War of Winds

Fire and Rain
And More Fire

The party, on a ship sailing home to Pardeux, was broadsided by a smaller vessel. Upon investigation, it seemed this vessel was abandoned after taking an idol onboard from the Quossi Wilds. Long dried blood coated the rows of oars and various parts of the ship, yet a lantern remained illuminated. Three bodies were found in the lower decks, one strangled and the other two stabbed in the chest. A sole survivor remained, malnourished and weak, but alive. He took responsibility for the three murders, though he blamed the cleric of Torm, and was put in Paladin Vampash’s custody.

When the captain heard of the discovery, he scuttled the cursed little ship and changed the course of his ship to avoid the dreaded Silent Sea. As a result, the ship was caught up in a storm that wrecked its rigging and tossed a lantern onto the food stores. The party aided in putting out this fire as the sailors secured the sails, and once dawn broke, it was clear that they were in no condition to make it to their original port.

Instead, the ship made port in a small fishing village called Brinegate. Yet, when they arrived, no one was there to greet them. White smoke billowed from the north, the windows of the village houses were boarded up, and to the east bandits were pillaging the villagers’ food stores.

After killing a few bandits, the rest ran off, and the villagers explained that it wasn’t the first time. In fact, they had been under attack for many months as the war between the two human kingdoms continues to rage across the continent. Soldiers even came and torched the fields, ruining all of their crops.

“King Avesmorgen declared that if he couldn’t convince the City of Winds to join his monarchy, he would take them by force. But then King Feldrath made it very clear that he wouldn’t allow that, and offered his ‘protection’ to the Winds if they would kneel to him instead! Can you believe that?! Now the two kings are in all out war, and they’ve been tearing up the country! Between the soldiers and the bandits, I don’t know how we’re going to survive!”

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The Parlay
And Animal Troubles

After resting for a night in the village of Brinegate, Blackwood suggests that instead of killing the bandits, it would be more beneficial for the two groups to work together. Jargar proposed this to the villagers, a halfling named Stojen in particular, whom the others trusted to make the decision. Obviously, he was hesitant and highly doubtful, but ultimately willing to work with the bandits. The party gathered the bandits they’d killed the day before to offer up to their kin for burial.

Tracking was no difficult feat; the bandits had literally left breadcrumbs to their hideout. Unfortunately, their trail was also picked up by an ogre who was amusing himself by spinning the wheel of a broken cart that was left behind. Upon seeing the working cart being pulled by the party, he attacked. The daft giant hit like a stampede of horses, but was defeated with Cho throwing the final punch. After a quick rest to catch their breath, the party resumed their trek.

Upon finding the bandits’ hideout, the party saw that the entrance was being guarded by two cockatrices chained on either side of the cave mouth. After much deliberation, and some singed feathers, the party decided to camp nearby and wait for the clucking sentries to fall asleep. At the break of dawn the party attempted to sneak by, but woke the creatures up. Luckily, the party was quick enough to narrowly dodge the petrifying beaks.

Inside, the party explored the hideout, finding a deer that was butchered by an amateur and a large storage area that held lots of stolen crates and barrels, but no food. They also stumbled upon a play area hidden behind a curtain, with toys scattered across the floor and chalk drawings on the walls. When the party found the bandits, who were setting the table for breakfast, there were tense negotiations. Facing the threat of their children starving during winter, the bandits agreed to ally with the villagers.

However, when the lot returned to Brinegate they were met with unfortunate news; the fishermen had returned from the bay to report that the nets were empty. There would be no food for neither the villagers nor their new guardsmen. Stojen declared that he knew the Mayor of Welwyn personally, and was confident that he would help them if they went north to the famed city. They asked the party to lead them, fearing what dangers would lurk on the road. As the villagers packed their wagons, Blackwood went off to create his familiar; a black owl named Willow. Jaeden gathered enough resources to brew potions of healing for the journey. Sure enough, the caravan was halted by a Displacer Beast that was chasing down an injured Blink Dog. The party, as well as the guardsmen, slew the big cat and took its coat. The dog seemed grateful, wagging his tail.

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The Rise of Tamyra Gylfie
And the PCs too, I guess

As the party camped for the night, Jaeden caught a villager attempting to steal from a militia cart and coerced him to leave it be. He then reported the would-be thief to village leader Stojen in the morning as everyone readied to continue the journey to Welwyn.

During the day’s travel, Jargar became aware of far off voices in the hills, giving him an uneasy feeling. After consulting the others, Blackwood sent his familiar out to investigate. The black owl immediately took notice of a band of orcs travelling parallel to the road, watching the caravan with great interest. As Jaeden expected, the band waited for the caravan to stop and make camp before attacking. Six orcs came out of the darkness, and clashed against the party and its militia. Of the redeemed bandits, a woman named Tamyra Gylfie of the Violet Hills village threw down her crossbow and engaged in single combat with a towering orc. She seemed absolutely fearless in the face of its greataxe. She took a few blows, but with the help of the party, the orcs were slain.

