Gloriana

Curse of the Bog Witch -- Part 1

While Ulreik Hras Halril and Nashia Arie pondered the meaning of the Mordavian Transcripts, our heroes dealt with what they’d learned during the fair. Yvain Ponty acquired his so-called “Oakstump Stout” from Bromin Firebeard‘s robbed caravan, the same caravan that saw the deaths of Tarah Arcistoth and Corik Tel’Maerlyth. Given the state of the brew Yvain was pushing, the ale must have been acquired from the wreckage of the caravan and sold very quickly. With no other leads into the attack on the caravan, the party decided to investigate.

In another twist, Morel’s transformation in the throes of the Curse of the Bog Witch has worsened. He has shrunk several more inches, more mushrooms are sprouting from his flesh, and he’s gained the ability to see in the dark. Concerned for the progression of the curse, the party resolved to find a cure or break the curse as soon as they could.

Tavion Gervis went immediately to the HONORABLE AND LOYAL ORDER OF WEAVERS AND DYEMEN, where he spoke to the snub-nosed guild representative Wimblington, asking if there’d been any acts of thievery or crime within the town. Wimblington asserted that the Guild knows all the operators in Calchester and aside from petty thievery and pick-pocketing, nothing gets done without their approval. That being said, there WAS a caravan that came through recently that acted suspiciously. They had far too many guards and were bound for Dunlan Fief in Borgondhi.

Tyrandriel consulted with Tilly Carosi, the singer and faithful of the Laughing God who’d warned them about the Borgondhi thugs working with Frederic Arcistoth. Tilly saw the same caravan and knew they were too well armed to be merchants, or even common thieves. These were people on a mission, and with ill intent for the land of Marchen.

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At last, Bromin, Gaemund and the rest of the party confronted the disgraced Farmer Ponty himself. When they came to his farm in the morning, he was blackout drunk in the mud—Mrs Ponty exiled him from the house until he’d sobered up and cleaned off. Nashia was more than happy to awaken him with a toned-down application of her Shocking Grasp spell. Jolted back to consicousness and surrounded by some people he’d just as soon enver see again, Ponty was eager with the answers.

  • Yvain bought all the ale from a traveling merchant lady. She was passing through town in a hurry. His wife was none too fond of how the lady dressed, talked, or looked at Yvain.
  • The lady had acquired a bunch of ale on her travels. She shared with him some secrets of its brewing—secrets he later spewed when claiming to be the brewer, with a few creative touches of his own.
  • She had blue eyes, black hair, and many armed guards. Her boots were not Farraud/Calchester make. She wore a red cloak, a black dress, had a wagon adorned in lanterns, and feathers at her belt. Her caravan was well guarded and seemed to be carrying whetstones, feathers, and other goods for sale in Borgondhi.

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One thing was certain—whoever this woman was, she had VERY swift access to the site of the caravan attack, and she was headed to Dunlan Fief. In the absence of any better leads, the heroes chose to pursue her. They set out for the edges of Marchen, on their way to Borgondhi.

Many of the heroes had reason to fear traveling to Marchen’s neighboring kingdom. As the daughter of a disgraced princess, Aine risked discovery and harassment for her lineage. Nashia Arie knew that spies from House Bothotlo of Elam were working with agents of Borgondhi—how far did the conspiracy to kill her and claim her priceless scroll go? And worst of all, Tavion Gervis was returning to the land he grew up—Dunlan Fief, ruled by his foster father and brother—a land with a price on his head!

Disguised and concealed within Gaemund’s cart, the party made their way through the Marchen woods. Two days into their journey, ravens flocked around the path ahead, drawn to fresh meat. Morel and Gaemund crept forward, wary of signs of slaughter. Up ahead in the road was a man clad in the armor of a knight, lying beneath his butchered horse, moaning incoherently. The rest of the party approached carefully, but there were no signs of danger. Morel went to go help the man, who bellowed a warning at the sight of him—through a mouth filled with blood. His tongue had been cut out so he could not tell of the danger lurking in the woods—a Huldra ambush!

Eight warriors burst from the bushes, firing arrows into the caravan. Those within the wagon ducked for cover, but the Huldra’s leader commanded the plants and roots around them to rise up and crush the humans. With the power of druidic magic, he trapped them all within. Only Bromin, Tavion, Gaemund and Morel avoided the spell. But the counter attack was fierce—Morel leapt atop the dead horse and with lightning-fast rapier strikes struck down the leader’s wolf companion. Aine, Nashia and Ulreik chanted within their vine-wrapped prison and unleashed a barrage of magical power at the Huldra leader, cutting him down in a barrage of light. Bromin jumped to the ground and charged at the nearest warrior, and with a single mighty swing of his maul he shattered the huldra’s weapon and hurled them into the air. The raiders clearly expected merchants and travelers, not warriors and spell-slingers.

In the aftermath, a single Huldra survived. Tyrandriel tended to the broken man’s wounds while the rest interrogated the Huldra warrior. He had little to say—other warbands like his had steadily crept into human lands, deeper than ever before, to extract eternal vengeance for the slaughter of their people during the Invasion of Marchen. Morel worried for the safety of her village, Toadstool Hollow, no more than a day’s travel away. If the Huldra could reach this far from the Caonach Vale, could her home town be in danger?

With the healing presence of the Laughing God (disguised with the rites of Our Triumphant Family), Tyrandriel brought the wounded man back on his feet. The huldra had broken his arms and cut out his tongue in order to lure other humans to the site of their first strike. Handed a quill, ink and parchment, the man identified himself as Eklos, Knight of the Pendant. He’d received Vesta Piota’s message and was just now riding to Arkaley to deliver the town from the pagan magic enshrouding it. The heroes assured him that Arkaley was delivered from the terrible mists, its people safe. In his current state Eklos felt the best course of action was to return to the nearest abbey of his order. The party decided to protect him on his journey.

At last they arrived in Toadstool Hollow. All of Morel’s townsfolk share the curse of the Bog Witch with her, and as such they do not trust outsiders. The little hovels and moss-covered huts of the people have been boarded up to keep out the light. Villagers wear heavy clothes and cloaks to hide their appearance, but they cannot hide the fungus that occasionally sloughs off their skin as they transform bit by bit into mushrooms. The people were glad to see Morel and eager for any news of salvation from the curse. All she knew, she’d learned from the Archfey Nuinn—the curse can be lifted by killing the witch, convincing her to lift it, swearing fealty to a being more powerful than her, or by finding the flaw in the curse.

It was at that moment it occurred to Morel and company that they had a group of nine well-armed, magically trained adventurers.

