Shields of the Vale

The Cathedral
A trip to the Chaos Scar finds some unexpected denizens

The Shields decided to raid the hoard of Glawmgraunt, the Black Dragon. The Shields worked their way further into the swamp to the sunken lair of the Dragon. Flea and Dinnan dived into the dark, filthy, murky cesspool that was the pool of Glawmgraunt. Berradin cast a breathe water ritual upon the scouts.

They found a n iron banded chest made of polished cedar which was locked. There were glyphs upon the wood that drew the eye, but Flea ascertained that they were explosive runes. Dinnan unlocked the chest which then filled with the filthy water, which destroyed the many scroll parchments within.

Dinnan then brought the chest to the surface to further examine, and prevent the destruction of any other arcane items. Flea kept scrabbling about below the water and found a golden figurine the size of a human head that was cast to resemble Tiamat. It was magical and Flea attempted to activate it. He made contact with the mind of Tiamat and Flea quickly stopped the communication.
Once everyone was back on the surface, Dinnan opened the chest again and removed the, now empty, metal scroll holders so he could see the loot beneath.

The chest contained 6 garnets[200gp each], 8 aquamarines[380gp each], 5 diamonds[1300gp each], 14 blue quartz[25gp each], 1 blue diamond[6300gp], 3 black pearls[500gp each], 5 light aqua potion vials, a dragonscale shield [level19], 5 vicious Greataxe[8d12 on a crit], and Daern’s instant fortress.

The group left the fortress with Berradin to try and work out the activation word. Nesh took the shield.

The Shields decided to head back to Brightshire, the mostly halfling village, to recover from their battles. They rested overnight after letting the people of Silversands know that they could now return home, as the threat was eliminated and their gold dragon overlord was on the road to recovery.

The Shields headed off early the next morning on Berradin’s summoned phantom steeds. It took them until early afternoon to reach the Chaos Scar badlands. The outside crater, a stark reminder of the impact of the falling Chaos rock that struck here, stretched for many miles. gorges and broken land were laid out before them, but so was a massive man-made structure many miles further into the Scar. It was in the direction of where the mossy lichen, that was the main component of the green poison, grew within these lands.

With a sense of foreboding, the Shields rode onwards towards the structure. As they got closer it was apparent that the structure was likely the size of the whole of Brightshire, but was in the early stages of construction, the framework had gone up and several smaller ancillary structures next to the building but most of the walls had not yet been filled in. Deep red bricks were being used to build the walls.

Before the structure was a large, open mining pit where many people were carrying buckets of a deep, red ore from far below to the surface. There were many tiers within the pit. Each tier was 10 foot deep and had a ladder leading down to the next tier. The miners would cart ore from one level to the next, where another miner would move the bucket to the next level, and so on. Around the edge of the pit stood many overseers in the deep red chainmail of Iron Circle soldiers. On one hip was a whip and on the other hip a longsword.

The Shields approached the pit and were welcomed by a guard. The guard directed them to the “Cathedral” to see the leaders.

From one of the smaller buildings, the site HQ, came two priestly looking figures at the head of a procession of Tiefling soldiers. One was a dark-haired dwarf, the other was a golden-haired half-elf. They both wore the holy symbols of Asmodeus: God of Devils, ruler of the Nine Hells, Master of Order, Protector of the Iron Circle. Some of the Shields recognised the two leaders as Arch-Bishops of the Church of Asmodeus, level 2 in the ruling class of the iron Circle, second only to the Emperor himself to have influence with their great, Dark Lord.

The Half-Elf introduced himself as Brother Tomass, and the Dwarf as Brother Riven Stoneheart. Behind them were their 10 Sworn Furies.

They knew of the Shields and politely explained that they were constructing a hall that would aid them in their war against the evil Draconics to the South, that they were at war with. A war that they were losing.

The Arch-Bishops explained that all the moss that the group were seeking had been torn up during the digging of the pit and groundwork of the Cathedral. They had saved a small portion to brew up antidotes and offered a small amount to the Shields to help treat their friends.

The arch-Bishops offered the moss in exchange for the Shields leaving without bloodshed. They were more than willing to allow any of their workers who wished to to leave with the Shields. The amount that Nesh placed in his belt pouch could make up to 6 antidotes.

Dinnan questioned some of the “miners”. They were of the slave class of the Iron Circle and reluctant to give any information to the party.

