The Isle of Adraan

Epilogue : the final chaper of the Island of Ice and Fire

Elgold pushed the drink away and spluttered, wiped his lips clean and coughed.

“What sort of beer do the “locals” call this, Caecius?"

Caecius declined to comment – he had seen the local goblin brewery and thought it best to remain silent. A few minutes passed as Elgold told his story.

“So.. after Naram reached me with his mind, I decided to step across with a portal! There was no time to waste on lengthy voyages. The power of this shard intrigues me.. but not perhaps as much as the Blood Magic tome you located. I have been reading it with considerable interest.
I have learned a few… tricks.. from it. A wizard’s path is a painful one, at times. "

Elgold wrapped his arms around his shoulders and rocked backwards and forwards, as if something had taken a heavy toll on his sanity and strength.

Caecius continued his stoic silence, and decided not to mention the scars on Elgold’s hands and arms, as if lots of little cuts had been repeatedly made in his flesh.

He reached around to feel the area of dead flesh that had appeared on his own neck, and the spreading numbness from it. He held out little hope that it would improve, and desired little meddling from his friends. Remembering how Elgold’s last cure had nearly killed Haleth, he pulled the neck of his tunic higher above his neck.


+—-

The party marched on, an uneventful journey across the high, frozen, hills to the goblin settlement. Ilwyn was especially subdued, even for the surly goblin, and reacted little to the playful insults hurled at him by Maurg. She had been composing a few rhymes to “congratulate” him on some of his most clumsy moves, but even this elicited little reaction. It was clear something was troubling him, and a broody silence spread to his companions as they trudged through the snow.

Only Naram seemed unaware of this, as he sent messages to Elgold requesting that he summon a portal to reach them, and concentrated on using the shard’s energy to open a gap in the Realms through which such an opening could be created. He felt the rush of magic energy from the shard warm his crystalline flesh as it surged hundreds of miles to Elgold, and felt the almost tangible response as his fellow arcanist worked with the energy. The two of them skillfully opening a fold in the fabric of reality. No words were spoken, but Naram knew that Elgold would be waiting – smugly – at Icehome when they arrived.

-+-

The afternoon was tense, the companions reunited in the hovel of a tavern that made a social centre to the goblin village. Caecius spoke little, his eyes betraying some inner torment. Elgold and Naram seemed absorbed with what to do with the shard, and made plans that they seemed disinclined to share.

Maurg contemplated Ilwyn once more. For a goblin male he was strong and commanded awe amongst her tribe. She came to a conclusion. He would make a strong champion -for now – and once she had her successors he could be dispensed with. She stroked the handle of her dagger and smiled to herself, an evil plan forming in her goblin mind.

Ilwyn, mistaking this for desire, considered Maurg in turn. She was attractive, and powerful but as a female weak and of little regard. He decided he would stay. There was more power to be had here than he ever would find amongst the others. They had not been unkind.. but they laughed at him, and not with him, more than he cared.

Once his position at Maurg’s side was secure she could be dispensed with. He would be an obvious leader to the village once she disappeared…

Haleth looked at the two goblins grinning each other and raised his eyebrows at what passed as courtship in this rather unsavoury species. He realised, now, that Ilwyn would stay.

The goodbyes were brief, and almost jokingly Ilwyn pressed Enna for a parting hug. Enna wrinkled her nose at the disgust, but before she could back away, Ilwyn grabbed her and squeezed. She coughed and pushed him away, and it was only later she would discover that over one thousand of her gold pieces, and the rather well-made elven leather purse she kept them in were nowhere to be found…. She was not alone as most of the party left missing some important keepsake or treasure. Ilwyn’s name would long live on as a curse between the others.


+—-

Naram and Elgold peered into a pool of murky water in a bowl, and sharing the power of the shard sent their vision far into the surrounding terrain, their eyes lifting up over high icy ridges to peer across the cold wastes.

There was no sign of the Umber Hulks, or Dark elves – perhaps they had returned to whatever shadowy openings to the Underdark they could find, or had slain one another when released from mental slavery.

It was clear it was time to leave now – time to return to Adraan’s troubles and to find a place of safety for the shard. The companions made ready to step into the portal and head back through the darkened nether-world through which they had trekked those few weeks before.

This time Elgold vowed they would not be found by any dark force, and that he could lead them through this safely. The others recognised this as his usual over-confidence in his abilities, but he ignored their gibes.

The goblin villagers kept away as they left, and Ilwyn and Maurg were nowhere to be seen.

“Huh, so this is the thanks we get?”, growled Haleth.

The others shrugged, and Caecius seemed once again preoccupied as they stepped through the portal. A momentary wrongness disturbed each of them as they stepped through and headed into the darkness.


+—-

It was both a long way away and very close, the thickness of a shadow from the mortal world.

Brun stood silently for a moment, his head hanging in shame.

The shadowy form, wrapped in the cloak regarded him with clear distaste. The dark moon crescent clear on its shoulders as it loomed over the vampire.

“So, you may be powerful, but you are no tactician. First of all you lose our army, and now you can not even corrupt a simple goblin to bring us the shard?”

Brun, shook in fear, an emotion he had not felt since he died.

“Where”, the figure added, “is this shard now? We MUST retrieve it if we are to proceed with our plans.”

Brun concentrated for a moment and lifted his cold dead eyes up his lord.

“The… the.. shard is not to be found. It has left the Realms somehow.” He bowed his head once more. “I have failed you, again”.

The robed figure waved a hand and Brun screamed, and then fell silent. His form collapsed into the shadowy shape of a wolf before it too turned to dust, blowing on the stone floor and then still as ancient ash.

The dark shape turn away now, muttering, “Brun, reflect on your failures while you sleep the deathless sleep. We will speak of this again when you have learned a salient lesson.”
—+
The story continues….

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Epilogue Part 2

Caecius leaned heavily on his spear and peered over the stockade . The gloom was thickening rapidly, and with ice crystals filling the air there was little to be seen. Calling one of his goblins across he sent him to take a closer look.

He couldn’t help but wish for more action here on this goblin frontier. It was only at the forefront of a charge that he found peace of late, his sleep increasingly troubled. Memories of his fallen mother, and his youthful struggles, filling the sleepless hours when he would lay still listening to the snarls and arguments of the goblin villagers.

It hadn’t proven to be quite the command he hoped for. To the typical goblin discipline meant remembering to wear pants, and their personal habits were distasteful at best. “Still”, he mused, “at least that means I regret little when they fall in a fight”.

The village of Icehome had seen only minor troubles over the last few days. The occasional dark elf patrol had arrived, but with the villagers united they had been quickly overwhelmed. It was clear that the local difficulties were at an end, and that there was little left of the plans to enslave the goblins. Frankly, Caecius was bored, and cold, at best.


+——-

The party headed out cautiously into the gloom, laden with treasure from the Dragon hoard. The two goblins, particularly, were pushing each other around with that mixed hatred that passes for a mixture of courting and bullying amongst their kind.

It was cold now, the evening deepening into a storm that quickly left the warmth of the mountain a distant memory. Haleth alone seemed untroubled under his thick wolf pelts and tough enough to shrug off the coldest of climes. Naram was in another world, pondering the nature of the shard and paying little attention to the surroundings.

Enna stopped and sniffed the air. The weather would bury them all under snowdrifts unless they made plans, and she asked her companions to stop and make an ice cave for them to shelter in. For once even Ilwyn followed suit, seeing his own death staring at him from a night alone without shelter. Exhausted from the long day they worked quietly to set up a place to see out the worst of the blizzard.

The party settled down, Enna staring over the coals of a fire into the face of a winter storm, the snow blowing around the party as they huddled together. Naram, normally watchful in the night hours, was making notes and testing the shard gently with his mind.

