Lights in the Darkness

The Chronicles of Zephyros - Chapter 15
Escaping the Pit

The Tarchoony Brotherhood moved to the elevator room. “So, does anyone have any ideas on how to get this thing to go up?” asked Sithwulf. No one replied. “Well then, let’s see what we can figure out.” The company tried every combination of touching the crystals and had no luck. Sithwulf then said, “I can make out the platform to the level above. Aart can you climb up and see if you can open the door?”

“Sure,” Aart replied as he prepared himself for the vertical climb. Within a few minutes he was nearly fifty feet up as he pulled himself up onto the narrow ledge between the shaft and the door. Aart called below, ”There isn’t more than a foot of room up here and the door is held fast. We’ll need more leverage to force this door open then this space will afford us.”

“Alright then, come on down,” Sithwulf shouted back.

Moments later the party heard Aart scream, “Aaaaahhhhhh!” before he impacted the floor with a thump. The company came to his aid, but it was to no avail, the fall was fatal.

As Sithwulf attended to his dear friend Zephyros called to the others, “Let’s move all the supplies from the other room onto the elevator platform. If we do get this platform to move up, we don’t want to go through this again to get back down.” And with that about an hour was spent moving all the supplies into the chamber.

“The last of the supplies have been moved, now what should we do?” asked Ansger to Zephyros.

“Let’s rest and think about it more, but perhaps Dudda you could move up the chain to the level above us and see if you could open the door from the other side,” replied Zephyros.

“Aye Boss, whatever you need,” answered Dudda.

“But for now, let’s close the door behind us and get some rest, we’ve all had a long day,” explained Zephyros. So, watch was posted and the company all made themselves as comfortable as possible.

Hours later Dudda and a few others began to stir, preparing for the ascent. “Any specific instructions Boss?” asked Dudda.

“I’ll come along with to the chain and we’ll talk about it,” replied Zephyros. As the door was opened the elevator platform began to rise!

“Everyone, get up and ready!” yelled Zephyros. Soon everyone was scrambling to pack their gear as the platform steadily moved upwards. Once at the top the party scrambled out and moved the most valuable goods off the platform followed by the least valuable. Zephyros made a mental note that the door below and perhaps a certain amount of time appeared to be the trigger for the platform.

The rest of that day was spent hauling the spoils to the main camp. It was a long and hard day; luckily no one was hurt in the process. The rest of the company was excited to hear of the success that was had against Hel’s Furies, but at the cost of two companions put a damper on their enthusiasm. Osric, Zelik and Zephyros spent some time explaining to the men that the exploration was nearly complete and soon they would be headed back to civilization.

The following morning the vanguard headed back to the complex. “Xenocrates, we’re going to need your help on this one, will you please accompany us?” asked Zephyros.

“Of course, m’lord,” he replied. Soon the explorers found themselves back at the mid-level platform staring at the chain.

“So, what did you have in mind Zephyros?” asked Xenocrates.

“Well you know that magic rope spell that I keep reminding you is worthless, well perhaps I was wrong,” snorted Zephyros.

“Hah, well good of you to admit it,” snickered Xenocrates.

“So, what we’ll do is have the rope attach about forty or so feet up the chain. We need our feet to touch the platform on either side, but we’ll be lower than platform level when we are at the bottom of the swing point. We will attach a belaying line to those going across so we can swing them either way, back and forth. The first person will be Dudda, as he is nimble enough to jump to the other side on his own, and we’ll all be holding to the other side should he fall. This way, we can all make it across and there is no threat of falling to death,” explained Zephyros. Soon Dudda was all roped up and Xenocrates cast his spell empowering the rope to move upon his command. Once secured up high on the chain Xenocrates nodded to Dudda and he swung across to the chain, he climped a few feet up and then jumped down to the far platform like a cat.

“Made it Boss!” yelled Dudda. “I’ll go check out the door.” Soon, Zephyros, Xenocrates, and Osric were on the far side. The door looked remarkably like the door with the huge face that nearly killed Zephyros months ago.

“I’m going to stand on the ledge while you investigate this, please borrow my necklace for the task,” Zephyros said to Dudda. Moments later Dudda began searching for traps on the door.

“I don’t see any traps here Boss!” Dudda mumbled.

“Osric, are you willing to try the door,” asked Zephyros?

“Alright!” Osric replied as he moved forward and put some weight into it. “It’s held fast!”

