Nentir vale

The *EXPUNGED* of the cards

Following the threads of fate that bound their hands, our unlikely heroes made their way to Winterhaven. A border town built like a stronghold. There, eager to ply their special brand of problem solving, they came under the employ of the local Lord, and one Ser Oakley. Fearing the strange, chaotic powers of the card, the party journeyed to the lair of a brass dragon, and asked if she would safeguard it for them. The avaricious drake agreed to guard it jealously, but only if the Party would gift a magic relic for its return.

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The hunt is on!

The party has captured and have been entrusted with safeguarding a mysterious card depicting a gem and emanating chaotic magics of unseen potency. What would they do with it?

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Roast of a Fallen

That night as perpetration were being finished for the following mornings unrest, The group gathered together. Among the stars they all sat in a circle around a fire.
Everyone was tired, battered and bruised, some where in bits and some where excited due to new shoes, but everyone was there. Qin, Alexander, Narr, Yump and Crash.
“Crash, why during the all the preparations and planning did you call us out!”
“Two reasons: 1. We will give our fallen comrade a proper goodbye 2. One of our biggest battles together will take place tomorrow, one night of peace in all this chaos will do us some good, am I wrong?”
“He is right….” mumbled Narr, looking at his slippers, his mood had settled somewhat since the discovery of his magic boots. “Suppose we would each want a proper send off, it’s only fair we give on to _______”
Everyone stood, they all looked grim but proud.
Each one raised they’re choice of weapon in they’re right hand, pointing into the circle.
“He fought well!”Alexander spoke
“Fought violently”Yump agreed
“His Draconic was poor, got the job done” smirked Crash
“Excellent meat shield” Narr looked off into the distance, remembering the fights they had.
“He will be missed, tomorrow we purge those who took him!”Qin finished off.

Each person sat and drank for the next few hours, exchanging funny anecdotes, telling old story’s. The euphoria of the party lifted and everyone was closer…Hopefully the battle would not call for this again.

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Pursued by Iron Hounds.

The Hounds barked and growled in their metallic voices, trying to intimidate our majestic heroes. Crash and Yump were up, to destroy the fiends who had killed their ally. Crash in his courageous and handsome form shot off two arrows, landing both and killing the foul fiend, Yump also landed a blow to a closer fiend, though it was not as nearly as noticeable as Crashes, in fairness, none of what the party members could do was as noticeable as Crash. Not that he was egotistical at all!

Narr thought devious thoughts of killing the farmer and his son Brian. Narr thought any parent who called his son Brian should be killed on the spot, his eyes stared at the father as if he was a meal. Alexander saw this and caught Narr’s gaze, Narr knew Alexander would not let Narr kill the family. Narr focused on the metal hounds. Until! Dun! Dun! Duuuuuuuunnnnnn!!!!!!(can you feel the drama yet?!?!)

A huge, giant, enormous, colossal, ‘insert other adjective here’ Rage Drake with Sturmik leaps out from around the bend of the road.

“Where the hell did he come from!” – shouts the group almost as one. No one knew, all around were almost flat lands with barely three foot high stone walls. I mean this Rage Drake towered over Crash who was six foot tall. How the hell did no one see this thing coming at them.

Anyway, back to the story: The Drake took one claw swipe at Narr, thus rendering him as useless as he was most of the time. Qin attacked using his wood, jerked his long staff at the Rage Drake, having little effect on the it, but an unforgettable feeling for Qin. Crash whistled and walked round to one side of the cart because he totally did not miss firing two arrows at the Drake, all this whilst Yump and Alexander heroically and valiantly used their weapons upon the defenders.

Alexander, smashing one in the skull so hard it split in two, yet this gash held on to his sword. Alexander now tried to, fumbling, grab for his sword as the hound kept falling. DUE TO THE WEIGHT OF A MASSIVE SWORD IN ITS FACE!
Yump swung with his axe so hard at another defender that it just died, at this moment though, the Drake snapped it’s huge jaw at Yump, causing him to go down on Narr, falling and landing on him.

Amidst this interaction Crash had notched another two arrows and fired, this time causing the Drake so much damage it backed off for a few seconds allowing time for Alexander to heal Narr, though this was in vain as Narr was hit by the beast a second time, this once again hurting him in such a way that he went down on Yump.
Qin once again whipped his wood back and forth until he threw his seeds at the Drake, which once again did no damage, until Alexander finally managed to lunge for his sword and pull it out of the defender in such a motion that it ripped out of the skull, and due to the weight and the laws of physics the sword went straight back and plunged into the drake, finally killing the beast!
“Totally meant to do that” he said as he posed heroically at the beast.

