Gloriana

The Story So Far -- 4/4
The Band of Iron -- Chapter 2

Dawn in Dark Hollow

For a time the Band of Iron rested in the Tower of Nails, securing their hold, repairing the old structure, calling the Parliament of Bastards and other allies to gather. During this time, they received another letter from Manard the Weater, delivered by the owl Curiosity. In flowing prose it charged them with traveling to Baron Yorlen’s fief of Bresnikhold and stealing a tapestry from his castle.

First, the party decided to challenge the Bog Witch again. With Royse’s books they learned how to destroy her sanctuary, Dark Hollow. The Band traveled to the town of Fernsby to find the Dokkalfar. On the way, they found evidence of the Wild Hunt running down Penitents.

Once in Fernsby they met the blood hunter Bordul, who agreed to join them. The party located Skjult Grotto, where the Dokkalfar Dwell, and spoke with their leader, the myconid Sodd. The Dokkalfar agreed to weave an enchanted net for the party, given the right materials. Gaemund made a pact to return when Mairg was defeated in exchange for the release of a farm boy the Dokkalfar had imprisoned in their Well of Dreams.

Departing Fernsby, our heroes travel to Glassweb Grove in Fairy. They navigate the web of glass and meet the Sisters, who tell Ulreik and Tyrandriel that they have music in their blood. The party learns that Taras, Blessed Child, and Dirtirith had all come here before seeking their gossamer. They obtain some gossamer of their own, return to Skjult Grotto, and the Dokkalfar weave the gossamer into a crystal net.

Back at the tower of nails, the Band of Iron activates Royse’s sky bridge to enter the Sky Kingdom. They travel across the Morass and avoid Vindur’s patrols, reaching Vafprudnir‘s mansion. After defeating him in a battle of riddles, the heroes earn the fruits of his garden and safe passage to the Stairs of Dawn. They climb the Mountains of Morning and catch the first ray of dawn’s light in the Net.

The Band of Iron returns to Dark Hollow, exposes Waxcap’s Cauldron to the Rays of Light, defeats Father in combat and destroys the Witch of the Rattlebog.

Tomb of the Feathered Serpent

Fideba’s caravan travels to Toadstool Hollow to help them recover. While the Band of Iron plans their heist in Yorlen Hold they come across treasure hunters searching for the Tomb of the Feathered Serpent. The tavern girl where they meet, Zyanzya, is secretly an actual Feathered Serpent, who follows them.

The adventure is a trap designed to catch someone who can read ancient draconic. Chea and her agents wait in an old huldra burial mound. With their trap, they capture and torture Nashia Arie, trying to ascertain whether she is the lightbearer. The Band of Iron storms the tomb and rescues her. Zyanya emerges, gives Nashia a massive gemstone egg, tells her “The first Lightbearer was a dragon. THe second was an Alfar. The third is both” and vanishes. A silver star appears on Nashia’s hand, identifying her as the Lightbearer.

Mask of the Baron

At last the Party travels to Bresnikhold to steal the tapestry. They arrive during Fooltide, a celebration of the Laughing God and the last harvest celebration before winter. On their way there, the Party protects Fideba’s caravan from the Wild Hunt. They rescue Quinn and learn from him a great deal about his order, the Penitents.

Fideba returns safely to Toadstool Hollow while the heroes and Quinn go to Bresnikhold. They meddle in the affairs of the soldiers, nobles and mercenaries, while aiding the common folk and Tilly Carosi. With their help, Fooltide is a merry celebration. In the end they approach Yorlen’s castle and his masked ball.

Once again armed with strange potions, the party infiltrates the scene in search of the tapestry. They find Chea and Warrick among the guests. During the festival, Tyrandriel and Bromin are whisked away to Winesong, the Laughing God’s home, where they receive the Mug of Mayhem and a deed to the Golden Bough, an enchanted tavern between the worlds.

The night ends with the party successfully stealing the tapestry, but the festival devolves into chaos, during which Warrick’s assassins kill Baron Yorlen. Ulreik manages to scar Warrick’s face with acid on the way out. Our heroes are forced to flee the chaos of the scene and escape with the tapestry.

The Willow’s Bride

Bresnikhold descends towards chaos. With a chance to return to their tower, the Band of Iron discovers that the tapestry depicts the Witch of the Willows, and the First Penitent, Marcus. They become suspicious of Manard and choose to confront the Witch of the Willows before returning to him. Atropa appears to Mo Rel, claiming that the Willow Witch will hate her for killing Waxcap. She offers to tell them the Witch’s secret, once again in exchange for Royse’s memories.

From the Tower they travel to Callabrook and Quanmar, Tavion/Caius’ home town. They find it overrun by bandits who they avoid. Tavion finds his father’s hunting knife in the ruins of his childhood home. They enter the Weeping Fen to find the Witch.

Along the way they battle and confront the Witch’s memories, extending back through the second day. After a harrowing journey they find three paths. They split into three groups, Gaemund going alone down one path. Each path holds its own perils and insight into the Witch’s history. Though worn, they reach her home.

It turns out the Witch is Aisling, fairy warrior, with her wings gone and her mind burned. She lives in Brave Mother and Kind Father’s original stone cottage, thousands of years old. The heroes manage to make peace with Aisling as they try to uncover the truth, but Atropa appears and attacks them with Shadar-Kai, summoned elementals, and her own magic.

The party fends off Atropa’s attack, despite her attempts to outright kill Tavion, and Tyrandriel walks with Aisling into the lake by her garden, where her memories are stored. This burns both of them, turning Tyrandriel’s hair and robes ash gray. With her memories restored Aisling becomes their ally, sharing her knowledge of the past. They learn of Marcus and the Root of Sorrow, the history of the penitents, and Tyrandriel receives Silver Talon, her sword. They also take a sealed metal box from the fireplace, the last of Marcus’ fire, and Princess Aine claims Eleanor’s Bracers.

From Aisling, they discover that Caill An’Angren sold her his name and transformed into a human to hide from Mairg. Rhawunel drinks the vial of his memories, obtaining his name. Now both she and Tavion have two names, keeping the second for their brothers. Tavion fully regains his memories and they see Royse’s memories of Vindur’s preparations for war. Bromin learns that Vindur stole the heart of his volcano to make weapons.

Atropa is driven off, but leaves behind a warning to the princess: “The dragon comes to reclaim his own!”

The Rains of Valdotain

It becomes clear that Manard has tasked them with retrieving artifacts related to the Penitents. Suspicious of an alternate agenda, the Band of Iron resolves to find and confront him. Just as they do, Curiosity delivers a well timed letter inviting the Band of Iron to join him in the city of Valdotain for an auction.

On their way they see more evidence of imminent war, as Bresnikhold collapses into chaos and Borgondhi troops and merecenaries prepared to invade. Tyrandriel departs to Bravewood Abbey to seek Eklos and Sheevra. They trick a group of Wolf Company mercenaries and steal their wages before reaching the city.

In Valdotain, they study at the Scholarium, realize that both Chea and Euthynos are present for the auction, and meet with the Count and Countess.. Gaemund discovers a mysterious warrior running secret errands for Count Imbert. Aine befriends the Countess.

One of the items at the auction is the veil of an ancient Sharani queen. Both Euthynos and Chea covet this item, so the party puts up a painting they commissioned from the Cloud Giants in the auction. They also plot to steal the veil, but when Wessel the Weasel enters it, he vanishes back to the Underworld in a burst of violet light. The heroes are forced to bid for the veil against their rivals. Gaemund uses Morco’s Fang to scare Euthynos out of bidding, but his Alfar attendant Quile stays in. Manard arrives in the middle of the auction and convinces Tavion to bid far more gold than they own, then drives up the bidding on their item to make sure they can cover it.

