Eldergate

Durghen not Durgen

With the threat of the Orcs removed, food was now the group’s primary concern. By Gorbunn Ungart‘s figures, with the addition of the exiles from Axyss, the group’s existing food stores would only last about a month, including the food that the group had brought with them and the Orc and Badger meat they had recently gathered.

Ulrick Torunn demanded that the newest additions to ‘his’ group prove their worth, or make their own way in the wilds. No one who couldn’t add to the community would be allowed to bring the rest down. As a ‘test’ of their worth, the Dwarf leader demanded that the group bring in at least one Durghen cow with a nursing baby, so that the milk would provide an ongoing source of sustenance, and that they kill as many other members of the herd for meat and hides as possible.

So with the pre-dawn light, the Exiles, along with Dwarf volunteers Ilde Gorunn, Tordek Gorunn, and Bardek Gorunn set out to meet the Durghen herd as they came down to the frozen lake.

The sharp-eyed elves, Visenya and Tamron Gale set up to scout the path, so that Kyrian Stone could attract the attention of the Bull, and draw him away from the herd. Visenya, Tamron, Nero Torvus and Ilde were to then aid Kyrian with ranged attacks, while the others formed a screen behind them, ready to move forward and support if needed.

The plan seemed to go well at first, until Tamron trying to impress Visenya, tried to slip past the Bull and use his newly learned skills with animals to coax a cow from the herd. Instead, the elf opportunist managed to attract the attention of the bull and suffered a terrible injury from the enormous bovine’s horns.

Fortunately for the elf, near misses from Nero’s flaming rocks, and Kyrian’s bellows and banging on his shield drew the beast’s ire away from him, and he was lost from view in the snow drifts.

After a heated battle, the dominant male Durghen was slain, and with his fall, the herd was thrown into chaos. Immediately two of the younger males began to make dominance displays in an attempt to attract females to follow them. Some of the females gathered to see the results of the challenge, while other members of the herd began to simply flee.

Taking advantage of the distraction, a wounded Tamron managed to slip among the cows and coax one of the nursing mothers from the group with her calf before the herd collapsed and fled into the mountains.

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Food Shortage

With the bulk of the Orcs defeated Rennard “Underfoot” Redhill and Grelnik Nickerwick were recovered from the Gnome Embassy and the group joined the Dwarves in their layer. Now, in relative safety inside the locked remains of the old Great Forge – the PC’s began to ask questions of the dwarves, with Oskar Dankil and Rennard acting as translators.

The group learned that as far as the dwarves knew, there were nearly one million orcs on Hearthstone – compared to a mere quarter of that in Dwarves. The entire population lived within the planet, rather than on it’s inhospitable surface. The refugees gathered here now, had come to escape slavery and death at the hands of their orc masters – but life on the surface was hard, and almost half that came out of the underground died. The group that survived now relied heavily on Gorbunn Ungart’s skills as a cook and resource manager and on the miraculous powers of Diesa Lutgehr.

After a day or so, with the assistance of an additional healer, the group was restored to health. Gorbunn, the Dwarves’ quartermaster announced that the additional mouths were going to exhaust the group’s food stores in about a week. Ulrick Torunn asserted that if the party was going to remain with his refugees, they would have to contribute. Gorbunn felt like the only chance that they had, was to assault the herd of Durgen that came down out of the mountains occasionally to get water from the frozen lake. The nine Dwarves would sometimes pick off a straggler from the herd, but if the larger group could kill a couple larger beasts and perhaps capture a nursing mother – they would have a fairly respectable and somewhat sustainable food source. As the group began to plan their assault on the durgen, concerns about having a Dire Badger and three orcs that might attack them at any time grew paramount. The group came up with a bold plan to solve both problems in one swoop.

Using his connection with The Shield, Oskar summoned a large dog from the Celestial plane to flush out the badger, while the group’s archers took positions of relative safety on roof tops and exposed upper levels of adjacent buildings. Kyrian Stone stood at the point of two rows of Dwarves with polearms and challenged to Badger to charge him – which it did once the dog had returned to its native plain. The enraged badger fell quickly to sword and arrows…but to the group’s surprise was quickly replaced by it’s mate. The second badger too fell swiftly and no one sustained any serious injuries.

