The Edge of Empire

An Official Request

I fear we travel in the wake of chaos. The gentle murmuring of the steam flowing thru the market square slowly broke the sudden silence with its incessant gurgle. Awed eyes refocused on the scene before them as The Irregulars recovered from the pitched battle, sheathing their weapons and turning towards the silver-clad Eladrin whom they had fought to protect. Kneeling to recover one of his steel-tipped arrows, Arakos thanked the spirits of the earth even as the binding vines began to dissipate into green floating motes of light before winking out of existence.

About the square, Eladrin regained their composure at having seen the strange party appear from nothingness and spring into battle. As the group moved to speak with the accosted target, the eyes of the Wild Elf scanned the sculpted tree-like towers surrounding the area, seeking any evidence of where the black-clad attackers may have suddenly disappeared to.

The female Eladrin turned to the group, her calm countenance showing no concern over the previous attack. “Thank you, my friends, for your assistance. What are your names?”

Faegin, weapons hidden once more within the secret folds of his cloak, stepped forward and bowed respectfully. “Our group is known as The Irregulars and our journey to Evereska seems to have brought us here. Rightly so, it would seem, given the nature of events. Why do your people not fight,” he asked, indicating the other Eladrin dotting the square.

“These people are not fighters, but it is obvious that you are all accomplished. Accompany me, if you would, to my tower and I would be more than happy to explain the events of this day. Your arrival is timely and if you are of a mind to help further, I may have a task which could certainly utilize your accomplished abilities.” Smiling, the Eladrin motioned the group to follow as she turned to lead the way beneath the shadowing boughs of the soaring towers.

Shortly the group found themselves standing before an enormous structure, the bark-etched wall rising hundreds of feet into the air. “Come,” the female Eladrin motioned as she stepped into the surface of the tree and disappeared from view. A large, opaque disk suddenly appeared in front of the group, hovering patiently as each person took stock of what this meant.

“Oh no ye don’t…” grumbled Thurgoth.

“I believe this is our means to ascend the tower,” said Kirshakru. “Simply step on and its magic will bring us to our destination.”

The group looked at each other and shuffled onto the platform slowly, leaving Augustus’ horse, Blackberry, tethered to a post nearby. The disk continued to hover, indifferent to the weight as each person stepped upon it. As Thurgoth stepped gingerly onto the platform and joined his waiting party, the disk smoothly began to rise into the air. A stream of Dwarven words could be quietly heard emanating from the dwarf as the disk continued to pick up speed during the ascent.


“My name is Saffrenia.”

The group entered the room from the open air balcony, pushing aside the curtains which draped over the wall-less entryway. Within, the space opened into a large room, minimally furnished and exuding a sense of function. A slight glow emanated from the walls and in the corner of the room a small waterfall tumbled into a mossy rock-filled basin. A gray-haired gnome entered the room from one of the doorways, carrying a tray of refreshments for the group. “This is Darlis,” Saffrenia stated. “If you should require anything, please let him know.”

Saffrenia moved towards one of the white chairs as the group spoke to Darlis. As she settled her cape over the back of the chair, a weighted clasp with an exquisitely carved seal set into it reflected the light of the room. Augustus, curiosity overcoming propriety, moved towards the cloak as Saffrenia addressed the room.

“Thank you once again for your help this afternoon, my friends. I appreciate that you have come this far and hope that perhaps, given the nature of your actions today, you might be open to a task I have. I fear for the safety of Scornabell. As one of the seven appointed Council members, it falls upon my shoulders to protect the best interests of our people. I believe that a corruption threatens this city. I’m hoping that perhaps you might be able to assist me in this task.”

Looking at Faegin, Saffrenia continued, “As some of you may know, the city is rumored to sit upon a portal to the Shadowfel. As you journeyed on the disk, the dome you saw in the center of the city is actually a fort which encompasses the sealed portal I speak of. Of course, the public purpose of the dome is as our administrative offices and over time our citizenry have all but forgotten the true nature of the dome.

Recently certain modifications have been made in secret to the tunnels beneath the city. I do not know the reason behind these changes, but my queries fall on deaf ears. As outsiders you have the unique distinction of holding no affiliation and I wish you to attend a dinner at the Tower of Souls tomorrow evening. Perhaps you may find something which I cannot, and should you discover that I am the source of the corruption then I shall expect you to bring that information forth.”

Startled, the Irregulars pondered the strange statement, assessing the voracity and intent of Saffrenia’s words. Augustus stood there, turning the clasped seal over in his hands, studying the etching within the faceted crystal. Beckoning Kirshakru over, he looked to Saffrenia and asked, “And this? What is so special about this?”

“Oh, that is simply a symbol of office. All Council members wear one to designate their position, just as all administrative staff wear a ring denoting their official status.”

Despite the calm demeanor and smooth cadence of her words, something in the way Saffrenia spoke didn’t sit right with the inquisitive Augustus. As the group continued to discuss the Council members with Saffrenia, Kirshakru turned his attention towards the crystal, gently prodding to see if any secrets hid beneath view. Slowly the veil which obfuscated the true nature of the crystal was lifted and the hidden magic within the gem showed itself. Making note of the discovery, he returned the clasp to it’s place and rejoined the group.

“Before you go, I feel that this may help in your investigations. As it came from one of the men you defeated, please take this as a gift.” Pulling a slightly curved longsword from her waist, Saffrenia offered the weapon to Augustus. “For now, I must attend to matters. When you are ready to leave, simply step out to the balcony and the disk shall appear when needed.”