“Let me go without harm or I will hurt your companion!” said Stomach, no one noticed the idiot until he had spoken those words.
“Call off your hounds….dog!” Said Alexander with a smile on his dial, Crash pulling an arrow fully back in front of the idiot, knowing he could see this.
Stomach spoke words in a foreign dialect that no one understood, the beast growled and backed off.
" Now let me go and I wont hurt your ally! " spoke the twat.
“Let our ally go and ‘I’ wont hurt you” said Alexander, Yump who had now recovered was grinning and discretely pulling out a hand axe.
“Oh..ok…” the idiot dropped Narr who for the billionth time now, fell onto the ground, Yump threw a hand axe at the running dumb ass, hitting his thigh, causing him to slow slightly, Crash shot two arrows though at this sudden moment he forgot how to use a bow and dropped everything at once.

The group traveled for hours on the farmers cart, very little words were exchanged between anyone. People were just getting over the fact that on of their party was now dead, everyone asking themselves the same thing “could I have helped?!”…all except two, one being Narr. Due to his mind he thought over the death and then moved on, which in turn may have been better than what others were doing, letting the death eat at them. Crash being the second knew, Rai was a tormented soul and needed to be at peace, now He finally was.

The cart wobbled and the wood of it creaked. How it was holding the whole group was a mystery. The road seemed endless until a spot on the horizon refused to become yet another tree and instead approached, a halfling female, the one they had talked to at Albridge. Narr, being the one looking everywhere was the first to spot the traveler, he looked to Crash. Crash at this moment was recalling his past, when he was part of an army, the men he watched die as he saw Narr’s grin. Luckily Crash saw the traveler and did not construed his grin to mean something else.

“Guy’s” murmured Crash, they all looked at him as he looked at the rider. Following the line of sight they all slowly understood what he was talking about.
Alexander jumped off the cart and landed on the ground with a thud. He slowly rose from his crouched position from when he landed and advanced towards the halfling.

Greetings were exchanged and Alexander started off with his questions, as Qin and Yump were behind him, Narr and Crash remaining in the cart.
“Tell us, do you bring news from Dar Gremath” Alexander asked the Halfling.
“Yes, we are getting ready to attack at next dawn” the halfling spoke as she made eye contact with every single party member, noticing one member with bouncing heads at the side of him, she made a mental note to not avoid at all cost’s.
“That is very close, we should head back to the village ASAP, I feel we would be better on horse back rather than cart though.”
“You’re right, one may ride with me, you can ‘borrow’ that simpletons horses, that should be enough for two on each”
“Hah!” Qin smirked as he walked forward, turning into horse from human in front of the group’s eye’s. They all looked horrified as his armor and weapons and his shaft turn and merged into places they did not know a horse owned.
“Now, even I am horrified by that” Narr whispered as he covered the severed head’s eye’s.
“Who rides with me?” Seranna asked as her voice broke from high to normal as she tried to adjust herself after what just happened.
Everyone looked at each other, Narr looking deeply into one of the heads eyes, he started humming as he recalled how he had earned this one. “Suppose I shall” said Crash as he approached the horse, he leaped on in a single bound “Well?!” He asked looking as bad ass as possible. Alexander took a horse from the cart and leaped on, his armor making sweet music as he clambered on, he then held an arm to Yump, swinging him on. Narr rode the other horse backwards.

Alexander and Yump talked over what had happened,
“You went down far too easy my bearded friend”
“I realised, though, I was useful!” – Yump almost snapped, the only pain he was in was his bruised ego.
“You were indeed, as always” Alexander grinned,
A bromance had started to form and was getting stronger with every encounter.

Narr was starting to become tired and in doing so he put the heads away, the more tired he was, the closer to his sanity he became. Starring off into the distance, thinking about the group he joined, who would be next to die. He nearly died today, it was too close of a call, worse things could have happened he supposed, he could be a bard!.
He looked back at Alexander and nodded, it was because of that paladin that he was still alive, Alexander nodded back.
Qin raced on ahead, jumping and leaping about, it had been far too long since he changed form and he would enjoy it while it lasted.
Crash and the halfling were talking, passing the time as awkwardly as possible.
“There were more of you…?” asked the halfling not thinking.
“Yeah….”Crash whispered, his face slumped and lost colour. “There were, he is a major reason as to why over 50% of this party is alive. Him and that paladin over there”
“Oh…I’m sorry…I didn’t mean…”
“Love, that’s alright, you had no prior knowledge” Crash smiled to reassure her “How are the preparations going? Do you think the town is ready for this?”
“No.” simply put, this stumped Crash.
“We’ll help”
“I bloody well hope so !” They both packed out laughing at this, taking the attention from the whole group.

