Esmeria Aeterna

A Draconic Pest 1

30th of Elesias, 1526

Our heroic Knights of Valor wake early in the morning as they usually do. Except not everyone appears to be rising and shining in equal fashion. Three seets are empty at the breakfast table at the Bright Apple in the metropolis of Minghonda.

Ulfgar starts banging on Noa's door, and suddenly Ulfgar smells a rancid, scorched smell seemingly coming from outside. Moving out into the streets to see, or smell, what is going on, he notices a paper boy yelling about the news:

"Extra, extra! Knights of Valor burn corpse in the street and cause rancid smell in entire northern quadrant!"

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Lumivarax groggily wakes up and promises to see how Noa is doing. Heading downstairs, the partners in crime awkwardly attempt to explain their nightly escapade without the rest of the group, as well as the loss of Andrea to a [[Darion Arendale|Darion]] that dejectedly stares off into the distance. 

Friendship -1

Realizing they did however resolve the ongoing serial killer case, they elect to move to the guard post where Mister Grumpy Desk Guard is working on a ton of extra paperwork. Despite his bad morning, he fetches the captain of the guard for them, Ungvar Durkoske.

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The captain is not particularly happy about our heroes' decision to entertain the entire city with their rather original concept of disposing with a rotting corpse, but admits that they have been exceedingly helpful so far. He grants them the bounty of 1500 gold pieces, but does take out 100 for cleaning up the messy scorch spot on the streets.

Pocketing the money, they move to the market square meeting spot where they find Ezvair Kimberley, unexpectedly accompanied by a young woman in robes whom he introduces as Catharina Regalia, the daughter of the leader of Minghonda's mages guild, Jorvah Regalia.

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(editor's note: not actually this impressive yet)

He goes on about how Jorvah and him have contacted a few trusted people in the guild and are performing an extensive inquisition into the Resurgence. They have thus far apprehended one more person and executed them in a very secretive manner.

Upon further inquiry by one of our more innocent heroes, he explains that they ensured proper punishment by sending this person's soul to hell. Our champions decide to not follow this line of questioning further.

Catharina suddenly, eagerly mentions she wants to travel with Knights of Valor, as she has heard much about them. Especially considering they were all over the newspaper this morning. [[Ezvair Kimberley|Ezvair]] is clearly uncomfortable having her there, saying her father would not approve of this decision, but she pertinently ignores any and all of his advice.

The Knights grill Catharina extensively on her intentions and motivations, and decides there is no harm in taking her along to deal with the dragon in Cape Merton, despite there actually being a lot of potential harm in that plan.

Noa gives Ezvair a promise however, that they will do everything they can to protect [[Catharina Regalia|Catharina]]. This eases the nerves of the otherwise steadfast wizard only slightly.

Saying their goodbyes, they waste no time in renting seats in the carts of traveling merchants with the destination of Cape Merton.

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7th of Eleint, 1526

In the middle of the afternoon on the 7th day of The Fading, our heroes arrive at Cape Merton without any incidents on the road, and are incidentally also completely done with traveling by cart. At least the heat has been lessening somewhat in the past days.

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Getting out of the carts and saying their goodbyes to the merchants, they ask a random passerby on the streets who leads this town. They tell them they should talk to the mayor, Viola Parthridge, just down the main street.

In true Noa fashion, the man immediately finds the nearest baker to inquire about cream puffs and the local delicacies. Cream puffs are apparently imported from Minghonda, but the local delicacy is a strange combination of fish and cake. Somewhat apprehensively, the party partakes of this outlandish delight. It tastes appropriately fresh, but strange to their now city-food-attuned tastes.

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After this, mostly very new experience, they visit the mayor's house and knock on the door. A maid servant answers and looks at them in a concerned and troubled way, as leads them to the living room to wait for the mayor.

When the mayor arrives, a lanky, older woman with a charismatic statutre, she tells them about the dragon attack on the farm house of [[Aberthy Nadle]]. Somewhat sadly, she also tells them that they are not the first party of adventurers to come along and try to help the people of Cape Merton. Another group, calling themselves the Knights of Honor, have attempted and failed. They are now buried in the graveyard close to the town.

For their stay, she directs them to an inn down the main street and promises they can stay for free. Ulfgar cannot contain his desire for obtaining all wealth in the material world, and asks her whether they have any shops that sell magical items and peculiarities. Viola Parthridge replies that yes, they have a trader in the town by the name of Errin Devos that has a penchant for magical items.

They decide to visit this trader, as they still have quite some time in the day.

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Errin Devos' interest in magical items appears to be no more than a hobby, however much an extreme one. His house is full of regular wares and cloths, as he initially tries to sell them some fine silks from Lareya.

When our heroes show him the magical daggers that they had taken from Fizam Deepwind, his interest is clearly piqued and he leads them to a backroom of his home. In the room is a cabinet-sized lockbox, or one could even call it a safe. As he opens it to display his wares, the greedy eyes of [[Ulfgar Fireforge|Ulfgar]] rapidly scan the assortment:

  • Some rocks that Errin insists are magical.
  • An engraved compass of which the hand is constantly spinning around.
  • A plain wooden staff.

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From outside the safe, none of our heroes' magic users are able to detect anything magical at all about these items. Errin does not appear surprised by this, and prompted he tells them that he paid a powerful mage to enchant his safe to hide items from magical detection.

He offers to take them out for his customers to peruse. [[Catharina Regalia|Catharina]] detects a moderately strong Divination aura from the compass as soon as he takes it out, but otherwise knows nothing of the items.

As Errin takes the plain wooden staff out of the safe, they are stunned to suddenly hear the dragon roaring furiously in the distance.

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He attempts to sell the staff and the compass to our champions for the meager price of 1750 gold pieces. Suspect about the synchronicity of the reveal of the staff and the uproar of the distant dragon, they reason that perhaps the dragon is after this particular item. 

They try to make Errin give it away for his own safety but he refuses, citing needing to feed his poor, poor family and protecting his investments. As the moments pass however, he looks increasingly nervous at the roars of the dragon in the distance. Despite this, the party does not seem to particularly distrust his motives.

Trying to work out a deal, he finally agrees to let a few of our more brave heroes atune to the magical items to figure out what they are, and how they work. Catharina chooses the compass and Ulfgar chooses the staff, mistaking it somehow for a beating stick that he is familiar with.

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Spending the time concentrating on the items to solidify their magical attunement, Catharina completes her connection to the compass. She innately understands that this item is called a Compass of the Planes and it points the way to any planar portal that is within 3 miles of it. She also feels that the artifact is quite old, maybe older than an entire millennium.

Over at the other side of the room however, Ulfgar completes his connection to the wooden staff and lets out a sharp yell as seemingly thousands of tormented voices scream in unison inside his mind and soul. When the wave of terror passes, the staff floats up into the air in front of the poor druid, and then snugly latches onto his back.

Understanding of the nature of the artifact pours into Ulfgar's mind. The name of the item is The Last Stand and it can call down a swarm of meteors by speaking its command words:

"Lady Mystra, reduce our existence to ash." 

When triggered, it will drill itself in the ground and the meteors will fall down in the area after a minute of time. Otherwise it does not seem to want to leave  Ulfgar's person at all.

When the terrified druid reaches inside the staff to try and understand how it is magically powered, his mind touches upon a reservoir of sorts and the thousand screaming voices answer his query.

The dragon roars more furiously in the distance and, running outside, Lumivarax runs out and sees him circling above the Esmerian Wilderness. Now truly scared, Errin eventually concedes that perhaps he should not be having these items, and only asks for the 500 gold buy-in compensation, which the party happily pays.

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Staring at the dragon in the distance, Lumivarax feels his Dragonborn blood boiling into a seething rage the distance and suddenly starts running out of town, racing towards the dragon.

He gets tired after about a mile of running, but all the other Knights of Valor have confusedly run after him. Suddenly, the dragon lets out a furious roar and starts flying towards them at breakneck speed.

In a sudden moment of self-awareness, [[Lumivarax Firevale|Lumivarax]] panicks and attempts to remove the obvious curse on Ulfgar and the The Last Stand.

But his divine magic warps into strange and unexpected patterns, and through his arcane knowledge he instinctively recognizes the arcane magic of Contingency as he is swept away into a strange, hopeless vision.

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Before his mind's eye, a city burns. Elves are running around in a frenzy as they are slaughtered left and right by ashen-haired invaders, accompanied by horrible monsters and shadowy apparitions. 

In the sky, black dragons are flying, carrying warriors on their backs and occasionally dipping down to swallow up an unfortunate Elf.

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In the center of the invasion force, he sees an Elven woman with white hair walking casually. Any and all that dare to stand against her are swiftly evaporated by powerful, spine-chilling magic.

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Looking around his surroundings, the cleric realizes he is higher up in a tower. An Elven man is next to him, and with a sudden flash of realization he knows the man to be Ceanasan Dakear, the artificer who's reanimated skeleton they had fought inside the man's own tomb. He speaks to [[Lumivarax Firevale|Lumivarax]], seemingly echoing across the ages:

You, the coward who feels it necessary to sever the binds of The Last Stand, do you think you know better than the Magis Arcanum how to fight The Shadow? Prove to me the strength of your will!

A powerful anger and desperation radiates out from the artificer, and [[Lumivarax Firevale|Lumivarax]] is faced with the force of his will, locking them both in mental combat. Our valiant cleric does not emerge the victor in this battle of wills, and as the vision abruptly ends, the staff explodes in a burst of necrotic energy, knocking him back and wilting his skin.

Healing himself from this unexpected recoil, they attempt to run back towards the town. Seeing the speed of the dragon, they realize they might not make it back there in time to obtain the help of Cape Merton's guards.

Staring at the shape rushing towards them, to their dismay they they also make out three smaller shapes flying behind the bigger one. Running for their lives, they make it back to quite a ways out of the town's border still and opt to attempt a strategy with their new-found terrible artifact.

Will our foolish, but lovable heroes survive or is this where they make the last stand (pun intended)? Tune in next time for session #13, the Quest For Less Foolish Decisions.

 

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A Blade From the Grave? 2

27th of Elesias, 1526

Our heroes huddle together at a table in the Bright Apple to quietly discuss their post-mortal findings.

On the way home, Ulfgar has purchased a beautiful, magical shield that had an unfortunate pink paint. The pink paint had been enchanted along with the shield and thus become a little hard to remove. The shopkeeper threw in a can of green paint with the deal, to make the rather feminine shield appear slightly more druidic.

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As they discuss the details of of the blue dragon attack in Cape Merton, Andrea and Lumivarax suddenly feel the brush of a powerful divination spell on their beings and manage to resist the attempt at magical eavesdropping. Despite this, they experience an almost suffocating presence of a wicked, malevolent power of will that vanishes without a trace in mere moments.

Slightly unsettled by this particular passage of events, they decide to call it a night and retire to their increasingly luxurious rooms.

28th of Elesias, 1526

Waking early in the morning, Ulfgar decides to paint his shield green, knowing that the new paint is technically not covered by the magical enchantment on the shield, and might eventually taper off, revealing the pink underneath in time.

After a hearty breakfast, they move over to the Flying Rapier to pick up their new plate mails as well as Loki's custom fitted chain mail. Satisfied with the golden embroidery on his plate mail, Noa settles the bill with Alysan Speer and they head over to the guard post.

They ask for the captain of the guard, whom they are told is out on patrols. A lieutenant called Reginald Farnsworth answers their request to set up a meeting with Senator Anthony, who was the last person to speak to the corpse that they had so forcefully interrogated.

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Reginald appears wary of and unhappy with the methods employed by our Knights of Valor, but a well-placed smile and encouraging nod from Noa makes him cave and promise he will see what he can do to arrange a meeting in a day, warning that the senators do not regularly make themselves available for inquiries.

