Campaign of the Month: March 2009

Denizens of the Nentir Vale

The Book of Nate

Nathaniel wept.

Nathaniel wept.

He had been patient, he had been clever, he had been persistent. As the sun came and went many, many times, Nathaniel had stealthily but faithfully copied Eastlander’s original writings, and had finally learned to keep quiet about what he found there, to save his poor back from the lash.

What he had found were stories that seemed not to be imaginative allegories, but rather honest if overblown recountings of actual occurrences. They were more believable than the later, altered versions, because the characters and their relationships stayed relatively constant throughout Eastlander’s original opus. In the church’s versions, these characters – Z’alden, Felsmon, Barrick, Erik, Tira, and others – while iconic in their appearance and many of their abilities, often changed their beliefs, their philosophies, even their style of language, from story to story.

Nathaniel had come to realize the extent of the license taken by the church’s scholars. Sometimes he barely recognized a tale in its original form. Sometimes he did not recognize it at all, because it had been left out of the Zenith’s books altogether. Sometimes he could find no source in Eastlander for a tale from the Zenith books; in those, he had noticed, the characters as written by church hacks were particularly untrue to themselves.

Finally, this night, Nathaniel had reached the point in the original stories that he had looked forward to since he had begun this long work. The story that formed the basis of his faith, and the faith of all his colleagues, the story that formed the very basis of society as he knew it – the return of the Savior, the one true Savior of all peoples.

Having read and copied up to the very location in Eastlander where the Savior reappears, Nathaniel had resolved that he would read through the ensuing pages, just this once without copying as he read, so that the original description of the Savior’s heroism would bathe him in truth and comfort as the sun’s rays bathe a newborn in the fields. His faith had suffered mightily as he discovered how the church had stretched the stories’ content to further their own religious initiatives. Still, deep in his heart of hearts, Nathaniel knew that the greatest truth, as told to him on his father’s knee, of the existence of their Savior, would shine through Eastlander’s prose and rejuvenate his faith.

And so Nathaniel turned the page and began to read. Eastlander was interviewing the dragonborn paladin Felsmon, who was demonstrating how he had put his shoulder, next to Barrick’s, against a partially-open door while Tira and Erik looked through. The huge Felsmon was able to peer over the top of the door.

“‘Demon. Very ugly. Very dead now. Old friend Prescott with sword. Nearly dead, too.’”

So it was all true! He had always known it, of course he had always known it! Prescott The Magnificent had returned to save the band of Valers, as he would save all believers in the later life! Nathaniel’s heart pounded, fairly bursting with pride, hope, and joy. Overcome with relief, Nathaniel wept.


When he could continue, Nathaniel read on. The cleric Z’alden had healed Prescott’s wounds, said Felsmon. That was news – why would the church version leave that out? Prescott had been wounded in his previous appearance in the stories, and no reader would expect him to be invincible. Nevermind, Nathaniel thought, now the group would meet the enchanted weapons, Prescott would part them through his force of will, then would tame a pair of swords for Erik, and a shield for Barrick.

“’Z’alden enters room. Swords fly from wall, attack Z’alden. Tira too fast for swords. Tira reaches Prescott in next room. Barrick too slow, new swords hit Barrick. I, Felsmon, enter. Puny swords dare to attack, I crush swords. I crush Z’alden’s swords. Barrick in trouble, I crush Barrrick’s swords, too. I crush all pitiful swords, but night falls on me.’ The massive dragonborn became quiet. I waited, sipping my wine. Eventually I realized that, since he had just been blinded in the story, he had no more to tell. He might have clued me in, but “Felsmon” has always been a synonym for “reticence”.

I was in luck that day, because Erik stopped by looking for Barrick (who was not to be found), and I was able to drag him into the interview. You never knew with Erik what you would get, but today was “unbelievable” day. ‘So I send a couple arrows at some swords, they clang off – unbelievable! – and when I jump into the room, these two swords came flying at me, but they slow down and just, sort of, gently turn around and, well, present themselves to me – I can’t believe it! – so I just, I don’t know why, but I drop my swords and grab the new ones, and they feel good, and then my old swords attack me – incredible! – and I fight them off with my new ones. Barrick gets a new shield the same way! Hard to believe, but there it is!’"

Nathaniel noticed there was no word yet about Prescott’s having tamed the swords and shield. This did not bother him too much. The Valers were accustomed, in these stories, to magical happenings which they could not at first explain. Doubtless they would figure out soon enough who had tamed the swords.

“’Poor Felsmon here, he makes a fine regent with a crown stuck hard on his head and a scepter, but blinded! Imagine that! I grab the scepter from him and touch the gold end of it to his crown, and it loosens, and he can see again. Unfathomable! He takes the crown off, puts it on again, it gets stuck again! Who would believe it! So I touch the silver end of the scepter to the crown – big mistake! It sends a strike like lightning to his head, I think it’ll kill him, but he survives. Inconceivable!’

The dragonborn began to speak again, now that he was no longer blind in the story. ‘Not so easy to kill. I fight more swords. Boring, never ending, leave swords behind.’"

Nathaniel read warily, weighing each utterance for some sign that Prescott the Magnificent had become Prescott the Savior. Eastlander was quoting Erik again.

“‘Of course, better minds figure out what to do with that amazing scepter. Z’alden touches it to the throne, and the throne sinks, opening a passageway down to a huge door – all made of mithral! Incredible! Tira tries a couple keys, gets a couple small shots of lightning for her trouble. Imagine that! Somebody notices the scepter would fit there – might have been Prescott, he’s a good one to have around – and the doors fly open! Who would have believed it!’”

Nathaniel was pleased to see the Savior’s role becoming more significant in the story, though he noticed how offhanded were Erik’s comments, as if the Magnificent One were still no more than just another adventurer.

“I ordered more wine, trying to decide between interviewing Mr. Reticent or Mr. Incredible. But while I was inking my quill, another of the band arrived. Tira swept into the room like a queen, and we all sat a little straighter on our stools. Soon she had picked up where the others had left off. ‘Of course I remember that room: burnished silver ceiling, a stone sarcophagus reminiscent of the ones at Abn-El-Adrid but with a heavier lid, a tall stone urn in front, which we would come to know well, wooden chests on either side, with both drawers and doors, cast bronze handles in the shape of …’. I stopped her there – Tira could describe a scene nearly as long as Barrick could drink ale – and asked her what happened next. ‘Well, the crown and scepter had disappeared, which we took to be a good sign – we were getting somewhere, it seemed. But Barrick tripped over his own feet and fell against one of the statues in the corner, which somehow signaled the urn to produce two huge elementals. Prescott was quicker than any of us, as so often.’”

Ah, thought Nathaniel, now the true Prescott would come to the fore.

“‘But Prescott’s blow had little effect. That cursed urn was prone to spitting out more elementals, so some of us fought them off, while others tried to smash the urn itself, with only partial success. Z’alden did the most damage to these monstrosities. I tried some arcana-related attacks, accomplishing little. This battle lasted for some minutes, it seemed, until finally Prescott noticed a switch at the bottom of the urn, and threw it. The fire went out in the urn, and all 5 remaining elementals disappeared. Our old friend had done us a solid that day.’”

Threw a switch? Any person could throw a switch. Nathaniel had always believed that Prescott the Magnificent had held a dozen elementals in his gaze, overcome their wills with his own, and cast them back to the fire from whence they had come. Well, perhaps that was just an exaggeration on the part of the church. Prescott had, after all, been the one to find the switch, despite the presence of Z’alden, Tira, and Erik, all of whom were excellent in such matters. Nathaniel could forgive the license taken by the church hacks, he supposed – but inside, he was feeling more and more defensive.

“‘Before touching anything else, we dragged the four statues out of the room, lest they come to life and attack us. Good thing we did, because the sarcophagus was empty, but under one of the statues I found a handle, cast bronze, with an oval cross-section like the one on Erik’s old swords, the ones with the scalloped guards and the pommel like a …’ What happened next, Tira, I asked. ‘Oh, OK – The handle opened another passageway down. Prescott and Erik led the way, and somehow discovered a secret door down there. I tried the bronze key, and not for the first or last time that day was punished for using the wrong key. But the golden key worked; the wall descended, revealing a chamber, about 4 staff lengths by 4 by 6 high. The floor held an intricately carved and painted depiction of a gate, with a motif derived from oak tree branches in the bottom row of bars and a similar motif derived however from …’ This time I did not need to cut her off, because a great crash came from the kitchen, followed by the smashing open of the kitchen doors, as Barrick stumbled out, a leg of boar in one hand and a tankard of ale in the other. ‘Ah, there you are, lads, what lies are we telling today?’ Clearly already drunk at noon – or maybe still drunk – the wide dwarf took a seat near Felsmon, burped long and loud, and knawed at the fleshy appendage in his hand.”

