . . I didn’t learn about all of this with demons and devils until recently. You couldn’t understand. I was promised anything I wanted. To be one of the first citizens of a new world.

After he had spoken, the group of townspeople began to awaken from their deep, magical sleep. Many of the other cloaked cultists must have slipped away during their interrogation, but Jackson could be seen amongst the injured, as well as Rugnar, the detective.

The detective recognized Maelokh and immediately ran towards him, thanking him for his service. As it turned out, his commanding officer, Captain Mason Caine, was still alive. Caine had been in the town hall with the ruling merchant guild when the devils began their attack, and he saw them all fall beneath the fiends. Caine told the party that he was declaring a state of emergency, and would take the role of governor.

There was also a Clerick of Pelor present, though he did not know much about the night’s recent events. When questioned, he revealed that the Clerics knew little about the Abyss—indeed, many of them didn’t think it mattered anymore, after being sealed off so long ago. He spoke of ancient legend which said the veil between Ellysia and the Abyss was thin. If the veil between the two were broken, Asmodeus would be able to freely walk between them—no need for gates at all.

After speaking with the villagers, the adventurers decided to sleep for the night and make way back to Evansdale in the morning. Reports claimed that many fiends had run off into the woods, and Evansdale was the closest city, and therefore the most vulnerable to attack.

The damage from the attack was greatest near the hart of the city. It was clear that many inhabitants of the town’s outskirts must have fled safetly to the forest, assuming they awoke in time. This irony did not escape our adventuerers: Many ornate houses of the nobility in the town’s upper district had burnt to the groun, while the slums—far from the temple—were standing tall and firm.

A few days prior, the trio had felt a dismal change in the air upon leaving Evansdale. Now, whatever it was, had increased tenfold. The bright golden hue of the woods was now a sickly yellow and orange. Some of the trees were beginning to lose their leaves, though the harvest was still many weeks away. After a few hours of walking, they came across a bend in the road, revealing about a half dozen bodies lying in the dirt. The ground around them was dried with the stain of blood. Seven elves. Three of them children. Among the children was the little boy from two days prior. Diverted by the bodies, the construct, man, and half-elf went searching for the elven haven, only to find that it had been pillaged. Though it was not large, the fiends had still been able to catch the elves unaware in the night, leaving few survivors.

Continuing on the road towards Evansdale, the adventurers encountered the familiar bridge . . .though now the bridge was no more. It had recently been set aflame and destroyed, but the entangling roots from Oakson’s spell still wound their way across the rapid waters. Not wanting to risk their way across the thorny vines, the adventurers chose to follow the river itself back to the village.

Before long, they heard a commotion from the woods, and saw four young boar and their giant mother, followed by a fiendish dog. The dog was easily defeated, but not before it was able to sink its infectious teeth into Maelokh’s leg, marking him with its disease. The boar proved more difficult. Absolom, now fully trained as a swordsman, began the battle easily parrying their blows, but then horribly fumbled on his own attack against the mother boar, critically striking himself and falling senseless to the ground. Thankfully, Oakson and the Ranger were able to defeat the other boar before it was too late.

Continuing along the woods, the adventurers came across a lookout point which peered over the village of Evansdale. Sensing that something was up, Oakson shapeshifted into an owl, and perched above the open ground, only to hear the voices of two unseen creatures, speaking back and forth. Their tongue was unintelligible to him, but he recognized the tone of their voices to be like the fiends they had encountered in the burning city. Returning to his friends, the druid reverted to his Warforged form and called upon the power of the moon to strike the hellish imps.

Moooonbeeeaaam!

The fiends defeated, our adventurers were able to enter the village and return to Davril Grayback (with one of the imps captured and bound with them). Unfortunately, Davril was not doing well. He looked as if the events of the past few days had taken a heavy toll on his mind and soul, and hearing the news of Hollow’s Wood caused him to lash out in anger, viciously killing the captured fiend. After discussing the current events and the fate of Evansdale, Davril asked the party to consider investigating the bandit threat. There was no true certainty of the fiends attacking the village, but they knew the bandits would be coming before the week’s end. The three men accepted his offer, and made their way to the bandits camp, which Davril had located after examining the maps he had been given a few days prior.

The journey to the camp was fairly uneventful. After a few hours of travel, the adventurers abandoned the road and traveled through the bare plains of the countryside. Before long, night fell upon them, and they saw lights in the distance of the bandit camp. Upon approach, Maelokh’s keen elven vision was able to discern that this was no small outpost—it was a small village. Dozens, if not a hundred, tents spanned the valley, with a wooden wall surrounding them. There were gates at either end of the encampment, well-lit and guarded.

After some discussion, Maelokh left the rest of the party in search of potential scouts wandering the plains. He found none, and approached the wall silently. In an impressive display of acrobatics and stealth, he hurled himself over the wall and landed softly on the other side . . .in what appeared to be a school yard. Confused, the half-elf examined his surroundings and the nearby building: School books, desks, slates and chalk, a backpack with books and parchment . . . what sort of bandit encampment was this? Could their intelligence have been misinformed? He continued scouting the encampment, and found what was clearly a barracks full of equipped soldiers . . . but there were also many tents full of families and children. Something was amiss. Unable to find any sign of where their leader could be sleeping, he returned back to his comrades waiting outside the encampment.

The three of them decided they needed more information, and chose to wait in hiding until a patrolling guard approached. Before long, an armed man with a torch came marching through the darkness, only to be struck with the druid’s charming enchantment. His guard down, he welcomed the adventurers as they approached, and freely told them about the encampment and its inhabitants. They were mostly people from Fallreach, escaping the tyranny of Darian Grayback, Davril’s younger brother. They had come to this place, simply called “The Haven,” as a refuge. Their commander was leading a rebellion against the Graybacks, starting with Evansdale. After some convincing, the adventurers were able to convince the guard to lead them into the camp.

