Icewind Dale: Session 7-38

We decided we would visit Good Mead, and reached the town late the next morning. Nestled between Redwaters and a nearby evergreen forest, the town was literally buzzing with the droning of bees. The town's squat dwellings were adorned with carvings of dinosaurs and serpents. They were overshadowed by the two-story structure of the mead hall, its eaves carved and painted to resemble wyverns.


After speaking to the locals, we learned that a verbeeg had stolen three casks of mead that were being loaded onto a dogsled for transport to Bryn Shander. Kendrick Rielsbarrow, the town speaker and a giant of a man in his own right, stood his ground against the verbeeg, but didn't fare well. After skewering Kendrick with its spear, the verbeeg grabbed the casks and disappeared whence he came. The other residents of Good Mead tried to save Kendrick, to no avail; his body lies in a local shrine. Five members of the militia went after the verbeeg but haven't returned.

We decided we would track down the verbeeg the next morning.

The next morning we located the tracks into the woods. As we made our way to the edge of the forest, a figure in cold weather clothing lurched out of the woods into plain view, running fast through the deep snow. The figure explained they are a trapper and were out in the woods checking his traps when he came upon a grisly scene: five members of Good Mead's militia, their skulls and chests stove in.

Following the trail deep into the woods, amid the snow-covered pines, we discovered the remains of the five militia members, who look like they were clubbed to death. New-fallen snow has already begun to settle on their corpses.

While we followed the trail, I was hit by a harmless, tiny snowball. A tiny nature sprite laughed and disappeared behind a tree. A chased it briefly, and lobbed some snowballs back at it, until it produced a flower from the ground, bowed, and departed. Bowing in return, I felt the cold disappear. My companions indicated they were just as cold as ever.

Continuing on, we finally found the entrance to the verbeeg lair marked by the snow-covered tusks of a mammoth.


The trail culminated at a rocky hillside with pines growing around its base. Set into the hill were three caves. A frozen creek emerged from the west cave, which had a low-hanging mouth. The center cave—an eight-foot-high passage hewn from the rock—was moderately blocked by a tight stand of conifers and two massive fallen logs. The northeast cave had a big, yawning mouth, and flickers of light emanated from within. The tracks headed through this entrance.

I offered to scout out the dark caves, starting with the west, following a frozen stream north until the tunnel split, with one way continuing north and the other veering east. The stream followed the dark northward tunnel. Light from a distant fire was visible in the eastern tunnel, where I spotted what I suspected was the verbeeg.

I scouted the central cave, where a dozen burial niches were carved into the walls of the eight-foot-high, five-foot-wide passage. Each burial niche in the tunnel was 2 feet wide, 2 feet tall, and 5 feet deep. The humanoid bones seemed to have been savaged by animals, leaving nothing but a couple of skulls and carved stone knives behind.

We agreed to draw the verbeeg into the west cave, and surround it from the central cave.

Blaze followed me to the western cave and hid, while I waited for the others to take up positions in the center cave, and hit the verbeeg with arrows. The verbeeg charged at me, and Blaze engaged it. Erling and Bran were attacking it from behind. Blaze went down fast until Bran revived him. At the verbeeg's call, a large brown bear emerged from the north, and it was a tough fight.

When we were done, we were in no condition to face additional threats. We briefly scouted some more of the caves, finding a bonfire in the middle of a larger cave, keeping it lit and relatively warm. The scent of roasting meat filled the air as a hunk of meat on a spit dripped juices into the fire. Goats and sheep were held in a spacious animal pen enclosed by a crude wooden fence. The cave also included a wooden cart with a broken wheel, two old crates, and two barrels.

Hearing a growl or roar from deeper within the cave, we retreated and found a safe place to rest.



Session 11 - 2020-12-18

As we were resting, we witnessed a meteor streaking across the sky moving from North to South.

As we were finishing our rest, a snow figure appeared and asked in a feminine voice why we were interfering with her work. When I casually asked who she was, she said she was the Frostmaiden and commented on our arrogance. She also mentioned that she had to expend valuable energy resurrecting Ravisin, her favorite agent.

She then warned us off and disappeared as I cut down her snow-made form. Unfortunately her presence caused the temperature to drop significantly, and Blaze was left slightly scattered as a result.

We returned to the verbeeg cave, and scouted out the exterior. I ventured inside, at a fourth cave entrance we found to the east. To the left I found a dead-end cavern with a crudely excavated, ten-foot-wide pit in the middle of the floor. Peering down, it appeared 20 feet deep and filled to a depth of 5 feet with bones, trash, and filth. To the left was the firelit cave with the goat and the wooden cart with a broken wheel.

Employing a similar strategy, we flanked the lone inhabitant, which turned out to be an ogre. It put up a fight, but was easily confused by our onslaught, and it eventually fell to Blaze’s sacred flame, right into the fire by the goat pens.

We began exploring the verbeeg lair, with its rough, 20-foot-high ceilings covered with large icicles.


Before we got far, another verbeeg strode in from the snow, through the mouth of the cave. Her misshapen face bore a too-wide smile. She clutched a spear in one hand while using her other arm to cradle a wicker basket filled with bits of shiny metal. "Duhg?" she shouted in Common. "You home?"

We immediately scattered, and Erling tried to impersonate her “Duhg,” but Duhg’s mate, Gahg, was not so easily fooled and, dropping its wicker basket, flew into a rage and gave chase. We scattered and hid. Employing guerilla tactics until I was finally able to put it down with an arrow in the throat.

Inside the basket we found 75 gold coins.

Following the western tunnel’s frozen stream north, Bran led us to a seven-foot-deep frozen pool at the back of the dark cave. Trapped beneath the pool's ice was a stone statue of a smiling young man, naked except for a well-placed oak leaf, with his face turned toward the sky. In the western niche of this chamber was the bear’s nest including a gnawed skull and bones.

To the east, north of the burial niches and a natural tunnel bisecting a ring-shaped excavation, we found carved steps climbing five feet to a ten-foot-high, fifteen-foot-square room, with narrow, natural exits in the east and west walls. In the middle of the room was a rectangular stone block seven feet long, four feet wide, and three feet tall. Pictographs on the walls of the chamber told a tale of one tribe's journey through mighty mountains and across a perilous tundra.

The pictographs illustrated how a tribal chieftain led her tribe to settle in Icewind Dale, how they fought off terrible monsters to claim their land, and how they found peace in their new home. Blaze was able to pick out an image of the chieftain wielding a wand and casting a destructive spell.

All together, we were unable to move the block, so together we strapped four goats to the lid with rope, and managed to employ their assistance until the block slid aside revealing a shallow niche in the floor beneath. Inside lay the bones of a female human, her tribal garb reduced to dust and tatters. Clutched in its left hand was a pearl and in its right hand was a wand.

Bran quickly grabbed both.

After returning the goat to their pen, we explored the cave to the east where we had found the ogre. Suspended from the ceiling of this chamber by a series of ropes and pulleys were six baskets. Clustered near the south wall were three wooden casks carved with Good Mead's heraldic symbol: a drinking mug made of a cut-off section of horn, with an antler handle added, upright and centered.

We lowered the baskets using the rope mechanism and found that they contained sheep shears, milk pails, bristle brushes, and several bags of grain and oats stolen from caravans on the Eastway. One of the baskets contained 72 silver coins, 344 copper coins, a translucent pink moss agate gemstone, a healer's kit, a hunting trap, and a small rabbit-skin bag containing ten silvered sling stones. One of the three casks was empty, but the other two each weighed 200 pounds and held 20 gallons of honey mead.

Returning to the goat pen cave, we found a crate packed with straw and another containing ten large torches made out of wood and pitch. We also found barrels half-filled with salt and pepper.

Unable to fix the wooden cart’s broken wheel, we decided to rest for the night.

During the night I noticed that Bran slept restlessly. In the morning he said he was haunted by phantasmal nightmares and felt like he had no rest at all.

We surmised that he must have been cursed by the new found items he had taken from the chieftain’s tomb. Having discovered that they were a pearl of power and a wand of the war mage, he was reluctant to simply return them.


Session 12 - 2021-01-29

Bran came to grips with the idea that he might not last long if he didn’t rid himself of his affliction haunting his sleep and returned the wand and pearl to the sarcophagi. Examining the murals, it appeared to me that they depicted a noble tribe. We tried to cover the lid, even enlisting the goats and sheep, but were ultimately unsuccessful.

I packed up the extra healer’s kit and we headed out toward Good Mead.

As we were making our way, a large sabre toothed tiger lunged at me, mauling me. Together we put it down pretty quickly, but not before it had mauled me severly. I could not help thinking how ironic it would have been if I had been killed by a sabre toothed tiger. What would my uncle think?

After being healed by Blaze, we continued on and reached Good Mead by midday without further incident.

We visited the Mead Hall, where we met JenLurie Evenash. She said she could arrange to have two carts, drivers, and someone to fix the wagon wheel ready the next morning. She agreed to pay us 7 silver coins for each goat and sheep.

As we were securing rooms for the night at the local inn, we noticed a tall half-orc eyeing us intently. Bran engaged him and he introduced himself as Oosi Nokredri of the Bearclaw Clan and told us, “I’m looking for some adventurers that were out here who are maybe looking to accompany me on a quest. I heard you might be them. I’m on a quest to catch a group of outcast rogue berserkers that have been raping and pillaging towns—who need to be brought to justice. I’ve been tracking them through the tundra, through these places, and I managed to track them so far beyond here, but I need some help to subdue them and stop them. I’ve recruited a druid to help us further track them down, but the druid’s not going to be much help in terms of combat or helping to stop the barbarians. They can be quite formidable. So what I need is some help to track them down and stop them from killing innocent people in and around this area. They’re supposed to be in a town west of here called Dougan’s Hole, which coincidentally people have lost contact with. So the plan is to go down to Dougan’s Hole and go to Jarlmoot on the tundra where there’s a giant circle of thorns, where we think they might be.”

When Bran asked for more information about the barbarians/berserkers, Oosi explained, “They were outcasts. They were shunned from the village for various crimes and other things they had done against the community. Typically that’s not a problem, but they decided to band together and that’s when it became an issue. They’re not necessarily orcs. Our tribes are not exclusively of any race and they are not specifically of my clan, but of many different clans.”

When Bran asked how far away their camp is and if it is near Dougan’s Hole, Oosi explained, “My best guess is a day or so. Supposed to meet the druid who’s gonna lead us there, who could give us more details about the route. I’m not from this area, so I don’t know the trails very well myself.”

When I asked where he’s from, Oosi explained, “We’re a clan of nomads who roam to the west of here, in the frozen tundra.”

When I asked what his allegiance is to the people of Dougan’s Hole, Oosi replied, “None, but these berserkers are of the barbarian tribes and it is our desire to keep the peace between all the peoples here. And these outcasts going around raping and killing and pillaging could very well start a conflict between all the tribes and the town’s folk.”

When I asked about the berserkers, Oosi said, “I haven't gotten close enough to figure out their exact numbers.” He said his was a medium sized tribe and that they had sent him to take care of the situation. He clarified that he was their representative and that no one else from his tribe would be assisting. He said his tribe had entrusted the quest to him and that one way or the other it would be done.

He said he was planning on meeting the druid, who lives in this town, tomorrow. He went on to say that the berserkers had been sacking and looting for quite some time, and were bound to have ample spoils that we could split if we help him on his quest.

Erling, who had been unusually quiet, seemed reluctant at first to track down and fight a bunch of berserker barbarians, but then expressed concern that Dougan’s Hole might be on the verge of being wiped out.

Blaze said that if barbarians are preparing to attack the Ten Towns we should see to it.

Erling acknowledged that we had seemed to become local heroes.

Bran and I expressed our skepticism of Oosi’s story, especially since his tribe sent only him. Oosi grew irritated at our reluctance to drop everything, growling, “I thought you were all local heroes around here.”

Blaze suggested he let us discuss the matter privately.

After some discussion, Erling suggested we could tell Oosi to wait a day for us to return, or tell the villagers to retrieve the supplies from the Verbeeg lair themselves. After we had discussed the other missions we were intent on looking into, Erling suggested we tell him we would help him after we finished what we have to do, in hopes that he would help us defeat Ravisin. We eventually asked Oosi if we could meet the druid today, and he agreed.

He brought us to the druid’s shack on the edge of town and we were greeted by a woman in her thirties with sun-darkened skin and wind-burned cheeks, dressed in leather. She introduced herself as Selma and said, “it appears that certain members of the bear tribe have succumbed to some kind of corruption and have been a plague upon the land. I am uncertain about their location or their relation to whatever’s going on in Dougan’s Hole. Oosi came to me and he told me that he was looking for these berserkers. I informed him that I did not know where they were, but I did know of a possible way that he could gain that information.”

When asked, she said she thought they might be under some magical influence.

Oosi said his tribe roamed in the vicinity west of Good Mead, and later said they were to the east. He said there was a rumor that the people went silent and I thought perhaps that these berserkers might have gone there and wiped them out.

Selma said she agreed to take Oosi to a location where she thinks it’s possible he might be able to divine or learn the location of these berserkers. Her guide fee is 25 gold coins. The location she’s aware of is what’s called the Jarlmoot, quite a distance to the west, about five or six days, adding, “A circle of giant thrones on a haunted hilltop. On nights of the full moon, the spirit of Reggaryarva, jarl of jarls, will open his treasure vault to anyone who defeats his champion. I suggested to Oosi that if he’s able to defeat the jarl’s champion, he might request as treasure the knowledge of these berserkers.”

Ultimately, Oosi agreed to accompany us on our missions as long as we agreed to help him afterward, voicing some reservation, “Here’s the problem. The longer we wait to confront these demonically influenced barbarians, the more people are going to lose their lives and the more property will be destroyed.” He insisted they must be demonically influenced if they’re acting this way, as opposed to being mere criminals, adding, “they’re under some kind of influence. Barbarians don’t usually act this way. There’s something going on and they have to be stopped. The problem is, the longer you wait, the more people are going to die. But if this is what it takes to get the help I need to go run these guys down, I’d be willing to help you if you’re willing to help me.”

Selma added, “The legend says that the Jarlmoot’s treasure isn’t only knowledge. Anyone who defeats the champion will gain the champion.”

Oosi was confident that he could kill the champion.

Without further incident, we retreated to our rooms to sleep.

When we woke, Bran shared that he felt well rested and we rejoiced that his curse had been lifted.

At the Mead Hall, we met the drivers and the wheelwright, and headed out with their two axe beaks pulling a cart each.

We reached the Verbeeg lair without incident and retrieved the supplies. Once the wagon wheel was fixed, we loaded it up and attached the driver’s axe beaks to the loaded wagon and pulled the empty carts back ourselves.

Once we arrived back in Good Mead, we sold the wagon, the supplies, and the animals to JenLurie Evenash for 39 gold coins and returned the mead.

We visited the local shrine, a vacant building standing on the lakeshore with a crow-haunted steeple protruding from its peak. Unlike the mead hall, the shrine's painted icons of the god of war wielding a flaming sword were chipped and faded, and its spacious interior stood mostly empty except for a long table on which rested a body covered with a blanket. The body was that of Speaker Kendrick Rielsbarrow, a giant of a man in his forties.

Asking around, we learned that the shrine was built over a century ago, when the town's rivalry with Dougan's Hole raged so fiercely that the lake, a frequent battlefield, became known as Redwaters. For a time thereafter, nearly all residents of Good Mead paid homage to Tempus. Today, the shrine's relevance dwindled to the point where it was mainly used just for town gatherings.

Before leaving town, we agreed to split up the coin and treasure we had collected so far.

Along with Oosi, we headed to Easthaven.

Walking into Easthaven was like stepping into Icewind Dale's past—the place was a living example of the boomtown way of life that gripped all of Ten Towns centuries ago. In the generations since, as other towns have settled into a predictable pattern of existence, Easthaven continued to grow and reinvent itself. After the Eastway was paved, Easthaven evolved into a frontier traders' paradise. Throughout the town were signs reading: "Watch thy pouch! Welcome to Easthaven"

Asking around we heard there was a temple of Tempus in town. We noticed groups of children eyeing us as we made our way through town and we were careful to keep our distance.

The priest at the temple confirmed that there was no one in the Ten Towns who could raise the dead and reminded us to mind our pouches.

As we were leaving town, we saw that a crowd had gathered in front of the Town Hall to witness a public execution. We overheard someone explain, “That’s Dzaan, a human wizard who, despite efforts to disguise himself, was recognized and arrested for the crimes he has inflicted upon dale-folk.” He was bound to a stake and gagged. Members of the militia used torches to light the straw tucked around his feet. Fanned by the wind, the fire caught quickly. Dzaan did not struggle or scream as he was quickly engulfed in flames. Bundled-up spectators moved closer to the human bonfire, eager to feel its warmth.

Bran discovered from Captain Imdra Arlaggath, a half-elf woman, of Easthaven's militia, that Dzaan had murdered some adventurers, and that his public execution wasn't an act of vengeance but was meant to deter others from engaging in similar behavior.

Captain Arlaggath asked where we were from and why we were here. She then offered us a job, explaining that, “Four fishers went missing on Lac Dinneshere a tenday ago. The coastline is hard to sail along because of the ice floes, but savvy anglers prefer it—there are fewer competing fishers from the other lake towns there. We need someone to scout the coastline and search for them."

She said that if we found the fisherman she would give us our pick between a scroll of fireball or a bag of tricks.

We explained that we had business elsewhere and continued on our way.

We headed toward Caer-Dineval, camping in the wilderness along the way without incident.

It took us five more hours to reach Caer-Dineval, where, in generations past, travelers had to follow the rocky shore of Lac Dinneshere until after several hours they spied a small fortress jutting up from the prominence where it overlooks the lake. A ferry out of Easthaven made the arduous trek unnecessary for merchants and other travelers, but the ferry was discontinued two months ago, because of the weather. It was a small town of about one hundred residents, dominated by a castle on the hill.



Session 13 - 2021-02-12

At the south end of Caer-Dineval was a drafty old building with boarded-up windows and a crooked weathervane shaped like a rearing dragon that appeared to have once been an inn.

We decided we had only a few hours before we had to leave in order to get to Termalaine and Ravishin’s by the half-moon.

Erling was eager to investigate the castle, hoping to find out if this was the castle where the tieflings had offered Huarwar sanctuary.

Northwest of the Caer we found a tavern called The Uphill Climb which offered a spectacular view of the lake and the frozen dock. We checked inside and found they served hot chowder but was all out of beer and spirits, which might have explained why there were so few patrons. The proprietor, a rugged middle-aged man named Roark, greeted us, blaming the cursed winter and the closing of the Easthaven ferry for his business woes. He explained he had no available guest accommodations and suggested we try the Caer if we were looking for a place to rest. He said the town speaker, Crannoc Siever, resides in the castle, but had been sick for a couple of weeks and hadn’t been seen since. He also confirmed there were no high level clerics in Caer-Dineval.


After we finished our meal, we approached the sturdy, stone castle devoid of ostentation squatting atop the cliffs overlooking the town and the frozen harbor. Warding the castle entrance were thick, battle-hardened wooden doors. Four cylindrical guard towers had wind-worn flags bearing the town's heraldry fluttering above their tiled, conical roofs. These towers were connected by icy battlements and parapets. Atop the castle walls and within the guard towers, torches flicker. A set of closed wooden doors sealed off the castle.

“What do you want?” a gate guard shouted down in response to Bran’s knocking.

When we explained our interest in assisting the speaker, he retorted, "Speaker Crannoc Siever is too sick to entertain guests! Be gone!" adding "Speaker Crannoc Siever has no need for your heathen rituals! Be gone!"

I ushered Oosi to join me and we circled the perimeter of the castle.

After circling the castle, we decided to infiltrate the place, agreeing that I would hide our entrance in a fog cloud. I tied a rope to an arrow and secured it to the tower’s spire. After I cast a fog cloud to cover the top of the wall, Erling climbed up first, and I followed.

The fog had seeped into the nearby tower and alerted two guards within. “Who goes there?” one of them called out from within the tower. A glow of light was barely visible from the center of the tower. Hugging the outer wall, I circumvented a staircase that descended to a lower level.

I heard the familiar sounds of arrows, followed by Erlings cry, “Oh! Dammit! I knew it was this!” and the unsheathing of swords.

I stepped out of the fog toward the light and saw Erling engaged with two cultists wearing necklaces with shards of black ice and wielding scimitars. “Intruders!” one of them yelled. A copper brazier full of hot coals was situated in the middle of the room, a bellows protruding from its base.

Drawing my swords, I engaged them, providing cover for Erling. Bran soon joined us.

A bell rang out from within the castle.

Once Bran and I had run the two cultists through, I exchanged my swords for my bow, and took up a position on the far wall. The two dead cultists seemed to freeze where they lay.

More cultists poured into the room through the fog and up the stairs.

Oosi and Blaze fought their way through the cultists, into the tower.

As we put the cultists down, I was hit by an arrow, and my fog cloud was dispelled.

Oosi was briefly paralyzed and spiritual weapons began attacking us.

More cultists continued to flood into the tower quicker than we could put them down.

Bran cast thunderwave, dropping four cultists by the door and pushing them back.

Session 14 - 2021-02-19

Bran cast healing word on Oosi and pushed the frozen bodies aside and closed the door.

Erling finished the last cultist in the room with an arrow through the chest.

Blaze cast cure wounds on Oosi.

[“Huarwar, let's get out of here!” Erling and Bran heard a female voice cry.]

Oosi threw the door open and charged out onto the parapet.

I pushed a cultist’s frozen body down the stairs.

Bran cast healing word on himself and shot his bow out onto the dark courtyard. Erling also shot onto the dark courtyard.

Blaze cast cure wounds on Bran.

A spiritual weapon appeared and attacked Bran.

As Oosi, Blaze, and Erling chased the cultists, I covered them from the parapet and saw the main gate begin to open and the portcullis behind it begin to raise. Within the courtyard, footprints in the snow led to various doors along the perimeter, including a tall double door to a keep, with its unwelcoming row of arrow slits and barred windows on the upper floor. To the east of the double door was a small, single-story building with a slanted, snow-covered roof. West of the double door were two unused merchant stalls with torn canopies. Tucked under some icy stairs in the northwest corner was a slender wooden hut with a crescent moon carved into its flimsy door.

Oosi, Blaze, and Erling ran for cover as arrows rained down on them from the keep’s many arrow slits.

Bran tried the door to the southern tower, but it didn’t budge. We tried to bust the door open, but it must have been barred.

After shooting at a cat and missing, I saw in the window of the main keep, we returned to the northern tower and down the narrow stairs.

The lower levels furnishings included six wooden cots with furs and matching footlockers. A door led out to the courtyard, and Bran, at the bottom first, was standing over a trap door on the floor.

A wooden ladder clung to the west wall, held in place with iron brackets. The ladder descended twelve feet to a hall made of mortared stone lit and heated by four sputtering torches. Extended from the east end of the hall was a water-filled cistern. A small rowboat was tied off near the water's edge.

Hoping that it might lead to the keep in the castle’s center, we agreed to climb down.

A 5-foot-wide, 8-foot-high passage in the north wall led to a small room, empty except for four sheet-wrapped bodies lying side by side on the floor.

Stone steps descended into the icy water that partially flooded a twenty-foot-wide, arched tunnel, which continued eastward into darkness. The roof arched twelve feet above the water, which appeared about eight feet deep. A rowboat tethered at the water's edge looked safe to use and just large enough to curry the two of us. Inside it were two oars.

Twenty feet down the tunnel, a 5-foot-wide, 8-foot-high passage cut into the north wall. A similar passage farther east led south.

At the eastern end of the cistern was a 10-foot-square, 2-foot-thick, half-submerged slab of blue marble.

Together, we entered the rowboat and I rowed us to the northern passage, the floor of which was just above the water level in the cistern. The small room beyond was empty except for a rat that chewed through the corner of a sack of grain lying on the floor.

As I rowed us toward the southern passage, Bran eagerly jumped out too soon and fell into the icy water. Fortunately he managed to quickly pull himself up to the southern ledge.

I pulled the boat up and followed Bran past a short passage. Frost covered the floor of a dark, fifteen-foot-square room beyond. To our left and right were narrow tunnels, and across from the entrance stood an eight-foot-tall pillar of ice with a horned, pale-skinned, humanoid figure trapped inside it. The pillar was wrapped in black chains, and the wall behind it was covered with brown fungus. A light flickered from the west.

Warning Bran to stay away from the fungus, we quietly agreed to avoid the light and explore the eastern tunnel.

An unlit room beyond was empty except for an iron lever that protruded from an iron plate embedded in the north wall.

We optimistically lowered the lever, and heard a sound like grind stone from the cistern.

We quietly returned to the rowboat, where we could see that the blue marble slab was lowered into the water, revealing another 40 feet of freezing water with a narrow tunnel carved into the north wall, to which we promptly rowed.

A five-foot-wide, eight-foot-high tunnel led to a dark, cold room that reeked of filth. Inside were five ragged figures huddled together in the dark. They seemed like they could hear our approach. “There might be some prisoners in there,” I whispered to Bran.

Handing the oars to Bran, I stepped up onto the northern ledge into an empty room and quietly addressed the five human figures, “Who are you?”

“Who are we?” a feisty old man barked. “Who are you?”

“Are you prisoners here?” I asked.

“You should know,” he replied. “You’ve been holding us here for weeks.”

“We are not the cultists,” I explained. “We are your rescuers.”

“Well, great!” He replied. “If this isn’t some trick, get us out of here.”

“My companion is going to take you to the other side,” I instructed them. “Wait for us there and we will lead you out safely. In the meantime, be as quiet as you can. Are any of you the speaker? Will give you some food when you get to the other side. Who wants to go first?”

“No,” the old man replied, “the speaker is being kept upstairs somewhere. Take the women first.”

The first to go was Tam Sharf, the speaker's 30-year-old housemaid.

I gave them each some rations to open when they reached the other side.

When Bran returned, he said a female voice called out, “Can you keep it down out there?” from the southern passage.

The second was Mylbara Norbrav, a stout 45-year-old.

The third to go was Elprekt Norbrav, the speaker’s effete, tall, skeletally thin, 55-year-old butler, and Mylbara husband.

Next went the feisty old man, Lanthis Alderdusk, Speaker Crannoc's 64-year-old assistant, notary, and scribe. He was notably spry for his age.

The last was Dassir Ravenscar, the speaker's shy, 25-year-old dogkeeper.

I tried to calm them, but I got the distinct impression that I made them nervous.

Finally Bran came back and we joined the five prisoners on the other side. They all seemed far more amenable to Bran’s company.

We led them up to the northwest tower and gave them all cold weather clothing from the cultist’s footlockers.

We asked them where the speaker might be held, and they didn’t know, but suggested we try his bedroom on the second floor of the keep. They explained that a couple of weeks ago, the speaker opened his home to this group calling themselves the Knights of the Black Sword. He was under the impression they were a knightly order here to help the people of Caer-Dineval, but they immediately turned on the speaker, killed his guards, captured us, and took over the castle. It sounds like they’ve been recruiting ever since.

We took them upstairs where they could see all the frozen bodies of the dead cultists.

One by one, we lowered them down the rope from the parapet. Bran told them to head for The Uphill Climb and inform Roark from what had transpired.

I took two of the cultists’ scimitars, and we took as many arrows as we could carry. Bran took a longbow.

I crossed the parapet and tried the door again, but it was still barred. An arrow hit me from the keep and I dashed back into the northwest tower.

We returned back downstairs and peered out into the courtyard. I snuck out to the courtyard and tried the lower door to the southwest tower. I was hit with three arrows as I found it was also barred. Bran cast healing word on me.

As Bran cast a minor illusion of me at the door, we sidled across the wall of the keep, behind the merchant stalls, rushing past a kennel, to the opposite side. Arrows hit the door where Bran had cast the illusion, but one hit Bran as well as we were turning the last corner.

We made it into the northeast tower, which was identical to the northwest. We went upstairs and crossed an identical parapet, only to find that the door of the southwest tower was identically barred. We returned to the northeast tower.

Session 15 - 2021-02-26

Bran created a minor illusion of a dark figure on top of the kennel while I crossed the courtyard to the southeast tower door.

Arrows bounced off the kennel roof, but the door was locked. As I was turning to run back, I heard Erling’s voice in my head, “Frizzt, Bran, Where are you? Are you around here? Are you alive?”

As I ran back, I tried to project my thoughts, “It’s Frizzt. I’m with Bran. We’re right outside the door of the southeast tower. Where are you?” But there was no response.

When I asked Bran, he said he had not heard the voice in his head.

Bran and I grabbed two large cots and used them as shields as we crossed the courtyard together and placed them over the doorway to the tower. Arrows hit the cots as we entered the courtyard.

As soon as we reached the door, I heard Erling’s voice in my head, “Are you still there? Where are you?”

I projected in return, “We’re right outside the door to the lower level of the southeast tower.”

I told Bran that Erling was coming to let us in, and we waited for a moment as more arrows hit our cots, before Erling opened the door and we rushed inside to safety.

“I thought you guys were dead,” Erling cried, “Where were you?”

We explained how we had tried to find a way to enter the keep and let them in, or surround the cultists, but wound up rescuing prisoners instead.

“I’m glad you had time to get the prisoners out, and not help us!” Oosi grumbled.

When I pointed out that they looked to be in fine condition, he replied, “Yeah, thanks to Blaze. No thanks to you! Running off...”

I turned my back to Oosi and addressed Erling, who replied “We’re going to have to think about better tactics, because this didn’t work out.” Blaze agreed.

When I asked why they all ran across the courtyard, Oosi barked, “We were chasing the mages!”

“We were engaging the enemy,” Blaze added, “In the interest of communication, let us know if you’re going to pursue a different strategy.”

“I think the moral of the story,” Erling suggested, “is we need to not split apart when we’re engaged with this many enemy forces. We might seem healthy now, but we came pretty close to some of us dying. It was not our best moment in terms of strategy.”

“I think we all said right from the beginning,” Bran mentioned, “that running down into the courtyard, into the killzone, probably wasn’t the best strategy. But anyway, we’re together now.”

“The point is,” Erling reiterated, “that we should stick together. If we’re going to go in a direction, we should all go together, because we’re weaker separate than we are together. And it almost cost us pretty badly here.”

“Yes, “ Bran agreed. “I hope you’re paying attention, Oosi.”

“Who the hell are you talkin to?” Oosi challenged. “I was here defending them. While you were running around, looking for a trap door.”

“You went running off!” Bran countered. “Running off!”

“Running off?” Oosi argued, “I was trying to kill them. Where were you? Underground, exploring caverns, while we were taking the heat.”

“We were looking for a way into the keep,” Bran explained.

“Nonsense!” Oosi replied.

“We were covering the courtyard,” I explained, “until you ran off.”

“We didn’t run off!” Oosi argued. “We ran to engage the enemy. And then you ran off.”

“What’s our plan?” Bran asked. “We have no way into the keep.”

Blaze explained that they had found a good place to rest in the gatehouse.

Bran explained what we found under the trapdoor in the northwest tower, and what the prisoners told us.

Within the gatehouse we found an armory and grabbed as many arrows in extra large quivers as we could carry.

When we finished resting we explored the southwest tower, which looked just like all the other towers.

We ran across the parapet to the northwest tower and, after spiking the two outer doors with pitons, made our way to the tradoor.

After we all climbed down the ladder, one by one.

The first room was empty except for four sheet-wrapped bodies lying side by side on the floor, three human and one halfling-sized. They were not frozen, and each were a sword-shaped crystal amulet resembling black ice, indicating they were all cultists.

Even though I warned Erling that the amulets might be dangerous, recalling that Cora’s son wore one when he joined the cultists, Erling suggested we might be able to use them to disguise ourselves as cultists.

I rowed everyone to all the northern rooms and we searched them all with no luck.

Finally, we made our way to the southern room, and I warned everyone to stay away from the brown fungus.

I covered my companions as Erling and Bran explored the light from the west, which came from what appeared to be the private quarters furnished with a red rug, a narrow bed, a freestanding mirror in a wooden frame, and a small desk. An albino tiefling woman sat at the desk, writing in a book with white leather covers. An ink-black crow perched on one of her horns and seems to read along with her scrivening. Without taking her eyes off the page, she waved, "Get out."

“Can we ask your name, miladay?” Bran asked.

“My name is Avarice?” she replied. “Who are you?”

“My companions and I are trying to free the speaker of this town,” Bran explained, “who is apparently being held captive.”

“Oh, that,” Avarice noted.

“Hi there,” Erling said, peeking out from behind Bran. “I’m Erling. Nice to meet you. What are you doing here? This looks like an awful place to be cooped up.”

“I’m not cooped up,” Avarice replied, clearly distracted. “I’m writing.”

“Oh, what are you writing?” Erling asked. “I like to write sometimes. I like to fish too.”

“Magic,” Avarice answered.

“Ah, magic!” Erling acknowledged. “Interesting. What kind of magic?”

Avarice closed her book and placed it, along with a few other odds and ends from her desk, in a satchel from under her desk. Rising, she added, “I’m sure you wouldn’t understand what I’m writing.”

“Ah,” Erling gasped, “but you’d be surprised at the things we’ve seen. We’d like to get to know you”

“Maybe we will get to know each other at some point,” Avarice replied as she began to leave. “But for now, I have to go.”

“Can we give you a lift?” Erling asked. “You know there’s a nice little rowboat back there and one of our companions is oh so good at rowing.”

“You’re funny,” Avarice replied with a laugh.

“Why thank you,” Erling replied. “You’re cute.”

“Good evening,” Oosi grunted as she passed, heading toward the cistern. “If you’re sizing us up, we’re not here to hurt you. Is that your boyfriend there in the ice? Maybe we can help you out. And you can help us out.”

Avarice stopped. “How do you propose you would help me?”

“Maybe we can get him freed out of there,” Oosi replied, “if that’s your cause.”

“That is but a statue,” Avarice explained. “A symbol.”

“It sounds like you need help with something,” Oosi pressed. “Maybe we can strike an agreement. You help us clear out what’s upstairs, and we’ll help you with what ails you.”

“Oh, no,” Avarice declined. “I couldn’t help you clear out this castle?”

“It could just be information on how to get in, undetected, and we’d be fine with that too,” Oosi continued. “You don’t have to fight. Information is just as good.”

“No, I couldn’t do that,” Avarice insisted. “They’ve been quite hospital to me.”

“The cultists you mean?” Oosi asked.

“Yeah,” Avarice confirmed. “The cultists I mean.”

“Wow!” Oosi remarked. “Okay.”

“But if you really want to help me,” Avarice commented, “maybe we can work something out.”

“Okay, let’s see what you need,” Oosi bargained, “and what you can offer.”

“I’m looking for something,” Avarice revealed. “Where do you call home?”

“The frozen plains to the east,” Oosi replied.

“I’m going to need something a little more specific,” Avarice explained. “Like maybe an address.”

“We’re nomads,” Oosi explained. “We don’t have an address.”

“Do you have an address?” Avarice asked, looking at me. “Do you have some place you’re staying, here in the ten towns?”

“I do not,” I replied.

Avarice sighed. Then, cocking her head to the side, she said, “You blocked the doors. Charming.” She explained she was referring to the tower doors that we had spiked.

“How do you know that?” I asked. “Are you in league with the cultists?”

“Yeah,” Avarice admitted, “I guess you could say I am.”

“Are you calling them down here?” I asked.

“Why?” Avarice teased. “Would that scare you?”

“Yes, it would,” I admitted.

“Then why are you here?” Avarice asked.

“We are trying to find the speaker,” I explained.

“Ah, yes,” Avarice sighed. “Kadroth’s little game. Well, I’ll leave you to it then.”

“What game is that?” Oosi grumbled.

Avarice stood at the edge of the cistern and raised her arms out to her sides impatiently until two gargoyles arrived and carried her off toward the trapdoor.

While Erling was searching her quarters, Bran and I jumped into the rowboat and pursued her through the trapdoor and to the top of the tower, where we saw that the door had been destroyed. The gargoyles carried out of the tower, and they all flew away from the Caer.

We regrouped at the lower level, where Erling said they had not found anything in Avarice’s quarters.

We considered attacking the archers behind the arrow slits from the cover of the southern tower doors, but we ultimately decided to check on the boy in the kennel with the dogs, thinking he might be Dassir’s son.

I followed Erling to the kennel, with some rations handy. The sled dogs within began barking loudly as we entered, but we were able to quiet them down with some food.

Among the dogs was an eight-year-old Calishite boy named Alassar Sulmander. He explained that he was found stowing away inside a crate of supplies that was delivered to the castle over a month ago and now does menial chores for the cultists.

As I tried in vain to find a secret door on the wall adjoining the kep, Erling convinced him to lead us into the keep for a few silver coins.

