Call to Arms

A Spell to Save or Destroy, part 3

Otherion Gladwind leads Dorn and his friends past the magically fortified border of Anneth Tarryn. He warns a different kind of danger lies within, as they pass leering satyrs and mortals who have wasted their whole lives here wallowing in the hedonism the elves crave. Wine, food, music, dance and sex flow in abundance wherever they look.

At the heart of the citadel they meet their host, Aethelred Graymantle, an elven archmage who entered the world over 6000 years ago. “My eyes looked upon the walls of Aruk before they fell. I marched against Arrakyn the Cruel in the god-slayer war …” Both Otherion and Aethelred are disciplined and reserved, unlike the wild abandon shown by some of the other elves in Anneth Tarryn. Graymantle is also the only person they have ever met who has black skin.

Graymantle asks Dorn why he wants to risk all to save Hammerfall when he could live a long, safe life otherwise. Dorn remembers the harsh words of his brothers, that his twisted face is a living reminder of the curse they live under and all they have lost. Dorn is sure this quest is his destiny. He will save Hammerfall or die trying.

Satisfied, Graymantle gives Dorn a scroll holding the Ten’en Winya Ndor, perhaps the most powerful spell known to elves or mortals. He makes Dorn swear an oath to guard the spell with his life, and use it only to restore Hammerfall as the gods made it.

This is the same spell Abraxas used to curse Hammerfall in the first place. Graymantle confesses that the witch Folga was given the spell by the arch-fey Lilith, who despises mortals and has no love for the material world. Thus, Graymantle believes the elves bear some responsibility and should give Dorn the spell to make amends. As they have seen, Lilith and her many followers will surely try to stop the quest but Dorn and his friends accept the danger.

They ask Aethelred the three heresies posed by Raphael Lonzo (Crossroads, part 4) and he explains a great deal.

How many races of man are there? Graymantle lets them peer through his gem of seeing, crafted from a tear of Ephistea and they are shocked to find that Sova, Kendal and Anselmo all have black skin like Graymantle. They had heard and believed the story of The Great Lie as an article of faith, but to see it with their own eyes is unsettling. Anselmo is thrilled and wants to show this gem to as many people as possible, but Graymantle has shown it to hundreds of people over the centuries, and only “one in five” can accept what it shows. The rest bend over backwards to rationalize their prejudices, believing the gem to be some wicked piece of elven sorcery.

Where do goblins come from? Monsters are the incarnation of human fears and hatred, given form by fey magic leaking into the material world, a magic which is attracted to all human passions. This creates a dangerous cycle, as humans fear the very monsters their fear creates. All of this has focused and gathered in the Nightmare Mountains, where great hosts of orcs goblins and worse are now being led and directed by the followers of Malice. Fighting these monsters is necessary but will not solve the problem: fear itself is the enemy.

Whatever happened to Ephistea? The Goddess of Truth learned long ago that gods and men often reject truth if they are not ready to hear it. After centuries of disdain and rejection she withdrew from the Sacred Isles to wander the wild and lonely places of the world. Some say the only way to find her is to seek out her son: Quo the Faceless, god of questions. The desert city of Tarkoom would be a good place to start.

A Spell to Save or Destroy, part 2
Twillight in the Fae Wood

The next morning, Queen Beatrice pays an informal visit to Sova and Kendal in their guest suite. She tells them how rare it is for her to be able to speak to people from abroad, let alone women her own age. She hopes they can be friends.

Meanwhile it’s clear from the behavior of Kendal and Jules that they became lovers. Sova cautions Kendal, knowing she and Jules will be going in different directions very soon, but Kendal sees it as all the more reason to seize the day.

They grab Dorn and meet up with Anselmo. Jules escorts them all in a fine carriage half-way across Estaria. Jules and Kendal say goodbye, not knowing when they will meet again.

From there Otherion Glad-wind escorts them into the fae wood. The fine old forest gradually drifts into the faewild, the shifting, magical border between worlds where the mundane and fae spheres overlap. It’s like walking in a lucid dream.

A few miles short of the elven citidel of Anneth Tarryn the party is attacked by Luthias, a henchmen of the arch-fae Lilith, who warns Dorn to abandon his quest and not tempt Lilith’s wrath. Luthias is a fae vampire, and six formerly human vampire spawn congeal from mist and attack the travelers. Otherion and Luthias duel while the others dispatch the cursed undead. Luthias warns them one last time and dissolves into a mist.

