Raygun Encounters: Legacy of the Crystal Shard

The Final Chapter
In which the bad guys get what was coming to them

Week 13
Dan as Incendius, Human Wizard
Neil as Bud, Ranger
William as Fib, Tiefling Warlock
Sina as Alasaurus, Swordmage
Allison as Mardred, Dwarf Paladin
Bob as Kayleth, Half-Elf Druid
Jacob as Kintama, Hengeyokai Thief
Josh as DM

After exiting the mirror portal, the gang find themselves on a frozen tundra, the northern wasteland where the Ice Witch has made her home. Before them, a huge black spire rises, as if it pushed its way straight through the tundra from underneath. “Black ice!” whispers Incendius under his breath. “Kessell must be near.” The other group of adventurers describe their battle with the witch, her skeletal dragon pet, and the now-deceased Gant. Fib gets a feeling of deja vu – “That sounds like a battle we fought!” and everyone is filled with a sense of unease. This is only reinforced when one of the new adventurers mentions they saw an undead looking creature and several barbarians watching them battle from the tower, and then return inside.

They circle the spire, seeing only the one entrance with two barbarians standing outside, looking bored and content to ignore them. Eventually they draw within shouting range, and one of the guards calls out “You all look rather cold and silly tramping around out there. Why don’t you come inside?” Kintama tries a bluff – “Well, actually we have really beautiful barbarian babes and hot elk meat over here, just over this hill! Come share it with us!” The barbarians look a bit confused. “Well.. we’d better go ask the Chief about that.” and go inside.

Kintama changes to raccoon dog form and goes up to the entrance.. it appears to be wide open, with an empty audience chamber inside and two staircases going up, one on either side of the room. He hears the barbarians conversing with another, deep voiced one (the chief?) and beckons the others forward after checking for traps. As he goes up the stairs, he hears a familiar, sinister voice in his head “You’d best bring your associates up the stairs with you, my furry friend, if you want to last more than five seconds.” Startled, he returns to the first floor and reports what he has seen and heard. Incendius is in the process of handing out small silver fire charms which he has been crafting over the last few days to combat the effects of the black ice. They discuss and agree to have one party go up one stairs, and the other take the other, to spread the effects of any traps or focused fire.

They reach the second floor and see Akar Kessell and a massive barbarian, obviously the chief, a head taller than all the others, conversing with the two guards and two other barbarian lackeys. The Ice Witch floats overhead, watching them approach. “The sacrifices have arrived! Auril is pleased!” she cackles. Incendius retorts “We are the ones who will destroy you and all this you have built! Your reign is at an end! Your wight ally fled from us last time, but we won’t give you the chance again!” Kessell perks up “Yes, it’s about time you experienced my power. Hedrun, you deal with the southerners, let me handle our old friends here. They’ve been a thorn in our sides long enough.”

Kintama, who has been sneaking around the periphery in the midst of this gripping dialogue, decides that this is the dramatically appropriate moment to draw his blades and run them deep into one of the guards at the edge, almost immediately incapacitating him. The others take this as a signal to charge into the fray. The Ice Witch immediately reacts by shooting a bolt at the nearest adventurer, who happens to be the ill-fated but much-beloved Sir Not Appearing In This Film, from the other adventuring party. He falls to the ground, not moving, and she cackles and fires another blast which encases the other staircase in ice. “You’ll have to join me in my lair if you want to take this any further!” and she flies up to a ledge above. Bud and Incendius wave the other party to continue up the stairs and deal with her while they deal with the threat here, and soon clangs and shouts are heard above as the battle is joined.

Bud and Fib quickly move out to flank the barbarians and get out of burst one formation, just in time to avoid a horrible psychic attack from Kessell which injures most of the party. Alasaurus and Mardred step forward to take the blunt of the attack, but Alasaurus finds herself rooted in place as they suddenly realize they have been surrounded by air elementals, who form from seeming nothing and begin trying to grapple and smother several party members. Keyleth is unable to resist one, so he smashes it instead, while Fib teleports away from another and shoots it down. With their combined efforts, the party is able to take down Akar Kessell before he can wreak much more havoc, although Mardred is quickly ganged up on by barbarians, and Kintama is also taking damage (although not nearly as fast as he dishes it out via his blades). They take down the barbarian chief next, with Incendius using making great use of his signature flame sphere and fire mantle in the close quarters to lay on the hurt from the stairs. Alasaurus is able to keep Kintama up just barely (while chugging healing potions herself to counteract the combined efforts of the wight, the chief, and an air elemental), as Keyleth focuses on Mardred. Just as Mardred is about to fall, she hears the magic words shouted “STOP FUCKING DYING!” She turns, surprised to hear Etain – but no, it is Incendius who has apparently learned some tricks from his traveling companion!!

Their wounds healed and the enemy leaders down, they are able to make quick work of the remaining barbarians and air elementals and then charge up the stairs to assist their new allies, who have the Witch on her heels just in time for a kill steal! Sorry other adventuring party… The tower begins to shake and crumble with its magical anchors destroyed, and everyone runs out after grabbing lots of totally awesome and level-appropriate loot. They are sad to have lost Sir Not Appearing In This Film… but feel that the ruins of a massive magical ice tower make an appropriate burial mound. On returning to Ten Towns, they are lauded as great heroes, and everyone is ecstatic that Auril’s spell of awful winter has been broken and things are returning to normal. A four day feast and celebration is held in their honor, and it is a really, really good time.

The End

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The Gang Rents a Yacht
..after taking a few levels in Delegation

Week 12
Dan as Incendius, Human Wizard
Neil as Bud, Ranger
William as Fib, Tiefling Warlock
Sina as Alasaurus, Swordmage
Steven as Etain, Drow Cleric
Allison as Mardred, Dwarf Paladin
Bob as Kayleth, Half-Elf Druid
Jacob as Kintama, Hengeyokai Thief
Josh as DM

The team sizes up the new party of adventurers before them. They seem pretty tough and on top of their game, so they decide to send the Undermountain Adventurers after Gant at the tour. Hogar had mentioned previously that the weather is lovely in Easthaven this time of year, and it’s been a long week of adventuring, so they decide to see if they can take a fishing vessel out for some joy riding before heading to the Ice Witch’s tower to clean up anything left.

They arrive in Easthaven but unfortunately, the OTHER heroes they previously recruited to take care of Gant’s threat in the town seem to have gone rogue, renting a vessel with a large black ram on the front to supposedly “root out evil”, but then returning after a few days and laying siege to the town, effectively blockading any fishing vessels from entering the lake to fish. The situation is beginning to grow dire as this is the primary means of economic gain and food for the town.

