Tueor Pectoris

Duerroguard

The travellers see a flight of red dragons pass overhead as they enter the city of Deurroguard. They meet with Hagan’s old Cleric teacher and are sent on an underground voyage through the mountain pass. They successfully clear out the trouble on the way in. The dwarves had been extending the tunnels and transporting emeralds form the mines without giving dues to the Duerroguard on the surface. The travellers were paid by what they could carry out, which was considerable. They were also given instructions to delve deeper into the caverns and found the large underground city housing the miners and dwarven fighters. Through skill, fortitude, and genius, the travellers connived their way in, camouflaged into the workers, then found the plans of the miners hidden in the main office. Their Duerroguard friends were thankful for the plans which showed how their enemies were getting supplies in and out of the underground city. The travellers followed the plans through the mountain range and came out on the other side in a large cavern city on the water.

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White Lotus School of Magic

The travellers are waylayed by ruffians who bring them back to the White Lotus School of Magic. There they solve a mystery of who is stealing the power and disrupting classes.

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Nightmare's End

Settling in for the night in the Dreamstone rooms

As the party settled in for the night, Illyana Zo’Arden paced furiously. She was not happy with the decision to cease pushing forward until they found her Zocart Dra’lirden, but when forced to think rationally and face facts there was no way around it. Krifo and Hagan Grimmbrow were just too beat up to continue on and even Gilwen the Wanderer and Wraith weren’t looking that great. They had to rest, even if it did mean sleeping in this accursed place.

The night passed uneventfully for Illyana Zo’Arden. She tried to find Zocart Dra’lirden in her thoughts again before trancing but could not. Bos Sauveli was able to sleep well also but the rest of the party did not. They were plagued by a dream of being hunted by villagers for taking a man’s eyes, even though they did not. Though mostly rested when they awoke, they felt less powerful for having slept in the presence of Dreamstone.

While they gathered their gear Illyana Zo’Arden was quite anxious to be on her way. She was still quite worried that she had not been able to find Zocart Dra’lirden in her dreams again that night and was afraid that it meant the worst. Surely she would know if he was dead, though…wouldn’t she? It was becoming more and more obvious that there’s was a strong bond laced with magic; wouldn’t she notice if that bond was suddenly gone?

After what seemed like hours Krifo put the swinging eye back together and they moved it out of the way, descending into the caves made of pure Dreamstone. Many found it disconcerting to be down there and soon Illyana Zo’Arden, Bos Sauveli, and Wraith were pushing and pulling the others along towards the chanting. When they came to the two staircases they sent their companions up the one while they took the other.

Up they went into the chamber full of chanting, monsters, bones and blood. Fresh blood…Drow blood. Illyana Zo’Arden knew that smell anywhere. When you grew up in the Underdark it was a scent you became most familiar with. But where was it coming from…there, above! What was that beastly contraption in the ceiling feeding that…thing...in the coffin. As the battle raged on it was all Illyana Zo’Arden could do not to scream in anger and fear, especially when that witch of a tiefling shoved the spikes in him. When the last creature finally fell Illyana Zo’Arden rushed back to the device. Bos Sauveli and Hagan Grimmbrow were already carefully extracting Zocart Dra’lirden from the thing and healing him as best they could. Soon he was breathing steadily again and it was safe for them all to get out of there.

Back through the maze of dangerous, bizarre rooms they went, each breathing a sigh of relief when they came out of the complex and back into the sun. They traveled back to the Raven Queen followers with Zocart Dra’lirden and the bones of the Sleeper and Sir Maligant. As the appropriate ceremonies were performed Illyana Zo’Arden kept close watch over Zocart Dra’lirden who was still sleeping off everything that had happened. As night fell, his eyes finally opened and darted around the tent, finally focusing on Illyana Zo’Arden.

A’maelamin...iz it you and not another dream?”

“Yes melamin, it iz really me. You are safe at camp vith my friends.”

Zocart Dra’lirden lets out a deep sigh. “Zen at last zat nightmare iz over.”

“Are you feeling better, stronger?”

“Yes. I seem to remember someone vorking to heal me…I vould say zat he vas quite successful.”

“Ah, zat vould have been Hagan. You vill have a chance to meet him later. But for now”, Illyana Zo’Ardenreplied as she leaned in closer, “you can tell me…”

As Zocart Dra’lirden leaned towards her, Illyana Zo’Arden’s golden eyes narrowed. “You can tell me vat in the name of Lolth you have been doing spying for VAMPIRES!”

On the other side of camp, Krifo looked at Fluffy. “Bet he didn’t see THAT coming! Shouldn’t he know by now not to make her angry?” Had anyone been watching, they would have seen the large cat nod her head at the kobold as they sat and waited for the yelling to commence.

Zocart thought back to the one time he was truly aware of how badly it had all gone, when he had scribbled down on a piece of paper the apology he thought he would never be able to give to Illyana:

{Illyana,

Please forgive me. I know not where you are, or where you will be, so I write this message in my heart and pray that my thoughts will find you. I have betrayed your trust. I am still not sure how it happened, but I ask for your forgiveness. When we meet again, it will be under very different circumstances, and I hope you will remember our close friendship, as it was in Ganslow. I always believed there was something more than friendship, perhaps, but it may be too late now. Please forgive me,

Zocart Dra’lirden]

Zocart grimaced and checked to see who was listening to their conversation.