Leaving the guard post they head out into the market where Andrea buys 20 gold pieces worth of food, and heads outside the city gates to the refugee camp to hand it out. Ulfgar follows her, rather pious example but does not actually buy anything on the market. His money is his money, after all.

Walking out the gates, they refugee camp is clearly in a very sad state of affairs. Guards are walking around with lists, pushing refugees back and all-around appear to be attempting to keep order through shows of force. The amount of refugees seemingly increases every day, with new families pouring in from the roads to the east.

Many refugees appear quite malnourished, and Andera walks up to a particularly gaunt group to share some of the food she had bought.

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The family thankfully accepts her generosity and tells her that they were originally from Lora's Garden, which has become completely swept up in the encroaching desert now. They continue to say they traveled across the north-eastern route past Imir's Watch .

Then they speak of something very peculiar, many of them appear to corroborate a story of seeing the ghost of a warrior along the roads near Imir's Watch. Some who were brave enough to get close said he looked to be elven and clad in a brilliant, pristine armor.

Ulfgar, cheap as he is, hands out magical goodberries instead of market-bought produce. Some of the refugees look warily at what is given to them, but many are so famished that they eat them readily. Some other refugees that are left without food start to threaten the ones with food, and some small fights over the nourishment start to break out until a regimen of guards de-escalates the situation once again.

Ulfgar is told by refugees that he looks like a powerful wizard and asked whether he could help their families with monster threats near Driftwood to the east, telling stories of some of them having been taken in the night. They are scared that similar things might happen to family members that still need to make the journey.

Back over in the metropolis of Minghonda, Noa and Darion order two raven-style robes at the Drafty Undergarment clothing shop and ask around at 15 different tailoring shops to see if any of them had supplied their wanton terrorist. This search appears fruitless, however.

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Lumivarax walks around the rooftops for a day, scouting around the massive city stretching out before him. Sadly, he too finds nothing in particular. Giving up eventually he decides during a momentary lapse of reason to make a back flip off the roof, but surprisingly makes a perfect landing while chanting "Knights of Valor!".

Despite leaving a small crater in the street because of his rather voluminous, scaled body, random passersby cheer him on and some even toss some coins at his feet.

Back at the Bright Apple, the entire group of usual suspects reunites. [[Lumivarax Firevale|Lumivarax]] regales the tale of his impromptu performance and attempts to repeat the back flip inside the tavern, knocking over three chairs and distressing the owner.

Upstairs in her room, Andrea decides to magically attune to the Ethereal Jaunt Plate and understands that it only has limited uses remaining.

Once most of the party has gone to sleep, Noa and Darion decide to repeat their clothing-store strategy and canvas bars in the night. They dress themselves in the cloaks they requested at the Drafty Undergarments and interestingly, they target only bars that have a non-Minghondian barkeeper. Only a few even appear to exist.

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The first barkeeper, a halfling, doesn't know anything about whatever suggestive things the pair appear to be talking about and politely asks them to order or leave.

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The second is run by a rather scruffy looking elf. He seemingly has no idea what the pair is talking about either, but upon hearing the word "Hanaian" he leans over the counter and whispers that he does have a very special and very rare Hanaian Bitter in stock, if they are interested.

Apparently illegal, he is reluctant to share information on where he obtains these Hanaian Bitters, stating awkwardly that he knows a guy. He shuts his mouth after that though, mumbling that the eyes and ears of the government are everywhere in this blasted city.

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Darion leans over and says "Yes, the eyes of the government are everywhere!". Despite this attempt at seeming threatening, the barkeeper just laughs loudly in his face and says "Is this your attempt at being tough?"

Looking over to his friend somewhat disappointedly, Noa casts a magical zone of truth. The people in the tavern are stunned at the blatant use of magic, some immediately draw out and others appear to draw their weapons.

Looking at the remaining tenants, Noa yells "The ravens will not be stopped!" and flourishes his cloak. This actually appears to intimidate literally everyone in the tavern, and they all rapidly leave the establishment, not quite so privy to trouble.

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Making use of his partner's menacing presence, Darion grabs the barkeeper by the scruff off the neck and says "No! This is my attempt at being tough!", but once again fails to leave any lasting impression as his voice comes out a little shrill, not unlike a girl.

The barkeeper calls for the guards, but Noa steps in and menacingly tells him that he really does not want to do that. Unlike Darion's feeble attempts, this shuts the barkeeper up immediately, and after a moment he nods in cooperation.

He starts to confess that his supplier has the described crooked nose and is Hanaian. They make deals near the northern temple at night around 2am, and the next meetup is due tomorrow.

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Seemingly pleased with the information, our pair of heroes then has to listen to the barkeeper go on a furious rant about how he only got to this shit city for a girl and now she left him and it's really hard to keep a business going with all these racist Minghondian's around.

He keeps muttering about the booze smuggling efforts from the south, the drug smuggling from the north, the monster in the seas to the south that is causing even bigger financial problems and that he only wants to go back to Alassa. In fact, he says he will start packing right now.

Somewhat astonished, our pair of valiant knights leave the tavern to share this new information with the rest of the team. They decide to look up the street described by the barkeeper, so [[Lumivarax Firevale|Lumivarax]] can remember the location through magical clairvoyance. After a lengthy day full of effort, they finally rest.

29th of Elesias, 1526

After breakfast in the morning, they check at the guard post but are told that the lieutenant was unable to arrange a meeting with the senator for them. The lieutenant is clearly a little embarrassed about this and goes on a very personal rant about the proletariat being treated very badly by the elite, and especially about how he is not paid enough. He starts enquiring at Noa about the secondary labor benefits of the Paladin Order, seemingly considering a career change.

Taking a well-deserved resting day, our valiant and constantly vigilant champions lollygag about for an entire day around the city.

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A little like that.

30th of Elesias, 1526

After midnight however, they station themselves in the alley to set up an ambush. Andrea hides on top of the roof, Lumivarax ensconces himself inside an abandoned building and Noa dresses up in the Raven robe and positions himself square in the middle in the street, with the rest hiding around corners nearby.

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The smuggler eventually enters the alley and, after some discerning in the dark, sees Noa is not Hanaian. He immediately smells a trap and turns to run, with Darion stepping out of his hiding place to close off the alley with his rather imposing stature.

Our valiant heroes waste no time with words and immediately attack the smuggler, knocking him to the ground in a heartless, brutal and foremost swift beat down and rain of arrows.

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Patching up the deliberately inflicted wounds, they gag him and drag the man off into the abandoned house for a brisk interrogation session. Taking the gag out again, he too goes on an exceptional rant to curse out the entire Minghondian race.

[[Darion Arendale|Darion]] once again attempts to employ his skills of intimidation, but the smuggler just blinks at him, clearly somewhat astonished at the ridiculous attempt to impress him. Before the awkwardness of the fighter's poor grasp of intimidation becomes too much to bear, [[Ulfgar Fireforge|Ulfgar]] steps in and magically charms the smuggler to cooperate.

He gives his name as Zaron and readily gives up the location of the warehouse where they take the abducted politicians to torture. He also tells our heroes that there are a cell part of a larger terror network, and his cell consists of 7 people total, including himself.He goes on another rant about how he feels their cause is just because the Minghondian politicians slaughtered their families, razed their Eldath temples and took their homes from them.

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They turned to Hoar to find vengeance and forsook Eldath. They don't know much about the other terror cells, apart from that they are not the only cell in Minghonda. None of them appear aware of the grand scheme, but each Hanaian believes in the cause.

What follows next is an exceedingly lengthy debate among our heroes concerning the ethics of what will happen to Zaron, as well as for his race if they turn him in compared to the evil things he, or they, have clearly done to evil men. The philosophical debate continues quite a while, while the poor Zaron is obviously in a lot of pain from his wounds.

Finally they resort to holding a vote on whether to execute him, as they really don't know what is right or wrong. The vote results in 3 of them in favor of killing him (Noa, Lumivarax, Ulfgar) and 2 against (Andrea, Darion). Ulfgar eventually performs the execution by cracking Zaron's skull open with a Shillalach, somewhat worrying his group mates by his increasing lust for executing people.

Andrea in particular voices her discontent with this decision, clearly upset about her difference in opinion with the rest of the group in regards to justice and vengeance.

Standing over the corpse and scratching their heads, they decide that political conflict is too complicated and they will not follow up on the warehouse and the rest of the terror cell, instead opting to go and fight that dragon they heard about. Life is just simpler that way.

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On the other hand, Noa and [[Lumivarax Firevale|Lumivarax]] feel that they are not going far enough, but appear to be accepting this decision.

Back at the Bright Apple, they enjoy a lavish dinner of rabbit stew and wine. Afterwards, Noa states that he will report back to the Order of the Radiant Heart and conspicuously asks Lumivarax to join him.

As everyone else goes to sleep, [[Lumivarax Firevale|Lumivarax]] prays to his god Bahamut in his room, but finds no guidance, no signs. After a short moment of disappointment, he decides he best get on with the killing as he figures Bahamut would not stand for vengeance being mistaken for justice.

Outside, Noa walks along the waterside and is pounced upon by two drunk ruffians.

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They yell at him "Hand over your valuables!" and stalk menacingly towards him. Noa handily replies "How about you hand over your heads!" in a seething explosion of rage, sending the poor ruffians scurrying off into a nearby alley.

He settles down in front of the entrance of the Order of the Radiant Heart and waits for Lumivarax, who eventually arrives without incident, being slightly more naturally terrifying to drunk ruffians in the night.

They discuss the terror cell situation and how they just cannot let this stand. Agreeing on their shared pursuit of justice, they head off towards the location of the warehouse that poor, headless Zaron gave them.

In another dark alley near them, Andrea and Loki are crouching in the shadows, overhearing every word.

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Arriving at the warehouse, Noa and Lumivarax scout around the building and attempt to look through its window, seeing boxes and an administrative area as well as some light coming from the corner in the back.

Noa listens closely at a backdoor and hears a chair creak, while Lumivarax moves around the building. Isolated from Noa, Andrea steps out of the shadows and approaches Lumivarax and confronts them about what they think they are doing.

 

At the other end of the building, Noa  tries the door handle and hears another few creaks from inside. Suddenly he hears a thud behind him, but sees nothing.

He moves towards the other backdoor and sees his two teammates arguing. Andrea's senses suddenly start ringing and she jerks upright, sensing the presence of the undead. 

Noa tries another door handle, but the door suddenly opens. A Hanaian man in merchant clothing stands in the doorway, and demands to know just what the hell he thinks he's doing. Noa states that they want to inspect the warehouse, and the Hanaian menacingly allows him to enter.

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From thin air, an undead, rotting assassin appears and attacks Noa in the back. Multiple Hanaian in the black raven cloaks come running towards them from inside, and a dire fight starts.

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Dire for the Ravens that is, as Lumivarax handily summons a hoard of angelic spirits that rapidly overwhelm any and all in the terror cell that attempts to stop him. Noa looks at the spectacle somewhat disappointedly as his Dragonborn partner appears to be taking all the glory.

Andrea, enraged by the revelation of the undead assassin, looses arrow after arrow in the reanimated corpse.

As the Hanaian fall one-by-one, a single terrorist remains and is confronted by Andrea. He refuses to surrender, and gets clobbered down to the ground by a spiritual weapon, conjured up by the resident Dragonborn cleric. As he dies, he grunts "We may die, but you will never be able to stop us all."

Noa, just to be sure he won't rise up again, brings down holy energy on the corpse of Fizam Deepwind, wafting the smell of burned, decaying flesh out of the warehouse and into the streets.