Back at the Guild of Weavers and Dyemen, Manard reveals that he is working for the owl Curiosity. The Heroes realize that Curiosity is Rúnda’s owl and has been spying on them. All the investigations into the penitents and their artifacts have been for the sake of Runda. Through Curiosity, they tell Runda to meet them in four days, then imprison Curiosity in an anti-magical cage.

Seeking to clear Jurian Dunlan‘s name and gain allies against Ralzemon’s imminent war, they invite Count Imbert to the Golden Bough to meet Sheevra and reveal the conspiracy.

At the Sign of the Golden Bough

Tyrandriel reaches Bravewood Abbey, collects Sheevra, and with Eklos as an escort they meet in the Golden Bough. Sheevra and Imbert know each other from their childhood, and Imbert becomes suspicious of the Band of Iron. They convince him that she is not the real princess, though they did know each other, and explain the death of Jurian, the death of Yorlen, Ralzemon’s schemes to foment an injust war, and Mairg’s designs against the kingdoms of humanity. He leaves to collect his thoughts.

Back in the city, Mairg is scrying for Caill and her spell finds Rhawunel instead. Rhawunel takes shelter in the Circle of Protection inscribed in the Eerie Wain, but the party knows they need to leave soon. Aine dreams of being a dragon and wakes up with scales that fade by morning. Gaemund and the party follow the trail of Ivory and find the grave of Sorruk, who has become a ghost, breaking his own oath of Ghostslaying. He asks them to help ivory complete her quest so he can rest. Her mission is to find or avenge Count Imbert’s parents. Gaemund agrees, and Sorruk vanishes.

Mo Rel and Bromin sneak into Euthynos’ manor. In addition to stealing some of his treasure, spellbook and research notes, they overhear Quile calling him the Dragon of the New Day. They frame Chea for the break in and flee.

Rhawunel discovers that the Noble Order, the mercenary band her transformed brother leads, is based out of Rastov, Isabel von Valdotain’s homeland to the south. They decide to travel there once their business with Runda is finished.

On the road back to Valdotain, Tyrandriel is accosted by bandits and visits the home of the farmers robbed by Wolf Company earlier. He gives them gold to help and continues on his way, until he meets Limgwan, a spirit summoned by Rhawunel to retrieve him, and rides swiftly back..

Four days after their meeting with Count Imbert, Rúnda arrives in the Golden Bough. She offers to trade each one of them a truth for a truth, and grants the party a boon in exchange for her owl’s freedom. The Band of Iron learns that the Laughing God stole the owl from her, and it was not her plan for them to find him. They realize that Atropa told Mairg of the Crown of Roots, that she found it to fight against Runda, and that her true plan is not to fulfill the prophecy, but to use it to persuade Vindur to destroy the human kingdoms.

Aine learns that to break a dragon’s curse, she must drink that dragon’s blood.

(To be continued)

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The Story So Far -- 3/4
The Band of Iron -- Chapter 1

The Mists of Arkaley

In a tavern in Fern Crossing, our heroes received their first task from Manard the Weaver—travel to the village of Arkaley and trade with a man named Fiebras, the Miller. In exchange for a bolt of fine linen, he would deliver to them a mysterious package. That turned out to be an Amethyst Goblet, used by the Penitents to free Fiebras’ children from an enchanted sleep—the power of the Crown of Roots.

Fiebras’ children were twins born on a moonless night—with the Sons of Angren hidden, Mairg tried to find other ways to fulfill the prophecy. She could not seize them directly, for Nuinn‘s power was too strong in Faery. So she reached out with the Crown of Roots for the first time, only to attract the Penitents to Arkaley. Just as Marcus’ fire destroyed the Root of Sorrow in ages past, so too did their rituals drive her out of Arkaley’s dreams. Frustrated, she recruited the goblin warlock Dwenday to poison the children and ultimately kidnap them.

The Band of Iron retrieved the amethyst goblet, found Iommor’s tomb, got trapped in Faery, met Morco the Great Bear, survived the perils of the fairy paths, and spoke with Nuinn, the Prince of Thorns. From him they learned of the mysterious “Fifth Kingdom,” received their first inklings of Mairg’s designs, and received a Golden Bough with which to entrap Dwenday. Upon their return, Tavion lost all memory of the adventure.

Using Fiebras’ twins as bait, the Band of Iron caught Dwenday and extracted a favor in exchange for his life. The Goblin told them that Mairg had made many deals in the Starless Market, including her terrible crown, and that her obsession with the prophecy stemmed from Iommor’s death.

With one adventure under their belt, our heroes received another message from Manard, this time inviting them to Calchester.

The Calchester Fair Affair

Chasing a copy of the Mordavian Transcripts, the Band of Iron competed in Calchester’s annual brewing competition. Gaemund found one of his brothers being pressured by agents of Elam, met Tilly Carosi, sang songs mocking Baron Yorlen, participated in games of strength, almost ruined fancy soap, got butter everywhere, encountered the dwarves of Clan Farraud, and won the contest. In the process, they discovered a local farmer had kegs of Bromin’s ale stolen from the caravan where Tarah and Corik died.

Worse yet, an agent of Elam was present, and they stole the scroll of the Prophecy. The Band stormed the abandoned hunting lodge where the spies hid and slew them to the last. In the end, they obtained copies of the Mordavian Transcripts.

Ulreik studied the ancient text and learned that the Dokkalfar bore witness to the fulfillment of the Prophecy, that Taras retrieved his slain daughter from the Underworld, that the mysterious “FIfth Kingdom” is the world of Dreams, that the Path of Seven Veils—possibly the Rainbow Road—connected all the kingdoms, and a spell that would let them reach the Starless Market.

The Curse of the Bog Witch

Seeking a clue about the death of Corik and Tarah, the heroes confronted Yvain Ponty and learned he’d purchased the ale from a mysterious lady in red.. Since Mo Rel’s curse was getting worse, the party agreed to help her find a cure by confront the Bog Witch.

On Sheevra’s tail they found Eklos left as bait by a huldra ambush. The Band of Iron vanquished the Huldra and rescued the Knight of the Pendant. With his tongue cut out he could tell them little, so they decided to escort him to safety.

Arriving in Toadstool Hollow, they set out to slay Waxcap, but had to flee the Dark Hollow, pursued by Waxcap’s fungal children and the hulking beast called “Father.”

That night Atropa appeared to Morel in a dream, offering freedom from the curse in exchange for Royse’ bottle of memories. Tavion realized the bottle in Mo Rel’s vision was similar to the vial around his neck. They set out for the Tower of Nails and came to the Borgondhi Hinterlands, where they found a family beset by Mairg’s nightmare plague. Tyrandriel used a protective spell to free them and they learned the Penitents were being driven out as criminals, and that the nightmare plague was spreading. To make matters worse, Cedric Dunlan was the latest victim.

The Band of Iron hastened to Dunlan FIef. Warrick had taken control and filled the town with mercenaries. Sheevra had been seen there as well. The Party freed Cedric from the sickness, and learned from him that Ralzemon craved war and sought any excuse. The party worked with Jurian to steal coin from the Wolf Company merceanries nearby, learning that they took orders from Warrick and Sheevra. They needed answers, so they decided to call in a favor.

The Beggar and the Banshee

Calling upon Dwenday’s true name, the Band of Iron used him to grant access to the Starless Market. He used a secret song and a back entrance to let them into that cursed place between Faery and Death.