As each member approached the edge of the balcony, they looked out at the surrounding cityscape. The majestic towers numbered in what could only be the hundreds, their heights slowly tapering as they moved away from the center of the city. “Well where’s the damned disk,” grumbled Thurgoth. Emptiness Thurgoth’s only reply, Kirshakru stepped out into nothingness….and the disk appeared. “It appears as needed.”

With an exasperated look beneath his furrowed brow, Thurgoth stepped onto the platform once more. “Well, let’s just get us to the ground then,” he grunted and the disk began to descend.


It was fortuitous that the Dark Elf, Kaegin Blackknife, was willing to offer the services of a guide to show us an entrance to the undercity, but I fear we arrived too late. The effects of the portal weakening can already be seen as our battle with the Quicklings beneath the city streets showed. The taint of the Shadowfel reanimated the fallen body of our guide before my eyes, even as the grey-toothed minions we fought offered further proof that time was running short.

The residents of Scornabell have lost their minds! In the past few hours I have watched as the behavior of individuals has altered before my eyes. With great effort we were able to stop Darlis from cutting himself, and even now I can see the tension forming between Thurgoth and Kirshakru.

At the summons of Saffrenia, we had hurried to a party at the Tower of Souls. As we ascended the disk, I was shocked to see the coupling of two Eladrin before me on the balcony. During our conversation with Saffrenia she could barely keep control and it appeared Augustus was having difficulty keeping his eyes from her as well. Thankfully we were able to take possession of her Sigil.

On this twilight eve, the city of Scornabell is balanced on the edge of a blade. The armies of Zithiruun are flooding thru the broken Seal once maintained by Councilor Gelvistra. I fear that we may be too late to undo the damage that has been done. Even now the main chamber of the Fort is overrun with Shadar-Kai and the legions of undead from those Eladrin who have fallen. My fears that the city may become overridden by the reanimated souls of our fallen allies would seem all too true.

I must keep focused on the matter at hand, even though the thought of charging back into the tower to confront General Zithiruun pulls at me constantly. I lost myself for a moment while within the fort, and I truly believe I would have leapt into the midst of the attacking force had a brief period of clarity saved me from myself.

We must hurry to the library and inform Saffrenia of all we’ve found. Hopefully the other councilors and she are still safely secluded there as they await our return. It would appear that the plans of the Netheril Empire are far more long-planned than previously thought. I can’t fathom when Councilor Gelvistra was replaced by one of those Shifters, nor her Sigil counterfeited, but the part was played well for some time.

If only we could find the seventh Sigil!


“Open the door!” shouted the hurried voice of Faegin from outside the library. “They’re coming! Hurry!”

The companions rushed to the front of the building to see what the shouting was about. The wooden door was pulled back allowing Faegin to slip thru the opening, before quickly being pushed back into place. “Next time I ask you to save me from a party, I mean it!”

Seconds later the door rattled against the force of a heavy impact, followed quickly by another and another. The sickening crack of bone and slap of flesh continued to assault the senses amidst the moaning cacophony outside the door. A layer of blood began to pool around the bottom of the door, slowly seeping beneath the crack.

“Barricade the doors,” bellowed Augustus, quickly moving to grab the end of a stone statue. Thurgoth and Arakos moved to the stem the tide of undead as the doorway began to splinter under the continued assault. A small opening had formed in the center of the door, pummeled beyond its intended wear. Each arrow which found its mark dropped its target but the tide was too much. Thurgoth pulled forth his holy symbol from his side and rushed to the opening, the steamy breath of the undead Eladrin inches from his face. With a mighty thrust, Thurgoth pushed the holy implement against the forehead of the abomination before him and shouted, “MORADIN! Hear my call! Cast these foul creatures back where they belong!”

A golden-white light began to form around the holy symbol, growing in intensity before ripping forward thru the ranks of undead surrounding the building with brilliant force. As the light subsided, so too did the sounds of struggle from without, the remnants of ash all that remained of the unfortunate Eladrin souls caught up in the madness of Scornabell.

“You must get the final Seal! It’s the only way!” Saffrenia hurried forward, a look of intense concentration marring her normally unconcerned expression. “Long ago, the Eladrin of that time sought to seal the portal which allowed the tainted nature of the Shadowfel to flow into our world. Seven mages of considerable skill were summoned from all corners of the multiverse, and thru a combined ritual were able to close the rift between worlds. From this power sprang forth the towers you see around you.

Seven main towers, seven sigils. It is thru these that the rift is contained. If you can recover the stolen Sigil, than we can use them to reseal the portal once again. If the armies of Zithiruun are able to enter the city, then it must still be within one of the insets below the city. Bring the final Sigil to the Tower of Souls. Go now, while our minds are still ours!”

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Journey to Scornabell

It feels good to once again trod upon untouched lands and feel the sodden earth squelch beneath my boots. Though I leave behind the ill-fated citizens of Overlook-Triel, I feel a guilty sense of elation at being free of the confines of the walled city. The Races were not created to live in such a fashion, constantly pressing against each other, hidden from the world beneath their stone structures. How can you appreciate the majesty of nature when you can’t feel the refreshing drops of a rainstorm or the warm embrace of the sun’s light.

The unease the others feel is palpable, and I believe their thoughts closely mimic my own. Evereska lay a months travel from here, but Faegin believes that he may have a way to shorten our journey. Tonight we shall spend time at the Three Candle’s Inn and see if Tymora is with us. The rain is steadily increasing, almost as if the land responds to the emotions which enwrap us. While I enjoy the caressing touch as it rolls down my back, I feel my friends shall welcome the crackling heat of a fire and a mug of ale to shed today’s worries.


