Chronicle of the Flickering Flame

Adventure Log ~ 4
In the Shadow of the Shieldfort

○ After the harrowing encounter with the griffon the party heads indoors. The storage barn is well stocked with all sorts of useful equipment necessary to run a thriving farming village. The party takes time to search the barn and rest for a while. Cor seems to have made a friend of the malnourished and skittish pugnub. The paladin names him Theodore.

○ Meanwhile, Orryn delves further into the journal he found. It seems that it was written by a man named Gelmann. He has spent years studying the griffon that has made the Brightmeadow valley its home. The naturalist has come to the conclusion that the griffon is the only one of its kind in the valley and that it must be a mount that survived the battle between the orcs of the Sword Mountains and the dwarves of clan Stoneshaft that perished here not long before the village of Winstock was founded. Gelmann seems overly fascinated with the griffon, perhaps obsessed. He had once taken a long and expensive trip to Waterdeep where he spent considerable time in the Grand Library studying griffons and the Battle of Brightmeadow. He thinks that there might be more to learn about the griffon in the dwarven shieldfort to the southwest and has decided to mount an expedition. The journal, at times, delves into more personal territory and Gelmann speaks of his loving wife Sera and their newborn son. She doesn’t want him to go on the expedition because of the danger and his responsibility to their child. Gelmann writes of his conflicted feelings but still seems intent on travelling to the fort.

○ As Orryn is recounting to the party what he gleaned from the journal Hjorde and Lia hear a sound that seems out of place in the barn. The muffled voice of a child. The two track the sound to a group of barrels. Hjorde uses her considerable strength to move the obstructions out of the way. A trapdoor with a brass ring attached is revealed and the voices have abruptly stopped. The fighter hefts her hammer and smashes the door into splinters. Lia leaps into the darkness of the hidden room below where she finds a slight and bedraggled woman and very young boy huddling together. The woman wields a spear but her resolve breaks and she drops it. The elf druid tries to reason with the woman and calm her down but she has obviously been through a trying ordeal and Lia’s efforts are unable to pierce through the woman’s fear and paranoia. She tries to flee up the ladder with her son, only to run headlong into Darth who is hidden in the darkness. Eventually, the mother is convinced that she and her son have been saved and that their live are not actually in danger.

○ The woman and boy are revealed to be Sera Gale and her son Gorvy. She thanks the party for saving the both of them but is obviously distraught by the struggles and loss of the past ten-day. She tells a tale of orcs and goblins storming the village in the dead of night. They slaughtered villagers by the score and took prisoners away, dragging and screaming. Her and her son hid in the secret room beneath the barn and twice since the attack she has emerged to gather food and water, nearly being caught by goblin patrols each time. She asks the date and when she hears she speaks of her husband Gelmann. She tells the party that he led an expedition to the dwarven shieldfort to the southwest to find clues about the griffon and isn’t due back for three or four days, at least. Sera is ecstatic that he might be alive and implores the party to help her find him though she curses herself for her selfishness. She realizes that other villagers have been taken prisoner by the orcs and are just as deserving of rescue, if not more.

The party tells her that they will recover her husband, dead or alive, and convince her that she is safest not following them into danger. They tell her to leave Winstock and head for the longroad where she can eventually find safe haven in the city of Waterdeep. She is told to wait at the first inn on her right after passing through the main gate. Ellywick gives generously and provides Sera with plenty of gold and silver to help her make her way. As the party is leaving the barn, Orryn is waiting with a plan that will cement in Sera’s mind that staying in the valley is a dangerous mistake. He magically disguises himself as a goblin and startles the woman and her son. She and Gorvy flee for the mill. The rest of the party is confounded at the presence of another goblin, but some grow suspicious that Orryn is somehow responsible for this ruse. Sera emerges from the mill, armed, armored and laden with food and water. She reminds the party of their promise and leaves immediately, fearful of lingering dangers.

○ Our heroes depart from the village of Winstock and make their way to the southwestern foothills where lies the old, abandoned shieldfort. After an exhausting day the party makes camp just on the edge of the foothills. Ellywick questions a passing family of field mice, inquiring about dangers in the area. She learns that the flying creatures the party spied circling the fort might by giant wasps, dangerous creatures best avoided. The dwarven outpost looms ominously above, appearing ghostly in Selûne’s light. While Orryn is on watch he thinks he catches the sound of an echoing warhorn, just on the edge of hearing. Curiosity, and what might be sort of otherworldly power, seems to draw him toward the hills. He moves some distance outside of the camp and is soon surrounded by the sounds of clashing steel amid bloodcurdling war cries and the screams of the dying. He realizes that the memories of the past are thick in this place and the veil between this world and the next is dangerously thin. The terrible battle that occurred here has left an indelible spectral imprint. The gnomish warlock returns to camp and lays down as his watch comes to an end. For a moment he sees The Great Turtle, etched into the swollen moon above. It seems to speak to him, with assurances that his path is true.