With one danger eliminated, the group moved on to the second stage of their plan. The Dwarves fell in on one of the badger carcass with the efficiency of the truly hungry, and quickly began to butcher and package the remain of one beast, carefully leaving the second. One by one the Dwarves left, each carrying off a bundle of food, while the party from Axyss pretended to follow – but circled back and retook their ambush positions in secret, while the strongest of the Hearthstone Refugees joined them.

When the nearly starved orcs rushed in to seize the remains of the second carcass, they fell neatly into the same trap the badgers had fallen for, and the most badly wounded fell quickly to arrows. An impatient Nero Torvus rushed in to use his shock spell on one of the two remaining orcs, but missed, and received a devastating blow in return. Mired in snow up to their chests, the Dwarves struggled to come to his aid, and arrows seemed to be doing little to slow the two now enraged marauders. Finally, it was reluctant Oskar and Kyrian that came to the rescue, and finished off the last two orcs before the final blow could be delivered to their comrade.

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Clearing the Town

Shortly after the last of the orcs fled, Tamron Gale emerged from their lair, covered in blood – apparently none of which was his own – to see the grisly sight of six Dwarves rushing upon the fallen orcs to deliver death to the injured…and then promptly begin butchering the bodies.

Communication was a problem at first, as the Dwarves apparently only spoke Dwarven and Orcish, which none of the three remaining conscious party members present understood. The Cleric Diesa quickly awoke Oskar Dankil and Rennard “Underfoot” Redhill came running from the Gnome Embassy where he’d been exploring with Grelnik Nickerwick to provide a running translation (sometimes of multiple conversations at once).

The Dwarves, led by Ulrick Torunn quickly painted a gruesome picture of their lives here. Left on their own by the shutting of the portal to Axyss, they had been utterly defeated and enslaved by the orcs. The Dwarves did what they could to undermine the orcs at every turn – equipping them with exotic Dwarven weapons they did not know how to use, and attempting to manipulate the traditionally fractious Orcs into wars with one another – but some dark force seemed to be holding them together against all odds.

Ulrick confirmed that there was a united Dwarf Resistance Movement – led by the king’s old advisor, who was also the ‘advisor’ to the Great Orc Chieftain, but try as they might, four to one odds of a sickly, oppressed people against a powerful warlike adversary was just too daunting to overcome. Furthermore, according to Ulrick, the orcs maintained a working portal to their own world, so if trouble became to overt, there was nothing to stop them from bringing even more orcs to Hearthhome.

With this pleasant conversation underway, Tamron explained that he had discovered two more orcs hiding within the lair and had been forced to deal with them, keeping him from joining the battle. Visenya’s investigation confirmed two orc corpses, apparently killed from behind by stealth within the lair, with nothing else of apparent value anywhere to be found.

The Dwarves, having completed the gruesome task of carving up the orc (and dog) meat, said a blessing over the remains of Warbird and carried the fallen Nero to their base within the large round building with multiple chimneys near the plaza where the battle took place.

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Welcome To Hearthstone
A Harsh New World

The group arrived on Hearthstone and was immediately forced to fight for their lives, arriving in the middle of the night during a blizzard. Despite the appearance of life within the elf embassy, they were unable to gain entry and took refuge from the storm in the ruins of what appeared to have been an ancient inn.

With daylight, and still cold, but much more livable conditions, the group began to explore what they found to be an apparently abandoned village, centered around the Elder Gates. During the rounds, Kyrian Stone discovered a wide path from the abandoned Halfling Embassy, and more signs of heavy usage around another old inn.