In the darkest hour of the night, Enna was disturbed from a moment’s peace, singing a gentle song from her elven youth, by the sound of hoofbeats in the snow. There was no light to be seen, simply the sound of movement and the sound of drawn breath. Without her keen senses it might have passed unnoticed.

She made a sudden decision, and stood up quickly and fired a sunrod. “Wake my friends!”, she called out, “.. we have ‘guests’!”

Standing a few feet from the fire was revealed a large brown horse, upon which sat Brun, the
vampire. The greyness of his flesh lit by the yellow light of the sunrod. His clothes fine, and their unsuitability for the bitterly cold weather a clear reminder of his frigid undead blood. As always there was something wrong about his looks, a quirky unnatural movement and expression that showed he was not in the world of the living.

More surprising, perhaps was his quiet confidence at appearing apparently alone, and the dark shape slumped over his horse.

“Ah, my fine friends. Here we are, yet again! This time, you will see, I have left my…. shall we call them ladies… asleep in their dark abodes. I am quite, quite, alone. Apart from, that is, the subject of today’s exchange.”

At this, the shape on the horse struggled, and the movements betrayed that it was clearly a sizeable humanoid, perhaps 6 feet in height or more.

The companions reached for their weapons, unsure what to do, but expecting the talk to turn quickly to action. Maurg started to chant a low tune, a dirge of considerable insult to the undead. Brun glanced across and mouthed a syllable. The word turned into a glowing moon crescent symbol in the air that raced outwards and struck Maurg dumb. She struggled to make any further noise, and stamped her feet in goblin rage.

At this Enna notched an arrow, and Brun gestured again. The arrow turned into something horrid, and snakelike, that slithered from her bow and into the snow. She shrieked and dropped the bow in sudden horror, and then a little embarrassed she reached down to retrieve it.

Only Ilwyn seemed to have passed under Brun’s notice, as he slipped to one side and into the darkness. His goblin feet treading softly as he ghosted away.

It was a stand-off. The struggling shape was revealed to be Caecius, hogtied across the horse, his face bloodied and bruised.

Ilwyn stopped to listen from the shadows, and shivering at the cold, held his dagger a little fearfully as he strained to hear.
Brun turned, to face him in the darkness.

“I see you, little weak goblin, cowering in the darkness. I can make you strong, now. You know your friends are really just tolerating you, and you will be thrown aside like an unwanted toy. You know this. If you do not, you shall end like this broken genasi.”

Brun reached down and with one casual gesture of inhuman strength and speed broke Caecius’s neck, a warm torrent of blood pouring down the horse’s neck. The party screamed with horror and rage – all but Haleth who had known Caecius the longest and was struck silent by the sudden shock. He gripped his longsword tightly and swore an oath to repay his friend’s life with vengeance.

Brun looked again at Ilwyn. “So, perhaps now you will retrieve the shard for me. Take it, if you want to live. Bring it to me, if you do not want to end here, alone and dead in the snow.”

Ilwyn was torn. He was not made of the most holy virtues in the forgotten realms, but he remembered moments of kindness. Enna, despite her distaste, healing him in his darkest hour. Haleth lifting a fallen tree limb from across his leg. Even Naram smiling at his capering in lighter moments. He came to a decision that surprised even himself.

“No…. “, he shouted, “this ends now!”

Ilwyn ran towards Brun, his dagger raised. As he charged he ran full pelt into the horse, there was a loud jolt and suddenly he… woke.

The sudden shock of finding himself half asleep by the fire was tinged with relief, the laughs of Brun still echoing in his ears. The rapidly fading whisper spoke to him one final time, “Interesting.. I had thought you would.. betray your ….friends.”


+——

Miles to the east, Caecius woke suddenly from yet another unpleasant dream.

He was surprised to find his neck bleeding, as if it had been struck. He peered at his reflection in a bowl of cold water, surprised to see the strange grey colour of his flesh at the site of the apparent injury.

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Epilogue
The struggle for the Kingdom is settled

The sudden silence was complete after the loud, visceral, fight ended. The second of the two dragons wheezing a few last gasps as it expired messily, taken apart in seconds when the group of adventurers surprised it in its lair.

As Haleth set to the grizzly task of cutting a few choice mementoes from the corpse, he chuckled to himself, still filled with the last dregs of the battle rage. Enna turned her head away, and sniffed, a little disconcerted – once again – at how ready her companions were to be up to their shoulders in gore and with little thanks, at that, to the Goddess. With disdain she tried her best to ignore the petty squabbling of the two goblins that, with a little hesitation, she called allies. They were capering over the mighty hoard of dragon gold and wondrous items it contained. She despaired once again as they tossed fine art works to one side as “worthless” because they were not easy to use as weapons, or made of something shiny.

Naram pushed past the other members of the party, seeing his opportunity at last to examine the resting place of the shard. His single minded quest to seek this artefact within his crystalline grasp. He cared little for the earthly concerns of his erstwhile companions, and stepped quickly around a bubbling pool of magma spewed by one of the dragons and approached the housing of the shard.

Reaching out with his mind, he closed his eyes, and sought the web of energies that connected the universe, the arcane net that he perceived as wrapped around all of creation. It was this that he had learned to push and weave when the need arose and so cause the very nature of reality to alter, and to corrupt the senses and minds of weaker mortals and their base desires and perceptions.

The shard stood out like a beacon in his mind as he shut his eyes and touched one careful hand to brush against the crystalline housing. The shard had clearly been brought here long ago by a strong group of goblins who, feeling its nature and strength, had formed a cargo cult to worship it and bring back the last vestiges of their lost Goddess. Empowered by shard energy he could even see the shadowy forms of long dead goblins worshiping their fallen Ice Maiden.

He smiled to himself and admitted that the pure strength and energy of this item was more worthy of worship than many of the Gods – petty beings most of them and little better than the races that crawl on the forgotten realms. A sarcastic comment died on his lips as he saw Enna peer across the cavern with one watchful arrow notched to her bow in case of danger. “Now is not the time for such remarks”, he reminded himself with a subdued whisper.

As the energies of the shard withdrew from the dead dragon it had fed with energy the housing shimmered like the ripples of a pond, and Naram noted that all was now within his grasp. He called across to Ilwyn, struggling with Maurg over a particularly choice diamond. “Make yourself useful and check this thing for traps”, he ordered.

Ilwyn reluctantly let go of his loot and strolled across the cavern, leaving Maurg alone to sort through the piles of gold and diamonds. He quickly checked the area for residual traps, and finding nothing to interest his trained senses he kept half an eye on Maurg and wandered as nonchalantly as he could over to the Goblin statue.

Naram reached forward carefully and reached for the shard, it coalescing in his grasp to a rod of red crystal much like that of which he himself was made. Its energy was palpable and almost alive. Naram shut his eyes once more and reached out to the web around him. He laughed – a little drunk with the power – how easy it would be to reach out to the shadowfell and drag back the spirits of the fallen dragons! To reach the feywild and step into a quiet woodland glade away from the distractions of the mortal world! He calmed himself.

“I see now”, he explained to his companions who watched him, “why this must never fall into the hands of those who seek it. An army of undead spirits, hungry for the mortal world would be the least of our problems”.

Haleth looked thoughtful a moment, “So what are we to do with this ‘thing’?”

Maurg and Ilwyn paid little attention, and were circling each other and the goblin statue warily. Enna admitted that this was beyond her experience, and by now she longed to return to the troubles of Adraan and away from this cold unpleasant island.

To Naram, however, the path was clear. “I must study this thing and keep it safe. The Mages of Neverwinter charged me to find this and bring it to them. With their help we can use its strength to defend the islands of light in the darkness, and to stop it falling into the wrong hands.”