Despite being somewhat sore in the morning, the caravan loaded back up and made the final stretch to the city of Welwyn. There, for the first time in his life, Cho saw the city gates were closed. Outside of it were dozens of carriages and tents from other caravans who had also come seeking refuge in the city of milk and honey. Apparently, the guards had been given the strict order to not open the gates. Stojen tried to pull strings, claiming he was the childhood friend of the mayor, but Novak denied knowing anyone by the name of Stojen. Cho also had his parents summoned to the gates, who were excited to see him but lamented that they couldn’t convince the guards either. Blackwood and Stojen worked together to forge an invitation from the Mayor, but it was promptly discarded by a guard who noticed it bore no official seal. Jargar even tried to intimidate the guards, and though he succeeded in striking the fear of Torm into their hearts, they cried that they would lose their jobs if they opened the gates.

Meanwhile, with his expertise, Jaeden found a sewer outlet big enough to enter. He and Cho readied to sneak into the city at dusk, along with the help of Blackwood’s familiar. Though Jargar could not, in good conscience, follow.

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Into the Sewers
But not through the cornfields

Jaeden, Cho and Willow descended into the sewers of Welwyn and navigated through the winding waterways. They braved noxious sewer gas and snuck past garbage hoarders until they came upon a ladder that let them into the city. Cho led the way to his parents house where he was met with a warm welcome. The two of them did not know much about the war or why the gates were closed, they simply remarked that the Mayor hadn’t really left his home for some time. Not even to attend parties as he usually had.

Meanwhile, Tamyra quipped that she felt she could take Jargar in a fight despite having no previous training. Unlike the mighty dragonborn who boasted his Officer title in the Feldrath army. Though this only earned glares from other refugees who had been forced from their homes by the war. Blackwood quickly took Jargar aside, advising him not to brag about being a soldier.

When Jaeden and Willow returned, there was much debate about where the refugees could go if not Welwyn. The City of Winds was likely to be a warzone, the Dwarven city of Duldahn was miles away, as was the city of Holtzern. Jargar insisted on parlaying with the Mayor, while Blackwood was determined to break into his office and search the place. The group snuck back through the sewers and met up with Cho before walking down the roads to the Mayor’s house.

Willow peered through the windows, and after the front door was unlocked by Jaeden, slipped inside. However, Mayor Xoorin Novak was awake and on the stairs. Upon seeing the black owl, he tried to corral it back outside to little avail as the party looked on through the windows.

Finally, with Willow tucked back into his pocket dimension, Cho merely went up and knocked on the door. Mayor Novak was surprised to see him, but pleased nonetheless. The two of them had a lovely chat over tea, at least until Cho asked about the refugees. Mayor Novak’s smile disappeared and he became quite stressed, claiming he couldn’t afford to let the villagers in, fearing they were spies. Cho insisted they were good people, and asked if there was anything that could be done to convince him so. Xoorin realized he hadn’t heard from his trading partner in the village of Timberholde, and asked Cho if it could be handled, claiming he’d consider the refugees entrance in return.

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The Medusa's Mansion
And a Blind Kitty

After informing the refugees of the plan, the group extended an invitation to Tamyra, who joined them on their journey eastward to check on the village of Timberholde. Along the way, it began to rain heavily, causing the party to seek shelter. Jaeden noticed a light in the distance; a second story window lit among a dark mansion in the hills.

Once upon its steps the party noticed leaves from the previous autumn, suggesting that the mansion was abandoned for quite some time. The mansion was also lined with several statues, some grand and gorgeous while others were a dull grey but incredibly detailed. The doors gave way to Jaeden’s tools, letting them escape the rain. After a quick sweep of the first floor hallway, the group ascended the stairs to the second story. There they saw keyholes aglow with light and behind them a lovely gold bedroom. Curled on the bed was a white and grey cat whose ears perked up at their entrance. Though it quickly, and strangely carefully, ran out of the room when approached. Cho guessed it to be a blind cat, and the party sealed the room up to pass the night.

In the morning, they were greeted with animated armor that fought them in the hall. Each of them were cut down into scrap metal with crumbled stone inside. Blackwood detected several sources of magic inside the mansion, and the party set to investigate each of them. One was another animation spell that gave flight to spears, poking the party in hopes of deflating them, but to no avail as Jargar slashed them to splinters. Another source was a conjuration spell that attached a water weird to a bathtub. It hissed and bubbled, but being bound to a tub, was easily avoided. Finally, a necromancy source was located in the library. There, a bowl full of ashes was found. A badly burnt cover of a book told Blackwood that it was magic far too dark and dangerous for the taste of most wizards.