A Spell to Save or Destroy, Part 1

After retrieving a coffer full of gold, platinum and a handful of small diamonds from the cyclopes’ cave, the party lands safely in Queesnport, where their ship the Lucky Tern is delivered to the new owner, Lady Alison in the line of Bethel. Sova gives Captain Bosmun a glowing recommendation. She also asks the captian and his ensign to keep their ears open for the names of any influential Estarians who might be less than happy with the country’s “peculiar institution”: slavery.

Even on the docks they see Dunsarro men with whipping scars on their backs. Jules — the Queensworn who helped them near Rookhaven — arrives with a carriage to escort them to the royal palace for an audience with Queen Beatrice.

Anselmo has no love for this slave-holding monarchy or its queen, so he stays behind and visits the Western Trades , a high end, dockside tavern full of ship captains and other officers. They swap many fantastic tales, including Anselmo’s most recent battle with the cyclopes. The racial divide is evident though, almost all the people of any rank are Arukites, served by an Olivetti and Dunsarro staff who are never openly spoken to or even acknowledged. They may as well be invisible.

Meanwhile at the palace Sova and Kendal receive gifts from the queen: lightweight formal gowns and exquisite lace headpieces which incorporate many fine crystals and semi-precious stones.

While they get dressed Dorn, who is posing as the ladies’ henchman, is free to speak to the servants. Down the hall he watches as the queen’s 3-legged dog Noodles leaves a pile of shite in the hallway. A few minutes later a hobbit slave appears to clean it up. His name is Tam, and he converses under his breath with Dorn and is clearly very nervous. Dorn notices the tops of Tam’s feet are scarred from some long forgotten punishment. Tam confesses he has served the queen’s family for 25 years and it has been 20 years since his wife was sold to another family. He doesn’t even know if she’s still alive. Dorn tells Tam he has freed some hobbits from the slavers and tries to give him hope, but they must hastily break off their conversation when another servant enters the hallway.

Waiting for their audience, Sova realizes Kendal is mooning over Jules, who is just making polite conversation. He explains the ins and outs of the royal family. When his queen stepped down three years ago, he and a few veterans stayed behind to train the new Queensworn. Soon he will retire to guard the prior queen in the dowager mansion. Sova gently suggests that if he becomes free to choose, she could always use a warrior of his skill up north.

The audience is formal and polite. Queen Beatrice is barely 20 years old but has a firm will and little patience for anyone who treats her like a child. She makes a vague offer of help and support for Felleg’Avin should they come under attack by the orc army, which now seems inevitable.

Later at dinner, they are joined by an elven emissary from Anneth Tarryn. Othirion Glad-wind is a formidable warrior and has come to escort Sova and Kendal to the elven citidel. When he learns Dorn is there, dining in the corner with the henchmen Othirion escuses himself from the queen’s table to greet Dorn and pledge his support to Dorn’s quest. The court is rather scandalized to see him treat a servant as an equal but Estaria needs to be on good terms with the elves and Queen Beatrice has not had much chance to make an impression with them, so they all remain polite.

High Summer, Part 3
Nine-tenths of the law

The day before he leaves Felleg’Avin, Anselmo Meets with the Champion of Caetar who shows him the secret Hall of Whispers in the High Temple of Caetar. He receives a mission from his order and a speaking stone tied to the hall so he can report in even from across the sea.

After a few days of travel the group reaches the ruined town of Bloodwick. Kendal explains that since the pact with Vincseya declared the Caetari river sacred and off-limits to most boat traffic, the industry of House Bloodwick was forced to move to the city, leaving the town a shadow of what it was.

They book passage on a merchant junk named The Lucky Tern. Her captain, Bosmun, is an old hand at sea but refuses to sail until “the signs are more auspicious.” Like all mariners, he dreads the wrath of Valdame, not worth risking life and ship if she seems displeased.

His first ensign is a boy of 13 named Enoch, who takes an instant shine to Sova. He confides that many in town are excited and concerned by something Gaudey — a local fisherman — has captured in a narrow inlet on the other side of the docks. He leads them to see. Gaudey is charging 1 copper a head to view “The Amazing Hippo”, which to Dorn’s delight turns out to be a trapped hippocampus.

Sova and Kendal haggle with Gaudey and pay him 3 gold to cut off some of the creature’s mane, which is one of the items Dorn needs to save Fellhammer. Dorn proves adept in the water and wrestles the beast into submission, then carefully takes his prize. He thanks Valdame and the hippocampus for this sacrifice.