A brief argument ensued with Ilwyn bragging that as the strongest warrior present he should be awarded with the shard and use it to take his rightful place as tribal leader, but the rest of the party recognised this as the posturing of a troubled individual. Having failed to secure the tribal markings before Maurg his burning desire for power and leadership amongst his own kind was faltering…

In a little desperation and with the rashness that had become his hallmark, he jumped for the goblin statue eager to reach it first. Maurg set herself to tackle him, to block his path with her weight and heavier armour. He moved nimbly, swerved and leapt through the air. “It’s mine!” he rasped, as the world slowed to treacle, recognising the moment as one on which the fate of a kingdom could fall.

Maurg barked a harsh word in her Ice Goblin dialect, and the air was filled with a discordant note, with a crash of thunder sending Ilwyn crashing to the ground. The rest of the party stood still, unsure what – or how – they should interfere.

Maurg stepped forward, keen to reach the statue, and Ilwyn feigning more hurt than he had really suffered, tripped her neatly and they fell to the ground in a rolling mass of limbs and hair. The clangs of Maurg’s armour punctuated a determined voiceless fight for supremacy. The intensity of their fight leaving no time for the insults and curses that normally filled the air around them.

At the last Maurg’s bulk gave her the upper hand and she pushed Ilwyn back. With triumph she reached the statue and grasped its arm. There was a sudden crash of thunder and the room fell silent, the echoes of the loud noise ringing in the silence that followed.

Maurg looked down at her arm, and saw a fiery dagger tattoo matching the two that nestled there. “The tribe is mine now, Ilywn, in name as well as blood.”

Ilwyn hung his head, and when he raised it again, there was a crafty twinkle in his bloodshot eyes.

“Will you not need a strong, and clever, champion by your side?”

“Perhaps…” Maurg mused, “perhaps…”

*

Enna made a disgusted noise in the back of her throat, and decided she’d prefer to have her arms in dragon gristle than to listen to the grubby flirting of the two goblins. Haleth agreed and they quickly finished up the messier part of the dragon’s skinning.

Naram quietly gathered the shard in a fine felt bag and stowed it quickly, as the others parcelled up the more choice parts of the dragon hoard. “Come”, he suggested, “Let us head back to Icehome – with the shard’s power I can reach Adraan and we can make our departure”.

Haleth looked down the rough rock stairs towards the entrance and wondered whether it was safe for them to head out…

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The Dragons
The final fight for the shard

As two young dragons rush at Enna, two more follow behind, along with a fiery Drake. In a flash Enna realises that the dragons have made their home here, and have been dragging in the umber hulks as fresh food.

A mass melee ensues. The pack of dragons have formidable powers. They can turn into smoke and teleport. They breathe hot smoke and ashes and fire over the heroes. Their big blasts set light to the party, but as the battle drags on the heroes put down the flamesmoke dragons.

The drake summons the power of flames to strengthen itself. It is able to hurt Ilwyn, who has been dodging flame blasts one after the other. Enna fires off an arrow, distracting the dragon and preventing it taking the goblin down. Another arrow finishes the monster off.

Naram senses the void shard nearby. Its proximity is hurting the company of heroes. In spite of the harm the shard is doing Haleth encourages Ilwyn to get up off the floor.

Party pats themselves down, putting out the last of the fires. Haleth, Enna and Maurg are all badly hurt.

Haleth takes a dragon’s head to fashion as a helm. Enna skins some of the dragons, knowing the hides will have value to an armorer. The drake hide is hot, but Haleth seems unaffected by heat and so agrees to carry it. Some of the monsters’ teeth are collected too.

After a rest, the party goes to the stairs to the west. This is the direction that Naram can sense the shard.

The heat is palpable going up the stairs. The slope is a mixture of carved stairs and natural rock. The stairway is scored with the claws of the drakes.

The group climbs up. Enna creeps silently up the steps. She can see a crack in the ground where lava comes out. Fumes of sulphur and heat vent into the passage.

Enna walks through the feywild crosses the gap. Ilwyn easily jumps the lava crack. Haleth also jumps easily, as does Maurg. Naram summons a bridge of shadow and walks easily across.

Now Ilwyn takes the lead and brashly walks on ahead, towards the shard. The heat increases even more and there is a slight glow around the corner to the north.

There is now a big chamber to the west with a big crack filled with lava. A big dragon skull lies on the floor. There is a great crystal glowing yellow-orange nearby inside a green block. There’s also a lot of gold and jewels lying on the floor, while to the north is a statue of a goblin holding a dagger.

Naram knows that the glowing crystal is the shard. But it is surrounded by burning hot radiant light.

Ilwyn sneaks forward and spies a pile of jewellery and gold, with an adult female volcanic dragon sleeping on it. It’s glowing with the same coloured light as the shard. There’s also a bed of flame with a male dragon sleeping on it. They are catastrophic dragons.

Ilwyn tries to sneak up on the male dragon, but is distracted and slips over, waking up the dragon. Both dragons rise and ready themselves for combat.

Enna makes a great strike on the male dragon, driving an arrow into a weak spot.

Naram steps into the cavern, surrounding himself with a cloak of shadow. He realises that the protection for the shard would hurt whoever touched it, but they would draw from that energy and gain resistance to flames. He shouts this information to the others. The radiant energy was designed to shield the shard from the local environment.

Ilwyn drives a tortuous strike into the male dragon’s foot.

A cloud of poisonous, sulpherous ash begins to surround the male dragon. A claw smashes the rock floor, causing a crack that screams past Enna and opens a vent of magma in the cavern entrance. It claws and snaps its teeth at Ilwyn.

The female dragon flaps over to Enna and bites and claws at her. It pins her down and sets her afire. Haleth charges across the magma pit into the female dragon, distracting it.

Maurg throws herself over the vent. She launches a staggering note at the female dragon. The magical chant forces it away. The goblin encourages Enna, who takes heart and pumps three arrows in quick succession into the male dragon before running across the cavern towards the shard.

Naram also makes his way towards the shard.

Ilwyn strikes the male dragon with a cunning blow that renders it unconscious. He then uses his trickster’s blade to strike a vulnerable spot, doing devastating damage.

The dragon rouses from its nconscious state and begins to leech the smoke and flame from the area around it. It expands the zone immediately around with smoke and ash. It bites and claws at Ilwyn, grabbing him and shaking him around like a ragdoll.

The female dragon strikes at Haleth, setting him on fire. Haleth makes a mighty surge, then launches a bedevilling assault on the female dragon.

Maurg starts chanting a song of conquest to encourage those near her.

Enna draws upon the energy of the world and shoots an arrow that badly hurts and disorients the male dragon. Then she strolls up to the shard and touches it. She feels a radiant energy englobe her and begin to overwhelm her. She realises she now has protection against fire but the radiant energy is slowly killing her.

Naram shoots lightning at the female dragon, them places some lightning motes next to it.

Ilwyn tries to finish the male dragon off and comes close, but doesn’t quite finish the job. There’s a great rush of heat out of the male dragon.

Haleth battles with the female dragon, insulting it as he barrels into it.

Enna shoots out the eye of the male dragon. It drops dead, its fires extinguished. The elf walks over to the statue of the goblin holding the dagger. Enna realises she’s seen something like this before. Anyone touching this might regain a power.

Ilwyn makes a vaulting charge into the remaining dragon. The female dragon’s aura of smoke and embers expands again. It is still taking damage from the motes. Explosions of superheated smoke billow out, but Ilwyn and Haleth appear to be unbothered.

Enna touches the statue and remembers how to inflict a biting volley. She launches two arrows at the female dragon, doing enormous damage.

Ilwyn dances in at the monster with a duellist’s flurry. As the motes fry the dragon, Haleth leaps on the beast and cracks its skull. As its body dies, a shining light rushes out of its head. It swirls around the deceased dragon.