○ At dawn our heroes break camp and begin their march up the rocky hills toward the fort. They come upon an ancient path lined with dwarven pikes. Nearly every one features the impaled skull of an orc and the sense of dread as the party continues on is palpable. Finally, the party arrives at the shieldfort. Its twin towers rise into the sweltering summer sky and its gates have been smashed in, leaving a gaping, black maw. A dry moat circles the fort, lined with deadly spikes, and the fields the party has to pick its way through are littered with the bleached bones of what must be well over a hundred slain orcs. The party enters the ruin.

○ The entrance hall is dry and covered by a thick layer of dust that obscures the bones of nearly a dozen dwarves and orcs. Darth notices that much of the armor and many of weapons that remain here are heavily rusted and crumbling into ruin. Orryn spies an old battered shield clutched by a dwarf skeleton. It’s mostly intact and depicts the coat-of-arms of the Clan Stoneshaft. He recognizes the design from a sketch in Gelmann’s journal. Apparently it’s the same symbol affixed to the griffon’s harness. And then, the room grows unnaturally cold. Our heroes can see their breath in the air and an ethereal voice calls out. “Are ye sure ye belong here? Mayhaps ye should turn around before it’s too late?” A dwarf spirit appears. He is clad in the vestments of a cleric of Moradin and he introduces himself as Celgan Stoneshaft. He makes an attempt to warn the party away but soon comes to the realization that maybe they can help clear away the evil that plagues the shieldfort.

He tells them of an depraved mountain orc named Illthag whose spirit still haunts the fort. He was once the chieftain of the Bloodfoot horde that emerged from the Sword Mountains, intent on pillaging the countryside. The Stoneshaft clan mobilized what forces they could and met them on the field. The battle became known as the Battle of the Brightmeadow. Losses were crippling on both sides and there was no clear victor. Celgan worries that there might not be a living Stoneshaft left in Faerûn. When told of a griffon who still stalks the valley the cleric says that it is almost certainly Goldclaw, whose rider was a dwarf named Dereth Stoneshaft. He also has vague memories of a group of human companions entering the fort. He says that they are trapped below and that it is Illthag’s corrupting influence that keeps them there. The orc spirit has desecrated the shrine of Moradin and his blasphemy has caused the bones of dwarven warriors to walk once again. They are filled with hate and seek only to punish the living. Celgan says that every shieldfort is provided with one of Moradin’s Warhorns. A devices designed to instill fear in the hearts of even the most savage and brutal orcs. He says that the horn can be found below and that it could be used to great effect on Illthag. However, dwarven undead protect it and, presumably, have Gelmann and his expedition trapped with no hope of escape. Celgan says that if they should be able to defeat Illthag before retrieving the horn and then cleanse the shrine of Moradin, the risen dwarves could rest once again and the way to Gelmann’s expedition would be clear. The cleric knows that it is a difficult decision without a clear solution. And so, he offers to provide a blessing upon them should they call upon him, though it is all the help he can provide.

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Adventure Log ~ 3
The Village

○ Our heroes emerge from their hidden positions amidst the tall grass of the Brightmeadow. The goblins and their wild hunting dogs are unprepared for the attack. War cries are loosed and blades bared. Arrows whistle through the air, tearing stalks of grass and goblin flesh to shreds. The battle is over almost before it had a chance to start. The goblins and their hounds lie decimated; their bodies pierced by arrows or cloven by hard, cruel iron. Some survive though their wounds are grievous.

The party interrogates the living with unforgiving efficiency. They learn of an orc named Lokthal who seems to have revived a horde of orcs and goblin warriors called the Bloodfoot Clan. They’ve recently emerged from the depths of the Sword Mountain range to the north. When our heroes ask the goblins about the boy they met in the Kryptgarden the goblins grow fearful. One even tries to take its own life, terrified of what fate awaits it should it be taken by the boy and punished for its betrayal. Apparently, Howden Wrightwater is working with Lokthal and his Bloodfoot clan. In the past, Lokthal’s goblins have been tasked with kidnapping innocent travelers in the surrounding countryside and bringing them to the boy-necromancer for some unknown purpose.