Alassar skipped across the courtyard to the northwest tower, and rattled the spiked door until Oosi opened it.

As I crossed the courtyard, I was hit by an arrow.

In the lower level of the northwest tower, Alassar opened a secret door in the east wall.

Erling gave him a gold coin.

I told Alassar about the rope to escape the castle, but he said he wanted to stick around.

Ten feet beyond the secret door was the backside of another secret door. Listening at the secret door, I heard nothing and entered, only to find an unoccupied office, with a desk, shelves, book, and another door on the southwall.

After we searched the room and found nothing of interest, I listened at the door, and heard nothing.

Entering the room, we entered an unoccupied well-appointed sitting room with comfortable furnishings and another door in the east wall. After finding nothing of interest in the room, I listened at the door, but heard nothing.

Peering into the room, I saw a once-grand hall, lit by fires from the fireplace. Three long tables were positioned on their sides, forming a barricade on the far side of the room. A stone staircase ascended to a pair of twenty-foot-high balconies that hugged the walls. Four crossbows were aimed at my face from over the barricade.

After Blaze cast spare the dying on me, I was revived by Bran’s healing word.

Oosi had hit a cultist with a spear. Bran hit one with a crossbow bolt.

Oosi ran into the room to a barrage of crossbow bolts, and was only hit by four, and a sacred flame. I cast hail of thorns, and hit one of the cultists behind the barricade. Blaze stepped into the hall and hit the cultists with radiance of the dawn, dropping four of them. A tiefling cult fanatic, appeared to cast a spell, but there was no obvious effect. Bran hit another cultist with an arrow, but Blaze was hit in return.

Session 16 - 2021-03-12

After retreating into the sitting room, we pulled back further into the office.

We heard someone yell, “Kadroth, the townsfolk are coming!”

Eager to open the gates and let any townsfolk in, but cautious that it could be a trap, Erling and I ran out through the secret doors while Oosi, Blaze, and Bran spiked the door.

Erling and I ran up the stairs and across the parapet toward the southwest tower.

Spotting a cultist in the courtyard, I took a shot, but missed.

In the southwest tower, Erling saw cultists entering the gatehouse from the other side.

I ran up to assist him, and was hit during the arrow exchange.

[Blaze cast spare the dying on me. Oosi and Blaze took out the cultists in and around the gatehouse, while Erling and Bran opened the gates for Rourke and the guards. Bran dragged me into the armory, and then joined Erling, Blaze, and Oosi in fighting the remaining cultists along with Rourke and the guards. Erling took down Kadroth with his crossbow from the parapet. A mage appeared, but was quickly surrounded and dispatched. Erling finished off the final cultist from his perch up on the parapet. All the guards were killed except for Rourke and one other.]

Session 17 - 2021-03-19

I woke to Erling pouring a healing potion down my throat. He explained that, with the help of Rourke and the guards, they defeated Kadroth and the rest of the cultists in the courtyard, as well as a make he appeared from the keep at the last minute.

I asked Rourke how the prisoners were fairing, and he explained that they were doing well at The Uphill Climb.

While the bodies were searched, I stood watch on the parapet by the southeast tower.

Bran took the mage’s staff and robes. Erling found a ring of keys on Kadroth. Erling, Bran, and equipped ourselves with as many arrows and bolts as we could carry.

I took up a position in the tower door while we all took a short rest.

After having the guard closed the gates, we entered the keep. Oosi, Blaze, and I entered through the front door with Rourke and the guard, while Erling and Bran entered through the secret door from the northwest tower. We met in the now-abandoned great hall.

Listening at the northeast door, I heard the sound of cloven hooves on a stone floor. Entering, we found a kitchen reeking of fish. It was furnished with stone ovens, a fireplace for roasting skewers of meat and boiling soups, and wood-block countertops. A portly cook cowered in the corner behind two goats.

Bran and Erling assured the cook that we meant no harm.

“Come out from there,” Erling urged the cook. “Anybody else in there with you?”

“No! No!,” the cook cried. “Don’t hurt me!”

“No one’s going to hurt you,” Erling promised. “All the cultists are dead. Come on out… Come out from there.”

“What do you want?” the cook questioned.

“Just come on out and we’ll have a chat,” Erling insisted. “We just want to make sure everybody’s safe here. You can leave the goats. They’re not going anywhere. Come on out from there.”

“Milady, we’re just trying to find the speaker,” Bran exhorted. “Anything you can do to point us in the right direction. The cultists are dead. You should be safe.”

“They’re keeping the speaker upstairs!” the cook explained, standing up from behind the goats. “They don’t let me upstairs. I just go from the quarters to the kitchen. That’s it! They kept me alive because I’m a good cook.”

Rourke recognized the cook and helped to calm things down.

“Stay safe, milady,” Bran encouraged. “We will return.”

Next we checked the southeast door, which led to the servant’s quarters. It contained two recently used beds. Inside was a young tiefling girl.

“Are you okay,” Bran inquired. “Are you safe? What’s your name?”

“I’m Mere,” the girl replied.

“What are you doing here, Mere?” Bran asked.

“Kadroth brought me here as a servant.” Mere explained.

“Where did he take you from?” Bran queried, “Where’s your home?”

“I don’t have a home,” Mere answered. “The cultists killed and burned down the caravan I traveled with.”

“Oh, that’s terrible,” Bran sympathized. “I’m very sorry to hear that. Do you have any other family or friends nearby?”

“No,” Mere replied. “Did you kill Kadroth?”

“Kadroth is dead,” Bran revealed. “You’re free from your oppressor.”

“Good,” Mere replied through tightened lips.

“What will you do,” Bran wondered aloud, “now that you’re free?”

“I guess I can offer my services to the lord of the manor,” Mere proposed.

“We’re actually looking for the speaker,” Bran prompted. “Have you seen him? Do you know where he’s being held?”

“He’s upstairs,” Mere replied.

When Erling asked her about Kadroth, Mere replied, “Kadroth said they successfully conned the old idiot that was leaving here, and this was the cult’s new home.”

“Did you get to meet Huarwar?” Erling inquired.

“Yes,” Mere replied, “I know him. He was a recent recruit.”

“His mother is very worried about him,” Erling explained. “We wanted to inquire about his whereabouts.”

“Mere, where was your caraan attacked?” Bran investigated. “Do you know?”

“On the trail, north of Luskan,” Mere answered.

Bran asked Rourke if he could find a job for Mere, and he assured us that he could find something for her, adding, “Here in Caer-Dineval we take care of our own.”

“You’re in good hands here,” Erling insisted. “Try and rest. No one’s going to bother you. We’re going to just go and clear this place out. Is there anything noteworthy you can tell us about your captors that would help us while we’re looking to make sure there’s no one left in here?”

“They worship a devil,” Mere replied. “Levistus. They have a statue of him in the basement, entombed in ice. He’s a lord of the sixth layer of hell. There’s also an albino tiefling in the basement. She’s scary, but she’s nice to me.”

Oosi had heard that Levistus was the lord of Stygia, the frozen layer of hell.

Mere also told us that Kadroth’s chambers were upstairs, so we went up to the hall’s balcony and stood on the western side while Bran checked the east door. Finding it was locked, Erling tossed him the keys he had taken from Kadroth. The room was immaculately furnished with all the trappings of a royal bedchamber, including a soft bed, warm quilts, elegant tapestries, and a gilded chamber pot. Bars over the windows dispelled the air of luxury somewhat.

Squatting in the far corner of the room was a pale man wearing a nightgown. He had an unkempt beard and seemed hard at work filling a chamber pot. "Perfect timing," he said, his voice dripping with sarcasm.

“Are you the speaker?” Oosi asked.

“Yes, I’m Speaker Crannoc Siever,” the man replied. “Untie me, would you?”

After untying the speaker, Bran waved Rourke inside the room.

We checked the room beyond the far door and found an old library that was set on fire years ago and never repaired. Evidence remained of floor-to-ceiling shelves along the walls. A draft issued from a darkened fireplace, stirring the cobwebs around it.

We left Rourke and the speaker to exchange tails and crossed the hall.

I waited on the eastern side of the balcony while Bran checked the western door. An explosion of frost erupted from the door as they tried to open it. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt.

The door led to a hallway with doors to the north and south.

As they opened the south door, a cat rushed out.

Inside, a large, gilded mirror covered most of the east wall. Other furnishings included an ornately carved wooden table and chair. The remains of a meal was left on the table, and a bed of glowing coals in the fireplace.

Peering into the mirror, Bran only saw himself, but then caught a glimpse of a strongbox under the bed.

Bran used the keys to open the locked strongbox and found a pile of gold and silver coins inside.

The north door was also locked, but they managed to open it with the ring of keys.

Inside, a chilly draft wafted through a bedroom despite a roaring fire in the hearth. Bundled under a thick quilt and seated in a squat rocking chair in front of the fire was a venerable dwarf with a wooden peg where her right foot should be. Next to her, on a small table, was a plate of food. "I've been dreading this moment," she said.

“Who are you?” Bran asked.

“Me name’s Hethyl Arkorran,” she growled.

“And what might it be that you dread?” Bran inquired. “Who are you?”

“I dread your presence,” Hethyl replied.

“Why is that?” Erling asked.

“What is your association with these cultists?” Bran questioned.

“I am their spiritual guide,” Hethyl revealed.

“Ah, the leader behind the leader, interesting,” Erling expounded. “Are you ready to clear out?”

“Clear out? What do you mean?” Hethyl grumbled. “No, I’m not clearing out, you dense muppet. I’m here to have a conversation with you boneheads. Then I’ll go alright. What are your names?”

“I’m Bran and these are my companions,” Bran revealed.

“I supposed you killed Kadroth, did you?” Hethyl suggested. “Or is Kadroth alive?

“No, Kadroth is dead,” Erling confirmed, “as are the rest of your minions.”

“No great loss there, I suppose,” Hethyl sighed. “Kadroth was a good leader, but he hated me after I told him that Levistsus hated him. He was just waiting for me to die. Levistus lived up to his promises, mostly. I got a few things to tell you, and then I'll go. You lot are here to save the Ten Towns, are you? Right? Look, I’m a seer. Lying to me is not worth anybody’s time. There’s a duergar warlord. His name is Xardorok Sunblight. He will conquer Icewind Dale unless you stop him. Xardorok has a fortress on the surface, hidden in the Spine of the World. It contains, among other things, a forge powered by the still-beating heart of a red dragon. Xardorok has a plan for the systematic destruction of Ten-Towns, which you can discover if you search his fortress. But beware, you will die if you face Xardorok too soon. You must test yourself against the horrors that haunt the farthest reaches of Icewind Dale before you can hope to survive the perils of Xardorok's fortress! Now begone you tedious fools and let an old woman die in peace.”

As soon as she had finished, her head slumped and she died.

Erling took Hethyl’s amulet for his collection.

We brought the speaker his strongbox and he rewarded us with fifty gold coins each, adding, “You’ll always have a place to stay here at Caer-Dineval. The towers function as barracks, and one will always be cleared out for you if you need a place to stay.”

After ensuring the basement was uninhabited, we decided to try to track down the escaped cultists. Outside the Caer, I found their tracks and we followed them into town where I lost them in the foot traffic.

After investigating the houses, we identified some that were abandoned, including Dinev's Rest, which was all boarded up. After finding that one of the boards had been recently pried open, we decided to investigate the boarded up old building.

Being in no condition to confront the cultists, we rested inside a nearby abandoned building, keeping watch on it through the night.

In the morning we entered Dinev's Rest, Oosi and Blaze leading the way, and were soon attacked by six duergar, who were invisible at first. Blaze cast bless on Oosi, Bran, and me, and used his spiritual weapon in combat. Blaze was hit early on and lost his bless. I tried to reveal them using faerie fire, but the duergar were all out of range. It was a difficult fight, and we were wounded badly, but we ultimately put them all down.

Session 18 - 2021-03-26

After searching the duergar and Dinev's Rest, and telling Rourke about the Duergar, we decided to return to Easthaven, where Erling wanted to help find the missing fisherman.

On the way I broached my concerns about Oosi’s story. “Oosi, I’ve been thinking about this for a while and what you told us when you first joined us. You are no doubt a formidable ally, but some of what you told us seems questionable and I’m hoping you can straighten this out for me.

“It seems unlikely that the Bearclaw Clan is so concerned about the actions of these outcast rogue berserkers and yet can only spare one warrior to track them down. Are the Bearclaw Clan so few that they cannot afford to confront this threat directly?”

“My clan is actually quite small,” Oosi clarified. “There’s only a maximum of forty people in the whole clan, and a lot of our warriors were decimated by this harsh, cold winter that’s been upon us recently, so our warriors have been thinned out. I, as the hero of the clan, was sent out as the representative to try and sort this on behalf of the clan, because we could not afford to send out any more warriors, because we’re a nomadic tribe and we need the warriors to protect the clan.”

“For whatever it’s worth,” I replied, “my goal is to end this winter and endless night.”

“Right. I think our goals are the same, in that,” Oosi agreed, “because it’s ravaging my people and it’s making it very difficult for us to find food and there’s some crazy thing attacking us in the plains where we’re wandering about and it’s making life exceptionally difficult for us, so our goals are crossing paths together. But that goes without saying, I still need to find those renegade barbarians and find a way to bring them to justice.”

“You mentioned that you’ve been tracking them through the tundra,” I questioned, “and managed to track them far beyond here, but yet you have no idea where they are. How is that?”

“Through rumors, and through other means of tracking,” Oosi explained, “I managed to get as far as Good Mead, but I was never explicitly tracking them. I was sent from my clan, and there was the druid over in Good Mead, who I knew was there that could possibly help me, and that’s who I sought, and perhaps some other adventurers who would be willing to sign on and help me sort this out.”

“Okay, so you were never actually tracking them through the tundra like you said?” I confirmed. “Okay.

“You had also mentioned that they’re supposed to be in a town west of Good Mead, called Dougan’s Hole,” I inquired.

“No,” Oosi replied. “What I said was, I heard a rumor that no one heard form Dougan’s Hole in quite some time, and I made a possible connection that they may have gone there, meaning that they were raiding and sacking and killing random tribes and different people that it wasn’t so out of the question that they went to Dougan’s Hole.”

“Okay, so that was an inference you were making,” I confirmed, as opposed to what you said. Okay.”

“That’s exactly what I said,” Oosi insisted.

“You said that they’re supposed to be in a town west of here called Dougan’s Hole,” I maintained.

“I said no one’s heard from the town in a while,” Oosi argued, “and I thought perhaps they may have gone there. Make of that what you will.”

“You also said that your tribe roamed the vicinity west of Good Mead,” I interrogated, “and then later said that they were to the east.”

“No, my tribe never roams west of Good Mead,” Oosi corrected. “We’re usually out in the eastern plains.”

After a long pause, Oosi added, “They were last seen by the Western Wind tribes, perhaps, but that tribe’s long since been wiped out by them.”

“What makes you think that the tribe succumbed to some kind of corruption?” I asked.

“These outcasts don’t usually act in this way,” Oosi explained. “This is an unusual event that they’ve been banding together to do these acts of cruelty and to commit these crimes, and the seers and the elders determined that there may be some demonic influence on them.”

“Okay, It was something that you elders and seers said?” I sought, which Oosi readily confirmed. “Why were they outcasts in the first place?”

“They committed crimes or affront to the tribes and they were cast out,” Oosi answered.

“What kind of crimes are barbarians committing that they’re getting cast out from their tribe?” I contested. “I’m thinking they would have to be pretty bad.”

“I don’t know these individuals specifically, but yeah, it would be pretty bad to get kicked out of the tribe. You’d have to kill someone, or steal from your tribe, or show cowardice in front of the enemy, or do something pretty terrible in order for the tribe council to determine that you had to be banished.”

“Right, so these people are already people who are doing really bad things,” I challenged. “It seems like a jump to assume that there’s some sort of demonic influence, just because they’re doing bad things.”

“Maybe, but it’s not for me to question the elders of the tribe,” Oosi defended, “if that’s what they determine.”

“Okay. How much do you believe what Selma told you?” I questioned.

“I have no reason to believe that Selma is not truthful,” Oosi responded.

“So she wants to take you to this Jarlmoot—'' I began.

“Right,” Oosi confirmed. “You heard her tell you directly.”

“—so that we could learn the location of them, but only if we defeat the champion of the jarl of jarls at this mystical place where the spirit of Reggaryarva resides and you’re confident that you could kill this champion?” I contested. “Is that right?”

“Well,” Oosi replied, “I’m certainly going to try.”

“Okay, I guess that’s all I have,” I conceded. “That’s all I wanted to bring up.”

“Do you have your answers now?” Oosi inquired.

“I guess I’ve learned as much as I’m going to learn,” I acknowledged.

It was midafternoon when we arrived at Easthaven.

Walking into Easthaven was like stepping into Icewind Dale's past—the place was a living example of the boomtown way of life that gripped all of Ten-Towns centuries ago when there was gold in the rivers and knucklehead in the lakes. In the generations since, as other towns settled into a predictable pattern of existence, Easthaven continued to grow and reinvent itself. After the Eastway was paved, Easthaven evolved into a frontier traders' paradise, fueling the jealousy of its neighbors.

We saw a sign that read "Watch thy pouch!" posted on the road as we entered the town.

Erling asked around looking for where we could find the watch captain, which led us to the town hall. In front of the town hall we saw a large ash pile of what was once a bonfire and a charred corpse chained to a post.

“Yes, can I help you?” we were greeted upon entering the constable’s office.

Erling asked about the fisherman and the constable went to fetch the captain.

Soon we were approached by Captain Imdra Arlaggath. “What can I do for you,” shae asked with narrowed eyes.

“Well howdy captain,” Erling greeted. “We’re here to help find the fisherman.”

“That’s great,” the captain replied. “Can I ask, why the change of heart?”

“It’s the right thing to do,” Erling explained, appeasing the captain.

"Four fishers went missing on Lac Dinneshere a few days ago,” the captain explained. “The coastline is hard to sail along because of all the ice floes, and general frozenness of it, but savvy anglers prefer it as there are fewer competing fishers from the other lake towns there. I need someone to scout the coastline and search for them."

“Any chance you might know where they were last seen?” Erlig inquired. “Or known to have gone?”

The captain shook her head no.

The captain offered to requisition a boat for us, but we agreed to start by scouting the shore. She asked that, if some terrible fate had befallen the fishers and we weren’t able to return them, that we return their bodies, and promised that the previous reward of a spell scroll of fireball or a bag of tricks still stood. She gave us a slip of paper, in case we change our mind about getting a boat, and instructed us to give it to the dockmaster.

We decided to visit the dockmaster and acquire the boat after all, and were soon dragging an eight man rowboat across the lake toward the water.

After rowing for about a mile and a half, I noticed scuff marks on some ice flows, which we followed for another hour. We began to see debris that looked like it could have been discarded fisher gear.

Eventually we saw a rowboat bobbing untethered in the water amid some small ice floes, not far from the eighty-foot-high cliffs that abutted the shoreline. The mouths of four caves dotted the snowy cliffside. One of these caves was at water level, and the others were elevated twenty to thirty feet above the frozen lake. The wind tearing through these icy caves sounded like moaning.

We anchored our boat and explored the shore.

Searching the abandoned rowboat, we found four oars, four sets of fishing tackle, and a dozen empty rum bottles lying in it. We also found faint tracks on the ice leading from the boat to the southernmost cave.

As we made their way toward the caves, the howling began to sound like singing, and we were soon confronted by two harpies. Fortunately we were unaffected by their charms. After a brief melee, I eventually dropped one, and Ossi put down the other.

I examined the lower southernmost cave entrance, where the water apparently used to flow out of the tunnel and feed the lake. That water was now frozen solid, creating a floor of ice several feet thick. I found four sets of human-sized tracks in the snow leading into the tunnel, disappearing beyond my vision.

Looking for a safe place to rest, we climbed the icy cliffs to the lowest and closest of the three northernmost caves. An abundance of handholds and footholds on the cliffs made the climbing easy.

Listening and smelling the cave entrance, I detected the presence of a beast within. From the tracks, it appeared to be a large wolf.

I tried to climb to the next cave, but it was too slippery, so I lowered a rope to the others, securing to the ledge with a piton.

Just as Oosi was climbing up, we were attacked by a hungry dire wolf. It managed to bite me, but I held my ground. Blaze hit it with scorching rays, before Bran finished it using his bow.

Everyone climbed up and we explored the wolf’s cave, which was a deadend.

After securing the area, we cooked the wolf and ate it for dinner.

While we were resting, Bran woke everyone up, alerting us to a disturbance on the shore, which was apparently being caused by a crazed and frostbite-covered nomad. It was beginning to bash the boats with its flail.

Bran, Erling, and I began shooting arrows at it, which drew it towards us and away from the boats before it could cause too much harm. It tried to climb up to us, but Bran knocked it down with a thunderwave. Blaze attacked it with a guiding bolt and his spiritual weapon, the latter eventually finishing it.

We recovered our arrows and took the nomad’s weapons, which appeared to be covered with chardalyn. I took two of its javelins.

We finished our rest without further interruption.

Session 19 - 2021-04-02

In the morning, Erling dumped the crystals he had collected into the lake, and we climbed up to the next ledge and explored the nearest cave.

After about sixty feet, the tunnel split, with one passage leading straight ahead to the east, and another on the left veering north.

Scouting ahead, I explored the passage heading east which, after winding for about sixty feet, became a natural stone bridge spanning a frozen river twenty feet below. The top of the bridge was covered with a slippery, icy glaze. I returned to the group.

We took the northern passage, where the winding tunnel soon opened up into a cave. It was empty except for three ice-covered pillars and another tunnel winding roughly northwest.

That tunnel soon opened into another cave with ancient, stick-figure drawings carved into its northern wall. As we were exploring the cave, we were attacked by three more harpies.

Blaze used his guiding bolt and scorching rays. Bran used a thunderwave and vicious mockery. Eventually they were all defeated.

On the northern wall of the harpies’ chamber, we found a flayed and half-eaten corpse and a prisoner being held for later. He introduced himself as Mendel, explaining that he was a mage and the lone survivor of an adventuring party that went looking for the fishers. He explained that the last thing he remembered before waking up where we found him was rowing on the lake and hearing some singing in the distance. Mourning his slain companion, Bruce, he agreed to join us.

Blaze suggested that Erling was under some kind of influence, explaining that, “I think Erling’s under some kind of influence. He’s been acting off all morning, and while we were fighting, he mentally communicated to me that we should abandon Bran to the harpies.”

“Nonsense,” Erling insisted. “That’s not what I said. I didn’t say that. I suggested backing off so that we could draw them into this narrow corner to better manage them there.”

Erling refused to be searched and became antagonistic when questioned.

Mendel cast detect magic from his spellbook while we explored the ledges of the harpies’ chamber in search for any treasure. I lassoed a stalactite on the forty foot high ledge and climbed up, where I found four gems, two potions of healing, another potion, and a scroll.

Mendel indicated that all the potions were magical, as was the scroll. He nervously stated that Erling carried an additional magic potion and a chain around his neck.

Bran’s blue boots were not magical, nor were the evil mage’s robe and staff.

We gave Mendel the scroll. We gave the potions of healing to Bran and Baze.

Mendel tasted the third potion and determined that it was a potion of climbing, which Erling claimed.

After a short rest, we returned to the icy bridge, where Mendel suggested that he could melt a path in the ice, but that it would take three minutes.

Not wanting to spend the time, Bran crossed with one end of a rope. After spiking the rope to both sides of the bridge with pitons, we all carefully crossed the bridge and safely reached the opposite side.

Once across the bridge, the tunnel soon opened into a cave containing the remains of an abandoned campsite.

Searching the charred remains of the campfire, we found a burned journal that Bran recognized as written in Dwarvish from three torn-out pages were only partially burned, and included a couple of noteworthy passages:

"These caves are sacred to the frost giants. The carvings on the wall suggest that the giants came here to drown themselves. Did they use the hot spring as a sacrificial pool?"

"The wind truly sounds like a wailing woman. One could easily go mad in this place."

"I think there's someone living in these caves. Shortly after discovering the hot spring, I heard what sounded like a granny singing. When the song ended with a shrill laugh, dread sunk its teeth in me. Ye gods, that horrible cackle! I shall leave these caves in the morning and never return."

The dwarven campsite seemed to be at least a year old.

Bran placed the parchment in his pack.

We returned across the bridge and back to the shore to follow the tracks into the lowest and southernmost cave.

We continued to follow the footprints into the twenty foot wide frozen stream, which curved slightly for 120 feet before ending where the river used to tumble over a small waterfall, following the current west toward Lac Dinneshere. The waterfall formed a ten-foot-tall sheet of ice that we were all able to climb fairly easily.

Giving each other boosts and lending hands, we all made it to the top of the waterfall.

Erling found footprints continuing beyond the frozen waterfall. There was a tunnel immediately to the right, and up ahead we could see the icy bridge we had crossed, now twenty feet above us.

Leaving the frozen stream, we entered the tunnel and followed it for about sixty feet before reaching a ten foot long set of crudely carved stairs.

The stairs opened up into a cave where fresh blood painted the icy floor, indicating that one or more creatures were butchered here recently. More obvious than the blood were all the bones strewn across the floor, along with scraps of clothing and armor and a few rusty weapons.

Sitting among the bones in the middle of the cave was a gigantic skeleton, its lower half encased in ice, so that its torso and above were exposed, but inanimate.

We concluded that this must be the hot springs that the frost giants used as a sacred sacrificial pool according to the dwarven journal.

As soon as we approached the skeleton, it began to move.

Mendel cast toll the dead on it and Blaze hit it with a sacred flame. Oosi and Bran engaged it while Erlind and I shot at it from the bottom of the stairs.

With two quick swings, the skeleton nearly cut Oosi in half. Mendel used a suggestion to tell it to run away, but it had no effect. Blaze cast spiritual weapon. Erling tossed his light coin to Mendel and ducked before hitting it with a well-placed bolt. Oosi withdrew further into the cave. Blaze hit it with a thunderwave and withdrew to cast healing word on Oosi.

The skeleton pulled itself out of the ice. Mendel hit it with magic missiles. Blaze hit it with his spiritual weapon and scorching rays, causing it to burst into flames.

Session 20 - 2021-04-09

Moving beyond the sacrificial pool, the tunnel split. To the left, the tunnel continued for forty feet before dropping down ten feet to the frozen pool. To the right were stairs leading down for ten feet.

Heading down the stairs, we entered a large cavern. In the middle, was a decrepit old woman in tattered furs standing between a large cauldron and a stone block. Heaped around the block were rusty hatchets and four flayed corpses.

I hung back and hid in the shadows while most of the group confronted the lady who introduced herself as Maud Chiselbone.

After some words, a glowing ball of light illuminated the hag’s sickly grayish-purple flesh, bulging eyes that seldom blink, and stringy black hair interwoven with fingerbones. Bran, frightened by the hag’s horrific appearance, fired his bow and the ball of light revealed itself as a will-o'-wisp. Mendel fired magic missiles from cover in the tunnel. Blaze used his sacred flame. Erling and I shot at the hag while Oosi engaged with his flail.

The hag raked Oosi with her claws and called for backup as the will-o'-wisp flew around attacking all of us.

Mendel screamed that more harpies were attacking us from our rear. Mendel ensnared it in a web, but it disappeared from the webs and reappeared thirty feet away before we could eventually put it down.

Badly beaten, Maud tried to make a deal, agreeing to surrender the cauldron and promising us a chest filled with gold coins that lie in the muck at the bottom of Lac Dinneshere.

Before anyone could respond, Erling accepted the deal, trusting that she would keep her word.

As she departed, Maude told us to wait in the caves until midnight, then head north along the shore for a mile.

Mendel cast detect magic from his spellbook and determined that the cauldron was enchanted. Inside the cauldron was a piping-hot stew filled with lumps of flesh and organs floating in the broth. We dumped out the stew to drag the cauldron out, though it was still heavy and awkward.

While we waited, we explored the rest of the cave and carefully crossed the frozen pool. We found some treasure beyond a frozen waterfall, including some valuable art, a pair of crystal lenses, a javelin, a potion, and a wand.

Mendel cast detect magic from his spellbook on the newly acquired treasure, revealing that the lenses, javelin, potion, and wand were enchanted.

We retrieved the cauldron, the heads of the four flayed fishermen, and rested in the dwarf’s campsite. While we rested, we attuned to the magic items, identifying them as eyes of the eagle, a javelin of lightning, a potion of healing and a wand of magic missiles. Mendel agreed to join us and we agreed to give him the wand and the potion, and Oosi the javelin. I claimed the crystal lenses.

Bran gave Mendel Astrix's spellbook:
1: comprehend languages, expeditious retreat, floating disk, detect magic, shield
2: alter self, cloud of daggers, scorching ray, suggestion

I asked Blaze what was wrong with Erling. He said that Erling had been acting strange and that he was worried that something had affected his mind. I asked if it could be that crystal or the necklaces. Blaze thought that was possible, in which case Oosi and I were also in danger.

When we were done, we retrieved our ropes from the icy bridge, and exited the caves.

Following Maude’s instructions, we eventually found a waterlogged wooden chest on the icy shore, its lock broken off. We took up defensive positions around the chest while Erling opened it. Inside was a large pile of gold coins. While Erling was sifting through the coins, four crawling claws leaped out and attacked him before we could destroy them.

In the lid of the chest was a parchment with writing scrawled in blood. Mendel read the note, sharing that it said, “in order to use the cauldron, we need to make a pact with Nagor Ogolhawn.”

Mendel said he wanted to consult with Vellynne Harpell, a wizard of some repute, who took up residence in Bryn Shander a few months ago.

We returned to the boats and began to make our way back to Easthaven. Oosi and I dropped our newly acquired flail and javelins in the lake, fearing they may have some nefarious effect on us.

Session 21 - 2021-04-16

As we rowed the two boats back to Easthaven, we were attacked by a flock of blood hawks. Mendel and Bran put many of them to sleep, but they might have killed Erling and me if we hadn’t been given a healing. Brand to cast healing word many times. Mendel killed the remaining blood hawks with magic missiles.

When we arrived in Easthaven, we returned the boats and sought out Captain Imdra Arlaggath, with Mendel and Oosi dragging the heavy cauldron along.

When we found Captain Arlaggath, we explained what we found and I gave him the sack of heads. He offered us a bag of tricks or a scroll of fireball. Without any discussion, Erling requested the bag of tricks and claimed it for himself.

We acquired rooms for the night. I shared a room with Bran, Mendel and Oosi shared a room, and Erling insisted on getting his own room.

Oosi and Mendel dragged the cauldron to the waterfront, filled it with water, and Mendel cleaned it, swirling the evil mage’s robes around the sides with his staff. When they returned, Mendel went to his room to study the spells in Astrix's spellbook.

While we were at the Wet Trout, we heard a halfling announce, “Hello everybody. My name is Winaldo. I just wanted to let you know that tonight I’ll be conducting a séance at the White Lady Inn.”

Blaze, Oosi, and I took a walk around town and while we were wandering I pointed out two cultists like the ones from Caer-Dineval. We followed them to a large estate guarded by two gargoyles. Oosi knocked on the door and was greeted by Avarice.

While we were out, Bran and Mendel went to a séance at the White Lady Inn.

At the séance, smoke from burning incense clouds the room. Multicolored lamps and silks are hung from the rafters, and the light from several candles illuminates a circle of uncomfortable-looking guests sitting cross-legged on the floor.

Rinaldo pushes back the sleeves of his robe, raises his hands, closes his eyes, and intones, "Lady who watches from the lake, come to us in our darkest hour! Tell us what you've seen!" After a moment of silence, thick frost forms on the inside of the room's windows, turning them opaque, and the candles go out one by one.

Along with many others, Bran and Mendel contributed to the questions Rinaldo answered:

Q: How do we use the cauldron we found?
A: feed the towns

Q: Is our friend Erling possessed?
A: not himself

Q: Is something on his person possessed?
A: cursed

Q: How do we lift the curse?
A: magic

Q: What item on our friend is cursed?
A: his mind

Q: How do we use the cauldron to feed the towns?
A: (no response)

Q: How do we end this long night? This everlasting winter?
A: (no response)

Q: Will the machine that Macreadus is working on end the winter?
A: (no response)

Q: Who is Nagor Ogolhawn?
A: Archfey

Q: Can we trust the hag?
A: Never

Q: Who stole my father’s lucky horseshoe?
A: invisible dwarves

Q: Where can we find the duergar?
A: Easthaven ferry

In the morning, we waited for Erling to emerge from his room and shared tales of the previous night.

After we had all eaten, we departed for Bryn Shander.

We arrived without incident and Mendel led us to the tower of Vellynne Harpell. Mendel warned us that she was a powerful wizard.

Knocking on the door, we were greeted by kobolds. Mendel offered his services to Madame Harpell, explaining that we had some powerful magic we wanted to show her. The kobolds ushered us in and instructed us to hand over all our weapons, which we did.

While I watched over the cauldron with Oosi, the others met with Vellynne. Among the kobolds were zombie kobolds acting as servants.

Vellynne Harpell asked us to try to find a family heirloom, a professor orb, named Professor Skant, which was stolen by Nass Lantomir, who was headed to Icewind Dale and never arrived. She said she would need time to examine the cauldron.

Vellynne told Mendel that she removed the curse on Erling.

We spent the night at The Northlook.

In the morning, I went to Blackiron Blades, where my companions had negotiated a discount. I borrowed 100 gold coins from Blaze and 100 gold coins from Bran and purchased a breastplate.

Session 22 - 2021-04-23

We departed for Dougan’s Hole.

On the way, a pack of goblins swarmed out at us through the blizzard, including warg riders and shamans and followed by more than a dozen archers. Mendel used his magic missiles and sleep. Bran used thunderwaves and healing words. Blaze used spiritual weapon, radiance of the dawn, and cure wounds. The goblins cast ray of enfeeblement and witch bolt. Erling pulled a giant elk out of his bag of tricks. I withdrew to a safe distance to pick them off with arrows.

Mendel and Blaze needed potions of healing, but when the battle was done, at least two dozen goblins lay dead around us.

Session 23 - 2021-04-30

We searched the goblins, finding some silver and diamonds. Bran found that the goblins bore the banner of Karkolohk.

Bran sang a song of rest while we recovered.

Once we were done, we continued on toward Dougan’s Hole. Erling rode the giant elk.

We could see Dougan’s Hole about an hour ahead in the distance when I spotted a fury body lying in the snow ahead of us. Peering closely, it appeared to be a winter wolf, and it appeared to be breathing. With Oosi close behind, I approached the creature.

“Don’t attack me,” it growled. “I am injured. Leave me be.”

“How did you find yourself so injured?” I asked, noting that I did not see any wounds on it.

“My mean, cruel master kicked me,” it replied.

Upon questioning, it explained that its master was a frost giant named Garagai, who captures and eats children of Dougan’ Hole as tribute. It said that Garagai was too strong to be attacked, but that it would take us to Garagai’s lair to free the young there. It agreed to help us if we proved formidable in the battle. It said is name was Koran, and I convinced Blaze to cast cure wounds on it. Koran gave us the impression that Garagai’s lair was four or five hours west of Dougan’s Hole, and we said we would rest the night in Dougan’s Hole and meet it the next morning.

We left Koran and soon entered Dougan's Hole, the smallest and most insular of the ten towns, only housing about fifty people in a small cluster of dwellings perched on the edge of the now frozen Redwaters. Ice had buckled the shorter of its two piers, rendering the dock unsafe. The longer pier had two icebound keelboats tethered to it, though they're immobile because of the frozen surface. Local fishers have hauled their smaller boats out to the edge of the ice to go fishing.

Approaching from the north, we entered the largest building in the center of town. We were greeted by a large man with a face too small for his big head and missing quite a few teeth. He told us that wolves were stalking the town and taking their children. He directed us toward the Fishhead Bucket and explained that the speaker was his mama.

His mama welcomed us in, confident that the stolen children must already be dead, and focused on feeding the remaining townsfolk. She offered Bran a warm place to spend the night, but we all headed to the tavern.

On the southern side of town we found a triangular ring of nineteen crudely fashioned megaliths, granite menhirs arranged in a rough triangle, with a single stone at the formation's center.

Mendel was familiar with it, explaining that, “No one knows who built this structure or why; the townsfolk maintain that the stones were there when the town's founder, a Chondathan named Dougan Dubrace, first happened upon this fishing spot. Scholars have tried to research the origin of the structure's name, but all they have found are allusions to a creature named Thruun in the oldest legends of the northern folk. Some speculate that Thruun was a god, while others believe it's a destructive elemental spirit bound to this location by ancient druidic magic.”

We continued on to the Fishhead Bucket tavern where Oosi ordered drinks and struck up a conversation, asking why they weren’t more concerned about their children being taken and eaten.