Apparently, the remains of the Chaos Meteor that they were mining within the pit had an unusual property. The ore, when treated with the right processes, could enhance arcane rituals and powers. The Cathedral to Asmodeus, that they were constructing here would be able to increase any ritual to the size of that construct. In essence, they could open a very large portal to hell to increase their army’s power. The treatment required to activate the ore was a ritualistic blood sacrifice.

Flea had turned into swarm form and was surrounding one of the Iron Circle guards at the pit to attempt to have the guard attack him. The guards iron discipline prevented an incident occurring.

The Priests explained that all sacrifices here were willing. Victoria had heard enough. She offered to let them sacrifice themselves for their God. The Shields attacked.

The Shields spread out and engaged both arch-priests, their sworn furies, and a minor devil. The Iron Circle soldiers stayed in place around the pit, maintaining order and preventing any workers from leaving the pit.

The Shields hit hard and fast, with Dinnan and Victoria combining their area attacks to kill most of the sworn furies. Saran attacked the devil, while the rest of the Shields attacked the arch-bishops. The arch-bishops were dazed but managed to teleport and switch places with some of their furies.

The arch-bishops called on the power of Asmodeus to lay down destruction among the Shields. Nesh very nearly died from one assault but stayed standing near death while Flea was driven close to death by the Asmodites’ attacks.

The Shields wore them down though until only the Arch-Bishops were left. Brother Tomass with his dying breath incinerated Nesh’s belt pouch containing the moss. Brother Riven muttered a more powerful curse which used the life-force of all Asmodeus’s followers in the area. He released a powerful fiery blast that hurt, but did not kill, the Shields.

The curse unfortunately also ignited the Cathedral’s “residuum” walls and the Shields jumped into the pit just ahead of an explosive wave that levelled everything above ground in the Chaos Scar crater. All magical properties of the area were expired, as was the remaining moss.

During the combat Victoria had cured critical wounds on Flea, once he went unconscious, and it had the unexpected side-effect of curing Flea’s poisoning. Flea enacted a ritual that allowed Victoria to have a full rest in an hour, and when she was rested she cast the same spell on Nesh which also cured him. Divine healing seemed to be the antidote for this type of poisoning.

The Shields lead the ex-slaves out of the crater towards Brightshire and organised for supplies to be brought for the thousand freed slaves from the nentir Vale via flying ship.

The Shields pondered where to go next. South to enter the Iron Circle and view the war, or East to Karkoth where the Horned King’s followers created the poison, and had their death plague.

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Victoria's time between
Adventures in Karkoth

…but here is what there is.

The Dead were quick, relentless, and terribly strong – but what she found worst about them was how quiet they were. The pair facing her fought in eerie near-silence; as the taller of the pair brought his axe down in a tremendous overhead arc he made no sound bar the rustle of his rusted mail. Her own gasping breath was louder as she whirled to the side, narrowly evading the blow and using the momentum of the movement to bring her spear about and drive it into his – its – belly, the dark iron point puncturing the aged armour and driving clean through its torso.

Even as she struck the blow she knew it was a miscalculation. What would have been a killing blow against a living opponent merely meant that her weapon was immobilized, and the spear was ripped from her hands as the dead man wrenched away. She stumbled as she lost the weapon, and a backhand blow from her second assailant sent her tumbling across the hard ground. Rolling to her feet she ducked under a swipe of the first warrior’s axe, lunging in behind the swing to seize the protruding shaft of her spear. Bracing a foot against her foe, she ripped the weapon out of its gut, the barbed head tearing free amidst a shower of gore. Twisting as he fell, the twice-dead man slumped to the ground as silently as he had fought.

Wheeling to face the second she barely turned a thrust of his short sword aside with the haft of her spear. A movement behind him caught her eye and she twisted clear as Nesh’s sword split her assailant from shoulder to crotch. The dead man fell in two directions as she swung about seeking her next opponent, only to find he had been the last. The frozen ground was strewn with dozens of corpses, fallen now for the last time. She was a little surprised to see how far the battle had carried her from the village; the palisade was almost mile to the west.

“You still forget to watch your back,” Nesh’s tone was mildly reproving as he wiped his blade clean, surveying their handiwork. Victoria smiled at him.

“Because I know you will,” she replied, leaning on her spear. The Dragonborn’s answering saw-toothed grin might have appeared intimidating to most, but for Victoria it was entirely comforting.

