We picked up the D&D game I run with colleagues and their ongoing attempts to find out why books in the library keep turning into strange creatures that try to eat their readers. So far they’ve narrowed down the stall that each of the books was bought from, attempted to distract Korvala, the rather intimidating woman who owns it, and accidentally collapsed the market tent while sneaking around.
This week they decided to go back to check out one of the books that had stood out – a rare volume that Caitriona the elven priestess had been trying to track down since it had itself been stolen from her homeland. A combination of bluffs, quick talking, and downright blind luck found her walking away with it for a reduced price – and the group was just debating what to do next when Roghan the sorcerer spotted Korvala coming out of a nearby garden.
He attempted to surreptitiously cast a hex on her to blunt her charisma, but she noticed him and stared him down across the marketplace before turning abruptly and heading off down an alley. Moderately surprised that she hadn’t called the guard, the group stealthily (mostly) managed to track her back to the more run down neighbourhood she lived in. They watched her enter a ramshackle house and decided to follow her. They found the door unlocked, and quietly opened the door to reveal a homely room with rough chairs, a thick blanket on the floor, and two other doors leading further in to the building. There was no one immediately in sight.
And that’s where we’ll pick up next week (hopefully)
It was only a short session by our usual standards yesterday – mostly down to tiredness and health – but it was an important breather for the group. Having had such a fraught fight previously, they needed to recuperate, and on contacting Auntie (Deadeye Alice) she told them it would take her a couple of days to narrow down where Rufen – or at least the token – had been taken. This was because she could tell he was on the move and wanted to get a definite fix on where he ended up.
With that in mind, the DDC had a quiet day. They divided out the various magic items and weapons thay had taken from Rufen, and tried to use the sending stone they’d taken from one of the trolls to see who was at the other end. A furious and almost gutteral voice yelled back that they were going to kill them and then the stone snapped in half. Despite attempts to fix it, the magic of the stone was gone.
Later, an inhabitant of New Town – a sorcerer who had accompanied one of the stranded merchant trains – came up and asked to use the library and was a bit star struck by Kerne. After some attempts at modesty by Kerne, Katya was allowed access and the two began comparing notes on aspects of their shared specialities. Kerne heard how Katya’s previous tutor had held her back, and so offered to help with their studies. The ended up spending a good portion of the afternoon in the gardens practicing their magics.
Meanwhile, Bennet the Bard who works both in the Hold and in the newly established town below it approached Arwan and Valenia and advised them that a number of the townspeople weren’t content to just sit and wait to be rescued and were determined to start checking for cave systems or unblocked passes to try and find a way out. He’d decided to approach the pair to see if they would be willing to be called on if people got hurt or found anything too dangerous like angry bears. The pair agreed to be on call and to make themselves available as needed.
The next morning saw pillars of smoke on the north of the plains from the direction of the various farms. A quick expedition by the DDC to the nearest one found all the building destroyed and on fire, the wells poisoned and blocked with the bodies of animals, and the crop lands salted and polluted. There were heavy troll footprints and the signs of heavy objects being dragged. Fearing that this might be a decoy to pull them away from the Hold, they doubled back and called for the townsfolk to be called inside the Hold for their own protection. A small number of guards were sent as scouts to the other farmland locations.
Not long after, while Kerne and Karkanna were discussing wedding plans, Caeluma noticed sparks of energy at the dormant portal stone and went to investigate. Small shakes and shudders sent the snow sliding away from the construction, and the sparks began to converge to form a small bubble of liquid-looking energy. Caeluma sent someone to go get the others. As the rest of the DDC began to converge, a portal began to haltingly form. It wasn’t stable, and a lone figure could be faintly made out in the shifting view that was forming. On a hunch, Kerne stood forward and poured raw magical potential from her latent pool of sorcery into the vortex to act as a stable anchor.
With a silent flash of force, the portal expelled the figure within and vanished. It left a battered, frozen, wounded Faye Hagsworn standing on the platform, leaning heavily on a rune-carved staff to which was lashed the petrified claw of a dragon.
And that’s where we left the session. I have so much lined up in terms of lore and possible events based on what the DDC do next. We’ll see, if nothing else, why Faye has sought out her sister now. The last they’d heard, she was on the run from the Winter’s Knight…
The Chosen Family of the Circle of Rot are unusual in their drive, but not so much in their nature. Trolls are defined by the appetite and hunger, as well as their incredible resilience. That hunger to consume is at the core of the danger posed by the trolls of the Blackcap Mountains, and may also prove to be the biggest hurdle to their success.