The bartender, a man with small, misshapen ears, replied, “Dougan's Hole is beset by winter wolves, don’tcha know. They stalk the outskirts of town. Don't know how many, but them wolves are big as horses!"

"They know words an' got a mighty vocab'lary too!" said another patron with pointed teeth.

"I’ll take a drink,” said a third, who bore more than a passing resemblance to the other two. “By Thruun's Stones, they caught fair Sil and her lovely brother Finn th' other day." He explained to Bran that the other two were his cousin and his uncle.

A fourth who looked like their sister chimed in. "Dang winter wolves say they ain't givin' 'em back till the town coughs up a king's ransom in food and gold. This town barely got enough to feed its own, and there ain't no gold. Ain't no one allowed to leave town. Dem wolves vow to kill anyone who tries!"

They all confirmed to Bran that the wolves demanded their food and gold if they ever wanted to see their children alive.

Erling started a game of cards, agreeing to play for beans.

Mendel was intent on finding someplace private to spend the night, but all that was offered was the common room or a root cellar.

We discussed amongst ourselves whether we thought we could trust the story of the wolves, which I explained I did not, elaborating that Koran had indicated that it was traveling with Garagai, but then turned on the frost giant when it disagreed with what was being done to the children, which it had been bringing to Garagai. I was convinced it was a trap.

The locals told Oosi that the town’s sacrifice to Auril was warmth, and balked at the idea of sacrificing children.

Mendel attempted to hypnotize the bartender, but did not learn anything useful.

Bran suspected that the wolves might be taking the children for themselves and that there might not even be a frost giant.

The bartender then told us that, “a few weeks ago, there was a man that came around town, and he said he was going to kill that giant for us. He left and we never seen him again. He said he was Cordell. Cordell Holte.”

Erling, Bran, and I took a walk around the outskirts of town. Erling spotted many large wolf tracks circling the town. Bran noted that many of them led to the west.

When we returned, we each took turns maintaining a watch while the rest of us slept.

In the morning, we departed west. When we returned to the spot where we had met Koran, it was not there, but we found its tracks headed west.

We followed the tracks west, across over a dozen miles of frozen tundra.

Eventually we saw, jutting up out of the vast tundra was a towering edifice built entirely of ice. The domed structure was easily three times the height and width of any building found in Ten-Towns. The wolf tracks led directly to it.

We circled round it and found a tunnel in the ice that appeared to have been borrowed by a creature. A foul scent pervaded the tunnel.

Secured by rope and pitons, I climbed down into the hole and back up into a roughly forty foot square room filled with five very large barrels, the source of the foul fishy oil scent.

A large opening led to an empty cavernous chamber.

I returned to the party and we all climbed through the tunnel into the room.

Bran confirmed that the five barrels of whale oil each weighed 500 pounds and could be sold for fifty gold coins in Ten-Towns.

I noticed that a section of the tunnel wall was smeared with a strange, frosted white residue called thrym—enough to fill a small bottle. I recognized it as a rare remorhaz secretion called thrym.

I showed the group what I had found, warning them of the remorhaz danger. Mendel said that alchemists use thrym to craft potions of cold resistance and that a bottle of thrym could sell for 250 gold coins.

He collected enough thrym to make two potions.

Erling searched the bedroll in the adjacent chamber. The only furniture within it was a big matted and musty fur bedroll. Another large opening led to the north.

Beyond the opening I scouted a twenty foot wide hallway. Sixty feet to the east was the back of a giant-sized throne atop a circular dais in an oval chamber with high walls. Against one wall was the body of a man who appeared to have been stomped and crushed.

Entering the oval chamber, I saw that the high walls of glittering ice resembled a sepulcher. The frozen, hacked-up corpse of a frost giant lay on the floor, entombed in translucent ice.

I withdrew back into the hallway as what appeared to be a woolly mammoth entered the chamber from the north. It entered the room, peered at the frost giant corpse, and returned to the north.

I relayed what I had seen.

I returned to the chamber and examined the frost giant corpse, which had a sword sticking out of its skull.

The mammoth returned, and stared down at me with hate in its eyes, crying out, "You are to blame for all of this!" It then lowered its head and assumed a threatening posture.

I withdrew into the hallway, attempting to appease the beast by saying, “Easy big fella. We just want to talk,” while I targeted it with my slayer’s prey.

We all braced for an attack as it charged toward us shouting, “This is all your fault!”

“This is not our fault,” I insisted, backing up.

As it gored me with its tusks, Erling and Bran missed shots at it, Oosi hit with his javelin of lightning, and Blaze used his sacred flame, and Mendel cast toll the dead. Withdrawing further, I targeted it with hunter’s mark, but was hurt too badly to aim.

Erling and Bran hit it with their next shots, and Bran cast healing word on me. Oosi smashed it with his warhammer. Mendel cast toll the dead. Blaze cast scorching ray.

Just then, two winter wolves came running into the room from the east.

Oosi hit it with his hammer as it charged toward Mendel and viciously gored the mage. As Mendel collapsed, I alerted my companions to the two approaching winter wolves, and landed a solid shot on the mammoth. Erling used a potion of healing to revive Mendel and hid in the shadows. Mendel rose and withdrew into the bedroll chamber. Bran tried to use blindness, but it had no effect. Blaze hit it with his spiritual weapon. Oosi retrieved his javelin of lightning and threw it at the wolves.

The nearest wolf hit Oosi and me with its cold breath. I missed the mammoth, but Erling hit it with his shot, dropping the beast. Bran hit one of the wolves and cast another healing word on me. Oosi scooped up his warhammer and engaged the nearest wolf. Mendel caught the nearest wolf in a web, and Blaze hit it with scorching rays.

The nearest wolf broke free of the webs, and the other got stuck. I missed the wolf, but Erling hit it with his shot before hiding again. Bran also hit with his shot. Mendel hit it with magic missiles. Oosi and Blaze flanked it, Blaze hitting it with his mace.

The second wolf broke free of the webs and knocked Oosi prone. I missed again, and Erling hit again. Bran drew his rapier and stuck it. Oosi rose and finished it with his warhammer.

Mendel cast toll the dead on the remaining wolf. Blaze hit it with his mace. It retaliated with its cold breath, catching Oosi and Blaze. I finished it with a solid shot in the throat.

Session 24 - 2021-05-07

“Thank you,” Mendel thanked Erling while Ossi retrieved his Javelin. “That was really a close call. I wish I had a potion to give you back.”

We returned to the throne room, where we noticed that chiseled into the throne's backrest was a large rune. The ice around the giant’s head appeared to be melting. Oosi searched the stomped body, noting that the man’s breastplate was intact. He found a book on the man, labeled The Journal of Cordell Holte. Mendel read some of the more interesting passages out loud:

...These last two years of winter have been difficult for the people of these towns, there is only one way I can really help...

...I have never been busier, the long nights and overcast "days", (I hesitate to call them days, it's more like a short, 4 hour break from the gloom), have resulted in a scourge of monsters and beasts lurking, ready to predate upon an unwary villager at any moment...

...Yesterday, I killed a talking bear, A TALKING BEAR!?! At first it was just an increase of goblins, orcs and other regular threats to civilization, but things are getting weirder...

...Arrived at Dougan's Hole today, the people are... different from other Ten-Towners...

...I'm heading out tomorrow to kill a Frost Giant. The townsfolk say it's pet, a large winter wolf, showed up outside of town 2 days ago and demanded a tribute of food and gold (of which they have little) in it's name; Garagai. There was even talk about sacrificing a townsperson to appease the giant. (gods!)...

Concluding that the frozen giant corpse must be that of this Garagai, we discussed the possible relationship between Garagai, the mammoth, and the wolves.

“Excusing me for interrupting,” Mendel chimed in, “but are we going to be here for ten minutes? Because if we’re going to be here for ten minutes, Oosi, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a reason that armor is undamaged.

“I’d like to verify it.

“It will take me ten minutes to see if it’s enchanted. It could be magical armor, and that would explain why the armor is unscathed. Look at how that poor man was pulverized! It’s not an emergency, but if we’re going to be here...”

Handing the journal to Bran, Mendel pulled out his spellbook and began casting the ritual of detect magic.

“Oosi, I was right,” Mendel explained, “that armor is indeed enchanted. You are very lucky and I can’t think of a better person to wear it than you.”

Oosi asked if I would want the armor, but I replied, “As much as I would love it, I think it makes more sense for you to have it.”

“That sword down there is magical as well,” Mendel revealed, peering into the ice.

“That throne is magical as well,” Mendel added, detecting an aura of conjuration magic around the rune. “It seems to be coming from this rune here. I can’t make it out. I could read it, but it would take me another ten minutes. I don’t know if we have that time…”

Mendel began the ritual of comprehend languages.

“Do we want to get that sword?” I asked. “Hopefully Bran is right, and it is the sword melting the ice and not the giant. Perhaps we should finish exploring this place before we retrieve the sword.”

“The run says ‘ice’ in Giant,” Mendel explained, having completed his ritual. “I suspect that if someone were to sit on this throne, there’s some power that they might be able to activate. Perhaps if they said the magic word: ice.”

We split up the small treasure we found and proceeded to explore to the north.

The hallway opened first to the left where we found a massive table hewn from a single block of ice standing in the middle of a cold chamber, surrounded by chairs also made of ice. Many of the chairs were chipped and cracked.

Peering into a further opening to the right, I saw a whale corpse and returned to my companions searching around the ice table and relayed what I had found.

Lying on the floor under the table, we found a one-foot-tall stone statuette of a spindly creature that we recognized as a chwinga.

“I suspect that this may have been a creature that was turned to stone after it was killed,” Mendel speculated. “If you look at how these puncture wounds enter the statue, that’s very unusual for a piece of stone.”

Placing the statue in my pack, I pointed to an alcove at the end of the hallway, between the two openings. “Take a look in this corner. There’s a chest over here, and this whale stinks.”

The six-foot-long, five-foot-wide, five-foot-tall stone chest was half buried under ice.

A sour stench of decay filled our nostrils as we entered the chamber of the frozen corpse of a whale, lying crudely butchered on the ice-packed ground. Beside it was a blade in the shape of a paring knife the size of a longsword.

“Oosi,” I pointed at the blade, “take a look at that shearing knife.”

After examining the whale, I added, “It looks like this whale was harvested for oil, and the wolves began to eat it here.”

While the others examined the chest for a way to open it, I explored an exit beyond the whale carcass. Returning, I explained, “There are in fact three entrances, and we’ve only accounted for two of them, the one that I just explored, and the one from where the wolves came. I believe there’s another entrance into this structure that we have yet to explore. As you mentioned before, we are looking for children. Perhaps we should check that out before we investigate the chest.”

We all exited the structure from the northern entrance by the whale carcass, and peering into the center entrance I could see the throne room in the distance. “I think I see the edge of a cage,” I pointed toward the southern entrance. “I suspect that this is where the wolves were when we entered.”

Moving closer I saw a huge, slatted animal cage, with a locked gate attached to it by rusty hinges, standing against the west wall of the chamber. Trapped inside the cage were two shivering humans in cold weather clothing. They looked fearfully at the entrance. I whispered to my companions, “There are two children.”

I stood guard outside while my companions attempted to free the children.

They finally emerged with the two children, Silja and Finn Dejarr, human siblings. Silja was a spindly girl with pointy teeth. Snow clung to the ends of her long braids. Finn had a piebald face flanked by small, malformed ears. His hands were frostbitten, and his teeth chattered uncontrollably.

We brought them to the room with the large bedroll and allowed the children to warm themselves while we took a short rest.

With Oosi’s aid, we harvested meat from the mammoth, almost a month’s worth for one person. I also carved out the mammoth’s tusks.

Mendel gave Blaze a day’s worth of his share in return for rations Blaze had previously provided to him.

After we were rested, Bran melted enough of the ice to retrieve the sword, which had a bright crimson blade, searing hot to the touch.

Oosi and Erling chipped away at the ice covering the chest, and found mostly giant-sized tools.

We decided to sleep for the night before heading back to Dougan’s Hole. I took the first watch.

The night was uneventful. Before leaving, we smashed the throne until it was destroyed.

We returned Silja and Finn to their mother, Hilda, in Dougan’s Hole. Hilda explained that all she could spare as reward were a pair of magic boots that had belonged to her husband and older brother who passed away a few years ago.

Trying the furred boots on, I found them snug and quite warm. I spent the next hour in town attuning to the boots, and discovered they were boots of the winterlands.

Mendel wanted to return to Bryn Shander to do some shopping and check on the cauldron, but we decided to travel to Easthaven instead and spent the night in Good Mead.

When we arrived in Easthaven and sold off some of our treasure and my hunting trap, I paid Bran back the 100 gold coins that he had lent me.

Mendel purchased the supplies he was looking for.

While Erling, Bran, and I were exploring the town I detected that we were being followed, but our pursuers soon disappeared into an alley.

Eventually we all met up at the Wet Trout. Bran asked the barkeep, Nymetra Myskyn, about the ferry, and was pointed to the owner and operator of the Easthaven ferry, a tiefling named Scython.

We eventually made our way to the ferry, a keelboat, that was trapped in the ice at the end of a wooden dock. A small cabin was situated toward the aft end of the hull.

As we approached, I cast faerie fire on the cabin, and Mendel cast minor illusion, creating the sound of thumping footsteps entering the cabin from the window.

The duergar soon emerged from the ferry, some of them glowing, and quickly enlarged. It was a difficult fight, and when we thought we were victorious, more duergar appeared around us.

I used my hunter’s mark, Mendel tried to use his hypnotic gaze, and misty step, Bran cast thunderwave, Blaze used his radiance of the dawn, Mendel cast magic missiles, Bran cast healing word, Oosi used his javelin of lightning, Blaze cast spiritual weapon, Mendel cast toll the dead, and Blaze cast sacred flame.

One of the duergar gave Oosi a command, and the barbarian walked off the dock, falling to the frozen lake below, but he soon leaped back up to the dock and rejoined the fray.

Finally all the duergar were defeated, and we searched the ferry.

The aft cabin was roughly ten feet square and contained four sleeping bags, packs of rations, and a rolled-up map of Icewind Dale that marked the location of every Ten-Towns settlement, written in Dwarvish.

It also indicated the location of Xardorok’s fortress.

Session 25 - 2021-05-14

After we searched the duergar bodies and divided up the gold coins we found, we returned to the Wet Trout.

Just as we reached the edge of the dock, I spotted Scython coming our way, accompanied by Captain Imdra Arlaggath and some guards.

“I heard there was trouble here at the ferry,” Imdra asked.

“It’s all been wrapped up.” Oosi replied.

“Yeah, there was,” Bran agreed, “but we ended it.”

“They started it,” Oosi repeated, “we finished it.”

“Who were they?” Imdra asked.

“Duergar,” Bran explained.

“Mam,” Erlin chimed in, “we came here thinking there might be some duergar here, and we kinda you know went to look at the place and they all just came out and grew up into these giant duergar and started attacking us. It was totally self-defense. Scython saw them totally jump out of the boat and attacked us.”

“Yes,” Scython confirmed, “just like I told you, Captain.”

Sending two guards to survey the dock, Imdra acknowledged, “Well, I guess Easthaven owes you thanks. What made you think there were duergar hiding in the ferry?”

“Well that’s a long story,” Bran responded, “and I’ve got a dry throat, but let’s just say we heard rumors of the duergar hiding out. The bigger mystery you should be asking is: what were they doing here? We didn’t find anything on the ferry that might be a clue.”

“This was the second set of hidden duergar we’ve found,” Oosi barked. “We found another set hidden over in Caer-Dineval. And here’s another set here. It seems like they’re trying to infiltrate the Ten Towns.”

“Well, that’s really bad!” Imdra realized.

“There was also a mage that managed to escape us, though,” Bran added.

“There was a wizard?” Imdra was amazed. “In the ferry?”

“Some magic user,” Bran surmised. “I don’t think we got a very good eye-line on him. Oosi might have seen them the best.”

“Yeah, I saw him,” Oosi confirmed. “He used some kind of spell that forced me to walk off the dock. He said ‘walk ten feet’ and I couldn’t help myself. So I walked off the dock.”

“Well, this is really disturbing,” Imdra admitted. “I’m going to have to go check it out myself. Maybe increase our patrols. Thank you for your help. We’ll take it from here.”

As Imdra and her remaining guards began to walk up the dock towards the ferry, Erling tugged on Bran’s coat, and whispered, “Now might be a good time, before they slip away.”

Mendel sent Bran a message, “They have a scroll of fireballs.”

“Oh, Captain,” Bran called out. “Last time we were here, you did mention an alternate reward. I don’t suppose eliminating the duergar would be worth another reward? Perhaps that scroll you offered us?”

“Let me go see what occurred at the ferry before I start handing out magic to you adventures,” Imdra replied. “Where are you staying?”

“We should go back to that other bar and have a few drinks, since your throat is so dry,” Oosi offered with a heavy slap to Bran’s back. “That Wet Trout was more my speed. Come on. I’ll buy the first round.”

“Now you’re speaking my language,” Bran cheered.

“I think I’ll sit this one out,” Erlined chimed, scratching his groin. “Maybe there’s a nice card game over at the White Lady.”

“After consulting with my companions,” Bran informed Imdra, “we are indeed staying at the White Lady Inn.”

We departed, and as we were heading toward the Wet Trout, Mendel offered, “Do you think I should wait at the White Lady Inn? I can secure our rooms and then if the Captain comes looking for us, I’ll be there to receive her.”

“Erling,” Bran suggested, “you wanted to go play cards anyway, right?”

“Yeah, you ever play cards?” Erling asked Mendel. “Do you know how to play gin rummy or any of those games? Come on, I’ll teach you.”

“Oh, okay,” Mendel agreed. “I’ve never really played any of those games.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Erling pressed. “Real easy. Real easy. Don’t worry about it. I’ll show you exactly how it’s done.”

Blaze joined Erling and Mendel, while the rest of us headed back to the Wet Trout to wait for Scython.

Blaze was checking on their rooms when Captain Arlaggath met Erling, and Mendel at the White Lady while Erling was teaching Mendel how to play cards. Mendel was gradually losing all his copper coins.

“Well,” Imdra began, motioning to the waitress for a round of drinks. “It looks like you did the town a favor. You killed nine duergar. That could not have not meant anything but ill for our town.”

“Were there that many?” Erling asked.

“I thought it seemed like more at the time,” Mendel whined. “Maybe because they were so big. You know they were way bigger when they were fighting us, and then they shrunk down after we killed them. They were like giants!”

“Well, if that’s not a kick in the pants, I don’t know what is. Can you imagine someone as small as me standing there, fighting a duergar, and then all of the sudden, boom, he’s as tall as a building. Well, I’ll tell you what. They’re not going to frighten a stout halfling like me, that’s for damn sure.”

Dropping a pouch of coins in the middle of the table, Imdra stated, “Easthaven is grateful for your service,” and promptly left before we could say another word.

“Wait,” Erling called, “Would you join us?” But she was already gone.

“It was our pleasure,” Mendel added.

“Thank you?” Erling chided, turning to his companions. “Well, this is interesting. Let’s have a look-see here.”

“Maybe there’s some copper coins in there we could use,” Mendel wondered aloud as Erling sifted through the pouch.

Erling counted one hundred and fifty gold coins.

When we joined them at the White Lady, we distributed Imdra’s reward, Erling returned Mendel’s copper coins, and we eventually settled down for the night, long discussing what we would do in the morning.

While we were considering heading to Karkolohk to negotiate the peace treaty with the goblins for Targos’ Speaker Naerth Maxildanarr, Mendel determined that the directions to Karkolohk were included in the treaty itself. I was eager to find Copper Knobberknocker’s friend, Macreadus, and the device he was building. Oosi wanted to make sure tracking down the renegade berserker barbarians was not last on our list. Ultimately, we decided to head toward Caer-Konig to hunt duergar.

That night, Mendel cast find familiar, summoning and dismissing an owl form. He named it, Who.

In the morning we departed Easthaven and reached Caer-Dineval in the evening without incident. Mendel had his familiar owl circling around overhead while we traveled.

After stopping by The Climb, we spoke with Speaker Crannoc Siever in the Caer, who cleared out the ground floor of the northeast tower for our quarters.

Oosi checked in on the young tiefling girl, Mere, and found that she was doing well.

We had an uneventful night’s rest and departed for Caer-Konig in the morning. The white, snow-covered slopes of Kelvin's Cairn loomed large behind the quiet lakeside town. Mendel explained that, “Caer-Konig started as a camp for a group of mountaineers from the northern Moonsea region. As the camp grew, a wooden palisade was added to discourage raiders. Later came the stone castle of Caer-Konig. Alas, neither the palisade nor the castle fared well; both fell to orcs before falling into ruin.”

Caer-Konig consisted of terraced rows of houses that receded from the shore of Lac Dinneshere like the tiers of an amphitheater. The harbor was frozen, its docks skewed and broken by the shifting ice. Buried under the snow on the slopes above the last row of houses were the ruins of the Caer that gave the town its name—like a reminder to the people of Caer-Konig that nothing lasts in this corner of the world.

The town sat quietly at the foot of Kelvin's Cairn. A few bundled-up people shuffled between snow-battered houses, keeping their heads down, barely bothering to give you a look as we walked by them.

As we approached a large building, a pile of snow stirred as you passed it, and someone hidden beneath it suddenly stood. The figure looked around and yelled, "Who goes there? Is it thieves? Have I found those creeping bastards?"

When he pulled down the scarf covering his face, we saw it was a silver dragonborn holding onto an empty wine bottle as if it was a weapon. He belched, grinned at us, and said, "Pardon my manners. Bit jittery with all the thieving going on. I'm Trovus, the town speaker."

“Well, it’s nice to meet you mister speaker,” Erling greeted.

“Oh, Newcomers!“ Trovus replied. “Are you here to climb the mountain?”

“Ah… in a manner of speaking,” Erling hinted. “Metaphorically, I think.”

“Well, just don’t steal nothing,” Trovus warned. “We’ve got enough trouble with thieves already.”

“You think you’ve got trouble with thieves,” Erling bantered, “you been to Easthaven lately?”

“Uh, yeah, I’ve been to Easthaven,” Trovus responded with a belch.

“They’ll pick your pockets clean before you even get into town,” Erling reminisced.

“Yeah, picking pockets is legal there,” Trovus expounded.

“What?” Erling was incredulous. “It is?”

“Sure!” Trovus snorted. “Well, you’re not from around here are you?”

“Well, I’ll be,” Erling hooted. “Picking pockets is legal. But I take it it’s not legal here, is it?”

“No! No,” Trovus promised, “I’ll throw you right in the brig.”

“Not that I’d be picking any pockets anyhow,” Erling hinted. “Do I look like the picking pockets type?”

“Yeah, you do,” Trovus warned. “See that you don’t.”

“That’s just silly,” Erling laughed. “That’s just silly. That’s pretty funny for a speaker.”

“Anyways,” Trovus continued, “where you heading?”

“Ah...a tavern?” Erling suggested.

“Yeah, I can take you to the tavern,” Trovus offered.

“I’m sure you would,” Erling agreed. “So what’s your favorite tavern in town?”

Squinting into the distance, Trovus asked, “Well, you want drinks, or you want rooms?”

“What do you think guys?” Erling asked us. “Drinks or rooms?”

“Food and drink for now?” Bran answered.

“I could use a stuff drink after that road,” Oosi agreed. “Warm my bones.”

“Hook, Line, and Sinker’s a pretty good bar,” Trovus disclosed.

As we all passed the ruins of the Caer, Mendel asked, “Is there a lower level to that ruined castle?”

“No, there’s nothing there,” Trovus assured us. “There’s nothing there but memories.”

“You know there’ve been duergar hiding out in some of the Ten Towns you know,” Erling revealed. “Have you heard about that?”

“No,” Trovus replied.

“It’s a real one,” Erling told the tiefling.

“Infestations,” Mendel added. “And they’re invisible. That means you can’t see them.”

“Well, our towns had some thievery troubles,” Trovus divulged. “Maybe invisible dwarves is the reason. No one’s seen anything, really.”

“They tend to like to hide out in abandoned houses,” Erling shared. “You have many of those?”

“I mean, a few, I guess,” Trovus replied.

“What are the thieves stealing?” Bran inquired. “I mean, are they picking pockets or are they taking items?”

“They’re taking things,” Trovus explained. “Just the other night the lantern over at the Northern Light was stolen. Cori won’t let me hear the end of it, because I haven’t been able to find those responsible…not yet anyway. But I have a knack for this stuff! I was out last night patrolling.”

“I’m sure you do,” Erling sniggered.

“Anything else stolen,” Bran pried, “besides the lantern?”

“Um, yeah, goats, pearls, uh…you know, things,” Trovus considered.

“Sounds to me like somebody might be gathering supplies,” Bran suggested. “The pearls could come in very handy for some spells.”

“That’s right,” Mendel squawked.

“A couple of goats could feed a few duergar for a few days,” Erling opined, “I would imagine.”

“And a lantern would give them a little bit of light, if they were hiding out,” Bran guessed.

“Maybe we can help you with your investigation,” Erling offered. “What do you think?”

“Oh, yeah?” Trovus accepted. “Yeah, sure.I could always use help.”

“I’ll bet,” Erling sneered.

“Can you tell us whereabouts these items were taken?” Bran inquired.

“Huh, oh, yeah,” Trovus tried to recall. “The magic lantern from the Northern Light. Other items were taken from other places. Everybody’s complaining about things missing.”

“The magic lantern?” Bran asked. “What’s magic about it?”

“Well, yeah,” Trovus stammered, “it made light.”

“Well I have a lantern that makes light too, but it’s not magic,” Mendel disputed.

“Yeah, but this Cori’s was,” Trovus insisted.

“How long ago did it go missing?” Mendel inquired.

“Uh, just the other night,” Trovus recalled.

“We should check out the abandoned buildings,” Erling suggested.

“The goats and the pearls,” Bran continued, “ were taken from other houses, or also from the Northern Light?”

“No, from other places,” Trovus explained. “Everybody’s complaining about things missing.”

“Ah, they’re everywhere!” Bran cursed. “Buggers!”

“Look,” Trovus warned, “we don’t have any money to pay you if you investigate this, so I understand if you want to just move on your way.”

“That’s not how we operate,” Erling promised. “We’re here to help the people of the Ten Towns. We’re happy to help you.”

“We’re heroes,” Mendel added.

“I’m interested in checking out those ruins,” Frizzt suggested. “Perhaps we could find some tracks.”

“Perhaps you could cast detect magic,” Bran suggested to Mendel,” and perhaps the lantern, or something, might reveal itself to you.”

“You know, we know pretty much all the speakers around here. We met most of the speakers. Actually, we saved the speaker down in Caer-Dineval just last week. Overrun with cultists he was.”

“What?!?” Trovus gasped. “Cultists?!?”

“Cultists,” Erling confirmed. “Kidnapped the guy and tried to take over his place.”

“You think cultists are stealing our stuff?” Trovus asked.

“No, I don’t think cultists is your problem,” Erling shared. “I think—”

“You haven’t seen anybody wearing these necklaces, have you?” Bran inquired.

“Oh, you’re talking about chardalyn?” Trovus replied.

“Yes,” Erling confirmed.

“The lantern was made of chardalyn,” Trovus explained. “You want to talk to Cori, at the Northern Light?”

“Yeah, let’s go have a chat with Cori,” Erling agreed.

Trovus led us through Caer-Konig to the Northern Light inn. Outside the entrance was a hook meant to carry a lantern. The inn appeared to be mostly empty. A young woman looked up as we entered, gave Trovus a chastising smile, and said, "Did you fall asleep outside again? I'm telling you, Trovus, one day you're going to have to stop relying on the kindness of strangers."

“He was conducting quite the investigation,” Erling fibbed.

The woman then opened a door into what looked like a kitchen and called out, "Heat up something for Trovus. He's been out 'patrolling' again."

“You could heat a little something up for us too, if you don’t mind,” Erling suggested.

“And for six others,” the woman called. “Hi, I’m Allie. Allie Shorard.

“I’m Erling. Erling Diggle.” Erling extended a hand. “Nice to meet you.”

“Where are you fellas from?” Allie asked, helping Trovus into a chair. “Please have a seat. My sister will get you some food in a short while.”

“Thank you very much,” Bran greeted her. “Trovus was telling us you had a bit of a theft, and we noticed the empty hook outside, on our way in.”

“Oh yeah,” Allie nodded. “Oh, yeah. We sure do. The whole town’s been having break-ins and robberies lately, don’t you know. But no one has witnessed anybody. The only clue is a set of tracks leading in the direction of Kelvin's Cairn. I think those tracks were made by dwarves who live in the valley beside the base of Kelvin's Cairn. I think this endless winter has made them desperate for food and ale.”

“Nah,” Erling shook his head. “We know those dwarves. They’re a good lot. They wouldn’t steal a thing.”

The door to the kitchen swung open as another woman entered holding a steaming bowl of soup. She placed the bowl down in front of Trovus and said, "No dwarf did this. Someone would have spotted 'em. Caught 'em. No, there's something more going on.”

“See,” Erling concurred, “now that I can get behind. I think that’s a perfect idea. Mmm, that soup smells great!”

"A quiet dwarf is an oxymoron," the stern-looking woman added. “Besides, what use do hungry dwarves have for a lantern?"

“Maybe you could tell us about the lantern?” Bran encouraged.

“It didn’t do anything except display different colored lights,” Allie informed us, “but, you know, that was our logo.” She confirmed that the lantern magically changed colors on its own, but was purely decorative.

“You know we discovered that there are duergar in several of the other Ten Towns we’ve just been through,” Erling hinted.

“What are duergar?” Allie asked.

“Those are evil versions of dwarves,” Erling explained. “They’re grey. They come from deep within the bowels of the earth. They’re a pretty nasty lot.”

“And they make excellent thieves,” Bran added, “because they can turn themselves invisible.”

“That means you can’t see them,” Mendel squawked.

“So we were both right,” Allie turned to the other woman. “They were and weren’t dwarves.”

“Yeah, but not the friendly dwarves down in the valley,” Erling reiterated. “We know them. They’re a good lot down there, those dwarves.”

“And they hate the duergar,” Bran added.

“Oh, well, I’ll take your word for it,” Allie replied.

The woman brought out more soup.

“You said the footprints led off to the north,” Bran pursued, “toward the mountain? Was it a single set of footprints?”

“Maybe we should go take a look,” Erling suggested.

“To me, it looks like that’s kind of like their path,” Allie surmised. “Whoever’s coming here and taking stuff. You know, you could tell in the snow, people have traveled back and forth. You just can’t see anybody. I stayed up late one night seeing if I could spot somebody coming down that way, but I never saw anyone.”

“Did you ever lose anything other than the lantern,” Bran inquired, “or was the lantern the only thing they stole from you? No food? No supplies?”

“Yeah, we lost a sack of grain a month ago,” the stern-looking woman replied, returning from the kitchen, “but I didn’t think it was anything important.”

Agreeing to set up a trap in the snow, we discussed the details. Frizzt wanted to hide in the snow. Mendel suggested tempting them with an illusion of a magical lantern. Erling considered using local dogs to find the duergar.

That evening, we took up positions 600 feet north of town where Erling and I hid behind snow drifts on either side of the trail. Near each of us were two tents where everyone else hid. Mendel sent his snowy white owl to scout to the north.

Eventually, using my eyes of the eagle, I saw footprints appear in the snow, made by two or three invisible creatures. Once they were between Erling and me, I cast faerie fire, but no one appeared within the violet glow.

His owl was 130 feet north when Mendel cast minor illusion, creating the roar of a winter wolf from behind the violet glow.

I cast hail of thorns and struck the duergar in the lead, causing blood to spill into the snow.

Blaze ran through the snow toward the glow.

Erling struck it with a crossbow bolt.

Blaze cast guiding bolt into the air.

Running through the snow, Bran mocked, “What’s that smell? I thought breath weapons were supposed to come out of your mouth.”

Oosi ran forward, ready to throw his handaxe.

Withdrawing, I hit the duergar with another arrow.

Mendel cast web, ensnaring two other duergar.

Oosi hit one with his handaxe.

Mendel cast mirror imagine on himself as his owl returned.

Oosi dropped one of the duergar with his other handaxe as he closed the distance.

I hit the other duergar with an arrow and shouted, “I think there’s more than two!”

While his owl circled overhead, Mendel moved up and cast sleep, but it had no effect.

Bran cast sleep, but it also had no effect.

Mendel continued to move up and cast sleep again, causing a duergar to fall face-first in the snow.

Blaze took out his rope and tied up the sleeping duergar while the rest of us searched for any others. Erling made sure the rope went around its neck, in case it tried to enlarge.

“Who thinks it found another set of tracks going back the way they came,” Mendel informed us. “Should we pursue?”

We agreed to stay put and interrogate the captured duergar.

Session 26 - 2021-05-21

After a couple of hours the captured duergar awoke, looked up at us, obviously testing his bonds.

I aimed a knocked arrow at him, as Oosi, wielding his hammer, stepped on his chest and warned, “I wouldn’t try it if I were you! I’ll finish the job.”

The duergar stopped struggling.

“We’ve got some questions for you, dwarf,” Bran began.

Duergar began cursing in Undercommon, “Let me go! You’re going to be sorry if you keep messing with us!

In Undercommon, I asked, “Do you speak Common?

I spit on your pitiful language!” the duergar replied.

I continued, “What is your name?

I am Novrael, the bearded,” the duergar answered.

Where is your base?” I asked.

When Novrael remained quiet, Oosi threatened, “Answer the man!”

Novrael frowned and turtled up, but remained quiet.

“Do we think that he really doesn’t understand Common?” Mendel whined.

Bran knelt down and whispered into his Novrael’s ear, his dagger nearby, “We know you took the lantern.”

Novrael looked up at me and barked, “Get this stinking human off of me! I’ll answer your questions!

“”Bran, give him some space,” I uttered in Common. “He seems to be cooperating.”

Bran backed off.

Where is your base?” I repeated, and began translating Novrael’s responses back to my companions.

It’s on the slopes of Kelvin’s Cairn,” Novrael replied.

How many duergar?” I asked.

Too many for you!” Novrael hinted.

Give me a number,” I demanded.

15,” Novrael revealed. “They are duergar warriors. You don’t stand a chance.

Are you allied with Xarorok?” I asked.

Lord Xardorok, pig!” Novrael replied.

Is Lord Xardorok at the base of Kelvin’s Cairn?” I asked.

What assurances do I have you won’t kill me after I tell you my information?” Novrael countered.

Currently, you have none,” I replied.

Then I’d rather die silent, than die a traitor,” Novrael stated.

The chances of you being able to die silently are much less if you do not cooperate,” I threatened. At the puzzled expression on Novrael’s face I reiterated, “If you do not cooperate, the odds are, you will die screaming in agony.

Duergar don’t scream,” Novrael insisted.

I find that hard to believe,” I replied. “Hopefully, we will not have to test this theory.

How many mages do you have?” I asked.

Cut me loose, and I’ll tell you,” Novrael negotiated.

We will not be cutting you loose,” I replied.

Then I will not tell you,” Novrael insisted.

“He’s refusing to cooperate,” I informed my companions.

“Make him cooperate!” Erling said, as he walked up and grabbed Novrael by the beard and held his dagger to it. “Now you tell him that if doesn’t start talking and giving us the answers we want, I’m going to shave off his beard, and they’re going to call him, ‘Novrael bald face’. Let’s see how that goes over with his colleagues if we let him go.”

Novrael,” I warned the now-wide-eyed duergar, “You are about to become ‘the unbearded’ if you do not cooperate.

You dishonorable cur!” Novrael conceded, “I’ll answer your questions!

“He appears to be more complacent now,” I informed my companions as I began to interrogate the duergar further. “Tell us all about the forces at your camp. All the defenses. Who is there? How many fortresses do you have? How many bases? Where is Xardorok? What are Xardorok’s plans?

Novrael began to speak, “Nildar Sunblight commands the outpost at Kelvin’s Cairn. He is a noble, Xardorok’s son. There are also servants at the outpost.

And where is Xardorok?” I grilled.

Novrael began to speak, “Xardorok commands a much larger fortress in the mountains to the south. Only Nildar knows how to find it.

What were the duergar doing in Easthaven?” I grilled.

Nildar commanded us,” Novrael revealed. “We were searching the Ten Towns for chardalyn on behalf of Xardorok.

What do you need of chardalyn?” I pressed.

Xardorok wants the chardalyn,” Novrael revealed. “He’s forging a dragon out of it.

“Can you do that?” Erling wondered aloud. “That sounds kind of crazy.”

Why did you steal the lantern from Caer-Konig?” I pumped.

It was made of chardalyn,” Novrael revealed.

