Legacy of Brutality

The Lands of Neradia
Go Where Eagles Dare

We will begin in the environs of Eamonvale, a broad valley shaped by the river Eamon that runs from the Stoneheart mountains to the Sea of Crossed Swords. At the headwaters, staunchly guarding the mountain passes is the Grey Citadel. At the sea is the riotous city of Asgulan. In between are a scattered keeps and castles defending small towns and much disputed territory. To the east and west are swaths of wilderness untamed since the time of the Dwarves when Dolgan was King Under the Mountain. Society is feudal and survival oriented. Travel between such settlements is best done in groups and well armed. Villagers do not go outside the stockade at night. The dead are cremated and sent out to sea. The warrior class is respected and needed to protect threatened farmlands and unsure trade routes. Clerics are revered. Wizards are feared. Rangers are well regarded. Thieves are hung. Settlements are precariously defended.

Men are the dominant race and form the majority of society. There are there are many races of Men: Dour Vanir, Pike wielding Gundermen, erudite Numidians, dusky Stygians and flamboyant Zingarans. Then there are the island natives of Pant’Tang, whose blood is said to have mingled with demons and whose elaborate tattoos describe such unions… Dwarves are the most well respected of the non-human races, and they are treated with great respect for their senority and knowledge. Elves are a very reclusive people, residing in deep forests with little formal contact with society. While it’s well-known that the gnomes of Neradia make their homes in the woodlands and forests, few can truthfully say they’ve ever seen an actual gnome community. Whimsical but secretive—despite their seemingly good natures—gnomes rarely speak of their homes. Even when they do, their details rarely weather retellings, leading many to speculate that a great treasure, gate-ways to the fey court, or some other secret lies hidden. They always wear red hats. Halflings are the unremarked fifth race, at once non-existant and ubiquitous. “Hobbits” as they like to be called are considered by some scholars to be the fathers of domestic civilization. They are well beloved of Demeter. Half-Orcs are considered travesties of war. Often referred to in very degrading and hateful terms, half-orcs are rarely welcome in any settlement, although they occasionally find a place in mercenary units and as such are able to hide behind a uniform.

Major churches are that of Demeter: Goddess of the Hearth, Husbandry and Agriculture, and Mithras: God of Might and Fortitude. Rangers in the service of Daladon patrol the wilder paths as best they can, and occasional itinerant emissaries of the Paladine, known as the Order of the Eternal Flame attempt to do battle with the blackest threats to humanity. The small community of Delver’s Dale will crucible of our campaign. The town lies at the foot of the Stoneheart Mountains, where the River Eamon pours out of the Misty Canyon in a last mighty cataract. The town is guarded by King Brandoch Daha, the Black Eagle, who wrested its fortress from its beastial occupants some decades ago. Once the center of a thriving hub of dwarven mines, Delver’s Dale has fallen into disrepair and is beset on all sides. Subhuman swoop down from the western hills, dragonmen lurk in the eastern swamp, flocks of ravens infest in the mines, the Witch Queen and her consort the Black Knight roam the dark woods, and the Mad Wizard’s Tower overlooks it all shining in its unearthly light. It is up to our heroes to make right of all that has gone so wrong in the time since the Wars to End the Winter’s Dark.

The Grey Citadelof Dun Eamon is a bastion of defense of the coastlands of Eamonvale from the terrors of the mountainous interior. Built of dark basalt stone, wet with mist and defended by dour warriors, the Grey Citadel squats astride the Eamon River at the very lip of the Falls of Rauros where the river flows out of the Stoneheart Mountains and tumbles to the vale below. There is only one crossing of the broad and turbulent river, a broad ford between waterfalls. This ford is divided by a slab of bedrock that divides the river into two channels. On this island many generations ago, Eamon Angus made his claim amidst the constant mist and rain. Now, centuries later, the tiny fort has grown into a heavily fortified citadel, ruled still by the Angus dynasty. Three brothers now rule: Angus Arb the Eldest is King, and known to be Just. Bron is the Captain of the Mist Watch. Cael is High Priest of the Temple of Fortitude. Together they stand in vigilance against all manner of incursions from beyond. The city is known for its fine forges and the quality of its metallurgy. A trading crossroads, the Citadel is a tolerant place, if not particularly jovial. Local customs include drinking strong ale and racing small boats on the River Eamon upstream of the City.

Asgulan, the City of the Dragon, the Dreaming City, is a decadent metropolis, old beyond the memory of mankind. Once the capital of a great empire before the coming of the Winter Dark, Asgulan has chosen not to notice the ages pass. As commerce sails to and fro beneath its mystic Sea Arch, the Queen and her court lie dreaming in gardens of luxury while the fierce horseman General Mazdak rules the streets. It is a place where red bearded Vanirmen and dusky Numidians rub shoulders with tattooed acolytes from the exotic isles of Pan’Tang, where anything can be bought and sold from turbaned Shemite merchants, where bewhiskered Rakshasas answer esoteric questions for a price.

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Journey to the Dale
Introduction to the first session

A Murder of Crows

Glossy-backed, the crows / Ward the garden-rows / One turns to watch the farmer

The past weeks have been a long walk indeed. The retinue of Sir Trousdale of Lorchester has slogged its way out of the doldrums of the great city of Asgulan and you have spent hardly more than a night or two in any given inn or caravan camp, crossing the plains of Shem, crawling up into the craw of winter you have dragged yourselves from the warm salt seas where men loll on velvet divans, now into the tree-cloaked foothills where the mighty River Eamon pours out of the Stone Heart Mountains a gust of watery violence. Across these many leagues you have followed your lord, the famous hero Sir Trousdale of Lorchester, who sits upon his mighty warhorse and gazes at the horizon, his glorious dragonscale armor gleams on the sun and he tips his silver chased flask to his lip and stains his white mustache a delicate pink. He speaks rarely, and then with few words. At times it seems that the camp’s quiet nickname “Sir Drousdale” is more than apt.