The DDC has already learned that the sisters of the Circle are aligned with the Winter’s Knight. They have also learned that the Knight wants to “consume the Spring so that Summer never arrives” and to bring in an eternal winter. It doesn’t matter if that apocalypse covers the world or merely the valleys of Clan Amberhammer, not to the Knight of Winter.
This matches well then with the drive of the trolls to consume everything. They and the dwarves have been locked in struggle for generations in an analogue of the Seasons. The trolls consume and tear down, and the dwarves build and grow. In a struggle of stories, for that is what it becomes when the fey get involved, the way forward may be obvious while also a fork in the road.
If the trolls exist to consume everything, and embody a principle of rot, then what happens if a branch of that partnership is seen to be vulnerable or begins to fail in the face of opposition? Will the strong consume the weak, no matter their nature, or will the family bonds prove stronger than the story?
If the dwarves – and by extension the DDC – exist to build, then how much destruction is acceptable to break the cycle? Is breaking the cycle the best thing to do – or is there something else at play?
One of the dangers of the DDC’s fight against the trolls of the Circle of Rot is that if a troll is not finished off, it will eventually come back to literally bite them. Another danger is that nobody yet knows quite what the capacities and resources of the three sisters are. Something that has started to be noticed however is that some of the more unusual trolls have an empowered khyber dragonshard crystal embedded in their chests. One was noted in Vasselack – the spirit troll that slew Lord Bentane Amberhammer. Others have now been seen in a troll that sweated and spurted venom, and another that radiated fierce cold and brought a frost to everything he touched.
Vasselack survived the attentions of mindflayers before being brought into the service of the Circle, but Feerwrack is something far more dangerous. Vasselack is motivated by a mixture of gratitude and rage, but Feerwrack is a believer in the aims of the Circle. He is a fanatic.
Emboldened by the success of Vasselack’s assault on the dwarven stronghold, the Circle looked to find more survivors of the psionic ravages of mindflayer assaults. They were unsuccessful in that, but they were able to further attune their magics with a device they call the Eye of Khyber. Where they found it is unknown for now, but at its heart is an enormous Khyber Dragonshard seething with energies. Fragments struck from this core and bound to the flesh of trolls warps and mutates their already unstable physiologies. Sometimes, rather than grotesques with extra limbs, a truely remarkable mutation occurs – and it is this process that Feerwrack volunteered for.
Driven by his trollish hunger to consume, he passed through the destructive embrace of the machine and came out the other side a virtual twin to Irreck’s lone executioner. At a stroke, Irreck’s assassination capabilities were doubled.
It just remains to be seen where he will place his blades next to shake the core of the DDC
Today’s work was more reactive than I’d have preferred, but was ultimately successful where it counted. Of far more interest was our ability to synchronise our diaries to have another session of the Librarians’ D&D Game. The search for the people creating shapeshifting creatures disguised as books led the Morgrave University Team for Text Extraction and Retrieval (MUTTER) to the Great Bazaar in Sharn and a large bookseller’s tent tucked in a corner loaded with a variety of nearly new and definitely pre-loved books and scrolls.
Wilhelm distracted the owner, an intimidating lady of striking appearance in long flowing robes and a headscarf, with money and the offer of a drink. He was horrified to be taken up on the offer with a brusque “ten minutes then”. The owner’s brother then was kept busy as the rest of the team browsed the many strange travelogues, religious texts, tomes of poetry, hunter’s guides, and books of erotica and tried to find anything unusual.
Some sneaked round the back and crept through to the storage area, and saw that the bookseller was using a mimic as a coinbox, while Rhogan claimed to have been bitten by a book to see what the reaction was (he got offered a discount on the book he was holding)
Wilhelm’s disastrous attempts at striking up a conversation were initially somewhere between fascinating and confusing so he did at least manage to distract the owner, but in the end she made her excuses and returned to the market. Rhogan was able to distract her briefly so that the rest of the group could scatter, but not before a clumsy foot wrong by Xander accidentally collapsed the tent with staff and Catriona still inside.
The group eventually managed to make their way all together back at the pub where Wilhelm had stayed – and that was where we ended.