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Looting the bodies, the find gold pieces, enchanted weapons, magical potions, and in the warehouse find quite a few crates of Hanaian Bitter. Inside a drawer of a desk in the administrative area of the warehouse, there is a note that reads:

"Ravens, the great Hoar has bequeathed us the means for laying vengeance on the aggressors. The full moon will judge their sins. Stay your course. – Sarovenis"

 

They also find the deed to the warehouse and decide to pocket it.

Stepping out of the warehouse, Andrea tells the mischievous pair that she does not agree with intervening in the conflict between the Minghondians and the Hanaians and that she will leave for the woods to follow her own path.

 

Loki howls outside as Andrea Yesphine leaves without accepting any of the gold, vanishing down the streets and into the night, yearning once more for the isolation of the wilds.

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After Noa and Lumivarax say their goodbyes and watch her leave, unsure how to explain to the rest of the group that they just lost their ranger, they start to discuss what to do with the warehouse and corpse of Fizam Deepwind.

The best idea they can come up with is to burn the rotting corpse and ensure all its bones are turned to dust. They drag the remains outside, smash a few empty crates for firewood and build a bonfire in the middle of the streets.

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As the corpse burns, it spreads a terrible stench through the streets. Some residents that live nearby wake from their sleep, and with one look at the scene on the streets gasp audibly and call for the guards. The guards actually show up rather rapidly and want to immediately arrest our heroic pair, until they manage to convince them of their innocence.

Waiting a while longer for Fizam's corpse burns to dust, they become truly disgusted by the smell. Afterwards they return to the Bright Apple and are bothered by the same ruffians again, with Lumivarax scaring them off this time.

Back in their rooms, Noa steals Darion's deck of cards while he's sleeping like a log, and they rest.

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The Ashen Vanguard 3, A Blade From the Grave?

22nd of Elesias, 1526

As the battle rages on, our heroes are faced with the stunning power of the ashen-haired women and their weaponry. The first draws two katanas that resonate with the strength of their magical enchantments. 

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As she dashes dashes into the party's front line of Darion, Noa and Ulfgar (the invisible skunk), her many attacks strike rapidly and wildly at whomever she finds in reach. 

Each time her right katana strikes true it hums and lights up with a sickening green glow, seemingly draining the life of her victim and nourishing herself with it. Each time her left katana finds her mark, a sudden black mist explodes outwards and she disappears – only to reappear close to a next, unsuspecting victim nearby.

As she fights, she shouts battle cries in a course, slithering language that even the most educated of our heroes could not quite place.

After running outside, the other ashen-haired outsider is rebuffed by Noa in close combat. Finding herself standing right next to the invisible skunk that is Ulfgar, she lets out a yell as he jumps her. Wielding a magnificent, glowing pistol in her right hand and another dark katana in her left, she manages to land a hit with the blade and is immediately transported backwards in another explosion of dreadful smoke.

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Out of danger, she dashes towards the walls of the cave and runs up, her leather boots glowing strongly with the enchanted radiance. Taking position on top of the cave entrance, she points her gun at the party and takes careful aim.

As the gunfire rings out across the canopy, the bullet hits Ulfgar square in the face and blinds him. Upon impact, the ashen woman's gun hums and radiates a heated red glow, discharging rays of red light at the poor druid, severely damaging him.

As Andrea fires an arrow at the gunslinger that should seemingly strike true, the ashen woman looks up rapidly at the projectile and dashes out of its way at breakneck speed.

Inside the cave, Ashen Lireth has vanished from sight through a spell of invisibility, leading Ezvair to worriedly attempt to find her with a spell of See Invisibilty, clearly afraid of what she is capable of when left to attack unexpectedly.

As the fight heats up with the dual wielding outsiders laughing maniacally and yelling at each other in their dark language, [[Ezvair Kimberley|Ezvair]] suddenly yells "Get down!" while a a cloud of green smoke starts to materialize near the vulnerable backline of Lumivarax and Andrea.

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Concentrating deeply, the mighty mage reacts and attempts to suppress the dangerous spell coming out of Ashen Lireth. He manages to nullify it through a sheer battle of will, breathing a sight of relief as the deadly green mist evaporates without taking any souls.

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Fighting to the bone, the battle finally turns in the favor of our heroes as the ashen-haired fighter on the ground is seemingly quite hurt and bleeding. She yells a short statement to her partner on top of the cave, who shouts something back in confirmation.

She then tosses her blades into the air and catches each with her other hand, switching the smoke-blade to her main hand. She strikes true and severely hurts Darion, vanishes and re-materializes next to a remaining guard of own band of mercenaries. Without hesitation, she plunges her life-drinker blade into his heart and kills him, drinking deeply from his life force through the magic of the blade. In a flash, she runs back into the cave, with her partner running after her accros the ceiling.

Ashen Lireth yells at them in a language all too familiar to our heroes: "You bastards! You can't leave me here!" to which, surprisingly, one of the women replies in Common: "Don't worry, your soul will still serve Her Majesty."

Half the party decides to run after the women and half decides to stay. Panicked, Ashen Lireth pulls up a magical dome of force to protect her from the members of the party that now severely outnumber her.

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Ezvair pulls out a scroll from his robes, and in a flash of green light the magical dome shatters and disintegrates. After a last, desperate attempt to defend herself through a magical shield, the Elven wizard clutches her chest as the party's fatal strikes gush her precious blood out of her body. She collapses with a fear in her eyes of what lies beyond her death.

The others chase after the ashen-haired women all the way down to the room with the cages an the portal, raining arrows on them as they flee. One more arrow finds its mark, and the woman with the two katana's slows down and starts limping, clearly about to expire from her injuries. Darion recognizes the technique she is using to temporarily keep on going through her sheer adrenaline.

Suddenly the party perceives one of them casting a magical spell of Sending through the portal. As they round the corner, they see three ominous monsters standing guard outside the portal. One gray-skinned humanoid and two shadowy apparitions.

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As they step through the portal, despite being outside the cave, a strong wave of emotion rushes over Andrea, as she senses the presence of the undead.

Noa rounds the corner and watches the women stumble through the portal. He immediately runs back to rapidly discuss what to do. After a moment, checking again, he sees that the women and the monsters are gone… and so is the portal.

Releasing Daisy Kimberley from her cage, she is terrified of Lumivarax, who had joined the chase. After a while however, and with the scary Dragonborn offering her one of his rations, she settles down a little and devours the food like she had not eaten in days. Looking at her figure, the party thinks that might just have been true.

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She tells them of her harrowing experience there. That they brought shipments of children and locked them up in the cages until monsters came out of the portal to take them through. She never saw any of them again.

After some time discussing these events, our valiant and noble heroes claim what is rightfully theirs – the vast quantities of gold and magical artifacts that can be found in the room and on the corpses outside. Their yield is large, especially when they uncover a powerful enchanted ring on Ashen's body that can store spells for later use.

Carefully examining the Elven wizard's body shows a peculiar fact – one of her fingers was missing, and it seemed like it had been removed not that long ago. They also find an ominous letter, that reads:

Lireth,

Your difficulties are not my problem. We had a deal and you have failed to hold up your end of the bargain. I'm sending my lieautenants Xevuna Vasrathin of the Slaughter Swords and Kathae Vasrathin of the Scorching Shot to ensure your little operation runs as it is supposed to.

Pray I take no further measures against your incompetence.

Baelza Bloodborne

Ezvair reunites with his sister and seems incredibly relieved, profusely thanking the party for all of their help. As they ask him what he will do now, he replies that he plans on integrating back into the mages guild and attempting to root out its corruption.

They leave the cave behind and return to the improvised camp they left for the children, finding them all safe and sound under the careful guarding eye of Loki, the Wolf.

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Exhausted from the lengthy travel and many battles in such a short period of time, they decide to stay the night at the camp figure out what course of action to follow tomorrow.

23rd of Elesias, 1526

Waking up to a joyful and bright, sunny day, they decide to retrieve the cart they had obtained from their foes and load all the children onto it. Realizing that they had sent the horses off into the forest, they come up with the brilliant solution of Wildshaping Ulfgar into a horse and having him drag the carriage forward. The children as well as various party members find this solution to be exceedingly funny.

Over the course of the next few days, they travel the countryside to bring the children back to their homes and parents. They visit four towns in total and in each of them, they are received as heroes with the villagers scrounging up what little they have as a form of reward. The party benevolently declines any, but is happy to accept some nice accommodations for their stay in the towns.

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As they face more and more questions of who they are and what they are called, they think deeply for quite some time and decide to call themselves the Knights of Valor. As the villagers repeat the name of their group, they cannot help but wonder whether this is the start of something great.

27th of Elesias, 1526

Finally finding their way back to Minghonda, the formerly-unknown Knights of Valor decide to perhaps start spending some of their hard-earned cash gold.

Splitting up with Ezvair and his sister, they decide to give him back the necklace they had taken from him after their fight. In even more thanks, he promises to try and repay them in some way. For now though, he plans to meet with Jorvah Regalia in private, as he trusts him to not be part of the corruption within the the guild. They agree to meet again at the Bright Apple in three days time.

Outside the city, the vast waves of refugees just keep spilling into the camp of tents. More and more guards appear to be patrolling the camp, as the amount of altercations and disruptions of public order become more frequent.

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Inside the city, Lumivarax purchases a newspaper and purveys it:

  • Escalating refugee crisis strains food and resources! Increasing guard attention required to keep order in the camp! When will the Senate come to a solution?
  • Serial killer still on the loose! Another Senator found dead in the streets! When will the failing guard post catch this killer?!
  • Black boat of death?! Dark pirate ship sighted along the coasts of Lerwick in the south, abducting the populations of small villages and vanishing into thin air!
  • Dragon attack! The dragon that has been harassing Cape Merton has burned down a farmer's house! The whole family died, is nowhere safe anymore?

Having Horsegar drag around the cart with their riches still, they shrug at the news and start asking around for popular shops for selling their gems, as well as ordering some full plate armor for their more melee-oriented members and shops for magical artifacts. They find all of these in the huge metropolis that is Minghonda at…

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  • The Unexpected Malachite, run by a Minghondian elite called Calista Cloherty. She is reluctant to accept wares from untrusted suppliers at first, but a charismatic smile and encouraging story from Noa eventually nets them quite a reasonable deal.
  • The Flying Rapier, run by a talented blacksmith called Alysan Speer. They are not immediately quite sure whether Alysan is a man or a woman, and at some point is becomes embarassing to ask. After lengthy discussions and bartering, they sell some of their unneeded gear here and order two plate mails and one wolf-sized chain mail for LokiNoa cannot help but have his plate mail embroidered with beautiful, yet more expensive, gold patterns. Noa also trades his beautiful Lucerne Warhammer for a similar Greatsword.
  • The Forgotten Carpets, run by a bearded and scruffy old man called Annowre Lockerman.  They strike a deal here for selling a ton of the enchanted gear they don't need after quite a bit more haggling, and purchase some powerful healing potions in return. Showing them some more expensive wares, the valiant knights are discouraged at their cost; although Lumivarax eventually does go back to purchase an enchanted necklace.
  • The Sweet Aid, an alchemy & arrows shop run by an elf called Durga Valla. Andrea and Noa purchase some dangerous-looking arrows here; the man seems to sell arrows for any situation.

At every shop they visit, they employ a bartering technique to drive down the price based on their new, heroic team name. Yet every shopkeeper they attempt this at replies with an unequivocal "What? Never heard of you." and a frowny face.

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Perhaps in the future.

After their shopping spree they gather back at the plaza and decide to go back to the Bright Apple for some well-deserved food and rest. Walking through the city however, they round a corner in a narrow alley and see a man lying on the ground. He's not moving.

Upon closer inspection, it becomes clear to our heroes that this man will never move again. Turning him over, they find his face is skinned off and his eyes are gauged out. In his eye sockets, two coins have been stitched tight. The coins appear to have a two-faced head on them.