Was there a duergar mage in Easthaven?” I questioned.

I don’t know,” Novrael replied.

Do you have any other outposts, besides the two we discussed?” I grilled.

No,” Novrael revealed.

What can you tell us about Xardorok’s forge?” I questioned.

I’ve never been there,” Novrael replied. “I don’t know anything about Xardorok’s forge.”

How many entrances are there to the outpost at Kelvin’s Cairn?” I pressed.

The outpost is impregnable,” Novrael revealed. “You have no chance of invading it. You should quit now.

How many entrances are there and how is it defended?” I demanded.

There’s just one entrance,” Novrael revealed, “and it is defended by duergar warriors.

Who brings the chardalyn to Xardorok?” I questioned. “And how often?

Xardorok sends his emissaries,” Novrael shared, “very often. It seems like they’re always there.

“Maybe we could use the emissaries to infiltrate,” Bran suggested, once I translated. “Take them on their way in. Disguise ourselves. I’m good with a disguise.”

How many of the Ten Towns have the duergar invaded?” I probed.

We’re all over the Ten Towns,” Novrael revealed. “It will be our land soon.

What will you do if we let you go?” I asked.

I will oppose you to my last breath,” Novrael threatened.

“I think we should hand him over to the constable,” Erling suggested, “or somebody, because they’ve been killing and pillaging these places and they have to be held accountable, right?”

“As you wish,” I replied. “I think if we hand him over, there’s a likely chance that he will escape, and potentially threaten the lives of the civilians in Ten Towns.

“So what are you saying?” Erling questioned. “Are you saying we should kill him?”

“I think letting him live will only lead to more death,” I concluded.

“Why don’t we hand him over to Trovus, the speaker of Caer Konig,” Mendel proposed, “but we supervise him until they’re finished disseminating whatever justice they have? Perhaps they are sacrificing lives there. Or let Trovus deal with him.”

“Yeah, we should probably hand him over to someone,” Erling agreed. “Unless we let him go and he attacks us, and we have to kill him, or something.”

“If we let him go,” Bran suggested, “he’s definitely going to attack us.”

“He might run to warn the other,” Erling considered. “We’re not murderers, right? He’s our captive now. Like a captive of war. Should we just slit his throat and kill him here? After what they did to my village, I am very tempted to put him out of his misery. But, I don’t know, it just doesn’t seem quite right to me.”

Ultimately we agreed to bring Novrael back to Trovus, along with their scale mail armor, shields, war picks, and javelins.

We noted that the cultists’ amulets were also made of chardalyn, and we had dropped them, along with chardalyn weapons, in Lac Dinneshere.

What’s so special about the chardalyn?” I demanded.

Chardalyn, it’s a wondrous material,” Novrael revealed. “It’s a crystal that works like a metal. It is easy to imbue with magic.

“Duergar, listen to me. Hear my voice…” Mendel tried to use his hypnotic gaze to pacify Novrael, but the duergar resisted and spit in Mendel’s face.

“Darnit!” Mendel cursed. “Nobody listens to Mendel. We should blindfold and gag him.” Mendel followed his own suggestions.

When we returned to the The Northern Light, we found Trovus dozing by the fire.

“Trovus,” Bran called, “look what we caught.”

Trovus awoke with a startle and a grunt, “What the— Dwarf? Is that the thief?”

“Indeed,” I acknowledged.

“It’s one of your thieves,” Erling added.

“It’s actually a duergar,” Mendel explicated. “It’s a different kind of dwarf. Not the kind of dwarf you’re used to. These dwarves can turn invisible. They can also get really big. And there were more than one of them.”

“They’ve been raiding your town every night,” Bran explained.

“Oh!,” Trovus acknowledged. “I’ll have to arrest him for thievery then.”

“What’s the punishment for thievery in this town?” Mendel inquired.

“Uh, I don’t know,” Trovus replied, “but he’ll be in jail for a while. That’s for sure!”

“Well, you have a jail,” Bran sighed. “That’s good.”

“You’ve got to be careful,” Mendel warned, “because he can turn invisible and get really big, and strong!”

“I’m sure we’ll be able to deal with him,” Trovus assured us, securing Novrael with manacles and returning our rope. “Don’t worry, we got this,” Trovus responded to our hesitation. “Just take your rope and let us handle it.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to let us help you escort him to the jail?” I offered.

“No, we got it,” Trovus insisted.

“Be advised that there were three of them,” I informed him. “One was slain, and the other fled.”

“You guys are adventurers, right?” Trovus hinted. “You’re going to handle them?”

“We may not be able to find him,” I shared. “They said they stole your lantern, because it was made of chardalyn.”

“So they’re stealing chardalyn?” Trovus clarified.

“Indeed,” I confirmed.

“So, you’re going to go root them out?” Trovus asked.

“I think that’s the general idea here,” Erling agreed, “yes.”

“Great!” Trovus said, quickly leaving with Novrael.

“Uh, no, no, we don’t need your help,” Erling called after him. “It’s quite alright. Thanks for offering.”

“Did Trovus seem mighty eager to get that duergar away from us?” Mendel asked.

“Why don’t we follow him?” Erling suggested. “Come on, Frizzt. Let’s go follow him and see what he does.”

“That’s a good idea,” Frizzt agreed, and departed after Erling.

Down the road to the weat, Trovus stopped and turned toward Erling, “What are you following me for?”

“Isn’t this the way to the Hook, Line, and Sinker,” Erling asked.

“No, it’s that way,” Trovus replied pointing south.

“Ah, thank you, your eminence,” Erling replied.

Erling suggested we follow him again, and I agreed. This time Erling stalked Trovus on the opposite side of the row of houses leading from The Northern Light to the speaker’s quarters. I trailed ninety feet behind Erling.

Suddenly Trovus appeared from around the corner of one of the buildings, shouting toward me, “What? What is it? Why are you following me? Hello?” He walked toward me, continuing, “Hey, I’m talking to you. Why are you following me?”

“I am not following you,” I responded, shocked that he saw me through the buildings.

“What are you doing behind these buildings?” Trovus asked. “Why are you in these people’s yards?”

“I did not realize that these were yards,” I explained. “This looks like open town.”

“What are you doing here?” Trovus pressed.

“What is your concern,” I countered. “Don’t you have a prisoner to attend to?”

“My concern is that you’re following me,” Trovus explained, “and you’re skulking around behind these people’s homes. I am the law in this town, and it is my concern when people act suspiciously.”

“We just brought back the thief who was stealing from your town, from before we arrived,” I argued. “It would seem that you would have more important things to worry about than us.”

“I can be concerned with more than one thing at a time,” Trovus stated. “So, what are you doing? Why are you following me? Why are you here behind these people’s houses?”

“I’m not following you,” I replied. “I’m just wandering through town.”

“If I hear of anything else being stolen,” Trovus warned, “I’m going to arrest you and your lot.” With that, he turned and continued on his way.

“If anything else is stolen,” I said to his back, “it is probably other duergar.”

Once Trovus was gone, I followed Erling to the Hook, Line, and Sinker.

I went to The Northern Light to let our companions know where we were, and they eagerly joined us.

We described our encounter with Trovus, and agreed that he seemed suspicious, but that we should deal with the durger as soon as possible.

We tried to strategize how we would engage the duergar, possibly focusing on the emissaries as they come and go.

Before we left, Mendel rented a room and cast find familiar, summoning and dismissing a bat form.

When we departed Caer-Konig, I quickly picked up the durger tracks, and we followed them north, toward Kelvin’s Cairn.

On the way, we were attacked by two winged creatures with deer heads. They swooped down from the night sky, surprising everyone except for Bran and I.

Nevertheless, Bran was gored by one of their horns, and raked by its talons. After swinging wildly with his sword, he quickly cast healing word on himself and fled, getting raked again.

I used slayer’s prey on one of the peryton’s, but missed, and withdrew.

Mendel hit Bran’s attacker with three magic missiles.

Blaze cast cure wounds on Bran.

Oosi flew into a rage and hit it with his warhammer, but was gored as the peryton flew by.

Bran fell after being gored once more.

I cast hunter’s mark on it and hit it in the neck, sending it crashing down dead by Bran’s feet, and withdrew further.

Mendel hit the last peryton with three magic missiles, and tried to follow Frizzt through the snow.

Blaze revived Bran with cure wounds.

Oosi threw his javelin of lightning, but missed.

Erling was gored by its horns, and raked by its talons.

Bran rose, dropped his sword, drew his bow, and nicked it with an arrow.

As Mendel withdrew, he cast toll the dead, but it had no effect.

Blaze hit it with two scorching rays.

Oosi dropped his warhammer and threw his handaxe, hitting the monstrosity fatally in the chest.

We took a short rest to recover, and Bran sang a soothing tune.

Once we were recovered, we continued on and soon reached the foothills of Kelvin’s Cairn. I was still able to pick up tracks, and we followed them to a blocky stronghold, bereft of warmth or charm, that jutted out of a hillside in a rough crescent shape. Only part of its construction was visible; the rest was buried in the stone.

A large double door of stone served as the main entrance. The terrain leading to it was a gently upward-sloping plain covered with fresh snow. A stream used to flow out of a barred culvert northeast of the main entrance, but the waterway had frozen. Two other barred openings could be seen along the stronghold's northern wall.

Closer to us, separated from the rest of the stronghold, was a snow-covered stone bunker perforated by arrow slits.

Mendel sent his bat to scout around the bunker, seeing through its eyes, and relaying what he saw. Referring to the bunker, “It doesn’t look like there are any arrow slits on the north or east. There’s a duergar in there, and a trapdoor as well. He didn’t spot us yet. Perhaps we should back off.”

We backed off and tried to figure out the best way to infiltrate the structure. Ultimately, we decided we needed to rest for the night before we confronted the duergar.

We followed the base of Kelvin’s Cairn for about two hours west and found a niche to make camp.

We spent much of the nice trying to figure out how to penetrate this seemingly impregnable fortress.

The next morning we returned, and Mendel had his bat scout closer to the fortress. Examining where the frozen stream met the barred culvert, he noticed that, “It looks like there is enough of a gap on top of the ice for any of us to crawl through to the fortress. There’s also arrow slits all along the side of the fortress. We would be visible to all of them.”

“I can try to hide us with a fog cloud,” I suggested, “but I cannot move the cloud.”

Blaze cast guidance on Erling as the halfling skulked closer to the entrance.

Mendel cast message to Erling, asking, “Do you want me to send my bat up with you, in case there’s anything invisible?”

“Sure,” Erling whispered back, climbing to the roof of the bunker and scouting the area for secret doors.

Mendel kept using message to communicate with Erling, telling him that his bat now saw two duergar in the bunker.

Erling made his way stealthily back to us. “It seemed all but impossible to get in over there. I don’t know what to suggest. The only thing I can think of is wait for one of these things to come along, hijack it, and pose as an emissary.”

Blaze cast guidance on Erling again as the halfling revisited the entrance, hugging the side of the northern cliff under the barred windows.

Examining the culvert, Erling peered inside and saw a tunnel beyond. Slipping under the culvert, he found that ten feet into the tunnel, the frozen river continued on, but above was the circular opening leading up to a well.

Communicating with his bat, Mendel eventually told us that Erling wanted us to follow him under the culvert.

Blaze removed his armor so he could move more quietly and we all skulked our way forward, hugging the north cliff wall, passing under the barred windows, and slipping under the culvert into a five-foot-high tunnel. There was a ladder leading up the side of the twenty-foot-deep well.

Erling told us he heard duergar voices coming from above the well and smelled rotting flesh.

Blaze cast guidance on Oosi as the barbarian climbed up the ladder, a hooked rope in one hand, and Erling hanging on tight. Mendel’s bat flew to Erling’s shoulder. Oosi set the hook on the south side of the well.

Erling quietly climbed over the wall.

In the darkness were cages filled with humanoid figures, one with a larger humanoid. Across the room were two duergar, and a third farther back.

Oosi climbed over the wall, not as quietly, and was spotted by the duergar.

Session 27 - 2021-05-28

Erling lit a torch and threw it into the dark hall above the well, communicating to others telepathically.

Blaze cast shield of faith and climbed to the top of the well.

Mendel’s bat flew up to the ceiling to scout the area.

One of the duergar released a malodorous ogre with rotting, half-frozen skin and an empty right eye socket from one of the cages, and a couple of zombies from another cage.

I followed Blaze up the ladder and cast dancing lights inside the duergar hall.

Bran gave me his bardic inspiration.

Mendel cast misty step, and appeared prone at the top of the well.

One of the duergar began screaming and running out of the room.

The ogre zombie slammed Oosi hard, and Oosi slammed it right back with his warhammer.

One of the zombies slammed Blaze.

Erling aimed his crossbow and struck one of the zombies, spilling unused internal organs to the floor.

Blaze climbed out the well and held his symbol of Lathander out, turning undead, sending the zombie and zombie ogre fleeing down the hall. Then he cast spiritual weapon, and hit the remaining zombie, only to get slammed by it in turn.

I climbed out of the well and hit one of the duergar in the chest using slayer’s prey.

Bran climbed out of the well and cast healing word on Oosi.

Mendel cast toll the dead, but it had no effect.

Erling aimed his crossbow and finished the duergar I had hit.

Blaze hit a duergar with his spiritual weapon and mace.

Bran slashed the remaining zombie with his flaming sword, cutting off its head. Then he yelled, “will you aid us in our battle?” to a pair of nervous goats in the third cage, before advancing to Oosi’s side.

Mendel hit the duergar with three magic missiles.

Oosi hit the duergar with his warhammer.

Two giant spiders emerged from a door to the south, and climbed up the wall.

“The giant spiders have duergar riding on them!” Mendel squealed.

“Uh, guys,” Erling called, “there’s a mechanical guy coming from behind! What the hell is this?”

From a door to the north emerged a duergar fused to some bizarre armor, screaming in agony, its arms and legs wheezing mechanically as it moved toward Erling.

Erling reached into his bag of tricks, pulling out a dire wolf, and yelled, “Sick him, boy, sick him!” as he withdrew and began climbing up one of the cages.

“There’s two more duergar coming!” Mendel warned, having been warned by his bat. “And more spiders coming from the way. They also have duergar on them.”

Two spider-riding duergar hit Oosi with their war picks.

I cast faerie fire, illuminating one duergar who was already visible.

Bran inspired Oosi, and slashed the duergar with his flaming sword.

Erling’s dire wolf tore into the mechanical duergar, and knocked it prone, but it quickly rose and clawed the wolf with one mechanical hand and hammered it with the other.

Mendel cast web over three spiders and their riders restraining all but one spider and its rider.

The free spider riding duergar hit Oosi with its war pick.

One of the restrained spiders broke free of the webs, along with its rider, and bit Bran.

Erling hid on top of one of the cages.

Blaze hit the mechanical duergar with his spiritual weapon.

“There’s a large duergar right there!” Mendel warned us, pointing toward the dire wolf. “And there’s another invisible one behind it! And there’s two more invisible ones on the drawbridge!”

Bran cast thunderwave, killing one injured duergar and blasting a spider and its rider and an invisible duergar. Then he inspired Blaze.

The dire wolf tore into the mechanical duergar’s throat, knocking it prone.

Mendel pulled out his wand and hit the mechanical duergar with three magic missiles, putting an end to its screams.

Oosi smashed into one of the spider riding duergar, sending it reeling with a dented helmet. Its spider bit into Oosi.

Blaze held his symbol out and summoned the radiance of the dawn, radiating four spiders and five duergar. Then he hit a duergar with his spiritual weapon, and was hit in return with its war pick.

Bran cast thunderwave again, killing a duergar and blasting another, along with one spider.

At Erling’s command, the dire wolf tore into a duergar, knocking it prone.

Mendel cast mirror image, creauting three illusory duplicates of himself.

Five fungus covered people staggered in through the southern door.

A spider bit Oosi as he was maneuvering, and another bit Bran.

Erling quaffed a potion and fled across the ceiling to evade an approaching spider, but was hit with another rider’s war pick as he fled.

Blaze killed the prone duergar with his spiritual weapon and cast cure wounds on himself.

An enlarged duergar smashed Oosi with his warhammer.

I moved my slayer’s prey to a spider, and killed it with a well-placed arrow.

Bran cast healing word on Oosi and slashed a duergar with his sword.

Three fungus people swarmed Oosi, stabbing him with their spears.

The dire wolf bit into a giant spider as it leaped away onto Mendel and bit him in the neck.

Mendel cautiously slid down the ladder, into the well.

Oosi hit one of the duergar with his warhammer.

Blaze hit a spider with his spiritual weapon, and then killed it with a scorching ray and wounded another spider with another ray.

Smashed by a duergar’s war pick, I targeted my slayer’s prey, finishing it.

Bran cast healing word on Oosi and slashed a duergar with his flaming sword.

Two of the fungus people pulled themselves through the webs, while three others were restrained. One of them stabbed Erling with its spear.

Peeking over the well wall, Mendel dropped a duergar with three magic missiles.

Oosi charged forward, getting nicked by two duergar war picks in the process, and threw his javelin of lightning, killing two fungus zombies and blasting two duergar with lightning.

Scampering across the ceiling, Erling hit a duergar with a crossbow bolt.

Blaze cast cure wounds on Oosi and hit a duergar with his spiritual weapon.

A duergar slammed Bran with its warhammer, dropping the bard.

I targeted a spider with hunter’s mark and finished it with an arrow between its many eyes.

The dire wolf tore a duergar’s throat out.

Mendel hit a spider with toll the dead.

A robed duergar appeared from the south and tried to command Oosi, but Oosi threw his handaxe toward it, missing.

Blaze revived Bran with cure wounds.

Aiming my hunter’s mark, I dropped a duergar as my dancing lights disappeared.

Bran cast heroism on Oosi.

Two spore zombies and two giant spiders broke free of the webs. Another spore zombie stabbed me with its spear.

Mendel hit a spider with three magic missiles from his wand.

The robed duergar stabbed Erling with a dagger that caused a sharp stabbing in the halfling’s mind, dropping him.

Blaze hit a spider with his mace.

Careful to avoid my attacker’s, I ran to Erling and withdrew a potion.

Withdrawing, Bran cast healing word on himself.

Mendel killed a spider with a magic missile and hit a spore zombie with two others.

The robed duergar spoke to me in Undercommon, “Begone from here, and we’ll let you live!

How many more of you are there?” I asked, and it responded by stabbing Oosi in the neck with his dagger.

Leave, or I kill him!” the robed duergar demanded.

“Perhaps we should leave,” I suggested, in Common. “He’s giving us a chance to retreat. I think we should take it.”

We lowered our weapons, and I replied in Undercommon, “I will gather my companions.

“Go out the door,” the robed duergar demanded. “It’s open!”

I picked up Erling and brought him to Blaze, who revived him with cure wounds.

Mendel retrieved the rope and grappling hook and followed his companions out of the fortress.

As we were leaving, I asked the robed duergar, “What is your name?

Thradraek Othersight,” the robed duergar answered.

I thank you for your mercy, Thradraek Othersight,” I replied.

Honor in battle is all,” the robed duergar replied. “Now go!

Session 28 - 2021-06-04

We heard the large double doors of the duergar outpost being barred behind us.

We noted that the outpost’s barred windows and arrow slits were on the ground level, the former being six inches apart. There was still at least one duergar guard watching us from the bunker.

Defeated by the duergar, we returned to our campsite to rest.

Mendel indicated he thought we could have finished the duergar based on how many we had already killed, but the general consensus was that we had no choice but to retreat.

We made it to our camp without incident and had an uneventful rest under a full moon.

We spent at least an hour discussing how to deal with the duergar outpost, including ambushing anyone who arrives or leaves, picking off the duergar at range, trying the frozen stream again, Mendel could misty step inside or Erling could enter through and arrow slit and let us in, stowing away in any cart used to transport chardalyn out, goading their leader into a one on one combat, using something from Erling’s bag of tracks and/or a minor illusion as a distraction, infiltrating through the bunker, a full frontal assault, or hit and run guerilla tactics. I offered to use pass without trace to hide us.

While we were strategizing, I noticed that Oosi’s armor had begun to glow. “Oosi, your armor is glowing. What does that signify?”

“Uh, there’s a dragon nearby?” Oosi wondered. “I didn’t think this crazy thing actually worked. I suggest we take cover, quick!”

“Do you know how close the dragon is, Oosi?” I asked.

“I don’t,” Oosi replied. “I only know that it glows when it’s nearby.” Then he realized that the dragon must be within 120 feet.

We all ducked for cover in the nearby snow and rocks.

Mendel cast minor illusion of a snow drift in front of him.

Glancing up, we saw a very large white dragon flying low. It did not seem to have seen us, or coming in our direction.

Using my eyes of the eagle, I saw that it bore a black robed rider using chains for its saddle and reins.

“There is a rider on that dragon,” I whispered, “robed in black.”

The dragon was flying west and was soon out of sight.

We returned to the duergar outpost, hiding just beyond sight of the bunker.

Mendel sent his bat to fly up and over the valley, and then back down and into the tunnel beyond the culvert.

“It seems that the tunnel goes on for at least a hundred feet,” Mendel informed us, once his bat returned to the vicinity, “but the well is blocked at the top by wood. Anybody have any idea how we can get past whatever’s blocking the well? Maybe a thunderwave...”

We eventually agreed to assault the bunker first.

As we were preparing to approach the outpost, Oosi covered his face in war paint, while Blaze knelt down in prayer, “Lathander, light our way in this new endeavor in assaulting this evil duergar palace.”

Everyone gathered close to me as I cast pass without trace.

As soon as we approached, Blaze and I noticed a trail of tiny fresh footprints not far from where we had been huddling to strategize.

I raised a hand to halt our progression and pointed out the tracks. “It appears that we’ve been spied upon.” Using my eyes of the eagle, I saw the tracks continue toward the entrance to the outpost, around the bunker and out of my sight.

Mendel sent his bat to scout ahead, but it did not spot anyone between us and the outpost.

We continued to advance toward the bunker and Mendel’s bat confirmed that there was one duergar guarding the bunker.

Once we reached the bunker, Bran cast minor illusion of a picture of the view outside the bunker’s nearest arrow slit.

I circled around the bunker, targeting the duergar with slayer’s prey, and missed the surprising guard twice.

Bran cast blindness on the duergar, but it had no effect.

Mendel circled around the bunker and hit the duergar with three magic missiles, and crouched against the wall.

The duergar opened a trap door in the floor of the bunker and disappeared into it, closing the door behind him.

Erling squeezed into the bunker’s arrow slit and jammed his crowbar into the trap door.

Three crossbow bolts came from the various outpost windows.

Oosi was ready with his longbow and returned a shot through a window to the north.

I threw some pitons and a hammer to Erling and continued circling around the bunker.

Bran followed Oosi to the outpost and cast blade ward.

Mendel cast minor illusion of a loaded crossbow aimed at the outpost from the bunker, which was immediately shot at twice. A third shot took out Mendel’s bat, eliciting a curse of, “Oh, darn!” from Mendel as a fourth bolt whizzed by him.

A fifth bolt missed me.

In a rage, Oosi charged toward the barred windows to the north, shooting his bow.

Erling secured the trap door with the pitons.

I aimed at the windows to the west and waited for a duergar to appear.

Bran inspired Oosi as he followed the barbarian.

Mendel cast minor illusion of a large shield in front of Frizzt.

Alarm bells rang out from the outpost.

As two duergar appeared in the window, I hit one, and the other hit Oosi. More crossbow bolts came from the arrow slits by the double doors.

Mendel cast shield as a robed duergar appeared next to Mendel, and tried to stab him with its dagger. “There out here!” Mendel squealed.

Blaze cast fireball into the barred window to the north.

Oosi reached the nearest barred window, ripped two bars out of the wall, and leaped through the window, drawing his axe.

Erling climbed out of the bunker and shot the robed duergar with his crossbow before ducking back around the corner.

Session 29 - 2021-06-18

I almost killed a duergar in the window to the north.

Bran followed Oosi through the broken barred window and flanked a duergar.

Moving cautiously, Mendel cast expeditious retreat, and ran past Erling and me, as we were both hit by crossbow bolts.

Blaze climbed into the outpost, joining Oosi and Bran.

Oosi picked up a makeshift club and smashed the nearest duergar to death.

Erling ran into the bunker and hid.

As soon as I started to run toward the breach, I was stabbed by a robed duergar that appeared right behind me. I spun around and shot at it with slayer’s prey, but missed. “He’s right over there!” I pointed out.

“Oosi, watch the door,” Bran shouted, as he ran down a set of stairs. “Blaze, help him. I want to make sure we don’t get circled from around behind.” At the bottom of the stairs, he saw piles of equipment pushed against the wall of the room. In the southern end of the chamber, was a trap door in the floor. As he was aiming his bow at the trap door, he was smashed by a war pick from an enlarged duergar that appeared next to him. “We’ve got a big boy here!” the bard yelled.

Mendel climbed in through the breach and dashed down the stairs.

I was hit by a crossbow bolt, but missed two others.

The door burst open and two spore zombies shambled in, along with another zombie, an ogre zombie, and some duergar.

Blaze hit one of the spore zombies with his spiritual weapon and then with his mace.

A duergar threw its javelin, hitting Oosi before retreating back into the hallway.

Oosi ripped the javelin out of his chest and donned his shield, advancing on the door.

Erling removed the pitons from the door, but it was bolted shut from the inside, so he tried to hide again.

A dashed up to the breach and climbed through, marking an ogre zombie with slayer’s prey.

Bran drew his flaming sword to defend himself, but was smashed again.

Mendel drew his wand and hit Bran’s attacker with three magic missiles.

I was hit by a crossbow bolt from outside the window.

Blaze hit the ogre zombie with his spiritual weapon just as it had smashed Oosi. Then he pulled out his symbol to Lathander and turned undead. “Don’t hit it!” Blaze shouted, as the ogre zombie began to cower.

Oosi stabbed a spore zombie with his javelin.

I heard a high pitched whistle emanating from across the outpost. “Do you hear that?” I shouted. “It’s some sort of alarm.” Then I added, “And I’m really hurt.”

Transferring my slayer’s prey, I killed the duergar at the bottom of the stairs with an arrow in the neck, and dropped one of the spore zombies with a second arrow as I ran into the corner across the outpost.

Bran retrieved his bow and cast healing word on me, and blade ward.

“There’s a trap door down here,” Mendel yelled, dashing through a downstairs armory. “It probably leads to the bunker.”

As the ogre zombie turned to flee, Oosi stabbed it with his javelin. It turned and flailed at Oosi as Blaze smashed it with his spiritual weapon, and hit it with a sacred flame, and Oosi smashed it with his warhammer.

Erling took out his thieves’ tools and began working the trap door, but hid again when he couldn’t budge the bolt.

I targeted the ogre zombie with slayer’s prey and stuck two arrows into its chest.

Bran slashed the ogre zombie with his flaming sword, and cast another healing word on me.

“Frizzt, I’m going to try and help Erling,” Mendel shouted and dashed down the trap door. “Frizzt it’s dark down there,” Mendel called, lighting his bullseye lantern, before yelling, “Erling! Are you there?”

I was stabbed twice by a robed duergar that appeared next to me. The blade caused a sharp pain in my mind that overwhelmed my senses as I fell.

Thradraek Othersight and another robed duergar appeared next to Oosi, the first missing with his dagger, but Thradraek stabbed him twice, piercing his mind with pain.

Blaze cast cure wounds on Oosi, and hit the ogre zombie with his spiritual weapon.

Oosi knocked the Thradraek Othersight’s dagger from its hand, dropped his warhammer, and picked up the dagger.

Erling climbed out through the bunder’s arrow slit and dashed toward the breach.

Bran revived me with healing word as the robed duergar was preparing to stab me again. Then he turned and slashed the Ogre zombie.

Mendel dashed to the end of the tunnel, climbed the ladder, and unlatched the bolt, calling out, “Erling? Erling, are you there?”

An enlarged duergar appeared and threw a javelin toward Oosi.

Thradraek Othersight tried to command Oosi, but shrunk down to six inches tall when the barbarian shrugged it off.

Before I could move, the robed duergar stabbed me again, overwhelmed my senses once again once again with the pain in my mind, and then it also tried to command Oosi.

Oosi shrugged off the attempt again, but was stomped on by the ogre.

Blaze finished the ogre zombie with his spiritual weapon, and cast spirit guardians, calling forth floating balls of light to flit around him.

Oosi stabbed the duergar with its dagger, but it did not appear to affect its mind.

Erling climbed through the breach into the outpost and hit my attacker with a crossbow bolt before taking cover.

Bran revived me again with healing word as the robed duergar was preparing to stab me again. Then he turned and slashed a duergar with his flaming sword.

Mendel opened the trap door, looked around for Erling, and not finding anyone, dashed back down into the tunnel.

An enlarged duergar smashed Oosi with his war pick, and a robed duergar stabbed him twice with his dagger, piercing his mind as well. Oosi began to fall, but endured the pain.

The shrunken Thradraek Othersight fled down the corridor.

Blaze cast cure wounds on Oosi and slammed a robed duergar with his spiritual weapon.

Erling popped out of the shadows and shot his crossbow at my attacker, but missed.

A sound of mechanical clanking could be heard from the west., followed by a loud thud.

The burly duergar hit Blaze with a crossbow bolt, causing the lights flitting around the cleric to disappear.

I created a fog cloud around me crawled away from the robed duergar standing over me.

Bran ran through a nearby duergar and cast healing word on Oosi.

Mendel dashed to the top of the stairs and into the armory, aiming his wand at the cloud of fog.

Two robed duergar commanded Oosi, one of them compelling him to attack Blaze. Oosi reluctantly nicked Blaze with his hand axe.

Blaze hit the robed duergar with his spiritual weapon and then with a guiding bolt.

An even burlier duergar threw a javelin from the corridor and stabbed Oosi.

Oosi dropped his dagger, picked up the javelin, and threw it into the glowing duergar.

Erling popped out of the shadows and hit the burly duergar with a crossbow bolt.

The burly duergar turned to the burly one and said, “Brother, this place is lost.” He pulled out a scroll, grabbed his brother’s shirt, and they both vanished.

We heard the front doors open and, dismissing the fog and looking out of the barred opening, I saw a pack of gnolls run out and down the trail away from the outpost.

I cast spike growth in the gnolls path, and up from the ground sprung spikes of hard icy thorns. Then I targeted the shrunken duergar with slayer’s prey.

Bran cast healing word on Oosi.

With the fog gone, Mendel ran up the stairs and hit Thradraek Othersight with four magic missiles just before it disappeared.

“Take your people and leave this place,” Oosi shouted, “and we’ll let you go.”

“Fine, we’ll go!” replied a duergar as they all began to flee down the corridor.

Blaze cast cure wounds on me.

“Then begone with you!” Oosi confirmed.

Session 30 - 2021-06-25

[It was Eleint 2 when The Winds of Dawn chased the duergar from their outpost at the base of Kelvin’s Cairn.]

Oosi stood by the door and watched the duergar retreat.

The fleeing gnolls ran into the spike growth. One of them, adorned with bones, waved its arms and the spike growth was dispelled.

“They have some shaman with them,” Mendel recognized. “They cast dispel magic.”

“Take no further action,” Oosi shouted as I targeted a duergar in the corridor. “I gave them leave from this place.”

I lowered my bow.

“That zombie’s going to turn hostile in a few moments,” Blaze said of the lone zombie still cowering in the corner.

“We should kill the zombie!” Oosi instructed.

Mendel dashed out into the corridor and into the main hall. He noticed large stone blocks over wooden planks covering the well.

A duergar glared at Mendel and fled out the double doors.

Oosi smashed the zombie with his warhammer, and Blaze followed up with his mace, but it was still standing and it turned to attack. Erling put it down with a crossbow bolt in the head.

“The last duergar have fled out the door,” Mendel informed us. “Should we search this place?”

“Yes, we should move to secure it and search it,” Oosi instructed.

“There’s two goats in the cages still,” Mendel added.

“They’ll make for a hardy dinner,” Oosi responded.

Oosi helped Mendel shut the door and close the drawbridge. Frizzt stood guard by the breach in the barred window.

Bran and Erling searched the three dead duergar, discovering scalemail, shields, war picks, javelins, daggers, leather armor, heavy crossbows, and some gold coins.

Before searching the rest of the outpost, we took a short rest in the large, nearly empty room with three barred openings overlooking the snow-covered grounds outside the stronghold. Snow had drifted into the corners, and frost covered the stone walls.

After Bran sang us a song of rest to help us recover, we discussed what to do with the outpost and agreed that it needed to be defended from being reinhabited by the duergar, but that we lacked the ability to defend it ourselves. I suggested enlisting the Battlehammer dwarves from the valley nearby. Erling suggested we contact the town speakers. Blaze offered to cast a sending spell.

When we were done resting we explored down the stairs to an armory and tinkerer’s workshop. Searching the room, we found two suits of scale mail sized for dwarves, two steel shields, three war picks, nine javelins, two climber's kits, and four mess kits. In the southern end of the chamber, an open hatch revealed a route leading underground to the bunker.

We returned to the entry hall, which was devoid of decoration. The frozen well was covered with stone blocks over wooden planks. Three iron cages were pushed against the far wall. One cage held a pair of nervous goats. Leaning against a wall near the cages was a wooden dogsled with ice clinging to it.

Beyond was a long empty room, divided in the middle by two open doorways. In the far southwest corner, an iron lever stuck out of the wall.

With Blaze’s guidance, Mendel investigated the area and spotted holes in the floor and ceiling of the doorways.

At Oosi’s urging, Mendel entered the room and pulled the lever. Iron spikes sprung out from the floor and ceiling to form barriers across each doorway, closing off the room.

Mendel reversed the lever and the spikes retracted.

Beyond the lever was a wooden door.

After listening at the door, and searching it for traps, we tried to enter, but it was locked. Erling picked the lock with ease and pushed the door open revealing a drab room occupied by a stone-carved bed and desk. Atop the desk were several shards of dark crystal, as well as a crumpled-up piece of paper and a burlap sack draped over a glowing object that emitted colored light that shifts from blue to green to red.

Erling removed the burlap sack, revealing a chardalyn glowing lantern. We recognized the four shards as chardalyn as well.

Bran picked up the crumpled-up piece of paper from the desk and read the dwarven message aloud:


You will find me on the frozen ferry in Easthaven. From this new base, the search for chardalyn continues. Long may our father reign over this dark land!


Mendel examined the lantern and the rest of the chardalyn and determined that the chardalyn, despite its crystalline composition, was physically and magically malleable, making it an ideal raw material for those who can fashion items from the substance or infuse it with magic.

We also found some gold and silver coins, and a map of the region showing the location of Xardorok Sunblight's stronghold south of the Ten Towns.

We returned to the main hall and explored beyond the unlocked door to the south.

The chamber beyond appeared to be a cellblock lined with stone doors that had small, barred windows set into them at dwarf's-eye height. Snow and wind entered the room through a barred window in the northeast corner that looked out toward the snow-covered bunker that guarded the main entrance. Stair led down from an opening in the west wall.

Examining the cells, we saw that some of them were filled with what looked like nests, while others contained fungus riddled corpses.

We went down the stairs and saw four small rooms flanking a central common area where crates and sacks were stashed against the west wall. The doors of the rooms were open, and each room was empty except for a tattered bedroll and a chair, except for one which appeared to have been used as a cooking area.

The crates and most of the sacks contained basic supplies, including blankets, rations, hempen rope, and other equipment. One small sack held the stolen valuables from Caer-Konig: twenty-five pearls carved into decorative beads. Another sack contained three daggers, a set of woodcarver's tools, a set of navigator's tools, fishing tackle, and a potion along with some silver coins.

We searched the walls for hidden doors, but found none.

We gathered everything we had found together and Mendel cast detect magic from his spellbook.

We determined that we had found a potion of healing, which we agreed to give to Mendel.

After we distributed the coins evenly amongst ourselves, Mendel, Bran, and Erling began to draft messages that Blaze could use for his sending spell. Blaze suggested we can identify ourselves as The Winds of Dawn.

Erling and I were going to dwarven valley to seek help from Clan Battlehammer, but Bran decided to come with me instead.

Bran and I departed for the long march to the valley to the southwest. I continually scanned the horizon using my eyes of the eagle, but my vision was often obscured by blizzards.

After a couple of hours we spotted two figures 150 in the distance. Using my eyes of the eagle, I saw that they were both orcs marching southeast. One of them seemed to have seen us.

I tried to pull Bran down into the snow, but he resisted briefly, and his scale male was gleaming, even in the minimal light of the day.

“It’s two orcs,” I whispered. “They see us. Let’s let them pass.”

One of them pointed us out to the other and they started coming toward us. They looked bigger than average orcs.

Backing away, I drew my bow and hit the one that spotted us.

