The Eye of the Dragon

The Road North
Where has the whisky gone?

Rinjiminee Haltergirdle arrives at the inn one morning between breakfast and lunch. The inn is quiet save for a serving girl mopping the floor. He asks the girl if he can speak to the mayor as he’s heard this is where he conducts his business. She informs him that her fatheris busy right now but will see him shortly if he would like to wait. Rinjiminee sits himself down at a table in the corner and waits.

A few minutes later, Willis walks into the inn. He looks around and informs the serving girl that he is here to see the mayor. The girl gives a similar response as she did to Rinjiminee. Willis settles himself down in the opposite corner to Rinjiminee and waits.

A further few minutes on and Morgrimm Hammerbrow (“Grim”) walks into the inn. He looks around at the two occupants and the serving girl. He stands and waits. After a long pause, the serving girl says if he’s here to see her father he can wait with the other two until he is ready. With a shrug, Grim sits down at the serving bar.

It’s not long until Baron Reaver, mayor of Devlan and innkeeper exits from the kitchen. Spotting the small gathering, he welcomes them and ushers them into the back dining room. He introduces himself and is glad that they have volunteered to help patrol the surrounding area for any would be predators. This confuses Rinjiminee as he is there to find out why the Wee Folk are being overlooked again with matters in the village. Baron, assures Rinjiminee that no offence is meant and he’s had a busy winter with it being so harsh and people demanding he do something about the livestock being killed. He put out a notice for volunteers to meet this morning and the three party members turned up.

After a few more questions, the three volunteers accept the mission – the idea of free food and a bed for the night is particularly appealing to Rinjiminee. Before they leave, Baron asks them a small favour. The village has an upcoming Coming of Spring celebration and one of the local farmers, Thoram Malt, agreed to provide some whisky that he distilled over the winter. He was due to arrive in the village yesterday and didn’t. Thoram is usually quite a reliable man and Baron is a little concerned especially after all the talk about predators. The group agree to head north first, as Thoram’s farm is the last one on that road before the mountains.

On the way, the group decide to check on the two farms that they pass. All is well and the farmhands are looking forward to the festivities in a few days. Eventually, the group sees a horse and cart ahead. The horse tethered to a low tree branch and the cart sitting at an odd angle. A man can be seen trying to lift the cart. The group go forward to lend a hand.

The man is Thoram Malt and he’s on the way to Devlan with whisky and cider – kegs and barrels sit on the road behind the cart. His carthweel came off while going over the rough road. He’s managed to prop the axle of the wagon up a little on a small pile of stones and logs. He can’t manage the rest by himself.

The three adventures over to help and with their combined strenth easily lift the cart allowing Thoram to reattach the wheel. In the process of doing this Willis notices a man in a dark cloak sitting on a horse a little distance down the road. When he looks back again, man and horse are gone.

With the cart repaired, Thoram goes to hitch his horse, Able, back on to the cart. Able becomes agitated and nervous. This puts the group on alert and a snarl is heard from the forest shortly before two creatures burst out onto the road.

They are a horrifying sight, creatures out of fairytales to frighten bad children that shouldn’t exist. They are manlike bears – or perhaps bearlike men – with bloodshot wild eyes and a muzzle fixed in a permanent snarl. Their fur is patchy showing black and green blotchy skin. Pus oozes in several places. Losing his cool, Grim retreats several paces away.

As the creatures rear up on to their hind and looks and approach the group, Willis says a prayer of Blessing. Rinjiminee calls to Grim to rally. Grim stops and turns to set up his egg-launcher. Meanwhile, Thoram scrambles atop his cart to reach his longbow.

One creature attacks Willis, while the other heads for Rinjiminee. They fight back in melee while Thoram shoots his bow and Grim launches exploding eggs into their midst. The creatures are finally overcome, not without Rinjiminee taking some collateral damage from Grim’s exploding eggs.

Willis asks Thoram about the road and where it goes, and if he’s seen any travellers around. Thoram replies that the road goes as far as his farm. The only thing further on are the hills and mountains. No travellers come this way. Willis tells the others about the rider and the horse. They don’t believe him as there is no sign of the rider now.

Believing it to be unsafe, the group escort Thoram back to Devlan. Willis and Grim drag one of the creature corpses with them. They stop at the two farms once more. At the first, the farmer looks a little pale at seeing the creature. He will keep an eye out though for any future sightings. At the second farm, the farmhands believe the corpse to be a fake and laugh thinking someone sent the group here to wind them up.

Back at Devlan, the group receive a few stares as they drag, what appears to them to be a bear’s corpse, behind them. Thoram is greeted cheerily, especially when he confirms he has the whisky and the cider for the celebrations.

At the inn, Thoram and Baron ask the group to keep the creature quiet as they don’t want to scare the village. As far as anyone needs to know, it’s a bear that was causing all the troubles. The group agree and feel fortunate that they hid the corpse behind the inn.

In the morning, they dispose of the corpse away from the village before setting out to explore the forest to the north-east. Around mid-afternoon, tiredness affects the group. Willis and Grim shrug off the effects but notice that Rinjiminee has disappeared. After some frantic searching, they find the Little Person, asleep under a bush. Snoring quietly and muttering about food. With an effort, Willis finally manages to wake up the sleeping Rinjiminee, who is a little put out having been poked – quite roughly – with a stick.

Seeing no sign of any predators, the group heads back to the village for another evening. The third day of scouting sees the group head along by the river and up a side stream. The only thing of interest they see is a Great Eagle high over the forested hills. They camp out that night with Willis taking first watch. He wakes Grim up after a few hours for the middle watch. As Grim goes to wake Rinjiminee to take the last watch, he finds Little Person’s tent empty. He wakes up Willis instead. They discuss searching but think it is futile in the dark. Instead, Willis takes a second watch, allowing the dwarf to sleep some more.

In the morning, Rinjiminee’s tent is still empty and the two remaining group members start searching. They consider abandoning the Little Person as it might prove difficult finding him. A discussion that is overheard by Rinjiminee as he awakens from his slumber in a hollowed out trunk. When Willis and Grim finally find their absent party member, he is seated on a log munching away on breakfast. Grim asks why he wasn’t in his tent. Rinjiminee replies simply that he didn’t want to be woken up by a stick again. Grims seems happy with that explanation. Willis doesn’t even look abashed.

That day is mostly taken up by visiting the farms upriver from Devlan. One or two sheep went missing over the winter but no other incidents are reported. Most of the talk, however, is about the festivities. Everyone is looking forward to it and are heartened when they learn Thoram has kept his word regarding his whisky and cider.

On their final day of searching, the party loop around to the south and south-west. They discover an abandoned farmstead. From the ruins, Grim knows it’s been decades since anyone lived here. Rinjiminee goes to explore the remains of the house where he accidentally causes the rubble to shift. He keeps his balance as a hole into the cellar opens nearly beneath his feet. He considers going to take a look but decides against that idea as the rubble shifts once more.

Willis, meanwhile, looks around the back of the farmstead and finds the rotted remains of a wagon. Having a quick look, he finds a little pouch containing six slugs and a few scraps of metal. He takes the pouch and metal to give to Grim, believing the dwarf can do something with these, remembering the exploding shells from a few days earlier.