Tyrandriel found himself draw to the beggar Old Aram, the Laughing God in disguise. They played at cards and tied, and in exchange Aram produced from his robe a dissheveled owl. It called itself Curiousity and became Ulreik’s familiar, but in truth it was Eolas, Rúnda‘s familiar, stolen by the Laughing God. Aram hinted that Tyrandriel’s robes were the wrong color, and that they should be grey instead. Aram also hinted that Ulreik and Tyrandriel shared a father.

Aunty Atropa herself was there, she recognized Tavion and called him by his alias—Caius. They learned from her of the three sisters, who traded in Mind, Body and Soul. Atropa hinted at Tavion’s deal with the Witch of the WIllows and offered to let him out in exchange for Royse’s memories.

At last they spoke with the ancient Caoineadh, a Banshee from the Time of Luminias, who used a whisperwood because her voice kills mortals. They learned from it that the Root of Sorrows was destroyed when the Phoenix roosted in its boughs, burning to ashes and scattering it across the fifth kingdom. Only a vestige remains. They learned of Mairg’s deal, her sacrifice of Dakona, that the Penitents held the secret of holding back the Root, and of the Caoineadh’s loathing of the Wanderers.

Tavion confessed to Mo Rel that Atropa offered him freedom from a curse for Royse’s memory bottle, but when he returned from Faery he could neither remember nor be told of those events.

The party went to return to Dunlan Fief, but found it under assault.

The Battle of Dunlan Keep

Warrick’s lackeys claimed Jurian had poisoned his father and was rebelling against the crown. Now he held his father Cedric in the tower of Dunlan Keep, and Wolf Company besieged it to rescue the Lord Knight.

This didn’t match Tavion’s memories of his adoptive brother, so the party set out to uncover the truth. Half disguised themselves and infiltrated a nearby tavern, the Tower of Ales. They earned his trust and joined the attack, planning to use a secret entrance. Both halves of the Band snuck through Wolf Company and sabotaged their attack from within, reinforcing the Dunlan house guard and climbing the stairs to Cedric’s chamber.

What appeared to be Jurian gone raving mad turned out to be the witch Sheevra. Cedric was already dead, but the Band of Iron stopped Sheevra from escaping.

With Wolf Company storming the inner keep, the heroes had to flee. They found the real Jurian imprisoned in the dungeons, guarded by a glamoured ogre. Jurian told them Sheevra had used her magic to enchant them both and start a false revolt. The heroes fought their way through the Wolf Company lines with Jurian and Sheevra in tow, reunited with Eklos, and snuck out of town.

As Tavion and Jurian grieved for their father, the band interrogated Sheevra. Aine realized she looked exactly like Otillia von Marchen and identified her as a changeling. They put together the timeline and surmised that Sheevra had replaced Otilia at birth, then switched again five years ago when goblins “captured” the princess. The band of Iron decided to leave her with Eklos in Bravewood Abbey, but not before she spoke an enchanted phrase three times, drawing the attention of Mairg herself.

The Tower of Nails

After sending out word to all their contacts to draw support, the Band of Iron traveled to the Tower of Nails. They infiltrated Royse’s sanctum with cunning, brute force, and a bunch of random potions. Ulreik learned of Florian’s ill fate Wessel the Weasel stole the Memory Bottle. Royse spoke of his study of the sky realm, his mistrust of the alfar, his hatred of elves, and eventually turned on his guests.

Just as he did so, mists flowed into the valley, stopping just short of the Tower’s protective radius. Mairg’s image appeared in the mists as she used the power of the Emerald Pools and the Crown of Roots to control the trees and cast her magic across the land.

For the first time, Rhawunel realized the power of their adversary. She demanded that Royse surrender his guests. In response, Royse activated the Sky Gate at the top of the tower. The Knights of Terranimbus descended, knocked Royse unconscious, and carried him off. Their leader, the Knight of the Winds, challenged Mairg, who summoned the dragon Zonthul to battle him. Once victorious, the Knight of the Winds turned on the Band of Iron. He knocked Tavion off the edge of the tower, but then withdrew with his knights.

The Band of Iron claimed the tower for their own and discovered Tavion’s brother Botulf imprisoned in the oubliette.

Back in her Sanctum, Mairg realized that Rhawunel had other traveling companions. She determined to learn as much as she could about them and called upon the Gealacha, the Wild Hunt, to run down the Penitents. With the Gray Wanderers out of the way, she could continue to feed the Crown of Roots.

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The Story So Far -- 2/4
The Death of Iommor

In Recent TImes: The Third Day

Twenty years ago, Ri Searbhas’ son by his queen Mairg makes a deal with Morco, the Great Bear, and becomes a Skin Changer. He ravages the land of Marchen near the Bulwark Mountains, hoping to earn his Father’s respect and love by taking vengeance on the humans who invaded three generations ago.

Ursi Arcistoth rides out from Calchester to challenge Iommor to single combat. Her sister Tarah Arcistoth, pregnant with her seventh child, warns Ursi that Iommor cannot be slain by mortal means, and gives Ursi a Silver Sword. So armed, Ursi slays Iommor. Ursi confronts Tarah and learns that Tarah is a member of the Blood Hunters, an ancient order that practices dark magic to hunt the enemies of humanity. Ursi accuses Tarah of using the powers that the heathen elves wield, and the two fall out with each other.

Iommor’s mother, Queen Mairg, , cannot believe that her beautiful son has died at the hands of the crude, primitive, ugly humans. She places a curse on the Arcistoth Family, including Ursi, her sister Tarah Arcistoth, and Tarah’s seven children.

Mairg is not satisfied. As long as the ancient grace of elven lives can be cut short by mortals, she cannot be satisfied. In her sanctum, the Emerald Pools, she forms a plan to scourge the world of Marchen and its surrounding kingdoms, Borgondhi and perhaps even Gloriana itself.

She knows of the Prophecy of the New Day, and of Vindur’s wrath against humanity when it approaches. She surmises that by bringing the pieces of prophecy together, she can incite the Sky Kingdom to destroy Marchen for her.

But even as a mighty enchantress she fears the power of Rúnda, Court Mage of Gloriana. Any schemes involving otherworldly powers will certainly run afoul of Runda, whose magic is strange to the Alfar who taught humanity.

As she mourns, the witch Atropa tells her of magic that even Runda will fear: The Crown of Roots. The last remnant of the evil shattered in the Second Day, it would grant Mairg power over the dreams of mortals, over the land itself, and over Runda..

Mairg travels to the Starless Market to speak to the keeper of the crown, the Caoineadh, a being whose memory extends back to the Fall of Luminias. The Caoineadh demands the life of a queen in exchange for the Crown. Mairg goes to Ri Searbhas and persuades him to turn his back on one of his other wives—Dakona, Queen of Angren. WIth his protection gone, Mairg and her followers descend on Angren. They kill the queen as a sacrifice and try to capture her children—the twins Nabac and Caille, and her youngest daughter, Rhawunel.

Nabac escapes with his magic, and Caille fights his way out. The Queen’s last guardian, Corik Tel’Maerlyth, protects Rhawunel and together they escape Angren, fleeing through the Caonach Vale towards human lands.

Mairg needs the sons—twins born on a moonless night—to move the Prophecy towards fruition. But she has other designs as well. Now in possession of the Crown of Roots, she starts to experiment with its power. With Atropa plotting beside her, she warns Vindur that the Third Day will soon draw to an end. Vindur gathers his knights and starts preparations for war. Inspired by her early warning, he snatches the heart of Firebeard Mountain from the earth, spiriting it away to Terranimbus to build weapons that can lay waste to the lands of mortals.