“As I suspected, Xenocrates please knock on the door,” Zephryos stated while smiling at Xenocrates.

“As you wish m’lord,” answered Xenocrates, as me moved close to the door and began the casting of a spell. Once the incantation was complete Xenocrates stated, “The door is now open.”

The remainder of the party came across the chasm, assembled into their marching order and started down the corridor.

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Back to the Menhir
Session 57 to 58

Pained moans could still be heard throughout the camp when Osric was done organizing the guard for the next few hours. The ambush left many wounded and a few dead but they managed to repel the attackers and chase them back into their hiding hole.
The group went after the assailants who fled into the Menhir dungeon and Osric stayed back to protect the camp and organize the defense with his remaining mercenaries. Once the guard detail was taken care of Osric found some time to pen a few more lines into his journal:
“We didn’t waste much time after defeating Red Wincing and prepared the next expedition into the Sunken City after most of our men recovered. After a short trip to Froxhall we headed straight towards the island where we found the Menhir dungeon but after a few hours we encountered an Apparition. This ghostly form was barely visible between some ruins but even just getting a glimpse of it was enough to put an unnatural fear into some of our men who jumped overboard. We got away just in time before more were affected but sadly one of our men ultimately drowned.
The sun was already setting when we finally found the remains of our old camp where we settled once again and set up our guards but at nightfall we noticed that we didn’t have enough for these dangerous lands. Only a few shifts in we were ambushed by a large group of either well equipped opportunistic brigands with a mage or two or cultists of some sort. I lost a few of my guards and Boguslaw was burnt badly by magical fire but in the end they scattered as we forced them to retreat. Zephyros chased them back to the Menhir dungeon as he apparently learned a new trick where he can take the form of various large animals. I send Hanael with the group as they went down into the dungeon as he is obviously eager for a fight while I will make sure that no undead pester our camp like last time.

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The Chronicles of Zephyros - Chapter 14
Elevators & Chrystals

Zephyros cringed as if he felt the burning from the trapped door once again, “I won’t be anywhere near that door if we intend on opening it. Dudda can don the chain which will keep him safe should the gas trap go off once more.”

Dudda smiled, “Thanks Boss! It will be a piece of cake.” Much of the Tarchoony Brotherhood remained upstairs, but a few followed Dudda by a safe distance into the room where they had routed the evil adventuring band. After ensuring the light source was positioned correctly so that he could see into the maw of the face within the door, Dudda went to work. After several moments Dudda said, “Almost got it, no wait!” Dudda exclaimed, soon after a loud click followed by the hiss of escaping gas could be heard. “Hah, close call,” he muttered, “Thanks for letting me borrow the necklace Zephyros or I’d end up looking just like you! Hold up until this gas clears, but the mechanism is disabled and the door is unlocked.” After several moments the company eventually got the courage to descend the staircase.

“You’re welcome Dudda,” Zephyros replied as he took the necklace off his neck. “Let’s form up and see what we can find down the passageway.” The company assembled into their marching order and moved through the threshold.

Soon the vanguard of The Brotherhood found themselves in a square room that had four large crystals the rose up from the floor. As they moved to the crystals they portrayed what appeared to be scenes from various places and times. Initially, they were vibrant and full of life, showing prospering times of what could only be Tarchoony. Then without warning the room started to drop downward and the scenes changed. The once beautiful scenes became dark, ruinous and corrupted, leaving little down in Zephyros’ mind that this was the fall of the Tarchoony Empire. A new door emerged as the elevator room stopped and the company made their way through this new doorway. Soon after they found themselves in a room with a vast amount of stores, “Look at all this stuff!” Osric exclaimed, “Enough to feed an army.”

“Indeed,” replied Zelik, “We’ll put these supplies to good use, assuming our boats can handle the load.”

After reviewing the contents the party agreed to keep moving onward and came upon a room that opened up to what could only be the well shaft from above. The chain was hanging down from the darkness, with what appeared to be a cauldron nearby. A soft purple glow was coming from something deep in the pool, but the movement in the water from the waterfall that could be heard in the back prevented a clear view. “What do you think is the source of the light?” Osric said out loud.

“I don’t get a good feeling about this place,” said Zelik as he began concentrating. “It stinks of evil.”

