The Chronicles of Caledain

31st-32nd of Thawing

The adventurers were marched hard for the rest of the day, and through the following night, eating on the move. Their captors were wary and nervous seeming, keeping a careful watch around them and keeping weapons drawn.

As the party were close to exhaustion, they finally reached Kurdesh’s army, encamped in a valley. Here, they were conveyed to a prison stockade, already containing a handful of wretched prisoners.

The collapsed into sleep, and awoke a few hours later somewhat rested. An orc came and threw a small bag of food into the middle of the enclosure, far too little for the number of prisoners held. Those who were already there immediately dived for the bag and started fighting over it. Maskim used his magic to subdue one of them, and drive back the others, allowing the adventurers to take the food, which they then shared out equally, including with the prisoners, although this left barely a mouthful for each of them.

As darkness descended, Maskim used up the last of his magical power to put their guard to sleep, and Mirann swiftly picked the lock of the gate, allowing them to slip out. As they left, they glimpsed a figure retreating into the darkness, and realising that they’d been observed, hurried towards the centre of the camp. With Vanator’s broken leg, stealth was difficult, but they reached the two large tents without being seen. They investigated the closest, but found that it was a temple tent. They moved towards the second, but Vanator stepped badly, putting weight on his bad leg and was unable to suppress a shout of pain.

Hearing orcs approaching to investigate, they rushed straight into the tent, to find Kurdesh within. They quickly told him of their mission from the Duke of Ironstone. Displeased at being disturbed, and warning that their lack of respect could be construed as a challenge, Kurdesh bade them speak, and speak well, since their lives depended on it.

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30th-31st of Thawing

The others turned back to help Rib who was attacked by the first two anthounds. The rest of the pack rushed past Rib to attack the other adventurers before they could help.

A savage fight followed, and eventually they were able to kill 3 of the vicious creatures. Rib attempted to fend off the two beasts attacking him, while trying to open the jar of brown paste he’d taken from the high elves under Redpool, which had seemed to stop the creatures from attacking. Unfortunately, with only one hand, this was extremely difficult. He succeeded in opening the jar, but couldn’t use the contents before the razor sharp jaws of the anthounds tore into him, seriously wounding him.

Vanator was also badly injured, his leg broken by one of the creatures, although he was still able to finish it off.

Things looked bleak for the adventurers but a band of orcs appeared, causing the anthounds to flee. Maskim rushed to check Rib, but found that after all his adventures, and the various grievous injuries and hardships he had suffered, the halfling had finally died. With no time to grieve, Maskim was able to grab Rib’s amulet before the orcs approached.

The orcs disarmed them, and began marching them eastwards through the hills, leaving both the horses, and Rib’s body, behind them. They travelled relentlessly for the rest of the day and into the night, eating on the march. Vanator struggled to keep up, but Mirann had been able to take Rib’s staff, which he used as a crutch, and with Mirann’s help was able to keep going as they were taken onwards through the night.

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26th-30th of Thawing

With Vanator lying unconscious and bleeding on the floor, Maskim snatched up the Sword of Ashcaelil, while Rib circled round to help protect the Duke. To Maskim’s surprise, he suddenly found himself under attack by Mirann, but he was able to fend her off. Turning to the demon, he attacked it with the enchanted blade, inflicting enough damage to drive it back into the Void.

Immediately, Mirann seemed to recover, and appeared confused when Maskim informed her that she had attacked him. Meanwhile, Rib was tending to Vanator as well as he could, stemming the bleeding. The Duke summoned some of his guards and servants, and thanked the adventurers for saving him.

However, Rib’s amulet was still flickering slightly, and grew slightly brighter when he moved closer to Mirann. Suspicious, Rib cast a counter-divine spell on Mirann, under the pretext of healing her. Immediately Mirann recoiled, disoriented, with no memory of anything that happened after she drew the sword.

They decided that the sword should be destroyed, and the Duke sent for the forges of the castle’s armoury to be lit. Once the furnace was up to temperature, they thrust the sword into the flames, and waited for it to melt. Instead, it shattered, exploding pieces of metal and burning wood and charcoal across the armoury. A shadowy form rose from the fire, and then faded away, with a whispered “Freeeeee…..”