Once inside, they left their guide and acted quickly. The charm spell only lasted an hour, and after its effect wore off the guard would know he had been enchanted. They headed directly towards the leader’s tent, which the guard had pointed out. A Dragonborn stood guard. Not wanting to risk another charm, they came forward and spoke the truth . . . in part. They told him that they had knowledge regarding the attack on Evansdale, and needed to speak to the leader immediately.

To their surprise, the leader of the Haven was none other than Beorn Hammerfist, a descendent of the same man in whose tomb they had found the cultist’s tome. Beorn, proud of his mission and his values, shared with them his story:

I was born in Evansdale, but my family was driven out when I was still young. I grew up in Fallreach, and lived inthe Undercity. My father was a tailor, but I always wanted to fight. I conscripted in the town guard as a teenager, but I couldn’t belive the things I was commanded to do. It was horrifying. I abandoned my post and ran away from Fallreach, with nowhere to go. I found other refugees—poor humans, but also dwarves and gnomes and even half-orcs, all sorts of people who had been driven away by Darian’s regime. Here’s what you need to know: I hate the Graybacks, and Evansdale is rightfully mine by birthright. My forefathers established that city as a place of safety and protection from dangerous marauders and beasts, and now its been corrupted by Garyback’s blood. I don’t want to destroy Evansdale, I want to liberate it from the bloodthirsty Graybacks and give it back to the free people.

The adventurers believed Hammerfist, and saw that he was not involved with the shrine, or the cultists, and he had no idea of the attack on Hollow’s Wood. When he heard that fiends may be attacking Evansdale, he looked surprised and worried, but it simply drove his desire to take the city for himself so he could defend it and its people.

Deciding not to entangle themselves in political squabbles, the adventurers decided that they needed to continue on to Fallreach to address the bigger threat of Asmodeus. They convinced Beorn to take his men to Evansdale immediately, but not attack the village. First, they should wait and see if the fiends were planning on taking the town, and then prepare should an attack occur. After careful consideration, Beorn agreed to this suggestion. He supposed that some villagers still loyal to Davril would be more persuaded to join his cause if he was seen as a valiant defender and not a vicious marauder. After speaking, Beorn invited the party to stay the night, before continuing on their quest . . . .

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The Burning City
An except from Oakson's journal.

The remainder of the night was uneventful. Cuthbert, defeated and bound, lay unconscious a few yards away. As my comrades slept, I rested my tired shell against an old oak and listened. The tree was comforting, the way I imagine humans feel about hearth fires, robes, and rocking chairs. Nevertheless, a tiny vibration in the air and ground suggested that the forest was restless. The trees were relatively young compared to the ancients I have known, but they were awake enough to be disturbed. They did not have enough awareness to reveal the source of their concern, nor I the skill to awaken them further. Oh well, all in good time. I kept a close eye on Cuthbert all night, but he never stirred.

Morning came quickly and Cuthbert’s interrogation began. By the end, he was dead, though not at our hands. I cannot say what deadly magic Cuthbert had dabbled in, or what curses had been placed upon him, but as we posed our questions he began to visibly age at an alarming rate. We knew he was dying a most unnatural death and that our time for answers was running short.

Ultimately, our inquiries were not terribly helpful. Cuthbert’s answers were spoken in riddles, out of context and unexplained. At first I believed he held back information because he was a coward and a liar, but his opacity could also have resulted from mistrust, or bitter preoccupation with his own passing. He claimed to distrust us due to the hidden book of evil that we carried when we first met him. I am still unsure. All told, he seemed to me like a man that knows his end has come, and instead of offering help to the living as a final act of penance, wishes them to feel his resentment by feeding them half-truths with no meaning. I would be pleased to learn otherwise, but for now, Cuthbert’s words have little credence.

As to the questions themselves, they related to the strange symbol on the evil tome and medallion, as well as the red-eyed man reportedly haunting Hollow’s Wood. Cuthbert was clearly terrified by the mention of this man. I think that Cuthbert knew him, though we could not discern the exact nature of their relationship. Cuthbert suggested that he learned dark magic from the red-eyed man, or from one of his servants, though I could have misunderstood. He also revealed that some sort of disaster had transpired in the night, which alarmed us and hurried our pace.

Frustrated at our lack of progress, Absalom suggested we urge Cuthbert to be more forthcoming by using physical force, though I doubt this would have helped. Maelock attempted to appeal to Cuthbert’s humanity, which almost worked. For a brief moment, Cuthbert’s eyes softened and he seemed to remember a time before cowardice had made a wreck of his soul. I think he almost helped us, but in the end, even Maelock’s petitions were not enough. Cuthbert took his knowledge to the grave.

We debated how to dispose of the body, but in the end, we just left him to the open air and forest beasts, though we took his cloak and two healing potions.

As we wound our way back to Hollow’s Wood, a smell of burned timber and thatch began to fill the air. Soon we saw smoke and then, as the woods cleared, we could see that one in three structures in town were engulfed in flames, as far as the eye could see. Judging by the roar and smoke, there was no doubt in my mind that the entire town would eventually burn to the ground. Our party immediately began looking for survivors, but found none. It seemed the city had been evacuated, though to where? We did not see anyone in the forest on our way in. Stange…

As we crept cautiously deeper into Hollow’s Wood, we entered one of the main town squares. Suddenly, a large black arrow whistled through the air and struck Maelokh to the ground. Scanning the buildings, I saw four loathsome, black silhouettes against the roaring flames, like oversized dogs on their hind legs, their jaws waggling with wicked grins. Gnolls!

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My blood boiled to see them. Unnatural abominations! We rushed to Maelokh’s side and drew away their attacks. We were able to revive Maelock, who rushed behind partial cover and immediately began returning fire with his bow. Absalom, with punches and kicks too fast to see, pummeled our enemies. I became a giant wolf and helped my friends dispatch our enemies. I must take care not to enjoy such butchery. It is sometimes hard, while in the form of a beast, to retain the sentiments of a… man? Well, of a soulish construct, anyway. The instincts of beasts are brutally strong, Wisdom guide me.