“I was working at the libraries in Avalon researching some ancient rituals. I tracked down the rituals to their last known location, on Isola degli Dei. I took the first ship over. On the way I met some interesting people, well, I thought they were interesting. They seemed like they knew a lot about the rituals and in return I promised them a favor. You know I would do anything for the cause.”

Zocart shifts quietly and leans even closer.

“They promised to introduce me to the ones in possession of the rituals if I would in turn do them a favor to be named. I agreed. I was so close and I needed the introduction. From what I had heard the people of the island are very tight lipped and do not like foreigners. I was brought through back streets of the port city and finally down though a tunnel into what I can only call a lair. I knew I was in trouble but these are the kind of people you don’t mess with.”

“Who were they?”

“They are a very old group of vampires that have been living there for centuries. They let hardly anyone in to their abode and very few that enter return to the mortal world alive. I was brought to one of the women. She was pleased to discuss the rituals. She was interested in my studies and encouraged me to investigate the great library of Fakenham Magna soon. I agreed to go to the library to find the other rituals I was looking for.”

Illyana shook her head sadly and waited. Zocart lowered his eyes to the fire.

“I was so happy I didn’t even realize the danger I was in until it was too late. I was brought to an office with maps covering the walls where an old man and the fellow travels from the ship were deep in conversation. They invited me in and introduced me to the man whose name will haunt me forever. Arden. “

Zocart shivered in the cool evening.

“Arden was smile and welcoming gestures and then he requested the favor I had promised. He explained that he was collecting information about the continents, their capitals, and the people in them. It seemed as though he had been out of circulation with the world leaders for a while. He had tombs of written word, pages and scrolls in all hands and all languages collected form many sources. He questioned me about Ganslow and Avalon. He asked what information could be found and who was of interest in the city. When he asked about the citizens, their allegiances, and their customs, I grew slightly disgusted and he could tell. He asked if I was not a fan of the local culture there. I explained it was not like home, people were weaker and they were not as strong as those of us who traveled for the arts.”

Zocart looked at his hands and shook his head. “He knew. Somehow the old man knew. He asked me who had been with me that had gained his respect and why. I tried to hold back, but he in a way compelled me to tell him. I told him everything. I told him who you were, how we met, and how strong you were in your arts. He was very interested. I had no idea. He asked where you had gone from Ganslow, and I told him you were headed for Stony Cross. Immediately I could tell I had betrayed you. He threw me out the door and I waited while he discussed with his compatriots. I could hear raised voices and I grew impatient.”

“Finally he came out with a smile and told me I was going to do them the favor of visiting you in Stony Cross and warning you about the Blackbournes. Did you know they were evil? They are setting up an army to take over the continent and will probably try to get you to work with them. He was very agitated that I get to you quickly. On my way from Fakenham Magna south I was brought in for questioning by another local group working for the same man. At first I thought Volcanth was treating me to dinner as he mentioned but then I was thrown in the cell and questioned for days. I was beaten by monsters from the far realm and then brought in to be tortured. I thought I was gone but I saw you in my dreams, you seemed so real and so close I just had to hold on a little bit longer…. And then you came. Thank you. I don’t know which is worse, betraying you, almost dying, or possibly angering Arden.”

Illyana sighed, taking in everything that had happened these last few weeks and wondering where to begin.

“Zocart, the Blackbournes are evil…by the vampires standard. They are Dhampyric, half-breeds. They are against everything the vampires stand for. They are forming an army to stand against the vampires, not to take over the continent. I know this because they have asked me…asked all of us…to stand with them. We have not agreed yet but are still highly considering the offer. That’s how I found out about your dealings with them, though I already had my suspicions from that letter you sent. Well, the one you didn’t send but did – it kind of showed up in a hall of mirrors.

Anyway, I do NOT like the fact that this Arden is also so curious about my past. Isn’t it bad enough that the Blackbournes have already dug into my twisted lineage!”

Zocart looked at her questioningly; “Your lineage is no different from other Drow, is it?”

Illyana huffed at him; “Except for the part where half-breed blood runs through my veins if I choose to acknowledge it. Oh don’t look too shocked – is it really so surprising that one of my ancestors would have slept with a vampire?”

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Nightmares and Bone Shards

Dawn came bringing a close to many a nightmare. Wraith, seemingly shaken by his dream, went for a short walk with Sauveli, creating conversation about the odd wormwood trees of the forest. The branches and bark look sickly and deformed.

After the group packed up camp and mounted their friendly mounts. They headed off following the road north west. Small white snowflakes danced on the air and Gilwen looked about her with acknowledgment to the changing of the seasons. ‘One more season come to past’ Gilwen thought to herself as the sound of horse hooves from in front of her caught her attention. She warned the rest of her party as they rounded a corner and spotted the caravan moving their way.

Two horse drawn carts progressed towards them followed and surrounded by individuals baring the symbols and regalia of the Raven Queen. Sauveli motioned for the rest of the party to direct their horses off to the side allowing the caravan to progress between them and the wormwood forest, there fore giving them way on the road. Sitting in the first cart are three elders (women of the Raven Queen) and a young albino girl.

Krifo managed to address the party, very bluntly, about why they were moving the remnants in the rear cart, which is a covered funeral progression of sorts. The women in the front of the party tell the group that the remains are of Sir Maligant (spelling! and perhaps what we learned off the history check? I don’t remember and it would be something that Kevin asked) and that they were being moved to their final resting place.