Fortunately there is one remaining lakeworthy vessel in the town, so they take charge of it, hiring Disco Dave and a couple other local fishermen to pilot it into the lake while they lay low and prepare to ambush these so-called “pirates”.

Sure enough, within a few minutes of setting sail, they see another ship emerge from a hidden cove with a large, black ram and head straight towards them! As it draws within range, Bud (who is up in the crows nest) sees several archers and rough looking fellows on board and begins firing. Meanwhile Kintama changes to raccoon form and swims a long, heavy rope to the attacking vessel, where he jams the rudder. At the same time, Allasaurus launches a homemade grappling hook which she miraculously is able to wrap several times around the upper mast of the pirate vessel. Disco Dave helps her tie it off and they begin pulling the ship towards them, blocking any attempt at escape or outmaneuvering.

Just then, several pirates emerge onboard, having similarly swum over stealthily and climbed up the side of the ship!! They immediately begin going for the casters, and Mardred and Allasaurus rush to protect them. Keyleth attempts to knock one over the side with the help of her bear, but he becomes tangled in the rigging and is able to stay onboard. Incendius explodes multiple waves of fire, weakening and distracting the enemies on board, while Fib attempts to hold them in place and throw elemental bolt after bolt, and Etain keeps the casters up through some massive swings by the pirates.

While this is happening, Kintama continues infiltrating the enemy ship and takes down several archers with some help from Bud, Keyleth and Incendius who shoot bolts, lightning, and other magical support to distract and take down the several foes. At one point Kintama is rushed by several foes and is on the verge of falling, when Allasaurus realizes and shouts “NO!”. Just as the final swing is coming down towards Kintama, a dimensional vortex opens beneath the pirate’s feet and he finds himself suddenly on the other side of the boat, as his sword crashes down on his fellow archer. Kintama pauses to wave thanks and in that moment the casters and Bud finish off the last pirates.

Kintama tries to claim ownership of the boat via salvage law, but Incendius sees through the cheap ploy and insists that they return the boat to its rightful owner. They also realize that the ram is made of black ice, and that is what corrupted the pirates. Incendius promptly destroys the ram to prevent any further damage, and they sail both boats back to shore. The harbormaster thanks them, particularly for returning all the town’s goods which had been stolen intact and offering some money as payment. They also realize based on the description that the owner of the stolen ship is none other than Gant, who seems to have plotted the entire thing by buying and mounting the ram from Baerik and then renting it to the unsuspecting adventurers. Given that Gant is a criminal, everyone agrees that Kintama can fairly claim maritime salvage law. Etain, who has suddenly found a real knack and enjoyment for fishing in this short time, decides to stay behind and work as the ship’s captain and send Kintama his cut as necessary. It’s a good life.

Just then, the other group of adventurers call – they’ve reached the tower and defeated Gant, but it seems the Witch was in simulacrum form again and melted away! They are on the verge of being overwhelmed – barbarians and a lich seem to be supporting the Ice Witch in addition to her normal yetis and wild animals. They request reinforcements to help finish off the other Big Bads in the tower. By the power of the awesome teleporting mirror, the group steps through to join their comrades in the far north…

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In which we accidentally founded a cult
and possibly also jumped the shark

Week 11
Dan as Incendius, Human Wizard
Neil as Bud, Ranger
William as Fib, Tiefling Warlock
Sina as Alasaurus, Swordmage
Steven as Etain, Drow Cleric
Allison as Mardred, Dwarf Paladin
Jared as Two Bits, Halfling Rogue
Bob as Kayleth, Half-Elf Druid
Josh as DM

As the heroes hear voices and see light around a corner further down the tunnel, they send Two Bits and Bud to investigate. They have wildly varying stories of what is being discussed, but since the idea of a tea party in the middle of a cultist lair doesn’t make much sense, everyone agrees they are probably re-telling the massacre at the inn in Bremen… awkward. Two Bits sneaks down further and sees three men in a large kitchen / dining space.

Fib, Etain, and Bud pose again as cultist initiates, grabbing Two Bits (in goblin disguise) as a disgruntled guard and Mardred to cover them, and step confidently into the room. “I tried to stop them!” yells Two Bits as Etain retorts “your door service is terrible!” One man turns and they recognize Davrick Fain, who smiles. “I am so sorry for the door service! These goblins are very hard to train, you know. But, what brings you here?”

“Yes, well we were meeting our new cult friends at the inn, and they told us about the sacrifice and gave a flyer for this place, but then when we ducked into the bathroom for a minute they disappeared! So we decided to come up and see for ourselves.” says Fib. “Hmm,” thinks Fain, “well the sacrifice isn’t until Friday, so you’re a little early, but I’m impressed that you brought this dwarf to add to the offering! We don’t get those much.” Mardred shuffles uncomfortably.

“Yes,” says Etain, “so where can we put her for safe keeping?” “Ah, the prisoners are just through this door, and then second on the left.” “We will leave this goblin hear to watch our things, I’ll just duck down and be right back.” and Fib and Mardred are off down the passage. Just then, Kayleth steps out of the shadows to see what is going on “Sorry I’m late – thanks for welcoming us”. “Ah, yes, she is with us” says Etain, and Davrick nods. Something seems up – this is too easy. Two Bits uses the distraction of Kayleth to sneak behind one of the other cultists, Disco Dave, and swipe his sword from it’s scabbard when he isn’t looking. Kayleth sits down, poors some beer for the other cultist, and has him sit facing away from the door as they drink.

Meanwhile, Fib and Mardred find the prisoners, and Mardred comforts them and lets them know that they can help. They determine that one is the apothecary they were looking for, and Fib lets him know that he should consider the debt even once they rescue him. He also asks if the other prisoners can pay, as Mardred just shakes her head…

“Hey Jerry,” says Diso Dave, “Have you seen my sword? I swear I just had it” as he begins looking around. Realizing that the ruse is not going to hold much longer, Two Bits draws his other weapon, says “here it is”, and stabs Disco Dave. Everyone else draws their weapons and attacks as Incendius, Alasaurus, and a bear bust out of the tunnel, magic blazing!!

From out of the shadows, two crag cats bound from behind Davrick and attack the nearest party members, as he mumbles incantations and summons slivers of Ice that blind and confuse the party! Disco Dave swings his fists and afro wildly at several nearby heroes, yelling “fight me!” but they ignore his weak blows. The battle seems to be going their way, when suddenly Davrick says “Jerry, enough, summon the beast and let’s see how strong it really is”. A giant remorrhaz (frost worm) bursts forth from the floor, and they realize why the room was so hot as fire erupts from its carapace!