“I get the feeling no one else is in the mood for a swim,” Stithwulf muttered as he started peeling off layers of cloths. “I’ll go take a look.” Within a few moments he was in the water and swam toward the light source. “It looks like a giant crystal! Maybe we could tie something around it and haul it up?”

After dealing with other pits of evil the rest of the party thought better of that and the party encouraged Stithwulf to return to shore. “There is too much to explore here in human form, the lack of light, height of this cavern and vastness of water are limiting our senses,” explained Zephyros as he began casting a spell. Within seconds his form became that of a bat and he disappeared into the darkness. What the party didn’t see was Zephyros survey the entire cave using echolocation. He detected an opening above the waterfall, so he flew there and once above the falls he noticed the cave collapsed to only a tiny room with a rock fall blocking the way to the water source. He shape shifted into that of an octopus and plopped into the water hugging the bottom to ensure he wasn’t swept down the waterfall by the strong current. He spent minutes there checking under rocks until he came across a skeletal form. He searched it with his eight arms and discovered what could only be described as a small dry bag with contents unknown. He held tightly onto it as he let the current sweep him over the falls. Once down he swam back to the shore and handed the bag to his companions.

He then shape shifted back into a bat and few upwards through well shaft and discovered the platform that they had discovered from the back of the room where they had encountered the rival gang. However, what was not apparent from that side of the platform was that there was another platform on the other side with another door. To reach this however the company would need to travel back up and find a way to get everyone across safely. With this information Zephyros flew back down and rejoined the company.

“Well men, the adventure continues. I found another door above us. It looks like it is from the room that has the trap door and fungus; you know where we came out onto that platform with the chain. We’ll on the other side of that there is another platform and a double door.” Zephyros explained.

“Great find, but how do we get there?” Asked Osric. Zephyros shrugged.

“We’ll figure something out,” Zephyros replied. “Maybe Stithwulf has an idea; he seems to be a crafty fellow.”

“What was in the dry-bag?” Asked Zephyros.

“A couple of maps, we can study them when we get back to civilization,” replied Osric. “Here take them, you found them.”

“Aye!” replied Zephyros as he stashed the dry-bag with maps into his magical pouch for safe keeping.

“Let’s move out then,” Zelik stated, as he motioned to the company to follow him.

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Stithwulf: The Cultists' Dungeon

I grew up in the Mornlands. Father was a trader, and we spent a fair piece of my childhood traveling up and down the River Hellfor. We always stayed away from the Great Marsh though, and we never plied the Morn Sound or the seas beyond. Father always said the Marsh was cursed. Something about a Sunken City, and ancient heresy. Maker knows, I should’ve listened, and stayed away from the Marsh.

After Father died, I made my way as I could. As it turned out, I was a fair hand with a blade and a bow, and I inherited some of Father’s talent for negotiating. I made my way, first as a mercenary, then as an adventurer, for some time. I took a job here, followed a lead there. The whole time though—my whole life, really—I watched darkness creep ever more into the Mornlands. Into my home. I finally decided to do something about it. I was in a tavern when a well-armed man walked in and started looking for “Brave souls, with strong arms and stout hearts!” Hah. I recognized another money-hungry adventurer when I saw him. I didn’t begrudge him his sales pitch, but I didn’t pay it much mind either. That is, until I heard him mention the Sunken City. My ears perked up; I listened a while more, and eventually struck up a conversation with him. Not too long after that, I was signed onto Red’s Raiders, and on a barge headed down the River Hellfor.

We all went—more the fools, us—and used the standing stone in the middle of town. The good news was, we survived the standing stone, and found ourselves where we thought we wanted to be: in the Sunken City. The bad news was, we couldn’t find our way back. After more twists and turns than I can count or remember, we found our way out from underground, only to see we were on an island somewhere in the middle of a swamp—probably the Great Marsh, but we couldn’t be certain. Eventually, another party, larger than our own, landed on the island. After a brief parley, we agreed to work together: We would support each other, split the loot and hopefully a few heretic skulls, and head back to civilization, such as it is, together. They had boats, and said they had enough room to transport us all back. We set camp for the night, preparing to delve back into the ruins in the morning.

Morning never came for most of us. The other party turned out to be occultists of some kind, operating out of a cave complex within the swamp. They killed everyone save Aart and me while our party slept. Only keen hearing and a quick tongue let me wake up and convince them we cared more about money than the Maker, leading them to spare us. The Maker will forgive us this transgression, I am sure… as long as we extract a blood price from the apostates for it.

