Shields of the Vale

Break the Siege
The Shields free Mal and her townsfolk from the undead besieging them

The Shields dust themselves off after ending the hunt and gather up the sleeping Shanna.
From the west a storm rolls in bearing low, thick, heavy clouds of snow. They and their surroundings become shrouded in the snowy mist.

Flea knows this is not natural, in fact he feels attuned to it. The weather anomaly has been guided over to them by an outside power. Berradin feels a connection to the mist.

Flea knows that this effect has been caused by the Winter Queen, of the fey, to help conceal the Shields’ movements in Karkoth. This will help to protect her son, her pact-sworn, and her ally.

The Shields decide to head inland to Urtugga, where Mal was last fighting against the walking dead, and give assistance tot he defenders there.

The Shields found the besieged fort in the mist and engaged part of the surrounding force; an ettin, an ethereal marauder, a devil possessed Drow, a Tharizdun priest-cultist and a plethora of shambling undead horrors.

The Shields managed to destroy the ettin and death priest, the ethereal marauder faded out, and the Drow had his possession exorcised when Victoria’s prayer healed those in a circle around her, including the Drow. Berradin created a flaming wall which managed to burn up a sizeable amount of the undead.

The Shields then were offered a rope ladder from the fort’s defenders and they all took shelter atop the walls. Shanna used her everlasting quiver to fill the remaining shamblers with arrows. The Drow escaped into the mists surrounding the fort.

Mal and the Shields were reunited and she gave them a tour of the outpost. The Shields could see that the defenders were all infected with the death-plague, most likely due to their proximity to the zombie horde.

Shanna suggested that the Shields head towards the Gorgon King’s fortress where there was most likely a portal to the underground chambers of the temple of elemental evil.

The Shields planned to stay and rest at the fort and heal the residents before heading out to face the Gorgon King’s horde.

END of Session

View
The Dragons come

Functionaries in the massive chamber scurried madly in all directions as Tiamat gulped down any within reach of her massive maws.

The hall became quiet, and all was still, except for the mewling of a large dragonborn, who had lost the lower half of his torso to the White Dragon head of Tiamat.

A compassionate dragonborn sentinel caved in his skull with a two-handed maul. Quiet reigned in the court.

Tiamat lay upon her bed of treasures and fumed silently.

Minutes passed. Tiamat’s surviving servants made their way back into the chamber.

Tiamat finally raised her head.

“I have been betrayed and used.” No one dared to reply.

“Signal my children. They fly to Karkoth immediately. His temerity has availed him nothing but my W R A T H.”

Tiamat’s nearest Dragonborn General nodded and headed out to the communion rooms.

Tiamat smiled her five smiles. Karkoth would burn.

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The Devil you know
Nameless attempts deceit to join the Shields

The Shields took a breather after facing the shell of Orcus. Jonas arrived in their camp and was brought up to speed, by the Shields, on recent events.
Jonas had just arrived on the flying ship that had brought supplies to Brightshire to help the refugees.
Jonas sat with the resting Shields, while Shanna went off to hunt dinner, and told them a tale of long ago, the story of how Primordials arrived here from another reality, a corrupted god, and the DawnWar.
Flea had not really spent much time with Jonas before but felt something wrong about Jonas. There was something off, something hidden going on here. He muttered his concerns to the BugNesh and the Wizardrin.
Berradin looked keenly at Jonas and could sense something otherworldy on Jonas. He gave Nesh a nod. Nesh shirt-fronted Jonas and brought him close. Jonas asked what was going on and seemed very concerned. Berradin and the other Shields used their varying resources to come to the conclusion that this was not really Jonas.
‘Jonas" was surrounded by the Shields and knew the jig was up. He transformed back into his true form, that of a Devil Knight. He introduced himself as “Nameless”, emissary of Asmodeus and their new cohort.
Saran recognised him as the Devil that she had killed back in the swamp near Silversands. Nameless had been sent here by Asmodeus to assist them in dealing with Modeus Inferna, Asmodeus’s son, and the threat of Tharizdun, the true name for he who had taken the identity of the Elder Elemental Eye during the DawnWar.
Tharizdun was the god who had found the Chaos Shard that had heralded the arrival of the Primordials to this realm and was also the god whom had broken the gate open to the Far Realm. the gods had struck his name from history but it looked like his return was becoming inevitable.
The Shields were not convinced that they needed this devil’s help, especially Berradin after the Devil had off-handedly mentioned his mother – a mother that Berradin had never known.
Berradin flew into a rage and attacked the Devil, who only defended himself by teleporting away from the Eladrin Wizard. The Shields closed and surrounded him. Victoria was not willing to allow the Devil along with Berradin having such strong feelings against the creature.
Nameless walked away from the Shields, out into the wilderness.
Some time later Shanna returned from hunting with a brace of rabbits and some wild vegetables. She let the Shields know that she had found a Devil out beyond the camp spying on them and had terminated the creature.
The Shields were concerned about Mal, who was on the continent of Karkoth, for Nameless had alluded to her location being under siege and about to fall. Nameless had told them that it would make a great distraction while they headed inland to the Gorgon King’s fortress or the Temple of Elemental Evil.
The Shields used the Jade seasnake and the Ebony Flies to travel across the ocean to Karkoth. It was a wearying trip as it took several days to cover the distance, with no respite on the journey.
The Shields made landfall on Karkoth in a secluded cove that was half a days march from Urgutta, the settlement where Mal had last been.
Shanna had piloted the seasnake for the majority of the voyage and fell into an immediate slumber. The rest of the Shields set up camp in several shallow caves in the sloping walls of the cove.
During the night, the Shields sentry began to hear the howls of some large animals out on the prairie above the cove. The Shields looked out and could see someone running out there pursued by a large group.
As they came closer the Shields could make out several spear-men controlling the aberrant beasts; Krenshars – skull faced, greyhound sized beasts, several archers, a Shadow Giant, and many shambling humanoids.
The Shields lay in wait and once the group was closer launched themselves forward into the fray. The spear-men killed their prey first, a dark-skinned Karkoth native, and then turned their attention to the Shields.
The spear-men and archers were recognised by Saran as Shadar-Ki, natives of the Shadowfell and the first servants of the Raven Queen. Saran boiled over with anger at their betrayal of the great lady.
The Shields engaged the hunters and soon found that the archers fired “curse” arrows that gave bad luck to the near-by allies of any of their targets. The Shadow Giant went for Victoria and Saran went after the spearmen. Flea and Dinnan attacked the Krenshars, the great big slavering beasts who could produce a spine-chilling howl. Dinnan laughed at their attempts to frighten him and Flea fought off their influence with his superior will.
The shambling dead were the shells of those who had been infected with the death-plague from the temple. Their very presence drained life in their immediate surroundings and would take its toll on the Shields if they stayed in the dead’s vicinity for too long.
The battle was short and brutal and the Shields were victorious.
END of session.