The rest of the day goes without incident and the rest of the day goes without incident with no signs of predators. On returning to Devlan, Baron is content that there might not be any more predators in the area and their scouting as eased people’s concern somewhat. He informs the group that it will not be necessary to patrol the following day. That leaves them with a free day before the Coming of Spring festival.

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Stalled Negotiations

Having been well fed by Nari Reaver at the Bull Arms, Grim, Willis and Rinjiminee leave the private dining room to find the village council having a quiet discussion around the fire. Feeling that they might be discussing them, the party try to eavesdrop. So intent in that task that they fail to hear Reminamorenatheral approach them from behind. After catching them by surprise, she calmly introduces herself as the Elven ambassador, ignoring the muttered threats from Grim. She is staying at the inn while negotiating a peace treaty with the Humans. Unfortunately, the human ambassador hasn’t shown up the last few days. She asks that group keep their eyes and ears open and report anything they might hear to her. As a sign of goodwill, she gives each of them an Elven gold coin.

As Remina departs, the council breaks up and Baron Reaver approaches the group. He takes them back into the private dining room. He makes it clear that what he is about to say, he does so in the strictest of confidence. The Elves and Humans are negotiating a peace treaty in Devlan, seen by both as neutral. Unfortunately, Earl Bels Reinhart, the Human ambassador, hasn’t shown up for the talks recently and no one can get any answer out of the Human delegation. So Baron hopes that the party might be able to dig a little deeper and find out what is going on.

The party of three head over to the other inn in the village, simply known as the Alehouse. Outside they find an Elf watching the place closely. She introduces herself as Lorana and is waiting to meet a human with a distinctive face but she knows not his name. As the others have been told that the Earl has a distinctive scar across his face they believe it might be the same person they are looking for. With that, the party of three becomes a party of four and they enter the Alehouse.

The Alehouse has been completely taken over by the human ambassadorial party and the only patrons in the common room are the guards. Striking up a conversation with the captain, the party are told that the Earl is indisposed and will see them as soon as he is able. Lorana overhears a conversation between two guards, however, that implies that the Earl hasn’t been seen for a few days and no one knows where he is.

Realising they aren’t going to get anywhere the party leaves. They are approached by a Little Person. He speaks only to Rinjiminee and tells him that he overheard the Earl asking about the Widows’ Home and sometime later asking for the local healer. That was the last day there was any confirmed sighting of the Earl.

The party head off to find the village Healer, an Elf-Human mix-blood by the name of Veyinamarath. They ask her about the Earl, giving the description they have. She informs them that a heavyset man was in asking for something for Widow Opal but he was trying to disguise himself – his scar had been covered up.

With that information, the party head to the Widows’ Home to speak to Widow Opal. Unfortunately, the old woman won’t speak to the party unless they have some calming scents on them. The group trudge back to the healer’s and obtain some birchwood scents. They manage to avoid paying and have the purchase placed on the village account.

Returning to Widow Opal, they learn that she was visited by two men asking about her husband. Her husband died years ago. He returned from hunting one day talking about a cave system containing a glowing gem, guarded by little devils. No one believed him but the next day, her husband was dead. The party consider that the Earl may have gone off to find that cave system.

The group are returning to the Bull Arms to inform Baron what they have discovered so far when a merchant caravan arrives in the village. They are lead by Finn and Thenn, who are twins. The twins announce to all that they found a dead man and horse on their way to the village. They brought the body with them and upon revealing it, the man is identified as Rymen Shokin, Earl Bels Reinhart’s right-hand man.

As a matter of urgency, Baron Reaver loans the party horses and they ride out heading south-west along the road. Riding at a quick pace, they come across the remains of the dead horse around sunset. A trail of blood is seen heading into the surrounding wilderness. Lorana and Grim, with enhanced night vision, are able to follow the trail and find another dead horse and the Earl. At first, the Earl appears dead, but as the group check him he opens his eyes and whispers “not to trust them” before dying.

As the group head back to the road, they are attacked by Orcs. The fight lasts several minutes but the party come out on top. With renewed haste, they forego camping for the night and make their way back to Devlan, leading the horses on foot. As the skies brighten with dawn they see ahead of them a large column of black smoke rising from the area right around where the village of Devlan would be.

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Smoke Without Fire

Approaching Devlan, the party realises it’s not the whole village that is on fire despite the great plume of smoke. The column is rising from somewhere near the stables. Leaving Grim and Lorana to return the Earl’s corpse to his delegation, Rinjiminee and Willis head towards the stable.

There they find a crowd gathered around the open space between the stables and the river. In the centre of the crowd one of the merchant’s wagons is nothing but a smouldering skeleton and another looks like it too caught fire but was extinguished quick enough. Finn and Thenn are in a rage as Baron tries to calm them down with promises of a replacement wagon.

Nudging their way through the crowd, the two adventurers hear whispers that this was Macatan Thrum’’s doing. Where there is trouble to be had in the village the young Varanganni is always at the centre of it. Arriving at the Baron, Finn and Thenn storm of in a huff. The party inform the Baron of the news of the Earl’s death. More trouble for him to bear. In reply to their questions about what might happen next, he doesn’t know. He suspects the two negotiating parties will leave.

Rinjiminee puzzles over why the Earl would leave the negotiations on a vague rumour of some treasure and how his death may reflect badly on The Blane.

As the Baron heads off and the crowd begins to disperse, Willis and Rinjiminee spot three youths in an argument down a side street. Two are human, one is a young Varanganni. Willis approachs from one side of the street while Rinjiminee circles around so they can’t escape.

The youths go silent as Willis approaches but make no attempt to run. A few moment pass after Willis’ greeting before one of the youths speaks up. He asks if they are the adventurer’s that helped his da, and introduces himself as Doran Malt. His fellow human is Per Bylin and the young dwarf is Macatan Thrum. Doran and Per were trying to persuade Mac to own up to the wagon fire. Mac denies he had anything to do with it. Rinjiminee notices that Mac is clutching something inside his coat and asks what he has. Reluctantly, Mac reveals three fireworks. The wagon that burnt to the ground was full of fireworks – most purchased by the village for a grand display during the coming nigh’s festivities. Suspicion points heavily on Mac but he denies starting the fire. He took the fireworks, just small ones, as he wanted to see what was inside them. He took them and ran before the fire started. Willis and Rinjiminee agree with Doran and Per that they should all go see the Baron and explain that.

As the group head towards the inn, they hear shouts from the villagers that the musicians have arrived. There’s an excited buzz around the place now, a sense of relief that there will be music and dancing after all. Unfortunately, the musicians headed to the Bull Arms and a crowd has gathered outside. Nari is at the door of the inn, telling the crowd to leave the musicians in peace to eat and rest after their journey. Seeing Willis and Rinjiminee with the three youths, she motions them to enter through the back door, sending Seelia off to find her father.

Inside the inn, the pair are introduced to the musicians: Merdil Lintham, his son Lars Lintham and his granddaughter Lina Lintham. They make small talk about their journey here and the difficulty they had coming through the high passes but are glad to have made it in time for the festivities. They are tired though and soon retire to their roooms.

Sometime later the Baron appears and motions the three youths into the back room leaving Willis and Rinjiminee free. Nari encourages them to head down to the village green where some events and competitions will be taking place, like axe-throwing and archery. She also mentions the beer tent and cake stall. At the mention of cake, Rinjiminee’s eyes light up and he eagerly suggests to Willis they should go to the village green.

