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Kiltayre: Session 24 and Session 25

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The beast appeared at the gate dragging a mountain goat. They launched their attack. Artan and Lorco hit it with fire spells. Lorco, a Fireball, and Artan an Aganazzar’s Scorcher. The bear was then trapped in the gateway by Kalista’s summoned dire wolf. It did not fight long before they killed it. Dressing the large carcass took some hours and they returned to the Secure Shelter to rest. Lorco agreed to go to Muddy Cape and hunt clams with them but he had to cut Dalldra in for a share as well as pay for her services – albeit at half-rate.

Overland the journey was tough. Exposed to the dastardly cold north west wind that came straight off the sea ice they took comfort that at least it wasn’t snowing. Digging about with their one shovel they found a clam after an hour. Then Kalista used Locate Plants and Animals and it was easy to find another score of clams. In all they had three pearls and it was deemed enough clam meat for Madam Lim.

When they returned to Vrim it was only three days to the full moon and Don’ needed to be ready to fulfill his role to the Fey.

It was Lord Tovran who added the complication. They should have known by the serious looking man with the scars and the old wound of a shallow fractured cheek bone, Sheriff Daeus.

“You may have heard that Sheriff was investigating something to the east. That much I know was being talked about. What you may not know is that he has found a troubling thing. Tell them, Daeus.”

The Sheriff complied and let them in on what had happened days ago. A young girl had wandered in from the east frostbitten and alone. She claimed that people had been rounded up and taken by the cult of Ath-Voarnus. Those who resisted were put to the sword, and those who fled were butchered from behind. They had found abandoned farms and buildings. No livestock and a few bodies in the snow. Then they had run out of food and had to return.

“I ask you to aid Vrim again and help us rescue these people, or at least put an end to this cult’s raids on Vrim’s citizens.”

“We have just enough horses,” Daeus said quietly to Lord Mikhail.

On the ride out the next morning they asked about Herath. Daeus had seen a man briefly but assumed it was one of the few lone trappers who lived on the margins. He didn’t try and talk to the man.

Cultists had moved into the area and at first kept to themselves. Then they had become aggressive at getting people to convert. It was the little girl, the lone survivor from the nearest village, that had told Sheriff Daeus the background. Many had fought on the fateful day but the cultists cut them down and that cowed the rest of the villagers. All were marched eastwards, with every last scrap of food and feed, for the livestock. Each village was bare of people and food. Corden, Villyme and Puldup; the farthest. Don’s tracking was superb, as always, and he followed the trails as well as a bloodhound might. They past no campsites but when the reached the fifth bridge, a marker of the furthest reaches of the fief of Vrim, they found heavy destrier’s tracks – as if the horse wore barding.

“A knight?” Don’ asked Daeus.

“Perhaps invaders. Maybe the Livruss and Kulvuss left a contingent behind.” The sheriff mused.

They weakened the fifth bridge, removing recently added bolsters, and did the same at the bridge near Puldup – hiding the material in the woods underneath snowdrifts. Then they rode hard back to Vrim as was promised by Tovran so that they might deal with the Fey in the Lutemakers Woods. The lord understood the need to Don’ and his peoples’ craft guild, and thus livelihoods. The Dwarves had secured the promise of the guildmaster to aid them and continue to provide a beast each full moon. All that left was to deliver the beast Lord Tovran had provided. As he left the area outside the stables Lord Mikhail announced that Daeus would be going with the party, and that Lady Varnia Sipran would also be attending – now that the Sipran family were back in their castle.

“Is she bringing the shield guardian?” It was an innocent enough question from Kalista.

“They have a shield guardian? Why was it not used when their keep was attacked?” Tovran was angry, infuriated actually. He stalked off muttering venom about letting innocents die.

It was the end of the 98th day since they left Felk Bay, that they dined with Lord Mikhail Tovran’s family and retainers, but not Lord Mikhail, who sent his apologies at being in a mood most foul that he would not be polite company. Freyald has many tales to sing, though, and regaled them with a long epic ballad from Iron Claw; Hadramyr the Griever. It didn’t help the feeling.

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Kiltayre: Session 23 review, part two

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Lord Tovran had asked the rest of the party to lodge at his keep.

“You will be my guests and have my hospitality. Your services to Vrim are worthy and I wish to repay you in at least this way.”

When the party reformed they had been to the Whalers’ Retreat to find their arrangement settled by Lord Tovran and a message from Arthur.

“Lorco is looking for you lot. He seemed a little annoyed.”

Walking into the keep felt strange. They were moving up in the world. Guards eyed them carefully but were respectful. It was the retainers, Lord Mikhail Tovran’s knights, who were a little snide, but only the one named Freyald. They ate lunch and were entertained by a bard but Lorco’s annoyance was tugging at Kalista’s conscience.

“We should try and catch him. If he only left this morning he can’t be more than 6 hours ahead of us at most.”

Don’ agreed and they quickly assembled their gear setting off at once. They pushed hard across the foothills of the Great Frost Mountains and did indeed catch Lorco on a wide mountain trail. His distinctive hat giving him away.

Lorco was with Dalldra, the Corssiff mercenary, and another plain looking man, Artan – who bore the trappings of a wizard.

That night they slept in a Secure Shelter that Kalista conjured and were waited on by an unseen servant. It was a restful night not having to stand watch outside the warmth of the campfire. Heavy shutters made the hut defendable and strong. When they arrived at Highgate Monastery they were wary. A vampire queen was no trifling enemy. Even Jonas would be challenged, it occurred to the dwarves Aenir and Kellor, and would be careful in his approach.

Bear tracks were in the snow. Fresh and deep.

“It must be a big grizzly,” Don’ said checking them.

The creature had been lairing in the old stables. Inside the monastery they found it abandoned but in pretty good repair.

“Wait.” Felghanis was looking at the doors ahead. “I sense undead in there. Four of them, and strong.”

They carefully opened the doors and saw a large room with four translucent figures circling a raised pillar-like sconce, chanting in distant haunting voices. Lorco called to them and they talked.

“Bring us the abbot, let us have vengeance, for taking the bowl of Ath-Voarnus,” the ghost hissed.

Artan knew of Ath-Voarnus. It was a spirit, of sorts, that could prevent ageing and increase vitality to those that gave it services. Ath-Voarnus longed to be made physical and lured people to it wherever it went.

“Sumbrad told me of this in the Red Stagg. He is pursuing what he claims to be  the cultists of Ath-Voarnus and looking for their hideaway & temple.”

“Another complication, then, it seems.”

They talked at length and then settled in to wait for the bear. It would be worth a lot of coin.

 

 

 

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Kiltayre: Session 22 review

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As they were raised back to health, Kalista’s spells were spent, and they were all confused.

“It’s paradox, don’t you see,” Captain Villeroy said. “I’ve tried to press information from the librarian but he asks me three questions of which I can only answer one and then says that I wouldn’t understand.”

Villeroy repeated the questions and Felghanis opened his mouth to answer then the exceptions and contradictions came to mind. It was far more difficult than he first thought.