The small caravan consists of now more than a dozen souls. Two oxen pull a four wheeled carriage which holds the victuals, arms, and raiment of the Dragonslayer, as well as his campaign tent and various tools of camplife. This cart is driven by one Aphra Behn, Herald of the Dragonslayer, a small man, a hobbit he calls himself, not much taller than a child, but full of great confidence and broad smiles, he seems to read his master’s mind and often speaks with Trousdale’s authority. He is the steward of the camp. Others must walk alongside the cart, trading off as Aphra Behn’s buckboard companion. These others include cooks, men-at-arms, squires, pages, standard-bearers, and camp followers. You are among these who have sought to glean a small gleam of the glory that is (or was) Sir Trousdale of Lorchester.

Your liege has driven you with purpose on this errand home. Sir Trousdale must have had some vision or sign from his god to tear himself from the fleshpots and warm breezes of Asgulan’s civilized delights, for how could he have known! Yesterday at the crossroads a minstrel was singing a crudely rhymed tale of woe to all comers, and now you walk with purpose and trepidation, hoping that these lines are but the doggerel of a fevered imagination.

The Sorrow of Daha

All men now tear their beards
And women beat their breasts
The King Daha is Dead
Torn apart in his bed
Made some wild beast a bloody feast

Now the crown of this accursed land
Must pass to the heir close at hand
But nothing of his voice is heard
Only the cry of the that darkling bird
While the people in the street

Wail and cry and shriek
Long live the King!
Where is the King?
Where and whither shall our fortunes seek?

  • You have followed this River Eamon for much of your journey, watching it transform from the tidal estuary at the coast, through lush valleys studded with farms and hamlets, past mighty rapids and walled towns, walking the old Imperial Road, the river’s steadfast companion from sea to source, built by dwarves in ages past. Yesterday the two parted ways. The Imperial Road began its arduous climb towards the Grey Citadel, and the Eamon bore west, towards the valley of Delver’s Dale, where it bursts most dramatically from the mountains of her birth in a great waterfall taller than the tallest tower in Asgulan. You travel now not on a cobbled road, but a rutted dirt track which skirts the brooding edge of a great forest, called the Darkwald, which rises in undulating stands of evergreen timber from the western shore. The Eamon winds through a narrowing valley that rises in a series of benches, so that road is usually at least 50ft or so above the river at a steep slope. Soon, you think, your journey will find its end, it can only be a few more miles before you begin to see the smoke from the chimneys of Delver’s Dale and the tower of the Black Eagle’s Castle. It is a sunny day, the air is crisp and biting. A fine layer of snow dusts the treetops and crusts the meadow. Birds wheel lazily across the sky…
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All Hell Breaks Loose
A journal and recounting of my travels in the service of Good Sir Trousdale -- Iorweth Wolfsblood

Walls start closing in around you

My Twins of Evil

will shake you by your collar-bone

and snap your ribcage

Broken bodies in a death-rock dance-hall

please be my partner

Eyeballs pop, accelerated blood-beat

veins a-shaking

and All Hell breaks loose.

The Dark One howls into my ears on the nights when The Moon is strongest. It used to be many Gods who sang to me in my dreams. Of late it is only Him. This frightens me, but I dare not defy the will of The Gods. It pleases The Dark One that I record my travels in writing.

As is the will of The Gods and of many powerful men, I have been accompanying my Master as he dithers endlessly from one city of men to another, conducting meaningless business of great importance. All cities reek the same. Oh that I could return to the woods and the life that knows no walls. But sadly, it is not The Gods will that I should do so. I am their puppet of flesh, and I dance as they direct. They direct me to travel in the service of my Master, The Good Sir Trousdale, and so I do.

Sir Trousdales idiotic comings and goings most recently brought us unto the city of Asgulan, many days journey from here. After concluding with the treaty or tariff or wedding arrangement or whatever horse-shit it was that had demanded his presence in Asgulan, Trousdale drunkenly ordered us back to Delvers Dale. We traveled for many days. As we approached within scent of the town, we happened to come upon a merchants wagon under attack by a most curious and unnatural murder of crows. The wagon lurched down the road, speeding out of control and finally capsized some 50 yards ahead of us. Dog sniffed the air, let out two fierce growls and then shot off down towards the beseiged wagon. My compatriots assembled into a crude and pathetic combat formation while I readied my powerful magics to do battle with the beasts. When I had crossed enough ground to join the battle, I had found it was not just birds we were facing but small walking bird-men of great curiosity. I was attacked about the head and face by the rampaging crows, but was not injured seriously. Our clumsy band of “warriors” made battle with the Kenku bird-men (of which I have heard stories, but had never before seen in the flesh) for some time before the drunken sod Trousdale finally saw fit to ride into battle and kill the last pathetic creature still standing, only to take all of the credit and glory of the battle for himself. Much veneration and overture was made on his behalf. To see such brave and hearty warriors willingly kiss the arse of this withered old fool never ceases to turn my stomach. After a quick check on the occupants of the wagon (nothing was found worth stealing or raping) the party (as is customary in observance of any joyous occasion, no matter how meaningless or insignifigant) retired to Trousdales wine-cart to drink ourselves blind and recount tales of our battlefield glory.