There was a lot of laughter, and a lot of distraction both in and out of the game. A good evening…
We picked up this week where we left off with the battle at the Troll Forge. Arwan was unconscious and ground into the soil by a frost troll while a venom troll and an armoured troll raider fought the rest of the group. Worse for the party, the trolls had been joined by Rufen, son of Irreck the Watcher. Rufen was a barbarian with features of both a troll and a hag, and he was closing on Kerne.
Things got very busy, very quickly. Thorin traded blows with the raider nearest the forge – almost enjoying himself. Kerne cast a banishment on the venom troll while Valenia managed to drop the other raider with fiery arrows on top of spell damage inflicted. Caeluma meanwhile swooped across the battlefield to heal Arwan. Within moments, and in quick succession, Arwan, Caeluma, and Kerne were down, and Rufen had moved to close on Valenia.
Thorin started a whole chain of passing potions to stabilise the fallen and get them moving again, but the fierce cold from the ice troll and splashing damage from the venom troll nearly overwhelmed the group. Thorin and Kerne managed to hurt the ice troll severely and briefly take down the venom troll. The balance of the battle tipped back and forth very closely, and then Valenia was able to knock Rufen out and properly assess the situation.
The remaining trolls were battered, there was still a chance to win this. The whole mission hinged on being able to plant Alice’s token on Rufen so he could be tracked back to the Circle’s lair – and maybe, just maybe, the DDC would pull through. Thorin was able to finally drop the ice troll, but its horrible vitality meant it would be back up on its feet within moments.
Thorin threw the token to Kerne, who ran to the fallen Rufen and hid the hag-forged coin in his clothing. Valenia in the meantime was able to take down the troll raider nearby, channelling primal energies to augment her fighting prowess. The venom troll meanwhile lost its nerve and tried to flee, only to be knocked out by Caeluma’s spells.
In the sudden calm, there was a scramble to set fire to the fallen trolls and while the raider and ice troll were put to their final rest, the venom troll was able to regain consciousness and flee. The DDC knew they probably didn’t have much time, but they still took the time to strip Rufen of his armour and weapons and salvage coin and sundries from the forge before making their own escape. Rufen was left bound and bruised in his bed.
Their journey back to the Hold was uneventful, if slightly extended by taking a more circuitous route to throw off pursuit. Their return home was greeted with enthusiasm and concern in even amounts, and they eased into the evening in equal amounts of exhaustion and relief at having survived.
Valenia fell asleep in the bar, while Caeluma and Arwan settled in to drink and blow off steam. Thorin gathered food and drink and then retired to his rooms, and Kerne retired to spend time with Karkanna and Loris while researching the nature of the magical items taken from Rufen.
And that quiet moment is where we drew to a close.
We returned after a week off to find the DDC preparing to move against a hidden forge used by the trolls. Set on the shore of a frozen lake about ten miles from the Hold, someone was making weapons and armour in what once been a mill.
Moving carefully, the DDC was able to intercept a group of armed troll raiders from the Fists of Urash and then on to the forge itself. There were signs of activity within, and a large crudely-built snow-troll on the edge of the woods.
On investigation, this proved to be a snow-covered ice troll napping in the morning sunlight and it roared a challenge that alerted the forge dwellers of intruders. A bloated poison-dripping venom troll was the first to emerge.
Arrows were launched, axes swung, and a wall of wind sent debris exploding into air before the venom troll closed on Caeluma, Kerne, and Arwan. The ice troll chased after Valenia while Thorin raced to block the forge door.
The ice troll radiated a freezing aura, while damage to the venom troll sent gouts of venom across anyone near them. A fireball cast by Kerne did little to slow them down, and more bellows of rage could be heard approaching.
Kerne narrowly escaped death in the opening moments of the fight. Protected by a death ward cast earlier by Arwan, they were able to immolate another troll raider approaching down the lake side. Meanwhile the forgemaster appeared in a berserk rage – a troll-blooded Barbarian with hag ancestry. This was Rufen, son of Irreck the Watcher, and he sprinted at the first person he saw – Kerne.
Arwan was able to bring mass healing to the group to offset the mauling they were receiving, but caught between the ice troll and the venom troll, he was himself badly wounded and fell to the ground in a pool of his own blood.
And that’s the cliffhanger we ended the session on and where we’ll pick back up next week!
