The Dark Ages

Good news and Grave danger
Letter to Jorann

Jorann,

I have a great deal to tell you, our latest mission was a complete success! With the aid of Sir Reynald, we successfully took Upland hold, and freed Anastasia!
We were about to leave to meet with Sir Reynald to plan the assault on the keep, when Balto received word from Godfrey that he was calling in the favor that he had extracted from us to raise Beladur from the dead. Though we wanted to go straight to Upland hold, a promise must be kept. So, we went to Old Fawn to meet with Godfrey and repay the debt.
On the way, we met a God! It was the same God that Joffrey dreamed about. The man with the three legged dog and the raven, who said “ You walk with my brother, but you also walk with me.” His name is Almonde, he spoke with us at some length questioning what I get from serving Tangadorin and what Tangadorin gets from my service. When he took his leave from us, he leapt away and was soon lost to sight! Then his raven told me that, the enemy of your enemy is not your friend, do not open the door lest you release something that is best left alone. This is not an exact quote, but was in reference to the chaos tower which I had admitted was much on my mind and that I did burn to reveal the secrets within.
That night, our entire party shared a dream where I stood before one of the doors from the chaos tower and I was trying to open it. I was pushing with all my might and it was starting to give. I saw a glimpse of a green tower within, but then Cerasaii woke me up.
I must admit, that I had more than a few reservations in promising to pay an unknown favor, but the payment is something that I would have been compelled to do even without the debt. He told us that he had heard word of a plot against the Duke, and our Temple as well! He told us that he had heard whisperings that the Dame had instigated a plot to endanger the Duke and cast the suspicion upon our Temple in order to get a royal edict to empower and legitimize the Lightbringers.
Obviously, this would result in the you, me and Torak all being publicly executed. Weather the Duke will be harmed or just threatened is unclear, but in order to implicate our temple, it must occur in or near Enonia. Godfrey told us that the Duke is planning to come to Enonia in the near future, and that this is almost certainly when the attack will occur.
I suggest that you have Torak report to the Temple immediately! We must be prepared.
We decided that since the Duke had not yet begun travelling, we had enough time to assault the keep and still get back to Enonia before the Duke. That night, Beladur took us to meet two sisters who he felt might be able to shed light on this Almonde and the strange dream our group had after we met him.
They told us that Alfred and Gerald are obviously doing rituals with demons. They also told us of a green tower held by the Nvond family a bit east of the chaos tower. There must be some link.
They told us that Almonde is a God of travelers, and that Tangadorin gains power from our revealing secrets and shedding light on lost knowledge.
We asked them to research into the magical chamber in Upland hold, this could be important information.
Then we headed back to Yew. Reynald had already left to Pencurth, so we hurried on our way there. We found him and decided upon our plan. We would sneak in and take out the leaders and Reynald would assault the front.
We snuck in with no problems, climbed up the well and snuck right over to the building where we knew the leaders were. Everything went remarkably well. We took out the military leader Lon and took him prisoner. Then we made it up to the second floor before the first alarm was sounded. We took out the guards and freed a few prisoners who told us where the mage was. We found her withought much problem, and with a successful silence spell, she only got off a single spell before Pyria killed her. Anastasia was freed from the enchantment, and we were ready to make our escape.
We took Lon, and went to the first gate tower, wher we took out the guards and released the weights, then to the second tower. We spiked the door, killed the gaurds and opened the gate. Then we signaled Reynald to attack.
Reynald’s forces killed 60 men without taking a single casualty and the rest broke and ran. Meanwhile the castle forces were pouring out while we shot arrows and spells at them. We threw Philopote’s dead body down and told them that there leaders were vanquished. They surrendered and we were able to take the keep.
We are all on our way to Enonia now to protect the Duke. We are bringing Anastasia to reunite her with Marshal Raimes. Reynald is also on his way as I felt I had to inform him of the danger to his brother. He is clearly a man of honor and loyalty and I always have problems not talking, so…..
We shall be with you soon, put everyone on the alert. We will certainly need to inform the Marshal of the possible threat. Be careful not to make any accusations as we have no proof of anything yet. As of right now, it is a possible threat, that I believe, but that is all we know.

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Report To Jorann
Grel’s report to Jorann at the Temple

Greetings High Priestess,

I hope this message finds you well, and that all is well in Enonia.