At the same time, Mairg replaces the new born princess of Marchen, Otillia, with a fairy changeling. The real princess is spirited away to parts unknown.

Much transpires in the next two decades: Nabac seeks protection from the dragon Zonthul, who dwells in the Hinterlands. When the dragon captures Helena von Borgondhi, Nabac falls in love and betrays his master to free her. The Dragon curses the sorcerer’s blood, slowly transforming him into his master’s image. Helena gives birth to a child, Aine, and her father Ralzemon von Borgondhi imprisons her in a cloister out of shame and anger.

Caille seeks out the Witch of the Willows and trades away his memories, and his name, to her. Without his name, he is changed into a human, left only with his memories of combat. He wanders through Borgondhi and forms a mercenary order called Wolf Company. In time, his cofounder wants to grow the order and make more profit. Caille, going by Cassius, disagrees, and leaves to form his own band, the Noble Order, comprised of the most violent and deranged fighters in the land.

A young peasant boy in Callabrook lives at the mercy of his violent, alcoholic father. He wishes his father was a noble knight instead of a cruel drunk, and his brother dreams of growing up to be a knight. The elder of the two stumbles into Aisling’s Garden. Hearing his plight, she trades his memories to fulfill his wishes. The Knights of Terranimbus descend upon the village of Callabrook, destroying the inhabitants and carrying away the younger brother, Tavion, to join their ranks. The older, Caius, is found by Cedric Dunlan and adopted. He grows up alongside Jurian Dunlan and though he is a knight’s adopted son, he is not truly noble blooded. Though he calls himself Tavion, another name lingers in distant memories—Caius Callabrook—and he uses that for an alias as he becomes a thief, a mercenary, and a general troublemaker.

The FIrebeard clan of dwarves falls into chaos when the volcano they dwell in and worship suddenly dies, plucked from the earth by the Hand of Vindur. Bromin Firebeard is not content to sit around lamenting the end of their way of life, and leaves to travel the land, chasing his dream of perfecting the art of brewcraft.

Struggling under the curse of Mairg, Tarah Arcistoth abandons her attempts to pass on the ways of the Blood Hunters to her children. Misfortune befalls them at every turn, they can barely stay afloat, and the sisters Tarah and Ursi are not on speaking terms. The seventh son, Gaemund Arcistoth, grows up to be a con man, a tough, and a toady to the greedy Valter von Yorlen

A forester from the town of Toadstool Hollow lives a quiet life foraging in the woods. One day, she stumbles into the Dark Hollow, enchanted home of Mother Waxcap, the witch of the rattlebog. She steals some delicious looking mushrooms and in retaliation, the witch curses both Mo Rel and her entire village—slowly but surely, they start turning into mushrooms!

In the distant lands of Elam-Okarthel, an Alfar with an unusual gift—the blood of dragons—studies sorcery under the watchful eye of Master Sora. As keeper of the Hamure Monastery and guardian of Taras’ Scroll, Sora recognizes the young elf’s gift as a potential sign of greater things to come. He encourages her in her studies, hoping one day to reveal her destiny. Before he can, imperial assassins storm the monastery, killing those present and attempting to seize the Scroll. Sora entrusts it to Nashia Arie as he dies, and with his last breath tells her: “This is your destiny.” Nashia flees Elam, traveling to Gloriana to find refuge.

In Borgondhi, a poor mother left alone surrenders her child to a cloister of Our Triumphant Family, leaving him only a name: Tyrandriel. The clergy takes him in and raises him in the priesthood, to become an acolyte of the faith. Each year on a certain day, he finds a small cache of gold coins, marked with a mask both smiling and frowning—a strange and unfamiliar god. As he ages, his great promise and charisma are overshadowed by hints, more obvious each day, that his father was an Alfar. Wary of his heritage, he is shunned, mistreated, and ultimately exiled from the cloister. With nothing but the mysterious coins gifted each year, he tries to find a place to stay. The first inn he finds sees the coins and lets him stay for free. In time, he learns the secrets of a god who weaves luck for the downtrodden, who delights in merriment and confounding the powerful. His faith in Our Triumphant Family is replaced, and he starts a new life celebrating The Laughing God.

Another tale spins in Gloriana, where a young noble, Letha, falls in love with a mysterious and enchanting Alfar. She wanders out into the lands of faery, witnessing beauty beyond the pale of mortals. When she returns, she remembers nothing but wild wonder and a road of shimmering colors. Soon, she is with child, and flees her family in disgrace. She raises young Ulreik by herself, telling stories of the rainbow road. Ulreik dreams of traveling to those fairy lands and finding the road, and to do so tries to enroll in the University. After ten attempts, Ulreik succeeds, but Letha dies that same week. After a successful career Ulreik runs afoul of Euthynos and is expelled from the University. Left to wander the world, Ulreik reaches out to an old friend, Florian, to continue studying alone.

Through all this, a strange new order arises. Clad in gray, they recruit those who deeply regret their past, who have sins to atone, who are beyond redemption. They start to appear throughout Borgondhi and Marchen, and are known as the penitents

Somewhat Recently

Mairg’s designs grow towards fruition. She replaces her changeling with the original princess Otilia, using goblins as a cover. Prince Barasko von Marchen rides out to rescue the princess, bringing back the original. None are the wiser.

Sheevra approaches Warrick, a lesser noble of Borgondhi, and helps him rise quickly to prominence in Ralzemon’s court. With his help, they foster bitterness and envy over Marchen’s prosperity. Since he failed to marry his daughter to King Isbrand, Ralzemon now fears his kingdom’s success, and resents Isbrand. Strife begins to grow.

Atropa’s Shadar-Kai assassins track down the Blood Hunters one by one. Sorruk dies near Valdotain, Gnaurus does something terrible to survive, Bordul loses his leg, and Tarah Arcistoth goes undercover, hiding her Blood Hunter arts, to stay alive.

Florian, Ulreik’s correspondant and friend, makes a deal with the Witch of the Willows. She grants him the power to store perfect memories with complete recall, but he starts to lose his other memories over time. He stumbles on the war preparations of the Sky Kingdom, but then forgets to feed himself and dies. Ownership of the Tower of Nails passes to the wizard Royse

Fleeing agents of House Vutazon, Nashia leaves Gloriana and travels through Borgondhi.

Just Before our Adventures Begin

Princess Aine comes of age. Without a true inheritance, it is up to her to prove her worth and earn a place in the Courts of Borgondhi. She hires her old friend Tavion as a bodyguard and sets out seeking adventure. Tavion reaches out to Manard Weaver, powerful Guildmaster of Borgondhi, to find traveling companions and work.

Ulreik is desperate for books to continue their research into the Rainbow Road. Armed with a cryptic message from Florian, Ulreik purchases stolen and trafficked texts from Manard. One work eludes Ulreik—the Mordavian Transcripts. Euthynos has purchased or acquired every copy throughout the kingdom. With the promise of finding a legible copy, Manard recruits Ulreik to the growing adventuring party.

Nashia seeks safe passage, concealment from Vutazon’s agents, and further insight into magic. Manard connects her with Ulreik and Aine as they set out.

Tyrandriel wanders into town. He knows Tavion from the mercenary’s tougher days, and curious to see where the young man’s road will lead him, he tags along.