At any event, the occultists believed my show, and let Aart and me live and work among them for a week or two. Eventually though, my devotion to the Maker could not be hidden, and they stripped me of my belongings, bound me, and imprisoned me somewhere in a cave complex. Aart, Maker bless his black heart, stayed loyal to me, and suffered the same fate. They set the living dead to watch us, rotting corpses with eyeless sight, while the living taunted us. I expected we were bound for torture and execution, if not worse, until one of the cultists ran into the room with a message. “Adventurers have landed on our island” he said, or something like that. The apparent leader was pleased. He used chalk to draw Aart and me into a rough square in the corner of the room, set the dead outside the square, and instructed them to kill us if we left it. He then left, taking the remaining cultists from the room with him. I think I heard others running as well, leaving the cave complex with them, but I cannot be certain.

We waited. What else could we do? There were six of the dead, only two of us, and us without our arms or armor. They left us to wait in the dark, but I know the dead kept their watch; they did not stir around us. Eventually, about an hour after they left, maybe less, the some of the cultists returned. A handful came back to the room where we were held, and brought blessed light with them. A dark cave with the dead is no place for the living. I noticed, though, that I didn’t hear nearly as many returning as I thought left. Perhaps the adventuring party triumphed against the cult? Perhaps the other cultists are outside, looting the corpses of the adventurers? Or perhaps the caves are playing tricks on my ears, and my sense of those going and coming is simply wrong? Only time will tell.

Now, if only I could reach my arms and armor…

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Hanael's Winter at the Taygle

Hanael pushed through the snowdrift, Osric only a couple yards ahead of him. They still had to visit two homesteads before the sun sets and the weather was getting worse but Hanael knew that that this was not something that concerned Osric in any way. He has to admit though that this stubbornness and sense of duty was one of his more inspiring aspects.
The young Axiomar is very impressed how Osric works hard and unrelenting when it comes to missionary work, visiting all these families, reading from his book and giving the Makers blessings. He just wished Osric would base his lovingness on alturism and not on conscientiousness. He doesnt think that this is based in the suspicion that some folks might still revere this hideous frog demon, (Though that probably plays a part in it as well!) but that the Maker probably just decided to fill his heart with so much fervor that there was barely any space left for compassion.

The winter month in Taygles End are long and rather unpleasant but with all the missionary work Hanael had to do on command of Osric at least made the days pass quickly. He especially treasures the times where he was sent out alone so Osric could return to the monastery or study for prayer and contemplation. He noticed that the people here react quite differently to the Makers words when Osric is not around. Maybe its the stern voice that Osric always uses when speaking about the Maker, maybe its because he always comes back to the dangers of cults and witchery in his sermons or maybe its because he and the Tarchoony Brotherhood slew many fellow citizens who were under the spell of the fell frog idol. Hanael definitely wants to make sure that the habitants of this dreary town also hear something uplifting and encouraging for once, they sure need it. So far he feels that he does his job quite well and many are quite eager to hear his allegories.
Just sometimes he wished that he could find some time to talk to Zealik more, Hanael was sure that the older Axiomar must have some very exciting tales of strife and heroism to tell. After all these weeks in this frozen fisher village he really wants to test his skills against the beasts of the swamp once more, even getting back at training recruits would be a welcome change from all the evangelistic activity.

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A Quiet Winter

Karl was cold. He’d thought Hewflore’s streets could suck the warmth off a man, but out here on the wind blasted Marish, he’d found out what cold was. The weak midwinter sun was just bright enough to stab into the back of his eyes as it glared off the sump water and promise a headache later. His muscles ached with unaccustomed effort and his palms chafed against the rough wooden oar. Spending the winter playing housecarl to an aging Baucharite soldier had made him soft, but the promise of an easy Season on the Taygle had lured him in. Sure, the Taygle wasn’t exactly the most appealing place these days, but after Hewflore’s Autumn Fair, pickings were scarce. Some of his compatriots had signed on with caravans to Weanapole, others had found rich merchants houses to guard, and the desperate ones had signed on for “adventure” with the Gangs at the Docks. He wasn’t that hopeless yet.