Naram walks over to the shard. The energy the dragon stole from the shard is now returning to it. Soon Naram will be able to touch it…

View
The Black Door
Walking into a trap

There is a rainbow wrapped around the conical form of the mountain. The group strikes camp and heads west towards the distant massif. All are rested except for Ilwyn, who is tired and wretched.

The companions are covered with snow. But things start to warm up as they advance towards the mountain. There is a steamy fog rolling off the slopes. The party starts to shed some clothing layers.

Enna believes that there is a fissure in the ground belching heat into the air.

A large stone arch is ahead, a doorway in the side of the mountain. It is in black marble and a door fills the arch. The arch has carvings of figures living and dying, showing the journey of life and death. The door is jet black and has white carvings upon it; the carving of a humanoid figure.

Ilwyn and Maurg talk about Gibbeth the Endless, a long-dead largely forgotten ice god of the Feywild, worshipped by the tribes of the ice lands. This carved figure seems to resemble Gibbeth. It holds a spear in one hand and a skull in the other.

Naram and Enna take a closer look. The door seems to have been closed a long time. The door seems to be able to be activated by touching it. However, there is a glow on the door like a sheen of ice. Touching it would burn.

Enna thinks that those who carved the arch and door were little people. Possibly goblin-sized.

Ilwyn steps forward and says ‘I am the chosen one’ and touches the door. Marurg steps up and does likewise saying ‘I have the tattoo’.

Maurg gets there first, pushing past Ilwyn, putting her hand on the door. There is a burst of energy much like the one where she touched the obelisk of shadow.

Maurg receives a message in her head in ten languages. She recognises it, it says ‘welcome, Maker’. There is a flash of light and a tattoo similar to the dark shadow, but this time of a white ice crystal, appears on her shoulder.

Haleth and Enna are dominated by a magical presence and cannot move. Maurg senses the door is protecting itself from intruders.

Maurg commands the door to let the group past. The door doesn’t react. Maurg tries to command the dominated party members but they do not respond either.

Ilwyn goes forward and puts his hand on the door. There is no reaction. But he gets a mental image of what the door is doing. It is commanding those it is dominating to destroy themselves rather than enter the door.

The door is drawing attention from creatures nearby. A pair of Umber Hulks appear to be led to the vicinity by the door.

Enna, under the door’s control, tries to shoot Naram but misses and manages to shake free of the domination. She notices an Umber Hulk shambling from the north towards them. She shouts a warning.

Naram goes up to Haleth and slaps him, trying to bring him around from the domination. He succeeds.

There is another burst of energy from the door. Haleth and Enna are dominated again.

Maurg attacks the door with a sword to try and stop its magic. She chops a chunk of stone from the door. Then she tries to bluff the door that the group are her minions and should be allowed through. She leans against the door and pushes it. But the door does not seem to budge. Ilwyn tries to pick the door. He thinks he might be able to disable the magical trap in the door.

Enna is commanded by the door to attack the Umber Hulk, getting a solid hit. She comes around from the domination again. Haleth is commanded to attach Ilwyn. He charges, doing some damage. The Umber hulk goes for Haleth, directing its confusing gaze at him, sliding and dazing him. It then strikes him with its claws.

There is another pulse from the door and Enna is dominated again. Another Umber Hulk appears nearby. Maurg concentrates her arcane senses on the fabric of the door. It shudders slightly but does not open. Ilwyn uses his thieving skills to interfere with the door. With his Gloves of Dimensional Grasp his hands reach through the door and starts to disable the works of the mechanism behind the black surface.

The power of Gibbeth emanating the door forces Enna to shoot at Naram and the arrow does great damage to the shardmind. The umber hulk near Haleth grabs Haleth. Naram tries to reach out to the door and understand its magic. He raises a magical wall of force to shield himself from the door’s magic. Doing this manages to snap the group out from the door’s domination.

Haleth cannot break the grasp of the umber hulk. Enna forces arrow after arrow into Haleth’s Umber Hulk, eventually knocking it over. The Hulk draws Enna closer with its confusing gaze. It claws at her, doing great damage.
Then Ilwyn finishes off the job of breaking the door’s mechanism and its magical energy seems to dissipate. It is now an ordinary door.

Enna backs off and fires more arrows into the Umber Hulk. Naram tries to blow its mind apart and hurts the monster badly. It is still able to claw at Enna. The second Umber Hulk has been circling, looking for prey. Now it goes for Ilwyn, scything with a lobster claw.

Maurg pushes at the disabled door, trying to open it. Ilwyn, comes and pushes the door open handily. It is dark inside but his darkvision seems to indicate a cavernous temple inside. There is noise and movement inside, of a large creature. There are broken carvings in the temple. Ilwyn enters.

Enna fires another arrow into the umber hulk and then runs into the cavern. Haleth encourages the Umber Hulk to charge then leaps in the air, lands on its back, grabs it by the head and twists its neck until dead.

Naram disheartens the remaining umber hulk. Maurg shoots the umber hulk with her staggering note. Ilwyn prepares to close the door.

Enna realizes she is inside a cavern where there is a mixture of frost and steam and Underdark-style vegetation is growing. There are scratchmarks on the floor, possibly from claws.

She tries to hold off the umber hulk at the door while Naram runs into the door. Haleth follows. The door is closed.

The interior is overgrown. Enna can hear things moving around inside. There is a carving on the floor. It depicts a large fiery pool of liquid. Figures stand around with their hands raised to the sky.

Naram notes that goblins often align themselves with powerful elements like fire. He comments that there is something arcanely energising here.

Enna smells blood and guts as if something’s stomach has been ripped open. Outside the door the umber hulk is eating the other umber hulk.

There is a smashed statue of Gibbeth to the northwest. The remains of a freshly killed umber hulk lie nearby. Enna approaches, looking for tracks and sign. She notice that whatever killed the hulk did so with teeth and claws.

There is a shriek, and two young, smokey-looking dragon creatures roar with rage and come rushing out…

View
Ice Trolls
A battle in the snow

It is late in the afternoon.

The heroes hear angry shouts on the wind. Large humanoid creatures charge out of the blizzard at them. There are five of them in all: three trolls, one champion and one priest.

Enna realises they are ice trolls, adapted to cold and who heal rapidly from their wounds. They hunt in the mountains, descending on easy prey.

Haleth understands giant. From the shouting, he realizes a troll with a greataxe is Skalmad, a troll champion. His eyes are completely black and glow slightly. The troll priest with a feathered staff is an Icespeaker.

Ilwyn rushes forward at the trolls as Maurg begins an intimidating war chant that stops some of the trolls in their tracks.

An ice troll rushes at Ilwyn, thwacking him hard. Skalmad strides forward and stares at Naram balefully, a magical attack that seems to prevent Naram from shardswarming. Then he charges Ilwyn with his greataxe, which is partially deflected by Enna’s defensive volley.

Another ice troll charges Maurg, delivering a strong blow. Enna fires arrows into its leg, slowing it and making it roar with pain.

The icespeaker steps forward and launches a blast of cold at Enna, freezing her and blasting her with frost. The icespeaker then shouts that their goddess Gibbith will allow the trolls to feast tonight.

Haleth draws many of the trolls next to him, lashing out of them and bloodying one of them. Naram summons his void shard near the icespeaker, then protects himself psychically. Ilwyn deft-strikes the wounded troll. Then Maurg follows with a staggering note that pushes the troll into Haleth’s reach, where he finishes it off.

Yet another ice troll comes for Ilwyn but fails to chew past the goblin’s armour. Salmad jumps up and swings his greataxe, trying to topple his enemies, hurting them all badly. He follows up with another attack on Haleth, striking him a great blow.

At this point the dead troll regenerates and stands back up again.

Enna switches fire to a second troll, doing great harm to it. Haleth picks himself up and does a tempest dance, hitting three trolls around him. The icespeaker enchants the resurrected troll so that his fists glow white with power. But a void shard placed by Naram explodes, stripping away the troll’s magic. Naram follows up with a psychic attack that fells the troll again while dazing Skalmad.