Allow me to fill you in on our latest adventure. Our group spent most of the spring hunting the Black Riders. Taran, Fergus, Beladur, Pyria, Mazlor, Sally, Itsy, Josef, Vilheim and I decided to scout Upland Hold to find out what was going on. We were granted ten men to accompany us by Marshal Yinnivax. We decided to try to get word out that we were a heavily provisioned group on our way towards the mountains. We stopped in pentacurth and pretended to be waiting out the storm. A few went to Ironham to let out word of our plans, then returned with one of the traitors.We waited a few days, and finally ten Black Riders came and demanded our provisions. We killed some and captured the rest.
We continued on our way, and were soon attacked by 20 Black Riders. We took out most of them and captured the rest. We then returned to Marshal Yinnivax with the prisoners and news tha we had seriously depleted the forces in Upland Hold.
Hopefully, we can soon mount a true assault on the Keep!

Incidently, I hope you can recruit a couple young priest to come to Old Fawn to start spreading word of Tangadorin. The Marshal has already agreed to allow it.

I wish you well, and will report again if there is news.

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Message to Jorann
Grel’s report to Jorann at the Temple

High Priestess,

A strange adventure occurred that I must inform you of. Malor, Sally, Itsy, Beladur, Taron and I set out once again to rescue Anastasia. We had little difficulty reaching Upland Hold and made our way into the secret entrance. This is where things became odd. After we entered, there was a ledge 10 feet up and Beladur decided to climb it. Suddenly, he was caught by something and was being pulled up. I grabbed his legs to pull him back, but it was too strong. I won’t go into too much detail, suffice it to say it was a bit hairy, but we defeated the cave fisher and continued exploring. While exploring, we passed a stairway which Beladur decided to look into. This seemed to disturb the undead Licht?/Wight? Creature that was standing guard. We beat a strategic retreat, but it followed. Eventually Mazlor was able to turn it. Allowing us to raid it’s chamber and take a chest full of gold. We continued on, and Beladur was attacked by Rock men. I used Tangadorin’s gift of comprehension to talk to them and convinced them we meant no harm. They called themselves the lost, since they had been ensorcelled into these creatures and could not leave or remember their lives.
We continued on and found a pool with columns and a hole in the ceiling. It turned out that this was the bottom of a well in the keep. We continued and found the entrance into a storeroom below the keep. There was a trap door which led to a room with a door. Outside that door was a barracks with sleeping soldiers. We decided not to continue further at that time. While investigating the storeroom, we found a passage to a chamber of extremely powerful magic! Could you please check with the sages in Enonia and find out if there is some hidden magical history of this keep? This was clearly a level of magic far beyond anything I have ever seen. This definitely needs to be investigated by people who know what they are doing. I fear to touch anything in that chamber. On our way back, Beladur climbed the well and looked around, Then Mazlor tried to Dispel the magic on one of the rock men. It worked! He then tried it again on the other 6, 2 did not survive, but the other four were freed. We took the 5 survivors to Pentacurst and left themwith Girault.
Please get back to me with anything you can fnd on the history of Upland Hold.

Your Friend and Faithful Servant,
Grel

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Missive to Jorann
Grel’s report