Suddenly a large flock of crows erupt from the wood and soar over head, warning the two parties that they were about to be joined and it was unlikely by a friendly force. Several tieflings and other humanoids became visible from the thick forest, some bearing axes swords or staffs. Gilwen attempted to ask the aggressors what they wanted however with a “Get away and you won’t get hurt!” the fighting commenced. It was apparent to the party that the third party had one main target, which was the covered funeral cart however the magic wielders also seemed unhappy at the presence of the albino.

Illyana managed to convince one wizard (woman) to surrender through an amazing bluff while Sauveli gets caught up in scuffle with a tiefling and is for a time left blinded. After picking off the band of tieflings and humans one by one the sound of large wings could be heard approaching from over the wood. A hippogryph joined the fray, a powerful looking necromancer riding upon its back. The hippogryph swoops in and manages to sink its talons into the roof of the now damaged caravan, scooping up the remains of Sir Malegant’s coffin and attempts to get altitude. Before it can get away a few well placed arrows from Gilwen as well as some curses from Wraith and Illyana the hippogryph dies, sending the necromancer, who looks strangely familiar to Illyana (from her ‘dream’), to the hard unforgiving ground. Prior to the death of his stead Illyana and the necromancer had had ‘words’, rather shouting, and his name had been discovered as Volkanth. holding Illyana’s boyfriend!!!

Remaining prone, Volkanth manages to slip a bit of something from the remains of Sir Malegant, most likely bone, into a cylinder which then vanishes into thin air. Though he and his remaining 3 comrades attempt to high tail it through the woods the adventurers catch up to him and capture him along with two others (one who had surrendered to Illyana’s wrath, and a ‘pirate’ (don’t remember who he was) as well as one ‘wizard’ who was really Wraith in disguise). After removing Volkanth’s weapons and binding his hands, along with the other prisoners, Illyana talks with the three women from the first cart. Sister Naenia is anxious but thankful for the protection. The surviving pilgrims pick up the remains of Sir Malegant’s bones. They are traveling as a pilgrimage to bury him so he can not be released with a ceremony. Reincarnate. When Naenia is told that Volcanth had indeed sent a bit of remains off to who knows where she begs the party to retrieve the container and prevent them from attempting what they plan to do with it. She also asks for the party to swear fidelity to the Raven Queen in their attempts at their quest. Sauveli talks to the young albino.

Sauveli acquires a +2 Life drinker Long sword at Volkanth’s expense. Hagan acquires a throwing shield and Wraith, who is still counted among the prisoners, will eventually receive a Staff of Ruin.

Once the band decides to aid the religious pilgrims (and attempt to save Illyana’s boyfriend) Illyana angrily questions the captives. She manages to pertain the basic information of which direction to follow before Hagan angrily spears Volkanth to a twisted worm wood tree for the crows. Gilwen, who had been plucking feathers from the hippogryph, hacks off a bit for Fluffy before joining the party as they head down the barely existent path with the ‘pirate’ and the wizard in tow, the two of them leading the way.

The trees were tight together, making it impossible to ride the mounts as the party pressed onward. Gilwen smells the faint smell of pipe smoke and attempts to signal the party that there is some one in front of them, waiting in ambush most likely.

Breaking momentarily from the wooded path a frozen river lies in their wake and greeted on the far side are large boulders along with enemies, no doubt from the caverns/tunnels where Volkanth and his horde had come from. A battle ensued rather quickly, with Wraith still posing as one of their own, managing to get in their ranks and slew a few of them. Psychiatric attacks as well as flying fire filled the air as ranged attacks flew over the strikers heads. Zombies joined the ranks of the fight where blood had been spilled upon the ice. The group tiredly fought on, already spent on their previous encounter they managed to eliminate most of the threat and run after the remaining two or three individuals. Krifo gets a sliver from the worm wood trees as he swings in pursuit.

After locating the face shaped entrance the group decides to rest for the night before heading in, feeling it would be better to go in with pistons fully firing since they would already know they were coming.

The troop of adventurers head near a half mile into the woods down wind of the entrance and light a controlled campfire and build a small raised platform for sleep.

During the first watch Gilwen and Hagan soon learned that blood mixed with wormwood created phantom identicals of those whose blood had been spilled when they spotted Volcanth and Krifo amongst the Bone shard skeletons that surrounded them. They had had a slight warning from the sound of Krifo’s traps being sprung. Six skeletons attack the exhausted party and eventually they are able to go back to sleep but not before they suffer a few major bows from the attack as well as watching Wraith fall from a tree as well as the sight of a flaming minotaur.

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Fealty and Pork Roast
Off they go.

The friends met with the Blackbournes. Each had the chance to pledge fealty to the Blackbournes and give them their assistance. None of the heroes decided to stay with the Blackbournes and prepare for the invading Volturi. Some did, however, give the Blackbournes their assurance that they would fight any signs of the invading forces when they came across it on their travels. Each person who promised to aid the Blackbournes was given 2000gp for “greasing palms” and “opening doors”. They were also each given a special magical item to help them on their path. Wraith stayed out of sight. Gilwen spoke with the Blackbournes at length.

Each had their own questions they needed answering. They had been gone for three years and had lost contact with friends and homelands.

Hagan recommitted to hunting down the undead and fighting back the traces of Volturi influence in Abyssinia.

Gilwen was determined to find answers and her place in the great goings on.

Illyana had lost contact with Zocart and hoped to find clues to what his strange message meant. Was he with the Volturi? Where was he? Why was he asking for forgiveness?