“I’ve heard it said that these are Chrono-loops. If you make them touch the past they can expend their energy to snap the loop shut. It is meant to be terribly destructive.”

They talked at length and it was decided that informing their past-selves was too dangerous. They had to hide. In a small sitting room they packed in and rested. Each of them was sore and weary. The healing was painful and it took time.

“It seems that I am in this loop, too.” Villeroy added. He stood up suddenly. “I think I have a scroll that can help,” he said excitedly and rushed upstairs.

He was gone for some time and the party talked about what they ought to do. What the books meant and what the motivations might be for the Scours and the Church to retrieve them all.

When Villeroy returned they had decided to play it safe. The Scours had defeated them handily and it was only luck that saved them. None of the party remembered what distracted the Scours from finishing each of them.

“This scroll has a spell called Body Outside of Body and with it I have a plan. Unfortunately the scroll is very expensive and I have to pay the guild back, so anything you can do to help would be appreciated.”

“We already did… oh wait. That hasn’t happened for you yet.”

“Did what? Pay me for the scroll.”

“You’ll see… if it works,” Felghanis answered.

Captain Villeroy Moragne gathered his things and just before they left cast the scroll. There he was standing next to himself. Without a word the copy went to the counter and nodded back to the original.

“Let us be off then.”

Traversing the Rift was not anywhere near as intense.

“Can I ask it questions?”

“What, the Rift Weave?”

“Yes. When we went through before I saw a vision of my Uncle scrying me. He seemed force to answer my question.”

“I… I don’t know. I’ve had visions in my experiments, although they were neve strong so I paid them no mind, but I never performed them when a storm was coming.”

Kalista seemed to have a grasp of that and she nodded.

The wind was the same as last time: biting, cold, horridly cold. They built a berm of snow and sheltered in a small depression a few hundred yards from where they exited the rift. Villeroy used a wand on all of them and Endure Elements removed the threat of deadly cold turning it into simply cool discomfort.

Five figures appeared out of the intensifying Rift Weave. They gathered around one of their number. Then they all saw the battle play out again. However, it was right in front of them. The temptation to try and change it was strong but they held their position. None of them knowing what might happen if one of these ‘Chronoloops’ snapped shut or willing to risk it.

The Scours were attacked by the watery form and they pursued it. Fiery rays, that seemed to emanate from above and behind Mellevictus, lanced through the elemental and blew it to steaming fragments. They gathered together then set off at a jog, hustling west.

Once the Scours were out of sight the party returned to Stonecrest. This time Villeroy asked for aid.

“I can move us to after you left the first time getting us past the loops and making it safe again,” he explained.

It was made so. Villeroy rushed of to rediscover his map to the Deep Earth Crystal mine and the party limped back towards the markets. Merchants and storekeepers were shutting up or outright leaving. The storm seemed to be having the city closing up.

“We need to rest.”

“How about the Wainwright Lodge?” Aenir pointed to a sign right near them.

It seemed as good as any. They entered and purchased rooms. Taking some ale and food  they all rested, save Felghanis.

“I have to stop my Uncle,” he seemed on the edge of a rant. “I’m going to the library. Maybe Brannighan, or his parents, can help?”

“At least let Don’ rest.”

“I will stay with Don’,” Kellor volunteered. Yet the doughty dwarf was still burned and sore.

“This has to be safer than the Whaler’s Retreat,” Kalista agreed.

The market square was deserted. There were few people about, however strange, and of those few most seemed to be darting from cover to cover.

On the short walk to the library they noticed a narrow alley just past the markets. On one corner a pillar fashioned like a skeleton marked the entry. Down its narrow cobbled way signs and shingles bearing arcane symbols of necromancy hung in the increasing wind of the coming Rift Weave storm.

It took them quite some time to find Brannighan in the library. He smiled at them.

“Why do I get the feeling that those who refused my help seven times have come back to ask for it again?”

“What do you know of Davinus?” Felghanis asked.

“Davinus,” Brannighan mused. “I think that is the name of an old and faded Ascendant.”

“The Saint is the son and Davinus the father,” Kalista suggested. “Maybe the son seeks the throne of the father?”

“That’s what I’m thinking,” Felghanis answered. Then he expanded, “The Saint uses the winter to force prayers towards him. He has sent priests all over the island, even to our Felk Bay, and they are ready to help the people in winter. Spells for protection from the cold, for making food, and those who refuse to believe will perish.”

Kalista couldn’t process it at that moment. Too much corruption and evil in a body she’d long thought was good and benevolent.

“It is my Uncle, though that worries me. He claims that he will use the Bell of Thullemon to raise and army. Then with it seize the throne of Davinus.”

Brannighan was interested, “Really? He has the Bell?”

“No, but he knows where it is and so do I.”

“You must tell me at once and I will tell my mother. She will be most interested.”

Kalista, Felghanis and Aenir shared glances: a real angel? The powers and dominions were aligning. Maybe the conjunction Jonas spoke of with Kalista was real. None of them voiced it, though. Felghanis spoke more with Brannighan but the half-angel, half-archon, seemed distracted as if carrying on two conversations.

“Mother is waiting for us outside,” Brannighan said gesturing to the library doors.

With little more ado they left. Bright white light shone from the bottom of the stairs and in the gloom of sunset in the angry sky of the Rift Weave storm it was plainly pure and good and peaceful.

“My boy,” she said in a beautiful clear voice that rang with music.

Brannighan blushed and met her affectionate embrace.

“Oh it is so good to see you again. Are these your friends?” She turned her gaze on them.

Each felt the same in differing degrees. All that was good in them she weighed and saw. All that was angry, or traitorous, or flawed felt like it was plainly in her sight. They writhed in their emotions and could barely meet her eyes.

“Yes. She’s quite nice,” Brannighan indicated Kalista.

“Ah, Kalista, is it?” Brannighan’s mother greeted Kalista.

“And Felghanis?” The angel gestured to him. “Aenir?”

They all nodded in reply.

“The Bell of Thullemon, you know where it is, Felghanis?”

“I think so. In the base of the Iron Tower.”

“Then let us go. There is no time to waste.” She furled her wings and gestured for them to lead her in the right direction. “We will collect your other friends and then the Bell will be retrieved and destroyed.”

“Destroyed?” Felghanis almost baulked.

“Of course. You know why, don’t you?”

Felghanis dissembled and the angel was plainly unimpressed.

“No. It’s simple, Brannighan?”

“Nothing good comes of evil,” he responded.

Felghanis could only look at the ground as they walked.

“Mother you really ought to hide your wings. There are people here who would try and take them from you.”

“Oh, very well.” With that she quickly changed shape, in a heartbeat perhaps, she looked like a tall woman and suddenly she pulled a cloak about her. None of them saw where the garment came from.

At the Wainwright Lodge they met with Kellor and Don’, who was feeling a lot better.

“Oh my,” she said sadly. “You are wounded.”

With a touch all of the batterings and punctures that Kellor had withstood from Thiridea’s poleaxe were mended and he bore a bright smile.