The green is crowded, despite it being early afternoon, and the beer is flowing. The two adventurers sample some cakes before they spot a familiar Little Person in the beer tent. He is the one that gave them information about the Earl in the first place. He introduces himself as Merv Alkazar – a shortened name for the humans. He’s saddened to hear of the Earl’s demise and mentions that he liked the fella.

Leaving the two Bin’Eria to talk, Willis attempts to do some dancing in the crowded tent. He stumbles and crashes into a table before falling flat on his face. The patrons in the tent all pause and stare before bursting out with laughter.

With a mug of ale drank, Willis and Rinjiminee set to wander around the green. They come across a little boy who is crying. At first they think he’s lost his mummy and daddy but the kid says he lost his toy pony. A little wooden pull-along on wheels. He last had it at the bridge. At first Willis is reluctant to head all the way back across the village but Rinjiminee sets out to find the toy and Willis follows.

They find the toy on the riverbank beside the bridge but one of the wheels has come off. Rinjiminee tries his best to fix it but he doesn’t think it will stay on for long. On the way back to the green with the toy, Willis has the idea of stopping in at the blacksmiths to see if they can find a pin to hold it in place. Per is still working, extra duties for the trouble earlier and not going quick enough to Baron. He fixes the toy without any trouble. The little boy is delighted with his toy, once he’s given it back.

Rinjiminee decides to head to the Enclave and report back there. Willis is going to go along, but Rinjiminee points out that outsiders aren’t encouraged. Instead Willis mingles in the crowd by the green. He spots Doran lost in thought. He watches for a bit and realises he is keeping an eye on a group of girls, one of whom is Wenda Reaver. He manages to draw the young man out of his thoughts and Doran starts asking Willis advice on love and asking a girl out. Willis looks a bit out of place but eventually decides asking her to dance might be a good idea.

Meanwhile, Rinjiminee speaks to the leaders in the Enclave. They are thankful that someone has finally told them what is going on. They are a little put out that they weren’t invited to the negotiations but agree that it probably really is something between the Elves and the Humans. They hope Rinjiminee will keep them informed of what happens next with the death of the Earl. With that, Rinjiminee returns to the village.

The festivities are in full flow by now and several people are dancing to the music of the Lintham family. Willis and Rinjiminee hold back at first but after seeing Merv dancing with several women, Rinjiminee is encouraged to try. His first partner is an elderly widow who claims at the end of the dance that that’s the most fun she’s had in a long time. Encouraged, Rinjiminee asks another woman to dance. Willis, impressed by his fellow’s skill, starts chatting to younger women encouraging them to dance with Rinjiminee. After several dances, Rinjiminee is emboldened enough to ask Reminamorenatheral to dance. She politely accepts and Rinjiminee struggles to keep up. Willis, still watching from the sidelines, notices Doran and Wenda dancing together.

The festivities are cut short however, as three horn blasts sound. Panic quickly spreads through the villagers as shouts of “Orcs!” can be heard. Grabbing their weapons, Willis and Rinjiminee try to find Doran and Wenda and any other youngsters and children. They have a battle with two orcs and lose the youngsters in the confusion. Spying two more Orcs, they enter the full fight now, heading away from the green. With another two dispatched, the adventurers find themselves on the main street near the blacksmith’s. Three orcs are breaking in. Rinjiminee takes out his slug-thrower and shoots at them while Willis charges in. Two are killed but the third enters the dark building.

Willis enters the blacksmiths in pursuit while Rinjiminee stands guard outside. That is until he spots a large group of orcs charging down the street. He quickly abandons the idea of guarding and enters the blacksmiths too. Willis is still engaged in combat with the lone orc and Rinjiminee helps out. As the Orc is killed and they go to close the door over, they hear a shout from behind.

“Harald!” A woman shouts as a torch is light. A big man, clearly the blacksmith, stops suddenly just before he swung a hammer at Rinjiminee. He apologises for mistaking him for an orc. The blacksmith then notices the pair are bleeding and promptly faints.

The night outside seems quiet. The orc attack nears its end.

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Hunted

The morning after the Orcs attacked, Rinjiminee Haltergirdle and Lorana seek out Baron Reaver to see if there is anything they can do to help. Baron tells them that many villagers are still missing, having fled into the forest. It would be most helpful if they can search the area and lead any villagers home. And kill any Orcs they find of course.

With that, the two adventurers head out of Devlan and into the forest to the north-west of the village. Lorana finds some tracks and they follow them until they come to a small clearing. Looking around, they conclude that a fight took place here, possibly with a few casualties but there is no sign of any corpses. Picking one trail of blood, the two head off once more.

It’s not long before they come across a figure lying on the ground ahead. Approaching with caution, they find it is Thoram Malt. The farmer is badly wounded and fading in and out of consciousness. They see his long bow nearby and also a sword. Curiously, the sword carries the mark of a master swordsman. A bit strange for a farmer.

Rinjiminee examines Thoram’s wounds but they are beyond his skill to help with. Seeing nothing to make a stretcher with, the two adventurers decide to carry Thoram back to the village. Rinjiminee grabs the feet while Lorana takes Thoram’s shoulders. RInjiminee can’t help but remark upon the smell of Thoram’s feet. It leads to a whole discussion about the feet of different races.

While travelling back to the village, Thoram mutters in his half-conscious state. He seems to be reliving some memory. It confuses Rinjiminee and Lorana as neither have heard of the places he mentions.

  • “The Isle of Newts. Why? So much death.”
  • “Bedokweiss. He came out of the mountains. Trapped us at the Isle.”
  • “Ballan’s Devilers. We called them that afterwards. Foolish.”
  • “Darla! My sweet wife. Forgive me.”
  • “I raised him well Darla. Our son. You’d be proud of him.”
  • “The towns of Saylem, plundered and razed to the ground. Women raped. Prisoners killed. The insanity of it all.”
  • “All for a Skull. So much violence. Horrifying yet beautiful.”
  • “A foundling in all the carnage. His mother dead and him a crying babe. We kept him safe.”
  • “If not for that bard, we would have died too.”

Arriving back in the village, the adventurers leave Thoram in the care of the healer, Veyinamarath before heading back out into the forest taking a more westerly route this time.

Finding the trail of a largish Orc party, the adventurers follow. They are lead to a farmstead where a number of Orcs are camped for the day. A quick scout around reveals four Orcs on watch, all of them fast asleep. Approaching with care, the two plan to slay the sleeping Orcs. However, as they reach the fence surrounding the farmstead, Lorana stops. She sees a figure in one of the darkened windows. It is dressed all in black, a cowl pulled forward hiding its face. It makes her uneasy. When she looks back again, it’s gone. She points it out to Rinjiminee, who doesn’t see anything but remembers Willis seeing something similar a few days ago.

Believing the alarm might be raised at any moment, they decide to retreat back to the forest. Halfway across the clearning however, a Bugee breaks cover and rushes straight at them. They barely fight it off and escape into the woods to return to Devlan to report their findings.

Upon returning, the group are ushered into a council meeting. The surviving council members are in session along with Reminamorenatheral and Lieutenant Messon – now in charge of the human delegation. Rinjiminee gives a good account of everything that has happened since he arrived in the area. The adventurers are about to be dismissed by one councillor but Baron asks that they stay and give their opinions.