On the third floor, Jargar noticed a room had been broken into and there was blood stains on the floor. The room was small and plain, leading one to believe it belonged to the servants. An adjacent room held a book of shadows, which attacked the party and left the book blank. This seemed to be the bedroom of the butler, whose office was attached. There lie his skeleton and a bottle of poison, along with his journal that detailed his regrets. He had apparently helped Miss Esme in her endeavor to become beautiful, but during the wedding something went terribly wrong. He claims that in order to protect Esme, he had to kill the maids before they escaped to tell others, but he himself could not live with the guilt.

Across the hall was a ballroom that was grand in its day, but now was covered in dust and cobwebs, as well as dozens of well dressed statues. These statues all stared up at a balcony where a lone male statue stood, holding something that was no longer there. This statue was perfectly clean and surrounded by fresh rose petals, similar to the roses found in the golden bedroom.

In the hallway was a small chest with an emerald on top, when opened, swarms of poisonous vipers spilled out. Though Cho made quick work of them, wringing them out like socks. The chest itself merely contained magical scissors whose purpose was unknown.

During the fight, a large machine was seen in one of the rooms nearby. Upon entering, the party saw a woman dressed in a wedding gown resting upon one of the stone benches. In the rising sun, she almost looked like a ghost, until the blind cat jumped up beside her and headbutted her affectionately. The woman spoke softly when greeted, barely turning her head to see the party over her shoulder. The party apologized for their intrusion, but she didn’t seem to mind, simply enjoying the company of people who were still breathing for once. Cho sat down beside her and made her a cup of tea while fawning over the small blind cat named Marble. The woman’s name, as read in her butler’s journal, was Esme. When asked, she explained that she had experimented with various ways to enhance her appearance in order to find love, but only the darkest of rituals had worked. However, it came at a price, and she paid for it on her wedding day when everyone she looked at turned to stone.

Moved by her story, even Jargar felt the woman had been punished enough. The party debated on how best to protect her and those who might stumble upon her, but Esme was more worried about her home and her friends. She feared that if she left, looters would tear her mansion to the ground and possibly smash the statues of her guests and husband, rendering them unrevivable. Faced with this, Esme decided to stay, but the party promised to look for a way to cure her and her victims before setting back out.

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Timberholde Lycanthropes
With a Psychologically Abusive Sword

The small town of Timberholde, as found by Cho who had previously visited to deliver an order of tea, had erected a decent wooden perimeter wall to protect themselves from the war. A single guard was at the entrance and reported that there was a sickness going around town. The mayor had already died, as did most of the early sufferers of the unknown disease, leaving no time for elections. Though there was a priest working out of the old Temple of Joy who was treating the ill, and the party decided he was most likely the closest thing they’d have to a leader even though he wasn’t from the town.

The temple itself was quite run down as people had little reason to celebrate the goddess of joy during times of war. Though it was full of people being treated by a kindly old priest named Benjamin Hunt. The party, willing to help his cause, passed out scarves full of sweet smelling medicinal herbs that the priest claimed would help prevent the spread of the disease when worn over the face. Paladin Jargar also tried to heal the sick, being immune to disease himself, but when he laid his hands upon a particularly ill patient it had no effect. Blackwood cast his ritual magic, first noting that there were no disease or poison present in any of the patients. He then looked for magic and saw that the priest possessed magical items. Jaeden also noticed that for presenting himself as a priest, Benjamin wore no religious symbols at all.

The party retired to a tavern called the Rusty Axe to have dinner and question the barkeep about the mysterious illness. Unfortunately he didn’t know much beyond the fact that early sufferers died very quickly, practically dropping dead, and that the first one was a hunter. The party planned to visit the hunter’s home the next day, and the bartender told them what he considered to be a hilarious story about Sir Dedric the Brave, who wielded a magical sword called “Nightfall” and always boasted that he was the “chosen one”. Yet whenever he fought, he made a fool of himself. In an epic battle with a giant, Dedric tripped over a tree root, got his head stuck in a log and died when the giant broke his back. The bartender swore up and down that the sword hanging behind his bar was the genuine article, renamed “Knightfall”. Sure enough, Blackwood detected that the sword was magical.

The group was awoken in the night by howls and screams in the light of the full moon. Quickly stepping outside they saw a man torn to shreds by wild animals, and two very large rat creatures around the corner. Through Willow’s eyes, Blackwood discerned that they were wererats. After a quick run back into the tavern, Jargar retrieved the magical blade and the party confronted the creatures. The paladin trapped them in a bottleneck and upon unsheathing the sword, heard a voice in his head that demanded to know who the hell he thought he was. That questioned if he was worthy enough to wield such a magnificent blade as itself. Apparently, Knightfall was sentient and an asshole. The party did not slay the wererats, fearing that they were innocent townsfolk, and instead tied them up and carried them towards the source of the howling; the Temple of Joy.