“Thank you fair lady,” he managed.

“Oh forgive me. Most of you carry wounds.” And she laid hands on them healing their ailments. “Now we must leave. Join hands with me.”

Kalista almost rushed at the chance and took her right hand. Felghanis summoned courage, or at least looked like he died, and took her left, the rest making up the circle.

“Where are we going?”

“The Iron Tower to destroy the bell.”

“I want to stay, Mother,” Brannighan said.

“Of course my love.”

They were in clouds that seemed to conceal ground, or were ground, they couldn’t tell. A host of winged men and women were far above singing beautiful choral music. It had the sound that it was just one passage that was part of a long tale of defence of innocence and the pursuit of truth.

Brannighan’s mother bowed with a broad smile. “I serve in a different way.” She turned her face upwards towards the light that the host were singing towards.

Crashing waves and a strong bitterly cold wind shook them all. Dark clouds were above and thick forest to their right. In the distance the spike of dark iron rose above the butte of stone. It was the Iron Tower.

“Not as close as I hoped. Let us walk,” she said and retook her natural form. Tall, over seven feet, and fair she walked with slow power and purpose.

They followed her lead and Don’ struggled to keep up. She kept taking his waist and setting him forward. After seven touches Don’s exhaustion was gone. After seven more touches he felt fresh again.

Swinging open on its impeccable hinges the door to the Iron Tower revealed it to be as they left it. Brannighan’s mother glowed with powerful light and they saw well in her illumination.

“You said there were creatures here? Of course, there were undead abominations. Where is the bell?”

She led, insisting to be ahead to protect them, the party downstairs. As they came closer to the pillar containing the crystal where Felghanis saw the bell she bade them to halt. “Wait here and I will deal with the trap.”

It was no threat at all, it seemed. The lightning bolt leapt towards her but she dodged it with ease. She halted before the pillar and looked intently for many heartbeats. Long enough that they began to doubt her ability to do anything. Then she vanished and reappeared cradling the bell in her arms, bearing its great weight.

She triumphantly pronounced, “For his glory!” With a soft flare of light she was gone.

In the silence and almost pitch darkness Kalista spoke first, “Do any of you have any food?”

Before they could answer the angel returned bathing them in her glow.

“My deepest apologies. I should have let you know I was coming back.”

The relief was evident even on Felghanis’ face. Thunder pealed and a metallic shattering rumbled through the rock into their ears.

Felghanis laughed. “I’ve beaten you, Uncle.”

“Now, my friends, I can take you anywhere in Kiltayre. Where will it be?”

“We want to go home,” Aenir ventured suddenly.

“Of course,” she said.

“But we promised to help them to complete their quest,” Kellor said.

Aenir seemed saddened but his resolve returned quickly. “Yes. Yes of course.”

“The Black Tower,” Kalista said. Everyone agreed.

"Brannighan’s mother concentrated for a few heartbeats. “I am sorry. The tower is surrounded by orcs and blakh. I will not take you within sight of the tower for your own safety.”

“Then back to Stonecrest,” Felghanis pushed. “I have research I want to do and more importantly Goran’s body must be buried correctly.”

“Goran’s burial is not our concern,” Donhallan said.

The angel seemed to narrow her eyes slightly but her voice was still peaceful. “To Stonecrest then?”

“Yes.”

They were standing right back in the Wainwright Lodge. If it weren’t for the darker room and less people they may not have even left.

“Thank you my friends. In the morning I will return and until then I would have you think on a reward suitable to further your defence of the people and your revelation of truth.”

The possibilities began to enter their minds but sleep beckoned with more strength. Within the hour they were all asleep in their rooms carrying a peace they had not felt for months upon their hearts.

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Kiltayre: Session 17 Review

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Don’ dreamed again, of a misty forest circle with tall thin figures moving about within. They would turn their heads as if hearing or sensing him on the outside of the circle but never founds him in their gaze. The trees were old and thick boled. Don’ awoke. Was it a summons? The imagery was stronger this time and he mentally shared it with Fionnghal. The dog, though fey-touched, was still a dog and did not understand but the memory was now there.

Whatever tension that was had with Felghanis seemed to ease at breakfast that morning. They sat and ate, talking about their plans and things they had seen. It was so good to be with people again. Everyone of them in the party were all so much more relaxed than travelling the snowy wilds.

Don and Herath went into the markets and asked about the surrounding lands. They found out that food prices were 50% above normal, when they could be had, and all the good furs were sold out as soon as they were offered. Each trader was keen for more, having sized at least Herath up as a good woodsman, and they offered good prices.

It was the Lutemakers Woods that had Don’s interest and the traders dismissed it out of hand as haunted. Don’ seemed unfazed by that and determined to have a visit, since it could be done in a day at less than 10 miles away. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to tell the others they planned to go there.

Turned out the rest of the group, except Aenir and Kellor, wanted to go to. Even Fel. Whatever their spat last night seemed to have vanished. A good night’s sleep can solve many things, it appeared.

On the way out of Vrim Don’ led them to scout old buildings. Abandoned after the Livruss and Kulvuss fleet attack.

“We could take one of these over.” Don’ was excited at the idea. “Maybe just pay a notary or something a lease-fee.”

He knocked on the door of the nearest neighbour. They were wrapped in blankets and making crafts. Their small fire barely enough to heat the hut, but they were happy for visitors. After sharing information they asked Don’ and his friends back for drinks, song and cake. It was agreed.

They set off over rocky hills that were wind-lashed. On the other side they descended to the margins of the woods and saw a miles wide stand of various good timber trees. Spruce, maple, birch and cedar. All growing straight and tall. The predominant northwest wind seemingly not reaching them here.

Fionnghal suddenly went on alert, growling towards the trees. As they thought to ready themselves a great four armed beast leapt from under a snowdrift and raked the dog with claws. Herath acted first lunging in with his spear and the thing was quick to respond. Rending the hunter’s face almost from his body. The man fell into a heap blood staining the snow about his head.

They fought hard and the thing tried to run off with Herath’s body, but a black ray from Felghanis weakened it so much it dropped the hunter and fled into the massive trees. They had won out. Herath was healed by Kalista and they gathered themselves.

Don’ described the stones that surrounded the circle in his dream and asked Kalista to try and locate one. She cast her spell and searched out. There was nothing close but her spell would last long enough that they could cover another furlong or so. The forest became older, darker, and more still. Mist gathered between the boles and Kalista sensed a stone like Don’ described. They cautiously approached and then Don’ gestured they stop.

Don’ moved forward and knelt, starting some ceremony, to place three torches and three silver pieces on the ground. He chanted briefly and then removed his touch. It was almost as if he had summoned the three figures that appeared in the mist. Each walking towards him from a different position. One in silver mail, another dark armor, and a third in brown clothes that might have been made from bark and leaves.

Each had skin like leaves, hair like grass and dark eyes like set amber, and seemed completely disinterested in everyone save Don’. They spoke to him.

“Our forest has been desecrated.”