Fortunately Incendius is well trained in fighting fire with fire, and Alasaurus is able to keep the worm mostly locked down. She takes heavy damage but Etain keeps her up while Keyleth is able to also keep Mardred on her feet. The party is able to focus on taking down Davrick Fain as fire, arrows, and steel echo around the chamber, and then after a while the worm falls to a huge blast from Incendius. Finally Fib tells Disco Dave, “you see, your cult is quite weak. You should probably join our cult”. Realizing he is the last one alive, Dave nods vigorously “Yes, you seem much stronger than the cult of Auril! What are you called?”

Off the cuff, Indy remarks “the cult of the light”, and surprisingly the name sticks with Dave. He tells them all about the other Aurilian cult cells, as well as Davrick’s private room where he suspects he communicates with the Ice Witch, Hedrun. Alasaurus and Bud find a large mirror, which Alasaurus uses to tidy herself up a bit until Incendius lets them all know that it appears to be a communication (and possibly teleportation?) mirror.

Just then, it crackles to life – “Davrick? Are you there?” says a woman’s voice, and they find themselves face to face with the Ice Witch. “I haven’t heard from Davrick,” says another voice “but Xeres should be checking in around now – Xeres?” “Xeres.. is dead. We sort of drowned him” says yet a third voice. Hedrun stares at Alasaurus and the motley crew of heroes (and Disco Dave). “Who are you? Where is Davrick?” Keyleth pipes up, “Some adventurers just came and killed him! What should we do?” but the second voice says “She’s lying – I recognize them – those are the adventurers who foiled my plans in Bryn Shander! Damn them!” He turns, and they realize it is Vaelish Gant! “Yes,” says Incendius, “We killed Davrick, and you’re next!”

“Sorry.. what’s going on?” says the third voice, and more people are heard behind her. Another group of people, seemingly in a cave, appear in the mirror as well. “Gant,” snaps Hedrun, “we must accelerate our plans. These adventurers are causing too much trouble.” “Yes,” he agrees, “I am completing my plans tomorrow to destroy Easthaven – these heroes have been very helpful in that” he chuckles “and then I will meet you at your tower and we can enter the final stage. Let’s break the call before these fools figure out how to use the teleport” and they both disappear.

Etain, Mardred and Fib compare notes with the other adventuring party and realize that they will all need to band together, save Easthaven and then try to find the tower. The other group seems to be far to the south and have defeated another ally of Gant’s named Xeres, and incidentally be looking for a way out of Undermountain anyway. So Alasaurus opens a portal through the mirrors, and they stumble through and introduce themselves…

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We use the term "rescue" loosely

Week 10
Dan as Incendius, Human Wizard
Neil as Bud, Ranger
William as Fib, Tiefling Warlock
Sina as Alasaurus, Swordmage
Steven as Etain, Drow Cleric
Allison as Mardred, Dwarf Paladin
Jared as Two Bits, Halfling Rogue
Josh as DM

The next morning, the villagers set out for Kelvin’s Cairn to attempt to “rescue” the missing apothecary (and any other intended sacrifices). Fib and Etain continue to joke about whether they are going to save him to consider the debt settled, or just make sure the cultists finish the job so they don’t have to cough up the 50gp. Fib continues to talk about joining the cult and participating in the sacrifices (“the benefits sound great!”), and Mardred continues to be unsure whether they are joking, and feeling vaguely uncomfortable…

Shortly after noon, they arrive within site of Kelvin’s Cairn. Bud squints and realizes that the windward side of the mountain would be very inhospitable, and begins leading them up the leeward side. As they start to ascend, Etain looks up and sees a ribbon of smoke against the backdrop of clouds. “There!” Bud leads them towards the smoke, and they soon climb high enough to be within a few hundred yards of where it seems to come from, when he realizes that they are following a track that seems to have been trodden many times. He stops everyone, and Two Bits and Bud sneak up and around, off the path, until they find they are above a cave mouth that was hidden by the angle of ascent. As they watch, they realize several camouflaged figures are hiding in the snow, waiting to ambush the party if they climb any higher.

They signal to each other and Bud maintains his perch, Two Bits going back to warn the others and then climbing again silently, completely blindsiding the foes. He bird calls, and Alasaurus and Mardred charge up, Mardred going straight up the slope to cut one off while Alasaurus uses her magic to lasso another down off his perch, while Bud shoots two arrows right in the head of a third, who falls out of his hiding spot, instantly dead – they all realize they are goblins!

As they stand surprised, a fourth one not seen by the others darts out of his hiding spot into the cave mouth and is around a corner and down the passage before they can do anything. Two Bits does a triple somersault flying leap slide down to the cave mouth and blocks the retreat, and he, Fib and Incendius finish off one, although the other is able to slide past Two Bits and escape as well! The party charges down the passage after them before they can regroup..

The cave surface quickly changes to something more refined, clearly a living area that has been inhabited for quite some time, and as they climb some stairs they see the second retreating goblin talking with another sentry. Bud shoots him in the throat before he can finish delivering his chattered message, and the other goblin darts into a side passage. The party charges up just as two more burst forth, but just as the heroes seem to have it under control, a giant verbeerg busts down another door and attacks with a giant mace!!

He roars defiantly and is surprisingly nimble on his feet, seeming to melt in and out of the party and swinging his mace frantically, but he seldom connects in his hurry. Even as several goblins swoop in and distract Etain and Alasaurus, the party is able to push him back towards the entrance through a series of feints drawingg him towards the casters. Meanwhile Incendius fries several goblins to a crisp, and they methodically take him down once he is isolated. At the last moment, the verbeerg cuts and runs back down the passage, dodging down a side tunnel as Bud’s final arrow narrowly misses him. Bud and Incendius give chase, back through his sleeping quarters and treasure room, then turn a corner to find him gone, with nothing but a dead end (oh, and 500gp. So, there’s that). Incendius searches for magical concealment and even sets a lot of stuff on fire while the rest of the party shows up and searches, but they are unable to find any sign of him. Alasaurus suspects a secret door of some kind based on the evidence, but they are unable to find it and give up, deciding to focus on the hostages.