High Priestess Jorann,

I am bursting with excitement to tell you of my recent doings. The most important (to me) is that I have pleased Tangadorin enough that he has granted me my Paladin’s Warhorse, and a more fantastic steed has never graced a warrior. It is no ordinary steed! It is a magical entity. It looks like a winged horse, but it is not wholly (but it clearly is Holy) visible. It seems to be formed of the clouds. When I mount it, I feel closer to Tangadorin than I have ever felt when not in His actual presence. Tangadorin has told me that it has incredible speed, although I have not put that to the test yet. But most amazing of all is that it flies! You can’t imagine the joy in flying on the back of the corporeal proof of your God’s love! It is a truly amazing feeling.
But I fear I have digressed from my report. Forgive me for that, but I am still awed by this incredible gift. Much has been going on up here to the north. As you no doubt have heard, Sir Yinnivax has been named Marshal. We went to see him to congratulate him. Also, we figured we would see what he knew of the apparent turning of Anastasia, Marshal Raimse’s daughter.
He was pleased to see us, and told us that he had three main problems and he would appreciate our help in any of them. First, there was Notchland keep to the East, Second, the Goblins to the South and Third, the Black riders to the North in Upland hold. From our earlier scouting, we had found that Anastasia was in Upland hold. We also found evidence that she was in the company of a Black rider female mage. We think there is a possibility that she has been charmed.
I spoke to the Marshal about Tangadorin. He has agreed that Tangadorin’s preist are free to come to Yew and tell people of Tangadorin’s way. This would of course mean they would have to help out in any way they could, but I am sure that they would wish to help anyway. He has not yet agreed to a Temple, but I feel sure that in time, he will allow it. You will need to see if Tangadorin can provide some priests for the new posting.
We decided to head there with the hope of rescuing Anastasia, and gaining intel for Marshal Yinnivax.
Mazlor (with Sally and Itsy), Fergus (with Josef and Vilheim), Pyria, a new adventurous mage named Tanner, and myself set off. Mazlor decided to see if a priest named Girault wanted to come as we were planning to scout out Pentacurst, the town he had just been forced to evacuate on our way. He was very willing and brought along two veterans who had told us of a secret entrance into Upland hold.
Our journey was uneventful, until we were about a day’s ride from Pentacurst. That’s when we encountered 4 humans running away from 20 goblins. I charged in with my fellow adventurers close behind and we were able to rescue the humans and defeat the goblins. I should point out that the new mage accounted himself quite well. He put a half dozen to sleep with a single spell. Vilheim was a bit put off as he went under too, but he seemed quite impressed with the results.
Pyria managed to tie one up for questioning. This is where I am deeply troubled. For not only did Pyria deceive the unfortunate goblin that she would let him go. But then when we had finished questioning it, she did release it, but only to kill him as he ran away. I am deeply troubled by this and am not sure how Tangadorin would wish me to respond. I can’t very well attack her as she is a friend and companion, nor do I feel I can refuse to heal her if she is in mortal danger. However, I feel that this action was wrong. Do you think a stern talking to would be sufficient response? Your guidance would be appreciated.
We spoke to the four humans who were from a small hamlet called Ironhill, not too far away. We agreed to accompany them home. On the way, one of them told us of a strange habitation nearby. Five stone buildings where two elder gentlemen lived. We were a bit curious, so we decided to check it out. AS I got close to the buildings, my senses told me that the center building reeked of Chaos, and magic. It was very disturbing. I knocked on one of the buildings, but the occupant would not come out. Mazlor knocked on the other building and had more success. The older man agreed to allow us to spend the night, but asked that we not bring fire into the circle of buildings, and to stay away from the center building. The sense of chaos was too troubling for me to remain, so I camped away from the structure. The rest of the party remained. A few hours later I heard an explosion and a blast of light. When I went to investigate, I found Fergus unconscious and fried, along with two sheepish looking magic users. Apparently, they had convinced Fergus to attempt to jimmy the lock on one of the doors of the center building. A metal Demonic face which was the keyhole had bitten clean through his dagger and then hit him with a lightning bolt. He came within an inch of total death. We all decided that it would be a good time to leave.
I am also troubled about this. As a servant of Law and Order, I am naturally opposed to Chaos. However, these old men did not challenge us and were in fact quite reasonable. I felt that I should have done something about this Chaos, but I couldn’t very well go and break down their door and demand answers. That would not be Lawful. How should I have handled this? On further reflection, I wonder if I had announced that I am a servant of Law, and that I require answers as to this Chaos magic, do you think that would have been wise?
We continued on to Ironhill, where Fergus needed to rest for a week to recover. While there, I converted 6 new followers to Tangadorin’s light. Shortly thereafter was when I prayed to Tangadorin to beseech him for my steed. What with the new converts, and the pathway to acceptance in Yew, Tangadorin was very pleased. There was a great deal of awe when the people saw Aethir, my steed. I am sure it will be a story told for many years! We continued on to Pentacurst, which had been abandoned. Girault decided to stay, but allowed one of his men to continue with us to Upland hold to show us the secret entrance. It was a small entrance high up on the cliff of the back of the keep. I scouted it a bit on Aethir, but was not able to gain much information. I also flew over the keep to get an idea of the internal layout. I was surprised to see how similar it was to the keeps surrounding Irecia. There were only a few guards. Nonetheless, we decided that we had enough information for now, and needed to return to civilization.

Your servant,
Grel

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Letter to Joffrey and Nidia, dated 40 fall 58AD

Greetings Joffrey and Nidia, I hope that this letter reaches you and that you are doing well.

I am pleased with your choice of direction, trust that Tangadorin will guide you where He wills you to go.

I am very interested in your dream, I have never heard of this being. Perhaps it is one of Tangadorin’s brother Gods? I will meditate and perhaps Tangadorin will reveal the truth to me.

The questions that you ask are ones that I myself have been asking for some time. I have been studying the WORDS OF TANGADORIN much lately, trying to find how I can serve Him better, and what he wants. What I have found is that the darkness has a few connotations. Obviously the All Seeing, All Hearing, All Knowing Tangadorin hates the concealing darkness and those who dwell in it. However, there is more to it than that. The darkness is also secrets and forgotten or hidden knowledge. Our god is one who wants knowledge to be shared and freely given. He abhors lies and concealment. We must strive to be open books, seek out lost or hidden knowledge and share what you learn. He does love sages and scholars and wizards, but he abhors secrets which unfortunately some of them

The worship of Tangadorin is worshipping of enlightenment, for He is the Lightbringer in more ways than one. His true gift is enlightenment, the revelation of knowledge and secrets. Anyone who wishes not to have the truth hidden from them should gladly swell our ranks. We are the seekers of Truth and Knowledge. This is what you must tell people.