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Digging deep into their religious knowledge, Lumivarax recalls that this is the symbol of Hoar, the God of Vengeance. They also realize that the white clothing of the unfortunate man indicates he is part of the Minghondian politcal elite, perhaps even the Senate.

Some citizens scream as they round the corner to the alley, and a rather young-looking novice guard comes running. "Damnit, not another one." he says. Our heroes quickly convince him to go and get a few more guards to deal with the situation. He nods and runs off.

As they have a moment alone with the corpse, they inspect it carefully, putting the time of death at around 5 hours ago. They also deduce that the corpse was thrown onto the ground from the balcony above, and they barge into the house to investigate; yet find very little. 

On the balcony itself they find some traces of blood and the dragging of the corpse across the rooftops. Quickly, Andrea drags Loki up on the roof and tells him to follow the scent. The charming wolf immediately starts dashing across the rooftops, but after about 300 meters appears to lose the scent. Nothing that they are rather close to the Northern temple of the city and not even that far from the Bright Apple, they return back to the scene of the crime.

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The other guards had arrived, and while initially unwilling to discuss details with our heroes, they actually did seem to know who they were after a short introduction. "Ah yes, I remember you helping us out here and there. I do apologize, we are very short staffed inside the city at the moment because of the refugee crisis and we do appreciate the help."

They elaborate a little bit on the M.O. of these pattern-killings and say that the Hanaian terrorist Fizam Deepwind used to do these killings, but they executed him through beheading months ago. Loading the corpse up on a cart to get him out of the streets and to a temple, our beloved knights decide to tag along.

Arriving at the temple, they manage to persuade the priests for some alone time with the Senator's corpse and the support of the guards, stating that they want to perform an examination with the authority of Noa's paladin order and on account of [[Lumivarax Firevale|Lumivarax]] being a cleric himself. The priests somewhat reluctantly agree, but tell them "No funny business. You have 30 minutes."

Inside the temple's morgue, they prepare a list of 5 questions and [[Lumivarax Firevale|Lumivarax]] casts Speak With Dead on the poor senator's corpse. Screaming with unholy terror, his mind returns to its lifeless body. But his soul does not.

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He tells them the last thing he remembers is that he  woke up in an unknown place where they skinned his face off while still alive. He caught a glimpse of his captors when they took off his blindfold to gauge his eyes out. They were Hanaians in black dress with silver crows embroidered on them. They both had black hair, one had a crooked nose and the other was missing his front teeth. He says there was another person there, but he could not see them.

Suddenly, he asks whether he can go home now, because his wife is waiting for him.

As Andrea leaves the room and with heavy hearts, the party poses their last question to him and, compelled to answer, he states that he and Anthony were discussing plans on how to drive out the dirty, filthy freeloading refugees to save their food supplies and protect their people.

Having had their fill of tragedy and sadness for the day, they leave the temple and have their luxurious dinner at the Bright Apple. Unsurprisingly however, it did not taste that great.

 

 

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The Ashen Vanguard 2

22th of Elesias, 1526

Faced with their new roles as caretakers of young, impressionable children and the ever-looming threat of a violent end to their lives, our heroes huddle together to figure out a new plan of action.

Considering the booming success of their previous plan, they decide to set up a camp deeper inside the forest to hide the children away and lie in another ambush close to where they executed the previous one. Loki, the brave wolf, is tasked with standing guard over the children so as to avoid them becoming a meal for the admittedly massive spiders that inhabit the Whispering Glade.

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Taking a somewhat clustered position in the bushes, they wait for the group from the caves to send out a search party for their missing convoy. The wand buzzes quite often for a few hours of the wait, until finally two dangerous looking fellows approach across the bridge over the creek.

The more keenly visioned among them notice something is definitely amiss, because behind the two walking figures they can make out multiple concealed ruffians. Before our would-be ambushers have a chance to respond, the half-orc Zobarian Godwin slips out of his invisiblity spell and lights up their hiding place.

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As they are caught off guard, the mercenaries come charging in with vicious looking daggers and javelins. Archers rain arrows down upon our heroes, who fight for dear life against the opposing forces.

As the one called Zobarin Godwin attempts to cast another frightening evocation, he suddenly finds himself unable to speak, as Lumivarax had taken the sound away from his entire area. Surprised, he distances himself from the spell's sphere of influence towards the other end of the water bank, straight into Noa, who had stayed cleverly hidden since the start of the fight.

Having already been pierced by some of Andrea's arrows, the druidic moonbeam and even more hostility of the now three magic users in the party, Zobarin's fate was rather unceremoniously sealed with one epic swing of Noa's lucerne warhammer, lifting him off his feet in a beautiful arch of demise.

Ezvair proves to be exceptionally resourceful in the fight, sending lightning reeling across most of the villains and telekinetically bouncing a particularly threatening mercenary away from Lumivarax and smashing him into a tree…

… and another tree. He seemed particularly satisfied to take his rage out on the small-fry villains.

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As the fight wound down, Noa further sharpened his killing techniques by knocking the head off one more poor fool that had made some bad choices in his life. With the magically bound mercenary the only one remaining and dropping his weapon, he attempted to tell his life's story about who he needed to take care of at home and that this was the only job he could find, that he was sorry.

Darion, barely listening to a word coming out of the man's mouth, swifly executed him on the spot. Enough talk.

Looting the bodies they find quite a wealth of gold, indicating these mercenaries were being paid well to keep quiet about the shipments of children and whatever the Harvest is. They also find another Wand of Sending, giving them now a matching pair.

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In the aftermath of another battle, they reassess their situation. The threat from the cave is now lessened, but the risk to Daisy has increased. A rapid assault on the cave together with [[Ezvair Kimberley|Ezvair]] could also be troublesome, as they could hold his sister hostage to turn him against our heroes.

Discussing some increasingly ludicrous strategies, they eventually settle on perhaps the most crazy of all. Ulfgar will shapeshift into a giant skunk, get turned invisible by our heroes' new friend and spray his nasty musk all over the cave – to force out their enemies, straight into another ambush.

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As it was spoken, so it was done. The animalistic druid managed to squeeze his invisible, rather giant skunk body past the guards and performed a true ballet-dancer spiral jump during which he sprayed his pungent odor all around the cave walls.

A magically enhanced voice rings up from the belly of the cave, yelling to the guards that there is an intruder there. UIfgar seems to have set off a magical alarm. The guards start running outward, but the stench overwhelms them immediately. Still vomiting and retching, our heroes cut them down.

More mercenaries come running up through the stench, stopping in place to puke their guts out. Finally, Ashen Lireth and the unknown ashen women come running up as well. They take a moment to take in the situation, after which Ashen summons gusts of wind to clear out the smell and propel her insidious companions towards our heroes at the same time.

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With murderous intent in their eyes, the Elven mage and ashen outsiders make a mad dash towards our heroes, unsheathing arcane-looking weapons as they go.

 

 

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The Ashen Vanguard 1

19th of Elesias, 1526

Having escaped fiery death once more, our party finds themselves in custody of one carefully tied-up wizard of ill-intent.

Digging through their knowledge of the arcane, they assess the risk of removing the man's gag – as he would be able to cast spells that require only words. In the end however, they feel the man is not likely to be going anywhere even if he manages to shift himself away from them, with his legs and hands tied as they are.

As the man slowly regains consciousness, he looks around carefully and appears to weigh his – rather limited – options. He apparently decides to talk, and introduces himself as Ezvair Kimberley, wizard of Maevanne's Magisters.

He also claims not to remember the names and location of his employers.

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After seriously considering torturing the poor incapacitated man, he also shares that he truly does not remember, but that he knows he is being blackmailed to be their enforcer. He remembers that his employers have kidnaped his sister, Daisy Kimberley.

Our heroes seem inclined to believe he is telling the truth, putting them into quite the ethical conundrum – as pounding the man's face in might seem slightly unsympathetic at this point.

Sizing the man up through medical and magical means, [[Lumivarax Firevale|Lumivarax]] and Ulfgar deduce that [[Ezvair Kimberley|Ezvair's]] memory may have been modified through a spell, but they have no idea how to fix it.

After a lengthy discussion on the trustworthiness of the bruised, bleeding and allegedly blackmailed wizard, they opt to bring him to a temple in Minghonda to have a priest take a look at him.

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After being heartily welcomed by an old greeter at the temple entrance, the party explains they need a priest to examine their friend. While not quite being able to immediately explain why their friend was beaten to a bloody pulp and dragged around in chains, they managed to ease the worry of the temple through sheer smiling charm and charismatic nods.

After closing a rather hefty deal for an examination and subsequent with a not-too pious yet all-too greedy priest…

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… they learn that their new friend had been afflicted by a Modify Memory spell. For a "measly" 90 gold pieces more, the priest removes the curse from the poor man.

Now seeming to remember everything, they move to a yet unvisited inn so they can talk privately. Our trusting heroes allow Ezvair to set up a large Private Sanctum spell to shield them from, as he explained, a constant barrage of Scrying spells that his employers have been tracking the party with.

Having now somewhat allied with this strange fellow, they figure it's probably a good idea to give him his clothes back – considering he had been running around the roads and city in his smallclothes for the entire evening.

The trinkets they took from him however, an enchanted ring and necklace which Noa insists doesn't… "exist" or must be "missing".

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He tells them of what happened to him. That inside the mages guild, he had happened upon a shady group of characters. Some of them were members of the mages guild, one of them even the second in command! Two of the other ones seemed different, having an ashen or grayish skin.

They were discussing something something called The Harvest and that it needed to be increased. They caught him eavesdropping on their conversation and managed to overcome him, as the group was quite powerful. After this, they blackmailed him by kidnaping his sister and had him perform horrible tasks as their enforcer and subjecting him to the Modify Memory spell every time.

He also remembers their base of operations, which is apparently a cave somewhere in the Whispering Glade. Our heroes and their newfound arcane companion decide to set out for it in the morning. But first – dinner!

They partake of a meal that is surprisingly good, but considering the rather raggedy look and feel of the establishment suspect the sweet little old lady in the kitchen might be mixing in some untoward types of mystery meat.

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Ulfgar casts Detect Cat on the meal but finds no trace of any felines. Unsure of the exquisite, yet unknown taste, they decide to ask the cook who readily admits that it's mostly made from the birds that are fainting and falling down the rooftiles because of the intense heat of Highsun.

Enriched and enwisened by this new information, they turn in for the night.

20th of Elesias, 1526

In the morning, Noa rushes to the nearest bakery for another bulk-discounted batch of sugary goodness, managing to get an additional discount on top. This displeases the shopkeeper, but provides great value to the meaning of Noa's continued existence.

Moving through the open fields in the west, towards the Whispering Glade, our heroes travel a couple of days. Foraging for food, Darion bumbles and trips – clearly not the most skilled hunter gatherer the land of Hanaa has ever seen.

Andrea decides to show him how it's done while [[Ulfgar Fireforge|Ulfgar]] and Noa bicker over the virtues of veganism. Moving through the forest, Andrea happens upon a rather large species of spider with which she does not immediately make new friends.

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Getting webbing all over herself and her wolf companion Loki, she actually gets into quite a bit of trouble until Lumivarax comes to help her out of her chance encounter.

Onwards they go.

22th of Elesias, 1526

Deep inside the Whispering Glade, through the guidance of Ezvair, they finally reach the cave. Two guards are posted outside, and who knows what dangers lie within? Apparently Ulfgar had an interesting idea about finding out, as he communed with the birds of the forest to find out how many humans they had seen around here.

The birds managed to actually help him out there, mentioning a sizable number of humans and some other races in and around the cave. Around 16 in total having gone in and out recently.