I woke up many hours later in a bed within an Inn in Delvers Dale with no recollection of how I had gotten there.

My compatriots brought me up to speed on what had transpired during my “lapse”. We were in Delvers Dale, Great King Whoever was murdered and our colleague the Finch was a blood descendent to the throne. He (and all his living kin) were also suspects in the assasination of the king.

I shall commit more of this exploit to word later…

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Violent World
The Finch's Diary: First Session Entry

The questions that have lived in my heart have at last been answered. I am ready.

Our weary party encountered strange foes as we neared home and I have at last proven myself in battle. The trouble appeared nearer to the Dale than one would have expected.

An unusual Tinker’s Wagon was being attacked by a flock of fell black birds on the road behind us. Our new companion Stephan D’Annunzio called to our Sir Trousdale of Lorchester for command while alerting us to strange Birdmen skulking in the wood. Sir gave his warriors permission to come to the travelers’ aid and I was off before he could tell me different. Too long have I waited behind with gentle Aphra Behn, the children and women while Sir and his fighters lock swords with our enemies.

I felt old Dontrell smiled down upon me as I followed his teachings and tactics to the letter. So often had I heard, “Child, you have no need to greet your foe face to face, your strength will lie in distance and surprise.” Dontrell looked down upon men who fight solely with steel as nothing more than useful brutes. “Let those without The Gift sweat and strain sword to sword and eye to eye,” he would spit. I thought of my old teacher that afternoon as I managed to kill one of the beasts using my Gift. While most of our men took wounds in our fight I remained untouched.

My head rang with battle song and my chest burst with pride as I inspected my first kill. It had been a simple enough thing, and not a drop of blood on my clothes.

Home was not what I had hoped. The gate was strongly guarded and Aphra stopped me from running ahead to boast of our adventures. I was sent to the back of our caravan and told to keep silent as we entered the square. The Dale was crowded with strangers come to pay their respect. No kind townsfolk offered me welcome and the simpleton fruit and veg peddler Mosdod crypticly spoke to me as if I had commited a crime. The servers at the Dwarf were shocked at my arrival and told me I’m to be arrested along with all of my kin. All around us I caught mentions of my perpetually wandering Father, Caradoc.

Instead of raising warm cups of wine by the fire to honor King Daha I was quickly secured in a room upstairs. My good Sir rode to the keep to offer his sword to the Queen and seek information on the King’s death. Before departing, Aphra forbade me to leave the Inn.

I hope we can be gone from here soon as my old friends will not greet me. I hear whispers and catch sidelong glances from my most brave companions. I sense that the less noble seek an opportunity for personal gain through my tangled connections with the royal family.

This room is maddeing. Too much is happening for me to sit here listening to our Asugulandian swordsman Stephan endlessly speculate upon politics. The air is so very close in here and the overpowering reek of urine and dung surrounding our mad young Druid Iorweth Wolfsblood has near blinded me but I dare not speak ill to one who is touched by The Gods.

I will now put down my quill for there is a creature at our window, at last a diversion.

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A Tale of Murder and Ravens
Unexpurgiated Deluxe Edition

Welcome to Delver’s Dale

It was a crisp winter day when the proud train of Sir Trousdale of Lorchester entered the valley of Delver’s Dale. The pale sun gleamed off a thin crust of snow that covered the ground and frosted the trees. Below them was the great river Eamon, hardly hibernating for winter, a tumbling mountain river, its roar a low counterpoint to the crunch of boots, creak of wagon wheel and sigh of tired travelers.

The young Twil Bell took all this in as he searched for the musical harmony that would capture every aspect of this moment. There beside him was his brother Lush Bell, seemingly unfazed by the many miles of their journey happily lugging his keg of brew on his back, occasionally trotting forward to refill the cup of the knight Sir Trousdale, who brooded upon his horse in the front of the column. None knew his thoughts for he kept his own council. He wore his customary dragonscale armor, kept polished to a dull reddish gleam by his page, the mysterious boy wonder called The Finch, who seemed to contain his own vortex of magnetic power behind his water pale eyes. The Finch walked beside Stephan D’Annunzio, the proud scion of a martial family who had sworn his sword to Trousdale in Asgulan some months back. He carried a blade no less than 6 feet in length as his eyes darted about searching for trouble amongst the trees. Ranging along the treeline, off the beaten track was the strange druid Iorweth Wolfsblood, who traveled with a shaggy wolf he called Dog as he read the obscure book of the natural world in the patterns of clouds and entrails of small birds. Bringing up the rear was the hobbit herald Aphra Behn, who drove the knight’s supply wagon and kept the Banner of Trousdale flying high beside him. It was motley crew, although not without a certain roguish grace. The sound of a flock of birds taking flight echoed over the tree-tops.

Twill Bell turned to ask his brother Lush his opinion on the sonic properties of purple mead but his eye was caught by a great cloud of movement beyond his brother’s insensate bulk. A huge cloud of black birds rose above the point where the forest came close to the road a good quarter mile back. The birds were diving at something.

“Lookee there boyos! Its a murder of crows!”

All turned to look, and at that moment the birds’ target suddenly became apparent when a top-heavy wagon, built like a small wooden house drawn by wild oxen came careening around the bend, skidding and bouncing over frozen ruts. The out of control cart rode precariously on two wheels and with once last bone jarring bounce toppled to it’s shingled side with a resounding crash. Dozens of ravens dove and swooped at the supine vehicle. A woman’s scream rent the chill winter air.

“My lord!” cried Stefan D’Annunzio. “Shall we assist these distressed cart drivers?”