They move back to the main area which shows no sign of cultists, but there is another tunnel leading deeper. Two Bits and Etain take the lead, with Etain using his darkvision to scout and Two Bits using his small stature and natural bluff to masquerade as a goblin. The see a few side chambers that seem to be goblin-inhabited (aka dirty and poorly kept) but then it transitions to rooms that seem to be much neater and likely occupied by humans. As a sense of dread comes over them, Etain finds religious charms and insignias that seem to be made of the black ice… Incendius immediately melts them, but everyone is more on edge as they approach a larger lit area and hear menacing voices reverberating down the passageway…

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How to Succeed in an Evil Cult
...without really trying

Week 9
Dan as Incendius, Human Wizard
Neil as Bud, Ranger
William as Fib, Tiefling Warlock
Sina as Alasaurus, Swordmage
Steven as Etain, Drow Cleric
Fred as Hogar, Half-Orc Slayer
Allison as Mardred, Dwarf Paladin
Josh as DM

The next morning, the heroes awake to hear an alarm bell ringing in the center of town, but the barbarian/yeti combined attack is beaten back without their ability to break through the gate via a skeletal dragon. Etain, who was trancing on the walls, also helps prevent (most of) the guard casualties from barbarian arrows.

A celebratory brunch is held as the invading army seems to have melted back into the wilderness, and the team gets together in the Speaker’s Hall where they are congratulated and thanked by all. But the festive mood is broken when a woman comes in crying, and says that her husband has gone missing! The Speaker asks an aide to take care of it, but Mardred’s conscience won’t let her get back to enjoying the food until she gets the full story. It turns out the woman’s husband is the apothecary who set the adventurers on Slim’s trail back at the beginning! And they realize that they still owe him some money. Awkward. “Well,” points out Hogar, “if we rescue him, that should erase the debt, right?”

The woman claims that a cult has been forming following the Frost Maiden Auril, seeking to appease her wrath with various displays of devotion. Several travelers had gone missing across Icewind Dale and were presumed to have been taken by the cult (there were rumors of bodies found in the wilderness..), but this was the first known incident of an actual resident. Speaker Duvessa and the guard captain said they had no hard leads and had been unable to identify any cultists connected to kidnappings so far, but all agreed that this was crossing a line. They are directed that a self-described prophet of Auril has been spreading tales as he travels his merchant routes – a man named Davrick Fain from Bremen. They agree to go there and seek him out.

They quickly find Fain, and Incendius and Fib enter his shop feigning ignorance and ask about the teachings of Auril. Fain seems to sense that something is up with Incendius and is rather dodgy, openly admitting his devotion to Auril but hotly denying any criminal activity. Fib comes back later with Etain and the tiefling and drow take a slightly different tact – trying to join the cult, playing up their racial stereotypes as less-than-good. This seems to work, although Fain asks some odd questions about whether they have friends or relatives nearby. He arranges to meet them at dinner that evening along with some other “brothers” at the nearby inn.

Fib and Etain meet the gentlemen in question at the inn a few hours later, and they strike up a rousing conversation about the followers of Auril, the heroes’ background and the local happenings in Bremen. Meanwhile the rest of the party position themselves at various places nearby and try to be discreet. The brothers mention a gathering in a few days and say they will be in touch, but offer to keep buying drinks and keeping the fun going. A little bit later, Alasaurus and Bud realize something is up as the inn is clearing out and they see the innkeeper exchanging glances with the cultists. They suddenly notice the innkeeper mumbling to himself and realize he is casting a spell! Everyone draws their swords as the other inn patrons also draw steel and attack!

The battle is fierce, particularly when they realize that both the innkeeper and the server are using dark magic to hold party members in place. Hogar is reduced to throwing javelins (although still strangely effective) as Alasaurus tries to push one cultist into the fire. Mardred keeps the innkeeper tied up although she takes some nasty cuts from the broken bottle he wields, and Etain takes a beating and is almost knocked out before Fib can slow down his attackers and get in the way, taking a few hits himself. Bud hangs out from the stairs and takes potshots, helping take down several cultists as Incendius bounds down the stairs to unleash Burning Hands over the bar, exploding most of the alcohol as Mardred (who has gotten quite good at recognizing the gestures for Burning Hands by now) ducks behind the bar to avoid getting scorched.

They finally kill all but one of the cultists, who Etain is able to keep from bleeding out and finally wake up just as someone shows up with a town guard. As he surveys the scene, Fib is able to threaten the final cultist to reveal that some of the other kidnapped people were being held at a hideout part way up Kelvin’s Cairn before he is taken away by the guard. The guard warns the adventurers that everyone they just killed had been living peacefully in Bremen for years, and while he understood they were acting in self defense, they were his friends too. He STRONGLY encourages the adventurers to leave town as soon as they can, and so they set out towards Kelvin’s Cairn, stopping to camp out for the night a few miles from the village.

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The Ice Witch?
(Betteridge's law of headlines may be relevant)

Week 8
Dan as Incendius, Human Wizard
Neil as Bud, Ranger
William as Fib, Tiefling Warlock
Sina as Alasaurus, Swordmage
Steven as Etain, Drow Cleric
Fred as Hogar, Half-Orc Slayer
Allison as Mardred, Dwarf Paladin
Josh as DM

The heroes took off with Algonell and quickly reached the southern end of the dwarven valley again, setting off through the Icewind Dale wilderness back towards Bryn Shander, hoping they could arrive before the wintery army (and the rumored dragon and ice witch leading the charge) could do too much damage to the town. The mood was quiet and serious, although whether due to the gravity of the situation or the hangovers that many members still felt, was unclear. Fortunately Etain was able to whip up some of his Underdark Bloody Mary Hangover Cure, which cheered everyone up right away – at least, until he started explaining the ingredients (it turns out that they make do with what is at hand when making cocktails in the Underdark).

Bud and Algonell were able to navigate a route through the wilderness that avoided any encounters with more yetis or wild beasts through the day, while still keeping a good pace, and by nightfall they reached the outskirts of Bryn Shander where they saw evidence of a gathered horde. Bud and Hogar snuck off to investigate and found a camp with 40 or 50 barbarians and yetis, and sign that wolves and bears had been around earlier too, but no sign of the witch or her monstrous companion. They reported back, and the team agreed to circle the camp and enter Bryn Shander to assess the situation before taking further action. As they approached the gate, a guard yelled “Who goes there?”, but the retort of “Well.. not barbarians?” was sufficient to gain them entry. Or maybe one of the guards just recognized them from saving the caravan a couple days prior.

They found Speaker Duvessa consulting with the guard captain about the city defenses and strategy. After filling her in on what they had seen (and the alarming signs of Akar Kessel under Kelvin’s Cairn), they asked if anyone else had seen the witch or the dragon. Unfortunately, no one had. They agreed that the city walls were their greatest asset and the best strategy was to wait for attack inside. The suspicion was that the attacking force was waiting for full strength and would begin the assault that coming morning. The main fear was that the witch’s magic or dragons might would be able to do more damage to the wall, allowing barbarians into the town and significantly weakening the defensive position. Everyone agrees that the best thing for the heroes to do is attempt to take care of that greatest threat, so that the more mundane foes could be left to the town guard. Incendius attempts to charm Duvessa into agreeing to pay, but she appeals to their consciences and Mardred, Etain and the other morally inclined heroes agree to help first and discuss payment later.