The two make a strong case for fortifying the village, building a wooden fence like that enclosing the enclave would offer good protection. They also point out that they should employ some of the younger men as guards or lookouts to be positioned along the fence at regular intervals. A warning bell is also suggested, if rung in certain ways it would be instructions to the villagers. While on his soapbox, Rinjiminee can’t resist making a strong case for greater integration with the Wee Folk and how they should have a representative on the village council.

Turning on Reminamorenatheral, the pair try to get some information out of her as to what she knows about cloaked figures that seem to disappear. She reluctantly admits that they are associated with Orcs but this is the first time she’s heard of any in this area. Messon, refuses to take part in any further negotiations and says he will return to his homeland to report. What happens from here on is anyone’s guess.

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Out of the Blane

With their work in Devlan coming to an end and the two delegations going their separate ways, the party to decide to leave. Rinjiminee Haltergirdle, Willis and Morgrimm “Grim” Hammerbrow are preparing to leave when they are approached by another Varanganni. He introduces himself as Cedrick and asks to accompany them on their adventures. The village has grown to small for him and recent events have given him a desire for exploration and danger.

Before they depart, Baron Reaver gifts each of them with a horse – except Rinjiminee, who already has his own pony. He informs Willis that his horse is called Hope. Grim has a horse called Rebel, while Cedric takes one called Buzz. Saying their final farewells, the party heads west. They intend to look into this matter of the hidden gem found by Widow Opal’s late husband. It’s somewhere in the mountains to the south-west is all they know.

Not far out of the village, they come across a man sitting on a log having a smoke. As the group nears, they recognise the smell of herbs that have a hullocogenic effect on the smoker. He introduces himself as Ned Windle and casually asks them where they are going. Learning they are going west and south-west, he warns them about their being lots of Orcs in the area. He seems completely unaware of what has transpired in Devlan recently. A large bundle of pelts lie next to his feet, evidence that he has been hunting for a while. He asks what settlement he’s near and on receiving his answer he sighs and says he’d better get back to his wife and daughter.

Leaving the strange man behind, the group ride on. Nearing the place where they found Earl Bels Reinhart’s body, they come across lots of tracks crossing the track. Orc tracks, and they are heading south-west into the forest. Making a brave decision, the group leave the track and follow the tracks. As the day draws to a close, the group spot a smaller band of Orcs left the main group and headed west again, paralleling the road out of the Blane. The small band has ten to fifteen members in it.

That night nearing dawn, the group is ambushed by Goblins. Despite having the advantage in the dark, the Goblins are all killed. Being awake as they are, the group make an early start and continue folowing the Orc tracks heading nearer to the mountains.

As the hills grow steeper and cliffs start to loom, the sounds of fighting draw their attention. Creeping forward, they see ten Orcs battling against three wolves. The party rush in to attack the Orcs. When they are all killed, the group have an unsteady face off against the wolves before the animals finally turn and run into the forested hills.

The Orc trail they have been following suddenly ends against a cliff face. Cedric volunteers to climb the cliff to see what he can see. While he’s doing that Rinjiminee is busy examining the rocks. Cedric reports from the top of the cliff that there are no trails up there. Meanwhile, Rinjiminee spots a carved piece of rock, as he touches it, it comes away in his hand. There is a grinding of rocks as the cliff face shudders and a crack appears. A section of the rock swings outwards revealing a hidden tunnel beyond.

The main tunnel runs a few hundred metres but leading off each side are several branches. The party begin to explore the area. It seems to be some kind of dwelling area for a society of people but everything is made for someone twice as tall as Willis. There is a workshop, a medical room, a smithy, a few meeting halls, kitchens and a mess hall. Nothing of value is found.

Grim does notice something unusual though. Around the entrance to each tunnel branch, there are very faintly carved symbols. Each time they enter or leave a branch, the symbols glow a very faint pale blue and then wink out.

Leaving the tunnel on the other side, the group find themselves staring out into the Blasted Lands. Far ahead they can make out the band of forty to fifty Orcs they had been following. Surprise and confusion comes to them as they realise they have passed through miles of mountains in such a short distance. Wary of getting into a fight with the large band of Orcs, the group make a decision to return through the tunnels and follow the tracks of the smaller band heading west.

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On to Himartys

Arriving back at the at the point where the Orc trails divided, the group is somewhat surprised to learn from the eagle-eyed Cedrick that the trails are now nearly a week old. Despite this, they are still able to follow them as they run parallel to the road heading west down the valley. A couple of miles from the village of Voices the trail is lost as the Orcs headed over the rocky outcrops.

The group head into the village intending to catch the ferry across the river. Unfortunately, the ferry is out of action. The ferryman tells how his ferry sank about a week ago. He was woken up in the middle of the night, by two Dantha e’Tan banging on his doors demanding passage. There were seven in total in that party: the two male Dantha e’Tan; a female Dantha e’Tan; a young adult male Varanganni; two young adult male humans; and a young adult female human. And their horses. He did as they asked, as gold exchanged hands but on his way back, the ferry sank. The new ferry has just been finished but the guidelines are missing and the river is too swollen for anyone to risk swimming across.

Considering what to do, one of the boatmen pipes up that they could use the old gully bridge. Another tells him to hush as the bridge is guarded by a troll. Rinjiminee Haltergirdle suggests they could always take some goats with them over the bridge. Willis on the other hand, makes a decision to swim the river with the guide rope and is already stripping off. Rinjiminee asks if they can have free passage if they manage to hook the rope up again. The ferryman, grumbling a little, agrees.

Willis proves to be a strong swimmer, and easily crosses the river with one end of the new guide rope. A feat that is remarked upon by the boatmen. With the line secured, the ferry is loaded up with the remainder of the party and their horses. It takes far too long to cross, in Willis eyes, as he stands around naked trying to keep warm.

A few more days sees the party ride through the mountain passes and down the other side towards the town of Himarys. It’s the obvious place for any travellers to head, being the nearest settlement of a reasonable size.

With the town in site, the group notice four tents pitched a couple of miles out of the town. There are four men, armed, armoured and wearing whitecloaks. A banner flaps in the breeze, depicting a red griffon on a white background. Willis informs his companions that they are the Cult of the Griffon. They believe in human superiority and look down upon the other races. Varanganni and Bin’Eria are barely tolerated but they hate the Dantha e’Tan with a passion.

As the group approaches, the men line up across the road and one demands that they state their names and business in Himarys. Without thinking, Rinjiminee introduces himself as does Cedrick after some prodding. Willis also states his name and asks if they are in need of any water. Without further to do, he starts his ceremonial dancing – not easy from horseback. Somewhat confused and less than amused by the antics, the men decide to let them pass. He warns Willis that they let his companions through on his honour. If they had been travelling alone, they would have stopped them going further.

At the town gates, the group as the guards if anyone else has passed through this way in the last week, such as three Dantha e’Tan with a group of youths. One guard does remember such a group. He believes they stayed at the Deer and Hound. He only remembers this as he thought it strange that the Dantha e’Tan didn’t head to their own quarter in the town.

With directions, the group head to the tavern to find it warm and inviting, the common room busy with only a handful of free table and chairs. Willis goes to sit at one of the free tables. However, Rinjiminee and Cedrick make a dash for the rear of the inn. As they entered they noticed a young woman studying them. Her eyebrows raised after a moment and she gasped. With that she made for the kitchens and the back door of the inn.