Ilwyn picks himself up, making a vaulting charge, bloodying the northernmost troll. Maurg encourages the goblin and he feels a little stronger. He takes another jab at the troll which hurts it.

But for all the damage the party does, the trolls keep healing. One claws Haleth, who ducks out of the way.

Skalmad’s anger overflows, encouraging his companions. He grabs a tankard at his waist, a potion that makes his eyes glow more fiercely. A blast of icy cold comes out of him, hitting all nearby. Maurg and Ilwyn take damage from the blast and one of the trolls is killed in the magical explosion.

Enna marks Skalmad for death and encouraged by Maurg she launches a mighty arrow. It strikes a vulnerable part of the champion, bloodying him badly.

The icespeaker steps forward and launches a ray of ice at Naram, which misses. Haleth retreats, stamping on the head of one of the downed trolls, which is slowly regenerating. He pulls all the remaining standing trolls near him with his call to ‘come and get it’.

Naram manoeuvres for advantage. Ilwyn tries to burn the downed troll using oil from his pack and a flint to set the creature on fire. This seems to enrage Skalmad. Muarg burns the other fallen troll. This seems to prevent it healing as it expires.

Skalmad strikes out at Haleth and Maurg, bowling them over. Enna strikes out at him. The icespeaker makes a gesture with his staff and summons icy swords from the ground to slice Haleth and Maurg. Haleth stands up and performs an appalling crunch to badly hurt Skalmad. Ilwyn begins to flank the champion.

The remaining ordinary ice troll tries to get away but Haleth stops. Skalmad makes another toppling sweep, bloodying Haleth. He follows up with another greataxe attack, hurting the fighter further. He is going berserk, hacking at Haleth.

Fortunately, Enna cuts Skalmad down with a pair of arrows that split the tree.

The icespeaker launches more icy blades at Haleth and Maurg. Maurg is now very badly hurt and barely standing. Ilwyn fells the remaining standing ice troll, leaving only the icespeaker standing.

Enna heals Maurg with a healing word. Enna orders the troll to drop his staff and step away from it. The troll seems to comply, and then instead grabs his staff tries to run for it. Enna puts an arrow into it.

One of the ice trolls regenerates, but Haleth cleaves it, putting it back down. It seems to regenerate and stand up again!

Ilwyn tries to intercept the icespeaker, wounding it so that it falls prone. Maurg charges the icespeaker and Naram finishes it off.

Quickly, everyone burns the bodies before they can regenerate. Everyone feels more powerful.

The party loots the burned corpses.

There is a glowing ring on the icespeaker. A Grace Ring of Salvation.

It’s late in the day and everyone needs to take a rest. There’s a blizzard and the snow is deepening.

The party dig out some snow to create a hollow and build a shelter. Enna forages for wood but Ilwyn refuses to cooperate with the others and slinks off into the snowy woods. Everyone is so fed up with the goblin and his selfishness that they make no attempt to call him back.

Everyone else hunkers down in the night. Naram keeps his mind open to track Ilwyn.

Ilwyn sneaks back in the night, trying to get close to the fire. Haleth tries to extort his share of loot back from Ilwy for a place near the fire. Ilwyn refuses and slinks back into the night.

The rest of the night goes quietly.

As sun comes up a conical mountain can be seen in the west, two or three hours away. There is a black cloud over the higher slopes.

Enna scouts around and finds Ilwyn shivering in the snow, exhausted. She gets Haleth and together they drag him back to the shelter and start to warm him up by the fire, hoping he’s learned a lesson and that in future he’ll work with everyone as a team.

Eventually everyone decides to pack up and head off…

View
Zombie Forest
Running from the undead

A group of shambling forms can be seen amongst the trees. Everyone tries to be quiet.

There’s a feeling of death in the air. Ahead there’s a handful of shapes in the trees, lurching about. There’s a pool of noxious-looking water behind the figures.

Enna steals forward, stepping lightly across the forest floor. She sees a dozen undead flitting between the trees. Some look zombie-like, others ghoul-like. Some of the zombies look elven, with chainmail and longswords. They are dread zombie knights. Other undead look like goblins.

The area she is walking towards stinks of death and decay.

Enna goes back and tells the group what she has seen. Maurg wants to creep up on these things and surprise them. The party sneaks forward silently. The undead are arranged in a loose horseshoe ahead of them. One of the ghouls is whispering, nastily. Another seems to stink of gas.

Ilwyn realizes the goblin hordes are infected with some kind of dark undead energy and prepares to attack. The heroes charge in.

Naram’s anomaly kills one one of the zombie goblin horde. Maurg blows her battle-horn, creating a thunder that kills another of the goblins. Enna shoots the ghoul whisperer and it shrieks in return.

Haleth rushes forward and draws the ghoul whisperer out, where he can swing at it. Ilwyn is charged by a goblin ghoul. It bites him and immobilises him with toxin. Another goblin charges Enna, biting and immobilising her.

The stench ghoul charges Haleth.

In spite of being immobilized, Enna teleports away from the goblin ghoul and fires off a number of arrows. However only one hits its mark, bloodying the whispering ghoul. The monster grabs Ilwyn and starts to gnaw on him.

Naram’s dream form is summoned and strikes out at the dread knights. Maurg launches a thunder strike against a goblin ghoul, taking it down. Haleth is surrounded by ghouls, dazed and immobilized by their poisonous attacks.

Now Enna launches a hammering volley at the whispering ghoul, which injures it badly and knocks it down. This breaks its grasp on Ilwyn. The monster shrieks at Enna, filling her with such fear that she panics.

Naram uses his void shard to draw the remaining ghouls together. Maurg begins a goblin war chant. The magical healing energies envelop a dread knight. Ilwyn finally cuts down the ghoul whisperer.

One of the elf knights steps through the feywild and appears next to Enna. Enna is horrified. She avoids the oncoming dread knight by stepping through the Feywild herself and launching a hindering shot at the knight’s legs to slow it. The other dread knight now steps through the feywild to harass Enna.

Maurg comes to help, flanking the dread knight. Enna takes down one of the dread knights with a radiant arrow, realising that its holy power has unknitted the undead creature, ensuring it would never rise again.

Naram disheartens the stench ghoul, weakening its attacks. Maurg manoeuvres around the dread zombie elf knight but misses with its attack. Ilwyn strikes the knight, hurting it, followed by Enna shooting a radiant arrow at the knight, damaging the undead creature even more.

Haleth stomps on the stench ghoul, taunting it. ’I’m not sure what’s worse, you or Ilwyn!’ he shouts.

The knight strikes back at Ilwyn, dazing him. Naram finishes the knight off with psychic power.

Maurg runs at the Stench Ghoul and attacks it, knocking it down. The ghoul picks itself up and lashes out at Haleth, dealing a fearsome bite to the warrior. Enna launches a radiant arrow at the ghoul and it shrieks as the holy missile strikes and burns its skin.

The last zombie elf knight seems to recover, its dark soul returning to the body and reanimating it. It gets up and charges Naram. Naram shardswarms, moving away. He blasts the knight with magic and it collapses, its soul howling away. But the shardmind believes that the knight is still not down for good. It will take holy energy to undo this monster.

The stench ghouls attacks Haleth but misses. Enna shoots at the knight’s corpse, blessing the arrow with radiant energy as she shoots. The elf watches as the body shudders and seems to exhale, giving up the ghost for good.

Maurg is steadily beating down the stench ghoul. It is still able to strike out at Haleth, biting him and injecting him with venom. Ilwyn tries to attack the ghoul but the stench of the thing makes his eyes water and he misses. Enna uses another arrow to cut the ghoul down. Everyone can now take a moment to rest.

Enna feels they are being watched.