We killed all but one Gnoll in hopes of interrogating him. We learned little from him, except that these Gnolls did not instigate the fires. They certainly have the malice, but are far too stupid and cowardly. Mostly, the last Gnoll just gave us taunts and insults, and so Absalom cut off his head. Well met, I say, but this bit of violence had an unexpected consequence.

Just as the Gnoll’s head hit the ground we heard a yelp and the scamper of feet. Whirling about, we caught sight of Selphie, the orphan girl from Cuthbert’s cathedral, running in fear toward an alley. It seemed that we frightened her away. I chased her down in wolf form, wary of traumatizing her further, but did not catch her before another strange thing stopped us all short.

As we passed between two buildings into another town square, we heard the voice of an old woman crying for help. Looking about, we saw her holding a cat and standing in the second story window of a burning house. Absalom, acting bravely and at the cost of minor burns, rushed to her rescue and entered the building. As he came to the room where she was, the old woman and her cat transformed into Impish Fiends that laughed wickedly and disappeared before our eyes! Absalom, now a jilted hero, rushed back to joined us.

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Startled and alert, we gathered around Selphie and braced ourselves. I sniffed at the the air with my wolf nose, but could not detect the Imps anywhere. I wondered whether this meant that they were invisible on our plane and my nose had failed me, or if they were biding their time in a fiendish hell somewhere and were thus undetectable to material senses. I must remember to study these matters sometime. Suddenly, as we feared, the imps materialized in a flash and attacked. But we were ready, and quickly cut them down.

Weary from battle but anxious for answers, we turned to the distraught Selphie, who told us a strange and worrisome tale, beginning a few weeks prior:

I heard voices . . . voices telling me to go and to dig . . . dig under the old temple. And at first the voices sounded like my dad . . . but then I realized I didn’t never hear what my dad sounded like . . . then they started sounding like Father Cuthbert, but after a while they started changing . . . they started sounding like . . . something else. And I told the other kids about the voices and they just laughed at me, and I was too afraid to tell anyone in the temple, cause I thought they might laugh at me, too…

Then one day this voice said that if I just came to him he would help me. He said that people had buried him deep, deep in the ground long ago, before the town was here. He said he was drapped in a cave. And all I had to do was dig him out. So finally I couldn’t sleep and I went and I dug. After a little while I broke through the ground and I fell down this long hole into a pit. It was really dark . . . but there was a glowing wall at the end of the room. It had all of these pretty pictures drawn on it, and a door. The door had this BIG lock on it, but when I touched the handle the big lock just clicked right open. Then everything went black…and I heard the voice one last time…it just said “thank you.”

When I woke up I found myself here, in the city and everything was on fire and right away I hid like I learned to hide from the other kids. I peeked out from the rubble and there were all these men in cloaks that seemed to just come out of nowhere, and . . . and . . . and there were these horrible creatures with them. Like the ones you just killed . . . but some of them were a lot bigger. And they dragged all of the townspeople with them. I heard some of them talking . . . it didn’t sound like Common, but I could understand it. They were saying they needed more souls. You have to stop it, Mr. Cave Troll! You have to close the door and get the villagers back!

Selphie was coaxed by the voice to open the door. Poor child! She did as requested, and at the time of her telling I feared she had loosed a great evil. I think she feared it too, for she blamed herself for the fate of the city. Selphie finished her tale by telling us the details of the previous night, in which black hooded men had attacked the city and carried all the people into the pit with the ancient door.

Without stopping to rest, we rushed to the pit. As we went, by the Life Giver’s mercy, rain began to fall and quench the fires. Arriving at the spot Selphie had named, we saw many footprints in the mud leading to and from a great hole in the ground. Convinced that answers and victims could be found in the hole, we entered.

What we found at the bottom was truly horrible. In the very chamber that Selphie had described, black hooded figures, with their leader among them, were preparing piles of villagers for transport into a large arcane portal that was radiating dark magic. Naturally, we moved to stop them and the following battle was brutal. We dispatched two Fire Imps and all but one cultist, whom we kept alive for interrogation. Most importantly, we were also able to close the door to the portal. Toward the end of the battle, some of the captured villagers roused themselves and, with no weapons or armor, came to our aid in the battle. I admire their bravery!

In the end, many citizens of Hollow’s Wood were rescued. It pleased me greatly to serve them and the Life Giver in this way. But, I am troubled by the clue we found upon the leader of the dead cultists. In his robes was a tome with the title, “Magic of Asmodeus”.

Asmodeus is the greatest devil in all Baator. I do not know if Asmodeus himself was waiting on the other side of the dark portal we closed, but any of his minor lieutenants would be far more than our group could handle at this time. More than ever, we need answers, allies, and help. Life Giver sustain us.

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Through the Yellow Forest
An Except from Absolom's Journal

Blinking in and out of existence isn’t a pleasant experience. One second I was looking at a dead girl in a warehouse and in between blinks, I was looking at her again but in Davril’s house, surrounded by bodies and devils and the general stink of death. I raised my fists but the worst had been done already.

I can say the most unpleasant part about being ripped in and out of time by divine forces is the forgotten trip. For a man with a shrewd memory, I could remember not a thing beyond feeling violated and sick to my stomach.

Within minutes, I was told what had transpired. I didn’t understand it and didn’t pretend to know the ins and outs of magical possession. All I cared about, and I made myself very clear, was solving the plot to conquer Evansdale. After removing the bodies and a taking brief rest, my adventurers and I headed out to Hollow’s Wood, promising to avenge Davril’s daughter if the chance arose.

As I observed him, Davril Grayback seemed like a man who had no clear fate and was therefore useless to me. Vengeance for his daughter will have no meaning, because he has drained meaning from her life. A man who cannot and will not know his daughter is a man who deserves no justice.