Sir Trousdale turned his destrier and regarded the scene for a moment before replying, “Yes, yes, off you go. Aphra, bring me my spear!”

Grace given, the young fighter turned and sprinted towards the encounter, moving as swiftly as he could over the unsteady frozen ground. Twill Bell responded with a great shout that became a note of triumph and bravado. He struck a mighty chord on his Myrdonic Harmonizer that swelled in the hearts of his companions. Iorweth lifted his right leg and hopped forward on his left foot, howling incoherently while his Dog raced ahead. The Finch ran after Stefan, but more cautiously, for he first paused to murmur a few words in an arcane language. His eyes flashed and a faint radiance appeared about his person, then faded.

As D’Anunnzio rushed into battle he took in the scene with a military precision bred through many generations. The wagon drover and his companion were crawling under the fallen edifice to hide from the attacking ravens that pecked and harried them. The oxen wallowed on their sides, tangled in their harness and tack. But hark! What was this? A handful of small hooded figures, not over 4 feet tall, made their way through the shrubbery, obviously heading towards the wagon. Though moving stealthily, with their heads down, the swordsman of Asgulan could make out long beaks protruding from the dark cowls. Their clawed hands clutched short bows.

Twill Bell called a warning and knocked an arrow to his longbow. Unfortunately, he had not paid much attention to the stringing of his bow that morning, for at first pull the bow snapped straight, one end of the string trailing.

The sinister interlopers took up defensive positions behind rocks and up in trees as they nocked their own arrows and fired at the oncoming warriors. Twill Bell was struck twice. Once arrow stuck in him good. Gods! That hurt!

D’Annunzio crashed into a pair of the birdmen, swinging his two-handed sword in a wide arc. Finch snuck around a tree, searching for a clear line of sight through the branches at one of the archers’s perch. He found a trajectory and released the eldritch power that flowed in his veins. A bolt of purple energy burst from his fingertips and struck true. With a squawk the beaked assassin stiffened and fell from his tree. And arrow from another birdman flew past the Finch’s position, and the white haired boy ducked behind the tree. Iorweth screamed again as ravens attacked him, pecking at his eyes. Dog loped past the wagon and attacked a birdman. It drew a sword and stabbed the wolf even as its companion fenced with D’Anunnzio, who raised his blade for one more devasting blow.

Twill Bell felt the ground shake and looked up from his bleeding wound to see his lord Trousdale rein in his warhorse next to him. The knight handed Twill his flagon. “Drink up lad.” Without another word the Dragonslayer spurred his mount into battle.

The Finch knocked a bolt in his crossbow and fired at a retreating birdman. Dog lunged and tore the throat out of one beaked perpetrator and its friend squawked and turned its tailfeathers. Stefan roared in frustration. Ravens pecked at his eyes. Sir Trousdale tilted his dragonspear, called Culhglas Bolge, Which Pierces the Heart, and poked the final archer out of the tree.

“Kenku,” said Iorweth. He grabbed his crotch and spat. Then he hooted like and owl and growled like a bear while baring his bottom to the sky. As one, the ravens broke off their attacks and flew away.

D’Anunnzio strode over to the wagon and helped the distraught peddlar to his feet. He was a middle aged man with a long white mustache and watery eyes. He thanked his rescuers profusely. He introduced himself and his daughter, whose scream the party had heard, as Lamdamon and Zappora . He theorized in a high pitched voice, “Ravens are notoriously avaricious birds and perhaps they were searching for the gift I bear for the bereaved Queen Vivian of the Dale.” He produced a small bag from his vest and spilled a dozen pearls into his hand. They gleamed white as snow. The young Zappora batted her eye lashes at the dashing D’Annunzio.

“Perhaps you should not be telling the ravens of the jewels you carry,” said Sir Trousdale. He pulled at his braided mustache and looked towards the Castle Daha, whose spire was just visible in the distance. “Come, let us set this peddlar’s wagon to right and continue our way, for we must make the gate by sundown.”

The winter sun was already hidden behind the trees of the Dark Wald as the weary travellers made their final push, driven by the lure of a warm taproom and fears of the unknown wilderness. Rounding Old Skull Point, the Delver’s Dale finally came into view. It was a small town built upon the very heels of the StoneHeart Mountains, forming the theater for the River Eamon’s spectacular flying leap at the place known as Lover’s Leap. There are rough jewels to be pried from the roots of the StoneHearts, and so Dwarves in ancient times carved this small settlement out of the scarp which looms over the small farms that dot the valley floor. The town is well defended, with the sheer mountains at its back and the River Eamon below. Even the road’s approach is guarded by a natural moat formed by Steep Creek, a small but fierce tributary that drops precipitously out of a small gorge falls a good 20 feet into the Eamon. There a stone bridge is overseen by a gatehouse patrolled by grim men in mail who held crossbows at the ready, scanning the horizons, gazing at the black wings of ravens and crows wheeling above the treetops. The Black Eagle banner was displayed proudly above the gate itself, stubbornly for a land without a liege. Beyond the gatehouse the road climbed the hillside to the castle, weaving through the square, past inns and shops, forges, stables and homes. The castle broods above, its high tower at eye level with the falls of Eamon. Further still could be seen a footpath winding up behind the castle, where a mule train was bringing the day’s haul of ore pried from the earth’s roots. The ore would pass through the castle, and then down to the smelters who had devized a waterwheel at Steep Creek to fuel their efforts. The death of a king brings great sorrow, but the coronation of a king brings great feasting, and so there was a line of supplicants waiting to be admitted to Dale. Fishwives, peddlars, farmers, itinerant performers and shepherds shuffled restlessly. But Trousdale was no commoner, and after taking in the scene with his sad eyes, he spurred is horse forward, ignoring the line of peasants and traders. A mightily bearded guardsman presented himself at the bridge as Erskin the Hoster . He spoke, “I decide who crosses this bridge. Now state your business, for in these troubled times Delver’s Dale has no use for pleasantries, and less for loose swords not sworn to the Black Eagle! The King is Dead, but the Black Eagle flies!” At this many of the peasants guards murmured their agreement.