Meanwhile, in the lands of Marchen, tragedy strikes. Rhawunel and Corik hide from Mairg’s huldra by blending into a human caravan—a caravan that happens to include Tarah Arcistoth, her wagon, the Eerie Wain, and her son, Gaemund Arcistoth, also known as Crevaine the Fox. Bromin Firebeard travels as well, selling his strange ales, and Mo Rel accompanies them, seeking a cure for the curse of Toadstool Hollow.

They are all beset by Huldra raiders. Most of the caravan dies, but Tarah and Corik make a last stand, slaying and driving off Mairg’s servants. Both of them perish in the battle. Gaemund buries his mother and swears an oath to the dying Paladin of Tel’Maerlyth, promising to protect the Princess of Angren with his life.

Now stuck with strange companions, including a princess of the ancestral enemies of Marchen, Gaemund reaches out to an old contact for help—Manard the Weaver. He arranges for them to travel to Fern Crossing. There, they meet Aine, Tavion, Nashia, Ulreik and Tyrandriel. In a dark tavern over running waters, the Band of Iron is formed, and their adventures begin…

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The Story So Far -- 1/4
What came before

In Mythic Times: The Dawn Era

Luminias, the City of Light, bastion of the elven ancestors, jewel of the dawn, crown of beauty, is destroyed by legions of fiends. This tale of loss and sorrow will be remembered by all elven peoples for the rest of time.

Dragons return to the world in wrath and fury, shattering the demon armies and driving them into hiding.

To seal creation off from the ravages of the Hungry Dark, the four Elemental Sovereigns combine their strength to separate the Dawn World into four separate worlds. Together, they form the Firmament, a barrier against invasions like the one that destroyed Luminias.

In Ancient Times: The FIrst Day

Though Vindur, Sovereign of Air, guards the Firmament, corruption slips back into the world once more.

Morwel, daughter of Li-Ban and Vindur, sets the Stars as watchers on the edges of creation. Some of them fall in battle against the Hungry Dark. To refresh their ranks, Morwel creates a powerful magical ritual, the Prophecy of the New Day , which can change a human into a living star, imbued with divine power. Vindur declares war on humanity in retaliation. As he strikes against the Ten Dragon Tribes of Okarthel, a leader emerges: Taras, the Golden. He fulfills the prophecy with the help of his lover, the silver dragon Jonil, and wields his newfound power to defeat Vindur’s other children, the Four Winds. After founding an empire, Elam, and leaving behind a dynasty, he records his understanding of the prophecy in a single scroll, protected by the Hamure clan, and ascends to the stars above.

In Dark Times: The Second Day

In the time called the Bale, undead roam the earth, feasting on the living and driving them into hiding. They are ruled by the Dread Wyrm Chaun, who hungers for souls and rules the Underworld. A Blood Hunter and her lover manage to survive, fleeing from the hordes and seeking safety. In their flight, they come across a wounded fairy warrior—Aisling — and nurse her back to health. She returns to her war against Vindur in the Sky Kingdom. Thanks to her efforts, Vindur’s armies are left in disarray, unable to interfere in the Mortal Kingdom.

Two years later, a stranger comes to Aisling—Dîrtirith Halril. He tells her the mortals who saved her life are in great peril. She returns to the lands of the Bale to find the couple mortally wounded. Unable to heal them, she promises to save their child, and carries the young girl to the Sky Kingdom, over the Endless Ocean, to the Western Continent.

There, Aisling and the feathered serpent Zyanzya raises the young girl, Eleanor. They come across a band of rebels, including Marcus, a man whose magic can control fire, and Valerian, heir to two great houses of Kast.

Years pass, and as Eleanor ages, the danger grows. In the end, the rebels discover a greater evil at work, a darkness as old as humanity, the creator of all nightmares, the Root of Sorrows. Marcus despairs and succumbs to the dark power. His magic lashes out, burning Aisling body and soul. She flees back to the lands of the Bale, where her sister, Aunty Atropa, teaches her Memory Magic to stop her husband’s destructive failure from consuming her. Aisling becomes the Witch of the WIllows.

Valerian seeks to bring Marcus to justice for his sins, both old and new. Marcus tries to find a way to destroy the Root of Sorrows while evading his former friend. In the end, he stops fleeing, seeks penance, and suffers for the harm he wrought. The last remnants of his fire destroy the Root of Sorrows, shattering its power, leaving only its vestige behind.

Eleanor is left with her foster mother gone and most of her newfound family divided. Dirtirith appears to her, Zyanzya and Valerian, and with his guidance they return to the lands of the Bale. They travel to the Underworld and rescue the spirits of Eleanor’s parents from Chaun’s jaws. As their spirits embrace her, Dirtirith’s designs are completed, and Eleanor becomes the Dragon of the New Day. She and Valerian overthrow the Dread Wyrm Chaun and rally the surviving humans from the nearby kingdoms of Borgondhi and Lyteri. Valerian vanishes as soon as Chaun is slain. With her divine power, Eleanor anoints a queen and charges her with ruling the lands once tainted by the Bale. These lands are named for their first queen, Gloriana, and soon after Eleanor ascends to the stars above.

Awestruck by the end of the bale, the people of Gloriana take to worshipping Eleanor and her parents. Following in her example and spreading her story, the Church of Our Triumphant Family gains a massive following throughout the kingdoms.

The Alfar emerge from Fairy to share their knowledge with the new kingdom, founding the University.

In Troubled Times: The Third Day

Three generations ago, nobles from Borgondhi and Lyteri form a vast army. Led by the self-crowned King Geirr, they ride across the river Eibbenflow, on the borders of Borgondhi and Huldra lands, and set out to conquer a kingdom of their own. They drove the Huldra all the way back to the forests at the feet of the mountains before falling to a trap. Geir is slain with many of his knights.

His second in command, Isbrand, gathers reinforcements and drives the last of the elves back across the mountains. At the highest mountain past, Isbrand slays the Huldra king in single combat. As the Huldra Monarchs are chosen by their ancient homeland, the Caonach Vale, the mantle of rulership passes to the old King’s Son. Rage and grief over the slain change their new ruler into Ri Searbhas, the Bitter King.

Isbrand declares himself a Vassal King in service to the throne of Gloriana, and the new kingdom is called Marchen.

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Tomb of the Feathered Serpent
  • Two weeks after their last adventure, Morel and Bromin are working hard to restore Toadstool Hollow. They’ve made contact with a caravan of Wind Dwarves traveling here from Emankorrak, led by the hardy Fideba. They’ve agreed to trade with Toadstool Hollow and bring them additional supplies to help them rebuild.
  • While gathering information for their heist in Yorlen Hold, the rest of the party travels through Guthram. There they encounter Jarrin and Orla, treasure hunters bragging about their latest adventure. They seek the Tomb of the Feathered Serpent, a fantastic beast whose venom can restore the dead. A grieving noble has offered a massive bounty, thousands of gold, for whoever can bring this venom to them.
  • Nearby, the tavern girl Zyanya tends tables quietly. She has dark skin and green eyes, tattoos, and a lovely singing voice. She brings the Band of Iron food and drink while they listen to the adventures’ tale.
  • Jarin and Orla gather a group of peasants, merchants and travelers, regaling them with the following details:

- The feathered serpent’s eggs are gems the size of a man’s head.
- Their wings are feathered in all colors of the rainbow
- They cannot tell a lie, so if you find one, you can force it to reveal its identity
- They ride rainbows and guard ancient secrets, watching over the destinies of the mighty. Apocryphal tales suggest that Blessed Child was guarded by a Feathered Serpent after their parents were slain.