Sauveli was on a mission to find his friend Old Gammick and his family sword. He had an idea that Gammick had gone to Kina Peak in the Onen Kingdom, and was in pursuit.

Wraith feared for his anonymity and was determined to make sure no one knew who he was or what he was. No one.

Krifo was in it for adventure. Where would the path lead him? What treasures would he find? He had some big claws to fit into, and he needed to work on his dragon abilities. He still wasn’t sure how to get his breath weapon working properly. So far he had only experienced a slight acid.

The heroes left the direction of their travels to chance. Rolling an ancient tool of travelers, a compass d8, they discovered their true path lay to the NorthWest.

Through Stony Cross they traveled for three days. Just as they were crossing the border of Stony Cross into Butte close to the wild woods of Suffolk, they ran across a troupe of wild boars.

(Suffolk is known for its pig farms where they breed pigs with wild board to create the best natural tasting gamey pork. Zarathustra had also been ordering pigs blood from Suffolk to feed the vampires in the castle dungeons. Although Suffolk lost their business with Zarathustra last week, they are confident that their pigs blood will come in hand someday and so are keeping casks of it in storage.)

The heroes fought the wild boar, and fed well while camping for the night. They set guards and had a good night sleep. The smell of campfire smoke and roast pork woke the deep sleepers as the last guard prepared breakfast. The sun shone through the trees and the dew on the leaves splashed their faces as birds and squirrels jumped from branch to branch. An idyllic morning on the road.

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Hagan's Helm
The Master Departs

Hagan awoke early in the morning. The sun was bright in the cloudless sky, sending Long beams of light through his window. He rubbed his black eyes and stretched his shoulders before dressing. He walked over to the basin near the door and scrubbed his face with the cold water and rinsed his hair. A strange thought troubled his mind as he went about his morning routine.

I still feel the same.

Hagan walked to the front desk and pulled out a bottle of ink, a quill, and some parchment. He started writing a note to Lotho; instructions for him to follow in his absence.

Lotho, I’ve decided to take some time off from the shop. My friends and I have some pressing business to attend to and I’m leaving you in charge of the shop until I return. I’m leaving you my ceremony book should you require anything special for a customer. Just remember to keep track of things in the log book and I’m sure everything will go smoothly. Any equipment you should need is in the back room. I have every confidence that you will do a fine job. I’m leaving some extra coin in the lockbox should you need anything else.

Hagan folded the note and placed it into his pocket. Better not let Lotho know he was leaving just yet.

He unlatched the door and pulled it open, leaving it unlocked as he walked the cobbled path into town. He ran his fingers through his hair almost unconciously. It was nervous habit around unfamiliar people. This mild paranoia was amplified by his dhampir blood. The fear that came with this knowledge was almost not worth the trouble.

What if somone can tell what I am? Is my secret safe with those who know already?

Hagan couldn’t help but wonder if the strength that came with his acceptance of his lineage was a double edged sword. He had gained the strength, but now the Blackbournes knew what he was as well. Yes, they needed his help now, but would his secret be forgotten after the war, or would he have to remain subserviant to them for fear of being exposed?

Amidst his doom-and-gloom mindset, a small ray of hope emerged. The Blackbournes knew what he was, but he knew what they were. More importantly, they knew that he knew this. Still, had they revealed their hand as a sign of trust, or a slip of the tongue? Either way, Hagan had a plan if he were exposed.

As was usual for him, heavy thought made Hagan hungry. He changed his course and headed to Hot Buns for a snack. He pondered speaking with Illyana should they meet, but reasoned that she would either be in her shop, or with Sauveli.

He bought a large cinnamon roll and a mug of hot chocolate before resuming his walk to his original destination; John the Hammer.

He finished his snack moments before John’s smithy came into view. He decised that the incessant noise of a hammer striking hot metal was proof enough that John was there.

Hagan walked through the smithy, admiring the weapons and fine armor on display. John seemed to have a sense of when somone was in his shop; even though his back was turned to Hagan, he shouted to him.

“Be with you shortly, sir!”

Hagan did not respond, but kept peruzing the assortment of armor layed out on crates about the shop. Many were to heavy for him, others simply didn’t fit his style.

Suddenly, Something caught Hagan’s eye. A helmet that seemed to fit his needs. The overall design was simple; riveted plates to cover the head, but with spectacle-like guards for the eyes. Upon closer inspection, Hagan saw that there was also a chainmail aventail that hung from the bottom edge of the helm and could be tucked under clothing or armor. Somthing about this unasuming helm appealed to Hagan. It was sufficient for combat, but it needed somthing. All Shadar-Kai weapons and armor were adorned with markings unique to their owner.

“Can I help you, sir”

Hagan turned quickly, but saw no one. Then he looked down and saw John the Hammer’s soot covered face looking up at him. Hagan handed the helm to John and checked his pockets for his coins.

“How much for this Helm?”

John turned it over a few times, trying to appraise it.

“Well, it’s a simple design, but the aventail makes it worth a bit more…How does 20 gold coins sound?”

Hagan pulled out coins and counted them out before handing them to John.

“How much would you charge for a custom design on this? Nothing too fancy, just some engraving. And can you alter the color of the metal with heat?”

John looked perplexed at Hagan’s question, but thought over the procedure carefully before answering.

“I suppose I could treat the metal in certain spots, but that isn’t easy, so it costs a bit more. And you said you wanted some engraving done…35 gold coins for the whole thing.”

Hagan handed the coins to John who took one and bit down on it, checking its authenticity.