Nathaniel knew that the rest of the story was all Prescott, all the time. Or rather, he hoped so.

“Erik picked up the tale. ‘So Z’alden uses a gem we have for seeing, and finds a keyhole under the floor, which is only made of brittle plaster, and which I smash as if I were Felsmon. Imagine that! Tira tries the golden key again, which worked last time, but not this time – she gets zapped again! That’s four times within minutes, how is she still standing, none of us can believe it!’ Tira nodded and shrugged. But then the dwarf dropped the ragged bone from his mouth and spat, ‘I know this part! She puts the other key in, and the floor starts to rise! I jump off quick as a dwarfwife from a wedding bed, and everyone else gets smashed to the ceiling! Lucky for them, I can climb like a tree elf, that’s all I’ll say.’ Barrick chomped down on the shank again.”

Barrick the only one to sense the danger of hell’s floor, the floor that demanded a choice between heaven and hell, squeezing out the middle? Barrick the one to save the others? Barrick the Savior? Nathaniel’s stomach suddenly turned sour.

“Smiling, Erik pointed out that he had freed himself from the trap even before Barrick had climbed up, but agreed that ‘Yes, you did unbelievably well, old friend – here, have some more ale! Well, we pull out Z’alden, then Prescott. Tira slides out incredibly easy. Barrick is tired by now – believe it or don’t! – so Prescott and I pull out Felsmon, who is so stuck that we don’t imagine he will ever come out, but he does.’”

Page after page of Prescott the Savior being described as just another member of a band of adventurers, no better or worse than the others. Was this story really the basis of his faith? Was this really the basis of his society? Was the act of putting down Acererak the only truly magnificent thing Prescott accomplished? Was he even the one to … Nathaniel felt a swirling in his head, his hearing fading out, his sight blurry, but he continued to read.

“Tira chimed in next. ‘If Z’alden were here, he would tell you I only survived because I fell on top of him when the others “saved” me. Six staff lengths they dropped me, barely conscious! Anyway, when we had all recovered, and healed, thanks as always to Z’alden, we saw yet another door under the raised floor. This one was made of 12 carved panels ’ – she looked at me – ‘… er, well, Barrick opened it, and we entered a small chamber with a small jade sarcophagus, the letter “A” in red, surrounded by symbols which, um, I guess I will not describe. Anyway, we had found Acererak, and we were going to have a go at him, come what may. Prescott had found some special gloves on the floor, made of – never mind – and he put them on before we had a chance to check them out, but they seemed to work, and he opened the sarcophagus, and a skull rose out. The skull was glowing red, and its eyes would bore right into you if you looked at it, right into your brain.’"

So Prescott would at least finish off the evil one with his new “Hands of God”. Nathaniel tok what comfort he could from this.

“Before Tira could say any more, Felsmon rose to his feet, and stretched to his full height. ‘Evil skull, devil skull, puny skull. Erik shoots skull, Prescott hits skull, Z’alden curses skull, Barrick misses skull, Tira lightnings skull, all fail, but I, Felsmon, ’ – his voice rises to a roar – ‘I, Felsmon, smash skull like eggshell! Evil one gone! May evil soul writhe in torment, evil line die out, all evil he made crumble to sand, evil name forgotten at last!!!’ A roar from the others followed this speech, and was still echoing when the outside door burst open, showing a ragged, panting Z’alden framed by the noon light: ’She’s here!’ he shouted, racing out again. The others followed in seconds, Barrick leaving his tankard half-full, a sure sign that I would hear no more that day.”

Nathaniel wept.


Some weeks after his moment of clarity, his own personal enlightenment, Nathaniel wondered why he shouldn’t write his own book. He could write the truth, as revealed to him in Eastlander’s tales. How we were all in this life together, with no help on the way, no Savior around the next corner. We had a shared mission, we all had our own abilities and weaknesses, we all had a part to play, and we all had our turn to be heroic or to have fun, hopefully many turns. Whatever power controlled this world, if any, played no favorites, but somehow managed to keep things interesting.

But if he, Nathaniel, would do the telling, would anyone do the listening?

Comments

As the skull of Acererak crumbles into dust, you all feel a great weight lift from your souls. The fear and tension must have been growing ever since you entered the terrible Tomb, and was only noticeable once it was removed. A shrill cry is heard, “Nooooooo!”, which quickly fades into the distance. Z’alden shivers as a cold breeze suddenly whips his cloak around, but instead of feeling deadly and chill, the air feels fresh and invigorating.

Searching the now empty crypt, you find a few more gems scattered about the floor. On the table at the head of the room, Tira spies a small object which has suddenly materialized. Approaching the table, she sees that it appears to be a deck of cards. The backs of the cards are ornately decorated with intertwined dragons – one red and one white. The top card has been turned over, and shows a leering skull wearing dark robes.

“The skull card,” whispers Tira. “It signifies ‘Ruin’” she intones.

“Tira!” exclaims Z’alden, “What are you talking about?” It is obvious that Z’alden was not paying attention in his class on rare and legendary items.

Tira ignores Z’alden and quickly flips through all of the cards. “Moon, star, key, gem, the void, balance…”. Her hands begin to shake as she reaches the last card.

“All 22 cards. We have found it. The Deck of Many Things.”

As Tira says this, Z’alden recoils in horror. “The Deck of Many Things, did you say? The deck which serves only the forces of chaos and anarchy?”

Tira nods as Z’alden continues. “They say it holds great power for sorcerers, but also the potential for great ruin. I suppose that you wish to keep it?”

Again Tira nods. Z’alden sighs. “Well, we must be careful.” Tira studies the cards for a while, then carefully tucks them into an inner pocket within her feytouched armor. She smiles to herself.

After gathering up the gems and the jade sarcophagus, you leave the room. Walking around the next corner you approach the wall with the two doors. Erik listens but hears nothing. One of the doors opens quietly to his touch, and he peers carefully out. He realizes that he has been here before. These must be the two doors that were in the dead-end corridor just past the four-way intersection.

Where do you wish to go, and what do you want to do?

OOC: From the last session: cursed armory 3000 xp, mithral gates 1000 xp, urn with efreets 2500 xp, crypt trap 2400 xp, Acererak 5000 xp, completing the tomb 15,000 xp. Total xp: 28,900, or 4817 xp each. This brings your total to 47,027 xp, which is enough for 14th level.

The Book of Nate
 

As Tira walks along, following her companions, her mind is not on the tomb, but rather on the cards in her pocket. She wonders… She has heard of different versions of the deck, she does not recall which version has the dual dragons on the back. She tries to sift through her memories, it would be great if she could remember the details before drawing her first card. Chaos awaits … Tira smiles again, lost in possibilities.

DM: Do you have the details of what each card means in 4e, or specifically to this campaign if modified?

The Book of Nate
 

Z’alden says, “my friends, we have destroyed a great evil. Let us now leave this vile place by the fastest route possible.” If there are no objections, they will pass through the room with the ruined tapestry and head out of the tomb.

If they are able to reach the entrance, Z’alden will propose that the entrance be sealed by collapsing it using Felsmon’s breath and Tira’s fire spells, along with the axes of Felsmon and Barrick and his own maces. If his Sacred Flame has any effect on the evil-laced stone and rock, he will utilize that, too.

The Book of Nate
 

Erik wonders what thoughts are going through Tira’s head as she fingers the Deck of Many Things with such a mischievous look upon her face. As a serious student of the martial arts, Erik has not embraced the random, preferring to be good rather than lucky. He worries that the deck is not so lucky and that it would be better to forge one’s own future through a combination of skill and force of will.

Such philosophical thoughts soon evaporate from Erik’s mind as he says, “Aye, Z’alden, let us be rid of this place by the quickest means possible and help to ensure that no other make this their grave.”

The Book of Nate
 

Erik casually asks the group what they want to do about the wishing gem. He eyes Tira.

The Book of Nate
 

“Erik, I see where your mind is going with this question,” the cleric responds. “Tira’s powers depend on those special and rare personal qualities that help with command and persuasion, voice and body language, as she taps into the chaotic magic of the world. I think we should use the wishing gem to help her in that area.”

The Book of Nate
 

As you hurriedly make your way towards the exit, you start to hear ominous rumblings. You notice that all of the traps appear to no longer function. The stone juggernaut appears frozen in its tracks. The giant vats are now completely empty, and a stale smell fills the air. As you get closer to the main hall, great blocks of stone begin to creak and shift in the walls. Soon, small pebbles are raining down on your head, and then larger stones. Barrick takes a nasty crack to the top of his helmet, but the dwarf shakes it off.