  • The hunters insisted they had no plans of harming such a creature, only of harvesting its venom.
  • Intrigued, some of the Band of Iron meander over to their table, finding them pouring over an ancient map. It is written in an ancient and cryptic form of draconic and they cannot decipher it. Her interest piqued, Nashia wanders to the table. The Band cuts a deal with the treasure hunters to help them in exchange for a cut of the prize.
  • Shortly thereafter, a group of mystical assassins strikes. Wielding spells of Stinking Cloud , Fear and Slow, they bust in and are barely fended off.
  • Jarin and Orla fear the attack was to stop them in their quest, but the Band of Iron quickly discovers that Nashia is gone. It seems the group was sent to abduct her.
  • They track her to the treasure hunters’ destination—the Tomb of the Feathered Serpent. Rhawunel notices that this is actually a Huldra pre-marchen burial ground, and wonders what connection it could possible have to the Feathered Serpent.
  • Meanwhile, in the tomb, Nashia awakens bound and gagged. A stranger looms over her, and on seeing her awake, seizes her hand and casts a spell of revelation upon it. When nothing happens, they apply minor acid and a group of sorcerers combine their powers to search for something. Even this fails, and the stranger announces with relief “It’s not there. We still have time.”
  • The stranger departs as her scouts report a disturbance. Nashia was being imprisoned in the very tomb her compatriots came to seek. Finding the entrance heavily warded by magic, the Band of Iron realizes they had fallen into an ambush when Jarin and Orla turn on them. A bloody battle ensues, with agents of Elam and their hired muscle attacking the Band of Iron from all sides. Our heroes push through into the tomb, rescue Nashia, and force the leader of the Elam agents to flee using her magic.
  • As it turns out, the entire legend of the Feathered Serpent was a setup. The map was specially made so only a true scholar of Elam’s dragon magic could interpret it. Jarin and Orla were instructed to travel the land looking for help with the map, and whoever could help them was the target.
  • The party returns to Guthram to lick their wounds. As they leave the tomb, a familiar face emerges from the forest—Zyanzya, the barmaid from the tavern. In her hands she bears a massive gem the size of a man’s head, which she grants to Nashia. She exchanges some short words with the sorceress, wherein they learn the following:

- The stars stand eternal vigil against the Hungry Dark.
- The Feathered Serpents serve Morwel, Queen of Stars. It is their sworn duty to find the Light Bearer.
- The Light Bearer appears each time the Prophecy of the New Day is set in motion.
- The Light Bearer’s purpose is to find the Four Dragons—the Dragon of the Brightest Noon, the Dragon of the Final Dusk, the Dragon of the Moonless night, and the Dragon of the Dawn—in order to choose and anoint the Dragon of the New Day.
- The first Light Bearer was a dragon. The second was an Alfar. The third will be both.

  • As Zyanzya vanished, Nashia’s hand burned with a cold pain, and she found the faint impressions of a silver, five-pointed star on the back of her left hand.
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Dawn in Dark Hollow - Pt III

The heroes crossed the border into Marchen once more and entered the foul infested swamp, Dark Hollow. The last time they were here, they barely escaped with their lives. This time, they battled the troll under her bridge, forced her terrible children to stand down, and faced Father—a massive fungal abomination—in hand-to-hand combat. As the companions searched for the Bog Witch herself, Morel snuck into her home and found the Heart of Dark Hollow—the cauldron where she cooked the meals that led her to this place from the Unseelie Court so long ago. As sunlight burst into dark hollow for the first time in years, Waxcap’s power faltered. They slew the wailing witch and the blight on the land dissolved.

Within the witch’s hut they found a trove of treasures, from potions and ingredients to coins taken from years of victims.

At last the Curse of Toadstool Hollow was lifted. The townsfolk swiftly began sloughing off the mushrooms and mold that had been replacing their flesh, restored to health. For Morel, the original target of the curse, it would take more time.

With the curse lifted, Morel confided in Tavion about Aunty Atropa’s offer. They still had the bottle of Florian’s Memories, and now they could trade it in exchange for Tavion’s. In response, Tavion took a hefty swig of his memory vial. In a vision, he saw a terrible giant hurling boulders, while his mother and brother cowered in fear. Then the giant shrank and the boulders became bottles and pots, the roar of thunder a man’s drunken expletives. The boy and his brother fled to the woods.

When at last he awoke, he remembered the truth: his name was not Tavion, but Caius. The moniker he’d created to hide his unlawful dealings was his actual name.

Bromin and Morel took leave for a time to help rebuild the cursed town of Toadstool Hollow and put it back on the map. The rest of the Band of Iron caught their breath, worked with the Parliament of Bastards to extent their reach throughout the kingdoms of Marchen and Borgondhi, and prepared for their next adventure—to rob Baron Yorlen!

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Dawn in Dark Hollow - Pt II
  • With an agreement from the Dokkalfar to weave the net, the Band of Iron seeks Glassweb Grove. A twisted part of the Fairy World under the control of the Unseelie Court, the only way to reach the grove is to catch a moth, blindfolded at night, and bring it to a pine tree.
  • In the woods outside of Fernsby our heroes manage this feat and find themselves in a forest of pale, slender, wispy and twisted trees. The deeper they go, the more spiders they see crawling across the translucent leaves.
  • The grove is a mystical web, where all paths lead to the center. The heroes find themselves divided and scattered throughout the web and confronted by the Daughters—spider-fey who blend elven and spider features. The grove’s heart consists of glass trees with glass leaves, all strung with thousands of spider webs. At very center is a single living tree that has grown into the shape of a harp, but without any strings.
  • As the Sisters descend on the Band, they call out in musical voices “Do you sing? Do you play? Will you sing? Will you play?”
  • The daughters smell music in the blood of Ulreik and Tyrandriel. Some of the daughters want to eat them. “The music is in their blood, sisters! Set it free! Let it dance in our veins!”
  • The heroes placate the sisters with music, stringing the harp with Aine’s golden hair and singing to go along with it.
  • The spiders weave them the gossamer they seek and reveal some information.

- The Dokkalfar Sage has come to them before
- Taras Golden came to them with his Gossamer Daughter. They wove her back into the mortal realm.
- Similarly, the child-carrying-mother-and-father came before them, asking them to reconstitute his parents. He was accompanied by a beautiful maiden with a cloak of colorful feathers, a cursed warrior who wore a hundred names, and an alfar with a voice that captured their hearts.

- The Alfar returned long after and made the Glassweb Harp. There he played such music that they curse him, for he instilled in them a craving they can never fulfill.

  • When asked to describe this man, they responded:

Silver hair and silver tongue
His voice was sweet with silver song
Around his head a silver band
A silver star upon his hand

- This visitor returned to seek their silk for a beautiful queen to make a robe for her, one that would capture the light of beauty and help her forget her sorrows.

  • With the gossamer in hand, our heroes depart from the Sisters of Glassweb Grotto and return to the Dokkalfar Grotto. The Dark Elves weave the net of gossamer and glass and give it to Morel.