The Baucharite had taken Karl and Teagr, another would be solider, north to Taygle’s End as the Winter descended. He seemed to know the Lady Osthryd, her Advisor Osric and the famous Captain Zephyros. They called themselves the Tarchoony Brotherhood, whatever that meant, and they had grand plans to improve the town’s lot. It wouldn’t be hard to improve it in Karl’s opinion – flooding would count as gentrification. Still, they’d brought supplies, and pitched in to the rebuild the place, clean out the worst of the debris and see them through the winter. Karl and Teagr had watched as Zelik rose at dawn and left to do his rounds of the outlying steads and fishing huts, tending to injuries and illness, bringing the worst cases to the Monastery. He’d then work around the town, hauling lumber, helping build walls, or on one memorable occasions, digging out a clogged nightsoil trench. In the evenings, they’d sit around a crude wooden table by the fire and eat gruel, with lumps of fat and stale bread and drink weak beer, or mead if it could be had. Zelik would talk of campaigns past. There seemed scant glory in soldiering, the way he described it. Mostly lots of walking from dawn till dusk, not knowing where you were going, or hurrying up to wait for interminable hours in the arse end of nowhere for some sign or decision to be made. Interspersed among the walking and waiting were short periods of terror. An impression of unbearable noise, the reek of sweat and piss, straining with every nerve and sinew to simply live, and at the end, the sickly sight of blood and corpses.

And then, on a clear day at the start of the new year, they’d mustered three score and ten of their troops by the wharf in Taygle’s End, loaded them into six boats and told them to row North West out of the lagoon. North West, North East, East, North East, North West, North East, North West, they’d poled and dipped an oar now and then to keep moving with the sluggish current carrying them deeper into the Marish. The mist burned off towards midday, and with the clear air, the damn pointy eared man-eater hissed out that there was dry land ahead.

They drifted closer, the….officers? leaders? purse holders?….of the Brotherhood’s erstwhile flotilla conferring from boat to boat in hushed calls. Suddenly, the Alfar with his accursed eyes spotted smoke rising from the backside of the island.

Heads bent, they strained at the oars. The boats surged forward, with the helmsmen exhorting the crews to row as if their lives depended on it. Karl could only catch glimpses of the island flashing past, with people running and shouting, before the hail of arrows began. The hiss of shafts followed by splashes, solid thuds or worse, screams. Were they trying to land against a troop of damned archers? They’d all be skewered before they could make the beach! Cursed fools leading them into this. He didn’t want to die in a stinking marsh in the back end of nowhere…. and then his head snapped back with a jolt as the boat grounded. People leapt from the thwarts, snatching up weapons and shields. Someone stamped on his hand as they staggered to the bow, knocking his shield into the bilges. Karl jammed his helm on and tried to stay in the middle of the suddenly pitifully small troop. Oh Maker, they were the first boat ashore..and there were lines of men on the beach ranged against them, and those terrible arrows were still raining down. Karl tried to stop himself throwing up. And then as Osric bellowed something about the Maker before launching himself against the Horde, they exploded into fire. The screaming started in earnest; the sweet smell of roasted flesh was too much and Karl gagged on bile as he retched uncontrollably.

Carried along by the press of bodies and his fear, Karl stumbled onto the foreshore. The opposing brigands were falling over themselves, as half their comrades fell where they stood, struck down by some Eldritch force. The Brotherhood were merciless, cutting them down in the confusion. A severed hand lay still clutching a spear on the sand. Entrails spilled out of a split stomach. A man staggered by drunkenly, half his skull caved in and glistening grey wetness showing through.

And then a ominous pause. There was no one left to fight. Scattered remnants of the other side were running towards a stockade, and the Brotherhood were regrouping on the beach by the boats. Arrows still flew, but far fewer and from too far away to be a real threat. Karl saw at least half a dozen of the Brotherhood’s troops down – missing a leg here, a hand there; or lying still, staring glassy eyed into who knows where. Teagr was standing on the beach, with a confident grin – he’d been the third boat to land and it was all over by the time he stood on the shore. Karl slumped on the beach and gulped fresh air through his chattering teeth. Thank the Maker he’d made it through alive, he was safe…