Distressed by the possibility of an Orc base only a few ‘blocks’ from their own location, the group decided to send Tamron Gale and Visenya to scout the building. Quiet as the elves were, they were not stealthy enough to avoid alerting the large dog that the resident orcs used to watch over them as they slept, and an orc came out with the dog on a leash to investigate the source of the animal’s distress. The unfortunate orc scout was immediately felled by an arrow from Kyrian’s bow – and the dog met a similar fate from one of Nero Torvus‘s conjured flaming rocks. The outcome of the conflict seemed encouraging when a third orc fell to another rock from Nero. Encouraging that is, until another nearly dozen orcs poured forth behind their fallen associates. Rushing toward the intruders, a motley band of what appeared to be mostly half-orcs charged their assailants urged on by three massive full orc males who stood behind and watched. Nero and Kyrian readied melee weapons, as Warbird and Oskar Dankil stepped up to support them. Visenya continued to fire arrows from the flank, as Tamron attempted to sneak into the orcs’ base and take them from behind. The group quickly fell into distress as they were badly outnumbered, and despite heavy casualties to the orcs, Oskar, Nero, and Warbird all took light injuries from the initial rush. Then, the three largest orcs decided to join the conflict. Warbird was felled almost immediately by two of the hulking brutes, while the third rushed Visenya and delivered a heavy blow. With the Free Tribesman down, Nero became the next on the list, as Kyrian struggled to free himself from the pair of assailants flanking him. Nero quickly followed Warbird to the realm of the unconscious, and Oskar was not far behind as Kyrian finally managed to finish off his last two opponents. With Tamron having disappeared into the inn with no further signs of him, the orcs now outnumbered the party four to two, with Kyrian and Visenya both having received injuries. The fate of the party seemed bleak, until with a grinding sound and shout, a group of eight ragged looking Dwarves emerged from a hidden passage beneath the statue in the middle of the square. Now facing ten to four odds against them, the orcs decided to abandon the fight and fled. Kyrian managed to drop the last of the weaker orcs with a bow shot as it ran, leaving the three strongest orcs as the only survivors.

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A Certain Point of View
Chapter 3 Concluded

Visenya Wargbane, was NOT having fun. With the commencement of the Gathering’s official start date – her master, Kalthas Griffonbane had her spending her time up to her elbows in Beholder eyeballs and Wyven stingers, talking to hoary old wizards with halitosis, wart encrusted alchemists, and cross eyed hedge healers dickering over the freshness of monster remains.

The firstl break from the monotony and boredom, was a brief encounter with a young elf, who caught her eye, and approached – only to very brazenly make off with a Basilisk fang (one that Visenya had had to be un-petrified after helping to recover). Visenya did not waste a moment, and immediately bolted after the thief. Her quick reflexes allowed her to easily weave through the crowd, vaulting over a gnome, and under a passing centaur, before following the thief down a narrow alley between two tents. About half way through the alley, she came across a trip-wire, concealed along the way. Realizing that her target had clearly anticipated pursuit – the apprentice Monster Hunter decided it was too dangerous to continue pursuit any further and returned to the booth. To her surprise, Kalthas actually complimented her on having the wisdom not to pursue a target that clearly wanted to be chased.

On her lunch break, Visenya went to locate Grelnik Nickerwick and see if she could find out more about joining him on an expedition to one of the ancient cities – but to her disappointment, found that he had been missing since Goran Steelheart Scourge of Hyland and his men had left the island. Beginning to wonder if her luck would ever turn, she went back to work counting the six remaining days of her apprentice ship as six too many.

That afternoon, all the nine hells broke loose in the market place, as the whole world tilted 30 degrees. Visenya managed to rescue an old halfing matron and her two grandchildren from certain death beneath a rolling cart, before being left by her master to mind the store while he aided in rounding up escaped monsters.

The next day, the strange young elf male that had stolen the fang returned. Business had been non-existent in the wake of the catastrophe, and many were even leaving the Gathering. Visenya didn’t really care – at least all she had to do was guard the stuff now – not try and sell it. The brazen thief approached in plain sight with the pilfered tooth out in plain sight. He placed it on top of a barrel and begged for forgiveness – stating he’d only wanted her attention and that the only thing that had waited at the end of the chase was a romantic meal. Visenya wasn’t buying it – but she didn’t shoot him on the spot either, so the elf introduced himself as Tamron Gale. He stated that the ‘obstacle’ Visenya had run into had been a test of skill – and that he was impressed with her looks, her moves, and her intelligence in not following him further. He wanted to make the little test up to her and advised that he had acquired papers that would grant them access to the ruins of the ancient city beneath the island – and wanted her to come with him and help recover any artifacts they might come across. He also pointed out the bounty on Goran Steelheart and offered to share it with her should they be able to claim it. Visenya didn’t agree until he offered to pay her 250 gold – 125 up front.