“Always,” he affirmed, laying a gauntleted hand on her shoulder. Gentle as the gesture was, she winced; with the adrenaline subsiding, the aches of her weary body were already more noticeable. It had been barely noon when the battle began; now, the sun was low in the west. She laid a hand on his, rolling her shoulders carefully as she sighed.

“I was starting to wonder if there was ever going to be an end to them, though.”

Nesh nodded, his expression now grave. “Numberless dead,” he muttered. Victoria shuddered; the captain of the vessel that had brought them to Karkoth almost a year earlier had used that term. She had taken it for routine exaggeration then; now, she had her doubts. Fighting the dead was like trying to ice-skate uphill some days.

Nesh’s arm slipped around her shoulders, drawing her close, and she felt her tension draining at the contact. It had taken her a long time to understand that deriving strength from others was not the same as weakness; all things considered she thought it was something of a miracle that she had lived long enough to learn the lesson. Turning within Nesh’s embrace she raised her face to smile at him, raising a hand to his cheek to draw his head down to her own. Differences in physique made even kissing an occasionally awkward undertaking, but neither of them seemed to take issue with continued experimentation.
“Oi, you two! Settle down, the bodies ain’t even cold yet!” The shout surprised her and she started, bumping her nose hard against Nesh’s snout. Clapping her hand to her face she swore, the indignant curses muffled but vehement. Spinning around, she saw Mal limping towards them. “Well, they are, but y’know what I mean.”

Victoria tried to stifle the urge to scowl at the Eladrin as she approached, chuckling at her own joke. Judging by Nesh’s expression, she was’t entirely successful. She could never quite approve of the woman – Mal was exuberantly crass and scathingly derisive of the sort of noble authority and structure Victoria herself still valued so highly. That a rampaging army of the dead was a thing worth stopping was one of the only subjects upon which they could agree without reservation, which she supposed was how the Eladrin had convinced both her and Nesh to join the cause in the first place.

“Sorry t’interrupt yer moment,” the woman said, although her bright grin suggested her words might not be entirely sincere, “but we oughta be gettin’ back soon.”
“How did the militia fare?” Nesh asked. If he was discomfited by the interruption, he didn’t show it. The Eladrin glanced back towards the town as she doffed her elaborately horned helm. Victoria noted with immediate irritation that even sweating and dishevelled, the woman still looked rather glorious. It was an Eladrin thing, she knew; she had often envied Berradin for the same reason. A moment later she became irritated that she allowed such a thing to irritate her.

She withdrew early from that evening’s victory celebration and stalked the town’s sturdy wooden palisades, checking on the unlucky few who had drawn watch duty for the night. She was not surprised to find them wary and alert even in the wake of the successful battle; this land did foster a healthy devotion to duty, if nothing else. What did surprise her was finding Mal sitting on the ramparts taking a long swig from her ever-present gourd. She considered taking a different path, but shook off the temptation; she was a Palladine after all, and they did not turn tail. The Eladrin waved the vessel in a combined greeting and offering, and Victoria was a little surprised to find herself accepting it. She was sure she had meant to decline. The gourd, she noticed, was full, strengthening her conviction that it was some sort of Bag of Holding or portal to the Elemental Plane of Wine. Good Wine, she amended as she took a long drink.

Mallendathor leaned back onto the walkway, her hands folded behind her head, and waited for her to finish before speaking.

“Too noisy for ya in there?”

Victoria frowned, pursing her lips as she set the gourd down carefully. “I don’t know how they can celebrate when the same thing might happen in a week… or tomorrow.”

Mal shrugged vaguely, “Reckon they’ve gotta celebrate while they can, y’know? Because it might happen again tomorrow.”

Victoria didn’t respond immediately, eyeing the other woman sidewise. From what little she knew about the Eladrin, she imagined Mal would probably have some experience with what she was saying. Perhaps it explained her apparent determination to wring everything she could out of life while she had the chance.

In the momentary quiet, Mal pushed herself upright again and took another deep swig of her wine. Wiping her mouth with the back of one hand she smothered a belch before turning to Victoria, tilting her head.

“Speakin’ of tomorrow, yer gonna be leaving us, yeah?”

Victoria shifted a little uncomfortably. "Well, not tomorrow, at least, but… we have to depart within the week, yes.

The spear was a dark, barbaric-looking thing, its heavy shaft gnarled and knotted and its long, leaf-shaped tip pitted and worn. It was as different from Icicle’s sleek elegance as a thing could be while still qualifying as a spear, and Victoria rather hated it.