We were a bit late starting as it was one of those days where people’s work/life balance needed attending to but the group took stock of the revelations of the previous day and tried to work out what to do next. Kerne went to hit the library to do some research on trolls and their usual habitats and tactics, while Caeluma sent their familiar to attempt to get through to Flower Town. The assertation by Deadeye Alice that the trolls had “eaten Flower Town” needed to be verified – especially as the House Sivis outpost was based there, and any plans to get calls out for help would be stymied if that was the case.
Looking back at Valenia’s previous patrols, they decided to investigate signs of activity at the old mill near the north-west pass. Valenia had seen signs of smoke but not looked any nearer – now was as good a time as any to remedy that. Valenia, Thorin, and Arwan duly set out across the plain and made good headway. Arwan felt that there was something flying overhead at a great height, but couldn’t make out what it was – but the mystery was soon solved. At an old bridge in the middle of some woods, Arwan’s keen hearing made out the beat of leathery wings coming closer – and a wave of fear spread over the group as the green dragon Fellestri finally caught up with them.
Thorin was able to resist the dragonfear and challenged Fellestri’s presence in his lands – but the dragon replied that he had a score to settle with “you breakers of promises” and as he flew over them he breathed a gout of poison across them all. Thorin was able to wound the dragon with a thrown axe, but Arwan was too shaken by the creature’s frightful presence to be able to shoot straight. They summoned a spiritual weapon to fight at range instead, which had some limited success. Despite the fear, Valenia was able to land some shots, and that enraged Fellestri.
A low swoop across the battle field saw Arwan and Valenia knocked to the ground from the beat of Fellestri’s massive wings, and a tail slap knocked Valenia tumbling even further. She was able to avoid grasping claws as the dragon then took back to the skies and more shots and magic provided a more determined resistance than Fellestri had been expected. Surprised at how much more powerful they were compared to the last time they had met, Fellestri paused in the sky, and said this had become far more interesting – before flying off in an easterly direction.
Significantly wounded, but still upright, the DDC bound their w ounds and decided to at least press on and check the mill before returning. They met no further trouble and within another couple of hours had found what they were looking for. The mill had been converted into a forge, and several large figures could be seen moving inside. Valenia was able to sneak close enough to identify three trolls, plus a fourth that seemed to be oozing from its skin. One of the trolls in the forge was rubbing arrow heads on that one’s skin, coating them as if with some form of venom. A fifth, more human-sized, figure was working the forge but Valenia didn’t want to risk being seen and so she retreated.
They decided that they needed reinforcements, and so with a small degree of caution they made their way back to the Hold, through the small shanty town starting to spring up below it, and back to their companions to share what they had found.
Kerne meanwhile, had been able to placate and talk Karkanna round following their recent brushes with death. The group is still divided as to whether Fellestri or Karkanna was the scariest encounter of the session…
This week in the Sunday game, the DDC warily carried on down the mirrored feywild path and into a blasted oak that transported them to a nightmarish plain of bones, freezing winds, and an icy river. On the other side of that river stood three large figures beside an open grave and a large cauldron. Two of the figures were grizzled ogres with large chains wrapped around their chest and shoulders. The third figure was a misshapen and hideous figure in long robes. Corpse-pale eyes gleamed in the shadow of her hood – here at last was Deadeye Alice, the Auntie in the Fields.
A nervous quiet met her greeting as she sought out Thorin to welcome him specifically. She also queried how Kerne had been able to hear her voice in the token – making a crude joke about how she must have a bit of Amberhammer in her before wondering if Kerne had actually met one of her sisters in the past. She asked whether she could remember a prank going wrong, a misunderstanding that saw her chased from the home – perhaps something catching fire that shouldn’t have? Kerne kept quiet and didn’t rise to the bait.
Alice declared that this was a meeting place for the fey that was in a corner of the Winter Knight’s realm – and that it represented that being’s ambition and dream for the future. This plain of frozen bones was what he tempted the trolls of the the Circle of Rot with. He had made it their dream to consume the lands of the dwarves – to tear up and destroy all signs of the Spring so that Summer couldn’t bloom and therefore his Winter would settle in for all time. This was the shared goal that united the trolls under his banner, the power to eat the world.
She filled out some of the gaps in the DDC’s knowledge of the Troll Brothers to match what little they had learned of the Sisters of the Circle of Rot. She described Urash as the might and martial fury of the trolls, leading the war and drawing all eyes. Dhumish Crackleg, the younger brother, was broken and warped with unnatural vitality and endurance and drew together the venomous and rotten, the unnatural and uncanny to undermine and gnaw at the foundations of the land. Irreck, the youngest and cleverest, was a lone hunter who perhaps didn’t quite agree with the scope of his brothers’ plans. Nonetheless it was he who found and brought the Circle back to the Blackcaps and who came up with the plans to lure predators from the highlands. It was also Irreck who ordered the assassination of Lord Bentane.