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Ulfgar wasn't sure what kind of bird this was, but he thanks him for the information. Wanting to find out more about the people in the cave, he decides to shapeshift into a tiny lizard to infiltrate the compound.

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Managing to split through undetected, inside he finds three different groups of mercenaries. The second group appeared to be led by a half-orc wizard, but what was most interesting was the third group, all the way down in a sort of carved out room.

Inside were the second-in-command of the mages guild, Ashen Lireth and the two ashen women that [[Ezvair Kimberley|Ezvair]] had described. In the center is another room full of cages, some large and some small, and inside is a pale woman who must be Daisy.

Hiding on a wall in close proximity to the group, Ulfgar manages to overhear their conversation about how there will be another shipment later tonight and that they will take it straight through the portal.

Moving out of the cave, the brave – and no longer tiny – druid relays this information to the rest of our heroes. Ezvair appears right about ready to pop a fireball in the behinds of these mercenaries at the news of his sister, but as a collective they do eventually decide on a more strategic approach. Namely, ambushing the incoming shipment.

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Andrea scouts around for traces of previous carriages moving to and from the cave, and manages to find them quite handily. Moving a ways back from the cave along the tracks, they set up an ambush and lie patiently in wait.

When it finally arrives, the fight is over in a flash. The poor mercenaries that were just trying to earn some coin to take care of their ailing mothers were pierced, skewered and burned to a crisp before they even had a chance to think about who would provide for their hungry children now.

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Inside the carriage was also a mage, who was struck down by Noa almost immediately. One of the mercenaries rushed towards the bleeding corpse of the mage and pulls a wand from his clothes. Darion then instantly assured the mercenary would not use the wand – or any weapon at all anymore, ever.

As the dust of the blitz settles, they look inside the carriage for its apparently precious cargo and find… 10 young children, whimpering of hunger and fear.

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As Noa attempts to calm the children down, [[Ezvair Kimberley|Ezvair]] examines the wand and remarks that it seems to be a Wand of Sending, used to communicate with an equivalent wand anywhere else in the world.

Quickly they pull the cart into the bushes and hide the tracks as best they can.

The wand buzzes with a magical hum as the children cry. What will our heroes do now?

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Masters of Magicks 2

18th of Elesias, 1526

After their harrowing brush with disintegrative death, our valiant protagonists hurry rapidly back to the Order of the Radiant Heart, to verify that the hourglass is still there. Thet meet Ajanis who sends someone to check, and luckily it turns out the artifact is still safely under lock and key.

Somewhat relieved, they exchange their signed voucher for the bounty of Malletface at the main guard office. While there, they check out the wanted posters and notice board to try and find some trace of the wizard who had vaporized their quarry.

He does not appear to be known to local law enforcement though. The guards seem mostly busy with the serial killer copycat, Fizam Deepwind. Ulfgar duly notes that there is a 500 gold pieces reward for Fizam, however, appearing to drool slightly as he reads the pamphlet.

In recurrent disagreement about what to do to earn their daily bread, they consider going to the general store to sell off some of their precious enchanted gear. Out in the open streets, they also start proposing ideas to set a trap for the likely culprit of their previous encounter – the Mages Guild.

As they make a few heads turn with their wild words and plans, our strategic geniuses realize that perhaps a more secluded location would be more suitable for discussing entrapment of mortally dangerous robe-wearers, and they move themselves to Noa's room at the Paladin Order.

In no time at all they hatch out a devious scheme to lure the agents of the Mages Guild to a deserted location outside the city by pretending they are carrying the Hourglass, while in actuality leaving the precious artifact at the Paladin Order under lock and key.

So said, so done. Moving out of the city and past the ocean of poor refugees, they scout out the land for a good ambush location. After a few hours of, they find this spot in a sizable patch of trees with a path leading inwards to a lowered canopy. Spreading out in a cover positions across the trees and satisfied with their result so far, one could even think this party of justice is surprisingly good at devious machinations.

They would make for some fine highway robbers. Fine indeed.

With the trap set and waiting, Noa travels back to Minghonda alone to act as the bait. After only a slight detour and delay at the bakery for a sizable batch of cream puffs for which he charismatically obtained a volume discount, he arrives at the Mages Guild.

He asks for Jorah, and informs him that they decided to move the Hourglass to Corenium where the Paladin Order houses its headquarters. Clearly, an artifact of such power and danger must never fall into the wrong hands.

Having left a rather convincing impression on Jorah, Noa leaves them behind to walk outside, turns a corner into the street, reaches into his backpack and touches the Ethereal plate. A woman lets out a yelp and drops her bucket of apples as he vanishes into thin air.

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19th of Elesias, 1526

The next day, they hold up in their ambush for hours on end. Almost when they started thinking that perhaps no-one was coming, two figures appeared in the distance. Seemingly a man and a woman wearing robes.

Both of them move towards the treeline. Suddenly, the man roughly pulls the woman back. Ulfgar's animalistic ears manages to overhear them saying "Stay back, something's not right."

Surprisingly, the woman looks again and angrily pulls herself loose from the man's grip. With a steady trod she moves into the clearing. Disgruntled, the man's eyes fall upon a nearby bush where Lumivarax is hiding and he yells "I see you! Come out!"

Upon which all hell breaks loose with our unseen heroes executing their trap. Rapidly they descend on the woman who was foolish enough to walk into their midst while the man dashes back from the violence. Seeing his companion knocked down, he starts casting a powerful Illusion spell that affects many of the party and makes them think they are his friends.

This did not appear to affect their feelings about the woman however, who they mercilessly beat down to the ground and gave no opportunity to defend herself whatsoever. 

Suddenly, from his safe distance, the man sends a vicious bolt of lightning into the canopy.

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The blast enveloping most of the party and even the man's companion. The trees behind them are set ablaze in a searing heat.

Shifting priorities and shifting himself, Ulfgar transforms into a horse and stampedes towards the man, managing to knock him down. Slightly surprised at the effectiveness of this move, the man mumbles an incantation and vanishes, only to reappear behind the treeline on the other side of the clearing.

Meanwhile, inside the canopy, the party has efficiently dealt with the man's companion. To their surprise and collective dismay however, upon death the woman's body appears to melt away and left only a puddle of snow. Realizing they have been deceived into wasting their limited power and energy on a decoy, they rapidly turn on the man with what strength they have left.

As Darion attempts to get close to the man, he is lifted off his feat by magic and slammed into a tree where he is held in suspension. When UIfgar and Noa attempt to reach him, the man calls down a column of radiant heavenly fire on them, burning Ulfgar Fireforge back into his normal shape.

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Despite the carnage, with Andrea and Lumivarax raining projectiles on the man from the backline, they manage to break his concentration and hold over poor [[Darion Arendale|Darion]], who rushes the man at this precious opening.

Finding himself surrounded and increasingly desperate at the turning of the tide of battle, he does the unthinkable. With one more incantation, he casts a blazing ball of fire at his own feet, causing a massive explosion that engulfs all the valiant near him – and himself.

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Hurting himself dearly in the explosion, a hidden magic upon his person activates. In that instant, Lumivarax understands what is happen – a magical safeguard was triggered that transported the man a few hundred yards away from the man immediately.

Despite this capricious escape plan, the man lay bleeding on the ground a ways to the south of the clearing. Seeing where he was, stumbling to get up, to get away, Lumivarax hurls a spell after him with his last strength, but misses.

Across the great distance, Andrea sends a last arrow flying from her bow, with the expert shot hitting the man square in the back. He falls to the ground and lays dying.

Realizing they need this man alive, they rush towards his unconscious body and manage to stop him from bleeding out there and then. Smartly they tie him up and gag him to make sure spell casting will be difficult upon waking up.

Upon the backdrop of the blazing canopy and plains, they breathe a sigh of relief. The day had been won.

Image result for d'& burning forest

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Masters of Magicks

17th of Elesias, 1526

Having struck a satisfying deal with Verner at the League of Archeologists, our heroes decide to follow his advice and show their dangerous artifact off to the mages guild, Maevanne's Magisters.

At the reception, a friendly fellow receives them and introduces himself as Tim.

At a short explanation and inspection of the hourglass, Tim looks dumbfounded (and more than a little worried). Hurriedly, he asks them to stay put for a moment while he fetches his boss, Jorvah, the ambassador of the Magisters, Minghonda branch.

Jorvah – walking in with full of pride and confidence – quickly turns bright red after he too fails to understand the artifact. After a while he candidly asks our heroes whether they would consider leaving the artifact with the Mages for safekeeping, but this is politely declined.

The gathering proceeds to find an agreement in that our heroes, through an excited Noa, leaving some contact information with the Mages so they can locate them after finding out more through research in the ancient library and Mages guild records.

At the end of the discussion, Jorvah invites two more specialists in to quickly have another look at the artifact, but they too can't seem to figure it out.

After this fruitless encounter, the party decides to go to the Order of the Radiant Heart, the Paladin Order in Minghonda. As July the receptionist greets them, she asks whether they have an appointment there. Of course our heroes are never that organized, so they have to wait a little bit while July checks the roster.

Noa asks whether Ser Riktor is in, but after checking the schedule July informs him that he is out for the moment. Missing his mentor, they enquire about other resident senior member and are told that Ser Ajanis is in, after a short while he shows up.

 (Note: Did not actually ride into the room on a war horse).

Regailing their story to Ajanis and showing him the hourglass, Ajanis calls in a cleric of the order to look at the party and investigate the hurt they have gone through in dealing with the sinister item. After a full assessment of the situation, he sends out a messenger to call for Ungvar, the guard captain. 

Ungvar, after having been relayed the story of Aredyl, agrees to have the guard post pay for the restoration of our slightly less fortunate heroes. He also agrees to the reward for investigating and resolving the situation in Aredyl, but only after a thorough verification of the group's story, which could take a week.

After a lengthy discussion on their archeological findings with regards to ancient Elven history, our heroes decide that it might be for the best to leave the hourglass with the Order. Ajanis looks rather scared at this proposal, but promises to keep it safe, under lock and key in a hidden place.

The issue of the artifact having been handled for now, they finally figure out that with the Blindfold of True Seeing, they can decrypt the Illusory Script parchment they found a while back. After setting up properly with paper and ink, Noa puts on the blindfold and rapidly jots down what he sees.

And what he sees is a map, of Hanaa, but the names are all different, the settlements are all different, the texts are in Elven. A few places seem to be highlighted, with big highlights around Imir's Watch, Imir's Rest, and smaller highlights around various places that now correspond to ruins in the Esmerian Wilderness, below Dead Man's Peak and in the mountains above Alassa.

Intrigued what this information might mean, they retire to the Bright Apple inn for some well needed rest, intending to go to Cape Merton to investigate the reports of a dragon in the area.

18th of Elesias, 1526

During the night however, Noa wakes up from his sleep to find an intruder coming in through the window. Keeping quiet, noting that Darion did not wake up. As the thief reaches for his backpack, Noa jumps up and  slashes the thief instantly with his sword.

(Not pictured: Pool of blood).

Deciding that perhaps murder is not the best response to thievery, Noa attempts to patch up the thief's wounds, but fails miserably. As the recently awoken Darion frantically asks what happens, Noa awkwardly resorts to using magical healing to save the thief's life.

After waking him up and Andrea rushing into the room as well, they shake down the thief and learn his name is Thomas. Thomas the thief. He was sent here to steal an hourglass from our heroes by a woman called Arathema. Apparently she is a sort of coordinator for organized crime and she usually operates out of an inn called the Frothing Ferret, down at the docks. She can be recognized by her blode hair and a scar across her face.

They take Thomas' cloak from him and decide to investigate the docks. Noa up front and the rest a ways behind so as not to draw any attention. Sadly, our heroes' attempt at prepration was once more thwarted by running straight into an ambush that only Lumivarax noticed from the backlines.