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Greed is Good
Tiamat surveys her next acquisition

“HE IS MAGNIFICENT

The mighty arm swung the blade around, cleaving a stone giant into rubble. The scales shone with exertion.

Her breaths were faster and more shallow. Excitement thrilled through her body.
“HE MUST BE MINE. SEND WORD TO MY CHILDREN, HE MUST NOT BE HARMED.”

“At once Great Queen” the functionary was gone, at speed.

THE PROPHECY FORTELLS OUR UNION” she addressed her followers.
THE DRAGONBEAR WILL BE AT THE RIGHT HAND OF THE DRAGON GOD, AS HER MATE.”

“What of his human doxy, my Queen?”

One gulp and the offender was gone. No one else in the hall would dare ask any more questions.

“I ACHE FOR HIM. I MUST HAVE HIM. I W A N T HIM.”
BEST YOU MAKE IT HAPPEN” she spat.

The Five heads surveyed her chambers. Cold eyes declared that the audience was over. The functionaries ran. The slowest was gulped down.

TIAMAT laughed. It was not a comforting sound.

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Into the Bayou
The Shields chastise a poisonous black Dragon

The Shields prepare to leave Miraxacalas’s caverns and find that Shanna collapses at the entranceway of the cave. Her breathing is shallow and rapid, her complexion pale, her body limp and pliable.

Berradin surmises that this may have something to do with the healing link that she established with the Gold Dragon. They take Shanna back into the caves and she visibly recovers the deeper they go, and the closer that they come to the Dragon. Berradin estimates that both need to be heal in each other’s proximity for the bond to naturally end.
The Shields are disheartened but leave their friend with their new ally. The team head back to Silversands to look for signs of Flea and determine if any Draconians have responded to the pitched battle in town.

They find several Draconian corpses at the road into the town , covered in swarming bugs. Flea materialises out of the swarm and rejoins his friends.
Flea can sense an extra-planar unnatural being in the swamp. Saran can feel the presence of something from the realms of Shadow.

Saran summons her Wood Woad and sends it into the swamp to find the Dragon Glawmgraunt’s location. The Wood Woad returns and describes a sunken pool in the swamp. Surrounding the wide, dark pool are many draconians, a horned humanoid, and a Dark Giant.

The Shields decide to send their hammer squad in directly towards the pool without attempting stealth while the espionage squad shadows them, prepared to strike out.
The Shields, except for Nesh, spot the Draconian archers stealthily moving towards them. The two sides engage and many kapak Draconians are destroyed in the first volley.

The Shields can hear something very large moving towards them in the distance, and Dinnan and Saran spot the figure of a Shadowy Giant moving through the marsh towards them. It is not affected by the difficult terrain. They also spot a smaller figure following in it’s wake, some sort of Devil. Saran moves to intercept the devil.

The giant roars a challenge as it gets closer and is driven into a frenzy when it spots Victoria. The Shadow Giants are used on Karkoth to hunt down and slay clerics, and divinely powered beings, by the Horned King.

Victoria and Flea fight the Giant directly, Dinnan spreads damage to all enemies around him, Berradin and Nesh engage the Kapaks, while Saran fights the devilish warlock.

The Warlock curses flea and blasts him with bolts of eldritch energy, the Shadow Giant bites at Victoria, the Kapaks fire poison arrows at the Shields, and the Shields use their most devastating attacks against their foes. Meanwhile a dark, shadowy, submerged creature invisibly makes it’s way onto the field of battle, drifting in behind Dinnan and preparing to shock and awe the Shields.

Glawmgraunt erupts from the water, fully uncloaking, and uses it’s dragonfear upon all the Shields. Only Nesh is affected and Dinnan and Nesh attack the Dragon. The Dragon shifts easily away from them and flies near Flea, clawing him with her poisonous, green claws. Flea feels weak after the blow and struggles on.

Saran and the devil teleport around the battlefield jockeying for advantage over each other. The devil finds it hard to hit Saran with his arcane curses. The Kapaks are devastated by Berradin’s incantations. Victoria and Flea bring the shadow giant down.

The Dragon unleashes her breath upon some of the Shields, leaving them on fire as she flies around the battlefield. She blasts a tight-packed group of Shields but in the bargain she also hits her devil, blinding most of them. The devil retreats to the dragon’s back for protection as the full might of the Shields is brought down upon the Dragon.