View
To fight a Demon Prince
The Shields face a powerful assassin

The Shields recover after facing the arch-bishops of Asmodeus.
They rest the night near the remains of the Cathedral and pit. In the morning Nesh is quiet and sits by himself staring into the camp fire. He makes no acknowledgement of the other Shields around him, including Victoria. Victoria gets sulky and withdraws to the other side of the campfire.
The Shields began to escort the freed slaves south towards Brightshire. Nesh informed the Shields that he was not coming with them, he had business elsewhere, but would catch up when they needed him. Nesh began marching West towards the Dawnforge mountains. This did not sit well with Victoria and the rest of the Shields kept clear of their leader as they moved south.
Meanwhile back at Miraxacalas’s cave, Shanna was unable to leave the close proximity of Miraxacalas so she convinced “Max” to fly with her to see what the situation was like. As the Gold Dragon ascended Shanna noticed far out to the East, in the ocean, a dark line coming from the direction of Karkoth. They veered out over the water, gaining even greater height, until Shanna made out a dark line that emanated from Karkoth heading West to their continent.
They flew lower, and closer, to make out a 200’ wide swath of dead sea-life that was moving steadily westwards. It would take maybe 2 days at it’s current speed to reach the shore.
Shanna and Max turned Westwards arcing back around to where her friends last were going, the Chaos Scar.
The Shields spotted an incoming large flying creature, a dragon, in fact as it closed they recognised it as Miraxacalas. Riding aboard his back was Shanna.
They landed well ahead of the refugees so as not to spook them with the Gold Dragon’s innate DragonFear.
The Shields moved forward to greet their friend and catch up on current events. Shanna explained about the incoming darkness and after some debate Flea, Saran and Berradin accompanied Shanna on the back of Miraxacalas to get a look at the problem.
Saran discerned the undead energy radiating within the dead zone, Berradin could feel the void that seemed to be powering the moving object and Flea, nature’s champion, was sickened by the unnatural object moving beneath them.
Max returned to the Shields and they discussed the approaching threat. Shanna went off to a secluded grove and began to pray to the three, especially Melora. ’
Shanna felt herself witnessing a scene deep under the earth somewhere in Karkoth. The architecture was ancient elven and the players were Orcus, a Minotaur wearing Scale Armour who had a fiery sword scabbarded on his back, and a great darkness which enveloped Orcus and sent the remains west to deal with Nature’s Champion, Flea, and his allies.
Shanna divulged all this to the Shields including showing detailed sketches that she had produced using her fine hand and keen eye for detail.
The Shields decided that they must find a suitable location to draw the Void-Orcus, somewhere near where the creature would reach shore. To safeguard any others nearby the Shields asked Max to clear the people from silversands and to send them to Brightshire. Max would stay to guard the civilians in case the Shields fell. The Shields sent a message to Nesh warning him of the danger before them. He simply replied “I am on my way”.
The Shields set up a beachhead to maximise their assault abilities.
The next day Nesh arrived and had a warm reunion with Victoria and his friends. He told Victoria that he had managed to enter the Vale. He had much to think upon, he said.
This bolstered the Shields morale and they were ready for the arriving Orcus when it came out of the water near dawn a day later.
The nearby flora and fauna crumpled and died as it came within the void aura of Orcus. The Shields struck hard and fast but Orcus seemed to barely feel their assault. Orcus laid his wand upon Saran and drained her of all but a spark of her lifeforce. Saran managed to teleport to a point where she could recover.
The Shields did not give an inch and rained destruction upon Orcus. Shanna fired many telling blows and drew the void-monster’s attention. Orcus teleported to Shanna and prepared to lay his wand upon her.
The other Shields came to Shanna’s aide laying covering fire and trying to distract the monster. They focused fire on the creature and finally managed to stop it.
Some of the Shields had been victim of the wand but none had died this day.