The boy also helped the orc warleader and his soldiers when they attacked Winstock. Most villagers where slain though some were taken back to Lokthal’s fort in the Kyrptgarden where they are being held prisoner. The village is now an outpost for Bloodfoot scouts and the party learns that a map to the fort could be found within. After this, the goblins are given a merciful end and the party continues toward the village of Winstock.

○ The party scouts the perimeter of the village though finds little activity besides the screeching crows that perch atop the palisade wall and the roofs of the buildings within. The party devises a plan to gain entrance to the village. Orryn approaches the northern gate disguised in goblin armor and manages to fool the two goblin guards into opening the gate. One emerges from the village to assist Orryn and is rendered unconscious with sleep magic. The other goblin races to the other end of the village for help where it happens to notice Darth trying to sneak into the village from the river. Lia assists the elf rogue with an expertly placed arrow fired from over a hundred yards. Darth is unable to silence the goblin before it can cry out however. Its allies arrive to assist just as it dies bleeding in the river. Darth is in dire peril though Cor and Lia arrive just in time.

The odds are against them and a massive orc, covered in the thick armor and muscle strides to the fore. Cor is grievously injured though his faith in Helm sees his wounds mostly healed. Lia’s magic is potent as a Thunderwave rocks the village, sending goblins flying and a cloud of crows erupting into the sky. The orc, though injured, is only made that much angrier. He fells the elf druid with a single wicked strike from his greataxe, sending her to the threshold of death’s door. Eventually, Darth delivers the final killing blow. Cor manages to stabilize Lia and the party begins exploring the village.

○ The party first explores the water mill. They find large amounts of flour, unrefined grain, corn, various vegetables and other food stuffs. Also here are many weapons, most likely scavenged from the stores of the village. Finally, the party finds chests filled with treasure and a map that leads to Lokthal’s fort to the north, deep within the Kryptgarden forest. Lia is placed in a room on the second story of the mill to recover from her wounds.

Orryn explores the various homes of the villagers. He finds many signs of struggles and that most where surprised with little chance to adequately defend themselves. In one house he finds the strange collection of an aspiring naturalist who seems to be focusing their observations on a griffon who apparently makes its nest in the valley. Drawings are pinned to the wall and a detailed journal is found.

Meanwhile, Cor begins exploring the barn and animal stables. He finds a single animal still alive in the yard, a malnourished and skittish pugnub. A small mammal with a long, furry body prized for its pelt and tender meat.

Eventually, Lia emerges from unconsciousness. She steps out of the mill only to find herself face to face with yet another goblin(the one Orryn had lured out of the village). But, just before it can attack a shadow passes overhead. A massive griffon swoops in and lands its imposing form in front of Lia, crushing the goblin beneath it. It tears at its newfound meal, ripping great chunks from the goblin’s pulverized body. Cor rushes to the scene to see Lia bowing in reverence before the great beast. He calls out a warning and the griffon lets out a great roar before lunging at the paladin. Only the strength of Cor’s shield and his reflexes save his life. The beast screeches and takes to the air after grabbing the rest of its meal in its beak. The party watches it fly back to its eyrie in the southern hills. Beyond the creature’s terrible majesty they notice that it has been strapped with a worn and tattered saddle and harness.

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Adventure Log ~ 2
The Boy in the Forest

○ The party enters the ancient and overgrown wilderness of the Kryptgarden forest, following the tracks through the rugged undergrowth. The way is slow as the party struggles to stay on a trail obscured by the dim gloom cast by the thick canopy of the woods.

○ Hours pass uneventfully until Darth and Ellywick spy something moving through a distant thicket. It appears humanoid and seems to be spying on the party. Darth, a Wood Elf at home in the wildest, untamed forests, slinks through the underbrush, unseen and unheard. He apprehends the spy only to find that it is a young, human boy, frightened and alone. He is gaunt and filthy, his common clothes torn and threadbare. The party arrives and questions the boy. His name is Howden Wrightwater and he says he fled the village of Winstock when it was attacked in the night by a force of merciless raiders. His mother and father forced him to flee, leaving his parents behind, presumably to die. He fled into the Kryptgarden and has been in the forest for many days, struggling to subsist and avoid the dangers that stalk the ancient wood.