Trying to keep up with me, Bran gave me his bardic inspiration, and I hit it again with another arrow.

Both of us continued to withdraw as Bran gave me another bardic inspiration and I hit it with three more arrows.

Having missed the orcs three times, Bran dashed as fast as he could.

I continued to retreat and dropped the orc with a sixth arrow.

As Bran continued to dash away, I moved up slightly to target the remaining orc with slayer’s prey and hit the orc with an arrow.

The orc threw his javelin at Bran, but missed, as did I.

Still retreating, Bran cast hideous laughter, but it had no effect.

I targeted the orc with hunter’s mark and hit the orc with two more arrows.

The orc closed in on Bran and swung his great axe wide, but caught the bard on the backswing. Bran managed to parry the blow slightly with his bow, but it broke in the process.

Bran gave me another bardic inspiration.

The orc began hacking into Bran with its greataxe.

Trying to dodge its blows, Bran cast healing word on himself.

I hit the orc with a fourth arrow.

The orc roared as it heaved its greataxe down. Bran managed to avoid getting his head chopped in half, but still sliced badly by the blow.

Trying desperately to hit the orc with his sword, Bran cast another healing word on himself.

I missed the orc as it hacked into Bran, leaving the bard bloody and still.

As the orc closed in on me, I dropped my blow, drew my sword, and stabbed the orc in the throat.

With both orcs down, I struggled to stabilize Bran, but eventually stopped his bleeding.

Searching the orcs, we found two potions of healing and a bunch of gold coins.

I revived Bran with one of the potions.

We decided to continue on without taking any of the orc’s armor or weapons.

Eventually we reached the dwarven valley, a mining colony of twenty five dwarves. They were led by Golirra Flintfoot, their foreman, who recognized Bran.

“Thank goodness we made it,” Bran greeted them. “We had a tough battle on the way here. Perhaps your healers can help us out.”

They had their medic attend to Bran with healing salves as he told them about the duergar stronghold. “We have urgent tidings to tell you. “The duergar had set up a stronghold at the base of Kelvin’s Cairn. We managed to force them out, but we need reinforcements to hold it and stop them from returning.”

“The place is stocked with armor and weapons,” I added.

Golirra agreed to send three of their guards back with us.

“That might be enough until we can get more reinforcements from Ten Towns,” I replied. “Is there anywhere else that you can call upon?”

“Do you have dwarven brothers,” Bran asked, “in perhaps another location nearby, that we might be able to send word to, that might be able to send additional soldiers?”

“Our people are in Mithral Hall,” Golirra explained, “which is south of the spine of the world and right now that’s impassable.”

“That’s too bad,” Bran sighed. “But it will help.”

After a short rest we departed the valley with the three dispatched guards. Golirra provided us with two extra handaxes and a crossbow.

The trip back was uneventful, but I found the last two hours of our march exhausting.

After an uneventful five hour march, we reached the outpost late that night and saw our companions watching from the barred windows overlooking the valley. The bars had already been repaired.

I gave Oosi the two dwarven handaxes from the dwarven valley and the five orc javelins.

The dwarves inspected the outpost and commented on the shoddy duergar construction.

Session 31 - 2021-09-17

I soon discovered that I was far more exhausted than I had realized, and was in desperate need of rest.

The Battlehammer dwarves determined that the outpost was of recent Duergar construction.

In the morning, Blaze used sending to communicate to Captain Imdra Arlaggath of Easthaven: “Duergar infiltrating Ten Towns. Planning invasion. Spread the word. Have taken duergar stronghold at base of Kelvin's Cairn. Dwarves need assistance to hold this foothold.”

Captain Arlaggath responded: “I’m preparing defenses of Easthaven. I can spare ten men. Will send them out forthwith.”

Then Blaze used sending to communicate to Hlin Trollbane in Bryn Shander: “Duergar infiltrating Ten Towns. Planning invasion. Spread the word. Have taken duergar stronghold at base of Kelvin's Cairn. Battlehammers need assistance to hold this foothold.”

Hlin responded: “I don’t know why you’re telling me this, but I guess I can let the speaker know about this.”

After much debate, and to Erling’s disapproval, we agreed to leave the chardalyn lantern secured in a chest at the outpost for the time being.

While we were debating, Erling was struck by a sharp spike of pain in his mind. After a minute, Erling explained that, “There’s a mental urge that I have to go and follow this urge. Ever since that meteor came by, I have a pull towards it. A compulsion to go find it. I’ve been putting it off while we’re doing this thing, and this is a tremendous pain in my head from it. Whatever it is, I think it’s close by. It’s definitely related to the meteor. It might be that there’s someone else who can detect it, or is trying to find it, and they detected me instead, or I may be picking up whatever signal they’re sending out. I don’t know if I’ve been targeted or identified, but there’s some source to the southeast that’s emanating this signal, and it’s very painful. If we’re going to go south, I need to find that meteor.”

We discussed our next moves. Oosi was determined to find the renegade barbarians, which meant traveling west of Good Mead. Mendel was interested in finding the meteorite, south of Good Mead, before anyone else did. Erling wanted to continue on to Lonelywood to confront Ravisin, believing that she represented the greatest threat to the Ten Towns. Even in my exhausted state, I was determined to drop what we were doing and immediately head to Sunflight’s fortress to stop Xardorok from building a dragon to destroy the Ten Towns, and find the Jarlmoot afterward. Blaze was undecided. Ultimately, Bran agreed that the duergar represented the biggest threat, but thought we weren’t ready and we should complete our commitment to Oosi before taking on any other quests. Erling was convinced by Bran, and we agreed to head south.

Blaze suggested allowing me another day to recuperate, but I insisted we head out as soon as possible.

Leaving the outpost in the care of the Battlehammer dwarves, we departed for Caer-Konig. In my exhausted state, it was slow traveling, but we made it there uneventfully late that afternoon. We headed for The Northern Light.

When we arrived, Allie and Cori Shorard were busy going about their business, and Trovus was passed out, drunk, in a padded armchair by the fire.

“Welcome back!” Allie greeted us. “I’m so glad you all are safe. I have rooms prepared for you, if you want them. How was your journey?”

We accepted Allie’s offer and ordered food and drink.

Erling explained that, “We found those duergar that were harassing you folks. And, you know, we kind of took care of them,” Erling winked. “They won’t be coming around here any more.”

“Wow!” Allie replied. “You guys really are heroes!”

“The thing is—” Eling began.

“What we found—” Mendel interrupted, “What we found was that the duergar were sending stuff to an outpost to the south.”

“Yes, that’s true,” Erling concurred. “But we found your lantern, before they could do that, and we have it guarded under lock and key, so that nothing else happens to it, because of what our friend here mentioned, they’re stealing anything with chardalyn in it.”

“Oh, so you found our lantern,” Allie was overjoyed. “That’s awesome!”

“We did,” Erling hesitated, “but we’re keeping it under lock and key for the moment so they can’t get it and try and steal it again. And the reason is, because we need to sort this out. Once we do, we’ll retrieve it for you and gladly bring it. We just want to protect it so they can’t get to it anymore.”

“Oh!” Allie gasped. So the material in the lantern is what they wanted…”

“That’s right!” Mendel emphasized. “It’s actually quite dangerous!”

“Oh my!” Allie grasped. Well, thanks for keeping it safe. I mean, if it’s a dangerous item...”

“Well…” Erling clarified, “it’s not that dangerous. You can have it around here. It’s dangerous that they’re going to want to come hunting for it again, and we don’t want to put you in danger and have it here for the moment, until we can clear things up. So, rather than you worrying about it, or think that it was gone, we just wanted to let you know that we kind of have it in safe keeping for the time being.”

“Ok,” Allie agreed, “clearly we trust you and we’ll do whatever you think is best.”

Erling and Bran went to the speaker’s house to check on the duergar prisoner, where they were greeted by a constable.

“Greetings,” Bran addressed the speaker. “We’re here to check on the prisoner that we turned over to Trovus. Novrael the Bearded?”

“Yup,” the constable replied. “We only got one prisoner. He’s down in the dungeon. You wanna see him?”

“Yeah,” Bran confirmed. “We want to check on his health.”

The constable grabbed a key ring and led us down the stairs to a small hallway with four cells. The only occupant, Novrael, was sitting there looking miserable.

He looked up at Erling and shouted something in Undercommon.

Not understanding, Erling replied sarcastically, “Well, it’s so nice to see, oh bearded one.”

Novrael switched to Dwarven which Bran understood, “The Deep Dweller will shrivel your balls!

Bran translated the Deep Dwellers interest in Erling’s testicales, and added in Dwarven, “Where are you getting all the chardalyn?

I’m not a traitor!” Novrael replied.

I guess we’re not going to be able to help you much,” Bran sighed.

I’m not going to need your help.” Novrael hinted.

After an uneventful night’s rest, I was feeling much better, but still moving slowly.

Blaze used sending to communicate to Hruna, the Blackiron Blades dwarf from Bryn Shander: “Duergar infiltrating Ten Towns. Planning invasion. Spread the word. Have taken duergar stronghold at base of Kelvin's Cairn.”

Hruna replied: “Glad you killed those filthy duergar. My kin are in the dwarven valley. Please let them know. I’m just a shopkeeper.”

Then Blaze used sending to communicate to Oarus Masthew in Termalaine: “Duergar infiltrating Ten Towns. Planning invasion. Spread the word. Have taken duergar stronghold at base of Kelvin's Cairn. Dwarves need assistance to hold this foothold.”

Oarus replied: “Bad news upon bad news. Something is afoot in Termalaine. Can’t help right now. If you can, come here.”

Unable to communicate further, we went to the common room.

“You know,” Erling addressed Allie and Cori once they had brought our breakfast, “we also found some disturbing information up at their stronghold. We think they probably are preparing for some kind of attack on the Ten Towns.”

“You mean these dwarves?” Allie asked.

“Duergar,” I corrected. “They’re like anti-dwarves.”

“Oh!” Allie acknowledged. “That’s terrible!”

“So, you know,” Erling explained, “you probably want to encourage your speaker to figure out how to kind of make the town more defendable in the event that something does happen.”

“That’s a terrific idea,” Allie agreed. “We will press Trovus to be more defensive.”

“And also, you know,” Erling continued, “my companion here made a good suggestion. If it came down to it, and you needed to flee, or leave, the fort there is rather defendable and into the mountain. So that might be a good place to take refuge if it came down to it and you needed to.”

“Oh,” Allie wondered. “We don’t know where it is.”

“It is at the base of Kelvin’s Cairn,” I revealed.

Ering drew them a map and directions, adding, “Also, I would encourage you to spread the word to the other Ten Town folks around. So if the speaker meets with the other speakers, everybody should start talking about, not only are they looking out for duergar in their communities, but also thinking about how to defend them, should the duergar get bold enough to attack.”

“Okay,” Allie agreed. “I’ll let Trovus know that he should do that.”

“Some other towns are already sending reinforcements there,” I added, “from as far away as Easthaven. It is more defensible than any town.”

We acknowledge that the outpost could only hold about fifty people.

We made our way to Caer-Dineval, where we were welcomed by Rourke from The Uphill Climb and Speaker Crannoc Siever. Once again, the speaker made accommodations for us on the ground floor of the northeast tower.

We repeated the warning about duergar and informed them of the outpost.

The speaker noted the warning and information, saying he would pass it along to anyone he could, but said, “I don’t think we can spare any soldiers to go there, because it’s such a small community and we’re going to need everybody to defend the town if these durgar attack.”

Rourke was already trying to recruit additional militia.

After another uneventful night’s sleep, I was moving at full speed.

Blaze used sending to communicate to Oarus Masthew in Termalaine: “Explain nature of trouble.”

Oarus replied: “People missing. People behaving differently. Investigating guards never returned. Part of town, no one returns.”

We considered whether we should reverse course again and head to Termaline.

Session 32 - 2021-10-01

We were about halfway from Caer-Dineval to Good Mead when Oosi said, “I want to go to Termalaine. My conscience won’t allow me to ignore the pleas of people in danger in Termalaine. I realize we’re going for my benefit to find the Jarlmoot and all that, however, my conscience won’t allow me to ignore those people in need. And so I’m going to go to Termalaine to help those people, and I’m hoping that you all will accompany me to do the right thing and go help those people as well.”

“I agree,” Bran said. “There are many people that need our help. So if the will is there, I will go with you to Termalaine.”

“You’re an honorable man, Bran,” Oosi replied, placing a hand on the bard’s shoulder, “and your word means a lot to me and I appreciate that. However, being one step above the rest, I think we have an obligation to go help people when they are asking for our assistance, especially when they are in dire need and dying. So we have to put our needs second and put them first right now and go to Termalaine. That’s my view. So I’m hoping the rest of you would accompany me there to find what this dire situation is and put it to bed.”

“What say you all?” Bran called for a vote.

“I said we should have went in that direction to begin with before we went all this way, so, yeah, let’s go…” Erling replied. “And besides, my headaches seem to be coming from that place, so I’m fine with going there and trying to figure out what the hell is going on.”

Pondering Bran’s comment about us not being ready to face Xardorok Sunblight, I recalled what Hethyl had said about us dying if we faced him before testing ourselves throughout the farthest reaches of Icewind Dale. With that in mind, I felty much more amenable to pursuing any direction my companions wished to take, and even though I still felt that stopping Xardorok was the highest priority, I was definitely open to going to Termalaine if it might help resolve whatever was afflicting Erling, and to deal with Oosi’s quest once we’ve dealt with everything in that area, such as finding Macreadus.

“I’m also interested in whatever’s afflicted Erling,” Mendel added.

“Wow,” Erling swooned. “I’m touched that you all care so much about what’s afflicting me. It brings a tear to my eye.”

Suddenly, Blaze pointed at something sticking out of the snow up ahead, to the left of the road. Using my eyes of the eagle, I saw that it was a human foot. I scanned the surroundings and saw a tuft of hair sticking out of another snowy mound to our right.

Pointing to my head, I nudged Erling, hoping he would reach out telepathically. Instead, he padded into the snow toward the mound to the right.

The scout carefully cleared away enough to see that it was a human head, attached to a body, lying face down in the snow. He turned the stiff body over in the snow, and it opened its eyes and gasped. Erling stumbled back, both of them screaming in fright at each other.

As it began to rise, we recognized it as similar to the crazed berserker we encountered outside Maud Chiselbone’s cave.

Bran shouted vicious mockery at it, followed by inspiration for Erling.

Erling dashed away in the tall snow.

Donning his shield and drawing his warhammer, Oosi waded into the snow, toward the mound.

Moving back, I targeted the creature with slayer’s prey and stuck two arrows right in its chest.

Blaze cast sacred flame on the berserker, but it was too evasive, already moving toward us, a chardalyn covered flail in one hand, and three chardalyn covered javelins in the other.

Mendel cast toll the dead, but it had no effect.

The foot we had spotted ahead to the left began to stir, as did the snow we had just passed to our left.

Bran continued his vicious mockery, “Gods, it’s true what they say about the cold. It really does shrink everything!” But the berserker was unphased. Bran shouted inspiration at Oosi.

“What are these things?” Mendel asked.

“They’re not friendly,” Bran responded coolly. “Kill them!”

After having no effect with another toll the dead, Mendel cast expeditious retreat, and dashed back.

Withdrawing through the snow, Erling drew his crossbow and landed a bolt clean in its chest, but the frenzied creature seemed to barely notice.

Reaching the creature, Oosi slammed it with his warhammer, eliciting a similar reaction.

The berserker up ahead dashed up to Blaze in a frenzy while the one to our left made its way toward me and threw a javelin in my vicinity.

I landed another arrow in the far berserker’s chest, but it no longer seemed to feel much pain.

Blaze hit his assailant with a spiritual weapon.

The first berserker swung its flail in a flurry, hitting Oosi multiple times, once in the face. Oosi spit out the poisonous taste of chardalyn.

Bran moved into position between the three berserkers, and cast bane, hindered the two in front of us. Then he shouted inspiration to Oosi as the half-orc shouted for him to come closer.

While Erling closed in, Oosi smashed his warhammer into the first berserker again.

Mendel dashed back to me, and hit it with three magic missiles.

When the rearmost Berserker closed in on me, and hit me with one of its flail strikes, I carefully retreated far into the snow.

Poisoned by one of his assailant’s flurry of flail strikes, Blaze retaliated, hitting it with a spiritual weapon, and casting shield of faith on himself.

Suddenly the first berserker’s frenzied attack stopped as it began muttering, “...yes master, I know...I do your bidding….yes…” as if it was communing with someone.

“Who’s your master?” Oosi demanded.

“By the gods, you’re ugly,” Bran viciously mocked. “I bet your father regrets not pulling out!”

It fell dead into the snow as Erling stepped up behind it and stabbed it in the back.

Oosi grabbed the berserker’s flail, yelled, “Bran, get these javelins over to Blaze!” flanked Blaze’s assailant, and smashed it with the flail.

As Mendel turned to flee, he had to cast shield to deflect a lunging swing from the rear berserker’s flail. He quickly reached Bran and hit the front berserker with three magic missiles.

The front berserker swung recklessly at Blaze, smashing him in the face and chest, leaving him poisoned and disrupting his shield of faith.

The rear berserker halted and began muttering to itself. I targeted it with my hunter’s mark, but missed twice.

Blaze hit the front berserker with his spiritual weapon.

Bran cast healing word on Blaze and viciously mocked the front berserker, shouting, “Did your mother cast a darkness spell, or are you naturally that ugly?” Then he picked up one of the chardalyn javelins.

Erling engaged the front berserker and stabbed it with his two shortswords.

Oosi smashed it with an inspired shot with the chardalyn flail.

Mendel hit the rear berserker with four magic missiles, before dashing up the road.

The front berserker continued to swing recklessly at Blaze, smashing him twice and leaving him poisoned again.

The rear berserker ran up the road and threw a javelin towards Erling. I targeted it with slayer’s prey and shot it in the face with an arrow.

Blaze hit the front berserker with his spiritual weapon and cast cure wounds on himself.

After a sloppy javelin throw, Bran cast healing word on Blaze, and flanked the front berserker.

Erling stabbed the front berserker with his two shortswords again, once in the kidneys. It retaliated with its flail, and the scout had to tuck and roll to avoid the full brunt of the first blow, but was hit two more times and left bruised and poisoned.

Oosi smashed it with the chardalyn flail.

Mendel hit the rear berserker with four more magic missiles.

The rear berserker flew into a frenzy and smashed Oosi twice with its flail.

Blaze hit the front berserker with his spiritual weapon and summoned the radiance of the dawn, but its light was dim and had very little effect.

Looking the naked berserker in the front up and down, Bran shouted, “I’d draw my rapier, but I don’t want to make you any more jealous than you already are,” in an attempt to viciously mock it.

Erling pricked the front berserker with a shortsword, and Oosi smashed it with his chardalyn flail.

Mendel hit the rear berserker with four more magic missiles before dashing further up the road, and I landed another arrow into its chest.

Blaze hit the front berserker with his spiritual weapon and a sacred flame.

Shouting, “I thought breath weapons were supposed to come out of your mouth!” Bran viciously mocked the front berserker to death and it fell face planted into the snow. Then he flanked the last berserker with Oosi.

Erling stabbed the last berserker with his shortswords, and Oosi finished it with his chardalyn flail.

Searching the mounds, I found three sets of tracks coming from the northeast.

Searching the berserkers, we found nothing beside their weapons, which Oosi took.

“Oosi,” Frizzt asked, “do you think these could be the renegades you’re looking for?”

“I’ve been thinking about that,” Oosi replied. “And, um, I don’t know. This guy here, he may have been from my tribe at some point, although he himself is unknown to me, but this is a symbol of my tribe.” He held up the berserker’s charm, which it had worn on a necklace. “Obviously, I don’t know everyone, but he may have been from my tribe. Maybe he stole it. Maybe not. I have no way of definitively knowing whether or not he is, or if he’s one of these berserkers.”

“Do you think this chardalyn could be impacting their behavior?” I wondered aloud. “You had mentioned something about them—”

“Being possessed by some evil,” Oosi finished. “You should ask the mage. I’m not saying that to be obnoxious. Maybe the mage knows more about this. I really don’t know. It’s outside of my, you know, area of expertise. I could tell you how to kill something in sixteen different ways, but I don’t know much about this chardalyn stuff.”

“I’m just beginning to learn about this chardalyn,” Mendel explained. “I suppose anything’s possible.”

“That’s an interesting point,” Bran considered. “Could the chardalyn itself be leading to the corruption?”

“The cultists were also wearing chardalyn, weren’t they,” I hinted. “And at some point these berserkers did behave in a very possessed-like way.”

“My intention is not to keep this with me permanently. It’s to take it to Termalaine, and then secure it there with the authorities in Termalaine. Cause it would be more secure there than just leaving it out here, if the duergar have a way to track it.”

Agreeing that we just simply could not verify any of our suspicions, we continued on until we had passed the cliffs to the west, and then we left the road and headed toward Termalaine.

After a few more hours, we made camp in the arctic tundra, south of the dwarven valley.

While we were sitting around the campfire that night, Erling said, “You know? I know you guys were talking about, you know, these incidents that kind of affected me, with all this brain stuff. And uhm, I can tell you that I'm pretty sure that whatever whammy they put on me, they took it off. I believe that they did. I actually felt different afterwards. And quite frankly, it's taking a bit of a toll on me, going through that whole ordeal.

So, I'm saying this only because I want...I'm just trying to be, you know, I guess honest about the situation. Whatever that mage did worked. I think it did. And that personally, what I'm going through now and with the meteorite feels different than what I was going through then. So maybe this helps, maybe it doesn't, I don't know, but, you know, that whole thing was crazy and weird and actually very disturbing to me, that I actually was acting that way so…it did work and it did help. So, I thought you just might want to know that.”

“I'm glad you feel better,” Bran replied, skeptically.

“Do you know what was affecting you?” I asked.

“Uhm, all I can tell you is that my whole outlook on life changed in an instant, and I don't remember exactly when it happened,” Erling explained, pensively. “I just realized that one moment that I didn't really care about anything or anyone else other than me. And what I could possibly do—in every particular situation—to make it the best for me. And uhm, I didn't like it. And, uh…I mean I did have some fun when we were in town—but I mean, but that's, but that's not important! That was just an aftereffect, mind you. Uhm, not that not that I would do that again, but I can't tell you when that happened, but that's how I felt. And I've been, quite frankly, kind of struggling with it ever since I got rid of it.”

“Struggling with what your behavior was previously?” I specified.

“Uh, yeah,” Erling confirmed.

“I understand,” I replied. “Well, it's good to have you back.”

“It was pretty freaking horrible,” Erling lamented. “Who the hell wants to be like that?”

“I concur,” I sympathized.

After an uneventful night’s rest, we departed for Termalaine in the morning and reached it without incident around dusk.

The streets were even more deserted than the last time we were there, and we headed straight for the Town Hall.

When we arrived at the Town Hall, we saw guards watching us from inside the windows.

Stepping out of the door onto the porch, the half-orc speaker Oarus Masthew, greeted us, “I'm so glad you came.”

“We’re sorry we couldn't be here sooner,” Bran regretted. “Please, tell us what's the problem?”

“Well, it started a week or maybe two ago,” Oarus explained. “It's hard to tell because it seemed insidious. People started going missing in the town at first, but then after a day or two they would show back up. So we didn't think that there was any big deal with it? They had no memory of where they’d been and eventually the family started reporting that they were...different. Nothing obvious, just a Then one day, one of these returned people murdered their entire family. After that, things escalated. More people went missing and this time, they didn't return.”

“Maybe there is chardalyn in the water,” Erling guessed.

“Now we've lost contact with the Mine, the refinery, and the gem processing plant.” Oarus continued. “The whole northeastern part of the town, really. It's like it's a dead zone. I sent a few guards to investigate…they didn't return.”

“The first person that murdered their family, what happened to them?” Bran inquired.

“They ran,” Oarus replied. “They ran off.”

“They were not captured?” Bran specified.

“They were not captured,” Paris confirmed.

“So they went mad,” Erling reiterated. “They murdered their family, went mad and ran off.”

Lowering his voice, the speaker whispered, “The rest of the guards refuse to go. Hell, I might be facing a full blown mutiny and descent into chaos for all of Termalaine.”

“The people that returned, was there anything about them that looked different?” Bran probed. “Did they wear any symbols? Did they act differently? Did they speak differently?”

“No,” Oarus answered. “Their families said that they were off. They were acting odd, but not in such a way that made you think...Well, I guess it did make them think that they were...that they were different in some way.”

“Did they remember their family members’ names?” Bran pressed. “Were they forgetting names if you know what I mean? Like is there something that—”

“Hey Mendel,” Oosi interrupted, turning to Mendel. “You think this might be a spell? Can you do your detect magic trickery and see if any of these people are afflicted?”

“I can cast detect magic,” Mendel explained, “but it doesn't always detect everything. It only detects the existence of some sort of magical effect.”

“That sounds like a no,” Oosi summated, unloading his weapons.

“I can try,” Mendel elucidated, “I'm just saying it's not 100% for every case.” Mendel took out his spellbook and began casting a ritual of detect magic.

I noticed on a rooftop a few blocks away, what seemed to be the figure of a kobold watching us and when it noticed me notice him, it ducked behind the edge of the roof so I couldn’t see it anymore.

“There's a kobold on that roof that was spying on us,” I whispered urgently. “Should we pursue him?”

“Thank you,” Bran rushed. “We'll do what we can. Let us look into this matter.”

“Take these weapons and secure them somewhere where anyone can't get to them,” Oosi instructed the speaker. “It's important that they are in a secure, locked location. Don't handle them. Make sure no one gets them. Duergar have been after these materials and we must secure them for the sake of the Ten Towns.”

“Right,” Oarus replied. “Okay, I'll lock them up in our weapons locker.”

Erling responded to my waiting glance with, “Yeah, all right, let's move it.”

“Yeah,” Bran added, “I think we should book it and get around the building.”

“So am I not casting detect magic anymore?” Mendel whined as everyone began to bolt from the Town Hall.

“You can,” Oosi replied, “but we’re going after the kobold.”

“Should I help?” Mendel sought.

“Of course you should help!” Oosi encouraged, “Come on!”

Casting expeditious retreat, Mendel dashed past his companions and quickly circled the building, as they were attempting to surround it.

There was no sign of the kobold, but Mendel soon found a snowdrift that appeared a figure had fallen into and ran away from.

“Over here, over here!” Mendel cried.

Erling found the tracks and pointed us in the right direction.

“Can we go faster?” Mendel called, running ahead and stopping at each corner for directions as to which way to proceed.

“We're in the suspicious part of town,” Bran warned, “so I'm not quite sure if we should let anyone get out of sight of anyone else, right? Because they said the northeast corner is where no one is coming back from.”

“We can take a bunch of Kobolds!” Mendel bragged.

“I'm not worried about kobolds,” Bran emphasized. “I think there's something more at play.”

“I'm going to give this guy a sword and send him up front,” Oosi quipped. “You're a brave little fella.”

“Who?” Mendel was incredulous. “Who are you talking about?”

The tracks led us to a courtyard surrounded on all sides by buildings, with three doors. Mendel dashed into the courtyard with his companions following behind. There were too many tracks to follow.

There were three humans sitting outside by a low fire. They turned to look at us as we approached.

“Hail,” Oosi greeted them, following Mendel into the courtyard and stepping in front of the mage. “Well met!"

Standing up calmly, they looked at Oosi and stated, “You don't belong here, leave.”

“In a moment,” Oosi replied. “Did you see Kobold come through here?”

I heard Erling telepathically, “I was just contacted by someone or something asking me to join them. I think we may be close. It was a pretty strong contact.”

The three humans took turns replying, alternating words, as if they were of one mind, “There. Are. No. Kobolds. Here.”

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Oosi demanded.

Outside the courtyard, we sensed the approach of townsfolk behind us.

“There are townsfolk coming from behind,” I warned my companions. “We may be surrounded soon.”

“Oh, lots of townsfolk!” Bran emphasized.

[Erling warned Oosi telepathically, "Oosi, there are a bunch of these townfolk starting to surround us back here.”]

As the townsfolk approached, their eyes were fixed on us in a creepy, unnatural way.

Bran checked a nearby door, just outside the courtyard, but finding it locked, kicked it in.

“Quick in here, there's a room,” Bran called out. “We can take refuge.” Bran disappeared through the door.

I looked questioningly at Erling, who nodded, and followed Bran.

Beyond was what looked like an entry room to a residence. It was empty other than a table next to the fireplace. The fireplace had a hook for a pot and nearby a table for food preparation.

As I crossed the room to a rear door near the northwest corner of the opposite wall, thirty five feet away, I heard a foreign voice in my mind, “Surrender now, and we’ll spare your friends Shol'va!

Show yourself, aberration!” I demanded mentally, suppressing the reality of my worst fears coming to pass.

“Erling,” Blaze asked Erling. “What are we doing?”

“I guess we're going inside,” Erling replied, indicating Oosi and Mendel, “but we gotta get those guys.”

Blaze waited just outside the door.

“Blaze, come in,” I called. “I can slow them down.”

Blaze entered the room, standing firm in the center, and cast bless on Bran, himself, and me.

“Oosi come on,” Mendel cried. “Follow me.”

“Lead on my friend,” Oosi replied.

Mendel entered and stood by Bran, forming a line with Frizzt.

“Oosi, come on,” Erling called, “let's get out of here.”

“Alright, let's go,” Oosi replied, “I'm coming.”

Oosi entered the room and Erling, who had been covering the area with his crossbow, followed.

“Wait!” I called to Erling, who was about to slam the door shut. “Don't shut the door yet.”

As the townspeople crowded around the door, the door behind us opened and several drow warriors began to come into the room through a rear door.

Session 33 - 2021-10-08

I tried to shove the first drow back through the rear door, but it was far too quick for me.

Bran cast bane on the three drows entering the room, but only two of them were affected, and then imparted his inspiration on me.

The voice in my mind returned, “Well, if you don’t care about these people, what about your child? Surrender now, or you will suffer!

You face me, and leave them alone!” I demanded mentally, horrified at the prospect of my son’s safety being used against me, and what might become him.

After casting spike growth out the area outside the front door, I told Blaze to, “Trade places with me,” and was stuck by a drow sword as I crossed to the southeast corner of the room and targeted the farthest drow with hunter’s mark, challenging them, “If it’s me you want, leave my friends and my family alone!”

“Drop those spikes,” Blaze replied as he cornered the drow. “I don’t want to hurt the civilians.” He cast spiritual weapon, and hit the nearest drow with his mace.

Mendel cast web over the drow in the hallway, where more drow were waiting to enter, and held his staff out defensively to the drow standing next to him.

The web was immediately dispelled by a drow in the hallway.

Erling closed the door and propped it shut with a nearby chair.

“You two,” Oosi commanded Erling and I, “watch that door and give us cover!” as he called on the spirit of the bear with a roar and flew into a rage, confronting the drow.

As the drow ignored Mendel and tried to engage Blaze, the mage squealed and whacked it in the head.

Sidestepping two sword wielding drow, Bran slashed one with his flaming sword, but was hit with a dart from the hallway and was poisoned.

A spiritual weapon appeared next to Mendel and slashed the mage, who shrugged off a deadly toll the dead.

A drow warrior maneuvered into the room from the hallway, shouting in Undercommon, “Kill the mage first!” before stabbing Mendel with his poisoned blade.

The screams from outside grew louder as the front door flew open and four wide-eyed, and mostly bloody, townsfolk stormed into the room, surrounding me in the corner.

Erling leaped away from the townsfolk, calling, “Frizzt, knock them out!”

Bran slashed the drow by the rear doorway with his flaming sword and cast healing word on Mendel.

I pulled away from two towns folks' raking hands, targeted the drow unaffected by Bran with slayer’s prey, and leaped onto the table in the room’s southwest corner.

After sidestepping a sword wielding drow, Blaze crushed the skull of the drow by the rear door with his spiritual weapon.

Frizzt, show yourself, you coward!” I heard the voice of Dre'zel call out in my mind, “Traitor!

Sensing that he was a prime target, Mendel, carefully avoiding the drow and townsfolk, cast expeditious retreat again, dashing out the front door, and shouted, “There’s more out here and they’re coming in!” before hiding around the corner to the south.

Erling stabbed the nearest drow in the back, piercing its vital organs, and stabbed a nearby drow with his other sword, before disengaging to stand behind Blaze, and warning us, “There’s something in this damn fireplace!”

Blocking the doorway, Oosi slashed the drow warrior with his greataxe and was hit by a dart and a guiding bolt shot from the hallway.

Two drow ran after Mendel from the north, missing him with their hand crossbows.

The last of the three initial drow invaders stabbed Bran with its sword.

Erling’s voice in my head shouted, “Start firing on the mages and priests in the other room!

Mendel was hit by two crossbow bolts from the three guards who ran around the corner from the north.

Bran was slashed with a spiritual weapon and then fell after being stabbed by the drow warrior’s poisoned blade.

As four townsfolk surrounded me, Erling knocked one out with the hilt of his weapon, before two of them grabbed me, throwing off my aim.

Two familiar kobolds stabbed Erling from the fireplace.

After a spiritual weapon appeared next to Blaze, he hit a nearby drow with a spiritual weapon of his own and revived Bran with cure wounds.

“Frizzt,” a voice called from the hall in Common, “surrender and your friends can leave in peace, and with their lives!”

“I surrender,” I hopelessly resigned.

“No!” Erling cried. “Don’t do it!”

“You may leave,” the voice replied. “Leave the traitor and go with your lives, and we will leave this town.”

Outside, Mendel dashed around the corner of a building to the south, drawing three guards toward his direction.

“Stand down and we’ll parlay,” Oosi offered, as a drow wizard appeared at the front door, magic visibly coursing through its fingers.

“What the hell, Oosi,” Erling cried, “we’re not going to do this!”

“What’s your quarrel with him?” Oosi asked the drow.

“He broke his oath, he betrayed his kind,” one replied. “We’re bringing him back for justice.”

“What say you, Frizzt?” Oosi asked.

“I broke my oath by rescuing Erling and others like him,” I admitted.

“You said you surrender,” Oosi confirmed. “Are you willing to go of your own free will and accord?”

“If it will save your lives,” I acknowledged.

“The choice is yours,” Oosi insisted. “You make it.”

“I have already said ‘I surrender,’” I reiterated.

“Oosi, really!” Erling cried as the drow began to advance on me, unopposed. “What the hell?”

“Step aside,” a drow instructed Oosi, with a look of disgust.

“Are you sure, Frizzt” Oosi asked again.

“What choice do I have?” I responded as another drow squeezed past Oosi, and closed in on me, a pair of spiked manacles in his hand.

I’ll find you, Frizzt,” Erling spoke in my mind, “Don’t you worry.

Just stop the endless night, Erling,” I replied. “It’s your only chance.

I’ll come find you, Frizzt,” Erling repeated.

“Come on, what are you doing?” Erling pleaded, heartbroken. “Come one, let’s work this out! Can we pay you reparations or something?”

“I have area spells,” Blaze whispered to Oosi and Bran. “And I can call for help.”

“If you can send for help in secret, do it,” Oosi whispered back.

“Drow always win!” the drow warrior sneered at Oosi as he closed in on me, commanding, “Bring the Shol'va!”

As the townsfolk began dragging me to the drow, Bran rose, shouting, “For Frizzt!” and cast shatter. My knees almost buckled at the painfully intense loud ringing noise that suddenly erupted around me, as did the other drow. The kobolds and townsfolk died miserably. Bran then gave Oosi his inspiration.

The drow wizard hit Oosi with three magic missiles.

Drawing my scimitar, I sliced the nearest drow’s throat, then dropped the blade, transferred my hunter’s mark to the drow warrior, landed an arrow, and moved back into the southeast corner.

Blaze was stabbed by the drow warrior poisoned blade as he centered himself and summoned the radiance of the dawn, killing the drow with the manacles and wounding the warrior, wizard, and others in the hallway. He smacked the drow warrior with his spiritual weapon.

Dodging, Erling was smashed with a spiritual weapon, before being paralyzed by a hold person spell cast from the hallway.

Outside, after quaffing his only potion of healing, Mendel dashed around to the opposite side of the building he was hiding behind and peeked out at the three guards watching attentively where they had previously seen him.

“Treacherous dogs!” the drow wizard cursed before blasting Erling and me with a lightning bolt.

Slamming the door shut and holding it fast against the pounding from the other side, Oosi threw his handaxe into the drow wizard’s chest.

“Frizzt, take out the warrior that’s coming to get you,” Oosi instructed. “Finish him!”

The drow warrior stabbed Oosi with his poisoned blade.

Two more drow entered from the front door, one closing on me, and the other stabbing Bran, before the bard cast fear on it at the drow wizard, who both dropped their weapons. Then he gave his inspiration to Erling and closed the front door.