Glawmgraunt attempts to fly away but is brought down by Victoria and Nesh’s quick reactions. The devil attempts to at least destroy Berradin and Dinnan but is outmatched. He is horrified to see half of his face peel off from a particularly vicious blow. Dark, viscous ooze, much like the stuff from the beach undead, is under his flesh and he is horrified by the implications of that.

Victoria strikes the devil with a divinely powered attack and destroys him. His burning remains drop into the swamp. Berradin attempst to flip him over with his staff to lot the corpse but the remaining arcane admixture going on around the devil melts part of Berradin’s staff. It is repairable but currently useless.

Nesh and Flea were both clawed by the Dragon and do not feel well. They can’t heal past their bloodied value. Flea ascertains that the poison was processed from a plant that grows in the chaos Scar, East of the Nentir Vale, where they once fought a one-armed Gnoll and other followers of Torog.

The Shields decide to head to the Scar and find a cure for their friends. Dark clouds gather overhead.

to be continued Monday 21st April

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The poisoned wound
What did happen to the Gold Dragon

The Shields took a breath after the battle to free Silversands from the Draconian occupation force.
Flea was busy scratching at his chest and then disappeared. Shanna recognised that flea was following the pattern of the scars on his chest. There was a feeling of transportation where Flea had left. The scent of fey magic could be caught on the air for one who could sense such things.
Dinnan convinced the Mayor, Kiv Svolson, and the townsfolk that they were under imminent threat by the Black Dragon and his remaining troops in the swamp.
Shanna and Berradin went to the beach to check if the emissaries from the Gorgon King had come to do anything more than just converse with the Black Dragon’s troops.
As they approached the surf Shanna was overcome with revulsion and was unable to remain standing. Shanna fell to her knees and was violently sick upon the ground. Berradin too felt a revulsion to moving forward. Shanna could sense unnatural decay from the sand near where the emissaries longboat had come ashore.
Dinnan threw a dagger at the sand where it lodged into something. Abruptly a figure sat up in the sand, the figure was ebony skinned with rotting flesh, the face was half gone and green ichor was dripping from the wounds upon it’s body. The figure and four similar figures stood up and began to shamble towards the Shields.
The Shields unleashed a can of whoop-ass on the shamblers before they could get too close with Nesh finishing them off with a gout of fiery breath. Shanna was concerned that they might be carriers of the death-plague that was currently ravishing Karkoth.
The Shields were torn between attacking the Black Dragon or attending to the injured Gold Dragon. They finally decided to give whatever assistance they could to Miraxacalas, the Gold Dragon.
The Shields espionage squad; Dinnan, Saran and Shanna, moved ahead of the “hammer squad” to more stealthily approach the nearby mountain’s entry cave into the Gold Dragon’s lair.
As they approached the mountain through the high grass, Shanna noticed a large figure ducking in and out of the entranceway. Their skin was rough-looking, stone-like even. A Stone Giant?
The Shield espionage squad reached the entrance and began to look inside. The cave became a long tunnel heading deep into the mountain. There was at least one branch coming off the main tunnel. Sounds were coming from that way.
The S.E.S. waited for the Hammer squad to arrive and the group moved in.
The Shields prepared themselves and moved in to the branching tunnel, which lead into a large chamber supported by stone columns that lead into a larger chamber behind it. The distinctive sound of a dragon’s roar and breath could be heard from the further chamber.
The first chamber held 6 club wielding Stone Giant thugs and a Stone Giant Rune-Shaper, by his elaborate rune covered trappings.
The Shields engaged the Stone Giants and were attacked from behind as their mercenary leader flowed out of the stone behind Shanna and began to lay her club about the heads of the nearest Shields. She then flowed back into the stone.
The Shields managed to smash some of the stone giant mercenaries into rubble and consolidated their attacks upon the Rune-Shaper before he could turn them to stone. The Rune-Shaper attempted to retreat into the stone but was killed halfway into the rock leaving a half-statue behind in the wall.
The rest of the giant force were made short work of and their leader, Belastraya, lowered her weapon and yielded.
The Shields accepted her surrender and she told them that her group had been hired by Glawmgaunt, the black dragon, to keep the Gold Dragon in his cave until his wounds killed him, or for them to finish Maraxacalas if they could.
The Shields went to the entranceway of the next chamber which was a large cavern with several large stalagmite buttes within the cavern. Over eighty feet back from the entrance was a stalagmite upon which lay the supine form of the glowing, green eyed Gold Dragon.
In front of the Shields stood the glassy remains of a Stone Giant, witness to the injured Dragons still very powerful breath.
The Dragon threatened the Shields if they were to come any closer to him. Shanna could see terrible wounds upon the Dragon’s scales, many that were very deep and dripping a phosphorescent green ichor.
Shanna is concerned that it might be the death-plague in the Gold Dragon and the Shields try to convince Maraxacalas that they are here to help.
Berradin convinces the Dragon to let him look at the wounds, but only if he comes alone.
Berradin made his way to the butte and levitated to the top. The wounds were indeed poisoned. The poison however was not the death-plague but a poison cretaed from distilling certain moulds and fungus to produce a virulent life-stealer. Berradin tried to convince the Dragon that the Shields could help but the Dragon flicked his wing at Berradin coating Berradin’s eyes in the poison. Berradin’s eyes started to glow a phosphorescent green and his yes went all puffy and bruised. His eyebrows and lashes burnt off from contact witht the poison.
Berradin struggled to make his way back to the group where Victoria was inspired to lay hands on Berradin’s eyes and healed the pisonous wounds.
Seeing this work, Shanna offered to heal the Gold Dragon with her empathic healing. The Dragon let her come forward without weapons and join him on the mesa. Shanna linked with Miraxacalas, her mind to his mind, her thoughts to his thoughts, until her life-force began to flow into the dragon to heal it’s wounds. But the Dragon was severely injured and Shanna was too generous. All but a small spark of life was given to the Dragon and Shanna simply fell off the butte to land limply below.
Dinnan was first to reach the elf and quickly administered a healing potion. Shanna was alive, barely.
Miraxacalas’s wounds were not fully healed or closed but the poison had all been purged. The Gold Dragon’s paranoia had faded with the poison’s removal and Miraxacalas showed his appreciation for the Shields efforts by offering some of his treasure. Victoria turned him down, his thanks were enough, much to Berradin’s chagrin.
Miraxacalas came close to Shanna and promised her that he owed her a favour, if she ever had need of him.
Miraxacalas addressed all the Shields, asking if they could drive off Glawmgraunt from these lands. Dinnan simply replied “He is dead”