The two proceeded into the tunnels – with the Gatewardens either buying Tamron’s paperwork, or not caring if two foolish young elves wanted to commit suicide in the tunnels beneath the city. They explored a short while – Visenya falling pray to the brown mold that had incapacitated Rennard “Underfoot” Redhill earlier, and badly frost bitten Oskar Dankil, suffering severe frostbite and near hypothermia. Eventually, they met up with her friends from the Gravity Games, and joined forces to hunt down Goran.

Oskar’s study of the contents of the kits that were found with the symbol of The Heart revealed that one of the vials in each was a Cure Major Wounds Ointment, while Nero’s study of the ‘server’ uncovered the way to work the ancient knowledge repository. With these new tools, the group quickly began to explore the rest of the complex, eventually figuring out how to pump the water out of the submerged levels and explore the previously inaccessible sections of the building.

Within, they finally found Goran Steelheart waiting for them. The ‘Scourge of Hyland’ explained that he had something he wanted to the group to see before it came to a fight. Most of the group hesitantly agreed to hear him out – but Rennard dashed past him to find the missing gnome. While Goran explained that it was not he that was the true evil – but the Druid Council who was keeping everyone from the truth, Rennard found the gnome trying to open two huge doors that he claimed led to the Axiom of Eldergates – the central hub that connected to all 100 worlds of the Elder Empire. Realizing the potential danger of such a discovery, Rennard promptly incapacitated the elderly scholar, and deposited him out of the way.

When the group agreed to let Goran show them whatever it was he wanted them to see – Rennard attacked the barbarian cheiftain from ambush. A savage fight ensued, with the seven party members ganging up against the lone barbarian. Kyrian Stone fell to a savage double attack before Goran was finally laid low by one of Visenya’s arrows.

With his final breath, Goran Steelheart advised the group, “You…wiill see! I…was telling the truth…”

With Goran’s fall, Rennard quickly grabbed the inert gnome and dashed for the exit while everyone was distracted.

With the two little people gone – the rest of the party discussed whether they should open the doors or not. Finally, curiosity won out, and Nero opened the doors with magic.

Within – the party found all 100 Eldergates – apparently intact, if inert.

Immediately a figure materialized before them. It appeared to be Anselm, whom most had met in the Council of Nations – but the being somehow seemed much taller, and more menacing.

Anselm told the group, that they had become aware of information that could not be allowed to get back to the rest of the world. The Druids had worked for Centuries to keep these gates hidden, and it would not do to have the characters return with what they now knew. He gave them a choice – to go through one of the gates, or to have their memory erased.

Oskar complained that they had sacrificed much, including the life of a friend, to save thousands from the threat of Goran Steelheart – and this seemed a poor compensation – to be banished.

Anselm agreed – and resurrected Kyrian Stone, restoring him to perfect health in spite of the massive damage that had been done by Goran’s steel through his neck and head.

When the group asked what about the threat that the gnome, Grelnik Nickerwick posed – Anselm agreed, and summoned he and Rennard with his magic.

Anselm compensated the group with a chest of treasure (as yet unopened) and after some discussion – the group agreed to travel to the Dwarf homeworld of Hearthome to attempt to save Oskar’s people from the Orcs that enslaved them.

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Into the Ruins
Chapter 3

Agreeing to follow Warbird in pursuit of Goran Steelheart Scourge of Hyland, Kyrian Stone, Nero Torvus, Oskar Dankil, and Rennard Redhill venture into the depths of the upside down Elder city beneath Gathering Island.

Once the group had taken the lifts down to the level below the power center where Kyrian, Nero, and Oskar had last seen Goran and Grelnik, Rennard took point and began to scout ahead. His sharp eyes paid off almost immediately, as he spotted a trap that had been left in the stairwell. Suspecting that the trap indicated the way Goran had went, he had Kyrian lower him by a rope, where he found another level with a series of hallways that he bypassed, and descended one more floor to a broad, circular level with clear walls out to the ocean beyond. This floor was flooded to about waist level on the halfling, but there were no other immediate threats, or signs of the barbarian and the gnome. Rennard explored one ancient office room, and recovered a golden dragon statuette, and a well preserved Elder era coat and hat before growing bored and returning back to the upper level where he’d found the trap.