Finally reaching Albridge, they dismounted. Crash stood next to Seranna, almost double her height, it was an interesting sight to behold as Alexander, Yump and Narr though, Qin still doing his horse shenanigans.
“Alright, I feel we should speak to the leader as well as the troops, get the moral of this place, because were not going to win by skill, or HAVING ONe OF THE ENEMIES LEADERS!”

Crash went to the ranged fighters, he talked strategy and helped those who were nervous. Yump looked at the bridges and ruined buildings, to see if his stone skills were of use. Plans were being formed in his head that might just give them a fighting chance.

Alexander spoke to the leader, Dar Gremath, discussing the whole plan, finding out if any allies such as elves or other towns could have been contacted at that very moment. Qin flew off to a well known druid, changing in front of a few people and demoralising them at the same time.
Narr put on a pair of slippers he had stolen from Nazin’s chest, they felt oddly sticky….No! It can’t be he thought, he lept for the nearest wall. Eyes clenched closed he waited until he fell, but He didn’t!
Eyes open, he stared at the ceiling, “Fracking yeah!” he ran around the room …like some…like some sort of spider man. Sticking to everything, he lept to the roof and stuck. Alexander walked in and froze at the sight of Narr Fiddles upside down, sticking to the ceiling, with the heads dangling down and his possessions littered all over the ground.
“I swear you get stranger by the second” Alexander shook his head and walked out.

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Mallard Inn

They headed out at the break of dawn, packing their cart and noticing the two heroes had not woken up, and after checking their pulse found it strong and steady, which confused the well rested heroes.

Upon reaching the Albridge, they come to the stables to rest their donkeys as they scout the village for information.
After handing over the reins, they explain the holes in the cart was due to the Iron circle shooting at them, to which the stable keeper explains that many people in the town are very restless with the coming of the mercenary bandits, and decide that they will do something about it.

“If you wish to help, come to my stable house, after midnight”

Rai picks the cart up, and pulls it towards the smithy as the rest follow on foot, where they find a dwarf hard at work.
Flirting, and exchanging their knowledge of blacksmithing, and boasting of his bravery fighting the Iron Circle for the weapons and armour they were exchanging, Yump secured the party a reasonable price for the equipment.
After business is settled, she explains in muted tones that the stable-keep was organising something after dusk in his house beside the stables.

Walking out with a fair share of gold, they each headed their own directions.
Alexander goes to talk to the sage of the village, where he discussed secrets, and spoke of religion.
Rai dragged the cart along to talk to carpenter, looking for an upgrade and to haggle, While Yump decided to stay and work at the Smithy, where he nurtured the flames of the forge and pounded the metal.
Afterwards, Alexander goes to the Carpenter to meet up with Rai, while Rai walks towards the Tavern, and meeting, Alexander explains that tunnels run under the town, and Rai complains about Carriage prices. They walk towards the tavern to meet up with Crash who went to see if he could pick up any secrets or rumours.

“I’ll head towards the Smithy, check on yump, see if he got into any trouble” said Alexander, heading down a side path, while Rai continued on.

Up ahead, Crash had just walked into the Mallard Tavern, accidentally walking straight into a group of Iron Circle troubling the barman, numbering just over half a dozen.
One near the door turns around, seeing Crash and his weapons.

“Please hand over your weapons, noone is allowed Weapons in Tor’s Hold apart from the Iron Circle” Said the Bandit.

Seeing himself easily outnumbered, and not sure if he would even get reinforcements, Crash says:
“Nope.” before suddenly turning around, closing the tavern door and throwing a fog just outside the door, and running around the corner before the Soldiers even realized what had happened.

They opened the door and the magical Fog started to seep into the Tavern, as they tried to run out into it. Scattered, they desperately looked for a way out, while Crash started to put on his cloak around the corner.
Rai had seen The Magical Fog, and decided to go around the building avoiding the fog, knowing only his friend could’ve summoned this.

He accidentally walked into him changing, and with a smile Took out his own Spare Iron Circle Cloak, and Wrapped it around him, and not a moment sooner when he heard a voice come stumbling out the fog asking IRONCLOAK! Where did he run to?”

Pointing the opposite direction, Rai yelled “HE RAN THAT WAY, hearing a chorus of “AFTER HIM” yelled repeatedly from within the fog, unable to smile as Crash slipped into the tavern’s back door and the enemy Ran circles confused.

Before he could follow, a few soldiers had cornered him, and believing him to be one of them, asked him if he was the one who say where he ran, replied that he did, and would lead them towards them.