The Shields headed out of the cave to continue their story.

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The Heir of Siberys
Flea meets his patron

Flea was standing off to the side of his humanoid friends, enjoying their conversations but happy to listen and not participate. They were a funny lot.

His chest was itching tremendously and unconsciously he followed the pattern of the stars. C O N N E C T I O N.

Flea felt like he was falling. “Wind” rushed through his hair and across his face. Primal and arcane magics slid across his skin, tingling sensations popping all over his body. Then he felt cold.

Flea was enveloped in cold darkness. He struggled upwards and broke through a thin barrier above. Flea wriggled upwards and finally could see out of his “prison”.

As fas as the eye could see there was a flat plain of snow. No distinguishing features of terrain were evident and the sun shone from behind a hazy sky of clouds.

Flea crawled out and got to his feet. Flea looked around and finally made out in the distance a figure standing motionless in the snow.

Flea trotted towards the Figure, time passed, and eventually he could make out the figure was actually an Ice-Blue Eladrin maiden staring into the distance.

Flea cleared his throat while remaining a polite distance away. Only the maidens head turned and she stared deeply into Flea’s eyes.

Flea froze. He was captured by the beauty and mystery that those orbs promised. The Maiden glance downwards and Flea was free again.

“Well met, Flea” she slowly enunciated. “Welcome to my domain”

Flea was curious but not sure which question to ask first.

“I am called the Winter Queen by the fey.” she offered.

Flea sifted through his knowledge of the feywild and was concerned. The Winter Queen was an Arch-Fey, no longer Eladrin but an avatar of one of the aspects of the natural world. Those who treated with Arch-Fey in the stories, if they accepted anything from the godlings, were never seen again.

“You seem at a loss for words.” the Winter Queen observed. “You brought your spirit here, if that is what you are wondering”

Flea was running his fingers unconsciously through his scars, once he noticed he stopped.

“I marked you little one,” the Winter Queen whispered, “the Shields will have need of you in the times that are coming. My pact-sworn and my son are among your number. Go forth and fulfill your destiny.”

Flea felt his spirit form drawn back through the arcane mists, back to reality and his friends.

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Karkoth - the forbidden land
Some rumours about the land to the East

The predominant race is human. Most of the good type humanoids never migrated to this continent, except for gnomes, and they stay in their hidden villages.