At these impetuous words Stefan D’Annunzio gripped his mighty sword with anger. He would not stand disrespect to his lord! Dog the Wolf growled, and Iorweth grabbed his crotch and spat. Twill Bell, feeling the tension in the air, unslung his Myrdonic Harmonizer and struck a chord, beginning to tell the tale of Trousdale’s victory over the murder of crows that day. The Finch was bursting with eagerness to finally be home. He clambered off the wagon to speak to the old Hoster, who he remembered of old, but then his liege spoke, “I am Sir Trousdale of Lorchester, Dragonslayer, and friend of the Black Eagle. I come by invitation of his Highness. I would speak with your Queen and offer what assistance I can, for the enemies of the Dale will be gathering now and we must hold the Black Hand at bay.”

At this fine speech, the Captain of the Guard’s eyes widened and his beard bristled, but he raised his halberd in salute, “You may pass, noble Knight, for indeed we do require such proud friendship as you have shown my lord during his lifetime. I must only insist that your men-at-arms bind their weapons and stay in the lower Dale, for the Castle is shut tight to all but the most illustrious of visitors. Pass.” With that the halberdiers stood aside for the famous knight and his train to enter the town. Just past the gatehouse were the stocks, where prisoners of the jail were displayed to public ridicule. One miserable sot hung from the wooden harness, his jaw slack as a small crowd stood around the low stage and jeered, throwing rotten tomatoes and mud. A pair of guards looked on, their halberds at attention. Another pair of swordsman in unknown livery lounged at the central fountain. There was tension in the air. Someone in the crowd was chanting maniacally,

“Ravens and crows/fire and foes/that is all the Dale will ever nose.”

“Let us get to our taproom before this turns into a riot.” said the herald, Aphra Behn.

The wagon creaked forward on creaking wheels, crossing the central square to the Drunken Dwarf, the only inn in town with proper stables. As he passed the Mirana, Flower of the Dale Stephan D’Annunzio, let his proud gaze fall upon the bravos who watched the rabble at the stocks. They seemed well kept, indeed, their blond beards braided with colored ribbon, their cloaks relatively free of mud. Perhaps they were warriors of the Black Eagle household?

The Drunken Dwarf was a busy, filled with visitors to the town and aggressively maudlin women who sang dirges over the din of the beerhall/ Festus of the Half Full Flagon ushered Aphra Behn and company through the backdoor and up to the top floor suite, reserved for visiting dignitaries. Stephan, Twill, Iorweth and Finch found themselves in one of the adjoining servants’ rooms, exhausted but tempted by the smells of food, the sounds of festivities, and ale.

“I’m going down to pick up some Resonance!” said Twill Bell. “Perhaps I can accumulate some orgonic arcs and turn those said spinsters into dancing damsels!” And so the bard betook himself downstairs into the nightlife. Later that night, as the weary travellers were sleeping, there was a scratching and a soft “meow” at the shuttered window. Those who were sober woke quickly. Opening the window revealed a small housecat with luminescent yellow eyes. It mewled and looked expectant at the small white haired boy. “Buttons,” breathed Finch. “This pussy is the familar pet of my father- I mean Prince Caradoc, who happens to be my bastard father.”

“Oh yeah?” blurbled a drunken Iorweth. “Lemmee talk to it.” The druid spat three times, hacked up a hairball, the presented the hairball to the cat, which it obligingly swallowed. The druid then spoke in the language of a cat: “Meow.”

A conversation occured. Afterwards, the druid would only say that Buttons came to find her master’s bastard son because, her master was a bad kitty and needed help. Go to the castle tower, for his chambers are at the top. There will things come to light in darkest night.

So the companions girded their swords and followed the erudite kitty into the night. The way led not to the castle gate but down treacherous cliffs to the wintery shores of the Eamon River. They crawled amongst the icy boulders like bones of a spectral river in the night until they came upon a small grate hidden amongst the rocks not much more than a bowshot away from the mights Falls, which thundered so loud, one could hardly hear a word shouted in one’s ear. Everything was wet with mist and ice. The grate was long since rusted away so that even the broad shoulders of Stefan D’Anunnzio were able to squeeze through.

Beyond was a narrow natural passage bored by the passage of an underground stream which trickled through the rocks beneath their feet. Lighting torches, the party moved forward, wondering what desperation brought them to this uncomfortably freezing place in the hours before dawn. Soon the way was blocked by a high gush of water. Buttons lead the party to a dry side passage which trended up on slick rock, requiring some scambling.

Stefan was following the cat from one larger passage into a smaller one when the hair on the back of his neck tingled. This section did not feel so low and cramped as before. Slowly he straightened his posture. And everything went dark. Something like a wet blanket fell on his head. It made a loathsome sucking sound. Rubbery tentacles thrashed about. Stefan grabbed hold of the thing and wrenched it from his head. He could not see, but eventually he was able to beat it to a pulp. When his vision cleared, he saw a stranged encepholopod-like creature that reminded him in a sickly way of certain exotic dishes he had been served in the portside brothels of Asgulan.