As they treated their wounds and cleaned their weapons they noticed Jonas trotting up the beach towards them. “That was amazing”, he exclaimed, as Jonas ran in to greet the Shields.

Now the Shields had to decide where to go next.

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The Dawn War long long ago
The battle between gods, men and primordials

In the before time, the long long ago, a shard of pure evil entered our reality from a dying universe, sent here by the last creatures left in that realm, the Primordials.

A nameless god noticed this Shard and went to investigate. When the god grabbed the Shard, it drove the god mad with a desire to unmake reality. The Shard whispered to the god to place it in the Astral Sea, realm of the gods, but instead this god managed to partially repel the whispers of the Shard, and instead planted it in the Elemental Chaos, which created the Abyss. It also released the Primordials from their dead reality.

A nameless god killed the Living Gate’s guardian and opened the gate, releasing the defiling energies of the Far Realm. In order to seal the Living Gate again, Ioun and Pelor shattered it at the cost of Ioun’s life and Pelor’s dominion of Verdant.

Obox-Ob, a mighty Primordial, claimed the Shard of Evil and became the first Prince of Demons. Seeking to replant the Shard in the Astral Sea, he was soon unseated by the combined efforts of the transformed Primordials; Demogorgon, Orcus, and Baphomet.

The Elder Elemental Eye, eldest of the Primordials, marshaled the Primordials and the denizens of the Elemental Chaos in order to try to overwhelm the combined might of Demogorgon, Orcus and the other newly transformed Demon Princes to gain mastery of the Shard of Evil.

The gods could not allow this threat to continue. The gods intervened in this conflict, taking the Shard of Evil. In retaliation, the Primordials invaded the Astral Sea and shattered the Lattice of Heaven. So began the Dawn War.

The gods, their servants and the World’s peoples worked together to stop the Primordial threat. Both gods and primordials created abominations, such as giants, as living weapons to destroy the other side. Dwarves delivered the blow that finally crippled the giants. They betrayed their masters and unleashed the fury of a hundred generations of repression. The Dwarves were freed from bondage to the Primordials. Dwarves were placed in the natural world, where they immediately developed ale.

A mountain range was created to hide the forges that would create weapons powerful enough to kill a primordial. Torog went into the Underdark and defeated the Primordial Gargash, but at great cost. Erek-Hus, the King of Terror’s Adamantine Axe cleaved through the dragon-god Io, but was then defeated when the halves became Bahamut and Tiamat. Many battles were fought between the Gods and the Primordials.
Led by the God He-Who-Was, the gods overwhelmed and chained the Elder Elemental Eye away into the dead Reality, called him the Chained God, and struck his name from the annals of History.

The gods used Death’s Reach, within the Shadowfell, to seal away dangerous artifacts and enemies from the war.

Asmodeus was assigned by He-Who-Was as prison-keeper of the Chained God’s Tomb. Asmodeus and his lieutenant, Lolth, worked with the Elves to create an impregnable fortress to secure the entry to the dead reality.

The last Shard of Evil fell from the dead-verse into the temple during this construction. Lolth and her Elven followers were driven mad and the newly christened “Drow” hid themselves away deep inside the world, in the underdark. Asmodeus acquired the Shard to create his Ruby Rod.

Asmodeus and Lolth returned to the god’s side in the Astral Sea confirming to He-Who-Was that the Elder Elemental Eye was safely locked away for eternity. They returned to his forces.

During the last days of the Dawn War, He-Who-Was scorned Asmodeus for allowing too many innocents to die in battle, cursing him and his followers with broken diabolical forms. Asmodeus tricked the first hell knights, servants of He-Who-Was, into betraying their lord before slaying his divine patron using the Ruby Rod.

Asmodeus seized his former over-lord’s divinity and created a rigid hierarchy of power in the once idyllic plane of Baarthion, the former dominion of He-Who-Was. The Hell Knights betrayal damned them to serve Asmodeus for eternity in his newly created Nine Hells.

Asmodeus’ skills could not be ignored and other gods compacted with the archfiend, granting him autonomy in return for his aid in defeating the Primordials.

View
Insight into the Shields
The Shields POV of themselves and their companions

FLEA
1. What have been your 3 most defining character moments since joining the Shields?
Taking on the role of Berredin’s caretaker while he was in the grip of necromantic magicks
This was the point where Flea took responsibility for another Shield and made him realise that the Shields were fallible.
Explaining to Levistus, the devil at Bael-Turath that Flea would be willing to die for Droth’s grandfather (even though Flea had not yet met Droth) and indeed would die for the innocent slaves on the boat
As a player, this helped define Flea more for me. In my head, I had previously thought of Flea as more of a survivalist, but now realised that Flea is very much an idealist.
Defeating Torog
This was the moment when Flea realised that he was an equal member of the Shields.