There is a sound of running feet, and the smell of rotting and decaying ghouls, as if the party has drawn attention to themselves.

The group decides to try and hide. Ilwyn and Enna manage to direct everyone to a temporary hiding place as figures flit past.

Maurg believes these woods are haunted. Enna thinks there is a large group of undead coming at the group from many directions.

Naram suggests Ilwyn set up a trap with the remaining supply of radiant oil. Then Enna and Naram try to figure out where the enemies are coming from, but fail.

Ilwyn doesn’t think he has time to set up a trap, so the party decides to run for it. The wails of the ghouls are very unnerving. Enna in particular is very scared by the massed army of undead.

The group tries to run to safety. Haleth has to shake the increasingly scared Enna into running.

Naram is also having trouble keeping up with the rest. A ghoul, close behind, manages to touch him and leach some strength away. It takes Haleth to drag Naram away from the ghoul. The party runs, pursued by great numbers of shrieking ghouls, too many to fight. The noise seems to attract even more attention from an army of undead in the forest.

At this point Ilwyn decides to slip away from the party and hide. He is skilful at concealing himself and soon feels safe, but he is now on his own. The rest of the party notices his disappearance and think that the gblin has deserted them.

Naram summons his dream form and tries to use it as a decoy, which works briefly. But then the party has to cut their way through a handful of zombies n.

Enna spots some paths and manages to find a clear route trough the undead. As they run Maurg sings a song to keep the party cheered. Naram calms the group down. They are still surrounded by hundred of ghouls and zombies. Trapped in the woods.

It’s important to keep moving.

A mysterious twig lands on the path ahead of them. It draws zombies to it. They scent the air, sniffing for the party but are distracted, allowing the heroes to slip past.

The area ahead rises slightly with stone ledges and thicker vegetation. Enna tries to lead the group to the safety of cover but the group is exhausted and cannot draw clear.

Enna figures that if the group start a landslide of some boulders they can crush some of their pursuers. Naram summons a voidshard. Its explosion starts an avalanche that rolls towards the undead. The leading figures in the wave are crushed, but one hurls a dagger that hits Enna, wounding her a little.

Maurg reckons that the elf’s blood will attract attention from the zombies. So Enna must stop and patch herself up. Enna thinks she detects Ilwyn nearby. She says something out loud about the ‘traitor goblin’.

The party heads toward the high ground. They see a clearing ahead, containing a large, black pillar. Naram detects a shriek in his head as they approach the pillar. He feels the power of the shard within it.

He notices that the undead don’t seem to be approaching the pillar. The group walks closer to the pillar.

Maurg rushes forward and grabs the obelisk. There is a flash that blows her away from the pillar. She topples, unconscious.

Naram detects shard power in the artefact. He senses hundreds of souls in torment in the obelisk. Naram doesn’t like the presence of corrupted shard power and wants to cleanse it.

Maurg has been overcome by dark energy and is possessed by souls rushing through her. Then she comes around. She notices a pair of black wings tatooed on her arm in necrotic fire.

Naram tries to contact the souls in the pillar but feels his life energy being sucked away. Naram manages to release some of the souls. They provide the energy that animates the undead and releasing them causes many of the zombies to collapse, with peace creeping across their faces. The group is safer, but Naram is worn out by the mental effort.

Ilwyn is seen to march into the clearing with his dagger out.

Enna challenges the cowardly goblin and taunts him. He tells the goblin he’s not fit to rule the goblin tribe.

Ilwyn replies: ‘You don’t know what those wretched souls have been through, what they have suffered, a true leader must know this.’

Enna responds: ‘You only care about yourself and saving your own hide.’

Ilwyn tries to put his blood on the pillar, cutting himself. He insists he should become the leader of the goblin tribe. Enna mocks the goblin at his.

‘I said this is none of your business, elf’ shouts Ilwyn. Then he shoots a glance at Maurg. ‘Now step away from the pillar!’

Maurg replies: ‘I am bigger and the rightful leader.’

Ilwyn, his voice full of spite and venom, says: ‘I am smarter and a true friend to the goblin horde!’

Maurg Stoneshanks steps next to the pillar. Ilwyn steps closer still, and brandishes his dagger towards Maurg’.

‘I am a true leader,’ says Maurg, ‘I can inspire my people to greatness!’

Ilwyn spits: ’I’ll spill your blood on this pillar, goblin scum!’

Maurg laughs. ‘Ha! You have not passed the test! Only I have the tattoo!’

‘I need no ink or scar on my skin,’ shouts Ilwyn. ‘My blood is my proof that I am a righteous leader!’

‘This mark is magical!’ screams Maurg.

Enna nods her head. ‘Custom is that the leaders are anointed by magic!’

‘And what would you know of custom elf?’ sneers Ilwyn.

‘He is an upstart!’ says Maurg, slyly. Ilwyn bristles at this.

‘Maurg where were you when the goblins were being enslaved by the drow, you were stuck in a prison cowering. Is that a way for a leader to behave?’

‘My companions were weak,’ says Maurg. ‘I could not hide behind them as you do your companions. And I did not steal off and run away into the forest as you did just now!’

‘I was not saving my neck, I had to communicate with the undead!’ flaps the perturbed goblin.

‘You left your friends to fend for themselves,’ states Maurg, contemptuously.

Maurg tries to fight Ilwyn and the two goblins push backwards and forwards. There’s a scuffle and Haleth has to step in to try and break them apart.

Naram continues his work at releasing the souls. The pillar seems to give off a concussion wave. Its energy is spent. The black colour fades to a grey and the pillar cracks. The remaining undead all collapse to the ground. The dark energy is gone.

Enna realizes that the pillar was what tattoos the goblin leaders. Maurg was tattooed but Ilwyn did not receive the mark and so cannot become leader of the goblins. At this realisation she continues to mock Ilwyn.

However, something has happened to the goblin. The group notice that Ilwyn now seems to be part shadow. Everyone is unnerved by this.

The party begins to walk away with Maurg and lwyn squabbling. they walk up into the mountains and see the occasional dead umber hulk. They trudge through the ice and they climb into the windy heights. The area seems increasingly remote.

They hear angry shouts on the wind. Large humanoid creatures charge out of the wind at the party.

View
Following the Army
Off the the mountains

In Ghorfal’s fortress the party pick over the bodies of the slain. On the bodies they find around 1000 gold. There’s also a glass jar containing a dark blue oil in one of the tents.

Enna gives a warning. Umber Hulks are descending to the courtyard and starting to chew on the corpses. A party of slave goblins outside the front gates runs for safety.

Party darts out of the fortress. They make it to the treeline and stop for a rest.

Ilwyn was very badly burned in the fight with Ghorfal. Maurg has an ointment that helps him heal. She is also composing a song about how she helped win the day in the fight against Ghorfal.

Ilwyn, greed ever at the forefront of his mind, wants treasure for helping the goblins. Maurg says he can have some of the tribal treasures in the village, once they have been recovered.

The party thinks of heading off after Ghorfal’s army. But first Maurg wants to recover her weapons and armour and tribal regalia and join them. She seems worried about the tribe. She is keen to see her brother and how the tribe is doing.

Moving further from the fort, the group takes the opportunity to have a longer rest and recover. Enna takes watch. The night passes uneventfully. Everyone wakes refreshed and recovered.

The party heads off back to the goblin village with Maurg. It is a brisk, cold morning.

They approach the village. Goblins with spears wait outside. There is a cyclops’ head on a spike. It looks like it a supply wagon, led by a cyclops, approached the village and was ambushed by the goblins.

Ilwyn strides into the goblin camp, looking triumphant.

Iraz leans next to the gate and has an evil grin. He waves at Maurg. They greet and start talking. Naram tries to encourage Maurg to get her things.

The heroes also meet the Dwarf. He is packing his stuff. He has clearly looted the bodies of the drow that the party had killed. The Dwarf leaves, whistling.