The passage curled around and returned to the underground stream where the mountain opened into a patch of worked stone, and a door. Passing through the door, the party found themselves in the actual dungeon of the Castle Daha. It was eerily silent until a low moan was heard down the hall. This set off a whole cavalcade of groans and moans and whimpers as the destitute and benighted shifted in their chains and upon their cold stone beds. To the left was a door boarded shut, and through this Buttons indictated they must pass. Prying loose the boards, they stepped into another wing of three cells. The armored body of a guard lay long since rotted on the floor. From within one of the cells came a groan of unearthly resonance. Twill Bell softly plucked a chord. A deathly creature, long dead, but eyes blazing full of hate lunged from its cell. The combined might and desperate strivings of the party put the thing out of its misery.

A secret spiral staircase led up through the many levels of the castle until at the very top and stepping through a secret door, the brave companions of Sir Trousdale stepped into the laboratory of the missing Prince Caradoc. Within the chambers of the prince were found many exotic items. Most enlightening was the desk, left in disarray. Upon it was a leaf of fresh papyrus(Letter to Caradoc ), and a map of yellowed vellum, annotated by the scholar prince himself.(Map of Delver’s Dale)

Iorweth, nosing around the shelves, found a wooden box placed under a glass dome. Opening the box, he found a Key of Ingress & Egress on a velvet cushion. Iorweth spoke the words, “Ingress/Egress.” At the final syllable of the second word the key flashed with cold sparkles and a vortex opened before him. Out of that vortex stepped a loathsome creature which reached its claws blindly toward the appalled druid. It was a brutal desperate fight, but finally the demon was dispatched by the crossbow bolt of a panic stricken Finch.

Stefan determined to get into the treasure chest of the prince and so braved the obvious arcane warnings, incurring a blast of arcane fire for his troubles. But lo! There was gold! 400 golden coins neatly arranged in stacks and annotated on a ledger in triplicate. There were other baubles as well, such as Dagger of Prince Caradoc which the Finch claimed as his birthright.

Looking out the window of the tower, Twill Bell saw dawn’s first peeking in the valley below.

“Quickly friends! We must depart err the castle wakes from its slumberous depression!”

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Map of the Dale
Caradoc's Map of Delver's Dale

This crudely drawn and heavily annotated map was found on the desk of Prince Caradoc.

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Twill Musings
Prologue for Session 2

Twill Bell looked out from the high tower of Black Eagle Castle, the Fortress of Clan Daha. It had been a long night of skullduggery. They had climbed along those dark rocks down by the river and then up through the underground stream passage into the depths of the castle dungeons. It had been muddy, slippery work, not at all like the heroic tales of legend. That strange “cave octopus” dropped onto Stefan, and then they fought that dead creature in the boarded up dungeon. And when they climbed the endless spiral stairs to the very top of this tower where the truth of what has happened to the King of Delver’s Dale and His brother appear to be even more horrible than could be imagined, more horrible than any flight of fancy told in the cups down at the Drunken Dwarf. Twill’s companions had ransacked the wizards private rooms, falling prey to the traps and secrets of the place. They had even clashed swords with a hellish demon that had materialized in their midsts. So much for secrecy. Far far below, Diamond Lake shone in the milky haze of starlit mist. It made him think of a song Aphra Behn liked to sing when he spoke of the Dale.

O sapphire lake amid autumnal mountains,
 With fire of aspens round about you burning,
 I would my love and I were now returning,
 Perchance to leave you never— To dwell with you, and know the mountain seasons,
 The fleeing cloud, the cliff and pine eternal,
 The fall of leaf and snow and blossom vernal 
Upon your placid waters.

Wait, what was that flew across those placid waters? To big for a raven… a dra-? With a start, Twill realized he could see the outline of the mountains to the East, great snow clad Koshtra Belorn glowing in the nimbus of dawn’s first blink. The castle would will be waking! They must flee quickly before we are discovered and we bring dishonor upon Lord Trousdale! No one must know of this night’s misadventure!

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Tales of Cedric (the lazy) - the path to Skull Point
From the minstrel tales of Cedric, Lord of the Forest

Cedric’s Journal- 8th day of Winter Finding – Year of Four Dragons

Also check out a proposed Calendar for Delver’s Dale. By this calendar, we fought the unnamed sorcerer on the 11th Day of Winter Finding.

Or, the tale as told by campfires and hearths of Eamonvale, a tale of one of their own:

Gather round and hear the tale of Cedric, Lord of the Forest, Strider in Dark Places, Protector of the Peasants, one of our own from this very valley, the valley of Delver’s Dale.

Cedric, who was known as The Lazy Woodsman, was a young man of barely 16. His beard was just beginning to grow. And none knew of what was to come. Cedric would walk the forest, hunting game for the Drunken Dwarf or leading travelers up the path.

He had no dreams of glory. He did not search for fame. And yet, one day, when many came to mourn the death of King Brandoch the Great, Cedric fell into legend.

As the story goes, Cedric offered to guide some strangers about the valley. Little did he know, they would take him to Skull Point.

. . .

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Out of Town and Into the Dungeon
Session 2 - Assault on Old Skull Point

Out of Town and into the Dungeon

Twas a sodden, mud spattered quartet of wretches that emerged from out the castle sewer that first light of morn. Staggering from wounds held closed with clamped hands, from deprivation of blessed slumber, and worse still the shadowy premonitions of deeds and divinations upon the land such as young innocent minds do not easily fathom, these brave volunteers for Fate’s mercy shook their heads at the weary wonder of it all as they picked their way down the boulder strewn riverbank, seeking the path that would take them to town that lay upon the cliff above, Delver’s Dale.