Knowing this would be the path Alexander took from the smithy, Rai went in the direction of the smithy hoping to cut him off, and kill the guards following him if complications arose.

Alexander heard the thumping of multiple feet coming in semi-march, and seeing his Comrade’s shape come around the corner dressed as one of the Iron Circle, hid behind a building and donned his own spare cloak, then briskly caught up and asked what was going on, and being informed that a hairy person with a bow and daggers had entered the tavern and fled in a lucky flash of fog.

Rai said we should perhaps visit the smithy, see if the enemy fled there, and with a half-smile at Alexander, headed in that direction.

Crash however, noticed some of the Iron circles who had not found Rai in time, and they had decided to reenter the inn.
Finding himself trapped in the back with the ale, stuck between the outside and the barman serving the lost confused Iron Circle angrily interrogating him about who that was.

Trying to sneak back outside, he ran straight into another lost Iron Circle, and managing to flip his hood low over his eyes, said he didn’t find him, but that he saw the rest inside talking to the barman.

The two of them headed inside, while…

Alexander and Rai Arrive at the Smithy, and with two heavy fisted knocks, ask them to open up.
{Dwarvina} opens up and in low tones asks “what is the matter?”

“We are looking for an escaped convict carrying two short swords and a bow”

Being pushed aside by the Small groups cocky leader, Rai took a step back and looked at Alexander.

“We’re coming inside” barked their commander, and pushing aside {Dwarvina} he made his way in, Alexander pushed in too, trying to stand in the way and seeing all the weapons the party sold salvaged from the mercenaries at the farm,The commander turned angrily at Dwarvina.

“Who sold you these? How did you get them?” he screamed.

Stepping forwards, Rai says that it was his groups weapons, that some of them broke and the smithy had offered to mend it.

Alexander agrees, saying he know Rai’s group well.

Looking smugly at {Dwarvina}, smiles and says
“Is that so? well it’s good enough work, for a dwarf”

Yump gets up, and looks at the commander with stink-eye.
Walking up to him, he says in low tones

“keep your mouth shut unless you it’s to ask for our favour or compliment this respectable lady”

“Watch your mouth Dwarf” Said the Commander, his voice breaking resolve, frightened of that gleam in his eye.

They stood there for half a minute, Staring Coldly at each other.
Respecting Yump’s Tenacity, Backs off sure of a stalemate.

“Alright, lets leave this rut of a hole and go back to the tavern, our culprit is most likely long gone, if he knows what’s good for him”

Whispering to Dwarvina that he needs to be excused, she understood and with a half smile and nod Said to go with them.

“Mind if I join you?” Yump says coldly.

“Sure, you can buy the first round”Replies the commander with austerity.

The party, under various different pretenses, all meet up in the tavern unexpectedly, and though they see each other, they stay seperate, as so if one cover is blown, that the rest aren’t discovered.
Though the bandits don’t have time to question it, they were filling themselves to the brink with ale, and slowly the party bled various trickles of information from their loose lips.

After buying the second or third round, The commander pats Yump on the back, and says

“You’re alright, for a dwarf. but hear hear, i’ve never seen you before, where do you hail from?”

“I’m coming down from Falcrest”

“oh really? Fallcresht? Our lord would very much like to hear new about Fallcresht, says he has much money for information, do you know anyone from fallcresht?”

“yes, myself. I’ve come up from there to work”

“Well, you should join our cara-hicup-caravan leaving tommorrow, you get paid for information” said the commander, drunkenly taking out his dagger “no really, I insist”

Smiling his vicious smile, Yump replied _" oh don’t worry, I graciously accept, in fact, I look forward to it."

Seeing that the hour was drawing near to midnight, each member of the party pulled a reason, and slowly, after ten minute intervals, they excused themselves one after the other.

Rai, being the last to leave, pulled the stupidiest excuse, sure that it wouldn’t matter to the drunkards at the tavern.

“Excuse me, I-I…I need to go sharpen my swords” he said, pushing his way out.

Arriving late, Rai did not hear how or why the voices were raised, and walking up beside Crash with his hand on his hilt, asked what was happening.

“We managed to hide and blend ourselves in with the merenaries, and have a chance to sneak in and kill Their lord Nazin without much difficulty, these rebels are asking our help to free other towns, steal looted taxes and unite all the villages of Harken for a war seige against Nazin’s castle. we’re trying to convince Larry Snartfart that We have better chances sneaking in then we do at all out war, which isn’t smart to begin with seeing as the Iron Circle are proffesionally trained soldiers, and these rebels want to fight with Rabble and Militia”

“These people are looking for the Glory of War that they hear sung about by bards in tutus” replied Yump.