The next day, a healer was sent to Vanator, and restored him to health. Preparations were hastened for the army’s withdrawal from the town, and soon the Duke’s force was ready to march.

The army headed out of Oakhill, marching east. The size of the force meant that there was no chance of further raids by bands of scavengers, and so the next three days passed uneventfully.

However, scouts brought reports of the main Freyish army only two days march to the north, attempting to intercept the Duke’s forces before they entered the Hills. The Duke decided to send the adventurers on ahead of his force to try and find Kurdesh, and broker an alliance against the Mad King and the High Elves.

Mounted on horses given to them by the Duke, the adventurers pressed on for the rest of the day and through the night, only stopping to rest the next day, once they were into the Hollow Hills. Having recovered somewhat they pressed on, but had only been travelling a short while when they heard sounds of pursuit. They saw a pack of ant-hounds, rushing towards them, and attempted to flee. However Rib, unused to riding slipped from his saddle, landing directly in the path of the anthounds, which prepared to attack.

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25th-26th of Thawing

Leaving the Duke, the adventurers went out into the town, where they found a tavern in which they were able to buy sleeping space for the night, although at a considerably inflated price. The night passed without incident, and they rose early to attend the Duke.

They went to the castle, where they found the Duke and his advisors already gathered. The Duke gestured to the party to wait to one side, which they did. Very soon after this, Rib’s amulet began to glow faintly, and the black-robed priest arrived.

The Duke informed him that he would not be obeying the king’s orders, since he now knew that the king was no longer alive, or at least in no position to give any commands. He summoned the adventurers forward to repeat their story in brief, and Mirann offered the details. The priest attempted to brazen it out, despite the priest of Marnoss’s assurance that he had successfully used a truth spell on them.

Eventually, the black robed priest withdrew, urging the Duke’s nobles to follow him and not to rebel against their king. Once he’d gone, the light in Rib’s amulet began to fade.

The Duke then began making preparations to gather his army and march back east, not to fight Kurdesh and his army, but to support them against the main Freyish force moving south. He asked that the adventurers accompany the army so that they could act as his messengers to Kurdesh, since they had already had dealings with him. The Duke’s army was going to take about three days to gather and mobilise, and so they were given two rooms in the castle between them.

That night, Mirann, who was sharing a room with Rib, was awakened by the light of Rib’s amulet, shining painfully bright. She quickly roused the others, and they hurried to warn the Duke. They found his guards already dead, but still standing in place. Rushing into the Duke’s chamber, they found a swirling cloud of darkness directly above him, reaching down towards his face.

They immediately attacked, Maskim striking it with a magical dart. It coalesced into a humanoid, albeit still shadowy and indistinct form and attacked them. Vanator was able to wound it with the Sword of Ashcaelil. Mirann attacked with her dagger in what should have been a killing strike, but it passed straight through the demon’s smoky body. Maskim struck it with another dart, but was slightly wounded by its claws. Vanator passed Mirann the shortsword that Konrad had retrieved from the elf temple, before attacking and wounding the creature again. It turned on him, and struck him down with a savage and powerful attack that left him bleeding to death.

Mirann drew the elf sword. She immediately felt a great coldness and darkness, and heard a voice in her head, say “What’s this? Really? Yes, this will do very nicely…” She then blacked out.

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24th-25th of Thawing

The rest of the night passed without incident, and the adventurers, still accompanied by Sir Jarth and his retinue, pushed onwards.

Here the land was more fertile, but the signs of war and pillage were more recent, but as they started to approach the Duke’s army, the bands of roving soldiers they met became more frequent, and the gangs of desperate, dispossessed scavengers, like those who had attacked them the previous night became smaller and fewer.