Picking up the pace, you are all soon running down the hallway, dodging falling blocks and yawning pit traps. As you all dive through the exit, a huge cloud of dust and debris follows you out. Coughing and choking, you blink up into the sunlight.

Erik notices a small lizard staring at you curiously. Then he hears the sound of birds singing in the distance. The world somehow seems brighter and safer than it did before. You all survived, and you have defeated a great foe.

As Erik mentions the gem, Felsmon slaps his forehead. “I forgot all about it!” You all stand around the entrance, looking through your pouches and bags of holding.

“Where’s all the gold?” asks Z’alden in alarm. “Who picked up all the copper pieces?”

Surprised, you look in the bag of holding. It is full to the top with worthless copper pieces. Thousands of copper pieces. All of the silver, gold, and platinum from the Tomb is gone, transmuted into base metal. In a panic, you throw out all of the copper, hoping that the rest of the treasure is still intact. And it is. All told, you recover 4000 gp worth of gems and jewels, plus the magic and potions.

The Book of Nate
 

Prescott turns to all of you. “Thank you my friends for helping me back there. I was near death after my fight with the demon, and I would not have survived the rest of the Tomb.”

He turns to Felsmon. “My dragonborn comrade, I will be leaving shortly. I would like you to have these gloves. I do not need them, and I think you might find them useful.” He hands Felsmon the gloves with a bow.

Giant gloves

He turns to the rest of the group. “I can journey with you for a little while longer, but then I must be off. I fear that I have been away from my homeland for far too long, and the missus might be getting restless.” He grins sheepishly.

The Book of Nate
 

Tira studies the cards intently. She recognizes all of the cards, but she cannot remember their different powers or effects. She knows that just possessing the entire deck will greatly enhance her powers.

Deck many things description

Beyond those obvious effects, she is not sure what else the Deck might be capable of. Tira knows that it can sometimes produce visions of possible futures. She has heard that the Deck can be used to cast fortunes for other people, not just herself. But she has also heard that it is the Deck itself that decides when it is time to tell a fortune, and for whom. Finally, she knows that at any point, she can choose to draw cards for herself. Depending upon how pleased the deck is with her, she will be able to draw one or more cards. It is up to the Fates to decide the outcome, for good or ill.

As Tira lays out the cards to inspect, the others gather around to peer at the different designs.

Deck of Many Things

The Book of Nate
 

Erik studies the cards without touching any. “Hmmm, Tira, what have you found yourself now?,” he exclaims. “The fates, I do not like them. We must forge our own destinies. I will fight the tyranny of that which tries to control me. One cannot be too careful with those cards, I fear. In fact, the only carefulness one can have to to never touch them. Cast them aside now, I beseech thee.”

Erik then suggests that the group make their way back to Lars and Monica, Priestess of Pelor. The townsfolk there should know the tomb has been destroyed – that the forests will rebound and rejoice with the overdue demise of Acererack. Erik would then like to continue back to Fallcrest to recover the 10 gold pieces he gave in lieu of Quirrel’s bicorne hat (Erik was excited about his first voyage on a sailing ship, though it didn’t quite turn out as expected). So, a stop at Quirrel’s Grog ’n Games is in order.

The Book of Nate
 

Rift fell down, down through the air. As she approached the ground, she suddenly realized that she had forgotten to memorize her trusty feather fall. Instead, she only had a feeble resistance, which would certainly not protect her from such a great fall. She thought quickly – her staff? No help. Her circlet? No, that would only increase the damage. Her dwarven greaves? Hmmm, she pondered. Why was she wearing dwarven armor, anyway? Well, no help there.

And then she felt a sharp stab of fear. “I don’t want to die!” she thought. “What of my friends, Z’alden, Tira, Erik, Felsmon, and Barrick? How embarrassing it will be if I died because I fell off my pegasus. I’d never live it down…”

Thinking even quicker than usual, Rift pulled her handy haversack from her back. Reaching in, she tossed out bits of food, flagons of ale, dried ankheg, broken magic weapons and armor, gold and platinum, tossing it all from her into the night air. Her hands closed around her eternal chalk, which she tucked into her belt. Then, she climbed into the haversack, leaving only her arms and head exposed. She knew she needed split-second timing, and even then, her plan might fail utterly, leaving her broken wizardly body on the hard cold ground.

As the ground rushed up to meet her, Rift summoned her courage and raised her hands to cast an arcane gate. She had read somewhere (perhaps in Nimozaran’s secret library) that when a magic bag of holding was sent through an arcane gate, the contents would sometimes be teleported instantly to the Feywild instead of to the other gate. She hoped that the Fates were looking out for her, and that this would be one of those lucky times. She wasn’t sure, but there had to be something special about the placement of the gates. Next to each other, or behind each other? Upside down? Why couldn’t she remember?

And then she had it.

Rift cast the spell. Her first arcane gate appeared directly underneath her on the ground. And then she added the second gate, right on top of the first. She ducked inside the haversack and closed the opening. Suddenly, she realized the flaw in her plan. How was she going to get out of the haversack by herself?

The Book of Nate
 

“Teeth and Claws, but a stop to Monica and Lars to return the items they lent us, as well as a time to tell the tell. Mayhap Monica can put this copper to use in her village chapel, helping the poor.” The cleric bemusedly looks at the piles of copper in the bag of holding. He had hoped to put those gold and platinum coins to use for buying components to make potions and other goods for his comrades.

“Yes, Erik, to the village it is. A time of merriment is well-deserved.”

The Book of Nate
 

Rift had pursued Elena for what seemed like days. Flying through the night sky, Elena on her winged horror, Rift on the pegasus loaned to her by Lorelei. The pegasus flew swiftly, its strong wings beating like clockwork. But it was never able to catch up to the bat-like creature, which flew on maddeningly such a short distance away. At one point, Elena looked back, fear in her eyes. But when she saw that Rift could not catch her, then Elena threw back her head and laughed. She shouted something back to Rift. She could not catch the words, but she caught their meaning, and it wasn’t the innocent thoughts of a sweet girl, either.

Rift swore to herself. If only she could catch that girl, she’d give her something to think about all right. Like a staff blow to the head. Gritting her teeth, Rift flew onwards.

As the morning light grew, Rift saw that they were approaching a large lake to the north. She realized that it must be Lake Nen, which she had seen once before in her travels. Skirting the lake’s edge, Elena’s mount flew onwards, over a small village, then out over a swamp, and finally out over a barren wasteland.

Suddenly, Rift realized that Elena’s horrific mount must be tiring, for Rift was certainly gaining ground. At that moment, Elena wheeled her mount around, and flew straight back towards Rift. The creature’s eyes blazed red as it hurtled down towards the doomed pegasus. Startled, Rift grasped her staff with her left hand, raised her right hand, and cast a sheet of flames straight out towards the rider and mount. Elena cried out in pain as the flames licked around her, but the winged monster just flew straight through the flames, unharmed. As the mounts wheeled around one another, Elena and Rift held on tightly. Once, Elena tried to throw a razor sharp dagger, but her aim was off and it only grazed Rift’s arm. Rift tried to counter with a magic bolt, but it bounced harmlessly off of Elena’s saddle. And then, both riders realized that this was no longer a battle between them, but between their magical mounts. The pegasus and the creature snarled and snapped at one another, buffeting each other with great beats of their wings.

Suddenly, the bat-like creature lurched in the air, apparently hurt. Sensing weakness, the pegasus swooped in on her foe. But it was a trick. Just as the pegasus reached the creature, the fiend snapped its head around, its terrible jaws closing on the pegasus’ neck. Elena seemed just as stunned as the pegasus, as she clung on tightly to her foul mount. Rift lifted her staff, and swinging it around, brought it down with a crack on the horror’s head. Then, completing the back swing, Rift snapped the staff towards Elena’s head, connecting with a satisfying crunch. Both the beast and its rider cried out in agony, as they veered sharply away. Down the creature fell, carrying the now unconscious girl. Rift tried to keep them in sight as they fell, but they disappeared into a cloud bank and vanished from her sight. In the meantime, her pegasus shuddered once, and then suddenly disappeared in a sparkling haze of magical particles.

“Whoops!” Rift thought to herself.

The Book of Nate
 

Barrick, Erik, Felsmon, Tira, and Z’alden trudge happily through the swamp. Prescott scouts out ahead, but there seems to be no signs of danger in the clear morning light. At the edge of the swamp, Prescott takes his leave of the party.

“Friends, it is time for me to depart. However, with my roguish second sight, I can tell that it will not be forever. I am sure we will share many an adventure together. When you least expect it (and when you most need help), I will appear!”