The sharp crack of the door rebounding from the stone wall reverberated thru the common hall of the Three Candles Inn. Outlined in the door way stood a massive form, the tell-tale clank of armor preceding his arrival as heavy plates shifted. Augustus entered the room, his armor showing some new scratches as the firelight illuminated him more fully. Behind him, a gray-haired woman of slight build quickly shuffled thru the door. “Over here,” bellowed Thurgoth in his gravelly voice. “While I trust in the power of Moradin to guide my hands, I welcome a skilled healer like yerself.”

Before the fire, the pregnant form of Delinda lay propped up against what soft furnishings could be gathered. The ministrations by Thurgoth had seen the young woman thus far, but it was obvious by the paleness of her face that the child must be tended to immediately. The healing powers of Moradin emanated from the rough hands of the dwarf, a light-golden glow seeping into the skin of the girl and easing the pain in her face.

“Let me thru, let me thru!” said the woman, her melodious voice awing those around her. As she pushed back the hood which kept the rain from her face, it was apparent to all that Augustus had succeeded in finding the Elven priestess of Chauntea. Twilkith sat beside the pale form of Delinda, her hands quick and sure as she began to turn the child within.

Arakos, leaning against the cool rock of the inn wall, turned his gaze from the two and regarded the dripping form of Augustus. “What happened to you?” Setting his shield down and wiping a dry cloth across his brow, the large warrior responded simply, “Goblins.” It was clear from his condition that they hadn’t been much of a problem. He settled himself upon a cracked bench, wiped down his sword and slowly began to sharpen its edge once again.


Faegin moved forward once the child was safely nestled in the arms of Delinda, leaving the shadowed space. Twilkith looked up as the Eladrin approached, and the two exchanged words quickly in Elvish. Turning, he looked happily at the group, cracking a grin. “It would seem we are indeed in luck! It would seem Twilkith can assist us. Tomorrow we shall be forgoing the journey to the river and then up to Darkhold. Instead, Twilkith has agreed to show us an entrance to the Faewild. It should cut our journey down to days!”

“Indeed,” stated Twilkith as she approached the seated group. “I suggest you find what rest you can. On the morn we travel to the edge of the forest north of here. I shall bring you to the entrance to the Faewild, but from there we shall part ways. Sleep well, for you shall need your wits about you on your journey.”


A vast rustling canopy of green moved in the wind, the fog-enshrouded trees stretching off into the distance before disappearing totally within the shifting mist. Resolutely, the group moved down the hillside to the edge of the first trees. Each of the group stared back determinedly at Arakos, resolved to find their way quickly thru this strange wood. With a last look to the hill, Twilkith watching from above, Arakos turned and began edging his way into the mist.


“A wall… strange…” remarked Kirshakru. Around him echoed the sounds of the group moving thru the forest. Reaching out he felt the rough stone with his crystalline form. The stone felt warm beneath his touch, almost as if had been basking in the sun of an afternoon day. Moving to the side of the wall, Kirshakru continued his way forward leaving the five foot span of wall behind.


Faegin adroitly leaped to the side of the rushing form of a confused hobgoblin which suddenly appeared before him in the mist. With the practiced ease of an experienced fighter, he shifted his footing and prepared to launch his own counter-attack. Noting a weakness in the hobgoblin’s defenses, he smirked, and strode forward.


“They’re all around us! Take care,” warned Augustus as another confused goblin appeared in the mist from nothingness. Pulling back his shield, he slammed it into the disfigured face of the goblin, leaving the foe dazed on his feet.


The Eladrin warrior rushed towards Thurgoth, ignoring the dwarf’s friendly words. “Well, if ye won’t listen…” As the Eladrin warrior reached the dwarf, Thurgoth drove his hammer into the side of his attacker. The Eladrin reeled back from the critical blow, crumpling to the forest floor. “Hrrmmm….”


Peering into the mist, Arakos thought he could make out a wheeled shape moving thru the mists. “Peaches! Get your peaches! How about you, sir? Interested in buying a peach?” said the cart-vendor, staring directly into Arakos’ eyes before disappearing once more into the mists.


Curling mists rose from the pools, the surrounding trees towering hundreds of feet into the air. The vibrant colors of the Faewild burst into view as each of the Irregulars found themselves suddenly in a market square. Shocked Eladrin stared back at the strange looking visitors who appeared from nowhere. The sound of ceramics shattering behind them caught the attention of the group. Turning they found the broken remains of statues strewn on the cobbled street, the cart they once rested upon settled halfway into a shallow stream meandering thru the square.

The sound of daggers slipping from their sheathes, and the hurried footsteps of Faegin rushing forward, once again spun the group around. They had arrived at Scornabell.

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Shadowed Retreat

The twin suns of Overlook-Triel shone down upon the ragged band traversing the southern road. Behind them the weathered city gates slowly shrank behind the trees blocking the horizon. The unwitting peasant folk surely still waited patiently for entry, hoping to trade their wares in the sun-shadowed city. A wry grin slowly emerged on Arakos’ face. “They Shadowed City,” he murmured beneath his breath. Ahead of him, Faegin shifted slightly at the words, the keen Eladrin’s hearing picking up the whispered comments of the leather-clad Elf.