Targeting the nearby drow with slayer’s prey, I drew my shortsword, and inspired, stabbed it to death with two thrusts.

Blaze tossed a fireball into the southwest corner, mortally searing the drow warrior and scorching the wizard, and clubbed the mage with his spiritual weapon.

Outside, peeking around the corner, Mendel drew his wand and hit the three guards with a magic missile each before dashing around the building.

The drow wizard ran in fear and jumped up on the table in the southwest corner.

Erling broke free of his paralysis.

Grabbing a hand crossbow from the ground, Oosi shot the drow wizard, who crumpled to the ground. “Finish that last guy!” Oosi barked as he continued to hold the door.

The last drow was swatted by Blaze’s mace while fleeing in fear to the northwest corner.

Dropping his sword and drawing his crossbow, Bran cast healing word on Erling.

Sheathing my sword and drawing my bow, I shot the last drow with a fatal shot in the throat.

Blaze cast cure wounds on me.

Outside, Mendel peeked around the corner, and not seeing any drow or guards, approached the front door.

Erling retrieved his crossbow.

Both drow spiritual weapons floated through the north wall.

Peeking out the door, Bran heard a squeal from outside, “Bran, you’re alive! It’s all clear out here.”

“Mendel, you’re alive!” Bran responded. “Where the hell did you go?”

“I tried to draw off the guards,” Mendel explained.

“Well, you did a good job I guess,” Bran replied, retrieving his sword, “but we had to fight inside. Mendel, get in here!”

Stepping back into the room, Bran cast healing word on himself.

I retrieved my sword and aimed my bow at the rear door.

Blaze cast cure wounds on Erling.

Mendel took a peek to the north of the building and returned to the room, closing the door behind. “Thank goodness everybody’s safe! I tried to lead the guards away with some of the drow warriors.”

“Well done, little mage,” Oosi commended.

“I knew you guys could handle them!” Mendel cheered. “I thought I was done for.”

Bran blocked the front door and Oosi opened the rear door, but all we could see on the other side was blackness.

Searching the drow bodies, Erling took two hand crossbows and two holsters of darts, and I took a hand crossbow, two holsters of darts, and two shortswords. Bran took two shortswords, and Oosi and Erling took one each.

Searching the drow wizard, Mendel found a wooden staff with drow designs carved up its length and a traveling spellbook containing: mage armor, magic missle, witch bolt, alter self, web, misty step, lightning bolt, and evard's black tentacles.

“Something spoke to me in my mind,” I explained, “and I do not believe that it was drow. I believe it was the aberrations that control them.”

“Yeah, I wonder if it was the same thing that was talking to me?” Erling pondered. “Asking me to join it…”

“If they spoke to you in your mind,” I figured, “then it most likely was.”

Session 34 - 2021-10-22

“Should we see if any of the townsfolk can be revived?” I asked. It’s regrettable that so many of them perished.

“That’s a good idea,” Blaze agreed.

“Those people outside looked like a mess!” Mendel recalled aloud.

Looking outside, it was clear that there were no survivors in the area. The courtyard was empty and anyone who had survived had fled.

“We should check out the rest of this complex,” Oosi stated.

“Are you sure you’re in any condition to do that?” Mendel asked. “You look pretty beat up.”

“We’re all a bit injured,” Blaze acknowledged.

“Yes, we’ve all taken some injuries,” Oosi seconded, “but we want to make sure we don’t have an enemy coming at our back either...running us down in the streets like dogs.”

We all moved to the courtyard where I took up a defensive position between the three inner doors.

Mendel hid behind a nearby barrel while Oosi checked the door to the southern building, to the rear of where we fought the drow.

After checking the door, Oosi opened it and saw only blackness on the other side.

“Darkness can last up to ten minutes,” Mendel offered, “just like expeditious retreat. Unfortunately I can’t dispel it.”

“They’re hiding in here, or they made their escape,” Oosi concluded. “Blaze, would light counteract thai magical darkness?”

“It should,” Blaze figured, casting light beyond the door.

“I didn’t think it would,” Mendel proclaimed, as nothing happened.

Closing the door, Oosi checked a door to the north of the courtyard and saw an empty room beyond.

“Once I pass the threshold, we’re committing to toss the whole place, right?” Oosi hesitated.

“If we want to check the darkness,” I offered, “I can cast spike growth inside that would hurt anyone within.”

“You know what,” Oosi reconsidered,” I think we should get the hell out of here, and regroup, heal up, and figure out why they were here and looking for you and how to deal with this.”

“I’m inclined to agree,” I concurred. “It was not the drow that communicated with me in my mind, but I believe it was one of their masters.”

“So were they enslaving this town?” Oosi asked. “I think we need to talk this through to understand what was happening here. Were they enslaving this town to get to you, or are you just...I don’t know what. We kind of need to figure this out. What are our next moves...”

“I suggest we report back to the speaker and rest there,” I proposed, turning to Erling.

“Yeah, let’s go,” Oosi agreed.

“Are you sure?” Mendel asked Oosi. “I can look through that building real quick, if you want.”

“I don’t think any of us are in any condition to fight,” Bran surmised.

“No,” Oosi responded. “No, no, Mendel. We have to go now. We’ll figure this out later. And we should kind of talk about your battle tactics too.”

“Are you okay?” I asked Erling.

“I guess I’m alright,” Erling replied. “Like, the whole situation was a bit unsettling if you ask me.”

“Indeed,” I agreed.

“They were about to drag you down to the Underdark,” Erling exclaimed. “I mean, what the hell was that all about?”

“I appreciate your support,” I patted Erling on the shoulder.

Mendel grabbed the drow wizard’s staff, and we returned to the Town Hall.

“You know, if they did retreat,” Erling considered, “they might be going back to those caves, where we emerged from.”

“I agree that that is likely where they came from,” I concurred.

“Perhaps we should talk about sealing the caves,” Bran suggested, “with the speaker. At least until we can get the town under control.”

“I mean, assuming that’s the only way out of the Underdark,” Oosi hinted.

“I’m sure it’s not the only way out,” I stated, “but it may be the only way out in this vicinity. I would imagine that wherever the duergar are coming from is another passage.”

At the Town Hall, guards were busy fortifying the structure for a final assault, boarding up windows, and adding spiked fences around the perimeter.

“Oarus, we must speak with you,” Oosi greeted he speaker, who was waiting by the door.

“Yes, friends, how are you?” Oarus replied. “What did you find up there in the northern portion of the town?”

“Let us retire to your office and discuss it,” Oosi suggested.

“Come on inside,” Oarus waved us in after giving out a few directions to the guards.

Closing the door behind, Oarus asked, “Was is it?”

“We may have gotten to the root of your problem,” Oosi began.

“That’s good news!” Oarus replied. “What was it?”

“Well, we found a contingent of drow in that section of town,” Oosi explained.

“Drow!” Oarus gasped, his face pale.

“Yes, drow,” Oosi confirmed.

“Indeed,” I seconded.

“I’ve never heard of drow invading this town or this area before,” Oarus admitted.

“Yes, and some of your townsfolk were indeed bewitched somehow,” Oosi elaborated. “Not acting themselves. Taking orders from some unseen thing.”

“Most likely the same creatures that are influencing the drow,” I added. “And this is what I have feared...with the darkness—”

“Were you able to free them?” Oarus asked.

“We were able to drive the drow away,” I replied.

“Well, unfortunately—and this is why we wanted to speak in private. We didn’t want to alarm the rest of the townsfolk—a battle ensued, as you can understand, and unfortunately the townsfolk that were under their spell died in that battle that ensued.”

“That’s terrible news,” Oarus sighed, his shoulders slumping. “How many people were killed?”

“Probably about a dozen,” Oosi responded. “I didn’t take a headcount, but probably about a dozen or so.”

“But the drow have been routed?” Oarus asked.

“That’s right,” Mendel piped, “the drow were driven away!”

“We think they’ve departed,” Oosi speculated, “but we need to investigate further to understand what the hell they were doing here to begin with. There may have been some underlying reason for them to be here. We’re not exactly sure yet. So, there’s still some questions that need to be asked.”

“Okay,” Oarus acknowledged, “so, what can I do to help?”

“Well, we need a place to rest and regroup,” Oosi indicated, “and confer amongst each other to figure out what’s going on and what our next move might be.”

“Well, the Town Hall’s being converted into a safe house,” Oarus offered. “You can find bunks and take them. That’s fine.”

“Can we use this office for a spell?” Oosi asked.

“Did you want me to cast detect magic?” Mendel asked Oosi.

“Not right now,” Oosi replied. “Just hold on. Hold on a minute.”

“Oh, not that kind of spell,” Mendel realized aloud.

Oh yes, we're gonna stay here,” Oosi informed the speaker. “We're gonna kind of regroup, debrief, and we’ll let you know what our next steps are going to be.”

“Do you know of any other way that the drow could be coming up from the Underdark?” Bran asked.

“The only thing I can think of is the mine,” Oarus considered.

“Then perhaps we should seal the mine,” Bran suggested. “At least until we get the north of the town under control.”

“That's gonna be an option,” Oosi stated.

“I suppose we can do that,” Oarus acknowledged.

“Yes, let's keep that on the table,” Oosi confirmed, “and let's kind of figure out what we’re gonna do, and we may very well want to do that.”

“While we're resting,” Mendel asked the speaker, “Do you think you can have somebody fetch some supplies for us? Nothing major. Just a few things like some, some charcoal and incense and herbs.”

“Charcoal, incense and herbs?” Oarus repeated. “Well, we can certainly get you charcoal. Incense and herbs? What kind of herbs?”

“Uh, we don't have magical supplies here,” Oarus regretted as he departed. “For magic stuff, I don't know, you probably have to go Bryn Shander for stuff like that.”

“So what the hell was that all about?” Oosi asked, turning to me. “Was that hunting party only here for you?”

“I don’t know,” I admitted, “but that is a possibility. They did seem like they wanted me to surrender and offered to leave—”

“Well, they knew you,” Oosi added. “They were ready to shackle you. Ready to haul you off. So it’s more than a possibility.”

“Well, they definitely wanted me,” I corrected. “It's a possibility that that's all they wanted.”

“So you were one of their goals, perhaps,” Oosi reiterated. “How do you fit into their plans? Was it just a side goal of vengeance, to get you for whatever transgressions they say they have with you? We need to figure out what to do about this, if they’re gone, if we need to run them down, if the cave is enough…”

“It is possible that one of the houses seeks retribution for my abandoning my society,” I shared. “I also was responsible for the freeing of Erling from captivity in the Underdark. You can see why they would want revenge. But a worst case scenario is that they fear that I might disrupt their plans to invade the surface. This has been my fear all along.”

“So how determined are a lot like them?” Oosi asked. “Do we need to brace for a counterattack now?”

“I cannot tell for sure,” I admitted. “However, what we do know is that the endless night has persisted for years, and they have not infiltrated so far. It appears that the first strike from the Underdark will come from the duergar. I would—”

“I don't know,” Oosi interjected, “it seems like these guys are pretty much a bit bolder than the duergar, right? The duergar have been operating clandestinely and not really impacting the townsfolk directly. These folks are pretty brazen. They’ve come here. They’ve literally taken over a part of this town, and somehow bewitched and enslaved their folk. It's a bit more of a strike than the duergar.”

“I only meant that the duergar have infiltrated multiple towns sooner and appear to be preparing to make a more destructive assault from what we've heard,” I elaborated. “Whereas this appears to be more targeted. I have no doubt that the drow are being manipulated by more powerful creatures, like the ones that spoke to me most definitely the ones that were controlling the townsfolk.”

“You know there was one that spoke to me too, right?” Erling added. “Right before that whole assault happened. Did I mention that?”

“What did it say?” I asked.

“They wanted me to join them, or some crazy stuff,” Erling explained. “I don't know what the hell they wanted. And I was like’ who is this? Who is this?’ and they just sort of faded away.”

“I wonder if they knew that you had been their captive,” I pondered.

“Uh, maybe, but it's a little bit different,” Erling clarified. “I think, with this go around. Because, their comments seem like they knew that I was hexed for a bit.”

“Are you saying that this is related to that pain you had?” Mendel asked.

“No, I didn’t say anything about pain,” Erling replied. “I was hexed.”

“The pain that you had in your head!” Mendel insisted.

“Oh, you mean... Oh no,” Erling denied. “No, this wasn’t a pain. This was somebody like, you know, talking to me telepathically. It wasn’t a pain. That was a different thing.”

“No, I know that this wasn't the pain,” Mendel tried to explain, “but I mean, but do you think that they reached out to you for the same reason? Ddo you think the two are related?”

“Like attacked me and caused me pain and tried to recruit me?” Erling asked.

“Possibly,” Mendel posited. “Why you? They didn't reach out to me. Did they reach out to you Oosi?”

No,” Oosi stated. “They better not.”

“But wait a minute,” Erling insisted. “Wait a minute. That's not… I mean… What I was trying to say is, remember when I was hexed a while back?”

“Yes, we do,” I confirmed.

“And then,” Erling continued, “like, I had all these crazy thoughts, and well, you know—”

“You mean until Vellynne cured you?” Mendel cut in.

“Well, yes,” Erling confirmed, “yes. The thing that that witch—that mage cured me of. So, they were kind of talking to me, appealing to me, thinking I’m still thinking that way. Trying to lure me into some nastiness, I think. Power, riches, whatever.”

“Oh, so they were related,” Mendel suggested.

“No. Well, may— prob— No!” Erling insisted. “I mean, could they have attacked me? Maybe. I don't think so. No. I don't think so. I think the attack, the pain, was like something else. There’s a lot of things going on here. There's a lot of things happening and like the pain thing was one thing and this telepathic communication thing was another thing. And they were talking to me as if they knew I was hexed, and they thought I was still hexed and they were trying to appeal to me to kind of join them. Join the dark side kind of thing, and um—”

“How were you hexed?” Mendel asked.

“How was I hexed?” Erling asked. “I don’t know. You’re a mage. How do I know? I was hexed and you took me to the mage and they took the hex off of me.”

“Do you know what hexed you?” Mendel prodded.

“I have no idea,” Mendel replied. “I just woke up and I was...I wasn't feeling quite right, and, um, I was really...feeling kind of evil. And, um, yeah. I mean, I think you guys kind of saw that after a while, right?”

“Yes, we did,” I acknowledged.

“I’m kind of ashamed of those things,” Erling admitted, “but you know…”

“We did notice,” Blaze said.

“We are glad to have you back,” I added.

“Well thanks,” Erling replied. “I appreciate that. For a while there no one even seemed to give a hoot. No one even mentioned it, but anyway, that’s a whole other thing. But right now they seem to be—.”

“It was a constant weight on my mind,” I tried to assure Erling.

“But right now,” Erling continued, scratching at his dagger, “you know, whoever that was seems to kind of still maybe think I’m hexed, and trying to appeal to me, because they might be thinking that I’m thinking that I’m still thinking like I’m hexed. You know what I mean?”

“Do you think that the reason they reached out to you is that you can speak telepathically?” I inquired.

“I don't know,” Erling replied, scratching his head. “I really don’t know. My best guess was that like you know that they somehow reached out to me because they think that by offering money or power that I’m going to do something for them, and, and, and, for me to do the telepathic thing, my experience has been, and maybe I’m off, that I have to do it. You can’t talk to me if I don’t talk to you first. And I certainly wasn’t talking to anyone. Does that answer your question?”

“How would they know that you were hexed?” Bran interjected.

“It's kind of creepy if you ask me,” Erling asmitted. “I don’t know. There's a lot of unknown questions here. I don't pretend to know the answers to. It just seems like why would you like—there's five other people here. Why target me and why try and entice me with those kinds of things if you didn’t know I was hexed? Or if you didn’t think I was hexed. And how would you know I was hexed if you didn’t put it on me, but I don’t know.”

“That's why I'm asking about your ability to speak telepathically,” I explained. “Maybe somehow they were able to pick that up.”

“Uh, I don't know,” Erling considered. “I mean the only time I could do it was when I started it, and so I didn't talk to anybody but you guys. Like for example, I spoke to you, Frizzt, around that time, so you could be the only one that could respond to me”

“I don't know how these things work,” Frizzt I speculated, but just because I'm the only one that can respond to you, doesn't mean that other telepathic creatures might not be able to sense your abilities. Which is similar to what Mendel was asking. If the pain that reached out to you when we were at the duergar stronghold came from Termilaine and if it was related to this. These things could be related.”

“Erling,” Bran hinted, “do you think it has anything to do with the crystal that we got from Clairisma?”

“Which part?” Erling asked.

“Do you think they might be tracking that somehow?” Bran continued. “You still have it, don't you?”

“Well, yeah,” Erling admitted. “I do.”

“But who’s tracking it?” Erling asked.

“That's the question,” Bran replied.

“Like tracking it, how?” Erling asked.

“It might be imbibed with magic,” Bran suggested.

“There are spells that can find objects over great distances,” Mendel explained, “as long as you're familiar with them.”

“Yeah,” Erling acknowledged, “this was weird though. We found this in caves, like buried away somewhere, if I remember right.”

“Didn't we find it in this cave though?” Bran recollected.

“You mean the cave we suspect the drow came from?” Erling asked.

“In the gem mines,” Bran clarified. “I thought we found it when we first investigated, before Frizzt and Oosi were with us. Back with Clairisma and Brutus.”

“Uhhh,” Erling pondered. “Well, yeah, I think that’s right. I think that’s right.”

“I believe it was Clairisma that found it,” Bran specified.

“But, if it was buried away, who would be like,” Erling considered, “who else—who would be familiar with it. No one knows I have it. Who would be familiar with it to magically track it.”

“That I don't know,” Bran admitted.

“Is that how you speak telepathically?” Mendel inquired.

“Yes, if you must know, yes,” Erling revealed.

“Well, maybe they can track it then,” Mendel suggested.

“I think Frizzt just said that,” Erling pointed out.

“Oh, I wasn’t listening to him,” Mendel sighed. “I was paying attention to something else. I'm looking in this book to see if there’s any spell that can help us.”

“Ah, well, I mean, maybe,” Erling contemplated. “Look, I don't know. Maybe they could be tracking us. How would I know? You know, there’s all kinds of crazy things in this world. Maybe they’re tracking it, maybe not, I'm just—”

“But if it was the crystal,” Bran affirmed, “if they were tracking the crystal, that explains how they could contact you. But how are they contacting Frizzt? I, for the record, have not been contacted. Blaze, have you been contacted telepathically?”

“I have not,” Blaze shared.

“I think they specifically reached out to me because of what they wanted from me,” I revealed. “I don't think there’s any mystery about that. I am, as they call, a Shol'va, a traitor. I hope that answers that question.”

“So, can all drow track you, Frizzt?” Bran asked, “or only certain drow?”

“I don't think they were tracking me,” I speculated. “I think they detected me when I was here.”

“The drow detected you?” Bran questioned.

“As I mentioned, I don't think it was the drow that communicated to any of us,” I explained. “I think it was their masters.”

“Do you have any idea who the masters might be?” Bran asked.

“I do not know the details of who they are,” I answered. “But they are thought to be from a far realm, and control many of the houses in drow society.”

“Aren’t they like little wormy things that burrow into your skull, and take control of you?” Erling guessed.

“That is a common rumor,” I acknowledged. “I cannot attest to the truthfulness of this.”

“Either way, they sound very powerful if they're controlling not only the drow, but the townsfolk,” Bran warned. “We best be on our guard.”

“Indeed they are,” I agreed.

“So there might be a way to get these unseen people to show themselves, actually,” Erling suggested.

“And how is that,” I asked.

“Well, did I mention that as we were leaving, they contacted me again?” Erling revealed.

“I don’t think you did,” Bran and I replied.

“So like, they contacted me, trying to tempt me again,” Erling shared. “Or maybe I’m just going mad. They were trying to tempt me again. Telling me I could be the greatest hero and gold and riches and some weaknesses that I’m shackled by, or something, and I said, ‘well, I can't talk to you about this if you don’t tell me who you are,’ and they got frustrated and said, ‘fine, I'll contact you and, you know, to talk to you. So there might be, like, they might want to get together and discuss it.”

“Like for drinks or dancing?” Bran quipped. “Dinner maybe?”

“Maybe. I guess,” Erling replied. “I don’t know. I guess, if that’s what I told them.”

“I mean, if you go to the bar,” Bran continued, “are they going to stroll in through the door with a bouquet of flowers? How are they going to contact you?”

“Don't be silly, Bran,” Erling objected. “Don't be silly, I mean, I didn’t set anything up yet.”

“I'm not being silly,” Bran insisted. “I'm asking” how are they going to contact you?”

“Probably the way they have been, via you know,” Erling tapped his skull.

“I’m grateful you saw their temptation for what it was,” I applauded Erling.

“Yeah, I don't want to take over the Ten Towns anymore,” Erling replied. “I mean, I’m over that.”

“Not anymore!” Mendel gasped. “Well, I think the question still remains, why you?”

“Well, I mean, you know, when you got it, you got it,” Erling bragged. “They obviously sensed that I was capable and everything, and they wanted to deal with me.”

“I wonder if somebody else was carrying your crystal,” Mendel hinted, “if they would contact them?”

“Listen,” Erling stated, “you can’t have my crystal, so take it easy, buddy. You’re kind of harping on my crystal. You can’t have my crystal.”

“Well, perhaps Blaze could wear it,” Mendel suggested, “and we could see if they contact Blaze.”

“No,” Erling refused.

“You do seem mighty possessive about something that could be making you a target,” Mendel accused.

“Why don’t you give me your spellbooks then?” Erling argued. “Why don’t you let somebody else carry your spellbooks?”

“I don't want that Crystal,” Blaze replied.

“You don’t worry about my crystal,” Mendel replied. “I don’t want your spellbooks. I’ll use them as kindling for the fire.”

“There’s no need to get testy now,” Mendel replied.

“I mean just don’t take my shit, you know,” Erling warned.

“Alright, alright now,” Oosi cut in. “Let's kinda make a plan. If these people are contacting us, and they’re willing to make, you know, make a meeting, maybe we should let them have it. Let them have a meeting and get to the bottom of this. Enough with this, you know, dancing around nonsense. Enough with this politics.”

“I want to cast detect magic,” Mendel said, taking out his spellbook to cast the ritual. “I want to see if this staff is magical.”

“Oh darn!” Mendel groaned, having finished casting detect magic, and looking at his staff, before glancing back at Erling.

“So, Erling,” Oosi instructed, “if they contact you again, you should go ahead and set a meeting.”

“Where would we meet with them?” I asked.

“That’s something that we should figure out now,” Oosi replied, “so that we can be prepared for the next contact.”

“I suggest we meet outside the town,” I suggested, “so as not to endanger more townsfolk.”

“Just let me know in advance, so I can buy some flowers,” Bran added.

“If we’re going to arrange a meeting,” Oosi asked, “where should we arrange it?”

“I suggest we meet them closer to the mine,” I proposed.

“How about out here somewhere,” Oosi suggested, looking at a town map on the wall and pointing to a spot just north of town.

“Is that far enough away?” I questioned. “Why not meet them closer to the mine?”

“Well, if we capture them,” Oosi offered, “we can drag them right into the jail, and throw them in the jail. Like, what’s the benefit of going that far? If we just go right outside of town to meet them? What’s the benefit of going that far? I'm not saying ‘no,’ but I'm just trying to understand.”

“I'm trying to avoid a situation where they run into town,” I advised, “and I'm also concerned about the prospect of keeping any of them as a prisoner within the town. I would not want a contingent of drow invading the town in order to free one of their own.”

“Or come get you?” Oosi suggested. “Now that they’ve been forced into the open.”

“I may not be here,” I replied. “But it does raise a good point. Maybe after we rest, it may be better if I’m not in this town. My presence may be a danger.”

“Alright, that's cool. I agree,” Oosi consented. “We should do it further out of town. I agree with that.”

“I think we might have the advantage out in the open,” I suggested.

“So, pick a spot,” Oosi outlined. “Erling is seemingly on his own. He goes to meet this person, thing, whatever, and then, at some point, we all sorta jump out and... prisoner or whatever we have to do there.”

“Erling, are you okay with all of this?” I checked.

“Uh, the bait, again!” Erling whined. “I’m always the bait! On the hook. I guess, if you guys got my back, I’ll do it.”

“Well, we didn't let him take Frizzt,” Bran reassured him. “We’re not going to let him take you.”

“Freakin’ better not!” Erling swore.

“Unless your attitude changes,” Bran teased. “Then maybe.”

“If my attitude changes?” Erling quipped. “By the time you figure out my attitude’s changed, it’ll be too late, my friend.”

“So find a clearing,” Oosi continued. “How far away do we want to be hidden from the clearing in order to spring the trap, so to speak?”

“What would the trap be?” I asked.

“Well, I mean, maybe we surround the clearing,” Oosi proposed. “Let them come in. And the sorta close in on them from all sides. Or we could dig a pit. Shove them into a pit.”

“There may be another way,” Mendel offered. “Erling, if you don't want to be the bait.”

“Well, what do you mean?” Erling asked.

“Well, I was looking in this spellbook that we recovered,” Mendel explained, “and one of the spells would let me disguise myself as someone else.”

“Uh-huh, okay,” Erling pressed. “And then what?”

“If you don't want to be the bait,” Mendel reasoned, “there is another option. That's all I'm saying. If you don't mind, then that's probably our safest way to tempt them, since maybe they know who you are. I don't know if it would work, but I could change my appearance with this spell to make myself look like you.”

“Uh…” Erling considered. “I think I probably have a better chance of surviving it and getting out of that situation than you might.”

“Okay,” Mendel acquiesced.

“Well, if we're looking to do deception,” Bran added. “I'm pretty good with a costume or two.”

“If they can speak so early in his mind,” I suggested, “I don’t think any sort of disguise is going to change that.”

“Yes, enough with this trickery,” Oosi objected. “Erling, you just need to take care of this.”

“I didn't say it wasn't gonna,” Erling insisted. “I said... I don't have to like it.”

“Fine. Then it's settled,” Oosi declared. “Erling, you'll have to go meet them and spring the trap, whatever that trap is. We haven't decided what it is yet, but you'll have to spring that trap.”

“If this is something that you’re willing to do, Erling,” I clarified.

“Yeah, I guess,” Erling agreed, scratching at the desk. “I’ll do it. What the hell. It’ll make this idiot go away and leave me alone.”

“Alright, so where’s the cave?” Oosi asked. “We want to find a clearing that maybe had some cover for us, which, you know, they might come in numbers also, right?”

“Is one of the aspects of your plan, Oosi, that we all need to be able to hide, while Erling appears to be alone?” I confirmed.

“I think so, yeah,” Oosi confirmed. “My bet is, being the cowards that they are, they’re going to try and get him out there on his own, to take advantage of him, or to kill him, or to, you know, bewitch him, or whatnot, so, we being there will spook them away. We want to bring them in.”

“What if Erling agrees to meet them outside of the mine,” I suggested, “and we are all hiding behind the entrance to the mine? Outside of the mine, but behind the entrance.”

“So, what? As they emerge, we close off their retreat?” Bran clarified.

“Indeed,” I confirmed.

“But that presumes that they’re coming from the mine,” Oosi pointed out. “What if this is yet another faction? We've already seen two factions at a minimum. What if there’s a third faction at play, and they’re not in the mine?”

“And they come from a different direction?” I confirmed.

“Yes,” Oosi confirmed.

“Well, they do control the entire north of the town,” Bran advised, “from what it sounds like, so they could come from any direction.”

“That is something that we wanted to ask Oarus to do,” I recalled. “I suggest that we ask Oarus to send someone through the town to see if anyone is still acting strangely. Can we do that?”

“Sure, I’ll go out and talk to him,” Blaze offered, departing.

“What message did you get, Frizzt, from them?” Oosi asked. “What was the message that you got?”

“They told me to surrender,” I shared, “and they would spare my friends. They also threatened my child.”

“Your child!” Oosi exclaimed.

“Where is your child, Fritz?” Bran asked, “Or where was your child, last you saw?”

“My family is still in the Underdark,” I revealed.

“Like, I'm wondering, if they're both connected,” Oosi pondered, “I’m wondering if they have, like, the ability to read minds. Like, to read something in my mind, come up with something from when I was hexed and try and get me with that. Read something in Frizzt’s mind, you know, some kind of weakness in Frizzt’s mind and try and get at him with that. Like, you know, what parent wouldn’t want to do whatever they had to for their child, for example.”

“If they can read minds, then we won’t be able to ambush them,” Bran surmised. “They’ll know what our plans are.”

“Well, that’s a good question,” Oosi replied.

“I have no doubt that some of them must have this ability,” I shared. “I had not considered that for myself, because they do know of my family.”

“Right, so it’s not anything that would be conclusive enough to come to,” Oosi concluded. “You know what I mean?”

“But I have no doubt that the aberrations that are influencing the drow have this ability,” I reiterated.

“Yes, but can we rule in or out that they are the ones contacting us?” Oosi asked.

“I don’t think we can,” I answered.

Bran suggested that we ask the speaker to have the bodies of the dead townsfolk burned in order to put them to rest properly and to ensure they don’t rise up again.

“Do you fear that they were somehow infected beyond a temporary mind control?” I asked.

“I’m worried that they might contain some kind of disease, yes,” Bran explained, “that could spread.”

“I did examine the bodies, and I did not notice anything unusual,” I offered. “Perhaps we should ask Oarus to bring those bodies back here for further examination.”

“I think that’s a good idea,” Bran agreed.

I passed the request on to Blaze who passed it on to Oarus.

Noting that the group that contacted me had different demands and different communications than the individual that contacted Erling, Oosi wondered if they were different factions.

“I do think it is unlikely that there were different factions that were speaking to us today,” I suspected.

“You think they were all the same?” Oosi asked.

“Indeed,” I confirmed, “but it is possible that they are not coming from the mine.”

“I think it’s fair to say they may not come from the mine,” Bran deduced, “given that they’ve already taken hold of much of the north of the town. They might have other strongholds in different houses.”

“Yeah, maybe we should go and check for tracks,” Oosi suggested. “Like, if they fled, they cast darkness and ran, maybe we could pick up another trail from that place if it hasn’t been trampled by other people by now.”

“I do know that the courtyard had been heavily trampled previously,” I added.

“Right, so there’s no way we’re going to pick up a trail from there,” Oosi concluded. “There’s too much other interference there.”

“Well, then let’s pick a door and go in,” Bran suggested.

“I think our best bet is to find out if anyone is still acting unusually,” I suggested. “It is possible that everyone has returned to their senses.”

“Maybe,” Oosi concurred. “Let’s pick an ambush site, and then go check that out. Unless we’re going to rest now.”

“I think we’re definitely going to rest,” Bran advised.

While we were resting, Oarus informed us that they had not discovered any evidence of people behaving unusually, concluding that everyone who had been acting strangely had perished, and that the guards were bringing the deceased townsfolk to Ross Funeral Home.

“Are you aware of any spells that might cause that kind of control or compulsion?” Bran asked Mendel. “Are you aware of anything?”

“I’m sure that there is magic like that that exists,” Mendel explained, “but that doesn’t mean that it was a specific spell.”

We agreed that if they contacted Erling again, Erling would suggest meeting just north of town.

After we rested, we examined the bodies at the funeral home, but found nothing unusual.

At Bran’s suggestion we headed to the gem processing center, to clear it out.

I positioned myself in sight of the four doors visible from the courtyard. Pointing to the door in the rear of the building where we were ambushed, Mendel asked Oosi which door he wanted to try first.

“I think we should go there, as you suggest,” Oosi replied, “but I also think, uh, I, I appreciate your eagerness to go first, but I think you really need to, kind of temper your enthusiasm a little, Mendel.”

“Well, I wasn't gonna go first,” Mendel explained. “I was just asking you about this door. You have the honors.”

“Remember,” Oosi reminded the mage, “we have to have that discussion about your battle tactics a little bit.”

“If you insist,” Mendel replied.

“I do,” Oosi confirmed.

While Oosi opened the door, Mendel sought cover behind some nearby barrels.

“Just know when to stand back,” Oosi advised the mage.

The darkness gone, Oosi stepped into the hallway previously occupied by the drow.

Blaze followed him in and Erling stood guard by the door.

Bran entered the room where we had fought the drow and crossed to the same hallway.

Oosi and Blaze found two additional doors in the hallway’s southern wall, and began investigating the rooms beyond.

“Is it all clear in there, Erling?” Mendel called out.

“Uh, so far, so good,” Erling replied. “Looks okay.”

Mendel entered and helped Oosi search the rooms.

In the fireplace, Mendel found an old, tattered, and patched long coat.

“Oh look at this!” Mendel exclaimed, showing him the coat. “You always have to look in the fireplace. There’s always interesting stuff in the fireplace, Oosi.”

“I see those damn kobolds were hiding in the fireplace last time,” Oosi recalled. “I'll make a note of that.”

Oosi searched the coat’s pockets, but found nothing.

“That’s an odd place to store an overcoat like this,” Mendel noted, dragging the overcoat behind him into the hallway, having found nothing of interest in the bedrooms. “Just this weird overcoat in the fireplace.”

Erling and Bran recognized the coat, and cursed the kobolds they had brought back to town from the gem mine.

“Yes, they actually attacked me,” Erling noted. “They actually attacked me when we were in the other room list, in the battle.”

“Yeah,” Mendel explained, “this was in the fireplace on the opposite side of that fireplace.”

Erling confirmed that the two fireplaces shared the same chimney.

“Ah, I got it,” Erling exclaimed. “That's probably how these dirty dogs did it.”

“Make sure none of them are hiding up there,” Mendel warned.

“Well, I don't see any,” Erling shared. “I was looking up there. If they’re stupid enough to attack us now! They deserved what they got coming to them.”

“Where to next, Oosi?” Mendel asked, following the half-orc back to the courtyard along with Erling.

“Well, we should check the other buildings, too, I think,” Oosi replied.

“Good idea,” Mendel agreed.

Oosi entered the door to the north, Mendel close behind, and found a foyer empty other than a couple of little benches and hooks for coats and gear. There was another door on the north wall.

Oosi opened the door and looked beyond, finding a long room with long workbenches holding tools and supplies for extracting and polishing gems from minerals.

“Have a look around,” Oosi instructed Mendel. “See if there's anything related to these drow that were here. That will give us a hint as to what the hell's going on.”

“Oh, is that what we're looking for?” Mendel asked.

“Yeah, what did you think we're doing here?” Oosi quipped. “You think we’re gonna rob the place?”

“There's a back entrance,” Mendel pointed out the exterior door on the north wall. “This is probably how they escaped.” Pointing at the tools on the table and floor, he added, “Look! Look at that. You see how this tool fell off the desk? I can see it now. The drow. There were six of them, and they ran through this room, and one of them, you know that badass one, you can tell he knocked it just like this and look how it landed.”

“Ah, ah, yes, yes,” Oosi nodded, apathetically as he opened the door. “Well done. Well done.”

Peering outside, Oosi could see the forest not too far away to the north.

Returning to the courtyard, Mendel called out, “Erling, we need your skills.”

“Sure, what's going on?” Erling asked.

“We need a tracker,” Mendel explained.

“Ah, you've come to the right place, my friend,” Erling replied.

As Mendle led Erling through the rooms, he repeated his detailed description of how he envisioned the drow escaping.

Examining the tracks from the doorway, Erling said, “Mendel, see if you can rustle up one of those guys to come take a look at these tracks. Would you mind getting Frizzt to see if he can help us out? I need another set of eyes on this.”

“I guess,” Mendel replied incredulously. “I didn't think he was a better tracker than you though.”

“Well, you know,” Erling muttered while Mendel went to fetch Frizzt. “Everybody needs a hand sometimes.”

“Fritz,” Mendel called into the courtyard, “Erling would like you in here.”

I entered, passing through both doors, inadvertently trampling on the outside tracks. “Perhaps we should look a little further,” I suggested

Looking further, we found tracks heading northeast, but we couldn’t tell how many.

Meanwhile, Bran opened that door to the east of the courtyard, and saw a barracks inside filled with wardrobes and footlockers, and mining picks and shovels leaning up against the corners.

No longer finding me in the courtyard, Bran met us to the north of the gem processing plant.

We followed the tracks for half a mile to the gem mine.

“Have you guys been here before?” Mendel asked.

“Yes, we have,” Blaze, Bran, and Erling replied.

“Some of us have,” Bran elaborated. “Before you joined our party, Mendel, we journeyed here with some of our fallen comrades.”

“I don't want to go back in there,” Erling said. “I don't want to go back there. I've been there once before. I don't wanna go back there again. I went there once again, reluctantly, and if they're gone, then good riddance. I don't wanna go back there again.”