“For the design, I was hoping to have a handprint on the front; having the palm just above the eye guards and the fingers running to the back. And the engraving would be around the edges of the design. How soon can you have this done?”

John thought about it for a moment before responding.

“Throw in another 5 gold coins and I can have it done before dinner.”

Hagan handed John another five gold and bowed slightly as he left. On an impulse, Hagan took a detour down the waterfront. He walked down the coast, past the docks and the ships to a rocky stretch of coast. He stoot on a particularly large boulder and faces the ocean, feeling the cool breeze blow inland off the water. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, smelling the salt in the air. He allowed himself a beif moment of peace before his thoughts consumed him again. Should his company fail to defend against the Volturi, this place he had come to call home would be burned to the ground. Hagan had been drawn out of his first home; he would not loose this one.

Taking one last breath of the saly air, Hagan walked back to the shop. He checked the log book and saw that no one had been in today.

If things keep going this way, Lotho is going to be one bored halfling.

Hagan spend the afternoon inspecting the chainmail in his coat; checking for bent rings or gaps. Then he polished the leather on his coat as well as his boots before walking back to the smithy for his helm. John had done a fine job on the helm and Hagan thanked him again for it before walking to the Drake for his dinner. He decided to spend a bit more for the steak dinner since it might be his last meal at the drake for a while. After a good dinner and a few mugs of ale, Hagan went home and lay awake on his bed. no matter what he did, he felt unprepared for the challanges ahead. As dusk settled on Stony Cross, Hagan drifted off to sleep after a short prayer for the strength to endure the trials to come.

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Angst and Shrubbery

Gilwen leaves the castle and looks up at the sky. The sun was beginning to set in the west and she breathed deeply a sigh of relief. Now that she was once again in the open air of the outdoors she could relax a bit. With Veryn hooked to her quiver Gilwen heads out towards the southern edge of town in search of Hagan’s dwelling. She felt the need to check in on her friend to make sure he was still alive at least if not alright. After having discovered their dhamphyric bloodlines she had been concerned for the others… all of whom were of a younger age and had grown extremely accustomed to their beliefs and the image of who they were.

Gilwen sneaks past store vendors and street dwellers as the sun continues to sink in the sky. She easily spots the building that Hagan used as shop and quarters and headed towards the door. Peaking in the window she clearly could tell that Hagan was not at the front desk and it was his pesky little helper instead. Not caring for an encounter with the wharf rat Gilwen wrapped her fingers on the door before shrinking off to the side of the doorway and squatting to hide as a bush (31 stealth check).

Lotho came bumbling out the door looking franticly about for customers. Gilwen snuck quietly (26 stealth check)through the open door and into the main room of the building before Lotho even could adjust to the blinding light in his face from the clear day. Gilwen carefully snuck over to the door to the back and lightly rapped on it five times. Settling against the wall away from the hinges of the door so she wouldn’t get a broken nose.

Hagan rolled over on his bed, reaching for his mug. A strange thought passed through his mind as he lay half awake

I feel the same. Why did I think I’d feel different?

Suddenly the events of the night before erupted in Hagan’s thoughts. The maelstrom of random images blurred in his mind. He was in the castle. That cleric from the forest was there; then he was bleeding. Hagan smiled to himself. He hoped to all the gods that he was responsible for the red stains on Artorius’s otherwise pristine white cloak.

Then something else. A dragon. A little red one. And then another. A big one. Dragons. D-D-D… Dhampyr.

Hagan sat bolt upright in bed, panting from the shock. He quickly checked himself for bites. His ribs were still sore and the tenderness brought more memories of the Dragon

We almost had him.

The knocking at the door persisted, much to Hagan’s displeasure. He scowled as he dressed and put his boots on

“By the Gods, Lotho, what did i tell you? This had better be damned important or I’ll be digging a very small grave tomorrow.”

And not a jury in the city will convict me.

Hagan walked to the door, his eyes still blurry with sleep. He opened it briskly, ready to kick Lotho right in the…

There’s a tree in my house.

“Lotho! Is there some sort of plant monster in the shop?”

Gilwen’s scowl was quite apparent as she swished her twig decorated hair out of her face. Though she wasn’t very charismatic she had hoped that 282 years of being in the wilderness hadn’t some how made her ugly.

“A plant monster wouldn’t come to check on you to make sure you hadn’t drowned in your mead.” Gilwen says angrily barring her teeth in an odd sort of way. Cat-like in a sense. Gilwen side steps across the room and plops down in a chair watching Hagan intently.

Hagan winces slightly. Not from the scolding, but from the seemingly excessive volume of it. He walked over to the cask and turned the tap to fill his glass. A single drop fell from the tap followed by a small bubble and a gurgling noise. Hagan shrugged and poured the single drop into his mouth. He rubbed his jet black eyes and shook his head to wake himself up.

“My apologies, Gilwen. I’ve had a rough few days. Beside, I’m sure that if you put your mind to it, you could be a very convincing plant monster. I’d offer you a drink, but it would appear that…wait, why are you here again? And how did you get past Lotho?”

Hagan stretched and cracked his neck loudly before running his fingers through his hair in a futile attempt to make himself look more presentable.

Gilwen shrugs slightly and flicks her hand towards the open door at the scrambling figure looking into the distance down the roadway, perhaps trying to see a fleeing carriage.