A wary alliance was proposed, with Alice stating that she hated the trolls and saw them as a threat both to her family and to the dwarves she saw as her children to be guided and watched over. The DDC reluctantly accepted this line of reasoning for now – and so Alice created a new token from one of her iron teeth, pressing and folding and working it into a rough coin. If the DDC could get that into the possession of one of the brothers, she would be able to tell the group where the trolls laired. In the meantime, the toy iron sword would let the allies share information and plan.
Before they left, Alice revealed that with the passes sealed, the trolls had already “eaten” Flower Town and the watch towers on the east and southern approaches were under siege.
The DDC made their way back through the portal as Alice and her husbands stepped into the open tomb and another portal in it. When they got back to Amberhammer lands, they found the half-ogre Kher still there as promised. In his belt were the two missing daggers, which he said he took off a bouncing harengon who’d tried to slip past him. These were duly returned to Caeluma.
Kher slipped away into the woods, and the group prepared to head home. Before they could leave however, Caeluma heard the sound of someone crying nearby. The group went to investigate, near a cabin by some fields, and encountered a lone pale elf with tears streaming down his face. He said he was looking for someone and couldn’t find them – that his master had given him a message to deliver and he didn’t want to fail him. His vague description of someone with a sister who looked a bit like a hag put everyone in mind of Kerne – her sister had been studying with hags after all.
When Kerne identified herself, more tears flowed and the figure blurred and appeared beside her – attempting to drive a long blade into her side. The Winter Eladrin declared that the Winter’s Knight sent his greetings, but it was time for her to die now. The group shook off the melancholy charm that he radiated, and a soul-chilling howl came from a wolf with the distorted face of a man as it emerged from the undergrowth.
Being hardened adventurers, they shrugged off the magical fear from the yeth hound, and a hit and run battle erupted around the cabin and the fields as the eladrin alternated creating mists and fogs, teleporting, and firing his bow with deadly effect to focus on Kerne. Valenia’s skills as an archer turned the fight into a more even playing field as the group ducked in and out of cover.
Kerne was laid low, but preserved by a previously cast death ward that had been put on them by Arwan – and Arwan kept near enough to Kerne to try and keep healing them as the eladrin kept shooting. Kerne fell again, pierced by the eladrin’s arrows.
Battered and burned, and bleeding profusely, still with a sorrowful expression, he closed on Kerne to deliver a coup de grace but was stopped by one final enchanted arrow from Valenia. The assassin fell beside Kerne, and turned into snow inside the clothing and equipment that remained.
One of the fairy bandits that attacked the DDC on Sunday was a Korred – a small creature with strong ties to the earth and stone that are normally quite reclusive. They can smell out minerals, metals, and gemstones and are usually only encountered if someone has annoyed them with the sound of mining. They always know the shape of the stone beneath the soil, and where voids and concealed areas are. Finding one in the company of a group of fairy outcasts is extremely unusual – but they are chaotic and whimsical creatures and perhaps Konred enjoys the excitement of breaking routine and upsetting the steady path of other creatures.
Korreds have one other unique property – and that pertains to their hair. It is profuse and long, and takes on the properties of whatever is used to cut it. Konred has a whip made from his own hair when it was cut with steel shears – and his innate magic allows him to animate and control it as needed – whenever he isn’t throwing rocks or swinging a greatclub with a strength that seems quite at odds with his size.
Konred’s ability to sniff out what others prize as riches endeared him to his new companions – as well as his ability to commune with nature and get a sense of what features stand out in the surrounding area. With him in tow, the fey creatures never get lost in the layers of Thelanis, or when they venture into the more common reality of Eberron.
During the fight he scooped up and formed balls of rock as easily as someone might mold clay or snow. He threw them with punishing force, knocking Caeluma out briefly, but he was not a brave or dedicated bandit in any sense of the word. When Thorin began to hit him with his axe he blustered and complained he had “a boulder and fifteen pebbles to support”, and promptly melded into the stony ground below to escape. It remains to be seen whether this experience puts him off his brief career as a criminal.