2. What are the top 3 things that your character wants to achieve?
To become worthy of his calling
Flea loves stories of heroes but finds it difficult to envisage himself as one, so he needs to prove to himself that he is worthy of the title.
To tell the stories of the world to his tribe
Flea has grown in wisdom and knowledge during his adventures, and he has a duty to share these stories with others, especially his tribe.
To help Saran die in peace
Saran is an unnnatural being, her spirit forbidden from rejoining with the earth. Flea doesn’t understand why Saran didn’t die when Razor died, except that there must be something else still holding her spirit back.

3. Who are the 3 Shields closest to you?
Shanna: Shanna is the closest to Flea, mostly because she is also something of an outsider, learning to make friends where friendships would not normally occur. Also Shanna is like Flea in that the hero title doesn’t fit naturally.
Dinnan: Flea admires Dinnan’s affability and boldness of spirit. Also, Dinnan shares Flea’s love of stories.
Nesh: Bugbear Nesh is a great hero, possibly the greatest hero alive today, and yet Nesh has always treated Flea with kindness and respect.

4. Who are the 3 Shields that you most respect?
Nesh, Victoria, Berredin
In Flea’s head, this whole adventure is the epic of Bugbear Nesh and his two companions, the Wizard Prince and Nesh’s Lady Victoria. The rest of us are supporting characters who are fortunate enough to be part of this story.

5. What is your Character’s greatest Strength?
Heart: I believe that as Nesh has taken on more leadership, Flea has taken on Nesh’s role as the heart of the group and, to a degree, acts as its moral compass.

6. What is your Character’s greatest Flaw [not an “I work too hard” type of answer – real flaws]
One flaw is his combat ability. He’s not quite up to the same standard as most of the rest of the group.
As far as character flaws go, he still doesn’t believe in himself enough.
Another flaw, though Flea wouldn’t consider it one, is that he tends to see morality in black and white.

7. What, if anything, does your character fear?
Saran (and, to a lesser degree, The Raven Queen)
Saran is an avatar of the Raven Queen who is the god who most interferes in the natural flow of life (as evidenced by Saran herself) in order to achieve her own agenda. As such, Flea distrusts Saran and the god she represents. Also Saran’s magicks are powered by a pact with some Fey power whose agenda also lies secret. So as a character who cannot be trusted, and yet who is so closely part of Nesh’s story, she is the one best positioned to corrupt our path, and the one most naturally to be feared. It doesn’t help that the only time she seems to open her mouth is to instill fear and terror (intimidation).
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

NESH
1. What have been your 3 most defining character moments since joining the Shields?
i. Pleading with the Squid King to spare the bystanders at the bar fight of sinking/flooding doom.
ii. Victoria’s death and resurrection.
iii. Defence of Dragonelle Keep and reconciliation with Xinto.

2. What are the top 3 things that your character wants to achieve?
i. A good death.
ii. Safety for those who seek to live a life of peace.
iii. To see young warriors inspired and educated to see the way of the sword as a vocation, a philosophy and an artform, combing wisdom, compassion and strength at arms – regardless of the “savagery” or “unsuitability” of their origins.

3. Who are the 3 Shields closest to you?
i. Victoria
ii. Grik
iii. Nesh really sees every shield as family.

4. Who are the 3 Shields that you most respect?
i. Victoria – for righteousness
ii. Saran – for professionalism
iii. Dinan – for fearlessness

5. What is your Character’s greatest Strength?
Solidarity/Fraternity/Loyalty

6. What is your Character’s greatest Flaw [not an “I work too hard” type of answer – real flaws]
Represses anger and sometimes ignores own intuition to keep the peace.

7. What, if anything, does your character fear?
Hurting those he loves – failing to protect the innocent. Discord in the family. The corruption of power. Losing sight of the big picture.
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SARAN
1. curbing her instinct to kill the bad guys outright was massive. (tip of the hat to the good aligned characters).
2. she’s proud & a little mystified that the group let’s her be with them. Because she knows she is tasked with the dirty jobs sometimes.
3. you could say that drawn her out of her shell & enabled her to grow (as a person) certainly I can imagine what a single-minded-unfeeling-death-machine she’d become if she was left on her own. So, good one Shields. you stopped Saran from becoming… something… worse.

that’s better than the last email. I think those events I listed are more “high points” in Sarans life. Smooshing bad guys is like her faay-vrite thing.

ok, enough! back to work for me.
later.

On Thu, May 8, 2014 at 7:40 PM, Trevor Brown <trevor.brown357@gmail.com> wrote:
Ok, here’s my quick-hit reply – if I don’t do it now I won’t get time to…

What have been your 3 most defining character moments since joining the Shields?
1) Toning back Saran’s killer instinct on joining the Shields. (that was a difficult
transition)
2) Killing the Lich. Undead in all their forms are an abomination. (im’fricken
watchin you Berradin)
3) The battle to take out Tiamat’s baby red dragons. We were pretty bad-ass
that day.
4) As far as having a “signature move” or “claim to fame”, only one that I can
think of for Saran was the teleport above the pirate guy, land on him with a
killing blow. Then intimidating the rest of the sailors on the ship.

What are the top 3 things that your character wants to achieve?
1) Taking out whomever the Raven Queen points me at really.
2) but Saran thinks that so far we have uncovered 3 main adversaries/threats to
the RQ; that Orcus guy. His little Devil King, & prob the elder god from
another dimension he’s trying to awaken (sorry I’ve lost that email where you
detailed who it was)
3) earn the respect of the RQ, & the fear of anyone else.