“I’m checking in to see how you are fairing… I mean… Do you even know what day it is? You look like you have been sleeping for the past 3 days.” Gilwen says as she picks some dirt from under her fingernails, glancing up at Hagan nervously. ‘Sleeping isn’t really it… more like drinking…’ Gilwen thought to herself as she choked on the stench of mead. “You should get out of here… come with me on a walk… you look so caged up… lets go outside” Gilwen says and takes a few steps towards the door.

Hagan mulled the idea over. He didn’t want to leave, but then again, he was out of drink and awake for the night.

Might as well step out for a bit.

“Very well, Gilwen. I do have one thing to address first.”

Hagan walked out behind Gilwen, and stopped behind Lotho who was still scanning the landscape.

“Lotho! Where is the front desk?”

Lotho jumped so high, he was almost looking Hagan in the eye.

“M-M-Mister Hagan! You’re awake! I thought i heard a noise and…”

Hagan interrupted the halfling with a hint of frustration in his voice.

“Lotho, where is the front desk?”

Lotho looked puzzled and tilted his head slightly.

“It’s in the office, Mister Hagan, where else would it be?”

Hagan closed his eyes for a moment, trying to think.

“Then that’s where you should be, Halfling…Lotho, what time of day is it?”

Lotho looked even more puzzled at Hagan’s question.

“It’s sunset Mister Hagan. Have you been asleep this whole time?”

Hagan tried to remain focused, but he supposed the halfling would learn his lesson one way or another.

“Then go back inside and mind the shop until dark. Then take the night off.”

Hagan reached into his pocket and tossed the halfling handful of coins.

“Here’s the bonus for keeping your mouth shut about our customer. Lock up after dark and have a few drinks on me. And if you see John the Hammer, tell him I wish to speak with him at his convenience. That will be all, Halfling. Now, back to the shop with you.”

Lotho picked up the coins quickly and scurried back to the shop, closing the newly repaired door behind him. Hagan then turned to Gilwen with a slightly stressed look on his face.

“And where did you plan on leading me, my friend?”

Gilwen looks up at the darkened sky. The stars had begun to twinkle like beautiful gems in a black velvet bag.

“You are probably hungry are you not? We could head off to the Drake if you like.” Gilwen says softly, her eyes still cast at the stars.

As if on cue, Hagan’s stomach growled audibly. He rubbed his stomach a bit before looking up at the stars as well. As the sun sank farther into the horizon, more stars began to seemingly blink into existence. Hagan took a deep breath as the dusk around them began to remind him of the Shadowfell and all he had left behind.

Someday, when all this business is over, I’ll go back.

Hagan tapped Gilwen lightly on the shoulder to get her attention.

“Come. Let’s get something to eat. I feel I’ve had enough to drink for a few days at least.”

Gilwen jumps slightly from Hagan’s tap and nods, her mind someplace in the past as they walk towards the bar. They walk in silence for a little while before Gilwen glances over at Hagan.

“Has your drinking lead to any revelations?” Gilwen asks quietly, her eyes shifting into the hedges of the road.

Hagan pondered the question, not entirely sure what she meant.

“I’m not entirely sure what you mean. One does not drink to find revelation, one drinks to…avoid them. Or sometimes just to forget…”

Hagan became lost in his thoughts. Not an uncommon thing for him. He glanced over at Gilwen and almost allowed himself a small chuckle.

And our merry band of miscreants are supposed to save the world. Maybe the Raven Queen has a sense of humor after all.

“Anyway, what have i missed in the last one…three…several days? Have you spoken with the others? How are they taking our…new information?”

“I have not been in contact with them… I myself spent the last three days… wandering… around… It gives the mind time to piece things together… you have to remember… I have more life to have to rethink than you do.” Gilwen sighed softly as they entered the Drake, the sent of pork and potatoes wafted into their face as they opened the door.

Hagan took a deep breath, inhaling the smell of food as his stomach growled even louder. He walked to the table in the corner near the fire. He waved to Lilly who made her way to their table.

“I’ll have the Haggis, Lilly, and a pitcher of ale.”

Lilly nodded looked over at Gilwen, recognized her and walked to the back to fetch the orders.

Hagan turned and faced the fire for a moment, warming up after their brisk walk through the night air. He rubbed his hands together before turning to Gilwen as his haggis was set in front of him.

“Thanks, Lilly. This is just what I need.”

Hagan picked up his knife and sliced the casing open. The Drake’s cook made haggis with a pie crust around it, like a meat pie. Some people stuck their nose up at the dish, but Hagan couldn’t get enough of it. He scooped up a bit into his mouth and savored the taste.

“You know, I have no idea what’s in this. But I absolutely love it.”

Gilwen, on the other hand, knew exactly what was in it.

“But how can you eat if it you don’t know what it is?”

Hagan took another bite as Lilly returned with a pitcher of ale and two mugs. Hagan poured one for himself and moved the pitcher over the other mug for Gilwen. Not being a drinker, she shook her head slightly. Hagan shrugged and set the pitcher down and took a drink.

“Gilwen, it’s not the not knowing, it the not caring. Unless the Drake is mashing up zombies and stuffing them in meat pies, I’ll probably still eat it. It’s that good. But I digress, how are you handling the story the Blackbournes gave us?”

Gilwen absent mindedly picked through her stew. She looked up at Hagan then glanced around the tavern. The fire light was dancing over the tables. The people there seemingly quite intent on their food and mead. However she couldn’t be sure… she felt like she was being watched. Gilwen shook her head slightly.

