Tuesday, October 18, 2016

To Ground in the Snow.

     At first Harrick thinks to the take the battle outside, but the quick realization that they are far outnumbered, and that the mysterious Dragonborn sorcerer is present, changes his mind. While Cawyn's eagles manage to inconvenience the wyvern for a few moments, they are efficiently dispatched and the wyvern lands with a powerful beat of leather wings. One or two Draci are brought down before the group is forced backward into the house.

      This proves to be only momentary safety. Snap is brought low by a rush of Draci warriors in the back of the mission. The General calls down a hellish ice storm within the mission house, catching most of the group in it's painful path. As the Wyvern gets set to follow up the magical attack, Harrick wearily shuts and bars the door, for what little good it will do.

      As the others continue to hold the back door against the Draci, the General calls out above the throng. In heavily accented common he gives the group an ultimatum: "Lay down your arms and come out of the building with your hands raised. This is your one and only chance to survive this day!"

      The group takes a moment to consider their chances, deciding to fight rather than surrender. As the door bows with the heavy blows of an enraged wyvern, Sorsha emerges from her hole, staggering forward. "You cannot die here! I will give you the opportunity to escape. When the doors open, close your eyes and block your ears. With luck, I will catch them all."

     Harrick argues that she will be killed, but Sorsha insists, claiming she may well hide if the Gods are with her and cutting off any further protest by lifting her voice in a defiant Syvani song. When the doors break a crescent rainbow of dazzling energy arches above her. The party quickly covers their eyes and ears as the enemy is momentarily stunned into immobility. When Harrick thinks to resume the killing, Sorsha warns him such action will break the effect. With heavy hearts they gather themselves and escape through the back, taking a few seconds to dispatch the Draci there before disappearing into the woods and down the hill toward their canoes.

      They are met near their boats by a small fox who quickly transforms into the Lady Sariah. The Witch promises to help them escape, but seems to be suffering from some unknown illness herself. She explains that "Grandfather will take you to safety," motioning to a huge Crog waiting in the waterway. Though Calder notices something off about Sariah, they have little choice but to follow her commands. As they allow the giant Crog to pull their canoes into the fog and snow, they ask Sariah to help Sorsha if she can.

      A half candle's fast travel finds them somewhere to the south of the Mission. As the Crog departs, they huddle on a small, treed island, once more lying low, in hopes of eluding pursuit. The snow continues to fall thickly, and the heavy fog covers them like a blanket.

      As the hours tick by, it appears the group has made their escape.Throughout the day the weather continues to worsen, quickly turning into a heavy snowstorm that covers their already well hidden camp. They see to Snap's head wound, with Cawyn taking the time, and the last of his magical energies to properly heal the wound, and prepare for a long rest. In that time, Calder attempts to make crystal comm contact with Mudton Flats, but fails. He does manage to pick up a broken comm signal from some other nearby Crystal set, catching the words, "-torm is blinding us. Call your men back to the camp. We will continue the search whe-" before the signal is lost. The voice isn't recognizable as that of the Dragonborn, and sounds like a man with an Argosian accent.

      They stay put throughout the remainder of the day and night. When the weather finally breaks, Calder attempts another crystal transmission. He's able to get through to Sharpe in Mudton Flats and reports their progress. Sharpe reports that he's having doubts about the Woag attack, and thinks the agression may have come from the Neran side. Cawyn attempts to question the fish, but without much luck. They decide to try for the Woag camp.

      It takes them awhile, but Cawyn is able to retrace the bird's path, eventually finding the great Tangle. Unlike the Bloodroot's domain, the Woag's tangle appears to be in much better shape and has somehow resisted the cold far better, though it lies closer to the center of the Murk. Steering clear of the Draci scouts at the waterway entrance, they opt to pull their canoes into the trees some ways off.

     After Calder sends a spy bug to check the nearby terrain, Cawyn makes contact with one of the many birds, this time a crested northern jay and makes his Druid's bargain. He learns that the Draci have moved into the Woag's home, and darkness resides where the Guardian once dwelt. From this, he gathers that the Tangle is possibly a Place of Power, which would explain it resisting the cold.

      When he travels along with the bird's senses, he's able to see the Woag's hometree in the center of the Tangle. It's a massive Southern Oak over two hundred feet tall. In it's branches are wooden houses and walkways. At it's base is small, warm lake. Off to one side is a hot spring, surrounded by constructed docks and buildings that hum with machinery. Draci and Woag's are industriously carrying barrels to and from the buildings.