Who are the 3 Shields closest to you?
I think Saran’s only ever opened up to & “shared” with;
1) Shanna. Elf bitches inda house (sorry, elves get all street when they’re
together. It’s embarrassing).
2) Nesh. He listens to Saran, & accepts her as she is.
3) Victoria. While not always trusting of Saran’s motives, is honorable & has
forced her to grow more than anyone else.

Who are the 3 Shields that you most respect?
1) Saran respects Shanna’s & Dinnan’s abilities at devastating any enemy.
2) Nesh’s ability to soak damage.
3) Berradin’s arcane knowledge. (but we can’t admit that to Berradin. That’d
never work!)

What is your Character’s greatest Strength?
While not as strong as Nesh, quick as Shanna or Dinnan, scared as Berradin
(heh… only kidding), Saran’s greatest strength is her singular focus. Her drive
to achieve whatever task is set by the RQ. Let’s face it, she’s prepared to do
things none of the others (alignment speaking) will do.

What is your Character’s greatest Flaw?
Her one-eyed loyalty to the RQ.
If asked to go against the Shield’s for whatever reason, she wouldn’t even
question it. (well maybe a little) How can someone you have absolute trust &
faith in… be wrong?
If someone ever impersonates the RQ & tricks Saran into a betrayal (Darren –
NOT COOL!). She’d know if anyone tried!

What, if anything, does your character fear?
Disappointing the RQ.
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SHANNA
1. What have been your 3 most defining character moments since joining the Shields?

In game?

Talking honestly and frankly with The Eldest
Shanna demonstrated that (while respectful of who he was and what he represented) no matter whom she is speaking with she is generally fearless, without guile, blunt and direct but not (often) rude (for rude, see Berradin).
It is an important character trait that she speaks this way to everyone. At first it was because she didn’t really understand social interactions very well. Now it reflects her direct nature.

Killing Razor (aka Razorgate)
For a number of reasons this was probably THE defining moment for Shanna.
It demonstrated just how effective and deadly she can be in combat and yet she had not really been perceived as deadly by the rest of the Shields until this point (for deadly, see Saran).
It led to much discussion (between players and characters) about the morality of what the Shields do and the how and why they go about their business.
It had links to her elvish roots and what makes her who she is – her feeling of elven responsibility.
However, it also made her consider a lot of things.
It made her realise that her responsibility extended beyond mere elvish ideals. She had a greater responsibility – to her past, her friends, the world and the future.
It made her realise that the Shields were more than just her duty, they were friends to her just as she was to them. The act hurt them because they cared for and trusted her – she just couldn’t see it at the time.
It and the consequences opened her eyes and humbled her.
It and the consequences also strengthened her. Sometimes it hurts to grow.

Healing the Dragon
Because it represents her willingness to sacrifice for the greater good and to embrace the unknown. It also represents her need to act, and quickly.

In stories?

Choosing nothing instead of the arrow
This set her on the path of the Horizon Walker, rather than Battlefield Archer or the like.

Trusting the Treespeaker
One night became five years and Shanna became better equipped for the path ahead.

Meeting The Three
When your gods wish to meet you and require use of your skills, you must be doing something right. Also, she got to say goodbye to the Treespeaker… for now.

In addition to the three (ok, six) outlined there has been one other character defining event:

The Gift of the Dead God
Shanna had always been about unbelievable perception but never really understood people and the why of things regarding them. The gift of Insight granted by the God went a long way to helping with that, although she never really noticed it until the aftermath of Razorgate. She’d never really seen her companions as who they are and this gift allowed her to see the open and honest reactions to that necessary but ugly act. And also she was able to see herself. [cue navelgazing].

2. What are the top 3 things that your character wants to achieve?

To see the universe
Shanna has already begun to walk this path and the more she sees of the world around her the more she realises that there is even more to see. It is not so much a wanderlust – more a curiousity and hunger for new experiences/ input data.

To protect and defend her companions and her ‘range’
As a ranger, Shanna was trained from an early age to wander the the land and protect it from ne’er do wellers. She was good at it partly due to her skills but also due to her nature. As she has grown the people and places she considers to be part of her ‘range’ have expanded – her friends, the Shields; the Vale and its inhabitants; the surrounds; the Prime Material Plane; The Feywild; The Shadowfell; The Astral Sea… you get the picture. And as long as she is actively doing this, she feels she is achieving something. Complete success doesn’t matter to her – she understands she can’t save everyone and everything. As long as she does what she feels like she was born to do, she’ll feel a sense of achievement.

Love and a soulmate
While Shanna has become more insightful and loves the Shields (even Berradin) she has always been a lonely soul. She was always different and weird, and while she didn’t understand why noticed that other elves tended to avoid her socially. Even her kin. It bothered her but she also told herself she preferred the solitude because she didn’t understand people anyway. The only one who seemed to understand her (sometimes even better than herself) was the Treespeaker but he was never her soulmate. She has watched the growing relationships between Grik and Halva, and then Nesh and Victoria with increasing understanding and found an aching void in her heart that she hides away. She doesn’t begrudge them happiness, but wants a companion that she can share the wonders of the universe with. She also knows it isn’t good for her to be alone. The closest she has felt to filling the void was when she shared herself fully with Maraxacalas the Gold but she sees that as necessity, communion and sacrifice. Not love.