There they found more people turning into lycanthropes of all kinds. A weretiger had broken the straps that bound it to its bed and attacked the party when its room was opened. The fight was long and hard fought as most of the party did not possess the means of harming the lycanthrope. Through the magic of Blackwood and Jargar’s newly acquired sword, the tiger was also knocked out and rebound to its bed. A letter was found in the tiger’s personal chest, detailing his opinion on his King and the war that was being fought. Other rooms also held patients, but they did not break their binds or the doors of their rooms. One room upstairs held the voice of the priest, Benjamin Hunt, and the party decided against confronting him during the full moon. Instead they patrolled the streets, looking for other lycanthropes or people to help, before resting in the tavern until sunrise. Jaeden stayed in the temple, crafting potions from the herbs inside.

In the morning, the party regrouped and examined the lycanthropes from the night before. They had all shrunk back down to human form and were utterly exhausted, sleeping deeply. They went upstairs, having heard the priest ring the bell, and found him wearing a strange mask with a long beak. At first he was pleasant, but it soon became clear that the lycanthropy that plagued the town was due to his own sick experimentation. The party quickly subdued him, but he escaped with a verbal spell. He didn’t get far as Blackwood’s magic missile knocked Benjamin out before he could cast invisibility and he was tied once more, this time with a gag. The group decided that the town needed a caster with the Remove Curse spell, that might be found in one of the larger cities, but there was nothing more they could do themselves. They decided to take Ben to Welwyn, hoping he’d face justice there.

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The Cockatrice Army
And Creeping Ice

After taking Benjamin Hunt into custody, the party set out towards Welwyn. Upon realizing they were out of water, they stopped at a babbling brook to refill. There, Jargar noticed a familiar and angry cockatrice in the branches above. It had burns on its leg from Bonny the Bonfire, signaling that it was the creature that once guarded the entrance to Tamyra’s bandit hideout. This time, however, it had brought its entire flock of almost twenty cockatrice. All of which descended upon the party, who quickly fled.

Unfortunately, carrying Benjamin slowed down Jargar quite a bit, causing the rest of the party to stand and fight. Blackwood created an illusion of flaming panthers to ward off the flock, as they were naturally afraid of the big cats. Benjamin insisted upon being freed, as he had many spells to handle such a legion of monsters, but the party refused him. Much of the cockatrices were taken down by the party, but one bit Jargar on the snout, quickly turning him into stone. The rest of the party protected him, and eventually killed the entire flock. Tamyra explained that one of her own was bitten before and recovered after a day; the party need only wait for Jargar to return to flesh. Blackwood and Jaeden scouted the area to make sure it was safe enough to set up camp, and Blackwood secretly passed Hunt’s Spellbook to Jaeden for safekeeping. Meanwhile, Tamyra and Cho went to work dressing up Jargar’s statue in a flower crown and sweet smelling tea leaves.

The next morning, Tamyra declared that they should at least try to drag Jargar towards their destination. She picked up the prisoner while the rest of the party handled the stone paladin. By the time they reached the Welwyn gates, Jargar was breathing once more, and was thoroughly cut down by Knightfall who filled him in on what happened.

As the paladin went off to sulk, the rest of the party went into the city through the gates, much to the chagrin of the refugees. Inside the walls, the halflings of the city paid them no mind, being far too distracted by a mountain whose snowcap seemed to be getting steadily larger by the minute. Cho knew that the mountain was far too short to have a permanent snowcap and never at this time of year. The party pressed on and went to the mayor’s office but Fredgar, the mayor’s assistant, informed them that they had to wait until after Novak’s meeting with his wife. The woman emerged on the verge of tears, and quickly rushed upstairs.Xoorin Novak greeted the party, and was surprised to hear that Timberholde had not fallen to an army but rather the prisoner the party held. Xoorin took Benjamin into custody, promising that he’d be tried for his crimes. However, the mayor felt he could no longer uphold his end of the bargain as the ice on the mountain threatened the city’s crops. “How can I be expected to feed all those people if the crops die out from frost?” According to Novak, the cause of the blizzards was the hags that lived on the mountain, a common pain in winter, but never has he seen them so active in late spring. Blackwood seemed incredibly interested in meeting hags, known to be masters of the arcane. Tamyra, on the other hand, was livid that her people were not going to be fed. Jaeden informed the mayor that it was important for him to keep his promises, and Novak couldn’t help agree eventually. He decided that he would feed the refugees meals while the party investigated the cause of the blizzards. From there, the party went into the shops to prepare for their expedition, buying warm clothing, armor and weapons.

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