Things that may be of note:

Legends say that the Gorgon King is the bastard son of the Devil.

An expedition to the temple of elemental evil unleashed the death plague that is now ravaging the land. Those killed by the plague return mindless and hungry for … F L E S H.

The Gorgon King’s lieutenants are also devils, but they are circumspect in their appearances. They rarely make their appearance known.

Skin-shifting chaotic demonoids roam the lands sowing chaos where they will.

The classes that exist in Karkoth are Primal based. Barbarians, Shamans and witches exist here primarily.

Standard religion seems to have been stifled. Clerics and their ilk do not last long here, and are hunted down by shadowy ogre-giants.

Think of the cliches of darkest Africa. Forbidden cities, nomadic tribes, cannibal dark-fey. A very superstitious folk live here, where horrors from beyond do roam at night. Grik would fit right in here. The fey-dark bleeds over into karkoth very easily, there must be some sort of thin spot between dimensions here that allows easier access and travel between planes.

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Berradin muses
Berradin considers his friends before leaving

“You can never go home again.”
So? Berradin the lost prince, slayer of dragons, wielder of the cold, master of the flame, freer of slaves, liberator of lands, justiciar of all he surveyors, eradicator of evil gods, has always been without a home. And now his comrades – the Shields: Eradicators of He That Crawled; Slayers of dragons; bringers of justice; masters of the land and the sky; solvers of problems; the lights that banish the dark; the weapons of the gods; the wielders of the Dawn-Forged weapons; the fear of the fearsome; the avengers of the wronged; the league of justice; the force of the fantastic; the authority by which all villains must yield – are now as lost as Berradin the Benevolent has long been.
The allies of Berradin the Magnificent must find a noble quest to find their own place in this world. Granted, their noble quests could not possibly be as important or as universe-shaping as Berradin the Noble’s own, but Berradin the Driven, knew his comrades would try.
Nesh, he who was once fur covered, and now scaled; the one whose halitosis turned to flame; the wall that stands immovable against fear; the unstoppable force like a ground-based boulder flung from a catapult of doom; the creator of surprisingly nutritious stews, would surely be on his itinerant quest to prove his worth to his love while thwarting those who seek to trouble the weak.
Victoria, presumptive leader; the deadly blade that dances as a dolphin in a stormy sea; the tsunami of precise destruction; the clarion that calls all others to the battle; the goddess of those who look to vengeful justice; fulfiller of destiny; the snow bear of diplomacy; must surely be lost. She seems to be the one most closely tied to her ancestral home and family. What now for her Berradin the Compassionate wonders.
Shanna, the cyclone of attacks; the raging wind of pointy destruction; the flash of light from an assassin’s blade the moment before life is extinguished; the walker between worlds; the link between art and violence; the interrupter between others’ conversations, was always an explorer. Berradin the Wise imagines she will take this time as an opportunity to explore more and perfect her deadly arts.
Berradin the Contemplative turns his attention to the others.
Saran, the shadow where mystery dwells; companion to death; the killer of smiles; the darkness that brings light; the chill of the lonely night where the stars don’t shine and the moon hides its face from fear; the wielder of the shades; the dark cloak you want on your side when sun goes down; the kinda creepy, will no doubt have important work of the Raven’s queen to fulfil.

Berradin the Helpful’s newest companion: Flea the odoriferous; the junk pile of surprises; the anthropomorphic compost heap of surprising usefulness; the sharpened, infectious stick found under a pile of rotting cat corpses that turns out to be an artefact of great power; the coprophagous carrier of unique scents; the deadly swarm of nasty biteyness, he will no doubt return to his home as a mighty warrior, no doubt taking the reins of leadership. Pity. Berradin the Pedagogue senses great potential in him.
And Droth. Fuck that guy.
But now is the time for Berradin the Hero to continue on his renewed quest. In Berradin the Always-Thinking’s down time between bouts of great heroism with the Shields, Berradin the Academic had been studying possible location for the people of the Great Mountain to relocate. Berradin the Searcher now just needs to find his people.
After a brief farewell, Berradin the Laconic turns and leaves.

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The passage of 2 years
The Shields discover their epic destinies

The Shields had parted ways in the mostly Halfling township of Brightshire, east of the Nentir Vale.
Flea, Berradin and Shanna had crossed over into the feywild using a close-by hidden portal that Shanna had sensed.
Berradin and Flea had met with the Eldest while Shanna continued her plane trekking.
The Eladrin offered their assistance to Berradin to find their lost and scattered brethren and return them home to Myth Drannor. Their expedition left soon thereafter.