The five companions watch their comrade depart. You all realize that you have no idea where Prescott’s homeland might be, or who his “missus” really is. Then, turning back towards the path, you slowly make your way down the rocky trail, headed back towards the village of Nenlast, on the shores of Lake Nen.

Laughing and joking, you make your way down the path until it turns into rolling farmland. Off in the distance, you see cows and sheep grazing. A farmer off in the field waves his hand in salute as you walk by.

Z’alden shouts to him, “We just cleared out the Tomb of Horrors! We killed Acererak and saved you all!”

The farmer smiles pleasantly, waves, and shouts out “Good day to you too Sirs!”. He goes back to hoeing his field.

You continue down the rutted lane, birds and butterflies flitting about you. Z’alden and Felsmon chat happily about the tales they will tell to the villagers of Nenlast, how they certainly saved the entire area from ruin and horror. Erik tries to give Barrick a noogie on his tousled head, Barrick dodging out of the way, when suddenly Tira stops. “What’s that?” she cries out, and points.

You all stop and stare. Down the lane, over a distant hill, you can see a plume of black smoke. At first, you think that it must be from the fireplaces and forges of Nenlast. But as you make your way more hurriedly down the path, you realize that this is not the ordinary blue smoke from kitchen fires. Instead, as you crest the hill, your eyes are greeted with a terrible sight.

All of Nenlast lies in smoking ruins.

A few houses still stand, their walls and roofs charred black. Most of the buildings are burnt to the ground, collapsed into their cellars. Here and there, you catch sight of flames, still licking at scorched timbers. Z’alden sees that over near one of the larger houses, a makeshift funeral pyre has been constructed. The bodies of the villagers lie in heaps in the cellar of the ruined house, flames and smoke rising up into the morning air. As you watch, a cloaked figure dumps another body onto the pile, and then makes her way back into the village. As the wind shifts and billows, you gag on the stench of burnt wood and bodies.

Near the center of the village you see a small knot of people. You cannot be sure at this distance, but it looks like seven or eight people, with a shorter figure standing in the middle. It is difficult to tell, but you think the short figure might be Lars, the dwarven fighter, leaning on his battle axe.

The Book of Nate
 

Increasing his speed, Z’alden calls out when close enough, “Hail, good folk,what manner of misery does this be? What happened to this warm, welcoming village?” Already, the righteous dragonwing of the god of justice forms in the mind of the cleric.

The Book of Nate
 

Erik fingers his moon bow, which now is in walking stick form. He scans the sky for a sign of winged beast – one that could perhaps breath fire upon the land.

[DM: Does the damage look like that of a fire breathing dragon?]

Erik will attempt to engage the residents to find out just what happened. He will pay close attention, to look for nuance and to see if they are holding anything back.

The Book of Nate
 

You draw near to the center of the village, and start shouting “Hail, good folk!”

With a start, a few of the villagers spin around and draw their weapons. However, relief spreads across their faces as they recognize you, but then the relief is quickly replaced by scowls. They sheath their weapons, but you notice that one or two of them keep their hands on the pommels of their swords. They start muttering to each other, but you are still too far away to catch their words.

Lars steps out from the center of the group. His face is streaked with ashes, dried blood, and tears. “Ah, greetings. Z’alden, Felsmon, Erik, Tira, and Barrick.” Lars stops and shakes his head. “Forgive me if my hospitality is not quite the same as the last time we met. As you can see, things have changed in the village.” He gestures to where his inn once stood, now just a blackened hole in the ground.

“They came in the night. In an airship. We didn’t stand a chance. Monica, she…” Here, Lars trails off. He tries to continue, “Monica tried to…” Again, Lars stops. He fingers his axe, takes a deep breath, and then plows ahead. “Monica and I tried to fight them off, but there were too many. Pirates, skeletons, zombies, they kept coming. Their leader had a terrible quarterstaff, and seemed to have the power of flight.”

Now, you see one of the women who had been fingering her sword step forward, and whisper something to Lars. Erik catches the words “conspiracy”, “in league with”, “what about the other one?” Lars shushes her with a slash of his hand. “Quiet, Marlena. You know they had nothing to do with it.”

Lars turns back to you all, and shrugs apologetically. “Some of the townsfolk think you might have brought the airship attack down on us. Seeing as how you fell out of the sky and all.” Lars gives a weak smile. “But I know you had nothing to do with it. Oh, and one of your friends is here.”

He turns and gives a shout. “Rift! Rift, you around here somewhere?” As he turns back, he gives a wry smile. “Funny, she fell out of the sky too. You people need to be more careful!”

A woman in a hooded robe steps from around the corner of one of the remaining intact buildings. When she throws back the hood, you all shout in surprise and joy. It is indeed your old companion Rift. She too is streaked with grime, soot, and blood. You see that she is leaning rather heavily on her staff. When she sees you, she gives a shout, and tries to run over to you, but only manages to hobble over with a grotesque limp. You all start talking excitedly, telling each other the exciting adventures that have befallen each of you. Then, without warning, Rift starts wobbling, and collapses against Erik, who just manages to grab her before she falls to the ground.

Lars steps forward and puts a hand on Z’alden’s arm. “Ah, poor lass. She fought harder than any of us. Took a few nasty blows too. After I got knocked out of the fight, her and Monica stood side by side, fending off zombies. Come to think of it, I believe some of the fires might have been from one of her fireballs. But, no matter. It couldn’t have make things any worse. She’s been up all night and morning, helping us put the dead on the funeral pyre.”

Here, Lars suddenly chokes up. “Rift tried to stop the leader. Captain Wynarn, they called him. He took Monica. I saw her fall down. She weren’t dead. But he put a spell on her, charmed her or something. She marched back on board, just like the rest ’o the zombies. Then they took off and headed north, raining fire down on us, laughing and jeering like it was all a great jest.”

Lars raises his head, looking proud. “Lucky, they didn’t destroy the docks or boats. Me and the boys are planning on setting off, soon as we’re able. We’ll sail across Lake Nen, try to catch them on the other side.”

The Book of Nate
 

“There’s a storm coming”, pronounces Lars as he looks sadly up to the sky. The group first thinks he’s just speaking metaphorically, but the drop on his cheek is not just a tear for his stolen Monica. It’s an actual raindrop. With that, Lars hollers to his buddy, Grimmely, who just loaded the last of their supplies into the boat. As he trots down to the dock, war axe in hand, he shouts back at the adventurers, “There’s a strong south wind coming. Maybe two hours. Be you ready for it and hope it blows you my way. Could use warriors.” It’s clear that he would have wished more time to talk and enlist the adventurers, but with the impending storm his little fishing boat must be on its way.

As if on cue, just as Lars takes to oar, the adventurers see several riders galloping into the smoldering town of Nenlast. By the quality of steed and proper stance of rider, Erik can tell that these are not your standard travelers, who tend to have defeated horses and slouched shoulders. The group consists of one clear leader, two proud looking soldiers and one horse on lead with two riders, a halfling up front and old woman behind. The leader’s gray beard is long and his face is carved with the passage of time, but he still is sturdy and his shield has many scars upon it. So too are his soldiers. Though their beards are thick with color, so too do their shields have scars and their boots have mud. The riders pull up to a stop just shy of the adventurers, with the leader out front.

“Townsfolk of Nenlast, I am Norfand, son of Glenfand, elder brother of Hammerfand. These are my trusted traveling companions and we seek refuge in your town this night. We also seek audience with your elders on urgent matters,” speaks Norfand, his eyes uncertain who to address.

With that, Z’alden can tell that the halfling is very weak, having recently undergone a terrible ordeal. His big eyes look helplessly at the adventurers. Rift looks in worse shape. The town is in smoldering ruins. The dead lay in piles. A storm is coming. What do you do?

The Book of Nate
 

Rift leans heavily on her staff. She brushes some dirty strands of hair out of her face, and looks up at the proud leader.

“Greetings, Norfand, son of Glenfand, brother of Hammerfand. We are glad that you have fand us (I mean found us). I am Rift, and these are my companions, Z’alden, Barrick, Tira, Felsmon, and Erik. We are not citizens here, but are just adventurers passing through.”

Rift gestures to the town. “As you can tell, the town has suffered a great calamity, and we were just preparing to set off after the terrible foes who did this evil deed. I am sure under normal circumstances the townspeople would be happy to give you refuge. But tonight I am afraid that you would receive only burnt embers and soot…”

Rift continues, “I do not know if any of the town’s elders survived, but perhaps you can tell us what your business is, and why it is so urgent?”

While she is saying all of this, Rift will be studying the halfling and the old woman. Does it seem as if they are part of the group willingly, or are they being coerced?