Rinjiminee manages to catch the woman in the kitchen, grabbing hold of her arm. An action that doesn’t go down well with the woman who draws a dagger. Rinjiminee releases her and apologises. He states that her actions were suspicious and it looks like she recognised them. The woman replies that she has never seen them before nor recognise them. She adds that she doesn’t think they’ve been sent for her.

Rinjiminee talks to the woman for a while learning that Reminamorenatheral did pass through the town leaving about five days ago. She reluctantly tells them why she ran. She got scared with what she saw. She has an ability to see glimpses of people’s futures, although she’s offended at the suggestion that she is a medium. She tells them that whatever she sees always comes true. For the group, she hadn’t seen such bright indications of glory other than the youngsters that travelled with Remina. She also see the Griffon and the Dragon on either side of them. As she turns to leave, she gives one last warning that at least one of them will be close to encountering death.

The innkeeper arrives and asks if the party require rooms for the night, food and drink. The party agree and sit at a quiet table wondering how they are going to pay for this as none of them have any money. Cedrick seems insists that it will be okay by morning. As the stew is brought out and the group munch through it, they consider making a run for it. The two burly men standing by the door though puts them off that idea. As the crunch time almost comes, there is a scream from outside that is suddenly silenced.

The group run outside, as do the burly men. They indicate that it sounded like it came from down the road towards the cemetery. The group head off cautiously examining all the buildings and the road for any signs of trouble. They reach the monument at the centre of the town with no sign of anything. As they turn to walk back to the inn, a Bin’eria pokes his head out of the enclave and asks if that was them making all that noise. Rinjiminee questions the fellow quickly and learns that the scream came from the cemetery itself.

Agreeing that it’s best not to split up the group, they start a slow search of the graveyard. With nearly, half of it done, Cedrick finally spots a trail of something being dragged. It leads out of the cemetery, across the road and into a group of ruined buildings.

The group cautiously explore the ruins, seeing nothing beyond the remains of the ground floor and piles of rubble where the buildings collapsed. They are about to give up when Cedrick spots that there are basements underneath. He finds a gap large enough for them to squeeze through.

The group head into the basement below, the darkness swallowing the light from their torch. The explore around and find a large pile of bones. As they examine, they hear a rasping breath from behind, turning they are greeted with a foul creature. It is human-like but very thin, it’s bones visible through it’s tight grey skin. It has a massive mouth, too big for its head and its hands end in claws.

Cedrick rushes into the fight. Willis takes time to carefully place the torch down before too heading into melee. Rinjiminee fires off a shot from his slug-thrower inflicting a wound on the creature. His second shot goes wide, nearly hitting Willis. He puts that away, and he too enters the fray.

The fight is tough going, especially for Cedrick, who is near to collapsing from his wounds before the creature is finally killed. Dragging the corpse outside, they are taken aback to find a crowd in the street, including the town guard. There is a cheer as it becomes evident that the party have killed the creature. It was responsible for two other deaths recently. Rumour has it that it is a Wendigo.

The three companions return to the inn and find Grim still at the table, finishing off the last bowls and ales. He informs them of the good news that they are being given free board for the night. He tried to pay with the gold coin given to them by Remina but the man hastily refused and told him not to go showing that thing around. As they are trusted friends of hers, they are of course free to stay for a single night on the house.

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The Long Night at Canning Mill

Scouting for Orcs

The group leaves Himartys behind and travels on the road south towards the city of Newport. Two days into their journey, late in the afternoon, they hear the sound of a horn blast ahead of them. They recognise it as an Orcish horn. As they stop to discuss what to do, Rinjiminee Haltergirdle quietens them as he listens intently. Somewhere behind them, he hears another horn sounding. With the Dragor River, wide and fast-flowing, on their left, they take the only course open to them and head north into the rugged grasslands. Willis grumbles that he could easily have swam the river to safety but agrees that he’d have to have left his horse behind. Even he couldn’t swim that far with a horse on his back.

With the light fading and the Orc horns still sounding behind them, the group come across an abandoned mill and farmstead. The buildings are in ruin, with the upper storeys all collapsed in. The ground floor walls are intact at least, though there are no roofs.

Canning Mill

The barn looks shaky and ready to collapse. The farmhouse and the mill look sturdy enough on the ground floor. The gears for the mill are piled in a heap, and rotten with damp. The wooden slats on the water wheel have all but gone. The mill stones are still in place though.

After scouting around the place, the group decide to hide out in the mill and hope they survive the night. In a moment of genius, they come up with the plan of turning three of Morgrimm “Grim” Hammerbrow’s eggs into makeshift exploding booby traps. Two they bury on the road leading into the farm complex, believing that’s the way the Orcs will rush in to attack. The third they place by the back door into the farmhouse.

The horses are brought into the mill and with a combined effort, the group moves one of the mill stones to block the doorway leading inside. The waiting then begins. Rinjiminee clambers up to a perch in one corner of the mill, looking across the farmyard, one side of the farmhouse and out on to the main track leading up to the complex. Cedrick positions himself at another corner overlooking the barn and the other side of the farmhouse. Willis stands guard to the rear of the mill, overlooking the waterway to ensure no Orcs sneak up on them from behind. Grim is given the task of guarding the doorway.

After what feels like hours of waiting, Rinjiminee, finally spots movement in the farmyard. An Orc, cutting across the fields, towards the corner of the mill he is at. A second Orc is seen at the far end of the farmhouse. Meanwhile, Cedrick also spots an Orc moving towards the farmhouse. The Orcs are scouting! An unusual tactic for the creatures, who normally attack all out and in numbers.

Shifting back into the shadows, Rinjiminee watches as the Orc reaches the mill almost directly below his perch. The one by the farmhouse circles the building towards the back door stopping to peer into the windows. Cedrick also waits quietly. The one he spotted at the other side of the farmhouse disappears out of sight to the front of the building. A fourth is seen leaving the barn. It had gone unnoticed until then.

The Orc at the mill heads towards the blocked doorway. Grim cocks his slug-thrower waiting. The Orc at the back of the farmhouse creeps up to the back door and KA-BOOM! The Orc is blown to pieces, splattering the entire farmyard in slivers of flesh and body parts.

The Orc at the mill door turns at the sound of the explosion just as it steps into Grim’s sight. Firing through the whole in the middle of the mill stone, the Orcs head explodes from the slug impact, instantly killing it. The Orc that had left the barn, stops, dumb-founded for a moment before retreating back through the barn and off into the night. The final Orc, which had been in the farmhouse, flees out of the building and down the track. It treds onto one of the buried eggs and KA-BOOM! Another Orc is blown to bits.

The night is silent once more. Wondering if there are any more, Cedrick volunteers to have a look around. He scales the wall of the mill and sneaks off towards the farmhouse. He circles the farmhouse and stops short at the point furthest from the mill. He spies four Orcs coming across the fields and heading into the barn. He retraces his steps back around the farmhouse and makes his way back to the mill just as four more Orcs come across the fields from that side, heading directly towards the mill.

Cedrick makes a dash for it and clambers back over the wall near where Rinjiminee stands guard. As the Orcs come in range, Rinjiminee opens fire with his slug-thrower. Willis towers over the Wee Man, ready to tackle any Orcs that make it to the wall.