“All they’ll find is a battlefield strewn across with the bodies of their comrades, if not their own as well, I suggest we leave this place and ignore their cries for a bloody civil war” agreed Rai, while Alexander argued Furiously with larry against the idea of war, agreeing that Lord Nazin should die for consulting with deamons.

With a sigh, The party retired to sleep in the barn, leaving Alexander to hammer out the fine points with Larry Snartfart.

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Ilyana's Plight

After the fateful events at Treona’s tower, the adventurers traveled to Winterhaven, only to find that no one has heard about a band of orcs wearing a device of a circle of barbed wire. The townsfolk told them that if they wanted news they better go to Fallcrest and so they did.

Upon arriving to the city and asking a few questions, they found out that the orcs belonged to the bang of mercenaries and cutthroats called the Iron Circle, who showed up about six weeks ago in Harkenwold, a small barony in the southeast reach of the vale.

When the news of the party defeating the band of orcs from the Iron Circle spread in Fallcrest, they were praised as heroes and invited into the Blue Moon alehouse for celebration. As the night wore on, the gathering moved to the Lucky Gnome taphouse, the dwarf had quite a few and was demonstrating great feats of strength and prowess, contested by the dragonborn. The paladin was preaching the pelorian faith, rogue juggled daggers and played dice, while druid and the ranger were drawn into into a drinking game by the crowd. The ale flowed freely and cups were raised frequently in the name of the heroes who defeated the orc menace.

This is the morning after. You wake to loud braying. What jolted you awake was the stopping of the cart drawn by a pair of donkeys, upon which you are piled, stirring from deep drunken slumber.

The cart is standing in the middle of the road. About a mile to the back of the cart, you can see the forest which continues to your left. To your right is the gently rolling hills, covered in grass. Up ahead, the road carries on, going west, running parallel to the forest line in the north.

As you groan and try to remember through fierce hungover, you notice a note, stuck to the front of the cart with two of Nar’s daggers.

Harkenwold2

Still all slightly groggy except for the dwarf (who used to larger alcohol consumption), the party wondered aloud what had really happened during their celebrations in Fallcrest.

Deciding that their best course of action was to find a lead on the Iron Circle, Crash lithely leaps off the cart, wondering where he should go in order to find information on them, or even where they were!

Rai jumps off the cart with a leathery thump, shaking the cart as much as he tries to balance himself, and says that he remembers where they are.
Taking out his red leather bound book, he flips through the pages until he gets to his small collection of maps, and pointing at the letter, explains that judging from the hills, they were probably in Harkenwold, at that particular crossroads just north of the Druid’s Circle, and there should be a farm nearby, just over those hills.

Alexander holds his head and wonders where his money had vanished, saying “We should head towards the Circle, AND WHERE did all my money go?”, whereas Crash and Yump agree that talking to someone, even if it’s just a simple farmer, would help find where they are and perhaps if they know anything about bandits or mercenaries.

Opting to go alone, Crash heads off, while the rest of the party stays at the crossroads nursing their head in their rickety cart, Fiddles and Akasha still soundly asleep, recovering from their alcohol poisoning from the drinking competition they held in Fallcrest.

Clearing the hill, Crash sees a small column of smoke rising from the farm, and agilely sneaking closer while staying out of sight, finds a patrol of Iron Circle, yelling that they will set the house on fire if the farmer does not come out.

Overhearing this, Crash sprints to the top of the hill and waves his hands.
Yump, seeing through his crystal clear eyes, signals to the others.
Jumping into the driver’s seat, Rai takes the reins and whips the donkeys.

The donkeys, unfazed by the command, stand in place braying stubbornly.
Alexander impatiently looks at them with fiery glance, and terrified of the evil glint in his eyes, they start to run at a brisk pace.

Crash, seeing this, starts to run towards the farm, and as the Cart clears the hill, starts picking up momentum, and quickly overtakes Crash, who then fluidly leaps into the cart with ease.

As they came crashing down towards the farm, the Iron Circle turned their attention to the fast swerving cart, unholstering their crossbows and loading their bolts as their wolves dash towards the gates.

Yump jumps off the cart as Alexander wields Rai’s Crossbow, shooting a bolt at the bandits, Crash sending shot after shot that misses as their Cart shakes and speeds along the dirt track in a ditch. Landing and rolling forward throwing his handaxe, Yump lodges it into a wolf that leaps up and bites him, forcing him to step backwards.

The Iron Circle unleashes a hail of bolts in the direction of the hurtling cart, trading bolts for arrows with Crash. Two wolves jump into the cart, one leaping over the side with ease from the top of the ditch, level wit the cart, the large Alpha wolf landing onto the side of the speeding donkey-trap.