In the depths of the Rattlebog, just hours east of Toadstool Hollow, they arrived at the foul-smelling lake known as the Dark Hollow. Sickly willows clung to the few islands of mud rising above the bubbling waters. A well maintained wooden pier wound away from a slime-covered house, the path illuminated by flickering green lanterns. Eyes glared out from the branches of the gloomy canopy, observing the interlopers. And growing from every conceivable surface were creeping fungi—toadstools on the islands, shelf fungus feasting on the trees, mold and mildew and all manner of slime.

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Something about the very air disturbed the magically sensitive among them. Ulreik opened his Sight and saw magic infusing the entire lake. The Dark Hollow is a place neither entirely here nor entirely there, floating between the Mortal and Fairy kingdoms. Distrustful of the water, they approached the Witch’s hut cautiously along the pier. Morel used her new grappling hook to scale one of the willow trees. All the heroes watched the witch’s hut, looking for a point of attack.

Unfortunately for them, a point of attack found them first. Morel had just enough time to spot something in the water, and Nashia and Aine released crackling witchbolts into the murk. The electricity arced through the water, enraging the beast below, and it exploded through the walkway with a roar. Heroes flew left and right, some of them plummeting into the water, as those who held their feet reacted to the monster—a troll! It snatched at them in anger until they drove it beneath the surface with magic and weaponry.

Nashia scarcely made it to one of the mud islands, only to have the toadstools there pop and blast her with poisonous spores. Even worse—a cackling voice arced through the swamp. “CHILLLLDREEEEEN!” it called, and each of the piles of toadstools emerged from the earth—they were merely the heads of fungal creatures, infested with poisonous spores, mindlessly following their mother’s orders to kill the interlopers and feed their corpses to their young brethren!

Things went from bad to worse. The troll continued to tear apart the wooden pier, threatening the heroes again and again with the unknown horrors of the bog. Swarms of the mushroom thralls approached, and they found themselves hideously outnumbered. It was then that Morel discovered he could hear the thoughts of the other “children,” and even communicate with them. With a burst of will and cunning, she suggested that more interlopers could be found behind the house. That drew off half the Children, leaving an opening for the heroes to escape. At that precise moment the troll burst from the water, seized Morel, and dragged him into the water!

It took the combined efforts of every other hero to rescue their friend. Morel struggled as the Troll clutched his throat, trying to choke the life out of him, stabbing away at the beast with his daggers. The mages unleashed magical power into the water, accepting the risk of striking their friend. Gaemund leapt into the water, seized Morel and Bromin hauled them away. They banded together and fled the swamp, with the Witch’s cackling taunts at their heel.

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Interlude -- The Mordavian Tablets

The original Mordavian Tablets are lost, one of many treasures plundered during the reign of King Neverwas. Still, many scholarly transcriptions and translations of the tablets remained in the libraries of the Academy of Gloriana — as one of the only known pieces of Dokkalfar literature, it has been the subject of great speculation and inquiry. Due to peculiarities of the Dokkalfar rune set, translations can vary wildly.

Recently, the scholar Euthynos has busily acquired every possible copy of the Tablets, no matter the scribe or state of the translation. It seems only one escaped his grasp: that in the vaults of Ursi Arcistoth, Knight of Calchester. It is in poor shape, but the scribe who did the translation was dutiful and thorough.

Came to the Dokkalfar Grotto a man of gold. He came up from the Pools of Fire and was set upon by the deep watchers. In his arms a shade clinging to flesh, a daughter woven of gossamer and glass. They saw he was made of flesh and gold, not a spirit or devouring demon. How was it he came from below, unheard and unlooked for?

I am TARAS, said he, and I have come from the Gates of Death. I tore them from their hinges and conquered Death, and I return with my daughter. Let none prevent me. Said the watchers, all the kingdoms have heard the din of the wrenching gates. We will not prevent you. Speak with the Sage and rest.

A meal was set before TARAS and his daughter, who ate but little. The Sage saw that TARAS was filled with fire and light. A new day comes, said he, for you are the Dragon of the Brightest Noon. When Dusk, Night and Dawn are born anew, what will you become? Said TARAS, my people are beset by the King of Storms and his sons, the Four Winds. I will overthrow them as I have overthrown Death.

Ours is the Moonless Night. We know the deep ways and the secret paths, the Road of Seven Veils and the Root of Sorrow. If you learn the Dragon’s song, you will walk the four worlds as one—but there will be no new covenant if you do not heed the Dokkalfar, who keep the Pools of Fire, the Scintillating Path, and the Fifth Kingdom, said the Sage

We walk the world of Mortals. The Sky Kingdom makes war upon us. I have sundered the gates of the Underworld, and the Fair People keep their ways secret. I have the counsel of Silver-Clad Jonil and the wisdom of the DARASTRIX. Yet of kingdoms I know four, said TARAS.

Paths of mind and wandering, barred to the children of Dusk, Dawn and Night. Enshrouding all as a mist, bending to the wills of the learned, flowing through all kingdoms, reaching into the shadows of the soul. A fog that conceals us from Beyond the Stars. You walk the land at night without seeing your own feet.

Three paths are there to the Fifth Kingdom. First is the Scintillating Path, the Secret of the Sage. It is barred by ash and embers. The Path of Seven Veils winds through all kingdoms. TARAS Golden asked of the Path of Seven Veils. It is all that remains of Seosh and Seosha, who battled each other beyond the Seventh Gate. Now it winds between the worlds, invisible to the unlearned, perilous to the unwise. It is kept by the Queen of Stars and the King of Storms, your foe.

TARAS Golden asked of the Root of Sorrow. A tree grew in the Fifth Kingdom, with roots that spread beyond the stars. They drank from pools of suffering and grew fat on hate’s carrion. But the Phoenix came to roost in its boughs, and burned it to ash. The dead roots remained, never growing, ever mouldering, wound between the kingdoms. Who wears those roots as a crown will send their will across the wilds and the Fifth Kingdom.

Asked TARAS golden of the Crown of Roots. Only the Caoineadh of the Starless Market can weave such a crown. Asked TARAS golden of the Starless Market, and said the sage:

Take a sheer black stone in hand
Go where mountains meet the land
When clouds conceal the moonless sky
The starless market’s gates are nigh

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The Calchester Fair Affair -- Part 2

CABER TOSS

Bromin and Tavion both compete while Tyrandriel and Gaemund make coin by racketeering the spectators. Tavion does surprisingly well but Bromin wins.