2. What are the top 3 things that your character wants to achieve?
Protect her friends.
Protect the planes.

3. Who are the 3 Shields closest to you?
Dinnan – because he is so very unlike her and yet so alike. She admires his brash nature and boundless enthusiasm. He also helped defend her people and The Forest from the demons.
Flea – because, unlike the rest of the Shields, Flea ‘gets’ nature. She feels a kinship with him because of this. Also, his were the words that hurt the most following Razorgate because they were truthful, honest and wise.
Saran – they are almost like two sides of the same coin. Saran also probably like Shanna because she kills things good.

4. Who are the 3 Shields that you most respect?
Flea – if Shanna were to seek wisdom from a Shield, it would be Flea.
Nesh – although he did not approve of Razorgate, his disapproval was gentle despite his normal nature and he even (partly) defended her actions in context despite Victoria’s extremely negative views. She also knows his story and his struggle and is amazed he has become who he is.
Victoria – she respects Victoria’s unyielding belief in her god, herself and her actions even when Shanna disagrees with them. Shanna is also amazed at how well Victoria has carried on since the noble sacrifice of her god.

4.5 Why not Berradin in any of this?
For a start, Berradin’s focus on the arcane tends to isolate him from others. Shanna does not feel close to him because he tends to treat those around him as his lessers.
Also, while Shanna respects his skills and power she has trouble respecting the person.
She still feels protective and friendship towards him but feels she has to guard herself and watch him.

5. What is your Character’s greatest Strength?
Her protective and caring responsibility for others and willingness to fearlessly embrace the unknown (I know, it’s more than one).

6. What is your Character’s greatest Flaw [not an “I work too hard” type of answer – real flaws]
Her need to act quickly. Her need to ‘do’.

7. What, if anything, does your character fear?
I’m not sure.
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Berradin
1. What have been your 3 most defining character moments since joining the Shields?
Me: Learning the truth about Berradin’s people; Unleashing my first fireball; actually settling on a character theme
Berradin: The stunned looks on the Shields’ faces when they saw Berradin’s kingdom; Singlehandedly (with a little help) destroyed that which crawls, freeing Berradin’s people; unleashing Berradin’s first fireball

2. What are the top 3 things that your character wants to achieve?
None. It’s all good.
Berradin: Love of the world! Being the greatest wielder of the two most powerful elements in the universe! And the love of Berradin’s daddy

3. Who are the 3 Shields closest to you?
Me: Victoria & Nesh They’ve been with Berradin the longest.
Saran. There’s a weird strategy thing. The admiration i think comes from another wielder of primordial forces.
Berradin: Flea, Berradin’s page and apprentice; Nesh, Berradin’s personal bodyguard; Victoria, Berradin’s personal diplomat

4. Who are the 3 Shields that you most respect?
As above

5. What is your Character’s greatest Strength?
Me: Tactical support. Arcana knowledge
Berradin: The ability to mix the two greatest forces in the universe delivered with panache, power and p-style.

6. What is your Character’s greatest Flaw [not an “I work too hard” type of answer – real flaws]
Me: a Complete lack of self-awareness.
Berradin: Berradin makes the sun burn dull. Berradin makes swans look like pigeons. Berradin makes armies seem as ants. Thus, The Shields feel terribly overshadowed by Berradin’s glory, even as they revel in it.

7. What, if anything, does your character fear?
Me: Pain
Berradin: A bad hair day.
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The Element of Evil
Orcus faces a threat from the past

He expected to arrive into a darkened chamber, but it was a well lit baroquely designed room. The last smoke from the activated summoning circle diffused out into the large open area. His “Ally” approached him.

The helmet helped emphasise the natural horns of the Gorgon King. A large sword was scabbarded upon his back, flames licking along the scabbard. Finely polished scale armour and heavy shield shone in the brightly lit room. His ally certainly had pride in his equipment.
The chamber was dry but there was a faint scent that he could not quite place.

“You look surprised great Orcus” said the Gorgon King.

“I expected dark, cramped rooms this deep inside the temple”

“No, my lord, it is well built. The architects of this place were not afraid of making an expansive complex. I believe in part to confuse intruders.”

“A lot of light for an abandoned fortress” stated Orcus.

“Without light there would be no shadow” cryptically replied the Gorgon King.

“You have assisted me greatly, Lord Orcus, and for that you have my gratitude and a quick death” smiled the Gorgon King.

Orcus’s shadow swept up from the floor driving towards the Demon Prince. Orcus laughed inside, amused at the audacity of the by-blow. He let the shadow attack. The feeling of terror that would be evoked in the Gorgon King at his shadow monsters failure raised Orcus’s spirits immeasurably.

The Shadow pressed against Orcus’s chest and many tendrils shot into Orcus and began to spread through his body. Orcus felt intense pain, but this was not of the body but instead, was of the spirit. He had been without fear for so long that his over-confidence had left him open for an attack that could harm him. Orcus had had enough. He prepared to abandon the mortal planar form and return home to lick his wounds and plan his inevitable revenge.

The Gorgon King pulled his Bastard Sword from it’s scabbard and ignited the blade. He walked close to the summoning circle and touched the flametongue to the faint line of oil, that had been previously applied, which ignited to form the pattern of a binding hex. His smile grew wider.