As the party lose themselves in the fight at one corner of the mill, the Orcs in the barn rush forward and move the mill stone aside. They enter the building but Grim meets their attack. The battle is fierce and wounds are taken by the party, Cedrick quite badly but the party win out in the end. The Orc bodies are cleared and the mill stone rolled back into place covering the doorway.

Again their battle lulls and silence falls across the farm. Several minutes tick by before there is a snarling roar as more Orcs rush in. There is a KA-BOOM! from the track as a group coming up the road step on the last egg. Other groups charge at the mill in a full assault. Rinjiminee fires as much as he can before switching to his sickle, with Willis once more with him. Cedrick is hard-pressed at the other corner of the building. Grim, watched through the holes in the walls as the Orcs rushing the doorway prepare to climb the wall. He takes the notion of smashing his hammer at the mill wall, believing it rotting enough that his strike will pass right through, striking the Orc beyond. The smash, does break through the wooden planks of the wall but the Orc isn’t hit. The whole wall of the mill seems to shake.

Willis, seeing this, has an idea. He drops his quarterstaff and shoulder charges the wall just where two Orcs are climbing. At the same time, Grim pushes hard against another section. With a heave, the wall tilts outward alarmingly before crashing down outside. The Orcs are trapped underneath, most killed under the weight of the planks. A couple survive but are quickly killed.

The Shadowman Cometh

With no barrier to protect them, the group enter melee against the last of the Orcs. The battle is swift this time as the last Orcs are slain. Before the next onslaught Rinjiminee and Grim return to the mill to check on the horses while Cedrick and Willis head into the farmhouse to scout around. They stop short as a shadow moves towards them.

Willis has seen it’s like before. It’s black cloak almost flowing around it. It’s skeletal like features under the hood are enough to make one queasy, especially the eyes that glow with a dim red light. The four orcs that are also present do nothing but watch. The figure approaches Willis and Cedrick slowly. It speaks in rasping voice, “The Eye was ours and will be again. You will never have it!”

The shadowman then attacks, it’s sword black, coated with some ichor. The creature is fast and takes the two party members by surprise. It slices at Willis and Cedrick. They both feel the start of pain burning through their wounds. Cedrick screams in pain.

At that sound, Rinjiminee and Grim, rush to the farmhouse. Inside, Willis and Cedrick do their best. As the their two fellows enter, the Shadowman becomes distracted for a moment, not out of surprise but to concentrate on sending silent commands to the Orcs. They rush forward to attack the new comers.

Cedrick is losing badly in the fight, falling every closer to unconsciousness. While Rinjiminee and Grim tackle the Orcs, making short work of them in all. Willis finally deals a death blow to the shadowman creature and turns his attention to help with the Orcs. Unfortunately, the shadowman isn’t dead and swings the sword wildly around. It catches Cedrick and the burglar drops to the floor. Grim, seeing a fellow Varanganni fall, puts a supreme effort into tackling the last remaining Orc and the Shadowman. He slays both.

Rinjiminee is already at Cedrick’s side but believes his wounds to grave for his meagre first aid skills. As dawn approaches, the group decide that Cedrick’s best hope of survival is to head to the nearest village and hope they have a healer.

Rosa Hammerstein

The nearest village, known as Bionest, does have a wise woman. An grandmotherly Varanganni who takes charge of the group as they enter the settlement. She hears no complaints as she ushers them to lay Cedrick in a bed and sends them off for breakfast while she works on the wounds. She does enough to bring him back from the brink but it will take days for him to recover fully.

Rosa then sees to the others, humming and singing a song to herself. Willis listens to the words carefully. Perhaps due to his performing talents but he can’t help but think the song has a hidden meaning. Rosa explains that the song is quite old. She learned it from her grandmother, who learned it from her grandmother before that. She sings the words once more. She can’t answer any more than that. If they are that keen to know more, perhaps they should ask a musician or a bard. They travel around a lot and pick up all sorts of information about songs and music.

Softly as in a morning sunrise,
The eye of love comes stealing,
Into a new born day.

Flaming with all the glow of sunrise,
A burning kiss is sealing,
A vow that all betray.

For the passions that thrill love
And take you high to heaven
Are the passions that kill love
And let it fall away

Softly as in a morning sunrise
The eye that gave you glory
Will take it all away

So ends the story,
Softly as it fades away
Softly as it fades away
Softly as it fades away
Softly as it fades away

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Tales from the Past

Escapades in Newport

The party decides to continue its journey on to Newport as they still search for Reminamorenatheral and the youths that went with her. Travelling by the river they hail down a passing riverboat and offer to work their passage down to the city. The captain – Dunn Fargem – agrees, his hold is empty as he makes his way to the city to load up on goods to bring back up river.

The adventurers prove their worth a day later when the boat is ambushed by Goblins. As the creatures swing out over the boat, Willis, Cedrick and Morgrimm “Grim” Hammerbrow set about with their weapons. Meanwhile, Rinjiminee Haltergirdle stands fast firing his slug-thrower at the Goblin archers still on the banks. The Goblin boarding party is quickly killed and only one of the archers makes an escape.

The captain is grateful for the group’s help. No doubt he and his sailors would have survived more injuries if they hadn’t been present. He becomes more talkative during the rest of the journey towards Newport, offering advice on visiting the city. He recommends finding an inn away from the docks. He’s heard the Queen’s Blessing is a good place, but if they insist on staying somewhere cheaper then the Rag and Bone is probably the best place. As for questions to travelers to the city, he recommends speaking to the dock master, Jacko Windthen.

The Dockmaster can’t help any further. He suspects that the Dantha e’Tan that the group seek are still somewhere on the island. Rinjiminee asks what island he is talking about and is somewhat surprised to learn that they are on the island of Tolba. Having never been out of the Blane, he knows little of the world outside. Going back to the question, Jacko points out a large slender ship in the bay. It’s an Dantha e’Tan ocean-goer and arrived before the winter. Some of the travelers from the ship headed inland at that time. He doesn’t know of their return but he is only aware of what goes on around the docks. With the ship still here though, it’s unlikely the Dantha e’Tan have returned.

Somewhat discouraged by the news the party heads to the Rag and Bone inn to discuss their next plans. En-route, Cedrick feels they are being watched. He identifies a shady character heading into an alleyway and follows. As he reaches the entrance though, there is no one to be seen. He arrives at the inn lagging behind the others.

The group ponder how they’ve managed to go from being a few days behind Remina and her band to now being ahead of her. The obvious conclusion is that they overtook them by travelling down the river by boat. They make plans to head back inland towards Himartys and hopefully come across them along the way. First, they decide to head to the market to pick up some supplies.

As before, Cedrick feels they are being watched. He’s about to head into the alleyway again but this time stops and informs the others before continuing on. Willis and Rinjiminee follow and are set upon by several thugs. They kill all but one of them, a woman by the name of Kendra Strag. She and her band were set the task of watching for travelers coming into the city from upriver. She talks about her Master with fear in her voice. He is shadowy figure with burning red eyes. She informs the party of a meeting coming up the next night in which several new recruits are going to be chosen to join the ranks.

After questioning the group let Kendra go then realise that might have been a mistake. They could have investigated this meeting and learn more about them. However, Kendra will likely tell the others and it will be moved.

Returning to the Rag and Bone, the group are surprised to meet with Lina Lintham. She is here with her father. Her grandfather is missing, having left Devlan several hours after Remina left. They don’t know where he is but considered that he might come this as that was their plan all along.