Farmer Gern’s hog loomed massively over the rest of the competition, but when it came time to weigh the hogs, Gern’s sow was larger than it was heavy. Turns out the man misunderstood the rules of the contest and had been feeding his sow beans. The crowd laughs and boos, and as punishment the judge makes Gern grab that pigs tail while she presses on its stomach. The relentless and hideous fart reduces the pig’s diameter significantly and leaves Gern gagging. Farmer Dinkle’s sow takes the prize.

Bromin met Tilro Farraud, who expressed familiarity with the plight of the Firebeard Clan. “A terrible omen, for the volcano to go quiet. If the old gods can die, what does that say about the rest of us?” Tilro was very proud of his clan’s history—protecting the corpse of King Geirr during the war against the Huldra—and took poorly to Bromin’s disregard for his family’s beliefs. “Our duty is with our people. Wherever they are, that’s where we belong.” Bromin also discovered that the Farraud clan always enters their own ale into the brewing contest—not to win, but simply to add to the festivities, as a gesture of hospitality and mutual friendship.

THE SECOND DAY

Several members of the party participated in the traditional Pig Wrestling. A single pig was covered in grease and set loose in a pen. There was a brief controversy as the original chosen pig was actually a rare, sweet smelling floral pig and far too expensive to be used for such a contest—indeed, Lord Mayor Loxias’ wife nearly battered him for abuse of the sweet creature. Instead, they went with Butters the pig, who caused a great mess and got grease on Morel’s clothes in particular. The Lord Mayor sends his apologies. Fortunately, he won!

In the vicinity of the pig wrestling, the party heard a hubbub caused by one Yvain Ponty, a local farmer, touting his Oakstump Brew. The party asked nearby townsfolk about this man and learned that he’s never tried his hand at brewing before, but after meeting a modicum of success as a farmer he’d come up with a fairly large batch. Nothing he said really indicated that he knew what he’s talking about, and his neighbors described him as a serial dabbler.

  • “The malt is from my very own fields! Wheat I raised myself and watered just a mite extra. The lands of my farm are positioned PERFECTLY to catch the sun as it breaks around the bulwarks of our town, lending their might and potency to my brew!”
  • “I cannot share my gruit of course—that would give away my secrets! But there’s a bit of bog myrtle, some honey, yarrow, a blossom or two…”
  • “Every oak tree I’ve found I’ve cut down and hollowed out the stump, Once I seal the brew in there to ferment, the oak wood mellows the secret ingredients I add, making them not only palatable, but delightful beyond comprehension!”

Since the success of their endeavor depended on winning the brewing competition, members of the party quietly threatened and extorted Yvain to throw the contest. Their efforts paid off not immediately, but further down the line.

As the day wound down, Gaemund tracked his brother to the alleyway outside of a tavern. Frederic was still recovering from his injuries when he met a mysterious robed figure who spoke in a sibilant voice.

“The whole reason I’m helping you is for the sake of my family. There’s still not a word about my mother. Excuse if I’m not raring and enthusiastic right now.”

“Until your mother returns, your family needs you more now than ever. You must help us, and we can assure your brothers’ future.”

“What, by spying on some strange girl in the tavern?”

“She is a lackey of foreign powers, and thwarting her will reward you greatly."

“Fine, fine. Don’t forget, you’ve promised me a business for EACH of my siblings. Enough to get our lives back on track. What do you want me to do?”

“Stay close and watch the inn. When their guard is down, search through her things. Above all else, look for…That is the key to your future. And trust no one else.”

Nashia Arie recognized the hissing voice as the sign of the Dragonborn, denizens of the distant empire of Elam. What could agents of that land be doing here, and what did they have to do with Gaemund’s brother?

THE THIRD DAY

Jugglers, singers, poets and playwrights gathered in the town squares of Calchester for the third day of the celebration. Poets recounted the song of the Man in the Moon, but of particular note were the comedic stylings of Tilly Carosi, a musician and storyteller. She performed a work of her own composition, The Donkey’s Song, , which was definitely NOT a series of insults aimed at Baron Yorlen. It seemed to Tyrandriel that Tilly had her eyes on him, and he was not wrong—they shared a common faith in the mysterious Laughing God. She promised to speak with him later on a matter of great import.

Many of the other plays and performances of the day were morality plays, retellings of the tale of Patient Father and Fearless Mother. Others were the cautionary play, the Shepherd and the Huldra, the bombastic Clouds Come to Earth, and raunchier fare—a bit about a milkmaid who cheats on her husband by claiming to be a forest spirit drew great laughter from the crowds.

Afterwards, Tilly revealed to the party that she had been keeping an eye on the wayward Sons of Arcistroth, for ill fortune follows their wake. It seems that Frederic has fallen in with agents of Borgondhi and perhaps of something even more sinister. Tilly gave them the location of a hunting lodge in the woods, abandoned for many years, that recently showed signs of habitation. Though Frederic had never been there, she suspected the strangers he was meeting were holed up there.

And it was none too soon, for that very night…

THE FOURTH DAY

…Nashia woke to find her Dragon Scroll missing! She had yet to speak to any of her compatriots about the contents or import of the scroll, but insisted that it had to be recovered. Gaemund agreed, but only if Nashia would reveal the truth about her scroll—if the party was to risk their lives for it, he felt they deserved her trust. They set out to the woods to confront the thieves.

With a burst of magic and bladework, the party stormed the hunting lodge. Over a dozen thugs and bandits held the perimeter, led by a dragonborn sorceress — Kava of House Bothotlo. The heroes scattered and slew her hired men, all of them paid with the coin of House Borgondhi. As for Kava herself, they pried the scroll from her claws and demanded to know what she wanted it for. “The Future,” she hissed, “of the Empire.”

Back in town, Nashia admitted to the party that the scroll was the original copy of the Prophecy of the New Day, written by Taras Halfdragon himself after the War of the Four Winds concluded.

That night Yvain showed up once more to promote his brew. Under duress from Gaemund and Bromin, he decided to give it all away and not participate in the competition the following day at all.

(They also drank a lot and drained some of his kegs as well)

THE FINAL DAY

At long last, the day of the feast arrived. Bakers and butchers brought their finest fares to the table, and Ursi Arcistoth herself opened her coffers to sponsor the eating and drinking. Shepherd’s pies, breads, buns with frosting and all manner of country delicacies graced the tables. Music and drunken cheers resounded off the cobblestone streets. At long last, the Lady Knight tried all the brews presented by the artisans of Calchester, and Bromin and Morel’s work triumphed! The heroes presented themselves to the irascible Lady of Calchester and requested their boon: access to the Mordavian Transcripts from her library. Surprised and displeased by the request, she nontheless granted them their wish.