The ever present mists parted then, to reveal two hooded figures standing in the waters so that their legs were submerged in the icy grey stream. One held a small five spoked wheel aloft, and a small cup which he used to pour ablutions upon the brow of the other, a simple woodsman by the look of him. This was the ritual “Washing Away of the Nights’ Terror’s”, a common sight. The woodsman looked up and noticing the three armed men accompanied by a feral grey wolf quickly ducked behind a large rock. The priest however, turned his benificent gaze upon stragglers. “Well met! Would you like blessings bestowed upon your morning bath?”

The small towheaded boy called the Finch turned towards his companions, his eyes blazing with feverish intensity, “You must all swear me this oath now, that we shall never speak of what befell this night—wait, where’s Stephan?”

“Oh old D’Annunzio caught a rope and climbed up to the castle directly,” said Twill Bell breezily.

The wolf called Dog growled and his Master Iorweth grabbed his crotch and spat.

“Indeed,” Twill called out to the priest. “I am in need of a bath just now as digging for crabs this morning was not the cleanest of work! Let us bathe, and then we will return to the Inn and take a much needed rest.”

And so the waters of the River Eamon washed the muck and blood from soiled clothing and skin. All Finch could do to stand it was to think of the roaring fire that would greet him at the Drunken Dwarf Inn.

The priest introduced himself as an Acolyte of the Goddess Demeter, called Dyffyd Kinewatcher, and when the woodsman could be coaxed out from his place of prudence he gave his name as Cedric (the lazy). They were all hungry and so they climbed the narrow goat path up the steep cliffside reaching the central square just ahead of a fishwife bringing her first catch of the day.

The taproom of the Drunken Dwarf was quietly empty at this early hour, although the massive hearth was ablaze and the kitchen was bustling with activity. Already the ring of hammers could be heard echoing down the Dale as the Dwarves of Clan Ironbeard began their daily toils.

The lads gathered around the fireplace and there they ate their morning bread and drank hot spiced wine and spoke in many directions at once, caution, even paranoia warring with youthful excitement. They were fugitives now, they were certain, it was just a matter of how long until their culpability was made public. The Finch worked quickly to secure witnesses, using his childlike charm to befriend the Kinewatcher, and striking a deal with Cedric the Woodsman to guide them through the wilderness. For it had become apparent that the absent Prince Caradoc’s Map of Delver’s Dale was the most fruitful (if confusing) clue they had found in the wizard’s study.

Finally it was decided that the Finch would stay out of sight in the apartments upstairs while Twill Bell and Iorweth sought an audience with their liege Sir Trousdale of Lorchester . For they were nothing if not loyal.

Arriving at the Castle Daha, Twill Bell became so excited at the prospect of performing for royalty that rather than ask after his master, he instead petitioned to the royal seneschal Steward Mordeln that he might play a song for Queen Vivian. “That,” Mordeln assured young Bell, “is impossible. For the Queen is awash in grief and cannot yet grant audience to itinerant minstrels.”

Despondant, Twill retired to the Commons Hall to experiment with the acoustics. There Iorweth curled up with Dog by the fire and fell asleep. Dyffyd Kinewatcher, who had walked to the castle with the bard and the druid, paced the circumference of the hall, swinging his censer about, splashing holy water on the rushes and castle dogs and whatever servants happened by, many of whom approached the acolyte for a blessing. Dyffyd was most pleased to oblige.

Soon enough prayers were answered as the very august personage of Sir Trousdale himself came striding through the door. And who walked behind him? Chin up and looking about at the rabble daring any to challenge his most pricklish pride? The great Stephan D’Annunzio, well groomed and seemingly unsullied by the sordid events of the previous night, events which occured not far from the very room in which they now stood.

Without breaking his stride or expression of haughty disdain, D’Annunzio approached Twill and Iorweth and spoke quickly in a low voice, “Look sharp now! For the honor of our Lord, we must not be seen about this place any longer! Our fate is tied to the Finch now, and we must see him to his destiny. I have spoken with Lorchester and this is his will. We go!

With sudden haste, the companions regrouped at the Drunken Dwarf and at the hour of noon they threaded their through the crowded midday market and, joined by Dyffyd Kinewatcher (who complained that the beautiful Ahleena took such good care of the church that he felt hardly needed there), led by the soft spoken Cedric to a side exit of the town, found themselves gathered on a bluff next to Steep Creek, across from the dwarven edifice that was called a Waterwheel, looking down upon the whole of Delver’s Dale, whose brightness glistened in the cold winter sun. A wind whipped up the valley.

The yoeman Cedric leaned on his longbow and cocked an eyebrow at the motley crew, “So my lords, where do you want to go?”

Twill Bell looked up from the tuning fork of his Myrdonic Harmonizer, “Let’s go to Old Skull Point!”

“Old Skull Point? Really? But that’s just an old abandoned watchtower. Nothing there but crumbling rocks and bird nests.” Cedric was confused.

“Bird’s nests, exactly” said Iorweth.

“Here, our map show’s a skull, and so we shall obviously journey there as the Prince would not draw a skull in such a place upon his map if it were other than to indicate sinister activities,” D’Annunzio spoke with grave determination.

Cedric just shrugged his shoulders and started off down the hill. “Old Skull Point it is then, but let’s hurry, we probably wont make it by nightfall and tis a bitter wind these winter evenings!”