Slashing the wolf on the side, Alexander accidentally lets go of the crossbow, which falls into the ditch, and holding his shield high deflects the attack by the smaller wolf in the cart, Rai unhooks his battle axe and one-handedly throws it at the Alpha, lodging it into his eye.
Crash, bashes the Alpha wolf with his bow, then causes a fog to appear amidst the bandits, obscuring their aim with the crossbows.

Rai tries to stop the alarmed donkeys to no avail, and swerves the cart around a tree as Alexander and Crash jump out.

Swinging his axe with playful ease, Yump slays one wolf after another as a blinded bandit stumbles out of the fog in front of him.

Alexander rolls and falls onto the ground as he jumps from the cart, hurriedly grabbing Crash’s leg and whispering words of blessings and light, healing him who landed on his feet skilfully.

Another soldier stumbles out of the fog in front of them, and Rai tugs on the reins hard, dragging the donkeys to a sudden stop, and as Alexander expertly blocks the coup de grace with his shield, Rai Jumps from the cart, savagely slashing the enemy standing over his friend, forcing him to take a step back, as Crash notches an arrow and lets it fly straight and true through his foe.

Handing Alexander a hand up, Rai and Alexander rush into the fog to fight the remaining soldiers as Crash slid down the slope into the ditch and slowly paced forward, landing arrow after arrow into the side of the soldier menacingly approaching the backing Yump.

Seeing the soldier grimace in pain, Yump jumped forwards and cleaved his battle axe into his side, shattering the arrows and forcing them to lodge deeper into the now very much dead mercenary.

The fog started to clear, and Rai feinted his attacks, drawing attention from the bandits as Alexander slashed their exposed backs with proficiency.

Wiping their brows, wondered why the other heroes had not stirred from their alcohol induced coma, and hearing the door creek open, they all walked up towards the farm’s door, and seeing a peeping head quickly withdraw, exclaimed that our brave heroes were in the vicinity and heard she required saving.

The middle aged woman walked out, her light crossbow slung lowly on her hunched shoulders, her two kids of about fifteen following her, wide eyed in fear.

Explaining they had come to help, not loot, she lowered her weapon, and explained that her husband had died last year to those bandits.

She explained that if they wanted to help clear the area of bandits, that they should head towards Albridge, and feeling grateful, said she would let them take a bag of oats to feed their donkey as payment for saving her and her little ones.

Alexander, seeing the opportunity, explained that they had ridden far and long, and asked kindly if his party could sleep over in the farm for the night, and leave in the morning, case the bandit’s sent another patrol to check on their now fallen brethren.

Seeing the safety of their proposition, the old woman smiled, and asked if they liked porridge.

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Wind and stones

As dusk fell, Melara’s dragonling fluttered over to Fiddles and Crash, explaining in its native tongue that Rai, Alexander and Melara were invited to stay in the bastion to see for themselves the ritual Treona said would destroy the rock.
As Crash Translated to Yump, he clutched the stone ever tighter in his hands.

“I still don’ trust ‘err. Tha could be a ruse, and she’ll witch out ‘nother copy o the stone an’ make enough new stones to wipe out Alex, Mel, an’ tha’ infuriating Dragonborn” – weezed out Yump.

“I have the same feeling” growled Fiddles through gritted teeth, wanting to be in the tower so he could slide his dagger into the witches throat in case she tried anything funny.

“Right now, all we can do is keep watch over the tower and make sure to be ready in case something happens” replied Crash, crouched at the tree line petting his panther’s head.

Traxex paced, awkward, something obvious and uncomfortable on her mind.
Then, out of the blue, they heard thunder and saw flashes of lightning come out of the bastions open roof, a storm brewing overhead.
As another flash bolted over the clear sky, and an arrow whizzed past fiddle’s head, and orks leaped onto them, brandishing rusty iron swords with sharp edges that cut the air in front of them, seeking their flesh.

~

Back at the top of the tower, the angry elementals whooshed around, sharp cold air biting into cheeks and shredding clothes.
At almost the same time, Treona and Alexander were picked up by whirling invisible wind, trying to steal away at Alexander’s breath from his very lungs.
Being one with the element that tried to pluck him up and choke him, Rai flipped onto his feet and growled at the surroundings, noticing how strongly the bastion was built. Melara rolled closer to him trying to avoid the wind that ripped at her clothes.
Alexander choked out a few words in Primordial, the language of the elementals.
Upon hearing this, another elemental, slightly larger than the others, arose from the centre of the ritual ring and boomed out, his voice reverberating like thunder.

“WHERE IS THE STONE?”

Dropped from the grasp of air, Alexander gasped for sweet if bitter-cold air.