“We can have the townsfolk seal the mine,” Blaze suggested. “Maybe address it at a later date if we want.”

“If we can have the townsfolk seal the mine,” I conquered, “I think that would be wise.”

“It's a fool's errand to go down there,” Erling claimed. “They're long gone. Why would they even consider hiding out in the upper caves when they could just go back down into the protection of the Underdark.”

“The only reason I can think of,” I advised, “is if they were planning on launching another assault on Termalainne.”

“True,” Erling admitted, “but they could go and regroup in the protection of their lairs, and then, you know, climb back out.”

“Indeed,” I agreed.

“So yeah, I'm not,” Erling reiterated. “I'm not—I don't wanna go back down there.”

“I don't blame you, Erling,” I assured the halfling, “if we can block off the mine. It is quite possible that this assault was led by a single house, and they may have suffered losses that they are not able to replicate.”

“Yeah,” Erling agreed. “Yeah, whoever it was, I think they've gone and we should get the hell outta here and whoever contacted me, I'm guessing, my opinion, is that they're different from them.”

“That would be a coincidence,” I hinted.

Concluding that the drow must be long gone toward the Underdark by now, we returned to Termalaine.

“Yeah,” Bran added, “I'd agree that sealing up the mine, at least for now, seems like the most prudent action.”

“I have to agree,” Oosi turned around and said, looking thoughtfully into the air and rubbing his chin. “We have more pressing issues at the moment than to delve down into the depths here. Not that I wouldn't mind the challenge of tracking these foes down and finishing what we started. Uh, but, sealing off his mind, slowing them down, clearing out whatever we have to clear out up top, then we can come back and finish the battle that they started. So I agree with that.”

“If I recall correctly,” I mentioned, “they may be able to seal off the mine in such a way as to prevent the passage to and from the Underdark, while still allowing them to harvest the gems that they seek for wealth.”

“Yes, I still have some of those maps, you know, maps I drew from myself,” Erling agreed. “We can help them sort that out.”

“But I agree,” I added. “We have other pressing business. If there's any way that we can stop the endless night then the drought will have very little ability to launch another assault.”

“Alright, then it's agreed,” Oosi concluded. “Let's go back, and let’s tell the speaker what we proposed he does.”

We returned to the Town Hall and explained to Oarus that we tracked the drow to the mine and conveyed our recommendation to seal up the mine.

“It will be done,” Oarus agreed, adding, “There have been occasions where creatures have crawled up from the Underdark before. We've sealed the mines until, uh, you know they could be cleared out or somebody hired to clear them out, or whatever. We've done it before. We can handle it.”

“OK, great sounds like a good plan,” Erling breathed a sigh of relief.

“You know what you need, Erling?” I suggested. “I think we should head to Lonelywood and get you some cocoa.”

“Coco Coco?” Erling replied. “I think Candy would be a better solution for me right now.”

Erling mumbled recollections of his night in Easthaven...

We agreed to head to Lonelywood to deal with Ravisin.

“Oosi,” I mentioned, “I don't think that you have had the luxury of trying the cocoa in Lonelywood.”

As we were headed west, skirting the edge of the forest to the north, we heard a familiar bellowing sound as an ice troll burst out of the woods and charged toward us.

Erling moved and west and Bran moved east, the bard mocking it viciously, “Oh my God, you're so ugly your mother must have cast darkness to feed you!”

The troll engaged Blaze, Oosi, and Mendel.

Shivering from the intense cold emanating from the creature, Blaze conjured a flaming sphere and rammed it into the troll.

As it howled in pain, I targeted it with my hunter’s mark, sunk two arrows deep in its chest, and joined Erling.

“Mendel, get out of here!” Oosi instructed as the mage shivered from the creature’s aura of cold, and cautiously followed the half-orc’s orders, passing Bran.

“Blaze, surround the thing!” Oosi instructed as he flew into a rage, also shivering from the cold.

Erling landed a crossbow bolt into the creature’s back.

“You're lucky to be born beautiful,” Bran mocked viciously, “but of course I'm a liar.” The bard lent his inspiration to Oosi.

The troll circled Oosi, away from the fire. Inspired, Oosi avoided its claw, only to be bit by the creature.

Blaze rammed the flaming sphere into the troll again, and hit it with one scorching ray.

“Leave my friend alone!” Mendel screeched as he hit the troll with three magic missiles.

Still shivering, Oosi slammed his warhammer through the troll’s chest.

We arrived at Lonelywood without further incident and headed to the speaker’s house.

“Oh, hello!” Nimsy Huddle greeted us eagerly.

“Oh, hi!” Erling replied, jumping in front of the plump, middle aged halfling. “Nice to see you!”

“Oh boy!” she replied. You come in interesting times.”

“Oh, no,” Mendel muttered.

“Why thank you,” Erling continued. “We think so too. We'd love to come and have a cup of your hot cocoa and chat for a bit. I see you have a nice hearth going. It'll be lovely to share it with a fellow halfling for a change.

The speaker led us into the warmth of her big fireplace.”

“Oh my goodness,” Erling sighed. “This brings me warm feelings of the Shire back to my memories. I always love coming back here Mrs. Nimsey Huddle.”

Sitting in front of the fire was another middle aged woman, a human. She glanced up and looked at before turning her attention to the fire.

“Oh my,” Nimsey exclaimed as she prepared our cocoa. “We really could have used your help a few nights back!”

“Yeah, it seems like that's the theme of the Ten Towns lately,” Oosi replied. “Not enough of us to go around.”

“What happened?” Erliog asked, “What happened?”

“Oh, it was awful,” she began to explain. “My children were so frightened! A few days ago, I can't remember exactly how many—it's so hard to tell time these days—out of the forest to the north of town, these large white wolves came breathing ice cold frost from their mouths! They froze and killed anyone they saw! They were accompanied by a man, I think—he seemed to be a man, but he seemed to be made of pine needles. And as the wolves froze everything in sight, he proclaimed that Lonelywood was now the domain of the Frostmaiden and all would be preserved in ice. There was panic and pandemonium! Some tried to fight, but they were quickly dispatched by fang and ice, and the man, he seemed unfazed by our weapons. The only thing that saved Lonelywood was Iriskree Harrowhill.” She pointed to the old lady sitting by the fire.

“Hey,” Bran said, sitting beside the human woman.

“She stood firm,” Nimsey continued, “and threw exploding bottles of fire at the villains and chased them off. If it wasn't for her, the town would certainly have been doomed.”

“Wow!” Erling exclaimed in amazement. “You threw those big balls of fire at this crazy creature? What was that? What did you throw?”

She looked at us.

“Hey,” Bran repeated. “I heard you got firebombs.”

“Leave me alone,” she snickered at Bran.

“We’re on the same team,” Bran persisted. “Come on, you know, we're just looking for some little pointers. We heard you had some success fighting this. If we're going to head out and fight, we need to know what you did.”

You're going to help fight?” she asked.

“We are against the long night,” Bran explained. “But we don’t know what we’re up against”

You don't know who we are, do you, ma'am?” Erling asked.

“I have no idea who you are,” she replied flatly.

“Ah, well that explains everything now, doesn't it?” Erling stated. “I’m Erling Diggle, at your service. We've defeated this Ravisin fellow once before, and we’ve come up this way for the purposes of helping defeat that evil nemesis, uh, north of here yet again. And so it's quite fortuitous that we've met in these circumstances, one might say. Uh, our destinies may be intertwined.”

“My party and I,” Bran implored, “we are here to help. We are fighting against Ravisin, and we're looking for allies. We want to end the endless winter. We fought them before and won. We've come to fight them again, but we need to know if you have an advantage. If you found something, we're looking for your assistance and we ask, honestly, for your help. Please.”

“I believe you're telling me the truth,” She looked at Bran, and then at Erling. “Your friend there, I knew a guy like him once. All talk. It was a pleasure killing him. What's your name Bard?”

“I am Bran,” he replied. “Bran Folo. And this is my companion—”

“I'm Iriskree,” She held out a hand and shook Bran’s hand. “Pleasure to meet you.”

“It's a pleasure to meet you,” Bran returned, stroking her hand.

“Share a cup of cocoa with me,” Iriskree invited Bran, giving Erling a nasty look.”

“Cocoa all round,” Bran proclaimed.

Nimsey brought out some cocoa and asked us about our adventures around the Ten Towns. As we spoke, Bran continued to ply Iriskree for information, but learned nothing new.

“We have faced wolves like this in the past,” I noted.

“Uh,” Iriskree replied, “but they weren't just winter wolves. They seemed smarter and they were being directed by this wooden man—I don't—it's hard to determine what he was. He seemed to be a construct.”

“Did he have, like, wooden armor,” Bran queriedm “or do you think perhaps he was some kind of mechanical...?”

“No,” she answered. “He seemed like a living plant.”

“It might have been Ravisin,” Erling inferred, “since you since she was brought back from her death by her god and resurrected to come, you know, harass this town again as an avatar.”

“Didn't we leave a wooden creature behind in Ravisin’s lair?” I hinted.

“Oh,” Erling recalled, “do you mean that little shrub? That intelligent shrub?”

“Indeed,” I confirmed.

“I can't think that's gonna be it,” Erling figured. “I think it's gonna be Ravisin. Ravisin was brought back, fired up with some extra power from her god, since she was, like, resurrected, to come, you know, to come do her worst.”

“Iriskree, what can you tell us about fighting these wolves?” Bran asked. “What is best for us to use against them, or what did you fight against them?”

“They seemed like they didn't like fire,” Iriskree shared. “I threw a concoction I created, of oil and old recipes I knew, that were rather incendiary.”

“Iriskree, do you have any interest in coming with us to combat these creatures that are attacking the town?” Bran asked. “Can we count on your assistance?”

“I think I'll stay in town and protect the town,” Iriskree replied.

“Perhaps you could assist us with some of this concoction that you were able to use,” I suggested.

“No,” she replied. “No, I don't think so.”

“So you won't assist us by helping us fight these creatures?” Bran asked.

“You seem like a tough group,” Iriskree justified. “I'm sure you could handle it if you decide to go out there.”

“That is why we are here,” I confirmed.

Bran continued to subtly interrogate Iriskree, but learned nothing else other than that she claimed to not know who Macreadus was.

Meanwhile, Erling was trying to discreetly chat up Nimsey on the side. “What’s her deal? What's going on with that? What's up with her?”

“Iriskree doesn’t talk much,” Nimsey explained. “She runs The Happy Scrimshander, a little shop that sells the tools of the trade for scrimshanders. She keeps to herself and she stepped up and saved the town.”

Bran offered to buy some of the concoctions that Isirkree used to fight the creatures, but she refused, stating, “I don't sell that. I sell needles, knives, inks in a rainbow of colors, wax used to seal, and engraving when it's done.”

“And you won't use it to help us help the town,” I pressed.

“I used my supply to help the town,” She explained. “And I'm going to keep my knowledge and my supplies to myself.”

“Well, you know that's a very good idea,” Oosi said, stepping up. “You can be a second line of defense. If we don't succeed in killing this invasion, then you can be a second line of defense to save the town, if we should fail, which I doubt. And I for one, I'm happy that you're here, and you were able to hold them off like you did.”

“Thank you,” she nodded.

“Good for you,” Oosi added. “So whatever you see fit to share with us, we would be grateful for.

“Well, perhaps I can, you know, come to the shop and see if you can,” Oosi pulled over a chair and pulled out some of his woodcarver’s knives and tools, “perhaps, you would, you know, you could, sharpen some of these tools that I have. I've been, you know, using them and they seem to be getting rather dull. Is this something you could you think you might be able to help out with?”

“Yeah,” Iriskree replied. “I got the tools in my shop to do that. Come by tomorrow.”

“Yeah, absolutely,” Oosi agreed, pulling out some of the finger-sized pieces he'd been working on, that vaguely resembled the creatures we’d encountered. “These are some of the pieces I've been working on, but I’ve been looking for some finer tools to get some—a little more detail into—”

“Oh honey,” Iriskree advised, examining Oosi’s work, “maybe you should find a new hobby.”

“Well, I need some better tools, is what I'm getting at,” Oosi insisted. “These are just—are rather worn. I was hoping, perhaps you could—”

“Come by the shop,” she replied. “Maybe we can get you some better tools.”

Mendel quietly asked me for the chwinga statue we found near Dougan's Hole.

“Oh well, what do you think of this?” Bran asked, pulling some scrimshaw pieces out from his inventory.

“Oh, these are very well done,” she admired. “Did you carve these?”

“I didn't, but we received it as a gift and we were very impressed with their artwork as well,” Bran conceded. “You know, we have a great appreciation for the art. Perhaps, maybe, you know, when this is all done, you could teach us this craft and we could all learn it. I'm very interested in it. I'm a great appreciator of beauty and things of art.”

“Yeah,” she seemed impressed with his collection. “These are worth something. It's good. It's good enough to sell.”

“How much do you think, perhaps,” Bran inquired, “it is worth out of curiosity?”

“You can probably get ten gold each for these,” she claimed, after examining them further.

“Ten gold?” Bran considered. “Yeah. It's a very nice piece, but I think it's too dear for me to part with right now. It's a craft I would love to learn. Perhaps you could teach me sometime.”

“Yeah, I wouldn't mind giving you lessons,” Iriskree offered. “Scrimshandering is a very relaxing trade. I think it's ideal for the retired adventurer.”

“I'm not ready for retiring yet, my dear,” Bran swooned, gently stroking her hand, and taking back the scrimshaw.

After fetching it from my pack, I gave Mendel the chwinga statue and he discreetly passed it to Oosi.

“I think I may have another item that may be of interest to you,” Oosi sais, pulling out the chwinga statue. As Bran swooned, he continued, “We found this in our travels, as we were defeating these evil creatures of the Ten Towns. Mendel, come here.”

“Oosi, do you mind if I take that for a second?” Bran asked. “Can I have a closer look at that?”

“Why don't you tell this nice lady,” Oosi continued, “the history of this thing. Mendel here is an excellent historian of such things.”

“Well,” Mendel expounded, “we found that, in fact, where we slew those winter wolves, they were invading another town further to the south. Dougan’s Hole. They were snatching children from the town, and in their lair we found this!”

“It is a friendly nature spirit,” I added.

“Indeed,” Iriskree took the statue and examined it. “It is the corpse of a chwinga.”

“Is it a corpse?” Mendel asked. “How can you tell that it's a corpse and not a carving?”

“I've encountered these creatures before,” she explained. “I had to kill one once.”

“You had to kill a chwinga?” I asked. “Why did you have to do that?”

“That's none of your concern,” she replied.

“I think all we need to know is that milady here is quite the accomplished adventurer within her own right I might add,” Oosi cut in. “And that's good enough for me.”

“That does make me sad, though,” Bran sympathized, “because we’ve had a peaceful interaction with the chwingas so far.”

“We have found them to be friendly nature spirits,” I added.

“Okay,” she acknowledged.

Hushing me with his hand, Mendel continued, “As you were saying, so you can tell the difference? Can you show me how you tell the difference, that it's an actual corpse and not a carving?”

“Well, you can break it,” she suggested and grasped its tiny stone legs.

“Do not,” I stated.

She released the legs and handed it back, saying “Yeah, I killed one before and this is what happens to them when they die.”

“Oh,” Mendel was fascinated, “they all turned to stone once they die?”

“Yeah, it's not really stone,” she explained. “It's this stone-like mineral. You can see it if you break it open.”

“Oh, I see,” Mendel praised. “You are very talented and very knowledgeable. And that's why we're eager for any help that you could offer us?”

Bran asked what situation she ran into that she had to kill the chwinga. “Can you tell us the story of that?”

“They can be…” she hesitated, “Uh, a nuisance.”

“A nuisance, yes,” Bran acknowledged, “but hostile? I find that surprising. That is not in our experience.”

Mendel retrieved the Chiwenga corpse and handed it back to me, while Bran continued to ply his charms.

“Well, look,” Iriskree offered, “if you and the half-orc come by my shop tomorrow, I'll give you a couple of bottles of my concoction, but don't bring these other yahoos.” She indicated Erling and I.

“I thank you very much my lady,” Bran replied. “It's more than the help that we could possibly hope for and we appreciate all of your assistance. I'm sure we're both aligned with trying to help this town. Thank you immensely.

“No problem,” she warned, “but if I see you selling my formula, you will not last long.”

“It would never happen, milady,” Bran promised.

“Goodnight,” Oosi said, as Iriskree rose to excuse herself, “It was nice to meet you. I'll look forward to seeing you.”

She stiffened as Bran gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek, adding, Thank you again, milady.”

She left the building

After Nimsey fed us, the night passed uneventfully as we rested in her attic.

While we were drinking cocoa and eating breakfast, I heard an unfamiliar female voice speaking Drow in my mind, “Dre’zel has a message for you. Not only are you a traitor, you’re a murderer too. Because of you they took my son from me. Surrender and the slave, Fri’zel, will be freed. Zapophis requires your execution to save face. Refuse and the torture before his death will be severe.

As Bran was grabbing an extra cup of cocoa for Iriskree, I informed my companions, “I just received a message in my mind.”

“Ah,” Erling wondered aloud. “What message might that be?”

“That my wife has a message for me,” I described, “that not only am I a traitor, but I am a murderer too, because they have taken our son from her. Only if I surrender, will my enslaved son be freed. The house requires my execution to save face, or they will torture him to death.”

“Oh, so your son’s still alive?” Erling asked.

“According to this message,” I answered.

“Are you able to get any more information,” Erling asked, “or is this like just a one way thing?”

“Frizzt, do we have any chance of saving your son?” Bran asked, “And liberating him, bringing him into the surface with you?”

“Perhaps if I surrender,” I suggested.

“That's not an option,” Erling said, and Bran concurred. “I'm not doing that again. I mean, that was ridiculous. No way. If there’s any way we could find out where he is? Maybe we could just go get him.”

“I would surrender if I trusted this message,” I indicated, “but I do not.”

“What makes you question the message?” Bran asked. “You think perhaps it's not coming from your wife?”

“Indeed,” I confirmed. “Yes, I don't necessarily trust that this message is actually from Dre’zel.”

“Does she have the ability to do this?” Erling asked.

“The message was not from Dre’zel,” I explained. “It was from someone else that said, Dre’zel, my wife had a message for me. And the message was that not only am I a traitor, but a murder or too. That, because of me, they have taken our son from her.”

“Does it sound like something your wife would say?” Bran asked.

“It does not,” I indicated. “However, she may not be saying this voluntarily, and she may not be saying this at all.”

“That's a fair point, yeah,” Bran acknowledged.

“So if we were to take some action,” Erling asked, “would it be possible for us to even do anything? What would we do? Let's say for example, we were spurred into action, what would we do?”

“I don't think that there's anything that we could do,” I surmised, “except for me to surrender.”

“'cause you know,” Erling swore, “I would absolutely help you save your son. You know that. What can we do to do that? You can't just… If they took your son and are bent on killing him, they're gonna do so regardless. It's difficult as that may be.”

“Well, they may not be bent on killing him,” I hoped. “They may only be using him as a bargaining chip for my surrender. If this is true, then my surrender may result in the release of my son, but Zapophis is cruel, and they may very well—”

“How can they possibly hope to parlay with you,” Erling asked, “Sending you a one way message? Right? Like, this is just sort of abusive. If they want to negotiate, they would have to have a way to receive a response. Right?”

“Yes, and I don't know that I could not respond,” I clarified, “but I don't know what response to give.”

“Maybe you should ask to meet to discuss terms,” Bran proposed.

“Well, let's wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute,” Erling considered. “We have a couple of working theories about all these telepathic messages, right? One of which is: they're all coming from the same place. Is that right? So, if they're all coming from the same place, maybe this is an opportunity to draw them out. Like, bring your son. Let's meet somewhere and then let's kill them all and get your son.”

I reached out with my mind, “If I surrender, will you bring my son and my wife and son to the surface?” but I heard no response.

“I have tried to reply,” I informed my companions. “I don't know if my response was received. I asked if they will bring my wife and son to the surface if I surrender.”

“Well, if it's anything like the message spell we've been using to communicate with the speakers,” Erling suggested, “then they've got your message.”

“As long as I didn’t wait too long,” I added. “If I get another message, I will repeat this.”

“Well, if they do bring them up to the surface for an exchange, we're not going to let that happen, right? Guys, I'm not gonna do that again. I'm not even pretending. I'm not even playing this game. If they bring them up, we’re taking them out and we're getting Frizzt’s family and we're getting them safe. That's it. I'm not even playing this game anymore. I don't care what you say, Oosi, big as you are, we’re not letting this family down.”

Bran indicated that we all know he is not letting anyone go from this party. “So if it comes down to making a throw for Frizzt, or for his family, or whatever, I'm gonna fight to keep them all.”

“Fear not little man,” Oosi replied to Erling. “We will not let the innocent succumb to such a terrible situation. If you're so passionate about it, I stand behind you.”

“I have not received a response,” I updated my companions. “If they reach out to me again, I will respond quicker. And I appreciate your companionship and support. Thank you.”

Oosi and Bran visited the Happy Scrimshander, a little shop.

“Good morning, my sweet,” Bran presented her with a warm cocoa. “You asked us to come.”

Hello,” she greeted them. “Thank you, thank you. That's very sweet of you.”

As promised, she gave them two bottles.

“You ignite the fuse here,” she showed them, “and you throw it, and it will burst. It'll explode into a fiery ball.”

“That sounds pretty self explanatory,” Bran replied. “I would love to know what's in it but…”

She turned to Oosi, who had his woodcarver’s tools out. “For two gold coins, I can replace and improve what you've got.”

Oosi purchased the new tools.

“Milady,” Bran took her hand, “I hope that we may get back a bit if we don't. I thank you for your assistance—”

“Well, he might not come back,” Oosi interrupted, “but I definitely will.”

“Pray for us,” Bran continued. “I hope that we will return in one piece.”

“Okay thanks,” She pulled her hand away. “I look forward to seeing you again.”

When we regrouped, we regrouped, we headed into Lonelywood.

After traveling for four hours, we arrived at the location, but we didn’t see anything there.

“Perhaps we should keep exploring and looking for tracks,” I suggested.

“I mean, this is the place, I'm pretty sure this is it,” Erling insisted. “Yeah, I mean we can absolutely. Look, I have no problem with that, but I'm pretty sure this is the place.

“You want me to try detecting magic?” Mendel offered.

“Yeah, I guess,” Erling agreed. “Maybe it's, like, you know, under an illusion or something, and we can't see it.”

Mendel took out his spellbook and cast detect magic as a ritual.

He began to walk around in expanding circles.

Session 35 - 2021-11-07

Recalling that there was some mention of the phases of the moon being relevant, Mendel reminded us that tomorrow was the half moon and that the full moon was six days ago.

Bran remembered that there was an inscription that said "Unlock the tombs of the half moon."

Erling recalled that “Seven moons in a certain point in the sky, the doors can open one time a month. Gaze upon your own face and have seven questions answered."

“Do you think that this place is somehow hidden?” Mendel asked, “As opposed to we just haven't found it?”

“No, I don't think so,” Erling insisted. “I think I'm pretty sure I found it. I'm pretty sure this is it.”

“Then where is it?” Mendel pressed.

“Frizzt, do you think we came the right way?” Erling asked.

Erling and I began looking for tracks.

I soon found some wolf tracks, and alerted my companions. “The only tracks I see are these wolf tracks.” I explained that there appeared to be eight of them, walking, and one had a thorn in its paw. “Perhaps we should follow them, without any better leads. What other option do we have except to wait here?”

“Maybe we should mark off some clues on the trees as we go by,” Bran suggested, “to find our way back. Maybe it will give us a little advantage.”

“So what was this Ravisin doing out here?” Oosi asked. “It turned a moose into a beast, as I recall you guys explained, right? And other people said that other creatures were turning into these beasts of some sort?

“It seems that this druid was awakening creatures,” I informed Oosi, “That was what we had heard.”

“So what?” Oosi questioned, turning to Mendel. “I'm sorry, what does that mean?”

“I don't know,” Mendel replied, “I wasn't here.”

“Oh, I thought maybe you knew what the magical term was,” Oosi clarified.

“We think it means that it's granting them more awareness and fealty to her,” Blaze explained.

“There was a tree that was able to speak with us and tell us about how he was awakened by Ravisin,” Bran explained. “We thought perhaps at the time, that maybe the lake monster was also awakened by Ravisin.”

“Right, so this Ravisin’s back and possibly awakening more beasts,” Oosi surmised, “Awakening more animals. Can you tell me about the one that you encountered that was awakened? Did it have any other abilities other than being aware?”

“It could move about,” I explained, “though it was for all intents and purposes, a bush that was able to move about.”

“There are spells that could do things like that,” Mendel offered.

“Was there like a moose that everyone keeps referring to,” Oosi aked, “that you fought. Was that awakened?”

“Yes, there was a white moose,” I confirmed. “We do not know that it was awakened other than it was unnaturally vicious and hostile towards the people of the town.”

“Did it have any special abilities?” Oosi asked. “Like did it demonstrate anything out of the ordinary?”

“Not that I noticed,” I confirmed. “To my recollection, it did not exhibit any special abilities other than alright potentially being more intelligent.”

“Okay,” Oosi replied. “Just trying to understand what our enemy is. What we should expect to encounter. Alright, so I agree—”

“We’ve met a lot of talking animals,” Mendel recalled, “like those wolves and that mammoth that almost stomped on me.”

“Do you think it could be connected?” Oosi asked.

“Who knows,” Mendel replied. “Could be.”

“I agree with you, Frizzt,” Oosi stated. “We should go follow them.”

“We did encounter a representation of the Frostmaiden,” I recalled, “who warned us to stay away from Ravisin. She mentioned that she had to expend valuable energy resurrecting Ravisin, her favorite agent, or something like that.”

“This was quite some time ago, right?” Oosi asked.

“Yes,” I confirmed, “this was before you joined us.”

“Right so, you know, if she's a goddess,” Oosi suggested, “how long is it gonna take for her to just replenish that energy and be at full strength?”

“I have no idea,” I acknowledged.

“Lead us on,” Oosi instructed. “Let's go follow these wolves and see where that takes us.”

We followed the tracks for four more hours when the tracks, which had been meandering naturally, began to take formal parallel formation. “This is highly unusual,” I stated, showing the formation to my companions.

“Maybe they are awakened,” Mendel suspected.

“We should be on our guard,” Bran agreed.

“That’s an astute observation,” the barbarian praised.

“Should we continue to pursue them?” I asked.

Oosi pointed out a clearing up ahead in the forest that he, Mendel, and Blaze spotted.

Using my eyes of the eagle, I saw the hint of a shoulder of a statue through the trees, similar to the statues from Ravisin’s grove.

“I think I see a statue in that clearing,” I whispered. “It resembles the statues from Ravisin’s circle.”

“Alright, well, uhm, why don’t you and Erling just kinda sneak up and just take a quick look,” Oosi instructed, “you know, reconnoiter it. Will kind of hang back here.”

“Why don’t we, like, split up,” Erling whispered, “like you go twenty feet over on that side. I'll be on this side and we kinda come up at it from a couple different angles.”

As Erling approached from the south, I approached thirty feet away, from the east.

“Before you go,” Bran asked Erling and me, “what's the signal for us to advance? Are you gonna just wave us up?”

“I'll flash my light,” Erling confirmed. “I'll flash my light three times.”

We advanced until we saw the familiar clearing thirty feet ahead.

Let's stay within thirty feet of each other,” Erling suggested, “and we can stay in communication.

“Indeed,” I agreed.

“This is definitely the place,” Erling confirmed. “You want to circle left, and see what's going on down to the left?”

“I will follow you,” I replied.

I'm by the door,” Erling informed me when he reached the door to the south of the moon dial.

I'm right behind you,” I replied. “Should we call the others up? It seems like the place is unguarded.

“Maybe you should just take a peek inside that courtyard area and then call them,” Erling suggested. “See if anything’s lurking about there. Can you see into that courtyard area with your darkvision?”

I can see into the courtyard,” I explained, “and it appears empty. I can also see into the entrance, where it is broken, and I don't see anything standing guard.

Okay,” Erling replied. “Maybe I should signal the rest to come here.

Erling withdrew from the clearing and flashed the light from his crystal three times.

“I think that's our signal,” Bran informed his companions, leading them toward the clearing.

“Did you find anything?” Oosi asked Erling.

“Ah, no,” Erling replied, “everything looks clear and that broken doorway seems broken and empty.”

“Right,” Oosi instructed, “let's get to it then.”

Bran checked on the sarcophagus to make sure it was still closed, which it was.

“Should we go investigate that?” Mendel asked Oosi, pointing to the sarcophagus and five pillars that formed a half-circle around the eastern half of it. “I'd like to check it out. Do we have time?”

“Yeah, go on ahead,” Oosi replied. “Check it out and we're gonna secure the entryway.

Bran gave Mendel a hand up to the sarcophagus landing where the mage inspected the symbols of the columns, from south to north: a hand, a feather, a flame, a pine cone, and a twig.

Bran motioned to Mendel that there's a raised brazier on the other pedestal to the north.

“Maybe we need to combine these things somehow?” Mendel suggested. “Did you try that?”

“I think we tried putting things on top of the pedestals,” Bran replied. “I don't recall us trying to put it into this brazier.”

“Where did the wolves go?” Oosi asked. “Could you tell where the wolves’ tracks stopped?”

“The wolves seemed to have entered this clearing,” I explained, “but their tracks disappeared right out there, as if they flew away.”

Spying a wolf to the south, I whispered, “I think the wolves are watching us. As a matter of fact, I think I see one to the south right now.”

I quickly turned and sent an arrow into its skull. As it fell, there was a flurry of sound as the other wolves scurried away into the forest.

“Why did you kill the wolf?” Oosi asked.

“Why did I kill the wolf?” I replied. “It was stalking us. Did you wanna take a prisoner?”

“No, why would I do that?” Oosi replied. “I just prefer not to kill animals if I don't have to. That's fine. It may have been awakened anyway. Maybe we should check it out and see if it had any of those all awakened signs.”

“I'm not aware of any way to tell that it was awakened after it's dead,” I explained, “but these wolves were not moving in a natural formation. There's no reason to think they were ordinary wolves.”

“Perhaps we should try lighting that brazier,” Mendel proposed. “Can we find those ingredients nearby? Should we try? Do we have time to look for them? I don't know what we're going to use for a human hand.”

“I'm not sure,” Bran replied. “I'll run my hands through, but I'm not giving up my hand a second time.”

“If we have time,” Mendel indicated, “I want to take a look at that brazier.”

Mendel and Bran went to the gazebo and examined the unlit brazier buried in the snow.

As Mendel was looking around for something to set fire to in the brazier, Bran suggested, “Perhaps it has to be done in the order, though. Maybe we should only be using twigs and pine cones at first, or feathers.”

“I agree,” Mendel replied. Can you find me some twigs and a pine cone?”

“I'll look,” Bran offered, searching the nearby trees and returning with twigs and pine cones for Mendel. “And if we get to that point, I have a harpy feather that we might even be able to use as the feather.”

“Oh, really,” Mendel replied. “And how are we going to do this in order? You want me to put the twigs and then the pine cone in the brazier?”

“The pedestals, when we read them off, they were kind of in an order,” Bran explained. “We always seem to get it in the same order: twig, pine cone, flame, feather, and then hand. So I wonder, perhaps, if that twig and the pine cone then have to be burnt, because that becomes flame. Then we add the feather—”

“But Bran,” Mendel objected, “those pedestals are not in an order from north to south. It could be any order. For instance, maybe it's from east to west, which would mean a flame, then a pine cone and a feather. Then a twig and a hand.”

“I think these are in an order,” Bran insisted.

“But what makes you think that the order of ingredients goes from north to south?” Mendel argued.

“Well, do you think we should start with the human hand?” Bran quipped.

“I think we should start with the flame,” Mendel proposed, “which would be the furthest to the east.”

“And then in which direction do you go?” Bran asked.

“Then we could add the pine cone and the feather,” Mendel continued. “And then twig and your hand.”

“Maybe the hand is just grabbing the feather out of the flame after it's thrown in,” Bran proposed.

“Perhaps,” Mendel acknowledged. “I don’t have any better ideas.”

“I think we should put the twig and the pine cone in,” Bran maintained. “Then light them on fire. Then light the feather. And then I'll quickly grab the feather out. That's adding a hand.”

“As you wish,” Mendel agreed.

Mendel put the twig and the pine cone in the brazier and then used prestidigitation to set them on fire.

Bran added his harpy feather to the brazier.

“Put your hand in quick,” Mendel suggested.

Bran passed his hand through the flame.

“You gotta hold it longer,” Mendel shrieked with excitement. “There was a spark of magic? Did you see it?”

Bran snatched the feather from the flames, burning his fingers.

Mendel grabbed the feather, placed it in the flame and held it in the flame as long as he could.

“Did you see it, Bran?” Mendel squealed. “Did you see the magic? It was starting to happen!”

“I saw something starting to happen,” Bran acknowledged, “but something’s not right.”

“My hand is killing me!” Mendel whined. “Maybe there's something wrong with these ingredients.”

“Maybe the harpy feather didn't work,” Bran suggested, as the feather was consumed by the flames. “I was saving it just for that.”

“Oosi, come over here,” Mendel cried. “Do you have any feathers that we can use? Look, on those pillars, there's symbols of a twig, a pine cone, a flame, a feather, and a human hand. And there's a Brazier here, and we're hoping that if we can get this right… There's some magic here. We almost had it, but we're missing something. Maybe this harpy feather is not good enough.”

“Mendel, if you cast detect magic,” Bran asked, “are you able to sense anything additional?”

“It'll take me ten minutes to cast detect magic again,” Mendel stated. “But I could sense something was happening. I could see it! I could see the weave of magic starting to stir.”

As Bran slowly placed Oosi’s feather back in the burning brazier and held his hand there, Mendel cried, “I don’t think that's a good idea. I don't think it was the hand.”

“What the hell are you doing?” Oosi asked. “You're sticking your hands in the fire.”

“We’re playing chicken,” Mendel quipped. “Who can stick their hand in the fire longer? I bet you can't.”

As Bran grabbed the ingredients, the fire flared up engulfed his entire hand, licking up his forearm. “It burns!” he screamed with a look of agony.

HIs hand was consumed by the magical flames, and as he withdrew a stump, we heard the stone sarcophagus lid shift.

Mended ran to the sarcophagus.

“Frizzt, what the frak is going on over there?” Erling asked. “Thing we should sneak up over there. Sounds like someone getting murdered.”

“Take Blaze with you,” I suggested, an arrow aimed at the entrance to Ravisin’s lair. “I will keep my eye on the entrance.”

“Come on, Blaze,” Erling said. “Let’s go up there. Somebody might need our help. Sounds like they're getting murdered over there.”

“Blaze, can you fix this?” Bran screamed.

“Oh my God, what happened?” Blaze ran up to Bran and cast cure wounds. “I'm sorry, but there's nothing I can do about that.”

Meanwhile, the lid of the sarcophagus was shoved aside by a skeletal hand, wrapped in twisted cloth. The lid hit the ground next to the sarcophagus with a heavy thunk and up sat what seemed like a slim mummy with pointy, wrapped ears.

Mendel withdrew from the growling mummy, pleading, “We rescued you. We freed you. You're free now. Free to help us.”

The mummy’s mouth creaked open, scarab beetles crawling out of it, and growled, “free!”

“Yeah, yeah,” Mendel confirmed, “you're free buddy.”

“Yes, I freed you,” Bran said, walking up to the edge.

“Yeah he did it,” Mendel agreed. “The stumpman.”

The mummy stood up from its sarcophagus.

“What was your name?” Bran asked.

Sahnar,” it growled in Elven, approaching Bran.

Who is your master?” Bran asked.

Sahnar,” it repeated, cracking its neck back and forth. “Has no master.

Who put you there?” Mendel asked.

I died,” Sahnar replied to Mendel.

Who killed you?” Mendel asked. “You poor thing?

Sahnar looked back to Bran, and said, “I will aid you.

We seek to defeat an evil woman that has taken over your tomb.” Bran instructed. “Come and assist us.

We will crush her!” Sahnar stated.

“Alright,” Bran turned to us, ignoring the pain. “We have our new friend. Shall we proceed to the tomb?”

“Oosi,” Mendel translated, “The mummy said that he will help aid Bran, and he has no master. It’s probably somebody that this druid person double crossed. Let's not look a gift horse in the mouth.” Turning to Bran, he added, “You did it Bran! You did it! I didn't think you could. Maybe we should send your friend in there, to the clearing.”

Sahnar,” Bran instructed, “do you see the broken opening in the wall up ahead?

Yes,” Sahnar creaked.

We think the evil person is in there,” Bran instructed. “Come with us.

Very well,” Sahnar agreed.