For Justice is a slippery master and arrives when He arrives. There is no rushing the inevitable, and Davril is a fool for thinking otherwise.

We journeyed back to that forsaken bridge, only to find Oakson’s magic to still be pulsating through his grasping vines that hung on the bridge. Surprise at the lingering vegetation was soon forgotten as we spotted Jackson perched neatly on one of the bigger limbs.

Well lookie here! If it isn’t the merry band of crypt raiders? What brings you deeper into Hollow’s Wood? And hey! Look at these giant roots I found! Aren’t they just lovely?

His smirk and friendly banter drifted around me like smoke from campfire, but for some reason, I couldn’t convince myself to trust this grinning Kinder. He denied our help and our company; I think this is for the best. His motives are as murky as his ‘travel plans’.

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After leaving him behind, we encountered a group of Elven children playing in the forest. The boy told us that his parents were with the rest of their people, performing a sort of “ceremony.” He led us to his Wood-elf village who, mourning their dying elder trees, took no real interest in what we could offer. The interaction between this plight and Evansdale seemed to strengthen our understanding of the cloaked figures plans: to soften up Ellysia with a spiritual attack and oppression before conquering it with an army of criminals and chaos. Unfortunately, even our shrewdest predictions needed more evidence to back them up, and we continued to Hollow’s Wood.

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An interesting city, though by no means grand, Hollow’s Wood welcomed us with a musty inn and a bounty board, where I spotted a local thief going for 150 gold pieces. This would come in handy, since I told our group my plan to gather more evidence, lest we hit another dead end at the temple – I proposed we infiltrate the underbelly of this city, making allies with shady figures who would then lead us up the food chain of cloaks until we could find out some answers. Maelokh and Oakson seemed far more interested in a less violent/risky approach, which suited me just fine; I’ve been finding people and uncovering secrets for years on my own and that wouldn’t stop now.

To our surprise, Jackson arrived at the same inn we were settling into, but before any more lies came out of his dirty, little mouth, I left to the seediest bar in the town, the Dry Flagon, to dig up some answers. It was getting late, so the Dry Flagon was near capacity when Oakson and I arrived. With a bang, we entered the tavern and immediately were forgotten amidst the hubbub. As luck would have it, I found the thief from the bounty poster nestled in the shadows; I made my drunken introduction (he wasn’t too bright) and soon dragged him outside for a chit-chat of sorts. Oakson may have known what I was up to when I carried him off to a secluded alley (by now, the thief was unconscious), but he made no mention of it. The druid is a kind soul, and for that, I am glad. Chaotic times like these need beings who uphold righteousness and grace when the world around them lacks empathy.

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I, however, have a way of doing things that has no use for kindness. With a little persuasion (believe me, I was kind to the scum), the thief told me as much as he could about the cloaks. They were in the city, though where he didn’t know. I knew we were at least on the right track, so I gagged him like a stray dog. I swung him over my shoulder and delivered him to the prisons, despite his muffled protests. He might come in handy later if he has time to contemplate his bleak future.

When I returned to the group, we headed to the temple, hoping to find Cuthbert among the clergy. To our surprise, he wasn’t hard to spot and was happy to chat with us. He was a middle-aged man who looked a little more aged than he should. He was caring after a tiny orphan girl named Selphie, who indignantly asked Oakson if he was a cave troll. Within minutes inside his chambers, I got the feeling that he was hiding more than the truth with us. He was reluctant to explain how he knew the spiral symbol on the amulet and sent us to a house on the edge of town where he suspected the cloaks to congregate.

Fine, fine. You know, there has been some strange activity happening in these parts recently. I’ve seen some strange people heading in and out of an old house on the edge of town, late at night, after I leave the evening prayer. They were wearing cloaks, and I saw a man carrying a similar book, just last night. But i can’t even begin to describe to you what I felt. Seeing them filled me with terror. It was evil. It must be destroyed. But I don’t want to be a part of it.

Foolishly, we galloped off with the hopes to find some solid answers to this ever-growing conspiracy, but it was not to be.

Instead of villains, we found a huddled group of men who were dedicated to protecting Hollow’s Wood from the evil men in cloaks. Conversation was just starting when a stranger amongst them rose up and attacked us with magic. He had poisoned the wine, killing all the men at the table within seconds, moments before they revealed their own side of the story. We dispatched him and were able to uncover that Cuthbert was behind this from the lips of a dying man. Rushing back, we sent Oakson to alert the authorities of the crime, while Maelokh and I tracked Cuthbert to his home. Meeting up as one, we entered the house only to find a trap set precisely for us.

Brutal fighting ensued as cloaked men all around us flung necrotic spells every which way. Our group scraped out a victory, and I was badly wounded and needed rest. But time was slipping away and left us no time to recover. Maelokh ran upstairs to spot Cuthbert fleeing toward the woods, red cloak flapping like a pirate flag in the night wind. We began pursuing him as quickly as we could, driving deeper and deeper into the forest. Unfortunately, here is where everything gets fuzzy for me, as I was the first to approach the coward. He struck me with his sword, knocking me out cold before I could recover my breath.

When I awoke, Cuthbert was subdued, but our questions remained unanswered.

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The Cursed Girl
An Excerpt from Maelokh's Journal

The room is dimly light and my fellow adventurers Oakson and Absolom seem to be just as confused and disturbed about both the presence of the girl’s body and the men above us. We do not know what the conversation we overheard between the two men was all about, but I fear that what we have stumbled upon here in the backwoods town of Evansdale is more serious than we once imagined. My mind continues to go back to that mysterious shrine. Why was I beckoned so strongly there? What did the cloaked men do there exactly? I cannot shake both the darkness I felt as I first arrived nor the sense of awe as we left the transformed shrine. I guess HaShem might be up to something after all. I glance at both Oakson and Absolom and wonder afresh what their involvement in all of this is as well and how we all mysteriously found ourselves traveling together. Suddenly a bright light flashes and Absolom disappears in the blink of an eye. Oakson and I look at each other in amazement but I oddly have a strong sense that he will be back very soon and there is nothing to worry about with his strange disappearance.