“Stone? What stone? We don’t have the stone.” he said, as he heard the clash of steel shatter through the air below, and with a quick glance down, quickly continued; “The Orks down there? They have it.”

As they heard the winds whistle around them, a flash and a clap of thunder came from below.

~

Hit by lightning, Fiddles stumbled backwards into the tree, Yump leaping into his place and charging towards the orc shaman, Crash’s arrows whizzing in front of Yump’s face as they found their target in the orc Yump hadn’t noticed behind the tree.

Traxex loosed arrow after arrow, which found their marks quickly, but she didn’t notice the orc come up from the side. Knocking another arrow, she turned to face the hammerhead that threw her to the ground, staggering her.

Fiddles aimed his crossbow straight at that foe’s head, who was too engaged in the battle to notice the bolt aimed at him. He turned to face Fiddles, and the bolt landed between his eyes.
Turning and loading his crossbow smoothly, he saw Traxex roll into the river.

The leader, obvious from his naturally imposing stance and eye patch over his right eye, stepped out in-between Yump and the shaman, his sword swinging through the air with momentum.
Blocking with his axe head, Yump brought his hilt up and bashed it right into his knee.
Two arrows and a bolt flew by, one arrow missing while the other consumed the leader’s last eye, the bolt embedding into his thigh, straight through the kinks in the armour.
Feeling a gust of wind rushing through, the dwarf knew he had to get rid of the stone.

Grabbing the arrow’s shaft, he pulled it out, the eye’s tail still writhing in pain, and with his other hand shoved the rock into its place.
Screaming inhuman cries, the orc backed off, blinded and, unknown to him, hunted by the elementals that surrounded him.

Still surrounded by other orcs, their bloodlust unsated, the party drew in their next gasp, the cold air filled with the buzz of the storm and adrenaline rushing through their veins.

~

The elementals threw Treona off the edge of the parapet, the sound of a crushing crunch clear through the wailing storm. Finished with her, the elementals flew down, and Alexander ran straight for the stairs.
Rai, feeling the urgency, ran to the parapet and lassoed his rope to it, throwing himself off in a fluid motion and running down the side of the tower.
Then, his feet didn’t meet rock, but glass.

Crashing through the window and hearing Alkirk wake with a nightmarish scream, he swung out and caught his feet on the rock below the window.
Scraped and bleeding from shallow cuts, Rai ran down the rest of the way, his feet hitting the ground just as Melara approached the parapet and rained down fire, lightning bursting in the background and rain starting to pour as the sky cried more flames and her dragonling fluttering in what seemed like a dance of insane glee around her.
A giant sphere of fire came down behind the orcs below, cutting off their escape and setting them ablaze.
Rai charged forward as Alexander burst through the doors, his look of confusion replaced with righteous anger.

Stepping out of the woods, Akasha confronted two orcs. They had no chance. The shadow of a large panther rose out of the ground and engulfed them.
Keeping his head down and walking calmly, cries of the dying emanating as the shadows slashed through the orcs trying to stay hidden.
Nodding slightly to Alexander, he continued his light pace onwards and faded into the treeline.

~

Fiddles sneaked away towards the site of the fall, finding Treona lying in a heap, breathing sharp painful gasps of air, choking on blood and rain.
Quickly tapping her for loot, he found nothing but a small pouch with a measly three gold pieces.
He never once tried healing a person, and didn’t have a clue to what to do. He turned her head to the side to clear her airway, bloody rain pouring out of her mouth; she choked in another gasp of air.
He glanced at her legs, and knew she would never walk again, the bones and sinew bared raw against the elements as the blood squirted weakly into the soil.
He ripped part of Treona’s robe, and used it as a makeshift bandage, at least until Alexander came.

~

Rai roared at the blazing orcs running towards him, the lightning that arced doing little to singe the already blackened skin that no doubt stung unimaginably.
Yump leaped up from behind and in one fell swoop cleaved his axe through the torso, slicing right through and embedding it in the ground below.

With a smile, Rai joined the fray as Yump swung his axe in the next direction, oddly finding its mark in the dark and storm.

Like the storm that brought them together, this was the storm they fought together in, covering each other’s backs.

Alexander embedded his blade through the gut of yet another one, whispering a prayer to the heretic as he slid off and fell. Glancing at another that managed to somehow slide unnoticed into the middle of their party, he muttered another prayer.
The orc, blinded by a burst of light, yelled in pain.

Rai, hearing the roar of more bloodied calling, rammed his blade into the shoulder and spun the green-skin around, sliding out his blade with a vicious twist as he twirled toward the blinded orc, eagerly sliding his long sword from the abdomen up into the heart, he brought his short sword around and lopped off the head. Blood squirted out and mixed with the rain.