Does Rift know anything about Norfand, Glenfand, or Hammerfand?

The Book of Nate
 

Norfand dismounts and takes notice of Rift’s poor condition. In a commanding voice he addresses the young wizard, “Rift, I see that you are in need of healing. So too is my little halfling friend. Let us find refuge down by the water. I see that the boathouse is unharmed. We shall discuss matters of grave importance.” Then, turning to Z’alden, Norfand says, “Cleric, come and heal our companions.”

The two soldiers, the halfling and old woman dismount. The solders lead the horses away to (presumably) find water and grass. The halfling and old woman stand behind and beside Norfand. Neither look like they are being coerced. In fact, the halfling looks to be a loyal servant of Norfand and the woman has a manner of aloofness or independence about her. Despite her years and heavily lined face, she’s a bit spunky and as she looks at you, her eyes almost seem to penetrate through any veneer you might be holding up. Having become savvy, experience veterans, you know that she is not ordinary. Perhaps she has magic within her frail bones. The halfling looks like he recently took a long swim.

The adventurers know that names like Norfand, Glenfand and Hammerfand come from the northern lands, where barbarian warriors have formed small but strong clans. They tend to be fierce and honorable warriors, wielding two-handed swords, axes and mighty hammers. Their word is as good a blood oath and they can be loyal until death meets them. Lore also holds that they can be savage beyond belief to their enemies.

Do you follow Norfand’s commanding suggestion to take shelter in the boathouse, heal, and hear his words?

The Book of Nate
 

Rift nods her head at Norfand, a bit put out at his commanding tone, but willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. “Norfand, we are at your service,” she replies graciously.

As we make our way down to the boathouse, Rift tries to engage the old woman in conversation. “Greetings, my lady. What brings you to these parts? Are you part of Norfand’s group, or do you come on your own mission?”

The Book of Nate
 

“Oh, young wizard, I am Norfand’s seer, so I go wherever the future takes us,” replies the old woman with a stern look at Rift. “You may call me Dourinda. I can see your future too, you know.” She stares Rift directly in the eyes, giving off a creepy vibe. Meanwhile, the halfling happily tags along behind, softly whistling a little tune.

Once at the boathouse, the adventurers, Norfand, Dourinda and the halfling settle in. There are coiled ropes to sit upon and Tira cleverly rigs some netting to make something of a hammock. Z’alden starts to work his powerful healing skills upon Rift and the halfling, who just smiles and defers treatment until after Rift. Norfand calmly waits, despite clearly wanting to bring a meeting to order. Erik stands, looking out one of the windows while Felsmon sits and sharpens the blade of a dagger. Barrick rummages through the earthen jugs that lay scattered about on the floor and shelves. Outside, the wind picks up, blowing from the south, just as Lars had predicted.

“I see death!,” blurts out Dourinda.

The awkward silence that follows is broken by the halfling who attempts to lighten the mood, “Oh, she always says that. One need only look outside at the poor departed folk of Nenlast to see death. So sad. Now, if she is seeing the future, then it’s just that we all die sometime, right? No one lives forever. It’s nature’s way. Part of the circle of life.”

His voice is cheerful and his eyes are big and innocent. “Oh, I’ve been so rude,” says the halfling, his rosy cheeks glowing even more brightly. “Stewart Percy Lowell Underhill Glenfarm. The third. At your service I am. Call me Stewart.”

With this, Dourinda scowls. “You do not see the future as I do. Death. Be not so light of heart for these are troubling times and things are only getting worse. Death plies the darkened sky. Death lurks below too. Trapped between twin evils we. Prisoners of our own future. Our actions not our own. Evil within us. See the truth of words now that be the future. Death looms!” Her eyes travel from one adventurer to the next, eventually fixing on Z’alden.

The creases on Norfand’s forehead appear to be a little deeper than before as one whose mind is heavily burdened.

A cold gust of wind rattles the boathouse.

The Book of Nate
 

Rift shivers, perhaps from cold, or perhaps from all of the talk of death, since she so recently escaped a potentially fatal fall.

She scowls back at Dourinda. “Witch, do not try to scare us with your talk of death. I hold no truck with divination and prophecy. Give me something made of flesh and bone that I can blast with fire or freeze with ice.”

Rift deliberately turns her back on Dourinda, and faces Norfand, her staff flickering with a weird eldritch light. “Norfand, we are all here. Tell us what trouble has befallen you, and we will see what the future holds. Perhaps it is indeed our destiny to help you, but we alone will decide that.”

The Book of Nate
 

Z’alden studies the group. He asks himself. How injured is Rift? Is she bloodied? How injured is the halfling? Is he bloodied? Do both look like they still have the inner reserve of healing surges remaining, or is their life force that spent? Z’alden also studies the commanding warrior. He does not want a fight, but he is uncomfortable being ordered to heal unless the Great Dragon himself has issued the command.
DM: What does Z’alden learn about the health status? What does he learn about the commander?

The Book of Nate
 

Dourinda scowls at Rift, but the more observant in the group can see that at the corners of her mouth is the start of a wry grin, as if she enjoys sharp exchanges. “Witch, heh, young wizard? You have a lot to learn of this plane you impetus little girl. Trouble with your former master? Trouble staying out of trouble? Be afraid. Your next fall will not see you land so softly.”

Z’alden estimates that both Rift and Stewart are completely spent – no healing surges and able to withstand only a single light blow, should they enter combat prior to healing.

Only slightly backing off her mocking tone that she used on Rift, Dourinda chastises the cleric, “Not in the mood for healing today, are we?”

With this, Dourinda pulls out two vials from her bag and hands them to Stewart. “Thank you so much!”, says the halfling to Dourinda as he hands the second vial to Rift. “Please young wizard, do not be taken so aback by Dourinda. She can come off pretty badly sometimes, but she really is a good person when you get to know her.” With that, Stewart pops the cork from the vial and drinks it all down as quickly as he can. “Kind of chalky”, he says motioning that Rift should drink too. Everyone can see that the halfling immediately starts to look healthier.

Rift, do you drink the potion too?

Norfand clearly has a leader’s personality and demeanor, from how he handle his steed to how he sits in a humble boathouse. His commanding tone seems to stem from a birthright of leadership, as if he is used to issuing orders to just about everyone. He makes no threatening moves, though his large physical presence could be intimidating to some. Like most strong leaders, his voice is low, powerful and calm.

Norfand begins to speak…

“Nigh one moon ago the strongest of my clan failed to return from travels to Nenlast. My only son, Bowerfand, had not even reached Nenlast for no townsfolk had even word of him. So for the past days seven they be, I have searched the countryside and shores of Lake Nen, guided by my seer Dourinda and clues we have found along the way.”

Norfand’s long-winded speech continues for just over twenty minutes and the adventurers learn a great deal. He tells of his fruitless search for Bowerfand, but that he has pieced together the idea that a great evil is revealing its presence in the region. Many warriors have gone missing without a trace. The ships that sail the sky are said by some to be involved. Others say that those are merely pirate ships interested in treasure and that they would have no need for the murder of random warriors. Most interestingly, the fishermen of Lake Nen all told of a region of the lake that had changed to become a dangerous place of rough waters and electrical storms. This region, as it was said, centered over an island referred to by locals as “Wizard Island”. Folklore has it that there once lived a great wizard on the small island and from his tower he would observe all that lay around him in the lake and neighboring lands. Not much was known about the wizard for he kept to himself, living a solitary life. So the fishermen and inhabitants of the land thought less and less about him as two centuries passed."

When Norfand’s youngest daughter Rajel arrived with no fewer than a score of clan warriors to aid in the search for Bowerfand, it was decided that they would set sail in three ships to Wizard Island. None of ships have returned. The sole survivor was the halfling, Stewart, found floating on some of his ship’s debris. His last memories include a glimpse Wizard Island in the mist and fog as the waters grew heavier and heavier. Gail force winds and huge swells tossed the borrowed fishing vessels around. Stewart hazily recollects that they were dashed upon the rocks or capsized in the rough seas. Clinging to a barrel, he drifted for two days and was only recently recovered on the rocky beaches, found by no other than Dourinda. This brings the story to right now, in the boathouse, on the shores of Lake Nen.

The pain on Norfand’s face is now explainable. He has lost his only son, his youngest daughter and a score of clan. His eyes water up as he finishes his monologue…

“Ah but it should be me, drowned in the waters or lost to some terrible fate. Bowerfand. Rajel. A father should not outlive his children. I view it with luck that I come across you six – warriors, wizards and healers. I would ask that you join me in perhaps a final adventure, to uncover this mystery, perchance to avenge those that have perished at the hands of some great evil. We are not many, but I feel that we would be strong. I offer my skilled warrior hand. I offer my mighty sword.”