Deciding to pursue the initial floor further, Rennard opened the first door to reveal a closet with nothing of interest but some old cleaning tools and supplies. The next door was locked and proved too difficult for the halfling to open. Moving on to the next, Rennard unlocked the door, but heard a rustling sound beyond the door and left it for someone of stouter constitution to explore while he moved on to the next room.

Within the opened room, Kyrian and Nero uncovered an Imp, bound within a circle, locked hovering upside down. The Imp claimed to be bound by a Geas to answer three questions for anyone who entered. Nero quickly jumped on the opportunity and asked for the Imp’s true name – believing it would grant him power over the denizen of the nine hells. The Imp grudgingly admitted its name, and forthwith answered every question that Nero presented to him. Nero asked if there were any links to the other cities here within this city. The Imp indicated that he only had the names basic data for the other cities in the archives at his disposal. Nero asked if there was anywhere else within this building that might have that information, and the Imp stated that the ‘server’ would be able to get them virtually any information he desired. Nero asked for directions, and the Imp directed the group down one level, and all the way to the end of the hall.

While Nero was questioning the Imp, Rennard decided to move along to the next door, which opened without any of those silly human privacy restricting locks. The upside down room, had the broken remains of a table and chairs, and several cabinets. While exploring the cabinets, Rennard suddenly went stiff and dropped to the ground. From the doorway, Oskar observed a strange brown fungus grow immediately across the floor like a carpet. The temperature in the room, already notably lower than the rest of the complex had been, immediately dropped substantially. Not willing to leave his companion in danger, Oskar lept to the rescue, and felt the heat being drawn from his body as he grabbed the halfling and pulled him to safety, the carpet growing even larger on the heat from Oskar’s body.

Calling upon The Shield, Oskar restored the warmth to Rennard so that he once again could move, and the group followed the Imp’s directions in spite of Warbird’s expressed doubts on the devil’s trustworthiness.

As the group worked their way down the hall in the lower level at the Imp’s direction, a large, catepillar like creature with tentacle-like protrustions on it’s face emerged from one of the side rooms. Kyrian rushed to the front to protect his team mates, but missed with his initial strike. Fortuneately, the creature also misplaced its return blow. Nero boldly lept off of the wall and vaulted behind the creature, landing a strong blow to its flank. Warbird attempted to run up onto the creature’s back, but slipped and fell. As the creature turned to attack the fallen chieftain’s daughter, Kyrian struck again, this time landing a blow that hacked about three quarters of the creatures head free from its body.

Exploring the room that the creature had exited, the group found a small box mounted to the wall with the symbol of the Healer on it, and a large belt with runes on it that shrank to fit Rennard when he put it on. The box opened easily revealing a Healing Kit, and two vials of fluid, one blue, the other orange.

Moving on, the group passed several doors, and went directly to the end of the hall where the Imp had told them the ‘Server’ awaited. Rennard found the room unlocked, but encountered some resistance as he pushed the door open. The room beyond was flooded and water began to trickle out into the hallway as the door opened. Within, the room was full of boxes, crates, and barrells, all floating along the right hand wall, where a series of ‘tubes’ were mounted in the wall, with shimmering energy at the mouth of each. Nero immediately forged forward to explore the contents of a nearby crate – finding rotted old coffee within.

But the group was not alone. A pair of half-fish half-men emerged from the murk of the water and attacked. Nero cast a fiery dart at the first with minimal effect, and recieved a viscious bite to his arm in return. Kyrian stepped forward and delivered a strike to the second assailant who appeared focused on him, and Warbird sprang to the attack, rolling through the water between the two fish-men and delivering strong attacks to both with her quarterstaff, falling the first that had already been injured by the caravan guard. (Note: Revision- GM double checked Tumble rules and confirmed no Attack of Opportunity is provoked if the roll is successful, which it was, so Warbird did not sustain damage. Thank you Ian for noting this rule.) Rennard attempted to finish off the final opponent with a bullet from his sling, but launched the missile wide of the target, losing it in the water. Badly injured and now alone, the remaining Skum decided to withdraw. Evading a parting blow from Kyrian, the creature fled toward a tunnel leading down into dark waters, but it wasn’t fast enough, and Kyrian’s pursuit ended the creature before it could return with more enemies.