As the team reflects on why the witch was not spotted with her army, Alasaurus recalls what she knows of the evil winter goddess Auril who is rumored to be powering the witch. She knows the goddess is most appeased by sacrifices (preferably live), usually death by exposure to the elements, and her followers have a habit of often making these near moving water. Hogar speaks up that he knows where the nearest stream around Bryn Shander is, and they decide to do some scouting together to see if they can find her isolated at night and take care of the threat. They set out into the night in search of the stream. Although the unusually cold winter has frozen it over, Hogar locates it and they move forward with Bud in the front scouting. They move forward slowly for some time, and as they are beginning to get tired and long for their warm beds back at the inn, Alasaurus suddenly stops. “I sense something – there is evil about.” She begins conferring with Fib to determine what it is when Bud hushes them – “Wait, I hear something. Some kind of chanting? You stay here, Hogar come with me.”

Bud and Hogar carefully crawl to the top of the next hill and see a slender figure in white leaning over something, apparently the source of the chanting which has grown louder. As Hogar determines it is the witch and starts scrambling back down to the rest of the party, Bud stops him. Bud scans the rest of the area and notices several furry shapes in shadow a ways off from the stream, forming a rough perimeter around the figure. “Guards – Can’t tell what they are from here though.” But before he can finish the thought, Hogar has moved forward towards one of the shadows to get a better look. He gets close enough to determine it is a yeti and starts to head back when he hears the yeti stir, sniffing the air and start moving in his direction. Did it catch wind of his scent? Hogar moves back quickly and doesn’t see it follow.

Back with the party, Etain proposes to dress up as an evil cleric and try to parley to create a distraction, but Incendius instead proposes to set a distant tree on fire to create a distraction, hopefully dividing the yetis and then circling back to focus fire the witch with the rest of the party. “Hmmm.. a plan that doesn’t involve putting our only healer in the middle of the battle alone? Yes, let’s take that one.” Incendius sets off to find a suitable tree.

After a few minutes, he returns: “We should see smoke and flame billowing from a few hundred yards that way in another minute or two.” Fib gets in position and confirms the yetis have headed off to look at the tree, while Hogar, Bud and Incendius sneak within range before giving the signal and firing an arrow, a ball of lightning, and an angry half-orc slayer towards the witch all at once. As he cuts into her, Hogar gets a good look and realizes that she is smiling. Unnerving.

As the rest of the party joins the fray, she intones “Icingdeath, my pet, arise and show some proper hospitality for our guests.” Fib, Bud and Incendius, who had been keeping their distance, suddenly realize that white indistinct shapes in the snow that they assumed was some foliage are actually bones, which are rising from the ground and forming into a large skeletal dragon!! It begins trampling over them biting left and right until Alasaurus can intercept, protecting the casters and then teleporting away to confuse the beast. Ice rises from the ground around the ice witch, pushing back and slowing Mardred and Hogar, but Incendius summons his trusty flame sphere behind her and it begins to lick at her with white hot tendrils. Just then, the yetis return, apparently having caught scent of Hogar and not made it to the tree. Fib and Bud are in dire straits, but Incendius’s flame sphere is finally able to defeat the witch… but she merely melts into the snow, loosing two final spears of ice, and they realize that it was only a simulacrum, presumably the real witch had been projecting her consciousness and power into it.

Still, they are encouraged to press on by it’s defeat, Mardred and Hogar on either side of the dragon while Etain keeps them alive, Fib teleporting away from one yeti to step in front of Bud and keep him alive, and Alasaurus locking down the other yeti. Their combined forces finally cause the dragon to fall apart again, weakened by its masters magic disappearing as well. They clean up the final yetis before Fib or Bud can fall, and everyone cheers before collapsing, exhausted at the long battle. They realize that several of the dragon’s claws can be fashioned into powerful weapons, and take those before heading back to town.

Back in Bryn Shander, everyone but the night watch is catching a few hours of sleep before the uncertainty of morning. The heroes report their success, and the troubling business of the simulacrum, and the head night watchman agrees to wake them up if any movement of the barbarian/yeti army is spotted.

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Defend the Daledrop!

Week 7
Dan as Incendius, Human Wizard
Neil as Bud, Ranger
William as Fib, Tiefling Warlock
Sina as Alasaurus, Swordmage
Steven as Etain, Drow Cleric
Fred as Hogar, Half-Orc Slayer
Allison as Mardred, Dwarf Paladin
Paul as Badger, Pixie Slayer
Josh as DM

The heroes awaken from their hungover slumber to the sound of an alarm bell ringing loudly from somewhere in Battlehammer Hold. Fib rolls over, thinking it his head pounding, but soon realizes that the bell is coming from outside his skull, not in. Etain wanders out in his morning robe, thinking that this dwarven stronghold is surprisingly barren of coffee given the abundance of ale.

As they groggily gather, they hear Stokely in the central cavern shouting orders and approach to find out what is going on. “Our sentries reported in this morning that they had been attacked by some invading force from the north – yetis, barbarians and wild animals working together! We’ve never seen anything like it, and wonder if it might be the advance party to some larger army.” He calls a sentry over. “Yes, our group was attacked earlier this morning – they were heading towards the valley! They will be at the Daledrop soon if they are not already!”

Bud asks about the Daledrop, and Stokely says that it is the “back door” to the dwarven valley, the only way to enter from the north without trekking around Kelvin’s Cairn to the wide southern entrance they had used the day before. “If there’s an army coming to take our valley, the ‘drop is the most obvious place for them to take – but it’s also a natural defensive position. I’m in the midst of calling all our sentries back, as well as the guards we left at the Halls of Black Ice – we won’t stand a chance without our full forces. In the meantime, you have proven your salt in battle – is there any chance you could head up to the Daledrop with this sentry to scout the situation and try to hold the position until we arrive? We shouldn’t be far behind you.” Sleepily, our band of adventurers nod agreement, and set off with the sentry back through the tunnels up and beyond what they had seen before.