I pray to Tangadorin to keep you safe and to guide you in your journey. If you need anything, you have but to ask.

Be safe in His Light,
Your Friend,
Jorann

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Songs of the Bards - Winter 58, 59th Year AD

Despite the weather outside which continues to be frightful, the bards in the Inns and taverns have quite a tale to tell! Crowds have been gathering to hear of an amazing story that has come from beleaguered Duchy of Dawn!

The Duchy’s remaining two cities, Reach and Ancturin, knew that the Orcs would come ravening at their doorsteps, and in the Summer of 58AD, that is exactly what happened. As the remaining armies of the Duchy fled to the harbor city of Reach, the orcs pursued them relentlessly. Faced with the prospect of a long siege against a huge orc invasion, without hope of help, the City Council reached an astonishing decision – evacuate the ENTIRE city!

The population of Reach fled up the road towards Ancturin for nearly thirty days as the remaining armies followed behind to protect them. Couriers were sent to Ancturin to warn of them of what was coming. Every available ship was sent to the Bay of Ancturin, as those who would want to flee the Duchy would take the sea merchant’s route down the coast to the Duchy of Pisces and safety. A small force was left in Reach to serve as a rear guard and keep the Orcs delayed.

The plan worked! The small human contingent managed to keep the Orcs off-balance with bravery and luck, while the remainder of the forces and population made it to the Bay of Ancturin. Faced with a similar decision, the leaders of Ancturin, which is one of the original cities of humanity, made a similar decision. Evacuate! There were enough ships to hold the vast majority of both populations. Every available sea-worth vessel was used, from large merchant carrocks, to military ships, to small fishing vessels. The armies of Reach, Ancturin and the Ducal forces set up to fight to the last man to allow the common folks to escape.

The first ships have made it safely to Amfrey’s Point with this news (which came by way of merchant ships from that harbor town to Orleans and then through the Southron Duchy to Enonia.) so none know yet if all of the populations were evacuated… and who survived of the brave armies that faced to Bestial hordes.

The story is so popular that several songs have been sung over and over about it, but there is more news from closer to home…


  • The village of Penkurth has fallen, with the remaining survivors making their way to Yew. A large force of the Black Brotherhood raided the village and managed to destroy or drive out the defenders. Priest Girout, the leader of the village, survived the attack, but was wounded. Astonishingly, some of the survivors claim that Marshal Roehm’s daughter, Anastasia, was seen with the raiders!
  • Sir Reynald has been injured! As part of the feasting days during Winter, he and his company were performing a winter’s joust, and he was severely injured in a fall from his horse. Sir Reynald will recover and should be back in the saddle by Spring time.
  • In a surprise announcement and visit, Marshal Roehm has visited Yew with wonderful news – Sir Yinivax has been exalted to the highest rank and honor that the Duke can bestow and made him the Marshal of the lands around Yew! Marshal Ynivax will need to free Notchland Keep from the orcs in order to assume the traditional seat of the Marshal of Yew, but in the meantime, he continues to oversee the rebuilding of Yew and protection of its citizens.
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Swine Trek, or Hogs and Kisses
Balto's Journal

What a wonderful birthday that was! Belaldur and I parted company early on – he has a thing for human females, while I had gathered to me a few of Carbaugh’s folk. We littlelings stuck to the good wine, while Beladur hoarded his coin and drank whatever pigswill they brought him – more swine than wine, honestly.

I suppose it was good enough, though, as he soon got tipsy and began squealing out sea shanties. Wreathed in pipeweed smoke, capering across the stage, he quite annoyed the bards and the bar staff, and he was pitched out of the Lusty Maiden. He must have picked himself up and gone on to another tavern, but I and Wynn and Oblan and Noro went back to my room at Harriet’s Rest, Noro giggling over the somewhat racy new lyrics to “This Little Piggy.”

The next day, I had a slight hangover, but the two lads and one lass from Carbaugh’s Keep were pert, cheerful, and attentive, and they soon took my mind off the headache. We had a fine breakfast of peppered bacon and spice cake, and I took some to Belaldur’s room, along with a universal hangover cure sold at the same stall. He’d not returned from his night out, and I wondered if he’d finally found a woman willing to overlook his pointed ears. I rooted around in his stuff, but saw no clues. Not trusting the locks in this inn, I secured his pouch of gold, then sought out the innkeeper. He confirmed that he had not seen Belaldur return, that no one was sleeping in the bar, and that Belaldur had remarkably low charisma for an elf. I was a bit worried – Belaldur was a good companion, never squealed on me nor I on him. I hoped he had finally gotten lucky, or passed out somewhere safe.