After short consideration, They decide to free the creature and after another round of haggling pay Gaudey 20 gold for its freedom. Gaudey hates being a fisherman and felt the beast was his way out, but 20 gold is a fortune or him.

After a good night’s sleep and some augury by Kendal and Anselmo, the signs are found to be favorable and the wary captain Bosun sets sail. Over the next few days they swap tales. Bosun and Enoch are the only two Olivetti on the ship (the rest of the crew is Arukite) and he has taken the boy under his wing and tried to teach him the sea. Several years ago a storm took Enoch’s family fortune, their ship and his grandfather to the bottom of Pelican Bay, but Enoch can’t bare to take up dye-making like his father has. Enoch hopes to make enough on these voyages to buy a small fishing boat and return to his grandfather’s trade.

Bosun reveals that the Lucky Tern has already been sold, so this is likely his last voyage. He worries what will become of the crew and his ensign.

As the vessel rounds the rocky point into the Sundering Sea, Anselmo’s hammer warns of danger a moment before boulders start crashing around the ship. Two cyclopes emerge from the rocky shoreline. Thinking quickly, Brother Dalca calls on Caetar and parts the water, making a path for his friends to reach the cliffs.

Dorn and Sova leap into the gap and head off the first cyclops. Dorn takes a few powerful glancing blows and nearly falls, but harpoons from the crew and Kendal’s lightning rain down and together they vanquish the monsters.

High Summer, Part 2
The subtle art of tea

Having given the good news to a grateful Sturmfrek at Stonerim, the heroes walk back to Felleg’Avin.

Sova and Kendal bond sharing the Rite of Vesta. Kendal wonders aloud if Anselmo is still a virgin. The Vanguard are chaste while they serve.

They reach the city and sell the trade goods they found and 2 suits of dwarf-made plate armor for 3075gp.

Anselmo discusses their adventures in Rookhaven and Outermost with Talas Heamy. Talas privately warns Anselmo that the poor of Felleg’Avin are suffering, scared, and losing faith in the nobles. He hopes a military victory will raise their spirits. A few Redguard and Vanguard will be dispatched to help defend Outermost.

They discuss Malebrant, who is still active in the city but keeping his head down. They read Malice’s letter to Malebrant and speculate on who might be helping Malebrant smuggle weapons and supplies to the army at Rookhaven.

Dorn asks Talas how to send messages to Isenheim and Irongate. Ravens, runners or horses are all possible, but very expensive and unreliable over such a distance. Best to find pilgrims heading that way or go yourself. Dorn prepares letters to any Fellhammers who might be staying in those clanhomes, asking them to return and help fortify Outermost.

The temple scribes get to work making copies of the Fellhammer’s book of Caetari ritual.

Dorn trains with the Caetari and learns some ritual.

Meanwhile Sova lobbies the The Chamber of Five to pay for and provide mercenaries to defend both Stonerim and Outermost. She sets up a private tea with her grandmother Cosima Riston, Kendal and Lady Galt of Alesha. Expertly negotiating, Sova forges an agreement.

Riston will deny helping but will finance the expidition under the table. Alesha will take a stand in favor of Sova’s request and pledge some coin. They will corner Col Rustheart, who has been boasting about the might of his men but who is currently low on cash, and ask him to provide most of the warriors. For her part, Sova fronts 5000 gp of her own money (from previous adventures and the 3000gp they just got from selling the dwarven armor). She also pledges men from Clan Zolis, who owe her allegiance and who need a chance at redemption since Evard Zolis betrayed the city and joined the cult of Malice.

Plans set, Sova, Anselmo, Dorn and Kendal prepare to travel to Anneth Tarryn via Queensport. Sova’s father caution’s her to be diplomatic and give proper courtesy to the Queen. Felleg’Avin will need allies in the coming conflict.

High Summer, Part 1
In which nothing much happens

Dorngal the jeweler stays semi-sober long enough to craft beautiful amulets out of the dragon’s scales an presents one to Sova, Anselmo and Kendal. The engraved runes mark them as dwarf-friends.

Anselmo and Stark have a good-hearted debate about Caetar and Judicea and Stark’s religious conversion. “What is a soldier for, if not to protect those who do not fight?”