They soon see daylight creeping down the tunnel, and send Bud out ahead to scout the situation. He reports back that a group of yetis and a small pack of wolves seem to be searching and sniffing around outside! Badger organizes a quick plan to attack the nearest from range while the armored folks charge in, but unfortunately the hangovers and sleep have not yet faded entirely, and the first volley misses completely, alerting the enemies to their presence! One yeti howls into the forest while the others charge, the wolves moving in to bite at Mardred and Alasaurus. Meanwhile the other two yetis move up behind and let out the same magical shrieks that the party encountered back in Bryn Shander, hurting most of the party. Etain lets out a large burst of magical energy to heal most everyone while Incendius roasts the wolves and yetis – unfortunately crisping Mardred in the process, but Etain is able to keep her up.

Meanwhile Hogar is swinging away, Bud and Badger support from the rear, and Fib sneaks around the edge of the cliff face to spray magical bolts from behind the foes. He turns to look behind him and sees movement in the treelines – the yeti must have alerted more forces who are moving in to hold the position! Fib warns the others as they take down the last few yetis, also stopping to get some roasted yeti legs for later.

Incendius is able to warm the snow enough to create a large mud hole in the main ramp up from the forest while the others take a quick breather at the tunnel mouth. A huge bear and four barbarians charge out of the trees and beeline for the heroes, but the mud slows them down enough for everyone to recover and even pick off the bear and one barbarian before they can do any damage. The other barbarians sling arrows with some slowing poison that temporarily stops Hogar and Mardred, but Alasaurus is able to electrify the muddy pool and shock them, and distract them enough for Incendius to loose another fireball as they others pick them off one by one. Between Hogar’s steel, Badger and Bud’s arrows, and Fib’s magic they do not last long, although the heroes are hurt and they hear many more footsteps trampling through the trees not far behind.

Suddenly Etain turns as he hears something behind them, and Stokely bursts forth from the tunnels with a phalanx of dwarves. “Great to see you alive my friends! Thank you for defending our valley! What’s the situation?” They relay what they have seen and point to the forest, and Stokely’s jaw drops. “I have not heard of such collaboration between these forces in all my days! It must be the work of Auril and that Ice Witch we’ve heard rumor of! Speaking of which, a human showed up just after you left and said he must speak to you..” They see Algorell, the hunter who helped track down Gant’s gang earlier, emerge from the cave mouth with a grim expression. As Stokely orders his dwarves into position, Algorell shares that he too saw a large army of wild animals and barbarians moving towards Bryn Shander while hunting the day before – but it was led by a giant skeletal dragon being led by a woman in all white!! Is it the Ice Witch? The heroes ask Stokely if they will return to Bryn Shander and ally with the humans, but he graciously declines – “Nay friends, my place is here defending our home, but if that Ice Witch is moving on Bryn Shander then they could surely use your help – get on back down there and see what you can do! We will hold here and cover your escape.”

And with that, they see the battle being joined by the dwarves at the base of the cliffs below, and set off back down the tunnels with Algorell towards Bryn Shander and the woman who seems to somehow be in the middle of all they have seen so far..

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The Deep Mines

Week 6
Dan as Incendius, Human Wizard
Neil as Bud, Ranger
William as Fib, Tiefling Warlock
Sina as Alasaurus, Swordmage
Steven as Etain, Drow Cleric
Jacob as Kintama, Hengeyokai Thief
Fred as Hogar, Half-Orc Slayer
Allison as Eselda, Eladrin Templar
Josh as DM

The heroes part ways with Stokely as he begins making plans and rallying his remaining dwarves to reclaim the Halls of Black Ice. But not before getting detailed directions to the site of the last zombie attack, at a large central area in the deep mines referred to as The Nexus.

As they pass the point where they previously turned off to find Baerick’s headquarters, the tunnel walls soon become rougher and the path less well maintained – clearly this area has seen less traffic of late and is focused on mining rather than inhabiting. Kintama takes the lead as the parties stealthy eyes and ears while the rest follow a few paces behind, ready for trouble. As Kintama turns a corner, he is distracted by navigating a large pile of rubble that had apparently collapsed from the ceiling when he feels a cold hand grip his ankle. He looks down and yells “Zombie attack!”

The rest of the party charges around the corner as Kintama breaks the zombies grip and stabs it. Arrows, fire and radiant magic fill the air as two more zombies lurch out of the shadows and the rest of the party charges in to attack. Eselda and Etain help Kintama recover as he dodges more attacks while Hogar, Alasaurus, Bud and Fib take down the one nearest the party. Kintama is able to finish off the one who first attacked him and leaps out of the way of a fireball from Incendius, his fur slightly singed as the last zombie collapses in a burst of flame.

They press on, even more carefully, until they reach the Nexus and find evidence of a great battle and a scattered mining party, although all the casualties seem to have gotten up and walked away. Bud immediately zeroes in on an overturned cart, and lifts it to find a dwarf cowering inside, who immediately begins screaming. Once they calm him down and ensure they are trying to protect him, he says his name is Paldrinor, and he has been hiding out the last few days, avoiding zombies and scavenging for food since surviving the attack, too scared to make his way back down the tunnels alone to find home. He points the adventurers down one of the side passages, saying the zombies seem to be coming from there and mentioning a ruined dwarven temple a ways down the passage. They set out, and Paldrinor decides to remain and hide rather than risk facing more zombies even with the party.

They quickly find the temple, which Incendius notes that it appears to have been originally to worship Moradin. Most of the party heads inside to investigate further while Etain and Fib keep watch outside.

After a few moments, Etain and Fib hear a whispering, ruined voice: “What brings you to down to the deep mines, strangers? What do you seek in my lair?” They are confused.. they don’t sense anyone, but the voice appears to be coming from nearby and not be any sort of projection they can detect. “We’re here to find and end the zombie threat.” “Ah.. yes, continue down the passage and you will find the source of the zombies.. but only death will await you after that.” “We aren’t scared! We will end this threat!” “Ah, yes, well by all means come on down the passage…”

They ask loudly about the source of the voice, and what it means, but they get no further response. A few moments later the others come outside, having found nothing of interest in the temple, and they report what they heard. After some brief discussion, the party agrees to press on. A little further down the passage, the voice taunts them again, admitting to being Akar Kessell and asking how they plan to deal with someone who brought all of Icewind Dale to its knees. The only response is a fireball from Incendius, but he is unable to pinpoint the source of the voice and only manages to fry up some cave mushrooms. “Yes,” cackles Kessell, “and this region will feel my wrath again – Lac Dinneshere and Easthaven will soon be under my shadow like these helpless dwarves.” Eventually they ignore the jeers and press on in silence.

After a few more moments, they hear a twisted laugh behind them a turn to see a ghastly, shrouded figure – Kessell! He leers, and they recoil in shock and magically-enhanced fright, as several party members find themselves compelled to run away, terrified beyond their senses. But just as they do, more zombies emerge from shadows and around corners, grasping at the spellcasters, and they hear a shout from down the tunnel.