Not finding anything that resembled the ‘server’ the Imp had described, they decided to search the rest of the level. Finding another locked door, Rennard opened it and revealed a sphere of water floating in the air, connected to a series of tubes going to the wall – exactly what the devil had described. He had apparently ‘forgot’ to mention the four foot tall, rust colored dog with glowing eyes that protected the server. Kyrian lept to the front, and took the beast’s first bite with his shin guard, taking no damage to himself, but leaving molten tooth marks in his armor. His counter strike ripped a gash in the creatures face, and destroyed an eye, then Nero struck home with a frozen blast that didn’t appear to faze the creature much. Enraged, the hound belched forth a blast of fire that engulfed Nero and Kyrian. Badly burned, Nero dropped to the ground smoldering while the Stone Caravan Guard withstood the pain, but appeared unsteady on his feet. Warbird once again lept into the fray and delivered two strikes to the creature, the first smacking across its flank and the second breaking it’s left front limb. Kyrian pressed the attack, forcing the creature back from Nero’s innert form and giving Oskar time to step up and restore him to consciousness with his prayers, but paid for it when the creature launched another savage attack and drove the already badly burned warrior to the floor. With an exhausted final blow, Warbird delivered the decisive strike that sent the creature finally to unconsciousness.

Burned, frost bitten, and chewed up, the group attempted to discern the purpose for this levitating orb of water, but even Nero’s keen intellect and experience with magic could not find a way to make it function, and still there was no sign of Steelheart having passed this way.

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Before the Council of Nations
Interlude

“Step forward.”

The speaker, none other than Orion Winters, glares down from his seat at the center of the raised dais at the back of the room. To his right, sits Myrella of Talanthas, heir to the throne of Talanthas (Nation) and Orion’s own grand daughter. To Orion’s left, sits Khalkus Ironcrown Crown Prince of the Dwarf Kingdom, Khul. Beyond Khalkus is Chief Stormrider of the Free Tribes of Hyland, and on the other side of Myrella sits Anselm High Druid of the The Druid Nation. On a hastily constructed addendum to the dais, just to the left of Stormrider, the newest addition to the Council of Nations, Gethrr the Cunning is seated. Just below the council, are seated the Advisors: Archmage Villius Carpenter, Gannemede Atriss, Dorvin Merchant, Shesael Glimmerspark, and Gaius Thorne.

The Council of Nations meets on Gathering Island, in a magically constructed building, of a massive scale for a temporary structure. A blend of Druid and Arcane might, the Council hall is essentially a tower, built into a massive tree that is re-grown each year for the event.

Kyrian Stone, Nero Torvus, Oskar Dankil, and Warbird have been summoned to appear before the Council to bear testimony to yesterday’s events, in which the Island was nearly tipped over.

Councilman Winters leads the questioning, his dark eyes boring into whoever appears to be speaking at the time. His questions show a keen intellect, and it is clear that he reads a great deal into even the slightest inflection, gesture, and facial tick. From time to time, one of the other members, usually Myrella asks a clarifying question. Orion goes often to Gaius Thorne and Archmage Carpenter to verify the probability of the group’s accounts.

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To Save the Gathering
Victory at a price

During the Second day of The Gathering, many disturbing rumors were floating around, but the one that proved the most interesting to Nero Torvus and Oskar Dankil was the one about the disappearance of Grelnik Nickerwick and Goran Steelheart Scourge of Hyland.

Oskar and Nero’s paths intersected as they both did more research to find out what happened to the gnome. The pair decided to work together as the clues began to indicate that the researcher and the Barbarian Conqueror had disappeared together. From Morwin the Mouse – they learned that Steelheart and Nickerwick had left the city along with Goran’s bodyguard Therrick Gorgonskull, but had not left the island, headed toward the northwest.

Nero and Oskar agreed that Goran’s purpose was most likely to enter the access tunnels for the levitation system on The Gathering Island, with the intention of inverting the island and killing everyone on it.