The Eldest sat with Flea and pondered the mark upon Flea. The Gloaming Court were neutral in their dealings with the fey court and the unseelie court, they were mysterious about their tasks and purpose.
Flea could feel the itch of the mark constantly at this time, and somehow he knew it related to both Berradin and Saran. The Gloaming Court had invested time in them all. Torog’s freedom was just the beginning.
The crescent moon was due again in 2 years, on the anniversary of the Sacrifice of Bahamut.

Shanna travelled many paths, many lands, and time flowed through her fingers. But she had an innate sense of the time of recall and would not miss it if she lived. She understood loneliness now, she did miss the quiet certainty of Nesh, the humble questions of Flea, the mocking of the noble Berradin, the drive of Saran, the theatrics of Dinnan, and the moral compass that was Victoria.
Shanna had been given dark paths to explore and the more she searched the more disturbed she became. Orcus had been allied with Torog, that much she had been certain about, but it seemed that Torog had been just a pawn for the Lord of Undeath. Shanna had been drawn east, to the forgotten continent of Karkoth.
Karkoth is a more chaotic, unrestrained continent. Dark creatures and fell magics permeate the dark continent. Law has not been drafted her, and Order is not a concept that had ever gained any traction. Most disquieting though is that the dead walk here, and in greater numbers than have been known previously. The witch doctors visions are clouded but they can make out a horned figure, at the head of a horde of the walking dead as they swarm over all in their path. They KNOW that Karkoth is doomed, the twilight will be extinguished and only the hungry howls of the dead will be heard.
Shanna also passed quietly through the Iron Circle lands, heading South towards where the main part of the Iron Circle army was being mustered. The Iron Circle faced a great force of Dragonoids. Draconians, Dragonborn, Lizardmen, Troglodytes, Raptors and Dragons all were part of the force which struck at the Iron Circle.
Sightings of dragons had become common-place. The creatures flew high and fast but rarely a day went by where one was not spotted winging overhead.
‘Droth had become part of an expedition, into the Nerathi wastelands, to retrieve the Flame Imperishable. They faced horrors that would balk lesser beings, but ‘Droth and the Hammerfast Irregulars made their way to the heart of the old empire and collected the Flame. The Stonemarch humanoid horde were busy cleansing the lands about the ruined capital of Gnolls and demons. The city was almost habitable again.
The Flying Citadel was re-powered and Dargrim Shatterhand and his final descendant ‘Droth flew the city around the edge of the Vale, to discourage any who believed the Vale was weak without her Shields.

Berradin and his Eladrin allies were guided to outposts of the Snow-folk by Shanna. She would direct them to an encampment and then slip away among the folds of the dimensional streams, but Shanna would always return in time to assist on each new leg of the search.
Berradin’s people were found and had chosen to settle on a large icy island in the north of the world. The Snow-people had lost their ability to channel arcane energies but set to making themselves a stronghold with the tools at their disposal. The stronghold would be known as the Fortress of the Final Pact, as they would no longer make any more oaths that could endanger their tribe.

Saran served her Queen.

The cult of the dead god, as followers of Bahamut were becoming known, had gained more followers than before Bahamut’s sacrifice. The Clerics of Bahamut could still perform miracles, except for the most difficult ones, and every year on the anniversary of his death the lands would be shrouded in snow as the greenery erupted with flowers. A smaller section of the Cult lead by a young fervent cleric named Harmon, believed that Victoria was Bahamut’s avatar reborn.

Two objective years had almost passed [Shanna had travelled for much longer] for the Shields and each of them began their trek back to the appointed meeting place. They had so much to tell, so much to share, a new beginning was just around the corner.

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Karkoth - to the East
The Dark Continent - home to so many secrets

Karkoth is a more chaotic, unrestrained continent. Dark creatures and fell magics permeate the forgotten continent. Law has nor been drafted her, and
Order is not a concept that has gained any traction.

Most disquieting though is that the dead walk here, and in greater numbers than have been known previously. The witch doctors visions are clouded but they can make out a horned figure, at the head of a horde of the walking dead as they swarm over all in their path. They KNOW that Karkoth is doomed. The twilight will be extinguished and only the hungry howls of the dead will be heard.

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