As we approached the opening, two winter wolves emerged followed by what looked like a man made out of pine needles.

I targeted the first wolf with hunter’s mark, and sank an arrow into its chest before missing twice as I withdrew to a nearby bush..

Climbing onto the upper landing, Mendel cast web on the area surrounding the entrance, engulfing the three creatures.

“I've seen more threatening squirrels than you,” Bran viciously mocked the first winter and gave his inspiration to Oosi.

The pine needle man was hit by Blaze’s spiritual weapon, but avoided his sacred flame.

The first wolf broke free from the webs and blasted Oosi and Erling with its cold breath.

The pine needle man broke free from the webs and a volley of pine needles exploded from it into everyone but me. Then it raised its head to the sky and called out loudly in a voice that sounded like creaking wood, “Scoins of Ravisin, come to her defense!”

Erling scrambled up to the ledge with Mendel and hit the pine needle man in the trunk, but it did not appear to have any effect on it.

Oosi flew into a rage and smashed his hammer into the pine needle man, but it similarly did not appear to have any effect on it, so he swung wild toward the first winter wolf. “Arrows and hammers are no good!” He warned.

From the trees and bushed around us, needle blights emerged and to the east came a sound of larger creatures approaching.

Mendel rocked the pine needle man with three magic missiles.

A polar bear emerged from the southern door, roaring and gnashing its teeth, as it engaged me.

Two more polar bears tried to exit from the main door. The first got stuck in the webs. The other pulled itself free and retreated inside.

“Attack our enemies,” Bran instructed Sahnar as he made his way to the door and withdrew his flaming longsword.

“Tell the mummy to get behind me,” Oosi instructed Bran, “to flank the tree, and attack!”

“Sahnar,” Bran instructed the mummy, “get behind the tree. Help us flank it.

Erling was hit by a needle blight swinging a branch up at him as another approached.

Another came from right behind me and others approached from all around us.

Sahnar smashed the pine needle man, and though its blow had little effect, it immediately began to rot.

“Oh, no!” the pine needle man screamed out. “Frostmaiden, save me!”

Then the winter wolf was paralyzed by Sahnar’s dreadful glare.

Blaze hit the pine needle man and the wolf with burning hands.

I withdrew to the north, carefully avoiding the polar bear and needle blight, and dropped down from the upper landing.

“Mendel, it's you and me now, buddy,” Erling proclaimed as he pierced the nearby needle blight with a crossbow bolt. “Mendel, arrows seemed to be effective. Hit it with something.”

“We can only hit that big one with magic,” Mendel objected.

These guys are coming at us any second now, buddy,” Erling warned, telepathically.

“But what about Oosi?” Mendel challenged.

He's a big boy,” Erling replied. “He can take care of himself.

“No, he needs me,” Mendel insisted.

The pine needle man blasted needles out at everyone again.

Oosi smashed the paralyzed wolf with his hammer twice.

“Mendel, lightning bolt that tree or something,” Erling pleaded. “We’re almost dead.”

From the woods to the east, eight elk burst into the clearing.

Mendel cast mirror image on himself and jumped down to the north west.

A polar bear charged at me, raking me with its claws as another polar bear emerged from the southern door.

Bran cast healing word on Erling and instructed Sahnar, “Attack the tree guy and then move to the door to block the polar bears.”

[“There's a herd of elk coming down on us from the east,” Erling told Bran telepathically.]

From the landing, a needle blight shot me with needles.

The pine needle man withered and crumbled as Sahnar smashed again. Sahnar stepped into the webbing and paralyzed a polar bear with its dreadful gaze.

Blaze hit a winter wolf with his spiritual weapon and two other creatures with burning hands.

I continued to carefully withdraw from the polar bear and needle blight, moving west.

The second winter wolf broke free from the webs.

Erling killed the nearby needle blight with a crossbow bolt and fled north west, screaming, “Guys, run! There’s a herd of frackin’ elk coming!”

Oosi smashed the winter wolf with two more blows of his hammer.

“Submit to the Frostmaiden’s embrace,” an elk said to me as they all closed in on us from the east.

Mendel blasted the nearest needle blight with three magic missiles.

The polar bear continued to pursue me, and bit into my shoulder.

The polar bear by the main door broke free from the webs and fled into the cave.

The southern polar bear tore into Sahnar with its claws and teeth.

Bran blasted three needle blights with a thunderwave, destroying two of them

A needle blight took out one of Mendel’s mirror images.

Sahnar punched the nearby polar bear in the nose and paralyzed another winter wolf with its dreadful gaze.

Blaze summoned the radiance of the dawn, destroying four needle blights and the first winter wolf. Then he cast healing word on Bran.

Continuing to carefully withdraw from the polar bear, I entered the clearing and alerted my companions, “There are a herd of elks charging our way.”

Erling reached into his bag of tricks and pulled out a boar, which attacked the needle blight that was engaged with Mendel. Then he disappeared into the woods.

Oosi smashed apart the last needle blight in the clearing, flanked the polar bear with Sahnar and smashed it with his hammer.

The elks engaged us, one taking out Mendel’s second mirror image, and the other ramming Oosi, who sidestepped it with inspiration.

Dropping the web, Mendel cast expeditious retreat and, carefully avoiding the elk and needle blight, dashed into the forest.

The polar bear continued to shred Sahnar.

Another polar bear nicked me with its teeth

Bran quickly cast healing word on me and slashed the paralyzed wolf with his flaming longsword.

The last needle blight pierced Erling’s boar.

Sahnar, punched the polar bear and it collapsed, dead.

“Come on, Sohnar the mighty,” Bran cheered. “Let's go!”

Blaze cast fireball, the flames engulfing three elks and scorching the last polar bear.

Drawing my sword and targeting the polar bear with my hunter’s mark, I ran it through. Then I dropped my sword and killed the nearest elk with an arrow.

The winter wolf, no longer paralyzed, bit Sahnar.

Oosi rushed up to the last polar bear, in the doorway, and smashed it with two blows of his hammer.

I was hit by an elk.

In the forest, Mendel heard Erlings’ voice from the shadows, “Mendel, keep moving!” and dashed further from the clearing, whispering, "Erling, where are you? Do you have any healing potions?"

The last polar bear began to tear into Sahnar.

Before inspiring me, Bran cast bane on the polar bear, the winter wolf, and the closest elk, but none of them were affected.

The needle blight continued to pierce Erling’s boar.

Sahnar punched the polar bear again, and paralyzed it with his dreadful gaze.

Blaze hit the two nearby elks with burning hands, and smashed one with his spiritual weapon.

I was hit by the elk as I stepped away from it to get a clear shot, I targeted an elk with my hunter’s mark, and dropped it with an arrow between the eyes.

The winter wolf blast Blaze and me with its cold breath, with would have killed me if it weren’t for my boots.

In the forest, Erling popped out of the shadows, urging Mendel, “No potions. Focus. Focus on the elk!” and dropped the nearest elk with a crossbow bolt.

“What elk?” Mendel quipped.

“Come on, let's go,” Erling urged.

“Right behind you,” Mendel replied.

Oosi crushed the paralyzed polar bear’s head with his hammer and smashed the wolf with a backswing.

The boar stomped over the needle blight.

Mendel dashed back toward the clearing, close enough to see an elk attacking Blaze, and dropped it with four magic missiles.

Freezing cold wind and snowflakes blew from the cave opening and the sound of footsteps indicated something approaching.

“I feel a chill,” Bran warned. “It could be Ravisin coming, but let's clear out and make some space here.” He slashed the winter wolf with his flaming longsword and cast healing word on me.

Sahnar punched the winter wolf and frightened it with his dreadful gaze just before Blaze dropped it with his spiritual weapon.

“What are we doing?” Blaze asked. “Sounds like something is coming!”

“We should find Erling and Mendel,” I suggested.

“Maybe we should retreat, regroup, and then come back,” Oosi suggested.

“Agreed,” I reiterated.

Bran instructed Sahnar to follow as we fled, but the mummy shambled slowly.

The wind picked up as we ran into the woods, followed by an angry scream.

When we turned around, Sahnar was nowhere to be seen.

But the howl of wolves began to get louder as we fled.

Session 36 - 2021-11-28

As we continued through the snow covered forest of Lonelywood, the howling of the wolves grew more distant and we eventually settled down to make camp.

While we were resting, I explained to Erling that there was never a time that ‘no one gave a hoot’ about his temporary condition. And that it was actually constantly on my mind, but I just did not know what to do about it without risking chasing him away.

Erling was grateful for the sentiment.

I also asked Erling exactly what was said to him telepathically, specifically what was promised and what was his reply, warning Erling that these creatures are masters of manipulation, and must not be toyed with.

Erling insisted that it wasn’t an issue and that he “was over all that.”

“I'm proud of you for overcoming their temptation,” I praised Erling.

In the morning, we discussed our strategy for reengaging Ravisin, noting that we should spread out to avoid all of us getting caught in her blizzard or moonbeam, and that she can summon many creatures as minions to do her bidding. Oosi wanted to draw her out, but we were at a loss as to how. Anticipating being attacked by wolves and other creatures, we considered rushing into the tomb, and blocking the entrance from the inside. We shared what we recalled of the layout inside the tomb with Oosi and Mendel, noting that many of the doors were locked. I suggested I cover the clearing from a tree across from the entrance. We also discussed Bran’s one-handed options. Bran suggested using illusory sounds to draw the wolves away, and Oosi suggested he could speak with them.

Oosi began dancing around, casting the speak with animals ritual. Once he was done, Bran and Mendel cast minor illusion, creating the sounds of howling wolves. Mendel began pedantically lecturing Bran about how he needed to modulate the pitch of his howles.

After a few moments, we heard rustling in the trees and a wolf emerged. I climbed a tree on the opposite side of the campsite as it approached, head down, looking around tentatively.

“I welcome the spirit of the wolf into the camp,” Oosi greeted the wolf with his hands out. “I am Oosi. Come closer. You will not be harmed here.”

“Your presence is unwelcome here,” the wolf answered, staying in place.

“We seek to restore balance to the forest,” Oosi explained. “Why do you not want us here?”

“The Frostmaiden’s minions rule here,” the wolf replied. “The forest is not unbalanced. It's just—”

“The Frostmaiden brings death and despair to all in this forest,” Oosi refuted.

“That's the Frostmaiden’s nature,” the wolf stated. “The other wolves were not fooled by your howls. I came to warn you. They're ready for you.”

“Wait, can you tell me where is Ravisin and where they're ready for us?” Oosi asked.

“She lives in the stone,” the wolf revealed.

“Tell your brothers and sisters,” Oosi urged, “we have no quarrel with them and if they choose to stay out of our state out of our fight we will not harm them. Our quarrel’s with Ravisin and not your brothers and sisters.”

“They follow her,” the wolf maintained. “They appreciate her. They worship her. She gave them awareness. I don't care for her ways, but they will follow her. They are loyal.”

“I see,” Oosi acknowledged.

“What other creatures has she awakened?” Bran asked.

“She controls the elements,” the wolf explained, turning to Bran. “She's blessed by the Frostmaiden. The winds and the snows and the trees and the animals listened to her. You should leave. This is the Frostmaiden's domain. She's powerful.”

“We will try and restore balance to the forest,” Oosi maintained. “Would you join us in our quest?”

“I will not,” the wolf reiterated. “I will not fight against my pack.”

“I understand,” Oosi acknowledged. Would you give us passage then, as we have no quarrel with you?”

“I'm not here to fight you,” the wolf stated, adding that the other wolves were nearby and will come when she calls, along with many other minions.

“Very good,” Oosi replied. “Thank you, great wolf.”

As the wolf turned to leave, I tossed it some spare meat, adding, “We are grateful for your favor.”

Agreeing on our next steps, we returned to clearing around the tomb where Erling and I found fresh tracks of six wolves.

We followed the track for fifteen minutes and they continued on, southeast from the tomb. We returned to the tomb, and circled wider around it, where we found a second set of tracks where the wolves had doubled back.

This set of tracks soon split into three, one heading north, one head west, and one heading southwest.

We agreed to follow the track to the southwest.

The wolf tracks led to a small clearing with a cave, grizzly bear tracks leading in and out.

Earling and I could hear growling from within the cave.

Just then, two bears leaped out of the forest at Blaze, Bran, Oosi, and Mendel. Mendel screeched in surprise.

Oosi roared with rage and smashed the bear to the south with his warhammer.

“Oh my god, that stench!” Bran tried to mock the bear viciously, “I thought breath weapons were supposed to come out of your mouth.”

Erling disappeared into the shadows.

Blaze cast sacred flame, but it had no effect.

Two bears emerged from the cave, and one was immediately shot by Erling, who then avoided its attacks.

The other raked me with its claws and I carefully maneuvered away from it, while targeting the bear Erling wounded with slayer’s prey.

A wolf, off to the side in the woods, seemed to chuckle as it turned and fled into the woods.

Mendel backed up and cast toll the dead, but it had no effect.

Raked by the bear to their south, Osi smashed it back.

“For Erling!” Bran yelled, inspiring Oosi, as he drew his flaming longsword and circled the bear to the west, searing its flank and sizzling its fur.

Raked by the bear to their east, Blaze cast burning hands on it, singing it further.

A bear charged at Erling, who had been hiding in the woods, undeterred by another cross bolt in its hide, and bit the halfling. The second bear from the cave also closed in on Erling, but was unable to catch the nimble scout.

I missed the bear I had targeted twice.

Mendel cast toll the dead on the bear after it bit into Oosi. Oosi smashed it twice with his hammer and it collapsed in the snow.

“I knew you could do it, Oosi!” Mendel cheered, as Oosi moved to surround the other bear, which had just bit Bran.

Bran grazed it again with his flaming longsword.

Blaze burned it further with another sacred flame.

Erling disappeared into the woods and the two bears from the cave surrounded me, one raking me with claws and biting into my shoulder. I carefully maneuvered away from them.

Mendel cast toll the dead, which had no effect on the remaining bear, but it collapsed after being smashed by Oosi’s warhammer.

“Where’s Erling?” Oosi asked me as I approached.

“Erling is hiding,” I explained, pointing. “There are two more chasing me.”

As one of the bears approached, Bran mocked it viciously, “One day I'm gonna make a ballad of this fight. You gotta tell me your name so that I can make sure it rhymes with slaughtered.”

Then Blaze put it down with a sacred flame.

As the second bear ran up to Oosi, I shot an arrow into its face.

Mendel moved up and cast toll the dead, but it had no effect.

Oosi whacked the remaining bear in the gut and it collapsed in pain.

After Erling joined us, Oosi prayed for the bears’ spirits and I checked inside the cave, where there were two bear cubs.

As we made our way back to the tomb, I told everyone about the wolf that had led us into this trap.

Before we reached the tomb, we stopped to rest and recuperate. Bran sang a song of rest.

Rested, we continued following the tracks. When they turned southwest, we backtracked toward the tomb and followed the tracks going north. When those turned northwest, away from the tomb, we tried the southwest tracks. When those also turned away from the tomb, we returned to the clearing, where we found that all the bodies from the previous day were gone.

I climbed a tree across the clearing from the tomb entrance, securing a rope to a branch.

Erling hid in the sarcophagus.

Oosi and Mendel approached the moon dial from the north while Blaze and Bran approached from the south.

“Mendel, don't stay on top of me,” Oosi instructed the wizard. “If we get attacked, you know, stay a few steps back so you don't get involved in the melee. You try and act like a fighter, but you're not. I wish you were, but you're not, so kinda, you know, give yourself some space to operate.”

“I was gonna rush right in there with you,” Mendel nodded, “but I'll take your advice. You are the seasoned warrior here. 'Cause rushing right in with my staff is exactly what I was gonna do.”

“I appreciate your eagerness,” Oosi insisted, oblivious to the wizard’s sarcasm, “but you know, just don't do that.”

As Oosi approached the entrance to the tomb, spikes dug into his feet. He backed up and warned Blaze.

Climbing onto the raised terrace, Mendel said, “If we're trying to draw her out, we can just wait for the spell to go away.”

“How long does this damn thing last?” Oosi asked. “Do you know?”

“I know when I cast web, it takes 10 minutes,” Mendel guessed. “I would imagine it's similar.”

“Alright,” Oosi agreed, “well then the waiting game it is.”

Mendel ducked and tried to hide behind the statues at the edge of the terrace.

[“What's going on over there?” Erling asked Mendel telepathically.]

[“Oosi said there's that spiky stuff,” Mendel explained, “like what Frizzzt lays down, in front of the entryway. So we're gonna wait until the spell goes away.”]

[“How long?” Erling asked.]

[“We don't know,” Mendel replied. “Maybe ten minutes.”]

[“Alright,” Erling acknowledged. “Thanks.”]

[“Blaze,” Erling communicated telepathically. “There’s spike growth in front of the door. That's why Oosi backed off. They’re thinking about waiting for like ten minutes for the spell to dissipate. I don't know how long it lasts.“]

Okay,” Blaze acknowledged.

Bran searched the door by the entrance to the moon dial.

After examining the area around the entrance to the tomb, Mendel took out his spell book, explaining to Oosi, “I'm going to cast detect magic and try to let you know if it's still there. It's going to take me ten minutes.”

Eight large owls took off in every direction from the top of the cliff face that the tomb was built into.

I took a shot at one, but missed.

Oosi and Mendel were pounded by a sudden ice storm.

From inside the cave, we heard Ravisin call out, “Winter, splinter, come to my aid!”

Blaze cast healing word on Mendel.

Oosi roared with rage and ran toward the clearing and leaped to the tomb entrance, but landed in more spikes before jumping into the tomb.

“Your tricks won't save you, witch!” Oosi threatened, confronting Ravisin, who looked very different from when we encountered her.

Mendel cast mirror image.

The branch of a nearby tree came arcing down at Erling, swatting the halfling before he could leap out of the sarcophus.

I sunk an arrow into the living tree.

Erling sunk a crossbow bolt into it, but was swatted again as he dashed away.

Over a dozen wolves rushed the clearing from the north and south.

An owl flew down toward me.

Ravisin shot Oosi with an ice knife, before withdrawing and slamming the door between them.

Bran entered the clearing, hit the living tree with alchemist’s fire, and cast healing word on Mendel.

Session 37 - 2021-12-05

Blaze stepped into the clearing and hit the living tree with two scorching rays.

From the cover of the tree, I shot an arrow into the eye of an oncoming giant owl, killing it before it could get close, and dropped the wolf nearest to Mendel with a second arrow.

Another giant owl swooped down toward Mendel, but hit one of his three mirror images.

Three more owls swooped into the clearing and three more approached me.

Inside, Oosi charged the stone door to Ravisin’s chamber, and slammed into it hard, but the door didn’t budge.

Mendel cast web over three of the wolves closest to him, restraining two of them, and dropped down from the ledge he was hiding on. The third ran up to him, biting him and knocking him prone.

The three that had attacked Erling uprooted itself, and moved into the clearing, swinging its branches toward Bran.

Erling ran into the clearing, and stabbed a nearby owl with his shortsword.

While the wolves closed in on the clearing, the wolf that we had spoken with stopped a nearby wolf and seemed to dissuade it from engaging us.

A wolf bit Blaze.

Erling leaped away from the approaching wolves and landed in the spike growth.

Bran blasted an owl and three wolves with thunderwave, killing all of them.

Blaze moved to the center of the clearing and summoned the radiance of the dawn, killing an owl, four wolves, and the tree, and wounding an owl and two wolves. Then he cast spiritual weapon, killing another wolf.

I cast fog cloud in the air around me and the three nearby owls and swung down from the tree.

Inside, Ravisin’s door opened by two needle blights, which Oosi shoved passed, shouting, “You can’t run from me, witch!”.

Mendel hit a nearby owl with two magic missiles and killed a wolf with a third.

Erling dropped the last owl from the sky with a crossbow bolt.

The two wolves broke free of the web and charged into the clearing, surrounding Mendel.

Bran slashed one of the wolves with his flaming sword and cast healing word on Mendel.

Blaze cast dispel magic and the spike growth was gone.

Surrounded by owls again, I carefully withdrew and climbed back up the rope into the fog.

Inside, Ravisin summoned two sickles of ice and slashed Oosi. The barbarian smashed Ravisin with his warhammer, but was struck by an icy blast as he struck, so he smashed one of the blights.

Mendel carefully withdrew from the wolves, cast expeditious retreat, and dashed into the tomb after Oosi. One of the wolves followed and tried to overrun the wizard, but Mendel held it back with his staff, squealing, “You shall not pass! You can’t get to Oosi!”

“Blaze, go help Oosi,” Erling shouted, stabbing an owl, “I'll take this on.”

Inside, the door shut and Ravisin withdrew, summoning eight giant wolf spiders all around Oosi, who was bit by two of them.

The last wolf bit Bran, who cast healing word on Erling.

Blaze killed the wolf with his spiritual weapon and ran to entrance of the tomb.

Dismissing my fog cloud, I targeted an owl with hunter’s mark, dropped it with an arrow, shot another owl, dropped down from the tree and moved closer to the ledge around the clearing.

The last owl clawed at Bran, though the bard parried the talons a bit.

Inside, Oosi crushed one of the blights with his warhammer and smashed one of the spiders, before getting bit by two spiders.

Mendel dashed away from the wolf, drawing it further from Oosi, and tried to open a door to the south, but it would not budge.

Oosi was bitten by three more spiders, and was hit by a ball of ice thrown by Ravisin.

Bran killed an owl with his flaming sword.

Blaze hit the last owl with his mace.

I ran up to the ledge, killed the last owl with an arrow, targeted the wolf in the cave with hunter’s mark, and killed it with a second arrow.

Inside, Oosi opened the door.

Mendel ran back to the corridor toward Oosi, and hit the spider on the door with three magic missiles, shouting “We're coming, Oosi! Blaze, this way!”

Erling dashed into the tomb.

Osi was bit by a spider, and then fell when another bit him in the face. But with relentless endurance, the half-orc spit out the poison and rose to his feet, only to be bit in the face again and fall again.

“Oosi’s down!” Mendel squealed as one of the spiders crawled down the corridor, toward him, “He’s right by the door.”

“I'm not gonna make that mistake again,” Ravisin stated, tossing a ball of ice at him.

Bran dashed into the tomb, inspiring Erling, “Come on, get up the stairs, let's go! Oosi needs us!”

Blaze hit the spider in the corridor with a sacred flame.

Mendel killed the spider in the corridor with three magic missiles, and another in the doorway with a fourth, and then backed out of the corridor, pleading, “Get up there! Oosi’s dying.”

Erling dashed up the corridor, shot Ravisin with his hand crossbow, and withdrew back down the corridor, followed by five spiders, two of them biting the halfling.

Bran cast thunderwave over his head at the spiders on the wall, killing four of them, and inspired Blaze, “Ravisin, you bitch!”.

Blaze cast burning hands, scorching one of the spiders and destroying the needle blight.

I targeted one of the spiders with hunter’s mark, killed the other spider with an arrow, and moved into the tomb.

Mendel cast toll the dead at the spider.

Stepping up, Erling reached into his sack and tossed a giant elk toward the door, commanding “Go get Ravisin!” and withdrew.

Inspired, Blaze avoided a spider’s bite.

Bran viciously mocked the last spider, “Eight legs? More like eight I.Q. you stupid, stupid spider.”

After dropping the last spider with an arrow, and moved up to Erling in the tomb and gave Erling my two potions of healing, urging, “Erling, my friend, take these. You look hurt.”

“Thanks, we gotta get in there!” Erling replied. “Oosi’s been hurt bad!”

I moved into the corridor.

The giant elk squeezed itself out of the corridor and into the room, ramming Ravisin.

Erling quaffed a potion of healing, instructed the giant elk to move further into the room so it wasn’t blocking the door, and moved in behind it.

Ravisin summoned eight more spiders, four surrounding Erling. The halfling fell as two of them bit him.

Three of the spiders bit the elk.

Bran ran up the corridor and revived Erling with healing word.

“Blaze, fireball the bench!” Erling shouted.

Blaze hit the nearest of the new spider with his spiritual weapon.

I targeted a spider with hunter’s mark and dropped it with an arrow, urging, “Erling, drink that potion. Protect yourself.”

Mendel cast toll the dead, but it had no effect.

The giant elk was blasted by cold as it rammed Ravisin again.

Erling drank the second potion of healing, and carefully withdrew down the corridor, away from the spiders.

One of the spiders bit Blaze, who swatted another as it crawled further down the corridor.

Another spider bit the elk.

The door slammed closed.

Bran cast thunderwave, killing two spiders, and injuring another, which Blaze killed with his spiritual weapon, before hitting another with sacred flame.

I targeted one of the spiders with my hunter’s mark and killed the other spider with an arrow.

Mendel hit the spider with toll the dead., before dashing to the entrance to make sure the clearing was clear.

Erling killed the last spider with a dart from his hand crossbow.

Session 38 - 2021-12-19

The door to Ravisin’s chamber opened, a spider clinging over the doorway while another crawled into the corridor, engaging Blaze.

Ravisin blocked the doorway, waving her arms in familiar casting gestures. The spiders vanished and a freezing cold wind blew through the corridor buffeting Blaze, Bran, and I against the walls.

“We’re coming, Oosi!” Bran yelled as he squeezed past Blaze and cast thunderwave, blasting her back into the center of the room. “Oosi’s down!” Bran yelled, following Ravisin into the room.

Blaze followed Bran into the room to find Oosi beheaded. Holding the half-orc’s head and body together, he quickly cast revivify.

“Ah!” Oosi gasped. “My friend. I knew I can count on you.”

Following them into the room, I targeted Ravisin with hunter’s mark, but my arrows were buffeting away from her by the strong winds.

Oosi rose and tossed his handaxe into Ravisin, nicking her before it bounced off her frozen skin, and moved to the rear of the chamber.

Mendel dashed into the chamber, and screamed, “Oosi, get out of there!” seeing the barbarian drenched in blood, and cast toll the dead, to no effect.

From behind Mendel in the doorway, Erling reached into his bag of tricks and tossed a dire wolf in front of Ravisin. “Kill her!” he instructed, moving next to Oosi.

Hissing and cursing, Ravisin held out her arms and an icy sickle appeared in each hand. She slashed Bran, dropping the bard.

Reaching down to Bran, Blaze stabilized the bard with spare the dying. The he recast spiritual weapon and smashed Ravisin with it.

I shot Ravisin with an arrow that left a crack in her icy skin before bouncing off.

Mendel grabbed Bran, squealing, “Blaze should I get him out of here?”. After a nod from the cleric, he dragged the bard out of the room and down the corridor.

Drawing his shortsword, Erling stabbed Ravisin before disengaging.

The dire wolf knocked Ravisin down, biting her.

Rising, Ravisin cursed, “The Frostmaiden take you all!” and an ice storm rained down in the room, pelting herself, Erling, the dire wolf, and me. Oosi and Blaze fell to the icy hail.

Targeting Ravisin with slayer’s prey, I sunk an arrow into her chest and moved to Blaze’s side.

Dropping his staff, Mendel pulled two potions out of Bran’s pouch and poured the potion of healing down his mouth, reviving him.

“Frizzt,” Erling called, “take care of Blaze. Make sure he doesn't die.” Drawing his second shortsword, he plunged it into Ravisin’s heart.

“You just killed this world,” she gurgled before collapsing.

The wolf tore into her, ravaging her body.

Revived, Bran entered the room and revived Blaze with healing word. “We have to burn the body.” Bran shouted. “She can't come back again.”

“I'll be right there,” Mendel yelled from the corridor, Bran’s fire potion in his hand.

Rising, Blaze revived Oosi with cure wounds.

“Should we rest here?” I ask proposed, as everyone caught their breath and licked their wounds.

“We should definitely bring her body,” Blaze agreed.

“We definitely need to chop it up and burn it,” Bran reiterated. “Blaze, I hope you don’t object, but I think we need to be a little more radical this time.”

“Good boy,” Erling pet the wolf.

“Do you know what's in there?” Mendel asked, pointing to the closed sarcophagi in the middle of the chamber.

“Yeah, I think it's her sister,” Erling replied.

Mendel searched Ravisin and the room, but found nothing of interest or value.

Oosi grabs her by the scruff of the neck and drags her out, leaving a bloody trail behind.

We retrieved our dropped weapons and arrows.

I stood guard as the others brought Ravisin’s corpse to the brazier, and using a twig, a pine cone, and a feather, incinerated the corpse in the consuming flames.

We heard something crashing toward us from the thick forest. As everyone ran back into the tomb, I saw three ice trolls approaching, and quickly followed my companions, securing the door behind me.

“I was afraid you were done for!” Mendel expressed as we ate, “You were locked in here and I didn’t know how I was going to get you out!”

“Yes, I was at the gates of Valhalla waiting to get let in,” Oosi replied stoically. “Then I was tanked back into my body. Yes, thank you. Thank you for your worry, but such is the life of a warrior. We must be brave in these circumstances.”

Mendel went on and on, until we all eventually slept until morning.

“Should we look in the sarcophagus?” Mendel asked in the morning.

Everyone else waited in the corridor while Oosi and I pushed the lid open, Oosi practically lifting the heavy stone on his own.

Inside we saw a corpse. By its feet was a backpack

Oosi grabbed the backpack.

“They got it open,” Bran yelled out from the doorway and everyone came back into the chamber.

Inside the backpack, we found 260 copper coins, 90 silver coins, 210 gold coins, four skrimshander carvings, three scrolls, and two potions of healing.

Oosi took one potion and gave the other to Mendel.

Mendel began examining the scrolls. “Can you read this?” he whined in frustration, handing the first to Blaze. “It’s foreign to me.”

“Yes, I can read it.” Blaze replied. “It is a word of radiance cantrip.”

Mendel explained that the second scroll contained an earth tremor spell.

After Mendel, Blaze, and Bran were all unable to read the third scroll, Mendel took out his spellbook and began casting comprehend languages as a ritual. When he was done, he explained, “Looks like this is a moonbeam spell.”

“Isn't that what she casts on us?” Bran asked. “The first time we met her?”

“I believe it is,” I agreed.

“Maybe we can sell it,” Mendel suggested, “or trade it to a druid. I can't use it.”

“Wait, this is a druid scroll maybe,” Oosi began. “Maybe we can use it when we go… Uhm? Well, we need that other druid to help us find that jark of jarls. We can use this as a payment or an enticement to get that druid to come help us.”

“That's a good idea,” Bran agreed. “It’s with a shot anyway.”

“I believe that druid was willing to help us for 25 gold coins,” I considered. “This scroll is probably worth much more. But we can save it until our business is done.”

“Right,” Oosi agreed. “It might come in handy if she's with us. She said she wouldn't fight.”

“Does anyone object if we burn this body in the sarcophagus?” Bran asked. “I'm not a big fan of desecrating the dead, but I don't trust that these are not gonna come back alive and hurt us after the fact.”

“I have no objection,” I replied. “I think it's a good idea.”

“Alright,” Oosi suggested, “well maybe, you know, we shouldn't stick around if we don't want to fight those ice trolls that are in the area.”

After we divided up the treasure we had found, we prepared to leave.

“If those ice trolls are still out there,” I suggested, guarding the entrance to the tomb. “I suggest we deal with them.”

Mendel examined the seven foot tall stone encircled mirror at the end of the southwest corridor. Finding nothing unusual about it, he pulled out his spellbook and began casting detect magic as a ritual.

Meanwhile, Erling and Bran examined the door at the end of the south corridor, finding that it was engraved with a white semicircle with its rounded edge facing toward the right.

Based on what we had learned previously, we all concluded that it was some kind of moon symbol indicating that it could only be opened at a certain phase of the moon, or with a moonbeam spell.

“It’s divination magic,” Mendel declared once he was done casting. “Maybe it can be used for scrying or looking into the future.”

“Looking into the future is a dangerous power for anyone,” Bran warned.

“Maybe she’s just vain,” Oosi wondered aloud. “Maybe that's how she communicates with the ice queen.”

“I think I could use this mirror if I spend some time attuning to it,” Mendel advised. “But that will take about an hour or so, and I don’t know if we want to wait that long.”

“I think we need to know where this is a tool that could be used by our enemies,” Bran insisted, “or something that we could ourselves.”

“So after I attune to it,” Mendel explained, “I should be able to tell you.”

Erling noted that the south door had no openings for keys or lockpicks.

Oosi tried to pry it open with a crowbar, but it did not budge.

When Mendel eventually attuned to the mirror, he explained what it could do, “This mirror can be used on the full moon to scry on any creature anywhere. Bran, you can probably attune to it too. Then you can try to see and hear any creature that you choose anywhere, and it’s easier the better you know them and if you have a strong connection to them. I suspect there's always a chance that they could find out that you're doing it.”

“So she could have been scrying on us this whole time,” Oosi pointed out.

“So who would we want to scry?” Bran asked.

“Well,” Mendel suggested, “Oosi did mention the barbarians we’re looking for, and then there’s also the guy that we're looking for.”

“Macreadus,” Bran confirmed. “Maybe the lake monster or Avarice…”

“We can’t use it now,” Mendel suggested, “but I don't think we should destroy it. We could always come back and use this if we needed to.”

Bran attuned to the mirror, eventually breaking Mendel’s attunement, confirming that he could not use it unless it was a full moon.

We decided to burn this sister’s body in the sarcophagus. We left as thick smoke quickly filled the room.

We headed north in hopes of finding Macreadus, Erling and I on the lookout for tracks.

We travelled for four hours before taking a break. I tracked down a little snow bunny and brought it to Oosi once he was done performing a ritual to speak with animals.

“The spirit of the bear welcomes you,” Oosi said, gently holding the trembling rabbit. “No, this bear is good. I'm not gonna eat you, you're okay. Mr. Rabbit, we're looking for someone here. Maybe you've seen them. He walks on two legs like us. Did you see anybody on two legs around here? Living in a big cave? You know, like a big house?”

Then Oosi turned to us and said, “It hasn't seen anybody on two legs here.”

Turning back to the rabbit, Oosi said, “Thanks. The spirit of the bear thanks you. Go in peace.” He put the rabbit down gently and let him run away.

At Bran’s suggestion we continued straight north for another four hours until we reached the river, which was frozen solid. We pressed on for another hour, following the river northeast, until we were all exhausted, except for Erling and Oosi.

While everyone was setting up camp, I foraged for food, finding a couple of little rabbits, a bunch of berries, and some edible fungi, all in all enough to feed a person for eight days.

After eating our fill and packing the extra, we camped for an uneventful night.

In the morning we followed the river southwest.

After four hours, we stopped and ate, and then continued following the river.

Suddenly, Oosi’s armor began to glow and up ahead we saw a humanoid figure covered in black robes sitting on top of a snowy mound. The figure’s back was to us.

“Take cover,” Oosi warned us. “There's a dragon nearby.”

“That’s clearly not a dragon,” Bran replied.

“Maybe it's buried in the snow,” Oosi offered. “You should take cover now.”

Taking cover, I cast pass without trace and examined the figure using my eyes of the eagle.

“I'm willing to go forward,” Bran offered, “while you guys slip along to the side. Stay out of his view. If you circle around the trees and then go around here.” With his one hand, he indicated a perpendicular path to maintain our distance. “Stay out of range while I keep his focus and I try to discern his intent. You know, who he is, is this Macreadus. If it's Macreadus, then great, we're on the same path. If he's not, well, I might be dead, but at least you guys have an opportunity to go.”

“I wasn't thinking that we'd be sacrificing you,” I replied.

“I'm not willing to just avoid it,” Bran insisted.

“Alright, I'll go with you,” Oosi volunteered. “It’s a damn fool idea, but I’m not going to send you there alone.”

The rest of us took spread out and took cover in the trees while Bran and Oosi approached the figure.

“I think it makes more sense to let Bran go by himself,” Mendel whispered to Oosi. “He's, he's, he's a more skilled negotiator. You’re…”

“Yes,” Oosi acknowledged. “We can’t show weakness.”

As Bran and Oosi approached casually with open arms, Bran announced, “We mean you no harm. We are just here to talk. Greetings, friend. We are looking for a tinkerer. Perhaps someone that perhaps might be able to aid us in a quest. Are you able to give us directions to this person?”

When they were halfway to the figure, it began to rise up and turn around, the snowy ground under it lifting and then falling away, revealing a gargantuan white dragon as its mount.

“We're not here to be antagonists,” Bran said calmly. We're not fighting you. We are looking for someone that was named Macreadus that could help us in our quest.”

The dragon snorted at Bran and he turned and fled in terror.

Oosi shivered briefly in fear, but stood his ground.

“We don't mean anyone harm,” Oosi said as he backed up. “We're just passing through the area and we wanted to ask if you had any information about this area. That is all. We're not looking for a conflict with anyone in this area?”

The dragon raised its head, and growled, “Stop! Tribute or die! Magic or die!”

No comments:

Post a Comment