(The name is metaphorical).

They can overhear one of the thugs murmuring "That's them", and a confrontation ensues. The thugs turned out to be rather receptive to an exchange of currency to change their minds, but Lumivrax immediately blurts out that they will receive exactly 0 coins. Unsurprisingly, this results in a fight.

The thugs had their weapons coated in poison, and the big guy wielded a huge hammer and drank potions to turn himself invisible and sneak up on Andrea. Though the fight was tough and risky, the tide eventually turned in favor of our heroes as the last remaining thugs laid down their weapons.

Our honorable heroes very rapidly relieved the thugs of any and all valuables, including the precious hammer of their leader, who's name turned out to be Malletface. They overheard this, but it was also stated in a note they found on his unconscious body.

"Malletface, 500 gold pieces if you retrieve an old hourglass from a band of uppity adventurers. Half now half later. Use as much force as you deem necessary. There's a fighter, a paladin, an elven ranger, a Dragonborn cleric, and a short stocky one with a funny nose. They should stand out. Make it look like a regular hit-up. Meet me at the usual place afterwards. – A"

 

After taking care of Malletface's wounds, the party decides to him and the surviving thugs together and march them straight to the guard post. Turns out there's actually quite a nice bounty on Malletface's head, and after reuiniting with the rest of the group, they move on to the Frothing Ferret.

Having arrived there, Noa offers up a plan to disguise himself as best he can and go inside to meet with Arathena. He actually does quite a good job on making himself unrecognizable and goes in, while the rest waits outside at the front door. The inn itself is full of shady, rough characters.

Most of them do not really look up as Noa enters, but some look at him in quite a distrusting manner. Though perhaps, they do that to everyone. All the way in the back to the left, close to a back-exit, sits the blonde woman with the scar across her face. He decides to sit down at a table not too far from her, and waits.

She does not seem to recognize Noa, but Lumivarax and Ulfgar randomly decided to step into the doorway to take a peak. Arathena instantly freezes for a moment upon spotting them, but keeps her face neutral. Then, a whirl of magic seems to surround her for a short moment, and she slowly gets up to leave.

Immediately, Noa jumps up and holds his sword to Arethea's throat. All within the span of a few seconds, the entire tavern jumps up, many tenants drawing their weapons. Clearly surprised, Arathena regathers her composure quickly, surveys the situation and tells Noa "You should think about your next move very carefully."

But, even more unexpectedly, with true bloodlust in his eyes, Noa replies like a true badass and says "My life means nothing if it means taking yours.". This does seem to legitimately scare Arathena, who sheepishly complies to sit down again and talk.

What follows is a rather strained exchange of Noa's threats and Arathena's attempts at hiding the names of her employers. The lies roll very smoothly off her tongue, but faced with the stern paladin in front of her it slowly starts to dawn on her that she is not tricking or talking her way out of this. She reaches inside her coat.

As Arathena throws down a smoke bomb she had hidden, the tavern erupts in a massive drunken brawl. What seemed like an the tenants' ill-intent towards our heroes turned out to actually be a more generalized displeasure with whoever was nearest to them, as everyone started punching and grappling each other.

Taking the sudden pandemonium as her opportunity to escape, Arathena makes a run for the door while Noa swings his bad at her. She manages to get away however, and bolts straight down the alley behind the tavern.

Downing a potion of invisibility, similar to the ones Malletface was carrying, Arathena believes herself to be safe. Sadly for her, Noa had marked her with Paladin magic and managed to sense her location and strike her down.

Realizing they need answers more so than vengeance, they treat Arathena's wounds and put her up against a wall in the alley to make her spill the beans. While unconscious, she is rather expertly relieved of any belongings and valuables. When Arathena regains consciousness and starts to realize what happened, the alley is illuminated by a bright flash of green light.

And her body disintegrates to dust right before our heroes eyes.

On the rooftops stands a hooded man that yells "Enough of this! Where is the hourglass? Give it to me!"

Despite the clear danger emanating from the hooded stranger, who had apparently just turned their quarry to dust, [[Darion Arendale|Darion]] and Noa start climbing up on the roof to fight the newcomer.

The backline providing support with arrows and Ulfgar has a failed attempt to Charm the stranger intensifies during the fight, as well as Lumivarax eventually managing to hurt the hooded one with radiant magic.

The frustration of the stranger becomes more and more apparent as he casts a wide-ranging spell that does not seem to hurt our friends, but does pertrube him. "Why do you not have it with you?" he exclaims.

Finally, to an attempt from [[Lumivarax Firevale|Lumivarax]] to Silence the wizard's magic, the stranger reacts in a flash and nullifies his spell. After this, clearly upset and growing slightly worried, the wizard casts another spell and vanishes is a flash.

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Time Wanes Wisdom 3

13th of Eleasias, 1526

Pondering the Alchemy Jug that our heroes had found, they all decide to simply take a short power nap there and then to recover their strengths, before moving further into the eerie crypt.

Moving past the remains of the slain golem, the brave adventurers encountered a bend in the halls covered by a huge cobweb. Already fearful due to children's stories of man-eating spiders, they find the corpse of a rather large spider on the ground. Noa rapidly decides on a no-nonsense approach. Namely to just burn the entire thing to the ground.

After throwing his torch in, the bravest of heroes needed to run from the billowing smoke and hide out in the previous room for an hour or so. Once the smoke finally dissipated enough, they bravely set forth once more.

Carefully scanning around for traps and avoiding suspicious pathways, they eventually uncover a room with a big basin in the middle, four braziers around it and a locked door at the end of the it.

After taking in the room for a few moments, they are stunned to find piles of bones floating in the basin. Ulfgar mentions that the bones appear magically preserved, untouched by the passage of time and the bleaching of the water. They also recognize these bones as having belonged to Minotaurs.

Stepping forward to investigate the locked door in the back, they disastrously feel the click of a trap tile below their feet and the vibration of magic in the air. Lumivarax freezes and recognizes the spell being cast; it is Animate Dead.

With ominous splashing of the water in the basin, two Minotaur skeletons rise and pick up their rather large and scary looking broadaxes.

Another fight for life and (un)death erupts as the Minotaur skeletons charge and gore the party with the passion of the afterlife. During the chaos, Noa manages to aggravate one skeleton badly enough to get violently slammed into a wall, collapsing in a particularly unheroic heap.

The well-meaning Andrea runs over to Noa and quickly drags him back to the passage they came from in an attempt to protect him. While this act had a high potential of being heroic in and of itself, the fact that she stepped into a previously undetected pit trap while dragging Noa somewhat detracted from it. Luckily enough, she managed to stabilize herself to avoid falling to a gruesome death and dragging Noa along with her.

As the fight raged on, Noa got back up to fight but had the light knocked out of him once more. Even though the resident cleric was able to patch him up, it was clear the fight weighed heavily on all of our dear adventurers. After gaining many wounds however, they managed to fell the unbeasts.

For a moment the greed inside them made them consider taking the large axes of the felled Minotaur Skeletons with them, surmising they might perhaps sell them to some very large lumberjacks, but ultimately deciding against it.

With renewed fear of deadly pit traps, Noa actually finds even more of them around the brazier room. Best not get impaled today. Examining the braziers and locked door, Darion speaks to the Alchemy Jug "I would like some oil please!". The magical jug churns for a few moments, and after uncorking they find about a quart of oil in it. They decide to use it to light the braziers.

When lighting each brazier, the magical aura around them appears to intensify. After lighting the final one, the somewhat innocent fires all simultaneously erupt in a blaze that gives off a tremendous amount of heat. Inside each fire appears a key, apparently magically suspended right in the center.

After testing out a range of things from shooting arrows at the keys and seeing the wooden shafts burn up, to swinging a Minotaur axe at a fire and waving their shields at it, they appear somewhat confounded by the situation. Nonetheless, our heroes did not take long to apply their collective genius to resolve the conundrum. That is, they decide to send Lumivarax into one of the fires because "Dragonborns are fire resistant anyway".

After poor Lumivarax got rather badly burnt in this endeavor due to peer pressure, Noa eventually runs back down the hall (carefully avoiding the traps) to retrieve the rocks of the golem's remains. Reasoning that these rocks are magical and thus would not be consumed by the fire, he starts tossing them at the fires, noting how they fly through some keys and bounce off one particular one.

Carefully waving their shields at this fire again, they note that these flames do not seem to respond to the gust of air. More deliberation occurs for a while, during which Darion becomes so impatient that he douses himself in the water of the basin and simply grabs the key. The fire does not harm him.

Opening the locked door reveals a wall between two pillars. On the wall, suspended in mid-air hangs a glowing and softly humming crystal.

There are decorations all over the pillar depicting the life and accomplishments of a rather important-looking Elf. Looking around the room itself, our heroes notice that there are similar decorations there.

Wondering what the crystal might be or what it might do, Noa touches it with the tip of sword and is instantly teleported to a room even deeper into the crypt. In this room he sees vast riches against the far walls, gold, silver, gems, fancy looking chests, you name it, this Elf had it.

It does not take long for the others to join him. In between the delicious bounty, they see a blindfolded skeleton in tattered black robes sitting in a chair.

Above him on the walls, an Elven inscription reads:

"Here rests Ceanasan Dakear, who with heavy heart committed his genius to grant the Just a final line of defense against the Shadow. Goddess watch over his remains until the day of the Awakening."

Around the inscription, more depictions can be seen about the life of Ceanasan Dakear. Many of them show him creating things, artifacts, and our heroes recognize some of them from the eerie depictions they had seen before.

The Elvish-speakers among them attempt to communicate with the skeleton for a few moments, but it appears to be silent as the grave. HAH.

Andrea darts forward though to get a closer look on the skeleton and its riches, inadvertently stepping on a similar trap as the previous room contained. As the reanimated remains of Ceanasan Dakear rise before them, our heroes realize that perhaps they should have taken some time to rest.

Fighting viciously with the power of magic, Ceanasan Dakear employs thundering magic to knock everyone away from him, lobs flaming spheres at the already badly burnt clerick, blasts the people near him with destructive rays and attempts to put all our heroes into magical slumber to easily pick them off at his leisure. Through series of violent shakes and slaps, the party members unaffected by the magical sleep manage to wake up the rest as Ceanasan's sword lights up brightly with magical fire.

Lumivarax has to flee the scene to avoid succumbing to the rolling ball of fire chasing him, as the rest of the party gives it everything they've got. Finally, as Ceanasan Dakear shields himself temporarily to brush off his attackers and engulfs Ulfgar's boar-form in flames with a slash of his sword, the resident druid manages to retaliate with one final strike of magically enhanced quarterstaff, reducing the ancient elven inventor's remains to dust.

Finding themselves alone with the loot, our valiant heroes waste no time grave-robbing everything in Ceanasan Dakear's tomb. From his remains they even take his magical sword and, surprisingly, the blindfold that also turned out to be magical. Putting the blindfold on, they find that it grants the bearer a minute of Truesight at the cost of its magical charge, inadvertently wasting a part of its power.

Distributing the wealth and objects they found, they move outside the crypt and set up camp nearby. It is now past midnight.

14th of Eleasias, 1526

After their rest, they huddle together once more to decide what to do. Andrea and Lumivarax work together to identify the tracks of another person on the ground, leading back to Aredyl. They decide to follow it.

Coming back to the edge of the town, the tracks naturally start to mix with the regular tracks of the town's inhabitants. With great precision, Ulfgar manages to differentiate between them and follow the original tracks – all the way back to Alan's house.

Camping outside of his house for a while, Lumivarax performs rituals to detect magic and evil. As he notices a hint of evil inside the house, that is all the convincing that Noa needs – who promptly dashes towards the house and kicks in the door.