With this, Norfand stands and finally draws his great two-handed sword from its long sheath (Felsmon and Barrick, especially, had been eager to see just want blade lay hidden beside Norfand all this time). His open palms hold the sword high, held horizontally. Its flawless metal gleams in the low light of the boathouse. Its edges nearly sing through the air as he returns it to its sheath. Clearly this is no ordinary sword.

“The party would consist of myself and five of you. Stewart, I ask you to join us as well. Luck has always visited me when you are at my side. The ranger, may I ask, please join Dourinda and my two soldiers to send word of our expedition to my brother Hammerfand. He must know where our fate has taken us. So, wizard, sorceress, cleric, fighter and paladin, shall we stand together?”

The Book of Nate
 

Z’alden will have looked at Rift in time that she knows that she need not drink the potion if she doesn’t want to. The longtime ally is quickly aware that the cleric is merely waiting to say his prayers. After Norfand finishes, Z’alden bows his head, then looks at Norfand, “I am a servant of the god of Justice. I would see what has befallen your children and enact vengeance if it be called for. I would end this terror whatever its source. But first, Stewart, Rift come to me. Dourinda, know that the Great Dragon can only be called upon when the need is great. But, when called upon, his power is great.”

After they are within a staff length, Z’alden draws the symbol of the dragon in the air. Rift immediately recognizes the words of the prayer. The symbol spawns into 9 dragon forms that cover a happy carpet. Dragon images consecrate the ground surrounding the cleric 3 staff lengths by 3 staff lengths around him. Within 30 or so heartbeats, Rift and Stewart have been healed to their bloodied value (9 hp every round until at or above the bloodied value). If Dourinda or anyone else is an enemy and is on the ground, they take 1d6+5 radiant damage every round that they remain on the consecrated area.

Z’alden then extends his hands. They are covered with the healing Silverflame that is his namesake. Even though neither has any internal reserves, after 6 more heartbeats Stewart receives another 19 hp from the healing words that Z’alden quietly intones to the Great Dragon. 6 more heartbeats and, perhaps it is from Z’alden’s care for his friend, Rift receives an additional 24. He breathes deeply and steps back one staff length, saying “Rift, Stewart, stay where you are.” 6 more heartbeats pass. He raises up his hands. A brilliant silver column of fiery light engulfs the area 5 staff lengths by 5 staff lengths in front of him. Rift and Steward feel the warmth from the light continue to close their wounds. They regain 12 more hp. Any other allies in the light can spend a healing surge and regain 13 more hp additionally. Any enemies take 2d10+9 radiant damage (+17 to hit vs. Will). Z’alden looks at each of them. “Even with these blessings from the Great Dragon, I would recommend rest.”

He turns to his companions, “What say you to this quest?”

The Book of Nate
 

Norfand’s eyes grow wide as he sees the power of the cleric, Z’adlen. Once the Great Dragon’s servant work is done, Norfand’s eyes grow to a squint and he stares at the cleric. Finally, Norfand stands and walks over to Z’alden, raises his arm and mightily slaps the cleric on the back and laughs heartily.

“Well done, Z’alden Silverflame, servant of the Great Dragon Bahamut,” he bellows, “Not only are you among the greatest healers I have ever witnesses, you are clever too! As you can see, Dourinda, Stewart and I are perfectly fine – better than fine in fact. We are not your enemies. I would be honored to be at your side in battle.”

Even Dourinda shows a bit of contriteness, albeit with a little, half-hidden smirk. Stewart just beams, “Stewart Percy Lowell Underhill Glenfarm, the third, humbly at your service Z’alden Silverflame of the Great Dragon.”

Norfand still stands, grinning with the good fortune he has found. A bit of cheer in such gloomy times. A bit of hope in his eyes. After a moment he speaks to Z’alden once again, “Come, let us hear the answer you requested from your comrades.”

The Book of Nate
 

“Storms, rough seas, lightning, a potential evil wizard?” Tira’s eyes light up. “Now this is a reason to go adventuring!” Tira pauses, then turns to Norfand, “And of course we quest for your scions. How old are they? Are they experienced in battling wizards? If perchance we find them alive, [ahem] I mean when, what are the odds they will be able to help us fight our way off the island?”

The Book of Nate
 

“Young sorceress,” replies Norfand in a heavy tone, “my son Bowerfand is 24 years now. Rajel is but 19 years. As for battling wizards, I do not know! We are generally not a magical people and choose to employ the services of wizards and clerics. Instead, we are fierce warriors, trained from a young age to defend our families, clan and land. Every day we toil in the sun and wind upon the barren earth and every evening our tired muscles are exercised more with practiced combat. Our stamina knows no bounds. Our enemies we outlast. Our skill with the two-handed sword, hammer and axe is unmatched across any land. Bowerfand was among the best and I assure you that any wizard shall only get the best of him at long range. Rajel is different – more cunning and crafty, exceptionally skilled with a lighter blade and bow. Ahh, a father can only lead a child so far and then they choose their own path. Must have been her mother.”

Norfand’s eyes draw to the ground. “Perchance we do find them alive and with hope, my clan warriors too. Kolfend be the best of them, but they all be strong and able to put up a winning fight against a wizard. Magic is no match for metal. Gimius the wizard and the good cleric Jaedik traveled with them too. May they live to see their families once again too.”

The Book of Nate
 

Rift feels her soul lightening as the healing power of Z’alden courses through her. She starts to hand the vial of healing back to Dourinda, but then stops with a quizzical look, as if to say “should I keep it?”

“Norfand, we would be honored to aid you in your quest. However, it is growing late, and I do not recommend that we travel out onto the abyss at night. Also, my companions need rest, food, and shelter. I would suggest that we stay here tonight, honing our weapons and gathering our strength. Then, we can set out early in the morning to see what we shall find at this Wizard Island.”

“Does that sound like a plan?”

The Book of Nate
 

Rift finds herself at full health, without use of the vial of healing.

“Gimme that back,” snorts Dourinda. Stewart tries to calm the potential conflagration with compromising words, “Dourinda, why don’t I keep it and take it along the journey? That way I can give it to whomever needs it. Most equitable, wouldn’t you say?” Dourinda just scowls at Rift, waiting for her to make the next move.

Norfand seems genuinely grateful that another of the adventurers has excitedly joined the cause. Taking stock of the situation, he seems disappointed that the ones who have not joined in are the two melee warriors, the fighter, Barrick, and the paladin, Felsmon.

“Let us rest tonight, hone hour weapons and gather our strength, young wizard,” replies Norfand as if he came up with the idea – a good trick all commanders have mastered. “Let us set sail at dawn.”

Within the relative safety and comfort of the boathouse, the adventurers are able to relax, eat and are confident that by morning all their powers will have fully returned.

As Norfand, Dourinda and the adventurers settle in for the night, Stewart can be heard outside excitedly talking about the upcoming adventure to the two soldiers from Norfand’s entourage. They seem saddened and almost insulted by the news, arguing that they should join their commander on this quest and that at a minimum their honor binds them to his side. Stewart tries to calm them and finally convinces them that they too have an important mission to find and inform Norfand’s brother Hammerfand. He also tells that the adventurers appear to be truly exceptional and hence Norfand should be in safe hands. The two soldiers don’t trust the sorceress and can be heard warning Stewart to not trust her. Despite meeting her only briefly, they fear that Norfand could be beguiled by her beauty, something he has apparently succumbed to many times before. Hence Rajel. At hearing that through the wall, Norfand chuckles and winks at Tira. Finally, the adventurers can hear Stewart and one of the soldiers stumble off into the dusk, mumbling about securing the very best “ship” for tomorrow’s journey.

The Book of Nate
 

Before turning in, Z’alden feels that he has work to do. He goes among the villagers of Nenlast, using his Healing skills to ease the pain of the injured, treat any burns, and put at ease those who are hurt. In doing so, he will try to be streetwise and diplomatic to learn about this Wizard Island from the villagers.
DM: What does Z’alden learn, if anything?

The Book of Nate
 

The villagers of Nenlast are a bit leery of Z’alden at first because some of them initially thought that the adventurers brought about the terror from the sky. However, Z’alden’s true nature is plain and open for all to see, so he gains their trust, one healed wound at a time. The simple folk of Nenlast have long memories, and the work done that day by the humble priest will surely be remembered for years and years, if not generations to come.