The heavy-footed cadence of the dwarves in the party could be felt reverberating from behind. The group had been joined by Dirkund just before setting out towards destinations unknown. Dirkund had hurried to catch us on the road, his angry words announcing his approach as he vented his frustration to any who would listen. It would seem the Spirits would have another join us on our journey. A welcome addition on the road ahead.

The wary looks of the guards during our exodus from the city could not differ further from the reception we received upon returning from the mountain only days prior. They do what they are instructed to do. I can respect their adherence to duty and the honor they do their position. They only wish to protect their city against those whom would do it harm.

Despite what the leaders of the ill-fated city believe, the presence of two suns will not stop the shadows stalking within the city walls this time. A corruption has entrenched itself within the walls. The Council of the Knot is being played as pawns, their own prejudices and fears turned against them unknowingly. In this time of need I fear the city needs us more than ever, however our help is not wanted. I can only hope the continued efforts of The Whispering Legion can save the citizens within the walls. My instincts tell me, however, it is only a matter of time before the city falls from within. We leave behind the walking dead.

It is with a burdened mind and heavy heart that I begin my journey east towards Evereska. Faegin has been summoned by his mysterious employers. Amidst all this, I have yet to come to terms with the actions of Kirshakru. I struggle to understand the mind of a being so different than myself. Given the recent moral choices I have seen unfold before my eyes, I feel I must remain alert. I do not believe Kirshakru thought he did wrong, but I can not accept a gift in such light. I feel this journey shall be a learning experience for both of us.

Despite this, The Irregulars have been thru much together and I find myself more at ease with this band. It is a strange sensation, having journeyed alone for so long, but the spirits will what may be. Our paths are interwoven. The Spirits shuttle us thru the loom. The question is what tapestry shall unfold.

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Forged Anew

On the first night of the company’s journey to Evereska, Thrugoth finds time to himself and prays silently to Moradin. Afterward, moving with visible unease, he writes on a piece of paper he pulls from his small satchel

Answers are most painful when they hit closest to the truth. This shouldn’t shock me as it does now, having seen the number of decades that I have. Yet it does, father. For I’m faced with my own cowardice. Facing that worst of demons which can lay a mighty warrior low, or bring question into the most devout of hearts.

I’ve crossed paths with them again. Most likely talked to one, without my even knowing it. Were a cursed creature ever created by the enemies of truth and good, it was this race of changlings. What good could ever come from such an inborn ability? Only ever deceit & deception.

But, is my cowardice any worse? Always did I tell myself that I was seeking this kind, to get answers. When, in fact, I was running from my past. Running from something I had little control over. Had it not been your words, I would not be drawing breath today. And how do I repay this?

And so, facing my cowardice, I run from them again. Yes, I have an excuse. Yes, it may lead to bettering the world for the fair races. Yet, I know I could stay and work at getting an understanding of what happened back then, and, most importantly…why!?

As I run, I cast my lot with this strange band of persons. We are an effective fighting force, that much I can take pride in. However, they do not think like us, except, perhaps the elf (forgive me for saying so, father). His morals are uncomprimising, which I take great comfort in. The human fights with honor & integrity, and I cast my lot with him with pride. But he still sees the world as a human, at least when his sword is not in action. The eladrin is a true creature of the fey, likable one minute, detestable the next. I sit uneasy plying the battlefield with one who fights with no honor, yet, my choices are limited. And the walking pile of gems…this one is troubling. His soul is good, I feel, but his view of this world is deeply flawed…arrogant, even. He must be new to this world, to understand so little of it.

So, here I am, on a path to the kingdom of the elves. Seeing new lands in which I will truly be an alien. Yet, I feel I am an alien to myself. This fear burns bright in my heart, fear that the changlings will meddle in my affairs and turn my world upside-down, once again. And so, in this fear I reforge my heart, my will, my vision. The next time I cross paths with these creatures, it is they who will run in fear. They who will wonder how it is their world is turned upside-down. They who cry in the dark recess of the stone to bring it all back.

Let me be an instrument of their destruction. To this, O Great Moradin, I fervently pray.

Thurgoth carefully folds the letter and places it back into the satchel. He takes guard all night, refusing to sleep or rest, his eyes fixed on the horizon.

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Black Ops Report 10062

Written in Eladrin code:

report 10062
17th day of Woodmonth, 1472 DR, Year of the Salt Hawk

We have retaken the pass at Bordin’s Watch. We were aided in our venture by some of the Paladins of Torm of Cormyr, though their captain was not disposed to give us aid. Jantus is his name, and on meeting me his first question was not, “What aid can you give?” but “Are you of a noble house?” My answer, that I served a noble house and held the rank of captain in the army of Evereska, did nothing to sway him. I mistrusted him greatly, and chose not to mention my grandfather’s name and rank.

He insisted that I prove my worthiness by fighting one of their company in hand-to-hand combat. Though I refused at first, pointing out that to set ally against ally in a time of war was the height of foolishness, he persisted, and it became clear to me that expedience demanded I take on this battle. I faced a woman, Jahir, also a Paladin of Torm, and we were well matched. At the end, both of us nearly spent, she agreed to a draw. Agreed that the stupidity of continuing to fight was obvious. She and fourteen others of Jantus’s company of twenty-five then rode out with us to retake the pass.

We also mustered a large company of pesantry, several ranks of rangers, the remaining Dwarves, mostly grizzled old men with weapons that had seen action in the Spellplague Wars and before, and I found myself leading a cohort of thieves and cutthroats, after their leader approached me and requested my command. They were strong, able fighters, who well understood my ways.