As they walked up the hill to Arcistoth Keep, Bromin happened to notice the discarded kegs that Yvain Ponty had stowed. The farmer never brewed anything in the first place—he’d purchased it all from a mysterious salesman traveling through town. It bore a familiar symbol—the same that Bromin used to mark the ale (continued)

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Interlude -- The Donkey's Song

The Calchester Festival tests more than feats of strength and agricultural acumen. Poets and singers come to the fair to draw the crowds, earn a coin or two, and hopefully win the favor of the city council. Tilly Carosi took the prize this year. Aside from having a husky voice that carries across the room, her sarcastic sense of humor is a crowd favorite.

The cattle lows, the rooster crows
The sow squeals in her den
But loudest of the animals
The donkey brays YOR-LEN!

Uncontent with fur of gray
Hee-haws for silk and gold
Enduring hardships every day
Like soup that’s three bells old

His stable is not big enough
The straw he eats too stale
Truly, life for him is tough
So close to Huldra vale

Behold the donkey’s mournful fate
A life of ease—alas!
He dreams of kingship but of late
He acts more like an ass!

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Interlude -- The Weaver and the Scholar

A letter from Manard the Weaver to Ulreik Hras Halril, collected upon the companions’ arrival in Calchester, 12-3-16 RL time

To the learned and diligent Ulreik Hras Halril,

Per our prior agreement I have continued my investigation into the acquisition of the Mordavian Transcripts. It would seem that Euthynos has procured every copy for leagues around. I have written to every abbey and learned sage throughout Gloriana and Borgondhi, even to Grave Runda herself, and alas, I am unanswered, or receive only news that Euthynos has purchased from them every scrap and half-written novice’s copy—save one.
Should fortune find you in the fair and prosperous town of Calchester, there is one library that has escaped your rival scholar’s determination—that of Lady Knight Ursi Arcistoth. I have on good authority that she inherited from the property of a neighbor whose negligence cost him his entire estate a transcription of the Mordavian tablets from the quill of a cloistered acolyte in an abbey on the borders of distant Emankorrak. Raided by the rough warriors of that land, it found its way to the private collection of that unwise nobleman, and thereby to Lady Arcistoth’s shelves.

With the utmost reverence and respect for the rightfully appointed Lady Knight, I find it unlikely she has disposed of this text. Regretfully, Ursi holds learned scholars and students of the written word in little regard, particularly those with a penchant for the arts arcane. Convincing her to part with the text will be no small task.

By the time you reach Calchester, the delightfully quaint traditional harvest celebration will be in full swing. Do take in the sights and flavors—the terminus of the festival is a great feast sponsored by the Lady Knight, where all the folk thereabouts bring their ales and wines. Whichever best pleases the town council, Lord Mayor and Ursi Arcistoth herself may be entitled to a boon of their choice. A curious tradition that may avail you.

With all sincerity of affection and admiration for your continuous dedication to the noble pursuit of learning even in the face of hardship and the cruel injustice of fate’s fickle hand,

MANARD WEAVER, HN & LY GWD

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The Calchester Fair Affair -- Part 1

Days of traveling through the woods of Marchen gave way at last to rolling fields, farmsteads, and at last strong stone walls—the city of Calchester, home to the Arcistroth Family. With the Amethyst Goblet safe in their possession, the companions passed through the city gates to deliver the prize. Along the way they passed bustling crowds, merchants shouting out their wares, and the many cobblestone courtyards of Calchester’s markets. Above their heads hung triangular pennants telling the town’s history across three generations.

Just as they reached their destination, shouts and outcries rounded the corner. Directly in front of the Guildhouse of the HONORABLE AND LOYAL ORDER OF WEAVERS AND DYEMEN a crowd of a dozen townsfolk were beating a man that Gaemund recognized—his brother Frederic, one of the Bastards of Arcistroth. As they kicked him into the mud, the crowd shouted all sorts of accusations.

“I swear you cheated me, bastard! That barn you carved blew over the first time the rains came in!

“I’ve a bed he made that collapsed the first time I made love to my wife! She hasn’t slept with me since!”

“The wagon wheel you repaired broke off in the midst of the woods. I’m lucky the Huldra didn’t come for me!”

“You’re a robber and a vandal, asking those prices!”

“Down with the bastard!”

Gaemund and company worked together to extract his brother from the hands of the mob. It was a combined effort—Aine cast an illusion of coins spilling into the crowd, Gaemund disguised himself as a stern authority figure, shouting and intimidating the crowd. Amidst the hubbub, Rhawunel crept in and spirited Frederic away.

Unwilling to reveal himself to his brother, Gaemund in disguise warned Frederic that his rescue was not an act of charity, and would carry a price some day. Frederic responded with defiance—he and all his brothers are used to humiliation and bad luck, and he would owe nothing to a stranger. “Besides, my family’s luck is on the up. I’ve a plan to change everything for the better!” With those words of defiance, Frederic left them, still unaware that his brother had saved him, or that his mother was dead.

At last the companions reached their destination. Over the guildhouse a massive sign declared in (false) golden letters: THE HONORABLE AND LOYAL GUILD OF WEAVERS AND DYEMEN. The guild house smelled of stinging chemicals and rotting berries—all the secret ingredients of their dyes. To counter the reek, the reservedly dressed guild representatives burned incense and placed fresh flowers around the room. The mingling of scents could not be called fresh by any definition.

Upon checking at the front and showing the letter from Manard the Weaver, Tavion was ushered in (along with his companions) to a private side room by a snub-nosed guild representative named Wimblington. He took possession of the Amethyst Goblet and after a cursory inspection produced a heavy back filled with silver trade bars—450 gp in total—as payment for their services. When asked about the goblet, Wimblington had this to share:

Nobody knows where the grey clad strangers have come from. Rumors of their activity have spread throughout the Marchen wood. Each time the story is the same—they arrive at night and are gone by morning. Some stories claim that they are missionaries of a strange religion, a heresy of Our Triumphant Family. Others describe acts of miraculous healing. Still others claim that they are stealing the souls of children or placing curses for mysterious purposes. In any case, this is not the first report of an amethyst goblet, but it is the only one to be recovered.

In addition, Wimblington had a letter in his pocket for Ulreik. She read over the contents and relayed the most important elements to the companions.