The pair tried to convince anyone they could get to listen of the danger, but could not get anyone to take them seriously, so in desperation, they ended up recruiting Kyrian Stone, Hobb, Harold Smith, and Dane (one of Morwin’s hirelings) to assist them in tracking down Goran and the Gnome on their own.

About an hour out of the populated region of the island, near the coastline, the group found signs of excavation and located a shaft leading straight down into the ground. Climbing down, they opened a mystically powered door, and fought a pair of medium sized centipedes, which managed to give Kyrian a nasty poisoned bite before the group killed them. After about 45 minutes in the tunnel, the lights went out for about five minutes – and then came back on. The group decided that the risk was imminent, and pushed hard to get to the end of the tunnel end before Goran could accomplish his goal. In the process, Oskar suffered severe fatigue and muscle strains from having to make his short legs keep up with the faster humans.

Upon their arrival at the end, Nero had to once again expend mystical energy to open the doorway. The door opened onto a huge globe shaped chamber, with a dropoff leading about twenty feet down to what had been the ceiling when the island was upright. At the ‘bottom’ was the corpse of a massive fifty foot centipede, collapsed near a 20 foot hole from whence emanated a steady stream of mystical energy that pulsed and writhed up through another hole at the top of the room. An inverted platform ran around the circumference of the large room, with another stairway leading down to a chamber where a light shone through a window.

Nero decided that any avenue to stop the barbarian leader that did not involve dying at the hands of him and his brute of a bodyguard was a preferable to rushing in and trying to fight the pair, so he convinced the group to slide down to the corpse of the giant centipede and push it into the mystical energy stream to disrupt the flow. Upon reaching the bottom, the group discovered that several of the massive creature’s ‘babies’ had survived the battle with the Free Tribesmen, and taken refuge under the corpse of their ‘mother’. As the group began to push the massive vermin, the smaller ones were disturbed and came out to feed.

Meanwhile, whatever the gnome was doing in the control booth succeeded – at least in part, and the whole island shifted by about thirty degrees, throwing Nero into the pit, to be saved by a last minute grab by Harold, and Oskar was left dangling by his fingertips as he too was thrown by the sudden shift. Once the two endangered heroes were pulled out of the pit, the group redoubled their efforts to push the monstrous mutated centipede into the energy stream. Their success, however, was not without price. As the energy stream was disrupted, and the island leveled back out – they attracted the attention of the massive man known as ‘The Minotaur’. Therrick Gorgonskull jumped and slid down to join the party. With one devastating blow, he slammed Harold with the force of a rushing bull. The barbarian warrior’s great club collapsed the cart handler’s rib-cage and sent him flying back to disintegrate in the mystical energy stream.

Enraged, Hobb began swinging his club at the assailant with manic fury, as Kyrian rushed to his aid, and Nero sent firey darts at the monstrosity of a man. Oskar placed a blessing on Kyrian, which seemed to help, as Therrick missed two lethal blows, but Kyrian’s own attacks were likewise deflected without harm. The same could not be said of Hobb, who managed to dislocate the man’s knee with his desperate attacks. Unfortunately for Hobb, this managed to draw the warrior’s ire from Kyrian, and The Minotaur caved in the simple dwarf’s head with one destructive blast that sent the body flying.

Nero, his magic depleted, realized that if he could give off mystical energy to open doors in this place – then perhaps he could draw upon its energy to replenish his own. Reaching out to the energy stream, he pulled in the raw power – and cast it out in another fiery dart that once again staggered the enemy. With a roar of pain and fury, Kyrian took advantage of the opening and brought his bastard sword down on the distracted opponent’s injured knee, severing the limb and dropping him to the ground.

Distraught and outraged at the terrible price that had been paid for this momentary victory, Kyrian Stone called out a challenge to Goran to come down and join his bodyguard in hell. The wily Chieftain would not be so easily baited for so little gain however, and decided to give the group their ‘victory’ for now. He exited the chamber via another passage with the gnome scholar in tow.

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Beginnings

Virtually one in five members of the population of Axyss journey to The Gathering in the Spring, and the player characters were counted among them this year.