A kick from another swordsman, as he nodded towards the stockade, tightening his shield on this arm. No no no no no. It was a good furlong across open ground to the walls! This wasn’t supposed to be how it went, running into arrows was dumb, he’d not stand for it. Except he was, lining up with the others behind the fool Brotherhood, hunkering under suddenly tiny shields as they jogged across the broken terrain in two lines. The sweat dropped off his forehead and his helm kept slipping over his eyes but he daren’t risk pushing it back with his weapon or shield arm. The arrows picked up with a vengeance but aimed at the crossbowmen they’d left at their rear. Karl was ashamed to be grateful they were firing at somebody else. They were all running now, breath whistling in and out, no talking, just fighting for each step not to be the last. Up the rise to the wooden stakes, someone crying out to go round the pit, and how were they getting in, wait, the gate was in splinters. But again, those men ranged in lines against them, so similar to him, probably even someone from the same city, but on the wrong end of a spear. Was this what soldiering was about? Being fool enough to go through that gap, broad enough for no more than two abreast, to dash out your guts so someone else could slip on them? How in all that was holy did anyone last two days let alone two decades doing this, Karl thought, as the aging Baucharite pushed forward shoulder to shoulder with Osric. Was that what being a veteran was? Not shitting yourself in battle and taking advantage of those that did? And then, he lost himself in the noise and the fury, moving with those around him to push into the thrice damned fort and kill or be killed.

Karl found himself on the beach again, an immeasurable time later. He was covered in muck, and blood, and guts, but most of it wasn’t his. The healers passed him by with barely a glance as they rushed to the others, groaning or screaming. Those who lay still merited no attention. He’d seen Teagr go down as they rushed through the gate – where was he now? He was no brother, but they’d overwintered together, shared crude jokes over mead and snickered at the Baucharite as he shovelled shit.

Zelik came down the beach, and looked him up and down. He nodded once, and clapped him on the shoulder. “Well fought, shield brother”.

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The Chronicles of Zephyros - Chapter 13
Vanishing Pirates

The Tarchoony Brotherhood counseled and decided and quickly decided to make formations and push toward the pirate stronghold. There would be an infantry force supported by archers that would make a frontal assault. A stealth force lead by Burak to move to the West shoreline in an attempt to hit the fortification from the rear. The remainder including Zephyros would remain behind to guard the boats.

Burak motioned to the West, “The five of us will go that way, give us a head start before you start the assault.” Dudda, Jaromir, Roland and Ustig were already moving off Westward along the shoreline.

Osric replied, “Aye, leave now and may the Maker be with us!” Meanwhile on the flagship Oswald continued to fire the ballista upon the pirate stronghold diminishing the door to rubble. “Form up the men!” Osric shouted. Zelik organized the infantry into two ranks. Zelik, Osric, Haakon, Henryk, Hanael, would make up the front line. Ansger and six infantry would make up the rear line. Athelwine, Emyr, Boguslaw and eight crossbow comprised the archer force. Moments later Osric shouted, “Rally up men, let’s move out!” With that the men marched towards the palisades.

It wasn’t long before the pirates started firing arrows at the Tarchoony Brotherhood archers and their aim was impeccable. Several of the men were wounded, to the point that they fell back to longer range. Boguslaw set about healing those as best he could. By the time the infantry force made it to the front gate of the pirate fort they were no longer supported by the archers.

Upon reaching the gate Henryk noticed a pit trap and the men were forced to split into two single file lines in order to breach the front door without falling in the trap. Of course the pirates had formed a horseshoe gauntlet inside the palisades. Osric yelled, “For the Maker!” as he charged in. The Tarchoony Brotherhood was in their element and made short work of the pirate infantry. Simultaneously, Burak jumped over the palisade wall at the rear of the fort, pulling an enemy pirate archer over the wall behind him in the process.

After a few seconds of fighting it was clear that the Tarchoony Brotherhood would have the day. Efforts were made to focus on the pirate leaders and ensure they did not flee. Osric cast a prayer of holding on the pirate boss, no effect. A moment later Zephyros appeared from nowhere and cast a stinking cloud on the pirate boss, again no effect. Only a few swings of weapons later and the pirate boss in the scale armor resembling that of a raptor began fading from sight! “What foul magic is this, stop him!” shouted Osric. His sergeant just a few feet away turned invisible. “Arghhh! Face me you coward!” yelled Ansger. The remaining pirate sergeant jumped from the wall towards the boats, but Athelwine, Dudda, Ustig and the infantry were on his heels.

Burak muttered, “Who can detect invisible? Haakon can’t your sword locate objects? Where his armor goes he goes!”