  • The original tablets are said to be written by a Dokkalfar seer long ago. They describe a citadel of shining light at the end of a “sevenfold road” as part of an analysis of the Prophecy of the New Day.
  • Ulreik has been seeking a transcription of these tablets for her own research for many years. Every known copy has been acquired by a scholar named Euthynos.
  • Since the tablets are an attempt to interpret the Prophecy of the New Day, acquiring them will help the party discover Mairg’s plans and motivations.
  • Ursi is not likely to share her copy, since she doesn’t like scholars or magic wielders.
  • The Calchester harvest fair is underway. It ends with a brewing competition. Whoever wins the brewing competition can ask for one boon from Ursi Arcistroth. If the party can win the competition, they can use this boon to get access to the Mordavian Transcripts.

Bromin and Morel immediately set out to the forest to gather herbs and flavorings in order to compete. The party has until the end of the festival to prepare. In the meantime, it seems that Frederic Arcistroth has become embroiled in some manner of plot, and there are others in town with interests in the companions’ business…

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Interlude -- The Princess and the Dragon

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A letter from Helena Borgondhi to her daughter, Aine

I have had years to write this letter. I have written it many times and each time I have cast it into the fireplace. There are things I wish to tell you and not in all your years have I found the words that ring true, so the truth alone must suffice.

Whatever dowry was meant to be mine my father has turned towards winning power over Marchen. Any wealth I was to inherit of my own accord, I pass now to you. I will live out my days here in the cloister, my earthly needs tended to by the sisters of Our Triumphant Family. I have no need of worldly possessions, and hope only to give you whatever advantage I can. The stars know I have given you precious few.

You know that your grandfather the King is a stern man. He has long felt the House of Borgondhi more deserving than the lineage of Isbrand the 1st, but when I was a young girl he planned to gain their lands and privileges through the courtly ways of peace. I was betrothed to Isbrand III, the king of Marchen. Isbrand sent a painter to our court to make a portrait of me, that my husband-to-be might see the face of his future.

The painter, Thander, was kind and humorous. He made me laugh even as I sat for hours in the parlours, sitting still for his brush. It helped ease the dread in my heart—I wanted no part of a marriage to a distant and older king, an odd man by all accounts. Thander stayed the better part of a fortnight and left to bring his work to Marchen’s king.

Months later my father the king grew impatient. Some ill fate befell Thander as he journeyed back to Marchen, and Isbrand never received the portrait. Lest his interest cool, father sent me immediately to Geirrfast to visit in person, with knights and attendants to keep safe.

I was determined not to marry King Isbrand, and I feared for the fate of Thander, who had become a friend to me in a time when I had precious few. As we passed through the Marchen woods I snuck off in the night and fled the caravan, seeking my friend. Without guides I lost my way. I remember passing through a valley filled with briars, a swamp where the willow trees sang a mournful lullaby, and a great stone arch carved out by the river itself. The river became my road and I followed it to a waterfall that poured from a rocky crag to a hidden lake. A secret path wound behind the waterfall, and a great cave mouth waited there. It was foolish for me to tread there and I paid the price.

Fate was friend and foe to me—I found Thander in that cavern, but worse befell me. He was prisoner to a terrible dragon. Its scales were emerald plates of armor, its teeth yellow spears, its breath a cloud of poisonous death, and its eyes mirrors of dread. Thander told me his caravan was waylaid by the beast, and though it devoured all his compatriots, it snatched him and flew back to its den. In a massive cavern the beast lay for hours while Thander captured its likeness on a canvass as large as a ship’s billowing sails. When the portrait was done, the dragon would devour the artist, and hang it on its lair wall to admire itself.

I was not prisoner there long. The vain monster had a servant—a thin wild elf with tangled braids, of solemn countenance, but not stern. Slender of body but strong of arm and well formed, noble and sad, weary and determined. Dragon and huldra alike spoke the same strange tongue—a hissing language I had not heard before. The wild elf was an attendant and a student, not a prisoner like us..

I have tried so many times to explain what happened between us. Here in the abbey’s tower it feels a far off dream, a children’s fairy tale. Please, daughter, trust me that he was utterly unlike the simpering courtiers of my father’s court, the fearful peasants of the land, all my tutors and suitors and strangers I had ever known. I will never again know his like. Let me say only that in the end he risked everything to defy his master the dragon, and won for me and for Thander our freedom.

The painter and I fled the dragon’s wrath until King Isbrand’s knights found us lost in the woods. Your grandfather blamed Marchen for failing to keep us safe, and insisted that the wedding forward immediately. I refused to tell him what happened or consent to the marriage. He locked me in his highest tower to change my mind.

On a night when the stars shone and the moon cut a slender crescent across the vault of heaven, the wild elf found me in the tower. He flew to the window on emerald wings that vanished when he set foot in my chamber. I could see a change coming over him, the burden of the dragon’s curse. His skin was changing and hardening to become more like his former master. He stayed through the night, speaking of his family, exiled from the court of a strange king. I told him of my father’s wrath and demands. We were both caught in the winds of fate, the whims of the powerful, and we found comfort in each other.

Before morning light crested over the hills, he grew his emerald wings again and flew off. I never saw him again.

I have two precious relics of that night. One of them is you, my greatest love and treasure. Of all the rash choices and moments of defiance in my life, the only regret I bear is that I could not be a mother to you. Your grandfather sent me to cloister when he discovered I was with child, and refused to let you come to live with me after you were born. I pray for your happiness and solace, Aine, with all my heart. I will not ask you for your forgiveness; I have cast you into a life of loneliness and hardship. I am sorry, daughter.

The other relic I now bequeath to you. Your father stole this from the horde of the dragon when he fled that dreadful lair. Thander captured his image and mine, in gratitude for his salvation. I kept it that I might remember him always. Now it is yours. I pray it guides you through the trials inflicted on you by your birth, by my father’s disfavor and my own folly.

Go with my love,
Your mother, Helena von Borgondhi

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The Mists of Arkaley -- Part 3

The sun was dipping below the horizon as the companions passed once more through the town of Arkaley. They rushed to the home of Fiebras the miller to protect his twins from Mairg’s last kidnapping attempt.

They had the Golden Bough in hand, and chose to make their stand using the threshhold of the miller’s home. Rhawunel and Tyrandriel set the power of their faith against Mairg’s servant, weaving a protective barrier of detection and sanctity around the home. With help from the wizard and sorceresses of the party, they set the Golden Bough over the door and took up positions within and around the house. The twins hid under heavy guard, Fiebras and his wife bolted themselves inside the bedroom, and the trap was set.