While moving among the injurer, Z’alden learns a little bit more about Wizard Island. All that Norfand spoke of the island was substantively correct, only with embellishments that are not important. The local lore is that a powerful wizard really did inhabit the island over two centuries ago. His name has been forgotten through all the years, if anyone ever knew it. Though never exactly personable, the wizard seemed friendly enough and employed countless townsfolk in the construction of his castle that sat on the tiny island. Construction details have been lost, but up until a dozen moons ago or so, fishermen and the curious could see the island with its tall tower. It’s been a bit of a curiosity but that’s been it. No one in the town seems to actually have set foot on the island.

About one year ago storms seemed to pick up around the island, especially when fishing vessels came close. When two fishermen went missing near the island, the locals decided to stay well away. Since then, no incidents have been reported, but the storms around it sometimes still rage. However, more recently, the dread pirate ships that ply the sky have been seen flying out in the general direction of the island. Naturally, the villager make the connection, but when pressed admit there’s actually no proof that the pirate ships are in any way related to the island. Norfand is placing his bet on the hope that they are indeed connected.

Z’alden finally makes his way back to the boathouse, having one the adoring respect of the townsfolk. For his generosity of spirit, the locals give him bread, berries and bottle of three year old Nentir wine. All this, despite their devastated lives. Their hope is that the adventurers can bring justice to those pirates who killed and injured so many. They hope for Monica’s safe return, along with her husband Lars and his friends who set out earlier in the day across the cold lake. As Z’alden lays his head down upon his rolled up cloak, he feels good inside. Bahamut is smiling upon Z’alden’s good deeds and will surely replenish his strengths as he sleeps.

The Book of Nate
 

The night passes uneventfully as the adventurers feel secure, snuggled together within the boathouse. Outside one guard keeps watch as the other tries to catch a bit of sleep. The ranger is a bit restless though, for in the morning he must be off with traveling companions that are unfamiliar to him. He trusts their intent but not their abilities. Further still, he knows nothing of this Hammerfend, brother of Norfand, son of Glenfand. Erik is also not pleased that he will be leaving his comrades, for their safety has been his main concern all these last adventures. Their lives mean everything to him. Still, time spent on the earth is always better than time spent under it, in a manner of speaking, and there has been a lot of it recently spent too far within. Today he will travel in the open air under a sunny sky.

The adventurers wake with first light, except for Barrick who cannot even be roused with pokes and jabs. Gentle drops of water upon his forehead do the trick, causing him to bolt upright straight from a dream, shouting about leaks in the cavern’s walls. By the time Barrick staggers out the door and squints at the sun light, he can see that the two soldiers and Dourinda have mounted their horses. Norfand is instructing Erik on how to properly ride his horse – Erik seems a bit bemused but listens patiently. Finally Z’alden, Rift, Tira, Felsmon and Barrick bid farewell to the ranger and wish him a safe journey. Erik returns the fair words and bids his friends great success in their mission to discover the fate of so many great warriors. With that, Erik mounts Norfand’s steed and is off.

Just as the dust from the horse’s hooves begins to settle, Stewart bounds down the short little road from the village of Nenlast to the docks. “Look, look, I have secured us a fine vessel!”, proudly he shouts. As the adventurer’s eyes scan the docks, there are some fine looking fishing boats moored: “The Nenlast Queen”, “The Sea Dragon II”, and “The Four Winds”. Walking down the pier, Stewart stops at one station and then climbs aboard something – a boat that was small enough to hide behind another. He climbs aboard and motions for the other to join him. Norfand leads the way down the landing. Stewart is beaming excitedly. “See,” says Stewart, “a fine vessel!”

The Lazy Worm

Everyone re-reads the back of the boat: The Lazy Worm.

Stewart quickly discerns everyone’s disappointment. “But it’s a fine ship,” insists Stewart, “It’s caught more fish than any other ship here. It’s not the fastest, but it’s wide and stable. Its mast is stout, like me, able to take on strong winds. Well, and its owner and family are all dead, rest their souls, so it was the one we could have.” Stewart forces a nervous grin while looking for some form of approval.

Norfand walks up to the boat and with a stern eye gives it a once over. “Yes, it does have a strong keel. The mast is short, but stocky, and good should we see rough winds. The hull is wide should we see rough seas. It has oars for six rowers and a sturdy anchor and chain.”, declares Norfand. Finally, his face relaxes and he gently smiles at Stewart, “Well, it also has provisions already loaded, my dear Stewart Percy Lowell Underhill Glenfarm, and I see no other boat with provisions, so it must be our boat.” With that Norfand strides aboard and motions for the others to join him and Stewart.

The water laps against the side of the boat. It is time for the journey to Wizard Island.

The Book of Nate
 

Tira shuffles back and forth for a bit, then finally opens her mouth, “Maybe it is just me, being a girl and all, but we are all covered in battle splatter, swamp muck and who knows what else. This boat house sheltered us for the night, but did not provide a way to clean up. I do not want to seem like one of those girls, I mean I love getting dirty as much as the next man, but if I can feel sexy whilst slaying beasties, all the better. Plus, you never know when the wiles of a pretty girl can come in handy. Would it be possible to find a private source of clean water and delay our departure for 20 minutes? Rift, you are covered in grime, soot and blood, perchance you too would wish for a chance to bathe. Barrick, seeing as you still have food in your beard from last week I will assume this is not high on your priority list.” Tira smiles and chuckles.

If no one objects, Tira will wander back to the village to inquire as to a nearby semi-private source of clean water.

The Book of Nate
 

Rift sniffs at herself. “Hmmph. I’ve smelled worse.” She too is covered with muck, dirt, blood, and grime. “Nothing that a quick prestidigitation can’t cure!” she exclaims brightly. As the others look on in amazement, Rift waves her hands, mutters some arcane words which sound suspiciously like “Oggie doggie, make me as clean as a froggy!”

There is a blinding flash of light and a cloud of smoke. Rift reappears again, looking perhaps somewhat tidier. The dirt and grime is not so much gone, as just rearranged.

“There we go! Anyone else need a clean?”

Rift looks a bit crestfallen as no one responds to her generous offer.

When Tira returns, we all head down to the boat. As the party gets closer, Rift gets more and more nervous. Z’alden slaps Rift on the back. “Rift, what’s wrong? Can’t swim or something?” He laughs, but then stops as he sees the look on Rift’s face.

“Well…” says Rift. “You know, in the Feywild, there isn’t much water. And in Fallcrest I was too busy running errands for Nimozaran to have much time for fun.”

She glares around at everyone else. “No, I can’t swim. Does anyone have a problem with that? Well?”

When no one replies, she stomps down to the boat and leaps in. Her defiant manner is somewhat shaken as the boat begins to rock dangerously. Rift quickly sits down at the bow. “Well, are you all coming?”

The Book of Nate
 

Tira’s trip back to the town is successful, but uneventful. The somber townsfolk only nod to recognizer her presence, but do not engage her in conversation. When she asks for a place to clean up, the villagers just motion in the general direction of the town’s main well. There are many buckets laying about, having recently been used to help put out some of the burning houses. Such sadness. Such villainy. What evil would wantonly wreak destruction on the innocent? Still, Tira finds her water source and scurries off behind the remaining wall of a collapsed house. Soon she is clean and feeling refreshed with only the scent of smoldering dreams upon her fiery red hair.

Meanwhile, back at The Lazy Worm, Rift has taken her seat at the bow. Stewart is rummaging about the provisions, dutifully double-checking that all provisions are secure in their proper places. After a bit he nearly shouts out, “Ah-ha! Rift, look what I have found for you! Dourinda must have accidentally forgotten to give this to you.” Stewart holds out his hand to Rift, his fingers grasped around a scroll and a small bag that’s lashed to it.

Rift, do you open and examine the scroll?

Tira, do you return directly to the boat?

Z’alden, Felsmon and Barrick, do you join Rift, Norfand and Stewart in the boat? What other actions do you take? Do you feel comfortable setting out on the lake in full armor?

All of you notice that the wind is mild and coming from the south – in the right direction, but not strong enough to drive the ship. There are four oars. Knowing Norfand’s personality, it seems that he would be captain of the ship regardless of any actual skill, but do any of you wish to express expertise in seamanship and take command? What sailing skills do each of you have? What do you do next?

The Book of Nate
 

Rift nods at Stewart, and takes the scroll and bag. She cautiously opens the scroll, muttering, “Hmmm, what have we here?”

Assuming that she isn’t blasted into smithereens or turned into a small creature with multiple legs, she will also examine the contents of the small bag.

What does she find?

The Book of Nate
 

As Rift slowly unfurls the scroll, the ancient language of wizardly symbols first reveals the word “summon”. With that, Rift looks up and ponders just what might come next. Demons? Devils? Perhaps a personal servant? Her eyes turn back down to the scroll… Summon Weather. Quickly scanning the rest of the parchment, she’s able to relay a summary of the ritual to her companions: takes about ten minutes for the ritual to be cast, elemental forces, affects an area at least twenty by twenty staff lengths, this, that, effect moves with an inanimate objects, blah, blah, breezes, storms, hurricanes, blah, blah, heat, cold, rain, hail, blah, blah.