Inside they find a startled Alan, busy packing his bags. A fervent discussion between them starts with Alan claiming he was following their advice to leave. At first he denies all the allegations, but our heroes would not be fooled again and see through his lies. Noa decides to threaten Alan quite heavily, clearly hitting a nerve.

Clearly afraid now, he tells our heroes that he will lead them to where he has hidden the hourglass, but only in exchange for his freedom. Tiring of this exchange, Ulfgar decides to cast a Charm Person spell on Alan, and succeeds. As Alan suddenly becomes all about pleasing them, he immediately resolves to lead them to the tree stump to the east of the village where he has hidden the precious artifact.

Alan also admits to finding the hourglass and using it against the villagers because they laughed at him. He had fallen in love with the owner of the general goods store's daughter, but her father would have none of it. Stomping around the forest in anger he had happened upon the crypt, unleashing his anger on the front to break it down. Inside, he had encountered the golem who had swung at him, missed and broken open the hidden room instead. There he quickly grabbed the hourglass and ran away.

Turning the hourglass over to our heroes, they feel the weight of its magical power tower out from it.

 

Returning back to the town, the Charm Person wears off of Alan, who breaks down in pathetic sobs and cries and keeps saying how sorry he is. After another round of discussion, they lock Alan up in the cell of the afflicted guard captain and leaves him some food and drink to survive until the guard sends a delegation to clean up Aredyl.

Meanwhile, Lumivarax attempts to apply his knowledge of magic to understand what it is exactly that they have just uncovered. Identifying the magical nature of the hourglass tells him that its magic is ancient, over a millennium old, and its power is beyond his current ability to perceive completely.

For a while, the group of friends discuss the implications and responsibility involved with possessing an artifact of such demonstrable danger and power. At one point realizing that its power could even topple governments.

On the three-day journey back to Minghonda, Andrea ventures deep into the forests and comes back with a tamed wolf. Branding it her new companion because people are stupid anyway, she names it "Loki".

17th of Eleasias, 1526

Arriving back in Minghonda, they are surprised to find that a sprawling news corporation is now selling magically printed newspapers in the streets. They decide to buy one to read up on all the going-ons in the world. It bunch of articles stand out:

  • Serial killer with M.O. of executed terrorist still on the loose in Minghonda!
  • Another group of children vanished, adding to the recent disappearances of young ones…
  • Political tensions with Himmerion rising over potential cause of desertification to the East…
  • Monster sighting in Lurker Lake! Fishermen claim their boat was capsized by the beast of legend.

Visiting the League of Archeologists once again, they make the mistake of asking Maikel the receptionist how she has been doing. Maikel immediately breaks down in sobs over how tough her life is, and how she recently has had a downswing in the relationship with her boyfriend.

Avoiding the awkward emotional situation, they meet with Verner and discuss the hourglass. Verner, clearly unsettled by the presence of something so powerful, refers them to Mages Guild, Minghonda branch.

They also discuss the Elven currency that they had left behind, upon which Verner remarkably steels himself from his previous uneasiness and enters into a true barter-mode. After quite a lengthy back and forth, they agree to sell the Elven coins for their regular value and an additional 15% on top, with a guarantee of at least 15% being paid out in platinum coins. Noa seems especially pleased at this particular part of the deal…

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Time Wanes Wisdom 2

12th of Eleasias, 1526

After the not-quite-so valuable discovery of the Ring of Swimming, our heroes concluded that perhaps no, the village affliction was not based in the water of the well.

Somewhat unsure about how to proceed, they walk arouind the small town of Aredyl and observe all its lethargic, zombie-like inhabitants for a while longer. Eventually, they spot a young man who does not seem to stare into the distance like his soul was burned out of him.

Approaching him quickly, he gives his name as Alan. He is a hunter for the small town and claims to have been out in the forest for the past weeks, to track beasts for future hunting endeavors.

Stating that he is very concerned about what seems to have befallen his fellow villagers, Noa enquires when these problems had started. Alan responds by saying that it must have only been a few weeks, because nothing seemed to be truly wrong at the time he left.

On the question of anything special or strange having happened recently, he says he found an ancient crypt about a half day's travel to the West. He did not open it himself though, he just informed village leadership before going on his hunting journey. He says he did remember the village leadership stating they would investigate the crypt.

Noa seems slightly mistrustful of Alan, but finds nothing particularly wrong with his story. Upon further investigation they learn that the village leadership consists of the guard captain, whom they already met – and the village mayor. Alan gives them the location of the mayor's house, they thank him and leave.

Nearing the mayor's house they notice the door is adjar. Polite as they are, our heroes knock on the door anyway. A confused "Yes? Come in?" echoes from the inside of the house, and moving inside they meet Aredyl's mayor.

He looks like he is seriously afflicted like the rest of the town, but the party does manage to have somewhat of a conversation with him. He says that he does not know about any crypt, but then again, he's been forgetting so many things lately that perhaps he just does not remember that either.

Starting to suspect a Necromancer's foul play, our friends ask whether the mayor has or knows of any old artifacts in the town. His eyes light up slightly and he excitedly leads the party upstairs to show them his collection of stone and wood carvings. Some of it real freaky shit, but nothing about it appeared magical in the slightest.

Darion however, appeared to perceive all of these objects as powerfully necromantic and started to panic, until Noa gently guided him out of the mayor's house.

Miffed at their lack of investigative success inside Aredyl itself, they resolve to perhaps just travel to the crypt in the West. A night's rest appears an attractive idea though, considering their day's travel and effort spent walking around the village all day, so they go back to the Good Knight's Rest.

The innkeeper appears to have forgotten all about them but treats them like proper guests all the same, despite them not having paid anything. He offers meals to the whole group, but only Ulfgar finds the courage to eat anything in accursed Aredyl.

13th of Eleasias, 1526

As they prepare for sleep in their beds after midnight, they suddenly feel the vile grasp of dark magic. Andrea innately recognizes the magic as an obscure mixture of area-extending metamagic and the Touch of Idiocy spell. Darion and Ulfgar succumb to the spell's effects and feel noticably afflicted after it.

Noa immediately runs towards the windows to check the streets, but perceives no-one. He and Lumivarax rapidly run down the stairs and into the streets to scout around, but the whole town appears deserted. Everybody is sleeping in their beds.

All of them on their feat now, the party discusses a plan of action. They decide to run for the edges of the town to investigate further and stand guard, but all they find is the rustling of the leafs.

Understandably wary of sleeping in the town, they  resolve to set up camp in the forest to the East. During their few-hour walk, for a moment they think they noticed something being near, but perhaps it was simply the wind again or a small animal. 

Setting up camp, Ulfgar pulls more Goodberries out of strange places to feed our hungry heroes. With members alternatingly guarding the camp, they sleep peacefully until morning

Assessing the affliction that had befallen Darion and Ulfgar, it becomes clear that time has not healed that wound. This of course aligns strongly with what they had encountered in the town itself, showing a process going on over a couple of weeks already.

Playing a game of Dragon Chess to test Darion's mental faculties, the latter actually manging to beat Noa. Proving that clearly, intelligence and wisdom are overrated character traits.

Making their way back inside the town, they look up Allan who confirms the time of the strange phenomena last night, but does not appear to be afflicted. Telling him to perhaps get out of town while he still can, they leave for the crypt to the West.

The slab of stone that used to bar entrance to the crypt appears broken, revealing a path downwards inside it. Magical torches light up the darkness, and Noa can't help but tear one off the walls to see if their magic continues working. It did not.

Having learned from their first bad experience descending down ancient crypts, they carefully scan around for traps. Finding none, they slowly move deeper into the crypt, eventually coming to a split in its halls. One passage leading left, towards a room that seemingly also had been sealed with a stone slab. The slab now lay in pieces on the floor, revealing a room inside with a pedestal and eerie depictions. The passage to the right continues deeper into the crypt, curving out of sight.

In an alcove of the passage to the right, the party is alarmed to find a large stone statue staring down on them. Lumivarax quickly identifies this statue as possibly being a magical stone golem, knowing these golems are often created through magical means to guard specific places.

In a further attempt to examine the golem, Noa steps near the entry of the room to the left. The golem's eyes light up blue, and it starts lumbering towards them. A fight ensues – it's clobbering time.

As the fight rages, with Darion heroically pinning the golem in place with a continuous bear-hug, it becomes clear to the party that non-magical means seem to be brushed off by the golem. Creatively, Noa puts on the Ring of Swimming and starts punching the golem, resulting in clear cracks in its body.

Ulfgar, in an attempt to get behind the golem by acrobatically moving through a narrow hole in the rocks, gets his stocky dwarven build stuck in the middle of the fight. When he manages to free his corpulent body from the narrow walls and hits the golem hard with his magical weapon, the golem's eyes suddenly switch from blue to red and it starts beating Ulfgar up like no tomorrow.

As the battle is nearing its end, the golem's attacks intensify until Lumivarax manage to blast it with a radiant blaze of glory. It breaks into pieces and drops to the floor, giving the party a well-deserved moment to rest.

Checking out the uncovered room, they accurately notice two pressure plates in the middle of it and resolve to avoid them completely. Noticing a set of fresh footprints in the dust – also walking around the pressureplates – the survivalists among them judge the age of the footprints to be around two to three weeks.

Nearing the pedestal, they find various vases full of ancient coins, gems, a scroll and an ancient book written in Elven called Maevanne's Codex. Most interestingly however, one of the ordinary-looking jugs does not contain anything but lights up with a magical aura when examined more carefully. Assessing the magical enchantment, they find this to be an Alchemy Jug.

Stashing all the loot at breakneck speed, they stop to observe the eerie depictions in the room. Noting that they bear a strong resemblance to the depictions they found in the cave beneath the ruins of the Temple to Eldath near Minghonda, these depictions portay different scenes:

  • On the pedestal is an illustration of an hourglass emitting an aura, with people around it. Some are hunching down and clutching their heads, some seem to be wandering aimlessly. The pedestal itself is empty, showing a spot in the dust where something had stood not too long ago.
  • Behind the pedestal is an illustration of a man on fire, clearly suffering from the flames, but fighting off a horde of shadowy figures.
  • To the left is an illustration of a night scene with a full moon, a grail is on the ground and a white specter seems to curl around it. Dead bodies are strewn around the grail.
  • To the right is an illustration of a man with a staff, surrounded by a hostile army. He has the staff held high, which is also surrounded by an aura. In the sky a, a large meteor swarm seems to be rushing down at the group.

Pondering the strange jug and the meaning of the depictions, they conclude that perhaps the hourglass depicted on the pedestal had been here before and has since been taken. They huddle together to discuss their next moves.

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Food for the Soul 2, Time Wanes Wisdom

7th of Eleasias, 1526

After driving the ghost back into the ruins, our unlikely heroes take a breather and discuss what to do next. At this point it is becoming painfully clear that this fresh band of adventurers lacks every form of leadership imaginable. Through sheer majority vote, they eventually decide to inspect the ruins where the ghost phased into a wall.

Searching around the area, the group finds the ancient symbol that Viral was talking about. None of them seem to know what it means or where or when it's from, but Andrea carelessly puts her hand on it. Unexpectedly, the symbol lights up and starts humming faintly. A part of the ruins suddenly lowers into the ground, revealing stone-cut steps leading down into the darkness.

Only momentarily wondering if perhaps they should consult the archeologists, the group descends into the cave; rushing forward carelessly with only a single torch to guide them. Heroic this might seem, it also proved somewhat foolish as Darion – leading the group – fails to notice and sets off a dangerous trap. He protects the party valiantly by blocking a spray of acid with his face. This turns out to be pointless though, as Noa, the only other victim of the trap, nimbly dodges out of the way.