“Too many times have the men come into our place and taken our old beautiful trees.”

“A price must be paid in blood.”

The three seemed to know what must be said. Like they were reciting some old prose.

“The next hunter that enters these woods.”

“You must bring to our circle.”

“And make an offering of to pay the price.”

Don’ was shocked. A blood price for the Fey. “What about a beast instead?” He had no want to be a murderer.

“Aye.”

“A beast for nine years.’”

“Each time the moon is full.”

The question was how.

“You will do this service for us.”

“Make right the wrongs in our realm.”

“Or the price will be paid by you.”

Each took a torch and a silver piece, turned, and after a few strides seemed to melt away into the mist.

The party said little as they left. It seemed too close the edge of the forest and that elicited comments.

“We may have to delay the journey with Lorco,” Don’ said.

When they returned to the Whalers’ Retreat Aenir and Kellor were waiting for them.

“We saw our friends from the Crypt,” Aenir said gravely.

“That means Thiridea has made it back to Vrim.”

This made things even more dangerous if Jonas, Thiridea’s mentor, was still there in the chapel on Manduran’s Hill.

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Kiltayre: Session 14 Ideas

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I’m hoping the players certainly have some questions:

  • Why were scours attacking the barrow?
  • What the hell is a werebear doing as a Scour at all?
  • Are these Scours, Thiredea’s band, connected to those that died at the Iron Tower?
  • Will Kentos’ spirit let them take the book now?
  • What about the Hob’s & Blakh?
  • Is there a Garren revenge warband on the way?
  • And where is Fenris (if they even care any more)?

Session 14 will be back to plot and information with a very good chance that the party will make it back to civilization for the first time in nearly three months! I know I’d be lusting after a hot bath, a real bed inside of four walls and a roof, and a fresh baked loaf of bread after that amount of time in the dirty wilds.

However, the party do have the entire Scour group as prisoners: two soldiers, a priest and Thiredea the werebear.

Interesting choices and possibly dilemmas ahead.

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Kiltayre Session 13

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Clash at the Barrow of Kentos

When the party asked if they could take the book, again, a voice rolled out of the sarcophagus, “Until my tomb is safe you cannot touch the book.” They ran to the sounds of battle to protect Kentos’ tomb.

Two martial scours and a turn-specialist, who managed to destroy two wraiths, were leading the attack on the Barrow of Kentos.

Felghanis used his Blindness spell to devastating effect on the attacking Scours. He took a hit from an oversized crossbow bolt from a sniper. After the first of them was downed the other two ran but the sniper kept on. One of the Scours fell to his knee in surrender claiming a rich cousin, a Cardinal no less, when it appeared this “Thiredea” they kept calling to for help was not forthcoming.

The leader of the Scours, and sniper, closed on the party as they took the three other Scours prisoner. She tried to imperiously take charge of the situation expecting her authority would be enough out here in the wilderness to make the party do as she said. They quickly blocked Thiredea and met her words with harsher ones. It was straight after this that battle began again. Aenir and Kellor quickly flanked her and landed two hard blows. She erupted into the form of a werebear and began raining heavy damage about her with a poleaxe in one hand/paw.

Herath was downed, as was Felghanis, and Kellor looked like the side of his head was smashed in, by the time they brought Thiredea down. Kellor’s wound turned out to be a nasty but non-life-threatening one. His ear was ripped off with bits of his helmet and scalp. The party were grateful.

GM’s notes:
It was a long session primarily focused on the battle – which was split in two chapters. Thiridea turned out to be a capable enemy but ultimately out-numbered and with her massive strength quite damaged by Ray of Enfeeblement, she succumbed. It went down pretty much how I had hoped except I expected the martial scours and the turn-specialist to get inside the barrow. All the plot information will be put together next session.

Kallista’s player was quick to spend a Fate Point to save Kellor when I put the option on the table. It was almost a race between Don’s player, too, for the privilege. I thought that was great. Players invested in their party and their NPC companions helps keep the energy of the game in good shape.

Chris’ journal is here and goes into more detail:
http://www.buygameshobbies.com/stories/journals/winters-end-session-013-kallistas-journal/

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Kiltayre: Session 12 review

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Fionnghal was excited as Don’ awoke. The fey-touched dog reaching into Don’s thoughts said, “Close tower. We moving.”

Don’ knew that meant they had to be ready in case this lone person was hostile. Fionnghal didn’t have the smarts to figure that out but given this person was feeding the dog scraps of meat and offal that he’d hunted he at least had a soft spot for stray animals.

They prepared an ambush at the top of the cut-stone stairs which led up the rocky butte to the stable’s area. Don’ gathered a few heavy rocks and Kallista was surprised at the doughty lad’s strength. They waited, looking, whilst Felghanis scratched away on some salvaged parchment.

His writing was a little poor from long days of not handling a pen but Felghanis managed to assemble a lot of his notes from the lost journal in a tight small script. His Uncle might even be watching, now. Felghanis recalled his experience after being struck by the lightning trap. He hadn’t shared what he saw; his near-death experience, but it still haunted him.

The amethyst column thrummed with mana. It had a sliver of what it could potentially hold and that felt like enough energy to raise a mountain. The others were stuck in the passage fighitng the steel dog, but the column kept drawing Fel’s attention. What was it about this incredible thing that kept pulling him back?
The sounds drifted away as he began to see something within the faint purple glow. An image; there but not. In two places and neither of those places was really in the column. An arc and a dome, and a rim around the bottom… it was the bell of Thulemon.
“Oh my god,” Fel cried out and rushed forward.
There was a thunderous crack and then, nothing.
“Felghanis?” Uncle asked, surprised and annoyed. “What are you doing here?”
The room was so dark he could barely be sure he was there and Fel struggled to make out anything.
“We weren’t meant to meet again like this, nephew. You need to go back.” Uncle sounded disappointed and a bit angry.
“Go back? Where? Where am I?”
“Just go back Felghanis.” To Fel’ it sounded like Uncle was very annoyed. Like something he had hoped he could put off was now a pressing urgency.
“But where? How?”
“Can’t you feel them calling for you?”
“No! Who’s calling me?”
“Your friends. They are bringing you back. Go to them. We’ll meet again later.”
“But how? What’s happening? What have you got to do with the bell?”
“Go back Felghanis. The bell is outside of even the Saint’s reach. Rejoin your friends.”
Fel’s breath rasped in his chest and if he was conscious there would have been great pain. He rested and was given care by his friends. Kallista fussed over him and tended his wounds. By morning Fel was well enough to stand and help forage for food, but he bore the scars of the lightning bolt that killed him – burns and stitch-marks over the left side of his torso and up his neck. It did kill him because the phylactery was gone. Nothing left of it but some black ash.

Absently, Felghanis scratched a message on the parchment, “Uncle, if you can see this message, send me a sign?” It was a long shot but worth taking, Felghanis felt.

“I see him,” Don’ called out.