  • Back at the Tower of Nails, the Band of Iron activates Royse’s Telescope to create a Wind Bridge to the Sky Kingdom. When they arrive, they find themselves on a cloud island inhabited by a village of the Aarakocra, living at the edges of the Morass—a supernatural swamp of smoke and smog.
  • The Knights of Terranimbus notice the opening of the bridge and search for our heroes. The Aarakocra tell them they must flee through the Morass to reach the mountains of morning without being found.
  • Wary of the swamp’s legendary dangers, the heroes take their horse and fix the Horseshoes of the Zephyr, then tie it to the warded carpet they use in the tavern. The magic of the horseshoes make the carpet float above the ground—not truly flying, but hovering above the muck and mire. They dodge smoke wyrms, murderous smoglins, manticores and narrowly escape the attentions of Kurluweydon, the Lifechoker Dragon.
  • On the other side, they find the mansion of Vafprudnir, Keeper of the Stairs of Dawn, Master of the Mountains of Morning. The giant has a fondness for riddles and for eating the flesh of guests who lose in a contest of riddles. To those who succeed, he grants a boon. The Band of Iron knocked on his mighty doors and joined him at the feasting table, a grand hall filled with cloud giants like him.
  • They faced him in a battle of riddles and solved all three. For a boon, they asked safe passage up the Stairs of Dawn, as well as fruits from his garden. He granted both. At the height of the Mountains of Morning, on a peak worlds above the mortal land below, where the bitter air froze their lungs even as they breathed it, surrounded by flights of pegasi and a terrible pair of chimera, Morel held aloft the Gossamer Net as dawn broke. Here, above the sky itself, the air was clear and the sunlight unfiltered. Morel caught it in the net and brought it back down to earth. With the power of the horseshoes, the heroes simply rode right off the edge of the cloud and descended back to the Mortal Kingdom.
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Dawn in Dark Hollow - Pt I
  • The Band of Iron spends some time in the Tower of Nails recuperating and figuring out their next moves.
  • Gaemund summons the Parliament of Bastards. He informs his brothers of his mother’s death, of Mairg’s designs, and of Tarah’s clandestine order of blood hunters. They agree to help him.
  • Jurian Dunlan sneaks away from Bravewood Abbey to meet them at the Tower of Nails, using it as a headquarters for his resistance in Dunlan Fief.
  • Morel uses Royse’s research into the Sky Kingdom to study Mother Waxcap and find a way to break the curse. She determines that as long as the Dark Hollow remains intact, Mother Waxcap will be too strong to kill. To destroy Dark Hollow they must expose its rotten heart to a ray of Pure Sunlight. To catch a ray of Pure Sunlight, they will need a net of Gossamer and Glass. With this net, they can travel to the Mountains of Morning in the east of the Sky Kingdom and catch the first light of dawn over the mountains.
  • The Band decides to put their mission for Manard on hold while they help Morel protect the people of Mushroom Hollow, who have transformed more and more into mushrooms. They build up the Tower as a base of operations and prepare for their quest.
  • Since the only ones who know how to weave True Gossamer are the Dokkalfar, the bastards use their network of contacts to find rumors of recent Dokkalfar activity. They learn that the Borgondhi town of Fernsby had a rash of disappearances. A young man went missing and the crops of his family farm were turned purple (like a crop circle).
  • Fernsby is a farming town located along an important river, which makes it the nearest seat of power aside from Dunlan Fief. Warrick’s mercenaries and Royal Soldiers have taken up residence, as Fernsby lies along the supply line from Dunlan Fief to Castle Borgondhi.
  • The local lord, Sir Serell the Allegiant, is Ralzemon and Warrick’s toady, kissing ass to move up in the world. As such, his personal soldiers and mercenaries are patrolling the town.

Fortunately for our heroes, the Laughing God had eyes and ears in town, and with their help along with tips from the Parliament of Bastards, our heroes set out confident.

  • They set out from the tower on a night of the full moon. Cold mists flow over the land and at night, protected by the enchantments on the Cart, they hear sounds of battle. Pale horses, too thin by far; shapes in the clouds and mists; shrill inhuman laughter; screams; the baying of unearthly hounds.
  • In the morning they find the remnants of a camp that was destroyed. They connect the attack to the Gealacha, a Wild Hunt ruled by Cloigeann, Old Skull of the Moon. Some forensic work reveals that the Band of Iron was not targeted by the attack; instead, they are hunting Grey Wanderers.
  • The party continues on its travels to Fernsby. They reach Farmer Callasby’s plot of land. The farmer and his wife are afraid, since Lief, the missing boy, was their only son. Soon Callasby and Gertrude will be too old to work and they will starve.
  • Lief was born as a shooting star passed through the constellation of Kind Father. He’s not exceptionally clever but he’s a “good son” who works hard.
  • The party investigates the fields and discovers a spiral of purple wheat in the middle of the field (they collect samples), a rune not found in any normal magic. Callasby mentions someone already came to inspect the farm, an old dwarf with a peg leg. He took samples and told them not to investigate any further. He was last seen heading into town.
  • The band of iron successfully bypasses the guards and evades Warrick’s patrols to reach the Smoking Fern, a tavern named for a local legend (involving a satyr who smoked some of the local fern and chased local girls for a week before being run out of town). There is another cart outside, heavily armed and with spots for crossbows to shoot out.
  • Upon stepping into the tavern they hear a bunch of bounty hunters speaking loudly about the rebellion in Dunlan Fief and the fugitives still on the run. They are blathering to an old dwarf with a Peg Leg—Bordul, the Last Blood Hunter.
  • Bromin defuses the situation by talking louder than the thugs and plying them with beer. Tyrandriel realizes that some of the beggars outside are spies for Warrick, and convinces both the party and Bordul to evacuate. Bordul recognizes Tarah’s cart, the Eerie Wain. He realizes that Gaemund is her son and that he’s learned some of the art. Gaemund similarly recognizes Bordul’s alchemy.
  • Bordul has been tracking the Dokkalfar abductions, trying to stop them before they occur. He’s tracked them to a local revine where the fern grows. The way into the earth to the Dokkalfar Grotto is down a steep stone chimney and with his leg he can’t make it. Bordul accompanies them to the ravine and keeps watch over the Eerie Wain while they seek out the Grotto.
  • The Band of Iron descends into the ravine. The ferns seem to sing as the wind flows around them, inducing a drunken state. They press forward and follow a small waterfall that plunges seventy-five feet into the earth before sloping into a twisting maze of caverns. Using all their wood lore, cunning, and weasel powers, they track the dokkalfar to Skjult Grotto.
  • The hidden grotto is protected by enchantments and illusions. It lies across a great casm from which seeps a beautiful blue fog, a cloud of spores. They pierce the illusions and find a secret path that winds around the stalagmites that jut from the azure abyss, only to be met with the bolts and arrows of the Dokkalfar who challenge their crossing.
  • By virtue of her birthright as Princess of Angren, Rhawunel secures passage to Skjult Grotto. They meet the leader of the enclave, Sopp, a mushroom man of some sort. They walk through homes carved into stone pillars, gardens of molds and mushrooms, and a bridge over that same ravine full of azure mist.
  • The Dokkalfar live alongside a species of myconids. Our heroes share their plight with Sopp, who expresses concern that Mother Waxcap “eats her children.” They convince him that they mean well and are not trying to wipe out mushroom people, just kill a bad witch. Sopp agrees to help them make the net, if they undergo a trial in the Well of Dreams.
  • The blue ravine is full of spores from Sopp’s people. These spores induce a powerful sleep and stasis in any who inhale them. The Heroes pass the trial and learn that the Dokkalfar are guardians of the Fifth Kingdom. Because elves do not naturally sleep, they abduct humans born under auspicious signs and imprison them in the Well of Dreams. There they live long lives of continuous dreams, and the Dokkalfar use the slumbering mortals as windows into which they can see the Fifth Kingdom.
  • The heroes discover this is what happened to Lief. They make a deal with Sopp: because Mairg poses a grave threat to the Fifth Kingdom, their quest takes precedence. They retrieve Lief and return him to his home, but in exchange, Gaemund must return when their quest is over and stay in the Well of Dreams for as long as it takes them to defeat Mairg.
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Interlude -- A Mission of Mercy

To the Noble and Ever Constant Mr. Callabrook,

Accept the most humble congratulations of my sage counterparts and mere self at the recent acquisition of a historied and pedigreed holding. Indeed, it is meet you find yourself now in possession of that edifice of iron and stone wright’s genius, for the tragedy that has befallen your esteemed and noble family of origin distresses me so, flies in the face of all that is just and right in this world, that this turn of fortune is my sole comfort and consolation. We all grieve for noble Cedric.