This was the final night of the Mists of Arkaley. They rolled in, shrouding the land in a sinister curtain, obscuring the mischief of their author. Little did Mairg’s envoy suspect the trap set for it—Rhawunel noticed at once when a foul presence entered the twins’ room through the window. Calling upon the memories and souls of Dakona and Cork, she strode to the window and delivered a single telling blow. Mystic fire coursed down her blade as it clove through the air, splattering sulphuric ichor across the room. A pathetic screech erupted from the seemingly empty space and a twisted form manifested, cloven in two—an unnatural spider with yellow eyes. Just as soon as it was slain, the remnants melted away, vanishing back into the underworld.

Slain may be the fiend, but the companions realized that it was only a servant to another master—someone else was still inside the house! The companions got the twins out of the home and safely into the hands of those watching outside. Baleful power spread through the floorboards, and black carpets of spiders erupted from below—swarms of the beasts, driven mad and bound by evil magic. They crawled up the legs of the companions as each member fought back. Bromin laid about with his maul, Nashia unleashed blasts of fire, and Aine gathered the power of heritage around her like a cloak. Meanwhile, Rhawunel sought after the invisible menace working against them. A low rumbling shook the house as she walked away from the rest of the family, culminating in a shockwave that shattered dishes, blew cupboards off their hinges, knocked the furniture around, and collapsed the shells of every hell-driven spider nearby.

As the dust and shrapnel from the spell settled, a creature manifested in an upper corner of the room. It was Mairg’s servant, recognizing its defeat and offering terms of surrender. Wary of making a deal with a creature in league with the underworld, the companions nonetheless extracted a stern promise from the goblin that it would leave and never attempt harm or action against Fiebras or his children ever again. In the process, they learned the following:

  • The goblin is a warlock who goes by the alias of Dwenday.
  • Mairg offered him “several lives” in exchange for his services, using the underworld to circumvent Nuinn’s power.
  • Dwenday made this deal at the Starless Market, a place on the border of the Unseelie wilds and the Underworld. It is a haunted place where shadow fey trade favors for mortal lives.
  • This is not the first deal Mairg has made at the Starless Market—the crown of roots she wears came from that place as well.
  • Because Mairg was already driven from the Fifth Kingdom, Dwenday used the venom of his fiendish companion, IckPick the Quasit, to invoke sickness and unconsciousness in his victims. He was practicing when he attacked the innkeeper. When he found the companions heading towards Iommor’s Tomb, he sniffed around for a human and discovered the Blood of Arcistroth—a perfect target.
  • Dwenday left no tracks because he rode his spider-demon, who can climb walls.
  • Mairg became obsessed with the Prophecy of the New Day when her son, Iommmor, was slain by Ursi Arcistoth. Everything she has done since then has focused on fulfilling the prophecy, and exacting revenge.
  • There are powers in all four (five?) kingdoms interested in the prophecy. Some want to fulfill it on their terms, others want to make sure it is never fulfilled.

After forcing Dwenday to swear on his true name never to harm or deliberately allow Fiebras, his children, or the village of Arkaley to come to harm, the goblin departed for the underworld. All that remained was to confront village reeve, Convarch Collach.

Gaemund demanded some answers, and learned that Collach stumbled into Nuinn’s grove many years ago. All he had were some cakes he’d stuffed into his pocket, but when Nuinn offered him food, the young Collach had the wherewithal to offer the archfey those smashed up cakes first. Nuinn laughed at the boy’s savvy, and ever since then decided the town was under his protection. This was before the death of Iommor and the wrath of Mairg.

Collach was unable to offer them a substantial reward, but after learning what they’d done for his village, he swore to repay them someday by whatever means he could.

The last bit of business was for Tyrandriel to speak with Vesta Piota, Priestess of Our Triumphant Family. He assured her that while the power of the fey had not left the town, the imminent danger was gone. He also promised to pass her word along to the Knights of the Pendant.

With their task complete, the village and the children safe, and as many new questions as answers, our heroes set out to complete their journey. The road ahead passed once more through Fern Crossing, on to Ursi Arcistroth’s seat of power: Calchester!

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The Mists of Arkaley -- Part 2

Learn the lore of kingdoms four
The sky realm far above
The faery lands lie close at hand
Our home we know and love
The realm below where all souls go
When life comes to an end
Know the roads to each abode
Their signs and their portends

—From Paracelsus’ Little Book of Knowledge

Morco’s Grotto

The companions drew blades and nocked arrows in the cramped darkness of Iommor’s Tomb. Passageways changed their shape before their eyes—the two niches stretched outwards and curled down into ominous depths. An unseen force battered at the tomb’s slab, cracking it before shattering it entirely. Beyond the slab a passageway led upwards into the twilight of a setting sun.

Ulreik Hras Halril confirmed what everyone feared—by carrying the Tears of Mairg into the tomb, they crossed a threshold and left the Mortal Realm behind. The passages to their left and right descended into the Underworld. Since no living being can enter the underworld and emerged unscathed, the companions walked cautiously into the world above—the world of Faery.

Ulreik’s studies at the University in Gloriana prepared him for such a journey, and he shared warnings with the companions. Accept no food or drink without offering like in kind, or you may be enchanted and never leave. Illusions and mysteries abound in this realm, so do not always trust your eyes. Mortals who walk in Faery may return to their home and forget all that transpired within; elves and the elf-blooded are immune. Finally, and perhaps most dangerously, the ebb and flow of time itself cannot be trusted within Faery. When next they walked the mortal realm, it could be years since they’d entered, or it could be no time at all.

They emerged at the bottom of a grotto. Trees and streams of unearthly beauty surrounded them, but the terrible roar they heard before returned. All around them, bears paced back and forth, smelling mortals in their domain. They had come to the home of Morco, the Great Bear, whose skin Iommor wore when he battled Ursi Arcistoth twenty years ago. At the heart of the faery glade a wood totem carved in Morco’s likeness towered above them.

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By guile and wit Morel slipped past the watchful eyes of the bears to leave an offering at the foot of the totem—a turquoise bear figurine, some food, and other small gifts. Morco emerged from the totem to accept their offering and challenge them to prove their strength. With a roar, he charged the companions. Bromin Firebeard went forth to meet him, weathering blows from the Great Bear’s terrible claws. The combined arcane power and skilled archery of the rest of the companions rained down on Morco’s hide. In the end, Bromin hefted his maul and shouted a mighty dwarven war cry—and accidentally hurled the weapon into the mud.