Maurg recovers the goblin regalia, including a suit of armour and a sword as tall as her. She puts on a pair of magical gloves. She starts to chant for joy and says she is ready to leave for the mountains of fire.

In the hidden goblin cache the party finds some more things. Enna finds a poorly cut diamond worth a thousand gold. She realises it is from another plane from the Shadowfell. Caecius finds a goblin idol worth 2,500 gold. Ilwyn finds 1,700 gold-worth of gear. Haleth finds a cloak: a frostpaw cloak giving resistance to the cold.

Maurg tells the heroes that o be initiated a goblin has to enter the caves in the mountains and has to pass tests. There’s a test of ice, a test of fire, a test of shadow. It’s a day’s march to the mountain. Howeverm there are many threats in the mountains. Not many goblins past the test but those that do are proclaimed to be particularly sneaky and clever and therefore worth following.

Caecius and Iraz will stay behind to defend the goblin village. Maurg will go with the rest of the heroes. Caecius will train the villagers to fight off the drow and cyclops.

The party heads out without Caecius but with a new goblin member. They strike out owards the mountains.

Enna sees a pile of corpses ahead, of drow and umber hulks. She sneaks forward stealthily and finds three drow and six umber hulks torn apart, seemingly by other umber hulks.

Has the mind-control of the umber hulks been broken? Have they gone rogue? The praty ponders these questions.

From the tracks, Enna can tell there was a panic here and a great scuffle.

The party continues onwards through the woods. Every so often they discover more remains.

Enna hears something up ahead moving through the woods. She creeps forward and finds a wooly ice giant, marching through the bushes. Marching away to the right of the path. They decide to let it go away unmolested. Maurg tells the group that the hills are haunted by ice trolls.

Aware of the dangers of the hills, the party chooses a covered route. The air is chilly.

At one point three trolls are seen to drag an umber hulk into a cave.

Now the fellowship’s path descends down into the woods and into a hollow. There, they come across a site of two or three long-dead humanoids. A goblin, a human and an elf. Enna doesn’t know of any elves having come to this island. However, this body appears to be mummified and thousands of years old.

The party leaves the gruesome tableaux behind.

View
Into the Fort
Taking down Ghorfal

The party prepares to infiltrate Ghorfal’s fortress.

Maurg gives some indications that Ghorfal has been using a ritual to ensorcel the umber hulks and make them obedient. Maybe this is what he used to create an army. However, there is a flaw in this scheme. Left for long enough the umber hulks will recover from Ghorfal’s influence and might start attacking each other.

Maura begs the party to spare any goblins found.

The fellowship finds the hole in the wall, a gap large enough for a creature to get through. Ilwyn goes through. There is the sound of groaning slaves and skittering creatures on the far side.

Fifty feet away to the south Ilwyn sees some tents. By one of them he sees the largest Neogi he has ever seen. It is massive and bloated. At its feet are a pair of goblin females, bound and offered to the creature. Ilwyn reckons the creature is Ghorfal.

The party moves on through the hole, single file. Haleth asks Maura to yell words of encouragement to her comrades while the party engages the monster, which is a great old master of the Neogi race.

Then everyone rushes out, with Haleth and Ilwyn in the lead.

Haleth charges, hitting the Neogi. As he does so an Umber Hulk, accompanied by a Neogi slaver, appears.

Naram drops a voidshard in front of the umber hulk. Caecius charges thehulk. However, it grabs the warlord in its claws.

Enna dances across the ground, firing arrow after arrow into the slaver. Several arrows strike home, badly wounding the Neogi.

As this rearguard action goes on, Ilwyn attacks Ghorfal, striking with a dagger and gashing it. At this a psychic attack is launched against Haleth and Ilwyn, trying to psychically shackle the pair. Ghorfal follows up with an attack that tries to bend the pair to his will. Ilwyn is hit by the dominating attack and he starts to slow down as Ghorfal’s will begins to overwhelm him.

The Neogi slaver tries to use his psychic powers to make himself unseen to Enna.

Naram tries to free Caecius from the umber hulk, which is chewing on the warlord. Caecius hits the hulk with his spear, pushing it back and breaking the hold. The umber hulk then rushes Caecius, using its confusing gaze to draw him into its clutches, attacking again with its claws.

Enna shoots and hits the slaver controlling the hulk, almost finshing it. However, it psychically persuades her that he is invisible and she can no longer see the creature.

Naram summons his psychic anomaly near Ghorfal. It pulls the monster into a corner of the stockade where the shardmind seals it in with a psychic wall. Now the party can focus on the tough-skinned umber hulk.

Caecius is in the mandibles of the hulk. He wields his spear and drives the hulk off for a second time.

The hulk turns and charges Enna. It claws at her with her lobster-like claws. She is raked by the sharp appendages. Hurt, she dances away, shooting arrows into the hulk.

Naram discerns an arcane force wrapped around the two goblins. So he summons an anomaly next to the umber hulk.

Haleth moves towards one of the goblins. He reaches to pick one up. As he does so it turns into a hag-like creature that claws at him. It is a hideous bog hag. Haleth jumps back. A foul aura surrounds the hags, weakening anyone who gets near.

The umber hulk charges Enna again, slashing at her and making its mark. She steps back and shoots, but her arrows bounce off its carapace. Ilwyn throws a dagger at the hulk, bloodying it. Caecius tries to coordinate an attack with Ilwyn on the hulk from two sides.

A bog hag strikes Haleth extremely hard, bloodying him. Haleth pummels the bog hag hard then falls back to get some healing from his comrades. Caecius encourages everyone with a rallying shout.

Ghorfal, still trapped behind the wall, starts climbing up out of the trap on its spider-like legs.

Naram uses his psychic powers to move the bog hags next to a void shard that he had summoned. However, one of the hags comes to its senses and charges Haleth, striking at him.

The umber hulk strikes at Caecius. It its him with a claw. Then it tries to confuse Enna with a glare but the elf closes her eyes to prevent it confusing her. Enna steps back but cannot get any of her shots past the creature’s armour.

Ilwyn attacks to wound the umber hulk and it falls to the floor.

Ghorfal continues climbing out of his trap, trying to get to the top of the wall. He attacks Haleth, trying to enslave him with his psychic power.

Haleth pulls the hags and the hulk towards him.

Naram takes down the umber hulk with a psychic attack. The void shard explodes, hurting Ghorfal and sending him falling from his perch on the wall. His flesh bursts as he hits the ground, splashing squirming grubs and larvae around him.

As it lands the Neogi sends a message into Naram’s mind: ‘For this, you will die’!’. Then he shouts for guards.

Caecius charges into Ghorfal, squishing through the larvae and hurting it. A bog hag slashes at Haleth but misses. Enna steps through the feywild, firing one arrow at Ghorfal that badly injures the monster, and a second arrow that shreds one of the bog hags and drops it lifeless to the floor. Ilwyn deft-strikes the remaining bog hag, harming it.

Ghorfal tries to psychically shackle Ilwyn, Enna and Caecius, dazing them all. Now another umber hulk and a Neogi slaver emerges from a door in a nearby tower and starts to advance on the party. Naram raises electrical motes and a void shard near them.

Haleth rushes over to Ghorfal, which is tottering on its multiple legs. He rips its head off and lets out a bestial roar. He faces down the umber hulk and slaver and shouts: ‘Want Some!’

Caecius charges the last bog hag, delivering a mighty blow. The hag gets up and rends at Caecius with the claws. Caecius cannot resist this lethal attack and is sliced apart. He falls to the ground, dying.

Enna, in a fury, finishes off the hag.

The Neogi slaver tries to use a psychic attack to convince Haleth that it doesn’t exist. Then it advances on the fighter. Then the umber hulk tries to rush pass and takes damage from Ilwyn’s blade. The hulk strikes back, grabs the goblin and starts to chew on him.