The battle was pitched at the pass itself, which was closed off by avalanche — the old Dwarven trap that Arakos and Kirshakru had activated before. Though there were many deaths, there was at the last, victory for our forces. For now the pass is secured.

I write now to ask for my next steps. Tertius, the Paladin from Eltur, is the closest thing here to a representative of Elturgard’s king, and he is young and inexperienced, though I see potential there. As my assignment was to provide aid to the kingdom of Elturgard, I will, if no further direction comes from Evereska, continue to do so. I believe the party of “irregulars” I have been working with is a strong one, and I will endeavor to keep us together as a unit until it becomes clear there is any other better strategy.

To this my true seal I set: Faegin Gildorean, Captain, Shade Stalkers of Evereska

P.S. Hiron, if you find an idle moment, tell my mother and grandmother I am well, and I wish for warmer socks. ~FG

In the few shadows granted under Elturgar’s unsetting second sun, Faegin seals the scroll and activates the charm upon it, which calls a hawk down from the sky to take and deliver his message.

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An Icy Ascent

Disbelieving shouts echoed throughout the enclosed stone keep. Shaking off the dream-stuff of times long past, Arakos raised his head and peered about the room. Standing before the doorway of the keep, outlined by the dawning sky without, Dirkund stared incredulously at the resting group. A cool wind pressed around his sturdy frame, rustling the grey beard framing his face and assaulting the exposed skin of those lying beneath the course woolen blankets procured the night before.

“I cannot believe my eyes! The flame above the Watch has gone out. The pass has fallen!” he shouted. Roused from their slumber, the group quickly gathered their wits as a procession hastily made its way out to the rocky heights. In the distance Borodin’s Watch stood starkly, devoid of movement, the shadow of the wall creeping forward from the radiant light of Overlook’s twin suns. The Serpent camps pulsed with activity. It would seem after the final defender had fallen, the enemy force had pulled back to gather its strength before venturing to the pass and laying siege against the ill-protected town.

The braying of a mule interrupted the private thoughts of those viewing the scene below and Dirkund sprang into action. “Despite what may have occurred we have an obligation to those below.” The gruff old dwarf quickly imparted the locations of two places of import: The Horn of the Pass and the Temple of Moradin. Discussion was brief and in the end it was determined that Faegin would accompany Dirkund to Overlook in hopes of imparting desperately needed reconnaissance to the leadership about the force arrayed against them. Augustus and Thurgoth prepared themselves as well before quickly beginning the trek down the mountainside to the hallowed halls of Moradin. Kirshakru and Arakos gathered up the climbing equipment that Dirkund had provided and steadied themselves against the task at hand.

The path along the cliff edge was easy to follow, leading directly to the scaling wall atop which the horn resided. Examining the gear, Arakos and Kirshakru tied off to each other and began the slow procession up the rock face towards their goal. The cold stone numbered the deft fingers of the Elf, the winds buffeting against the two companions as they ascended. Rock chips fell around them as handholds gave way, the deceiving grips hiding the water-worn frailties beneath their hard exterior. As the duo crested the wall, the blinding sunlight reflecting off an undisturbed field of snow greeted them.

Atop the rounded mound before them arose an ice-encrusted stone horn. The pair approached the darkened entrance to the horn’s antechamber. A puissant odor assaulted their senses as they slipped within the confines of the cavernous hall. The musty smell of wet fur pervaded the area. The sound of heavy steps scrapping against the stone floor moved towards the entrance. All at once the head of a giant appeared from behind a stalagmite and a booming roar rolled across the shallow pool of icy water dividing the cavern. The mouthpiece of the horn could be seen protruding from the cavern wall on the far side of the antechamber.

Drawing upon the spirits of the air, Arakos enshrouded the giant in invisible manacles, slowing the movement of the creature. Kirshakru quickly gained the attention of the beast and working in unison led the creature away from Arakos’ path to the horn. Reaching the horn, Arakos drew a great breath and blew into the horn. A sharp note rattled within the horns confines, slowly building louder and louder as it moved thru the tubing within the walls. As the sound reached the opening a great crescendo settled over the pass. A dull rumble answered the sharp call of the horn and the two hastened out of confines of the hall.

The steps of the two crunched as they quickly made their way to the edge of the cliff face. The rope dangled before them, but time was an enemy that could not be assuaged. Grabbing the rope, the pair quickly dropped out of site, sidling down the side of the cliff face. With a great effort, each pushed out from the rock face towards a slight overhang and grasped handholds beneath its sheltering ledge. A white curtain violently flowed down the mountain top, cresting over the rocky ledge before falling into the pass below. Miniscule dots could barely be seen moving below as the snow began the unalterable descent. As the rumble continued, Arakos stared at the grand sight of nature’s awesome power flowing around him. A more beautiful sight had not been seen in some time.

For now, a short reprieve has been granted, but inevitably I sense the darkness approaching still. Sprits grant me strength. The drums still beat.

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Cold Musings

Indifferent winds rushed over what little cover lay atop the mountain before breaking against the wall of the dimly lit keep. The scattering whistle threatened to overwhelm the sound of grim, yet relieved, words that could be heard within the cracked stone structure. Tonight this newly fate-forged band would all mourn the loss of a kindred spirit. “Companions.” The word tasted strange on his tongue. It wasn’t one he had used in quite some time. Arakos found himself thinking on these new relationships that had been thrust upon him as he sat, his back against the rock face slowly leeching the cold from the ageless stone.