Fortunately for our heroes, not only was Morco impressed with their strength and valor, he found this hilarious. His challenge was complete, and the bears who prowled above departed. Morco spoke in a ponderous, rumbling voice, slow to answer and frequently using the incorrect word. He told them how Iommor met him many years ago in a similar challenge, and Morco granted Iommor his might. He recounted the tale of the battle against Ursi Arcistoth, with her steel sinews and devilish cunning. When asked about their current errand, he had the following important facts to share:

  • Mairg has gone down to the Starless Market, where she paid an unknown price to gain the aid of a creature from Down Below.
  • That creature comes and goes through the Underworld, working Mairg’s will in Arkaley.
  • The only way back to Arkaley through Faery is through the ancient Huldra burial mounts just east of the town. The mounds lie within the lands of Nuinn

With a vague direction, the companions set out from Morco’s Grotto and into the eternal twilight of Faery, seeking the Grove of Nuinn.

Welcome to Faery

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Several hours of wandering the enchanted woods passed, and the ground became wetter, giving way to a swamp. Bellowing roars echoed through the tree branches, shaking them as if afraid. The companions came across an ogre, half-sunken in the muck, struggling furiously against vines that reached out to hold it in place. Choked laughter, like the chiming of silver bells, caught the companions’ ears, and balls of light flickered back and forth before the ogre’s face, enraging it further. They quickly deduced this was the work of fairies. Unfortunately, the fairies found a new target for their mirth, and one by one the companion’s clothes—and sometimes hair—changed to a light periwinkle shade.

Rhawunel called upon her family name in stern declaration, demanding that the fairies take heed. Before her eyes a shape rose from the swamp. It resembled her perfect, save that its hair was mussed and its eyes pointed in opposite direction. Slurring with drool, it responded back in clear mockery. “FUHHH BUFF FUUUUHHHH BUFFFA FUBBA BUFFAHH” Over the uproarious (yet tiny) laughter of their fey tormentors, Bromin called upon the most powerful tool in his possession: alcohol! He quickly got the pixies drunk, which changed their attitude completely.

Leaving Tuks the ogre to deal with the trap they’d planted for him, the pixies pointed out a path through the woods and marshes, admonishing the companions to stay on the path at all costs. Follow this simple rule and it would lead them straight to the Grove of Nuinn.

The Graspingmuck

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The next day, our companions followed the path to a swamp. Though beautiful, with colorful trees, caves illuminated by thousands of fireflies, and mushrooms that soared up into the sky, peril lurked beyond the wonder.

Fog rose up the deeper they went, occasionally wading through the muck to follow the path. As they prepared to make camp and rest, Tyrandriel saw something impossible—a figure dressed in the colorful garb of a merry maker or entertainer, resting against a lavender willow tree. It strummed a tune on a lute, and on its face bore the mask of the Laughing God. Could it be Tyrandriel’s deity, come at last to reveal the hidden secrets of the past, or explain why he had chosen the young half elf? Though nobody else witnesses this figure, it beckoned to him. He had to know. The rest of the party saw that he could not be deterred, and tied a rope around his waist for safety. With a few fateful steps, he left the path, and plunged directly into a pit of quicksand.

The Laughing God vanished, the illusion gone, and from the darkness a baleful orb of light whizzed down to wrack Tyrandriel’s body with lightning—a Will-O-Wisp! With its evil touch it tortured him until he collapsed. With his life force ebbing away, it lighted upon his body, seeking to snuff out the last sparks of energy and feed on his death. It had not counted, however, on the combined magical power of Aine, Nashia Arie and Ulreik. The mages unleashed their might and tore the malevolent spirit to shreds. Thanks to their foresight, the companions’ warriors dragged Tyrandriel through the much and back to safety, where Rhawunel’s healing power revitalized him. Shaken and battered, the companions took their rest, reflecting on the dangers of straying from the path in the future.

On the next day, they drew to the end of the Graspingmuck, where the swamp gave way to a beautiful, root-riddled lake. Purple lights danced around the waters and flowers of all colors reflected their radiance. It seemed the path led directly into the water, and though they could have tried climbing the roots or finding another way around, the companions put their trust in the pixies’ warning. They held their breath and plunged below the surface.

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The Grove of Nuinn

The walk beneath the water tested their strength, but they emerged, drenched and grasping for breath, into a forest of flowering hawthorne trees. Thorn sprites flicked from tree to tree, watching the companions on their way. Ultimately the path ended at a single massive hawthorne tree at the heart of a meadow. A languid figure detached itself from the tree and descended to the ground; everywhere it set a foot, roots burst forth to meet it. It was the Man with Roots for Boots, with wicked wooden thorns for fingers, who delights in beauty and fear — Nuinn, the Prince of the Thorn Trees.

Nuinn offered the wanderers berries and nectar, to recover their strength along the way. Remembering Ulreik’s warnings, the companions graciously offered their host a gift of ale and food. He laughed in delight—only one other mortal had ever shown such foresight, a young boy who stumbled upon Nuinn’s grove many years ago. Gaemund realized with a start that this must refer to Convarch Callach — referenced in Manard the Weaver’s letter! He made a point to confront the Reeve of Arkaley on their return.

Ever since the boy cleverly escaped Nuinn’s grove, the archfey decided that the town of Arkaley was part of his domain. His power extends through all the surrounding lands, and the fairies whose comings and goings force the villagers of Arkaley to live by careful superstitions are his servants and subjects. Nuinn seemed fond of Arkaley, unconcerned by any inconvenience his powers cause the town.

When asked of Mairg, Nuinn revealed the following:

  • Nuinn has barred Mairg’s power and servants from entering Faery anywhere near Arkaley
  • Mairg covets Fiebras the Miller’s twins because they were born on a moonless night
  • Twins born on a moonless night are part of the Prophecy of the New Day. This Prophecy is referenced in certain obscure texts in Gloriana’s libraries, and what little Nashia has translated of her mysterious scroll references The New Day
  • Nuinn forbids Mairg from taking the twins because they are under his protection.
  • To get around Nuinn’s power, Mairg “Reached out to the Fifth Kingdom, but she was driven out by ashes and embers”
  • Nobody has heard of a Fifth Kingdom, but the companions suspect that this refers to the Mists Mairg sent against Arkaley a month ago, and that “ashes and embers” refers to the grey-clad strangers whose arrival presaged the vanishing of the mists.
  • Undaunted, Mairg went to the Starless Market and enlisted the help of Down Below. She has a nasty minion who travels through the underworld, doing her bidding.
  • The companions suspect this servant is responsible for poisoning Ammy and Gaemund. It would also explain the change in the sickness — where the children developed a fever and failed to awaken with no signs of poison.
  • If the companions can catch her servant from Down Below, the children of Fiebras will be safe at last.
  • Morel asked if Nuinn could lift her curse. He told her that there are four ways to break the curse. First, she could convince the witch that cast it to reverse it. Second, she could find and kill the witch responsible. Third, she could pledge her loyalty and make a pact with a being of greater power. Finally, the witches’ curse must have a secret flaw to make it last forever. If Morel can discover that flaw, a condition for breaking the curse, it will be lifted.