Haleth rushes the slaver and umber hulk, where he performs a tempest dance, attacking both targets but failing to make much of an impact on them. Naram psychically pushes the hulk back towards the motes and the void shard.

Enna says a prayer to the Lady Angharradh, which causes Caecius to be bathed with a healing light and raises him back to health.

The umber hulk’s confusing gaze sends Ilwyn off to the motes, where they explode, badly wounding the goblin. Then the hulk charges Haleth. Enna shoots the Hulk, bloodying it.

Ilwyn, near the motes, falls down dying. He is revived by his Medallion of Death Deferred and tries to crawl away.

Caecius hits the slaver, bloodying it as it runs away. He follows the slaver, trying to attack, but fails to connect. As a mote finishes off Ilwyn, who is dying again, the Neogi slaver tries to run from Caecius.

The Umber Hulk confuses Haleth with its gaze. The fighter charges the slaver, hurting it. Now the remaining void shard explodes, knocking the slaver over and bloodying the umber hulk. Naram finishes the slaver off.

Caecius again briefly revives Ilwyn as he charges the umber hulk. Enna shoots at the last umber hulk, making it stagger.

Ilwyn is killed again by the last mote. Maurg comes out and starts to rummage around in a pouch, as if to heal Ilwyn.

Haleth rips the head of the umber hulk off, finishing it off for good.

Maurg sprinkles powder over Ilwyn, healing him. He comes round. Caecius, who is also injured, is stabilized.

The umber hulks on the walls stop their mechanical patrolling and start to move more ferally. Some start fighting amongst themselves.

The party realises it needs to get out fast.

View
Watching With Mother
Taking down the bone snake

The heroes take a moment to recover their strength, then they loot the bodies of the slaver crew. Ilwyn notices that the cyclops carries a mercenary badge similar to those used by the giants on the island.

They examine the barge, sitting in the river. It is about 10 feet wide and 30 feet long. It has a lot of pouches of gold on it, maybe 14,000 gold pieces in all. In the barge Ilwyn finds papers in a wallet. One letter has a black moon with a dagger though it. The letter is signed with a solitary ‘B’ in fine calligraphy. Enna suggests it might have been Brone. The money seems to accompany the letter. It is a delivery note for the mercenaries’ pay.

The group decides to continue downriver towards the south. Ilwyn gets in the barge with Enna and the two pretend to be prisoners. The rest of the party flanks tha barge as it is cast off and floats down the river. The barge drifts in the current. Occasionally it gets stuck in logjams and the party members have to free it.

The river bends round to the left. A wooden fortress comes into view. It has four towers at each corner and high walls with walkways overlooking the approaches. The fort is still being built but it’s clear that most of the defences have been finished. Roads have been laid to access the fort, including a road from the river. A large metal gate faces the river.

There’s a tent in front of the fortress gate. By the tent there is a spit with a boar being roasted over a fire. Only goblins can be seen here. Atop of the walls some kind of hulking insectoid creature can be seen. Enna thinks they might be Umber Hulks.

The barge comes to a stop. Distant shouts for help in goblin can be heard behind the fort.

Ilwyn jumps out of the barge and sneaks up to the wall. He can hear the cries and screams for help get louder. He sees bushes at the corner of the fort thrash around. He can hear a female goblin voice shout curses at something called ‘Mother’.

He leaps into the bushes. He notices that the bushes line a pit. Inside the pit are swarming Neogi larvae. Swinging upside down above the pit are goblins, hanging by their feet. They are shrieking with fear. One is female and looks a little, to Ilwyn’s eye, like Iraz. She is the one shouting curses at ‘Mother’.

‘Mother’ turns out to be a large undead snake skeleton; a great bone Naga shrieking with serpentine rage as it spies Ilwyn shuffling about in the bushes.

The Naga slithers around to try and block Ilwyn’s retreat. It strikes at the goblin, hurting him with its fangs. Ilwyn uses Sehanine’s Boon to teleport into the shadows and become briefly invisible. The Naga rears up, trying to catch sight of the goblin.

The rest of the party is still a long way from the action and begins to rush forward to Ilwyn’s aid. Naram charges around the corner of the fort and slows the Naga with his psionic power. Then he slides the snake telekinetically into the pit, where it lands in a heap.

Ilwyn sneaks towards the Naga, jumping into the pit to try and hack at it from behind. The Naga slithers toward Ilwyn in the pit. It emanates a death aura that seems to affect the goblin.

Then Enna comes around the corner. She tries to mark the Naga for death but cannot get a clear shot with Ilwyn so close to the monster.

At this moment one of the hanging goblins falls into the pit where a swarm of larvae quickly consume it. Ilwyn realizes the dangers of the larvae and strikes out at them with a blinding barrage, hitting some of the squirming beasts.

The Naga rears up and starts to sway, preparing for a great strike on Ilwyn. This is the moment when Enna marks the monster for death and delivers a mighty shot to its head.

Larvae charge out of the pit at Naram.

Although hurt, the Naga does her death sway, rattling alarmingly. A necrotic aura catches most of the party, dazing several of them. This doesn’t stop Enna taking a mighty shot at the creature, the hardest she has ever made. She hits it in a key joint beneath the neck and knocks huge chunks of bone out.

Then Naram attacks the larvae with his mental attack, disheartening them and making some of them scurry away. They swarm Haleth, but cannot get past his armour. Haleth pulls the larvae towards him and destroys two swarms. The swarms explode in psychic pain, hurting Haleth, Caecius and Ilwyn.

Ilwyn is dazed, but charges the Naga, trying to get past its defences. Caecius commands Enna to take another shot at the Naga. She shoots, misses, re-aims and hits another critical spot on the Naga’s head, flaking a big chunk of skull off the monster.

Naram’s dream form hits the remaining Neogi swarm with his dreamblade, cutting through the squirming mass.

Ilwyn tries to use a tortuous strike on the bone Naga, jabbing his blade in so hard that it begins to totter. This leaves an opening for Haleth to strike out and finish off the Naga. It topples as a pile of bones to the ground.

Caecius knocks the remaining swarm about, throwing them into a corner of the pit, near the goblins. Enna finishes the last of the larvae off. They explode in a scream of pain. The psychic scream kills one of the goblins and harms Maurg Stoneshanks. The goblin is dying.

Haleth goes to help the hanging goblins. Maurg is cut down and once she has recovered her breath she thanks the characters. However, she seems wary of the strangers.

Enna notes the Umber Hulks on the walls are marching up and down but haven’t noticed the battle happening beneath their noses. What is the reason for that?

The other surviving goblin is named Rottart. He is in shock.

The party gives Maurg the name of her pet wolf. Once she hears the codeword she relaxes, realising she is amongst friends. Naram asks for more information about the shard. Maurg is evasive, so Naram tries to talk to her telepathically.

Maurg is scared. She says Naram is talking about the most sacred matter for her tribe.

Maurg says that only those goblins that are worthy become one with the shard. To be worthy they have to be of the right blood, the ruling class. There is a ritual at the mountains of flame to the south that initiates a goblin. Maurg thinks there is great power in that place.

Maurg says the enemy have fitted out an army to attack the mountains of flame and that most of the umber hulks have already moved south, along with some giants and drow.

Some twenty umber hulks remain in the fortress, with their leader, which is some kind of giant monster.

Maurg seems to know the ritual that allows an initiate to become one with the shard. She’s prepared to travel south with the party. She wants help for her tribe. She is pleased to hear that the party have liberated the village and killed the collaborator Graankh.

She thinks it is a good time to strike the fort, known as the Chain Bazaar. She helped build the walls and created a secret space in the walls that allows people to slip in to the fort. The Neogi leader Ghorfal is there.

The party has a discussion. They agree to decapitate the leadership…

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