○ Howden agrees to lead the party out of the forest and into the Brightmeadow valley where his village sits on the banks of the Emerald River. The group leaves the trail behind, heading southwest for hours, eventually emerging from the Kryptgarden and into a sea of tall, moonlit grass. They spy a copse of trees in the distance, like an island in the ocean of undulating grass. The party decides to make camp there for the night and trudges through the meadow, exhaustion setting in.

○ The party takes shelter in the small, isolated grove. Orryn, Ellywick and Howden share a meal around the campfire and the boy inquires about how and why the party was travelling through the Kryptgarden. Orryn, never missing an opportunity to cause mischief, lies and tells Howden that his parents are still alive and that they sent the party to find and bring him home. Cor overhears the falsehood and attempts to intervene. Yet, Ellywick uses her magic to erase any of Howden’s remaining skepticism. She mimics the sound of Howden’s father calling out from the darkness beyond the fire. Having never heard the voice of Howden’s father however, she makes an educated guess that hits the mark. The boy races toward the sound and when he finds nothing he shakes his head, letting out a low and chilling laugh. He curses himself for being a fool and falling for such simple magic. And then a change happens, revealing that Howden is more than our heroes had originally suspected.

○ A cold shadow seems to pass over the grove. The grass shrivels into a brown scruff and the trees grow gnarled and wicked, their skeletal fingers reaching. And Howden is now clad in black robes, his skin pale in Celune’s silvery light. A powerful burst of magical energy cascades through the party, filling some with an overwhelming and crippling fear. Rage flows from Howden as he accuses the gnomes of tricking him and ruining his plan. Yet, the boy says that the party’s feeble lies can’t work on him and then reveals that he knows his parents are alive, not because of Orryn and Ellywick’s attempts at deception, but because he’s the one who kidnapped them from the caravan the party was protecting! He regrets that his soldiers did not kill the party when they had the chance and warns them to leave the valley and not look back. Howden then dematerializes into a cloud of billowing mist that flees into the sea of grass.

○ The next morning the party decides that it is worth continuing their journey to the village of Winstock. Along the way the group chances upon a group of skeletons half-buried in ground. They are revealed to be a dwarf and a mountain orc, armed and armored though they perished years ago. While the party investigates a patrol of goblins and wild dogs passes close by! The party decides to mount an ambush rather than let the patrol continue on, unaware of their presence.

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Adventure Log ~ 1
The Flame is Lit

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○ Our heroes gather in the town of Triboar where they have answered a call for adventurers to escort Lady Henrietta Haberlyn, the mayor of the town, and her husband Belvon to the great metropolis of Waterdeep to the south. They are given 50 gp each and are promised another 50 gp after the Haberlyns’ are safely delivered to the city.

○ A caravan sets out from Triboar, beginning an eleven day journey to Waterdeep. The caravan consists of the Haberlyns, their personal guard and our heroes.

○ The journey is uneventful except for some wild dogs that harmlessly stalked the caravan for a handful of miles. And then in the late morning of the fifth day of travel the monotony of the journey is rent asunder.

○ The caravan is ambushed! Arrows and rocks rain down on the travelers from the top of a high ridge that borders the eastern edge of the road. The scene is pure chaos punctuated by a giant boulder smashing into the side of the Haberlyn’s carriage. Our heroes are thrown from their horses and knocked unconscious.

○ The party returns to consciousness, having only fleeting memories of the past few hours: the moans of the dying, orders being barked in some rasping, guttural language, the splintering of wood with axes and the screams of the Haberlyns receding into the distance.

○ After awaking the party examines the scene. Dead guards and horses lie everywhere and the carriage is smashed beyond repair. Its door has been smashed in and the Haberlyns are nowhere to be found. Of their personal guard, only Roybern and Jerra survive though they are in poor shape. Cor uses his divine magic to help Roybern with his smashed leg and manages to coax some information out of him. Roybern is very concerned with the fact that whoever kidnapped the Haberlyns had left their gold, which had spilled into the road, untouched. He suspects their employers are already dead. Meanwhile, Hjorde removes the arrow from Jerra’s shoulder before binding the wound. Darth recovers one of the party’s horses that bolted from the scene though a mysterious magical force spooks the beast causing it to flee. Hjorde recovers the last horse that can be found and the party sends Roybern and Jerra on their way to Waterdeep suggesting that they aim to follow the tracks into the Kryptgarden forest to recover their charges.

○ The party enters the ancient and overgrown woods of the Kryptgarden, unaware of what awaits them…

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