To the ongoing consternation of our rightful monarch, his royal highness Ralzemon Von Borgondhi, young Jurian somehow eludes the most steadfast and traveled of royal hunters. Indeed, not so much as a scrap of his cloak has been found, and throughout the land you will find not a single bounty hunter who can help our poor king in his frustrated search. It would seem that your adopted brother has fallen in with those whose talents for obfuscation and concealment exceed our beloved ruler’s zeal for vengeance. I cannot imagine such guile exists in the hearts of men, let alone such company gentlemen like us might keep.

With your fortunes now defiant of tragedy’s baleful winds, and in the hope that this wretched missive finds your spirits lifted and your eyes turned once more towards the course of your future, I submit to your attention a most peculiar turn of commerce’s providence. The Right Honorable Guild of Weavers and Dyemen prides itself on the quality of its craftsmanship and its craftsmen, but nevertheless we submit that the sweet muse of our art alights on those from beyond our ranks as well. An example of this fickle whim of inspiration can be found languishing in the stone halls of a certain gentlemen of Marchen’s fief. Though I confess a certain admiration for Baron Yorlen’s tastes, still it pains my heart to think of such a delicate tapestry, a weft of silver and silk, the work of hands so fine and gentle it stops the heart of we poor clay-handed mortals, choking in the light of frugal oil lamps. Woe, yes, woe that this magnificent work of art outshines the good Baron Yorlen’s other accouterments.

And thus I find it necessary to implore you to aid poor Valter in his time of need. As he gathers about himself the beauty and comforts that lift the spirits of those men burdened with the heavy yolk of rulership, this one piece makes his efforts seem paltry, his paintings crass, his carvings and sculpture the crude works of a child whittling a stick with a stone knife. Though he cannot see it himself, possession of the work turns all his efforts to mud and mars the beauty of his other belongings.

If you find yourself in the court of Baron Von Yorlen, lift this pall of tragedy from his crown. Spirit away this tapestry and let the light of his other treasures shine all the brighter. Do it not for me, not for the love of that masterpiece, but to bring succor to a suffering man’s soul.

When your eyes light upon the tapestry, all doubt as to its identity will vanish, for it is woven of gossamer, of silver, with subtle arts, grays and browns, lush greens and rippling blues. You will know it by the willow’s sign. Usher it, like a grieving pallbearer at the funeral of a dear friend, to the hands of my dutiful and somber colleagues of the Guild. They wait in Yorlen Fief to lift the wool from the Baron’s eyes and bring joy once more into his bitter life.

I know better than any other that news of suffering and the call of a worthy cause is enough to ignite your sinews to action and carry you onward to victory, and no crass matter such as material wealth will stop you from performing a noble deed.

Your loyal friend and faithful servant,

MANARD WEAVER, HN&LY GWD

Post Script: I plead your forgiveness and understanding for the crass mention of so unrelated and insignificant a matter in a letter of this grave and honorable purpose, but the labor and wisdom of those you entrusted with your investments will soon bear fruit. Eagerly they await to return to you the bounty you bestowed upon them, and more. As fortune is our eternal friend, I rather think the funds will be prepared at the exact moment you deliver the masterful tapestry from its bonds. What serendipity!

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Interlude -- As the Clouds Part

Though the fog rolled through the pass with the constancy of the ebbing tide, it troubled the companions little. When their foe sent out her power against them, it swept down sudden and sinister. These lazy, cloying clouds were not born of malice and paid the Tower of Nails no mind, even when its iron spikes shredded them in their passing. Nashia barely gave it the courtesy of a brief glance. Her feet dangled over the broken edge of the observatory roof, robes hanging down into the abandoned apprentices’ quarters below. There hadn’t been time enough since the battle with Royse to repair the old roof—obviously shattered by lightning long ago—and up here she found a sense of peace and isolation. It was almost better than being sequestered down in the library, where Ulreik stacked books one after the other, muttering to himself as his fingers traced over endless lines of runes and frenetic scribblings.

Except perhaps for the High University of Gloriana itself, she’d never come across so many books about dragons on this continent. Nowhere close to the Hamure archives of scrolls, but Royse clearly held an interest in the wars between Taras and the Thunder King. He never found the answer to why dragons intervened on the behalf of mortals, but he’d come close. The voice of master Master Sora came back to her across the years, gently reminding her to step away and look from both above and within. Any one perspective would blind, and that’s precisely what happened to Royse—even with his telescope, he could only see through the perspective of Alfar conspiracy.

Nashia frowned, letting the cracked cover of the tome close. Her own people, the ones she’d left behind, quietly woven into the legends of the humans. Our Triumphant Family never mentioned the guidance of Blessed Child’s alfar mentors, and Elam’s songs of Taras Golden had a single reference to the “Lightbearer, Child of Dawn” who led Taras on the path. And yet she knew nothing about it. Neither did Royse, or any of the books in his tower.

If only Master Sora was still around! He knew more than he’d revealed—why else had he entrusted her with the Prophecy, the fateful scroll whose words tied together the decades-old designs of Mairg and the wrath of the Thunder King alike? What destiny did he foresee for her? What would he have told her if House Bothotlo hadn’t cut him down in his own sanctuary?

“Hoot. Hoot hoot.” What? Was the sun already setting? It was too early for night birds to be… “I said hoot, lady. If you were a vole I’d have eaten you by now.” A feather mop that’d been hurled by a tornado through a mud puddle infested by crickets was talking to her. “You’re a lousy lookout, you know that?” Nashia scowled at Curiosity. “I’m not a lookout. My studies require solitude and tranquility. Neither of which flourish in the presence of-” The owl hacked and wheezed. It sounded like something was trying to escape from its throat, and in a moment, a horrific mass of bones, fur and organic mush splattered on the tower’s roof.HWAAAAUWCK. Sorry sweethooowaaat, didn’t catch that, that happens sometimes.” Nashia’s nose twitched. It wasn’t much worse than any of the creatures she’d cut open in search of knowledge, but it felt more than a bit deliberate. “…in the presence of…never mind. What?” “Well I was in neighborhood being an apex predator and all when I saw something coming up to the tower. You’re closest, I supposed you might be being a lookout. You’ve got that big fancy look-outer and all. So I’m telling you.” Nashia glanced from the telescope—the big fancy look-outer—and back to the bedraggled owl. “Telling me what?” “Something’s coming up to the tower! I know you’re not as deaf as those humans, but WOW!” She shut the cover of her book, wishing her peace and focus a silent farewell. There was no point in arguing with Ulreik’s familiar, nor informing it that “Something’s coming up to the tower” wasn’t as insightful as Curiosity seemed to think. Instead, she folded the book under her arm and descended the cracked stone steps to inform the others.

A messenger pounds at the door waiting for someone to answer, insisting that he had a message for one “Caius Callabrook.” The letter bears the massive and extravagant seal of one Manard Weaver. It contains the following message…

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