“Spirits, bless these arrows with your divine guidance. Grant me the ability to seek out the unseen, to travel the road that will find my people’s justice at the end, and the strength of soul to do what must be done.” Even now as he gazed across the shadowed landscape in the distance, watching as fires etched out new constellations beyond the gates of Borodin’s Watch, the sounds of the Irregulars slowly died down as each weary warrior found solace and rest in their own way. The heavy cacophony of metal against stone signaled Augustus had found some peace within. A humorless laugh drifted softly down the mountainside. “Peace within…”

Turning his mind away from the past, Arakos focused instead on this band of folk whom had overcome the Serpent Folk and Shadar-kai in the vent tunnels below. Fate truly was unpredictable. Never would he have thought that he would be sharing rations with a group as diverse as this, having just arrived in the city this afternoon. Even now the gravel-laced guffaws of the dwarves inside could be heard. Each had shown courage and decisiveness in the rocky depths.

“Augustus is an interesting fellow. His mannerisms bespeak an almost noble upbringing. Something about the way he carries himself seems to eek out the suspicion of cultured-blood. Maybe it’s the breed of horse or the cadence of speech…ah, but already I find myself suspicious of these new ones. Regardless of my own thoughts, he’s a valiant fighter who has shown his resolve. Spirits, steady his arm.”

“Thurgoth I’m sure is already known to you, if the force of his voice is any indication. I don’t pretend to understand dwarves in the least, but one would think they might shy away from the stone tunnels they traverse, lest the stone shake down upon them from the intensity of their conversations. One can’t deny that Moradin hears his requests, however. The healing energies he commands are quite impressive.”

“Kirshakru on the other hand couldn’t be any different. I’m still not sure what it is. Whatever animates this entity is beyond my understanding. It seems to have the ability to communicate without speaking, a voice just appearing in my mind. It’s a rather unnerving experience. It indicates that it shall not intrude upon our thoughts. One can hope the same goes for memories. I can not honestly say, Spirits, what I think of it yet. Is it truly like us?”

“Of them all, I feel a kinship closest with the one known as Faegin. Aside from our close heritage, his fighting style is impressive. He seems to strike at critical points, darting within a foes defense before they can react and only appears to take the barest of hits even when they connect solidly with his armor. A strange technique, yet quite impressive. We spoke briefly of why I was in the city and I found myself offering my story before I knew what words passed my lips. I don’t think he, or any of them, understand what happened far from here. He cautioned me against revenge, saying it might burn the hand of the one who pursues it.

They’ll never understand me until they realize that I welcome the fire, if it brings an end to this journey. I hope that I might be able to return back to the man I once was, but I fear that the path I’ve traveled has already left deep scars that cannot be filled. Fire may be the most fitting end when this journey is complete. Great Spirits, I leave my end in your capable hands.”

The darkness firmed its grasp on the frigid heights. A shiver rolled thru Arakos as the cold reached his core. Giving one last look at the ominous host in the distance below, he stood and turned toward the light seeping from beneath the door. Pressing his fingertips against the crevasses of the stone, Arakos paused briefly. “If fire truly is my end, so shall it be. For now I choose this fire and I’ll find what comfort I can beside it. When the time comes we shall see if the sins of the past can be scoured clean.”

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Black Ops Report 10061

Written in a sharp, evidently Elven script, the letter forms are clear, but the contents obscured by cipher. To eyes that can read them, the message is this:

Report 10061
13th day of Woodmonth, 1472 DR, Year of the Salt Hawk

As noted in my last report, I presented myself to the court at Elturgard’s capitol Eltur, as military liaison from Evereska. Intelligence from outlying cities reported a dire threat from the northern border, and Eltur’s command agreed that my expertise could best be used there. I arrived in the northern Dwarven town of Overlook-Triel, and there forged an alliance with the other military commanders overseeing the defense of the town itself and of the mountain pass at Bordin’s Watch. The captain of the town guard, Elder Cadrick, and a Human paladin of Torm, Tertius, were the two principals with whom I met.

Most able-bodied fighters, both military and civilian volunteers (though with Dwarves it seems there is little distinction between the two), were being sent to defend the pass, but Cadrick and Tertius tasked me with a mission better suited to my particular skills. It was clear that the Serpent Folk were somehow bypassing Bordin’s Watch, coming into Elturgard through some other route through the mountains. I, with a hastily assembled band of irregulars, went to find the means by which the enemy was entering.

My compatriots were all volunteers, none residents of Overlook-Triel, but good fighters and enemies of the Netherese. The enemy of my enemy, as the saying goes. Setting out we had a company of five: myself and two others of the Fey-kind, a human, and a creature whose kind I haven’t seen before — an intelligence contained in a body made of garnet shards.

Specifically, my companions were these: Arakos, a tribal elven archer of great skill who calls upon the strength of Nature as I rely on Shadow. He is a quiet, contemplative elf, tall for his kind, with a steadiness about him that speaks of great reserves of strength and courage.

Second was a very young elf, Saranco, barely come to adulthood. He was one of the warrior-monks of Myth Dranor. At one point he mentioned he was on a quest to seek deposed Myth Dranor prince, Angiledhel of house Findwallae, but I was never able to learn more of his intention, nor whether those who sent him believed Angiledhel still living, for Saranco fell in battle with the Serpent Folk.

The human goes by the name Augustus. He is clearly a front-line fighter, with battle-scarred armor and evident delight in a good fight. By his manner, he seems as if he may have commanded troops of his own in the past. He is strong and brave, but like so many of his kind, he often acts rashly, without sufficient thought. He also mentioned a member of the ill-fated Scepter Tower Company — the wizard Hosvir. He seemed not to know Saranco, so perhaps this is merely coincidence, but perhaps not. I advise that Evereskan Intelligence investigate further.