Kintama, a little ways ahead, did not hear the laugh, but suddenly two giant spiders have jumped down from above and started trying to bite him! Alasaurus and Etain try to move down and join Kintama but are blocked by one of the spiders and a zombie, however Etain is able to offer some magical encouragement to keep Kintama on his feet as Alasaurus renders their foes attacks meaningless. Meanwhile Fib and Eselda have broken free of their attackers and the rest of the party begins taking down the zombies one by one. Kessell disappears again in a cloud of shadow as Hogar charges to the rear to protect his cloth wearing allies and spill some zombie guts. The force of his furious charge knocks one zombie clear of Eselda, allowing her to step back and provide support as he lops its head off and Incendius and Bud take down the other still moving zombie. Finally they are able to focus fire on the last spider which Alasaurus has kept tied down.

Kessell’s voice echoes from down the passage “Well done with the zombies, but I promise you will suffer when next we meet.” Incendius fires one final fireball which only servers to illuminate an escaping shadow – Kessell is moving too fast for them to catch up. Tired but satisfied that they have scared him off for now, they trudge back up the tunnel towards Stokely’s encampment, stopping along the way to pick up Paldrinor and return him safely.

Battlehammer Hold is quiet when they get back, and the only nearby sentry lets them know that most of the dwarves have gone with Stokely to the Halls of Black Ice to see if they can reclaim their kin. The heroes retire to the barracks for a quiet dinner and are soon about to fall asleep when they hear a sudden commotion outside! They rush out, but it is Stokely, returned victorious with his re-united clan!! Some of the dwarves have been shackled but many seem to have regained their senses, and once they swap stories about the zombies Stokely orders a feast and heavy drinking for all! The party continues well into the night, although some of the heroes (the ones with low Endurance modifiers) turn in to bed early. Eventually everyone is asleep, although Etain and Alasaurus will wake up in the morning with a vague memory of another sentry reporting in from the north slope late in the night, saying that he saw a dark figure fleeing from a tunnel a couple hours earlier headed towards Lac Dinneshere, and saw a few zombies wandering aimlessly and seemingly without any aggression on his return to Battlehammer Hold.

It seems that all is finally well again in the dwarven valley.. at least for now.

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The Way to a Crazy Dwarf's Fortress
...is through his stomach

Week 5
Dan as Incendius, Human Wizard
Neil as Bud, Ranger
William as Fib, Tiefling Warlock
Sina as Alasaurus, Swordmage
Steven as Etain, Drow Cleric
Jacob as Kintama, Hengeyokai Thief
Fred as Hogar, Half-Orc Slayer
Allison as Eselda, Eladrin Templar
Josh as DM

The party’s expressions turned grim as Stokely explained the situation. “Baerik was a simple armorsmith, but about a month ago he returned from a mining expedition and began sowing dissent among the clan. Within two weeks, half of the clan was splitting to follow him, shunning my leadership and moving to the other side of the valley. Given enough time, perhaps we could have sorted this out, but around the same time the zombies started showing up…”

“Zombies?” Hogar and Eselda perked up. "Yes, " continued Stokely “they began attacking mining parties, and we would find what was left of the expeditions, but soon the very miners appeared as zombies and were attacking us too! Many of my comrades suspect some sort of plague, but I have never heard of a disease that could zombify a dwarf.. I suspect a necromancer lurks somewhere in the tunnels.”

Incendius and Fib quickly explained about the black ice which seemed to be affecting the minds of the guards. “We must destroy it all!” insisted Incendius, flames rising in his eyes. Stokely nodded, “That does match the odd behavior.. none of those here still loyal had taken any of the trinkets after Baerik returned from the expedition. But these are our brothers and sisters! We must reunite the clan!”

The party requested a quick recess to check on the guards they had taken prisoner after destroying their black ice weapons, to see if they were recovering. They awakened them in their cells and tried to bluff a drunken night, but the dwarves would not have it and where very hostile, demanding their weapons be returned. After some fruitless discussion, Incendius became bored and reached into one of their minds – he was surprised to find that something seemed twisted, wrong, as if the scars from the black ice ran deeper than he thought. “These dwarves will recover in time.. but if they had been affected much more the effect might be permanent!”

Returning to Stokely, the apprised him of the situation, and agreed to help with either issue (assuming reasonable payment of course). Hogar was insistent that the issue with Baerik seemed too much like a complex matter of internal affairs – he much preferred to split some zombie skulls. But Stokely insisted that he cared more for the safety of his dispossessed brothers and sisters who might still be saved, and pointed out that a united clan might be able to deal with the zombies. So the party agreed to enter the Halls of Black Ice and try to talk down Baerik (“Although,” pointed out Kintama “some of their minds might be too far gone… there could be casualties.” Stokely sighed and nodded, resigned). A miner was summoned who knew a back way into the Halls through an old mining tunnel, and the party set out.

Reaching the secret tunnel, Kintama scouted ahead and found that it led into a large, empty kitchen which seemed recently used and was adjacent to a meeting chamber where some discussion was ongoing. Getting closer, he identified a dwarven council including a leader who matched the description of Baerik, who seemed to be in tense negotation with.. a human? He was confused at first, but based on the conversation gleaned that she might be an emissary from Vaelish Gant, seeking to consolidate his power and acquire the magic of the black ice.

Kintama returned to the party with this information, and they discussed in the tunnel about the best approach.. should they barge in and try to cut off the snake’s head by killing Baerik, then deal with the rest as best they could, hoping for disorganization and passivity? Should they take a more directly diplomatic approach and circle around to the front gate, where they might talk sense into Baerik? What poisonous influence would Gant’s courier have, and how much time until Baerik and his inner council were completely insane and beyond reason? Where had Etain gone?

Wait… where had Etain gone? Down the passage, they heard him talking to a gruff, dwarf-sounding person.
“Who are you?”
“I’m the new chef.”
Beat.
“The one Thorfin hired?”
“The dwarf with the beard? Yeah, him.”
“Ah. I like drow cooking, and things have been terrible down here the last few days. Get to work on some soup and appetizers for the break in negotiations.”

A few moments later, Etain’s head popped around the corner. “Well, that went better than I expected – anyone want to help me chop up some cave mushrooms?” Hogar, excited at the prospect of chopping, followed readily, and several others came to help as well, uncertain what else to do.

After a while, they heard several of the dwarves leave as things wound down, and Kintama helped Etain serve the soup while the rest hid out of sight in the kitchen. Seeing an opportunity, Kintama suddenly drew his blade and stabbed the emissary, hoping to take her down before she could cause any trouble or escape to warn Gant! She drew a garrote and tried to twist around to strangle him, but he dodged and was able to finish her off with a final swing before retreating into a side room to hide, as the others charged into view and Baerik yelled “What is the meaning of this??”