The group ask Lina about the song they heard recently. She recognises the name and tune but knows slightly different words to it. She believes that some old knowledge was passed down to a new generation in stories and songs. Perhaps there is something to this Eye of the Dragon the song refers to.

Lina’s Version
Softly as in a morning sunrise, Softly in the morning sunrise,
The eye of love comes stealing, The Eye becomes seen,
Into a new born day. Into the new born day.
Flaming with all the glow of sunrise, Flaming with glowing power,
A burning kiss is sealing, Burning a vision clean,
A vow that all betray. To see that all betray.
For the passions that thrill love The passions that thrill love,
And take you high to heaven Take you high to heaven,
Are the passions that kill love The passions that kill love,
And let it fall away Let you fall to hell.
Softly as in a morning sunrise Softly in the morning sunrise,
The eye that gave you glory The Eye gives you knowing,
Will take it all away A will to light the way.
Blessed against the night,
Light and Darkness going,
Balance in the sway
The story never ends,
Memories fade away,
Myths come and go,
Legends in yesterday.
So ends the story, The story comes again,
Softly as it fades away To slowly fade away

The group make a decision to try to find this gem. Lina suggests they head to the east coast. If the song is correct then the references to the new day might mean a place facing the east and the rising sun.

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Across the Barren Lands

Upriver

Grim decides to wait in Newport for a few more days, hoping that Remina might appear. Willis, Rinjiminee and Cedrick decide to leave the city though and ride back up river towards Himartys once more. The journey is uneventful until the fifth night when they stay with Enshaw Marrowman. He talks of the Great Burning around two weeks ago. Off in the distance, near sunset, the villagers saw the clouds lit from beneath as if a great fire raged. Fearing that it might come head towards the village, they watched all night but it strangely died down midway through the night. In the morning, Enshaw and a few others went to have a look. They found a large scorch mark across the slope of one hill. Curiously, it was twenty feet wide and reached the entire length of the slope. Enshaw has never seen a wild fire be so contained before. They usually spread quickly and cover vast distances before dying out.

In the morning, the group decide to have a look at this scorch mark. It takes a couple of hours following Enshaw’s directions to reach the mark. It was as Enshaw described. The grass burnt to a cinder and blackened earth beneath. Searching the area, it’s not hard to notice that it is covered in Orc trails. There is also horse dung near the bottom of the slope, which they estimate to be about two weeks old. Willis, examining the next hill over, turns back and notices the scorch mark is actually curved slightly with the centre being towards the bottom of the slope. The time scale would be about right for Remina and the Devlan youths. The party tries to follow the horse trails leading north-east away from the area but they disappear into a forest and they are not skilled enough to follow.

After the next night, the road turns away from the Dragor River and heads north towards Himartys. The group continue eastwards. racks are frequent to begin with but slowly fade away over the next couple of days, as do the farmsteads. The wilderness finally takes over but travel is still easy over the plains where the grass has still to grow. On the third day, they are aware of the land turning black in the distance. The infamous Barren Lands.

Koder Boretill

As the group travels east, they come across a glade that seems peaceful and tranquil. It’s completely at odds with the surrounding barren lands. Exploring the come upon an ancient Varanganni. He invites them to stay and share his fire and food. The Varanganni introduces himself as Koder Boretill. It’s a name that Cedrick vaguley recognises but can’t quite place it.

Koder isn’t too concerned about the number of Orcs and Goblins that are now populating the area. He explains that they stay away from this vale, which has been his home for decades. As a consequence, he knows nothing of recent events and doesn’t seem to care much. He likes this peacefulness and solitude to ruminate over what he has lost.

I fought the Dantha e’Tan and the Humans in the Blane for three years with mixed success before I found the horn. I thought I’d encountered a power to aid us. It brought union and cohesion to our force at first. It made us a better fighting unit than any other in these islands. But the longer it was used in the army, the more out of control and violent they got. We leaders lost control and the army went on the rampage. Thankfully, the plague struck. Who knows what would have happened if the army had kept together. The Horn was lost in the chaos. I did steal a glowing gem from the Dantha e’Tan camp. A strange gem. With that in my possession over time I came to understand great wisdom and knowledge about the world. I lost the gem too, a century ago. That knowledge and wisdom faded. Knowing what I had lost I left behind the wars. They seemed so trivial and meaningless. I’ve been a recluse ever since.

After concluding his tale, the group ask him about the east of the island. Kodor explains that when he last visited there it was much the same as the west of the island. Villages, towns and cities. He heard from some in his army of a vast underground city there too but he doesn’t know if that truly exists. He suggests that if the group plan to travel across the Barren Lands, they will likely come across an Ardeleanu caravan. They frequently travel across the hostile terrain.

He goes on to explain. They are believed to be kin to the Varanganni but are shorter, not much taller than the Bin’Eria. They are peaceful and shun violence of any kind save what they need to kill for meat. They have bright coloured wagons pulled by teams of ponies. They should stand out against the blackness of the Barren Lands. They are friendly enough if you show no hostility to them. Keep your hands away from your weapons – hide them if you can but I guess that’s not always possible.

The Ardeleanu

The group have a couple of skirmishes with Orcish bands. They are heading east in small parties. This gives the impression that they are looking for something or someone.

Two days into the Barren Lands, as the day draws to a close a skeletal forest ahead. Trees long dead with bare branches and long grey trunks pointing skyward. Suddenly three large dogs burst from the trees heading directly towards the group. They stop about halfway and start growling. Willis attempts to growl back while Cedrick attempts to approach them. Rinjiminee waits for a moment pondering why there are dogs here. A call from within the forest, makes the dogs turn and run back into the trees. Believing there to be a camp in there, the three adventurers follow.

In amongst the trees ahead, they spy brightly coloured wagons, contrasting against the grey and black of the landscape around them. The colours clash garishly and almost make the eyes hurt. The wagons turn out to be small houses on wheels. The Ardeleanu go about their business, washing clothes, mending tools and preparing the evening meal. They are taller than the Bin’Eria but smaller than the Varanganni. The adult males have close clipped beards and all have overly large noses and a yellowish tint to their skin. Their clothing even more garish than their wagons. The soft music of flutes and fiddles picks up and some Ardeleanu start dancing.

The group approaches and the music stops, all eyes turning to them. A wiry woman steps forward, her hair grey and cut short. She gives a bow and says “You are welcome by our fires. Do you know the song?” Willis apologies that they do not know the song but the fire would be welcome. Rinjiminee offers his thanks too. The woman introduces herself as Raynia and her husband as Alin.

The adventurers travel with the Ardeleanu for the next week or so as they cross the Barren Lands. They learn something about the people they travel with. Rinjiminee picks up an admirer in a young woman named Mara. They dance together most evenings.

The Ardeleanu follow the Way of the Qilin. The Qilin, as explained to them, lives its appointed time and does not struggle against the wind. Qilin do no harm and so it should be with all Women. and Men. No one should harm another for any reason whatsoever. It always better to run away and hide. Violence harms the one that does it as much as it harms the victim.

Asking about the Qilin, the group learns that is a peaceful creature from the grassy plains far to the east. It has a flattened lizardlike head, a mane that grows upwards and a beard from its chin. It has antlers like a deer and scales like a fish. It appears at the passing of a great sage, surrounded by fire – the symbol of rebirth.