Looking around the hazed battle field, everyone with grim smiles on their bloodied faces, looking back at the tower, he saw Melara pose majestically as she breathed fire from her hands.

~

Traxex tried desperately to keep her head above the water, her cuts stung afresh in the river.
Frantically trying to grab onto one of the stones of the bridge, her bloody wet hands couldn’t grasp anything, the river rising with rainwater pushing her head below the surface.
She felt her hands wrap around a root near the riverbed, only for the sting of a fresh cut to shock her. Letting go, she drifted down further along the current.

~

An elemental appeared to Alexander.

“The stone was ours, it empowers us. You had no right to treachery. We will now take what belongs to us, and do not dare follow us mortal.” That said, it vanished, a gust of wind sifting the dust and leaves to cover the tracks.
And with that, a dreadful cry rang through the forest. The elementals had found the blind orc.

Hearing Fiddles cry out for help, they rushed that way. Alexander, brooding in the place he stood, was the last to follow and join his party. As he walked, he noticed the spiral symbol on every orc’s armour, the symbol of mercenaries. He noted it and reminded to mention it to the others later.

~

Alexander softly brought the pleading Treona into the tower, the frightfully awakened Alkirk pacing beside him.
Pulling him back, Crash and Akasha talked calmly to him, distracting him as the rest went up to the second level with Treona.

Alexander had healed her enough to make her conscious outside, but didn’t heal her completely.
Laying her down on a soft piece of floor, he questioned her.

“Was that your plan after all this time? Consorting with elementals to destroy the stone? Feeding them more power? Do you know what they are! Akin to Demons and the unholy! Had I known from the start I would never have joined…” he raged.

“But it was for the greater good! To destroy the stone!”

“Feeding” interrupted Alexander “the primordials more power is the opposite of greater good”.

Standing up, Alexander put his hands together.

“Do you repent helping the elementals?” he asked.

“Of course! I just wanted that stone rid from this world” cried Treona with a shaky voice.

“May your gods give you rest as they will forgive me” he prayed, and before anyone else had time to react, the smashed her face with his fist, crushing her head under a shield till there was nothing recognisable left.

Shaken, Rai approached him.

“You shouldn’t force your faith on others…I’m shocked you did that!” stuttered Rai.

“I didn’t force my faith on her, simply stated she was helping the elementals, and then gave her the chance to redeem herself for when she met her maker.” grimly stated Alexander.

Silent, they all went about their tasks, Melara burnt the body to ashes, and Akasha swept the ashes away, Rai went down and prepared a stew with what he could find, Fiddles and Alexander approached Alkirk and informed him of his rat like cousin.
Crash and Yump went out into the rain to look for Traxex in case she got beached…
Everything had a surreal feel to it.

As Crash and Yump came back, their efforts in vain, they were welcomed with a warm bowl of thick delicious stew. Sitting at the table quietly, only Alkirk chatting away to Alexander, interrogating him to the details of their amazing story.

Melara and Rai went to the fireplace and tried to light a fire, lightning arching towards the kindle as Melara set the logs a smoulder. They sat there and talked about magic late into the night, Rai writing more notes into his mysterious book.

Yump went into the basement and lay his bedroll there, then searching amongst the barrels for more ale or alcoholic beverage, found a small casket of cider. Drinking his fill, he fell asleep soundly. The rest had gone to bed.

Morning came, and the sun shone brightly. The grass had never looked greener, the sky was a clear brilliant blue, they stood at the doorway, the stairs dry and rough under their feet, and looking at each other, growling a joke in draconic, Melara, Crash and Fiddles laughed.
They didn’t want to go their separate ways.

“You know, after all we’ve been through… we could use people like you to find the people who hired the orc mercenaries.” said Alexander, not looking at anyone in particular.

“I’ve nothing more important to do.” said Rai, solitude taking its toll.

“As long as there’ll be more magical artefacts” smiled Melara.

“I’m always by your side” huffed the dwarf.

“Robbing millionaires or the dead? If you promise excitement I guess” said fiddles with a crooked smile.

“This group is insane…I like it” smiled Crash.

They all looked at Akasha.

“Sure, why not. Someone needs to heal your sorry faces.” He joked.

“So, which way?” asked Melara.

“I suggest Winterhaven. Word in the wind is that there’s something a stirring there.” Said Rai.

“Then lead the way. Were one goes, we follow”

The sun shone brightly through the dew on the grass. The surreal feel of last night faded. They had an entire day ahead of them, and who knew what was in store before the next dusk fell.

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