As a parting gift, Stark gives Anselmo the Fellhamer’s ancient book of Caetari ritual. It is priceless and possibly unique. He asks to keep it safe at the temple in Felleg’Avin, and Anselmo promises to have several copies made by the scribes there to preserve this piece of dwarven culture. The heroes say goodbye and set out for Felleg’Avin via Stonerim.

The Brotherhood of Dwarves, Part 10

The Fellhammers return to Outermost or a raucous celebration. The dragon is dead and her kobalds have fled.

The dwarves gladly bestow any treasures the heroes might be able to use, returning the remainder to their secret vaults. The dragon is beheaded and dropped from the gallery window to the bottom of the cliff. Kendal keeps some of its blood “for research.” Dorn keeps a few scales, which he asks Dorgal the jeweler to work into something proper.

The dwarves are divided over what to do next. Some want to return to Stonerim or Felleg’Avin, but Balok the smith wants to stay with a proper forge in Outermost. Dorn and his friends agree and offer to send mercenaries from Felleg’Avin to help defend Outermost. Properly manned, it could be a knife in the back of the orc host gathered at Rookhaven.

Balok also tells Dorn the legend of Ragnaboken: the rainbow hammer of Hammerfall, said to make anyone who holds it invulnerable. If any magic in this world can protect Dorn from the death wind which destroyed their home, this would be it. the hammer was lost at the Breaking of the World when chief Thelgar Fellhammer and a thousand of his kin were crushed in a collapsing fortress. Orcs looted it and carried it who knows where. Kendal offers to research.

The Brotherhood of Dwarves, Part 9

Dorn, Stark Fellhammer, Anselmo, Sova and Kendal are trapped in the forge room which is filling with smoke from the burning barrels outside in the corridor. The dragon taunts them, and Dorn taunts her right back. Enraged she has her kobalds douse the burning barrels and swarm into the forge.

Sova and Dorn hold the doorway. Stark struggles using a greatsword and has no armor but fights bravely. Anselmo is the first to feel the dragon’s terrible breath. He staggers but returns to help Kendal deal with the kobalds who are swarming into the room despite a pile of bodies growing around Sova and Dorn’s feet.

Aesilvyr is just outside the doors now, blocked by Dorn’s mighty hammer and Sova’s flashing blade. She sends another bolt of lightning which catches Kendal and Dorn. Already battered by kobalds and the dragon’s claws, Dorn falls.

But the Aesilvyr is desperate and near death. She flees with Sova in pursuit. The pride of Tyron withstands the blasting wind of the dragon’s wings and closes for the kill. It ends quickly. The dragon is slain.

Stark lays hands on Dorn and brings him back from the brink. The remaining kobalds flee.

They make their way to the market hall. Dorn stands at the wide gallery window and blows the horn of Caetar to announce their victory and call home the fleeing Fellhammers!

The Brotherhood of Dwarves, Part 8

Escaping from Rookhaven, the party heads west and tries to pick up the trail to Outermost. Orcs pursue to the edge of the forest then suddenly stop. From there on all the party sees are scattered kobalds, lurking in the distance. Why would orcs fear kobalds?

They travel two days across rocky heather and thistle strewn hills before arriving at Outermost. From a distance they spy a broad gallery opened in a sheer cliff-face high up the mountain, looking out across the hills. They follow a broken, winding trail up around the side of the mountain where smaller dwarven buildings cling to a steep slope.

A hundred yards shy of the main gate they see a dwarf carrying a basket of vegetables and a brace of rabbits. Dwulfyr Fellhammer introduces his rather pudgy self and is amazed to meet Dorn after all these years.

Dwulfyr confirms that Stark’s expedition have survived, all but one. When they first arrived at Outermost ten years ago they found the place inhabited kobalds … and a dragon. She calls herself Aesilvyr, and for ten years she’s kept the Fellhammers captive and forced them to “improve” Outermost, carving new escape tunnels for her lair. When they tried to escape, she caught them and forced them all to watch as she ate one of their number. With no place to hide in the open, scrubby hills below escape seems unlikely.

Anselmo is disgusted by Dwulfyr’s abject surrender and calls him a slave and a broken man. Dorn and Anselmo argue over how to proceed, with Anselmo preferring to stay outside and Dorn eager to go in and finally meet Stark and the other Fellhammers.