Orcus could no longer leave. His body was riddled with the shadow tentacles and was frozen in shock. Fear threatened to shut him down. Then he felt a long lost presence connect with him. His soul and his spirit were slowly consumed as he helplessly stood in the circle of fire.

The Gorgon King watched excitedly as the fire in Orcus’s eyes were extinguished to be replaced with the blackness of non-existence.

“I am sending this puppet to deal with a possible challenge to our plans” said the Orcus body.

Modeus Inferna, the Gorgon King, was startled by being addressed by the Nullform. It showed on his face.

“This body can contain more of my essence, for a short time, without being destroyed. Break the pattern that I may set this minion on its way.”

“Do you understand the deal that I made with you when I came down here originally?” asked Modeus.

“Yes. Yes. You will have your sire’s realms, revenge on him, and I will have my freedom”

“Good.” Modeus placed his sword within the flames and they extinguished.The remains of the Demon Prince stepped out of the circle and began to walk towards the double doors of the hall arcanum. “Orcus” opened the doors and began to make his way towards the surface.

The Gorgon King put out the fires in the chamber and followed Orcus, out of the temple of Elemental Evil.

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Pel and Mel
Spirits in a divine way

The Story of Pel and Mel

One day, in the early days when the World Tree was still just a sapling, there were two lovers: Pel and Mel. They liked to spend long hours walking and talking together and listening to the world around them, and though they were young, they had grown close together and close to the spirits of the world. Mel enjoyed walking through the forests, listening to the many plants and animals, while Pel enjoyed sitting at the top of a city tower, listening to the skies: the sun and the wind and the clouds.

One day, when Pel and Mel were walking together, each of them could sense that the other was troubled. Mel said to Pel, “Pel my beloved, I have been listening to the plants and animals, and they are worried. They fear that disaster is coming and many of them will die.” Pel said to Mel, “Mel my dear one, the Sun has confirmed it. The Sun has decided to stay in the sky forever and will not let the Moon or the Clouds take their place.” Mel asked her beloved, “What shall we do?” Pel said to his dear one, “We must talk with the Bear.”

So Mel and Pel went to see the Bear. The three of them sat for a long time, as Pel and Mel told the Bear what they had heard, as the Sun stayed always at his peak, and as the land grew hotter and drier. Then the Bear told Mel, “You must go to the plants and the animals, and you must care for them, and you must keep their spirits strong.” Then the Bear said to Pel, “You and I must go and speak to the Sun.”

So Pel and the Bear went to speak to the Sun, but the Sun was obstinate. “Why should I sleep while the Moon is awake? My light is brighter and better than hers. Why should I be covered up by the Clouds? They are dark and gloomy while I am bright and warm.” They argued for long hours: Pel and the Bear trying to explain the damage the Sun was doing, but the Sun remaining obstinate and arrogant.”

Meanwhile Mel walked across the earth, helping the plants and animals to survive and stay strong, giving of her spirit when it was needed. She offered her tears to help the rivers to run; she offered her skin as shelter against the heat; she offered her flesh for some of the animals when the food had dried up. This is why some animals now prefer the taste of flesh for food.

Up in the sky, they continued to argue until the Bear at last offered a compromise: “If you will sleep each night and let the Moon shine, and in season allow the Clouds to cover you so that rains may come, then I also will sleep each night so that you may know that you are not alone.” But the Sun argued for more: “I will do as you say, but you must sleep for half the year also. In the winter, my light is not as bright, so when that happens, you must sleep then also.

They argued longer, but while they argued, the World Tree itself was beginning to dry up, and both Mel and Pel were growing exhausted. Finally the Bear agreed, and Pel was their witness. Pel and the Bear returned to the earth, but Pel was worn and weary and burned by the sun. He collapsed next to Mel who was used up from her care of the plants and animals.

But the people saw what Pel and Mel had done, for them and for the world. They came out to be with Pel and Mel to care for them. Each one gave a little of his or her spirit to them, to restore them and make them well, even though the people themselves were also weak from the drought. And the animals and the plants and the rocks and the rivers all looked on and were ashamed by the generosity of the people, so they in turn gave the people some of their spirits as well.

That is how Pel and Mel became the first gods: Pelor to watch over the Sun and the seasons, and Melora to care for the animals and plants; and this is why people give a little of their spirits in worship to the gods even now; and this is why each person has a totem spirit, a gift of spirit from a bird or animal or wind or plant or rock, to sustain us and to remind us that our spirits are all joined in this world, with each other, with all of nature, and even with the gods.

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A devil in hell
Asmodeus deals with treachery

The Black Dragon’s body lay behind him as the devil was slashed by the gaudily dressed halfling. The blade sheared flesh from his face, it hurt a lot. More terrifying though was the black ooze under the skin. Horror filled him at the implications of that. His fears were cut short as the Human’s gnarled black spear entered through his heart and exited out his spine. Blackness decended and he felt the inexorable pulling sensation of his return to the nine hells.

The devil appeared within a scintillating, multi-coloured sphere. The sphere was large enough to contain many his size and hovered many feet off the ground. Many devils surrounded the sphere casting divination and other esoteric spells upon him. Several warlocks were focusing on the sphere itself, the sphere’s containment of the devil was inescapable.