Oakson is still in his panther form, but I communicate to him that we should scope out the area and create a plan of attack. If these empty bottles of rum are any indication of their recent activities, we might have an upper hand on the ruffians upstairs. Oakson nods and we move stealthily back out of the cellar and into the night air. As we move we hear some mumbling from what appears to be a man with his back to a tree on the outskirts of the glen. We move closer and he hears us. “I told you Raesh, I’m just stepping outside for a breath of fresh air,” the man speaks in slurred words. I come up behind him and after a couple attempts, knock him unconscious. Oakson and I tie him up (it’s amazing what a Oakson can still do as a panther), gag him and throw him in the cellar with plans to question him later.

We come back out and make a perimeter around the house. The light upstairs has gone out and it seems that some of the men have gone to sleep. Oakson and I peer into the house and see two men downstairs. One is pacing back and forth and another seems to be slumped at the table enjoying what looks to be multiple drinks. He should be no problem at all. “Alright Oakson, I will step in through the door and fire my shot at the man who is pacing. As I do that, you rush in and take out the man at the table. Let’s try and not wake any more than need be.” Oakson nods. Good kitty. We approach the door and I ready my bow. On the count of three I burst through and let my arrow fly. It hits it’s mark but the man whirls around and readies his sword. Oakson rushes in and knocks the man at the table prone and we ensue in combat. It takes only a couple blows before we are able to kill them both and we thankfully take only minor injuries. As we begin to survey the house we see two men sleeping in a downstairs room, but a noise from the loft sends Oakson silently rushing up the stairs with me tailing close behind. We see a similar set up of two beds with men in them, only the far man seems to be sitting up groggily with his head in his hands. He doesn’t stand a chance. Oakson swiftly bounds over the beds and dispels of him while I make sure the other one never wakes up again.

After going downstairs and dispensing of the two ruffians asleep downstairs as well, we begin to survey the room. There is a desk and couple of papers in the corner and I go over to them and take a look. I am perplexed at what I find. Several maps of Evansdale and the surrounding area with red X’s at different locations, some of which we recognize as where we are and where we were attacked on the road. As we look at them, I remember of hearing of another attack on a shipment coming in to Evansdale of supplies and weapons. Sure enough, that is on the maps as well as a big red X. The maps are disturbing to me and I know not what lies ahead for the sleepy town of Evansdale. Again I marvel at the perplexity of it all and wonder why Evansdale at all? Though I rack my mind to remember of any sort of activity of note here in recent history, nothing comes. Evansdale seems to be of no consequence to the outside world. As Oakson and I being to tie up one of the men we wanted to leave for questioning, we suddenly hear a shrill scream from below the trap door that leads down to the cellar. My body goes cold with chills and I am forced to gather myself as I look at Oakson. We open the cellar door and peer in.

Much to our surprise we see the body of the dead girl not dead at all, but up and standing and looking around in panic. She is tugging at her restraints and I can see her arms bleeding afresh with her seemingly self-inflicted wounds. I quickly go down the ladder and confront her as I hear Oakson transforming back to his warforged form behind me, “We are your friends, we will not hurt you. My friend and I can help you.” While that might not be entirely true, I do not know what her reaction will be and I do not want her to further hurt herself or endanger us. Her head whips around and she looks at me with desperation, “Make it stop, please! I want it to go away. Make it stop! Help me!”. Once again a chill runs through my body as I calmly inquire, “Make what stop?” “The voices,” she says, “I can’t get them out.” At this point Oakson is in the room and I hear him utter a spell as I see her arms begin to heal and wounds in her flesh disappear. I am shocked as the girl seems to not even notice, but continues in a frantic state.

_"We are here from Evansdale, we were looking for you," I explain, “Why did you run away?”

“The voices,” she replies, “the voices told me something bad was going to happen in Hollow’s Wood! I was going there to try and stop it!”_

“What was going to happen?” Oakson booms in his deep, commanding voice.

“I don’t know! I don’t know!” she says as she seems to be getting more and more worked up. We try and console her but she lashes out and bites me! The insolent little imp. Oakson is quick to give her a good thump on the head and she collapses unconscious to the floor. Better that way anyways. “We better take her back,” he advises. I agree. But first an idea forms in me. While we want to cover our tracks with what happened here, there are also others that will be coming to this location. Why not begin to have them scratching their heads and watching their backs for a change? I tell Oakson that I am going to burn the place to the ground to send them a message. As I do so, Oakson transforms into a horse and we place our prisoner as well as the girl on his back. I run alongside of him as we leave the blazing house and make our way back to Evansdale.

We arrive in no time at all and head straight to the house of Grayback. The guards quickly let us in when they hear that we have Raven with us and we take her swiftly to her parents in the main room. They are ecstatic when they see their daughter and quickly rush to her as she comes to. She sees them and, as if awakened from some great dream, says, “Mom? Dad? What happened? Who are these two men?” as she motions to Oakson, who had recently returned to his original state, and I. I glance around and see the bewildered look on everyones faces. I quickly step over to Davril and ask him if Oakson and I can have a word with him, it is urgent. He sobers up quickly and nods. We step into a drawing room and for a second I hesitate and look at Oakson. Can we trust this man? Surely the cloaked men and the ruffians we encountered have people on the inside. All the events of the last couple days beginn to swirl in my head. Oakson nods at me and I snap out of the fog with clarity that this man is one to be trusted. I begin to relay to him the events of the last couple of days including our encounter and the shrine all the way up to finding his daughter and our fight at the cabin (leaving out a couple details that might be more of a hindrance than a help to share). As I recount our adventure, his face turns from respectful and attentive to sober and stony. I pull out the maps I found and he confirms that some of the X’s mark where his shipments recently went missing. Oakson and I warn him to be cautious with his inner circle for we believe that there are some on the inside who are in league with the events of late. He seems skeptical of our caution but replies he will be careful.