Raynia has a certain respect for Koder, when asked about the Varanganni. He still carries much anger and violence but his seclusion and contemplation is having an affect as he struggles to find his inner peace.

One evening, after the evening meal, Raynia tells them a story:

Have you heard of the Jinn? The live in the lands far to the east. Very few people are permitted to cross their lands. Storytellers, peddlars, the Ardeleanu are amongst the few. They are a warrior people and often have little to do with us, avoiding our caravans, though many have tried to talk to them. It is a coming of age ritual of theirs, for those approaching adulthood to travel into the dark lands. They test their skills as warriors against the Orcs and Goblins.

A couple of years ago a caravan of our people came across such a band. A young woman of the Jinn approached the caravan, dragging herself near death to the camp. She refused all help and offers of healing. Her companions were found nearby, all dead and lying in amongst three times their number in Orcs.

The survivor only desired to pass on a message, ‘Leafblighter means to blind the Eye of the World, Lost One. He means to slay the Dragon. Warn the People, Lost One. Sightburner comes. Tell them to stand ready for He Who Comes With the Dawn. Tell them…’

Those that have heard the tale have puzzled over it. Leafblighter and Sightburner are the Jinn names for the Taint, while Lost Ones are the what the Jinn call the Ardeleanu. None know who He Who Comes With the Dawn is, or how the Dragon is going to be slain.

Once across the Barren Lands, the Ardeleanu turn south but direct Willis, Cedrick and Rinjiminee towards the nearest town. Upon arriving, as they head through the town to find a suitable inn, the group stop short. Ahead, almost invisible, is a shadowy figure with burning eyes hidden in the shadows. They only notice as a man is talking to the creature. Rinjiminee attempts to lip-read but can only make sense of the man saying “… will keep watch for them. I’ll tell the others.” With that the man wanders off and the shadowy figure retreats deeper into the darkness and vanishes.

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Welcome to the East Coast

Watching the shadowy figure leave, the group head across the square and enter an inn. They manage to book a room for the night. Cedrick excuses himself and goes off into the night. The party suspect what he’s up to but decide to turn a blind eye and ask no questions.

Settling into the main room of the inn, Willis and Rinjiminee are surprised to find Lorana here too. They sit together and swap stories of their recent encounters, Willis choosing to do his version in interpretative dance. Lorana stayed longer at the Devlan before following some Orc trails south-west of the village. She came across a strange tunnel that passed through miles and miles of mountains in only a few hundred metres.

Rinjiminee points out that they visited the same tunnels and asks “did you steal the gem?”

“What gem?” Lorana asks.

“The gem on the pedestal.” Rinjiminee replies.

“I didn’t see any pedestal. I just stayed on the main tunnel.”

Rinjiminee relates the story of how time passes differently after passing through the tunnels. From there they went on to Voices to cross the ferry and down to Himartys still searching for the Dantha e’Tan ambassador and the missing youths. They were only a few days behind her and heard she’d be heading to Newport. They’ve left Grim there keeping an eye on the great ship that is in harbour. They heard nothing about Remina and came east following a song that might indicate where the gem known as The Eye of the Dragon is to be found.

Lorana, has experienced time different from travelling the tunnels. She came out and follow the Orcs eastward as they appeared to be searching for something or someone in small groups. She’s been in Linster for about a day trying to ask questions about the shadowy figures.

Attack of the Clones

With the exchange of tales over, the group listen to some gossip in the room. Rinjiminee hears that the Dantha e’Tan invaded the east of the island at the beginning of winter. Something he doesn’t believe having just come from there. Willis hears about how there has been a great increase in rats of the winter. Upon hearing that, he pushes his bowl of stew away suddenly not feeling hungry. Rinjiminee happily finishes it off. Lorana hears a tale about an underground city that is said to lie to the north.

The group agree that the city is probably their best lead and worth looking into. As they leave the inn the next morning, they enounter a Brin’eria, a Dantha e’Tan and a human. They attack. The Little Person first off a crossbow at Willis, while Rinjiminee fires his slug-thrower at the Little Person, both miss. As the human attacks Lorana, Willis attacks the human and Lorana attacks the Dantha e’Tan – who is making his way around the group to attack Rinjiminee.

Lorana takes a couple of hits, as the Little Person turns his crossbow to her. Willis trades blows with the human, who eventually retreats. The Dantha e’Tan, engaged with Rinjiminee, also retreats after a few rounds. Lorana, meanwhile, charges at the Bin’eria and wrestles him to the ground.

As they start to question their captive, the innkeeper comes out and tells them that they can’t stay around here, not after causing trouble like that. They’ll bring the Griffons down on them. The party initially take no heed of the warning and start to intimidate the Little Person. They learn that Mellon is the one that offered the bounty on their heads and he can be found at the guard barracks.

The innkeeper retreats as he spots the Griffons coming. Deciding to leave quickly, the three adventurers mount up, Willis taking the Bin’eria with him. As they head out of town, the pass a hospital. They stop to allow Lorana time to see to her wounds. Unfortunately, as she’s not willing to stay, the hospital can only give her a bottle of medicine which she is instructed to take every three hours.

Oh Rats!

After fleeing the town, Lorana has an unnatural feeling about the world around here. Turning around, she says a mass of rats heading towards them from the city. The group ride on a bit further and decide that they may have to leave the road. Almost deciding to head east to the coast and the sea, Lorana has that strange feeling again, this time coming ahead of them. A flock of a thousand crows can be sweeping across the landscape from hilltop to hilltop. Swopping down to kill and eat anything in their path. Trapped between the two animals, the group decide to try to outride them by heading west and inland.

The rats and crows meet and both turn to follow the party. Willis, being slow behind Lorana and Rinjiminee, decides to drop the Bin’eria with a casual remark of “he slipped.” After riding on for a couple of hours, Lorana slows and finally stops after having a feeling of peace come over her. The other stop too and become aware of that. It feels like the glade they encountered Koder in on the other side of the Barren Lands.

Watching the creatures close in, the rats and crows finally stop at some unseen line in the ground. Happy that they are not going to advance any further, the group start to explore this warded area. There are a couple of stands of trees and, as they discover, a standing stone on a small hillock near what would be the centre of the warded area. It is hard to tell but the stone may have once had symbols carved on it but the surface is badly weathered and eroded away. The group puzzle over the stone as they make camp.

The Griffon’s Claw

In the morning, Lorana goes of to scout out the area leaving Willis and Rinjiminee to have breakfast. Lorana returns to say the rats and crows have gone but there are horsemen heading towards them. They are wearing white cloaks. Beaking camp, the group elect to ride to the nearest stand of trees and hope to lose them. At first they head north through the woods but then Rinjiminee decides they should double back. His decisions seems to be a good one as coming out the woods again, there are no signs of the horsemen.

Galloping away back towards the road, the adventurers ride. Unfortunately, a cry goes up from behind them. The horsemen have spotted them and give chase. The group decide to slow down as the horsemen are on bigger and stronger mounts. With lances down, the ten horsemen circle the adventurers. One rider approaches and calmly states that they are under arrest for breaking the peace in Linster. He seems somewhat surprised when Willis’ response is “okay.” Lorana asks if they will be safe with them. The leader of this band, states that they are under the guard and protection of the Griffon until their trial can be arranged. She accepts that answer.

The group are lead back towards the camp of the Cult of the Griffon.

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