I alerted the others in my party – Fergus, Willie, and Josef were emerging from a round of wrestling practice, shiny as greased pigs; Ceresei was coming back from a morning stroll with some hog-hazels; Pyrea was at the blacksmith’s, watching her take a delivery of pig iron. Mazlor was occupied at a nearby piggery, blessing the shoats and dealing with an outbreak of swine flu, and was thus unavailable to help us find Belaldur.

My friends and I headed back to nearest bar, a rough spot named the Black Stabbard, where Grel was earnestly explaining a tale of Tangadorin to a table in the corner. When they saw we needed Grel, those three militiamen quickly excused themselves and let us have the paladin to ourselves. I didn’t mind, they’d left behind their bowls of pork and leek soup, and breakfast had been a good couple hours ago.

Grel quickly leapt into action, buying a round of drinks and ingratiating himself with Tyree, who owned the place. As he rubbed the stump where his left hand had been, Tyree remembered Belaldur had been staggering around complaining that the place stank like a pigsty, but then trotted off with a beautiful woman – probably a prostitute, from the way she was dressed. (Personally, I doubted this – Belaldur would not have had such a long dry spell if he’d been the type to pay for company.)

We moved on to the Lusty Maiden. Calloweigh, the owner of the tavern, was in an expansive mood, glad that his gamble of bringing in bards to boost his custom had been so successful. He even chuckled and told me he regretted there was no more hard cider, but we littlelings had drunk his last hogshead the night before. He remembered telling Belaldur that if he couldn’t hold his pipeweed, stop hamming it up and leave, but Belaldur just glared pig-eyed at him and kept singing over the bards. So Calloweigh had his staff pitch Belaldur out on the street, where he wallowed in the muck for a bit before finding his feet and trotting off.

We all went to the next bar, the Charging Bull. The bartender, refilling the jars of pickled pig’s feet, eggs, and onions, told us that Chaz, the owner, was busy with a priest of the Light. But he remembered Belaldur – the bar had been nearly empty when Belaldur came in with the woman. Belaldur bought them each a drink, then leaned forward to ask if there was a party room. The bartender gladly rented the room to them for the night – and they seemed to enjoy it, judging from the grunts and squeals and “Who’s a bad little piggy?” that he heard late in the night. The next day, when he went into the room to wake them and clean up, he found a couple chairs overturned, a pile of clothes and an empty purse on the floor, and the back door gaping open. He showed us. There’d been snow the last several days, so we could see the footprints headed off east, in the opposite direction as Harriet’s Rest. We searched the clothes, found a hidden pocket sewn in them with a letter from Belaldur giving us instructions to claim a treasure should he die. There was no blood, no magic used. Willie examined the tracks and insisted that they were of a woman and some kind of animal. But none of us were able to tell what sort of animal it was.

We followed the tracks as best as we could – the snow was unrelenting – out to the road and past the East Gate. We continued on to the watchtower just beyond, where we shared out food and drink among the guards. Grel chatted them up, learned that a woman taking her pig for a trot had gone down the road to the East – but only one guard, Leon, had seen it, and everyone else told him the hooch had him seeing hogs and fogs, as the saying goes.

But I suspected our wild night out had farrowed a litter of troubles on Belaldur – more and more, I was sure he had been changed into a pig, and I hoped he’d not yet been barrowed. I’m not sure even Mazlor’s ability to heal extended as far as un-castrating!

We went back into town, seeking out a tracker to help us. While even a blind pig can find an acorn once in a while, the snow kept falling, and we’d need an expert. At the Lusty Maiden, we were pointed to a man holding forth at a corner table. I heard Grel mutter a quick plea to Tangadorin: “Please, let it not be Galub!” But it was, and as we approached, we realized he was hogging the credit for our recent successes against the Damned and the Black Riders. But pig in a poke that he’d turned out to be, he still knew his business. We hired him on for a month. The next day, we provisioned up and headed out, and I tossed a wineskin to Leon as we rode by the watchtower. Leon squealed in delight: “Hope you find that porker, then!”

And of course, now that we’d brought Galub back into the company, the snow stopped. As we followed the trail, Galub noted that the snow around the woman’s feet had melted back: “A hot lady, indeed,” he chortled. “But she knows the road, never leaves it.” The pig had floundered through the snow, so the path was fairly clear up to Rock Run.