At last, Nuinn offered them a boon: a Golden Bough from an enchanted tree. Such a token could allow them safe passage through the Underworld, or it could be used to lure and ensnare Mairg’s unholy servant. Such power is not without a price. In exchange, Nashia gave up the silver flower she plucked from Iommor’s tomb. Nuinn took the gift with delight, for it represented the sorrows of his enemy, Mairg.

With Golden Bough in hand, the companions left Nuinn’s grove and found the burial mounds of the Huldra. On the Faery side, they were great hills with ancient runes and monuments to warrior spirits. They passed through the tomb, and once again the slab cracked before them, giving way to the Mortal Realm.

Blinking in the light of the setting sun, the companions discovered that for each of the three days they spent in Faery, a single minute had passed here. They still had time to return to Arkaley before Mairg’s servant returned that night. Furthermore, Nuinn’s attendants spirited Gaemund’s horses and cart all the way from the Bulwark Mountains to their new location. Not all was well, however—one of the companions, Tavion Gervis, lost all memory of their travels through the Faery realm. They recounted their adventures while making for the town gates, hoping to find a way to ensnare and defeat Mairg’s evil servant before the next day…

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The Mists of Arkaley -- Part 1

Tavion Gervis received a letter from Manard Weaver, asking him to carry out an exchange in the village of Arkaley—a bolt of fine linen in exchange for a mysterious object. In addition, he mentioned that a man named Euthynos is preventing him from acquiring the books that Ulreik Hras Halril requested, and that Tavion’s ward should speak with Convarch Callach, Reeve of Arkaley. The companions set out for the village.

Arkaley itself was a strange place, whose inhabitants had become wary after years of trying to live at peace with the local fairies. Bromin persuaded Arkaley’s gatekeeper that they had come to trade, and proceeded to the Inn.

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That night, the mysterious mists rolled back into town, obscuring everything from sight. They awoke to find that Ammy the innkeeper had come down with a fever, and could not wake up. The militia arrived to confront the companions, blaming them for Ammy’s sickness. Mo Rel tried to sneak down the stairs to avoid them, but tripped and tumbled all the way down, landing at the Reeve’s feet. Princess Aine and Nashia Arie convinced the villagers to let them check on Ammy’s health. At this time, Tyrandriel snuck up and joined the group.

Ammy showed signs of poison—a stain around her mouth and blisters on her gums. Rhawunel called upon the power of her mother and guardian to purge the poison from Ammy’s body, and the innkeeper began to recover. The companions discovered the following important facts:

  • The Mists started two months ago. Each night they blew in, a child fell ill.
  • The symptoms of the illness were fever and an inability to awaken.
  • The Miller has twins—a son and a daughter—and they were the last to fall ill. When they recovered, the mists stopped flowing.
  • Ammy’s daughter fell ill the night before Fiebras’ children did. Her child did not survive.
  • The only time two children were affected was when Fiebras’ twins fell ill.
  • Ammy is the oldest person to fall ill when the mists blew into town.
  • Everyone thought the mists had stopped a month ago.
  • None of the other victims showed blisters around the mouth.

The Companions decided to speak to the miller. They traveled to his home and found he’d barricaded himself, his wife and his children within. Gaemund and Aine presented themselves as the agents sent to conduct the trade, but Fiebras refused. With the mists returned, he was too afraid for his children.

After some intimidation and convincing, the companions learned that the package (which Tavion had been instructed not to inspect or ask questions about) was in fact a goblet carved from a single solid chunk of amethyst. The only contents of the goblet are some ashes caked at the bottom. They also learned the following facts.

  • The last night of the mists, when Fiebras’ twins were ill, two strangers wearing coarse gray robes knocked on the miller’s door. They told him they were here to help the children and persuaded him to allow them entry.
  • The two strangers went into the childrens’ room and shut the parents out. Fiebras smelled smoke and heard voices speaking softly. When the strangers emerged, the miller’s children had awoken and the fever started going down. He never saw them again, but that night was the last time the mists came into town.
  • A day later, Fiebras found the amethyst goblet hidden in the stacks of grain at his mill. He feared the fairies had left it there, but seeing its great value he wrote to Manard Weaver seeking to sell it.

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Now that the mists had returned, Fiebras means to hold on to the goblet, hoping that it might offer some protection for his children. Aine suspected that the mist and plague might caused by fairies replacing human children with changelings. The companions checked on the children—Rhawunel’s divine sight proved they were still human. They managed to convince Fiebras that one of Aine’s possessions—a turquoise figurine—would similarly ward his children. After all, it was not wise to cross Manard the Weaver.

The companions had accomplished their goal, but mysteries and questions remained. At Gaemund’s urging, they took their wagon west towards the mountains of the Caonach Vale. in search of Iommor’s Grave. To prepare to face whatever enchantment lay in the mist, Bromin brewed a special ivy into his ale and passed it around. During the journey, the mists poured down on them. Mo Rel woke when Gaemund started retching in his sleep. He’d been poisoned by whatever had afflicted Ammy. The perpetrator left no footprints, but a yellow stain and blisters showed the poisoner’s mark.

With vigilance renewed they drew close to Iommor’s Grave. Ursi Arcistoth gave Iommor only a basic grave, but the Huldra came and turned it into a burial mound in the fashion of their ancestors. Silver Whorl flowers grew atop the barrow, and Rhawunel’s divine sense revealed the presence of a powerful and angry spirit. Nashia Arie plucked a flower for her studies, and they found the entrance to the tomb.

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Within was a simple tunnel that led down to a stone slab. Gifts of the mourning huldra dotted the passageway. The slab at the end had been painted with berries and other natural dyes into a scene depicting the death of Iommor and the sorrow of his mother, Mairg. It showed how Mairg went to Ri Searbhas and received a crown of roots, and Ri Searbhas tore the cloak of his lineage, turning against Rhawunel’s family.

Just as Rhawunel learned who was responsible for killing her mother and exiling her brothers, a howling wind blew in from the mouth of the barrow, and something slid over the entrance, blocking out the light. Trapped in the darkness, the companions drew their weapons as a massive roar shook the stones beneath their feet…

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