That night, they stayed in an abandoned inn, where they slept unmolested, and in the morning, pressed onwards. A little after midday, they reached the town of Oakhill, about halfway between Reath and Castermont, where the Duke of Ironstone had set up his headquarters. They were escorted through the town to the castle, and into the great hall, to find the Duke arguing with one of the black-robed priests, who was insisting that he head back east to fight e orcs that were invading the Hollow Hills. However, the Duke pointed out that the hills were now almost entirely eserted, and that the orcs weren’t threatening the city of Ironstone itself, and that to withdraw from Casterland now could be folly. The priest left in a rage, promising to return the next day to find out whether the Duke would obey the king’s orders, or defy them. While in the priest’s presence, Rib’s amulet had been glowing and giving off heat, but topped when the priest stormed out.

The adventurers were then introduced to the Duke, who recalled Vanator as having helped investigate the attempted murder of his son. He granted them a private audience, where Vanator proceeded to tell him the entire story, only omitting certain details, such as the involvement of Hobb Dryden. The Duke was sceptical of the improbable-seeming story, but Vanator agreed to repeat the story whilst under a truth spell. A priest of Marnoss was called, who duly cast the spell. Vanator then repeated the tale, and the priest was able to confirm that he was telling the truth.

The Duke asked a few questions, including about Rib’s amulet, and Vanator’s sword. Eventually, he dismissed them, commanding them to return at sunrise the next day. The adventurers withdrew, leaving the Duke deep in thought.

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21st-23rd of Thawing

Having rested, the party moved onwards, still pushing southwest. After only a short time, they were overtaken by Sir Jarth and his men. Vanator was able to hide himself, but the others were caught in the open.

After a brief interrogation, Sir Jarth agreed to take them to the Duke of Ironstone, to whom he was returning in any case. The party would be his prisoners, but were permitted to keep their weapons, and would not be bound or chained, as long as they promised not to try and escape. Vanator, overhearing this, emerged from hiding, and agreed to the same terms. They travelled with Sir Jarth and his party for two days, leaving the Hollow Hills and emerging into the flatter country of Casterland, where the devastation of war was more apparent than ever.

That night, they camped in the remains of an abandoned village, but a few hours after nightfall, were attacked by a large party of dispossessed scavengers and masterless men. With the adventurers’ help, Sir Jarth’s men were able to fight them off with only minimal casualties. Having posted more sentries, the camp settled back to sleep, ready to continue
their journey the next day.

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18th to 20th of Thawing

The next morning, the adventurers pushed onwards, leaving the blind priest behind. They travelled for the rest of the day, passing several farmsteads and mining hamlets that had been abandoned or raided, and with no sign of any living people. As dusk approached, they decided to double back so they could spend the night in a semi-fortified farmstead they’d passed a couple of hours previously.

On the way back though, they came across human footprints crossing over their own and leading into a narrow gulley. Here they found a cave, but were threatened by the unseen inhabitants and decided to leave. As they went, they were followed by one of them, a ragged, burly-looking man whose attempts at stealth were entirely unsuccessful.

He turned to flee, but Mirann chased him. As she caught up, he turned and attacked her with a hatchet. She drew her dagger to defend herself, and was forced to badly wound him. Once Rib had bandaged the man’s injuries, they carried him back into the ravine and left him to be found by his companions. They then returned to the farmstead, where they used a table to barricade the door, and spent a peaceful night here.

The next morning, they carried on, checking the ravine as they passed it again. The wounded man had gone, and the cave had been abandoned. Pressing onwards, they travelled for the rest of the day, and as darkness approached, they neared a walled village, showing some signs of habitation. Rib and Mirann approached, to discover that it was currently being used as a camp by the retinue of Sir Jarth Neeright, a knight of Freymont, and a vassal to the Duke of Ironstone. The guards invited them inside, but when they returned to fetch Vanator and Maskim, Vanator recalled that it was Sir Jarth who had arrested himself and Keskiyo many months previously, accusing them of being spies for Casterland.

As a result, they decided not to go to the village, instead spending the night in another abandoned farmstead.

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12th-17th of Thawing

While they were waiting in Hobb’s camp, further information arrived suggested that the Freyish army, rather than heading east to retake their capital, was moving south towards the Hollow Hills. Hobb suggested that the adventurers travel west to southern Casterland, to see if they could persuade the Freyish Duke of Ironstone, and the forces under his command, to turn on his king and help fight the main Freyish army.