We came upon the village – or what was left of it – in the late afternoon. Not a building was whole, no chimney smoke or candlelight greeted us, and there were wrecked and rotting siege towers looming in the fields nearby. As we explored, we found many unburied bodies – skeletons, or just really piles of bones. Around many of these piles, the snow had melted away – and by one of the piles rooted, not melted, out of the snow, we found some of the bones had been dragged to point to the South. Heartened that our friend, even in porcine form, seemed to have retained his wits, I created fire and we made our camp in the lee of a wall. Looking about for something to supplement our dinner, I found some truffles that had been turned up, no doubt by Belaldur. The next day, Winter 27, we rode on nearly to the northern edge of the Dark Woods. Galub led us up into grove, wherein stood a higgledy-piggledly but stoutly built wood palisade encircling a large tent-like stucture, made of branches and hide and bark. Ash and embers swirled out its smokehole, and we could hear a pig snorting inside. There was a gate in the palisade, but it was clearly trapped and Pyrea warned us it was also ensorcelled.

Ceresie warped wood, opening a gap in the palisade, and one by one we crept in. Grel shouted at the tent, “Release our friend!” The door opened a crack and a spell flashed out to hold Fergus. Grel made an incredible shot with his bow, and the woman at the door shrieked and slammed shut the door. We heard the pig inside, running about, and the sorceress swore at it, then shouted to us “Leave me be or your friend will die in torment!” Grel yelled back, “In a pig’s eye!”, and we began hacking at the door and hides.

Inside the tent, we heard another spell cast, and the roar of a fire. As we crashed through the door and wall, we saw a great bonfire, and a dead pig. I grieved Belaldur, but rationalized that he would make wonderful eating. But enough time to think of that later – for now, we had to pull our own bacon out of the fire – the sorceress had set a trap of burning oil that killed Inya and sorely injured Grel, Josef, and me. The sorceress leapt at me through the flames, dagger extended. Angry as I was, I smashed her square with my cudgel, and killed her. And I took her weapon.

As we looked about her lair, Fergus stirred and the pig awakened – she only had cast sleep upon it. Pyrea claimed all the magical ingredients we turned up. I found a small box containing a tiger’s eye, a piece of polished onyx, a large pearl, and a large aquamarine. Grel tried to take the pearl, but I put all the gems away with the five we found on our last adventure.

I summoned the power to talk with the pig and confirmed it is Belaldur. “Well, that was one of my rasher decisions, “ he said. “I thank all of you – I had thought the only way I would ride the sea again was as a ration of salt pork.” He remembered little of the night when he was enchanted, and he wanted to wash the taste of her slop out of his mouth, so I let him guzzle down my hard cider. And so we had a tipsy pig to take through the snow.

We quickly made a travois from the remnants of the tent, and set him in the middle of it, with Inya’s body, piling up her fur cloak and his to keep him warm. Grel suggested going to Enonia to have Jorann remove the enchantment, but Fergus pointed out we’d have to go through Old Fawn on the way. Why not have Godfrey call on the Light to fix this?

There was a bit of excitement along the way – a wagon on its side with four people standing around it turned out to be a small group of the Damned, and we had a quick tussle before dispatching them all. Ceresei looked askance at me for chanting “Kill! Kill!” – but I do fear these unnatural creatures, more than I do the undead. Willie had been bitten but I found no disease in him. There was only a little coin upon the bodies, and the food in the cart had spoiled. We pushed on for 4 more days through the snowstorms to reach Old Fawn.

Grell, though very articulate, felt his service to an old god would prejudice the Temple of the Light against his request for services. Instead, Ceresei led the grunter to the Temple, where Godfrey had just finished leading worship. He was skeptical, but we offered to pay – so he sent an acolyte to see if this were, in fact, a magic pig. The acolyte was first astonished, then amazed to find we spoke the truth, and led us behind the kitchen. Belaldur was nervous – this was, after all, as much a slaughtering spot as a kitchen garden. But soon Godfrey came up to take our money and brought Beladur into the shed with him for the ritual.

It was not a perfect success. The body changed back, but the shock was too much for Belaldur. In recognition of our services ridding the Duchy of a magic-user, and the promise that we would perform him a service, Godfrey promised to raise our friend from the dead the next day.

And he was as good as his word. Beladur was weak but before being taken to his bed, he whispered his thanks – and to me, said sardonically, “Worst birthday ever! Oh, my loins – We did the piggly-wiggly, you know, but she never let me pork her!”

Soon we heard the choirs and bards singing of Godfrey’s glory. Belaldur thanked Godfrey but shook off his invitation to join in the worship of the Light. We resupplied, took some smoked hams with us for the relief of the poor in Yew, and rode back along the windswept road. We made good time until the snows again closed in, and Belaldur welcomed the extra day of imposed rest. I used the time to contemplate the universe and to prepare a lovely dinner of stirred eggs, some tubers Ceresei dug up, and the oddly named but delicious Canadian bacon.