Suddenly our conversation is cut short as we hear a scream from Davril’s wife in the main hall. I feel a chill deep in my bones and and the hairs on my neck stand straight up. I grip my swords tightly in both hands as we rush out to see Raven on the couch thrashing back and forth screaming, “It’s here! It’s here!” Then suddenly a giant claw forces its way from her midsection and tears open her bowels and crawls out as her lifeless form falls back onto the couch. A Spined Devil (or Spinagon as they are known) unfurls and stretches it’s big wings out, exposing a very spiny back and big sharp claws with a dangerous looking tail.

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Shrugging off all feelings of fear, I run to the entryway and call in the two guards from their post. I turn around and for a moment there is a pause of shock from all, and then with a loud roar the devil removes one of its spikes from it’s back and hurls it at Oakson and it explodes with a fiery burst on impact. With the silence broken, Davril dispels any concerns regarding his integrity, and reaches into the folds of his cloak to reveal a hidden longsword.

We charge the creature. There is a burst of fighting and blows are given and taken with the fiery fiend as the two guards come running in and assess the situation. They both freeze when they see the sight of the mighty creature but one steadies himself and charges into the fray while the other cowers and then turns tail and runs. The fighting ensues and after a some time the devil (who is visibly weakening) suddenly steps back with a triumphant smile, lifts a fiery claw and begins uttering an incantation. With a loud roar of flame, two more of the same beasts appear out of the ground in the corners of the room and begin hurling their spines at the company. We continue fighting and manage to lob off the head of the first beast and then turn our attack on the nearest minion. With our forces clearly shaken and weakening, we battle on. But before too long, Davril goes down with a spike sticking out of his neck. But hope emerges again as we take down the first of the two lesser devils. However, as we turn to look up, there is a evil smirk on the last devil as he roars in full strength and begins cascading his blows upon our tattered group. We rush him with what is left with our strength but it isn’t long until the fierce guard goes down with a slashing claw to his face. Now it is only Oakson and I. As our lungs grasp for air and we steady our knees to face what might be our last moment, we both charge the beast and somehow amidst blood and fire intertwining, the fiend gives a final roar and collapses to the ground, never to rise again. We stand shocked for a moment, our minds and bodies so exhausted we can hardly realize that it’s over and we had won. We shakily make our way to our comrades and make sure they are stable and will be able to recover.

Davril has invited us to stay in his home for the day to recover and bind our wounds. It is a welcome rest after a sleepless night of travel, espionage, and battle.

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Evansdale in Uproar

In the Crypt

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Our adventurers awakened from their rest in the crypt. After being nearly defeated by the Mimic, they were wary about opening the other treasure chest, but eventually decided to do so, finding 60 gold coins and three common potions of healing.

Their attention turned to the cloaked body lying next to the glowing rune, and the ancient tome he held. After much debate, Maelokh and Absalom tied a rope around Oakson, and he stepped into the magic circle . . .

As your body passes through the circle you feel your insides begin to tighten, and then suddenly expand. Your body feels as if it’s being stretched beyond its capacity, and suddenly your vision begins to blur. In an instant, all of the pressure is released and you feel the sensation of being flung forward, like a catapult. The air around you becomes a rainbow of light and color. Various scenes flash before you as you soar through the light, and then they are gone: a mob of cloaked figures in the middle of a shrine; a bloodied man in chains being beaten; an aerial view of Evansdale and the surrounding woods; a village under siege, engulfed in flames, with cloaked figures storming through it; a man still amidst the chaos, watching the city burn; and then a brilliant, white angelic being, overlooking Ellysia. His radiance is greater than the sun itself, and you feel a warmth spread throughout your body. His hidden face slowly turns towards you and then . . . the light vanishes. Once again you feel your insides twist and tighten and you feel your body being thrown backwards against hard stone. You are back in the mausoleum. The large runes are glowing brightly, with a black smoke sizzling from the markings. A moment passes, and the runes vanish entirely.

After some deliberation, the Absolom and Oakson retrieve the treasure in the previous room, while Maelokh stays behind. They regroup, and pick up the magical tome. It is old—much older than the man who carried it. They were able to make out the word “MODEU” on the cover. The rest of the pages are indecipherable.

Evansdale

The players travel back to Evansdale. Upon arriving, they notice a strange atmosphere to the village—it is not the same as a few days prior. The streets are quiet and hushed, but the inn and tavern is loud and full of shouting voices.

The enter the Inn and see it full of patrons. Some are yelling and angry, other distraught, and some even huddled together in tears. Maelokh stands aside, examining the crowd for anything out of place, while Oakson and Absolom approach Jared, the tavern master.

Hah! Haven’t you heard?! All hell’s broken loose around here! After the sky lit up with those bright lights, and then Greyback’s daughter goes missin’, and now the crops have started whitherin’ away!! no one knows which way is up! If you ask me, I think they’re somehow connected.

The players soon discover, by talking to Jared and some men in the tavern (including Goodson, an elderly farmer who’s yearly crop was destroyed), that the night before they visited the shrine, streaks of green light burst into the sky and spread out in all directions. Some of the streaks branched out and struck the ground. Any place they struck, animals and plants withered away and died. The players thanked Jared and Goodson for their information, and left the latter a hefty gift to help get him back on his feet. At the recommendation of Jared, they continued on to the local shrine of Pelor for more information on the mysterious Tome they carried.

The Temple of Pelor was bustling with people coming in for prayer and assistance from the priests. After asking around, our adventurers located the head priest in the back of the room. The man introduced himself as Jaedon Hammerfist, a young man in his early 30s. After some deliberation and insight, the adventurers revealed the tome they had discovered. He looked at it with interest, but offered little help. He explained that he recognized the insignia on the cover from his studies, and believed it had roots in dark magic, but he did not remember any details. Thankfully, his colleague and former mentor, from Hollow’s Wood, is only a day’s travel away, and Jaedon was convinced there was no one better to assist our adventurers.