Initially, it seemed that Vanator would refuse, leading Hobb to become angry, but in reality Vanator had already decided that he would go. Maskim decided to join with the adventurers in their mission, to help avenge his foster father’s death, and Hobb gave them a guide to take them back through the forest. They stayed at Hobb’s camp that night, and set off south-west the next morning.

The journey through the forest passed more or less without incident, and after three days of walking, they reached the south-west edge of the Weirwood, passing into the northern reaches of the Hollow Hills on the fourth day out of the camp.

Here they found evidence of conflict, but no people at all. As darkness descended, they came to a small walled village, which showed evidence of having being attacked, the gate hanging off its hinges and most of the houses damaged and ransacked. However, the village chapel was still intact, and the adventurers decided to spend the night here. Vanator managed to break down the door, but was then attacked by an elderly priest still living inside. This priest turned out to be the only survivor of an attack on the village by men claiming to work for the king of Freymont. They tortured him, and blinded him before leaving him to starve in the ruins.

The adventurers gave him some food, and put him to bed, before making the chapel as secure as possible, before bedding down themselves.

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9th-12th of Thawing

Vanator, Mirann and Rib led the remaining escapees into the forest. That night, they camped down amongst the trees, but despite the small amount of food that Vanator was able to provide through hunting, hunger and cold killed another seven escapees. They had still seen no sign of pursuit by the high elves.

The next day, after travelling for several hours, they encountered a man calling himself Cord,
who claimed to be one of Hobb Dryden’s men. Cord and his followers led the adventurers and the former prisoners to some caves where they could shelter, and where food and clothing had been stored. Having passed a slightly more comfortable night, they pushed on.
The next night was spent in the open, but a runner had come back with additional supplies
and clothing, and so there were no further deaths. The following day, they arrived in Hobb’s
camp, to find it further swollen by fresh influxes of refuges from the surrounding kingdom.
The escaped prisoners were taken away to be fed, clothed, and found shelter.

Here, a traveller called Maskim was seeking news of his adoptive father, a cousin of Hobb’s,
who had been taken by the black priests. He found out that his foster father had been one of those taken to the temple beneath Creely, and Vanator informed him that his father had
almost certainly been sacrificed to fuel the high elves’ weather magic.

Scouts came into the camp, reporting that Kurdesh’s horde had reached the edge of the hills, now that the storm had been stopped. Another arrived with word that the Arborlandish army of the Godswar had taken Loredan, capital of Freymont.

Uncertain of what to do next, the party stayed in the camp to consider, while Maskim pondered how best to revenge himself on his foster-father’s killers.

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6th-9th of Thawing

Having located the prisoners, Vanator and Mirann led them back through the elvish complex. They took them to the armoury/training room they had passed through before, to arm them. Here, Vanator fought against an elvish warrior, defeating him, but not before he received a serious wound to his face, leaving him badly scarred.

Once the former prisoners were armed, they led them out of the complex, back to the great underground road, up through the mines and into the village of Creely. Fearing pursuit, they immediately set off, despite their lack of supplies or suitable clothign for the majority of the prisoners, heading northeast, back towards the Weirwood and Hobb Dryden’s camp in the halfling village of Ashvale.

The first night was bitterly cold, and the wolves howled, but despite the harsh conditions, even the weakest of the escaped prisoners survived. During that day, Vanator and some of the stronger escapees broke off from the main group, and managed to bring down a deer, that provided welcome, albeit sparse, food for everyone.

Once more, all the escapees survived the night, in the face of cold, hunger and exposure. During this night, Rib recovered consciousness, and was able to walk on his own. There was no sign of pursuit by the elves at all, and they pushed onwards. Once more Vanator and some of the former prisoners went hunting, and Rib tried to catch some fish, but they all came back empty handed.

That night, hunger, exhaustion and the biting cold finally took their toll, and of the sixty or so prisoners that had been freed, almost half succumbed, sleeping into the Dreamless Sleep of Secnest.

Weary and benumbed, the survivors pushed on, until they finally came into sight of the Weirwood.

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