The figure seemed to just appear at the base of the rocky butte atop which perched the Iron Tower. Fionnghal broke from trotting along in the man’s shadow and sprinted up the stairs. Happy little whimpers escaping as he rushed back to Don’. Much happy licking from the dog and pats and ear rubs from Don’ as they were reunited after weeks.

The man who approached looked tanned and rangy. He was dressed in ragged bone-scale armor and wore his hair long. Carrying some spears and a longspear he gave the impression he was a hunter in his element.

“State your purpose,” Don’ yelled out.

“Let us meet, face-to-face, and talk. I don’t  yell out to shadows,” he said without breaking his stride.

The whole party stood to face the newcomer. Weapons were held in their scabbards, or points upward, in uneasy tension.

“I seek an end to spring and the Old Mountain has said this is the first place to look,” Herath, the hunter said after they realised there was no enmity or deception happening.

“We’ve been through the whole place and found that the winter is some books of Fimbulwinter. There is meant to be one in Kentos’ Barrow, to the east, near the mouth of the Greywynd River,” Felghanis said.

“Then it’s true what Old Mountain said,” Herath growled. Then he launched into a rhyme.

Iron mount once held bell of the dead
Where giant-slayer rests his head
Lost titans wait for ice’s return
The tree and tear must surely burn
Or spring’s last breath will pass us by
Find the way while the chance is nigh

“The titans are returning? Oh that’s just great,” Felghanis crowed. “Now who is Fenris working for: the Hrimpursar, or the Church?”

Or someone else?” Don’ asked.

Who is Fenris and why are you so afraid of him?” Herath asked bluntly.

They retold their story to this point, the trip on the stone ship, everything. Herath listened carefully and never interrupted. “What kind of power is that?” he asked once they were done.

“Birthright, ordained, or some kind of pact,” Felghanis said miserably. Then his tone lifted, “If we are to travel together we should start now.”

They agreed and continued on their journey, chatting and sharing information as they walked.

Rocky beach the color of dark clay led them east. The forest was thick once back from the high-water mark, and high enough that the tree-roots weren’t exposed to salt water. It was the Greywynd Forest according to Fel’s map and they kept looking for signs of Garren. Those territorial markers of skulls pinned to trees by long arrows. They didn’t see any and that made them nervous.

Picking up the trail of a bison herd the party moved into the forest. The bison were down from the high plains to find food in the harshest winter for decades and the party needed meat. The hunt was quick with Fionnghal’s fey power, Entangle, launching roots out of the ground to seize three bison. One escaped and the party only slew one more. They would have more meat than they could carry otherwise.

Don’ and Herath had barely finished packing the meat when everyone became aware of the smell of wood-smoke. They looked about and a pall was rising to the north. Disturbed they returned to the beach, which was frozen firm, and trekked north towards the smoke. As they closed on the source of the pall a pinned ogre skull was spotted and they sought cover.

It was Aenir who suggested they prowl forwards to see what was going on. Herath joined him and the dwarf surprised the tribal hunter with his stealthy movements. Felghanis made it moot as he rustled and grunted along after them. They came to a small creek, frozen over, and it seemed to be a border for the burning settlement. Humpbacked structures had mostly burned to the ground.

Bodies of Garren littered the spaces between. Hacked and left sprawled in dark stains of blood in the snow. Among the tall wiry Garren were some thickset goblinoids with dark skin: Hobgoblins.

“We’ll find their camp and kill’em all,” Aenir said with a snarl.

Herath spotted something moving. Like a hemisphere of darkness it glided through the village and away from the men laying on their bellies in the snow.

“There,” Herath whispered, pointing it out.

“Blakh,” Aenir said, shaking his head.

They returned to the others to report.

Felghanis led the argument to go into town for survivors and Kallista quickly jumped on board. They gathered together and entered the town. So many dead. Even the giant beetles the Garren kept as livestock had been slain in their pens. Just speared, until they bled out, by the merciless hob’s.

Finally they found a survivor but it was one of the hob’s, barely alive.

It was Kellor who hefted the large creature on to his back and carried it back. He wasn’t gentle but neither did he try to injure the hob and push it over the abyss’ edge.

Back at camp Kallista saw to its wounds and by morning it was awake. They interrogated it, dismissing Felghanis’ overtones of using torture, and found out that there were two camps, with three Blakh between them. The Hob’s and the Blakh had been in the woods for three days and this was the second village of Garren they had razed.

“Why?”

“It is orders, for the glory of our people,” the Hob, Breakfinger, answered.

Bound tightly but kept warm the Hob was left laying on the ground while the party planned their next moves. As the day drew to a close and camp was established they were in good spirits. The weather had been clear and the sun warm on their faces. Greywynd Woods were no longer a dark threat that hid Garren behind every bole.

The next morning they travelled on and the dwarves insisted that Breakfinger carry all the meat Felghanis had preserved. With lots of food available they spent the day walking and gathering firewood, whilst keeping Breakfinger in their sights.

The day after that Breakfinger started making a fuss and nodding ahead. Slipping his gag down they heard him say, “The camp is ahead at the river mouth.”

Wisely Felghanis asked the hob to draw a map. It held up its bound hands and when let loose it drew a crude map in the sand with a stick Fionnghal had been idly chewing. Four tents on the edge of the river mouth with three trenches. Guards picketed in pairs, too. The camp looked well defensible and the party had Breakfinger lead them around it – a mile out to avoid the patrols which the Hob’ said were to half a mile. It worked.

They made it to the river which was frozen over in a thick sheet ice. Herath tested the ice and pronounced it safe to cross. Once over the river it dawned on them how can they find a barrow in a forest.

“I recall the Codger saying they used to plant trees of certain types on top of barrows. Not sure which types, though. Usually thought to be protective,” Kallista said.

“We need a view,” Don’ said.

Herath found a tall tree and asked for a rope. He used it to scale the giant fir and once high in its branches he could see the distant Hobgoblin camp. The two figures of the guards he could just make out right where Breakfinger said they’d be. To the west he could see a long barrow. The trees on top of it were giants and darker, and more dense, of needle than the surrounding fir and birch.

“I’ve seen it,” Herath said once back on the ground.

Everyone was nervous about revealing anything more in front of Breakfinger. They whispered and decided to let the Hob’ go free, here. Breakfinger backed off about 20 yards then ran for his life. He was out of their sight and ear-shot within seconds. The party was still for a few heartbeats.

“Alright. Let’s go and I’ll cover our tracks,” Don’ said.

They did a sterling job and before much time had passed Herath led them to the barrow. It was long, some 100 feet or more and five giant silk yew trees had grown over the mound. Their massive roots could be seen, thick as a man’s leg, over the side of the barrow. At the southern end a mossy slab of stone was mostly concealed by roots and shade.

“Looks like the door,” Kellor said and strode towards it.

Kallista brushed the moss of the slab revealing a worn carving of a figure carrying a long spear in old-fashioned mail armor.

Don’ took his crowbar from the pack and started to pry at the door but couldn’t make it budge.

“Here, lad, let me,” Kellor took the crowbar from the young man and worked the slab loose. “Grab it here and pull.”