The party now found themselves at a crossroads: Do they continue on in search of the meaning behind the strange symbol? Or do they deal with more present concerns—the disappearance of Raven Grayback, the Reeve’s daughter? They chose to save the damsel in distress, and headed towards the Reeve’s mansion, located on the northwest edge of town.

The House of Grayback

Davril Grayback‘s house was surrounded on all sides by an iron fence. Two guards stood at the gate. After some failed bribe attempts (the guards weren’t willing to risk their jobs for a fraction of a month’s wages!), the party split, and Oakson transfigured into a raven, flew past the guards, and walked in through the front door, where he convinced a maid to direct him to the missing girl’s room.

The room was a disaster. The girl’s belongings and furniture were strewn across the floor, and bloodstains spattered the carpet. In his examination, Oakson noticed a bloody knife and fresh stains near a window, overlooking the village and the woods beyond. Little evidence was found of her whereabouts, and an hour-long ritual examining for magic proved fruitless. Tired of waiting, Absolom used his cunning to distract one guard and his fists to incapacitate another, while Maelokh stealthily jumped the fence and entered the house through the kitchen.

Bypassing the guard and maid, and unaware of Oakson’s presence in the girl’s room, the ranger walked upstairs and confidently burst into the master bedroom, to where Davril and his sobbing wife sat together on the bed. In short, they found that Esther, the mother, considered her daughter a curse on the family because of a horrible dream she had had before the girl’s birth. The dream was forgotten for many years, until the girl slowly descended into a state of depression and anger, cutting herself off from the world around her and spiraling into self-hatred. The girl who used to journal and write poetry had filled her diary, over and over again, with the same dreadful spiral found on the ancient tome. The day after the green light burst into the sky, the girl burst out in anger against her parents and ran into the village square, yelling and screaming. Before anyone was able to catch her, she disappeared into the countryside. Using his innate sense of tracking, Maelokh was able to lead the adventurers into the woods in hopes of catching the girl.

The Road to Hollow’s Wood

The beginning of your travels pass uneventfully. You follow the main road, which runs parallel to the river. Soon, the trees begin to get thicker and the river runs wider. After about four hours of walking, you see a bridge, where the road crosses the river. There are two lightly armored men standing on the middle of the bridge. They see you as you see them, and they begin to casually walk towards the foot of the bridge as you approach.

Highwaymen, looking for an illegal toll! Maelokh’s insight quickly discerned their nefarious intentions, and the adventurers denied the bandit’s demands, thinking they had them outnumbered. To their ultimate demise, Oakson drew upon the natural energy of the forest and covered the bridge and embankment with massive roots. The magic captured the two men where they stood, but it also cut off the only route for escape as several men stepped out from hiding amongst the trees, firing upon the party with poison-tipped crossbows. The adventurers fought hard and defeated more than half of the armed renegades, but the poison bested them, and they were taken captive by their assailants

You awaken with splitting headaches to a red and yellow sky. It’s late, nearly sunset. Your joints feel heavy, as if they have been asleep for weeks—though you are fairly certain it’s the same day. You look around yourselves and notice that you are at the bottom of a small pit dug into the dirt.

The party found themselves stripped of their belongings and thrown into the bottom of a hastily dug pit (besides Oakson, who’s belongings subsumed into his rocky form as he transfigured into the shape of a wolf). Everything—their money, their weapons, and the tome had all disappeared. They climbed out of the pit to the dark forest, and using Oakson’s panther form as a guide, they sought out the main road. After a mile of travel, Oakson’s keen vision spotted a light deep within the forest—a cottage in the woods, full of drunken carousing and song.

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Discovering a door hidden in the ground beyond the cabin, Oakson descended into a wine cellar attached to the main building. The party regrouped, and, breaking into the store room, discovered their equipment and the lifeless, but still-warm body of a silver-haired girl—Raven Grayback. Her wrists were slit by the shards of a nearby broken bottle.

A ladder at the end of the room led to a trapdoor—presumably the entrance into the cottage itself. Stealthily listening at the base of the door, Oakson overheard a conversation from the men above:

“Listen here, Aaron. After her disappearance, that wench downstairs will put the whole village in an uproar. We can get a pretty penny for her, and then retire! Or live like lords for a couple of years. The others don’t even need to know.”

“No, you listen Raesh—if the wine hasn’t already gone to your head—It ain’t about the money! We are close. Today was a good haul. We have weapons, and all of our numbers are growing by the day. Our brothers to the East have doubled in size, and the southern outpost captured a whole shipment of weapons! By the month’s end, Evansdale will be ours! Then we can live like lords for the rest of our lives. They have absolutely no idea what is coming”.

Seriously weakened, but still geared for battle, our adventures gathered together, to decide their plan of attack . . . Will they attempt to overpower the enemies above them and reclaim their gold? And what then? Do they return to the village to warm them of the bandit threat? Or should they continue on their quest in hopes of discovering the mystery of the ancient tome?

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The Adventure Begins . . .
The Shrine and the Crypt

On a foggy morning, late in the summer, our adventurers found themselves gathered together at the entrance to a dilapidated and weathered shrine

The shrine was located outside of Evansdale, where each of the three men (if you could call them that) had been journeying through. They each felt compelled, for different reasons, to travel to the shrine that morning. Though they did not know one another, they found themselves now facing the same mysterious and fateful future.

After cautiously introducing themselves to one another, they began inspecting the ancient, withering relic. The center of the shrine stood an altar, which emitted a faint humming noise. Approaching the altar filled each of the adventurers with a sense of dread and fear—an aura of evil that had to be removed. Oakson, the wandering Warforged, lifted his staff and struck the decaying stone . . .