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The Chronicles of Zephyros - Chapter 12
Raiding Pirate Island

Zephyros supervised the preparations to the riverboats at the port at Taygle’s End. He was looking forward to some fresh air after months of research, but still being mid-winter he was aware of the hazards of naval exploration this time of year. But, the resources of the company were dwindling and so he carefully considered the weights and positioning of the personnel with Zelik, before the Tarchoony Brotherhood Flotilla set out for the North. The orientation of the riverboats was tactically sound, the front two vessels were comprised of our front line infantrymen, and the center two vessels were the caster flagship and archers. Finally, the last two vessels were the remaining archers and reserve infantry.

After departing the port some of the company recalled the passage to the North having been this route before. But the company soon found itself in uncharted waters with an island dead ahead to the North. A pillar of smoke could be seen rising above the tree line on the high side of the island. Zephyros thought out loud, “We can make it either way around this island either Northwest or Northeast, but I’m thinking those are pirates since this island abuts the main channel from the Northeast. They will have lookouts positioned on the bluff overlooking the channel, so let’s make full speed to the Northeast and cover their escape route.” The direction went out to all the vessels and the rowers strained as the riverboats leapt forward with every stroke.

Zelik shouted, “I see several boats on the shore up ahead and men running towards them! Put your back’s into it men!” The first vessel contained Haakon, Almund, Boguslaw, Zelik, Hidswith, Ansger, Henryk, Osric, Hanael and an infantryman. The second was comprised of all mercenary infantrymen. These two would make landfall first, with remaining mercenary infantry on the third vessel, which would fall slightly behind. The flagship with Zephyros, Godric, Cenwulf, Emyr, Athelwine, Wilburg, Xenocrates, Oswald and an infantrymen, would hold off the beach by about sixty feet. Vessel four with Ustig, Dudda, Toland, Jaromir, Burak and several mercenary crossbowmen would hold off at long range, mostly due to lack of rowers. Vessel five also stayed at long range, with the remaining mercenary infantry and crossbowmen.

As soon as our archers were in range of the enemies rushing to defend their shores and riverboats they began to fire. Both Zephyros and Xenocrates created mirror images of themselves to avoid missile fire. After a couple minutes several of the pirates would be dead, but their archers started to gather strength and punished our landing force. Oswald’s ballista certainly impacted their morale as did a well-placed fireball from Zephyros. Within moments of reaching the beach most of the pirate archers were shattered between spells and constant pounding from our archers. Zelik’s and Osric’s infantry force pushed hard into the pirate line and pushed them back into a steady retreat. With only one-third of the enemy force remaining a pirate leader yelled, “Back to the stockade!”

Zephyros thought to himself, “Should we push forward or hold our position? We have the beach and their vessels. If we push we could be exposed on our rear, especially those that stay behind. But if we push we may be able to end it now. He turned around and scanned the horizon for any other vessels.”

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The Chronicles of Zephyros - Chapter 11
Foundations

After Osric and Zelik decided to pass on further investigation of the complex under the temple in Hewflore, Zephyros decided to focus on getting various other errands completed so he and his apprentices could relax in Taygle’s End and study in Garnier’s library. Before leaving town he stopped in at the Hewflore curiosity shop where he sold the Rod of Chains. As it turned out the patron was also interested in the Horn of Sea Summoning. The 5,000gp he sold it for would cover all the upcoming research; his mind was already working on the Summon Hero spell he hoped to master.

While in Hewflore he gathered his men, Ansger, Athelwine, Xenocrates, Henryk, Dudda, Wilburg and Cenwulf. “Men, please spend what remaining time we have here in Hewflore by preparing yourselves for the work we have before us. Go to the smiths and procure fine weapons and armor. Pick up supplies such that you are prepared to survive in the wilderness and in the darkest of caverns, for we know not where will be off to next, but you can be rest assured it will not be in the comfort of an inn. Xenocrates and Dudda, I appreciate your leadership in the ways of harvesting components from the creatures we encounter. Let’s please pass this knowledge onto Cenwulf and Wilburg while they also study the ways of healing, such that we can together we can pursue the craft of transmogrification and crossbreeds. In time we will develop our laboratory and library where we can perfect the craft. Additionally, I have collected a great list of spells for us to study together and expand our grimoires, so after we are done scribing we will agree on which spells we will retain in memory to benefit the Tarchoony Brotherhood. Once we have gathered everything we need, let us prepare the boats for departure to Taygle’s End.”