Our fourth, the creature of shards, called himself Kirshakru. He is like no being I have encountered before, and were it not for the sense of life I perceive in him, I would think him an enchanted construct. Indeed, I am not even sure I should use the male pronoun, but it would be a disservice to call him “it”. He conveys thought directly into the minds of others, and hears thoughts directed to him. If he listens to thoughts not intended for his ears, I cannot tell, but I have been guarded around him. Nonetheless, he is a powerful ally, bolstering his friends through psychic means, and wilting his foes with crippling psychic pain.

We five set out, and found a devastated mountain stronghold at a temple of Moradin. The bodies of Dwarves and Serpent Folk lay everywhere, and we found inside and underground, a lone Dwarf still fighting, surrounded by the corpses of the fallen. We joined him in the battle, and were able to turn the tide. His name is Thurgoth, and he is a worthy Dwarf and a cleric of Moradin. He mislikes me, I think, but what Dwarf has ever been fond of the Fey at first meeting?

Our company, now of six, traveled deeper into the mountains, to a place of vents that Thurgoth knew of, where the serpents were slipping through. We entered the ventilation system for the Dwarf-hewn mines below, and found, beyond a maze of traps and snares, a choke point with a mechanism for sealing the underground passages. We encountered a small number of Serpent Folk and Shadar-kai,of whom we let one live, as our prisoner. He was amenable to our persuasion that he should tell us how to seal the vents in exchange for his life. I had some misgivings about freeing him once he told us what we needed to know, but the others of the company, especially the Dwarf cleric, prevailed, convincing me that this lone Snake shaman had little chance of returning to his own people, having betrayed them to us.

We found an antechamber where two great valved tanks rested, guarded by more of our enemy. The group fought ably, freeing me to slip by means of shadow to the tanks and open the valves to release a corrosive liquid. When we proceeded into the room where the pipes converged, we found a nearly uncountable number of enemy in a vast cavern, ringed by steps, with the ceiling more than eighty feet above us. There was no choice but to fight our way upwards, to the control mechanism at the top of a massive spire in the center of the chamber. It was in battle there that the elf Saranco fell, and we could retrieve no token to deliver to what family he may have, for his fall was far, our enemies outnumbered us, and it was clear to all that life had left him.

We fought our way to the top and Kirshakru activated the mechanism, from which showered a torrent of acid which filled the chamber and slew all the Serpent Folk and their kind within. Alas this was also the burial for Saranco, whose body was destroyed by the acid.

Our company managed to escape through a long shaft that led straight up, to a lone Dwarf lookout, where we found an old Dwarven soldier named Durkin, who gave us aid for our wounds, for none of us escaped that battle unscathed, and most of us, myself included, were near to exhaustion.

From there we saw a signal fire across the plain, from the pass at Bordin’s Watch: the pass had fallen. Our company split then, with Thurgoth going to undertake a trial of Moradin which would secure his god’s blessings. He took Augustus with him as his squire. Arakos and Kirshakru undertook to climb to yet another lookout and trigger an ancient Dwarven defense which Durkin told us of. I went with Durkin back to Overlook-Triel, to see what information we could glean and attempt to persuade what forces remained in that town that could be mustered to retake the pass.

This is my mission now, for I am sure that if the pass at Bordin’s Watch falls, so will Elturgard.

To this my true seal I set: Faegin Gildorean, Captain, Shade Stalkers of Evereska

P.S. Hiron, my friend, I know you will set eyes on my report whether you are cleared for it or not. If you eat a ripe apple and the taste is sweet, think of me. Dwarven fodder is nourishing to the body, but it lacks the savor of Evereskan orchards. ~FG

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A Dwarf Among Men

Venerable Blessings to Moradin, the Soul Forger

Blessings to Moradin, indeed, on this most joyous day. The wretched serpent folk have been routed and the city of Overlook saved…for now.

I would never have guessed it, nor would I ever have asked to work the wonders of Moradin amongst any but our own folk. However, the great Forger saw otherwise; and so I fell in with a mixed troop. Had they not rescued me from the ultimate sacrifice in battle, I wouldn’t have trusted them to hit an anvil with a hammer. But they fought well and their goal seemed honorable; indeed, the very same as my own!

Ah, but I get ahead of myself; having not had time to write and so much been going on. I done wrote about the problems the serpents were presenting to Overlook. Well, seeing to that, Cadrik done tasked me to lead a group into the mountains to see what business the slimy serpents had there. My boys and me, we fought hard, as is our wont, but the number of the enemy were enough to quench the fires of our souls. And it did, all but mine, when the Irregulars (as they’ve been dubbed) came to my very timely rescue.

Three of the fey folk, a human & a being that I can only say must have been forged by great Moradin, himself…a walking & intelligent collection of gems and stones. Each of these peoples has their own set of skills, some of which I’ve never seen the likes of before…others, I have, but cannot say they are to my liking. But this world is full of things Dwarves weren’t meant to understand. And if this place weren’t so disorderly and out of step, I would speak to the honor being upset by such actions.

It’s the eladrin…she…he? By the silver hairs of His beard…does it matter? He (shorter to write) fights in a way that almost made me pity the snake-folk. Sneaking & skulking; using shadow as if it were a material thing. Were it my place to question…ah, but it ain’t. And so I must trust in Him and accept, as the circumstance dictates.