Kobalds have seen them and announce their presence to the dragon. Anselmo reluctantly follows Dorn and the others inside, where he find Stark and the other Fellhammers less eager to fight than he would like. Anselmo is disgusted with Stark in particular, who gave up his armor and weapons to the dragon rather than fighting and dying in them.

For his part Stark is put off by this human outsider who speaks before (and over) his kinsman Dorn. Anselmo basically calls Stark a coward, asks if he “has any fight left in him.” Stark answers by punching Anselmo in the face.

Sova meanwhile tries to come up with a plan to deal with the dragon. Kendal casts invisibility on her and Sova sneaks down the hall to see what they are up against.

Aesilvyr is a young blue dragon about 20 feet long. The dwarven horde of Outermost has been gathered and arranged neatly around the large oval chamber where she makes her lair. The broad gallery on one side looks out on the sky for an easy escape and two corridors are wide enough to fit her. Sova returns to the others and reports.

A winged kobald finds them and doffs his red cap, politely informing them in the Common tongue that they are to have an audience with “her majestic presence.” They basically tell him to piss off.

Anselmo gathers everyone who will fight in the forge room, which has only one way in. Dorn gives Stark the greatsword he took from the hobgoblins, Anselmo gives up his battle axe, halberd and Dorn and Sova give over their longbows.

Stark asks Dorn if he truly believes they can win and Dorn convinces him they can. Stark then orders the other Fellhammers to flee while they may, as they are not warriors and would likely die even if the dragon was killed. They will have enough trouble getting through the kobalds. This infuriates Anselmo, who believes Caetar would want everyone to fight.

The time for argument ends as kobalds test the doors to the forge room. Sova dispatches two, but suffers a couple of sling-stones in return. The kobalds back up around corners but block any escape.

A minute passes. The dragon is not coming. Kobals roll some large barrels down the hall as cover. Taking some oil from Anselmo and a bucket of hot coals from the forge, Sova sets the barrels on fire. As flames and smoke fill the corridor, the Dorn and his friends are well and truly trapped.

Meanwhile, have the other Fellhammers escaped? What of the dragon?

The Brotherhood of Dwarves, Part 7

Anselmo awakes before dawn as the Queensworn break camp. After reviewing their plan, he gives them the benediction of Caetar and the rangers sneak up the mountain.

Anselmo, Dorn, Kendal and Sova wait for full sunlight before approaching the enemy outpost. They find a wooden palisade blocking the road, though it’s still under construction and doesn’t reach all the way across the pass. They are able to creep quite close before using spells and arrows to pick off the hobgoblin sentries. Anselmo blows the horn of Caetar and the battle is on!

At the uncompleted edge of the palisade they run into several hobgoblins training dire wolves by dangling a hapless kobald in front of the ravenous beasts. When the hobgoblins see Dorn, they feed the kobald unceremoniously to the wolves, who then charge in a blood-frenzy.

After cutting down the first wave of wolves and hobgoblins, Sova and friends push inside the enemy camp and face another line of hobgoblin archers with their captain and three bugbears. Two spined devils fly in from Rookhaven to investigate the ruckus. In the end the field is littered with fallen foes and the heroes are victorious.

Inside the hobgoblin’s headquarters they find a vellum map of the lands northwest of Felleg’Avin, including Stonerim. On the walls hang banners of the hobgoblin’s 3rd Death Legion and six orc clans: White Skull, Three-scalps, Scars, Blood-Moon, Wolf-Tail, and Black-Tooth.

Dorn takes the captain’s greatsword and finds a letter on the fallen hobgoblin. With drums and shouts closing in they retreat back to their last camp and get a short rest while they wait for the Queensworn.

The rangers return with news that over 3000 orcs now cover the pass, with many ogres and at least five hill giants supporting them. Rookhaven itself is circled by dozens of flying demons or gargoyles. Jules offers to take this and any message Sova might have to the Chamber of Five and Sova’s father. She says simply, “tell them to prepare for war.”

Dorn shares the letter he found. It’s sealed with blood-infused wax, the signet the divine seal of Malice, used only by the goddess and certain high-clerics, and addressed “into the hands of Malebrant and no other.”

My dear child,

The forges at Helspire are lit. You need risk only one more shipment. Arrange it for midsummer.

I expect a full report of your setbacks in the city. Have no fear my child, your efforts have pleased me and some reaction by his faithful was to be expected. Redouble your efforts and remember: the hearts of men are easily swayed. Hatred is stronger than Justice. So it ever was and so it shall prove again.


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