After Darion's feeble attempt to heal his molten face, the group rounds the last corner and finds themselves in a small cavern room. Their lantern illuminates a corpse in the back of the room, which they can't help but notice is in a extensive state of decay. A quick glance shows the female corpse wearing the same clerical clothing as the ghost. Some urns are scattered around the edges of the room.

As Lumivarax steels himself and moves closer to inspect the corpse, a loud wail erupts from behind them and the ghost slides out from the wall. It looks pissed, even more so after the party clumsily attempts to reason with her again. Screaming intensifies.

A fight erupts and as it progresses, the ghost is even further enraged by the Lumivarax' radiant magic and attempts to reach him by phasing through the walls. Extraordinarily, the ghost is unable to hurt our favorite heroes at all and she eventually gives in, the party reducing her to a dusty mess of ectoplasm on the ground and wall.

Little time is wasted on ceremony as our heroes congratulate and rewards themselves with whatever they can find in the urns. This turns out to be quite a prize, as they find valuable metals and gems, along with a small medallion. Suspecting the medallion might be magical, they take turns trying to assess the enchantment. The wise and educated among them fail to understand what it does though, after which Darion snatches it up and exclaims that "his father used to have one of these", and confirms it to be a Sparkling Medallion

A closer look on the coins they found revealed Elven decorations, leading Lumivarax to surmise that perhaps these coins are ancient Esmerian. They decide to keep the coins separate from their regular currency, just in case.

As Lumivarax examines the corpse, he notices that the woman appears to have died from falling, as her limbs are contorted in many unnatural ways. He then finds stab wounds and blood stains as well. Looking up, Noa notices a shaft leading up towards ground level where a grate can be seen, a small amount of moonlight shining through. This leads the party to believe the poor woman must have been stabbed repeatedly before being thrown down the grate.

Some members of the party faintly surmise that by destroying the ghost, they likely sent the woman's soul straight to hell. After she was violently attacked and dropped to her death in total darkness.

As they suppress this unpleasant realization and prepare to leave, the pair of would-be inspectors notice a faint hum coming off a metal plate beneath the corpse. Carefully moving the corpse off of it, they learn it seems to be made of solid metal, encrusted with small gems in twenty different colors. They start experimenting through prodding it and stacking urns and gems on top of it. This breaks a few of the urns, and Noa needs to physically restrain an impatient Darion from stepping onto the plate.

As Noa worriedly test out the plate, the rest of the party looks around the caves and notices three scenic, but gruesome depictions:

  • A crude drawing showing a young child being pulled into a dark corner, by long shadowy arms. The child's parents are running towards it, crying out in despair.
  • A larger drawing shows a huge, black portal with an army of shadowy and grey figures pouring out of it. In the distance, alerted watchmen inside and around a large tower. 
  • A large scale drawing of decaying grass and trees, around a disk or plate that seems to emit a sickening aura. Corpses of monsters, people and animals alike are strewn around it.

Lumivarax eventually does decide to try and grab the plate. To the astonishment of the rest of the party, he is immediately transported into another realm. Although still in the same location, everything is distorted and vague, as if looking through frosted glass. He can still see his friends, but they do not appear to see him anymore.

After his initial surprise subsides, Lumivarax notices a plate in the back of the room with Elven writing on it. Above it, a small box is magically suspended in the air.

After reading the inscription, he steps off the plate to walk towards the box and is immediately pulled back to the Material Realm. He shares what he has learned with the party, and repeats the inscription back to them:

"As the centuries turn, so will the Shadow keep falling. When darkness once more blots out the days beyond the Awakening, let this guide the just to fight the madness and the dying of the light."

Intrigued – and in Ulfgar's case, hungry for treasure – they resolve to retrieve the contents of the box. This proves to be quite a challenge to our heroes however, as they just can't seem to figure out how to reach the box after losing contact with the plate.

After quite some shenanigans and crazy ideas – like shooting the box down – they attempt a last ditch effort to lift the magical plate out of it's fitting in the rock floor with their swords and sheer muscle strength. Their force of will proves sufficient, but their strength ejects the plate out of the ground, bouncing it off the wall and rolling into Andrea.

While initially far from amused, her annoyance quickly turns to wonder as the sizable Lumivarax is able to pull the magically suspended box down from the air after moving the plate over to its location. The contents of the box reveal a parchment, but the parchment itself only shows magical swirls. They decide to leave with both the parchment and the plate. The plate receives a name, and the name is John.

Trying to leave the cave, they find that the marking near the door only responds to Andrea. All the while they deliberate loudly over whether they should bury the cleric's corpse. Examining the parchment again – and Ulfgar waving it around like he is trying to dry a towel – makes half of them realize that it must be magically encrypted through Illusory Script, and that the only means to read it would be through True Sight. Sadly, Dispelling the enchantment would destroy the spell and the contents both.

Finally outside, they build a stretcher from wood and leaves, retrieve the cleric's corpse and bury it in the forest with an improvised prayer ceremony.

Hoping this would give the poor woman's soul some rest, each of them shortly feels an intense heat, which leaves them as abruptly as it had come.

Having finished with the formalities, our heroes tell themselves they have well earned their reward, and return to the archeologists' camp for some well deserved rest.

8th of Eleasias, 1526

In the morning, they update the Halfling leader of the archeological expedition on all of their findings. The leader however states that she cannot be sure the ghost is actually gone, and will need verification of this before she can write out a formal letter of recognition to the party. A solution is found by having the party stay another day and night, so that the League can confirm the ghost is actually gone.

Consulting the expedition's leader for her experience, they learn that the magical plate brings any living thing it is in contact with to the Ethereal Realm. Or, to be more specific, the Border Ethereal.

The heroes use their mandatory day off to try and locate the grate they saw through the shaft inside the cave. Eventually they do, and underneath the rubble they find traces of blood and a struggle that have been kept dry from the periodic rainfall. Coming to the realization that the ghost had perhaps only initially been hostile to the Minghondians among them, they conclude that at this point it really doesn't matter anymore.

As the night passes, the expedition leader signs a written confirmation for the party of them vanquishing the ghost and granting them the reward as promised, to be picked up at the office of the League of Archeologists in Minghonda.

8th of Eleasias, 1526

Strolling out to the edge of the forest, each of them could swear they hear faint whispers. although none of them are able to decipher what is being said. The Minghondian's among them recall ancient tales of whispers, after which the region was named – The Whispering Glade.

Shaking off the unsettling sensation, they continue into the plains on their way back to the city.

9th of Eleasias, 1526

Arriving in the evening, Andrea shares some of her silver with a particularly hungry looking refugee. He thanks her kindly, although clearly hoping for more.

Tired from the journey, but delighting in their new found riches, they return to the Bright Apple for some particularly extravagant meals and lodging; Andrea once more settling for a modest one. Loudly they discuss their treasure and what to do with it, seemingly uncaring to whom might overhear.

10th of Eleasias, 1526

In the morning, their first order of business is obviously the retrieval of their just reward. Meeting Maikel at the League of Archeologists office reception desk once more, she inspects the signed letter and retrieves Verner – a higher up in the League's organization. The small Halfling proceeds to confirm the reward with Maikel and pulls a comically large sack of gold out of his small set of clothes.

As per their previous late-night rowdy discussions, our heroes also show Verner some of the ancient coins they had kept aside. He investigates them them and confirms they are legal tender, but appears very surprised at the unusual depictions that portray the currency.

He happily agrees to the party's offer to donate a few of them in return for him checking his contacts for interest in purchasing the remainder in bulk. 

Leaving the League behind and secure of their fat purse, they attempt to exchange some of their new-found wealth at the local bank. Sadly, they are kept in line for an untoward amount of time as preferential treatment appears to be given to Minghondian officials. Openly appalled at the blatant favoritism, they decide to come back later and go to the guard post instead.

Grumpy guard looks no less grumpy than the last time the heroes met him. He does share the information he has on Aredyl and the reports coming from there though, clearly showing how insane and confused the reports had gotten – a pattern in them suggest problems and a plea for help.

The guard cannot promise a reward because at this point they still do not know what they are actually dealing with. But he mentions they are likely to get one in Aredyl itself, or otherwise the guard captain there could sign them a letter to redeem in Minghonda. He writes them a signed letter confirming the group's status as investigators.

Lumivarax enquires about other current affairs in the city, and learns of a serial killer case where a Hanaian terrorist had murdered multiple Minghondian officials. The guards had eventually apprehended him by using an official as bait, and after a rapid court case executed him by beheading.

Continuing his story, the guard tells our heroes that a new murder had taken place that resembled the M.O. of the executed assassin. This time, a high-ranking Minghondian member of the Senate had been killed. The M.O. fit perfectly even; an abduction in the streets by putting a victim to sleep somehow, dragging them off to an unknown part of town, skinning their faces off while still alive and leaving them dead in a seemingly randomly chosen street. The guard concludes they must be dealing with a copycat killer, or perhaps an organization behind the original killer that is continuing the murders.

As our heroes leave the guard post, Ulfgar murmurs that the Minghondians get what's coming to them. This leads to a short discussion about the current tense political climate, ethics, morals, right and wrong. They make the decision to see what they can do in Aredyl instead.

At his second attempt, Noa finally gets his turn at the bank, and manages to persuade the banker Foxworth to let him trade in some gold pieces for platinum without a service fee, despite Foxworth running low on platinum. This does not please the banker much, who nods at Noa warily.

Leaving the city, the thought occurs to them that any wealthy refugees would obviously not reside in the camps near the gates; they would have found easy refuge in the huge city itself. Pondering the injustice and imbalance in the world, they set off for Aredyl.

The journey takes them along one of Hanaa's major trade routes and is rather safe and well traveled. The rest of the party learns, through banter, of Ulfgar's excessive student loan debts. Darion subsequently jokes that they already accumulated more wealth than any of the refugees would see in a lifetime, and he laughs at his own joke as a true bourgeois pig.

Reaching deep within himself,  Ulfgar manages to conjure up magical goodberries from an unknown place to feed the others, who are slightly reluctant at this prospect at first.

12th of Eleasias, 1526

Finally reaching Aredyl, the party meets a trader that is just leaving the town. The trader warns them to just pass this town up, because everyone in there has gone crazy. Bewildered, absent-minded and confused, as if their minds are addled. He goes on to say that it has not always been that way, and states he suspects there might be something in the water that's causing it.

Entering the town themselves, our heroes truly see the strange phenomena affecting the small town of Aredyl. Everyone walking around aimlessly, looking but not seeing, yelling in the streets at no-one in particular. They find an inn called The Good Knight's Rest and attempt to rent rooms for the night.

The innkeeper however barely replies to their queries and seems to not remember what his rooms actually cost for a night. In fact, as the party presses him, he seems to not even remember his own name. For a moment he thinks his name is Tom, but then states that is not true. Finally he goes into a tangent about how everyone in town is a complete idiot lately. The party quietly leaves the inn.

Instead, they stop by the small guard post. Inside, they find a woman who appears to be guard captain. She is sitting behind a desk, around her are many scattered papers and written letters. Also clearly afflicted, the guard captain does inform them a little more. She tells them that she has been writing for weeks to ask for help, that the phenomena had started slowly but had turned very bad recently.

After she forgets that the party is even in her office, she starts drooling a little on her desk.

Resolving to find a suspected magical cause for the strange and disturbing phenomena, Lumivarax starts scanning the town for magical influences. He finds one in the town's well, and Darion descends into it before letting more level-headed members of the groups restrain him this time.

On the bottom of the well, among worthless wishing coins and other garbage, Darion finds a magical ring. After bringing it up and assessing the magical properties of this tremendous find, the party realizes they are holding a mundane Ring of Swimming.

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