     To the other side of the tree is a massive chunk of ice, easily thirty feet across. Attached to it are three machines that hiss and sputter, ducts traveling away from them and along the base of the tree. Before the bird flies back, Cawyn counts two to three dozen Draci and at least a dozen Woag's, who appear to be under guard as they go about their work. Crog riders man the docks at the base of the tree.

      In the shadows at the edge of the tangle, the party discusses their options.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Sorsha's tale

     In the morning the hidden shelter has turned into an icy snow cave, and the flakes keep drifting down through a lead gray sky. Cawyn makes contact with a small, blackwinged sparrow that informs him the lizardmen live far to the west, in the heart of the Murk near something called the Underfalls. He also tells them that a group of webfoots live nearby, and that they are sad.

     In exchange for a a handfull of crumbs the bird agrees to fly into the mission camp and then to the home of the webfoots. Cawyn casts another spell, this time sharing the sparrow's mind and senses.

     First it flies to the mission house. There is nothing in the yard, but inside it spies the dead warrior's arms being lifted and draped into funereal position as a woman's soft voice sings a sad, Syvani song. Cawyn is desperate for more information, but he's only a passenger, and the little bird doesn't linger.

     It quickly flies out the door and zips through the trees, heading south on a circuitous route across the frozen bogs before eventually coming to another great Tangled island, much like the Bloodroot's. But where the old Willow's demesne was dark and mostly dead, this one seems to have somehow survived the cold better.

     The ice seems thinner and a narrow, open waterway can be seen disappearing into it's depths. As the sparrow briefly rests in the branches of a bog pine, Cawyn can make out two attentive looking Draci warriors apparently keeping watch. Feeling that it's mission is over, and longing for more crumbs, the sparrow zips back across the bog, returning to Cawyn's promised treats in just over a quarter candle.

     The party decides it is crucial to return to the mission house to discover the identity of the invisible singer. While the rest wait at the willow switch fence, Calder sneaks back into the house. After careful observation he finds the woman in the side room. Though she is still invisible, he can hear her rooting around, and by the sounds of muffled coughing, she's sick.

     Deciding to chance it, he reveals his presence. After a tense moment, she in turn drops her veil and he sees that she is a fevered, blinded and starving Kirith-Syvani woman in a ragged cloak and dirty leather armor. She passes out and he brings her to Cawyn.

     Over the next half candle the party converges in the main room of the mission house and administers healing to the woman. Though Cawyn's magic is enough to bring the fever down, he can do nothing for her ice damaged eyes beyond clean and dress the wounds in new bandages, and only rest and food will fix her other ills. With gentle prodding, she does wake long enough to give her name, Sorsha, and warn that Draci scouts have been checking the place on a regular basis. She points out the secret chamber under the house where she has been hiding. Once Snap removes all sign of their recent activities, they all hunker in the underground room while Sorsha relates her story.

     "I am part of a secret organization whose purpose is to prevent planar threats. Brother Seohane reported such a threat might exist here. I was sent to find him or his ledgers, and from him and them, to ascertain the threat level and either eliminate it, or bring back more detailed information."

     "Billings our scout died on the ice when the draci ambushed us from beneath. Grisham, Doolin, Caplan and I fled toward the camp and were surrounded. That's when the dragonborn showed up on his wyvern. Caplan surrendered. When the rest didn't, he was executed and they all came at us.

     "During the fight, I veiled and tried to get the drop on their leader. He brought down icy hell and blinded me. I kept my veil going, I don't know how. Made it outside and listened to my friends, to Doolin... slaughtered. I stood there among them, waiting for one of them to hear me, smell me, hells, just run into me. They didn't. I was blind witness to the death of my friends."

     She notes she thinks she heard the draci warriors refer to the dragonborn as General Shard. Sorsha is much relieved to find that the party has her journal instead of the enemy, and she hands them another booklet, which turns out to be Brother Seohane's journal that she found in the secret chamber, and was of course unable to read.

The Journal of Brother Seohane

     The whole of this journal is couched in vague terms and explanations, which apparently only make sense if you know the specific events and subjects to which they refer.

     Many earlier entries talk of his mission for the Brotherhood to discover the outworld source somewhere in the murk.

     At one point he writes that he considered mentioning his mission to Bishop Doyle but decided against it fearing that the bishop would not like his ulterior motives for being in the camp.