Together they opened the slab. A gasp of air rushed in then a small puff of dust escaped. The darkness inside had the party staring for a brief moment in total stillness.

Kallista said firmly, “Lux!” The top of her staff burst into white light and they entered, Don leading.

As soon as Don’s foot fell across the threshold an inky form seeped out of stone-slab sarcophagus at the end of the small chamber. It began to form a figure, just like the small statue on top of the casket.

“What-for you enter the tomb of Lord Kentos, giant-slayer, servant of Davinus?”

Don’ took to one knee almost instantly in a sign of humble respect. “We seek the return of Spring, and the book of Fimbulwinter we believe will aid us in that.”

The form, now almost solid, in a long chain hauberk, carried a bone white sword that seemed flecked with ice-crystals. It levelled the blade at Don’. “You may enter but touch nothing save the book.” It warned. Then it faded away back into the rough stone casket.

There was little to say. Felghanis had studied the apparition with Detect Undead and it was strong; at least the match of any two of them, possibly more so. Pressing inwards the great roots seemed to cling to the walls, adding strength to the structure. They passed two more stone-slab sarcophagi and standing in them, through the stone, were two more apparitions of what must have been Kentos’ shouldermen. Each warned the party, levelling one of the bone swords at them, and let them pass.

The final chamber was larger than the others. A tall stone column split the entrance and was carved with runes. Felghanis took a rubbing and as he did managed to translate a phrase that was repeated a few times in the passage.

“Three deer?” he asked aloud.

“That matches the seerwoman’s vision,” Kallista said excitedly. The fact she was in a tomb of active spirits seemingly dismissed.

Beyond the column a great spear, glowing with magic, was lain across a large ornate stone casket. It lit the room well. Behind the casket, in an alcove of stone, a tall statue depicted a fierce warrior some seven and a half feet tall. On his hip was a satchel, part of the carving of stone, holding a large leather bound book.

“That must be it,” Felghanis hissed.

Don’ and Fel started whispering on how to beseech the spirit of Kentos for the book when Fel suddenly inspired dropped to one knee, hands outstretched.

“Lord Kentos. We seek the book of Fimbulwinter to find out how to stop it from taking over our lands. To bring back Spring, and prevent the return of the Hrimpursar.”

His words had barely finished reverberating from the stone when the clash of steel echoed from the entrance to the barrow. A battle had started and they were already in a tomb.

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Kiltayre: Session 11 review

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Felghanis healed well and in combination with the rest of Kallista’s reserves he was fully recovered in the morning. The phylactery had worked and it renewed hope in the Felk Bay people. Still, the Iron Tower beckoned and the dwarves did not want to leave without fully exploring the structure. They assembled and once again pressed into the rust-streaked tower.

Back in the room with the tall amethyst crystal, the site of Felghanis’ fall to the lightning bolt, Kallista attempted to disable the trap. She tried to Dispel Magic, but on both counts she failed to break the inherent resistance of the node. Unwilling to risk the lightning bolt they went back up.

The double trap doors revealed a large cellar come stoe-room. It was mostly full of junk but a small fireplace held scraps of bloodied bandages. Searching around the fireplace it became apparent to Don’ that one person had camped there, judging by the disturbance in the dust. The rest of the cellar held junk: scraps of timber, iron, masonry and chain. Most of it was unusable save for the larger pieces of iron and the chains.

Being more thorough than last time they carefully searched each level. There were a few odds and ends in the detritus that could be sold for a handful of coppers or maybe a silver or two but no-one wanted to bother with that kind of thing. All that remained was everything above them at that point.

Aenir belly crawled up to the door way and peaked in at the things. They were still there and behind them he saw the racks of weapons, bundles of arrows, and an armor stand far to the right. Suddenly the things were moving towards him he almost leapt back from the doorway.

“It saw me,” he said as he rushed back.

They made a quick plan and Felghanis tried to take control with Command Undead. Unfortunately the thing was too strong. Aenir threw his flask and oily slick gel covered the area the things were standing in. One fell over with a thud that was far too light to be a stone sarcophagus. The other seemed to retain its balance easily. A crocodile appeared, care of Kallista’s Summon Nature’s Ally II and began to attack the clawed sarcophagus things. They fought back and soon the crocodile was barely alive, pierced with the lashing claws. Kellor dashed past, focusing on defense, and from range managed to hit one with a flask of alchemist’s fire. It burned but did little to break the undead’s body. Fel was unsure what to do next. His Command spell was failing over and over and there was little else he could affect undead with in his arsenal. To melee them would be suicide for the young necromancer. Another summoned creature appeared to fight alongside the crocodile. This time a wolf. They fought but the creatures were too strong. Kallista sealed the doorway to clawed sarcophagi with a Shape Stone spell, enough stone to fill the doorway almost a foot thick, and that allowed them to get past.

Up through the tower they went. The next level was a series of small lodging rooms. One of which was recently used as a camp for 5 people, according to Don’. They found no sign of injury in the remnants and pushed on. Above was once luxurious lodgings with painted wood panelling and servants quarters. It was faded now and the furniture had mostly frayed and warped to be almost useless. It was different to the levels below. The walls were interspersed with tall narrow windows that were glassed in. There was little of note here, though, so they went up to the next level.

At first glance it was once a large library, the shelves now empty and damaged, but the three bodies, tabards bearing the mark of the Church of St. Fergus covered fin mail, in pools of congealed blood showed a battle had ended here. They carefully entered with Kellor at the head holding his large shield at the ready. No foes were nearby. Relaxing a little they spread out and Kallista found a fourth body. It lay before a broken steel dog, like the one that was still trapped in the clay far below.

“Unlike the others his neck was broken from behind, most likely, and this dagger wound shows he was stabbed for good measure,” she said to the others.

“A competent ambusher,” Aenir grumbled, now wary.

On the walls, around the whole storey, was a frieze depicting many scenes of a man carrying a long spear and five shoulder men bearing large kite shields.

“This tells a tale,” Felghanis said looking at it like it was a puzzle to be solved.

Around the other side of the central column a magic circle was marked on the floor and in it a bookstand of stone, no longer held a book.

“It holds no magic other than abjuration,” Fel’ relayed.

An arch led to another stair, this time ending at a cold-iron door. Much like the one far below; now concealed under the stables. However, this was not locked and it opened on to the battlements at the top of the tower. Wind buffeted them and the dark grey sky seemed to reflect the distant sounds of crashing waves some 150 feet below. Each of the gaps in the battlements was very tall, at least 12 feet, and rather wide even for the largest of men. Glancing back at the door they realized it was set in a very large dais, stairs to either side leading up. On the dais stood two large statues, some eight feet tall, made of steel and wood that seemed posed as if guarding an empty bell mount.

“Shield guardians,” Felghanis whispered. “Very dangerous constructs.”

“Are they active?” Kallista asked, suddenly wary.

“Almost certainly,” Fel’ answered in hushed voice.