The sphere hovered inside a large hall. The far wall opened to reveal itself as a set of massive double doors. Walking through the doors was a giant human, over 13 feet tall, with dark skin and hair, red eyes, handsome features, and small horns on his forehead. He was dressed in regal finery. Carried in his left hand was a rod tipped with a red ruby, which distorted the air around it.

The devil was faint with fear. He knew his end was near and it would be most certainly protracted and painful. The Devil approached the sphere. As he neared, the devil began to relax. His Grand Lord Asmodeus was before him. His Master. The overwhelming urge to serve the Supreme being filled him. How could he serve the great Lord.

Asmodeus looked directly at him, and addressed him. Him!

Tell me what has occurred here, my little one” the honeyed words wafted over the devil.

“I was sent to assist the dragons in their submission of the western continents, my Liege. The Dragon I was assigned to poisoned a Gold Dragon with the new toxin processed at the temple. We were beginning our occupation of the area when an adventuring group entered the swamp and we went to ambush them. They actually caught us in their ambush and destroyed the dragon and her troops. Their cleric then sent me back to hell. But I seem to have contracted the death-plague released from the temple. I am endangering you my Lord. Please destroy me before I can harm you.”

Little one, relax. Precautions have been taken. I have been expecting someone of your disability to appear back from the mortal realm for some time. My son’s plans seem to have extended beyond ruling Karkoth, or sharing the mortal world with Tiamat.
Who is he really working with, my little devil?

“My Mas… previous master, while delving the temple, came into contact with an artifact that allowed him to commune with the Elder Elemental Eye” Asmodeus interrupted “The stupid fool. He will destroy us all.
“Mmmmy Lord?” the devil felt he should be afraid. But no, his God was here with him now. All would be well.

I fear that I may have startled you little one. Is the Gorgon King working to free the Elder … Elemental …Eye?

“My previous master has … instructions … that the Eye promised would allow him to breach hell and defeat … " comprehension dawned on the devil “You! My Lord! He seeks to depose you and free his mother. We must stop him Lord!”

The Great Lord pondered for a moment. Then he smiled.
You will go back to the material world. The ones who slew your mortal vessel were The Shields of the Vale. They have recently caused a setback for my pawns. You will offer your assistance to the Shields, you will tell them everything, they will then do what … Heroes … do. You will do what ever is in your power to assist them in this quest. Do you understand Nameless?

The devil, now known as Nameless, nodded.

The moment, the very moment, that they have succeeded you will kill them.

“Lord, they are so strong. They will kill me.”

Yes. Good. You will have redeemed yourself to me only then.

Go. Follow my instructions to the letter. I will be watching.

Nameless felt amazingly light as the ritual sent him back to the material world.

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Alone in the night
Dinnan enjoys a late night musical

It was late, perhaps the hour of the wolf, when Dinnan was brought to wakefulness by some discordant tones. He lay still, carefully and so very slowly moving his head to survey the camp and it’s surrounds.

Three of his companions lay curled up asleep, recovering from their exertions against the dark priests. Berradin sat, unseeing and slightly off the ground, in the peculiar Eladrin trance that was a replacement for sleep. Around them were the sleeping forms of the freed slaves of the pit.

Dinnan flipped to his feet, drawing his cloak around him, and on silent feet he moved out into the night towards the music, the maddening music.

Dinnan drifted silently out of camp making towards a dip in the terrain. He stopped short of the depression, lowered himself to his belly and carefully snaked forward, dagger in his mouth. He reached the lip of the gully and slowly moved his head to a vantage point where he could witness the events below.

The music was stronger now, and it was now obvious that there were two conflicting tunes at work. One was a slow, martial drumbeat and the other was a more frantic flurry of drums.

Nesh was below him facing Victoria. Victoria’s body was a gossamer form before Nesh. She surveyed Nesh dispassionately as his body fought itself.

Nesh’s body was in a state of metamorphosis: fur and scales rippled over his body competing for dominance. Snout became jagged mouth became snout. Beautifully polished scales turned to fur turned to scale once more. Pointy ears receded to ear-holes. Bugbear fought with Dragonborn for control of the body.

Victoria moved forward and wispy hands brushed over Nesh’s cheek, “This form pleases you. Focus on me and ride out this storm”.

Nesh grimaced as his body twisted and shifted. The music grew louder, building to a crescendo, and then one tune emerged, a strange but not unpleasant blending of the previous two. A duet.

Nesh stood straight, certain of himself at last.

Victoria smiled, “You have found the answer to your paradox; the sense of duty to protect your minions and the urge to unleash your rage upon their enemies. Your primal nature is now manifest. Your enemies must beware.”

“I offer you glory, power you can barely imagine, a form truly worthy of my love. Continue with your minions until you are ready to truly accept the divine spark that I feel in you.”

Victoria gently kissed Nesh. Her body slowly faded away.

Nesh stood unmoving for several heartbeats then slowly shook his head. He looked blearily around himself and then climbed out of the gully. He looked around, finding his bearings, and then headed back towards the dying embers of the campfire.

Dinnan raised himself up, dusted his clothes off, and then silently followed Nesh back to their bedrolls. The music was no longer discordant but there was a sharper tone now to the universal flow.

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