A middle entry:

     Three weeks in Camp and I haven't had a chance to investigate deeper into the Murk. I am hoping to have a chance on a Hunting Expedition this week to do a little investigating. The cold has progressed a little more every season according to the locals in Mudton. It is hard to understand how these creatures, normally used to far less ice and snow, are adapting so well.

A later entry:

     I had my first encounter with a draci Scout the other day. He was by himself but still menaced me to the point that I thought I was going to have to defend myself. Thankfully a small show of magic was enough to send him scurrying. Before he departed I had a chance to notice he carried a bit of magic himself. I wasn't able to determine its source beyond it planar nature, but just knowing its presence, leads me to believe the draci are somehow involved.

     There are several entries talking about the woag. Speaking of how they keep shyly coming around the camp. "If I could pick their brain concerning the interior, I'm sure they could tell me much about an outworld influence."

     At one point, Harrick brings up the sword, and is told quite clearly that Doolin would have wished the weapon be employed against the draci. Sorsha says it's name is Winter's Scourge and it's activation phrase is "Ní mór an banríon gheimhridh bás" - The winter queen must die.

     The plan is to send Calder's mechanical bird to Lady Sariah's, asking her to aid Sorsha.

     Not long after that, they all hear something or someone rummaging in the room above. The noise eventually fades. Calder scouts it out and the others follow. The main building appears empty. Cawyn goes out the back door and finds that many Draci warriors are approaching through the trees. A wyvern cries from above and he is attacked once more with spellfire. The battle is joined. Shots are fired and McFall is wounded too. Eagles are summoned to harass the wyvern rider.

Golems, Wyverns and Octopi

     As the Ice Golem emanates waves of searing cold, Harrick and the others encircle and attack. Though it proves resilient to shards and blades, Flails, druidic spells and Hellish rebukes do much better. The battle is short and vicious, but the outcome never seems in doubt. The golem falls and the party loots the body of a fine magic broadsword, and what they eventually learn is a bag of holding.

     Cawyn notices a peculiar bit of magic that takes effect upon the creature's demise: An alarm spell that triggers upon its destruction. Fearing follow up visitors, they quickly search the body, taking the warrior's sword, dagger and satchels. They then make a quick search of the premises, but find that it's been looted clean. They then decide to make a camp somewhere off the island, leaving Cawyn nearby to watch for visitors and trusting that he can escape quickly in animal form if discovered. This nearly proves a dangerous miscalculation.

     As Snap finds a hidden, dry camp a quarter candle's distance, Cawyn finds a spot of overhanging reeds and plants, on the ice and near the waters edge, where he can view the island to see who comes in response to the magical alarm. As the Wical watches the water's edge, several miles away Calder reads from the journal they found on the fighter at the center of the ice golem. The booklet, which has a hammer, quill and scroll embossed into the cover, apparently belongs to a woman named Sorsha Nimraith Eledwyn, who belongs to some kind of brotherhood. It is an account of her mission into the murk, to seek out a fellow member of her order and retrieve some kind of important information concerning an "outworld threat." The details seem intentionally vague, as if the reader should know certain things in order to make sense of the rest.

     Of particular interest are the bits describing how the Draci seem to be in league with the enemy, and how Sorsha's agent within the camp discovered that the Draci have allied themselves with the wyverns. This bit of information being especially important to Cawyn, who is currently looking the complete wrong way when death comes from above. The wyvern's claws rake the Wical as he desperately rolls toward the water's edge. Searing Bolts of flame follow, hurled from the hands of the rider. Wounded and disoriented, Cawyn takes the form of a giant octopus and jets away into the cloudy depths. His first attempt to hide beneath the thick ice and reeds isn't good enough to avoid the Wyvern's keen senses. It cracks through the thick ice after him again, and once more he jets into the depths, this time finally finding sanctuary in a log at the bottom of the deepest channel.

     Miles away in the hidden campsite, the rest of the party hears the cries of the wyvern. Fearing what it means for Cawyn, they decide to row back, despite the danger. When they finally arrive, a half candle later, it's to find the area where he was hiding and the signs of the fight, but they can't gauge the outcome. They bring the boats ashore in the thickest trees near the water's edge, explore the shores of the island and wait.

     Octo-Cawyn meanwhile has gently repelled the questing nose of a cold-water crog, after the scent of druid blood. He eventually comes ashore, not too far from the others and remains hidden on the snow. As fate would have it, Calder comes across him eventually and brings him into their camouflaged camp. After a briefing, they fortify their hiding spot as the snow begins to fall thicker, and they settle in for a cold, but undisturbed sleep.