They adhered to the better part of valor and returned to the library where Felghanis and Kallista attempted to decipher the frieze. It took them at least an hour and it was mostly Fel’ who figured it out.

“Ah, this is the tale of Kentos, the giant-slayer,” Fel started. “He fought the Hrimpursar to retrieve three books of Fimbulwinter. Each book was one third of the ritual that the frost titans had used to make Kiltayre to their liking. Kentos retrieved the last in a battle with a Hrimpursar elder, but fell in battle. His five shouldermen raised a barrow on the site and interred him within. The other book was kept here. This was the tower of Davinus and Kentos was his vassal. It doesn’t say where the third book is.”

The party looked on quietly. So much had fallen in to place.

Kallista faced the dwarves, “Aenir, Kellor. You have been honorable allies and we’ve not told you something important.”

They were quite, listening patiently.

“Before we were gaoled by the church we were on a quest to find what was making the winter’s longer, and stop it.”

The dwarves broke into wide smiles.

“I’ve not been on a quest for sixty years! It will be great to be alongside you.” Kellor said.

“Aye, it’ll be like fighting the goblins all those year ago. When Dwarf Town was at its lowest and the greenskins attacked. They were some battles.” Aenir reflected on glory days.

“We’d be honored to join you in this quest. The winters have indeed been getting longer and harsher.”

Kallista shook hands with them, in the dwarven way, and they both beamed at the gesture.

Good will was all around when Don’ brought them back to reality. “We should search these bodies and find more food while the sun’s up. There’s bound to be more fish out there.”

The bodies were well equipped. Fine chainmail, masterwork weapons, and an enchanted footman’s mace.

Kellor examined it and his eyes widened, “This is metalline. It can mimic the properties of silver, adamantine, and cold-iron. A very useful weapon. With this we could defeat those things in the armory.”

“If we can isolate one of those things we can take out the other one.”

“When I open the doorway again I can make a small wall for cover.”

“If I can just bend their will then one of them can be forced to fight on our side,” Felghanis’ frustration at his previous attempts leaked through.

“It’s worth trying,” Kallista said.

The discussion went back and forth and finally their plan was agreed.

Everyone readied themselves at the sealed doorway and waited for Kallista’s cue. She worked the clay and her magic and the doorway surged into the room making a low wall.

Don charged in and landed a heavy blow on the first clawed sarcophagus. The mace was fully effective. Kellor followed suit and his axe bit into the thing.

Felghanis reached out for the thing’s will and sought to seize it. With a cry of victory he had it solidly bound to his commands.

The battle raged. Aenir’s tanglefoot bag failed to glue the other clawed sarcophagus to the spot but it slowed the thing down greatly. The sarcophagus was some kind of image projected over the thing, concealing its true visage.

Kallista summoned a dire wolf and it proved very effective, tripping the uncontrolled undead allowing everyone a solid blow whilst it was down. And then it was destroyed.

“We can’t have this thing following us around, Fel,” Don said gesturing at the controlled clawed sarcophagus. “Make it stand over there. We’ll destroy it.”

Fel grumbled, “It aids our party. Look how strong it is.”

“It’s abomination!” Don’ yelled. “Just do it, now.”

Fel complied, however much he cursed to himself.

They arranged themselves and simultaneously attacked the thing knowing it would immediately defend itself. Kallista’s summoned dire wolf seemed to be its main target and it turned on the summoned creature almost felling it right there. Kallista healed the dire wolf. Aenir struck the thing and tumbled out of reach. Kellor’s axe bit deeply and Don’ seemed to lose his mettle, missing entirely.

The dire wolf, suddenly ducked in a snapped the undead’s leg off, dragging it to the ground in a rattle of bones. Within a few heartbeats the sarcophagus image decayed away leaving a horrid form of a boneclaw.

“What a strange thing to do,” Felghanis said. “Cloak them in that illusion. For what?”

None had an answer for him.

Aenir had drifted over to explore the rest of the armory. A case had held a dagger but it was recently removed. The dust on the glass only disturbed a few days past.

Felghanis came back to the present and helped pick out the items that were enchanted. There were a few. A chain shirt, breastplate, light shield, longsword and shortbow.

The longsword’s scabbard bore decorative motifs of thunder and some runes were etched on the hilt. The shortbow was runed, too, with marks of lightning.

“Seems this is worth a lot more than that old door,” Felghanis said with a cynical smile.

They set about gathering food with what was left of the sunlight. Fishing was slim but they caught enough for a few more days. That night they lodged in the same room as the Scours from the Church of St. Fergus had some days before. They closed the stout door and saw a circle of protection had been etched. Its magic had been gone for days but it helped reassure them that this was the best place to stay.

“Five fingers of stone,” Kallista said.

“That was the Hand of Gulresh,” Fel answered. “We found that.”

“What about five swords of bone?” Kallista asked.

“Wait…” Fel went into his memory. “I saw something about that upstairs.”

They gathered and went up with torches. Fel pawed over the frieze until he found the panel.

“Here. The five shouldermen of Kentos were rewarded with swords crafted by their lord. That’s Kentos. They were made of the thighbones of Hrimpursar and enchanted in hardness, rewarded to his shouldermen for their loyalty and fearlessness in battle.”

 

With the small coal fire burning a warm red-orange Don’s thoughts drifted to Fionnghal.

“Two-legs shared food. Travel with two-legs. See tower. You at tower?”

“Yes and we’ll be here for you tomorrow, boy. Take care.”

Don’ fell asleep thinking of finally being united again with his faithful companion.

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Kiltayre Session 11: ideas

Comments Off on Kiltayre Session 11: ideas

Well, the big hook in the Iron Tower still hasn’t got enough bait on it to  get the players to bite. They are giving me the impression that intentions are for exploring the whole tower. After encountering the boneclaw-sarcophagi they are rightfully cautious.

We may have a new player joining us in a fortnight which would be great. The dynamic will shift a bit with that player able to bring a lot of energy and characterization to the table. Still too early to say, though.

Other plans are for some more revelations on the big plot which they’ll likely be able to piece together most all of what is going on. But that will present them with the “what the hell can we do about that” conundrum. And that is where the fun begins!

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Kiltayre Session 10: review

Comments Off on Kiltayre Session 10: review

Retreating, nursing wounds, to the stables the party rested and girded their courage for another entry into the tower. They were lying about, waiting for the sun to rise enough to give light.

Alassiel was restless, most unusual, and gabbling softly to herself. She escalated in energy when she saw the party watching her with caution at this uncharacteristic behaviour.

“This, all of this,” she gestured. “It doesn’t matter any more, because I don’t need matter. I am beyond it.”

In her mind she had linked psionic ways of escalating her power. Based on all the fear and repressed emotional energy of a short lifetime wary of other’s distrust and fear of her powers. She’d pieced channels for that energy to massively amplify her powers and with those channels she had found how to transcend matter.

“All of this, all the fear and distrust I leave behind.”

Stepping forward Alassiel began to glow and in a simple soundless step faded away in a brief silver suffusion – the psi-crystal popping after her in a trail of light silver motes.