And so the band of young would be heroes descended into the Dale, with naught upon their shoulders but their armaments and a vague sense of responsibility for the land, a feeling the their deeds could perhaps tip the scales of power, influence and righteousness in this imperilled land. Cedric was indeed in a hurry and so he led them directly to the Imperial Road where they maintained a brisk pace upon the frozen mud track. It was but a few short hours before the spire of Old Skull Point loomed above, but in those short days of winter already the sun had dipped behind distant crags and the temperature was dropping precipitously. Small snow flurries drifted about. Atop the mount, the ruins of the old tower could be seen in silhouette, like the broken teeth of some fallen giant.

D’Annunzio seemed to get more impatient with each passing moment. Dusk falling as the group approached the crumbling ruin. The old keep kept its back to the cliff of the bedrock spire rising behind it, and a wall of 20ft held intruders at bay. There was a crude timber gate in the center, looking curiously like a woven birds’ nest, and toward the left corner the wall had collapsed, creating a 5ft gap. D’Annunzio ignored this gap and hurled himself upon the gate, crashing into in with all his might. Unfortunately, his mighty strength was not enough to break through. Casting about, the heroes gathered wood from a nearby tree. They would burn the gate down! Why not? Darkness had fallen and the winter wind tore desperately at their meager cloaks.

Cedric approached a pair of crumbled wooden doors, the old gate. It looked like burnable wood. It was in fact the lair of a horrid monster, a tentacled land mollusk whose questing tentacles wrapped the happless ranger in a numbing embrace. Although Cedric was quickly rendered helpless, his new companions came to his rescue and slaughtered the creature, and its green ichor stained the ground.

Finally a fire was built, and before long the gate itself was burning. An arrow shot down from the wall above. D’Annunzio leaped to his feet and jumped through the fire. Again he put his shoulder to the gate, but this time, weakened by the fire, the barrier burst asunder. Frightened Kenkus scattered left and right. The battle was joined. After easily defeating the birdmen, the group forged ahead into the castle proper. The fighter led the way, kicking down doors in seemingly random fashion. A pair of over large beetles were discovered and destroyed.

The other’s searched for scraps of information and treasure until the Zingaran’s impatience got the best of him and he again barged ahead. It was a frontal assault without much subtlety. Before long a long abandoned dining room was discovered. Three skeletons sat slumped in great chairs around a table still set with what looked like golden place settings. There was not much time to investigate, for in an instant a hauntingly harsh melody drifted from out the fireplace, a hypnotic song that stopped the young heroes in their tracks. Only Twill Bell had the willpower and then the presence of mind to combat the perfidious song. Quickly Twill struck the Myrdonic Harmonizer and added his own voice to the tumult. Point for counterpoint, the siren song was demolished ‘neath the power of Twill’s mighty battle of bands. His elation did not last long, for no sooner had he begun to sing when two creatures of nightmare swooped from out the chimney flu in a cloud of ashy dust. They were a strange amalgamation of a witch and a dirty dirty bird. Tattered wings and vicious claws greeted their victims with menace and the display of the creatures’ wildly flopping dugs. Their song was ineffective, but still they attacked with a fury born of hate for Men. Stefan struck with power as did the others. One of the Harpies, for that is what they were, was slain, while the other, when she saw the doom of her sister took desperate flight past the Finch and Twill and out into the cold cold night.

Further investigations and battles ensued. It was a veritable blur of desperate combat and struggle. The lower dungeons of the old keep were dank and cold as ice. It would not do to let the body cool down. Only perhaps to ponder a strange log suspended above a solitary chest. More Kenkus were slain. A shrine was discovered, depicting no god known to Twill’s Bardic lore, nor to the traditions of Iorweth. The tapestries and statues described a man in his middle age, of darkly sartorial inclination, bedecked in jewels and bloodred robes, his long black beard curled into perfumed ringlets that shown in the light of golden lamps. One of the statues was a living crystal approximation of the man’s cruel visage, but his location was mysterious. Who was this stranger sorcerer who seemed to live like a god below the grond so very close to the lights and lives of Delver’s Dale?

The answer came too soon, merely the wrong door opened and the showdown was upon them. There, seated on a throne on the far side of an underground stream that bisected the vaulted room was what could only be the man himself. But who was he?

“I am Bargle the Magnificent,” said the warlock, stroking his luxurious beard. “You have invaded my inner sanctum and disturbed my investigations into the netherworld, and for that, you must all perish, to be squashed like all you ‘knights’ and ‘heroes’ who dare approach my ribald iniquity!” With that said, Bargle made a curt gesture and a veritable curtain of flame descended upon the flagstones on his side of the natural moat. The battle was joined in a flurry of fire and fang, spell and spear.

The wizard summoned a Gelatinous Cube of uncertain planar origin which proceeded to engulf those who opposed it. Others jumped the moat, braving the crackling Wall of Fire. Some telling blows were struck to the Magnificent Bargle as he floated above his throne but each time his image seemed to shimmer and shift and transpose and some began to wonder if he was really there at all. Eventually it seemed, the iniquitous summoner grew bored of the futile struggle, or perhaps his power waned. For with a diabolical laugh he flew up through a shaft in the ceiling and vanished into the gloom.

The Men of Trousdale breathed a sigh of relief.

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Stephan's Dream

Deep in the bowels of a ruined fort, drunk with wine and bloodlust, Stephan descended into unconciousness. As his body struggled in the wasteland that lies between the world of life and the world of death, his mind traveled to the world of dreams. There he met his god, Mithras, in the form of a great minotaur. Mithras made a convenant with Stephan – that he may never again drink wine or cut his hair, that he would make of his body a temple, and that in return Mithras would make of him a great warrior.

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