Unsure how to negotiate at this point, the group took to subduing the other dwarves. Fib took on one, while Hogar and Alasaurus held a line against Baerik and two others, protecting Bud and the spellcasters who unleashed everything they had. Meanwhile, Kintama evaded the final guard and joined the fray. Eselda and Etain were able to keep everyone up until Baerik was subdued, and several of the guards were killed.

They dragged Baerik around to a back room, but he was raving about the Black Ice and the one who gave it to him, a mage named Akar Kessell. Incendius swore he has heard this name before, about something that happened a long time ago. Seeing no chance to negotiate and getting nothing valuable from Baerik, they knock him out. Meanwhile, Bud and Kintama have been scouting outside, and determine that this is another large settlement with at least 50 dwarves. Their odds of subduing them all and destroying the black ice seems slim, so they grab Baerik and return to Battlehammer Hold to consult with Stokely.

He is glad to see Baerik and hear what has happened, and offers the adventurers gold and dwarven weapons and armor. They discuss briefly and agree on a bold plan – the adventurers will seek out the necromancer and put a stop to the zombies, so that Stokely can rally his remaining forces to enter and subdue the Halls, destroying the remaining Black Ice and attempting to bring sanity back to the clan while things are in disarray with Baerik’s capture.

As Stokely begins planning his invasion, the heroes get directions to the last zombie attack, and set out deeper into the mine…

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The Plot Widens..
Like when you plop jello on the table and let it sit

Week 4
Dan as Incendius, Human Wizard
Neil as Bud, Ranger
William as Fib, Warlock
Sina as Alvenor(?), Swordmage
Steven as Etain, Drow Cleric
Jacob as Kintama, Hengeyokai Thief
Josh as DM

…As the sigil of warding bursts, spraying the party with lightning, they burst through the door to find Slim talking with a robed figure who they (correctly) assume to be Gant. They tell him he’s under arrest, and when he asks what will happen if he doesn’t come peacefully, he is answered with a fireball to the face (compliments of Incendius). The rest of the team joins the fray as two more goons burst from the basement.

Kintama, thinking he has found his moment, creeps through the window and backstabs Gant for major damage, but one of the goons immediately heads in his direction, cornering him as the other moves to block the door. Alvenor successfully draws fire from Slim and the goon, allowing Bud and Fib to unload on them. But, a mysterious imp (Gant’s familiar?) suddenly appears out of nowhere and starts biting people.

Under pressure of steel, lightning from Gant, and the imp, Alvenor is taking massive damage, but the placid Etain is up to the task and is able to keep her up with his signature “STOPFUCKINGDYING!” of healing. Kintama, seeing himself outmatched, somersaults over a nearby couch, dodging swings from the goon and Gant as he charges into the fray. The combined force of the four party members quickly take down Slim and the thug.

Meanwhile Incendius has been seemingly muttering to himself outside.. Bud and Fib start wondering what he is doing when suddenly a huge sphere of flame erupts from thin air near the back of the house, following Gant and the goons around and scorching them over and over (oh, and maybe singe-ing the carpet a bit too…) With his allies falling and himself outmatched, Gant throws up a protective shield and threatens that his plans have already spread beyond Bryn Shander, and Easthaven will be his next victim, as he teleports away. The team quickly finishes off the imp before it can vanish again, robbing Gant of his familiar at least.

They run to Duvessa and fill her in on the situation (including the fact that he was trying to burn the house down and nearly succeeded with the carpet! That bastard!). She promises to send word to the other Speakers. After some persuasion from Incendius she also gives the party a hefty reward, at least for level two adventurers. They debate whether to head to Easthaven to try and finish off Gant, or keep their promise to Helda and Hengar to escort them north. They decide that any low level adventurers will probably be sufficient for Easthaven, and pool their gold to post a reward at the inn for a party of at least four level 1 adventurers to head to Easthaven, warn the townsfolk and stop Gant’s threat. Feeling this is sufficient, they take dinner at the Northlook where they meet Helda and Hengar.

Hengar is brooding, but Helda has a drinking contest with Incendius over dinner.. he learns quickly “never challenge a dwarf to a drinking contest” as everyone else laughs and heads to bed. They let Hengar and Helda know to meet at dawn, and Hengar complains that they don’t seem to understand the seriousness of his village’s situation. In the morning, Helda is waiting with her cart but Hengar is nowhere to be found, and the guards report he headed out a few hours before dawn. They make good pace towards the dwarven settlement at Kelvin’s Cairn throughout the day, and push on a few hours past nightfall to make it before stopping.

The guards at the entrance to the dwarven valley are terse and unfriendly. They agree to escort Helda to Stokely once they learn of the family connection, but refuse to let the heroes in. Something about their tone tips off Etain and Fib that things are not right, and they convince Helda and the party to retreat and camp just outside the valley for the night. In the morning, they discuss their options.. they could try to sneak through side tunnels into the main colony, but they might have to abandon the donkey in the tight tunnels. They decide to try their luck with the guards again, hoping the day shift is nicer…

Unfortunately, the day shift are just the guards that Kintama saw hiding inside the guard post with weapons drawn the night before, and they present the same story. Kintama presents a sense of urgency, and they begrudgingly agree to let the heroes come with them as half of them will take Helda to see Baerik before going to see Stokely. Apparently Baerik has taken over the colony as Stokely split, which doesn’t make much sense to Helda but they go with it.

Inside the dwarven tunnels, they reach a wide junction and Helda stops, claiming they are heading away from Battlehammer Hold where most of the dwarves live. The guards say that Baerik has moved the clan since Stokely left. They argue about whether to split up, and realize that the guards are not going to keep their deal if they get to Baerik. Kintama uses the argument to create a distraction, and everyone else gangs up to knock out the guards.

Investigating their equipment, they find the source of the problem.. each of them carries a weapon made from some unknown material that seems like black ice. Alvenor and Fib, who are attuned to such things, feel a malevolent energy coming from the weapons, and Incendius reflexively throws his to the ground and incinerates it when he feels a magical pull on his mind after taking the weapon. They realize that the black ice is warping the dwarves’ minds, and they must warn Stokely!

They rush to Battlehammer Hold, where guards (armed with normal metal weapons) recognize Helda and quickly move them through the living quarters into the central forge, where a large imposing dwarf stands, fully armed – Stokely! “So, what brings you to Battlehammer Hold with my neice in these dark times?”

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