Upon their arrival at The Porta-Inn near the south eastern edges of the island, they were recruited by Briar Thistledown to take part in The Gravity-Game; chief sport of The Gathering.

Oskar Dankil Traveled with his brother-in-law and a handful of the employees that work at his father’s brewery for the last time, planning to sign-up with the Order of The Shield. The journey was troubled by bandits, an injured ass, and a squirrel with big nuts, but in the end the group arrived essentially unharmed with their cargo intact.

Visenya "Worgbane’ was sent by the Monster Hunter to whom she is apprenticed to hunt down and finish off the injured Worg that had assaulted a group of Halflings traveling the road to Harbor. Although nearly killed by the enormous wolf-like creature, Visenya returned with its hide as a prize.

Kyrian Stone made the trip as a caravan guard and the journey was uneventful largely due to his knowledge of safe travel routes and practices. Kyrian managed to kill a black bear that escaped from one of the traveling menageries, and despite protests from the animal’s negligent owner was cleared by the Gatewardens that arrived to clean up.

Ryah Warden met up with Warbird at what she believed to be the direction of The Shield. The two met at a crossroads and traveled together to a small fishing village on the northeast coast of Hyland. There, they declined to attack a ‘fish-man’ that was disturbing one of the locals’ nets, and instead paid for passage to the world wide fair.

Nero Torvus came to The Gathering to make a name for himself as a fighter and begin his pursuit of recognition outside of the fight pits in his home.

As the Silver Sphinxes, the team managed to rack up two wins in the Introductory Level of the Gravity Games based largely on the spells of Nero that removed their opponents’ rope from the game.

Each member of the group at one time or another heard the presentation of Grelnik Nickerwick, and while intrigued by the possibilities, were even more fearful of the possible consequences of lifting the continents back in to the skies. Looking to profit by the gnome’s odd obsession, Nero attempted to offer to collect his research for the University of The Tome but found that the gnome was actually an excommunicated member of that Order and had already contributed all of his research to their store of knowledge.

Oskar spent most of his time between matches and helping at his father’s market stand serving at a medical tent near the performance center, where he was given the opportunity to treat the innumerable maladies that arise from such a large gathering of people. He worked along side servants of virtually every Elder known on Axyss, and got to know a little more about the way their organizations were structured. He also ‘enlisted’ in the Order of the Shield and is expected to report for duty as soon as The Gathering has ended.

The Session ended with the opening of the first official day of the The Gathering, when the final influx of adherents to the Druidic Laws joined the festivities. The peace of the Gathering was broken when the rumors of a large group of Orcs converging proved to be true. The Gatewardens had to physically restrain many from attacking the aliens on sight, but managed to prevent violence long enough for Gethrr the Cunning to present his request for recognition as a nation and a ceasing in the efforts to eradicate those who followed him. The group was removed to protective custody on the outskirts of the island so that the Gathering Council could debate the matter.

Not to be upstaged by Orcs, Goran Steelheart Scourge of Hyland started another scene, by leading a group of about fifty of his warriors into the gathering and presenting a speech proclaiming that he had conquered one third of Hyland and would soon take the rest. He announced that any who chose to join him were welcome – those who would resist him would be destroyed.

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The Gathering
Introductions

Since the fall of the Elders, the people of the world have celebrated the Gathering twice a year.

The Gathering is held at the sacred Isle of Spring Dawn and Fall Twilight traditionally held to be the center of the world. People from all Five Nations come together for officially seven days, but what has become more like 15 as merchants and travelers arrive early to get a jump on the best spots and deals. The strictest adherents to the Druidic Laws refuse to trade with city dwellers outside of the designated time.

This is the first year each of the characters have been able to get away from their training/duties to make the journey, (or perhaps their duties – due to a Craft/Profession skill have drawn them here) so the sights and sounds are all new. The only way to the Island is obviously via boat – but virtually everyone has one, and there are no shortage of travelers willing to lend a seat to someone willing to help row. To those who have lived their lives among the nomadic tribes, this is the most people they have ever seen in one place. The sounds and smells of so many people pressed together are almost overwhelming. Many of the nomad tribes use beasts of burden – some mundane, others – not so much so, and the sheer variety of boats making the journey across the sea is staggering.

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