“It pieces alot of my life together” Gilwen sighed simply before blowing on a spoonful of hot stew and sticking it in her mouth. She continued to eat while Hagan stared at her slightly.

“What?” Gilwen asked with a mouthful of stew and a fist full of bread. Hagan zoned out for a bit and Gilwen went back to her food. They finished their meal in silence except for a slight bought of laughter as a young drunk attempted to flirt with Lily… who inevitably pushed him off his bar stool and dragged him outside by his shirt, dumping him on the doorstep. Hagan and Gilwen paid for their meals and left, heading back the way they had come.

Gilwen glanced at the stars, nodding to herself. Tonight was an exceptionally clear night, the moon only a sliver in the zenith, not bright enough to bleach out the stars but luminescent enough to create a slight shadow on the ground. Gilwen could easily see in the low light and gracefully traveled down the darkened path.

“My story is probably unfamiliar to you but my mother and I were shunned from Tyrneamiltore… I always knew that other elves weren’t very fond of me… I had some contacts with them but for the most part I grew up on my own. My mother past on from this realm after my first 15 years… leaving me to wander on my own… She never gave me any answers… but now I have them… and now I can be at peace with who I am… I don’t need to wonder why anymore. Why my own race would shun me.” Gilwen says as she hops from stone to stone across the path, acting more like a child then a almost 300 year old elf. “I’m sure you’ve had a more difficult time with this recent situation with the Blackbournes… I’m curious as to what your plans are… however that is your prerogative.” Gilwen stated as she came to rest gracefully on a large boulder on the side of the trees, her feet swinging back and forth like a little kid. The brisk night air was invigorating.

Hagan watched the nimble elf jump about like a rambunctious child, allowing himself a brief smile before carefully choosing how to answer.

“I suppose that I may have been premature in my judgment of the Blackbournes. While I resent their interference in my bloodline, I see now that they are the lesser of two evils and that their intentions may truly have been for the greater good. With this in mind, I have come to believe that it is better to defend the continent with their aid, and the aid of the other dhampir clans, rather than encounter entire undead armies on our own.”

Hagan walked next to Gilwen and leaned against the tree while she sat on the boulder. He still felt no different, and yet he kept believing that he would. Perhaps this was his fate after all. Maybe he had realized his greater destiny. Or maybe the Raven Queen just hadn’t gotten around to smiting him just yet.

Gilwen nodded slightly and looked up at the moon again.

“No matter how much you try to ignore the truth it doesn’t make it go away… We are what we are…”

Hagan nodded and cracked his knuckles as he thought.

“Still, I can’t help but wonder if we are what we were meant to be.”

Hagan stretched and stood up, turning to Gilwen.

“I thank you for dinner, but I should get back to the shop. I need to see that Lotho has been doing his job during my…absence. I know you prefer the wilderness to civilization, but you may rest at my house if you like. Either way, I must take my leave.”

Gilwen sighs quietly and shakes her head.

“Thank you for the offer but I’ll best be heading back to my woods”

Gilwen slips off of her boulder and vanishes into the shadows of the night, leaving Hagan alone.

Hagan walked slowly back to his shop and unlocked the door to let himself in. He bolted the door and went to the desk to check the logbook. Lotho had done a fair job of keeping things in order. According to the book, there were three burials to be done in the next several days. The bills for the ceremonies had been paid and the coins were in the small chest in the bottom drawer. Hagan nodded in silent approval and walked back to his room to continue work on his new tattoo design.

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Roger
the Impostor

Wraith stepped into Seamstress Morray’s Fine Clothing. He peered down the aisles of draped and dyed cloth hanging from ropes tied to the ceiling. The smell of berry dye infused the warm interior.

From the back, Seamstress Morray appeared from a cloud of steam carrying a tub of hot water loaded with deep blue dye. She smiled at the man waiting patiently by the front desk.

“Roger!” she called to Wraith. “Back so soon? I knew you would be back in here within the month, but I never expected you to be so…eager.”

Morray threw her long braid over her shoulder and sauntered towards ‘Roger’. Wraith checked the window to make sure no one was watching, then turned back to Morray. He let a smile show – she would be expecting at least that.

Some time later, Morray retied her braid and set herself behind her desk.

Roger retied his cloak before speaking. “I need a commission – a special commission.”

She smiled up at him. “I said I would help if you needed something.”

“Do you work with leather as well as cloth?”

“Sometimes. Do you have something particular in mind?”

“Yes. I knew a woman in the north who wore an amazing leather armor. Upon her will, it could change from leather into clothing of any description. It could be rags or the most intricate gown, or a heavy cloak. It was very…utilitarian. Would you know of this?

“Yes, I have heard of this. My sister in Hadleigh is in a regiment. She travels frequently and sends news home when she can. In one letter, she mentioned her leader had such armor. She sent me a drawing with description and information. I believe I can piece together what it is you are looking for, probably with Hazeem’s help.”

“Good. I will probably be leaving Stony Cross toward the end of the week. Can you have it ready by then?”

“That is a lot you ask. What has you running from Stony Cross?”

He deliberately took his time before answering, hoping she would get the hint that her questions were unwelcome. “Not running,” he said, “moving on.”

“Then you can wait a few weeks if there is nothing pressing.”

“No, I can’t. Look, if you can’t do this I will find someone who can.”

“Oh, now someone is trying to pressure me. I see, not willing to talk, but willing to threaten. I don’t appreciate your tone, but I understand.”

Wraith was silent.