The pile of gems, it works magic the likes of which I don’t have a ken of. But, it’s extremely CONVINCING in it’s suggestions. Almost to the point where the enemy seems happy to do what it commands, or at least, can’t think of doing anything else. And I must say, were it a worshipper of Moradin, the numbers of the devoted would likely swell wherever it went. Had I that power…I must wonder, Moradin forgive me.

One of the elves fell. Just too fresh to survive the real world. I did my best, but, father, you done said there were some that just can’t be saved. And, of course, you know you were right. May his honorable and short-sighted soul rest well. He fell as a warrior should…Moradin’s blessings on his passage.

The other elf works a bow as best as any I’ve seen, though that number doesn’t count high. He’s quiet, which is odd for his kind, but not unwelcome.

Ah, but the human…not a human, as I call him. No, father, this human fights with the strength of soul as one of our own. I would be honored to have him break bread with you. If you had seen him fight, you would feel the same, I’m sure. I know not his god, but he was willing to sacrifice all to bring Mighty Moradin’s blessings onto the battle before us. Doing everything I did to keep him on his feet and his sword arm strong sapped all but the last of my strength, and it was effort well spent, I tell you.

After securing the blessings of Moradin on the valley just beyond the mountain pass, this group and myself set to commanding the troops of Overlook against the army of serpents. Aye, father, an army, true and mighty. But not as mighty as ours, Moradin willing. The Irregulars were promoted from irregulars to leaders. They each took command of several squads of troops and I’m proud to say I led an honorable and battle-tested group of our own people. (Though they were of the fairer skinned or our kind, they have honor like we do and their belief in Moradin binds me to them.)

I also had the pleasure of befriending an especially honorable veteran, name of Dirkend. It looks as though he’s been laden with a dishonorable position. Before I set out of Overlook, I’m sure to set that right, by the hairy nethers of Moradin. I won’t see an honorable soul not get the acknowledgement he deserves.

Were I to believe this were the end of it, I would part ways and wish the Irregulars well…most of them, anyhow. But, there’s a task to be doing that needs be done. And this troop of Irregulars and myself would be the group to do it. It’s a slight to my people to not ask them to venture into the territory of the snakes, but knowing the power this group wields, it would be too proud of me to admit the truth.

We must go into the lair of the enemy and understand what it was that drove them to act this way. Centuries have not seen the slimy folk rise in such number…why now? My belief in the order of things demands a reason. And the power of this troop is the means to get the answer.

I trust my path to Moradin, as ever I shall. And I trust you are doing well by doing the same, father.

Thurgoth carefully folds the letter and packs into a satchel that holds many other, similar looking letters

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The Nexus

The group made its way through the network of dank, steamy tunnels that served as a ventilation system for the dwarven mines deep in the mountains. Only through careful study of the tunnels’ construction and examination of the patterns of escaping steam did they manage to find their way to the Nexus: the control center for the entire ventilation network.

But they were not the first to have arrived. They hid and listened while a small convergence of Serpent Folk and Shadar-Kai stood debating the situation, discussing whether to continue into the tunnels or activate “the device.”

The intruders eventually detected the Irregulars and attacked, but they were no match for the heroes, who made quick work of them. Intrigued by the talk of a “device”, they kept one of the Serpent Folk alive—a shaman who was quick to betray his fellows. The “device”, he explained, was in a far room, and had some use related to the ventilation system. He believed that activating the device would seal the system in some way, making the Serpent Hoarde’s passage through the mountain impossible. But some of his fellows believed that activating the device would do the opposite, further opening the system so that the Hoarde could pass through unimpeded.

Augustus took charge of the prisoner and demanded that he lead them to the device. And so he did, through a room full of traps, past a room full of his allies (which the group dispatched), and into a tall, cavernous room crossed by two colossal metal pipes containing some sort of liquid. At the height of the room, they had learned, there was a control panel that operated “the device”. Around the edges of the room wound a staircase that eventually led up to the panel.

Hoards of Serpent Folk entered the room via small ducts and narrow fissures in the rocks, attacking the heroes immediately as they raced up the winding the staircase toward the distant control panel. Some of the Serpents were capable of flying, making for a distinct disadvantage to the climbers.

The snake entered when the climbers were roughly halfway to the top, so large it seemed impossible that it could come through the tiny crevasse, so long it took some time before it was in full view. It slithered to the bottom of the cavern and sought its prey, but a few well-placed and well-powered arrows from Arakos kept it slowed and weakened.

The group was approximately 50 feet from the floor of the cavernous room, with still another 30 feet to go, when a blow from a lizard man pushed Faegin to the stone floor. Insubstantial and able to roll with the impact, he survived with limited damage from the fall, but the blow itself hurt him grievously.

Soon, Saranco the monk joined him there, a leap across a corner of the chasm having gone horribly wrong. The fall did considerably more harm to Saranco than it had done to Faegin, and Faegin was able to teleport back to the stairwell, while Saranco was not.

The giant snake made its slow approach. Saranco leapt high onto the rock wall and began to climb. But he did not count on an arrow from one of the lizard folks. It struck him in the back, knocking him unconscious. The fall did the rest. And so the one called Stonefist was dead.

The others had no time to recover the body, as the room was swarming with Serpent Folk: Yuan-ti, Lizard men, and serpents of varying type and size. Kirshakru made it to the device and activated it, sending a fountain of acid from a spigot at the top of the room cascading down in all directions.

The Irregulars ran through the acid mounted a ladder that led them 40 feet higher, through a door into the pipe in the center of the room. Up they climbed, toward unknown peril.

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