Once in Taygle’s End Zephyros caught back up with Garnier. “Ever heard of the ‘Horned Society?’ ‘Scarlet Brotherhood?’ No? Mmm. You don’t want to. You do? Well, I’m telling you that you don’t. Bad news, Zephyron, er, Zephrykos. Er? What’s your name again? Haha. Just joking.”

Zephyros replied, “Well Garnier, I have much to learn from you it seems. I’m afraid I’m not from these parts, remember what I told you about the portal, so you have me at a disadvantage with respect to the ‘Horned Society’ and the ‘Scarlet Brotherhood.’ Please enlighten me so I can be careful not to offend the wrong person during my travels.”

Garnier’s eyes narrowed and his face took a stern visage. “Zephyros, they seek mages like yourself; offer them power, greatness all in the name of chaos. It’s a dark path son, one you must avoid.”

“What do they do if you decline to join them?” asked Zephyros.

“You end up six feet under,” retorted Garnier.

“Ah I see, well I’m but a simple ship’s captain, I only dabble in the arts,” Zephyros said with a smile.

“I’m afraid you’ll need to do better than that Zephyros, word of your exploits has traveled farther then you think. Prepare yourself. And if a wise man may pass on some wisdom, stay on the path of law and order Zephyros.”

“Aye Garnier, I appreciate your wisdom. One more question, do you think these two groups are recruiting so heavily because of the threat of war? Another war of the wands if you will?”

“You’re a thoughtful man Zephyros, those are my thoughts as well,” answered Garnier.

Much was discussed over the weeks spent together researching in Garnier’s library. As it turned out Zephyros’s first research project was a failure. The only good news is that he knows the information that is needed for Summon Hero is not contained within Garnier’s library, so he will be keeping an eye out for some books on the subject of summoning. Aside from that, the scribing, learning and memorizing of the new spells went well for Zephyros, Xenocrates, Cenwulf and Wilburg. The spell signatures for his new spells are as follows:

Fireball – A trireme appears over the right shoulder of the caster and the catapult on its bow fires upon command a small pea-sized glowing orange ball. Upon reaching the target it bursts into a huge ball of fire, similar to that used in naval warfare.

Slow – This spell is very subtle, in that no visual component is noticed, safe that upon completion of the final word time stands still for an instant for all those around the caster. The next moment time returns to normal for all of those except those targeted and they see the world passing them much faster, although in reality they are acting slower, it’s just how our minds work.

Skinchange – Upon completion of the final word, having already decided which animal the caster wished to turn into, there is a slight whoosh sound along with a puff of black mist which immediately dissipates as the caster takes the new form. Should the caster change form again the whoosh and black mist occur again. There is no distinguishing the animal form from that of the real thing, in fact it is real, or is it?

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Leaving Taygle's End
Session 42 to 44

Back in Hewflore, Osric finds some time to continue his journal
After we made it back to Taygles End with the good news I could already feel how the breaking of the curse of the Frog Cult improved the mood of the villagers. I have the feeling that with time and hard work the Makers parish could flourish here, serving as a beacon of light near these tainted wetlands.
I managed to have some long talks with Lady Astrid and while we certainly have our differences when it comes to punishment and rooting out cultists who still follow the cult despite being no longer possessed I think she is a good person. I will, given the Metropolitans blessing, become the spiritual advisor of her domain, teacher of the local study and will be granted the now empty monastery with the surrounding meadow. While we had to wait for some of our wounded companions the recover I took the chance to burn the wicked books of the monastery in a small celebration following a service before the study in Taygles End. We have to work hard to stamp out any remains of the cult!
When finally travelling back to Hewflore I really started to notice the change in Cowal, the fake teacher and our prisoner. He seems very sullen and probably ponders about his deeds while under the spell of the frog daemon but he can be thankful that its not my place to bring him to proper judgement as I will hand him over to the church in Hewflore. What concerned me also was an attack by river pirates, not just because we lost a former henchmen in the foray but also because brother Zelik noticed that some of them seem to be under the same spell as the villagers before. Do the local pirates work together with the cult? A very troubling thought…
Today I handed over Cowal but it seems he was deemed redeemable… The Maker truly works in mysterious ways. Though the good news is that I was asked by Yuric the Elder to take over the parish in Taygle’s End, a task that I gratefully accepted!
I will now visit Ralf d’Arcy again, he seemed troubled about riff-raff skulking around his church and strange noises in the night.

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