Thus fortified, we continued on our way, meeting a company of mercenaries on patrol for the Duke and Marshal. Another blizzard stranded us for a day, and we were out of meat – save the hams sent for Yew’s poor. Belaldur did not take kindly to the jokes about how if we’d cured him, we’d have bacon by now.

The next day, though, was clear and bright, and we rode into Yew. Ynnivax had moved his offices to the guard tower, and we reported to him. He encouraged us to think on rescuing Anastasia – “If,” he archly says, "this fine elf is done pursuing porcine pleasures?” – and the other prisoners. Perhaps, too, we could eliminate the threat from Upland Keep, so forces won’t have to be diverted from the big push the Duke and Marshal Roehm are planning for the Spring.

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A Song from the Bards - 48th day of Winter
Heard around Yew...

It began on a cold winter’s evening:
He was the crudest elf around,
and she was the most beautiful witch.

She was his woman in a bar,
His beautiful woman in a bar,
His witch and he was Her Pig.

They danced so well together,
At first…
He wanted to drink together, around the world,
He wanted it all.

But then, in a flash, one big mistake
After drinking too much, together
A mispoken phrase, a careless brush of a hand.
It was wicked, so wicked.

What made him so foolish, none will know!
And then it happened:
Oh no! Oh no!

She a witch.
Alas, a witch!
His woman in a bar a witch.
It was dangerous, so dangerous.

The next day he knew his nose was different
He saw that he now had a tail,
His words, mere oinks to her laughter!

But still, she is in his thoughts.
Despite how it all changed that evening,
That cold winter’s evening.

And although his brave friends did save him…
He still pines for that lovely hair and one more dance,
When he thinks of that beautiful witch,
That beautiful witch and the pig of an elf!

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Into the Thundersnow
Balto's Journal

What we’d learned on our first foray after Anastasia convinced us she was being held at Upland Keep. That strongpoint had a storied history, but in the years since the Doom, it had been abandoned for a short time. Marshal Constantina had begun to restore it, then it was taken by orcs, who handed it off to the Black Riders who had been plaguing Marshal Roehm.

After the Battle for Yew, as the orcs fled to the east, the Black Riders fell back to Upland Keep. When we’d liberated the slave farm, that cut off the Black Riders from their allies, the orcs.But Anastasia and likely other captives were holes up in the Keep with them.

So our party – Grel, Mazlor, Itsy, Sally, Fergus, Pyrea, Ceresei, Belaldur and I – gathered in Yew and kitted up with winter gear and bought supplies for the road. It would be a long journey – poor roads and worse weather. Willie and Josef, we left in Yew to help with the rebuilding of the town. Golub had left our employ, choosing to use his hunting and tracking skills to help feed the folk of Yew.

We stopped off at Carbaugh’s Keep before we left – wonderful food, and wonderful bedmates! Carbaugh allowed two of his fighters, Wynn and Oldac, to sign on with us for the adventure, giving us a bit more muscle in case we ran into trouble.

We sheltered at the slave farm, but found nothing much going on there. The snow was up to my chest by the time we stopped, but as we littlelings followed behind the party, my pony Gypsy and theirs (Hyssop and Red Perry) were able to pick their way in the path blazed by the big ones. The elves hung back with me, the better to avoid hearing about
Tangadorin, and speaking to Belaldur, I learn we share the same birthday – Winter 16! We make plans to have as grand a celebration in Yew as the circumstances allow.

The towns and farms along the way were looted and burned. Perhaps now that the orcs have been driven out, nature can reclaim some of these lands. As I thought this, though, we rode up on near a dozen Black Riders. We exchanged missile fire, then closed with them. I think all of us were injured in the fight, but we prevailed, slaying all of them save one, who I questioned.

Our prisoner, Inya, had ridden with this party out from Upland Hold, seeking supplies from the few populated villages left around here. She’d a hard-luck story but it boiled down to her seeking her fortune and fetching up with the Black Riders, led by a man named Lon. She was more inclined to look for opportunities than worry about law and chaos, so we got on fine – probably would have without the charm spell! She joined us – not without grieving for her lover and mentor, who’d led the band we’d slain – in exchange for her armor, sword (her grandfather’s, and horse. She led us to a nearby hamlet, Sheffield’s Fields, so we could shelter out of the wind and storm.

Grel may talk a bit much on his god, but he is quite personable. He got us permission to stay in the empty barn with our horses, and when the men of the household come out to greet us, convinced them we are no threat, and was invited back to the house to drink and speak of Tangadorin.

The next day, before we left, I gathered our party’s standard rations together and left them for the folk of the house. Mazlor created some food for them as well. Then it is off to an outpost of the Duchy, the village of Pincurth.