“Oh, Tira will just love when I use this!”, proclaims Rift. At that, Z’alden, Felsmon and Barrick just roll their eyes and have a “here we go again” expression on their faces.

The Book of Nate
 

Rift then examines the small bag that was attached to the scroll – sure enough, it’s a bag of components necessary to perform the ritual.

Stewart’s eyes grow even larger as he gazes upon the wizard. There’s not too much in the way of spell casting done where he’s from – more of healing rituals and enchantments than dramatics. So too is Norfand a bit unsettled. He has had many a spell caster come and go under his employ – often leaving the contract by way of not staying far enough behind the fighters. Surely none have been as powerful as this wizard, perhaps not even Dourinda. Rift’s insouciance with such powerful magics leaves Norfand stroking his beard as he makes a new study of the wizard.

The Book of Nate
 

Feeling much cleaner, and ready to tackle the world, Tira returns to The Lazy Worm. Having spent much of her youth sailing on the lake near the Baron’s keep, Tira glances at the sky as she boards the meager vessel. “I can get most small boats to move in light winds, but there is hardly enough breeze to launch a kite, let alone push a boat. Looks like someone is going to have to row.” And with that she sits down next to Rift.

Glancing at the scroll Rift is holding Tira smiles, “Summon Weather? Sounds too good to be true.” She squints and lowers her voice, “Where, prey tell, did you get that?”

“On the other hand, it if works, let’s use it and be off!” She pauses, “If the ritual involves fire, please do it ashore.” Tira stows her backpack securely through an easily reachable scupper.

The Book of Nate
 

As Tira shifts in her seat to talk to Rift about the Summon Weather ritual, she notices that she has plunked down right on a spot of fairly fresh tar. It’s causing her dress to stick to the seat and will surely be difficult to get out. What does she do?

While Rift and Tira discuss the ritual, the big men of the ship each grab an oar. Stewart pulls the mooring ropes and with that the oars touch water. Putting their backs into it, Felsmon, Barrick, Z’alden and Norfand move the vessel from the dock. Finally, The Lazy Worm is off on her voyage to Wizard Island.

The Book of Nate
 

The wind is just a breeze, but it is from the south, so it does give the boat a friendly push northward. After a few minutes, the rowers settle into their rhythm and Stewart’s nervousness subsides just a bit. He gazes wistfully at the docks of Nenlast harbor, which have now grown surprisingly distant to him. The adventurers can see the strain upon the halfling’s face, reminding them that his last voyage did not end so well. He did sail with Rajel, daughter of Norfand, with three strong ships toward Wizard Island to search for the lost Bowerfand, son of Norfand. They were met with raging seas and gail force winds. What happened next is not recalled, but the ships were smashed. Upon the water Stewart clung to debris for two full days before washing up upon the beach. What stout convictions this halfling must have to return upon the seas, with little more than strangers.

Shrugging off sour thoughts, Stewart shrugs and turns his attention forward to the open waters. His eyes scan the horizon for which way to go. “That way,” he pronounces to his companions. “See the storm over that way, just to the northwest? That must be it! Terrible storms, but the lightening is the clear giveaway. It should take us the best part of the day, accounting for the number of rowers and speed of the ship as compared to… compared to last time.”

Stewart looks at his companions for a response. Norfand nods in acknowledgement and then orders the others to make course for the storm.

“Okay, now for my favorite thing,” joyfully declares Stewart, "Yes, Stewart Percy Lowell Underhill Glenfarm, you are a lucky man. He unhooks one of the fishing rods from its mount and positions himself at the back of The Lazy Worm. “Yes, not like the streams and ponds back home, but it’ll have to do”, he proclaims. Stewart makes his cast and as the fishing hook drags behind the boat, his mind drifts off to a more relaxing time and place.

The Book of Nate
 

While Stewart sits at the back of The Lazy Worm, dragging his line behind the boat, Tira sets up the sail. It’s a square sail and she grumbles about that versus a triangular sail, but she says that it’ll do, especially since the wind is blowing in the general direction they wish to travel. With the welcome boost from the sail, the four oarsmen relax their pace a bit. Stewart takes breaks now and again to feed them water and tasty vittles.

The swells are now a little bigger – a sign that the adventurers are now far from land. The wind is cold and carries with it the smell of the sea. “I’m sailing!” jokes Rift as she mocks lashing herself to the mast. Stewart, in the back “fishing” once again just laughs.

“I got one! I got one!,” Stewart suddenly shouts. Everyone looks in amazement. Stewart’s line is drawn tight and he struggles with the rod. It’s surely a big one.

The Book of Nate
 

Tira looks over at Stewart, mildly interested in what he might have caught. But then seeing that everyone is distracted with the fish, she moves to the front of the boat and hikes up her dress to pull it in front of her. Seeing the tar stain she scowls, “Blast, this might as well be Sahuagin slobber!” She folds the fabric on itself, making a little pocket so at least the tar does not cause her to stick to anything else.

Looking ahead at the storm in the distance, then up at the sail, she estimates they still have many hours to go before anything interesting happens. With a slight shrug she steps back to see how Stewart is doing with dinner.

The Book of Nate
 

Rift suddenly gets excited that Stewart has apparently caught a big fish. She leaps up and runs to the back of the boat. “Whoa,” she exclaims, as the boat begins to rock violently. Rift sits down with a thump next to Stewart.

“Stewie,” says Rift. “Want some help?” Without waiting for an answer, Rift grabs onto the fishing pole and begins to tug along with Stewart.

Do we catch anything?

The Book of Nate
 

Rift and Stewart tug and pull for a few minutes, trying to reel in the fish. Finally, they manage to land it – a rather large fish that looks a bit like a bass. Stewart is all excited and while Rift continues to hold the pole, he places it in one of the fishing boat’s storage boxes. Once that’s taken care of, he returns to Rift and adds a new worm to the hook.

“Rift, you don’t look much like a fisherman, err, fisherwoman,” says Stewart a bit sheepishly, realizing that he could have offended Rift. “Well, let’s see what we can do her. Got this fine little worm hooked on the end of this here hook and we’ll just gently cast it out the back of the boat.” With that, Stewart guides Rift’s awkward hands with the fishing rod and the cast a line out the back. Stewart sits next to Rift as she holds the rod.

The next few hours pass peacefully, but the The Lazy Worm is not so peaceful upon the water. Up ahead the storm around Wizard Island rages. The waters are now pretty rough and rain is beginning to fall upon the waves and boat. Stewart remarks to Rift how unlikely it’ll be to catch anything in these conditions, but then she feels a little tug on the line…

The Book of Nate
 

Z’alden yawns as though waking from a dream, “By the Wing, but I saw bright green and red birds flying through an azure sky and over turquoise water. A warm, pleasant breeze blew by me as the sun was setting a golden orb into the clear water. The stars at night were strange but beautiful. And, now, here we are, in rough waters headed to a storm. Adventure awaits!”

The cleric glances at the line. Does he detect that the pull is getting unusually strong?

The Book of Nate
 

The pull on the line is strong, but not more than one might expect from a large fish. Stewart certainly doesn’t seem alarmed.

While Rift and Stewart are trying to reel in a fish, Tira sees that the sail is no longer helping due to the storm that they are approaching. As the boat rocks side to side on the swells, she carefully lowers the sail. The four strong men put their backs into the oars. It won’t be long now. Through the storm, one thinks that they might even be able to make out Wizard Island.

The Book of Nate
 

Suddenly, overhead, Z’alden notices a flying ship! In appearance, it’s similar to the one of Captain Wynarn… that dread pirate who took the adventurers captive and laid waste to the village of Nenlast. Still up very high, it seems to be on a descent course straight to Wizard Island.

The Book of Nate
 

Z’alden lets his companions know of his sighting. His thoughts turn to skeletons being smashed to bits in the light of the Great Dragon as the cleric and his friends avenge the villagers who had befriended them. He pulls even harder, anxious to investigate.

The Book of Nate
 

Barrick huddled over his oar, struggling to keep up with the pace set by Felsmon. He had never liked boats much, though he was a strong swimmer, thanks to the cold pools often found in caverns. He didn’t like this Stewart character much, either. Another strange, skinny little guy who couldn’t be trusted. And too many names, what did he need with so many names? Barrick decided to just call him “SUG” for short. He spat onto his oar and redoubled his efforts.

The Book of Nate
rplayer BergRick

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