The humming stops abruptly, and a few moments pass. Before you know what’s happening the ground begins to shake and loud cracking noises sound all around you. The stones just struck split apart, revealing the true altar beneath. You look around and see the vines writhing and moving as if they are suddenly alive. The commotion startles you and you reach for your weapons, only to find that the foliage actually is springing to life once again—leaves and flowers budding off of the dry branches. The shaking in the ground intensifies and the fallen statues and shafts of stone themselves begin to tremor and move up, up, off the ground, and into the air—positioning themselves back perfectly into the shape of pillars and the ornate archway. The shrine stands as it once must have—perhaps not too long ago—beautiful and full of life. The air itself, previously quiet and still, now seems alive with the buzzing of crickets and the scurrying of small critters. In the distance an owl hoots. The aura of evil you previous sensed disappears, and you feel a calming peace—as if all is as it should be.

This all happened in an instant, and after the last stone stood properly in place, the adventurers heard a shriek of surprise coming from the brush beyond the shrine’s edge. The voice belonged to a tiny, Kender halfling. The tiny creature seemed innocent enough, but you notice that his right ear looked as if it had been torn off—he has clearly seen battle. After negotiating, the Kender explained that he was from the coast and had been exploring the inland for the last few months. He came from Hollow’s Wood the day before, and heard that he shrine outside Evansdale was a mysterious site for curious travelers.

But I was travelling along, minding my own business, when I got distracted by a fascinating grove of trees that I saw in the woods over yonder. A few hours later I heard some commotion coming from behind me, in the shrine! There was this big group of people—a dozen or so—all shapes and sizes, and all wearing these dark cloaks. They was draggin’ somethin’ behind them—couldn’t see what it was. After some time they started chantin’ and singin’ and before I knew what happened there was this yell and a scream and a bright flash of green light and the whole shrine started falling apart and . . . dying . . . before my eyes! To be honest, some of the robed figures didn’t seem like they were expectin’ that to happen! After they finished chantin’ one of them—a leader, but the looks of it—said a few words (I couldn’t make ‘em out, though), and led them back into the woods where they just . . . disappeared! That way!

The players chose to continue on in search of the mysterious cloaked mob. A small ways from the shrine they saw the entrance to what seemed like a crypt. Once ornate, but now falling apart, the adventurers forced their way through the front door (or at least, they tried…Maelokh’s lock picking failed and it took Oakson several tries to successfully hit the door and break through the decaying wood).

The door eventually opened to the sound of snarling: Two wolves and a pack of rats feasting on the rotting body of a cloaked man. After defeating the beasts, examination revealed a strange amulet around the man’s neck, with a dark spiral insignia. 5402557486_b4fb7a0e77_b.jpg

The adventurers pocketed the amulet and continued through the crypt. This top floor appeared to have been recently emptied and repurposed. The crypt continued down a staircase, leading into a large room filled by a great statue surrounded by ever-burning flame. The statue is of a large man carrying a great hammer. A plaque at his feet reads:

GRAYDON HAMMERFIST: Warrior, father, friend.
Few men live lives of honor. Even fewer die honorable deaths. Graydon is a man known for both. May his legacy be in our memories forever, and may this tomb be a testament to his glory. Curses upon any who disturb his rest.

Disturbed by the danger of a curse, the adventurers deliberated: Do they continue on in search of those who destroyed the shrine? Or do they turn tail and leave the depths of the tomb to rest? They chose to press on, and marched deeper into the dungeon. Navigating around traps and deep pits, the journey was not easy (it required a full day’s rest in a middle chamber). At the beginning of the next day, they entered a large chamber filled with four stone coffins. At the end of the room was a portcullis blocking the way to large chests of treasure, and double doors blocked the rest of the dungeon. Despite their best efforts to remain stealthy, examining the room awakened the dead, and skeletal figures rose from each of the coffins, angered by those who disturbed their rest. The figures appeared to be Hammerfist and his family.

After defeating the undead, our party continued through the double doors, revealing a large room with a giant, circular, glowing rune inscribed on the stone floor. In the center of the room was a cloaked figure, apparently dead, holding an ancient tome. In the far corner of the room was a large lever coming out of the floor. Sensing a deep, evil aura emanating from the room, the adventurers determined that the rune must be dangerous or trapped. Not wanting to set foot inside it’s boundaries, they decided to use Absolom’s grappling hook and rope to drag the body towards them.

Finding the lure of gold irresistible. the party determined to return to the treasure. Breaking past the portcullis, the went to open the first chest, only to feel it’s shape transform beneath their touch. A Mimic!

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The treasure chest lashed out at the adventurers and devastated the party. Both Absolom and Oakson fell beneath its attacks, and Oakson nearly succumbed to a bitter death, when Maelokh critically struck the creature with his arrow, putting an end to its treachery. After reviving his comrades, the adventurers took a break to rest and recover from their wounds.

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Welcome to your campaign!
A blog for your campaign

Wondering how to get started? Here are a few tips:

1. Invite your players

Invite them with either their email address or their Obsidian Portal username.

2. Edit your home page

Make a few changes to the home page and give people an idea of what your campaign is about. That will let people know you’re serious and not just playing with the system.

3. Choose a theme

If you want to set a specific mood for your campaign, we have several backgrounds to choose from. Accentuate it by creating a top banner image.

4. Create some NPCs

Characters form the core of every campaign, so take a few minutes to list out the major NPCs in your campaign.

A quick tip: The “+” icon in the top right of every section is how to add a new item, whether it’s a new character or adventure log post, or anything else.

5. Write your first Adventure Log post

The adventure log is where you list the sessions and adventures your party has been on, but for now, we suggest doing a very light “story so far” post. Just give a brief overview of what the party has done up to this point. After each future session, create a new post detailing that night’s adventures.

One final tip: Don’t stress about making your Obsidian Portal campaign look perfect. Instead, just make it work for you and your group. If everyone is having fun, then you’re using Obsidian Portal exactly as it was designed, even if your adventure log isn’t always up to date or your characters don’t all have portrait pictures.

That’s it! The rest is up to your and your players.

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