Many of the buildings are damaged, but the stone temple at the center of the village stands strong and proud. We were challenged as we come up by the militia, and Mazlor set off unarmed to talk to their leader, a priest of the Light named Geralt. Ordained in Enonia, Geralt knew Jorann, Mazlor’s superior in the Enonia Temple. References checked, we were all allowed into the village. I caused quite a stir in the village, so I quickly checked to be sure my armor is not revealing anything untoward. But no, it is only that my people and the elves have not been seen in these parts for many years and we are nearly forgotten. Still, they remembered to check their purses as I ride by.

We found a couple of fighters who had been serving in Upland Keep (just a day’s ride away) when it fell to the orcs. They had escaped by following a creek through the caves under the castle, then out a crack in the keep’s foundation. The news that Yew had been liberated brought great cheer to the village, and hearing of our battles with the orcs and Black Riders – and the freeing of the slaves – stiffened their resolve to hold out for the Duke. We returned to Yew, bringing with us the women and children of Sheffield’s Fields, and intelligence to guide us in our rescue of Anastasia.

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Aftermath and Anastasia
Balto's Journal

We returned to Enonia from Winwright’s Keep and Steltin. Mazlor emerged from a meeting at Enonia’s Temple of the Light with grim news of the spreading strength of the Light Bringers, and considering ways to counter their influence. Meanwhile, Fergus, Belaldur, and I learned that Anastasia Roehm had still not been found. The last anyone in town knew, she had ridden into battle at Yew, then disappeared.
Mazlor called on two other clerics to come with us, and we planned to head to Yew via Jakar’s Rest, so we could pick up Willie and Josef, and Golub. First, though we stopped at the keep to talk to Anastasia’s family. I made a good impression on her younger brother, Alaric, but the Lady Sara was a bit alarmed when I suggested I could give him my spare dagger. Belaldur and I also connected with Milos, the keep’s weaponsmith., Mazlor, Fergus, Belaldur, and I kitted up and set off to find Anastasia.
We stopped at Jamar’s Rest and talked with the elves we had protected. They had truly been sorely used, but a season’s rest with good food and care should put them back on their feet. Willie, Joseph, and Golub Then on the road, we stopped by the Abbey of Dame Heather. Mazlor entered the Abbey with Sally and Isty, while the rest of us lunched on what the Abbess sent out. The next day, we reached Timbragh, where we saw the field where the Damned stood had been fenced off. The following evening, we were in Old Fawn. The refugees had moved on, but the militia was returning to town, and supplies for Yew were passing through, as well as the normal commerce.
We stopped the next night at Carbaugh’s Keep. Good food and good company. I’m not sure who all shared the bed with me, but everyone and everything fit! We heard of how the littlelings fought in the fight for Yew. I shared the stories of our adventures. And then Carbaugh told me a littleling folkmoot West of Enonia was planned for this winter!
Marshal Roehm had set up his headquarters at the town hall. Ynnivax told us Anastasia was with a force that had flanked the orcs, then got hit by Black Riders from Upland Keep. He welcomed our plan to search for Anastasia. I tracked down one of her men, tMarcellus, in a bar and he agreed to show us the battlefield before he passed out.
The next day we saw where Anastasia had been taken. Marcellus joined our party, and we headed out along the path to Upland Keep. In the early afternoon, we come across a load of lumber – and in the distance, a set of skills. I sneak up, see dozens of emaciated humans, guarded by orcs and goblins, and a construction site. An orc patrol, oblivious, rides by me. I go back to alert the party.
After a short battle, we kill eight goblins and nineteen orcs, capture nine hoses, and then convince the fifty slaves that they are freed. We give them food and drink, and gently question them. Anastasia had been here, they say, but only overnight. And Mazlor finds her sign, showing she was there and the direction she was going – to Upland Keep. We are definitely on her trail.
But these newly freed folk could not be abandoned. We needed to get them safely back to Yew. It was a long walk, with the weakest on horse. We were getting ready for a short meal break when I saw something in the woods. I, Fergus, Mazlor, and Belaldur investigate and find these shapes are armed skeletons! We summon more of the party, leaving Willie, Josef, Golub, and Marcellus to calm and protect our charges. Mazlor destroys many of the skeletons; Sally turns more. We destroy all that stand in our way and find a great treasure, almost too much to take with us. We enter Yew and give some of the treasure to the Marshal and some to the Church to help deal with the displaced persons.
There are so many enslaved and abused by the orcs, streaming into Yew seeking help. And Yew is stripped of food and the buildings are in ruins. So some needs to think what to do, as more of the land and people are liberated.

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