Kallista spoke first, “Did you see that? Please tell me everyone saw that.”

Aenir and Kellor could say little. They were too surprised. Don had little to add.

It was Felghanis who managed to say much at all. “Wish I could leave this place so easily.”

They talked for an hour about what it was and what it might mean but the puzzlement left them somewhat dumbfounded. Since there was nothing they could do about it they turned to the Iron Tower.

“At least we could get some loot for being out here in this wilderness,” Aenir said.

“We should go back in, I agree, and head down. Making sure we have a clear line of escape,” Don put forward.

Don had his own concerns. Fionnghal was still missing since they had been gaoled. He reached out to the Fey-touched hound, their mystic-link allowing communication at any distance, and felt Fionnghal’s responses. “Hungry. Cold. There’s a two-legs. Keep seeing him. Catches me at night. Smells like has food. Want food. Try get food from two-legs.” Don was worried but Fionnghal had to eat. He did his best to dismiss the concern. There was nothing he could do to change the situations.

The group entered the tower and headed down the central stairs. They found a cold damp cellar with that was constructed off of a natural cavern that led to the sea. A rough hewn quay was fashioned with stone mooring posts. Under the clear cold waters the rotting ribs of old longboats sat starkly against the mud.

What stood out most, was a bare iron door.

“That’s cold iron,” Kellor stated.

“We could feed our whole town with what coin that door’s worth,” Don exclaimed.

He started to try and pry it apart at the hinges. It was going to be very hard work that would take a long time.

“I have a spell that could help. I can shape the stone, perhaps loosen the door.”

“If you can loosen it here, here and here, we can pull the whole door free with its hinges,” Kellor explained, gesturing.

Kallista began her casting and poured some of her extra mana into the spell. As she worked the reagent of clay there was a sudden push back. The aura of the door turned her spell aside without any effects at all.

“What happened? Why’d nothing happen?”

“Cold iron. It turns a lot of magic. Why it’s so valuable.”

“I can make one more attempt today,” Kallista said and prepared again. This time she worked at making the spell more penetrative and its energies proved unresistable.

Don’ and the dwarves seized the door and dragged it free of its mounting, hinges and all, to lean it against the rough stone.

“We need a piton or something. If this thing falls it’ll take off someone’s foot,” Kellor said with raised urgent tones.

The door was secured and the party began exploring the passage beyond; Don’ in the lead.

Small niches dotted the base of the wall, where it met the floor, and in each was a small rune.

Felghanis studied them, “Some kind of divination… and more. A conjuration effect.”

“So a watching spell and a summon spell,” Kallista guessed.

With his shovel Don’ covered them all with detritus from the cellar part of this area. “Shouldn’t be able to see anything now,” he said proudly.

They progressed to a small round room dimly lit with faint violet light that issued from a passage to their right. As they faced the light source a gasp escaped Fel and Kallista. A column of what looked like amethyst rose up, at the end of the passage some thirty feet along, at least seven feet. It was clearly some kind of immense deep earth crystal. Even almost empty it held more mana than they could likely utilize in a day.

“Quiet! I heard something,” Kallista broke the staring pause.

Like a fork dragged on stone the sound came again and they rushed to meet it, weapons ready.

A dog-shape, but of sooty coloured steel, sprinted around the corner and attacked Don. Its momentum was great and it mis-timed the strike. Combat ensued and Aenir lobbed a flask at it only to overpower his throw and have the small glass vessel plop harmlessly into the water of the quay.

Kallista tried to summon a dire wolf to attack but she couldn’t see the dog-thing to place her spell. It appeared in the small round room, snarling, and growling to join the fray.

Felghanis could barely keep his eyes off the amethyst column and kept glancing back at the curved passage where the sounds of combat issued forth.

Don’ pushed to force the dog-thing back but it was too strong. Kellor tried the same thing and forced it back so that it was on the quay. In a few more heartbeats Kellor had taken a vicious claw to his leg but the doughty dwarf bull rushed it back into the water where the dog-thing sunk immediately to the bottom. It seemed unperturbed at its submergence and began trying to scale the slimy wall of the quay.

Aenir called out, “Can you get my flask?” Pointing down into the water at his little bottle.

Kallista was able to use a mage hand spell to lift it out and get it back to Aenir.

“Oh my god!” Fel exclaimed from far down the passage to the crystal. Then there was a thunderclap as lightning erupted.

At Kallista’s behest Aenir rushed to retrieve Fel and bring him back for aid.

“He’s down and not breathing. Looks like he’s been boiled and roasted at the same time.” The horror at Fel’s injuries was apparent in Aenir’s voice. “I’m not getting him! The trap might still be active.”

Each time it surfaced the forced it back into the water with spears or shield. Kallista summoned a large shark but it failed to damage the steel dog. The construct began defending itself with frightful results for the shark – that now seemed soft and vulnerable. Before long the shark was slain with its belly laid open. It vanished back to where it came from.

Don’ retrieved a small anvil from the cellar and returned hefting its weight. The group worked together so Don’ could make the shot and as the steel dog broke the surface of the water again he slammed the anvil down. The steel dog was forced off its climb and sunk immediately, but it rolled out from under the anvil as it fell down in the water. Again it started climbing.

“This thing is going to keep coming!” Kellor cried.

It suddenly dawned on Kallista that roughly half the quay wall was natural stone. She could effect it with a stone-to-clay spell.

The steel dog broke the surface again before Kallista was ready to cast and again Don’ and Kellor forced it off the quay’s wall. It sunk, hit the bottom, and then Kallista’s spell took effect. Great clumps of clay sloughed out into the water burying the steel dog under hundreds and hundreds of pounds of thick clay.

“That ought to hold it for months,” Don’ said.

The quay groaned and cracked.

“This isn’t stable,” Kellor yelled. “We have to get off this dock.”

“We can’t leave Felghanis!” Kallista protested.

“We’ll get him,” Don reassured.

Kallista ran to safe ground and Aenir braved the passage as Kellor ran to his aid.

The trap was active and it loosed a horrifying bolt of electricity that some how Aenir anticipated. He flattened against the wall and the arc grounded harmlessly into the stone.

When Fel was laid at Kallista’s feet the dwarves and Don’ looked on. She began to stitch him closed but it was plain that was not enough.

“Here, girl. This will help,” Kellor said, handing over a flask of gold oil.

The oil was a curing preparation and Kallista carefully applied it to the worst of Fel’s wounds. A bright sudden flare at Fel’s neck drew everyone’s attention to the phylactery there. It turned grey before their eyes then fell to black ash. A shallow breath raised Felghanis’ ribs.

“He lives,” Kallista was so relieved small tears welled up.

Once again they retreated to the stables but it was only Kallista and Felghanis who stayed. Don’, Aenir and Kellor retrieved the heavy cold iron door.

“Now what do we do with it?” Aenir asked, puffing.

They discussed it at length but it seemed the most practical thing was to hide it and collect it later with a chartered vessel once the spring thaw was done.

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