“Listen,” she said, “this armor you want is costly. It will be difficult to weave the leather with both magic and style. It will cost 1800gp.”

“That is more than I have. Sorry for taking your time.” Wraith turned to leave wishing he had never come in the first place.

“Wait! Surely we can work something out?”

Wraith paused, his hand on the door, and waited for her to continue.

Seamstress Morray tapped her pencil on an old letter.

“What do you think of this?”

She showed him her sister’s sketch of the leather armor. Black and sleek and unassuming. She also had two sketches of the transformation process whereas the leather seemed to stretch and grow and reform around the wearer.

“Look, here are her sketches. This will be the first time I do this, so it may not turn out perfectly. I will consider this an investment in the development of my talent. Hazeem will charge me for enchanting the leather armor, but I have a good relationship with him. I can work something out. That will still leave the cost of the material and the work. How much do you have?”

“630gp.”

“Hmm, that isn’t much. I have an idea. I will take your 630gp. But I request a favor.”

Wraith kept his outward appearance calm. A favor always seemed to come with complications.

“What?” he asked shortly.

“My sister hasn’t responded to my last three letters. I am worried about her. I simply request that in your travels you stop by and check in on her. She probably isn’t even there anymore, but if you could send any information home, I would appreciate that greatly. I am sure she is fine, but you understand, I worry.”

Wraith stared at her face as he weighed the costs. It wouldn’t hurt to visit her sister’s town, see her, and send a message back to Seamstress Morray. Definitely worth 1200gp in armor. And he wanted that armor, very much so.

“Agreed. If I am in Hadleigh, I will check on your sister and send word.”

Seamstress Morray stood from behind the desk with her sketches.

“Good then. Give me the 630gp for the leather and dye, and I will begin today.”

‘Roger’ passed over the money and turned to leave. Hopefully he wouldn’t regret this deal.

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Cavern Star's Finest gets Finer

Hazeem looks over the brooch carefully. He nods in agreement.

“Yes, this is of sufficient quality for the enchantment. But why this? I have similar items already made and ready for sale, why commission this?”

“Because…is special. You make more special now! How much?”

Special? Although the design is a beautiful one, the Drow brooch is certainly unappealing to Hazeem’s less cosmopolitan eyes. The money’s good and the work is easy, though. “The fee is 3 Platinum, and it’ll take 2 weeks to deliver.”

“Too slow…more gold for more fast? I need in under 1 week”

Hazeem eyes Krifo suspiciously. He is rather busy at the moment, but if the kobold is willing to pay extra?

“20% charge for rush delivery. 360 gold pieces, and you shall have in in 5 days.”

“DEAL!!!!”

Krifo throws a bag onto the counter that lands with a large jingling sound. Music to Hazeem’s ears.

“Oh…also…you no tell Illyana. She no know my pin missing. She’d feed me to Fluffy if she think I losed it.”

“Of course, of course. Is there anything else you need, then?”

“Nope, dat it. See you when is ready!”

Krifo bids good day to Hazeem, and leaves the shop. He walks down the path, with his cloak fluttering uncontrollably about his shoulders without the gifted brooch to secure it. Although he knows deep down that Illyana wouldn’t mind the enchantment being placed on the brooch, he is still paranoid that she might think he lost it.

It is with that paranoia still fresh in his mind that he comes across Illyana. Exiting Hot Buns Bakery with Sauveli, Illyana is puzzled when Krifo screams as though his life were in danger and flees in terror, full speed away from his friends. He hisses loudly at anyone in his way as he rounds a corner and moves out of sight.

“Vat do you suppose is wrong vit him dis time?” Illyana remarks.

“I certainly do not pretend to understand his actions. Not now, nor will I ever.” Sauveli says, looking on in bewilderment.

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Kobolds and rats

Krifo plops himself into the chair opposite from that of Traynor, who sighs to himself, thinking it fortunate that the diminutive kobold can’t hurt his furniture despite his less than graceful way of treating it.

“Good news or bad, Traynor?”

“Why don’t we start with the good?”

Krifo just about spazzes out of his seat in joy for bringing valuable information to the Guildmaster.

“Krifo knows who’s been taking Ilsadore Duncan’s stuffs!”

This is vauable information. I had all but given up on anyone bothering to figure it out.

“Who?”

“That the bad news…Midnight kobold clan.”

“Kobolds? Friends of yours?”

“No NO! No friend, enemy. They break into big castle house too while Krifo there. Try to steal things there too! Midnight clan.”

Traynor bristled at the thought of another group of thieves moving into HIS territory. Although notoriously disorganized, kobolds could be quite capable thieves thanks to their shifty nature.

“Where are they hiding”

“Midnight cave!” Krifo says as he looks down at his toes.

“I know of no Midnight cave, is it near?”

“Maybe, I dunno.”

“Well, we’ll just have to pay a visit to this cave and set things right. You’ve done well in getting this information. I’ll have my men act on it and soon we’ll be in undisputed control of Stony Cross once again.”

“Might not be dat easy, boss. Did Krifo mention Midnight is dragon?”

Traynor dropped the pouch he had been holding, silently counting while the conversation went on. Dozens of coins spilled onto the floor in a cacaphonous rush of scattering metal. A kobold clan was one thing. But one led by a dragon was quite another indeed. Still, Traynor was not a man of little means. He knew how to take care of details such as this. One way or another, Stony Cross’ underground would remain firmly his.

“Thank you Krifo, now go. I have plans to make.”

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